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+
Field with Wheat Stacks
~Vincent Van Gogh
by Barbara Crooker
He fell in love with a simple field
of wheat, and I’ve felt this way, too;
melted, like a pool of mint chip
ice cream, foolishly in love,
even though we know
how it turns out in the end:
snicked by the scythe, burnt
in the furnace of the August
sun, threshed, separated, kernel
from chaff. But right now,
it’s spring, and the wheat aligns
in orderly rows: Yellow green.
Snap pea. Sage. Celadon.
His brush strokes pile on,
wave after wave, as the haystacks
liquefy, slide off the canvas,
roll on down to the sea.
“Field with Wheat Stacks” by Barbara Crooker from Les Fauves. © C&R Press, 2017. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It was on this day in 1944 that the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 became law — a law better known as the GI Bill. It was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt.
The GI Bill provided a series of benefits for returning veterans: education; unemployment pay; and low-interest loans for houses, farms, or businesses. Although it turned out be a very popular and long-lasting piece of legislation, it almost didn’t pass at all. The House and Senate fought about various parts of it. Some legislators didn’t want to extend unemployment benefits to veterans because they worried it would stop people from looking for work. Others didn’t think veterans would fit in at colleges, which had historically been attended mostly by privileged people.
There was pressure on the government to figure out some solution, to avoid a repeat of what had happened to veterans returning from World War I. The Bonus Act, passed in 1924, was supposed to give World War I veterans a bonus based on their length of duty, but most didn’t actually receive it. In 1932, a group of poor, angry, and hungry veterans marched on Washington to demand their money. The standoff lasted weeks, and the number of veterans rose to almost 20,000, many of them living in makeshift camps constructed from scraps and boxes. After the Senate voted against a bill to give the veterans their bonus immediately, the veterans ended up pushed out of the city by federal troops while their camp was burned. Needless to say, it didn’t reflect well on the government, which was anxious to do better this time around. Beyond that, they were very concerned about the potential for high levels of unemployment after World War II, and possibly another economic depression.
The GI Bill was a huge success, especially in the realm of education. At its peak in 1947, 49 percent of students admitted to college were veterans. Many institutions of all types and sizes — from Stanford to the University of Georgia to Rutgers — nearly doubled the size of their student body. Of the 16 million World War II veterans, almost 8 million took advantage of education and training programs.
Not everyone was thrilled with the new bill. Before World War II, a small percentage of Americans attended college — in 1937, 15 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds were enrolled — and most of them were from wealthy families. Speaking about the GI Bill, the president of the University of Chicago said, “Colleges and universities will find themselves converted into educational hobo jungles.” A dean at Harvard complained, “There is a kind of unhealthy determination to get ahead, a grim competitive spirit, an emphasis on individual careerism and success which is disturbing … the lights are burning very late and there is not much leisurely talk or fellowship or group spirit.” People were surprised when the veterans turned out to be successful students. In 1947, the education editor of The New York Times wrote: “Here is the most astonishing fact in the history of American higher education … the GI’s are hogging the honor rolls and the Dean’s lists; they are walking away with the highest marks in all of their courses.”
Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, went to New York University on the GI Bill, as did Frank McCourt. The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and novelist Norman Mailer studied at the Sorbonne in Paris.
When signing the bill, Roosevelt said, “The members of the armed forces have been compelled to make greater economic sacrifice and every other kind of sacrifice than the rest of us, and they are entitled to definite action to help take care of their special problems.”
It’s the birthday of producer and director Joseph Papp, born Yosi Papirofsky in Brooklyn, New York (1921), who grew up in poverty, helping his father support the family by shining shoes, plucking chickens, and selling peanuts from a pushcart. In 1954, he founded the New York Shakespeare Festival and began staging free performances of Shakespeare in a church on the Lower East Side. Papp later convinced the City of New York to fund a permanent theater for free performances in Central Park; The Delacorte Theater opened in 1962 with a production of The Merchant of Venice. He expanded his efforts to the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater in 1967, dedicated to producing contemporary and experimental dramas.
It’s the birthday of children’s book author Harriett Mulford Lothrop (books by this author), born in New Haven, Connecticut (1844). Written under the pen name Margaret Sidney, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew was published in 1880. It was an idealized story about a young widow with five perfect children, who, although they live in poverty, resolved all their problems with constant cheer. Readers kept writing to ask what happened to the Little Peppers as they got older, so Sidney wrote 10 sequels in which the girls all grow up to have happy children of their own, and the boys all become successful businessmen with cheerful, dutiful families.
It’s the birthday of German novelist Erich Maria Remarque (books by this author), whose first novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, was published in 1929 to international acclaim. He had been drafted into the army at 18. He suffered severe injuries while fighting on the Western Front, which inspired him to begin a novel about the horrors of trench warfare. Remarque said: “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession […] It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.”
All Quiet on the Western Front was translated into 22 languages, banned and burned by the Nazi regime, and made into a popular Hollywood film. Remarque went on to write nine more novels, including the best-sellers Arch of Triumph (1945) and The Night in Lisbon (1961).
It’s the birthday of Billy Wilder, born in Austria (1906). He came to the United States in the 1930s and got a job writing scripts for Fox Film Corporation. He worked his way up the ladder and ended up producing and directing many classics of Hollywood’s Golden Age, including Double Indemnity (1944), The Seven Year Itch (1955), Some Like It Hot (1959), and The Apartment (1960).
Billy Wilder said: “An actor entering through the door, you’ve got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you’ve got a situation.”
It’s the birthday of the woman Time magazine called “The Sheriff of Wall Street,” Massachusetts senator and Democratic primary hopeful Elizabeth Warren (books by this author), born in Oklahoma City (1949). Her mother worked in the catalog-order department at Sears, and her father was a janitor. When she was 12, he suffered a massive heart attack. The family lost their car and Warren had to wait tables at her aunt’s Mexican restaurant to make ends meet. She graduated high school at 16, winning a full debate scholarship to George Washington University, but left after two years to marry her high school sweetheart, a NASA engineer. They moved to Texas, where she finished her degree in speech pathology, becoming the first member of her family to graduate college. The day her second child turned two, she enrolled in law school at Rutgers, practicing law from her living room after passing the bar in 1976. She became interested in the economic pressures facing the American middle class, specifically focusing on bankruptcy laws and how they disproportionately targeted women, the elderly, and the working poor. Warren became the advisor for the National Bankruptcy Review Commission, testifying against congressional efforts to limit consumer’s ability to file for bankruptcy. Under her leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created.