Nov. 18, 2006


by Reid Bush

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Poem: "Campbellsburg" by Reid Bush, from What You Know. © Larkspur Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


Driving State Road 60 northwest out of Salem,

10 miles out—
and 10 before you come to Spring Mill Park—

off to your right—for just a blacktop minute—
is Campbellsburg,

which was a town
when the man you were named for had his store there,

but a glance through your window reveals it's now gray abandonment—
ugly sag and fall.

And you wonder who lives there now
and how anyone
even to have a brick store all his own
ever could.

But nothing about it matters to you half as much as that your dad
came in from that hill farm to the north
to go to high school there.

And that's what you always point out to whoever's with you in the car.

And through the years what all your passengers have had in common is
no matter how you point it out
they can't care enough.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the man who helped invent the art of photography, Louis Daguerre, born just outside of Paris, France (1789). He studied to be an architect as a young man, but instead he went into theater set design. He was famous for the lifelike detail of his work, and he began to experiment with hand-painted translucent screens and elaborate lighting effects. He could use his screens and lights to create the illusion of a sunrise or a sudden storm onstage.

At the time, most painters were using a device called a camera obscura, which could cast a silhouette of an image onto a canvas for the artist to trace. But in the early 1800s, many scientists were looking for a way to capture the projected image forever. Daguerre wanted to do the same thing, and in 1829, he met an amateur inventor named Joseph Niépce, who had developed a light-sensitive pewter plate that could hold the image projected onto it. But the images took eight hours to develop, and the quality was extremely poor. Niépce died before he could improve the process.

Daguerre spent the next few years expanding on Niépce's experiments, and he eventually came up with a combination of copper plate coated with silver salts that could be developed in about 30 minutes with the application of mercury vapor and table salt. He then set out to take a series of pictures of Paris, capturing images of the Louvre and Notre Dame. The camera needed about 15 minutes of exposure time to capture an image, so most of Daguerre's early pictures don't show any people. The one exception is a picture of a boulevard that shows a man in the foreground who has stopped to shine his shoes. He was the first human being ever caught on film.

Daguerre announced his invention in 1839, and the images he produced became known as daguerreotypes. It wasn't photography as we know it today, because it only produced a single unique image, rather than multiple copies of the same image. But people were amazed at the level of detail it could reproduce.

Louis Daguerre said, "I have seized the light. I have arrested its flight."

It's the birthday of novelist and poet Margaret Atwood, (books by this author) born in Ottawa, Ontario (1939). Her father was an entomologist who spent every year from April to November studying insects at a forestry research station in northern Quebec. Atwood said, "At the age of six months, I was carried into the woods in a packsack, and this landscape became my hometown." She had no access to television or movies, and few children to play with. So she spent all her time exploring the woods and reading.

She only began to attend full-time school in Toronto when she was 11 years old. She wrote, "I was now faced with real life, in the form of other little girls—their prudery and snobbery, their Byzantine social life based on whispering and vicious gossip, and an inability to pick up earthworms without wriggling all over and making mewing noises like a kitten."

Atwood decided she wanted to be a writer at a time when there was almost no such thing as Canadian literature. There was actually a year in the early 1960s when a total of only five Canadian novels were published in the whole country. Her first novel, The Edible Woman, came out in 1969. The Handmaid's Tale became an international best-seller in 1985.

It's the birthday of American statistician George Gallup (1901), born in Jefferson, Iowa. He was a pioneer in scientific polling techniques, and his name became a household word synonymous with the opinion poll. He found that small samples of the populace could predict general attitudes. He gained recognition for accurately predicting Franklin Roosevelt's victory over Alf Landon in 1936.

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