Monday, August 31, 2009

Le Gros Bill

Today's hero is not the "world leader" or "great writer" type. He is the fellow above, one Jean Beliveau born this day in Trois-Riviers, Quebec. He played parts of 20 seasons,and 18 full seasons with my favourite hockey team the Montreal Canadiens. During that time he won TEN Stanley Cups. TEN! Not a bad record in any business, 10 for 18 would get you in the Hall of Fame in pretty much anything in the world. For his last 10 seasons, he was the team captain. He was nicknamed "Le Gros Bill" after a mighty character from Québécois folklore. He won the first ever Conn Smythe Trophy in 1965, and for those non-hockey fans that is the NHL'S version of an MVP award. To put his success into perspective, he won 10 Stanley Cups as an individual player. The next highest TEAM total is the Toronto Maple Leafs with 13, and they have not lifted the Cup since 1967. Béliveau retired at the end of the 1970-71 season as his team's all-time leader in points, second all-time in goals and the NHL's all-time leading playoff scorer. He scored 507 goals and had 712 assists for 1,219 points in 1,125 NHL regular-season games plus 79 goals and 97 assists for 176 points in 162 playoff games. His jersey number (#4) was retired on October 9, 1971. He is now the second all-time leading scorer in Canadiens history. Granted I was born when he was doing all of these glorious things for my team, but a true fan embraces their team's history when they embrace the team. Good, bad, or ugly, everything thing the Habs have done, or will do is something I that I signed up for when I became a fan. So for all those times he "lit the lamp" even if I was not alive to see it, Jean Beliveau (August 31st 1931-present), you are my hero of the day.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A little to the left, gentlemen, if you please

Today's hero is the dapper fellow above, one Jacques-Louis David born this day 1748, in Paris, France. The self-portrait above does not show the facial tumor he had as a child, which helped keep him from being an outgoing study, and thus he was always hiding behind the instructor's chair filling notebooks with drawings. An inspiration to failures everywhere he attempted to win the Prix De Rome four times between 1770 and 1774, and managed to fail to win each time. Not to be discouraged he then goes on to paint such lovely paintings as the Death of Socrates, the Oath of the Horatii, and the Death of Marat. The last painting was his masterpiece, and immortalized both him, and that poor, dead bastard Marat. Guess David got the best of that deal. Like a lot of people, he, at first, chose to back the wrong pony during the French Revolution becoming fast friends with Robespierre. Only a bout of stomach pain kept him from being guillotined with that manic. Tossed into prison, he painted a self-portrait of himself depicting himself much younger that he actually was, and conceived of the idea of a series of painting about the Sabine Women. These paintings attracted the attention of Napoleon, and after a bit, David found himself to be the official painter for the Emperor of the French. Even managing to paint Napoleon crossing the Alps on a "fiery steed." When he actually managed to cross them on a mule. After Napoleon's fall, David chose exile rather than the post as court painter to Louis XVIII, I suppose at least after picking the right horse he decided to ride it to the end. So for helping advance the art of painting from the rococo style to a more classical style, and for showing that history may in truth ride a jackass, but needs to be portrayed as riding a stunning white charger, Jacques-Louis David (August 30th 1748-December 29th, 1825, after being run down like a dog by a carriage in Brussels), you are my hero of the day.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Here's Looking at you kid

