Sunday, December 27, 2009

Drink your Milk

Two heroes for the price of whatever they charge me for the internet at this lovely Vienna hotel. Today's hero (number 127) is Louis Pasteur, born this day 1822 in Dole, France. He was born the son of a poor tanner, but was a bright boy that went on to earn a degree in Mathematical Sciences, and teach physics at an elite university. He even got himself a little wife with whom he had five children. Two of these children died of typhoid, which is what inspired our boy Louis to try to find a cure diseases such as typhoid. I do not have the time, or the brains to go into all of Louis' work, read it for yourself, and learn something. I know I did. For all his work trying to cure the types of diseases that carried off two of his own, and for helping to make milk drinkable enough that millions of American schoolboys (such as myself) were forced to drink it down by the galleon, Louis Pasteur (December 27, 1822- September 28th, 1895, at the age of 72), you are my hero of the day.

The Tropics

No picture, and I know I am a day late for our 126th hero, but a long trip to Vienna, and the bastards charging me 7 quid an hour for internet is my (good) excuse. Either way today's (yesterday's) hero is one Henry Valentine Miller. Born December 26th, 1891 in Manhattan, New York. Born to a tailor, and possessing (by most accounts) a brilliant mind, our boy Henry could not be arsed to attend a regular college. To restless, and inquiring for the conventional school system, he attended the school of life. Moving to Paris in 1930 sans wife, he lived the starving artist lifestyle, became the friend, and lover to Anais Nin, and wrote the book that gains him hero status in my eyes. "The Tropic of Cancer" is a wonderful, racy, book detailing his years of "living the dream" in Paris. I particularly like the way he would figure out what night each of his friends would be having a meal he liked, and how on the night in question he would show up at dinnertime unannounced, and be "invited" to dinner. Quite a good way to keep from starving to death, and a good way to get the food you want. It beats begging, or having to eat the food some bastard just gives you. At least Miller's method insured he got food he wanted. No need to be the starving to death artist, that artist does not get to finish his work. Tropic was banned in the United States until the 1960's, which shows you both what a good book it is, and what Purtian prudes Americans were, and still are. It actually took the United States Supreme Court to declare the book a work of art and not obscene in order to get it printed in the United States. Anyway, my expensively price hour is almost up, so for writing that wonderful book detailing how to starve, but not quite to death, in the City of Lights, Henry Miller (December 26th, 1891-June 7th, 1980, at the age of 88), you are my hero of the day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Bogie


The smoking chap above is hero number 126, and his name is Humphrey Bogart born (supposedly) this day 1899 in New York City, New York. There is some debate as to his exact date of birth but, this one was the one he claimed which is good enough for me. His last name is dutch and means "orchard" a useless fact, but I have made a career of looking smart by knowing useless facts. He was raised in a fairly well to do family that was not too big on letting their emotions show. He was sent to private schools in the hopes of going to Yale, but for some disputed reason was expelled, and dreams of Yale were dashed. This little road block on mommy and daddy's plans for his future was not well received. Lacking other career options, Bogart joined the navy in 1918, and was off to see the world. He loved the sea, and said "at eighteen war was great, Paris! French girls! Hot Damn!" Seems the navy agreed with him, and after his active service, he moved back to New York, found a "real job," and enlisted in the Reserves. It was his navy days that allowed him to developed individual personality traits independent of family influences. He came to be a liberal who hated pretensions, phonies, and snobs, and at times he defied conventional behavior and authority, traits he displayed in life and in his movies. On the other hand, he retained their traits of good manners, articulateness, punctuality, modesty, and a dislike of being touched. That real job gave him the connection that landed him on the stage. He liked the late hours that actors kept, claiming that he was born to be indolent, and that acting was the softest of rackets. He got his "big" break playing on stage in a play called "The Petrified Forest" which was then turned into a film, his buddy Leslie Howard (a fine actor in his own right) insisting over the studio's objection that Bogart play the character he played on stage in the movie. Despite its success he only gained a modest contract with the studio, and was cast as a gangster many times. He stated "I can't get in a mild discussion without turning it into an argument. There must be something in my tone of voice, or this arrogant face—something that antagonizes everybody. Nobody likes me on sight. I suppose that's why I'm cast as the heavy." It was that arrogant face, and tone of voice that was to make him the biggest of stars. We all know the films "Casablanca" "The Big Sleep" "The Africa Queen" "The Caine Mutiny" and scores of others that made him the icon that he remains to this day. Of course, he worked his ass off, it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops, the studio system then in place did not really pamper the stars, and Warner Brothers was not (at first) too interested in making Bogart a big star. Between 1936 and 1940 he average a movie every two months. Often he would wear his own suits in his films because he thought the studio wardrobe department was cheap. By 1937 he had already had, and divorced two wives, and in 1938 married his third wife, Mayo Methot. It was not a case of third time lucky. The marriage was stormy to say the least. Booze, fights, stabbings, and guns being pulled on each other were some of the highlights of the marriage. The press dubbed them the "Battling Bogarts," and a friend quipped that "the Bogart marriage was the sequel to the Civil War." Seemed that Bogey (the nickname that Spencer Tracy bestowed upon him), liked a "jealous wife" and "wouldn't give two cents for a dame without a temper." Seems that Methot suited him right down to the ground. He had a lifelong disgust for the phony, and the fake (Hollywood was not full of phonies was it?), and cultivated a personality of the of a soured idealist, a man exiled from better things in New York, living by his wits, drinking too much, cursed to live out his life among second-rate people and projects. His first "big" film was "High Sierra" in 1941, then came one of my favourites, and it seems of his, "The Maltese Falcon" He claimed that it was practically a masterpiece, and one of the few things he was proud of, and he is right it is a masterpiece watch it, now. Next came Casablanca with Ingrid Bergman (a previous heroine), and it is probably the movie that most people remember him for, another master class of acting, and the two of them give two of the best performances ever captured on film, watch it, now. It was on the set of "To Have and to Have not" that Bogie was to meet the real love of his life, Lauren Bacall, at the time they met he was 45 and she was 19, the age difference did not matter, and a love affair (his first with one of his leading ladies) blossomed. Their next film together was "The Big Sleep" a film noir classic, in which everyone is packing heat, and one that I just saw again a couple of days ago. It is also a classic, and I spent a lot of time puzzling over the shortness of his tie, and/or the highness of his trousers, watch it, now. It was soon after this film that Bogart finally managed to divorce his third wife, and put an end to the Battling Bogarts. Shortly after the divorce was final, he and Bacall were married in May of 1945. It was to be his last, and happiest marriage lasting until his death in 1957. He made a couple of outstanding films before the curtain fell, "The African Queen" the film for which he won his only Oscar for Male Lead, with Katherine Hepburn, it is great, watch it, now. "The Caine Mutiny" another awesome film which is famous for his major scene on the stand near the end, watch it, now. A lifetime of heavy drinking, and smoking would eventually be his downfall. His health begin to fail, and he died (weighing only 80 lbs at the time of his death), in 1957 . He was, and remains one of the biggest stars that American cinema will ever see. He was also apparently a rather gifted chess player, and it was his idea to put that into the character of Rick Blaine in Casablanca. He was also a founding member of the Rat Pack, he did like to party, and who would turn down the chance to party with Bogart? I am as appalled as you are, dear readers, at the length of this post, it could have been much, much longer, but I trimmed it down a bit. I could wax lyrical for ages about Bogart, he was just that big of a star, and that big of a hero (the magnitude of which is a bit of surprise), plus I will be traveling to Vienna for about a week, so the next few posts might be a wee bit short. I figured I would give myself a big send off before the trip with a big post, and a BIG hero. Nature just happened to provide that with today's hero being Bogart. So, for all those films, and for all that talent, and for just being Bogart when the world needed Bogart, Humphrey Bogart (December 25th, 1899- January 14th, 1957, at the age of 57), you are my (christmas) hero of the day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cliffs of Dover

