Sep. 17, 1999

Song of Myself (excerpt)

by Walt Whitman

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: September 17, 1999

Poem: From "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman, available in many collections.

Today the Monterey Jazz Festival gets underway in Monterey, California—its 42nd year in the same horse arena.

Itís the birthday of cartoonist Jeff MacNelly, born in New York City (1947). He began drawing for the Richmond News Leader, and, by 1981, was such a success he quit cartooning to enjoy his pastime of painting watercolors. But he missed the action and resumed the next year, drawing 3 cartoons a week for the Chicago Tribune.

Itís the birthday of novelist Ken (Elton) Kesey, born in La Junta [lah HUHN-tah], Colorado (1935)—whose first and best-known novel is One Flew Over the Cuckooís Nest. At a California veterans hospital, Kesey had been a paid volunteer in an experiment for which he took mind-altering drugs and reported their effects. He also worked as an aide at the hospital, which gave him empathy for its mental patients—some of whom, like Randle Patrick McMurphy in his novel, were less insane than some of the people taking care of them.

Itís the birthday of country music legend Hank Williams (Hiram King Williams), born in Georgiana, Alabama (1923). He received his first guitar at 8, helped support the family by selling peanuts and newspapers and shining shoes. He died on New Years Day, 1953, in the back seat of a Cadillac, 29 years old.

Itís the birthday of British mystery writer John Creasey, born in Southfields, Surrey (1908), who wrote most of his 600 titles under at least 25 other names, including Abel Mann, Norman Deane, and Charles Hogarth—the most prolific writer of crime fiction in the English language.

Itís the birthday of doctor and poet William Carlos Williams, born in Rutherford, New Jersey (1883). He practiced medicine for 40 years—saw a million and a half patients, and delivered 2,000 babies—and all the while wrote verse, novels, essays, short stories, plays, an opera libretto—and the 5-volume verse narrative Paterson.

In 1862, this day was among the bloodiest of the Civil War—called the Battle of Antietam by the Union side, Sharpsburg by the Confederates. Badly outnumbered, General Lee made his stand in Maryland; McClellan attacked, using Union troops piecemeal and failing to bring up his reserves. 25,000 men were killed or wounded; Leeís forces held. After the battle a Pennsylvania soldier wrote, "No tongue can tell, no mind conceive, no pen portray the horrible sights I witnessed this morning."

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