A bit more of a lightweight hero today, but then again who is not lightwieght compared to Goethe? Also a first for today, our hero is actually a heroine. She is the lovely and talented lady above, Ms. Ingrid Bergman born this day 1915, in Stockholm, Sweden. Certainly lovely enough to have been a member of the Swedish bikini team, had such a team existed back in her day. She started acting at the age of 17 with the Royal Dramatic Theater, by the age of 24 Hollywood's David O. Selznick "discovered" her. He then made the mistake of telling her to get her teeth capped, change her name, and have her eyebrows plucked. Quiet rightly, and thankfully she refused to do any of the three, and a star was born. Her appearance in her films was almost entirely natural, with little or no makeup an at five foot nine she was one of Hollywood's tallest leading ladies. And what a leading lady she was, drop dead gorgeous with more acting talent in her little finger than most people have in their entire bodies, she went on to win three Academy Awards, two Emmys, and a Tony award. The woman was so talented and gorgeous that even Alfred Hitchcock had a crush on her. Talk about out of your league! Watch her in Notorious, and you will lose focus of anything else around you. She filled the screen, and the room your sitting in watching her on the screen. Breathtaking is an understatement. She is probably best known for playing Ilsa Lund in Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart, whose wife was convinced they were having an affair during the filming. In 1949, while married to her first husband, she became pregnant by director Robert Rossellini, and gave birth to his son in 1950. Showing once again was a bunch of Purtian pukes they are, the American Senate had her declared "person non grata." Basically forced into exile in Italy for six years because of her affair, she eventually make a return to American film with her Oscar winning performance in 1956's Anastasia. She continued to act right up to her death in 1982, winning her second Emmy posthumously for her role in A Woman called Golda. She was so big that Ferrari has a custom made colour fashioned after the colour of her eyes. If you have the means, you can go order one in the colour of "Grigio Ingrid." So, for all those wonderful on screen performances, and for still 65 years later managing to make me gasp at your beauty, Ingrid Bergman (August 29th, 1915-Augst 29th 1982 on her 67th birthday of breast cancer) you are my heroine of the day.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Sorrows

Today's hero is the well posed fellow above, one Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, born this day 1749 in Frankfurt, Germany. Well technically it was not "Germany" yet, but still you get the idea. An incredibly brilliant fellow, he was a true master of many trades. A fulsome writer, an outstanding scientist, and a fantastic lawyer were just some of the many skills he possessed. He is probably best known for writing Faust, and for bringing the idea of selling your soul to the devil for all knowledge. Until I found Goethe one day in the library I merely thought that Mephistopheles was just part of some song by the Police. Took me quite by surprise when I looked that stuff up in the good old World Book Encyclopedia. Credited with founding the Romantic movement in Germany, our boy Goethe was much more than just a writer of blindly good tales. He was also interested in mineralogy, and has a mineral named after him. His other famous work is The Sorrows of Young Werther, a lovely tale that I can not recommend highly enough. It was the book that put him on the map, and on the way to super stardom in the literary world. He later repudiated many of the ideas espoused in the Sorrows, but it still makes excellent reading. His influence on all sorts of different writers in all kinds of fields was immense, and he is consider Germany's finest writer, and that is against some pretty good competition. I must confess a lot of his Theory of Colours stuff and his science work sails right over my head, and his art criticism is pearl before swine in regards to me,but for teaching me that the Sorrows of Young Werther are not just Young Werther's sorrows, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (August 28th, 1749-March 22nd 1832), you are my hero of the day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dismantle the Sun

Stealing a line from my buddy Tidy's last post, that he stole from Four Weddings and a Funeral, that they stole from W.H. Aulden. Pack up the Moon and dismantle the Sun. Today is non-heroic, and I searched high and low. A few contenders presented themselves, and maybe on a happier day, having a nice rack a la Sarah Chalke would get you hero status. However, not today. Today, while being a quite pretty day, is not the day that blonde hair, and a perky role in an American sit-com gets you on the big board of heroes. All is far from being lost, but it just is not one of those days. Perhaps, I am just lazy, and have taken on a project that is too much for my limited skill set. After rereading yesterday's sub par attempt, I almost threw the whole project overboard as being too difficult. I was actually all set to admit my failure at keeping this farce going for another 300 plus days, when I wandered over to Tidy's website, and read his post (here is the link I encourage you to wander over yourself, and give it a read. Pure genius it is, and I know he had no clue the effect it would have on me, but sometimes pure genius is like that. That is why it is genius, hard to explain, and hard to understand, but bloody fantastic when you see it in motion. That is what a hero should be, and no Tidy is not my hero of the day. It isn't his birthday, and he is still a pigeon chested Englishman, but he has helped me understand that I should continue this little foray into literature. For that is what happens to heroes, they struggle onward, like Sisyphus pushing that rock up that hill for all eternity. Sometimes the rock is all you have, and push it you must. That is why when a hero dies, or falls from grace we feel like Aulden, and want the world to pack up the moon, and dismantle the sun. We believe that all is lost, and we just want to crawl away, drink ourselves into oblivion. Oblivion will find us all soon enough, heroes, villains, postmen, police, and Indian chiefs are all headed to the same oblivion whether they know it or not. However, the trick is that when oblivion is the final stop, the thing that begins to matter is the trip. Sometimes how we get there, and who we help, harm, or inspire along the way is our own way of being heroes. All that being said for the second time this month, no one is my hero of the day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

