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 George Bilgere
I love the hoses of summer
hanging in their green coils
from the sides of houses,
or slithering through lawns
on their way to the cool
meditations of sprinklers.
I think of my father, armed
with his scotch and garden hose
probing the dusk
with water, the world
in flames around him,
booze running the show.
Still, he liked to walk out
after dinner and water the yard,
fiddling with the nozzle,
misting this, showering that.
Sometimes, in the hot twilight,
my sisters and I would run
in our swimsuits through the grass
while he followed us
with a cold beam of water.
And once, when my mother
came out to watch, he turned
the hose on her, the two of them
laughing in a way we’d never heard,
a laughter that must have brought them
back to the beginning.
“Hoses” by George Bilgere from Imperial. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It was on this day 65 years ago that the first part of the Lord of the Ringstrilogy came out, The Fellowship of the Ring. It was the sequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which came out in 1937 (books by this author). Tolkien had written The Hobbit for his own amusement and didn’t expect it to sell well. It’s the story of Bilbo Baggins — a small, human-like creature with hairy feet — who goes on an adventure through Middle Earth and comes back with a magical ring.
J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote: “I am in fact a hobbit in all but size. I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands. I smoke a pipe, like good, plain food, detest French cooking … I am fond of mushrooms, have a very simple sense of humor … go to bed late and get up late (when possible). I do not travel much.”
The Hobbit sold pretty well, partly because C.S. Lewis gave it a big review when it came out. And so Tolkien’s publisher asked for a sequel. Tolkien decided the new book would be about Bilbo’s nephew Frodo, but for a long time he had no idea what sort of adventure. Finally, he decided it would be about the magical ring, though the ring had not been such an important part of The Hobbit.
Tolkien spent the next 17 years working on The Lord of the Rings. He was a professor at Oxford. He had to write in his spare time, usually at night, sitting by the stove in the study in his house.
He was well into his first draft by the time World War II broke out in 1939. He hadn’t set out to write an allegory, but once the war began, he started to draw parallels between the war and the events in his novel: the land of evil in The Lord of the Rings, Mordor, was set east of Middle Earth, just as the enemies of England were to the east.
The book became more and more complicated as he went along. It was taking much longer to finish than he’d planned. He went through long stretches where he didn’t write anything. He thought about giving up the whole thing. He wanted to make sure all the details were right, the geography, the language, the mythology of Middle Earth. He made elaborate charts to keep track of the events of the story. His son Christopher also drew a detailed map of Middle Earth.
Finally, in the fall of 1949, he finished writing The Lord of the Rings. He typed the final copy himself sitting on a bed in his attic, typewriter on his lap, tapping it out with two fingers. It turned out to be more than a half million words long, and the publisher agreed to bring it out in three volumes. The first came out on this day in 1954.
The Seneca Falls Convention — the first convention for women’s rights — began on this date in 1848. On July 11, 1848, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had run an unsigned announcement in the Seneca County Courier that read: “A Convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women will be held in the Wesleyan Chapel, at Seneca Falls, N.Y. […] During the first day the meeting will be exclusively for women, who are earnestly invited to attend.” Just a few days before, Stanton took the Declaration of Independence as her model and drafted what she called a Declaration of Sentiments, calling for religious, economical, and political equality.
It’s the birthday of French Impressionist Edgar Degas, born in Paris (1834), best known for his paintings and pastels of ballet dancers and his bronze sculptures of ballerinas and racehorses.
After he became completely blind in one eye, and nearly so in the other, he began to work in sculpture, which he called “a blind man’s art.” Degas stayed a bachelor his entire life, saying, “There is love and there is work, and we only have one heart.”
On this date in 1799, French soldiers in Napoleon’s army discovered the Rosetta Stone at a port town on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. They were digging a foundation for a fort when they came upon a slab of rock about 4 feet high and 2 and half feet wide, 11 inches thick and weighing 1,700 pounds. What caught the soldiers’ attention was the writing on the stone, in three different scripts: ancient Greek, demotic, and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Scholars could read and understand the ancient Greek. The second script, demotic, was an Egyptian language that was spoken and written at the time that the Rosetta Stone was carved in 196 B.C., and contemporary scholars understood some bits and pieces of it. But Egyptian hieroglyphics had been a “dead” language for nearly 2,000 years. All around Egypt there abounded pyramids and temples with thousands of hieroglyphic characters carved into the walls, but no one could figure out what the inscriptions meant. When linguists realized that the three texts on the Rosetta Stone all said the same thing, they knew that they had a key to breaking the hieroglyphic “code” at last. A British scholar made good progress on figuring out the demotic text by 1814, and then the French scholar Jean-François Champollion worked out the hieroglyphics between 1822 and 1824.
The Rosetta Stone had been created in 196 B.C. on the orders of Ptolemy V, a Greek emperor who ruled Egypt during the Hellenistic period. It begins with a lofty address, where Ptolemy acknowledges by name some ancestors and gods. He goes on to praise his administration’s good deeds and himself at length, and then he announces tax breaks for the non-rebellious Egyptian temple priest class. He also gives instructions for the building of temples.
The Rosetta Stone has been exhibited at London’s British Museum since 1802 — with the exception of a two-year period near the end of World War I. The stone was moved to an underground railway station in Holborn to protect it from German bombs.