It’s the birthday of poet Sharon Olds (books by this author), born in San Francisco (1942). When she was eight years old, her teacher asked the students to write poems, and Olds handed in a poem she had read in the post office, which began: “Neither wind nor rain nor gloom nor dark of night …” When the teacher demanded to know whether she has written it, she explained that of course she had, because it was in her handwriting. It was the first time she realized that writing a poem meant actually making it up, not just writing it down. She said: “My early influences for good writing were the Psalms, and for bad writing were the Hymns. Four beats, the quatrains, that form. […] I didn’t know until I was 55 that my craft was the craft of the Hymns I had grown up singing. I was writing in a way that felt comfortable to me.”
The UK’s biggest playwriting competition has been won by Katherine Soper, a 24-year-old perfume seller, for a play informed by what she calls the government’s “systematic assault” on disabled and mentally ill people.
It’s the birthday of a writer who was also a veteran (11/11 is Veteran’s Day in the United States, which honors Americans who have served their country in the armed forces) Kurt Vonnegut (books by this author), born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on this day in 1922. He’s the author of Slaughterhouse Five (1969), Cat’s Cradle (1963), Breakfast of Champions (1973), and Timequake (1997).
He said that as the youngest child he was always desperate to get some attention at the supper table and so he worked hard to be funny. He’d listen studiously to comedians on the radio, and how they made jokes, and then at family dinner time, he’d try to imitate them. He later said, “That’s what my books are, now that I’m a grownup — mosaics of jokes.”
All his life he loved slapstick humor. He told an interviewer that one of the funniest things that can happen in a film is “when somebody in a movie would tell everybody off, and then make a grand exit into the coat closet. He had to come out again, of course, all tangled in coat hangers and scarves.” When he was on the faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he told his students that they were there learning to play practical jokes. He said, “All the great story lines are great practical jokes that people fall for over and over again.”
I heard in a news story today on the radio, probably, NPR, that there are 15,000 people living in tents in South Sudan and 1,500 children have been abducted as child soldiers and many have died from starvation and disease. I couldn’t help but ask myself, is there any hope here? Is there any hope in the story of the 1-year-old boy whose name translates into “wholeness,” because, as his mother states, ‘while they’re fighting out there, we’re whole family in here.’
Then I found this ::: Clowns Without Borders was founded in Barcelona in July 1993. The idea began when Tortell Poltrona, a professional clown in Spain, was invited to perform in a refugee camp in Croatia. This performance unexpectedly attracted audiences of more than 700 children, proving to Poltrona that there is a great need for clowns and entertainment in crisis situations. He founded Clowns Without Borders to offer humor as a means of psychological support to communities that have suffered trauma. Read the UNHCR interview with Tortell Poltrona.
You might think that clowns are scary or silly, but check out Clowns Sans Frontiers’ Code of Ethics:
Code of Ethics
The objective of this code is to provide a series of written guidelines of ethics for all clowns and artists who collaborate with Clowns Without Borders.
- The clown or collaborating artist will hold as fundamental objectives to better the situation of children who live in crisis situations of whatever type (conflict, natural disaster, social inequalities, etc.) in whatever part of the world.
- The main beneficiaries of CWB projects are children living in situations of crisis and the clown or collaborating artist will make no distinction between them for reasons of race, age, religion, culture, social situation or any other categorization when offering his/her work.
- For clowns and collaborating artists participating in CWB projects, volunteerism is the general rule.
- In respect to the clown/artist’s public image, he/she will not use the participation in humanitarian activities as a means to promote their professional career, separating clearly at all times such activities and not using his humanitarian work for publicity purposes or to promote his/her professional career.
- The clown or collaborating artist will not use their humanitarian activities to impart personal ‘points of view’ to the destination populations of the projects and will limit themselves to sharing their artistic activities. The artist will not attempt to “educate” the population, refraining from any “evangelical” activities.
- The clown or collaborating artist, when choosing the contents of his/her performances and workshops, will consider the sensibilities of the destination population, taking into account their culture as well as the delicate situation in which they are living.
- The clown or collaborating artist when working with CWB projects sees and shares difficult situations. Their work does not end when they return home. They should testify in the measure possible all situations of injustice that they have witnessed.
- When participating in a project, during our performances and in our contact with the public, we remain clowns and artists, and this is the sole method with which we express and experience the validity of our actions.
- We remain vigilant and attentive that the name, logo, and identity of Clowns Without Borders will not be will not be used as a vehicle for remuneration.
- In the matter of seeking financial support, we remain attentive to the ethical values and the respect of human rights of our sponsors and partners.
Learn more about this amazing group here: About Us ⋆ Clowns Without Borders
As a child, Herrera lived a nomadic life out of tents and trailers on farm roads throughout California. His folks, both migrant farmworkers from Mexico, moved with the seasons of agriculture for the often hazardous and thankless work in the fields.
I wish only the best for you.
When we have it all,
We turn over the next morning
To face the new day.
We put on our best clothes to impress someone,
We think we can feel a change,
We think that what we could not hold onto yesterday
We now have in our hands,
Then a bird lands on the window sill,
And stands alone
And makes us realize
What we grasped so tightly yesterday,
Is exactly what we are holding today.
Christopher Zurcher May 2015
The orange sunset
reflected on the glossy underside of the crow’s wing
caught my eye.
The studio is looking for a “high-level writer/showrunner,” to develop the project alongside executive producer Brad Yonover and co-executive producer Sandi Love.
Published in 1963, Cat’s Cradle was Vonnegut’s fourth novel and focuses mainly on the topics of science, technology, and religion, satirizing in particular the nuclear arms race through the story of one family’s involvement with the atomic bomb.