A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Akron, OH with Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
New Philadelphia, OH
Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Kent State University. Poetry, Limericks, Sing-Along and the News from Lake Wobegon.
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX with our favorite regulars, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to the McCain Auditorium in Manhattan, Kansas with our favorite regulars, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Nashville with Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
My Father, Dying
by Joyce Sutphen
It was hard work, dying, harder
than anything he’d ever done.
Whatever brutal, bruising, back-
Breaking chore he’d forced himself
to endure—it was nothing
compared to this. And it took
so long. When would the job
be over? Who would call him
home for supper? And it was
hard for us (his children)—
all of our lives we’d heard
my mother telling us to go out,
help your father, but this
was work we could not do.
He was way out beyond us,
in a field we could not reach.
Joyce Sutphen, “My Father, Dying” from Carrying Water to the Field: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2019 University of Nebraska Press. (buy now)
Today is the birthday of the Italian model Lisa del Giocondo, born Lisa Gherardini in Florence (1479). We don’t know much about her childhood but we know that when she was 15 she married a wealthy silk merchant nearly twice her age. She didn’t have a rich dowry, and most girls in her situation would not have found husbands but would have been sent to a convent, unless her family had political connections or other advantages. Lisa’s advantage was that she was beautiful, and Francesco del Giocondo was captivated by her. He arranged to marry her for a piece of her father’s farmland and their marriage seems to have been a happy one. Francesco’s will specifically mentions her noble spirit and her faithfulness and speaks of his love and affection for her.
In about 1503, Francesco commissioned an esteemed local artist named Leonardo to paint his wife’s portrait — possibly because the couple had just bought their house, or perhaps it was to commemorate the birth of their second son. Leonardo usually painted aristocrats, but he was between jobs at that time and was hopeful that Francesco’s political connections could help him get some big commissions. The canvas he selected was quite large for a portrait of this type and he also made the decision to “zoom in” pretty closely on the sitter. It seems like a small thing, but was actually revolutionary, and his choice had an immediate influence on other artists of the region. Leonardo was working on the portrait when he received a lucrative commission to paint The Battle of Anghiari — a joint project with Michelangelo to decorate the Palazzo Vecchio — so he set it aside. He took the unfinished portrait with him when he left Florence and never delivered it to Francesco and Lisa — possibly because Francesco never paid him. Leonardo finished the portrait eventually and it wound up in the hands of the French king Francis I.
That portrait was, of course, the Mona Lisa, and 6 million people view it at the Louvre every year. We didn’t know anything about its subject until 2005 when an expert at the University Library of Heidelberg discovered a note in the margins of a record book. The note referred to a portrait that Leonardo da Vinci was painting of Lisa del Giocondo around the time that the Mona Lisa was known to have been painted. It gave investigators something to go on, but women’s lives were mostly unremarked upon in the early 16th century — their births, marriages, and deaths were recorded, and the baptisms of their children, but that’s about it. Journalist Dianne Hales took up the challenge and found out everything she could about the mysterious Lisa. She published her findings in Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered (2014). Hales writes, “Lisa’s life spanned the most tumultuous chapters in the history of Florence, decades of war, rebellion, invasion, siege, and conquest — and of the greatest artistic outpouring the world has ever seen.”
Francesco died in 1528 and Lisa died about four years later. She is reportedly buried at the convent of Sant’Orsola, where her daughter Marietta was a nun.
On this day in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was founded — more than 520,000 acres of land spanning Tennessee and North Carolina. It is the most visited national park in the country, with some 10 million guests moving through each year.
Most national parks were formed from government-owned land, landscapes where few people would want to live. But the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had to be carved from the land of hundreds of small farmers who had made their homes in Appalachia for generations. More than 1,200 inhabitants were asked to leave when the park was created, leaving behind their homes and communities. Many of their original log buildings have been preserved as part of the park.
It’s the birthday of Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa (books by this author), born in Kashiwabara, Japan (1763). He’s one of the masters of the Japanese form of poetry called haiku, which uses 17 Japanese characters broken into three distinct units. He spent most of his adult life traveling around Japan, writing haiku, keeping a travel diary, and visiting shrines and temples across the country. By the end of his life he had written over 20,000 haiku celebrating the small wonders of everyday life. He’s a big reason haiku became so popular in Japan and around the world.
It’s the birthday of Norwegian composer Edvard Hagerup Grieg, born in Bergen, Norway (1843). Grieg lived a busy life as a composer, conductor, and piano soloist throughout Europe. Early in his career he was taken under the wing of the great Norwegian violin virtuoso Ole Bull, who shared with Grieg his love of Norwegian folk melodies. That love later inspired many of Grieg’s best-known pieces, including the incidental music for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, the Lyric Pieces, and the Norwegian Dances. He wrote the big, full-bodied Piano Concerto in A Minor, but he made his reputation primarily with smaller pieces full of Norwegian character — pieces that Claude Debussy called “bonbons wrapped in snow.”
It’s the birthday of science writer Dava Sobel (books by this author), born in New York City (1947). Her mother was trained as a chemist and her father was a doctor and she started out as a science writer for IBM. She began freelancing and eventually got a job writing about science for the New York Times.
Her big breakthrough came in 1996, when she published Longitude, which tells how the 18th-century scientist and clockmaker William Harrison solved the problem of determining east-west location at sea. Sobel barely had enough money to finish the research for the book, and only 10,000 copies were printed on the first run, but Longitude became a surprise best-seller in America and England. It also helped popularize a new genre — offbeat books about lesser-known historical subjects.
“Once on a Wednesday excursion when I was a little girl, my father bought me a beaded wire ball that I loved. At a touch, I could collapse the toy into a flat coil between my palms, or pop it open to make a hollow sphere. Rounded out, it resembled a tiny Earth, because its hinged wires traced the same pattern of intersecting circles that I had seen on the globe in my schoolroom — the thin black lines of latitude and longitude. The few colored beads slid along the wire paths haphazardly, like ships on the high seas […] Today, the latitude and longitude lines govern with more authority than I could have imagined forty-odd years ago, for they stay fixed as the world changes its configuration underneath them — with continents adrift across a widening sea, and national boundaries repeatedly redrawn by war or peace.”
Sobel’s historical biography, Galileo’s Daughter, about the correspondence between the great Italian astronomer and his favorite daughter, was nominated for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for biography or autobiography.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®