Friday Nov. 18, 2016

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One Time

When evening had flowed between houses
and paused on the school ground, I met
Hilary’s blind little sister following
the gray smooth railing still warm from the sun
with her hand; and she stood by the edge
holding her face upward waiting
while the last light found her cheek
and her hair, and then on over the trees.

You could hear the great sprinkler arm
of water find and then leave the pavement,
and pigeons telling each other their dreams
or the dreams they would have. We were
deep in the well of shadow by then, and I
held out my hand, saying, “Tina, it’s me—
Hilary says I should tell you it’s dark,
and, oh, Tina, it is. Together now—”

And I reached, our hands touched,
and we found our way home.

“One Time” by William Stafford from The Way It Is. © Graywolf Press, 1998. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist and poet Margaret Atwood (books by this author), born in Ottawa, Ontario (1939). During her childhood, her family spent every April through November in the Quebec wilderness, where her father, an entomologist, did research for the government. She was 11 years old before she completed a full year of school. When she was about six, she began to write morality plays, comic books, poems, and a novel about an ant that she never finished. While in high school, she wrote poetry and thought about a career in home economics. But, influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, at 16, she committed herself to a writing career. She said, "It was suddenly the only thing I wanted to do."

Atwood studied English at the University of Toronto. She reviewed books and wrote articles for the college literary magazine. Her first volume of poetry, Double Persephone, was published in 1961, the year she graduated. She went to Radcliffe and then Harvard, where she studied Victorian literature and worked as a waitress and market researcher and wrote in her free time.

While at Harvard, Atwood realized that no one had ever published a critical study of Canadian literature. She later read all she could and wrote Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972). She claimed that Canadian literature reflects a tendency of Canadians to be both victims and survivalists. The book sparked a debate and the book sold 85,000 copies within 10 years, an impressive sales record for a critical study.

With the book's success, Atwood craved privacy and moved to a 100-acre farm in Ontario to write. She published several collections of poems, including You Are Happy (1974), along with the novel The Handmaid's Tale (1985), which was a bestseller.

Margaret Atwood said, "I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most."

And: "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."

It's the birthday of the man who helped invent the art of photography, Louis Daguerre, born just outside of Paris, France (1789), who started out as a theater designer, using hand-painted translucent screens and elaborate lighting effects to create the illusion of a sunrise or a sudden storm onstage. But in 1829, he learned about a new technology that made it possible to use light to capture an image on a metal plate, though the quality of the image was poor. Daguerre set out to improve the process, and he came up with a combination of copper plate coated with silver salts that could be developed with the application of mercury vapor and table salt.

He first used this process to capture a series of images of Paris, including pictures of the Louvre and Notre Dame. The camera needed about 15 minutes exposure time to capture an image, so most of Daguerre's early pictures don't show any people. The one exception is a picture of a boulevard that shows a man in the foreground who has stopped to shine his shoes. He was the first human being ever caught on film. Daguerre announced his invention in 1839, and the images he produced became known as Daguerreotypes.

Louis Daguerre said, "I have seized the light. I have arrested its flight."

It was on this day in 1928 that Mickey Mouse was born when the first sound-synchronized cartoon to attract widespread public notice, Walt Disney's "Steamboat Willie," premiered in New York at the Colony Theater. The black and white cartoon featured Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Pegleg Pete and lasted seven minutes. With Walt Disney as the voice of Mickey, the cartoon met with great success.

In 1998, "Steamboat Willie" was one of 25 films added by the Library of Congress' National Film Preservation Board to the National Film Registry.

As Walt Disney recalled of the cartoon's first showing, "The effect on our little audience was nothing less than electric. They responded almost instinctively to this union of sound and motion. I thought they were kidding me. So they put me in the audience and ran the action again. It was terrible, but it was wonderful! And it was something new!"

It's the birthday of American statistician George Gallup (1901), born in Jefferson, Iowa. He was a pioneer in scientific polling techniques, and his name became a household word synonymous with the opinion poll.

Gallup enrolled in the University of Iowa in 1918, played football and became the editor of the Daily Iowan. While editor in the early 1920s, he conducted what is widely considered the first poll in human history. He took a survey to find the prettiest girl on the campus. The winner was Ophelia Smith, whom Gallup later married.

From 1929 to 1931, he headed the Drake University School of Journalism, left to teach at Northwestern University and conduct newspaper research in the Chicago area, and in 1935 set up the American Institute of Public Opinion at Princeton University. While teaching and doing research, Gallup found that small samples of the populace could predict general attitudes. He gained recognition for accurately predicting Franklin Roosevelt's victory over Alf Landon in 1936.

Gallup's biggest blunder, the prediction that Thomas Dewey would defeat Harry Truman in 1948, was a minor stumbling block. At one time, nearly 200 newspapers published his reports. At the height of his career, Gallup spoke out against the practice of exit polling in elections and advocated election reforms still being discussed today. Gallup died of a heart attack in 1984 at his summer home in Switzerland.

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