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+
The Learning Curve
by Louis Jenkins
There are certain concepts that I only vaguely under-
stand but that people talk about all the time. You
frequently hear the term “learning curve,” for instance.
I suppose that refers to how one learns a new skill or
gains knowledge over a period of time, described as an
ascending arc from zero (knowing nothing) to ten, the
zenith (knowing all there is to know about a thing). Then
comes the gradual descent, the arc of forgetting, back
to zero. Then, feet firmly planted on the ground in the
batting box of ignorance, the learning curve ball comes
whistling past and slowly you come to understand that
once again you are out.
“The Learning Curve” by Louis Jenkins from Where Your House Is Now: New and Selected Poems. Nodin Press © 2019. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of Irish author Jonathan Swift (1667) (books by this author), born in Dublin. Swift’s masterpiece was Gulliver’s Travels (1726), the story of a man journeying through a series of exotic places and meeting all kinds of strange creatures, including a disgusting race of beings called Yahoos, which he eventually realizes are humans. The novel was full of vicious inside jokes about the politicians of the day, and Swift was so nervous about publishing it that he dropped the manuscript off at the publisher’s house in the middle of the night.
Swift was also a wicked satirist; his most famous — or infamous — example is “A Modest Proposal.” Its full title is “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.” Published in 1729, the essay proposes a solution to the problem of Irish poverty: Encourage the Irish poor to sell their children to the English nobility for culinary purposes. The essay begins: “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.”
It’s the birthday of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain (1835) (books by this author), born in Florida, Missouri. He worked as a riverboat pilot, a miner, and a journalist before becoming an author.
In his unfinished novel, The Mysterious Stranger, he wrote, “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination. No sane man can be happy, for to him life is real, and he sees what a fearful thing it is. Only the mad can be happy, and not many of those.”
One of the most quotable of authors, Mark Twain said:
“It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.”
And “Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain’t so.”
And “Familiarity breeds contempt — and children.”
And “The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.”
Today is the birthday of Winston Churchill (1874) (books by this author), born at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England. He had an unhappy childhood, and was a poor student, so his father settled on a military career for the boy. He served in Cuba and, later, India. He read extensively during this time, to make up for his spotty education, and in 1899 he resigned his military post to become a politician and a writer. He lost his first Parliamentary election by a narrow margin, and went to South Africa to report on the Boer War for The Morning Post. He was taken prisoner there after rescuing an armored train, then escaped from the military prison. He returned home a hero.
He had a speech impediment, which affected his confidence in debates, and though he was a master of prepared speeches, he suffered in impromptu ones. One Conservative leader said he carried “heavy but not very mobile guns.” He became known for his ability to rally disheartened Britons during World War II. One of many examples: “The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
It’s the birthday of Canadian children’s writer L.M. Montgomery, (books by this author) born Lucy Maud Montgomery in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, in 1874. Her mother died when she was a toddler, and her father sent her to live with her mother’s parents. There were no other children around, just Lucy and her grandparents, and she spent a lot of time reading and writing poems. She left home for a few years to teach, but when her grandfather died, she came home to live with her grandmother, and she stayed with her for the next 13 years. And during that time, she wrote her first novel, about an orphan girl with bright red hair who gets sent to live with a couple from Prince Edward Island who were hoping for a boy instead. It got rejected over and over, so she put the manuscript away in a hatbox and turned to other things. But eventually, she got it back out, read it, decided it wasn’t that bad after all, and sent it out again. This time it got accepted, and in 1908, Anne of Green Gables was published and became a classic children’s book.
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