Dec. 29, 2009

Green Tea

by Dale Ritterbusch

There is this tea
I have sometimes,
Pan Long Ying Hao,
so tightly curled
it looks like tiny roots
gnarled, a greenish-gray.
When it steeps, it opens
the way you woke this morning,
stretching, your hands behind
your head, back arched,
toes pointing, a smile steeped
in ceremony, a celebration,
the reaching of your arms.

"Green Tea" by Dale Ritterbusch, from Far From the Temple of Heaven. © Black Moss Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of actress Jennifer Ehle, born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (1969). She starred as Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice (1995), with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. The miniseries was six hours long and used most of the original dialogue from Jane Austen's novel. The original broadcast was watched by more than 11 million people, and when it came out on VHS, 70,000 copies of the movies were sold within a week.

It's the birthday of playwright and screenwriter Paul Rudnick, (books by this author) born in Piscataway Township, New Jersey (1957). He wrote several plays, including I Hate Hamlet (1991) and Jeffrey (1993), and he wrote the screenplays for six films, including Addams Family Values (1993), In & Out (1997), and The Stepford Wives (2004).

In & Out, starring Kevin Kline, is the story of a high school English teacher named Mr. Brackett who ends up losing his job after one of his former students, now a big-time actor, thanks him for being an inspiring gay man at the Academy Awards. Not only did Brackett's family, friends, and co-workers not know he was gay, but neither did he.

Paul Rudnick is also a regular writer for The New Yorker, and he wrote a satirical film column for Premiere magazine under the pseudonym Libby Gelman-Waxner.

He said: "As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly."

It was on this day in 2003 that Marja Sergina, the last known speaker of the Akkala Sami language, died. Akkala Sami was spoken in villages on Russia's Kola Peninsula inhabited by the Sami (sometimes referred to as Laplanders), an ethnic group from Northern Europe who are best known as reindeer herders.

There are more than 6,000 languages spoken in the world, and on average, one goes extinct about every two weeks. Researchers estimate that from 50 to 90 percent of those languages will be extinct in 100 years.

It was on this day in 1890 that federal troops killed almost 300 Lakota men, women, and children in the massacre at Wounded Knee. One of the survivors was Black Elk, the famous medicine man, who was 27 years old at the time of the massacre. He wrote: "... I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream. And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, — you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead."

It was on this day in 1989 that playwright Václav Havel (books by this author) was elected president of Czechoslovakia, ending more than 40 years of Communist rule. Havel is the author of nearly 20 plays. His plays challenged the oppressive Communist regime, and for that he was blacklisted in 1969 and his plays were banned. He left Prague, moved to the country, got a job at a brewery, and continued writing plays and also political essays. He was in and out of jail, serving for about five years, and he wrote three major plays during the last years of Communist rule: Largo Desolato (1984), Temptation (1985), and Slum Clearance (1987).

In November of 1989, he helped establish the Civic Forum, which spearheaded the nonviolent resistance movement, and on this day in 1989, he was elected president. He served until 1992, when he resigned in the face of political tensions that split Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a division that he opposed. In 1993, he was elected president of the Czech Republic, and he served for 10 years.

He said: "I understand, especially when one is looking at me from a distance, that I might seem as some kind of fairy-tale hero who banged his head against the wall until the wall fell, and then reigned. It makes me blush slightly, because I know my mistakes. On the other hand, I do not ridicule it because people need these kinds of stories."

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




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