Jan. 21, 2002


Poem: "fame," by Charles Bukowski from Open All Night: New Poems (Black Sparrow Press).


some want it, I don't want it, I
want to do whatever it is I do
and just do it.
I don't want to look into the
adulating eye,
shake the sweating
I think that whatever I do
is my business.
I do it because if I don't
I'm finished.
I'm selfish:
I do it for myself
to save what is left of
and when I am
approached as
hero or
half-god or
I refuse to accept
I don't want their
their worship,
their companionship.

I may have half-a-
million readers,
a million,
two million.
I don't care.
I write the word
how I have to
write it.

and, in the
when there were no
I wrote the word
as I needed to write the
and if all
the half-million,
the million,
the two million,
I will continue to
write the
as I always have.

the reader is an
the placenta,
an accident,
and any writer who
believes otherwise
is a bigger fool than

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, observed annually on the third Monday of January to honor the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Before 1986, King's birthday, January 15, was observed as a holiday in many states.

It's the birthday of Austrian-born English novelist Eva Ibbotson, born in Vienna, Austria (1925). She has followed two separate paths: as a writer of romance fiction and as a writer of witty and imaginative ghost stories for young adults. Her romance novels include A Countess Below Stairs (1981) and Magic Flutes (1982), which was chosen as the best romance novel in Britain for the year 1983 by the Romance Novelists Association. Her romance novels include memorable minor characters, including Mrs. Proom in A Countess Below Stairs, who tosses geraniums out of windows and keeps her appendix in a jar as a keepsake. Her young adult novels include Which Witch (1982) and The Secret of Platform 13 (1994). She says: "After years of writing magazine stories and books for children, I am trying hard to break down the barrier between 'romantic novels' and 'serious novels' which are respectfully reviewed. My aim is to produce books that are light, humorous, even a little erudite but secure in their happy endings. One could call it an attempt to write, in words, a good Viennese waltz!"

It's the birthday of civil rights activist Roger Baldwin, born in Wellesley, Massachusetts (1884). His father was a wealthy shoe manufacturer who sent him to Harvard, where he studied sociology. In 1920, he helped form the American Civil Liberties Union. He served as head of the ACLU until 1950.

It's the birthday of dentist Horace Wells, born in Hartford, Vermont (1815). In 1844, he discovered that nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas," could be used as a painkiller. He used it successfully on his own patients to perform "painless" dental surgery. Unfortunately, when he demonstrated his technique at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1845, the patient didn't respond to the gas, and Dr. Wells was ridiculed. He went on to do extensive experiments with different types of anesthesia, including ether and chloroform. He conducted the experiments on himself, and ended up drastically altering his own personality by inhaling so many chemical vapors. He was thrown in jail in 1848 for throwing acid at a passerby, and committed suicide in his cell. After his death, he was acclaimed as the discoverer of anesthetic gases.

It's the birthday of American explorer John Charles Frémont, born in Savannah, Georgia (1813). In 1842, he was sent by the War Department to chart the route west to the mouth of the Columbia River. Accompanied by the famous scout, Kit Carson, he explored much of the Northwest, then crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains into California. When war broke out with Mexico in 1845, he led an uprising in California which led to its annexation by the United States. He served as military governor of California in 1846, made millions in the Gold Rush, was elected one of California's first two Senators, and became the first Presidential candidate of the newly formed Republican Party.

On this day in 1525, a group of Swiss Protestants, originally known as the Swiss Brethren, formed their first congregation. The Brethren, who faced persecution for their resistance to civil authority, later came under the leadership of a Dutch minister named Menno Simons, from whom they received their common name, the Mennonites. The first Mennonites in the New World arrived and settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1683.

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