December 16, 2018
Garrison Keillor returns to Crooner’s with singer Christine DiGiallonardo & pianist Richard Dworsky. Shows at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
New York, NY
December 2, 2018
A mini Prairie Home reunion featuring Garrison Keillor, Rob Fisher, Fred Newman, and Heather Masse and Christine DiGiallonardo.
November 3, 2018
Garrison Keillor performs with duet partner Lynne Peterson and longtime collaborator & pianist Richard Dworsky.
5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
Time + Distance
by Leslie Monsour
The tea you pour is black and strong.
It doesn’t taste like tea to me;
I must have been away too long.
It isn’t jasmine, spice, oolong;
It tastes like an apology—
This tea you pour, so black and strong.
Where’s that old fork with the bent prong?
What happened to the hemlock tree?
Have I really been gone that long?
I think I hear the saddest song;
It has no words, no tune, no key.
The tea you pour is black and strong.
You’re careful to say nothing wrong,
You seem too eager to agree…
Yes, I’ve been travelling far and long,
And now it’s clear, I don’t belong.
I watch you sash your robe, as we
sit, sipping tea that’s black and strong.
I went away too far, too long.
“Time + Distance” by Leslie Monsour, from The Alarming Beauty of the Sky. © Red Hen Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission of the author. (buy now)
It was on this day in 1818 that the state of Illinois was admitted to the Union.
Today Illinois is the “most average state” in America. It was given this distinction by the Associated Press, which analyzed data from the U.S. census, looking at things like income and age and race, as well as education, immigration, rural population percentages and more than a dozen other factors. The Associated Press concluded that Illinois mirrored the makeup of the country as a whole better than any other state. Second was Oregon, and then Michigan, and Washington, and Delaware. The “least average state” in the Union: West Virginia.
Illinois’ official slogan is the “Land of Lincoln.”
And it was on this day in 1839 that 30-year-old Illinois state assemblyman Abraham Lincoln was admitted to practice law in the United States Circuit Court. For the next 16 years, he “rode the circuit,” which meant that he traveled around to different counties in Illinois arguing cases while their circuit courts were in session. It was during these two decades on the Circuit Court, litigating disputes over canal boats and river barges and railroad charters and defending accused murderers, that Abraham Lincoln learned to give really good speeches. Twenty-one years after he was admitted to the Circuit Court, he was elected to the American presidency, and he’s now known as one of the best orators in presidential history.
He delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863 at the dedication of a new cemetery to honor the Union soldiers who had died during the Battle of Gettysburg. The three-day Battle of Gettysburg had been fought a few months earlier, in July of 1863, and there were more than 50,000 casualties. Eventually more than 3,500 Union soldiers were reburied in the cemetery. The speech is 10 sentences long, just 272 words. In it, he said that our nation was founded on the idea of equality and that the war was being fought over that idea.
In his second inaugural address, which he gave a few weeks before being assassinated, he stood on a wet and muddy Pennsylvania Avenue and talked about the Civil War, saying:
“Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Abraham Lincoln once said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
And he said, “Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
Today is the birthday of Bosnian writer Zlata Filipović (books by this author), born in Sarajevo in 1980. Someone gave her a journal when she was 10, and she had recently read Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and The Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend, so she decided she’d keep a diary too. The following year, she found herself in the middle of the Bosnian war, which broke out in April 1992, and her diary became much more “Anne Frank” than “Adrian Mole.” That summer, word got out that UNICEF was looking for children’s diaries to publish, so she sent them the first three months’ entries. Foreign journalists spread the word, and the Filipović family was evacuated to Paris. The complete text of her journal was eventually published as Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo (1993). Now 37, she has a master’s degree in international peace studies. She co-edited the book Stolen Voices: Young People’s War Diaries from World War I to Iraq (2006) and has contributed chapters to other books about war and human rights.
In 1992, when she was 11, she wrote: “Everything is being destroyed, burned, the people are in shelters. Here in the middle of town, where we live, it’s different. It’s quiet. People go out. It was a nice warm spring day today. We went out too. Vaso Miskin Street was full of people, children. It looked like a peace march. People came out to be together, they don’t want war. They want to live and enjoy themselves the way they used to. That’s only natural, isn’t it? Who likes or wants war, when it’s the worst thing in the world?”
