Every Day Is Special
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times
, Greensboro, NC.
Thursday, Sept. 16 -- Power of Poetry Day
There's a double reason for remembering the power of poetry on September 16th. Anne
Bradstreet was born on this day in 1612 in England. She came to America in 1630, where --
despite the rigors of pioneer life -- she wrote poems. Unbeknownst to her, her brother-in-law
carried some of her poems back to England, where it was published in 1650 under the title "The
Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America."
Thus she became the first published American poet and the first published woman poet writing
in English. (Li Qing-Jao was a famous and beloved woman poet centuries earlier, but that was
China.) Bradstreet's poems were later reprinted in Boston.
Nearly two centuries later, law student Oliver Wendell Holmes read a newspaper report that
Congress was going to have the venerable Navy frigate USS Constitution -- "Old Ironsides" --
sent to a scrap yard. Holmes, believing that it was worth more as a monument than as scrap
lumber, dashed off a poem in protest. It began:
Aye, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky.
"Old Ironsides" was published anonymously in the Boston Daily Advertiser of 16 September
1830, and was picked up and reprinted throughout the United States. Public outrage spurred by
the poem caused Congress to appropriate money for the reconstruction and preservation of the
ship. So because of that poem, Old Ironsides still floats today.
Of course, that all took place back in an era when we put our strongest feelings and clearest
thoughts into poetry -- and then memorized and recited it frequently, both in public and private.
Who now reads verse expecting to (A) understand it, (B) care about what it says, (C) memorize
it, or (D) read it aloud to someone else?
Friday, Sept. 17 -- Constitution Day
On this day in 1787, delegations from twelve states at the Constitutional Convention in
Philadelphia voted unanimously to approve the proposed document. (Rhode Island, expecting
to go it alone on its economic strength in trans-oceanic trading and whaling, and suspicious of
putting itself under the thumb of twelve other -- and larger -- states, did not send a delegation.)
"M*A*S*H, Robert Altman's ground-breaking 1970 satirical film about a mobile medical unit
in the Korean War (based on Richard Hooker's novel and using Ring Lardner Jr.'s devastating
screenplay) was sanitized, cheered up, and laugh-tracked for television, debuting on this day in
It was always a terrible idea for a sitcom, and anybody who thought Alan Alda was even
remotely a substitute for the brilliant Donald Sutherland, or Loretta Swit for Sally Kellerman, or
Larry Linville for Robert Duvall, was obviously wearing a suit and working for a network.
Yet, because of the brilliant writing and supervision of developer Larry Gelbart (who died on 11
Sept. 2009), this series became a monster hit. Its last episode (28 Feb. 1983) was the most-watched episode of a fictional television series in history -- officially seen by 105.97 million
viewers. At that time, VCRs were still very expensive and relatively rare, so America was
gathered around its TV sets all at once to reach those numbers. (That was our first night as
Greensboro residents, by the way -- and though the TV was surrounded by piles of boxes we
were unpacking, we watched it just like everyone else.)
Ninety years ago today, the National Football League was formed, though at first it was called
"The American Professional Football Association." At the time, football was considered to be
brutal, and it was only because college students persisted in breaking their bodies by bashing
into each other on every possible occasion that the sport persisted at all, though there were
serious movements to ban it. Baseball -- a game you could usually live through -- was the
Now, with vastly improved safety equipment and life-saving rule adjustments, football is far
safer, while television's instant replays have made armchair quarterbacking the true national
The original teams were:
Chicago Tigers (folded after the first year)
Rochester (NY) Jeffersons
Rock Island Independents
The first team that is still playing in its original city and under its original name, the Green Bay
Packers, joined the league in the second season, 1921.
Saturday, Sept. 18 -- Int'l Eat an Apple Day
To promote the beginning of fall with its vivid color and crispness, celebrate by eating an apple,
the fruit of the fall season.
The New York Times published its first issue on this day in 1851. It debuted as The New York
Daily Times. The name was changed in 1857. Sometime in the past thirty years it became a
mere propaganda tool of the extreme Left, but for a century before that it deserved its reputation
as America's newspaper of record.
US Air Force was established as a separate branch of the military on this day in 1947, although
its heritage dates back to 1907, when the Army first established military aviation. Ship-based
aviation remained the province of the Navy.
Sunday, Sept. 19 -- Int'l Talk Like a Pirate Day.
You know, some of us talk like a pirate every day.
Tolkien Week begins today, to promote appreciation and enjoyment of the works of John
Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who is best known for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, though his
poems and scholarly work are also worth enjoying. By sheer coincidence, last night I finished
reading Lord of the Rings for the seventh time, and I still consider it to be far and away that
greatest work of literature of the twentieth century.
