Happy Birthday Margaret Cho

I remember first seeing Margaret Cho on TV, it was a stand up routine and they played it often on some cable channel.  There was a part about her brother being a born-again-christian surfer and of course, her mother.  I have loved her ever since.  Today is her 46th birthday.  Since I normally chronicle either people a lot older or dead people, I usually don’t include their various social media platforms, but Margaret is alive and creating content constantly.  I love her podcast and her Youtube channel.  Coincidentally, yesterday, Margaret followed be back on Twitter.  Little old me.  So for her birthday, click on her clicks and follow/like/ingest and wish her a happy birthday.

NAME: Margaret Cho
BIRTH DATE: December 5, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: San Francisco, California
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.margaretcho.com/
YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/user/mcho88
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/margaretcho
PODCAST: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/monsters-of-talk-podcast/id594033255
INSTAGRAM: http://instagram.com/margaret_cho

BEST KNOWN FOR: Margaret Cho is a Korean-American comic best known for her candid comedy, TV roles and advocacy.

Margaret Cho was born on December 5, 1968 and raised in San Francisco. Her career as a viciously sharp-tongued and unfiltered stand-up comedian began in her teen years. By her 20s, this Korean-American performer found herself starring in her own short-lived TV sitcom, All-American Girl. Since then, Cho has been the highlight of many comedy specials, tours and albums, as well as films and books. Her reign entertaining TV audiences has continued, too, with Dancing with the Stars, Drop Dead Diva and 30 Rock. When not cracking up the masses, this funny lady focuses her energies on advocating for gay rights and fighting racism and sexism.

Born Margaret Moran Cho on December 5, 1968, Margaret Cho grew up on San Francisco’s Haight Street during the 1970s. “There were old hippies, ex-druggies, burnouts from the ’60s, drag queens and Chinese people,” the Korean-American comic said of her official site. Her upbringing provided plenty of fodder for Cho’s early standup days. Her first comedic inspiration may have been her father, who once wrote Korean jokes books.

Humor definitely helped a pubescent Cho deal with teenage angst and bullying. She started doing standup at age 14, and by the 1990s, she had moved to Los Angeles, where her comic career gained traction. Cho’s first nighttime gig was on The Arsenio Hall Show. She became known for her outspoken and sometimes crude routines, as well as an ability to shed light on prejudices and stereotypes, especially those relating to gays, women and Asian-Americans.

Cho followed in the footsteps of other comedians by eventually earning her own TV sitcom: All-American Girl debuted on ABC in 1994, and was based on Cho’s real life as a rebellious Korean-American young woman amidst more traditional relatives. The series was groundbreaking, as it was the first primetime show to focus on an Asian-American family. While it was supposed to be her real big break, Cho has always been quite vocal over her dissatisfaction with the show, especially with, as she calls it, the network haranguing her to “act more Asian” and lose weight. In fact, Cho has often recalled publicly how she wound up with kidney failure after starving herself for her series.

Despite the cancelation of All-American Girl after only 19 episodes, Cho’s comic career continued to soar, especially after her critically acclaimed off-Broadway show, I’m the One that I Want, which was also developed into a concert film. Her Notorious C.H.O. performance at Carnegie Hall led to another smash film. The tours and taped specials haven’t stopped since, nor has Cho’s interest in TV stardom. She took another stab at her own program in 2008: VH1’s The Cho Show was a scripted reality approach to the comic’s life, featuring her real life entourage and parents. The following year, she was cast on Lifetime’s hit show, Drop Dead Diva, as lead actress Brooke Elliot’s assistant sidekick—a role that Cho has continued for four seasons.