Later in the diary, when it seemed there was no end in sight, she wrote: “If things go on like this, I’ll be 20 in a few years time. If it turns out to be another ‘Lebanon,’ as they keep saying, I’ll be 30. Gone will be my childhood. Gone my youth. Gone my life. And I’ll die and this war still won’t be over.”
Today is the birthday of Joseph Conrad (books by this author), born in Berdichev, Ukraine (1857), in a region that had once been part of Poland. His father was a poet and translator of English and French literature. Joseph and his father read books written in both Polish and French. By the time he was 12 years old, both of his parents had died of tuberculosis. He went to Switzerland to live with his uncle, but after a few years he decided he wanted to go off and see the world. He joined the French merchant marine, and began a long career as a sailor. He sailed to Australia, Borneo, Malaysia, South America, the South Pacific, and Africa. He joined the British merchant navy, and in 1886 became a citizen of Great Britain.
In the fall of 1889, Conrad settled in London for a few months. One morning, after he finished his breakfast, he told his maid to clear away all the dishes immediately. Normally, he would sit by the window and read from a book by Dickens or Hugo or Shakespeare. But on this morning he felt unusually calm and perceptive. He later wrote, “It was an autumn day … with fiery points and flashes of red sunlight on the roofs and windows opposite, while the trees of the square with all their leaves gone were like tracings of an Indian ink on a sheet of tissue paper.” He began to write his first novel, Almayer’s Folly, which would be published six years later. It’s about a man from the Netherlands who trades on the jungle rivers of Borneo. Conrad said, “The conception of a planned book was entirely outside my mental range when I sat down to write.” He said he felt “a hidden obscure necessity, a completely masked and unaccountable phenomenon.”
His best-known story is Heart of Darkness (1899). It first appeared as a three-part serial in Blackwood’s Magazine, and was later published as a novella in 1903. It’s the story of an English riverboat captain in the Congo who is sent to retrieve an ivory trader, Kurtz, who has been living as a demigod among the African natives. The novella has been adapted several times, beginning with Orson Welles’ radio production in 1938. Most recently, it was made into an opera by Tarik O’Regan and Tom Phillips; it premiered at the Royal Opera House in London this year. The most famous adaptation moved the novella’s action from Africa to southeast Asia and set the story during the Vietnam War: Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film, Apocalypse Now. The film stars Martin Sheen as an Army captain who has been sent to track down and kill a rogue officer, Colonel Kurtz (played by Marlon Brando), living in the Cambodian jungle.
Conrad wrote: “My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, above all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything.”
Neon lighting was first demonstrated on this date in 1910. It was invented by a Frenchman named Georges Claude, and he debuted it at a Paris auto show — which also happened to be the world’s first auto show.
Neon is an inert gas, the illuminating properties of which were discovered in 1898 by William Ramsey and Morris Travers. The two extracted some pure neon from the atmosphere and contained it in a glass tube; when they stimulated it with electricity, the gas glowed red. The neon tubes became popular as novelties, but until a method was developed for the large-scale production of neon gas, there was no thought of using them as light sources or flashy signs. Claude hit upon a neon production method while he was working on a process to liquefy air. The tubes he demonstrated at the Paris show were about 39 feet long, and bright red. Soon other gases were used, to produce other colors: each gas has its own color, which serves as a kind of fingerprint.
Claude had envisioned neon as a light source, not an advertising medium, but within three years, there was a big glowing sign advertising Cinzano vermouth lighting up the sky over Paris. Neon signage was adopted with increasing frequency from 1920 onward, and by 1940 nearly every city in the United States sported a dazzling array. New York City’s Times Square became a world famous kinetic display of dancing lights, and Las Vegas’s appeal grew in direct proportion to its luminescence. Tom Wolfe wrote in a 1965 essay: “Las Vegas is the only city in the world whose skyline is made neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees, like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but signs. One can look at Las Vegas from a mile away on route 91 and see no buildings, no trees, only signs. But such signs! They tower. They revolve, they oscillate, they soar in shapes before which the existing vocabulary of art history is helpless.”