Number 125 of the hero list is the mutton chopped fellow above. His name is Matthew Arnold, and he was born this day 1822 in Laleham-on-Thames, England. He trudged through the usual English school boy education, and managed to come out the other side with a 2nd class Honours degree in "Greats" from Oxford. After kicking around trying to sort out how to be gainfully employed so he could start a family, he managed to land a job as Inspector of Schools. Like most full times gigs it was as much fun as being a loafer. He complained about the drudgery of full time work (welcome to the real world Matty), but did appreciate the benefits of full time employment (I guess it does pass the time). His job did, at first, require him to travel around a bit, and he got the benefit of being one of the first "men of letters" to experience rail travel on a regular basis. Arnold wrote reams and reams of stuff, poetry, criticism, prose, the whole nine yard in the literary world, but it is for one poem that I anoint him a hero. It is called "Dover Beach" which is probably terrible, but it was the first poem that I ever had to attempt to study, and write a paper about back in the stone ages when I was beginning my classical education. I am sure my readers will be shocked, absolutely shocked, to know that I got a resounding "F" on that paper, and managed to go on and fail the entire fucking class. Seems the road to becoming classically educated is not as smooth and wide as one would think. I recovered from that setback to become the blogging giant you read before you today, and for that Mr. Arnold deserves some credit. So, for that one poem that became a wake up call in my academic life, Matthew Arnold (December 24th, 1822- April 15th 1888, at the age of 65 of heart failure), you are my hero of the day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Festivus

Today's hero is today. December 23rd of every year is the holiday made a part of pop culture by that lovely show Seinfeld. Today is Festivus. A "Festivus for the rest of us." The faux holiday created (on the show) by Frank Costanza as an alternative to christmas. Instead of raining blows down upon some other poor slob trying to buy the same doll at some over priced department store, we sit around the Festivus pole, have Festivus dinner, the Feats of Strength, and (my personal favourite) the Airing of Grievances. The term Festivus is a Latin term, but there is some lively, scholarly debate on its exact meaning. All that stuff is for the bookworms of the world, the long and short of it is that the term "festive" comes from Festivus, and that is enough of a reason to have a party. There is an actual company that sells Festivus poles, no trees here, and no decorations as Mr. Costanza finds tinsel "distracting." The Airing of Grievances is, for me the highlight of the party, and to quote Frank Costanza it is "And at the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year!" There is the Feats of Strength were the party is not over until the host (Frank) is pinned (usually by George, who tries, fails, and is scarred for life). There are Festivus miracles (of which I have seen two already today). I find that Festivus is much more fun if you are intoxicated, as most party's are. However, it is always a good time to get a couple of friends together, have a few drinks, tell them they are disappointing you, but still your mates, and have a good meals all while mocking all the "normal" traditions with which we were raised. So, for making today "for the rest of us." Today is today's own hero. Happy Festivus you bastards!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Four for all

Number 123 on the hero list is the marble headed fellow above one Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus a.k.a. Diocletian born this day 244 in Salona, in present day Crotia. And he is the type of guy that gives us old geezers hope. He was born into a low caste family, and the first 40 years or so of his life are pretty obscure (as are mine), but he was destined for greater things. He was a military commander of some sort at the age of forty when the machinations, and a timely death or two of people not of us have ever heard of led to him being proclaimed emperor by his army in 284. Of course there was the small problem of one (at least) other fellow who seemed to think HE was the real emperor. Will the real emperor please stand up. This fellow, name of Carnius, was duly whipped in battle in late 284 or early 285, and Diocletian (as he came to be called) was THE man in the Roman Empire. He learned lessons well did our boy Diolcletian, and realizing that the Empire was too big to be ruled effectively by one man, he created a co-emperor by the name of Maximian. In 293 he went one better by having himself and Maximian "adopt/appointed" too other men as Caesars (i.e. heirs/junior partners), and the empire was then ruled by a Tetrarchy, Greek for "rule of four." One of his "downsides" is that he was not a fan of Christians, and issued a few edicts against them. He became known as Dukjan the adversary of God. If you like Christians (which I am not a huge fan of the religion), then I guess our boy is more of a heel than hero, but given my present (un)belief I still check the hero box next to his name. Still he brought some order to a time of chaos in the Empire, and on May 1st, 305, at the same location which he was proclaimed Emperor, he gave a speech abdicating the throne. Becoming the first person in history to voluntarily give up the title and job of Emperor. Now, I do not know much about the Emperor business, but I suspect it has it perks, dancing girls, good seats at the track, good food, good wine, and all other sorts of good shit, and giving that up without someones sword pointed at your throat takes a lot of balls. By 308 things were not going so well in the Empire, and a delegation came calling to beg him to ask him to get back in harness he replied "If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely would not dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed." Apparently he was quite happy raising crops, and had no interest in returning to the Emperor business. He did live long enough (sadly for him) to see his rule of four system fall apart at the seams. But for bringing order out of chaos, and kicking a few rowdy Christians in the ass, Diocletian (December 22th, 244-December 3rd, 311, at the age of 66), you are my hero of the day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Meddlesome Priest

Number 122 in the hero parade is Thomas a Becket born this day 1118, in Cheapside, London, England. Born the son of a mercer, he benefited from his father having rich friends, and having a good looking sister. That rich friend was interested in the good looking sister, and as a benefit Becket got to tag along to visit the rich friend's estate where he was taught all the ways of a gentleman. He also managed to get an excellent education in civil and canon law, and it was as such an educated fellow he first attracted the notice of King Henry II. He was appointed Chancellor of England in 1155, and set about helping good King Henry establish himself as an absolute ruler. He quickly became a firm friend of King Henry, and was a happy participate in all of the reindeer games that kings of the time like to play. Whores, hunts, horses, and hounds it sounds a rough life, and Becket took to it like a duck to water. Henry appointed him the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 in order to have a "yes man" heading the church, in order to help Henry wrest power from the Church. Things did not quite go as Henry planned. His appointment transformed Becket into an ascetic, seems he took to being the head of the Church seriously. It was Henry's attempt to gain that power from the clergy written into the Constitutions of Clarendon that led to his famous rift with he (soon to be ex) friend. Becket refused to sign the document, and was eventually tried, and hounded out of England by Henry. Things came to a head in 1170, and Henry uttered (sources are confused as to the exact ones) the famous words that I learned as "will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest." Four of his knights, taking his query as an order, did just that and assassinated Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. This act of violence did not solve Henry's problems, and created a martyr, Thomas a Becket would eventually become known as Saint Thomas a Becket, and would go down in history for a man who died for his principles. Thus, for keeping to his principles, and dying for them (willingly or not), Thomas a Becket (December 21st, 1118- December 29th, 1170, at the age of 52), you are my hero of the day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

French Songbird

The lovely lady above is our 121st hero(ine) of the day with a small caveat. Her name is Edith Piaf, and she was born yesterday in the year 1915, in Paris, France. Since there was no hero of this day, I decided to save our little heroine above for today. Hey, it is my blog, and I get to make (and break) the rules as I see fit. The details of her birth are a bit mysterious, as is most of her life. Mystery helps a woman a lot, it makes her sexy, and unattainable, for men it just makes us surly and uncommunicative. Her father was a street acrobat, and it was at the age of 14 that she first sang in public as a part of her father's "act." She was "discovered" in 1935 by club owner Louis Leplee, who taught her the basics of stage presence, picked out what would soon be her trademark attire (a black dress), and gave her the nickname which would stick with her forever "the Little Sparrow." That nickname was, in part, based upon her stature she was only 4 feet 8 inches tall, and sparrow was a pretty apt description. Leplee gave her the big break she needed, and a star was on her way to being born. A small hitch did happen, when in 1936 Leplee was murdered, and Piaf was deemed to be a suspect. She was followed around by the French police, and was acquitted of being an accomplice in the crime. However, it was determined that the killers were mobsters that had ties with Piaf, and she was overwhelmed by negative media attention. Her new "manager" Raymond Asso would help her cuts ties with the "bad men" from her life, and helped to rehabilitate her image. And what a rehabilitation it was, she was on her way to superstar status, and would become France's most popular entertainer. Songs like "Le Vie en Rose" and "Non je ne regrette rein," (the one we all know from Saving Private Ryan), made her an international star. It was a life, like many of lives, that had its share of tragedy. The great love of her life, a boxer by the name of Marcel Cerdan, was married with three children, and was killed in a plan crash in 1949 on his way to see Piaf in New York. A car crash in 1951 severely injured her, and an addiction to morphine soon followed. She continued to sing until her death from liver cancer in 1963, and so for all those lovely, haunting songs that bring a tear to many a Frenchman's eye, Edith Piaf (December 19th, 1915- October 10th, 1963, at the age of 47), you are my heroine of the day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Daddy Dearest

