Jul. 6, 2007
Neither Out Far Nor In Deep
Poem: "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep" by Robert Frost. Reprinted with permission of Peter Gilbert, Trustee of Robert Frost Estate. (buy now)
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, born just outside of Mexico City (1907). Over the course of her lifetime, she only produced about 130 paintings, most of them on relatively tiny canvases and squares of sheet metal. And almost all of her paintings were self-portraits. But in spite of her small output, she's now considered one of the greatest Mexican artists and one of the greatest female artists of the 20th century.
What made her work unique was that she mixed a 19th-century European style with elements of Mexican pop culture and Native American art, something that had never been done before. She didn't have her own major solo exhibition until 1953, the same year she had her leg amputated after a life of health problems caused by a streetcar accident when she was a teenager. She was carried into the show on a stretcher and then laid down on a four-poster bed in the middle of the gallery, as though she were one of the art works. She died the following year. She was 47 years old.
It was only after her death that her work became well known. Today, her paintings fetch prices at auctions equal to paintings by Picasso and Van Gogh.
It was on this day in 1957 that two teenagers named John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met at a church dance in Liverpool, England. Lennon was performing at the dance with his band and McCartney was in the audience. McCartney was impressed by John's singing, so he introduced himself after the performance. They didn't hit it off until Paul mentioned that he played guitar, and he knew how to tune one. John was even more impressed that Paul knew the lyrics of recent rock and roll songs. John could never remember lyrics, which was why he often made up new ones while he was singing. Paul volunteered to write out the lyrics for the song "Be Bop a Lula" for John, and the two became fast friends. By 1959, they were calling themselves The Beatles.
On this day in 1862 that Samuel Clemens first started publishing stories for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada. The paper gave him his first full-time writing job, and it was the place where he first used the name Mark Twain (books by this author). He was supposed to cover the mining industry for the newspaper, but he found that he preferred writing about accidents, street fights, barroom shootings, and parties. He wasn't good with facts. He eventually realized that what he really wanted to write was fiction.
On this day in 1535, Sir Thomas More was executed for treason, as a result of his refusal to recognize King Henry VIII as the head of the Church. More was named a Saint by the Catholic Church in 1935, and in the year 2000, he was declared the patron saint of politicians.
It's the birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama (books by this author), born in Tibet (1936). He has written, in collaboration with other scholars, several dozen collections of Buddhist teachings. In 1959, he took 80,000 refugees to India rather than give in to Chinese rule in Tibet. Although he was schooled as a monk, he is also a good mechanic. When he was growing up in the monastery, he fixed broken machines of all kinds. Several years ago his younger brother gave him his first tube of Superglue. He was enchanted.
It's the birthday of one of the most influential and controversial philosophers of the 20th century, Peter Singer (books by this author), born in Melbourne, Australia (1946). His book Animal Liberation (1975), which is generally credited with starting the animal rights movement, has sold more than a million copies and is estimated to have converted more people to vegetarianism than any other book ever written.
But Singer has said he is disappointed by the book's impact. He said, "When I wrote it, I really thought the book would change the world. I know it sounds a little grand now, but at the time the '60s still existed for us. It looked as if real changes were possible, and I let myself believe that this would be one of them. All you have to do is walk around the corner to McDonald's to see how successful I have been."
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