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Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Helen Keller

On June 27, 1880 Helen Keller was born as a normal kid in Alabama - but due to an illness at 19 months, that was probably either scarlet fever or meningitis, she was left without the ability to see or to hear, and yet she lived one of the most amazing lives in the course of human history. As a young child, she was befriended by Martha Washington the 6 year old daughter of the family cook , who was crucial in the journey of Helen's life that allowed her to transcend the darkness of being blind, deaf, and unable to speak. We all know the name of Anne Sullivan, but no one seems to remember this lovely six year old child - so I will mention her name again - Martha Washington. As is often the case, people forget how important kids can be to others in life and it is never too early to start being a good person. Martha's friendship with Helen helped her to create a very simple sign language that allowed her to communicate with her family, and it seems pretty obvious that this played a vital role in Helen's life in years to come.

Helen's parents worked hard to do all they could to help Helen - searching for the right doctors, a visit to Alexander Graham Bell who was working with deaf children, and finally at age seven, Anne Sullivan came to the Keller house to help Helen learn how to communicate. Anne Sullivan, a young 20 year old who was also visually impaired, worked hard to teach Helen how to communicate by spelling words with her hand - simple formations that represented each letter of the alphabet. The big breakthrough came was Helen was able to spell the word - water, which was brilliantly portrayed in the movie - The Miracle Worker, starring Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan and Patty Duke as Helen.

Helen would go on to be the first blind deaf person to earn a college. She attended Radcliffe, which at the time was the "girl" sister school of Harvard. Many many more accomplishments were in store for Helen in her life, some of which are chronicled in the newsreel footage below. (from This day in History - June 1, the day Helen Keller died in 1968).


But for me, her life's story is really the amazing part - in addition to some of the wonderful quotes she had regarding life. She was a very wise woman, having learned a great deal early in life, about how to live. I will leave you with just a few of my Helen Keller quotes. Think about these, next time you consider being such a fool, as to offer a Helen Keller joke. The joke is on you if your heart becomes so cold.

Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others.
Helen Keller

Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light. Helen Keller

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Helen Keller

It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision
. Helen Keller

Many more terrific Helen Keller quotes can be found here. Better still - check out Helen Keller's book - The Story of My Life - online at Project Gutenberg.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lawrence of Arabia Motorcycle Crash, May 18, 1935

On May 19, 1935, T.E. Lawrence, an avid biker who favored Brough Superior bikes, died in a motorcycle accident near his cottage in Dorset. He was just 46 years old, and he died as he swerved to avoid hitting 2 boys on bicycles, lost control and went over the handlebars. Check out this newsreel, with some brief footage of T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. (ed. note - oddly enough, I was also in a bad motorcycle accident as a 46 year old, trying to avoid a young kid who was making an illegal left turn on a side street into oncoming traffic... me :~) And thankfully, I didn't die, but it was really close. And years before that, I wrote a song called funky motorcycle(mp3 download) produced by Frank Random in my garage circa 1995.)

If you'd like to learn more about T.E. Lawrence, check out wikipedia's extensive entry, or better still, read one of his books, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This book was edited by his friend, George Bernard Shaw. And David Lean's movie, Lawrence of Arabia is a great film, sorry - an amazing film, one of the best but not the best source to learn about the man.

Also of note today, May 19 - a young girl named Janet Gaynor cleaned up on the first Oscar night, winning three Academy Awards in one evening, for her role in A Star is Born.

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