MAY 15, 1482: TOSCANELLI’S COMET

TOSCANELLI’S COMET

Paolo Toscanelli, born in 1397, was your typical Italian Renaissance Man, dabbling in everything from astronomy to mathematics to philosophy to cartography. He rubbed elbows (and influenced) the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus. In fact, that fickle finger of fate could have just as easily pointed at Paolo instead of Columbus.

As we all know, Christopher Columbus as a boy used to sit on the docks in Genoa watching ships slowly disappear over the horizon. While all the other boys sitting on the docks attributed this phenomenon to the ships falling off the edge of the world, Christopher determined that ships were gradually disappearing because the world was actually round. A fairy tale, of course. Columbus knew the world was round because Paolo Toscanelli told him it was round. Toscanelli even gave Columbus a map (a flat map admittedly) that showed Asia to the left on the other side of the Atlantic. Neither of them had reckoned on that other continent lying in-between. Yet Columbus got an October holiday and a city in Ohio while Toscanelli got squat.

Another near miss for Paolo was his observation of a comet in 1456. Although Paolo was the first to identify it, it remained known only as the Comet of 1456 until 300 years later when English astronomer Edmond Halley predicted its 1759 return and got naming rights.

Paolo died on May 15, 1482, ten years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue and some 350 years before “Halley’s” Comet did an encore.

Over the Rainbow

She threw her arms around the Lion’s neck and kissed him, patting his big head tenderly. Then she kissed the Tin Woodman, who was weeping in a way most dangerous to his joints. But she hugged the soft, stuffed body of the Scarecrow in her arms instead of kissing his painted face, and found she was crying herself at this sorrowful parting from her loving comrades.

Glinda the Good stepped down from her ruby throne to give the little girl a good-bye kiss, and Dorothy thanked her for all the kindness she had shown to her friends and herself.

Dorothy now took Toto up solemnly in her arms, and having said one last good-bye she clapped the heels of her shoes together three times saying, “Take me home to Aunt Em!

Lyman Frank Baum, born in Chittenango, New York, on May 15, 1856 (died 1919), was best known for writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, although he wrote a total of 55 novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, and made many attempts to bring his works to the stage and screen.

In 1897, after several abortive early careers, Baum wrote and published Mother Goose in Prose, a collection of Mother Goose rhymes written as prose stories, and illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. The book was a moderate success, allowing Baum to quit his door-to-door sales job and devote time to his writing. In 1899, Baum partnered with illustrator W. W. Denslow, to publish Father Goose, His Book, a collection of nonsense poetry. The book was a success, becoming the best-selling children’s book of the year. Then in 1900, the duo published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to critical acclaim and financial success.   The book was the best-selling children’s book for two years after its initial publication.

Oz was a popular destination long before the famous 1939 screen version of the book.  A  musical  based closely upon the book,  the first to use the shortened title “The Wizard of Oz”, opened in Chicago in 1902, then ran on Broadway for 293 performances.   Baum went on to write another 13 Oz novels.

Baum’s intention with the Oz books, and other fairy tales, was to tell American tales in much the same manner as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen , modernizing them and removing the excess violence.  He is often credited with the beginning of the sanitization of children’s stories, although his stories do include eye removals, maimings of all kinds and an occasional decapitation.

Most of the books outside the Oz series were written under pseudonyms. Baum was variously known as Edith Van Dyne, Laura Bancroft, Floyd Akers, Suzanne Metcalf, Schuyler Staunton, John Estes Cooke, and Capt. Hugh Fitzgerald.

Baum wrote two newspaper editorials about Native Americans that have tarnished his legacy because of his assertion that the safety of white settlers depended on the wholesale genocide of American Indians. Some scholars take them at face value, others suggest they were satire. Decide for yourself.

The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past.