The fork bearded fellow above is our 120th hero of the day. His name is Gustaf II Adolf, better known to us non-Swedes as Gustavus Adolphus born this day 1594 in Stockholm, Sweden. He has the added heroic quality of being the father of yesterday's heroine. So two days in a row we are graced by Swedes who just happen to be father and daughter. He became king at the age of seventeen, when he emerged victorious after a wee dynastic dispute. Gustaf led Sweden into the Thirty Year's War on the Anti-Imperial side. Winning battle after battle with the best organized, and best trained army in the field. He has been called the father of modern warfare, not too sure that would make him overly happy, and I suspect he would not take credit for the mass slaughter of WW I, and WW II. He did, however, make advances in how his army was trained that were copied by Napoleon, and Patton considered him on the best generals of all time. High praise even if it does come from a couple of butchers. He helped transform Sweden from a mere regional power to a "superpower." A force to be reckoned with, and a major player on the world political stage. However, this glory was to be gained at a price, and in Gustaf's case the price was the ultimate price. He was killed (probably by friendly fire), at the battle of Lutzen on November 6th, 1632. His wife, a bit of an odd bird, kept his body and his heart at Nykoping castle for over a year before allowing it to be buried in Stockholm. I have actually laid eyes upon the church in which his remains rest, and I was quite impressed. Nothing like visiting the grave sites of your heroes to put your life into some sort of context. After his death the Swedish parliament officially bestowed upon him the title of "the Great" something that no other Swedish monarch before or since has been allowed. He would be succeed to the throne by yesterday's heroine, and thus the circle of heroes has been completed. So, for putting Sweden on the big stage to play with the big boys, and for being the only Swedish monarch allowed to be called "the Great," Gustaf II Adolph Magnus (December 19th, 1594- November 6th, 1632), you are my hero of the day.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ice Queen


The homely lady above is our 119th hero(ine) of the day. Her name is Christina (of Sweden), and she was born this day 1626 in Stockholm, Sweden. At her birth she was mistaken for a boy child because she was a bit hairy, and screamed so loud they mistook her for a boy. Her father, a fine king in his own right (Gustaf II), did not seem to care. He was happy to have an heir as he was about to march off to war, and get his fool self killed (though he did not know it at the time). Her father gave orders for Christina to be raised a prince, and she took the oath as a king, not as a queen, giving rise to her nickname "the Girl King." Before he left for war, her father secured Christina's right to succeed him if he were to be killed in battle. He was killed, and Christina became king/queen of Sweden at the ripe old age of six. The most enduring thing that I remember from my classical education about Christina is that she was deeply interested in philosophy, and convinced the French philosopher Rene Descartes to move to Sweden in order to tutor her. Not a bad tutor to have I would think that Descartes would be a pretty good tutor to put on your "taught by" list. However, Descartes was not used to or ready for the Swedish winters he had to endure, and caught pneumonia and died. It does appear that Christina was distraught with guilt, which does make some sense as she secretly converted to Catholicism at some point, and Catholics love them some guilt. However, Sweden was VERY much Lutheran at the time. This switch in religion, and a desire to no longer be Queen (including the fact that she was not too interested in marrying and begetting an heir) led to her abdicating the throne in 1654. She lived out most of the remainder of her life in Rome, getting into adventures, and generally causing all sorts of lovely rumours to be spread about her. But, for giving up her crown for her faith, and a deep seated interest in knowledge rather than power, Christina (of Sweden) (December 18th 1626-April 19th 1689, at the age of 62), you are my heroine of the day.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Zero

Another zero hero day today dear readers, as the list of birthdays did not yield the desired result. There were a couple of close calls, and a couple of people (Sir Humphry Davy and Jules de Goncourt) that came very, very close to hero status, but I must confess to only knowing the bare minimum about Davy's scientific work, which was quite considerable, but seems to have been left off of the curriculum at my institute of higher learning. I did manage, a couple of years ago, to read the journals of de Goncourt, and his brother Edward, and they are fantastic reading. A bit like a gossip column for 19th century French culture, and the prize for the best, and most imaginative prose of the year (in France) bears the brothers name. However, I can not read French well enough to read imaginative prose in the native language, and I feel that a lot is usually lost in translation. Those were the two nearly men for today, and neither one of them quite managed to crawl all the way up, and perch unwaveringly on the hero pedestal that I have created. Therefore, it is with some sadness, but with the hero for tomorrow already chosen, that I have to inform you that for today, there is no hero of the day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Ninth

The wild haired fellow above is our 118th hero of the day, he is one Ludwig van Beethoven born this day 1770 in Bonn, Germany. In his early twenties he moved to Vienna (a city I will soon be visiting), and began studying music under Joseph Haydn. He had been born into a musical family, his father and grandfather were both singers, and young Ludwig first began taking lessons from dear old dad at an early age. His move to Vienna, was a first so that he could establish himself as a pianist not a composer. And it was a pianist that his fame was, at first, based upon. He quickly became known as a virtuoso, and launched himself into a piano playing tour of Central Europe. We all have some vague notion of the rest of the story, and after two hours in a dental chair yesterday that has left my face feeling like a punching bag, I am just too lazy to write out too much of it. His fame is well known is music (though the latter stuff is a bit bombastic for my taste) is timeless. The ninth is famously used in "A Clockwork Orange," as the only saving grace of the main character's life. The Fifth is also very famous, and I am sure we were all exposed to it during the Looney Tune cartoons that people of a certain (my) age were glue to on Saturday mornings. He died, and is buried in Vienna, and on my sojourn there I will probably attempt to make the obligatory journey to his grave. I will, if possible, bring a bottle of something alcoholic, and offer a silent toast to one of the greatest composers of all time. For that lovely music, and for being a character, Ludwig von Beethoven (December 16th, 1770- March 26th, 1827, at the age of 56), you are my hero of the day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

La Tour Eiffel

The fellow above is one Gustave Eiffel, number 117 on the hero list was born this day 1832in Djion, France. Of course his famous for the tower that bears his name, and for that his hero status is based. At first, the people of France and Paris hated the tower, and called it his folly. However, since then it has become THE symbol of Paris, used in countless movies, and visited by millions of tourists every year. Even your faithful author has made it to visit the iconic tower, and managed to get his picture taken by some French con artist selling pictures of them at the tower to tourist. That little incident almost led to blows being exchanged until I realize that beating up a Frenchman was not really fair. The tower is 1,063 feet tall making it the tall building in Paris, and for a (not so small fee) you can even get a ride to the top. He also had a large part to play in designing the Statute of Liberty, so all in all not a bad career. And he did design a lot of other buildings in several other countries, but for the Tower and Lady Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (December 15th, 1832-December 27th, 1923, at the age of 91), you are my hero of the day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stars


Number 116 in our hall of heroes is the fellow above. His name is Tycho Brahe, and he was born this day 1546 in Svalov, Denmark. Well at the time it belonged to Denmark, but today is a part of Sweden, but I was always taught to refer to him as a Dane, so Danish he shall be. His claim to hero status rest upon him being one of the best, if not the best, observational astronomers in human history. It seems that young Tycho was "kidnapped" (sort of) by a rich uncle who took him away from his parents in the hopes of making him a scholar. Well, good or bad the uncle succeeded far beyond his wildest expectations. He eventually made it to the University of Copenhagen were he was to study law. I have the firm believe that everyone useless piece of mule shit goes to study law. If you can not do anything else, and are fairly useless to the family they ship you off to study "law." Luckily for the world, a solar eclipse took place while Brahe was at university, and he was impressed both by it, and by the fact that it was predicted. So he did what every frustrated law student would have done in his place, he chucked his law books and began to study astronomy. One of the coolest facts about our boy Tycho is that when he was just 20 years old he got into a bit of a set to with a fellow student, otherwise known as a duel (that happened to take place in the dark), as a result of this bit of hi jinks Brahe lost the bridge of his nose, and wore a fake nose for the rest of his life. It was said to be made of gold, and or silver, but there is evidence that he also wore a copper one as well. Either way, a metal nose did not stop him from looking up at the stars, and that is what he did. For almost 24 years Brahe, at his research institute Urianborg, would go out and take measurements of the stars and planets with the most accurate instruments available. It was these measurements that, after his death, his assistant, a fellow by the name of Kepler, would use to develop his own system of astronomical theory. Kepler himself admitted to taking advantage of Brahe's death by "usurping" his data, and using it for his own theories. For without all that data that Brahe religiously collected much of what we came to know about the heavens above would have been impossible to know. For, just taking the time, and meticulously recording what he saw, and where he saw it thus providing other astronomers the key to unlock the mysteries of the stars above, Tycho Brahe (December 14th, 1546- October 24th, 1601, at the age of 54), you are my hero of the day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Paris is worth a Mass