Filmed at the Seattle Paramount:

TELEVISION
Drop Dead Diva Teri Lee (2009-)
Dancing with the Stars Contestant (2010)
All-American Girl Margaret Kim (1994)

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Wedding Palace (27-Sep-2013)
Bettie Page Reveals All (8-Sep-2012)
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (13-Mar-2011) · Herself
Miss Representation (20-Jan-2011) · Herself
17 Again (11-Mar-2009)
One Missed Call (4-Jan-2008)
Falling for Grace (20-Jul-2007) · Janie
Bam Bam and Celeste (13-Sep-2005)
Margaret Cho: Assassin (2-Sep-2005) · Herself
Nobody Knows Anything! (2003) · Rental Car Agent
Notorious C.H.O. (13-Jun-2002) · Herself
The Thin Pink Line (7-Oct-2000)
I’m the One That I Want (4-Aug-2000) · Herself
$pent (21-Jul-2000)
Get Bruce (24-Jan-1999) · Herself
Can’t Stop Dancing (16-Jan-1999)
The Tavern (1999)
The Rugrats Movie (20-Nov-1998) [VOICE]
Ground Control (26-Aug-1998)
Face/Off (27-Jun-1997) · Wanda
Fakin’ Da Funk (1997)
It’s My Party (11-Jan-1996)
Sweethearts (1996) · Noreen
The Doom Generation (25-Oct-1995) · Clerk’s Wife
Attack of the 5 Ft. 2 Women (21-Aug-1994) · Connie Tong
Angie (4-Mar-1994) · Admissions Nurse #2

Author of books:
I’m the One That I Want (2001, memoir)
I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight (2005, memoir)

come fine me, i’m @:

I chronicle what inspires me at Waldina.com
I faceplace at facebook.com/parkeranderson
I store my selfies at instagram.com/therealspa#
I tumblr at waspandpear.tumblr.com/
I tweet at twitter.com/TheRealSPA

Summer Reading Suggestions

Hopefully, some of you have read all of these books and all of you have read some of these books.  A re-read is never out of the question, especially if it is a summer read.  Summer reads can be picked up and put down, read at the beach/pool and on any sort of transportation to/from your summer activity.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Not only is this book an essential American classic, but Twain is an essential American figure — and you might as well begin your reading life by reading the work of one of the most interesting minds available. Plus, can’t go wrong with Huck Finn — it’s adventure and social commentary and a stellar yarn all in one.

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Everybody should read Shakespeare. Boring, you say? Not Hamlet — there’s murder, revenge, a ghost, a suicide, and much madness.

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

Holden Caulfield has ushered many a teenager into the world of reading, and to be honest, you may not get the full force of this novel as an adult — even an adult generally unfamiliar with fiction. That said, the book is such an entrenched part of the collective American consciousness that it’s worth knowing about at any age. And if you’ve ever been a discontent adolescent, you’ll probably like it at least a little.

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Don’t be scared — this book looks serious, and it is, but it’s also super short. This is the most disquieting, illusionary campfire tale you will ever hear, but luckily, you can hear it in the safety of your own home.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Not only is this book short and straightforwardly written (if not particularly straightforward), but it’s an American touchstone, the book that is probably most often cited as the Great American Novel. A must.

Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

Part of beginning a reading life is exploring your options and figuring out what kind of books you like. The classics are all very well and good (and probably necessary), but maybe you like sci-fi, and there’s only one way to find out. Plus, there’s the fact that this book will keep anyone (especially anyone who enjoyed Catching Fire) engaged from first page to last.

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Or maybe it’s fantasy that gets your reading motor going? Start at the top with this wonderful book.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Another American classic, Lee’s book features the best dad any girl could ever hope for, plus a fascinating historical perspective and some damn fine writing. Everyone you know has read this book, and for good reason.

Beloved, Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s masterpiece has been widely heralded as one of the best books in recent history, and indeed, it is much beloved (ha, ha) by readers and critics alike. This despite the fact that it is not a feel-good book, but rather a harrowing account of an escaped slave trying to save her children from her own fate.

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

Now, this is a little more advanced, it’s true. But if you’re an adventurous type, you won’t be disappointed with Woolf’s incredible, stream-of-consciousness novel. You might have to read it twice, but you should definitely read it.

Dance Is Like Thought – Self Help

“Oh, how wonderful! How like the mind it is!” A stirring encounter at the pinnacle of the human spirit.

From Craig Brown’s Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings, which gave us that wonderful daisy chain of encounters between Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, and Helen Keller, comes another moving meeting of great spirits, this time between Helen Keller, iconic choreographer Martha Graham, and legendary dancer Merce Cunningham.

