Dec. 7, 2001

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Poem: "Twilight," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from Longfellow Poems and Other Writings (The Library of America).


The twilight is sad and cloudy,
    The wind blows wild and free,
And like the wings of sea-birds
    Flash the white caps of the sea.

But in the fisherman's cottage
    There shines a ruddier light,
And a little face at the window
    Peers out into the night.

Close, close it is pressed to the window,
    As if those childish eyes
Were looking into the darkness
    To see some form arise.

And a woman's waving shadow
    Is passing to and fro,
Now rising to the ceiling,
    Now bowing and bending low.

What tale do the roaring ocean,
    And the night-wind, bleak and wild,
As they beat at the crazy casement,
    Tell to that little child?

And why do the roaring ocean,
    And the night-wind, wild and bleak,
As they beat at the heart of the mother
    Drive the color from her cheek?

In 1941 on this day, the Japanese attacked American ships at Pearl Harbor. The goal of the attack was to cripple the United States Naval fleet so that Japan could then capture the Philippines and Indochina, and eventually control the entire Pacific region. Three of the nine battleships stationed at Pear Harbor were destroyed that day, and five more were damaged, 188 planes were destroyed, and more than 2,400 Americans were killed. The next day, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war against Japan.

In 1842 on this day, the New York Philharmonic gave its first concert. The New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world. At its first concert, the orchestra performed Beethoven's Symphony Number Five, which had been heard in New York only once before.

It's the birthday of writer and linguist Noam Chomsky, born in Philadelphia (1928), who began teaching linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955, and has been teaching there ever since. His studies of how children learn to speak led him to believe that our ability to master grammar is a genetically determined product of evolution.

It's the birthday of novelist and screenwriter Leigh Brackett, born in Los Angeles (1915), whose work covered the genres of crime, westerns, science fiction, and fantasy. She worked on pictures like The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959), Hatari! (1961), and El Dorado (1967). She continued to write novels of her own as well, both crime stories and science fiction, including The Starman (1952), Alpha Centauri or Die! (1963), and The Ginger Star (1974). Her last screenplay was her most famous; she died in 1978, just after it was completed. The film, Star Wars, Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back, opened in 1980 and was dedicated to her memory.

It's the birthday of journalist, essayist, and author Haywood Campbell Broun, born in Brooklyn, New York (1888). In 1921, he moved to the New York World, where his syndicated column, "It Seems to Me," began and eventually garnered more than one million readers a day. Broun also founded the American Newspaper Guild.

It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Willa Cather, born in Back Creek Valley, Virginia (1875). She and her family moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska, when she was 10. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Cather was offered a position editing Home Monthly magazine in Pittsburgh. While there, she started writing short stories. They impressed the publisher of McClure's Magazine, who invited her to join his staff. Within five years, she became its managing editor, but then left the magazine to write full time. Cather's first successful novel was O Pioneers! (1913), the story of the strong-willed daughter of a Swedish immigrant who fights to keep her family together under harsh prairie conditions. Cather's most famous novel is My Ántonia (1918), another story of a strong woman pitted against Western hardships. Cather went on to write several more novels and short story collections. Although not as well known as her earlier works, many critics feel that the later books, including The Professor's House (1925), My Mortal Enemy (1926), and Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), are among her best.

It's the birthday of painter, sculptor, and playwright Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, born in Naples, Italy (1598), whom critics have dubbed the greatest sculptor-architect of the 17th century. Bernini was appointed the architect of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

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