Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
by Donna Hilbert
I believe in the Tuesdays
and Wednesdays of life,
the tuna sandwich lunches
and TV after dinner.
I believe in coffee with hot milk
and peanut butter toast,
Rosé wine in summer
and Burgundy in winter.
I am not in love with holidays,
and weekends are just days
numbered six and seven,
though my love
dozing over TV golf
while I work the Sunday puzzle
might be all I need of life
and all I ask of heaven.
“Credo” by Donna Hilbert from Gravity. © Tebot Bach, 2018. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of poet and essayist Octavio Paz, (books by this author) born in Mexico City (1914), the son of a lawyer and the grandson of a novelist. In 1950, he published a monumental essay on Mexican national character and culture, The Labyrinth of Solitude. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1990.
On this day in 1889, the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in Paris. It was built for the Paris Exposition as part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, and also as a demonstration of the structural capabilities of iron. The tower elicited strong reactions after its opening. A petition of 300 names, including writers Guy de Maupassant, Émile Zola, and Alexandre Dumas the younger, was sent to the city government protesting its construction, declaring it “useless” and a “monstrosity.”
De Maupassant hated the tower so much that he started eating in its restaurant every day, because, he said, “It is the only place in Paris where I don’t have to see it.”
It’s the birthday of one of the greatest intellectuals of all time, a man known as “the Father of Modern Philosophy,” René Descartes, (books by this author) born in 1596 in La Haye en Touraine, France, which is now named for him, Descartes, France. He’s the author of a text that is still required reading for philosophy students around the world, Meditations on First Philosophy (1641).
And he’s the man who, in 1637, said, “Cogito ergo sum” — “I think therefore I am.” Of course, since he was a Frenchman, he first wrote it as “Je pense donc je suis.”
The statement is the sum of an argument in his work Discourse on the Method (1637), written nearly 400 years ago. He realized that some of his ideas about science, like those of his colleague Galileo, were controversial. So he decided to write a book to prove that skepticism about the laws of nature was a necessary step in understanding nature. In it, he described his own experience of methodological skepticism, where he rejected any idea that could be doubted, and then required proof for the idea in order for it to be accepted as knowledge. He doubted everything, even his own existence. But he came to realize that the one thing he could not doubt was the existence of his own thoughts. If he was doubting, he was thinking; if he was thinking, then he existed. Hence his famous conclusion: “I think, therefore I am.”
Descartes had been a sickly child, went to Jesuit schools, spent most of his life staying in bed till noon, got a law degree, then settled in the Netherlands, and in his 20 years there, he did most of the writing for which he is famous. When he was in his 50s, Queen Christina of Sweden — age 23 — invited him to Stockholm to be her tutor. It was a job that required him to rise at 5 a.m. every day. He was sleep-deprived, caught a fever, and eventually came down with pneumonia, which killed him.
On this day in 1930, the Motion Picture Production Code was put into effect, setting guidelines for the depiction of sex, violence, crime, and religion in American movies. Also known as the Hays Code after Hollywood censor Will Hays, it was originally a list of 36 “Don’ts” and “Be Carefuls,” and as such it was pretty ineffectual and tough to enforce until 1934, at which time films needed to pass review and receive a certificate of approval to be released. The Hays Code was used until 1968, when it was replaced by the Motion Picture Association of America rating system that we use today.
Hays, a former Postmaster General, was hired at the sum of $100,000 a year to polish Hollywood’s image, which had gotten rather tarnished in the 1920s by risqué content and off-screen shenanigans. The Supreme Court had ruled in 1915 that the First Amendment right to free speech did not extend to movies, and the film industry adopted the code hoping to avoid further government interference.
Based on a document created in 1929 by a lay Catholic and Jesuit priest, the document was decidedly moralistic in tone and actively set out to promote traditional values. Crime must be punished and criminals must not be presented as sympathetic characters; pre- or extra-marital sex must never be portrayed in a positive, enticing, or titillating light; authority figures must be portrayed with respect; the church and the clergy must not be laughable or villainous. Showing drug use and interracial romance were likewise outlawed. In 1934, the newly created Production Code Administration strictly enforced the code and gave itself the power to change scenes and whole scripts. As a result, Rick and Ilsa’s Paris affair and Inspector Renault’s sexual extortions in Casablanca were only hinted at. The film’s original ending, in which Ilsa doesn’t get on the plane but lives in sin with Rick, was also scrapped, and we saw instead Rick’s unselfish renunciation of his true love.
In the 1950s, the code was increasingly subverted by more racy foreign films, which weren’t bound by the Code, and the lure of television, which offered competition for the moviegoing audience. Some studios began releasing films without the PCA’s approval and found that they could still make a buck. Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959) was one such picture, and it was a box office hit with its gambling, bootleg gin, cross-dressing heroes, and Marilyn Monroe’s tales of topless pillow fights. The Code’s death knell could clearly be heard, even over the movie’s hot jazz soundtrack.