The sardonic looking fellow above is one Henri IV of France, our 115th hero of the day, born this day 1553 in Pau, France. He was baptised a Roman Catholic, but was raised a Protestant, and eventually reached Calvinism all before he became a teenager. Upon the death of his mother he became King of Navarre in 1572. These years were rough times in France. Known as the Wars of Religion, a lot of people got their asses killed just for being the wrong faith. Even Henri himself just managed to escape death during the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Henri became heir to the throne of France, but since he was a Huguenot, a lot of people did not fancy him as king. In fact, he being declared heir sparked what is known as the war of the three Henries. This war was to devastate France for nearly a decade until Henri, even though he was winning the war he was unable to take Paris, decided to renounce Calvinism and convert to Catholicism. Declaring that Paris was "well worth a mass." Henri proved an excellent ruler, ruling with " a weapon in hand, and arse in the saddle," he made it his goal to put a chicken in every man's pot. His rule saw the construction of the Pont Neuf over the river Seine. Although he was an excellent ruler that made numerous improvement in all areas of French society, and economy, Henri still was the object of several assassination attempts. In 1610, one of these eventually succeeded. Henri was stabbed to death my a fanatical monk Francois Ravaillac. But, for making France stable in a time of serious religious strife, and for that one line about Paris being worth a Mass, Henri IV of France (December 13th, 1553- May 14th, 1610, at the age of 56), you are my hero of the day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Origins redux

of our 114 heroes

24 Americans
26 French
20 English
8 Austrians
1 Greek
6 Germans
8 Swedish
2 Canadians
3 Hungarians
1 Welsh
4 Russians
3 Italians
1 Danish
1 Swiss
1 Albanian
1 Irish
1 Scots
1 Norwegian

Profession update

Of our 114 heroes

1 word
3 painters
5 poets
3 businessmen
3 film makers
3 cartoonists
7 rulers
31 authors
7 soccer players
7 scientists
6 politicians
15 actors/actresses
2 hockey players
6 musicians
2 baseball players
2 explorers
1 inventor
1 dentist
1 doctor
1 skier
3 fictional characters
1 photographer
1 diplomat
1 philosopher

Gender Update

No fancy pie charts today. The gender breakdown of our 114 heroes so far


9 Females or 13%

104 Males or 86%

1 Word

Scream

Our 114th hero is the fellow that painted the famous picture above. He is, of course, Edvard Munch born this day 1863 (42 years to the day after Flaubert), in Loten, Norway. I believe, but would have to verify, that Herr Munch would be our first Norwegian to grace this posts. His father was a doctor who was the son of a priest, and his pietism was to have a profound effect on young Edvard's upbringing. Munch wrote, “My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.” Munch was a sickly child who took refuge in drawing at an early age. He had a bit of a nomadic upbringing, moving from one sordid flat to another because his father's pay was too low to support the family after the mother's death from tuberculosis. Munch would later write, "I inherited two of mankind's most frightful enemies—the heritage of consumption and insanity." All in all, a rough beginning for anybody, and certainly a rough beginning for Munch. He enrolled in a technical college at the age of 16 in order to study engineering, but the next year he decided to toss that over and become a painter. This move did not go over in a big way with the paterfamilias, Munch senior considered painting an "unholy trade." Strong words of encouragement from the old man there. I confess that Munch's hero status is solely based on the painting above. "The Scream" says a lot of things to a man of my tender years going through the crisis I am going through. I have recently ran across mention of Munch in a couple of articles I read, and curious about him I ordered a biography of him. I only hope that, like Flaubert, he survives me reading it with his hero status intact. Munch seems to have a lived a colourful life, one that had a lot of ups and downs but rarely seemed boring. I hope that I develop a deeper appreciation for his other works, and do not end up thinking of him as some raging douche bag that the work is better off without. I will steal his words one more time, this time what he wrote about how his most famous painting came into being:

I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature."

Thus, one of the most recognizable paintings in human history (like the Mona Lisa, or American Gothic) came into being, partially because its creator was a mad as a March hare. Who said being crazy is always a bad thing? So for painting that painting that speaks to a little part of us all, Edvard Munch (December 12th, 1863-January 23rd, 1944, at the age of 80), you are my (second) hero of the day.

Bon Mot


The large fellow above is one Gustave Flaubert, our 113th hero of the day will have to share the spoils of this particular day. M. Flaubert was born this day 1821 in Rouen, France. Born the second son of a surgeon, Flaubert begin writing at an early age, and was educated in his home city of Rouen. He did not travel to Paris until the age of 19 when he went there to study law. He was an indifferent law student, and as someone who has studied law, I can feel his pain. After about six years, one failed law exam, and one attack of epilepsy, he gave up the study of law and began to travel. It was about this time that he began the only serious romantic relationship of his life with Louise Colet. It last until 1854, and while Flaubert still, on occasion, "loved the ladies," he was pretty much finished with the idea of marriage and settling down. He and his life long friend, Maxime du Camp traveled the Nile in Egypt where they tasted the local fruit, and Flaubert was later able to write a short little travel book about their experiences. His most famous work, Madame Bovary, I will confess to not reading, however much in keeping with his writing style it took five years to finish. Flaubert was famous for searching for just the right word, the right turn of phrase for his books, and never resorted to cliches in any of his writings. Bovary did manage to get Flaubert and his publisher prosecuted for immorality, a charge of which they were acquitted, and his fame was secured. But for me, Flaubert's hero status rest upon two things. First, I read a biography of him that was quite good, and unlike some people who's biography I read, at the end of the book I still admired Flaubert. Something to be said for that, there have been people I thought I admired until I read a biography of them and found out what a real cunt they were. Secondly, his book "Sentimental Education." If you have not read it I suggest rushing out to the nearest book store and purchasing it. It is a fucking fantastic pieced of literature, and it took him seven years to finish. It is a book that you can read again and again, it had a profound effect on another fairly good writer Franz Kafka, who referred to Flaubert as his father (in the literary sense). He died in 1880 of a cerebral hemorrhage, and the world was immediately a poorer place. So, for taking the time, and effort of his words that I wish I had the ability to take, and for writing one of the ten best books I have ever read, Gustave Flaubert (December 12th 1821- May 8th 1880, at the age of 58), you are my (first) hero of the day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Il conformista


The serious looking fellow above is one Jean-Louis Trintignant our 112nd hero of the day. M. Trintignat was born this day 1930 in Piolenc, France. The son of a wealthy industrialist, his claim to hero status is based (mostly) upon the role he is playing in the above picture. At 20 he moved to Paris to pursue his dream of acting, and got his first big role in 1956's And God created Woman opposite Bridget Bardot. Not a bad way to start a career. It is his role as the magistrate in the move "Z" that first drew my attention to his skill. His other roles that I think are fantastic are in "The Conformist," and in the movie "Three Colors: Red." Those roles, and his consummate acting skill are why he has climbed to the top of the hero pole for today. His talent is undeniable, but it also helped that his competition was a bit on the light said as well. It also helps that he just fits my bill as being the star of many of those odd black and white French films that I had a "phase" of watching a couple of years ago. So, for those roles, and for that skill in acting that I only wish I had, Jean-Louis Trintignant (December 11th, 1930-present), you are my hero of the day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beyond my control

Sorry lads and ladies, but today is just not going to be a heroic type of day. I scour and scour the lists of birthdays, going further and further afield each time this happens, but today we have scored a miss. I am not sure which is harder, the scouring the world over, or the coming up with new and interesting ways to post that there will be no post today. I have put a fair amount of work into this project, and have kept it going for over a hundred days. Which, if you were to ask anyone that knows me, is pretty good for a fat, lazy slob such as myself. One of the (many) flaws of this project is that it relies on my (limited) ability to come up with a hero everyday, and is limited to that person's birthday. I did that in order to make it more difficult, and (I hope) more interesting. However, I do not think that I thought it all the way through as to how bleeding difficult that would make the project. Setting goals high is all well and good, if you are able to come close to obtaining them, but there is something to be said for aiming low and overreaching expectations. My ability to find, and then form something semi-worthy of writing about a person a day when I am so lazy, or tired that I do not look more than one day in advance, was seriously over-estimated by my own fool self. I suppose it was a rush of blood to the head that made me think that I could just search, process, and write all with the greatest of ease. The horrifying fact is that at 111 heroes is I am still over 250 short of the goal. Maybe I should have done a hero of the week or moth instead. Another flaw in the plan is the whole having a day job thing sometimes just gets in the damn way of writing a post. Like this one for instance, I just got carted off by my day job for almost an hour in mid sentence, and now whatever point I was trying to make has flown the coop. Either way, this is just a long way of saying that sorry, dear readers but for today there is no hero of the day.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Paradise Lost

