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
Amoretti XXX: My Love is like to ice, and I to fire
by Edmund Spenser
My Love is like to ice, and I to fire:
How comes it then that this her cold so great
Is not dissolved through my so hot desire,
But harder grows the more I her entreat?
Or how comes it that my exceeding heat
Is not allayed by her heart-frozen cold,
But that I burn much more in boiling sweat,
And feel my flames augmented manifold?
What more miraculous thing may be told,
That fire, which all things melts, should harden ice,
And ice, which is congeal’d with senseless cold,
Should kindle fire by wonderful device?
Such is the power of love in gentle mind,
That it can alter all the course of kind.
“My Love Is Like to Ice” by Edmund Spenser. Public domain.
It’s the birthday of writer and humorist Joe Queenan, (books by this author) born in Philadelphia (1950). He grew up in an Irish-Catholic, working-class family, with an abusive and alcoholic father. He said, “Blue-collar people like me have zero tolerance level for the problems of celebrities.” So he became a journalist and has made a career out of mocking celebrities, as well as all of American culture. His first book was Imperial Caddy: The Rise of Dan Quayle in America and the Decline and Fall of Practically Everything Else (1992), and he has written nine more books, including Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Selfish History of the Baby Boomer Generation (2001), True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans (2003), and most recently, a more serious memoir about his childhood, Closing Time (2009).
He said: “I decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to be a nice person. Like all satirists, I basically hate nice people. I hate do-gooders. I loathe Ben and Jerry. I loathe all of those people. So did Molière. But, I thought, I’ve been doing this for all of these years, maybe I should try being nice for a change. Who wants to be evil and hated? So, I tried to be a good person for six months. One of the things I did was set up a website where I apologized to all of the people that I’ve been really mean to. Though I must say that I went out of my way to reaffirm my dislike of certain people. You would never apologize to Geraldo for anything. So, I set up that website and shortly after that, I decided that I didn’t want to be a nice person anymore.”
The last public execution at London’s Tyburn Gallows took place on this date in 1783. Tyburn was located near the western end of what is now Oxford Street, and the first execution took place there in 1196, long before the famous “Tyburn Tree” gallows was erected (near the current location of Marble Arch) in 1571. The Tyburn Tree was noteworthy in that it had a triangular shape, allowing several people to be executed at once; in 1649, 24 prisoners were hanged simultaneously. The gallows was in the middle of the roadway, and was hard to miss; in fact, it became a tourist attraction and people would journey from miles around to watch the public executions. The villagers of Tyburn erected stands and charged people admission.
The first victim of the Tyburn Tree was Dr. John Story, a Catholic who refused to acknowledge Elizabeth I as the queen and head of the Church of England. Elizabeth’s half sister and predecessor, Queen Mary — also a Catholic — had earned the nickname “Bloody Mary” for her relentless pursuit of Protestants during her brief reign: In five years, she burned almost 300 religious dissenters at the stake. John Story had been one of the chief prosecutors of heretics, and when the Protestant Queen Elizabeth succeeded Mary in 1558, he ran into some trouble for boasting about his exploits. He was briefly imprisoned but fled overseas; he was eventually captured, tried for high treason, and condemned to death by hanging, drawing, and quartering.
Eventually, urban sprawl overtook the village of Tyburn, and people began to make noises about having such a macabre landmark right outside their front doors, so the Tyburn Tree was taken down, and subsequent executions were carried out on a portable gallows. The site of public executions was moved to Newgate Prison, and the last person to be executed at the site of the Tyburn gallows was a highwayman, John Austin. Coming upon John Spicer, a laboring man who was traveling through Kent, Austin had accompanied him on his journey for some several days, sharing lodging and food with him and apparently befriending him. Austin then allegedly lured Spicer to the woods, where he and an associate robbed and mangled the laborer. At Austin’s trial, the judge said, “Under the mask of friendship you have robbed a poor innocent man, deluded by your treacherous designs, and your false friendship: it is further aggravated by the baseness and inhumanity of your deceit, which cannot entitle you to any instance of mercy, but requires that you may be made an example of immediate justice.”
Austin’s last words were reportedly, “Good people, I request your prayers for the salvation of my departing soul; let my example teach you to shun the bad ways I have followed; keep good company, and mind the word of God. Lord have mercy on me, Jesus look down with pity on me, Christ have mercy on my poor soul.”
