Jul. 8, 2002

The Changing Light

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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Poem: "The Changing Light," by Lawrence Ferlinghetti from How to Paint Sunlight (New Directions Publishing Corp.).

The Changing Light

The changing light
                at San Francisco
      is none of your East Coast light
          none of your
                pearly light of Paris
The light of San Francisco
                 is a sea light
                        an island
And the light of fog
                blanketing the hills
           drifting in at night
              through the Golden Gate
                      to lie on
the city at dawn
And then the halcyon late mornings
              after the fog burns off
                and the sun paints white houses
                    with the sea
light of Greece
              with sharp clean shadows
                  making the town look like
                      it had just been

But the wind comes up at four o'clock
                      sweeping the

And then the veil of light of early evening

And then another scrim
                when the new night fog
                      floats in
And in that vale of light
              the city drifts
upon the ocean

It's the birthday of novelist Anna Quindlen, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1953). She started working as a part-time reporter for the New York Post while she was still in college. After college, she joined the paper full-time for three years before moving over to the New York Times, first as a reporter, then as a weekly columnist. During the Eighties, she took two sabbaticals from the Times in order to stay home with her young children. She said: "Anybody who tries to convince me that foreign policy is more important than child rearing is doomed to failure." She left the Times in 1994 to concentrate on fiction. Her newest book, The Blessings Place, is due out in September.

It's the birthday of American novelist and short-story writer Shirley Ann Grau, born in New Orleans, Louisiana (1929). She was born of part Creole ancestry, and set her early works in the Cajun backwoods of Louisiana. Those books include The Black Prince and Other Stories (1955) and The Hard Blue Sky (1958).

It's the birthday of the influential theater critic Walter Kerr, born in Evanston, Illinois (1913). His career as a critic started when he was thirteen, and he got a job writing film reviews for the Evanston Daily News. He moved over to the New York Times in 1966. He had a way with witty put-downs of shows he didn't like. About one show, he said: "It had two strikes against it. One was that you couldn't hear half of it. The other was the half you could hear." About another, he said: "During the overture you hoped it would be good. During the first number you hoped it would be good. After that you just hoped it would be over."

It's the birthday of Alec (Alexander Raban) Waugh, born in Hampstead, London, England (1898). At nineteen, he wrote a novel based on his experience of public school life. The novel, The Loom of Youth (1917), caused a huge stir-and made his parents decide not to send his younger brother, Evelyn, to Sherborne. Alec Waugh went on to serve in World War One, to work in publishing, and then to spend many years traveling in tropical climes. His best-known novel Island in the Sun (1956), is set on the imaginary Caribbean island of Santa Maria. His other novels include A Spy in the Family (1970) and A Year to Remember (1975). He said: "I am prepared to believe that a dry martini slightly impairs the palate, but think what it does for the soul."

It's the birthday of French psychologist Alfred Binet, born in Nice, France (1857). Early in his career, he followed other nineteenth century psychologists in believing that intelligence could be gauged by taking measurements of the size of the cranium. But his own experiments over many years changed his mind, and led him to look for another way to measure intelligence. In 1904, with a commission from France's minister of public education, he began to develop an intelligence test based on a series of short tasks-such as counting coins or ordering blocks from smallest to largest. Binet's intelligence test became the basis of what became known as the intelligence quotient, or IQ, test. In the United States, Binet's test was adapted to create the first national standardized test, the Stanford-Binet.

It's the birthday of French poet Jean de la Fontaine, born in Château-Thierry, France (1621). His greatest work, the Fables, was written between 1668 and 1693, and includes familiar tales like The Tortoise and the Hare.

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