Sep. 7, 2006

People Who Live Near the Hospital

by Tina Kelley

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Poem: "People Who Live Near the Hospital" by Tina Kelley from The Gospel of Galore. © Word Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

People Who Live Near the Hospital

Sick ones and survivors look down and see
real life going on, presumably unscarred,
the tricycle on the lawn, the garage door open,
the truck on the highway going under
the overpass, emerging on.

From the solarium window the scene below
looks fragile, cinematic and deaf,
a model railroad, an oasis of health,
the people there unknowingly blessed
by the wishes of those who wait.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1940 that the German Luftwaffe began dropping bombs on London, in what became known as the London Blitz. On the first night, 600 German bombers came in waves, dropping explosive and incendiary devices over East London. St. Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Lambeth Palace, Piccadilly, and the House of Commons were all hit. And that was just the first night.

Over the next eight months, Nazis dropped tens of thousands of bombs on the city. At one point during the bombing raids, Germans attacked every night for fifty-seven consecutive nights. In addition to London, they bombed fifteen other British cities. By the end, more than 30,000 Londoners had been killed, and more than 100,000 houses were destroyed.

But the British people were remarkably resilient. Many of them went about their lives as normally as they could. Most refused to take shelter anywhere other than in their homes. After one of the bombing raids, which had destroyed more than twenty houses, Winston Churchill went to see the wreckage. He found little Union Jack flags already planted in the ruins. The people in the neighborhood cheered when they saw him. Afterward he said, "'I was completely undermined, and wept."

It was on this day in 1927 that a man named Philo T. Farnsworth transmitted the first ever all-electronic television picture in history. Farnsworth had gotten the idea for television when he was just fourteen, living on a potato farm in Idaho. His high school science teacher had gotten him interested in electricity, and he studied electrical engineering in his spare time. One day, he was tilling a potato field, walking with the horse back and forth, when he suddenly had a vision of a machine that could break an image down, line by line, and then reconstruct it on a screen.

Several years later, he got some investors together and set up a laboratory in San Francisco. And it was there, on this day, that he pointed his Image Dissector at a picture of a single line and turned on the receiver, which showed the same picture of a single line. Farnsworth then rotated the picture 90 degrees, and the people watching the receiver saw it rotate. When the demonstration was complete, Farnsworth said, "There you are, electronic television."

Unfortunately, Farnsworth never got much credit for his invention. He turned down offers from both RCA and General Electric because he wanted to be an independent. But he had little business expertise, and instead of spending his time developing television for a mass audience, he got bogged down in a series of lawsuits. He sank into a depression and became addicted to alcohol and prescription medicines. He spent time in a mental hospital and underwent electroshock therapy.

He never owned a television himself and refused to let his children watch it.

It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Jennifer Egan, (books by this author) born in Chicago, Illinois (1962). When she graduated from high school, she wanted to travel the world, but her job at an ice cream parlor didn't pay her enough to save for a trip. So she got the idea to become a model. She had the looks and the height for the job, but she found that she hated it. She said, "I felt a desire to vanish and to speak—the two things you can't ever do as a model."

After six months, she had enough money to take off to Europe, and she later wrote about her travels in her first novel, The Invisible Circus (1995). For a long time Egan didn't talk about the fact that she'd once been a fashion model. She said, "I lived in terror of being just known as the ex-model who wrote stories." But then in 1996, she agreed to write a piece of nonfiction for The New York Times about the life of an up-and-coming fashion model, which forced her to think back on her own experiences. And that helped inspire her novel Look at Me (2001), which is partly about a fashion model recovering from a car crash. The book was nominated for a National Book Award.

Her most recent novel, The Keep, came out this year (2006).

It's the birthday of novelist and journalist Joseph (Joe) Klein, (books by this author) born in New York City (1946). He started out as a reporter in Boston, moved on to an editor's desk at Rolling Stone and Newsweek, a columnist's berth at The New Yorker, and an on-air political consultant spot for CBS News. In 1996, the novel Primary Colors was published anonymously, setting off a flurry of speculation about its author. The author was obviously a Washington insider, since the novel was so closely based on the presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. Finally, a computerized stylistic analysis, combined with a handwriting analysis of the novel's corrected proofs, revealed Klein as the author. He went on to write The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton (2002).

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




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