Archive for the “Historic Dates” Category


As my friend and co-worker Ellen noted below, April 23 is traditionally observed as the birthday of William Shakespeare, an anniversary celebrated around the world.

 And this is a big one: the Sweet Swan of Avon is 450.

 But some people don’t see what there is to celebrate.

 Many very smart people don’t like Shakespeare and that’s fine. To each his own.  However, I think everyone should be aware of his influence on our language.  This nobody  from a provincial town (which is how most people thought of him during his  lifetime) transformed English, giving it a vividness, beauty and bite that it had never had before.  And every day most people quote Shakespeare without knowing it.

 Maybe you were the sort of person who liked to lie low in English class, because the difficulty of Shakespeare’s language set your teeth on edge, and you had a stony-hearted teacher who liked to call on you, even though you thought it was all a verbal wild goose chase.  And when you finished school, you thought good riddance, I’m done with Shakespeare.

Well, the more fool you: you use Shakespeare’s English every day, and it’s high time you gave the Devil his due. Let’s say all of a sudden you find yourself in a pickle, or facing something so scary it makes your hair stand on end, and then as good luck would have it your problems vanish into thin air: you’re quoting Shakespeare. 

If you’ve ever had a guest who’s eaten you out of house and home and you waited for them to leave with bated breath (and that seemed to take forever and a day), you’re quoting Shakespeare.

 Now I’m not saying Shakespeare is the be all and the end all.  And I don’t expect this blog post to transform you into a Shakespeare enthusiast  in the twinkling of an eye, so  don’t feel defensive and get up in arms.  I know people who are exceedingly well read who will never pick up Macbeth or Hamlet.  And you can’t just go and read everything that other people consider important: that way madness lies.

 At this point you’re probably thinking this is too much of a good thing or that I’m laying it on with a trowel. And frankly I could do this all the live long day. That’s a foregone conclusion.

 So now I’ll stop.

 Or let’s just say the game is up.








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Today is 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare.  It is also a rainy day, and a day that falls within National Poetry Month.  So without further ado, I give you a rain-themed poem by Shakespeare:




When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man’s estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
‘Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate
For the rain, it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain, it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain, it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done.
And we’ll strive to please you every day.


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Flags will fly at half mast around the City today in remembrance of the victims and families of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings.  For details about support services available to community members on the one-year anniversary of these tragic events, click here.

In Boston, a tribute ceremony for survivors and first responders will be held at the Hynes Convention Center at 12:00 p.m.  You can watch the ceremony online here.  Community members are also invited to gather along Boylston Street this afternoon, and to share in a moment of silence which will take place at 2:49.


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You know how sometimes all you want to do is celebrate the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter?   Well tomorrow is the perfect day to do exactly that: it’s March 14th, aka Pi Day!

Here in Somerville there are a few events planned that should make this Pi Day the best one ever.

  • Petsi Pies is having their annual Pi Day celebration.  Recite the digits of pi from memory and win free pie!  More digits = more pie!   Starts at 1:59 p.m.
  • The East Somerville Community School is hosting Pi Night for SPL students in grades 6-8 and their families.  Win a pie at various pi-related activity stations, eat pizza pie, and take home a small pie of your own!
  • Artisan’s Asylum is hosting a Pi Potluck.  Bring pie and eat pie!  Prizes will be awarded for people’s choice and most pi inspired.  This is an unofficial event, so if you’re not a member of the Asylum, you’ll need to coordinate with someone who is to go as their guest.

For more Boston-area Pi Day options, click here or here.  Happy Pi Day!



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oswaldThe assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963  still haunts our collective imagination, and rightly so.  It was the moment when the entire nation was forced to confront the violence endemic to American life, when people sitting in their own homes watched murder happen. Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63 was one of the popular books of 2011. Twenty-five years after nomination for the National Book Award, Don DeLillo’s Libra still  provokes reflection.

References both serious and comic to the murder abound in popular culture. One of the most talked-about episodes of Mad Men tried to recapture the horrified bewilderment of Nov. 22 and its aftermath. The assassination crops up everywhere, from lyrics by They Might Be Giants (“I remember the book depository where they crowned the king of Cuba”) to The Seinfeld episode “The Boyfriend,” to The X-Files’ “Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man.”

There are myriad retellings, explorations and evocations of that day. I recommend the books Six Seconds in Dallas, Case ClosedMrs. Paine’s Garage and the Murder of John F. Kennedy and the American Experience documentary Oswald’s Ghost.

People are still trying to make sense of what happened on Nov. 22, 1963. One way they do that is to believe in conspiracy theories: It was the CIA, or Castro, or LBJ.  Author Fred Kaplan explains why all of those theories are nonsense.

Two years ago, Errol Morris presented the solution to one of the most persistent mysteries surrounding the grassy knoll, who was umbrella man?  

The John  F. Kennedy Library and Museum will hold a tribute to JFK this afternoon. Details are here.

If you’re more interested in Kennedy’s life and career than in how it ended, take advantage of the library’s pass to the museum and visit in the near future.



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candlesYou can see footage of today’s ceremony marking the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks  here.

If you want to participate in tonight’s vigil, it starts at 6 pm at the Cedar Street entrance to the Community Path.

Middle East expert Juan Cole notes that the FBI still hasn’t released documents that could demonstrate how “un-Islamic” the 9-11 hijackers are.

You can examine three very different perspectives on the attacks here, here and here.

And over at the Washington Monthly, they’ve provided some music about the day:



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One of the transformative moments in American history occurred on August 28, 1963.  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and spoke to roughly 250,000 people, calling for full civil rights for African-Americans. The “I Have a Dream Speech” is one of the pinnacles of American oratory, and as a statement of American ideals is second only to the Declaration of Independence.

If you would like to know more about King and the Civil Rights Movement, we’ve got a number of books here at SPL. One of my personal favorites is The Struggle for Black Equality by Harvard Sitkoff.  You can find other books about the Civil Rights Movement under the call number 332.1196. You can find biographies of Rev. King in our biography section (books are arranged alphabetically by subject).

Below is a video clip of this stirring day and of Rev. King giving the speech (or at least part of it):



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The Gift Outright


The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.




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The library will be closed Monday, June 17, in honor of Bunker Hill Day.


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Our mother has given away our meal
to an elderly woman three houses down,
her husband passing some time in the night.
With the woman’s children already

en route, my mother swaddled our turkey
in aluminum foil, stacked the tins
of buttered rolls, and sealed casseroles
beneath glass-top lids. As the assailable son,

I was enlisted at once, carrying over dish
upon dish, my brother and his bride allowed
to sleep in. I expected to see the postures
of loss: the widow weeping alone at her sink,

perhaps wiping a singular wineglass dry,
a slant of light through the kitchen’s box pane.
But she took each dish without inviting me in,
and as I stood in the yard, she latched

the door. I imagined his body recumbent
in bed, arms folded across the chest, each heavy
palm a lifeless bird. Beside him, she sweeps
closed his eyes, lifts the slightly lagging jaw,

seals his parted lips. In our dining room, the table
is cleared, the abalone china returned to the shelves,
each silver tine slid into its case. My mother nooses
a velvet bag (the candlestick her father brought

from the war) then unhinges the table’s leaves,
drawing out each piece like a galleon’s plank.
My father’s been sent for burgers and fries
while my brother continues his vigil of sleep,

young wife dozing off and on at his side.
Who’s to say when they will rise from their den
as she runs a finger along the ridge of his nose,
lifts an eyelash, come to rest on his cheek?

Jonathan Fink


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