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 Linda Pastan
Today I drove past a house
we almost bought and heard
through the open window music
made by some other family.
We don’t make music ourselves, in fact
we define our differences
by what we listen to.
And what we mean by family
has changed since then
as we grew larger then smaller again
in ways we knew would happen
and yet didn’t expect.
Each choice is a winnowing,
and sometimes at night I hear
all the possibilities creak open
and shut like screendoors
in the wind,
making an almost musical
to what I know
of love and history.
“Possibilities” from Heroes in Disguise: Poems by Linda Pastan. Copyright © 1991 by Linda Pastan. Used with permission. All rights reserved. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, (books by this author) born in the Prussian village of Röcken (1844). He was a philosopher who loved literature, and he experimented with different literary styles to express his philosophy. Some of his books are long lists of aphorisms, while others are written almost like novels or poetry. His most famous book, Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), describes a prophet who comes down from the mountains to teach people about the coming of a new kind of super-man, but the people he speaks to only ridicule and laugh at him.
Nietzsche spent most of his life suffering from debilitating headaches and deteriorating eyesight, and he eventually became unstable and spent his last years in an asylum. He’s perhaps best known for claiming that “God is dead,” but most people forget that he actually said, “God is dead … and we have killed him!” He thought that the absence of God from the world was a tragedy, but he felt that people had to accept that tragedy and move on. He wrote that God was like a star whose light we can see, even though the star died long ago.
It was on this day in 1764 that Edward Gibbon (books by this author) thought up the idea of writing The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His six-volume work, published between the years 1776 and 1788, covered more than a thousand years of Roman history, from 180 A.D. to the fall of Constantinople.
Gibbon wrote in his autobiography: “It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted fryers were singing Vespers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the City first started to my mind. After Rome has kindled and satisfied the enthusiasm of the Classic pilgrim, his curiosity for all meaner objects insensibly subsides.”
Rome had cast a spell on Gibbon. He wrote that he was not very “susceptible [to] enthusiasms” and never pretended to be enthusiastic when he didn’t actually feel it. “But at the distance of twenty-five years I can neither forget nor express the strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first approached and entered the Eternal City. After a sleepless night, I trod with a lofty step the ruins of the Forum; each memorable spot where Romulus stood, or Tully spoke, or Caesar fell, was at once present to my eye; and several days of intoxication were lost or enjoyed before I could descend to a cool and minute investigation.”
Gibbon became known as “the first modern historian.” He tried to write objectively, and in departure from his predecessors, he relied heavily on primary source documents rather than on secondary sources such as official Church histories. He made extensive — and eccentric — use of footnotes.
Gibbon argued that the Roman Empire’s decline and fall were a result of a couple of major factors: changing military practices and the spread of Christianity. Rome had begun outsourcing its military jobs, hiring paid mercenaries from around the world to defend the Empire, and Gibbon argued that this made them susceptible to the “barbarian invasions” to which Rome fell victim. Additionally, he argued that Christianity’s emphasis on the heavenly afterlife reduced the incentive for Romans to sacrifice for the cause of their Empire and the accompanying earthly riches and glory.
It’s the birthday of the poet Virgil, (books by this author) born Publius Vergilius Maro near Mantua, Italy, 70 B.C.E. Not much is known about his early life, and although some biographers made him out to be a country bumpkin, he probably came from a well-off family who sent him off to get a good education. He may have been socially awkward and sickly, but no one knows for sure. He left behind some of the most beloved poems written in Latin: his pastoral poems, the Eclogues; his poems about farming, the Georgics; and the poem he wanted destroyed, The Aeneid. Emperor Augustus commissioned Virgil to write The Aeneid, and he worked on it for 11 years, but it still wasn’t finished at the time of his death. He left behind a request that the unfinished poem be burned, but Augustus forbade this from happening. The emperor’s orders were followed, and the Aeneid became a classic, and Virgil’s best-known work.
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