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MARCH 24, 1990: THE TWO AND ONLY

THE TWO AND ONLY

After a lifelong career on radio with partner Bob Elliott, beginning in 1946 at WHDH in Boston and ending in 1987 on National Pubic Radio, Ray Goulding died on March 24, 1990.

Bob and Ray created and gave voice to such offbeat characters as domestic advisor Mary Margaret McGoon; adenoidal reporter Wally Ballou, Matt Neffer, boy spot-welder; and cowboy singer Tex Blaisdell who did radio rope tricks. The duo also parodied radio and television with spoofs that often outlasted the programs they were based on —  Mr. Trace, Keener Than Most Persons; Jack Headstrong, The All-American American; and the soap operas One Fella’s Family and Mary Backstage, Noble Wife.  They  successfully adapted their comedy to other media, including stage and television.

One enduring routine features Goulding as a rather dense reporter interviewing Elliott as an expert on the Komodo dragon.

Wretched Richard’s Little Literary Lessons — No. 4

pro·tag·o·nist
prōˈtaɡənəst,prəˈtaɡənəst
noun

A protagonist is the main character or one of the major characters in any fictional work such as a novel or drama.

 Identify the protagonist in the following:
Say let us put man and woman together,
Find out which one is smarter (and which is the protagonist)

Paul wasn’t sure, but the five-foot duck waddling through the throngs of laughing, crying, shouting, whining children appeared to be waddling toward him – a duck with a destination and, perhaps, a mission. Chances are it had spotted him scowling in a land where grinning is the norm, and it, by God, meant to do something about it.

“Enjoying the Magic Kingdom?” asked the duck upon reaching him. Despite its carefully sculpted plastic smile, this duck wasn’t going to cheer anyone up; its voice dripped sarcasm.

“Of course, I am,” Paul answered, adopting his very own duck attitude. “Isn’t that why you’re here? By the way, didn’t I somewhere get the idea that you’re all supposed to be pleasant and cheerful?”

“I’m not even supposed to talk. Just wave.” The duck waved and, in silence, could have passed for pleasant and cheerful, albeit of a fabricated sort.

“Then why did you talk to me?” Paul asked.

“Because you look bored – like you positively hate the place.”

“Ah, you’re not just an ordinary duck, you’re a member of the happiness squad, here to lift my spirits.”

“No,” answered the duck. “I thought you might have a cigarette.”

Who’s our protagonist?  Paul?  Huey (the duck)? Or two protagonists for the price of one?  Find out here.

MARCH 18, 1902: ITALIAN TENORS ARE A LIRE A DOZEN

ITALIAN TENORS ARE A LIRE A DOZEN

Tenor Enrico Caruso recorded ten arias for the Gramophone & Typewriter Company in Milan, Italy. He was paid 100 pounds sterling, and was not required to do any typing. These acoustic recordings, recorded in a hotel room on March 18, 1902, created a win-win situation for both Caruso and the Gramophone Company. The gramophone, and its flat circular discs, quickly became victorious in the recording competition, besting both Thomas Edison’s phonograph cylinders and eight-track tapes. The gramophone recordings became best-sellers, helping to spread the 29-year-old Caruso’s fame.

Caruso was signed by London’s Royal Opera House for a season of appearances in eight different operas ranging from Verdi’s Aida to Don Giovanni by Mozart. His successful debut at Covent Garden occurred just two months after his recording session. The following year, Caruso traveled to New York City to take up a contract with the Metropolitan Opera.

By 1920, Caruso had made nearly 300 recordings. His 1904 recording of “Vesti la giubba” from Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci was the first sound recording to sell a million copies. All of these recordings are available today on CD, as digital downloads, and in garages throughout the world on eight-track tapes.

 

Ivan Was Probably a Baritone

Ivan IV Vasileyevich, known to his friends as Ivan the Terrible, died in 1584 while engaged in a particularly wicked game of chess. He rose to prominence, and some might say infamy, as the Grand Prince of Moscow a position he held from 1533 to 1547, when he declared himself the first ever Tsar of All the Russias, a title he held until his death. He was succeeded by his son, Feodor the Not So Terrible.

