This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,8xx) on Friday, April 5, 2019.
Possibly the most fun part of a fun week was pouring the bees. Right. Pouring the bees.
Every spring, whether my beehives survive or not, I order “packages” of new bees. These packages are actually wooden boxes, about the size or slightly larger than a shoebox, that are filled with about 30,000 bees. A queen bee is inside in a separate cage. There is also a can of sugar water in the package for their initial food. Once you get the can and the queen cage out of the box, you literally pour the bees into the hive that you have prepared for them. It is most exciting to do that.
Several years ago, I made a video of the process, and you can see it here: http://bit.ly/pouringthebees
So, I hope that you had as much fun as I did this week.
And whatever happened to you this week, I hope you have a great weekend.
Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,854 subscribers and had a 29.8 percent open rate; 8 people unsubscribed. A chart showing the percentage of newsletter recipients who opened the newsletter each week during 2019 is below the signature of this email.
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April is National Poetry Month
April is National Poetry Month, so designated by the Academy of American Poets, which started the whole thing in 1996.
Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.
So says the National Poetry Month website, and that’s not an overstatement.
Even if you’re not a regular reader of poetry, think about all of the poems that you have read, the ones you memorized as a kid (yes, even “Twinkle, twinkle little star . . .”), the poetic phrases that have been impressed on your brain, the way in which poetry has affected your language.
Think about William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe and Dr. Seuss.
Think about the lines of poetry that you know, even if you don’t know the entire poem or even which poem it comes from:
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.
Now is the winter of our discontent turned to summer sunshine . . .
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!” (Baltimore Ravens fans, awake!)
. . . the paths of glory lead but to the grave.
He leadeth me beside the still waters for his namesake.
I could go on. So could you.
The folks at AAP are right. Poetry does have a vital place in our culture. Wake up to that. Embrace it. After all, it’s April, and there is much to be poetic about.
Do you have a favorite poem or poet? Let me know before April gets away from us.
Plus, I have been creating some videos for the Blount County Public Library to help celebrate National Poetry Month. Here’s a link to one:
Handel was washed up — then came The Messiah
(This is a repeat of a post I published last spring during the Lenten season. I like this story and thought it worth publishing again this spring.)
He was finished, they said. Washed up. He’s had his day, and he’s done.
The year was 1740, and the man they were talking about was George Frederick Handel.
Everybody in London knew who he was — and was was the operative word. Handel had once been the toast of the town, a composer without peer. His operas had thrilled and astonished audiences in a town that was tough to astonish.
Handel, who had lived in England for more than a quarter of a century. had never really ruled the operatic circles of London. It is too tough of a town for that. But the German-born musical genius had led his faction, and they loved him for it. By the mid-1730s, however, Handel had begun to lose his grip.
The public’s appetite for Italian opera, Handel’s specialty, was waning, and his last few productions had not gone well. Handel had made plenty of money during his career, but the operas were expensive to produce. Handel was facing bankruptcy.
There was also the issue of Handel’s health. In 1737, at the age of 52, he suffered what was like a stroke and lost the use of his hands and arms for playing and conducting. His doctor predicted that his career was over. But Handel fought his way back from that and by 1740 was ready to compose again. By April 1741, Handel conducted what he — and just about everyone else — thought might be his last performance.
Four months later, Charles Jennens, a poet and former collaborator, handed Handel the libretto for an oratorio about the life of Christ. Handel had composed oratorios earlier in his career, and Handel realized they coming back into fashion,
Handel set to work on composing the music for the oratorio and kept at it night and day. He hardly ate and slept very little, if at all. Those who looked after him became concerned, even though he would often work in this furious, non-stop style.
Handel himself reported being overcome with emotion and joy at what he was creating.
Three weeks after he began, in September 1741, Messiah was a completed work. Handel premiered the work in Dublin the next April, and the audience response was enthusiastic. The Dublin Journal wrote:
Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crouded Audience. The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear.’
The London audience was cooler to the work when it was played there, but eventually Messiah found adherents and was recognized as a great piece of music. Today Messiah, especially its Hallelujah chorus, is one of the most popular and recognizable works in the history of music.
Handel composed other oratorios that were brilliant and well-received. One was Solomon, produced in 1749, which contains a sinfonia, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, at the beginning of the third act that is still a favorite today.
Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
By the mid-1750s, Handel had gone blind and was generally in ill health. He died in London in 1759.
His music, even 250 years after his death, is hard to avoid.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
Andrew Carnegie, patron saint of libraries
No name is more associated with public libraries than that of Andrew Carnegie.
Carnegie has his name on a lot of things, to be sure — Carnegie Hall and Carnegie-Mellon University, to name a couple — but for most of the 20th century, America and a good part of the world paired the name Carnegie with the word “library.” That was certainly the case in the 1950s and 60s in Nashville, where I grew up.
