Jul. 18, 1999

O What is That Sound

by W. H. Auden

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: July 18, 1999

Poem:>"O What Is That Sound" by W.H. Auden, from W.H. Auden: Collected Poems (Vintage Books).

In 1877 on this day, Thomas Edison first recorded the human voice at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, using a stylus-tipped carbon transmitter to make impressions on a strip of paraffin paper.

It's the birthday of novelist Jessamyn West, born near North Vernon, Indiana (1902). Best known for her stories of her Quaker ancestors, The Friendly Persuasion (1945).

It's the birthday of playwright Clifford Odets, born in Philadelphia (1906). He grew up in a comfortable middle-class Jewish home, but was a melancholy child, attempting suicide 3 times by age 25. He was a poet, then turned to acting—which he did badly—and to writing plays and screenplays. An early member of the Group Theater (1931), led the protest theater movement during the Depression. At one point in the mid-30s, three of his plays ran on Broadway at the same time, Waiting for Lefty (1935), Till the Day I Die (1935), and Golden Boy (1937).

Today is the 81st birthday of South African leader Nelson Mandela (named 'Rolihlahla' Mandela, often translated to mean 'troublemaker'), born deep in the black homeland of Transkei (1918). For 28 years he was the world's most famous prisoner; in 1990 he was released. The next year, 1994, he was elected President of his country.

In 1925 on this day, journalist H.L. Mencken, in Dayton, Tennessee, began to cover the Scopes Monkey Trial. A year later he wrote: "No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me--has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."

Today is the birthday of poet Yevgeny (Aleksandrovich) Yevtushenko, born in Zima, Russia (1933).

It's the birthday of 'Gonzo' journalist Hunter S(tockton) Thompson, born in Louisville, Kentucky (1939).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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