Historians disagree on the exact nature of his enigmatic personality. He was described as intelligent and devout, yet paranoid and given to rages, episodic outbreaks of mental instability, and late-night tweet storms.

He was also know as Ivan the Fearsome but is not to be confused with Ivan the Gorilla.

Wretched Richard’s Little Literary Lessons – No. 3

plot

plät/  noun

~ the sequence of events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work that develops a story.

Use it in a sentence perhaps?

“What do you do when you’re not floating around the West Indies?” asked Albert.

“I write mostly.”

“A writer, says he,” Basil had returned from the bar and sat across the table from Terry. “I was a writer meself once upon. Never made any money at it, though. I was always a poor writer what never had a plot to piss on.”

Here’s where the plot thickens.

 

 

March 15, 44 BC: I Only Have Ides for You

I Only Have Ides for You

Beware. Today is the ides of March, a day once enthusiastically celebrated among the common people with picnics, drinking, and revelry. In the ancient Roman calendar, each of the 12 months had an ides (from the Latin to divide). In March, May, caesarJuly and October, the ides fell on the 15th day. In all other months, the ides fell on the 13th.  There is a reason for this, but the logic declined and fell with Rome, and the ides lost their original intent and purpose and eventually came to mean the day that a bunch of guys are going to stick knives into you.

This was thanks to Shakespeare,  Julius Caesar, and Caesar’s pals Brutus et al.  In Act I, Scene 2, of Shakespeare’s history, the old soothsayer utters these words, dripping with foreboding: “Beware the Ides of March.” Pretty straightforward, but does Caesar pay attention? Of course not. And on March 15, 44 BC, aided by his friends, he buys the forum, so to speak, exiting stage left halfway through the play even though it bears his name.

Despite an occasional pretentious allusion to the Ides of March and the popular song, today’s calendar is pretty much ideless (as ideless as a painted ship upon a painted ocean, to slip in a quick pretentious allusion).

 

Wretched Richard’s Little Literary Lessons – No. 2

al·lu·sion

əˈlo͞oZHən/

noun

As a literary device, an allusion is an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference to another person, event, work etc.

For example:

“That’s a rather abrupt and indifferent exit. Feel guilty?”

“I’m not sure. You don’t approve?”

“Well, I suppose it’s better than ‘I’m running off to hook up with Lolita for a few days. I’ll be back when I’m tuckered out. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Lolita? You’re hardly a nymphet.”

“I beg your pardon,” Huey huffed. “Would you care to elaborate on that point?”

“A nymphet is fourteen or fifteen years old, tops.”

“Maybe I’m only fifteen.”

“You also pointed out that you weren’t trying to seduce me.”

“Maybe I was lying. And maybe I’m no Lolita – as hot as I am – but you most definitely fit the part of Humbert Humbert, you old fart. Just remember you’re here of your own free will. You can’t claim I forced you to come along.”

“I won’t if you won’t,” said Paul.

Not forcing anyone to come along, just inviting: Voodoo Love Song

March 12, 1609: Wanna Get to Heaven, Let Me Tell You What To Do

Prophet, evangelist, guardian of the gates of heaven and hell, and notorious pain in the butt Lodowicke pearlyMuggleton was born in 1609. Uneducated, he worked as a tailor until his forties when he began to have revelations, announcing to the world that he and his cousin were the last two witnesses of God that would ever be appointed on earth and the exclusive deciders of who got into heaven and who didn’t. When his cousin died, Muggleton took this great burden upon himself.

Blessing those who listened to him and cursing those who didn’t, he eventually attracted a few followers who became known as Muggletonians. His cursing and raving made him enough of a public nuisance that he was twice jailed, fined and sentenced to stand in the pillory for several days. He had a particular dislike of Quakers which he spelled out in his book with the catchy title The Neck of the Quakers Broken or Cut in Sunder by the Two-Edged Sword of the Spirit Which Is Put Into My Mouth (1663).

