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
Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet come to The Wayne Theatre for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. 7:00PM
High Point, NC
Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet come to the High Point Theatre for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. 7:30 PM
Garrison Keillor and the Hopefuls (Robin and Linda Williams) comes to the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. 7:30 PM
by Gary Johnson
There was an old lady of Queens
Who survived on wieners and beans.
Wearing Army surplus,
Riding the bus,
And stealing from vending machines.
A misanthrope living in Raleigh
Believed human friendship was folly
But he did get it on
With a trumpeter swan
And was fond of a miniature collie.
An old fellow lived in St. James
Whose parents were in silver frames
And looked down from the wall
And if he swore at all,
Their pictures burst into flames.
An old fellow up in Two Harbors
No longer bothered with barbers.
He let his hair grow
Ten feet or so
And wore it on overhead arbors.
“Limericks” by Gary Johnson. Used with permission of the author.
It’s the birthday of American playwright and actor Sam Shepard (books by this author), born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois (1943), and best known for his bleak, often violent, plays that probe the lives of people on the outskirts of American society, like Curse of the Starving Class (1976), Buried Child (1978), and True West (1980).
It’s the birthday of novelist and food writer Diana Abu-Jaber (1960) (books by this author), who writes most often about Arab-American culture in the United States. Abu-Jaber was born in Syracuse, New York, to an American mother and Jordanian father. When she was seven the family moved to Jordan and spent two years there, an experience that profoundly affected her later writing.
Her father cooked professionally for decades and Abu-Jaber’s memories of lamb shanks in buttermilk and okra braised in garlic led her to her cooking in a variety of restaurants after college. She later fell into food writing and criticism, which she considers a delicate balance because of the sentiment attached to food. She says, “I think food can be dangerous to write about because if you don’t manage to mediate it somehow, it can be the worst sort of greeting card.”
Abu-Jaber’s novels include Arabian Jazz (1993) and Birds of Paradise (2011), which she wrote with a baby on her lap. She began Birds of Paradise with the mental image of a woman’s back and shoulders and, early on, decided the character would be a baker, but not a very nice one. Abu-Jaber said, “I knew she wasn’t a warm and fuzzy baker but someone with a little ice water in her veins.” She’s written two food memoirs, The Language of Baklava (2005) and Life Without a Recipe (2016), which she likes to say is about “love, death, and cake.”
Arabian Jazz is considered the first novel to bring the Arab-American experience to a wide reading audience in the U.S. About writing Arab-American culture into mainstream literature she says, “I’ve found that the questions and the search for meaning, for ‘home,’ for tribe — consume me more than trying to crank out one identity or one homeland.”
It’s the birthday of writer Thomas Flanagan (books by this author), born in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1923. He did not become a novelist until after the age of 50. He’d been a professor of literature in New York and at Berkeley, and a scholar of Irish history. One day, waiting for his wife to pick him up, he had a flash of inspiration for a historical novel in which an Irish poet walked down a road. This became the first chapter of The Year of the French (1979) about Ireland’s failed attempt to revolt against the English in 1798. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award and Flanagan went on to write other well-received historical novels about Ireland, incorporating real-life figures like Charles Stewart Parnell and Wolfe Tone along with fictional characters.
He spent nearly every summer of his last 40 years in Ireland, and once said, “It is not the romantic, rather sentimental Ireland of many Irish-Americans that I love, but the actual Ireland, a complex, profound, historical society, woven of many strands, some bright and some dark.”
It’s the birthday of American journalist Ida Tarbell (1857) (books by this author), best known for The History of the Standard Oil Company, a 19-part series of articles in McClure’s in 1902 that exposed the questionable business practices of the Standard Oil Company. The series eventually led the Supreme Court to break Standard Oil’s monopoly. Tarbell’s tenacious exposure of political and economic greed became known as “muckraking” and she was frequently referred to as “the terror of the trusts.” Tarbell is considered an early pioneer in investigative reporting.
Tarbell was born on a farm in Erie County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of an oil producer whose livelihood was severely diminished by an 1872 price-fixing scheme devised by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Standard Oil Company. Smaller producers were forced to sell Standard and if they didn’t, their businesses suffered. Watching these events unfold left a strong impression on young Tarbell who became the only woman in her graduating class at Allegheny College.
About witnessing the effect of Standard Oil’s shady practices on local families and the regional economy, she once said:
“There was born in me a hatred of privilege, privilege of any sort. It was all pretty hazy, to be sure, but it still was well, at 15, to have one definite plan based on things seen and heard, ready for a future platform of social and economic justice if I should ever awake to my need of one.”