That Sinking Feeling

The rotund fellow above is Sir Robert Walpole born this day, 1676, in Norfolk, England. Regarded as the first "Prime Minister" of England, Sir Robert struck my fancy long ago in my previous life as an intellectual. Coming to power in 1721, after the bursting of the South Sea Bubble, Sir Robert is credited with helping pull England out of a serious financial crisis. Everyone needs a Walpole around, especially in today's credit environment. He is the first Minister to reside at No. 10 Downing Street, turning it down as an outright gift, Walpole accepted it as only the residence of the First Lord of the Treasury. He was a central figure in my studies as a graduate student, and his idea of a "sinking fund" to help pay the nation's debt is, in my opinion, bloody brilliant. Setting aside a fund of money solely intended to pay down the national debt is an idea that many of us non governments should think about doing. Trick is you have to dedicate yourself to religiously putting money into the fund, and not piss about with borrowing against it. A simple, but still brilliant idea that is still just as brilliant today as it was back then. Sir Bobby was not universally loved by any stretch of the imagination, and in some respects he could be considered a source of the first ever political parody campaign. Waged by such famous writers as Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Henry Fielding. If a true measure of a man can be determined by the ability of his enemies, the Walpole was a giant (in more that the straining the waistcoat buttons to popping sense). So for making the words "Prime Minister" mean something before steakhouses made it popular, and for creating the wonderful "sinking fund" idea, Sir Robert Walpole (August 26th, 1676-March 18th, 1745), you are my hero of the day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Polling is open

The Mad King of Bavaria

The gaudily dressed fellow above is one Ludwig II of Bavaria born this day 1845, in Munich, Germany. Ludwig was a bit of an odd duck, who had curious relationships with his parents, he referred to his mother as "my predecessor's consort." Never really close to his father either, part of his later odd behaviour is blamed on the strict regime his tutors put him through as the heir to the throne. He ascended to that throne at the age of 18, and was perhaps a bit under prepared for the whole being King business. After all, think back to your 18th birthday, do you think you could even balance your own checkbook? Certainly I was not prepared to rule a kingdom at 18, and I am quite sure old Ludwig II felt the same way. Caught on the wrong side (on occasion) of German politics Ludwig had to relent to the idea of a unified Germany. Unified, of course, by Prussia by the Iron Chancellor himself, Otto von Bismarck. Ludwig was famous as an "eccentric," meaning he was an oddball that people whispered about at parties. He wasn't too keen on that whole day to day governing shit, and I can't says that I blame him. That is what underlings are for right? He did build some of the most fantastic castles in the world, the upper right picture is a great example of one. Declared "mad" by a group of doctors who had never even met him, Ludwig was deposed in June of 1886. One of them, Dr. Bernhard von Gudden, was found dead along with Mad King Ludwig II, on June 13th, 1886, under circumstances that have never been fully explained, but for building such lovely castles in the air, and showing that oddballs can get to the top, even if it is by the accident of birth, Ludwig II of Bavaria (August 25th, 1845- June 13th, 1886 by "drowning"), you are my hero of the day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Delight in Disorder

Easy choice today, as heroes are just as thick on the ground as I thought they might be. The big nosed fellow above is one Robert Herrick born this day in London in the year 1591. A poet that started out as a goldsmith's apprentice, and eventually became a vicar, Mr. Herrick still found the time to write some lovely verse. In fact anyone who has ever had a girlfriend (and I did, back in the day) named Julia owes Mr. Herrick a large debt of gratitude. He wrote the following lovely poem, that when declaimed at the proper time was money.
WHENAS in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free ;O how that glittering taketh me !
Good stuff, and quite racy for the time he was writing it, my personal favourite poem of his is the following.
A SWEET disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness :
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction :
An erring lace which here and there Enthrals the crimson stomacher :
A cuff neglectful, and thereby Ribbons to flow confusedly :
A winning wave (deserving note) In the tempestuous petticoat :
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility :
Do more bewitch me than when art Is too precise in every part.
Great stuff as well, of course, most people will recognize his "To Virgins Make Much of Time" poem from the movie Dead Poets Society, but for me the poems above were far superior, and I never had to declaim poetry to a virgin. Guess I was just lucky that way. So for writing the exquisite lines above, and helping my awkward ass win over the girls, Robert Herrick (August 24th 1591- sometime in October?-1674), you are my hero of the day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Water, water everywhere