Among some of the more interesting Muggletonian beliefs: Heaven is six miles above Earth; God is between five and six feet tall and has absolutely no interest in the affairs of mankind. Man’s greatest enemy is not the Devil, who doesn’t exist, but Reason, which, for humans, is unclean and filthy. They had no organized worship; they would sometimes meet in taverns to talk and sing rancorous Muggletonian songs.

Muggleton died at the age of 88, and his religion more or less continued for centuries after him. One Philip Noakes who bequeathed to the British Library an archive of Muggletonian documents in 1979 is thought to have been the last surviving Muggletonian, although this entry is bound to bring a few more out of hiding.

Wretched Richard’s Little Literary Lessons – No. 1

nov·el

nävəl

A fictional prose narrative of book length, usually involving multiple major characters sub-plots, conflicts and twists. Its length, at 40,000 words or more, allows it to be read at several sittings. A novella is 17,000 to 39,999 words, a novelette is 7,500 to 16,999 words. Under 7,500 words, its either a short story, flash fiction, a memo or a shopping list.

For example:

“Rain.”

It was the first word uttered during the past hour, and even it was unnecessary – not to mention understated – since the dark sky had ruptured, and a heavy downpour pummeled both the beach and the choppy sea that stretched away from it. The sun had been playing hide-and-go-seek for a week now, its occasional appearances bracketed by rains such as this one. Rain is, of course, a word of four letters, and it was spoken in this case in the tone of voice reserved for four-letter words. Albert Lafitte, the speaker who had so eloquently described the spectacle they now witnessed, sat between two other men. The three of them sat in distressed director’s chairs and remained for the most part dry, thanks to a large thatched canopy held above them by four wooden corner posts. From this vantage point, they settled in for what would likely be an afternoon of silent observation of nature’s life giving, but occasionally irritating, miracle.

For when the rain was this plentiful, the visitor’s weren’t, and Albert’s Booby Bay Cafe was lifeless; they might just as well shut the doors, if it had any. Actually the Booby Bay Cafe was pretty much lifeless rain or shine. The tiny island of Soleil, whose windward beach it graced, was a long ten miles from its nearest neighbor, an island whose seaport, Bluebeard’s Reef, had at one time been small but bustling. Back then, Albert’s cafe had been a popular watering hole for a steady parade of seafarers, from vacationing sailors to fishermen to the pilots of odd junk crafts whose reason for being at sea remained a mystery. That was until Hurricane Glenda, which had been following a ladylike northward course through the islands, not threatening anyone, turned fickle and suddenly westward, nearly eliminating Bluebeard’s Reef. And with Bluebeard’s Reef all but gone, the journey from civilization to Booby Bay became more trouble than it was worth.

Quick quiz: The preceding was the beginning of:

a. novelette

b. novella

c. novel

d. whichever one it is, it’s just a cheap ploy to get you to buy it. For proof, go here.

 

 

March 7. 1766: Gentlemen Rhymesters Out on a Spree

A certain Miss Molly Mogg of the Rose Tavern in Wokingham, England, turned up her dainty toes on March 7, 1766, at the age of 66. Some 40 years earlier she had been the subject of an amusing ballad written by “two or three men of wit.” The ballad — perhaps to the surprise of its authors, became quite popular. Literary historians have determined that the “men of wit” were Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and John Gay and that the three were probably quite drunk when they penned the tribute to the pretty Molly.

It begins:

The schoolboy delights in a play-day,

The schoolmaster’s delight is to flog;

The milkmaid’s delight is in May-day,

But mine is in sweet Molly Mogg.

and continues on for eleven verses each ending with “sweet Molly Mogg. This, of course required the three rhymesters to come up with 11 words to rhyme with Mogg. Which they did, the aforementioned flog, bog, cog, frog, clog, jog, fog, dog, log, eclogue and agog — bypassing hog and Prague.