Turnoff Week begins, as participating people voluntarily turn off their electronics for seven days
so they can enjoy the real world and real people around them. So text all your friends and urge
them to twitter about how the week has gone for them.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show, arguably the funniest sitcom ever, premiered on this day in 1970,
making this its 40th anniversary. Brilliant casting and brilliant writing took us into depths of
characterization that showed us just how good and true comedy could be.
Monday, Sept. 20 --Nat'l Love Your Files Week
Filing (using paper in folders) gets a bad rap because people do it the hard way. "If a filing
system is set up correctly, it's easy to maintain and a pleasure to use." It's true that filing
systems are great when they allow you to lay hands quickly on any piece of paper you need, but
to make that possible, you have to:
1. Understand where items should be filed and put them there
B. Take the time to file them instead of leaving them in "to be filed" stacks
III. Know which items are not worth filing and throw them away
4th. Hire somebody with a deep and abiding commitment to order and efficiency to do the filing
and the looking up.
Or you can just let Windows automatically stuff everything into your My Documents folder.
TV Guide and other media were full of chat about how the half-hour sitcom was dead. The
great age of sitcoms -- The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family and their spinoffs, as
well as WKRP in Cincinnati (ended in 1982) and Taxi (ended in 1983)-- was over, they said,
and people were watching things like Fantasy Island and The Love Boat.
Then The Cosby Show premiered in1984, and all that talk about the End of the Sitcom
evaporated. On the strength of Bill Cosby's personality, the onscreen relationship between him
and Phylicia Rashad, and some wonderful casting of child actors, we got a new round of sitcoms
-- and NBC began its decades-long supremacy on Thursday nights.
Oddly, though, one of the best of the new sitcoms, Cheers, had debuted two years before, and
The Jeffersons, an All in the Family spinoff, would continue running till 1985 -- which kind of
proves that the sitcom wasn't exactly dead before Cosby came on the air. In other words, what
were they talking about?
Tuesday, Sept. 21 -- U.N. Int'l Day of Peace
Yeah, right. Day of Peace. United Nations. What do these two concepts even have to do with
each other, with the U.N. General Assembly now being a hotbed of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, and the Security Council subject to the veto of two nations -- China and Russia
-- that just love to see turmoil in the world? And with the only nation that actually takes the
lead in stopping rogue nations from aggression against their neighbors now under a commander-in-chief who agrees with the U.N. General Assembly, the chance of peace is pretty close to nil.
Here's a clue: American isolationism doesn't lead to peace, it leads to the breakdown of the
international order that has brought prosperity to all its participants for the past sixty-five years.
And the U.N. has made exactly no contribution to that international order since the end of the
Hurricane Hugo hit the American coast at Charleston, SC, on this day in 1989. Friends of ours
who lived in Blowing Rock, NC, owned a beach house in Ocean Isle, which was supposed to be
where the hurricane would hit land. The parents rushed there to board up windows -- only to
have the hurricane land farther south and then cut a swath of devastation through SC and western
NC, where their children were! I don't think there has been another hurricane that has caused so
much damage so far from the coast.
Monday Night Football premiered on this night in 1970, making this the 40th anniversary.
Already by this time three games of the 41st season of MNF will have aired: Baltimore Ravens at
New York Jets and San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs on 13 Sep. and New Orleans
Saints at San Francisco 49ers on 20 Sep. The glory days of Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell, Don
Meredith, and John Madden may be over, but the show goes on.
Wednesday, Sept. 22 -- Elephant Appreciation Day
Celebrate the earth's largest, most interesting and most noble endangered land animal. While
I'm not sure what any of us can actually do to help elephants, who are murdered by poachers in
Africa and made redundant by mechanization in southeast Asia, it's worth reading about
elephants and reminding ourselves that there's more than one way for intelligence to manifest
itself. I suggest When Elephants Weep by Masson and McCarthy and The Elephant's Secret
Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa by O'Connell.
Or, for a more fanciful look, check out my story "The Elephants of Posnan," which will be
available for free this week at my online magazine, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine
Show at http://www.oscIGMS.com.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln on this day in 1862. Lincoln
has been criticized by idiots in recent years because the proclamation didn't free all the slaves --
only the slaves in rebellious states during the Civil War. What these idiots do not recognize is
that Lincoln had no authority to free slaves in any of the states still in the Union. He could only
issue such a proclamation under his power as Commander-in-Chief of the military, and only in
Up to 1862, the war was officially only about preserving the union -- though the sole reason for
secession by the rebellious states was their insistence on the "right" to make some human beings
legally the property of others, and their fear that a Lincoln presidency would interfere with that
grossly evil and unChristian practice.
