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Poem: "John, Tom, and James", "An Old Woman", and "Jack" by Charles Henry Ross. Public domain. by Charles Henry Ross. Public Domain.

            John, Tom, and James

John was a bad boy, and beat a poor cat;
Tom put a stone in a blind man's hat;
James was the boy who neglected his prayers;
They've all grown up ugly, and nobody cares.

                    An Old Woman

There was an old woman as ugly as sin,
Who lived upon Lucifer-matches and gin;
But she was so greedy, and ate such a many,
You could not have kept her a week on a penny.


        That's Jack;
        Lay a stick on his back!
        What's he done? I cannot say.
        We'll find out tomorrow,
        And beat him today.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1948 that President Harry Truman signed the European Recovery Program (known as the Marshall Plan) into law, which allocated more than $5 billion in aid to help revitalize the economy of European countries after World War II. That amount eventually grew to more than $18 billion, which is the equivalent of about $100 billion in today's dollars.

At the time, Europe was on the verge of economic collapse. Whole cities had been destroyed. Factories had shut down. The winter of 1947 was one of the coldest on record and many Europeans were unemployed and homeless, freezing to death.

Though the plan to help Europe became known as the Marshall Plan, it was not George Marshall who came up with it. In fact, it was a small group of lesser-known American strategists and diplomats who realized that the situation in Europe could result in communist takeover of the entire continent. So they turned to Secretary of State George Marshall, who as a well-known war hero and public figure at the time, hoping he could sell the plan to the public.

Marshall immediately bought into the idea and became its spokesperson. He announced the plan at the commencement ceremony at Harvard on June 5, 1947. He then went on a countrywide tour, promoting the plan to ordinary Americans. He later said it felt like he was running for president.

It was a hard sell. Most Americans were tired of all the sacrificing they'd done during the war, and they weren't too excited about continuing to sacrifice for the benefit of Europeans. The Marshall Plan might never have been enacted if a communist government hadn't taken control of Czechoslovakia in the winter of 1948.

During the quarter century after the Marshall Plan was introduced, Europe experienced its highest economic growth ever. Western Europe's gross national product increased by 32 percent. It was one of the most generous and one of the most successful acts of American foreign policy.

It's the birthday of the San Francisco columnist Herb Caen, born in Sacramento, California (1916). He started publishing his column "It's News to Me" in the San Francisco Chronicle when he was just twenty-two years old in 1938, the year after the Golden Gate Bridge opened. He continued writing 1000 words a day, six days a week, for almost sixty years. He only took a break to serve in World War II, becoming the longest-running columnist in American history.

At first, he modeled his column on the work of gossip columnist Walter Winchell, getting most of his material by hanging out in San Francisco's night clubs and bars, trading gossip with politicians and businessmen and ordinary folks. But he said, "What made the column was when I started to get corny and descriptive about San Francisco ... which I did because I ran out of items a couple of nights. I wrote these horrible, poetic ... things about the city, and people ate it up. ... From then on, I was in."

It's the birthday of Washington Irving, born in New York City (1783). He made his name as a writer in 1809, when he published his first book, A History of New York, a satirical history of the city from the point of view of an eccentric, old Dutch professor named Diedrich Knickerbocker. The book became so popular among New Yorkers that they began to call themselves Knickerbockers, and the term became the source of the name for the basketball team.

But he's best known for the short stories in The Sketch Book (1819). In two of the stories, Irving rewrote German folktales and transplanted them to American soil. The first of these was "Rip Van Winkle," about a man who falls asleep during British rule of the American Colonies and wakes up years later to find that he lives in the independent United States. Irving's other most famous story was "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," about the schoolteacher Ichabod Crane and his fateful encounter with the Headless Horseman.

"Rip Van Winkle" and "Sleepy Hollow" were revolutionary American short stories because they were among the first works of American fiction to suggest that America already had a history.

It's the birthday of the American novelist Leon Uris, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1924). He began writing in the early 1950s, inspired by his four-year tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. His first novel, Battle Cry (1953), was his attempt to show the realistic lives of soldiers fighting on the front lines. He also wrote Exodus (1958), which deals with the struggle to establish and defend the state of Israel.

