Monday, April 30, 2012

Impertinent, and steamed

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on this day in 1431.

"There is a certain impertinence in allowing oneself to be burned for an opinion." -- Anatole France.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

And life, as well


Economist John Kenneth Galbraith died on this day in 2006.

"If all else fails, "Galbriath said, "immortality can always be assured by spectacular error."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

V for Victory


Basketball coach Jim Valvano died on this day in 1993, after an inspiring fight with cancer ("Never give up") that engaged millions of people who weren't even basketball fans.

"Be a dreamer," Valvano said. "If you don't know how to dream, you're dead."

To see Valvano's famous speech at the Espy Awards show months before he died,
Go here

To find out about the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research, Visit here

Friday, April 27, 2012

And good luck

Poet Hart Crane committed suicide on this day in 1932. These were his last words before he jumped off the back of a boat coming back from Mexico, where he had been on a Guggenheim Fellowship:

"Goodbye, everybody."

This is from Crane's last poem, The Broken Tower:

And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice
.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tardiness is the worst crime

Author Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) died on this day in 1731. He wrote:

"The best of men cannot suspend their fate:
The good die early, and the bad die late
."

Defoe himself was 70 when he died.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dusting off the Bard


William Shakespeare died on this day in 1616. He was also born on April 23 in 1564 (open to debate).

The slab above his grave reads:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forebeare
To digg the dust enclosed heare;
Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones
.

**********************************************

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finish'd joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exerciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing will come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy grave!


(Cymbeline, IV, 2)



For one writer's opinion of Shakespeare, visit Today in Cynic's Almanac

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I am not a kook


Former President Richard Nixon died on this day in 1994.

"A man is not finished when he is defeated," Nixon once said. "He is finished when he quits."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Madam, I'm Adam, and this is Death


Mark Twain died today in 1910.

"Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is," Twain wrote, "knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into our world."

For more about Twain, visit

Today in Cynic's Almanac

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Be nice and die


French writer Marie de Sevigne died on this day in 1696. She was famous for her witty letters to her daughter.

She wrote:

"It seldom happens, I think, that a man has the civility to die when all the world wishes it."

This is also the date of death of Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin died peacefully in his sleep on April 17, 1790, at age 84. His funeral at Christ Church in Philadelphia attracted the largest crowd of mourners ever known, an estimated 20,000. He was buried beside his wife, Deborah, who had died 16 years before him.

The tombstone on their grave said "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin: 1790."

This inscription had been spelled out in Franklin's last will and testament. As a young man, he had written this epitaph for himself:

The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

Of the thousands of maxims and pithy sayings that Franklin wrote down, here are a few on death:

"Many men die at twenty-five and aren't buried until they are seventy-five."

"Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead."

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing."

And, of course:

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

Monday, April 16, 2012

You mean I'm gonna die someday?

"The most terrible burden any creature was ever compelled to endure is the sure knowledge of its death; all human civilization -- but especially religion -- testifies to the ingenuity and tenacity of our denial." -- Bosley Crowther.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Out of the Darkness


   "On December 20, 2009, I went to visit my son Jeff – it was his birthday.  I entered his apartment to find that he was a casualty of suicide.  I lost a son and my world has been forever changed by that tragic event.

   "This year on September 29th, I will be participating in the Out of the Darkness Community Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  The Nashville Music Row Walk will start at 10:00 am at Owen Bradley Park.  Funds from this event will support education and research programs for suicide prevention, erase the stigma surrounding suicide and its causes, and encourage those who suffer from mental troubles to seek treatment.

   "I think of Jeff everyday – remembering him and doing good in his memory is something that helps me cope with the loss.  To walk with me for this worthy cause please visit www.outofthedarkness.org and register with my team “Jeff Miller – Our Love”. 

   "Please consider a donation – you can do so online.  At the before mentioned web site or at http://afsp.donordrive.com/participant/wmiller  Donations of any amount are appreciated.

   "With God’s help maybe we can help someone, somewhere.   No one should experience what it feels like to be so sad you wake up crying. 

"Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,
Woody Miller"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Make my ticket a return trip


English author Evelyn Waugh died on this day in 1966. He wrote:

"It is a curious thing that every creed promises a paradise which will be absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilized taste."

And also:

"I can see nothing objectionable in the total destruction of the earth, provided it is done, as it seems most likely, inadvertently."

For more on Waugh, visit This day in Cynic's Almanac

Monday, April 9, 2012

He lies where the rabble lays

The French writer Francois Rabelais (Gargantua and Pantagruel) died on this day in 1553. His last words have sometimes been recorded as:

"Bring down the curtain, the farce is played out."

And sometimes as:

"I am going to seek the great perhaps."

I like Rabelais' bequest to posterity:

"I owe much; I have nothing; the rest I leave to the poor."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Robinson rues so


Poet Edward Arlington Robinson died on this day in 1935. He is the poet who wrote this surprise ending to one of his poems:

"And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head
."

Robinson also once wrote:

"There is a good deal to live for, but a man has to go through hell really to find it out."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

And he told me to tell you you're fired

Wilson Mizner, an American screenwriter, wit, gambler and raconteur, died on this day in 1933.

Mizner wrote a couple of modest plays (The Deep Purple, The Greyhound), but he is best remembered as co-owner of The Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles and as a raconteur. He and his brother, Addison, were involved in a number of picaresque scams that inspired Stephen Sondheim's Bounce.

Mizner's last words, as he lay on his deathbed with eyes closed and opened them to see a priest hovering over him:

"Why should I talk to you? I've just been talking to your boss."