Aug. 28, 2003
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Poem: "Dawn Revisited," by Rita Dove, from On the Bus with Rosa Parks (Norton).
Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading
glorious shade. If you don't look back,
the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits—
eggs and sausage on the grill.
The whole sky is yours
to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on,
shake a leg! You'll never know
who's down there, frying those eggs,
if you don't get up and see.
On this day in 1922, WEAF in New York aired the first commercial in the history of radio. It was for an apartment complex in the suburbs of New York. H.M. Blackwell, a representative of the Queensboro Corporation, talked for 10 minutes about the advantages of living in the suburbs. Direct advertising was prohibited by law, so Blackwell talked about the apartments without mentioning anything about the rates. He only mentioned the Queensboro Corporation once by name.
Today marks the 35th anniversary of the "Battle of Michigan Avenue" outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Protestors were trying to march to the convention site when they were stopped by the Chicago police, who were supported by Mayor Richard Daley. The police severely beat several bystanders, reporters, and doctors, as well as protestors. They threw tear gas and stink bombs, which drifted into the surrounding buildings. It was all recorded by the television and radio media. The "Battle of Michigan Avenue" was not the first outbreak of violence at the Democratic Convention, but it was the worst one caught on tape.
It's the birthday of writer Janet Frame, born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1924. She's the author of many novels, including Owls do Cry (1957) and Intensive Care (1971), as well as a three-volume autobiography finished in 1985. She grew up in a poor family. Her brother was epileptic, and her favorite sister died when Janet was 12 years old. She began seeing a psychiatrist and eventually was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic. She was in and out of mental hospitals for years and received electrical shock therapy from which it took years to fully recover. She lived for a while in an isolated hut in the garden of a friend, and published many novels throughout the 1960s and '70s. In 1982, the first volume of her highly acclaimed autobiography was published. She said, "Writing is a boon. ... I think it's all that matters to me. I dread emerging from it each day."
It's the birthday of American poet and novelist Rita Dove, born in Akron, Ohio (1952), whose collections include On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999) and Thomas and Beulah, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986.
It's the birthday of one of the greatest German writers ever, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, born in Frankfurt in 1749. His greatest work is Faust (1832), a poetic drama in two volumes. He was a poet, novelist, and playwright, but he also made important contributions in geology, botany, anatomy, physics, and history. For the last 30 years of his life, he was one of the most famous people in Germany, and he represented his country around the world. He worked on Faust for about 50 years. The first part was published in 1808 and the second part in 1832. He based it on a Christopher Marlowe play about a scholar who sells his soul to Satan. In Marlowe's version, Faust is damned to hell, but Goethe has Faust defeat Mephistopheles and ascend to heaven. When Goethe was 74, he fell in love with a 19-year-old woman, whom he chased but never succeeded in winning. He wrote a long, sad poem about his failed attempt, and died soon after, in 1832. He was buried with the German poet Schiller. Goethe said, "Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being."
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