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+
I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ
by Walt Whitman
I heard you solemn-sweet pipes of the organ as last Sunday
morn I pass’d the church,
Winds of autumn, as I walk’d the woods at dusk I heard your
long-stretch’d sighs up above so mournful,
I heard the perfect Italian tenor singing at the opera, I heard
the soprano in the midst of the quartet singing;
Heart of my love! you too I heard murmuring low through
one of the wrists around my head,
Heard the pulse of you when all was still ringing little bells
last night under my ear.
“I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ” by Walt Whitman. Public domain. (buy now)
It was on this day in 1882, German doctor and early microbiologist Robert Koch announced that he had found the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis.
Historically, tuberculosis has been one of the world’s most dangerous diseases. At the time of Koch’s discovery, one in seven people died of it. For many years, tuberculosis was believed to be an inherited condition. Koch, however, strongly believed that it was a contagious illness spread by a pathogen. Koch’s previous work had already identified the bacteria responsible for cholera and anthrax poisoning, respectively. This work had also led him to create four “postulates” of criteria for linking a specific bacterium to an infectious disease.
Koch worked on guinea pigs to fulfill his four postulates and eventually isolated the cause of tuberculosis as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. He delivered his results to a crowd of scientists in a lecture hall. He brought his entire laboratory to the room to replicate his method on the spot, and the room was left stunned by his work. At the end, there were no questions; instead, the scientists lined up to see the bacteria for themselves through the microscope. Paul Erlich, a future Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, called the lecture “the most important experience of my scientific life.”
Koch himself was awarded the Nobel Prize, in “Physiology or Medicine,” in 1905 for his work with tuberculosis. Today, thanks to antibiotic treatment, the disease’s death rate hovers at a much smaller 2.8% percent.
It’s the birthday of American poet and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti (books by this author), born in Bronxville, New York (1919). His mother was French and his father worked as an auctioneer in Little Italy. He died when Ferlinghetti was six months old and his mother was committed to an asylum shortly after. Ferlinghetti’s aunt whisked him to France, where he grew up with French as his first language.
He served as a Navy Lieutenant Commander during World War II. After the bombing of Nagasaki, he toured the city. The devastation turned him into a pacifist for life and he even wrote a poem titled “Tentative Description of a Dinner Given to Promote the Impeachment of President Eisenhower,” a rebuke about the dangers of nuclear war.
Ferlinghetti is best known for his association during the 1950s with a wild group of artists and poets known as the Beats. They included poet Allen Ginsberg and novelist Jack Kerouac, who wrote On the Road, the classic coming-of-age, cross-country road novel. It was Ferlinghetti who first published Ginsberg’s incendiary book Howl and Other Poems (1956), after hearing the poet read the title poem at the Six Gallery in North Beach, California. Ferlinghetti owned the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, and the day after hearing Ginsberg read, he sent him a telegram. It said, “I GREET YOU AT THE BEGINNING OF A GREAT CAREER. STOP. WHEN DO I GET MANUSCRIPT OF HOWL?” The book was published by Ferlinghetti’s Pocket Poets series.
It was in San Francisco in the early 1950s that he decided to open a bookstore of his own, the City Lights Bookstore. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s books include Pictures of the Gone World (1955), A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1998), Time of Useful Consciousness (2012), and A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), which has sold more than a million copies around the world.
It was on this day in 1955 that Tennessee Williams‘ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof premiered in New York City at the Morosco Theatre (books by this author). It was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Barbara Bel Geddes, Ben Gazzara, and Burl Ives. Tennessee Williams won a second Pulitzer Prize for the play, and a Tony Award, and the show ran for 694 performances. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was Williams’ favorite play, but he despised the film version of it that starred Elizabeth Taylor.
Directors hated it when Williams came to opening night performances; he had a funny, high-pitched laugh, he laughed at lines nobody else found funny, and people in the audience were always turning around trying to see where the noise was coming from, which bothered the actors.
It’s the birthday of a great writer of hymns, Fanny Crosby (books by this author), born in Southeast, New York (1820). When she was an infant, she got sick and the family accidentally hired a quack doctor who prescribed mustard plasters on her eyes, and she went blind.
Throughout her career, she wrote thousands of hymns. No one knows exactly how many she wrote — the hymnals were hesitant to print too many hymns by one person, so Crosby used about 100 different pseudonyms — but probably between 3,000 and 8,000. Her best-known hymn is “Blessed Assurance,” which begins:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®