Friday, December 21, 2007

Zappa and Stalin's Birthday: 12-21-07

It's the birthday of rocker Frank Zappa. (music by this artist) The singer, songwriter, and composer was born in Baltimore, Maryland (1940). Zappa's father was a meteorologist in the Army who studied the effects of weather on explosions and poisonous gases. The gas masks and chemical paraphernalia his dad brought home were some of young Zappa's first toys. When Frank Zappa started playing atonal classical music on his electric guitar, he said that his goal was to make sounds that would cause people to run from the room the moment they heard it. He was also a political activist, and he once proposed that the United States form a fourth branch of government devoted entirely to creativity.

It is the birthday of Joseph Stalin, born in the Russian colony of Georgia (1879). Stalin loved to sing, and he sang so well that he could have become a professional performer. He was also an avid reader, a fan of Zola, Hemingway, and James Fenimore Cooper. He loved Last of the Mohicans so much that sometimes he dressed up as an Indian to entertain guests at parties. But he banned these books from his country. He said, "Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don't allow our enemies to have guns, why should we allow them to have ideas?" It is estimated that Stalin killed more than 20 million people during his rule; he's responsible for more human deaths than anyone else in history.
-The Writer's Almanac

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