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
Why You Travel by Gail Mazur from Zeppo’s First Wife: New and Selected Poems. © The University of Chicago Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
You don’t want the children to know how afraid
you are. You want to be sure their hold on life
is steady, sturdy. Were mothers and fathers
always this anxious, holding the ringing
receiver close to the ear: Why don’t they answer
where could they be? There’s a conspiracy
to protect the young, so they’ll be fearless,
it’s why you travel—it’s a way of trying
to let go, of lying. You don’t sit
in a stiff chair and worry, you keep moving.
Postcards from the Alamo, the Alhambra.
Photos of you in Barcelona, Gaudi’s park
swirling behind you. There you are in the Garden
of the Master of the Fishing Nets, one red
tree against a white wall, koi swarming
over each other in the thick demoralized pond.
You, fainting at the Buddhist caves.
Climbing with thousands on the Great Wall,
wearing a straw cap, a backpack, a year
before the students at Tiananmen Square.
Having the time of your life, blistered and smiling.
The acid of your fear could eat the world.
It’s the birthday of Roald Dahl, (books by this author) born in Llandaff, South Wales (1916). One of the few things he enjoyed about his childhood was that the Cadbury chocolate company had chosen his school as a focus group for new candies they were developing. Every so often, a plain gray cardboard box was issued to each child, filled with 11 chocolate bars. It was the children’s task to rate the candy, and Dahl took his job very seriously. About one of the sample candy bars, he wrote, “Too subtle for the common palate.” He later said that the experience got him imagining what a candy factory might be like, and from it wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964).
It’s the birthday of the pianist and composer Clara Schumann, born Clara Wieck in Leipzig, Germany, in 1819. Both of her parents were musicians, and after her parents divorced when she was four, Clara was raised by her father, who taught her to play the piano. When she was eight years old, she performed at the home of some family friends, and 17-year-old Robert Schumann was so impressed by her playing that he dropped out of law school to study piano with Clara’s father.
Clara made her formal debut at age 11, and she was considered a great pianist for the rest of her life. Her concerts sold out, she won all sorts of awards, and the critics loved her, comparing her to Beethoven. By the time she was a teenager, she was a much better piano player than Schumann, but he fell in love with Clara and proposed to her, and her father did everything he could to stop the marriage. Clara and Robert finally had to take him to court, and they were married on the eve of Clara’s 21st birthday.
Clara raised seven children and continued to tour, compose, and perform, and it was largely because of her popularity and because people respected her so much that they gave Robert Schumann’s work a chance, although many people still didn’t like it. When her husband died in 1856, Clara continued touring, and played her last concert in 1891, 61 years after her performance career had begun. She died five years later, at the age of 77.
She said, “My imagination can picture no fairer happiness than to continue living for art.”
Today is the birthday of author Sherwood Anderson (1876) (books by this author), born in Camden, Ohio. He became a writer in 1912, after suffering a nervous breakdown and wandering around Cleveland for four days. His prose style was direct and unpretentious, and he was one of the first authors to incorporate the modern psychological theories of Freud into his work. He was a major influence on the generation of American writers that followed him, including Hemingway and Faulkner, although they both eventually turned against him. Anderson encouraged Faulkner in his writing aspirations, and he who wrote young Hemingway a letter of introduction to take with him to Paris, helping put him in touch with Stein and other American ex-pats. For her part, Stein called Anderson “a much more original writer than Hemingway.” Anderson is best known for his short-story cycle Winesburg, Ohio (1919), a portrait of life in a small Midwestern town. He also wrote a best-selling novel, Dark Laughter (1925).
It’s the birthday of British novelist, playwright, and essayist John Boynton — known as J.B. — Priestley (1894) (books by this author), born in Bradford, Yorkshire. He served in the infantry during World War I, and most of his friends were killed in combat. He didn’t write about the war, and remained nostalgic for the pre-war years, saying, “I belong at heart to the pre-1914 North Country.” After studying English literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, he became a journalist, and then a novelist, and then a dramatist. He was also a popular and talented radio speaker, and produced a series of patriotic broadcasts during World War II. He wrote more than 120 books, most notably the novels The Good Companions (1929), Bright Day (1946), and Lost Empires (1965).
In a 1978 interview with the International Herald Tribune, he said, “Most writers enjoy two periods of happiness — when a glorious idea comes to mind and, secondly, when a last page has been written and you haven’t had time to know how much better it ought to be,” and, “Much of writing might be described as mental pregnancy with successive difficult deliveries.”
It’s the birthday of Samuel Wilson, the original “Uncle Sam,” born in Arlington, Massachusetts (1766). During the War of 1812, Wilson was a successful meatpacker in Troy, New York. He had obtained a contract to supply beef to the Army, and he shipped it in barrels stamped with the initials “U.S.” to show it was the property of the United States government. However, his workers — and, later, the soldiers — joked that it stood for “Uncle Sam,” Wilson’s nickname. Over time, the association grew and soon the nickname became widely linked to the United States. The association was made official by an act of Congress in 1961.
The first personification of “Uncle Sam” was developed by political cartoonist Thomas Nast, beginning in the late 1860s. Nast is also responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus, as well as the donkey and elephant of our political parties. He gradually developed the character of Uncle Sam over the next decade, eventually putting him in a suit decorated with the stars and stripes and giving him a white beard. But for most people, it’s the World War I recruitment poster — designed by James Montgomery Flagg — that first comes to mind when they hear “Uncle Sam.” It’s the image of Sam, pointing directly at the viewer, above the words “I Want You For The U.S. Army.” It first appeared in 1916.
On this date in 1848, railroad worker Phineas Gage survived having an iron rod driven through his skull. He was a 25-year-old foreman on a crew cutting a railroad bed near Cavendish, Vermont. He was using a tamping iron to pack explosives into a hole in a boulder when the explosive powder detonated. It drove the 43-inch iron through his left cheek, up behind his left eye, and out the top of his head, where it landed some 30 yards away. He lost the vision in his left eye, but he may not even have lost consciousness; in any case, he was able to walk to an oxcart within a few minutes of the accident. Workers took him to his boarding house, where he quipped to the doctor, John Harlow, “Here is business enough for you.”
By the following January, Gage had apparently completely recovered, although the large exit wound never fully healed. And while he was living a seemingly normal life, his friends noticed dramatic changes in his personality in the months after the incident. Dr. Harlow faithfully recorded them and published them 20 years later in the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Medical Society: “He is fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity … In this regard, his mind was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was ‘no longer Gage.'” He lost his job with the railway company and took work in stables, driving coaches, until he died 12 years later after a series of seizures.
Gage inspired new areas of brain research and became one of the most famous patients in neuroscience. Even though there wasn’t much hard data recorded about his case, scientists began researching a connection between brain injury and personality change. They also became interested in “mapping” the brain, noticing a link in Gage’s case between the frontal cortex and social inhibitions, and began to discuss whether different areas of the brain may control different functions. Two-thirds of psychology textbooks mention him. His skull and the tamping iron are on display at the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard’s School of Medicine.