The fellow above is one Thales, Greek philosopher born around 625 B.C. in the Greek city of Milteus. Thales exact date of birth is unknown, and therefore, I have unilaterally decided that today is the day we should celebrate his birth. Rather arbitrary of me, and I have absolutely no authority to proclaim this day as Thales' birthday, but I am doing it anyway. Since today's crop of heroes was deficient, at least in my opinion, I decided to shoehorn Thales into today's slot. A lot of what we "know" about Thales is second hand, and some of it is not trustworthy. He supposedly dabbled in a lot of different things, and made contributions in several different fields. I must confess a lot of what this bugger did sails over my hungover head. The one thing that I remember about Thales from my philosophy classes all those years ago is that he opined that the world was created from water, and that all things were basically able to be traced back to water. Anyone who has, like myself this morning, woken up with a massive hangover, and a parched throat, can relate to Thales' ideas about water. It seems that last night some bastard put too much beer in my water, and today I have been drinking massive amounts of the pure stuff to try to get some sort of balance back to my day. Thales came up with all sort of other brilliant ideas, and put a lot of thought into the nature of the universe. All that crap that philosophers without Direct TV have time to do, you know the important shit that you have to learn, and promptly forget the day after your exam. I must confess to only a limited knowledge and understanding of the majority of Thales' ideas, but the water thing I am fully on board with. For that one brilliant idea (among all the others ones) that I am able to grasp, and agree with, Thales (ca 625 B.C.- ca 547 B.C. of causes unknown to me), you are my hero of the day.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Second Fiddle

Not many people will recognize the serious faced fellow above, and hearing his name which is Aime Bonpland will not set off too many bells of recognition either. Born in La Rochelle, France on this day in 1773, M. Bonpland will be forever known, if he is ever really known at all, as the guy who accompanied the far more famous, and more remember Alexander von Humboldt on his five year exploration of Latin America. I guess somebody has to get the great man in the right spot to take the prefect picture, and perhaps Bonpland was just a plugger. Not as bright a star as von Humboldt, or maybe not as good at selling himself. Perhaps he was just not as bright, or as energetic, or as worthy of the greater fame that will be forever given to von Humboldt. He did manage to collect and classify nearly 60,000 plants that were, at the time, unknown in Europe, and he has achieved some repute for that, but the star of the show was von Humboldt. Perhaps that "von" in his name made all the difference, after all it means he is from the upper crust, and the world loves an upper crust hero. Bonpland did manage to get a few animals and plants named in his honour, a lunar crater named for him, and a peak in Andes is graced with his name, but all in all he was clearly the second fiddle to von Humboldt. He even managed to get himself arrested in Bolivia in 1821, and be detained for about a decade. I guess someone has to be second fiddle, after all the limelight or spotlight is only so big, and one star on the stage is more than enough. Someone has to be waiting in the wings to feed the star the lines. Not the greatest role in the world, but it beats being the slugs that probably had to carry all that heavy scientific gear these two bastards carted all over South America. So for showing us that second fiddle is better than having to clean the orchestra pit after the show is over, Aime Bonpland (August 22nd 1773-May 4 1858), you are my hero of the day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rooting Tooting

Today's hero is not the rooting, tooting, cowboy above, but his creator, Mr. Isadore "Friz" Freleng. Unlike yesterday's hero, Mr. Freleng's creations gave me a great deal of joy when I was a child (yes I was actually a child one, still am in many respects). Who am I kidding, I would still watch Yosemite Sam chase Bugs Bunny around a TV screen today, and might just do so tonight. After all Mr. Freleng's creations made getting up early on Saturday morning worthwhile. Freleng helped to develop Yosemite Sam, Porky Pig, Sylvester the cat, and Tweety Bird. Major players in the Looney Tunes universe. It is a sad indicator of the modern age that I just spell checked this post, and Tweety was highlighted as misspelt. Apparently today's generation uses Tweeter so much that Tweety Bird is no longer first choice in the spell check. Sigh. It seems Mr. Freleng bore a passing resemblance to Yosemite Sam, a fact that he denied, and was a bit of an alter ego for the animator. Freleng managed to win four Academy Awards for his work, and to think Martin Scorsese can only manage one. Sam's voice was apparently very hard for Mel Blanc to perform (and he did most of the Looney Tunes voices), and was always saved for last in the recording studio, so that Blanc could do the other voices properly. His voice was based on Blanc coming to the studio after an incident of road rage, and thus the yelling at the top of his voice Yosemite Same was born. So, for creating the manic above, and all the other characters that made my Saturday morning more fun, Friz Freleng (August 21st 1906-May 26th 1995), you are my hero of the day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Call of Cthulhu