The long haired, hippie looking fellow above is our 111th hero of the day. His name is John Milton born this day 1608 in London, England. It is quite simple where he hero status rests, and if you know me quite odd. His status rests solely on his poem Paradise Lost. The only interesting fact that I know about Milton is that he read so much that he went blind. I guess that is a lot of reading under bad lights. I am not a fan of his Puritanism, nor do I care for his patron Oliver Cromwell, but it is just simply for one of the best lines in all of English poetry that I elevate him to hero status. Actually, it is two separate lines. The first one is when Satan is thrown out of heaven into hell. Satan looks around at his new "kingdom" of chaos, fire, and brimstone, and merely says "So be it." Something to be said for that, and I know it seems like I am admiring Satan, but it is a fabulous line. Accepting your banishment no matter who banished you, and where you land is the first step to living a purpose driven life. I am not the Prince of Darkness by any stretch of the imagination, but I can feel his pain on the banishment front. The other quote from the poem that I love is also from our cloven hoofed friend. He declares that "it is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven." Again good stuff that, and of course the sin is clearly pride. A sin that I also possess in spades. It makes be a very difficult subordinate, and a very unreliable "yes man." Just ask the big cheese I presently work for if you do not believe me. And there is something to be said for the reigning in hell part, it may suck, and it may not be the nicest place in the world, but it is MY hell, and sometimes that makes all the difference. So, for writing a lovely piece of poetry that contains those lovely lines John Milton (December 9th, 1608-November 8th, 1674, at the age of 65) you are my hero of the day.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Light my Fire


Seems that December is making up for all those barren days by giving us a plethora of heroes today. Taking the "show" money, and completing the trifecta for today is the broodingly handsome fellow above. Number 110's name is James Douglas (I'm Jim) Morrison born this day 1943 in Melbourne, Florida. He was born into a respectable family (his father was an Admiral), and supposedly had an I.Q. of 149. When he was four years old he witnessed the aftermath of a car crash in the desert, and believed it to be one of the most formative events of his life. He made frequent references to the event in his music, and his poems. Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile eggshell mind." Being a Navy brat he did have to move about often bouncing from school to school, and city to city. He eventually finished his undergraduate degree in film at UCLA. It was in 1965 that he formed the band that was to make him famous, The Doors. The name is a quote from Aldous Huxley's "The Doors of Perception" which is itself a quote from William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." The Doors got their start at the famous club Whiskey a Go Go opening for Van Morrison. Jim is credited for being the main lyricist of the group, but guitarist Robbie Krieger did make significant contributions to many of the group's biggest hits (i.e. Light My Fire, Love me Two Times, and Touch Me). It was "Light My Fire" that was their first number one hit, and got them invited to play on the Ed Sullivan show. The lyrics "girl we couldn't get much higher" were just a little too much for good old Ed and the censors, and they requested that Jim sing the amended version "girl we couldn't get much better." Morrison said that he would, but during the performance sang the original version anyway, saying that he forgot, and it did not go over well with Ed. Sullivan refused to shake their hand at the end of the performance, and never invited them back onto the show. Morrison was the ideal rock star, sex, drugs, leather pants, and mysterious, and for my money, The Doors are one of the top five rock bands of all time. They are right up there with The Police in my personal hall of fame. He even did the required bit about dying young, of a supposed heroin overdose in Paris at the age of 27). Reading one of his biographies (years and years ago) does give me insight into why I admire the crazy bastard so much. Some of major influences are heroes of mine in their own right. Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Louis-Ferdindad Celine, Antonin Artaud, and Jack Kerouac will all, when their time comes will graces this blog as heroes, and they were all influences on Morrison. So for sharing all those heroes with me, and for writing lines like "Five in one, baby One in Five, No one here gets out alive," which is so very true, James Douglas Morrison (December 8th, 1943- July 3rd, 1971, at the age of 27, of a heroin overdose), you are my (third, and biggest) hero of the day.

Down the Stretch they Come

The bewhiskered fellow above comes in the "place" position in today trifecta of heroes. Number 109 is one August Belmont, Sr. born this day 1813 in Hesse, Prussia. Born into a poor Jewish family his mother died when he was only seven, and he was shipped off to live with an uncle and aunt. His first job was for the famous banking family, the Rothschilds, but it was the glamour type of position. He was set to sweeping floors, running errands, polishing furniture while trying to complete his studies. But talent rises to the top, I suppose, and by 1837 he was assigned to be Rothschild's man in Havana. However, on the way to Havana he stopped over in New York, and since the panic of 1837 was raging, he was redirected to manage the Rothschilds interests in New York. He stared his own company in the hopes of saving the Rothschild's interests and it was an immediate, raging success. In 1844, he was named Austria's consul-general in order to help his business interests, but resigned the position in 1850 in protest of Austria's cruel treatment of Hungary. He became pretty prominent in politics as a major player in the Democratic party, but it is not for that he is my hero. He is the namesake of the race that is the third jewel in the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, ran every year in the second week of June. He was famous for throwing lavish balls, and tasteful parties. But it is for that one race, which I have wagered, and lost a considerable amount of money on over the years (and will continue to wager I am sure)that August Belmont, Sr. (December 8th-1813- November 24th-1890, at the age of 66), you are my (second) hero of the day.

Threesome


No, not that kind of threesome (get your mind(s) out of the gutter) but a trio of heroes for a cold, rainy December day. The first of our group, number 108 on the list, is the dashing fellow above. His name is Geoff Hurst born this day 1941 in Ashton-under-Lyne, England. His claim to hero status rests upon him being the only player in history to score a hat-trick in one game in the World Cup Final. It happened in 1966 against the stinking West Germans, and it happened in the old Wembley stadium. It also propelled the English to their only World Cup triumph, and it happened on home soil. Not bad for a fellow who probably would not have been playing in the match but for an injury to fellow striker Jimmy Greaves. His hat-trick is considered a natural hat trick because he scored one goal with his head, one goal with his left foot, and one goal with his right foot. Both the second and third goal happened in extra time, and were both very controversial. The first one is the most famous one, the did it cross the line or not? Years, and years later and no one is quite sure. Hurst's explanation is probably the best. His teammate, Roger Hunt was the closest English player to the ball, and instead of following up and lashing the ball into the net to make certain, he wheeled away to celebrate. Hurst claims (and is probably right) that a natural goal scorer like Hunt would have never done that unless he was sure it was a goal. His third goal was in the last minute of the game, and happened while supporters were already on the pitch celebrating the English win, in fact, Hurst did not realize that his last goal counted, and perfected his hat trick, until the night after the game. However, the best story about Hurst is about his activity the day after the game. "The media were desperate to speak one-on-one with Hurst and they found him the day after the final, back home in London. As if to prove that life had to go on, Hurst was carrying out the mundane task of mowing his lawn when the journalists turned up." Try that today, and see what some idiot footballer would be doing after winning his country the world cup. I do not support the Englanders in their World Cup endeavours, my heart belongs to another country, but any bastard that can lash in a hat-trick in the biggest game in his life on the world's biggest stage deserves to be a hero. And so, for scoring three to help England lift the Rimet trophy, Sir Geoff Hurst (December 8th, 1941-present), you are my (first) hero of the day.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Ugly


The gun toting fellow above is one Eli Herschel Wallach, our 107th hero of the day born this day 1915 in Brooklyn, New York. Born into the only Jewish family in an Italian-American neighborhood, his parents owned a candy store. He went to the University of Texas where he began to study acting. He made his Broadway debut in 1945, and won a Tony award 1951 for his role in Tennessee Williams play "The Rose Tattoo." However, his hero status rests on one role that of Tuco in "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." He plays the "ugly" the one who is really in it for the money, but who still has a human side that he just can not hide. In fact, Tuco is the most human of them all. He is not the cold hearted Bad (Lee van Clift) that robs prisoners, and engages in violence for the sake of violence. Nor is he the scheming Good (Clint Eastwood), who shares the bounty money for turning Tuco into the law. The Ugly is the simplest one of the group, a cross between good and bad, and therefore the easiest to identify with. Wallach was almost killed twice during the filming of the movie, accidentally drinking acid that was placed next to his soft drink can, and in one scene when he uses a passing train to cut his handcuffs you can see that if he had raised his head he would have been decapitated by the steps on the caboose. He went on to play Mr. Freeze in the 1960's Batman TV series, a role that he said he got more fan mail about that all his other roles combined. But it is for that one role, that one inspired acting job as Tuco, that is one of the best roles in one of the best films I have ever seen (about 5 times), that makes Eli Wallach (December 7th-1915-present), my hero of the day.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