 

All Day, All Night, Marianne, Part II: A Nice Face with a Tiny Nose

“I want you to help me,” said the chastened Roberto. He stared at his feet as he swirled them in the water.

“Okay,” said Toussaint, once again in command. “Now, Herbert was telling me this very, very famous story by a guy that’s been dead for close onto 400 years. Four hundred – now that makes him mighty important. The guy in the story is like you. His name is Romeo; that even sort of sounds like Roberto. This Romeo, he loves a girl whose name I forget. It doesn’t sound like Marianne, but I guess that doesn’t matter. Julianne, that’s it. I guess it sounds a little like Marianne. Now Julianne’s family don’t like Romeo one little bit.”

“Why doesn’t her family like him?” asked Roberto whose face now showed only confusion.

“Because Julianne is very beautiful, just like Marianne, but Romeo has this great big nose. So Romeo sneaks to Julianne’s back porch every night and hides in the bushes and says pretty words while her big fat mama sleeps inside. He says things like, ‘Julianne, my sweetest sweet, your face is like the moon.’ And Julianne says, ‘Oh Romeo, I can’t see your face; it’s behind the bushes. Show me your face.’ And Romeo says, ‘No, no, fair princess. I cannot. But it’s a nice face – with a tiny nose.’ And Julianne says, ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore are you, Romeo?’ See how they use each other’s names a lot? That’s very romantic.”

“Wherefore?”

“That’s 400-year-old talk. But this is what puts smart dudes like me and Herbert over here and dumb dudes like you over on the beach with your mouth open and bugs flying in and out. When Julianne says wherefore, she isn’t wondering where Romeo is.”

“No?”

“Of course not. She knows he’s in the bushes. What she’s really saying is why. Herbert explained that to me.”

“Why?”

“Because him and me is friends.”

“No, I mean why is wherefore ‘why’? And why would she ask Romeo why he is Romeo?”

“Because it’s literacy,” said Toussaint, trying his best not to patronize poor Roberto. “She wants to know why it has to be Romeo out there instead of someone else.”

“How come?”

“Because he has such a big nose, of course.”

Roberto thought about this story for a moment, kicking at the water with one foot and then the other. Toussaint studied him, looking for some sign that maybe he understood.

“Why doesn’t she just tell him to go away?” asked Roberto finally.

Toussaint grinned. “Because she loves all the pretty words he says to her. And before long, she loves him, too – nose and all. And all because he talked pretty. As Herbert says, the story don’t end until the fat lady sings.”

“What?”

“The fat lady. I guess at the end of all these famous stories a fat lady sings. That’s how you know it’s over. So all you got to do, Roberto, is hide outside Marianne’s porch and say pretty words and hope she falls in love with you before a fat lady sings.”

“But I don’t know any pretty words,” Roberto whined.

“I’ll help you find some pretty words. It’s easy the songs on the jukebox at the Crab Hole are just filled with pretty words.”

continued

This story originally appeared in American Way, the inflight magazine of American Airlines.  It is included in Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean.

February 24, 1827: A Midsummer Night’s Prayer Meeting

“The Family Shakespeare — in which nothing is added to the original text,censored-shakespeare but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family. My great objects in this undertaking are to remove from the writings of Shakespeare some defects which diminish their value.”

Thus read an introduction for the 1807 edition of Shakespeare’s works, finally made suitable for general audiences by Thomas Bowdler some 200 years after the Bard was safely buried. Certainly Shakespeare, were he alive, could not have objected to having the defects which diminished their value removed from his works. Shakespeare and family values — together at last.

Shakespeare no doubt would have thanked Thomas Bowdler who joined him in the hereafter on February 24, 1827.