The scary looking fellow above is one Howard Phillips Lovecraft authour of the Cthulhu Mythos horror stories that sometimes make brave men whimper like school girls. Not particularly well read during his lifetime, he only gained a cult following for his stories after his death. Isn't that just great famous, but after I damn near starve to death. Anyone who has ever played the first "Alone in the Dark" video game has this fellow to thank. Not directly based on his stories, but still inspired by them. Playing that game in a dark room in the middle of the night was down right fucking scary. Also, it was no the brightest idea to play the game, or read one of Mr. Lovecraft stories before bedtime. Unless, of course, you like having nightmares. It seems Mr. Lovecraft was afflicted with night terrors as a child, and perhaps some of his stories are his revenge on the world. If he had to wake up screaming, might as well try to ensure that as many people as possible would do so as well. Here read this, and try to get a good night's rest. Not bloody likely. There was also a role playing game based on his Cthulhu, that myself,and my dork ass friends played back when the world was young (I know hard to believe I was that big of a goob when you see the sophisticated man of the world I became).His work was based on the idea of cosmic horror, that the world is generally incomprehensible, and unable to be understood by the human mind. There is much to be said for that idea, and who knows maybe all the shit we think we have a solid grip on is just so much illusion. Maybe good old H P was just born to write stuff that scared the dog crap out of people, both of his parents eventually would up in (the same) loony bin, and at the age of 18 he claimed to have a nervous breakdown. Sounds like a lovely family dinner with this group around, try not to drop the gravy, or who the hell knows what will happen. His works are deeply pessimistic (perhaps that is why I liked them), and his "heroes" usually have to face the horror of glimpsing the terrifying face of reality, or at least reality as Lovecraft envisioned it. Though I came to my deeply held agnostic belief via another channel, Lovecraft does an excellent job summing up his reasons in a letter to Robert E. Howard (the guy that created Conan the Barbarian).
"All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don't regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine. In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist."
Well said, well written, and well thought out. I wish I could encapsulate my believes so easily, and so simply, but I guess that is part of the wide gulf between a professional writer, and my goofy ass. Maybe that will narrow one day, and maybe it will be soon. I can only hope, but for the beautiful verse above, and for writing stories that can still scare the ever loving dog shit out of me, H P Lovecraft (August 20th, 1890- March 15th, 1937 of intestine cancer), you are my hero of the day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Poor Leander

The word hero comes from a person named Hero, a priestess that lived in a town called Hellespont (now Dardanelles). Hero was loved by Leander, a youth who lived at Abydos, a town on the Asian side of the channel. They could not marry because Hero was bound by a vow of chastity, and so every night Leander swam from Asia to Europe, guided by a lamp in Hero's tower. One stormy night a high wind extinguished the beacon, and Leander was drowned. His body was washed ashore beneath Hero's tower; in her grief, she threw herself into the sea. The above story is supposed to be the origin of the word "hero." Not sure where the modern meaning came from but our girl Hero does not sound the type to live up to the present meaning. Having some damn fool drown his fool self while swimming across the Hellespont to meet you, and not giving it up to him, smacks more of a villain than a hero. I guess this is my way of saying that today is hero-less. I was unable to find anyone that rose to the level of hero in my eyes. I had a suggestion or two, but they just did not do it for me. I suppose that sometimes life just throws pitches at you that you just can not hit. We all can't be French soccer players, or Austrian Emperors that make our mark in history. Not that making your mark in history makes you a hero, there are countless non-famous heroes out there right now. One may be sitting in the cube beside you, one never knows. I still prefer the named hero, the one you can stick on a pedestal, if you have one handy, and use as an example to live up to. I guess life just does not always follow the same plan that you do. To survive this madness that we call day to day existence, and reach the exalted status of hero is not easy, and for today at least, no one is my hero of the day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Darkness of the Matinee

