Friday, October 29, 2010


I was born 53 years ago today. And, in contemplating how I may celebrate this birthday I was thinking about how much the world has changed in 53 years. So I did some research and found some interesting events (besides my entrance in the world) in 1957.

Sputnik was launched on October 4th - The space age officially began. Wow. That is big. Really big. We then orbited earth, walked on the moon, started the space shuttle program and we now have a space station. No travel to distant planets. No encounters with beings from other planets. Well, none that we know of. We do have Star Trek though, and that's a comfort and joy.

The “Little Rock Nine” integrated a Little Rock, Arkansas high school. Two years before, Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus. Three years after, President Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act. But today I'm thinking about those nine high school kids who had the courage to go to school every day while mobs of angry, nasty, vicious white people yelled at them and called them names. Like walking a gauntlet every day. Eisenhower had to send troops to keep order and protect the kids. I wonder if I have ever had that kind of courage or fortitude. Or if I ever will.

On the theme of civil rights and breaking barriers, Althea Gibson won the Women’s singles competition at Wimbledon as well as the mixed doubles. She was the first black woman to join the tennis national tour and the first black woman to play in the LPGA.

  • Willem Kolff invented the temporary artificial heart

  • The Pacemaker was invented by Clarence W. Lillehie and Earl Bakk.

  • The first non-stop round-the-world flight - it took 45 hours, 19 minutes.

  • Around the World in 80 Days won Best Picture at The Academy Awards

  • West Side Story was playing to sold out audiences on Broadway

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, Nixon was Veep.

  • And the Iconic '57 Chevy Bel Air was introduced

I share my birthday - day and year - with Dan Castellaneta - better known as Homer Simpson. Good company I think. I also share this day with singer/songwriter Toni Childs, whom I happen to know because she was a friend of my former roommate (and alleged husband) Ovid Pope. I didn't know we have the same birthday until today…

In 1957 one of my favorite writers, James Agee, published A Death in the Family, which was also the first book of his I read. Noam Chomsky was still doing his linguistic thing and published Syntactic Structures. Jack Kerouac published On the Road, a book much hailed by many, but I have yet to develop the patience to get through it.

1957 was also the year we sadly lost Humphrey Bogart and Arturo Toscanini. Joe McCarthy died that year too, but I'm thinking no big loss, eh? Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

The cost of a first class stamp was 3 cents. The Population of the United States was 1.7 million,,,today it is 310 million. Life expectancy was 69.5 years - now it is 78.1 years. The US GDP was 461 billion. Now it's 14,260 billion - which is really in the trillions, right? The Federal debt was 272 billion - now it's 12,300 billion - which again, is really trillions…

Unemployment then: 4.1% Unemployment now: 9.6%

The Consumer Price Index measures changes through time in the price level of consumer goods and services purchased by households (according to Wikipedia). In 1957 it was 28.1. Today it is 214.5. I don't really know what that means, but I think we pay a lot more now for stuff than we did then - but then again, we make more too…when we're employed…which I'm not…much…

So, 2010… no hover cars, no jet pack travel, no going to mars for lunch, but still pretty cool. We have computers and internet. Internet… that is something the old Sci-fi writers never imagined, and it's one of the coolest things we have. I did the research for this without leaving my room and in about 5 minutes. I remember telling a story to someone recently about researching an artist and his work for an employer who thought he wanted to invest in a piece (note to all - art is not an investment - you buy it because you love it). I learned more than I wanted to know about the artist and his work (which I was not particularly in like with) yadda yadda yadda, and when I finished the story, I wondered how in the hell did I do the research - in my mind I did it on the internet - googled it and all, but this was back in 1986 - there was no internet! Hmmmm…

1957 - 2010 There were some great beginnings of things the years I was born. Maybe not all of it went the way we thought, but then what ever does? We have some cool stuff and we've made progress in areas once thought impossible - after all, we elected a black president - that's pretty damn awesome. But we also have global climate change - not cool; pollution, over-population and diminishing resources - not cool; wars being waged around the globe - 2 being started by my country - not cool.

However, I am a cynic with hope (which I think is a good internal balance) and I would like to tie this all up with my favorite new quote which I heard just the other day on NPR…

"The good news is that if everyone is part of the problem, then everyone can be part of the solution." ~ Enric Sala

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At 10:56 PM, Blogger Tanvi Patel said...

Great blog entry and Happy Birthday! Wow, a lot of great things happened the year you were born. And while I'm grateful for many of them (especially racial integration), I'm super glad you arrived. Thank you for being such a warm and generous friend. And I love the Sala quote!

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Mark H. said...

Happy belated Birthday! And great overview of your birth year. I want to do that too! xo


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