Oct. 23, 2012

Little White Truck

by Jessica Greenbaum

Because the white truck traveling the span of the Williamsburg Bridge
could be the white fastener traveling the top of a ziplock bag,
the East River and tugs might be contained without spilling
in today's October light, along with this new spray of trees and
picnic tables which appeared when the industrial tide of Williamsburg
went out. If these could be contained, then likewise the two cyclists,
now dismounted and steadying their bikes as they kiss, and surely
it could hold the music they heard last night eddying again
around their thoughts, and the memory of their first idea of the future
loosed when he held her in a doorway lit by cobwebs of spring rain.

"Little White Truck" by Jessica Greenbaum, from The Two Yvonnes: Poems. © Princeton University Press, 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet Robert Bridges (books by this author), born in Walmer, England (1844). He wanted to be a poet from the time he was young, but he decided that the sensible thing to do was to become a doctor and work at that until he was 40, and then spend his retirement writing. Instead, he retired at the age of 37 after a struggle with pneumonia and a lung disorder. He moved with his mother to a village in the Berkshires, where he met and married Monica Waterhouse, the daughter of a famous architect. Bridges began to publish poems, but he remained relatively obscure, even after he was made poet laureate in 1913. In 1929, he published The Testament of Beauty (1929), and it was wildly popular, selling tens of thousands of copies. He died six months later.

Bridges wrote in "I Love All Beauteous Things":
I love all beauteous things,
I seek and adore them;
God hath no better praise,
And man in his hasty days
Is honored for them.

It's the birthday of another doctor-cum-writer, Michael Crichton (books by this author), born in Chicago (1942). His novels include The Andromeda Strain (1969), Jurassic Park (1990), Disclosure (1994), and Next (2006). Crichton died in 2008 from complications of throat cancer.

He said, "I am certain there is too much certainty in the world."

It's the birthday of director Ang Lee, born in Chaojhou, Taiwan (1954). He failed the university entrance exam in Taiwan; he retook it and failed again. So he went to a three-year art college, which was a huge embarrassment for his family, especially his father. His father was the principal of one of the best high schools in Taiwan, and he believed in traditional education, rooted in the classics. Things got even worse when Lee was walking home from a play rehearsal in the rain one night and realized that art school was not just a way to fill the time — he wanted to be an artist. He said, "I felt this chill in my bones. I was lifted."

Lee went to the University of Illinois to study theater. He still wasn't fluent in English, so he decided to apply for graduate school in film, because he thought the language barrier would be less intense in film than in theater. After graduate school, he moved back to Taiwan, and he was able to make his first movies with help from the Taiwanese government.

His first Hollywood movie was his fourth film — it was an adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1995). He said: "I could hardly finish a fluent sentence in English. And this was Jane Austen, with a top-of-the-line English cast and crew. How did I do that? It's hard to explain. But that gave me faith in moviemaking, that it's a universal experience. It can penetrate cultural barriers, language barriers. There's something universal about sight and sound. It made me feel anything was doable. And like I belonged."

Lee has directed many films since then, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Hulk (2003), and Brokeback Mountain (2005). His newest film, Life of Pi, will be released next month.

It's the birthday of the satirist Alfred Matthew Yankovic, better known as "Weird Al" Yankovic, born in Downey, California (1959). Weird Al has made more than 10 studio albums, featuring original songs and parodies of hit singles, such as Madonna's "Like a Virgin," which he turned into "Like A Surgeon":

I finally made it through med school
Somehow I made it through
I'm just an intern
I still make a mistake or two

I was last in my class
Barely passed at the institute
Now I'm trying to avoid, yah I'm trying to avoid
A malpractice suit

Hey, like a surgeon
Cuttin' for the very first time
Like a surgeon
Organ transplants are my line

"American Pie," by Don McLean, became a parody about Star Wars, called "The Saga Begins":

Well, I know he built C-3PO
And I've heard how fast his pod can go
And we were broke, it's true
So we made a wager or two
He was a prepubescent flyin' ace
And the minute Jabba started off that race
Well, I knew who would win first place
Oh yes, it was our boy

We started singin' ...
My my this here Anakin guy
May be Vader someday later - now he's just a small fry
And he left his home and kissed his mommy goodbye
Sayin' "Soon I'm gonna be a Jedi"
"Soon I'm gonna be a Jedi"

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




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