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
I would not paint–a picture…
by Emily Dickinson
I would not paint—a picture—
I’d rather be the One
Its bright impossibility
And wonder how the fingers feel
Evokes so sweet a Torment—
I would not talk, like Cornets—
I’d rather be the One
Raised softly to the Ceilings—
And out, and easy on—
Through Villages of Ether—
Myself endued Balloon
By but a lip of Metal—
The pier to my Pontoon—
Nor would I be a Poet—
It’s finer—own the Ear—
The License to revere.
A privilege so awful
What would the Dower be,
Had I the Art to stun myself
With Bolts of Melody!
“I would not paint—a picture…” by Emily Dickinson. Public domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of writer and activist Vandana Shiva (books by this author), born in Dehradun, India (1952). As a kid, she came home from boarding school and told her parents that she needed a nylon dress, because all the rich girls she went to school with had them. Her mother said: “If that is what you want, of course you shall have it. But remember, your nylon frock will help a rich man buy a bigger car. And the cotton that you wear will buy a poor family at least one meal.” She gave up on the idea of nylon.
Growing up, her hero was Albert Einstein, even though she went to school at a convent that didn’t even teach science or math. She taught herself, and ended up at a Canadian university, where she got a Ph.D. in theoretical physics — her dissertation topic was “Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory.” She was all set to stay in Canada and become an academic. But she said: “There is a question in my mind. We have the third-biggest scientific community in the world. We are among the poorest of countries. Science and technology is supposed to create growth, remove poverty. Where is the gap? Why is science and technology not removing poverty?” So she decided to take three years off, go back to India and learn more about the society and culture that produced her, and then come back to teach.
As she started learning about some of the technology in India, she saw how much it was connected to power structures and resources. She moved more and more into environmental work. She was horrified by the news of Indian farmers committing suicide after their crops failed, and she started advocating for saving seeds, promoting diversity of crops and local food movements. She set up a big organic farm and training center in the foothills of the Himalayas, where she grew up.
She said, “You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.”
She is the author of many books including The Violence of the Green Revolution (1992), Monocultures of the Mind (1993), Water Wars (2002), Earth Democracy (2005), Soil Not Oil (2008), and Making Peace with the Earth (2013).
It’s Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Night, in the United Kingdom. It commemorates the failure of conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. At issue was the anger of Roman Catholics toward King James I, who refused to extend religious tolerance to the Catholics. The conspirators, led by Robert Catesby, planned to target Parliament at its opening ceremony, thereby killing the king and queen and clearing the way for a new era of Catholicism in England. Someone tipped off the authorities, and one of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was caught red-handed stashing explosives in the cellar on the night before the planned attack. Fawkes was tortured, tried, convicted, and executed for treason, along with any other conspirators who weren’t killed when they resisted arrest.
The first observation of Guy Fawkes Day took place that same year, when bonfires were lit to celebrate the safety of the king, and has been going on ever since. It features fireworks, to represent the explosives, and bonfires, at which Guy Fawkes is burned in effigy. The Yeomen of the Guard also perform a ceremonial search of the Parliament buildings. Children carry the effigies around town for several days prior to the bonfire, asking passersby for “a penny for the Guy.” They use their collection to buy fireworks.
Ironically, Guy Fawkes was really just a peripheral figure to the conspiracy. Born a Protestant in 1570, he had converted to Catholicism when he was 23. Catesby and the other leaders of the plot recruited Fawkes because he was a military man, and they thought his experience would serve them well. He was nowhere near the mastermind that tradition has made him out to be.
It’s the birthday of Uzodinma Iweala (1982) (books by this author), born in Washington, D.C., to Nigerian parents. He wrote Beasts of No Nation (2005) while he was going to school at Harvard. Published the year after he graduated with an English literature degree, the novel hit bookstores the week of his 23rd birthday. It was his first novel, and it garnered glowing reviews from The New York Times, The London Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker magazine, and many others. Iweala was selected as one of America’s 20 Best Young American Novelists by Granta magazine.
Beasts of No Nation is about a boy from West Africa whose father, a village schoolteacher, is killed by guerilla fighters who come to town. The boy, Agu, is forced to become a child soldier with those guerilla fighters. He narrates the brutalities of war, and his gradual embrace and enthusiasm for violence, his experiences coming of age in such conditions, his faltering belief in God, his deferred dream of becoming a doctor. The book is written in the first person, in an English cadenced in the idiom of Iweala’s parents’ native Nigerian languages. At the beginning, the child narrates: “I am not wanting to fight. I am not liking to hear people scream or to be looking at blood. I am not liking any of these thing.”