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Poem: "Trouble In Mind" by Richard M. Jones. © Universal Studios Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Trouble In Mind

Trouble in mind, I'm blue,
But I won't be blue always,
For the sun will shine in my backdoor someday.

Trouble in mind, that's true,
I have almost lost my mind;
Life ain't worth livin', feel like I could die,

I'm gonna lay my head on some lonesome railroad line:
Let the two nineteen train ease my troubled mind.

Trouble in mind, I'm blue,
My poor heart is beatin' slow;
Never' had no trouble in my life before,

I'm all alone at midnight,
And my lamp is burning low,
Never had so much trouble in my life before.

I'm gonna lay my head
On that lonesome railroad track,
But when I hear the whistle,
Lord, I'm gonna pull it back.

I'm goin' down to the river
Take along my rocking chair,
And if the blues don't leave me,
I'll rock on away from there.

Well, trouble, oh, trouble,
Trouble on my worried mind,
When you see me laughin',
I'm laughin' just to keep from cryin'.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist and screenwriter Marguerite Duras, born in a small village near Saigon in what was then French Indochina (1914). After her father died of dysentery, her mother struggled to support the family, and she was so distracted that she forgot to enroll her children in school. Duras said, "For two years I ran wild; it was probably the time in my life I came closest to complete happiness. At eight, I still couldn't read or write." Her mother bought some land, hoping to farm it, but it turned out to be worthless. Still, the family was able to scrape enough money together to send Duras to school in Saigon.

While Duras was going to high school in Saigon, she began an affair with an older, wealthy Chinese man, which ended when she graduated from high school and went to college in France. She kept the affair secret for the next fifty years, while writing short, experimental novels such as The Sea Wall (1953) and The Sailor from Gibraltar (1966), and screenplays for films such as Hiroshima Mon Amour (1966).

Then at the age of seventy, after struggling with alcoholism for much of her life, Duras decided to write a novel based on her adolescent affair with the Chinese man. That novel was The Lover (1984), and it was her first major literary success.

Marguerite Duras said, "You have to be very fond of men. Very, very fond. You have to be very fond of them to love them. Otherwise they're simply unbearable."

It's the birthday of playwright and journalist Robert Sherwood, born in New Rochelle, New York (1896). He grew up in a wealthy family and went to Harvard, and he was brought up to believe that he was superior because of his background. But while serving in World War I he became friends with many working-class men, and when he returned to the United States, he began to write plays about the struggles of the working poor, including The Petrified Forest (1935) and Idiot's Delight (1936), which won the Pulitzer Prize. He's perhaps best known for his anti-fascist play There Shall Be No Night (1941).

He said, "To be able to write a play ... a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naive, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool."

It's the birthday of blues singer Muddy Waters, born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Mississippi (1915). He said that his grandmother nicknamed him Muddy Waters because as a boy he liked to play in the muddy creek near his house. He learned to play the blues in the Mississippi Delta style by listening performers like Son House and Robert Johnson. He worked as a farmhand during the week, but he began to perform at juke joints, fish fries and parties on the weekends.

In 1941, the musicologist Alan Lomax came through Mississippi, recording folk singers for the Library of Congress, and he made several recordings of Muddy Waters. Waters was blown away by the experience of hearing these recordings. He said, "Man, you don't know how I felt that afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice." He was so impressed that he decided to try to make it as a professional recording artist. So in May of 1943, Waters took a train from Clarkesdale, Mississippi, to Chicago, Illinois. His only luggage was a suit of clothes and an acoustic guitar. Waters got a job at a paper factory, moved in with some cousins on the South Side, and started performing at house parties for whiskey and tips.

At the time, the most popular music in the night clubs in Chicago was big band music. Waters tried to break through with his Mississippi blues but he had a hard time playing loud enough for anyone to hear him on his acoustic guitar at the noisy parties and bars where he played. So in 1944, he bought a cheap electric guitar from his uncle, which helped increase his sound level.

It was the first time anyone had played Mississippi blues on an electric guitar, which revolutionized the sound of the blues. In 1948, Waters recorded his first hit, "I Can't Be Satisfied," for Chess Records. The song was released on a Friday afternoon in April of 1948, and the initial pressing of 3,000 copies had sold out by Saturday evening.

