Jul. 18, 2001


by Various

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Poem: Limericks

A baritone star of Havana
Slipped horribly on a banana;
    He was sick for a year
    Then resumed his career
As a promising lyric soprano.

A daring young lady of Guam
Observed, "The Pacific's so calm
    I'll swim out for a lark."
    She met a large shark...
Let us now sing the Ninetieth Psalm.

There was an old lady of Harrow
Whose views were exceedingly narrow.
    At the end of her paths
    She built two bird baths
For the different sexes of sparrow.

A publisher once went to France
In search of a tale of romance;
    A Parisian lady
    Told a story so shady
That the publisher made an advance.

It's the birthday of gonzo-journalist Hunter Thompson, born in Louisville in 1939. His first book, Hell's Angels: A Strange And Terrible Saga, published in 1966, changed the course of his career and almost cost him his life, when he was badly beaten by members of the motorcycle gang. His high-water mark was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, published in 1972, a cult classic which began as two articles in Rolling Stone in which he assumed the persona of Raoul Duke, assigned to cover a motorcycle race and a drug law enforcement convention simultaneously. Raoul travels with his Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, in a souped-up convertible dubbed the "Great Red Shark," with "two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers ... A quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amlys," stowed in the trunk. Hunter Thompson, who said: "I got into journalism, [because] you don't have to get up in the morning."

It's the birthday of Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, born in Zima, in the Irkustk region of Russia, in 1933 in a small town on the Trans-Siberian Railroad that became the setting of his first important narrative poem, "Zima Junction." His poem "Babi Yar," published in 1961, mourned the Nazi massacre of some 96,000 Ukrainian Jews and got him in trouble for its attack on Soviet anti-Semitism—even though it was not published in the Soviet Union until 1984, but merely recited there.

It's the birthday of former South African President Nelson Mandela, born at Quno, near Umata in the Transkei territory of South Africa, the son of a Tembu tribal chieftain. Giving up his hereditary rights, Mandela chose to become a lawyer and earned his degree at the University of South Africa. He joined the African National Congress in 1944, eventually becoming deputy national president in 1952. His activities in the struggle against apartheid resulted in his conviction for sabotage in 1964. During 28 years in jail, Mandela remained a symbol of hope to South Africa's nonwhite majority, the demand for his release a rallying cry for civil rights activists. That release finally came on February 11, 1990, as millions watched via satellite television. In 1994, Mandela was elected President of South Africa in the first all-race election there.

It's the birthday of American playwright and screenwriter Clifford Odets, born in Philadelphia in 1906. He is best known for his play Waiting for Lefty.

It's the birthday of American short-story writer Jessamyn West, born in North Vernon, Indiana, in 1902. Her mother amused her with stories of the family's roots among the Quakers, and these stories provided inspiration for her best-known collection of stories, The Friendly Persuasion, which was published in1945, and which was an instant success.

It's the birthday of English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, born in Calcutta, India, in 1811. Both ventures to become part of a newspaper staff failed, and he was forced to write fiction for a living for the rest of his life. His great novels Vanity Fair and The Newcomes, among others, are still read and admired today.

It's the birthday of Dutch mathematical physicist Hendrik Lorentz, born in Arnhem, Holland, in 1853, who won the Nobel Prize in 1902 for the development of the mathematical theory of the electron.

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