High Point, NC
Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (Robin & Linda Williams, Prudence Johnson with Dan Chouinard) comes to the High Point Theatre for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. Tickets $60-$40
Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (Robin & Linda Williams, Prudence Johnson with Dan Chouinard) comes to the Waynes Theatre for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. 7:00PM $55 reserved
Garrison Keillor and the Hopefuls (Robin and Linda Williams) comes to the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. Tickets $30 reserved/ $10 children
Carrollton, GA Luncheon
Garrison Keillor will join guests for a casual Luncheon in the Lobby of the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center, where he will talk about how it all began and where he thinks he is going. Tickets: $45
Garrison Keillor Tonight with opener Debi Smith comes to The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA for an Evening of poetry, Sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. Tickets $45.00.
Brendel Playing Schubert
by Lisel Mueller
We bring our hands together
in applause, that absurd noise,
when we want to be silent. We might as well
be banging pots and pans,
it is that jarring, a violation
of the music we’ve listened to
without moving, almost holding our breath.
The pianist in his blindingly
white summer jacket bows
and disappears and returns
and bows again. We keep up
the clatter, so cacophonous
that it should signal revenge
instead of the gratitude we feel
for the two hours we’ve spent
out of our bodies and away
from our guardian selves
in the nowhere where the enchanted live.
“Brendel Playing Schubert” by Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together. © Louisiana State University Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
On this day in 1776 the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by 56 delegates of the Second Continental Congress, although it is popularly believed to have been signed a month earlier on the fourth of July. Since then the wording of the Declaration, that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” has often been invoked to protect the rights of marginalized groups and individuals, and was an inspiration for Abraham Lincoln, who made the Declaration the foundation of his political philosophy and used it as a call to end slavery in America.
Although some signers of the Declaration of Independence, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, wrote in the years after the signing that it had taken place in July, by the 1790s political historians began to doubt this date. For one thing, a number of the signers had not actually been present in Philadelphia earlier in the summer of ’76, including eight delegates who hadn’t even been elected to the Continental Congress until after they’d supposedly signed the Declaration.
The issue was a matter of controversy until 1821 when the four volumes of the Secret journals of the acts and proceedings of Congress were finally made public. The journals contain no entry whatsoever for the fourth of July. However, on the 19th of that month, the Secret journals record the Congress’s decision that “The declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment,” meaning it would be drawn up as a formal legal document, “and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.” Fourteen days later, as the entry for August 2nd, 1776 reads, “The Declaration of Independence being engrossed, and compared at the table was signed by the members.”
Physicists began speculating in the late 19th century that there may exist particles and matter that are exact opposites of the matter that surrounds us, mirror-image anti-atoms and perhaps even whole anti-solar systems where matter and antimatter might meet and annihilate one another. But on this day in 1932 American physicist Carl Anderson discovered the first physical evidence that antimatter was more than just an idea.
Anderson was photographing and tracking the passage of cosmic rays through a cloud chamber, a cylindrical container filled with dense water vapor, lit from the outside and built with a viewing window for observers. When individual particles passed through the sides of the container and into the saturated air they would leave spiderweb tracks of condensation, like the vapor trails of miniscule airplanes, each type of particle forming a uniquely shaped trail. Anderson noticed a curious pattern — a trail like that of an electron, with an exactly identical, but opposite curve — an electron’s mirror image and evidence of an anti-electron. Anderson named the antimatter particle the positron and won a Nobel Prize for his discovery four years later.
Around 1940 biochemist and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov took up the newly discovered particle, using it as the basis for his fictional “positronic brain,” a structure made of platinum and iridium and his means for imparting humanlike consciousness to the robots in his story collection I, Robot.
The fictional uses of antimatter and the positronic brain have since spread throughout literature and popular entertainment, from the writing of Robert Heinlein to the classic British television series Doctor Who to propulsion systems and the sentient android, Data, in the American science fiction series Star Trek — even to Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, the prequel to his wildly popular DaVinci Code in which the Illuminati intend to destroy Vatican City using the explosive power of a canister of pure antimatter.
Today is the birthday of the American novelist, essayist, and activist James Baldwin (books by this author), author of Go Tell It on the Mountain. Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York, in 1924, the oldest of nine children in a family that was dominated by his strict, religious stepfather, a Pentecostal minister with whom James had a difficult relationship and who brought his son into the ministry when he was just 14. Those were the early days of the Harlem Renaissance, but still, as Baldwin recalled in a 1984 interview with the Paris Review, “Given the conditions in this country to be a black writer was impossible. … My father didn’t think it was possible — he thought I’d get killed, get murdered. He said I was contesting the white man’s definitions, which was quite right.” So the ministry it was, at least for three years, by which point Baldwin felt his faith had gone.
When his stepfather died in 1943 James left home, a period he writes about in the titular essay of “Notes of a Native Son.” He then immersed himself in the international, artistic atmosphere of Greenwich Village, making his living as a dishwasher, busboy, factory worker and waiter, working multiple jobs at once and writing in the moments around them.
An important moment for Baldwin came when he and his friend, the modernist painter Beauford Delaney, were standing on a street corner in the Village waiting for the light to change. Baldwin recounts in The Paris Review that Beauford “pointed down and said, ‘Look.’ I looked and all I saw was water. And he said, ‘Look again,’ which I did, and I saw oil on the water and the city reflected in that puddle.” In that moment Baldwin felt he’d been taught how to see, and how to trust what he saw, felt that from that moment on he could see the world differently than he had before.
When he was 24 and beginning to recognize his own homosexuality Baldwin expatriated himself to France with $40 and not knowing a single word of French. He hoped to find himself in a larger context, somewhere he could see himself as more than “merely a Negro; or, merely a Negro writer,” a move that would also allow him to escape American prejudices toward blacks and homosexuals. In Paris he found the distance he needed to write about his personal experiences and the struggles of black Americans from the point of view of not “merely a Negro,” or a victim, but as a man, thus resisting the easy categorization of his work as that of a “black writer.”
In the ’60s Baldwin returned to the United States to take part in the civil rights movement. He became friends with Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X and, because he didn’t see himself as a public speaker, used his ability to craft stories and essays to write about black identity and race in The Fire Next Time and “No Name in the Street.” One by one, Baldwin’s outspoken friends were killed and, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Baldwin was sick at heart. Unable to escape the pain of his loss he fled again to Europe, which remained his home until his death in 1987. Despite his grief and the anger of the times, despite the harsh tone of his book If Beale Street Could Talk, which some reviewers criticized for sounding bitter, Baldwin always remained an advocate for universal love and brotherhood.
James Baldwin’s influence on other American artists, whether of spirit or love or style, is undeniable. He and the poet Langston Hughes were responsible for getting the singer Nina Simone involved in the civil rights movement. Maya Angelou, remembering Baldwin in The New York Times after his death, said that he “set the stage” for her to write I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. He told Angelou she was “intelligent and very brave,” introduced her to his family as one of their own, saying she was his mother’s newest daughter, and was, in Angelou’s words, “my friend and brother.”
Toni Morrison, in her goodbye and thank you in The New York Times, wrote that James Baldwin gave her three gifts: “a language to dwell in, a gift so perfect” that it seemed her own; “the courage to live life in and from its belly as well as beyond its edges;” and his tenderness and vulnerability and a love that made one want to be worthy, generous, and strong.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®