Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac

It is a happy stolen moment when my car radio plays one of Garrison Keillor's little five-minute programs, The Writer's Almanac. In my area they happen at five minutes before the noon hour as a prelude to whatever more pressing stuff might be scheduled for the "top of the hour." Too bad, because the content of Keillor's five minutes is to what comes next as Canadian Black Diamond is to Velveeta.

This morning on impulse I wanted to blog yesterday's program because yesterday (the last two nights, actually -- "eqinox" = "equal nights") was the Summer Equinox and yesterday's program, with historic and literary details that only Garrison Keillor finds, spun off that celestial event. I checked YouTube and sure enough these little treasures are beginning to show up there!

I am looking forward to the time when I can access The Writer's Almanac any time I want on You Tube. It would be great if we could see and hear Keillor in the studio, recording it live, but that my be too much to ask, technology and funding being what they are, but I did find this wonderful clip of Garrison Keillor at the 92nd Street Y, reading and commenting on one of his books. It has only had thirty-two views at this time. I love how he wears red sneakers and leaves his glasses perched in his hair as he reads (!), removing them when he's done. Go figure.

Here is part of yesterday's Writer's Almanac that inspired today's blogpost.

Tonight is Midsummer Night's Eve, also called St. John's Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers. It's a time when the hives are full of honey. The full moon that occurs this month was called the Mead Moon, because honey was fermented to make mead. That's where the word "honeymoon" comes from. Midsummer dew was said to have special healing powers. Women washed their faces in it to make themselves beautiful and young. They skipped naked through the dew to make themselves more fertile. It's a time for lovers. An old Swedish proverb says, "Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking." Midsummer Eve is also known as Herb Evening. Legend says that this is the best night for gathering magical herbs. Supposedly, a special plant flowers only on this night, and the person who picks it can understand the language of the trees. Flowers were placed under a pillow with the hope of important dreams about future lovers. Shakespeare set his play A Midsummer Night's Dream on this night. It tells the story of two young couples who wander into a magical forest outside Athens. In the play, Shakespeare wrote, "The course of true love never did run smooth."

Later he notes that yesterday was the birthday of Alfred Kinsey, famous for his books about sex. This connection with the Summer Equinox, honeymoons and all that is more than interesting.

He interviewed almost 19,000 people about their sexual behavior and published the results in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948). It found, for instance, that premarital sex was more prevalent than people thought, that masturbation does not cause mental illness, and that virtually all men do it. The book was 804 pages, and it sold 185,000 copies in its first year, making it a best seller.

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