After the failure of Lee's invasion of Maryland at the Battle of Antietam Creek did Lincoln
believe he had the political strength to issue the proclamation and openly make it a war against
slavery. This was the last nail in the coffin of Confederate hopes of bringing cotton-hungry
Britain into the war on their side. Britain was the nation that, inspired by Christian abolitionists,
had declared war on slavery in the first place, using their worldwide naval supremacy to seize
slavetrading ships of any nation anywhere in the world. There was zero chance now of Britain
opposing the now-officially-anti-slavery North in the American Civil War.
This is Hobbit Day -- the shared birthday of hobbit heroes Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Though
hobbits don't exist officially, in fact Tolkien based their species' predilections on his own
character and personality, and their land, the Shire, on the England he remembered from his
childhood. There are plenty of hobbits left in England, and even if some of them need serious
dental work, they are at the root of English culture and all the cultures -- including ours -- that
grew out of it.
In 1903, Italian immigrant Italo Marchiony, who ran a pushcart business selling lemon ice (and,
later, other flavors) in New York City, came up with the idea of dispensing the ice cream in a
paper cone, soon changed to a pastry version. The first of his ice cream cones were sold on this
day, and less than three months later, on Dec. 13th of 1903, he was issued a U.S. patent for his
mold for making cone-shaped pastry cups to hold ice cream.
Today is National Centenarian's Day, on which we recognize and honor individuals who have
lived a century or longer. While in one sense, this is hardly an achievement -- all you have to
do is not die -- at the same time it represents our own aspiration, especially when we see
centenarians who are still able to get around and experience life, or who at least are able to read
or watch television and stay connected. Who doesn't want to live to see at least some of their
great-great-grandchildren enter this world? Or at least to find out who wins the Academy
Awards or the Superbowl for one more year.
Some famous centenarians who are still alive:
Rupert Murdoch's mother, Elisabeth Joy Greene Murdoch, 103, inherited most of her
husband's wealth when he died in 1952. While her son now manages the media empire, one of
the last remaining bastions of non-Leftist, non-elitist news and programming in the English-speaking world, Dame Elisabeth has devoted her life to philanthropy, especially in her native
Frederica Sagor Maas, 110, was a playwright and screenwriter, with most of her film work
appearing during the silent era. She was also an active feminist back when that meant lobbying
for the vote, and was questioned by the FBI during the anti-Communist Hollywood
investigations about some journals she and her husband subscribed to (you know, back when
Congress thought it had the right to decide that certain media were un-American and should be
banned for their political content, like, say, Fox News and conservative talk radio). Her
autobiography, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim -- named for her last screenplay in 1947 -- was
published in 1999.
Dorothy Young, 103, was Harry Houdini's assistant in 1925 and 1926. She left the act two
months before his death, and later wrote two novels loosely based on her life. For a while she
worked as an actress on Broadway, then toured the world with her second husband in a Latin
Ida (Crowe) Pollock, 102, who had published fiction in her twenties, became serious about
writing romance novels after her businessman husband's bankruptcy in 1950. Under
pseudonyms like Susan Barrie, Pamela Kent, Rose Burghley, Mary Whistler, Averil Ives,
Barbara Rowan, Anita Charles, Marguerite Bell, and Jane Beaufort, as well as her married name,
she has written dozens of novels and continues to write and publish today. (Romance writer
Rosemary Pollock is her daughter.)
Harry Bernstein, 100, though he worked in the film and magazine trades until he retired at age
62, didn't start his first book, The Invisible Wall, until he was 93, after the death of his wife,
Ruby, after 67 years of marriage. He has since written The Dream and The Golden Willow.
John W. Donnelly, who will turn 104 tomorrow (23 Sep. 2010), gave up table tennis for thirty
years, but when he moved to Florida in 1980 after he retired, he started up a table tennis club in
Sun City and became National Senior Games Champion. He appeared on The Tonight Show
with Jay Leno inn 2006; at age 95 he married a woman 26 years younger than himself.
Albert Rosellini, 100, was governor of Washington from 1957 to 1965. A "New Deal
Democrat," he is regarded by many as Washington's best governor in modern times. Among
other achievements, he balanced the budget, though when he raised the state sales tax from 3.5
cents to 4 cents, Republicans dubbed him "Taxellini." He was the first Italian-American
governor and the first Catholic governor west of the Mississippi.
All the above bios were taken from Wikipedia's centenarians list at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_centenarians. Or just google "centenarians."