At seventy-two, already admired far and wide for her extraordinary story of unhinging disability from destiny, Keller meets the Grand Dame of modern dance. Brown writes:

Graham is immediately taken by what she calls Helen’s ‘gracious embrace of life’, and is impressed by what appears to be her photographic memory. They become friends. Before long, Helen starts paying regular visits to the dance studio. She seems to focus on the dancers’ feet, and can somehow tell the direction in which they are moving. Martha Graham is intrigued. ‘She could not see the dance but was able to allow its vibrations to leave the floor and enter her body.’

On one of her visits, Helen says, ‘Martha, what is jumping? I don’t understand.’

Graham is touched by this simple question. She asks a member of her company, Merce Cunningham, to stand at the barre. She approaches him from behind, says, ‘Merce, be very careful, I’m putting Helen’s hands on your body,’ and places Helen Keller’s hands on his waist.

Cunningham cannot see Keller, but feels her two hands around his waist, ‘like bird wings, so soft’. Everyone in the studio stands quite still, focusing on what is happening. Cunningham jumps in the air while Keller’s hands rise up with his body. ‘Her hands rose and fell as Merce did,’ recalls Martha Graham, in extreme old age.

‘Her expression changed from curiosity to one of joy. You could see the enthusiasm rise in her face as she threw her arms in the air.’

Cunningham continues to perform small leaps, with very straight legs. He suddenly feels Keller’s fingers, still touching his waist, begin to move slightly, ‘as though fluttering’. For the first time in her life, she is experiencing dance. ‘Oh, how wonderful! How like thought! How like the mind it is!’ she exclaims when he stops.

In this short excerpt from the 1954 documentary The Unconquered: Helen Keller in Her Story, Keller pays a visit to Graham’s dance studio — to watch this is to witness a true triumph of the human spirit:

The rest of Hello Goodbye Hello, a kind of real-life Circles of Influence culled from diaries, personal correspondence, and various other historical ephemera, strings together similar vignettes of little-known true encounters between cultural icons — from Freud to Tchaikovsky to Hitchcock to Hitchens — spanning science, literature, art, music, film, politics, and more.

The Bulk of all Human Utterances is Plagiarism

In 1892, deafblind author Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism after a short story of hers, named “The Frost King,” was identified as being extremely similar to Margaret Canby’s “Frost Fairies.” An investigation followed, as did a tribunal in which she was eventually acquitted. Amazingly, Keller was just 12 years of age at the time.

A decade later, her friend, Mark Twain, learned of the episode after reading Keller’s autobiography. He then wrote her the fascinating letter of support seen below.

 

Riverdale-on-the-Hudson

St. Patrick’s Day, ’03

Dear Helen,—

I must steal half a moment from my work to say how glad I am to have your book, and how highly I value it, both for its own sake and as a remembrance of an affectionate friendship which has subsisted between us for nine years without a break, and without a single act of violence that I can call to mind. I suppose there is nothing like it in heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off. I often think of it with longing, and how they’ll say, “There they come—sit down in front!” I am practicing with a tin halo. You do the same. I was at Henry Roger’s last night, and of course we talked of you. He is not at all well;—you will not like to hear that; but like you and me, he is just as lovely as ever.

I am charmed with your book—enchanted. You are a wonderful creature, the most wonderful in the world—you and your other half together—Miss Sullivan, I mean, for it took the pair of you to make a complete and perfect whole. How she stands out in her letters! her brilliancy, penetration, originality, wisdom, character, and the fine literary competencies of her pen—they are all there.

Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men—but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington’s battle, in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite—that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.

