Mar. 27, 2001
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Poem: "After Midnight," by Louis Simpson, from Collected Poems (W.W. Norton & Company).
The dark streets are deserted,
with only a drugstore glowing
softly, like a sleeping body;
With one white, naked bulb
In the back, that shines
On suicides and abortions.
Who lives in these dark houses?
I am suddenly aware
I might live here myself.
The garage man returns
And puts the change in my hand,
Counting the singles carefully.
It's the anniversary of the Anchorage, Alaska earthquake of 1964 the most powerful earthquake in the Western Hemisphere in the 20th century.
It's the birthday of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, born in Knoxville, Tennessee (1963). He grew up in Los Angeles, where he went to a movie-house that showed kung-fu movies. As a teenager he worked as an usher in a porno theater, then spent 5 years as a clerk in a video store. "We'd get off work, close up the store, then sit around and watch movies all night." In 1990, with producer John Langley, a customer of his video store, he scraped together $1.5 million to make his first feature film, Reservoir Dogs (1992).
It's the birthday of author T. R. Pearson, born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (1956). He's the author of the Neely Trilogy of novels: A Short History of a Small Place (1985), Off for the Sweet Hereafter (1986), and The Last of How It Was (1987) all set in the fictitious town of Neely, North Carolina.
It's the birthday of New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, born in New York City (1927). He's best known for Gideon's Trumpet (1964), a history of the landmark Supreme Court case in which prisoner James Gideon fought for the right to legal counsel.
It's the birthday of jazz singer and pianist Sarah Vaughan, born in Newark, New Jersey (1924). She made her debut at the Apollo Theater in Harlem she sang "Body and Soul" for an amateur contest, and won. She sang with Earl ("Fatha") Hines, the singer Billy Eckstine, and picked up the nickname 'The Divine One.'
It's the birthday of American poet Louis Simpson, born in Jamaica, the British West Indies (1923). His father was a second-generation Jamaican of Scottish descent; his mother was a Russian Jew. He said later, "I most of all wanted to be an American." He went to Columbia University, joined the U.S. Army in 1943, served in the 101st Airborne Division, and took part in the Battle of the Bulge. His longest poem, "The Runner," dealt with that battle.
It's the birthday of novelist Thorne Smith, born in Annapolis, Maryland (1892). He only lived to be 40 years old, but he wrote several comic novels that were highly regarded in the 1930s: Topper (1926), about a bank executive who is rescued from his drab life by a couple of fun-loving ghosts, became a Cary Grant movie. Others include The Stray Lamb (1929), and Rain in the Doorway (1933).
It's the birthday of the man who discovered X-rays which ushered in a new age of physics and revolutionized diagnostic medicine Wilhelm Röntgen, born in Lennep, Prussia (1845). He discovered X-rays by accident, in 1895, when he left some uranium salts on top of a photographic plate. In developing it, he found that it had been fogged in the area where the uranium had rested on it.
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