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
“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud,” by William Wordsworth. Public Domain. (buy now)
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Today is the birthday of mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal (books by this author), born in Clermont-Ferrand, France. He was a child prodigy, and by the time he was 19, he had already perfected the first mechanical calculator for sale to the public. In the field of physics, he discovered that air has weight and proved that vacuums are possible in nature. In mathematics, he founded the theory of probabilities and developed an early form of integral calculus. He also invented the syringe and the hydraulic press.
He was often torn between a spiritual life and a scientific one. When he was 23, he began to feel the need to withdraw from the world and devote his life to God. He did just that, for a while, but soon threw himself back into his scientific pursuits, working so hard he made himself ill. He returned to religion for good after a mystical conversion experience, which he called the “night of fire,” in 1654, and entered the Abbey of Port-Royal in January 1655. He lived as an informal hermit, and he never again published under his own name. He only wrote things that the monks requested, and he produced two great works of religious philosophy: Provincial Letters (1657) and Thoughts (1658).
He wrote, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”
It’s the birthday of the music journalist and cultural critic Greil Marcus (books by this author), born in San Francisco (1945). After he graduated from Berkeley, he got a job writing reviews for Rolling Stone magazine. He was frustrated, though, because most reviewers just wanted to talk about lyrics, and he wanted to go deeper. He wanted to write about music the way Pauline Kael wrote about movies. So Rolling Stone’s founder, Jann Wenner, made him an editor instead. In the decades since, he’s written numerous volumes of rock music criticism and other criticism, including A New Literary History of America (2009). It’s a collection of essays — nearly 1,100 pages long — which he co-edited with Werner Sollors. The book covers Colonial days to the election of Barack Obama.
In 1987, he published a book called The Satanic Verses, which got mixed reviews. Most Western critics didn’t notice that it would be offensive to Muslims. But a month after the book came out, it was banned in India and book burnings throughout the Muslim world followed. The Ayatollah Khomeini eventually announced that Rushdie should be sentenced to death for blasphemy, and he placed a $1.5 million bounty on Rushdie’s head. Rushdie had to go into hiding. His Italian translator was threatened and stabbed. His Japanese translator was murdered. His Norwegian publisher was attacked and left for dead. Rushdie spent the next nine years moving from place to place. He lived in more than 30 houses. He found it difficult to write, so he helped set up an international organization for the protection of persecuted writers. The death sentence was finally lifted in 1998.
On this day in 1862, the U.S. Congress outlawed slavery in all United States territories. This congressional act nullified the Supreme Court decision known as the Dred Scott case, decided five years prior, which prohibited blacks from ever becoming U.S. citizens.
But few were actually freed on this day. At the time, the country was about a year deep into the Civil War, and most states that allowed slavery had already seceded from the Union to form the Confederacy — and were not taking orders from the United States Congress. Abraham Lincoln was still working on drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation, the final version of which wouldn’t be delivered until the following January, about six months later. And even that would have little immediate effect on freedom in many states, since the South had a separate government with different laws.
The state of Texas was the last state to continue to allow slavery after it had been abolished in all other states. Then, on this day in 1865, exactly three years after Congress officially outlawed slavery, a Union general and 2,000 troops arrived by ship into Galveston, Texas, to announce to that the North had won the war, that the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect, and he would be there to enforce it by military means. With this, the last remaining slaves in the nation were finally freed. And it’s because of this event that today is an official holiday in about three dozen states, called “Juneteenth” day. Some of the biggest Juneteenth celebrations in the nation are in Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Chandler, Arizona; and San Francisco, California. They’re traditionally jubilant festivals, which revolve around big picnics.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed on this day after an 83-day filibuster in the Senate. It banned segregation in schools and workplaces and places of “interstate commerce.” It was very specific, listing places of public accommodation where segregation was forbidden, including any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, gasoline station, hotel, motel, inn, motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium, or other place of exhibition or entertainment. Also, it included a provision prohibiting federal employment discrimination on the basis of gender. And it gave the attorney general the power to sue states that were not complying. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress.