Jul. 17, 2001
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A gentle old dame they called Muir
Had a mind so delightfully pure
That she fainted away
At a friend's house one day
When she saw some canary manure.
A mathematician named Hall
Has a hexahedronical ball,
And the cube of its weight
Times his pecker, plus eight,
Is his phone numbergive him a call.
Our Vicar is good Mr. Inge.
One evening he offered to sing.
So we asked him to stoop,
Put his head in a loop,
And pulled at each end of the string.
A bather whose clothing was strewed
By breezes that left her quite nude
Saw a man come along,
And unless I am wrong,
You expected this line to be lewd.
It's the birthday of American composer and humorist Peter Schickele, born in Ames, Iowa, in 1935, the son of an agricultural-economist father and a physicist mother. He has written and arranged for classical, jazz, rock, and folk ensembles and created music for films, television, radio, and the concert stage. But he is probably best known as P.D.Q. Bach, the fictitious son of Johann Sebastian Bach. P.D.Q. Bach was a character he invented while getting his Masters degree from Juilliard.
It's the birthday of English poet and critic Donald Davie, born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England, in 1922. He wrote 18 books of literary criticism, including Purity of Diction in English Verse, which expressed his anti-Romantic and anti-Bohemian ideals. But he always felt his true calling was as a poet, and his volumes include Brides of Reason, A Winter Talent, Essex Poems, and In the Stopping Train. Donald Davie , who said: "I write my criticism in order to explain to myself the sort of thing I've been doing."
It's the birthday of lawyer and mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner, born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1889. He spent his early years defending poor Chinese and Mexicans in Oxnard, California, and became famous there for his ironclad defenses. His first novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws, featured the brilliant lawyer Perry Mason. Many Mason mysteries followed, often with alliterative titles, such as The Case of the Fabulous Fake and The Case of the Worried Waitress. Erle Stanley Gardner, who said: "I write to make money, and I write to give the reader sheer fun."
It's the birthday of the Israeli novelist and short-story writer S.Y. Agnon, born Samuel Josef Czackes in the small town of Buczacz, Ukraine, in 1888. He became an active Zionist while still a teenager, immigrated to Israel when he was 20, and published his first novel, Forsaken Wives, the next year. In 1912 he moved to Berlin and, working with the theologian and philosopher Martin Buber, began collecting the folklore and fantasy stories of the Hasidim. His first major work, A Guest for the Night, was published in 1938 and described the deterioration of European Jewry after WWI. His greatest work, The Day Before Yesterday, published in 1945, deals with the conflicts westernized Jews faced in Israel. In his later years, he was regarded as a national institution in Israel, received the Nobel Prize in 1966, and died in 1970. S.Y. Agnon, who said: "I am not a modern writer. I am astounded that I have even one reader. I don't see the reader before me ... I never wanted to know the reader. I wanted to work in my own way."
On this day in 1841, the English humor magazine Punch published its first issue in London. The name Punch came from a remark one of the founders made during a planning meeting. He said: "A humor magazine, like a good punch, needs lemon."
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