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 William Blake
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
“The Tyger” by William Blake. Public domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of writer and physicist Alan Lightman, (books by this author) born in Memphis (1948). He said that as a kid, “I was always troubled and awed by the big questions. Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the meaning of life? How did the universe begin?” He grew up fascinated by both science and literature, and he couldn’t decide which career to pursue. Then in high school, he realized that he could think of quite a few scientists who later became writers, but he couldn’t think of anyone who started out as a writer and then became a scientist. So he chose to study science and figured that he could move into writing later on in life.
And that is what he did. He studied physics at Princeton and got a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the California Institute of Technology and then taught at Harvard and Cornell. He started writing and publishing poems, and in 1989 he was hired at MIT as a joint professor in physics and writing. He published poems, stories, and a lot of essays. As he set out to establish himself as a writer, his biggest influence was E.B. White, whom he considered the greatest American essay writer. So he read White’s essays, over and over, and would practice trying to write sentences just like him. He said, “Of course, once you’re able to do that, you stop doing it and you just file it away as a tool in your tool box.”
In 1992, he published Einstein’s Dreams, a novel that chronicled the dreams Einstein might have had as he worked on his theory of relativity. It was composed of 30 small vignettes, each a separate dream about time. Einstein’s Dreams was an international best-seller. And it led him into a new line of work — a Unitarian minister in Cambodia called and asked him if he could use Einstein’s Dreams in a sermon. Lightman agreed and asked the minister about his work, and he and his wife ended up establishing a project to empower female students in Cambodia, and spend part of each year there.
Since then, he has written five more novels, Good Benito (1995), The Diagnosis (2000), Reunion (2003), Ghost (2007), and Mr. g (2012). He’s also published a memoir, a book of poetry, books on science, and essays. His most recent works are Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine and In Praise of Wasting Time, both published this year.
He said: “I don’t automatically start on a new book as soon as I’ve finished the previous one. There are some writers who can — they’re like chain-smokers, and I’m not a chain-smoker. I want an idea to simmer and stew for a long period of time. […] It’s important to me that every book that I do be really a completely fresh and new look at the world. And of course, that makes it frightening to start a new book because you can’t really depend upon what you’ve done with previous books.”
By 1782, Blake had apprenticed with an engraver and taken classes at the Royal Academy, and he was writing some poetry on his own. He was heartbroken because the woman he loved did not feel the same about him, and was seeing other men. He went to visit the farm village of Battersea, where some of his distant relatives lived, and he was having dinner with a poor market gardener and his family. One of the man’s daughters, Catherine, was very pretty. As soon as Blake entered the room she fell in love with him, and felt so faint that she had to leave the room for a while. But she came back, and after Blake had told the whole family his sad story of unrequited love, he asked Catherine if she pitied him. She said yes, and he said, “Then I love you.”
They were married one year later. She had no qualms about his strange spiritual visions, which had been ongoing ever since he was nine years old and saw a tree full of angels. And he was fine with the fact that she was illiterate — she signed their marriage contract with an “X.” They ended up with a happy marriage. Blake called his wife his “sweet shadow of delight.” He taught her to read and to help him with his engravings.
Blake’s most memorable poetry was self-published, and produced by a methodical hand-printing process. He would use acid-resistant liquid to write out his poems in reverse and draw on copper plates, then put the plates in acid so everything else would be eaten away. He said that this method came to him in a dream. Then he would ink the plates and print them onto paper, transferring the ink by rubbing with the back of a spoon — eventually he bought a wooden press. Catherine helped him print and watercolor each piece. In this way he printed poetry like Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and The Four Zoas.
Blake was not particularly famous during his own lifetime, and he lived most of it in poverty. He exhibited a retrospective of paintings between 1809 and 1810, which almost no one visited. The only printed review was by Robert Hunt, Leigh Hunt’s brother, who called Blake “an unfortunate lunatic” and trashed his art, describing it as “a farrago of nonsense, unintelligibleness, and egregious vanity.” After the failed exhibition, he produced almost nothing for the next 10 years. But toward the end of his life, a group of younger artists gathered around him, and he met some generous patrons who encouraged his work.
He kept working up through the day he died, which he spent working on watercolors for an illustrated version of Dante’s Inferno. Catherine was at his bedside while he worked, and finally he put his work aside and said to her, “Stay, Kate! Keep just as your are — I will draw your portrait — for you have ever been an angel to me.” So he drew his wife’s portrait, and then he started to sing — she later described the songs as “songs of joy and triumph.” One of his young disciples, George Richmond, was present at Blake’s death. He wrote in a letter to a friend: “He died on Sunday night at 6 Oclock in a most glorious manner. He said He was going to that Country he had all his life wished to see & expressed Himself Happy, hoping for Salvation through Jesus Christ — Just before he died His Countenance became fair. His eyes Brighten’d and he burst our Singing of the things he saw in Heaven.”
After Blake died, Catherine continued to sell her husband’s work, but she would tell customers that she had to consult with Mr. Blake first — his spirit regularly appeared to her after his death. When Catherine died a few years later, she also went calmly, reciting Bible passages and repeatedly informing her husband that she was on her way to see him.
The first American automobile race took place on this date in 1895. It was put on by the Chicago Times-Herald, and it was open to cars with at least three wheels that could carry two or more people (the driver and a judge). The race, 54 miles in all, ran from Chicago’s Jackson Park out to Evanston, Illinois, and back.
It was Thanksgiving Day, and it had snowed the night before. None of the automobiles had roofs, and none of the roads were paved, so conditions for a race weren’t optimal. Out of the original 89 entrants, only six were at the starting line on race day. Two of them were American-made electric cars; the other four — one of them American and three built by German manufacturer Karl Benz — were gasoline-powered. Four of the cars eventually dropped out due to the poor conditions, and it came down to American Frank Duryea and one of the Benz machines. Duryea prevailed, reaching a top speed of 7.5 miles per hour, and crossing the finish line after several breakdowns and a little over 10 hours. The German car limped home two hours later, driven by the referee; its driver had collapsed, exhausted. Duryea used his $2,000 winnings to start the Duryea Motor Wagon Company.
The Grand Ole Opry began broadcasting from Nashville on this date in 1925. It was called the “WSM Barn Dance” at first. WSM was a new radio station that had been started in Nashville by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company, who wanted to use the station to sell insurance; the call letters stood for “We Shield Millions,” which was the company’s motto. WSM had recently hired George D. Hay, a former Memphis reporter-turned-program director, and at 8 o’clock p.m. on this date, he introduced himself as a “Sober Old Judge” (he was 30) and launched the station’s first radio barn dance.