Bowdler undertook this project, along with his sister Henrietta, thanks to childhood memories in which his father had entertained his family with readings from Shakespeare. Only later as an adult did Bowdler realize that his father had been leaving out some of the naughty parts of the plays, anything he felt unsuitable for the ears of his wife and children. Realizing that not all fathers were clever enough to censor on the spot, Bowdler decided it would be worthwhile to publish an edition which came already sanitized and “expletive deleted.” True to his word and to his credit, Bowdler did not add anything to the Shakespeare texts as some earlier tinkers had (Poet Laureate Nathum Tate had, for example, given King Lear a happy ending.)

More than a century later, scholars decided that sister Henrietta had a somewhat heavier hand in the expurgations than previously believed. Naturally, as an unmarried lady, it would have been scandalous for her to admit having read, much less understood, the naughty stuff removed.

Later publications by Bowdler demonstrated his interest in and knowledge of continental Europe (with France presumably excised). His last work was a rather monumental expurgated version of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — no togas, no orgies — published posthumously in 1826. His version of Lady Chatterley’s Acquaintance turned out to be three pages long.

Bowdler has been recognized for his contributions to English literature by being awarded an adjective — bowdlerize, to change a book, play, movie, etc. by removing parts that could offend people.

 

From my earliest years I had always wanted to be a writer. It was not that I had any particular message for humanity. I am still plugging away and not the ghost of one so far, so it begins to look as though, unless I suddenly hit mid-season form in my eighties, humanity will remain a message short. ~ P. G. Wodehouse

 

 

 

February 7, 1812: A Very Umble Person

Little Charles Dickens knew the adversity he would later write so dickens-at-deskeffectively about. Born February 7, 1812, he attended school in Portsmouth during his early years but was sent to work in a factory in 1824 at the age of 12, when his father was thrown into debtors’ prison. Dickens learned first-hand about the deplorable treatment of working children and the horrors of the institution of the debtors’ prison.

In his late teens, Dickens went to work as a reporter and soon began publishing humorous short stories. A collection of those stories was released in 1836 under the title Sketches by Boz,(later titled The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club). The stories about the quixotic innocent Samuel Pickwick and his fellow club members quickly became popular: 400 copies were printed of the first installment, but by the 15th episode the print run had reached 40,000. Publication of the stories in book form in 1837 established Dickens as the preeminent author of his time.

Oliver Twist followed in 1838 and Nicholas Nickleby in 1839. In 1841, Dickens visited the United States, where he was treated as a conquering hero. As a writer, he kept churning out major novels at almost a yearly pace each one seemingly more masterful than the last, among them: David Copperfield in 1850, Bleak House 1853, Hard Times 1854, A Tale of Two Cities 1859 and Great Expectations in 1861.

Dickens was the literary giant of his age, unparalleled in his realism, social criticism and humor, a master of characterization (think Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Pip, Uriah Heep, Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim and, of course, Ebenezer Scrooge). The 1843 novella that featured Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, is one of the most influential works ever written, still popular after 170 years and still inspiring adaptations in every artistic genre. Dickens even has his own adjective, Dickensian.

Dickens died in 1870 at the age of 58, leaving an enigmatic unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He has been celebrated by statuary, in museums and even on currency — all against his dying wishes.

 

An inferiority complex is the lack of self-worth, a doubt and uncertainty about oneself, that often leads a person to overcompensate with extreme aggressiveness.  Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler, born February 7, 1870, though up this concept without ever having met he who shall go unnamed.

Roy Sullivan gained fame for the unlikely accomplishment of being struck by lightning seven times and surviving them all.  Born February 7, 1912, the “Human Lightning Rod” was first struck in 1941, although he claimed to have been struck as a child which would have made it eight strikes if it could have been verified.  He died in 1983 under mysterious circumstances that did not involve lightning.

 

On this day in 2001,  Dale Evans bought the ranch, so to speak, following Roy Rogers and Trigger off into the sunset.  Oddly enough, she was also born in 1912 though she and Roy Sullivan probably did not know each other. https://youtu.be/eEqUyNaSdvg

 

January 27, 1832: After the Snark

snarkLewis Carroll,  aka Charles Lutwidge Dodson, born on this date in 1832, was known primarily for his books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. He did write several other books including A Tangled Tale, Sylvie and Bruno and one of his last works, The Hunting of the Snark.

