Mar. 13, 2000
Boys at the Edge
Poem: "Boys At The Edge" by Leonard Nathan from The Potato Eaters (Orchises).
It's the birthday of Scientology founder L(afayette) RON(ald) HUBBARD, born in Tilden, Nebraska (1911). He wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950), which served as the Bible for what Hubbard called the Church of Scientology. Hubbard trained 'auditors' who conducted costly one-on-one 'counseling sessions,' using machines that looked like lie detectors.
It's the birthday of journalist JANET FLANNER, born in Indianapolis (1892). In 1921 she deserted her husband and went to Europe with her lover, Solita Solano. Four years later, her friend Harold Ross, editor of the New Yorker, hired her to write a 'Letter from Paris' feature, which she did until 1975. She signed her pieces 'Genet.' She wrote: "The war, which destroyed so much of everything, was also constructive, in a way. It established clearly the cold and finally unhypocritical fact that the most important thing on earth to men today is money."
On this day in 1891, HENRIK IBSEN'S PLAY GHOSTS OPENED IN LONDON. The play, which incorporated venereal disease, incest and euthanasia as plot elements, was more than audiences of 1891 could handle, and critical reaction was almost universally negative.
It's the birthday of star outfielder (William) 'WEE WILLIE' KEELER, born in Brooklyn (1872)who, at 5 feet 4 inches, was among the smallest men ever to play in the major leagues. He also used one of the smallest bats: a 30-inch model that weighed 29 ounces. Still, he was among the most potent hitters in the history of the sporthis motto was, "Keep your eye on the ball and hit 'em where they ain't."
It's the birthday of astronomer PERCIVAL LOWELL, born in Boston (1855). In his late thirties he founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, mainly to study Mars. Using a refracting telescope with a 24-inch lens, he observed the canali, or 'channels,' across the face of the planet. Lowell took the gouges to be artificial, intentional canalsbuilt to save, as he theorized, the planet's meager water resources. He felt this proved that Mars was inhabited by rational beings.
It's the birthday of clergyman and scientist JOSEPH PRIESTLY, born in Fieldhead, Yorkshire (1733). He was friends with Benjamin Franklin, who encouraged him to write The History of Electricity (1767). But he's best remembered for his discovery of oxygen (1775), which he called "dephlogisticated air;" he also discovered a number of other gases, including nitrogen, ammonia, and sulfur dioxide. It was not science, but religion and politics (he favored the French Revolution), which got him in trouble. In his fifties, he became the leading Unitarian voice in England, drawing the ire of Anglicans; in 1791 a mob destroyed his Birmingham home and laboratory. He and his wife fled to London and then to the United States, where he lived the rest of his life.
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