Apr. 1, 2005


by Wendy Cope

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Poem: "Message," by Wendy Cope, from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis © Faber and Faber.


Pick up the phone before it is too late
And dial my number. There's no time to spare—
Love is already turning into hate
And very soon I'll start to look elsewhere.
Good, old-fashioned men like you are rare—
You want to get to know me at a rate
That's guaranteed to drive me to despair.
Pick up the phone before it is too late.
Well, wouldn't it be nice to consummate
Our friendship while we've still got teeth and hair?
Just bear in mind that you are forty-eight
And dial my number. There's no time to spare.
Another kamikaze love affair?
No chance. This time I'll have to learn to wait
But one more day is more than I can bear—
Love is already turning into hate.
Of course, my friends say I exaggerate
And dramatize a lot. That may be fair
But it is no fun being in this state
And very soon I'll start to look elsewhere.
I know you like me but I wouldn't dare
Ring you again. Instead I'll concentrate
On sending thought-waves through the London air
And, if they reach you, please don't hesitate—
Pick up the phone.

Literary and Historical Notes:

On this day in 1948, the scientific journal Physical Review published the first credible paper describing the Big Bang theory. Up until that time, the Big Bang theory and the Steady State theory had been equal competitors. The new paper gave a convincing mathematical account of what had happened during the first few minutes of the life of the universe, and offered an explanation for why there was so much helium in stars, which the Steady State theory had not been able to do. The three authors of the paper were listed as Alpher, Bethe and Gamow, but in fact the physicist Hans Bethe hadn't contributed anything to the paper at all. George Gamow and his student Ralph Alpher asked him if he would agree to be listed, so that the author list would read like the first three letters of the Greek alphabet—Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

It's the birthday of Samuel Delany, born in New York (1942). He started writing science fiction in the early '60s, when he was still a teenager, and has won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards. His novel Dhalgren (1974) has sold over a million copies. He grew up in Harlem, and many of his alien worlds are reminiscent of big, decaying inner cities. He once told an interviewer that interesting author biographies sold more books, and supplied one he likes to use: "Mr. Author A. Scrumbler has worked as a pheasant-foot measurer in a Canadian aviary, and has panned for iridium nuggets on the south coast of New Zealand. He lives in a small and recently remodeled Cambodian slaughterhouse."

It's the birthday of Anne McCaffrey, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1926). She studied voice, and thought about directing operatic theatre; instead, she got married, wrote some short stories, and began writing science fiction novels when her children grew old enough to go to school. She was the first science fiction writer ever to make it onto the i Best-seller list. She is best known for a series of novels about Pern, a planet where humans communicate telepathically with large, multicolored dragons.

It's the birthday of pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, born in Novgorod, Russia (1873) He was a half-hearted student in his early days at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and his teachers felt he probably didn't have much of a career ahead of him. He grew to be a tall, imposing man (Stravinsky called him "a six and a half foot scowl"), and his hands were so big they could span an interval of 13 keys on the piano. He escaped from Russia just before the Revolution, and spent most of the rest of his life in the United States. When Vladimir Horowitz arrived in New York City, the two pianists sealed their friendship by going down into the basement of Steinway and Sons and playing Rachmaninoff's own "Third Piano Concerto." Horowitz played the solo part on one piano, and Rachmaninoff the orchestra reduction on another.

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




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