MONDAY, 5 March 2001
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Poem: Sonnet LXXI ("No Longer Mourn For Me When I Am Dead"), by William Shakespeare.

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From his vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse,
But let your love even with my life decay;
    Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
    And mock you with me after I am gone.

It's the birthday of novelist Leslie Marmon Silko, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico (1948) — a Laguna Pueblo Indian best known for her novel Ceremony (1977), which retells, in a contemporary setting, stories she learned as a child.  She was raised in Old Laguna, on the Pueblo Reservation in New Mexico.

It's the birthday of biologist Lynn Margulis, born in Chicago (1938).  A rebel since graduate school, she proposed a theory claiming that cells with nuclei — including all the cells in the human body — are derived from bacteria that formed symbiotic affiliations in the seas and microbial mats that covered the earth more than two billion years ago.  Her view was derided by the academic community in the 1960s and '70s, but is taken seriously today.

In 1933 on this day, German election returns gave the Nazis and their Nationalist allies 52 percent of the seats in the Reichstag.  It was the last free election in Germany until after the war.

It's the birthday of novelist Frank Norris, born in Chicago (1870).  As a young man he went to Paris to study art, but after reading the work of Zola, he decided to become a naturalist novelist.  He wrote a novel of lower-class life in San Francisco, which later became McTeague (1899).  He planned a trilogy called the Epic of Wheat, which would include:  The Octopus, The Pit, and finally The Wolf.  But he died at 32, following an appendix operation, without writing the trilogy's final novel.

It's the birthday of illustrator Howard Pyle, born in Wilmington, Delaware (1853).  He illustrated such children's classics as The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, and, in 4 volumes, the saga of King Arthur and the Round Table.

The Boston Massacre took place on this day in 1770, on King Street.  A skirmish broke out between British troops and a crowd of colonists who were taunting them: five colonists were killed, including a runaway slave named Crispus Attucks.  John Adams wrote:  "Not the battle of Lexington, nor the surrender of Burgoyne or Cornwallis, were more important events in American history than the Battle of King Street."

It's the birthday of Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, born in  Flanders (1512).  He produced the first modern maps of Europe and Britain, and in 1569 published a world map on a new projection that still bears his name — the Mercator Projection.

It's the birthday of the first Plantagenet king of England, Henry II, born in France (1133). His wife was Eleanor of Aquitaine.

TUESDAY, 6 March 2001
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Poem: Sonnet 43 ("How do I love thee? Let me count the ways"), by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Sonnet 43

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight.
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith,
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

It's the birthday of novelist Gabriel García Márquez, born in Aracataca, Colombia (1928) — winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.  He's best known for his book One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), the story of a utopian city, Macondo, built by the Buendía family in the middle of a swamp.  His other novels include Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), and Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981). García Márquez owns homes in Mexico City, Barcelona, Paris, Havana, and two cities in Colombia — each house furnished almost identically, with white carpets, glass coffee tables, modern art, and identical Macintosh computers.

It's the birthday of humorist Ring (Ringgold Wilmer) Lardner, Sr., born in Niles, Michigan (1885).  A solemn man, he wrote some of the funniest short stories in the English language.  His first book, You Know Me, Al (1916), was a book of letters written by a fictitious ball player named 'Jack Keefe.' His other collections include Gullible's Travels (1917), The Big Town (1921), and Round Up (1929).  Lardner lived to be 48, dying in East Hampton, Long Island (1933).

In 1853 on this day, Giuseppe Verdi's opera La Traviata (The Strayed Woman) had its premiere in Venice.  It was based on the novel The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas the Younger.

This day in 1836 was the 13th and final day of the siege of the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas.  After 12 days of continuous artillery bombardment, General Santa Anna's 6,000 Mexican troops stormed the mission and slaughtered the defenders, including Colonel William B. Travis and Davy Crockett.

It's the birthday of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, born in Durham, England (1806).  She fell off a horse as a child, and as a result was an invalid for much of her life. She was doted upon by her father until she was 40 years old, at which time she fell in love with the poet Robert Browning, and secretly married him.  Her father never allowed her back into his house, and returned her letters unopened.  Her intensely happy 15 years of marriage ended when she died in Browning's arms, in Florence, when she was 55.

WEDNESDAY, 7 March 2001
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Poem: "The Lesson," by Edward Lucie-Smith, from A Tropical Childhood & Other Poems (Oxford University Press).

