Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
March 4 in Kent, OH Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 11 in Joliet, IL Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 10 in Ottumwa Iowa Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
by Jonathan Greene
Can fly every which way.
Taught helicopters to rise
straight up from the ground.
What does not work for us
works for them: being overly industrious,
overeating, surviving a sweet tooth,
a non-stop exuberance.
No down time to sing alleluias,
even after arriving at a distant home,
having crossed continents.
Never thinking to preen
to show off a ruby throat,
Consider yourself blessed
by their visits.
Jonathan Greene, “Hummingbirds” from Ebb & Flow. Published by Broadstone Books. ©2021 Jonathan Greene. Used with permission. (buy now)
The Puritan colonial leader and founder of Connecticut, Thomas Hooker, was born today in 1586.
Hooker emigrated from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony to serve as a preacher in the Puritan faith. Hooker believed strongly in the suffrage rights of all church attendees and Puritans especially. He left the Massachusetts colony to form his own colony in what is now Connecticut. Hooker initiated history’s first government-forming constitution in the form of the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut.” This would set the stage for the American Constitution many years later.
Though Hooker died in his 60s of illness, he had many influential descendants, such as 20th-century banking tycoon J.P. Morgan.
It’s the birthday of American astronomer A.E. Douglass, born in Windsor, Vermont (1867). Douglass became interested in a correlation between solar radiation cycles and the growth rate of trees. Through his studies he founded the field of dendrochronology — a method of dating wood by growth ring patterns.
Today is the birthday of American technology executive Susan Wojcicki, born in Santa Clara County, California (1968). She was a pregnant Stanford alum when she decided to rent out the garage of her house in Menlo Park, California, to two Stanford students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Back then, what we call “Google” today was known as “Backrub,” and it was Brin and Page’s senior project. They’d figured out a way to design a search engine that used links to determine the importance of individual pages on the internet.
No one really knew how the project was going to take off, but Brin and Page paid Wojcicki $1,700.00 a month to use her garage and the three of them stayed up late eating pizza, playing pingpong, and perfecting their product. Wojcicki became the first marketing manager at Google; she was known as “Google Employee #16.” And those little ads on personal blogs and websites? Wojcicki created those, too, and called the idea “AdSense,” and it took off allowing blog and site owners to make money by displaying Google ads.
Susan Wojcicki helped design the first “Google Doodles,” those quirky little alterations of the Google logo that change according to holidays, birthdays, and international events. Doodles have honored artist Andy Warhol and singers Freddie Mercury and Ella Fitzgerald, and, if you like to watch cat videos on YouTube, she’s the person to thank: she convinced her employer, Google, to buy the home video startup.
It’s the birthday of the Polish-French harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, born in Warsaw (1879). She’s been called the “rediscoverer of the harpsichord” because she revived interest in the instrument during the first half of the 20th century.
On this date in 1946 the bikini was introduced in Paris. Two-piece swimsuits had been in vogue since the early 1940s, although they were relatively modest and always covered the navel. In the summer of 1946 designer Jacques Heim came up with a revealing two-piece outfit which he called the atome: “the world’s smallest bathing suit.” But credit for the name goes to his competitor, French mechanical engineer-turned-swimsuit designer Louis Réard, who unveiled his design on July 5. He predicted that the skimpy swimwear would cause a cultural explosion to rival the recent nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, and that’s where he got the name that stuck. Réard couldn’t find a model who was willing to wear such a revealing outfit so he had to hire an exotic dancer from the Casino de Paris. He got 50,000 fan letters and famously stated in his ads that a swimsuit wasn’t really a bikini unless you could pass it through a wedding ring.
It took a while for the bikini to catch on in the United States, however. Modern Girl magazine opined in a 1957 issue, “It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing.” But by 1960 it was big hit and singer Brian Hyland had a hit of his own that year, with the song “Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” In 1964 Sports Illustrated debuted its first swimsuit issue and by 1965 only “squares” went to the beach in anything but a bikini.
It’s the birthday of writer Gary Shteyngart (books by this author), born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia (1972). Shteyngart is best known for his sharp, satirical novels about the immigrant experience, such as The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002) and Absurdistan (2006). His father was an engineer in a camera factory and his mother was a pianist. As a child he was often ill with asthma and writing calmed him. When he was five he wrote a 100-page comic novel.
Shteyngart’s family immigrated to Queens where he struggled to learn English at a conservative Hebrew school. The other kids called him “The Russian” and he struggled with American customs. He said, “I had fur coats and fur hats, and they smelled of various woodland animal-type smells. The teachers would take me aside and say, ‘Look, you can’t be this furry.’” His family had no television and Shteyngart didn’t lose his Russian accent until he was 14.
It was during a trip to Prague that he began writing what would become his debut novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, which details the adventures of a group of young Russians from Alphabet City in Manhattan as they travel around Prague, which Shteyngart calls “Prava” in the book. He worked on it for five years while he was at Oberlin College but he was too embarrassed to send it to agents, so he applied to graduate school instead. Chang-rae Lee, author of the novel Native Speaker, was sifting through applications to Hunter College’s MFA program when he stumbled upon Shteyngart’s novel. Impressed, he called Shteyngart and offered him a spot in the program and also promised to send the book to his agent. Within months Shteyngart had a book deal.
The Russian Debutante’s Handbook was a best-seller. Shteyngart’s other books include Super Sad True Love Story (2010) and Little Failure: A Memoir (2014). It was while researching the memoir that he learned of his father’s violent, difficult childhood. He says, “I began to realize how one little trick of history could’ve created a very different world for both of us.”
Today is the birthday of Jean Cocteau (books by this author), born in Maisons-Laffitte, a resort town outside Paris, in 1889. His family was well-off and they appreciated culture; they encouraged Cocteau in all his artistic aspirations, which were numerous. He wrote poems, essays, novels, plays, screenplays, and libretti for opera and ballet. He was a painter, an illustrator, a filmmaker, an actor, and a producer. He considered himself, first and foremost, a poet. “Take a commonplace, clean it and polish it, light it so that it produces the same effect of youth and freshness and originality and spontaneity as it did originally, and you have done a poet’s job. The rest is literature,” he wrote in A Call to Order (1926).
“Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work,” he advised writers and artists. “Note just what it is about your work that critics don’t like — then cultivate it. That’s the only part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®