A little dog named Laika was launched into space aboard Sputnik 2 on this date in 1957. The mission for Sputnik 2 was to determine if a living animal could survive being launched into orbit. Laika was a stray that had been picked up from the Moscow streets, a 13-pound mutt with perky ears, a curly tail, and uncertain ancestry. She probably had a little spitz or terrier in her family tree, maybe a Siberian husky or even a beagle here and there. She was three years old, a good-natured dog that came to have several nicknames: Lemon, Little Curly, and Little Bug. Her name, Laika, means “barker” and was a generic term applied to all spitz-type dogs. The American press called her “Muttnik.” The Soviet space program deliberately chose strays for their missions because it was felt that they had proven themselves to be hardy, having already survived deprivation, extremes in temperature, and stress.
Laika was the first animal to orbit the Earth. She was harnessed inside a snug, padded cabin with some ability to move, but not much. The capsule was climate-controlled, and she had access to food and water, and there were electrodes monitoring her vital signs, but everyone knew the capsule was not designed to return to Earth in one piece. Knowing that Laika had little time to live, one of the scientists took her home to play with his children a few days before the launch.
For many years, reports of her death were inconsistent; one report said that she lived for six days, until her oxygen ran out. The Soviet government insisted she had been euthanized via a pre-planned poisoned food portion prior to that, to make her death more humane. In 1999, it was revealed that vital signs ceased to be transmitted about five to seven hours after the launch, possibly because the booster rocket failed to separate from the capsule, causing the thermal control system to malfunction and the cabin to become unbearably hot. It is theorized that a combination of heat and stress killed Laika.
In 1998, after the fall of the Soviet Union, one of the scientists spoke of his regret for Laika. He said: “Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it … We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.”
It’s the birthday of the photographer Walker Evans, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1903). His father was a wealthy advertising executive, and Evans spent most of his childhood in boarding schools. He dropped out of college after one year and went off to Paris to become a writer. He spent a lot of his time at Sylvia Beach’s bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, and one day he saw James Joyce there, but he was too shy to introduce himself. He didn’t meet any other important writers, and his own writing didn’t amount to much. He said, “I wanted so much to write that I couldn’t write a word.”
He went back to the United States, feeling like a failure, but one day he picked up a camera and started taking pictures. One of the first pictures he took in America was of the parade honoring Lindbergh’s flight in 1927. Instead of focusing on the parade itself, he focused on the street the parade had just passed through, littered with crumpled handbills and confetti.
He had felt so reverential toward literature that it blocked him up, but with a camera he could point and capture anything he wanted. The popular photography of the day was highly stylized, so Evans decided to go in the opposite direction, to take pictures of ordinary, unpretentious things. He said, “If the thing is there, why, there it is.” He photographed storefronts and signs with marquee lights, blurred views from speeding trains, old office furniture, and common tools. He took pictures of people in the New York City subways with a camera hidden in his winter coat.
Evans especially loved photographing bedrooms: farmers’ bedrooms, bohemian bedrooms, middle-class bedrooms. He’d photograph what people had on their mantles, on their dressers, and in their dresser drawers. By the early 1930s, he was one of the most celebrated photographers in the United States. In 1933, he was given the first one-man photographic exhibition by the new Museum of Modern Art.
In the summer of 1936, he went down to Greensboro, Alabama, to photograph tenant farmers struggling through the Great Depression. He spent weeks there, with the journalist James Agee, photographing the Burroughs family, the Fieldses, and the Tingle family at work on their farms and in their ramshackle homes.
At first, he was uncomfortable with the idea of taking pictures of such desperate people, but James Agee persuaded him that their job was show how noble these people were despite their circumstances. When Evans and Agee said goodbye at the end of their work, the farmers wept. The photographs, with Agee’s text, were published in the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). They are among the most famous images of the Great Depression.
Walker Evans said, “Fine photography is literature, and it should be.”
It’s the birthday of the playwright Terrence McNally (books by this author), born in St. Petersburg, Florida (1939), who for a time supported himself working on radio shows. He said, “I guess it hadn’t occurred to me that to be a playwright you had to write plays — I thought you could be a playwright and sulk.”
Then, one day, someone recognized his voice and asked him if he was that guy on the radio. He realized that if he didn’t keep writing plays, he’d be remembered as some radio personality. So he got back to work and produced Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (1987), about a romance between a middle-aged waitress and a short-order cook who work at a café together. It became his first big hit and was made into a movie.
He said, “I like deadlines. I need deadlines. I’m not a compulsive writer — I don’t write every day. I’ve learned not to go to the computer until I know what I want to write.”