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
Sonnet 109: O! never say that I was false of heart
by William Shakespeare
O never say that I was false of heart,
Though absence seemed my flame to qualify.
As easy might I from myself depart,
As from my soul, which in thy breast doth lie.
That is my home of love; if I have ranged
Like him that travels I return again,
Just to the time, not with the time exchanged,
So that myself bring water for my stain.
Never believe, though in my nature reigned
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stained
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good—
For nothing this wide universe I call,
Save thou, my rose; in it thou art my all.
“Sonnet 109” by William Shakespeare. Public domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of historian Charles Beard, (books by this author) born in Knightstown, Indiana (1874). He started out as a professor, but he resigned from Columbia University as a protest in 1917 after the institution fired some of his colleagues who opposed American involvement in World War I. After that, he never taught in academia again, but he wrote a lot of books and ran a profitable dairy farm in Connecticut. He wrote the popular book The Rise of American Civilization (1927) with his wife Mary, in which they explained American history in terms of economic principles — for example, that the Civil War wasn’t an ideological conflict about slavery as much as it was an economic one that pitted the industrial North against the agrarian South.
He wrote: “All the lessons of history in four sentences: Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. The bee fertilizes the flower it robs. When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”
It’s the birthday of astronomer Anders Celsius, (books by this author) born in Uppsala, Sweden (1701). His father and grandfather were both astronomy professors, and his other grandfather a mathematics professor. He too became a professor of astronomy, when he was 29, taking over for his father after he died.
Celsius was in Paris, at the French Royal Academy of Sciences, and there was a huge debate about the shape of the Earth. Newton had proposed that the Earth is an ellipsoid, flattened at the poles, but that had never been proven. Celsius suggested they all stop arguing about it and go figure it out. So the French Academy organized expeditions of scientists, one to northern Sweden to measure the length of a degree along the pole, and one to Peru (now Ecuador) to measure the length of a degree along the equator. Celsius participated in the Swedish trip. The results were compared, and Newton’s theory was confirmed. For his services, he received a large annual pension from France.
He published some of the first work on the aurora borealis, and he discovered that the aurora was influenced by the Earth’s magnetic fields.
But he is best remembered today as the inventor of the Celsius temperature scale, a fixed international temperature scale for thermometers, which accurately accounted for how air pressure influenced the boiling point of water. But Celsius might not have recognized the version we use now — he designed it with 0 degrees as the measurement of boiling water and 100 degrees freezing water. After his death, someone reversed the temperature scale, so that water boiled at 100 degrees and froze at 0.
It’s the birthday of Fredric J. Warburg — the man whose publishing house, Secker and Warburg, published writing by George Orwell, Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, and Simone de Beauvoir.
When Secker and Warburg opened in 1935, it quickly became known as being anti-fascist and anti-communist, not an altogether popular position at the time. When George Orwell, already well known as a journalist, essayist, and novelist, parted with his previous publisher for the insertion of a preface that apologized for Orwell’s pro-socialism arguments, he presented his new manuscript to Warburg. He published Homage to Catalonia and everything else Orwell wrote, including Animal Farm and 1984, and the two grew to be friends. They were close enough, in fact, that Orwell wrote negative reviews of some books that Warburg published with no apparent friction in their relationship. Writing to his publisher about his progress on his latest book — he couldn’t decide whether the title would be The Last Man in Europe or Nineteen Eighty-Four — Orwell signed off by saying, “I have just had Sartre’s book on anti-Semitism [Portrait of the Anti-Semite], which you published, to review. I think Sartre is a bag of wind and I am going to give him a good boot.”
As much as his professional and personal relationship with Orwell, though, Warburg is known for having successfully defended himself from a charge of obscenity for having published a novel called The Philanderer. The case was unusual in England at the time because it received an enormous amount of press, and because it charged Warburg personally. The attention was because the case was a trial by jury, rather than decided upon by a magistrate, as was the tradition in cases of its nature. Although they were likely to be found guilty by a magistrate, publishers indicted on an obscenity charge would likely pay a small fine and receive very little attention. A jury trial, on the other hand, was more winnable — but because the costs were higher, the penalties greater, and the public more likely to notice the proceedings, publishers rarely requested one.
It was a stroke of luck that the judge assigned to the case, a Mr. Justice Stable, requested that the jury read the book in its entirety — rather than just considering the steamy excerpts given them by the prosecution — and called for a two-day recess to do so. When the jury reconvened, the judge sent them off to deliberate with a speech so inspiring that was used by a New York publisher as his Christmas card message months later. Reminding them that sex was essential to procreation, and that any blame assigned to it would therefore lie with the Creator, the judge asked the jury, “Are we to take our literary standards as being the level of something that is suitable for a 14-year-old schoolgirl? Or do we go even further back than that, and are we to be reduced to the sort of books one reads as a child in the nursery?”
The jury, unsurprisingly, responded by declaring Warburg not guilty. Although only two months later, a publisher in similar case — gone to trial following Warburg’s example — received a £500 fine and a six-month prison sentence, the attention from Warburg’s win and the judge’s memorable speech helped inspire a change in Britain’s obscenity laws.
The fall of 1786 had been an eventful one for Burns. He wasn’t making any money farming, and after he got his girlfriend Jean Armour pregnant, he decided he needed to find a way to support his new family — not to mention his illegitimate one-year-old daughter, whose mother was a servant in the Burns household and wanted money. Burns accepted a friend’s offer to work as a clerk in Jamaica, and was set to leave in September.
A few weeks before his departure date, he published Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786), hoping to raise enough money to pay his fare to Jamaica. Instead, the book was so successful that Burns began to doubt if he should leave Scotland. Then Jean gave birth to twins. At the same time, he received word that Scottish poet Thomas Blacklock liked his book and encouraged him to come to Edinburgh. Burns wrote: “I had taken the last farewell of my few friends, my chest was on the road to Greenock; I had composed the last song I should ever measure in Scotland — ‘The Gloomy night is gathering fast’ — when a letter from Dr. Blacklock to a friend of mine overthrew all my schemes, by opening new prospects to my poetic ambition. The Doctor belonged to a set of critics for whose applause I had not dared to hope. His opinion that I would meet with encouragement in Edinburgh for a second edition, fired me so much, that away I posted for that city, without a single acquaintance, or a single letter of introduction.” He borrowed a pony from a friend, and off he went.
The story goes that during his two-day trip to Edinburgh, he was entertained lavishly by farmers eager to meet the poet. A friend of his had arranged for a farmhouse where he could stay for the night. There were so many people excited to see Burns that when he arrived, one farmer raised a makeshift flag — a white sheet tied to a pitchfork — and on cue all the neighboring farmers arrived to host Burns for a huge meal. He rode on to another farmhouse for a large breakfast the next morning, and yet another farm for lunch. By evening of the second day, he finally arrived in Edinburgh.
He was delighted by his reception there, and everyone’s enthusiasm about publishing a second edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. About a week after his arrival, he wrote in a letter: “For my own affairs, I am in a fair way of becoming as eminent as Thomas à Kempis or John Bunyan; and you may expect henceforth to see my birthday inserted among the wonderful events, in the Poor Robin’s and Aberdeen Almanacks, along with the Black Monday, and the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. My Lord Glencairn and the Dean of Faculty, Mr. H. Erskine, have taken me under their wing; and by all probability, I shall soon be the tenth worthy, and the eight wise man of the world. Through my Lord’s influence it is inserted in the records of the Caledonian Hunt, that they universally, one and all, subscribe for the second edition.”