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+
by Robyn Sarah
The guitarists were sitting around
in somebody’s basement room
discussing their fingernails.
They were comparing the length
of their fingernails, they were expounding
upon the strength of fingernails,
they were trading chilling tales
of broken fingernails.
The guitarists were filing the ragged
ends of their fingernails grown long
on one hand only, telltale sign,
badge of belonging to the cult,
and they could not afford tickets
to the Julian Bream concert
and they could not afford guitar lessons
but they had all the records,
they had the music, lovingly transcribed
off records, all by ear, hand-scratched
in India ink on music copy-sheets,
note by painstaking note. They had
the apocrypha, the word of mouth,
the heroes. Segovia was self-taught.
“Segovia” by Robyn Sarah from My Shoes Are Killing Me. © Biblioasis Press, 2015. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
The New York Daily News debuted the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” on this day in 1924. Cancelled in 2010 after a run of nearly 86 years, the comic inspired a radio show, a Broadway musical, three film adaptations, mass-marketed books, and merchandise that included everything from lunchboxes to curly wigs. Although only a fraction of this happened before the strip’s creator, Harold Gray, died in 1968, it was enough to make him a millionaire.
Gray’s wealth drew criticism during the Great Depression, when he used the strip to voice his populist political beliefs: namely, that the poor ought to pull themselves up by the bootstraps without government intervention or assistance. This is how his character Daddy Warbucks, the tuxedoed war profiteer, had succeeded, transforming his modest machine shop into a World War I munitions factory. Gray expressed his distaste for FDR and his New Deal in the strip’s storylines, prompting one left-leaning writer to label it “Hooverism in the funnies.” The public didn’t seem to care — in 1937, “Little Orphan Annie” was the most popular comic in the country.
Forty years later, when the playwright Thomas Meehan adapted the strip for the 1977 Broadway musical, Annie, he subverted Gray’s original politics. The updated Annie stumbles upon a “Hooverville” of homeless people who sing the ironic “We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover,” and she is later saved from greedy imposter parents and the evil orphanage supervisor by FDR himself. The play — and the 1982 film — ends with a rousing chorus of the song “A New Deal for Christmas,” celebrating the economic plan that the strip’s creator had so despised.
Politics aside, both Gray and Meehan had hard-knock lives, at least as teenagers. Meehan’s father died when he was 15, and Gray was orphaned just before finishing high school.
The British tabloid The Daily Mirror debuted the comic strip “Andy Capp” on this day in 1957. A pun on the word “handicap” in the dialect of northern England, where the comic is set and where its creator, Reginald “Reg” Smythe, was raised, Andy Capp is a roustabout who spends his time drinking, gambling, and fighting with his long-suffering wife, Flo.
It is the birthday of director and screenwriter John Huston, best known for films like The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The African Queen, all of which he adapted from novels. Born in 1906 in Nevada, Missouri, Huston went on to make an unusual number of movies from classic literature, including Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, and the last movie he finished before his death in 1987, The Dead, from the famous James Joyce story.
Huston was friends with Ernest Hemingway — they shared a fondness for big-game hunting, boxing, drinking, cigars, and women. But Huston’s films didn’t all reflect his personal tastes and sensibilities; in defense of his eclectic filmography, he once said, “I never try to duplicate myself. One must avoid personal clichés.”
He also said that FDR was “the only president in my time I thoroughly approved of.” Huston was the director of the 1982 movie Annie, mentioned in one of today’s segments.
On this day in 2009 the writer Budd Schulberg (books by this author) died at the age of 95. Known for naming names in the Red Scare of 1951, arresting the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, publishing a fictionalized account of his failed attempts to collaborate with a drunken F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for founding centers in LA and New York to support young black writers, Schulberg is best remembered for a single line of dialogue: “I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody,” from the screenplay for On the Waterfront.
A lifelong fan of boxing and frequent writer on the sport, Schulberg claimed to have fought with Hemingway over the subject at a party in Key West, nearly coming to fisticuffs until friends separated them.
“The writers are really almost the only ones, except for very honest politicians, who can make any dent on that system,” he said to The New York Times about the dangers of power and greed. “I tried to do that.”
Today in 1884, the cornerstone of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal was laid. One year prior, a fundraiser for the pedestal’s construction solicited art and literary works for auction; 34-year-old Emma Lazarus donated a poem for the occasion, which she titled “The New Colossus.”
Devoted to the plight of Jewish immigrants, Lazarus imagined that the statue would become a symbol of hope for all Ellis Island arrivals. She wrote her verse three years before the statue was completed, and only four years before her own death. The poem was essentially forgotten for 20 years, after which Lazarus’ friends lobbied to have it emblazoned on a bronze plaque and hung in the museum inside the pedestal.
“The New Colossus”
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It’s the 86th birthday of environmental writer Wendell Berry (books by this author), born in Port Royal, Kentucky (1934). Berry publishes poetry, essays, and novels, most of which reflect his concern for the natural world and the ways we interact with it. Berry continues to live and work on his farm in his hometown.
Berry said, “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”
He said, “You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.”
And he said, “Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®