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Poem: "Love And Sleep" by Algernon Charles Swinburne. Public Domain.

Love And Sleep

Lying asleep between the strokes of night
I saw my love lean over my sad bed,
Pale as the duskiest lily's leaf or head,
Smooth-skinned and dark, with bare throat made to bite,
Too wan for blushing and too warm for white,
But perfect-coloured without white or red.
And her lips opened amorously, and said—
I wist not what, saving one word—Delight.
And all her face was honey to my mouth,
And all her body pasture to mine eyes;
The long lithe arms and hotter hands than fire,
The quivering flanks, hair smelling of the south,
The bright light feet, the splendid supple thighs
And glittering eyelids of my soul's desire.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of one of the most successful B-movie filmmakers in history, Roger Corman, born in Detroit, Michigan (1926). His father wanted him to be an engineer, so Corman went all the way through engineering school, graduated with his degree and got an engineering job only to quit after four days. He knew he wanted to work in Hollywood, so that's what he did.

It was a transitional period for Hollywood at the time. The big studios were already beginning to focus on big-budget films with stars and high production values. So it was left up to smaller independent studios to make the B-movies for teenagers at drive-in theaters around the country. Corman quickly figured out that it might be easier to make a profit in B-movies, because the cost of production was so low.

So with the money he'd made from selling his first script, Corman independently produced and directed his first feature film, The Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), about a giant squid. Over the next five years, he made more than thirty more movies, most of them completed in two weeks or less, including Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), She-Gods of Shark Reef (1958), Teenage Caveman (1958), and A Bucket of Blood (1959), which he filmed in only two days to win a bet.

It was on this day in 1614 that John Rolfe and Pocahontas got married in the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia.

Pocahontas was the daughter of Chief Powhatan, who was kidnapped by the English settlers in Jamestown and held hostage in hopes of getting a peace agreement from the Powhatan tribe. But Chief Powhatan wasn't willing to negotiate, so Pocahontas remained in Jamestown where she was eventually converted to Christianity.

Pocahontas was smart and beautiful, and gained the admiration of many of the colonists during her captivity, but John Rolfe fell in love with her. They got married on this day in 1614, in a little church in Jamestown that was decorated with wildflowers. The marriage led to a long period of peace between Jamestown and the Powhatan Indians. It gave the colonists the time they needed to farm enough tobacco to export to Europe, which helped to make Jamestown a legitimate colony in the eyes of the British.

Two years after their marriage, Rolfe took Pocahontas and their infant son to England to try to garner support for the new colony. While they were there, Rolfe introduced Pocahontas to King James and Sir Walter Raleigh, both of whom were impressed by her manners and her ability to speak English. He also took her to meet his family in Heacham, a town a hundred miles away from London.

Pocahontas fell sick near the end of the trip, and died in Gravesend, England, just before they were about to return. She was just twenty years old.

The story of Pocahontas has become an American legend; it's been retold countless times in history books, novels, poems, TV shows, and movies. The story goes that John Smith was captured by the Powhatans and was about to be clubbed to death when a young Pocahontas ran out and took him in her arms, saving his life. In fact she had been kidnapped and the man who fell in love with her was John Rolfe.

It's the birthday of poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, born in London (1837). Swinburne was always extremely proud of his work. Before going to a friend's house, he would place his manuscript in his breast pocket and then button up his coat to make the bulge of the book more obvious. He would then go to the house and greet everyone. He would sit in a chair completely rigid, and then would say in an absent-minded way, "I have brought with me such and such book." He would wait in silence until someone said, "Oh, please do read it." He would then reply, "I had no intention in the world of boring you with it, but since you ask me. ..." And then he would read it.

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Poem: "On Closing the Apartment of my Grandparents of Blessed Memory" by Robyn Sarah from Questions About The Stars. © Brick Books. Reprinted with permission.

On Closing the Apartment of my Grandparents of Blessed Memory

And then I stood for the last time in that room.
The key was in my hand. I held my ground,
and listened to the quiet that was like a sound,
and saw how the long sun of winter afternoon
fell slantwise on the floorboards, making bloom
the grain in the blond wood. (All that they owned
was once contained here.) At the window moaned
a splinter of wind. I would be going soon.

