Gone With The Wind

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“Yes, I want money more than anything else in the world.”
“Then you’ve made the only choice. But there’s a penalty attached, as there is to most things you want. It’s loneliness.”

Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind

 Scarlett

Today, on June 30, 1936, Gone with the Wind was released to the public with great fanfare.   It was an immediate success, with 50,000 copies going out the door as soon as the freshly printed books hit the shelves. They were sold for the exorbitant price of three dollars.  The book came into being when Margaret Mitchell needed something to do during a protracted recovery period following a car accident.  It seemed that Margaret’s husband, tired of transporting books from the library to appease his wife’s insatiable appetite for reading, encouraged her to write her own book.

Margaret was energetic, flamboyant, entertaining and a brilliant storyteller.  She engaged her audience with vivid characters and a dramatically rich and complex narrative.  Even at the end, she was uncertain whether Rhett and Scarlett were reunited!

“Gone with the Wind” is a Pulitzer Prize award-winning novel, yet many readers believe it presents a true historical perspective.  Indeed, there are certain areas relating to the reconstruction and the portrayal of African Americans that have garnered criticism.   Perhaps its greatest legacy is that it started a conversation and served as a reminder of the horrors of a Civil War.

“Perhaps – I want the old days back again and they’ll never come back, and I am haunted by the memory of them and of the world falling about my ears. ” 
Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

The Classical Music Man

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“Do whatever you do intensely.”
Robert Henri

Singing

Happy Birthday, Nelson Ackerman Eddy!   Born on June 29, 1901, Nelson Eddy would single-handedly introduce millions of young people to classical music, inspiring many to follow a musical career.  What is remarkable about Nelson was his superstar appeal to both the devoted opera traditionalist and the wildly enthusiastic bobby-soxer generation.

Nelson’s story is about creating a destiny. Known for his pure baritone voice, he learned to sing in church and by listening to the recordings of famous baritones.  At fourteen, when his parents divorced, he lived with his mother in gentile poverty.  Nelson quit school to take on employment in various positions, including 10 years as a newspaper reporter.  His journalistic career came to an abrupt halt when he was fired for constantly singing on the job. It was a tipping point.  He was free to pursue his dream with an earnest determination.

Nelson’s singing career spanned four decades and, at his peak, became the highest paid singer in the world.  He earned three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and three Gold records.  He sang at the third inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the dark days of 1941. He is best known for his eight films with his magnificent co-star, Jeanette MacDonald.

“The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.” 
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Defining the Future

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“Study the past if you would define the future.” 
Confucius

 The Future

Throughout the centuries, June 28th has given us historical moments that defined our present.

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” Alexander, the Great was born on this day in 356BC

“We are, by the sufferance of God, King of England; and the Kings of England in times past never had any superior but God.”  King Henry VIII was born on this day in 1491.

“Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.”  Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born today in 1712.

We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.” Queen Victoria was crowned in Westminster Abbey today in 1838 

“Shot heard ‘round the world” that led to WWI.  Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife, were assassinated today in 1914.

Today, June 28, 2013, there are events that are occurring throughout our global world that will define the future.  Looking back, we can see seemingly unimportant decisions and acts had an exponential impact on humanity’s timeline. It would be interesting to know how  generations yet to come will consider our contribution to their past.

 

 

The Decline & Fall

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“Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book.” 
Edward Gibbon

Rome

There is a book that I have not had the courage to start.  It comes in three volumes and resides quite contentedly on one of my bookshelves behind two wooden elephants. It was a gift from a dear friend who has since passed away, which makes it all the more poignant.  I decided to thumb through the first volume which weighs, in my conservative opinion, approximately 8 pounds.

Edward Gibbon’s “The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” despite all criticisms that come with historical debate, is the most celebrated historical work in the English language.  It was published in three installments between 1776 and 1788, and covers thirteen centuries, from 98 – 1590.  Gibbon’s insistence on relative objectivity and the use of primary sources became the model for later historians to emulate.

But why would I decide to take out the “Rise and Decline” at this particular time. Quite simply, to celebrate!  For today, on June 27, 1787, Edward Gibbons finished his monumental task.  His life’s work complete, I can only imagine that his elation was tinged with a hint of sorrow.

“It was on the day, or rather the night, of 27 June 1787, between the hours of eleven and twelve, that I wrote the last lines of the last page in a summer-house in my garden. … I will not dissemble the first emotions of joy on the recovery of my freedom, and perhaps the establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind by the idea that I had taken my everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion, and that, whatsoever might be the future date of my history, the life of the historian must be short and precarious.”

Edward Gibbon

I Never Heard His Name

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“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, with Annotations – 1841-1844

Risk

Dr. Zabdiel Boylston!

I confess I never heard of his name, but I am very glad that he lived. In fact, many have survived because of the great risks he took to overcome the dreaded disease, smallpox. Smallpox is a disease unique to humans, believed to have had its first appearance about 10,000 BC.  Fast forward to the 18th century, smallpox claimed an estimated 400,000 Europeans every year.   Even the great King Louis XV was not immune to its attack.

Dr. Zabdiel Boylston (1679 – 1766) was a Boston-based physician who apprenticed with his father, an English surgeon named Thomas Boylston, and Dr. Cutler, a Bostonian physician. Zabdiel never attended medical school, yet he renowned for being the first American physician to perform several surgical operations,  including the removal of gall bladder stones and a breast tumour. Yet his most daring act occurred during the 1721 smallpox outbreak in Boston.

Today, on June 26, 1721, Dr. Zabdiel Boylston performed America’s first vaccinations against smallpox, based on the idea that originated from  Africa. He applied pus from a smallpox sore to a small wound on three patients, one of them being his precious son.  All in all, he inoculated approximately 248 people.  Other physicians were appalled, hostile and vicious. Zabdiel received threats on his life. He went into hiding; even his family was in a precariously dangerous position.  He visited his patients in disguise, after midnight.

A few years later, in 1724, Zabdiel travelled to London, England, to publish his results. He became a fellow of the Royal Society.  You may be interested in know that Dr. Zabdiel Boylston was the great-uncle of President John Adams.

“During the first period of a man’s life the greatest danger is not to take the risk.”

Soren Kierkegaard

 

He Gave Us 1984

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“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
George Orwell, 1984

George Orwell

Today, in 1903, Eric Arthur Blair was born in Motihari, Bengal, India.  We would come to know him as George Orwell, the man who gave us “Animal Farm,” where “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,”   and “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” where “If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.” 

Looking back, it is difficult to understand how someone with his intelligence, wit, foresight and remarkable writing abilities would struggle to establish a career as a writer. At four, George Orwell wrote his first poem; at eleven a local newspaper published a later poem.  As an adult, success was not immediate.  He would take a variety of jobs to keep a roof over his head while he pursued his passion.  His first book, “Down and Out in Paris and London” published in 1933 was a clear indicator of his moral courage and empathy for humanity’s plight.

George Orwell’s biography is a page turner filled with adventure and tragedy in equal measure.  “Animal Farm” was published in 1945, the year his wife Eileen died.  It was a global sensation.  “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, which was to become his most recognized work, was published in 1949, a year before his own death at 46.  Even now, a new generation is discovering the power of his writing. 

“Tragedy, he perceived, belonged to the ancient time, to a time when there were still privacy, love, and friendship, and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason.” 
 George Orwell, 1984