A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
A live performance at the Saenger Theatre
A live performance at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center
Buffalo, NY — with Robin & Linda Williams
A live performance with Robin & Linda Williams in Asbury Hall at Babeville
“Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost. Public domain. (buy now)
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-by;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
Today is Bastille Day in France, the anniversary of the day in 1789 that an angry mob of revolutionaries stormed the Bastille in Paris. The Bastille was originally built as a fortress, then used as a prison, and it often housed political prisoners who had been sent there without a trial. The French people were on the verge of revolt against the monarchy and Louis XVI, and the Bastille seemed like a good symbolic target.
For weeks the revolutionaries schemed to bring down the famous prison and liberate the inmates. Despite the best intentions of the revolutionaries, there were actually only eight prisoners there in early July. One of them was the Marquis de Sade (books by this author), the writer whose behavior gave the world the word “sadism.” He had been imprisoned numerous times, this time on the recommendation of his mother-in-law, who was furious that he had seduced his sister-in-law — before the Marquis came along she been destined for the religious life.
The Marquis was annoyed because the threat of revolution meant that he was not allowed to walk freely along the ramparts of the Bastille. So he converted his urine funnel into a megaphone and shouted provoking statements through the windows of his cell — he claimed that his fellow prisoners were being brutally massacred, and called on the people to come rescue them. He made it all up, but he riled up the crowd and made the guards nervous, so on July 4th they had him transferred to an insane asylum. Ten days later, hundreds of revolutionaries stormed the Bastille. The seven remaining prisoners were freed, and Governor de Launy, who was in charge of the prison, was murdered and his head was paraded around Paris on a pike.
The Marquis de Sade said: “Compare the centuries of anarchy with those of the strongest legalism in any country you like and you will see that it is only when the laws are silent that the greatest actions appear.”
Billy the Kid was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett on this date in 1881 in New Mexico Territory. Billy the Kid, née William McCarty Jr., was born in a poor Irish neighborhood in New York City. When he was 14, after his father died, McCarty and his mother moved out to the New Mexico Territory. His mother died of tuberculosis the following year. Four years later, after some time as a horse thief, McCarty was going by the name “William Bonney,” and he was working for a rancher, John Tunstall. Tunstall decided to open a store in Lincoln County, which had until then been monopolized by a wealthy businessman named Lawrence Murphy. It set off a power struggle between the two factions of cattle ranchers, each side with its own lawyers and criminals. Tunstall was killed by a sheriff’s posse in 1878, and Billy the Kid, who had been quite close to Tunstall, retaliated by ambushing and killing the sheriff and a deputy. He went on the run for two years, was captured, and escaped the jail again. Finally, the new sheriff, Pat Garrett, heard he was holed up at Fort Sumner, about 140 miles away. With two deputies in tow, Garrett ambushed Bonney at the fort and shot him. Bonney was 22 years old.
The life and death of Billy the Kid inspired numerous books — the first of which was written by Pat Garett himself—as well as novels, poems, dozens of movies, and songs by artists like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Aaron Copland, and Marty Robbins.
Today is the birthday of Swedish director and writer Ingmar Bergman (films by this director), born in Uppsala (1918). His father was a very strict Lutheran minister who gave out harsh punishments for even the smallest childhood misdeeds, and Bergman lost his religious faith by the age of eight. When he was nine, he traded his toy soldiers for a “magic lantern,” a rudimentary projector, and began putting on shows.
He studied theater in college, and made his way into the film business in 1941, rewriting screenplays. Over the next decade, he wrote and directed more than a dozen movies. His first big international success came in 1955, with Smiles of a Summer Night, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries followed in 1957.
Bergman became known for making films about mortality and isolation. In a 2004 interview, he admitted that he couldn’t watch his films anymore because he found them depressing. He influenced an entire generation of young filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese, who said, “If you were alive in the ’50s and the ’60s and of a certain age, a teenager on your way to becoming an adult, and you wanted to make films, I don’t see how you couldn’t be influenced by Bergman.” And Woody Allen called Bergman “probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera.”
It’s the birthday of British science fiction novelist Christopher Priest, (books by this author) born near Stockport, England (1943). He’s the author of more than a dozen novels, including The Prestige (1997), which begins: “It began on a train, heading north through England, although I was soon to discover that the story had really begun more than a hundred years earlier.”
It’s the birthday of the singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, born in Okemah, Oklahoma (1913).
He was in his 20s when Texas was hit by the same drought that created the Dust Bowl in the mid-1930s, and Guthrie followed workers who were moving to California, where he began to write songs about the people who’d lost their farms and their homes.
His songs grew increasingly political and became more and more sympathetic to the plight of people facing hard times during the Great Depression. Like many people at the time, he thought the Depression was a sign that capitalism had collapsed. He wrote a column for the Communist Party newspaper the People’s World. But he never officially joined the Communist Party. He said, “I ain’t a Communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life.”
Guthrie went on to write thousands of songs, including “This Land is Your Land,” “Union Maid,” “Hobo’s Lullaby,” “Hard, Ain’t it Hard,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “This Train is Bound for Glory,” “Sharecropper Song,” and “Someday.”