Ida Tarbell lectured on journalism and unfair business practices and often spoke about sexual equality and the need for social reform. She even encouraged sewing girls to go on strike to improve their working conditions. She became so famous and influential that in 1914 Henry Ford tried to convince her to join his “celebrity-laden” “Peace Ship” to help end World War I. Tarbell found the idea preposterous and refused. She also had her critics, like Jane Addams, the progressive reformer, who admonished Tarbell for referring to the Women’s Suffrage movement as “unnecessary,” saying, “There is some limitation to Ida Tarbell’s mind.” Tarbell never supported women’s right to vote.
Ida Tarbell’s History of the Standard Oil Company stands as one of the most important works of journalism in the 20th century. Her autobiography, All in the Day’s Work, was published in 1939. She refused to start writing it until she was 80 years old.
She once said:
“I have never had illusions about the value of my individual contribution! I realized early that what a man or a woman does is built on what those who have gone before have done, that its real value depends on making the matter in hand a little clearer, a little sounder for those who come after. Nobody begins or ends anything. Each person is a link, weak or strong, in an endless chain. One of our gravest mistakes is persuading ourselves that nobody has passed this way before.”
Before she died, a reporter asked what she would change if she had the chance to rewrite History of Standard Oil. Ida Tarbell responded, “Not one word, young man. Not one word.”
It’s the birthday of poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (books by this author), born in Johnstown, Wisconsin (1850). She said, “I do not remember when I did not expect to be a writer,” and by age 14 she was publishing in magazines. She published a handful of stories, although she estimated that she received nine rejections for every story that was printed. As a young woman she published two little-known books of religious and sentimental poetry — many of the poems were in support of the temperance movement.
Then she wrote a manuscript of sentimental love poems; many were poetic retellings of famous love stories, and some weren’t love poems at all, but meditations on values like Courage and Progress. All of the poems in her manuscript had already been published in various magazines without much notice. However, a famous Chicago publishing house refused to publish the manuscript, citing its “immorality.” Of particular concern was “The Farewell of Clarimonde,” based on a story by French writer Théophile Gautier, about a priest who falls in love with a woman who turns out to be a vampire.
Wilcox complained to a friend about her rejected poems and that friend told a Milwaukee newspaper which published the sensational headline the next day: “TOO LOUD FOR CHICAGO. The Scarlet City by the Lake Shocked by a Badger Girl, whose Verses out-Swinburne Swinburne and out-Whitman Whitman.” She was shocked by the turn of events; she wrote, “I was advised to burn my offensive manuscript and assured that in time I might live down the shame I had brought on myself.” Another publisher saw an excellent marketing opportunity and offered to publish her book with the title Poems of Passion (1883) and so, despite its relatively tame subject matter, it became a huge best-seller and Wilcox became famous.
In “Solitude” in Poems of Passion, she wrote: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; / Weep, and you weep alone. / For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth / But has trouble enough of its own.”
Today is Guy Fawkes Day in Britain, also known as Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night. On this night in 1605 Guy Fawkes was arrested while guarding a secret stash of explosives beneath the House of Lords. Fawkes was a member of the Gunpowder Plot, a plan hatched by a group of provincial English Catholics who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and assassinate the Protestant king, James I, and replace him with a Catholic head of state. In the aftermath of Fawkes’s arrest and the discovery of his accomplices, King James encouraged his subjects to celebrate his “survival by divine intervention” by setting off fireworks, lighting bonfires, and burning the traitors in effigy. During his interrogation Fawkes told the Lords that his intention was “to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.” Fawkes and his 12 co-conspirators were tortured and beheaded in front of cheering crowds.
The celebration became an annual event which, over the years, grew to include effigies of everyone from the pope to Margaret Thatcher.
In turn-of-the-century-Britain children constructed effigies of Guy Fawkes and trundled them around villages in wheelbarrows, demanding a “penny for the Guy,” much like trick or treating in the U.S. Fawkes’s distinctive, curling mustache, pointed beard, and oversized smile became a popular mask for children. Masks were given out for free each autumn with the purchase of a comic book.
Once considered a notorious traitor, Fawkes is now seen as a revolutionary hero, with his mask becoming a well-known cultural symbol for anarchy worldwide. The online hacktivist group known as Anonymous uses the mask as their symbol. In Alan Moore’s comic book V for Vendetta (1982) and the film version (2006) the character of Vendetta wears the Fawkes mask and blows up Parliament. During the 2011 protests in Wisconsin the masks were worn by protesters in the crowd, as they were during the Occupy protests on Wall Street and in Argentina. In response to the use of Guy Fawkes masks during possibly unlawful activity, Canada has banned the wearing of masks during riotous or unlawful assembly. With some exceptions, an indictable offence in Canada is one that is subject to a fine of greater than $5,000 or imprisonment of more than six months.
And in the Harry Potter book series, the character of Albus Dumbledore has a phoenix named Fawkes.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®