Then why don’t we unwittingly reproduce the phrasing of a story, as well as the story itself? It can hardly happen—to the extent of fifty words except in the case of a child; its memory-tablet is not lumbered with impressions, and the actual language can have graving-room there, and preserve the language a year or two, but a grown person’s memory-tablet is a palimpsest, with hardly a bare space upon which to engrave a phrase. It must be a very rare thing that a whole page gets so sharply printed on a man’s mind, by a single reading, that it will stay long enough to turn up some time or other to be mistaken by him for his own. No doubt we are constantly littering our literature with disconnected sentences borrowed from books at some unremembered time and now imagined to be our own, but that is about the most we can do. In 1866 I read Dr. Holmes’s poems, in the Sandwich Islands. A year and a half later I stole his dedication, without knowing it, and used it to dedicate my “Innocents Abroad” with. Then years afterward I was talking with Dr. Holmes about it. He was not an ignorant ass—no, not he; he was not a collection of decayed human turnips, like your “Plagiarism Court;” and so when I said, “I know now where I stole it, but whom did you steal it from,” he said, “I don’t remember; I only know I stole it from somebody, because I have never originated anything altogether myself, nor met anyone who had.”

To think of those solemn donkeys breaking a little child’s heart with their ignorant rubbish about plagiarism! I couldn’t sleep for blaspheming about it last night. Why, their whole lives, their whole histories, all their learning, all their thoughts, all their opinions were one solid rock of plagiarism, and they didn’t know it and never suspected it. A gang of dull and hoary pirates piously setting themselves the task of disciplining and purifying a kitten that they think they’ve caught filching a chop! Oh, dam—

But you finish it, dear, I am running short of vocabulary today.

Every lovingly your friend

Mark

Banned Books That Shaped America: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Library of Congress created an exhibit, “Books that Shaped America,” that explores books that “have had a profound effect on American life.” Many of the books in the exhibit have been banned/challenged.  Give yourself the gift of a beautiful story and read one and them imagine what your life would be like if you were never given that gift.

Fight censorship.

I love my kindle, but this book should be read in used paperback form, so people know you are reading it.  Buy a used copy, read it, and leave it in a coffee shop.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884

The first ban of Mark Twain’s American classic in Concord, MA in 1885 called it “trash and suitable only for the slums.” Objections to the book have evolved, but only marginally. Twain’s book is one of the most-challenged of all time and is frequently challenged even today because of its frequent use of the word “nigger.” Otherwise it is alleged the book is “racially insensitive,” “oppressive,” and “perpetuates racism.”

Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn opens by familiarizing us with the events of the novel that preceded it, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Both novels are set in the town of St. Petersburg, Missouri, which lies on the banks of the Mississippi River. At the end of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, a poor boy with a drunken bum for a father, and his friend Tom Sawyer, a middle-class boy with an imagination too active for his own good, found a robber’s stash of gold. As a result of his adventure, Huck gained quite a bit of money, which the bank held for him in trust. Huck was adopted by the Widow Douglas, a kind but stifling woman who lives with her sister, the self-righteous Miss Watson.

As Huckleberry Finn opens, Huck is none too thrilled with his new life of cleanliness, manners, church, and school. However, he sticks it out at the bequest of Tom Sawyer, who tells him that in order to take part in Tom’s new “robbers’ gang,” Huck must stay “respectable.” All is well and good until Huck’s brutish, drunken father, Pap, reappears in town and demands Huck’s money. The local judge, Judge Thatcher, and the Widow try to get legal custody of Huck, but another well-intentioned new judge in town believes in the rights of Huck’s natural father and even takes the old drunk into his own home in an attempt to reform him. This effort fails miserably, and Pap soon returns to his old ways. He hangs around town for several months, harassing his son, who in the meantime has learned to read and to tolerate the Widow’s attempts to improve him. Finally, outraged when the Widow Douglas warns him to stay away from her house, Pap kidnaps Huck and holds him in a cabin across the river from St. Petersburg.

Whenever Pap goes out, he locks Huck in the cabin, and when he returns home drunk, he beats the boy. Tired of his confinement and fearing the beatings will worsen, Huck escapes from Pap by faking his own death, killing a pig and spreading its blood all over the cabin. Hiding on Jackson’s Island in the middle of the Mississippi River, Huck watches the townspeople search the river for his body. After a few days on the island, he encounters Jim, one of Miss Watson’s slaves. Jim has run away from Miss Watson after hearing her talk about selling him to a plantation down the river, where he would be treated horribly and separated from his wife and children. Huck and Jim team up, despite Huck’s uncertainty about the legality or morality of helping a runaway slave. While they camp out on the island, a great storm causes the Mississippi to flood. Huck and Jim spy a log raft and a house floating past the island. They capture the raft and loot the house, finding in it the body of a man who has been shot. Jim refuses to let Huck see the dead man’s face.

