Nov. 10, 1999


by David R. Slavitt

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: November 10, 1999

Poem: "Titanic" by David R. Slavitt from Equinox & and Other Poems published by Louisiana State University.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the pre-school TV show Sesame Street, which made its first appearance on PBS in 1969.

On this day in 1951, the first coast-to-coast, direct-dial phone service went into effect: Mayor M. Leslie Denning, of Englewood, New Jersey, spoke with Mayor Frank P. Osborn of Alameda, California. The new service, using a 3-digit area code, was a marvel of technology: only 18 seconds after the dialing was complete, conversation began.

On this day in 1928, the first installment of the antiwar novel All Quiet on the Western Front (in German, Im Westen nichts Neues [im VEST-en nishts NOY-uhs]) was published in the German newspaper Vossische Zeitung [FOESS-ish-uh TSIE-tungk]. Two months later it was published in book form. Remarque [ruh-MARK], had been drafted into the German army at 18 and was wounded several times in the course of World War One. In a terse, understated style, he described the daily horrors faced by soldiers in the trenches. The novel' s matter-of-fact tone shocked many German readers, who found it amoral, in contrast to the patriotic rhetoric on the rise in Germany. In 1933, a year after gaining power, the Nazis banned the book.

It's the birthday of novelist J(ohn) P(hillips) Marquand [mar-KWAHND], born in Wilmington, Delaware (1893). He began his writing career with a widely read series of adventures featuring a Japanese intelligence agent named Mr. Moto, then wrote the novels for which he is now remembered, three studies of crumbling New England gentility: The Late George Apley (1937), Wickford Point (1939), and H.M. Pulham, Esquire (1941).

It's the birthday of playwright and poet (Johann Christoph) Friedrich Von Schiller, born in Marbach, in what is now Germany (1759). After attending a military academy, he became an army surgeon in Stuttgart, where he started writing his ‘Sturm und Drang' [storm and stress] style of verse and drama. He was ‘ennobled,' adding the ‘von' to the middle of his name, in 1802 when he was 42 years old. His works include the blank-verse drama Don Carlos (1787), the Wallenstein trilogy of plays (1800-1801), the drama William Tell (1804)—and the poem "An die Freude" ["Ode to Joy"], later set to music by Beethoven in his Choral Symphony.

It's the birthday of the Augustinian monk Martin Luther, born in Eisleben [ICE-lay-ben], Saxony (1483). He was 33 when, "for the purpose of eliciting truth," he tacked his 95 theses—or propositions—onto the door of Wittenberg's castle church (October 31, 1517). Many of his views were still tentative; he did not, for example, deny papal prerogative, but did find fault with papal policy, such as the sale of ‘indulgences' by the Catholic hierarchy. A turning point in Luther's thinking came when he discovered the message of grace—that a sinner is saved by God through faith alone, not by the sinner's actions, and certainly not by donating money to the Church. Luther's protest might well have gone unnoticed if not for the recent invention of the printing press, which made it possible for copies of his Theses to be circulated far and wide.

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