December Stinks

December seems to be just a useless fucking month. More days without heroes than days we have heroes. It has gotten rather cold in my town (which I usually like), and of course there again was the thousand or so mental defectives running some idiot marathon on all the major streets of my town (see last years post). I can only hope the cold snap managed to kill a couple of those "runners" during their little jaunt that made driving anywhere in town virtually impossible. However the cold has also sent my house into its usual winter activity of being ten degrees too cold downstairs, and ten degrees too hot upstairs. It just plays hell with my electric bill, and my confront. There was one possible hero of the day a fellow by the name of Tim Cahill a soccer play for Everton who scored the game tying goal today against Tottenham (whom I detest), but Mr. Cahill is an Aussie, and I am pretty convinced that almost all Aussies are cunts. Therefore, I just could not make an Aussie cunt my hero of the day. I know it is horrible to pigeon hole an entire country of people based upon such a small sample, but the facts are the facts. So I sit here in the cold downstairs of the shit hole I call home, and ponder if maybe March is just not a good month for getting knocked up. If December keeps failing on the hero front, I might have to start expanding my search. Either way it is with frozen fingers, and the usual regret that I have to inform that for today we are hero less.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Eagle


The goofy looking fellow above is our 106th hero of the day one Michael Edwards, better known as Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards, born this day 1963 Cheltenham, England. At the time of his rise to both fame and hero status Eddie was working as a plasterer. He was plastering away when he qualified as the only British applicant in the ski jumping contest for the 1988 Calgary Olympics. He had previously represented Britain at the 1987 World Championship, and was ranked 55th in the world. You would think that the 55th ranked anything in the world would not be a chubby, near sighted plasterer from England, but I guess ski jumping is a niche sport. He did weight about 20 pounds more than his next heaviest competitor, and in a sport like ski jumping that is not a good thing. He was so short-sighted that he had to keep his glasses on under his ski goggles, and they would fog up when he was competing. So a fat, blind tub of lard hurdling through the air on a pair of skis was England's great hope in the ski jumping competition. He was entirely self-funded, and as a result (and a lack of any talent) caused him to finish last in both the 70 metre and 90 metre events at the Olympics. His lack of success in the sport did not stop him from being a celebrity. He was referred to as Mr. Magoo, and one fellow even branded him a ski dropper. Lovely stuff, but Eddie would not be denied his moment of fame. He was a great embarrassment to the ski jumping powers that be, and after him the rules for being able to qualify for the Olympics were made much tougher. However those bastards could not take away Eddie's moment, at the closing ceremony of the games the president of the games proclaimed "At this Games some competitors have won gold, some have broken records and one has even flown like an eagle." The crowd went crazy and began chanting "Eddie" "Eddie" thus making Eddie the only athlete in the long and storied history of the Olympic Games to have been mentioned in a closing speech. Not bad for a short-sighted, chubby, flies like a stone, plasterer. So, for showing us that you do not have to be good in order to compete, and that nice can finish last, and still be a hero, and for giving it the old college try, Michael Edwards, a.k.a Eddie the Eagle (December 5th 1963-present), you are my hero of the day.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A hero's hero


The lantern jawed fellow above is one Rainer Mara Rilke who is our 105th hero of the day. He was born this day 1875 in Prague, Bohemia (then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). I will confess that I had never heard of Rilke until about a month ago when I read the auto-biography of Stefan Zweig, who was a friend of Rilke. Only through Zweig do I know anything about Rilke, and Zweig was a great admirer of Rilke both as a person, and as an author. That is enough for me to anoint him the hero of an otherwise bare day. I have put some of his works on my to read list. His letters to a young poet are supposed to be quite good, and I have high hopes for them. Any knucklehead can google him, and see how his life played out, and the ups and downs he had to face (seems there were more downs than ups). He was, according to Zweig, one of the best conversationalists you would ever want to meet. So, for writing some (what I can only assume) is some lovely prose, and poetry that I will get around to reading someday soon, Rainer Maria Rilke (December 4th 1875-December 29th, 1926, at the age of 51 of leukaemia), you are my hero of the day.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Horror, The Horror




Today's 104th hero is the fellow on the right, one Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski otherwise known as Joseph Conrad born this day 1857 in Berdyczów, Ukraine. Keeping in line with the theme of yesterday's post, I have attached a photo of Mr. Marlon Brando playing Colonel Kurtz in the movie version of The Heart of Darkness (i.e. Apocalypse Now). His father was a politically active writer of plays, and managed to get him and his family exiled to some wasteland 300 miles north of Moscow, and this rough climate helped led him to being an orphan by the age of eleven. By the age of 16 he was on his way to the south of France to become a seaman. It was that life of adventure that lead to voyages all over the world, and a failed love affair that led to a suicide attempt in 1878. It was in 1886 that he gained his British citizenship, and changed his name to Joseph Conrad. His most well known work "The Heart of Darkness" is based upon his own experiences of captaining a riverboat in the Congo Free State. In 1894, at the age of 36, he gave up the seafaring life to embark on his career as a writer. At first his success was limited, and his work gained a bit of a lightweight reputation, but eventually he became recognized for what he was, a master of prose. So it is for that prose style that made him one of the most popular writer's in his day (in English, his third language), and for the "horror" that inspired such a great book, and awesome film that Joseph Conrad (December 3rd, 1857-August 3rd, 1924, at the age of 66 of a heart attack), you are my hero of the day.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Redux


Let's just say that Apocalypse Now, while being one the greatest fucking movies of all time, is not one you should watch while in the middle of an existential crisis. Everyone knows the story, and I hope most of us have read "The Heart of Darkness" upon which it is based. At least Willard has a goal, a mission, to kill the insane Kurtz. At least that is something I suppose, and I would not be too upset if I could just sort out one of those for myself, a goal that is. I think I have recognized that as my problem, I lack a goal some sort of raison d'etre that defines my reason to be on the planet. I doubt there is some dark river that I need to traverse with some homicidal maniac waiting at the end of it for me to slaughter, but at least that would provide a sense of purpose. It could be that my raison d'etre is to rake the shit ton of leaves that are falling from my neighbor's trees, and blanketing my yard like snow. Not that I believe that is a reason to be, but it does help pass the time, and really that is what I need, a way to pass the time. It seems I have bags of the stuff (to go along with the bags of leaves), and bags of time can be a double edged sword. At first blush you would think "wow I could use some free time to get a ton of stuff done." And you would be right, as long as you had some stuff to do. Not that I don't have stuff to do, I get up at an ungodly hour five days a week and toddle off to "work." There I spend my obligatory 8 (ish) hours a day. Then I wobble home, and spend my mandatory 3-4 hours watching the boob tube, and maybe reading a book or three. Still while all this motor activity is going on, I have oodles of time to "kill." Even writing a semi-literate blog post on a daily basis for 91 fucking days straight has not filled the time hole in my life. Sleep, the wide blessing, does manage to pass some of the time for me, but lately my sleep has been dreamless. And seriously what is the point of sleeping if you aren't dreaming? And at least a dream (rather than a nightmare) could provide me some entertainment, or maybe an idea or two for a blog post, or at the very least something to distract my attention away from my crisis. Which has gotten so bad that I just wrote the last sentence three fucking times (something I rarely do), and it still fucking sucks which is not a positive sign. An even worse sign is that this post has been a work in progress for almost a month, and I have been making little headway on it. You would think that given that much time I should be able to steer it into some sort of sensible direction, but no much like my life this post just meanders along with very little sense of purpose, and accomplishing a boat load of nothing. Truth is that, in the last month, I have put considerable thought in ending both this post, and the life that it mirrors. However, the most compelling reason I was able to conjure up for not ending the whole shooting match is that the percentage of what comes next being worse than the life I am leading now is pretty high. If, as my fellow citizens of the bible belt tell me, I am doomed to hell (really there is no option of my ass getting into heaven), then that just sounds fucking miserable. Even worse than some vague existential crisis, or time to kill. Or perhaps I go back to the collective unconsciousness, and lose whatever essence that makes me who I am. Then I might just be a bit lit a drone in some collective hive, working towards some goal that I am not sure I share. I have never claimed to be much of a team player, I am just a bit too surly for that. Or maybe I will shuffle off this mortal coil, and find that Sartre was right, and "hell is other people." Finding myself trapped in some sort of waiting room full of the group of the most annoying asshats ever created, with no exit. So it seems the reason that unless a MATA bus runs me down like a dog, I will continue to live the same day over and over again, is that the percentages are that this existence, miserable though it may be, is the best existence I am going to obtain. Fucking sad in some respects, but in others one that I should be grateful for. There I have it, a sort of modified Pascal's Wager for not drinking enough Lysol to off myself. A gambler's reason for sticking. Play the odds, hang in there, and maybe you will eventually hit the jackpot.

