Literary Birthdays – Week of July 4 – 10, 2010

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July 4

neil-simon Neil Simon (b. 1927) – U.S. playwright, screenwriter – Barefoot in the Park (1963)

Read the Wikipedia article about Neil Simon

Watch Charlie Rose interview Neil Simon about his memoirs, Rewrites

Rose: Plays are different than writing screenplays. What’s the difference?

Simon: Well first of all, it’s in the process. I get to do it all these times, and I get all these rehearsals, and I get all this time out of town trying it out with an audience. So it’s like every single day I’m going to bat again, getting to fix it up. With a film, you write it, you may not even have a rehearsal. They’ll have one reading of it, and then the next morning you start to shoot it. And then, when I go to the dailies and see the three minutes of film that we did the day before, I said “I could fix that tomorrow” and they said, “Sorry, it’s done.” I don’t like that process.

Ann Landers (Esther Pauline Friedman) (born July 4, 1918) – U.S. newspaper advice columnist Ann Landers photo

Read about Ann Landers here and here

July 5

Bill Watterson (born July 5, 1958) – U.S. cartoonist – Calvin and Hobbes series

Read about Bill Watterson here and here and here

A fan’s Top 10 adventures of Calvin and Hobbes

At the beginning there was Calvin

Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes

And when the story was done…

Calvin Hobbes last strip

Best friends ever

Calvin and Hobbes hug


July 6

The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) (b. 1935) – Tibetan leader, philosopher – The Universe in a Single Atom – The Convergence of Science and Spirituality (2005) The Dalai Lama

Read about the Dalai Lama here and here

Read excerpts from The Universe in a Single Atom

Another of the differences between science and Buddhism as I see them lies in what constitutes a valid hypothesis. …For example, the theory that God created the world can never be a scientific one because it cannot contain an explanation of the conditions under which the theory could be proven false. … By contrast, the domain of inquiry in Buddhism is not limited to the objective. It also encompasses the subjective world of experience as well as the question of values. In other words, science deals with empirical facts but not with metaphysics and ethics, whereas for Buddhism, critical inquiry into all three is essential.

Popper’s falsiliability thesis resonates with a major methodological principle in my own Tibetan Buddhist philosophical tradition. We might call this the ‘principle of the scope of negation.’ This principle states that there is a fundamental difference between that which is ‘not found’ and that which is ‘found not to exist.’ If I look for something, and fail to find it, this does not mean that the thing I am seeking does not exist. Not seeing a thing is not the same as seeing its non-existence. In order for there to be a coincidence between not seeing a thing and seeing its non-existence,  the method of searching and the phenomenon being sought mus be commensurate. For example, not seeing a scorpion on the page you are reading is adequate proof that there is no scorpion on the page. For if there were a scorpion on the page it would be visible to the naked eye. However, not seeing acid in the paper on which the page is printed is not the same as seeing that the paper is acid-free because to see acid in the paper one might require tools other than the naked eye. Additionally, the fourteenth century philosopher Tsongkhapa argues there is a similar distinction between that which is negated by reason and that which is not affirmed by reason.
*  *  *
Science deals with that aspect of reality and human experience that lends itself to a particular method of inquiry susceptible to empirical observation, quantification and measurement, repeatability and intersubjective verification… Clearly this paradigm does not and cannot exhaust all aspects of reality, in particular the nature of human existence. In addition to the objective world of matter which science is masterful at exploring, there exists the subjective world of feelings, emotions, thoughts, and the values and spiritual aspirations based on them. If we treat this realm as though it had no constitutive role in our understanding of reality, we lose the richness of our own existence and our understanding cannot be comprehensive. Reality including our own existence is so much more complex than objective scientific materialism allows.

(From pages 34-39 of The Universe in a Single Atom)

Bridging Buddhism and Science (2016)

See also the other LitBirthdays post on the Dalai Lama: 6

July 7

Helene Johnson Helene Johnson (b. 1906) – U.S. poet of the Harlem Renaissance – “Trees at Night”

Read about Helene Johnson here and here and here

Read the New York Times obituary for Helene Johnson

Trees at Night

Slim Sentinels
Stretching lacy arms
About a slumbrous moon;
Black quivering
Stencilled on the petal
Of a bluebell;
Ink spluttered
On a robin’s breast;
The jagged rent
Of mountains
Reflected in a
Stilly sleeping lake;
Fragile pinnacles
Of fairy castles;
Torn webs of shadows;
Printed ‘gainst the sky–
The trembling beauty
Of an urgent pine.

