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 Lisa Bellamy
She died after a short illness; she died
after a long, difficult illness while
daydreaming and watching cartoons;
she died after a lingering, lovely
paralysis, a fading; she died tumbling
onto a crosswalk, where she had the
right of way; she died in her sleep;
she died in an MRI blissfully
insulated from further harassment;
she died singing Mercy, she died with
nary a sound; she died forgiving no
one, she died forgiving everyone; she
died, a splendid nude, dancing in
moonlight; she died at daybreak,
observed by a cat; she died speaking
in tongues––some called it mumbling.
“Obit” by Lisa Bellamy from The Northway. © Terrapin Books, 2018. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of philosopher Thomas Hobbes, (books by this author) born in Westport, England (1588). He was born premature because his mother was so frightened about the approaching Spanish Armada, and Hobbes said, “She brought forth twins, myself and fear.” Hobbes was a timid boy, but a good student, and he went on to Oxford. He became a tutor for a rich family, and through them he met all sorts of great thinkers — Galileo, Francis Bacon, Descartes, and Ben Jonson. He became increasingly interested in philosophy, and he started publishing. His masterpiece was Leviathan (1651). Hobbes wrote it in the midst of the English Civil War, arguing for an authoritarian central government and introducing the social contract theory — the idea that those of us who are governed agree to participate in a system of laws and punishments, to let a governor give us rights in return for abiding by the governing rules. Without this governor who could keep peace, he described a state of constant war, in which there were “no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
His book was controversial, in large part because its author was skeptical of Christianity. In 1666, the House of Commons discussed reviving the writ De Heretico Comburendo, which allowed heretics to be burned at the stake. A bill was passed through the House of Commons to investigate “such books as tend to atheism, blasphemy, and profaneness, or against the essence and attributes of God, and in particular … the book of Mr. Hobbes called the Leviathan.” The bill failed to make it through the House of Lords. So Hobbes stayed alive, but he was forbidden to write any more philosophical or political works, and he was so shaken up that he burned a lot of his papers and started attending church. He wrote an autobiography in Latin verse and translated the Odyssey and the Iliad, and he died at the age of 91.
It’s the birthday of the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, (books by this author) born in London (1837). He was just over five feet tall. His cousin wrote about him during their school days: “He was strangely tiny. His limbs were small and delicate; and his sloping shoulders looked far too weak to carry his great head, the size of which was exaggerated by the tousled mass of red hair standing almost at right angles to it. Hero-worshippers talk of his hair as having been a ‘golden aureole.’ At that time there was nothing golden about it. Red, violent, aggressive red it was, unmistakable, unpoetical carrots.” Swinburne liked Eton, where he was known as “mad Swinburne,” and he hated Oxford. But it was there that he befriended the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who called him “my little Northumbrian friend.” As roommates, they kept a pet wombat and got drunk together frequently. Swinburne was famous for his outrageous personality — extremely melodramatic, he liked to slide naked down banisters, and he would literally skip around a room, shrieking his poetry at the top of his lungs. Oscar Wilde called him “a braggart in matters of vice.” But he was a popular and respected poet in his own right. His books include Atalanta in Calydon (1865), Poems and Ballads I (1866), and Tristram of Lyonesse (1882).
Today is the birthday of the father of antiseptic medicine: Joseph Lister, born in Upton, England (1827). He was a surgeon at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where about half of all patients in surgery died later of what was called “ward fever.” The prevailing theory of infection was that it was caused by miasma, or bad air. But Lister thought that infection might be caused by an invisible dust, like pollen, so he experimented with using carbolic acid to clean wounds. He also required his surgeons to wash their hands before and after surgery, which was a completely new medical practice. The mortality rate in Lister’s ward dropped to 15 percent, and a couple of years later, it was down to 5 percent.
Lister lived into the 20th Century, long enough to see the medical community accept his theory of the cause of infection.