I would be going soon; but first I stood,
hearing the years turn in that emptied place
whose fullness echoed. Whose familiar smell,
of a tranquil life, lived simply, clung like a mood
or a long-loved melody there. A lingering grace.
Then I locked up, and rang the janitor's bell.

Literary and Historical Notes:

On this day in 1327, one of the most important events in the history of poetry took place: The Italian poet Petrarch saw the woman he called Laura for the first time at a Good Friday service in the church of Sainte-Claire. He would go on to write dozens of sonnets to Laura, providing a model for generations of sonnet-writers, including Shakespeare. But he didn't publish those sonnets until 1374, almost fifty years after Petrarch saw Laura for the first time. Most historians now think Petrarch's Laura was Laura de Noves, the wife of a nobleman named Hugues de Sade. She died on April 6, 1348, twenty-one years after Petrarch had first seen her.

It's the birthday of country songwriter and singer Merle Haggard, born in Bakersfield, California (1937). His parents were dustbowl migrants from Oklahoma, and Haggard grew up in a house that had been converted from a railroad boxcar by his father. He grew up poor and restless, in and out of reform schools, and by the time he was fourteen he was hopping trains and hitchhiking around the West Coast. He supported himself as a migrant farm worker, but he also stole cars, wrote bad checks and became a petty thief.

He eventually got caught trying to burglarize a roadhouse and he spent twenty-seven months in San Quentin prison. He decided that he didn't ever want to go to prison again and became a model prisoner. He also joined the prison's country-music band. Before he was released, Haggard got to see Johnny Cash perform in concert for the prisoners. Haggard even got to meet Cash, and the experience persuaded him to pursue country music as a career.

The first song he wrote, while he was still on parole, was "Branded Man" about the life of an ex-con. He began recording with a friend who ran a record company out of his garage. His first single sold only 200 copies, but within a few years, his song "All My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers" became a top-ten hit on the country charts.

Today, Haggard has released more than six hundred songs, thirty-eight of which were number-one hits.

It was on this day in 1909 that Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, and four Eskimos became the first men to reach the North Pole. Peary was a U.S. Navy lieutenant who had dreamed of reaching the North Pole since reading about the arctic as a child. He began working toward the North Pole in 1893, and in 1906 he got within 150 miles. On March 1, 1909, he set off from Ellesmere Island with a group of twenty-three men, 133 dogs, and nineteen sleds. As they got closer to the North Pole, they gradually reduced the size of their party until, finally, there were only six men left.

He reached what he believed to be the North Pole on the morning of April 6, 1909. Further studies concluded that Peary probably came up about thirty miles short of the North Pole, and on May 3, 1952, an Oklahoman named Joseph O. Fletcher flew into the Arctic Circle and became the first man to undisputedly set foot on the North Pole.

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Poem: "We Bring Democracy To The Fish" by Donald Hall from White Apples and the Taste of Stone. © Houghton Mifflin Company. Reprinted with permission.

We Bring Democracy To The Fish

It is unacceptable that fish prey on each other.
For their comfort and safety, we will liberate them
into fishfarms with secure, durable boundaries
that exclude predators. Our care will provide
for their liberty, health, happiness, and nutrition.
Of course all creatures need to feel useful.
At maturity the fish will discover their purposes.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of jazz singer Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1915). She was discovered by the jazz producer John Hammond. By the early '30s she was touring with jazz legends like Count Basie and Lester Young, and by the 1940s she was already being called the best jazz singer of all time.

It's the birthday of journalist and radio broadcaster Walter Winchell, born in New York City (1897). He said, "The way to become famous fast is to throw a brick at someone who is famous."

It's the birthday of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, born in Detroit, Michigan (1939). By the time he was thirty he was $300,000 in debt and possibly finished as a filmmaker. Then he was offered the job of directing a mobster movie based on a Mario Puzo novel. And that was The Godfather, which came out in 1972 and became the most profitable movie ever made up to that time.

It was on this day in 1927 that an audience in New York City saw an image of Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover in the first successful long-distance demonstration of television. At the time, there were several competing versions of television, and this version was a mechanical process that used a metal disc, punched with holes in a spiral pattern, which transformed light into electrical impulses. It had been invented in Europe, and it was called "Radio Vision."

