Friday

Jul. 16, 2010

When the Horses Gallop Away from Us, It's a Good Thing

by Charles Wright

I always find it strange—though I shouldn't—how creatures don't
         care for us the way we care for them.
Horses, for instance, and chipmunks, and any bird you'd name.
Empathy's only a one-way street.

And that's all right, I've come to believe.
It sets us up for ultimate things,
                                              and penultimate ones as well.
It's a good lesson to have in your pocket when the Call comes to
         call.

"When the Horses Gallop Away from Us, It's a Good Thing" by Charles Wright, from Sestets. © Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day 65 years ago that the first atomic bomb exploded. This test explosion happened at 5:30 a.m. on this day in 1945 near Alamogordo, New Mexico, which is about 120 miles south of Albuquerque.

A scientist who witnessed the test reported: "We were lying there, very tense, in the early dawn, and there were just a few streaks of gold in the east; you could see your neighbor very dimly. ... Suddenly, there was an enormous flash of light, the brightest light I have ever seen. ... It blasted; it pounced; it bored its way right through you. It was a vision which was seen with more than the eye. It was seen to last forever. ... There was an enormous ball of fire which grew and grew and it rolled as it grew; it went up into the air, in yellow flashes and into scarlet and green. It looked menacing. It seemed to come toward one."

J. Robert Oppenheimer was the physicist who led the Manhattan Project, which created the atomic weapon. Years later, he said that what came to his mind as he witnessed the explosion were these words from the sacred Hindu text The Bhagavad Gita:
"If the radiance of a thousand suns / Were to burst into the sky / That would be like
The splendor of the Mighty One ... / I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds." But there at the desert on that day he murmured only the words "It worked."

It was on this day in 1951 that J.D. Salinger's (books by this author) first and only novel, The Catcher in the Rye, was published.

It's the birthday of playwright Tony Kushner, born in New York City (1956). He's best known for his two-part play Angels in America (1991). He grew up in a highly cultured environment. His parents were both classical musicians, and they encouraged him to listen to opera and read literature. They paid him a dollar for every poem he memorized. When he was a young boy, he saw his mother star in a local production of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. He found it so powerful that he had vivid dreams about it for days, and he later said that's a big reason he went into theater.

Before he started writing plays, he was a director. The first play he wrote got terrible reviews, and he wasn't sure what to do next until he won a grant from the NEA. He decided to write a long play, in order to give the taxpayers their money's worth. The result was the first half of Angels in America, titled The Millennium Approaches. It was more than three hours long and featured as its characters homosexuals, Jews, AIDS patients, Mormons, the McCarthy-era lawyer Roy Cohn, and an angel. Kushner never even thought it would be produced on Broadway, but it became a huge hit and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, along with almost every other award for drama that year. It was made into a TV movie for HBO.

It's the birthday of Larry Sanger, born in Bellevue, Washington (1968). He's the co-founder, along with Jimmy Wales, of the collaborative user-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia.

By the end of its first year, in 2001, Wikipedia had grown to about 20,000 articles in 18 languages. Today, less than a decade from when it was first launched, there are 15 million articles in more than 270 languages on Wikipedia. It's the largest encyclopedia in the history of mankind.

The website gets its name from blending the words "wiki" and "encyclopedia." "Wiki" is a recent addition to the English lexicon; it made its way into the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary in 2007. "Wiki-wiki" is actually a Hawaiian word, meaning "quick" or "fast." A wiki is a website that uses a certain type of software (the software is also called "wiki" software) that enables users to quickly and easily edit the website, create content, and interlink various Web pages.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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