Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer
by Jane Kenyon
We turned into the drive,
and gravel flew up from the tires
like sparks from a fire. So much
to be done––the unpacking, the mail
and papers…the grass needed mowing…
We climbed stiffly out of the car.
The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.
And then we noticed the pear tree,
the limbs so heavy with fruit
they nearly touched the ground.
We went out to the meadow; our steps
made black holes in the grass;
and we each took a pear,
and ate, and were grateful.
Jane Kenyon, “Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by The Estate of Jane Kenyon. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, born in Ashfield, Massachusetts (1881). He made 70 films from 1914 to 1956, and all but six of them made money. He loved to produce lavish spectacles with a cast of thousands, and his first splashy historical drama was Joan the Woman (1916), about Joan of Arc. Joan the Woman was one of the movies that lost money, so the studio didn’t green-light another spectacle for several years. But even when the plot line was fairly domestic, as in Don’t Change Your Husband (1919) and Why Change Your Wife? (1920), he often included elaborate flashback sequences of historical scenes.
He got a second chance at spectacle in 1923, when he made The Ten Commandments. It was one of the biggest moneymakers of the silent film era, but it went way over budget, and DeMille lost his job with Famous Players-Lasky, the studio with which he had had a contract. He remade The Ten Commandments in 1956, and while he was filming on location in Egypt, DeMille had a massive heart attack. He went back to work after a week, against his doctor’s orders. He managed to finish the film, but it was his last, and he died in 1959.
Echo 1, NASA’s first communications satellite, was launched on this date in 1960. Echo was inflatable: a giant Mylar balloon with a reflective aluminum coating. It was 10 stories tall and weighed only 132 pounds. It was visible to the naked eye, and brighter than most stars. It worked like a mirror, catching signals and reflecting them back down to Earth. Echo was designed by NASA’s Space Vehicle Group, and built by General Mills of Minneapolis.
It’s the birthday of classics scholar Edith Hamilton (books by this author), born in Dresden, Germany (1867). She worked as the headmistress of a prep school, and in her spare time, she read Greek philosophy and literature. It wasn’t until after her retirement that she began to publish books about Greek civilization, like The Greek Way (1930). Academics hated the fact that she didn’t use footnotes, but her books were incredibly popular. For many years, most American children first learned about Hercules and Medusa and Odysseus from her book Mythology (1942), which was an illustrated retelling of all the important Greek myths. In 1957, she was made an honorary citizen of Athens, and she visited Greece for the first time in her life, at the age of 90.
Isaac Merritt Singer patented his first commercial sewing machine on this date in 1851. Singer didn’t invent the sewing machine — many people had already come up with the idea, and some of them had even produced working prototypes. Elias Howe had gotten the first American patent for his machine in 1846. Singer had improved on the design and made it much more practical and efficient. His was the first to use an up-and-down needle movement that was powered by a foot treadle, but his machine used a lockstitch pattern that Howe had patented, and Howe sued him for infringement. Singer lost, and had to pay royalties to Howe. Because Singer had figured out how to mass-produce the sewing machine, he made Howe a rich man off of the royalty payments alone. A few years later, Singer began marketing a machine for home use. Realizing that it would probably be too costly for the average housewife, he also pioneered something that would dramatically change American consumer practices: buying on credit and making installment payments.
It’s the birthday of poet J.D. McClatchy (books by this author), born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (1945). He said: “I prefer formal techniques, and use sonnets and rhyme, any manner of scheme to give a shape and order — of feeling as well as argument — to a poem.”
His books include Scenes from Another Life (1981), Hazmat (2003), and Mercury Dressing (2009). He died last April.
It’s the birthday of mystery novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart (books by this author), born in Pittsburgh (1876). Shortly after she and her husband married, the stock market crashed in 1903, and they lost a lot of their assets. She began to write to bring in extra money. The first book she published, The Circular Staircase (1907), was a mystery novel, and it became a big hit, eventually selling more than a million copies.
From this book comes the start of her role as the “mother” of the “Had-I-But-Known” school of mystery writing — in which the protagonist is largely clueless about something that most people would have picked up on, usually related to criminal activity. And this cluelessness allows the story to proceed at length. From her writing, also we get the cliché “the butler did it.”
And it’s the birthday of Zerna Sharp (books by this author), born in Hillsburg, Indiana (1889). She was a writer and elementary school teacher who created the “Dick and Jane” series of books for beginning readers. The Dick and Jane books first entered classrooms in 1930 and were routinely used until the late 1960s, when educators began calling for materials to reflect the diversity in their classrooms.