Herbert Hoover was speaking in Washington, D.C., to the audience in New York City. The broadcast began with a close-up of Hoover's forehead, because he was sitting too close to the camera. Hoover backed up and delivered his speech, saying, "It is a matter of just pride to have a part in this historic occasion ... the transmission of sight, for the first time in the world's history." Hoover's speech was followed by a comedian performing jokes in blackface.

"Radio Vision" never really caught on. Instead, the TV as we know today was an entirely different technology, invented by a high school student in rural Utah named Philo Farnsworth.

It's the birthday of the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, born in Cocker-mouth, England (1770). He planned to go into the clergy as a young man, but he got mediocre grades at university and refused to prepare for a career. Instead, all he wanted to do was to walk around the countryside, surrounded by nature.

While on vacation from college at Cambridge, he and a friend sailed to France for a twelve-week walking tour of the Alps, during which they covered about 3,000 miles.

It was between 1797 and 1807 that he wrote most of his greatest poetry, including "The Prelude," "Tintern Abbey," "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal," "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," and "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."

But by the time he had reached middle age, he became a cult sensation and his collections of poetry became best-sellers. Tourists from London would take day trips up to the lake district where Wordsworth lived and gawk at him through the window of his house. His wife once wrote in a letter, "At this moment, a group of young Tourists are standing before the window ... William is reading a newspaper—and on lifting up his head a profound bow greeted him from each."

It's the birthday of Donald Barthelme, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1931). He's the author of four novels, including Snow White (1967), but he's best known for his strange, fragmented short stories, the first collection of which was Come Back, Dr. Caligari (1964).

Donald Barthelme said, "Write about what you're afraid of."

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Poem: "The Waitresses" by Matt Cook from Eavesdrop Soup. © Manic D Press. Reprinted with permission.

The Waitresses

The waitresses
At the restaurant
Have to keep reminding
The schizophrenic man
That if he keeps acting
Like a schizophrenic man
They'll have to ask him to leave the restaurant.
But he keeps forgetting that he's a schizophrenic man,
So they have to keep reminding him.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of lyricist (Edgar) Yip Harburg, born in New York City (1896). He's best known as the man who wrote the lyrics and much of the script for The Wizard of Oz (1939). He also wrote songs such as "April In Paris" and "It's Only a Paper Moon."

It's the birthday of editor and publisher Robert Giroux, born in New Jersey, (1914). The first major author that Giroux discovered was Jean Stafford. While traveling by train to Connecticut, Giroux took Stafford's manuscript at random from his briefcase and became so absorbed in reading it that he rode past his stop. When he got to know Stafford, she introduced him to her then little-known husband Robert Lowell, whose first collection of poems had been published privately by a small house and had gone largely unnoticed. Giroux snatched him up, and he became one of the most important American poets of the 20th century. Lowell then introduced him to a young woman named Flannery O'Conner, whom he also published.

It's the birthday of novelist Barbara Kingsolver, born in Annapolis, Maryland (1955). She grew up in rural Kentucky, where she spent her childhood exploring the alfalfa fields and wooded hills surrounding her home. She started keeping a journal when she was eight years old and has continued to do so her entire life.

She majored in biology at DePauw University in Indiana, and then got a master's degree in evolutionary biology. She was working on a Ph.D. thesis on the social lives of termites when she decided to abandon a career in science and try to become a writer. She took a job as a technical writer, which forced her to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day and do nothing but write. She later said, "I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer's block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don't. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done."

Her first novel was The Bean Trees (1986) about a woman from rural Kentucky who leaves home so she won't get stuck in a boring, dead-end life. She's perhaps best known for her novel The Poisonwood Bible (1998), about the wife and four daughters of an evangelical Baptist minister who go as missionaries to the Belgian Congo in 1959. In the novel she wrote, "We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle. My sisters and I were all counting on having one birthday apiece during our twelve-month mission. 'And heaven knows,' our mother predicted, 'they won't have Betty Crocker in the Congo.'"

