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 Faith Shearin
In one museum scene they are bent over fire
and in another they hold their first stone tools
while the ice age approaches. They have been
painting mastodons and mammoths
in their caves, art already in their animal grasp,
and they have been leaving footprints
in volcanic ash, shedding their skeletons
in deserts. They have begun the journey
from trees to suburbs, have been dressing
themselves in early hats and considering
an alphabet. The young neanderthal looks like
a boy who bit you on the playground
and the woman beside him might be the woman
we avoid at the grocery store. This is evolution:
hair loss, math, a desire for furniture. Already
they worry about predators and weather; already
they have designs for a more comfortable bed.
“Early Hominids” by Faith Shearin from Telling the Bees. Stephen F. Austin State University Press © 2015. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. It celebrates the day when the three Magi visited Jesus and gave him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
James Joyce’s famous short story “The Dead” is set at a party for the Feast of the Epiphany. The story ends: “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” Joyce also gave us a secular meaning of “epiphany,” using the word to mean the “revelation of the whatness of a thing,” the moment when “the soul of the commonest object […] seems to us radiant.”
It’s the birthday of Joan of Arc (books on this historical figure), who was born on this date in 1412. Her parents were peasants in the French town of Domrémy. She began seeing visions when she was 13, and believed that Saints Michael, Catherine, and Margaret were urging her to defend France against the English. France’s Prince Charles provided the troops, and Joan cut off her hair, posing as a boy. She led the troops to victory, and she was at the prince’s side when he was later crowned King Charles IV.
When she was 18, she went into battle again, but this time she was captured by allies to the English. She was put on trial for heresy, and she was denied legal counsel. Her prosecutors tried to trick her by asking her if she knew she was in God’s grace. Because church doctrine said that no one could know that for certain, she couldn’t answer yes without being guilty of heresy. She also couldn’t answer no, because that would be taken as an admission of guilt. Joan avoided the trap by saying, “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.”
But she was found guilty, in part because of forged court documents and a confession that the illiterate Joan signed without reading. She was burned in the market square in Rouen in 1431, when she was 19.
Today is the birthday of Carl Sandburg (books by this author), born in Galesburg, Illinois (1878). Many people know him because of his poetry, or perhaps because of his six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. But years before he first published his poems, he traveled all over the United States, collecting folk songs — more than 300 in all — which he eventually published in The American Songbag (1927).
Sandburg wrote three collections of stories for children: Rootabaga Stories (1922), Rootabaga Pigeons (1923), and Potato Face (1930). Sandburg believed there was a need for truly American fairy tales, since castles and knights didn’t have any relevance to American kids. So he wrote fables about the American Midwest, stories about corn fairies, and skyscrapers, and farms.
Education pioneer Maria Montessori opened her first school on this date in 1907. It was called Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, and it was located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Rome. Montessori had some revolutionary ideas about education. She didn’t believe in traditional classrooms where “children, like butterflies mounted on pins, are fastened each to his place.” She believed that the teacher should pay attention to the students and not the other way around. And she also believed that children were naturally interested in practical activities and liked to master tasks that they saw adults doing every day. So she made the furnishings child sized, and gave them “work”: sweeping, helping prepare meals, washing up, and gardening. She gave them lots of hands-on activities and plenty of unstructured time for self-guided learning, and her experiment was a success.
It was on this day in 1942 that the first around-the-world commercial flight landed at La Guardia’s seaplane base. The Boeing 314 plane was named the Pacific Clipper, although it had originally been called the California Clipper.
Pan American Airways — commonly known as Pan Am — had started its trans-Pacific flight service in 1936. Passengers traveled on huge, luxurious airplanes, and these commercial flights became a favorite mode of transportation for wealthy Americans bound for Hawaii and other destinations in the South Seas. The Boeing 314s could carry 74 passengers (the industry standard was 14), and a large load of mail — Pan Am made half its money from carrying mail. The airplanes contained several separate passenger compartments with couches, thick walls so sound did not travel, a lounge, and even a bridal suite. For meals, passengers sat at tables covered in fine linens, and fancy food was served on china plates. Most flights traveled only during the day and touched down at luxurious hotels for the night, but if an overnight flight was necessary, the couches converted into beds. The Clippers were the pinnacle of luxury; Franklin Roosevelt celebrated his 61st birthday on one. The writer Clare Boothe Luce said: “Someday a Clipper Flight will be remembered as the most romantic voyage in history.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®