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
by D. H. Lawrence
Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.
“Piano” by D. H. Lawrence. Public domain.
It was on this day in 1791 that the first edition of the British newspaper The Observer was published. It’s the oldest Sunday paper in the world.
The publisher, a man named W.S. Bourne, thought the newspaper would make him rich. But instead it sent him spiraling into more than a thousand pounds of debt, and after just a few years, he tried to sell off the paper. First, he tried to convince some anti-government organizations to buy the newspaper. But they didn’t want it, so instead he turned around and tried to sell it to the British government. But they didn’t want to buy it either. However, the British government — then under the reign of King George III, who’d recently lost the Revolutionary War and 13 colonies in America — did decide to subsidize the newspaper, in exchange for having a say in what sorts of news stories went into it.
The paper spent a lot of the 1800s filled with government propaganda and sensational gossip, but with new editors gradually turned toward serious. In the mid-20th century, news stories replaced advertisements on the front page, and the paper became owned by a trust. It employed a number of famous writers as journalists, including George Orwell, Vita Sackville-West, Arthur Koestler, and Conor Cruise O’Brien.
In 1993, it was acquired by The Guardian, a daily newspaper. In 2005, it became the first newspaper to offer podcasts.
It was on this date in 1674 that Father Jacques Marquette built a log cabin on the shore of Lake Michigan, near the mouth of the Chicago River. The French Jesuit had explored the area the year before, with explorer Louis Jolliet, and he returned with the intent of establishing a mission there. His journey had been going fairly smoothly, and hunting was good, but a snowstorm dumped a foot of snow overnight, and Marquette also suffered a recurrence of the dysentery that had plagued him on his previous journey. He and his companions built a crude cabin, intending to pass the winter there. It was an advantageous location; it was possible to move between the Great Lakes and the Chicago River (which eventually connected with the Illinois River, and thence to the Mississippi) by way of a short overland portage. For this reason, the Jesuits chose the site of Marquette’s little cabin to build the Mission of the Guardian Angel in 1696. The mission was largely abandoned in 1720 after repeated Native American raids, but in the 1780s, a man of African descent named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable built a farm there. He was the first permanent resident of Chicago.
From Marquette’s journal entry of December 4:
“We started well to reach Portage River, which was frozen half a foot thick. There was more snow there than anywhere else, and also more tracks of animals and turkeys. The navigation of the lake from one portage to the other is quite is fine, there being no traverse to make, and landing being quite feasible all along, providing you do not obstinately persist in traveling in the breakers and high winds. The land along the shore is good for nothing, except on the prairies. You meet eight or ten pretty fine rivers. Deer hunting is pretty good as you get away from the Pottawatomies.”
On this date in 1872, the ghost ship Mary Celeste was found floating, unmanned and abandoned, in the Atlantic. She was an American brigantine merchant ship, and she’d been at sea for about a month. When she was found, she was fully stocked with six months’ worth of food and supplies, she was completely seaworthy, and the weather was calm. She was flying no distress signal, and there were no signs of violence or mutiny, but all of her passengers and crew had vanished without a trace. The ship’s lifeboat was gone, which seemed to indicate that they had abandoned ship, but their personal possessions and valuables were untouched, so they must have left in a hurry. Also missing were the ship’s papers (with the exception of the logbook), her navigation equipment, and two pumps.
There are several theories about why the ship was abandoned. They run the gamut of plausibility and include sea monsters, alien abduction, tsunami, piracy, and mutiny. The most plausible scenario involves the Mary Celeste‘s cargo. She was carrying 1,700 barrels of raw alcohol, intended for sale in Italy. When she was eventually brought to port, it was discovered that nine of the barrels were empty. Many experts believe that the barrels leaked, causing a build-up of alcohol fumes that would have been easily ignited. Because alcohol burns at such a low temperature, even a large explosion could have left the ship and even the surrounding barrels undamaged; such an explosion would have spooked the captain and crew into abandoning ship. The lifeboat passengers probably drowned in bad weather, or died of starvation and thirst.
Today is the birthday of Rainer Maria Rilke (books by this author), born in Prague (1875). The year before he was born, his mother had given birth to a girl who died after a week, and she wanted her son to fill that place. Rainer’s given name was René, and his mother dressed him in dresses, braided his hair, and treated him like a girl. Later, he wrote, “I think my mother played with me as though I were a big doll.”
He financed his career as a poet by seducing a series of rich noblewomen who would support him while he wrote his books. One princess let him live for a while in her Castle Duino near Trieste, a medieval castle with fortified walls and an ancient square tower. It was during the winter of 1912, alone in the castle, that Rilke later said he heard the voice of an angel speaking to him about the meaning of life and death. Rilke wrote two poems about angels in almost a single sitting, and he knew that he had begun his most important work, but then he got stuck. Finally, in February of 1922, he managed to finish in a single month what he’d started a decade before. The result was a cycle of 10 long poems that he called The Duino Elegies, about the difference between angels and people, and the meaning of death, and his idea that human beings are put on earth in order to experience the beauty of ordinary things.
Rilke wrote: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue […] Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”
Today is the birthday of the British essayist, philosopher, and historian Thomas Carlyle (books by this author), born in Ecclefechan, Scotland (1795). Carlyle moved to London with his wife in 1834, and began work on an ambitious project about the French Revolution. He spent months of hard work on the book, living in poverty and devoting every resource to the project, but when he lent the manuscript to philosopher John Stuart Mill, Mill’s maid accidentally threw it in the fire. Even though he wasn’t normally a cheerful person, Carlyle refused to let the loss get him down, and he began rewriting it immediately. The French Revolution (1837) became one of his most respected works, and would later serve as Dickens’ primary reference when he was writing A Tale of Two Cities (1859).
It was on this date in 1867 that Oliver Hudson Kelley founded the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, also known as The Grange. It’s the oldest national agricultural advocacy organization. Kelley was born in Boston in 1826, and moved to Itasca, Minnesota, to become a farmer when he was 23. After the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson sent him to the Southern states to report back on the condition of the farms there. It was during this trip that Kelley began to think about a fraternal organization, similar to the Freemasons, which would work to improve conditions for farmers and bring the North and South back together in a common cause. So he formed the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry for this purpose, and his organization was unusual for the time: it encouraged women and teenagers to participate. In fact, the charter required that four of the elected positions must be held by women. The Grange represented the interests of farmers in disputes with the railroads, it established free rural mail delivery, and helped farmers improve their lives through research-based education. It also championed other, non-agricultural causes like temperance and women’s suffrage.