Nov. 26, 2008

My Room

by Patrick Kavanagh

10 by 12
And a low roof
If I stand by the side wall
My head feels the reproof.

Five holy pictures
Hang on the walls:
The Virgin and Child
St Anthony of Padua
Leo the XIII
St Patrick and the Little Flower.

My Bed in the centre
So many things to me—
A dining table
A writing desk
And a slumber palace.

My room in a dusty attic
But its little window
Lets in the stars.

"My Room" by Patrick Kavanagh, from Collected Poems. © W.W. Norton & Company, 1964. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the novelist Marilynne Robinson, (books by this author) born in Sandpoint, Idaho, in 1943. Her first novel was Housekeeping (1980). It got wonderful reviews, it won awards, it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. But she didn't write another novel for more than 20 years. In 2004, she published Gilead, and it won the Pulitzer Prize. It's the story of three generations of Congregational ministers in a small town in Iowa. This fall, she published a companion novel to Gilead, called Home (2008).

It was on this day in 1942 that the film Casablanca had its first showing. The event took place at the Hollywood Theater in New York City. It starred Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. Casablanca is the story of a cynical freedom fighter-turned-nightclub owner, Rick Blaine, an American expatriate living in Casablanca and staying out of politics, staying on the good side of the local police chief. Then Victor Laszlo, a leader of the European resistance movement, turns up in town and needs Rick's help. He brings his wife, Ilsa, who turns out to be Rick's former lover, a woman who ran away from Rick and broke his heart. Rick has two visas to get out of occupied Casablanca, and he considers escaping with Ilsa, but gives his visas to Victor and Ilsa.

The film did pretty well and got decent reviews. The New Yorker magazine called it "pretty tolerable." But it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and now it's one of the best-loved films of all time, and one of the most quoted.

Some of the famous lines in Casablanca include, "Here's looking at you, kid."

And, "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine."

And, "We'll always have Paris."

And, "Round up the usual suspects."

And, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

It's the birthday of the cartoonist Charles Schulz, (books by this author) born on this day in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1922. On October 2, 1950, "Peanuts" made its national debut.

It's the birthday of the science writer Jonathan Weiner, (books by this author) born on this day in New York City in 1953. In the late 1980s, global warming and climate change weren't talked about very much, so Weiner wrote a book to help ordinary people understand these issues. It was called The Next One Hundred Years: Shaping the Fate of Our Living Earth (1990). Then he wrote The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time (1994), which won the Pulitzer Prize.

It was on this day in 1942 that President Roosevelt announced that the United States would begin a national gas rationing campaign on December 1st. All Americans had to display a sticker in their car window saying what category of gas ration they had. Everyone started out at "A," which got people about four gallons a week. Local rationing boards were set up to assign a "B" or "C" ration to people who needed more gas if they could prove it was necessary for their work.

The campaign made propaganda posters that asked, "Is This Trip Necessary?" or said, "When you ride ALONE you ride with Hitler! Join a Car-Sharing Club TODAY!" Along with the gas rations, the national speed limit was set at 35 mph.

The gas rationing wasn't a result of a gas shortage. The United States was self-sufficient in oil and was actually a major exporter of petroleum. But the Japanese had taken over the rubber plantations in the Dutch East Indies that produced 90 percent of America's raw rubber, and there was no synthetic rubber. The government was afraid that if everyone kept driving, they would wear out tires that couldn't be replaced. The factories and the entire war effort would come to a halt. So the United States' first national gas rationing campaign was a roundabout way to conserve rubber.

The gas ration continued until August of 1945.

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




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