Jun. 15, 1998

Birthday Card to My Mother

by Philip Appleman


Today's Reading: "Birthday Card to My Mother" by Philip Appleman from OPEN DOORWAYS, published by W.W. Norton Co. (1976).

Two big music FESTIVALS kick off today and run through most of the summer. In Colorado, it's the ASPEN FESTIVAL, running through August 16; chamber music and symphony concerts. Outside Chicago, in Highland Park, it's the RAVINIA FESTIVAL, through September 7. Two Chicago dance companies the Joffrey Ballet, and Hubbard Street are a part of the festival and on July 10 the Chicago Symphony starts its eight-week residency.

It's the birthday in New Providence, Iowa, 1920, of poet AMY CLAMPITT, who was in her late 50s when she began to be published. She'd worked as a reference librarian, an editor, always around books and words, but few of them her own. She's best known for her collections, The Kingfisher (1983), and What the Light Was Like (1985).

It's the birthday of the New Yorker cartoonist, SAUL STEINBERG, born in Romania, 1914. He started out studying sociology and psychology in Bucharest, then moved on to Italy and took up architecture. He fled the Fascists in the early 1940s, came to the U.S. and joined the Navy in WWII. Most of his cartoons look like elaborate doodles, but he also used rubber stamps, official seals, thumbprints, silhouetted figures, and illegible handwriting.

It's the birthday of psychoanalyst ERIK ERIKSON, born to Danish parents in Frankfurt, Germany, 1902. He moved to the U.S. in 1933 to teach at Harvard. He wrote Childhood and Society, in 1950, where he laid out eight stages of psychological development from infancy to old age. He also wrote two biographies, one of Martin Luther, called Young Man Luther (1958), the other of Gandhi, called Gandhi's Truth on the Origins of Militant Nonviolence (1969), which won the Pulitzer Prize. In the Luther book, he coined the term "identity crisis" which he said "occurs in that period of life when each youth must forge for himself some central perspective and direction, some working unit, out of the effective remnants of his childhood and the hopes of his anticipated adulthood."

A late-spring thunderstorm rolled across Philadelphia on this day in 1752, and 46-year-old BENJAMIN FRANKLIN went outside and flew his kite in it. He'd been studying electricity for about six years, and had a theory that lightning and electricity were the same thing. To prove it he put a pointed wire at the end of his kite and tied an iron key partway up the string. It could've killed him, but he survived and went on to recommend that buildings have lightning rods installed to reduce lightning damage.

The MAGNA CARTA was signed this day in 1215 by King John of England the agreement between John and several dozen English barons that took away the King's total authority, and granted basic rights and liberties to the British citizens; rights like the freedom of the church, no imprisonment without a jury trial, and the proper execution of the laws of the land. The Magna Carta, or Great Charter, was the forerunner of many other countries' constitutions, including our own.

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