Mar. 23, 2004
A Message Gone Awry
Poem: "A Message Gone Awry," by Gerald Locklin, from The Life Force Poems (Water Row Press).
A Message Gone Awry
i overhear a man about my age say
"if not now, when?"
i wonder if he heard that first,
as i did, from peter marin,
with whom i taught at l.a. state
in 1964-65. he was right, of course,
some people postpone living in an endless
preparation for a life that leaks its fuel before it
fires from its launching pad.
prufrock, for instance, and john marcher.
newman's idea of a university:
make it as close to life as possible;
you only learn to live by living.
still, all ideas go too far: the wise youth
does defer a few things while arming
himself for the fray, takes his
lessons gradually, doesn't take foolhardy
risks, doesn't strike out to do battle
with or tame the sharks until he's
learned to swim. we inner-directed children of the
cautious 50's needed to be urged
to act, but all too many of the
very young have perished in the decades since,
impetuously, and from acting far beyond
their age, or any age.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of Margaret Farrar, born in New York City (1897). She graduated from Smith College in 1919, spent a year as a secretary in a bank, and then got a position with the New York World. She found herself in charge of the weekly crossword puzzle, a Sunday feature the World had pioneered in 1913. By the time she started work there, crossword puzzles were becoming popular in America, and within a couple of years they were a national craze. Farrar joined two others in editing the Cross Word Puzzle Book (1924), the first such book ever published. It seemed like such a gamble at the time that the publisher, Simon & Schuster, issued it under another imprint. It was a huge success, selling nearly 400,000 copies in its first year. After that, Farrar edited about two crossword puzzle books per year.
Crossword puzzles became a fixture of most major American newspapers, but the New York Times refused to print them for years. Finally, in February 1942, under Farrar's editorship, the Sunday edition of the Times began printing a crossword puzzle, and in September 1950 it became a daily feature. Farrar remained at the Times, also editing eighteen collections of Times crossword puzzles, until her retirement in December 1968. She died in New York City on June 11, 1984, while working on her 134th book of crossword puzzles.
It's the birthday of the inventor of Liquid Paper, used to correct typing errors, Bette Nesmith Graham, born in Dallas, Texas (1924). She was a struggling artist when she got a job as a secretary at Texas Bank & Trust. To cover her typewriter mistakes neatly, she began using tempera paint mixed with certain chemicals that she knew about from her background in painting. Graham made her first batch in her kitchen blender and named the creation "Mistake Out." She changed the name to "Liquid Paper" after a rapid increase in demand.
It's the birthday of cooking expert Fannie Farmer, born in Boston, Massachusetts (1857). She founded the Miss Farmer's School of Cookery, which was designed to train housewives rather than cooking instructors or chefs. Farmer's principal legacy is The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, first published in 1896 as the Boston Cooking School Cookbook. It was the first cookbook to use standardized level measurements in recipes.
It's the birthday of filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, born in Tokyo, Japan (1910). His film Rashomon (1951) won the Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival and an Academy Award for best foreign-language film, making it the first Japanese film to attract international acclaim. Kurosawa is known for his adaptations of Western literary classics into films with Japanese settings. Hakuchi (1951) is based on Dostoevsky's novel, The Idiot (1869); Kumonosu-jo (The Throne of Blood, 1957) was adapted from Shakespeare's Macbeth; and his masterpiece Ran (Chaos, 1985) recasts King Lear in sixteenth-century Japan.
On this day in 1743, Handel's Messiah was introduced to London as part of a Lenten season of concerts at Covent Garden Theatre. The Messiah was a favorite of Handel's. He said that as he wrote it, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God himself." The entire work was written in a twenty-four day spurt from August 22 to September 14, in 1741.
On this day in 1775, Patrick Henry helped ignite the American Revolution with a speech before the second Virginia Convention. Speaking at St. John's Church in Richmond, Henry implored delegates to vote in favor of the resolution to have Virginia, the largest colony, join the war. He spoke without notes, in a voice that became louder and louder as the speech went on. He said, "Gentleman may cry, 'Peace! Peace!'--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!" And he ended by saying, ". . . but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"
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