The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits) is classic Lewis Carroll nonsense verse in which a crew of ten characters – a Bellman, a Boots, a Bonnet-maker, a Barrister, a Broker, a Billiard-marker, a Banker, a Butcher, a Baker, and a Beaver – set out to hunt the Snark, an animal which may turn out to be a highly dangerous Boojum.

After crossing the sea guided by the Bellman’s map of the Ocean—a blank sheet of paper—the hunting party arrives in a strange land. There its members split up to hunt the Snark: “They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care; / They pursued it with forks and hope; / They threatened its life with a railway-share; / They charmed it with smiles and soap.” Several odd adventures later, the Baker calls out that he has found a Snark, but when the others arrive, the Baker has mysteriously disappeared.

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found

Not a button, or feather, or mark,

By which they could tell that they stood on the ground

Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,

In the midst of his laughter and glee,

He had softly and suddenly vanished away –

For the Snark was a Boojum, you see

Carroll’s poem has been variously interpreted as an allegory for tuberculosis, a mockery of a notorious Victorian court case, a satire of the controversies between religion and science, the repression of Carroll’s sexuality, and an anti-vivisection tract. Or perhaps it represents a “voyage of life,” “a tragedy of frustration and bafflement,” or “Carroll’s comic rendition of his fears of disorder and chaos, with the comedy serving as a psychological defense against the devastating idea of personal annihilation.” Right.

Two More Entertainment Giants Born on January 27

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in 1756, remains the most enduring and popular of all classical performers. He started in early, becoming a competent musician on both the violin and keyboard, composing and performing, at the age of five. He lived only 35 years but created more than 600 works — symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber and choral music.

And then there’s Sabu. Sabu, you say? Yes, born in 1924, Sabu was a star of stage, screen and jungles everywhere, appearing in such films as Cobra Woman, Jungle Hell, White Savage, and Hello Elephant. His most famous role was, of course, Mowgli in the Jungle Book (not the cartoon version).

 

 

December 30, 1865: You’re a Better Man Than I Am

Rudyard Kipling was one of the most popular writers in England, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Born in Bombay,

India, on December 30, 1865, Kipling is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Jungle Book (a collection of short stories which includes “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”), Just So Stories, Kim, “The Man Who Would Be King” and such poems as “Gunga Din,” “Mandalay,” and “The White Man’s Burden.” He is considered a major “innovator in the art of the short story,” and his children’s books have become true classics.

Kipling became synonymous with the concept of British “empire” and as a result his reputation fluctuated and his place in literary and cultural history inspired passionate disagreement during most of the 20th century.  Nevertheless, critics agree that he was a skilled interpreter of how empire was experienced.

Young Rudyard’s earliest years in Bombay were blissfully happy, in an India full of exotic sights and sounds. But at the age of five he and his sister were sent back to England, as was the custom, to be educated. In his autobiography, published 65 years later, Kipling recalled the stay with horror, and wondered ironically if the combination of cruelty and neglect he suffered from his foster family might not have hastened the onset of his literary life: “I have known a certain amount of bullying, but this was calculated torture—religious as well as scientific. Yet it made me give attention to the lies I soon found it necessary to tell: and this, I presume, is the foundation of literary effort.”

Kipling traveled extensively throughout the world, and his travels included a stay of several years in Brattleboro, Vermont, an unlikely spot in which to create The Jungle Book, although he did, along with Captains Courageous.

During his long career, he declined most of the many honors offered him, including a knighthood, the Poet Laureateship, and the Order of Merit, but in 1907 he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in 1936 in England (even though a few years earlier he had written “Never again will I spend another winter in this accursed bucketshop of a refrigerator called England.”)

kipling