Aug. 30, 2013

Summer Night

by Connie Wanek

The street lamp looks down;
it has dropped something
and spends the whole night
searching around its feet.
The rumble of a jet, and the fast road
blocks away, roaring like a cataract.
The scent of mown grass,
and of the body that mowed it.
The sidewalk, made of warm squares
heaved by maple roots,
covered with hieroglyphs in chalk.
A maple sapling, its trunk
wrapped to the knee
like the legs of a racehorse,
galloping straight up.
At dawn the prodigal sun returns
accompanied by equatorial birds
and a floral entourage.
What good has it done us to labor so
when all are rewarded?
Let the spade fall, then,
and join the feast.

"Summer Night" by Connie Wanek, from Hartley Field. © Holy Cow! Press, 2002. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (books by this author), born Mary Godwin in London, England (1797). She is the author of Frankenstein (1818), which is considered the first science fiction novel ever written.

After her marriage to the poet Percy Shelley, the couple went to stay in a lakeside cottage in Switzerland with the poet Lord Byron in the summer of 1816. One rainy night, after reading a German book of ghost stories, Byron suggested that they all write their own horror stories.

Everyone else wrote a story within the next day, but Mary took almost a week. Finally, she wrote an early version of a story about a scientist who brings a dead body to life. She turned the story into a novel, and Frankenstein was published in 1818. She was 21 years old.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Robert Crumb (books by this author), or R. Crumb, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1943). When he was a kid, his older brother became obsessed with cartoons. Crumb wanted to be a fine artist, but his brother forced him to draw cartoons instead of regular pictures. For years, he and his brother produced hundreds of comic books about a character they invented named Fritz the Cat.

He got a job with the American Greetings Corporation drawing funny pictures for cards. His boss was always telling him that his pictures were too grotesque, and he had to make them cuter. So, in the late 1960s, Crumb moved to San Francisco and began illustrating rock concert posters and album covers and one of the pictures he drew popularized the phrase "Keep on truckin'."

He began publishing comic books in 1968, and he sold his own books out of a baby carriage in Haight-Ashbury. His were among the first so-called "underground comics," aimed at adults rather than children, which addressed sex, racism, absurdity, and alienation, and featured such characters as Mr. Natural and Shuman the Human.

After developing a cult following, he published a series of collections of his comics, including R. Crumb's Carload O' Comics (1976) and Complete Crumb: Mr. Sixties (1989).

For most of his life, Crumb has worn a fedora hat and business suits from the 1930s. He only listens to old blues and jazz records, and only watches black-and-white television. A friend of his said: "He is like a kid whose parents had locked him in an attic full of old records and magazines. His taste in everything comes from a time when he did not exist."

Crumb said, "[We] must thank the gods for art, those of us who have been fortunate enough to stumble onto this means of venting our craziness, our meanness, our towering disgust."

After his success, Crumb sold a stack of his original sketchbooks in exchange for a chateau in the French countryside where he continues to live and work.

It's the birthday of Warren Buffett (books by this author), born in Omaha, Nebraska (1930). In February 2008, he was ranked by Forbes as the richest person in the world, worth about $62 billion. Despite his massive wealth, he lives relatively frugally, still resides in the home he bought in 1958 for $31,500, and drives his own car.

In 2006, he announced his plans to give 83 percent of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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




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