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 Billy Collins
Much has been said about being in the present.
It’s the place to be, according to the gurus,
like the latest club on the downtown scene,
but no one, it seems, is able to give you directions.
It doesn’t seem desirable or even possible
to wake up every morning and begin
leaping from one second into the next
until you fall exhausted back into bed.
Plus, there’d be no past
with so many scenes to savor and regret,
and no future, the place you will die
but not before flying around with a jet-pack.
The trouble with the present is
that it’s always in a state of vanishing.
Take the second it takes to end
this sentence with a period––already gone.
What about the moment that exists
between banging your thumb
with a hammer and realizing
you are in a whole lot of pain?
What about the one that occurs
after you hear the punch line
but before you get the joke?
Is that where the wise men want us to live
in that intervening tick, the tiny slot
that occurs after you have spent hours
searching downtown for that new club
and just before you give up and head back home?
“The Present” by Billy Collins from The Rain in Portugal. © Random House, 2016. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
On this day in 1922 Leonard Thompson, a 14-year-old Canadian boy with diabetes became the first patient to be treated with insulin injection. The technique had been developed by Canadians Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod (along with their assistants Charles Best and James Collip), who discovered the connection between diabetes and the insulin-producing pancreas gland. The approach was a dramatic success, and by 1923 insulin was widely available as a treatment for diabetes. Doctor Frederick Banting and Professor J.J.R. Macleod received the 1923 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
Today is the birthday of pharmacologist Gertrude Elion, born in New York City in 1918. She was a bright girl who loved every subject in school and agonized when she had to choose just one path in college. The death of her beloved grandfather of cancer tipped the scales in favor of science; she wanted to use her intellect to fight the disease. She majored in chemistry at Hunter College, and then hit a brick wall when she tried to enter the job market in her field. “Nobody … took me seriously. They wondered why in the world I wanted to be a chemist when no women were doing that. The world was not waiting for me.” She went to secretarial school so she could pay the bills, and finally she got a job as an unpaid lab assistant. With World War II came more opportunities for female scientists, and in 1944 she went to work for the pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome. It was there that she formed a research partnership with Dr. George Hitchings that would last more than 40 years. Over the course of her career, Elion developed drugs to treat leukemia, malaria, herpes, and AIDS. She won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1988.
It was on this day in 1977 that the miniseries Roots was premiered on ABC. It was based on Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976) by Alex Haley (books by this author), who is also famous for collaborating with Malcolm X to write The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965). Haley based Roots loosely on research into his own family’s history of slavery. The veracity of Haley’s genealogical source material for Roots has been questioned frequently on many fronts, and it is a historical fiction. The saga begins with the young Kunta Kinte, who is captured by slave traders in The Gambia and brought to America. By the end of Roots, Kunta Kinte’s great-grandson is finally freed at the time of the Civil War.
Roots aired for eight nights in a row, and about 130 million people watched at least part of the series. Restaurants and shops cleared out while it was showing, and bars showed it on their TVs in order to keep customers there. Roots became the most-watched program in history at that time.
Alex Haley was charged with plagiarism by anthropologist Harold Courlander, accusing that he copied sections of Roots from Courlander’s 1967 novel The African. Haley settled out of court for $650,000. The History Channel produced a new adaptation of Roots which aired in 2016.
It’s the birthday of the author who said, “It is better to have a prosaic husband and to take a romantic lover.” French novelist and essayist Stendhal (books by this author), born Marie-Henri Beyle in Grenoble, France (1783). He published his first novel, Armance (1827) when he was 44. He went on to write his masterpieces — The Red and the Black (1830), about the social classes, professions, politics, and manners of early-19th-century France; and The Charterhouse of Parma (1839).
Georgetown University was officially founded on this date in 1789. At that time, it was called Georgetown College, and it was founded by John Carroll, the country’s first Catholic bishop. Carroll and his associates purchased 60 acres of land overlooking the village of Georgetown, near the new nation’s capital. Classes began in 1792, with 40 enrolled students from as far away as the West Indies. An act of Congress promoted Georgetown College to university status in 1815. It is the oldest Catholic university in the country.
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