The Writer's Almanac
Summary: The Writer's Almanac is a daily podcast of poetry and historical interest pieces, usually of literary significance, hosted by Garrison Keillor.
It's the birthday of jazz musician Louis Armstrong, born 1901. Growing up in New Orleans, Armstrong listened to pioneers like cornetist King Oliver, who gave Armstrong his big break by letting him play in the Creole Jazz Band in Chicago in 1922.
On this date in 1527, the first known letter from the New World to the Old was sent to King Henry VIII of England. The letter writer, Master John Rut, was on an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, a northerly route to Asia through or around North America.
"You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can't, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even but a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it." –James Baldwin, born this day in 1924
Today is the birthday of Maria Mitchell, the first acknowledged female astronomer, born in 1818 on the island of Nantucket in Massachusetts. In 1849, she was awarded a gold medal from the king of Denmark for the comet she discovered, which became known as "Miss Mitchell's Comet."
It's the birthday of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. She was on a train in 1990 when she suddenly got the idea for a novel. "I was looking out of the window at some cows, I believe and I just thought: 'Boy doesn't know he's a wizard — goes off to wizard school.'"
It's the birthday of Emily Brönte, best known for her only novel Wuthering Heights (1848). It's a passionate, tragic love story written by a woman who, as far as it is known, rarely spoke to anyone other than her immediate family members.
Vincent Van Gogh died on this date in 1890. The mysterious circumstances around his death were the subject of the 2017 experimental animated art film Loving Vincent, whose 65,000 frames are actually individual oil paintings in the style of Van Gogh.
Today is the birthday of Earl Tupper, inventor of Tupperware. At first, he sold his product through department and hardware stores, but without much success: people couldn't figure out how to make the lids work unless someone demonstrated it for them. Thus, the birth of Tupperware Home Parties, headed by home products distributor Brownie Wise, in 1951.
It's the birthday of writer and critic Elizabeth Hardwick, who co-founded The New York Review of Books and who also said, "There are really only two reasons to write: desperation or revenge."
Today is the birthday of Aldous Huxley, author of the classic dystopian novel Brave New World (1923). Comparing Brave New World to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948), cultural critic Neil Postman said: "What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism."
It's the birthday of Louise Brown, the first baby conceived via in vitro insemination. "In vitro" means "in glass," so for years she was referred to as the first "test tube baby." She was born in Oldham, Great Britain, in 1978, to Lesley and John Brown, who had tried to conceive a child for nine years.
It's the birthday of writer and socialite Zelda Fitzgerald, born Zelda Sayre in Montgomery, Alabama. She was named after the fictional gypsy heroine in Zelda's Fortune (1874), one of her mother's favorite books. Zelda Fitzgerald said, "I don't want to live — I want to love first, and live incidentally."
On this date in 1903, the Ford Motor Company sold its first car, the Model A. Ford used all the letters of the alphabet from A to T, but not all of them were manufactured and sold; most were just prototypes.
The Writer's Almanac is a daily podcast of poetry and historical interest pieces, usually of literary significance, hosted by Garrison Keillor.