The Lesson

'Your father's gone,' my bald headmaster said.
His shiny dome and brown tobacco jar
Splintered at once in tears. It wasn't grief.
I cried for knowledge which was bitterer
Than any grief. For there and then I knew
That grief has its uses—that a father dead
Could bind the bully's fist a week or two;
And then I cried for shame, then for relief.

I was a month past ten when I learnt this:
I still remember how the noise was stilled
In school-assembly when my grief came in
Some goldfish in a bowl quietly sculled
Around their shining prison on its shelf.
They were indifferent. All the other eyes
Were turned towards me. Somewhere in myself
Pride, like a goldfish, flashed a sudden fin.

It's the birthday of Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen, born in Oslo (1907), considered the first truly modern Norwegian poet.  He was a socialist before World War II, but grew disenchanted with leftist policies and, during the war, signed editorials supporting the German occupation of Norway.  The extent of his collaboration with the Nazis is still debated.  The point is made, for example, that he never informed on anyone, never embraced the racist elements of Nazism, and never joined in the cult of the Führer. Nonetheless, after the war he was convicted of treason and sentenced to 3-1/2 years at hard labor.  Following his release, he settled in Hamar, 60 miles north of Oslo, and worked as a bookseller for 10 years. At 43 he converted to Catholicism (1950), and he continued to write well into old age.  His 12 collections include Secret Life (1954), The Silence Afterwards (1965) and Night Watch (1985). 

It's the birthday of composer Maurice Ravel, born in Ciboure, France (1875).  A private income allowed him the luxury of working slowly and steadily, turning out one polished composition a year.

It's the birthday of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, born in Amersfoort, Holland (1872).  He began by painting representational images, but grew steadily more abstract.  At 40 he moved to Paris and adopted a cubist style for 5 years; when he moved to New York (1940), he replaced his austere black lines with colored bands broken by colored rectangles.

It's the birthday of plant breeder Luther Burbank, born in Lancaster, Massachusetts (1849), and reared on a farm.  Influenced by the writing of Darwin, he developed the Burbank potato.  Then he moved to Santa Rosa, California, and established his famous greenhouse and farm where he developed over 800 strains and varieties of plants, including plums,  prunes, berries, and 50 varieties of lilies.

On this day in 1838, coloatura soprano Jenny Lind, "the Swedish nightingale," made her Stockholm debut in Carl Maria von Weber's opera Der Freischütz (The Free Shooter) at the age of 18.

THURSDAY, 8 March 2001
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Poem: "Her First Calf," by Wendell Berry, from Collected Poems (North Point Press).

Her fate seizes her and brings her
down. She is heavy with it. It
wrings her. The great weight
is heaved out of her. It eases.
She moves into what she has become,
ure in her fate now
as a fish free in the current.
She turns to the calf who has broken
out of the womb's water and its veil.
He breathes. She licks his wet hair.
He gathers his legs under him
and rises. He stands, and his legs
wobble. After the months
of his pursuit of her, now
they meet face to face.
From the beginnings of the world
his arrival and her welcome
have been prepared. They have always
known each other.

It's the birthday of writer John McPhee, born in Princeton, New Jersey (1931), a longtime writer for The New Yorker.  McPhee has a particular interest in geology, the subject of his books Basin and Range (1981), Rising from the Plains (1986), and Assembling California (1993).

It's the birthday of educator Lydia Rapoport, born in Vienna (1923), a pioneer in the education of emotionally disturbed children.

It's the birthday of black actress Louise Beavers, born in Cincinnati, Ohio (1902).  She was typecast as a maid or 'Mammy' character in dozens of Hollywood films. Having grown up in Pasadena, she took voice lessons to transform her California accent to a southern drawl.

It's the birthday of chemist Otto Hahn, born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany (1879).  In 1944, he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering the fission of heavy nuclei, which made the atomic bomb possible.  Later, however, it became clear that the prime credit for the discovery of "fission"
actually belonged to physicist Lise Meitner, who had collaborated with Hahn for 30 years. Meitner, who was Jewish, fled Germany for Sweden in 1938, and from then on refused to have anything to do with the development of nuclear weapons.

It's the birthday of Kenneth Grahame, born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1859).  He married at the age of 40; a year later his son, Alistair, was born.  When the boy was four, Grahame began telling him bedtime stories about a mole and a rat, a badger, a toad, and weasels.  When his son went away on vacation, the story continued by letter.  A friend who worked for a magazine persuaded him to write it down and submit it, which he did.  The Wind in the Willows came out in 1908, and has been a best-seller ever since. 

