Saturday, March 23, 2013

Or the thought of murder


The French novelist Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle), author of The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma, died on this day in 1842.

"True love makes the thought of death frequent, easy, without terrors;" Stendhal wrote, "it merely becomes the standard of comparison, the price one would pay for many things."

Our favorite quotation by Stendhal:

"The only excuse for God is that he does not exist."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Last words, famous and infamous


Irish dramatist Brendan Behan (shown in picture with pal Jackie Gleason) died on this day in 1964. His last words, to a nun taking his pulse:

"Bless you, Sister. May all your sons be bishops."

Also on this day, convicted murderer Thomas Grasso uttered these last words before his execution:

"I did not get my Spaghetti-Os. I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Maxim 'em, Francois, baby

Francois de la Rochefoucauld, the French writer, aphorist and exemplar of the learned nobility (he was a duke, and bore the title of Prince de Marcillac until the age of 38), died on this day in 1680.

These are from his Maximes:

"Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example."

"He who lives without folly isn't so wise as he thinks."

"We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others."

And:

"We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

That's a wrap


George Eastman, the American inventor who developed a process that not only simplified the method of making photographic plates, but also allowed them to be mass produced with relative ease, died on this day in 1932.

Eastman introduced flexible film in 1884 and the first mass produced camera for amateurs, the Kodak box camera, in 1888.

Eastman made a fortune and donated vast sums to universities, dental clinics, and musical institutions. At the age of 77 and plagued by a painfully debilitating spinal disease, Eastman put his affairs in order, wrote a note, and committed suicide. His last words:

"My work is done, why wait?"

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Is he making a monkey out of us?


American trial lawyer Clarence died on this day in 1938. He was most famous for his defense of schoolteacher John T. Scopes (for his teaching of evolution) in the so-called Monkey Trial of 1925, in Dayton, TN.

"I am an agnostic;" Darrow said. "I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of."

Monday, March 11, 2013

His first son was a disappointment


Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, died on this day in 1971.  In January of 2011, Australian researchers published a study of 8,800 subjects that found that watching TV led to an earlier death.

There’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household.” -- Philo T. Farnsworth, to his son.

Today’s deathless Verse:

TV or not TV,
  That is the question;
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind
  To suffer the soaps and sitcoms
Of outrageous dumbness,
  Or to turn off the frothing sea of bubbles,
And by ignoring, burst them.
  To watch, to sleep

Sunday, March 10, 2013

We hope the boat's not Charon's


Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, died on this day in 1948, in a fire in Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, NC, where she was a patient.

She suffered her first mental breakdown in 1930, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly afterwards.

Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940.

Scott and Zelda had been originally buried in the Rockville (Md.) Union Cemetery. In 1975, their son Scottie successfully campaigned for them to be buried with the other Fitzgeralds at Saint Mary's Catholic Cemetery.

Inscribed on their tombstone is the final sentence of The Great Gatsby:

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."