Tuesday Feb. 9, 2016

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A Quiet Life

What a person desires in life
    is a properly boiled egg.
This isn’t as easy as it seems.
There must be gas and a stove,
    the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,
    banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.
There must be a pot, the product of mines
    and furnaces and factories,
    of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,
    of women in kerchiefs and men with
    sweat-soaked hair.
Then water, the stuff of clouds and skies
    and God knows what causes it to happen.
There seems always too much or too little
    of it and more pipelines, meters, pumping
    stations, towers, tanks.
And salt-a miracle of the first order,
    the ace in any argument for God.
Only God could have imagined from
    nothingness the pang of salt.
Political peace too. It should be quiet
    when one eats an egg. No political hoodlums
    knocking down doors, no lieutenants who are
    ticked off at their scheming girlfriends and
    take it out on you, no dictators
    posing as tribunes.
It should be quiet, so quiet you can hear
    the chicken, a creature usually mocked as a type
    of fool, a cluck chained to the chore of her body.
Listen, she is there, pecking at a bit of grain
    that came from nowhere.

“A Quiet Life” by Baron Wormser from Scattered Chapters. © Sarabande Books, 2008. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)

On this day in 1964the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time, as teenage girls screamed hysterically in the audience and 73 million people watched from home — a record for American television at the time. Their appearance on the show is considered the beginning of the "British Invasion" of music in the United States. The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the following two Sundays in a row, as well. On this first time, exactly 47 years ago today, they sang "All My Loving," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There," and finally "I Want to Hold Your Hand" — which had just hit No. 1 on the charts.

It was on this day in 1870 that the U.S. National Weather Service was established.

At first it was called the Weather Bureau and it was part of the War Department because, it was said, "military discipline would probably secure the greatest promptness, regularity, and accuracy in the required observations." It became a civilian agency 20 years later, under the Department of Agriculture, and then was switched to the Commerce Department in 1940. These days, the National Weather Service is based out of Silver Spring, Maryland. It plays a very big role in making sure that American air travel is safe, providing up-to-minute weather updates to air traffic controller centers across the nation.

It's the birthday of Alice Walker (books by this author), born in Eatonton, Georgia (1944). She was the youngest of eight children, the daughter of poor sharecroppers. Walker graduated first in her high school class and won a scholarship to Spelman College (1961). She transferred to Sarah Lawrence after two years, and a short story she wrote there was sent to Langston Hughes, who became an early champion of her writing. In 1968, she published her first collection of poetry, Once, and her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, in 1970, about a family of poor sharecroppers in the 1920s. Throughout the '60s and '70s, Alice Walker had a modest following, but it wasn't until her third novel, The Color Purple (1982), won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award that her work reached a much larger audience. She once wrote, "Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence."

It's the birthday of Irish playwright and novelist Brendan Behan (books by this author), born in Dublin (1923). He grew up in one of the poorest sections of Dublin. His father took part in the Irish rebellion in the early 1920s, and when Brendan was born, his father was being held in a British prison. When Brendan was nine years old, he joined a youth organization that had ties to the IRA. He later called the group "the Republican Boy Scouts." He rose through the ranks of the IRA, and by the time he was 16 he was being sent on missions to bomb British targets.

He spent most of the 1940s in prison. First he was thrown in jail for carrying a suitcase full of homemade explosives through the streets of Liverpool. After he got out, he was arrested for the attempted murder of two policemen. It was during his second stay in prison that he began to write. He wrote his first play, The Quare Fellow (1956), about the execution of a convict in a Dublin prison. When he got out of prison, it became a big hit in London and then New York. He followed that up with the novel Borstal Boy (1958) andThe Hostage (1958), in which he wrote:

"Never throw stones at your mother,
You'll be sorry for it when she's dead,
Never throw stones at your mother,
Throw bricks at your father instead."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

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Host: Garrison Keillor
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