Although the island is blissful, Huck and Jim are forced to leave after Huck learns from a woman onshore that her husband has seen smoke coming from the island and believes that Jim is hiding out there. Huck also learns that a reward has been offered for Jim’s capture. Huck and Jim start downriver on the raft, intending to leave it at the mouth of the Ohio River and proceed up that river by steamboat to the free states, where slavery is prohibited. Several days’ travel takes them past St. Louis, and they have a close encounter with a gang of robbers on a wrecked steamboat. They manage to escape with the robbers’ loot.

During a night of thick fog, Huck and Jim miss the mouth of the Ohio and encounter a group of men looking for escaped slaves. Huck has a brief moral crisis about concealing stolen “property”—Jim, after all, belongs to Miss Watson—but then lies to the men and tells them that his father is on the raft suffering from smallpox. Terrified of the disease, the men give Huck money and hurry away. Unable to backtrack to the mouth of the Ohio, Huck and Jim continue downriver. The next night, a steamboat slams into their raft, and Huck and Jim are separated.

Huck ends up in the home of the kindly Grangerfords, a family of Southern aristocrats locked in a bitter and silly feud with a neighboring clan, the Shepherdsons. The elopement of a Grangerford daughter with a Shepherdson son leads to a gun battle in which many in the families are killed. While Huck is caught up in the feud, Jim shows up with the repaired raft. Huck hurries to Jim’s hiding place, and they take off down the river.

A few days later, Huck and Jim rescue a pair of men who are being pursued by armed bandits. The men, clearly con artists, claim to be a displaced English duke (the duke) and the long-lost heir to the French throne (the dauphin). Powerless to tell two white adults to leave, Huck and Jim continue down the river with the pair of “aristocrats.” The duke and the dauphin pull several scams in the small towns along the river. Coming into one town, they hear the story of a man, Peter Wilks, who has recently died and left much of his inheritance to his two brothers, who should be arriving from England any day. The duke and the dauphin enter the town pretending to be Wilks’s brothers. Wilks’s three nieces welcome the con men and quickly set about liquidating the estate. A few townspeople become skeptical, and Huck, who grows to admire the Wilks sisters, decides to thwart the scam. He steals the dead Peter Wilks’s gold from the duke and the dauphin but is forced to stash it in Wilks’s coffin. Huck then reveals all to the eldest Wilks sister, Mary Jane. Huck’s plan for exposing the duke and the dauphin is about to unfold when Wilks’s real brothers arrive from England. The angry townspeople hold both sets of Wilks claimants, and the duke and the dauphin just barely escape in the ensuing confusion. Fortunately for the sisters, the gold is found. Unfortunately for Huck and Jim, the duke and the dauphin make it back to the raft just as Huck and Jim are pushing off.

After a few more small scams, the duke and dauphin commit their worst crime yet: they sell Jim to a local farmer, telling him Jim is a runaway for whom a large reward is being offered. Huck finds out where Jim is being held and resolves to free him. At the house where Jim is a prisoner, a woman greets Huck excitedly and calls him “Tom.” As Huck quickly discovers, the people holding Jim are none other than Tom Sawyer’s aunt and uncle, Silas and Sally Phelps. The Phelpses mistake Huck for Tom, who is due to arrive for a visit, and Huck goes along with their mistake. He intercepts Tom between the Phelps house and the steamboat dock, and Tom pretends to be his own younger brother, Sid.

Tom hatches a wild plan to free Jim, adding all sorts of unnecessary obstacles even though Jim is only lightly secured. Huck is sure Tom’s plan will get them all killed, but he complies nonetheless. After a seeming eternity of pointless preparation, during which the boys ransack the Phelps’s house and make Aunt Sally miserable, they put the plan into action. Jim is freed, but a pursuer shoots Tom in the leg. Huck is forced to get a doctor, and Jim sacrifices his freedom to nurse Tom. All are returned to the Phelps’s house, where Jim ends up back in chains.