A Long December

It would appear that it is going to be a long December (to steal a song title from the Counting Crows). Because it appears that as of today, December is 0 for 2 in the hero sweepstakes. No hero yesterday, but a lovely stand it, and no hero today (sans stand-in). I guess a candidate for hero of the day could be "le soleil d' Austerlitz." The sun breaking out at just the right time in order to allow Napoleon's troops to crush the combined armies of the Third Coalition. However, I am not that into glorifying a lucky weather break that lead to the slaughter, probably needless, of thousands of men, no matter how much I dislike the human race. Perhaps we can celebrate the day, the 336th day of the year, and realize there are only 29 days left in this calendar year. But the day (in my particular part of the planet) is rather grey, rainy, and cold. So it is not a day to inspire legions of people to do the Snoopy dance out of sheer joy. Besides the day got off to a fantastic start because of the fact that I was locked out of my own office for half an hour when I showed up to work. The amount of angst that was experienced as I called about five people to get my ass into my own door was extreme. And then of course today is Wednesday, the day that I do the part of my job that a drunk monkey could do, very intellectually rewarding it is. Finally, to put the cherry on top of this fuck sundae someone just handed me a pile of shit that is mine for tomorrow of which about half I know fuck all about. Good times! So it is with some anger, and much disgust that I have to inform you that for today there is no hero of the day.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Stand In

The fellow above is our 103rd hero of the day, but with a couple of "problems." His name is Gyula Krudy, and he was born October 21, 1878 in Nyíregyháza, Hungary. Clearly, problem number one is that today is December 1st, and obviously not his birthday, but a) his birthday was already taken by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, b) I was so incompetent that I "missed" Krudy's birthday on the list, and c) they are my rules, and I can break them if I want. Problem two is slightly more serious, my present location is distant from some of my "notes" that I have about Krudy, and I might have to come back and re-edit this post later, but for now on with the show. He was born the son of a lawyer who appears to have been diddling the maid (i.e. his mother), and his father did not chose to make an honest woman of his mother until Krudy was seventeen. By then Krudy was already writing for the local newspaper, and in spite of his father's wishes that he become a lawyer, was embarking on his literary career. Good choice both for him, and for the people lucky enough to read his work(s). Plus, I am a lawyer and trust me not becoming a lawyer is generally a good, healthy idea. Besides the world is full of lawyers, and we do not need any more of those pompous jackasses running around. Krudy's career choice managed to get him disinherited, by the pompous jackass he called Father, and he moved to Budapest to follow his star. There he supported himself and his family by his writing, and his novels were very popular during the First World War. He was, by the accounts I have read, a raging drunk. Writing articles at the bars he frequented, sometimes on bar napkins. He was always on a deadline, but was somehow able to keep it together to meet most of them. I have to appreciate that. He must have hung out with some intelligent folks, or at interesting bars. I go to my bar, and I am able to do is get drunk, and play darts, or video golf. No writing great articles or parts of novels for me thanks, just another shot and/or beer please. One of his works "The Adventures of Sinbad" is a lovely work, and it contained an idea that, foolishly I thought was one of the few original ideas I have had, but was mistaken since Krudy had written about it 70 or so years before. His "Chronicles of Krudy" is also worth a read. His health declined due to his wild drinking, and his readership also went into a downward spiral, and his works were pretty much forgotten after his death. At least until 1940, when another lovely author Sandor Mari, wrote "Sinbad Comes Home," a fictional account of Krudy's last day (not, as far as I can tell available in English). The book's success brought Krudy back where he belongs into a wide readership. For writing two lovely books (or the two of his that I have read), and for keeping all those deadlines no matter how hammered he was, Gyula Krudy (October 21st,1878-May 12th, 1933, at the age of 54), you are my (stand in) hero of the day.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Tomato Route


The lovely lady above is our 102nd hero(ine) of the day, and I am sorry to report that I took the tomato route (to steal a line from George Costanza). She is Clemence Posey born this day 1982 in Paris, France. There were other, probably more deserving heroes, but I found flaws in each. Sir Winston Churchill was one, but I read an extremely long biography of him a couple of years back, and realized his was a right, proper bastard. So he was out of the picture. Gary Lineker was a lovely English footballer, who remains the only English player to win the Golden Boot award at the World Cup, but since I follow Sweden's international team, good old Gary did not quite make it to hero status. Then there was Mark Twain, the ideal of American literature, but I am a snob, and do not read much American literature. I just do not fancy it. However, Mlle. Posey I do fancy, and it is all for one very well acted, well written role. That of Chloe in the lovely movie "In Bruges." If you have not seen it rush out right now and rent, buy, or steal it. You will soon realize my point. She also has a role in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which I confess I have no intention of seeing, but I am sure she was lovely in it. So, for that one lovely role, and for being not so bad to look at (hey I am a man after all, and it did take me until 101 to pick a "tomato"), you are my heroine of the day.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bluer


The fellow above is one Christian Doppler, our 101st hero of the day, born this day in Salzburg, Austria in 1803. M. Doppler was born the son of a stone mason, but due to his physical frailty, he was unable to do the heavy work required to follow his dear old dad into the family business. That frailty was a blessing to the scientific world, since he was useless as a mason his family sent him to school to make something of himself. He studied astronomy and mathematics in Vienna. He soon got a job teaching physics in Prague, and it was there where he wrote, and published his greatest work describing what would eventually come to be called the Doppler effect. We all experience it when we heard the ambulance or the cop car siren come towards us and then recede into the distance. The effect is known in astronomy as the redshift when a star or galaxy is moving away from the observer, or the blue shift when it is moving towards the observer. I am currently experiencing the opposite of the Doppler effect my team Arsenal (red shirts) are currently getting the ever loving shit kicked out of them by Chelsea (blues), and therefore Chelsea are moving further and further away up the table. I swear they are getting bluer, not redder like they are supposed to be, but for discovering that one thing that led to so many other useful things being discovered, Christian Doppler (November 29th, 1803- March 17th, 1853, at the age of 49 of pulmonary disease), you are my hero of the day.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Yesterday


Stick with me on this post dear readers, because it is got all sorts of news and problems. The bespectacled fellow above is one Stefan Zweig born this day 1881 in Vienna, Austria. The big news is that Herr Zweig is one of this project's milestones, he is the lucky fellow to be anointed the 100th hero of the day. Into triple digits is pretty exciting, and getting there with Herr Zweig is perfect. This perfection, like most anything I do properly in my life, was acheived quite by accident. You see, until about a 3 months ago I had no idea who the hell Herr Zweig was, but his name kept cropping up on my Amazon page and other searches I did. Thinking it might be a good idea to give his work a whirl, I ordered his book "The World of Yesterday." I was, to put it mildly, blow away, the book is his attempt at autobiography, written in his final exile from his homeland during the early stages of World War II. The irony of this post is that I just finished the book yesterday, and here I am today trying to write the hero post for him. I am sure I will do him a disservice, but still one must give it a shot. Anyone who ever thought they had ability to string two sentences together in some sort of coherent should ready "Yesterday." Sentences so perfect as to make you weep, ideas that are so genius you will curse yourself for not being alive when Zweig was so you could learn at his feet. This book, the first I have read by him, was written without any notes, any of his letters, and in exile in a hotel. It is his summing up of his life, Jewish by birth, but not by religion, he was hounded out of Austria by the Nazis, and his books banned and burned by those literary thugs. He was, in his day, one of the most translated authors in the world. His works have fallen a bit by the wayside today, and that is this world's loss. One of the best parts of the book is when he discusses his "fame." He states that "in normal circumstances, the name a human being bears is no more than the band is to a cigar: a means of identification, a superficial, almost unimportant thing that is only loosely related to the real subject, the true ego." Good stuff that, and gives one pause, a lot to chew on in that, extremely well written, sentence. He goes on to say that success has a way of swelling the name, and unmooring it from the person that bears it. The name becomes a power in itself, an independent thing, an article of commerce, that transforms the person that bears it. He explains all of this in the context that, for him, his name soon became a burden. His wish to remain free and independent was hampered by the name recognition that followed him around. He writes "unintentionally, and because of the currency of my books I found myself in something that was like a business which demanded order, clarity, punctuality and skill if it were to be handled correctly-all very respectable virtues which alas by no means correspond to my nature, and which seriously threatened to disturb my innocent, simple musings and dreaming." Words of wisdom to all those glory hounds out there, and not just in the literary world. Careful of become a caricature of yourself, something that becomes so big that it traps you inside of it, a name prison if you will. However the sad part of Herr Zweig's life is that being born in a Jewish family meant that he was to be driven from his homeland into exile, and his will to live taken from him. As he entered his exile in England (later to be Brazil), he took a small apartment in London, and experienced a strong sense of deja vu. "I felt as if I had entered that other little apartment which I had fixed up for myself almost thirty years earlier in Vienna; the rooms quite small, and the one welcome greeting these very book against the wall. . . . " He continues to realize that maybe his life has come full circle. "Was this a symbol that my life after long expansion was shriveling to an earlier form of being and that I was becoming my own shadow?" "Everything which I had attempted, achieved, learned, enjoyed, in the meantime seemed wafted away and now over fifty years old, I faced a beginning, was once more a student working at a desk, only not as credulous, not as enthusiastic, with a suspicion of gray in my hair and faint dawn of despair over my wearied soul." Sad stuff, and it soon became more than he could bear, forced again to move this time from Britain to Brazil, Zweig realized his strength was not up to the task, and the day after posting the final manuscript to "The World of Yesterday" he and his wife committed suicide. In his final note he stated "I think it better to conclude in good time and in erect bearing a life in which intellectual labour meant the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on Earth." His world had become extinct, and his was unable to find the strength to continue into the new world, one that still had to face almost three years of World War, before the darkness lifted. So for writing one of the best books I have ever read, and for being able to put into words something things I wish I had thought of, Stefan Zweig (November 28th, 1881- February 22, 1942, at the age of 60), you are my hero of the day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Whew!