— the first part should be devoted to learning as much as possible;
— the second should be devoted to gaining as much wealth as possible;
— the third should be devoted to giving away as much of that wealth as possible to causes that would advance the public good.
Carnegie followed his own dictum. He was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1835 into an intellect-rich but working-class family, whose fate was buffeted by the changing winds of industrialization. When he was 12, he immigrated with his family to western Pennsylvania. He had little opportunity for formal schooling and worked in a number of jobs to help support the family.
The young Carnegie enjoyed reading and learning but would have had little opportunity to do either — books were expensive and out of reach for boys of his class — except for Colonel James Anderson, a local man who let boys like Andrew borrow one book each Saturday night from his 400-volume library. Andrew rarely missed a Saturday, and his enjoyment of reading turned into a passion.
Carnegie never forgot Anderson’s generosity, and he later wrote that he vowed at the time, he would give other young boys the same opportunity if he had the chance.
He did, in fact, have the chance, and he kept his vow. Carnegie worked hard and worked smart at every job he had. He paid attention to the details and found ways to be more efficient and more productive. He paid attention to the people around him and gathered a network of friends and business associates. He saw opportunities and acted on them. His personal charm and his wide range of knowledge — a product of his vociferous readings as a lad — drew people into his orbit.
By the turn of the 20th century, Carnegie had built a vast steel empire and had become by far the richest man in the world. In 1901 he sold his steel interests for more than $300 million.
More than a decade before that, Carnegie had begun donating money for public libraries, and after his retirement he devoted much of his energy to his philanthropic endeavors. In all, he helped build and fund more than 3,000 libraries, many of which would have never existed but for his donations. He once wrote:
It was from my own early experience that I decided there was no use to which money could be applied so productive… as the founding of a public library.”
(Read more about the life of Andrew Carnegie here.)
And speaking of public libraries . . .
Sue Halpern writes in the current New York Review of Books:
A public library is predicated on an ethos of sharing and egalitarianism. It is nonjudgmental. It stands in stark opposition to the materialism and individualism that otherwise define our culture. It is defiantly, proudly, communal.
More reactions about the college admissions scandal
Dan C.: (Reacting to my post saying we should refer to “elite universities” as “big brand universities” instead) Are their faults with the BBUs (Big Brand Universities)? Yes. (though as I understand it, GAs are primarily used in lower-level classes) Are they still Elite Schools? Yes, again. You will never convince me the majority of state schools (exceptions such as Penn State, University of Virginia, UC-Berkeley, and many more abound, they are far from being in the majority) are the equal of Elite Schools. One of the main reasons I say this is the same rationale you used earlier. The student is what makes the school what it is. If you have lax admissions policies at LSS’s (Large State Schools) compared to stringent one’s at BBU’s, your student body is probably more elite. A better student body will push all of the students to be better. If work that gets a C at Claremont would get an A at Cal State Fullerton, can they be considered equal?
Elizabeth G.: Like most people who either went to college, worked in a college, or had kids in college (I suppose both of us hit that trifecta), I’ve been thoroughly captivated by the recent college admission scandal. I enjoyed your article decrying the concept of the “elite college”, and while I don’t disagree in any respect, I have a somewhat different take:
When people consider a college “elite”, the quality of its education is only a part of that designation, and perhaps not even a particularly important part. I’m not sure that even the parents who were willing to resort to criminal activity to get their qualification-challenged offspring admitted believed that a Calculus class at Georgetown or USC would be of higher quality than one at UT (Tennessee or Texas).
What makes the former “elite” in the minds of many is that they are the natural habitat of the elite; the schools where the future great and good prepare for their destined-to-be successful lives. There are bragging rights at stake (“just visited my son in Cambridge”), and plenty of entitlement (“everyone in my family went to Princeton”), but primarily it’s about taking a giant leap forward through networking and connections. Of course, you can have a great writing teacher at UK (Kentucky or Kansas), maybe better than anyone at Yale — but your Yale classmate’s mom runs Penguin Press and can get you a summer internship there, where you will meet more influential people.
Is there an assumption that a brand name school means a better education? Probably, but it’s pretty easily refuted; there are hundreds of thousands of examples to the contrary (our Wharton and Yale current and past presidents come to mind). Attending an “elite” school, however, offers benefits beyond the academic; ones that both current and aspiring 1-percenters well understand.
Obviously, I found your analysis thought-provoking, and I’m always glad to see your newsletter in my mailbox.
Finally . . .
Best quote of the week:
A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be. Abraham Maslow, psychologist (1908-1970)
Helping those in need
Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: Michael Connelly, jury trials, NYC’s first female detective, and getting ready for National Poetry Month: newsletter, March 29, 2019
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