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+
by Barbara Crooker
Peepers, tiny tree frogs, punctuate the night,
their small song a promise of spring’s return.
Overhead, the stars tap out their ancient stories,
and a comet appears, out of the darkest
reaches of space, from somewhere past Pluto.
The last time it came by, the Great Pyramids
were being built at Giza, Rome and Athens
were still centuries away, hunter-gatherers
roamed the Illinois Valley, and the Inuit
followed the rhythms of musk ox and caribou.
Now, in the new millennium,
we are bombarded daily with more information
than we can process, the endless
noise of television, more bad news
than the human heart can stand.
Standing here alone, under the blackboard
of night, away from any ambient light,
everything I know falls away,
and I’m back around the campfire, looking up at sparks
flying in the dark, seeing the comet every night
for weeks, its glowing heat, the luminous tail
thirty million miles long streaming and pulsing
like smoke from a single candle, a diaphanous scarf,
the breath of God. I am standing alone in this black night,
feet on the ground, mouth open, breathing in stars.
Barbara Crooker, “Rapture” from Selected Poems. Published by FutureCycle Press. © Barbara Crooker 2015. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of children’s writer Gertrude Chandler Warner (books by this author), born in Putnam, Connecticut (1890). She never finished high school, but during World War I local school boards enlisted teachers to serve their country, and the Putnam board saw that Warner taught Sunday school and decided she could probably teach first grade. She agreed to try, and she taught 80 kids a day, half in the morning and half in the afternoon. She was good at it, and she ended up teaching in the same room for 32 years.
One day, when she was home sick, she thought up a story about kids who lived in an abandoned train car, and she brought it into her class to read to her students. She rewrote it until it was in extremely simple language that all her students could understand. In 1924, she published The Boxcar Children, the story of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, orphans who take care of themselves living off the land until they are reunited with their grandfather. Despite protests from adults — who thought the book was a bad influence because it encouraged children to think they would get along fine without adult supervision — The Boxcar Children was extremely popular, and Warner wrote 18 sequels. After her death in 1979, ghostwriters continued the series, and there are now more than 100 Boxcar Children books.
It’s the birthday of the comic novelist Kingsley Amis (books by this author), born in London (1922). He was a student at Oxford when he met Philip Larkin who would become his closest friend for the rest of his life. At first it was Philip Larkin who wanted to be a novelist and Amis wanted to be a poet. But after Amis moved to Wales and got a job as a professor, he began sending comic descriptions of his campus life to Larkin, and Larkin helped him turn those sketches into his first novel, Lucky Jim (1954). It was one of the first modern “campus novels” and is generally considered one of the funniest novels in British literature.
It’s the birthday of the filmmaker and actor Charlie Chaplin, born in London (1889). He started out as a vaudeville actor in a comedy troupe. When Chaplin arrived in Hollywood, he was shocked to see how little rehearsal went into each movie. Hollywood directors at the time filmed each scene in a single take, refusing to waste money on extra film. Chaplin tried to get used to the Hollywood style and he took all the jobs he could get, saving almost all the money he made. But he was disgusted at the quality of the movies. The camera often wasn’t pointed in the right direction to capture his movements, and many of his favorite moments ended up on the cutting room floor. At the end of five months he asked the producer if he could direct his own movie, and he put up $1,500 of his own savings as a guarantee against losses.
That year, 1914, Chaplin directed, wrote, and starred in 16 films in six months. It was that year that he debuted his most famous character: the “little tramp,” who’s always beaten down by life, always the butt of the jokes, but who never gives up his optimism. The character made Chaplin a star, recognized around the world.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®