The moon faced fellow above is our 99th hero of the day. His name is Robert R. Livingston born this day in 1746 in New York City, New York. For most people he will be a rather odd, obscure choice, but he did have a fairly important political career. He was one of the five men that helped to draft the Declaration of Independence, he was the first Chancellor of the State of New York, and as such was the man who administered the oath of office to one George Washington as America's first President. In fact, the Bible he used to swear in old Georgie is still available, by request, to be used to swear in Presidents today. But the achievement that elevates him to hero status was accomplished during his three years in Paris from 1801-1804. It was during this time that he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase from the French government of Napoleon. The total purchase price was about 15 million dollars, and for that princely sum the United States got 828,000 square miles of territory. Land that was to encompass part of (what would be) 14 U S states, and the city of New Orleans was thrown in to boot. The average cost of this massive land sale was less than 3 cents per acre. Not a bad deal if you can swing it, and Livingston and his pals swung it, in spite of some narrow minded opposition, and their bargain doubled the size of the United States at the time. Old Bob was quoted as saying afterwards that "We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our whole lives...The United States take rank this day among the first powers of the world." And right he was, the Louisiana Purchase put, for good or bad, old Uncle Sam on the road to world power. The major thing I am grateful for in regards to this massive real estate sale is the that the state right across the river from where I live, i.e. Arkansas, was a part of the deal. Certainly I am not a huge fan of ArKANSAS, but at least it beats living next to a bunch of cheese eating surrender monkeys. Even this coup was not M. Livingston's last contribution to the betterment of humankind. He, along with some fellow named Robert Fulton, helped to develop the first steamboat, named the Clermont. And if you wonder where the name came from, Clermont was the family home (and home port of the boat itself) of M. Livingston. So for buying so much land dirt cheap, no pun intended, and for help to make steam power viable so Americans could soon fill in all that land he bought from the foolish French, Robert R. Livingston (November 27th, 1746- February 26th, 1813, at the age of 66), you are my hero of the day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks

Thanks for the summons from the wolf that raised me to come home, "If you ever want to see your father alive again." I never said I did, and thanks for the attempted guilt trip. In reality it is a 2 hour trip to nowhere, a land where my phone does not work, where my computer is useless, and cable has been cut. A place where opening a book is seen as an invitation to have a lengthy, two party conversation (I am really good at one party conversations). Thanks for the crisis (mid life, or existential) that I am going through that makes me wonder why I staggered out of my nice, warm bed this morning (besides other than to take a lovely morning piss), and why I continue to stagger out of it morning after morning just to see "another indistinguishable day arriving outside my window." Thanks for making the town I inhabit a cultural wasteland, and a blazing shithole, where right now someone is probably threatening to kill someone over a turkey leg. At least that kind of senseless activity keeps me employed, and provides the obvious "reason" for me getting about of bed in the morning. A place where you love to fly out of, but not to. Thanks for making almost everything that I can enjoy bad for me, beer, beef jerky, and chocolate are things that should be exempt from making you fat, drunk, or stupid for the rest of your life. Thanks for the ageing process that makes it almost impossible for me to sleep past seven in the morning, but still makes me tired when I do get out of bed. Thanks for making relationships my kryptonite, one thing I am naturally bad at, but have no choice but to attempt to form in order to avoid becoming some Salinger type recluse about which odd legends, hushed whispers would circulate. Thanks for making one of my best mates so wrapped up in "things" that he is virtually impossible to have any sort of conversation with, one party or two. And finally, thanks for making me have such ridiculously high standards for those attempted relationships, and for heroes. Standards that I, on my best day, could not live up to, but I still hope, or expect others to be able to meet. Standards that have led to this miserable post, and to me having to once again, with regret, say that there is no hero of the day for today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Where have you gone?


The smiling fellow above is our 98th hero of the day, and his name is Joseph Paul DiMaggio born this day 1914 in Martinez, California. He was the eight of nine children born to an immigrant Italian fisherman. His father wanted all of his sons to be fisherman, and could not understand why "Joe" did not want to follow in his footsteps. It seems the smell of dead fish was a bit off putting to young Joe, and he had no desire to spend the rest of his life nauseated. He was first spotted playing semi-pro ball, moved on to the minor leagues, and eventually wound up with the New York Yankees. His move to them was a major success. The Yankees had not been to the World Series in four years when Joltin' Joe came on board, with him they were to win the next four World Series in a row. His most famous accomplishment while a member of the Yankees is the 56 game hitting streak, a mark that has not really been threatened since he managed it in 1941. The other sign of his hitting ability that to me speak volumes is that for his career he struck out only 8 more times than he hit home run, chew on that for a while, and you will come to realize the man could hit. His other major accomplishment was marrying Marylin Monroe, not bad for some immigrant baseball player. He was, by all accounts, deeply in love with her, and arranged her funeral after her death. He even had a half a dozen red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week. He is probably just as famous for the line "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you." And the nation would be right to turn it eyes to Joltin' Joe, a true American success story, and a true gentleman, and a hero for the ages. So for being able to swat a baseball with the greatest of ease, and for bagging the hot blonde we all wanted. Joseph Paul "Joe" DiMaggio (November 25th 1914- March 8th, 1999, at the age of 84), you are my hero of the day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Short People are people too

The vertically challenged fellow above is one Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, our 97th hero of the day. M. Toulouse-Latrec was born this day, 1864 in Tarn, France. Seems our boy above was cursed by the fact that his parents were first cousins, and years of inbreeding led to many of the physical problems he had throughout his, all too short, life. During his early teens he fractured both thigh bones, and neither of them healed properly leaving him standing only five feet tall. However, his torso was adult sized but his legs ceased to grow, and were only 27.5 inches long. Tough life I expect being that short, and I am sure that people stared quiet a bit. Though his disability did have one positive outcome, since he was unable to partake of the physical activities of most men his age, Henri turned to art. You do not have to be tall in order to paint, all you do is buy a shorter easel, or stand on a chair. He was drawn to the Montmartre area of Paris, an area famous for its "bohemian" life style, and close to the famous Moulin Rouge. When it first opened, the Moulin Rouge commissioned Toulouse-Latrec to produce a series of poster for the joint, and afterwards always held a reserved seat for him. Seems his time at a bar led him to create his own cocktail called Tremblement de Terre, or Earthquake it consisted of 3 parts of cognac, and 3 parts of absinthe in a wine goblet. Sounds wicked, and if you had a couple of those I bet you would be painting all sort of Impressionistic shit too, since you would probably be seeing pink elephants, yellow stars, and purple moons. Throughout his career, which spanned less than 20 years, Toulouse-Latrec created at least 737 canvases, 275 watercolors, 363 prints and posters, 5,084 drawings. Not bad for an drunken dwarf. He was a life long alcoholic, and died at the age of 36 from complications of that disease, but he lived his life on his own terms. His last words were reputed to be him calling his father an old fool, but fool or not he did father a damn fine artist. So, for making portraits of Parisian night life with brush strokes to die for, Henri de Toulouse-Latrec (November 24th, 1864- September 9th, 1901, at the age of 36), you are my hero of the day.