Early in Chapter One, Mole asks the Water Rat about boating: 
"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

"Nice?  It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for the stroke.  "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing -- absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

From Chapter 8: 
"The smell of buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries."

FRIDAY, 9 March 2001
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Poem: "Criss Cross Apple Sauce," by Thomas Lux, from New & Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin).

Criss Cross Apple Sauce Criss cross apple sauce
do me a favor and get lost
while you're at it drop dead
then come back without a head

my daughter sings for me
when I ask her what she learned in school today
as we drive from her mother's house to mine.
She knows I like some things that rhyme.
She sings another she knows I like:
Trick or treat, trick or treat
give me something good to eat
If you don't I don't care
I'll put apples in your underwear . . .

Apples in you underwear — I like that more
than Lautreamont's umbrella
on the operating table, I say to her
and ask if she sees the parallel.
She says no but she prefers the apples too.
Sitting on a bench
nothing to do
along come some boys - p.u., p.u., p.u.

my daughter sings,
my daughter with her buffalo-size heart,
my daughter brilliant and kind,
my daughter singing
as we drive from her mother's house to mine.

On this date in 1959, the Barbie Doll was unveiled at the Toy Fair in New York City. Over a billion Barbies have been sold since then.

It's the birthday of novelist Keri Hulme, born in Christchurch, New Zealand (1947) — known for her first novel, The Bone People (1984).

It's the birthday of Mickey Spillane, the pen name of Frank Morrison, born in Brooklyn, New York (1918), the author of crime novels featuring Mike Hammer, 'the one-man police force.'  His books include I, the Jury (1946), Vengeance Is Mine (1950), Kiss Me, Deadly (1952).

"I have no fans.  You know what I got?  Customers.  And customers are your friends."

It's the birthday of composer Samuel Barber, born in West Chester, Pennsylvania (1910), neo-Romantic composer famous for his "Adagio for Strings" (1936) and the opera Vanessa (1958 — libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti).

It's the birthday of Vita Sackville-West, born in Kent, England (1892).  She was one of the "Bloomsbury" writers, but was better known for her weekly gardening column than for her poetry and novels, which include The Edwardians (1930), and All Passion Spent (1931).

"I have come to the conclusion, after many years of sometimes sad experience, that you cannot come to any conclusion at all."

On this day in 1864, Ulysses S. Grant, who had never been to Washington, D.C., in his life, was made commander of all the Union armies. His popular nickname, 'Unconditional Surrender,' matched his initials, U.S.

"I know only two tunes.  One of them is 'Yankee Doodle,' and the other isn't."

It's the birthday of railroad developer Leland Stanford, born in Watervliet, New York (1824).  He moved out to California, went into business, and entered politics.  He was elected Governor of California in 1861, about the same time he joined the new Central Pacific Railroad, where he served as President for the rest of his life.  He freely used his elected position to build up his railroad, and earned tremendous profits for himself.  In 1885, he used some of his money to found the school that bears his name: Stanford University.

It's the birthday of explorer Amerigo Vespucci, born in Florence, Italy (1451) — who explored the coast of South America and discovered the Amazon River.  It was he, Amerigo, who gave his name to the New World: America.

On this day in 1274, St. Thomas Aquinas, 49 years old, died after being knocked from his donkey when it trotted under a low tree limb.  Legend has it that the donkey died of regret.

SATURDAY, 10 March 2001
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Poem: from "The Prelude," by William Wordsworth.

From "The Prelude"

When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign is Solitude!
How potent a mere image of her sway!
Most potent when impressed upon the mind
With an appropriate human centre — Hermit
Deep in the bosom of the Wilderness;
Votary (in vast Cathedral, where no foot
Is treading and no other face is seen)
Kneeling at prayer; or Watchman on the top
Of Lighthouse beaten by Atlantic Waves;
Or as the soul of that great Power is met
Sometimes embodied on a public road,
When, for the night deserted, it assumes
A character of quiet more profound
Than pathless Wastes

On this day in 1949, a fire swept the main building of the Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Ten women — mental patients — were locked on the top floor and died in the flames. One of them was Zelda Fitzgerald, the 47 years old widow of  F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had died of a heart attack in Hollywood 9 years earlier.

