Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Peekskill NY. Be prepared to laugh and sing along as you celebrate all that unite us.
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Frankfort, KY for 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 with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Maryville, TN for 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 with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Iola, KS for 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 with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Wichita, KS for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
by Willa Cather
Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.
“Prairie Spring” by Willa Cather. Public domain.
It’s the birthday of one half of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera writing team, Arthur Seymour Sullivan, born in London in 1842. He began collaborating with William Gilbert in 1871, and the pair would go on to write 14 enormously popular comic operas, including Trial by Jury (1875), The Mikado (1885), and The Pirates of Penzance (1879), and others.
It’s the birthday of Greek doctor Georgios Nicholas Papanikolaou, born in Kimi, Greece (1883), who gave us the Pap smear, the highly effective, inexpensive, and widely used screening test for detecting signs of cervical cancer and other diseases of the female reproduction system.
It was in 1928 at a conference in Battle Creek, Michigan, that he first reported his method of detecting cancer: a spatula and brush are used to swipe cells from the outer opening of the cervix, and then the cells are positioned on a glass slide, and examined for abnormalities using a microscope. But at first other doctors were extremely skeptical that such a seemingly simple test could really be effective for detecting cancer, and it took more than a decade and half for his method to catch on. In the early 1940s, he co-authored with an esteemed gynecologist a paper about the test, and then a big case study was published with accompanying illustrations. It was then that doctors around the world began to use the Pap test regularly.
These days, about 55 million Pap tests are performed in the U.S. each year.
It’s the birthday of poet Kathleen Jamie, (books by this author) born in Renfrewshire, Scotland (1962). She’s not particularly well known, but many critics consider her to be one of the best living poets in the U.K.; and the London Times has called her “the leading Scottish poet of her generation.” Her poetry books have received about a dozen major prize nominations, including three T.S. Eliot Awards, two Faber Memorial Prizes, and two Forward Poetry Prizes. The Treehouse (2004)won the 2005 Scottish Book of the Year Award.
When she was 19, she was given a writing award and she used the money to go travel around the Himalayas. The next year, when she was still in college studying philosophy, she published her first book of poems, Black Spiders (1982). But says she never really intended to be a writer. She kept writing because all other job prospects seemed “appalling.” She thought, “No, I don’t want an office job for 30 years, thank you. There must be a way of getting around this … there must be a way to live another life.” She scraped by on various writer-in-residence posts in her 20s.
She usually writes about nature. In “The Whale-Watcher,” she wrote, “And when at last the road gives out, I’ll walk — harsh grass, sea-maws, lichen-crusted bedrock — and hole up the cold summer in some battered caravan, quartering the brittle waves.”
She said: “When we were young, we were told that poetry is about voice, about finding a voice and speaking with this voice, but the older I get I think it’s not about voice, it’s about listening and the art of listening, listening with attention. I don’t just mean with the ear; bringing the quality of attention to the world. The writers I like best are those who attend.” She says that Seamus Heaney, Annie Dillard, Elizabeth Bishop are writers who “attend.”
It was on this day in 1373 that the mystic Julian of Norwich (books by this author) received the last of her divine visions. Julian is not technically a saint, and no one even knows her given name. She was called “Julian” because she was an anchoress in a cell adjoining the Church of St. Julian in Norwich, England. An anchoress renounces society for solitary religious practice (similar to a hermit) instead of living in a community as a nun.
Julian was born in England, probably in 1342, just before the worst outbreak of the Black Death in Europe. During that time, the Late Middle Ages, England was fighting the Hundred Years’ War with France, the Black Death killed at least a third of England’s population, there had been widespread famine and crop failures, and peasants were in revolt. In addition to all that, the Catholic Church was falling apart. The Church was leading up to a major schism — the pope had defected to Avignon in France since the early 14th century, which didn’t sit well with Rome. In 1351, Pope Clement VI himself railed against his own highest-ranking clergy: “What can you preach to the people? If on humility, you yourselves are the proudest of the world, puffed up, pompous and sumptuous in luxuries. If on poverty, you are so covetous that all the benefices in the world are not enough for you. If on chastity — but we will be silent on this, for God knoweth what each man does and how many of you satisfy your lusts.”
This was the context in which Julian of Norwich, whoever she might have been, decided to withdraw from society for a life of religious solitude. She spent her days in contemplative prayer, and when she was 30 years old she became seriously ill. She was so near death that the priest was called to administer the last rites, when suddenly she began experiencing visions. She had 16 visions of God, and was healed. She wrote: “All this blessed teaching of our Lord was shown to me in three parts, that is by bodily vision and by words formed in my understanding and by spiritual vision.” Shortly after her visions occurred, she wrote them down into a work she called Short Text, which was 25 chapters long. And although she described herself as a “simple creature unlettered,” she kept thinking about the visions and revising her account of them, and 20 years later she completed all 86 chapters of her Long Text. Eventually, these became Revelations of Divine Love, one of the first books written by a woman in English.
Julian of Norwich wrote: “So I understood our sensuality is founded in nature, in mercy and in grace, and this foundation enables us to receive gifts which lead us to endless life. For I saw very surely that our substance is in God, and I also saw that God is in our sensuality, for in the same instant and place in which our soul is made sensual, in that same instant and place exists the city of God, ordained from him without beginning. He comes into this city and will never depart from it, for God is never out of the soul, in which he will dwell blessedly without end.”
It was on this day in 1958 that Velcro was patented. Velcro was invented by George de Mestral, an electrical engineer from Switzerland. Mestral was a born inventor — he applied for his first patent when he was 12 years old, for a model airplane.
Besides being an engineer, Mestral enjoyed mountain climbing, and in 1941 he went on a hunting trip with his dog in the Alps. He hiked through patches of burdock. Burdock is a thistly plant whose roots are used in cooking, especially in Asia; but the plant spreads its spiny seeds by latching them onto anything or anyone passing by. When Mestral got home, he was picking the burs off his dog’s coat and his own clothes, and he wondered how burdock was so effective. He put the seeds under his microscope, and saw that each bristle was a tiny hook that was able to catch in the loops of clothing. He realized that by copying burdock he could create a way to simply bind materials together.
Most people Mestral told about his “hook and loop” cloth thought that his idea was stupid, but he kept on with it. It took him 10 years to get it right. With the help of a talented weaver, he was able to make a workable product, but the cotton didn’t hold up to wear. Then he discovered that nylon sewn under infrared light made the perfect set of loops — but that meant sewing hundreds of loops per inch, a slow and inefficient task. Eventually, he was able to mechanize the whole process, and 10 years after his walk with his dog, he applied for a patent for his invention: “Velcro,” which combined the French words velour (which means velvet) and crochet (which means hook).
Dave Barry said, “Your modern teenager is not about to listen to advice from an old person, defined as a person who remembers when there was no Velcro.”