Aug. 14, 2000
Sonnet 109: O! never say that I was false of heart
On this day in 1945, the electric sign in Times Square in New York flashed the news: "Truman announces Japanese surrender." It was V-J Day--victory in Japan. Within 3 hours, the Times Square area was mobbed with 2 million people celebrating the end of World War II. During the spring and summer of 1945, the Japanese home islands had come under intense bombing attacks, including a massive fire-bomb raid in March that killed between 80,000 and 90,000 people in 16 square miles of Tokyo. Even through the 9th of August, when the second atomic bomb was dropped--on Nagasaki--Japanese leaders, lacking assurances they could keep their emperor, rejected the Allies' demand for an unconditional surrender. But the night after the Nagasaki blast, at an emergency meeting in Tokyo, Emperor Hirohito said, "I cannot bear to see my innocent people suffer any longer." The Japanese surrender was arranged within days. The Allies agreed that Hirohito could stay on as emperor, but that his authority would be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.
It's the birthday of cartoonist Gary Larson, born in Tacoma, Washington (1950), who created The Far Side. He drew the strip first for the Seattle Times, under the title Nature's Way. It was canceled after complaints from readers, but was, later picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle.
It's the birthday of actor, comedian and playwright Steve Martin, born in Waco, Texas (1945). When his family moved to California, he found part-time work at Disneyland, where he sold guidebooks, magic tricks, and Frontierland rodeo ropes. He left that to perform his comedy routines, featuring a banjo. Next he spent 3 years studying philosophy at Long Beach State, until he came up against Ludwig Wittgenstein's claim that nothing was absolutely true. Martin decided that "the only logical thing was comedy, because you don't have to explain it or justify it." He became a comedy writer, writing for the Smothers Brothers, Glen Campbell, Sonny and Cher, and others. He then tried stand-up comedy, and appeared on Saturday Night Live, which made his name. Besides starring in such comedy films as The Jerk (1979), Three Amigos! (1986), and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987), he has done serious theater work--Waiting for Godot (1988)-- and has written a number of plays, including Picasso at the Lapin Agile (1996) and Wasp (1998).
It's the birthday of columnist Russell Baker, born in Loudon County, Virginia (1925). For many years he wrote the "Observer" column in the op-ed pages of the New York Times; today he is better known as the host of the PBS television series "Masterpiece Theater," where he has appeared since 1993. His books include the memoirs Growing Up (1982) and The Good Times (1989).
It's the birthday of novelist and playwright John Galsworthy, born at Kingston Hill, Surrey (1867). Today he's best known for his series of novels The Forsyte Saga (1906-28).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®