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+
George, Who Played with a Dangerous Toy and Suffered a Catastrophe of Considerable Dimensions
by Hilaire Belloc
When George’s Grandmamma was told
That George had been as good as gold,
She promised in the afternoon
To buy him an Immense BALLOON.
And so she did; but when it came,
It got into the candle flame,
And being of a dangerous sort
Exploded with a loud report!
The lights went out! The windows broke!
The room was filled with reeking smoke.
And in the darkness shrieks and yells
Were mingled with electric bells,
And falling masonry and groans,
And crunching, as of broken bones,
And dreadful shrieks, when, worst of all,
The house itself began to fall!
It tottered, shuddering to and fro,
Then crashed into the street below—
Which happened to be Savile Row.
When Help arrived, among the Dead
Were Cousin Mary, Little Fred,
The Footmen (both of them), the Groom,
The man that cleaned the Billiard-Room,
The Chaplain, and the Still-Room Maid.
And I am dreadfully afraid
That Monsieur Champignon, the Chef,
Will now be permanently deaf—
And both his aides are much the same;
While George, who was in part to blame,
Received, you will regret to hear,
A nasty lump behind the ear.
The moral is that little boys
Should not be given dangerous toys.
“George, Who Played with a Dangerous Toy” by Hilaire Belloc. Public Domain. (buy now)
It was on this day in 1789 that the United States Department of Foreign Affairs was created. A couple of months later, President Washington decided that he needed someone to help with “home affairs,” but didn’t think there was enough work to create a new position. So he combined them into one, and the Department of Foreign Affairs was renamed the Department of State in September of 1789. Foreign affairs remained the focus of the State Department, and it is still the focus today.
American diplomacy had begun long before the official position of secretary of state. The key players in the Revolution knew that in order to succeed, they needed the help of Britain’s enemies: France and Spain. In 1775, the Continental Congress established the “Committee of Secret Correspondence,” led by Benjamin Franklin, to negotiate with potential European allies and sympathetic British supporters.
After American independence and the adoption of the Constitution, President Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson as the first secretary of state. Jefferson disliked the formality and elaborate social codes of European courts, which symbolized everything that America had rejected when it broke from England. Jefferson encouraged his diplomats to follow the example set by Benjamin Franklin: wearing simple clothing and using simple manners.
Unfortunately, the Department of State was underfunded, and diplomats earned such small salaries that only wealthy people could afford the job. In 1790, the entire budget for the Department was $56,000; that included the salaries of Jefferson, all the diplomats, administrative staff, firewood, and stationery.
Jefferson wrote: “Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.”
It’s the birthday of Joseph Mitchell (books by this author), born in Fairmont, North Carolina (1908). He was a writer for The New Yorker magazine for many years. His stories focused on people living on the fringe in New York City. They featured Roma, alcoholics, the homeless, fishmongers, and a band of Mohawk American Indians who worked as riveters on skyscrapers and bridges and had no fear of heights. Much of his journalism is included in the book Up in the Old Hotel (1992). While at The New Yorker, Joseph Mitchell interviewed criminals, evangelists, politicians, and celebrities. He said that he was a good interviewer because he had lost the ability to detect insanity. He listened to everyone, even those who were crazy, as if they were sane. He said, “The best talk is artless, the talk of people trying to reassure or comfort themselves.”
Mitchell published his last book in 1965, Joe Gould’s Secret, about a man who said that he learned the language of seagulls and was now writing the longest book in the world. For the next 30 years, Mitchell kept going to his New Yorker office without publishing another word.
It’s the birthday of Elizabeth Hardwick (books by this author), born in Lexington, Kentucky (1916). Her books of fiction and essay collections include Sleepless Nights (1979), Bartleby in Manhattan and Other Essays (1983), and Sight Readings: American Fiction (1998). In the early 1960s, she and some of her literary friends decided over dinner to found a book-reviewing journal called The New York Review of Books. She said it was dedicated to “the unusual, the difficult, the lengthy, the intransigent, and, above all, the interesting.”
It’s the birthday of novelist Bharati Mukherjee (books by this author), born in Calcutta, India (1940). She said: “As a bookish child in Calcutta, I used to thrill to the adventures of bad girls whose pursuit of happiness swept them outside the bounds of social decency. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Emma Bovary, and Anna Karenina lived large in my imagination.”
She went to college in Calcutta, and after graduation, she asked her father if she could go abroad and study to be a writer — afterward, she would come home for an arranged marriage with a nuclear physicist of her same caste and class. Her father agreed, thinking it would be a harmless way for her to pass a couple of years. Her family was hosting a group of UCLA professors and students for dinner, so her father asked them where he should send his daughter in America to learn to be a writer. They suggested the University of Iowa, so off she went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
She started dating someone in her program, a Canadian named Clark Blaise, and after just two weeks, they went downtown during their lunch break and got married in a lawyer’s office above a local coffee shop. She said: “Until my lunch-break wedding, I had seen myself as an Indian foreign student who intended to return to India to live. The five-minute ceremony in the lawyer’s office suddenly changed me into a transient with conflicting loyalties to two very different cultures.”
Mukherjee’s novels include The Tiger’s Daughter (1971), Jasmine (1989), Desirable Daughters (2004), and Miss New India (2011). She died in 2017.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®