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+
How the Trees on Summer Nights Turn into a Dark River
by Barbara Crooker
how you can never reach it, no matter how hard you try,
walking as fast as you can, but getting nowhere,
arms and legs pumping, sweat drizzling in rivulets;
each year, a little slower, more creaks and aches, less breath.
Ah, but these soft nights, air like a warm bath, the dusky wings
of bats careening crazily overhead, and you’d think the road
goes on forever. Apollinaire wrote, “What isn’t given to love
is so much wasted,” and I wonder what I haven’t given yet.
A thin comma moon rises orange, a skinny slice of melon,
so delicious I could drown in its sweetness. Or eat the whole
thing, down to the rind. Always, this hunger for more.
“How the Trees on Summer Nights Turn into a Dark River,” by Barbara Crooker from More. © C & R Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
On this date in 1937, Hormel Foods first introduced SPAM to America. It’s pre-cooked pork and ham in a can, with a little potato starch, salt, and sugar. Sodium nitrate is added to keep it pink; without it, pork tends to turn gray. It also has a gelatinous coating of aspic, which forms when the meat cools.
It was originally called “Hormel Spiced Ham,” but that proved less than compelling to consumers, so the company held a contest to rename the affordable meat product. The winner, Kenneth Daigneau, received a hundred bucks. There’s no consensus on what the name actually stands for; a common theory is that it’s a portmanteau of “spiced meat and ham.” In Britain, where it was a popular wartime food, they called it “Specially Processed American Meat” or “Supply Pressed American Meat.” A host of tongue-in-cheek acronyms have also arisen, like “Something Posing As Meat,” “Special Product of Austin, Minnesota,” and “Spare Parts Animal Meat.” Whatever it stands for, Hormel specifies that it should be written in all caps.
And then of course there’s the famous Monty Python sketch where the restaurant patron is informed that the menu consists of “SPAM, egg, SPAM, SPAM, bacon, and SPAM …” and so on, complete with Vikings chanting “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM” in the background. It’s relentless, even after the woman protests that she doesn’t like SPAM, and that’s how the unsolicited and unwanted bulk e-mail advertising that clogs all our inboxes got its name.
On this date in 1946, the bikini was introduced in Paris. That summer, designer Jacques Heim came up with a revealing two-piece outfit, which he called the Atom: “the world’s smallest bathing suit.” But credit goes to his competitor, French mechanical engineer-turned-swimsuit designer Louis Réard, who unveiled his design on July 5. He predicted that the skimpy swimwear would cause a cultural explosion to rival the recent nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, and that’s where he got the name that stuck. Réard couldn’t find a model who was willing to wear such a revealing outfit, so he had to hire an exotic dancer from the Casino de Paris. He got 50,000 fan letters, and famously stated in his ads that a swimsuit wasn’t really a bikini unless you could pass it through a wedding ring.
The brief two-piece swimsuit dates back much further than this name, however. Roman mosaics and paintings depict women swimming in outfits that resemble the modern bikini, and historians have found evidence that a form of our modern bikini may have been popular in ancient Minoan civilizations about 3,600 years ago.
In 1954, Elvis Presley recorded his first single, “That’s All Right (Mama),” on this date. Elvis was in the studio at Sun Records, and Sam Phillips wasn’t too impressed with what he’d done so far: lackluster renditions of “Harbor Lights” and “I Love You Because.” He called for a break, and Elvis started jamming with the band, knocking out an up-tempo rendition of blues singer Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s 1946 single. Phillips stuck his head out of the control room to ask what they were doing. Guitarist Scotty Moore said, “We don’t know,” and Phillips ordered, “Well, back up, try to find a place to start, and do it again.” It was released on July 19, and was a regional hit. It didn’t get big nationally, but it kicked off Elvis’s career, and it helped popularize a new form of popular music: rock and roll.
Today is the birthday of Jean Cocteau (books by this author), born in Maisons-Laffitte, a resort town outside Paris, in 1889. His family was well off, and they appreciated culture; they encouraged Cocteau in all his artistic aspirations, which were numerous. He wrote poems, essays, novels, plays, screenplays, and libretti for opera and ballet. He was a painter, an illustrator, a filmmaker, an actor, and a producer. He considered himself, first and foremost, a poet.
He grew up in Paris and his earliest memories involved the theater — both the popular and serious varieties. He published his first book of poetry, Aladdin’s Lamp, at 19.
“Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work,” he advised writers and artists. “Note just what it is about your work that critics don’t like — then cultivate it. That’s the only part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.”
The Battle of Osan took place on this date in 1950. It was the first face-off of American and North Korean troops in the Korean War, which had begun on June 25, 1950, when the Soviet- and Chinese-backed North Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th parallel into the pro-Western Republic of South Korea. Three days later, they had captured Seoul. It was the first open military action of the Cold War, and it triggered a police action by the United Nations. In turn, the United States saw it as a chance to defend democracy from the threat of Communism. President Truman, fresh from fighting the Axis Powers in World War II, was eager to prevent a similar situation in Asia.
So on this date, Task Force Smith was deployed to Osan, just south of Seoul. Their mission was to hold off the North Korean advance until further American reinforcements could arrive. They weren’t adequately armed; they didn’t have any anti-tank weaponry, and the North Korean tank column rolled right through them. Although they were able to buy a little time by firing at the infantry, the American forces lost the battle and the task force retreated.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®