Jul. 6, 1998

A Short History of the Middle West

by Robert Dana


Today's Reading: "A Short History of the Middle West" by Robert Dana from STARTING OUT FOR THE DIFFICULT WORLD, published by Harper & Row (1987).

THE DALAI LAMA, TENZIN GYATSO, was born in Taktser, Tibet, on this day in 1935, the same day the 13th Dalai Lama died. The son of Tibetan peasants, he was identified as the 14th reincarnation of Buddha by monks when he was two years old, passing a test by recognizing possessions of the previous Dalai Lama. He was enthroned two years later.

The FIRST FEATURE FILM WITH SOUND, The Lights of New York, premiered in a midnight gala on this day in 1928 at New York's Strand Theatre.

Lyric soprano DOROTHY KIRSTEN was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on this day in 1910. She studied voice at Juilliard at night while working days demonstrating sewing machines. She made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1945 where she performed for the next 30 years, specializing in the lead roles of such Puccini operas as Tosca, La Bohème and Madame Butterfly.

It's the birthday of painter FRIDA KAHLO, in Coyoacán, Mexico, in 1907. She was 18 when she was severely injured in a bus accident. She never fully recovered, and endured 35 operations during her lifetime, but started to paint while bedridden. With encouragement from muralist Diego Rivera, who she later married, she produced brightly-colored paintings in a primitive style that incorporated elements of Mexican folk art.

On this day in 1895, short-story writer O. HENRY (WILLIAM SYDNEY PORTER) jumped on a train headed for New Orleans, fleeing charges that he had embezzled funds from a Texas bank where he had worked as a teller. Facing trial, he shipped out of New Orleans for Central America, where he hung out with outlaw Al Jennings before returning to Texas two years later when he learned his wife was suffering from a serious illness. He eventually spent more than three years in prison.

Louis PASTEUR GAVE THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL ANTI-RABIES INOCULATION on this day in 1885 to a boy who had been bitten by an infected dog.

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WAS FORMED on this day in 1854 at Jackson, Michigan, by a group of former Whigs, Democrats and Free-Soilers whose philosophy placed national interests over states' rights and ardently opposed slavery. They selected the name Republican in honor of Thomas Jefferson's "republicanism," soon replaced the Whigs as chief rivals of the Democrats, and won the presidency with their second presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

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