When Tom wakes the next morning, he reveals that Jim has actually been a free man all along, as Miss Watson, who made a provision in her will to free Jim, died two months earlier. Tom had planned the entire escape idea all as a game and had intended to pay Jim for his troubles. Tom’s Aunt Polly then shows up, identifying “Tom” and “Sid” as Huck and Tom. Jim tells Huck, who fears for his future—particularly that his father might reappear—that the body they found on the floating house off Jackson’s Island had been Pap’s. Aunt Sally then steps in and offers to adopt Huck, but Huck, who has had enough “sivilizing,” announces his plan to set out for the West.

Fight internet censorship.

Fight internet censorship.

3rd (Self Help) Day of Xmas – Helen

Seriously?  When Helen Keller communicates, everyone should pay attention.  It is a wonderful letter about the importance of helping others.

It is true, we are only as good as our treatment of the less fortunate.  Everyone needs some sort of help.

helen keller

In March of 1906, unable to preside over a public meeting of the Association for Promoting the Interests of the Blind, deafblind activist and author Helen Keller instead sent the following stirring letter to her good friend, Mark Twain. On the day of the event, Twain, who was chairing the meeting in Keller’s absence, read her stunning letter aloud to all attendees and later included it in his autobiography, predicting that it would “pass into our literature as a classic and remain so.”

It’s very easy to see why.

Wrentham, Mass., March 27, 1906

My dear Mr. Clemens:

It is a great disappointment to me not to be with you and the other friends who have joined their strength to uplift the blind. The meeting in New York will be the greatest occasion in the movement which has so long engaged my heart: and I regret keenly not to be present and feel the inspiration of living contact with such an assembly of wit, wisdom and philanthropy. I shall be happy if I could have spelled into my hand the words as they fall from your lips, and receive, even as it is uttered, the eloquence of our Newest Ambassador to the blind. We have not had such advocates before. My disappointment is softened by the thought that never at any meeting was the right word so sure to be spoken. But, superfluous as all other appeals must seem after you and Mr. Choate have spoken, nevertheless, as I am a woman, I cannot be silent, and I ask you to read this letter, knowing that it will be lifted to eloquence by your kindly voice.

To know what the blind man needs, you who can see must imagine what it would be not to see, and you can imagine it more vividly if you remember that before your journey’s end you may have to go the dark way yourself. Try to realize what blindness means to those whose joyous activity is stricken to inaction.

It is to live long, long days, and life is made up of days. It is to live immured, baffled, impotent, all God’s world shut out. It is to sit helpless, defrauded, while your spirit strains and tugs at its fetters, and your shoulders ache for the burden they are denied, the rightful burden of labor.

The seeing man goes about his business confident and self-dependent. He does his share of the work of the world in mine, in quarry, in factory, in counting room, asking of others no boon, save the opportunity to do a man’s part and to receive the laborer’s guerdon. In an instant accident blinds him. The day is blotted out. Night envelops all the visible world. The feet which once bore him to his task with firm and confident stride stumble and halt and fear the forward step. He is forced to a new habit of idleness, which like a canker consumes the mind and destroys its beautiful faculties. Memory confronts him with his lighted past. Amid the tangible ruins of his life as it promised to be he gropes his pitiful way. You have met him on your busy thoroughfares with faltering feet and outstretched hands, patiently “dredging” the universal dark, holding out for sale his petty wares, or his cap for your pennies; and this was a man with ambitions and capabilities.

It is because we know that these ambitions and capabilities can be fulfilled that we are working to improve the condition of the adult blind. You cannot bring back the light of the vacant eyes; but you can give a helping hand to the sightless along their dark pilgrimage. You can teach them new skill. For work they once did with the aid of their eyes you can substitute work that they can do with their hands. They ask only opportunity, and opportunity is a torch in the darkness. They crave no charity, no pension, but the satisfaction that comes from lucrative toil, and this satisfaction is the right of every human being.

