Dec. 6, 2012


by Raymond Carver

Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgiveable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

"Rain" by Raymond Carver, from The Collected Poems. © Knopf, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is St. Nicholas Day, which is celebrated in Germany and other European countries, as well as many American cities with German roots. On the evening of December 5th, children polish their shoes, then put the shoes outside the house in front of the door. During the night, St. Nicholas fills the shoes with small presents like sweets, oranges, and nuts. And this morning, December 6th, children rush outside to see what Nicholas has left them.

The first volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica was published on this date in 1768. It grew out of the Scottish Enlightenment, and it was co-founded by Colin Macfarquhar, a printer and bookseller, and an engraver called Andrew Bell. A new section was published each week, and the whole thing was finished in 1771. It was several thousand pages long.

This past March (2012), Britannica's president announced that they would no longer produce a print edition. The 2010 15th edition marks the last printing of the oldest English-language encyclopedia still in production, although the resource itself lives on, on the Internet.

The Washington Monument was finally completed on this date in 1884. Begun in 1848, construction was halted in 1856 due to financial constraints and concerns about the nation's stability. For 20 years, the monument stood in its unfinished state, until the Army Corps of Engineers took up the project in 1876. Mark Twain described the unfinished monument, saying it had "the aspect of a factory chimney with the top broken off [...] you can see cow-sheds about its base, and the contented sheep nibbling pebbles in the desert solitudes that surround it, and the tired pigs dozing in the holy calm of its protecting shadow."

The monument is made of white marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss [nice]. At just over 555 feet, it was the tallest building in the world at that time, a position it held for five years until the Eiffel Tower surpassed it in 1889. It's still the world's tallest structure built completely of stone, and it's also the world's tallest true obelisk. If you look closely, you can see a slight color change about 150 feet up, around the time that construction stopped.

It's the birthday of poet (Alfred) Joyce Kilmer (books by this author), born in New Brunswick, New Jersey (1886). He wrote the famous poem "Trees," which begins, "I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree" and ends with the lines, "Poems are made by fools like me, / But only God can make a tree."

Today is the birthday of photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, born in Tczew, Poland (1898). He was able to sneak around and get great candid shots, because he was only about five feet tall. He's the photographer of that iconic shot of the sailor kissing a woman in a white dress at the V-J Day celebration in Times Square.

It's the birthday of author Eve Curie (books by this author), daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie, born in Paris (1904). Unlike her older sister, Irène, Eve didn't follow in their mother's scientific footsteps. She was a concert pianist and music critic, and — as she later said with good humor — she was the only member of her family who never received a Nobel Prize.

Curie's father died when she was just two years old, and she didn't see much of her mother, who threw herself into her work after Pierre's death. Eve and Marie Curie became close when Eve was a teenager, and Eve nursed her mother through her terminal battle with leukemia. In 1937, she published a biography of her mother, Madame Curie. It won the National Book Award, became a best-seller, and was made into a film starring Greer Garson. It also became a source of inspiration for generations of girls who were interested in science.

Calvin Coolidge gave the first presidential address that was broadcast on the radio on this date in 1923. He was delivering his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. On December 5, The New York Times announced, "The voice of President Coolidge, addressing Congress tomorrow, will be carried over a greater portion of the United States and will be heard by more people than the voice of any man in history." Coolidge, whose nickname was "Silent Cal," was taciturn, even reclusive, but his words were carried loud and clear — so clear, in fact, that listeners could hear the rustling of his papers.

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
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