It's the birthday of playwright David Rabe, born in Dubuque, Iowa (1940).  His experiences in a medical unit in Vietnam prompted some of his early plays, including The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel (1971), and Sticks and Bones (1971).  Later plays include Hurlyburly (1984), Goose and Tom-Tom (1986), and his most recent, A Question of Mercy (1998).

It's the birthday of writer Hugh Nissenson, born in Brooklyn (1933).  He's best known for his short stories, and for his novel, The Tree of Life (1985) — a mixed-media diary of an early-19th-century Ohio frontiersman named Thomas Keene.

It's the birthday of 'absurdist' writer Boris Vian, born in Paris (1920). His play The General's Tea Party (1962) ends with all the main characters losing one by one at Russian roulette.

It's the birthday of journalist Heywood Hale Broun, born in New York City (1918), author of the memoir Whose Little Boy Are You? (1983).

It's the birthday of jazz cornettist (Leon Bismarck) "Bix" Beiderbecke, born in Davenport, Iowa (1903).  As a young boy, he heard black jazz players — including Louis Armstrong — on Mississippi riverboats passing his town, and playing jazz became his great passion.  His parents sent him to a Chicago military academy, trying to get the music off his mind, but it was the worst possible place to have chosen: Chicago's south side was the new music's hotbed.  Beiderbecke's first recordings were made in 1924 — he was 21 — with a white group from Ohio called the Wolverines.  Two years later, he joined the Jean Goldkette band; a year after that, he moved to the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.  He played with Whiteman, off and on, until he drank himself to death 4 years later: he died alone, in a New York rooming house, at the age of 28.  He achieved posthumous fame 7 years after his death with the publication of Dorothy Baker's novel, Young Man with a Horn (1938). Although he'd sent many of his records back to his disapproving parents in Davenport, so far as anyone knows neither his mother nor his father never listened to any of them.

SUNDAY, 11 March 2001
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Poem: "Pot Roast," by Mark Strand, from Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf).

Pot Roast

I gaze upon the roast,
that is sliced and laid out
on my plate
and over it
I spoon the juices
of carrot and onion.
And for once I do not regret
The passage of time.

I sit by a window
that looks
on the soot-stained brick of buildings
and do not care that I see
no living thing—not a bird,
not a branch in bloom,
not a soul moving
in the rooms
behind the dark panes.
These days when there is little
to love or to praise
one could do worse
than yield
to the power of food.
So I bend

to inhale
the steam that rises
from my plate, and I think
of the first time
I tasted a roast
like this.
It was years ago
in Seabright,
Nova Scotia;
my mother leaned
over my dish and filled it
and when I finished
filled it again.
I remember the gravy,
its odor of garlic and celery,
and sopping it up
with pieces of bread.

And now
I taste it again.
The meat of memory.
The meat of no change.
I raise my fork in praise,
and I eat.

On this day in 1959, the play A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City — the first play by a black woman to reach Broadway.  It starred Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Claudia McNeil.

It's the birthday of Douglas Adams, born in Cambridge, England (1952) — author of the humorous mock-science-fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It's the birthday of press king Rupert Murdoch, born in Melbourne, Australia (1931). He inherited a small newspaper in Adelaide, Australia, when he was 21. Using lurid headlines and sensational stories, he boosted circulation fast. He bought more papers,  then magazines, television stations, and, by the mid-1980s, the 20th Century-Fox film studios.

It's the birthday of  bandleader Lawrence Welk, born in Strasburg, North Dakota (1903).  In 1955, at the age of 52, he became a television star on the ABC television network; his show ran until 1982.  He rejected cigarette and beer commercials, hired no comedians for fear of off-color jokes, and over the years became, after Bob Hope, the second-wealthiest performer in show business.

It's the birthday of electrical engineer Vannevar Bush, born in Everett, Massachusetts (1890).  While teaching at M.I.T., he devised the first computer.  He called it a "network analyzer," but it was really an early form of analog computer.

It's the anniversary of the great Blizzard of 1888, which hit the northeastern states and didn't let for about a day and a half.  In New York City, the Stock Exchange closed, and people lost all sense of direction in the driving, swirling snow.  The high winds, low temperatures, and heavy snowfall led to 400 deaths.

On this day in 1818, the gothic terror tale Frankenstein (in full, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus), by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, was published.



  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
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  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
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