At your meeting New York will speak its word for the blind, and when New York speaks, the world listens. The true message of New York is not the commercial ticking of busy telegraphs, but the mightier utterances of such gatherings as yours. Of late our periodicals have been filled with depressing revelations of great social evils. Querulous critics have pointed to every flaw in our civic structure. We have listened long enough to the pessimists. You once told me you were a pessimist, Mr. Clemens, but great men are usually mistaken about themselves. You are an optimist. If you were not, you would not preside at the meeting. For it is an answer to pessimism. It proclaims that the heart and the wisdom of a great city are devoted to the good of mankind, that in this, busiest city in the world, no cry of distress goes up but receives a compassionate and generous answer. Rejoice that the cause of the blind has been heard in New York, for the day after it shall be heard around the world.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Keller

via Letters of Note: We have listened long enough to the pessimists.

Go Ask Alice…

For some reason, the film version of this book popped into my head last night.  I remember seeing it around the same time I read the book.  I am pretty sure it had no influence on me doing or not doing drugs, although she did a lot of acid or PCP or Angel Dust.  Whatever happened to Angel Dust?  It was the scariest drug that I had ever heard of, you would hear news reports of people needing to be restrained by six state troopers because they were on it.  It’s probably just called something else now.

Go Ask Alice

While some people believe that Go Ask Alice is not a true diary after all, but the wholly or partly fictional work of Beatrice Sparks (one of the book’s editors and the author of several fictional teen “diaries”), the diary indisputably evokes the drug and sex-saturated atmosphere of the late 1960s. After several underground and some mainstream movements—think of Elvis Presley, James Dean, and the Beat writers—punctured the conformist bubble of the 1950s, the baby-boomers of the 1960s were ready to join the revolution. Easier access to drugs and birth control and an unpopular war in Vietnam only solidified their desires as they followed the mantra of mad scientist Timothy Leary to tune in, turn on, and drop out. Society was divided along generational lines between the powerful establishment of old, white men and the insurgent counterculture.

Alice is caught in the midst of the societal struggle, and her diary reflects her experiences and feelings. She harbors conventional bourgeois aspirations, such as marriage, and also disdains the hypocrisy of the establishment that makes it easier for minors to acquire illegal drugs than alcohol. She grows long, straight hippie-style hair and uses the informal language of the counterculture (e.g. “Dig, man?”) Her experiments with drugs—including marijuana, the one she has heard so much about, and LSD—are the substances that privileged white teens had newfound access to in the 60s, and her sexual exploits exhibit the new Sexual Revolution. Still, the book is oddly sealed off from the rest of 60s culture. Alice hardly mentions listening to music, not once naming artists like Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, or even The Beatles as contributors to societal or personal protest and experimentation. More glaring is the omission if the Vietnam war, discussed only briefly between Alice and her father; Alice’s most political act is attending an unspecified rally where she does drugs. While this may simply have been Alice’s route, many supposed rebels in the counterculture did little more than jump on the bandwagon and use revolutionary politics as an excuse for hedonism.

Go Ask Alice is also an epistolary work, a narrative constructed by letters (in this case, diary entries). Many of the earliest novels in the English language were epistolary—Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, for instance—and Go Ask Alice adapts the style for its modern needs. Assuming the book is a real diary, Alice is presented to us as she really was, with observations and experiences both dramatic and insignificant, as her life unfolds naturally. If the book is fictional, or a fictionalized diary, the author still allows Alice to speak in her own highly plausible language, with a first-person account that makes her experiences, foreign to some readers, sympathetic and realistic. In the tradition of other first-person coming-of-age novels, such as Mark Twain‘s ##Huckleberry Finn# J.D. Salinger‘s ##The Catcher in the Rye# and Russell Banks’s Rule of the Bone, Alice speaks directly to the reader. As is Salinger’s underlying intent of having the alienated Holden Caulfield connect most deeply with his reader, Alice (or Beatrice Sparks—and it doesn’t really matter in the end) fulfills her goal of becoming a social worker through her first-person direct address. *from Sparknotes.com*