It's the birthday of the journalist Seymour Hersh, born in Chicago, Illinois (1937). He majored in history at the University of Chicago, and then went to law school for a year, but he was expelled for poor grades. He worked at a drug store for a while before a friend told him about the Chicago City News Bureau.

One of the first major stories he covered was about a house that had burned down in an inner-city neighborhood. He arrived on the scene and all the members of the family had been wrapped in tarps and arranged by size. He said, "I had this little image ... like daddy bear, mama bear, and little baby bears. It was a horrific, amazing sight." When he called in the story, his editor asked him if the deceased were black or white. When he responded that they were black, his editor told him to just keep it to one short paragraph in the paper.

It was Seymour Hersh who broke the story that American soldiers had massacred an entire village in Vietnam, killing all the men, women, and children. He followed up on it and broke the story of what is now known as the My Lai massacre and went on to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the subject, My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath (1970).

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, Hersh has been writing articles for The New Yorker on the U.S. government's response, Middle Eastern politics, and the war.

On this day in 1935, Congress approved the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the national works program created by President Franklin Roosevelt to relieve the economic hardship of the Great Depression. The program employed more than 8.5 million people on 1.4 million public projects before it was disbanded in 1943. It included the Federal Writers' Project, which gave jobs to writers such as Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, May Swenson, Margaret Walker, and Richard Wright.

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Poem: "The Raisin" by Donald Hall from White Apples and the Taste of Stone. © Houghton Mifflin Company. Reprinted with permission.

The Raisin

I drank cool water from the fountain
in the undertaker's parlor
near the body of a ninety-two-year-old man.

Harry loved horses and work.
He curried the flanks of his Morgan;
he loaded crates twelve hours—to fill in
when his foreman got drunk—
never kicking a horse,
never kind to a son.

He sobbed on the sofa ten years ago,
when Sally died.
We heard of him dancing with
widows in Florida, cheek
to cheek, and of scented
letters that came to Connecticut
all summer.

When he was old he made up for the weeping
he failed to do earlier:
grandchildren, zinnias,
Morgans, great-grandchildren.
He wept over everything. His only
advice: "Keep your health."
He told old stories, laughing slowly.
He sang old songs.

Forty years ago his son
who was parked making love in the country
noticed Harry parked making love
in a car up ahead.

When he was ninety he wanted to die.
He couldn't ride or grow flowers
or dance
or tend the plots in the graveyard
that he had kept up
faithfully, since Sally died.

This morning I looked into the pale
raisin of Harry's face.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet Charles Baudelaire, born in Paris (1821). He left behind only one major book of poetry, The Flowers of Evil (1857).

It was on this day in 1865 that General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. On April 5th, Grant sent a message to Lee that said, "General: The result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle."

Lee wrote back to say, "Though not entirely of the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance ... I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer, on condition of its surrender."

And so they met at the Appomattox Court House on April 9th, Palm Sunday, just after noon. Afterward, Lee rode back to his camp, and crowds of Confederate soldiers along the road began to weep as he passed.

It's the birthday of Eadweard Muybridge, born in Kingston-on-the-Thames, England (1830). He emigrated to California in the 1850s, where he took up photography and quickly became one of the first internationally known photographers. Between 1867 and 1872 he took more than 2000 photographs, many of them views of the Yosemite Valley.

It was Eadweard Muybridge who designed a new camera that could take a picture in one-thousandth of a second. To test his improvement, he set up twenty-four cameras along a race track with trip wires to pull the shutters. With those cameras, he managed to take a series of pictures of a horse galloping, proving for the first time that all four of a horse's hooves will sometimes be off the ground at the same time.

It's the birthday of Hugh Hefner, born in Chicago, Illinois (1926). He was brought up by strict Methodist parents. He was writing promotional copy for Esquire magazine when he got the idea for a new men's magazine that would be similar to Esquire but more daring.

Hefner financed the project with $600 of his own money, all the money that he had. He also raised about $10,000 by the sale of stock to friends. The result was Playboy magazine. The first issue featured a nude calendar photograph of Marilyn Monroe, which Hefner had bought from a calendar company for $200. It reached the newsstands in December of 1953 and sold out its press run of 53,991 copies at 50 cents a copy.



  • “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
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “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
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
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