Dec. 25, 2012

Waiting on the Corners

by Donald Hall

Glass, air, ice, light,
and winter cold.
They stand on all the corners,
waiting alone, or in
groups that talk like the air
moving branches. It
is Christmas, and a red dummy
laughs in the window
of a store. Although
the trolleys come,
no one boards them,
but everyone moves
up and down, stamping his feet,
so unemployed.
They are talking, each of them,
but it is sticks and stones
that hear them,
their plans,
and memories of the old time.
The words fly out, over
the roads and onto
the big, idle farms, on the hills,
forests, and rivers
of America, to mix into silence
of glass, air, ice, light,
and winter cold.

"Waiting on the Corners" by Donald Hall, from Old and New Poems. © Ticknor & Fields, 1990. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is Christmas Day. It's a holiday observed by about 95 percent of Americans and one-third of the population worldwide. For some, today marks the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas, or Christmastide, a week and a half of feasting and revelry that culminates in the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.

Washington Irving said: "Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart."

Sir Walter Scott wrote:

"'Twas Christmas broach'd the mightiest ale;
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year."

And it was Irving Berlin who wrote:

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten,
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright.
And may all your Christmases be white."

Today is the birthday of the newspaper cartoonist and founder of Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Robert Ripley (books by this author), born LeRoy Ripley in Santa Rosa, California (1890). While still a teen, he had his artwork published in national magazines like Life. He dropped out of high school and headed to New York where he took a job as a sports columnist. On a slow news day, he drew up a cartoon of rare and strange sports that proved to be more popular than his regular writing. He ran with it, and his new "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" column for the New York Post covered all manner of strange and unusual facts. He was soon syndicated and hired a full-time fact-checker who worked 10-hour days immersed in the stacks of the New York Public Library. Ripley was flamboyant and traveled the world on research trips. He opened museums of the strange, called "Odditoriums," around the country and had a popular radio show throughout the 1940s.

On this day in 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 spacecraft returned to a course for Earth after orbiting the moon 10 times over 20 hours. They were the first humans to ever leave our planet's orbit, and the first to ever see the Earth as an entire planet. On Christmas Eve, the crew had taken the iconic "Earth rise" picture and read the first 10 verses from the book of Genesis over a live television broadcast. When Commander Frank Borman signed off, he said: "We close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless you all — all of you on the good Earth."

It's the birthday of Rod Serling, born in Syracuse, New York (1925), best known as the creator, writer and producer of the television series The Twilight Zone, which first aired in 1959. Serling believed it was the writer's job to "menace the public consciousness" and considered television and radio as a means for social criticism.

In the mid-1950s, Serling won three Emmy awards for three television plays he wrote. He grew increasingly frustrated over not being allowed to write controversial scripts about humanity because corporate sponsors would not subsidize messages that might be offensive to the public, so he switched to science fiction. He found it was easier to slip social criticism by the censors if it took place in a fictional world. Creating The Twilight Zone allowed him total artistic freedom, and the show was enormously popular during the five years it aired on television.

Serling said, "It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper."

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




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