He has also decried the West’s fascination with aid to Africa. In a 2007 Washington Post article called “Stop Trying to ‘Save’ Africa,” he writes: “Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head — because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West’s fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West’s prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.”
In 2011, Iweala graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and he was also a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. His most recent book is Speak No Evil, a novel about a Nigerian-American teenage boy struggling to come out as gay.
Today is the birthday of the man who said: “While there is a lower class, I am in it. While there is a criminal class, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” That’s the speaker and labor organizer Eugene Debs (books by this author), born to poor Alsatian immigrants in Terre Haute, Indiana (1855). At the age of 14, Debs left high school to work as a paint scraper on the railroad. He soon joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, became an influential member of the union, and went on to become editor of their national magazine. He first went to prison for support of the Pullman Strike of 1894. He emerged six months later a committed socialist, a charismatic speaker, and in 1900, ran for president on the Socialist ticket. He also co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) alongside Bill Haywood and Mother Jones.
A tall lanky man with piercing blue eyes, Debs was an animated speaker, often bending far over the podium to look into the faces of the crowd. He disliked the label of leader, saying: “Too long have the workers […] waited for some Moses to lead them out of bondage. I would not lead you out if I could; for if you could be led out, you could be led back again. I would have you make up your minds that there is nothing you cannot do for yourselves.”
In 1908, Debs campaigned for president on “The Red Special” locomotive, traveling to the farthest corners of the country. He lost yet again, but this time he received more than a million votes. Nine years later, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a speech in which he said, “The rich start the wars, the poor fight them.” The Espionage Act had recently passed, making it a crime to publicly oppose the American involvement in World War I. Debs represented himself, called no witnesses, and his statement before the court is regarded as a masterpiece of American oratory.
He continued to speak out from an Atlanta penitentiary on labor issues, and ran yet another popular presidential campaign from behind bars. Now in his early 60s, he refused any special treatment in jail and won over his fellow inmates by constantly fighting on their behalf. When he was pardoned on Christmas Day in 1921, the warden opened every cell block and allowed more than 2,000 inmates to gather at the gates and bid farewell to Debs. As he turned the corner and began to walk the gauntlet of prisoners, Debs opened his arms to the men and began to weep as the crowd roared. Some 50,000 people greeted him upon his return to Terre Haute.
His book on the prison industry, Walls and Bars, was published after his death from heart failure in 1926.
Eugene Debs, who said, “When we are in partnership and have stopped clutching each other’s throats; when we’ve stopped enslaving each other, we will stand together, hands clasped, and be friends.”
On this day in 1930, a Swedish newspaper reporter telephoned Sinclair Lewis (books by this author) to tell him that he had won the Nobel Prize in literature. Lewis thought it was a practical joke and began to imitate the man’s accent. But it was not a joke: Lewis was, in fact, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature. He wasn’t sure he deserved it and told a friend at the time, “This is the end of me … I cannot live up to it.” He used his Nobel lecture to talk about all the other writers that might have been chosen: Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Eugene O’Neill, and Willa Cather; and he ended the lecture by mentioning the younger writers he considered the future of American literature, including Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, each of whom had just published their first few books. Lewis said, “Young Americans … are doing such passionate and authentic work that it makes me sick to see that I am a little too old to be one of them.”
It’s the birthday of writer Thomas Flanagan (books by this author), born in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1923. He did not become a novelist until after the age of 50. He’d been a professor of literature in New York and at Berkeley, and a scholar of Irish history. One day, waiting for his wife to pick him up, he had a flash of inspiration for a historical novel in which an Irish poet walked down a road. This became the first chapter of The Year of the French (1979), about Ireland’s failed attempt to revolt against the English in 1798. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Flanagan went on to write other well-received historical novels about Ireland, incorporating real-life figures like Charles Stewart Parnell and Wolfe Tone along with fictional characters.
He spent nearly every summer of his last 40 years in Ireland, and once said, “It is not the romantic, rather sentimental Ireland of many Irish-Americans that I love, but the actual Ireland, a complex, profound, historical society, woven of many strands, some bright and some dark.”