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25
Wednesday
25 March 2020

The bacteria, the fish, the jellyfish, the spider, and the star

Today is all about Frank Zappa for two reasons: as a distraction, and because the genius artist and savant guitarist has been Michil’s friend for quite some time. Well, no. The two have never met but our innkeeper, with his head in the clouds, has been listening to his music since his adolescence.

Before being struck by Edgar Varese’s music - our young Frank wanted to meet him at the age of fifteen and followed him for an entire day, missing him by a hair – he was interested in chemistry, especially explosives. But that is where it stopped, for he hated whoever made use of chemistry to create alterations of one’s mind, to the extent he always required members of his various bands to undergo antidoping tests. His scientific calling was nipped in the bud but, thanks to fans scattered all over the world, his name can still be found in biology, marine sciences, arachnology and astronomy. We have a bacterium called P. Zappae, the Zappa confluentus fish and Phialella Zappai jellyfish, the Pachygnatha Zappa spider and the 3834 Zappafrank asteroid.

Why is it that scientists use his name to baptise their discoveries? One hypothesis could be that the behaviour of this particular bacteria resembles the musician’s unpredictability. Or that the black dot on the sider is reminiscent of his powerful moustache. The asteroid is easier to explain. Zappa’s music is so cosmic, spatial, intergalactic that how could the International Astronomical Union not have given asteroid 3843 the honorary title of Zappafrank on 22 July 1994? After all, his band was called ‘The Mothers of invention’, so everything makes sense. Now, how about listening to ‘Hot Rats’, his masterpiece? Even for those people who believe that ‘hot rats’ is a delicacy in certain countries – our Frank, looking down from the speckled sky, is in stiches, faced with so much nonsense.