Dec. 2, 1999

Toward Ambidexterity

by Susan Eisenberg

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: December 2, 1999

Poem: "Toward Ambidexterity" by Susan Eisenberg from Pioneering: Poems From the Construction Site published by Cornell University Press.

Today is the birthday of Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis, born in Iraklion, Crete (1885). He grew up in Greece, studied Law at the University of Athens, and was an avid world traveler, living at various times in Russia, Spain, Japan, Egypt and France. Kazantzakis’ writings included travel essays and philosophical monographs, but he was most fond of fiction, and is most famous for his widely translated novels, including Zorba the Greek (1946) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1955). Kazantzakis knew that Last Temptation was a revisionist look at the life of Jesus, but also felt it was a reverent one: "Every free man who reads this book, so filled as it is with love, will more than ever before, better than ever before, love Christ." Kazantzakis died in 1957 in Freiburg. The inscription on his tombstone in Iraklion reads: I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.

It’s the birthday of American entertainer and circus entrepreneur Charles Ringling (originally "Ruengeling," pronounced "roen’ geh ling"), born in Baraboo, Wisconsin (1863), one of seven sons of the German immigrant and harness-maker August Ringling. August’s sons banded together to form a song-and-dance troupe, which traveled the Midwest countryside performing musical and comic numbers. Soon the brothers added animal and circus acts to their routines, and their popularity exploded. With Charles’s managerial panache and business savvy, the troupe began acquiring the acts of smaller and then even major circus organizations. In 1906 he helped the brothers acquire Barnum & Bailey’s circus which made the Ringling Bothers operation the largest and most popular circus in the United States. Charles Ringling died in 1926 at the age of 63. Today the Ringling Brothers’ Barnum & Bailey Circus is still the largest in the country.

At 3:25 p.m. on December 2, 1942, the Atomic Age began inside a tent on a squash court under the west stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. There, the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi's team engineered the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction. The team sent a coded telephone message to Washington that night: "...the Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World..."

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