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 Billy Collins
I lie in a bedroom of a house
that was built in 1862, we were told—
the two windows still facing east
into the bright daily reveille of the sun.
The early birds are chirping,
and I think of those who have slept here before,
the family we bought the house from—
the five Critchlows—
and the engineer they told us about
who lived here alone before them,
the one who built onto the back
of the house a large glassy room with wood beams.
I have an old photograph of the house
in black and white, a few small trees,
and a curved dirt driveway,
but I do not know who lived here then.
So I go back to the Civil War
and to the farmer who built the house
and the rough stone walls
that encompass the house and run up into the woods,
he who mounted his thin wife in this room,
while the war raged to the south,
with the strength of a dairyman
or with the tenderness of a dairyman
or with both, alternating back and forth
so as to give his wife much pleasure
and to call down a son to earth
to take over the cows and the farm
when he no longer had the strength
after all the days and nights of toil and prayer—
the sun breaking over the same horizon
into these same windows,
lighting the same bed-space where I lie
having nothing to farm, and no son,
the dead farmer and his dead wife for company,
feeling better and worse by turns.
Billy Collins, “House” from The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems. © Random House 2007 reprinted with permission from the Chris Calhoun Agency. (buy now)
Today is the birthday of photographer Mathew Brady, born near Lake George, New York (about 1823). He moved to New York City as a young man and learned how to make photographs using the “daguerreotype” process. He found his niche in portraiture and took photos of famous people like Edgar Allan Poe, Daniel Webster, and James Fenimore Cooper, eventually publishing them in a book, A Gallery of Illustrious Americans (1850). He realized photography’s potential in documenting history and in 1860 he took a portrait of Abraham Lincoln just before Lincoln’s landmark Cooper Union address. Lincoln reportedly said later, “Brady and the Cooper Institute made me President.”
When the Civil War broke out Brady risked all his financial success to document it.
Exposure times were still too long to permit photographing battles in action, so he began to take photos of fallen soldiers. He held a showing of these in his New York gallery with a sign on the door that read “The Dead of Antietam.” People were shocked; most of them had never been confronted with the carnage of war before. Brady had gambled everything on the project, confident that the government would want the negatives even if the public didn’t, but neither wanted to pay for the disturbing images.
Finally, in 1875, through the efforts of friends in high places, Congress paid him $25,000 for the war archive. The amount didn’t even cover his debts and he died penniless.
Today is the birthday of filmmaker Frank Capra, born in Bisaquino, Sicily (1897). He got his first movie studio job in 1921 and, for seven years, he learned the business inside and out. He devised gags for silent comedians, wrote title cards, handled props, and worked as a film editor. He began directing: first short subjects and, later, comedy features. In 1928 he signed a contract with Columbia Pictures. It was a relatively small studio and they gave him a lot of creative freedom. Capra hit the big time himself in 1934 with It Happened One Night, which won all five major Academy Awards.
By the late 1930s he had found his storytelling rhythm: an idealistic, even naïve, Average Joe runs up against a corrupt system and prevails with the help of his pluck, determination, and the support of the people who love him. Most of Capra’s best-known movies—like Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)—all followed the same basic, optimistic formula which Capra himself jokingly called “Capra-corn.”
Capra enlisted in the Army just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in the Signal Corps and directed a series of documentaries called Why We Fight, designed to boost support for the war effort. Capra was the perfect man to sell America because he was living the American dream. But when he returned after the war, America had changed. It wasn’t the same Depression-riddled country starved for sentimental stories about the triumph of common people. His first post-war film, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), was a huge box-office disappointment and didn’t even come close to breaking even; it was Capra’s last big film. The tenor of Hollywood changed after the war and his sentimental movies fell out of favor.
Capra himself grew very bitter about the changes he saw in his industry. But by the mid-1970s TV stations began showing It’s a Wonderful Life around Christmastime and, over the years, it has become a traditional part of the holiday season for many Americans. The American Film Institute recently named it the most inspirational motion picture of all time.
It’s the birthday of philosopher Bertrand Russell, born in Trellech, Wales (1872), into one of Britain’s most prominent families. His parents were radical thinkers, and his father was an atheist, but both his parents died by the time he was four. They left their son under the care of radical friends, hoping he would be brought up as an agnostic, but his grandparents stepped in, discarded the will, and raised Bertrand and his brother in a strict Christian household.
As a teenager, Bertrand kept a diary in which he described his doubts about God and his ideas about free will. He kept his diary in Greek letters so that his conservative family couldn’t read it. Then he went to Cambridge and was amazed that there were other people who thought the way he did and who wanted to discuss philosophical ideas. He emerged as an important philosopher with The Principles of Mathematics (1903) which argued that the foundations of mathematics could be deduced from a few logical ideas. He went on to become one of the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. His History of Western Philosophy (1946) was a big bestseller and he was able to live off its royalties for the rest of his life.
He said, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®