Read more of Johnson’s poems here

Read Johnson’s 1933 letter to Dorothy West here

Margaret Walker photo Margaret Walker (b. 1915) – U.S. poet, novelist, essayist – For My People

Read a biography of Margaret Walker

For My People

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs

repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
unseen power;
For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending

hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
dragging along never gaining never reaping never
knowing and never understanding;
For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
and playhouse and concert and store and hair and
Miss Choomby and company;
For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
people who and the places where and the days when, in
memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
were black and poor and small and different and nobody
cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to

be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
marry their playmates and bear children and then die
of consumption and anemia and lynching;
For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and
land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

(Read the entire poem here)

Listen to Margaret Walker read her poem “For My People”

July 8

Freeway (Leslie Edward Pridgen)
(b. 1978) – U.S. rapper

Read about Freeway here and here

Watch the music video of “Hustler’s Prayer” (explicit lyrics)


Philadelphia free

2 niggas had a dream,
Right before had a scheme,
But their dream ain’t workin’,
And that scheme? It was puttin’ food on the table,
And the same scheme put a few fools in the dirt,
And it goes this way every corner of the earth,
Every crack and crevice, Crevice and crack,
It gets wilder,
Powder developed the crack,
That’s when things really started taking off,
People started to snap,
Motherfuckas gettin’ hurt from self,
Harmed from drugs,
People gettin’ dope by the rack,
Coke by the boat,
Now they don’t know how to act,  gangstas clap,
Blame it on gangsta rap,
They look to tech blow,
But did you blame it on techno,
They bangin’ heavy metal While you blamin’ heavy metal,
Blaming burning’s in the breeze,
Now they bangin’ on my deranged bro’,
Time for a change, I just thought you should know (LETS GO!)

We been strugglin’ for 300 years — it’s not fair,
My grandparents witnessed segregation — they was right there,
They’re about to witness the first black president right here,
And I’m be right there, gonna overnight here,
We been struggling for 300 years, the time’s come,
For a hustler to dream some more of Martin and Malcolm,
They say pray and believe, believe and it is done,
I’ma be out rappin’ and join in the outcome!

Only America black people went through all kinds of stuff,
While they can’t drink from the fountain cause their father’s not white enough,
Who can read vocabulary not tight enough,
Whites say you have to pick cotton,  not black enough,
Slave masters sell you to another master,
Back it up, Chip it up, Roll it up, Probably wind up laughing up,
Years passed, the slavery over now you rollin’, but you rollin’ on the back of the bus with us,
Whats up? Nothin’s up, the trouble’s up,
It’s hard times, We are behind,
We need to try catchin’ up, and they wonder why we ratchin’ up,
Everybody wanna piece of the American pie,
But we love so phony, cause the pie’s whites only,
They got me feelin’ like Martin and like it feels like the struggles just a part of my life,
Gotta see the life of my late dead homies (let’s go!)


We need a moment, We need atonement,
A constitution with blacks and whites on it,
We need to own it, Be our own bosses,
First of all we need Bush out the office,
And we need in on that pie, a few slices,
Plus we need lower gas prices, Lower taxes,
And while you at it we need doctors in the hood with no malpractice,
We need fathers and mothers to be responsible,
Raising children of the honorable,
Before they go in front of your honor and the judge throws the book at em, Leave ’em in jail with a lot of time to go,
We need the same thing we needed long time ago,
And that’s one nation under God,
Get it on the line, All races come together,
Nation on the rise,
Nobody gotta struggle, gotta cry


Watch the music video of “Change”

July 9

Masami Tsuda Kare Kano art Masami Tsuda (b. 1970) – Japanese Manga author – Kare Kano series (1996)

Read the Wikipedia article about Masami Tsuda

Read about the Kare Kano (His and Hers) series here

Watch the first episode of Kare Kano (English subtitles)

Part of Episode 2

A Kare Kano song (with Spanish subtitles)

July 10

Arja Uusitalo Arja Uusitalo (b. 1951) – Finnish poet

Read the Wikipedia article about Arja Uusitalo

Excerpt from the poem Äkillinen oivallus / Flash of Insight

olen valmis mihin vain / I’m ready for anything
kunhan vain sanot että rakastat elämää / if only you say you love life
intohimoisesti / passionately
sinä sanot sen ja minä olen valmis / say it and I’m ready

(from Kindablog post of March 2008)


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