Another lightweight hero today, but the show must go on as they say. Franz Joseph I is the ancient looking fellow above. He managed to remain emperor of Austria-Hungary from 1848 to 1916, a whopping 67 years. Any fool (and he was a bit of a fool) that can pull that kind of magic trick is worthy of hero status. Sometimes just showing up is enough to win the race, and Franz Joseph did do a lot of just showing up. An early riser, he was usually at his desk slaving away by 6 a.m. on most mornings. To keep the ramshackle Austro-Hungarian Empire together at all was a heroic task, not exactly sure how much he had to do with it, but praise always goes to the guy at the top, and blame to the plodder at the bottom. I guess you can say that he was at least a hard worker, which does count for something. He married a complete shrew, and had quite a tosser for a son/heir. One committed suicide with his mistress, and the other got assassinated by a raving lunatic. Not a particularly happy personal life, and no wonder he had to find some solace in the young, blonde, actresses type. Though it would appear that solace is all he took, but I guess to each his own, and he was the Emperor, and could do what he damn well pleased I suppose. For just showing up to work for about 67 years, and keeping all those Slavs, Huns, Czechs, Magyars, and Slovenes from murdering the world before its time, Franz Joseph I (August 18th, 1830-November 21st, 1916) you are my hero of the day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Oh Henry

Today's hero is the fellow above, one Thierry Henry of fubol fame. Still alive, and still kicking as of today, his 32nd birthday. He is a bittersweet choice as my hero of the day. As you can see in the above picture he now plies his trade for Barcelona of La Liga in Spain. That is the bitter part, the very, very bitter part. Mr. Henry just happens to be Arsenal's (my club) all time leading goal scorer with 226 goals in all competitions. Breaking Ian Wright's record of 185 goals on October 17th, 2005. He is also Arsenal's all time league goal scorer as well with 174 goals breaking Cliff Bastin's record of 150. He played an integral part in Arsenal winning the double in 2001-2002, and was the leading goal scorer on the "Invincibles" of the 2003-2004 season. Winning the Golden Boot as Europe's leading scorer twice in 2004 and 2005. Not bad for a skinny Frenchman, and not bad considering he started his career as a winger. Of course, like all footballers or professional athlete his is also a lying sack of mule shit. About three months after signing a new four year deal to stay at Arsenal, and proclaiming he would stay at Arsenal "for life," he signed a mega deal with Barcelona on June 25th, 2005 (which happens to be MY birthday). Once again proving the theory that whatever a professional footballer says to the public, is pretty much a big fat fucking lie. I hope he enjoyed that UEFA Champion League victory over Manchester United last year, and I hope that a small part of him burns in hell for leaving the Gunners, but for all those wonderful goals he banged in while wearing an Arsenal shirt, Thierry Henry (August 17th, 1977), you are my hero of the day.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It's very clean

A bit of a slow day in hero land, the fellow above, T. E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) is the best we can do. Granted, he did possess some heroic qualities, but he also had very deep, very odd, flaws. I suppose we all do, and maybe heroes are just people who possess normal human qualities in large quantities. Born this day in 1888, one of five illegitimate children, our boy above was a very clever lad, and one prone to making myths about himself at an early age. Known for his exploits in Arabia as one of the leaders of the Arab revolt during World War I, our boy was a rather talented leader of irregular troops. His Seven Pillars of Wisdom chronicles his time with the Arab Revolt, and deal with his attempts to convince his superiors that an independent Arab state was in their best interests. It is a wonder book, and I recommend it as a very good read. His pleas fell on deaf ears, and in 1920 the fledgling Arab state he help create was crushed by the French, and perhaps a chance for a more stable region was lost. The film starring Peter O'Toole was my first exposure to Lawrence, and as with most films, it takes certain liberties with the truth. However, if you have about fours to kill, and about 10 beers it is a lovely film to watch. It is in the film that the title of this post comes from. Someone asks Lawrence why he likes the desert so much, and he replies that "it is very clean." O' Toole's portrayal does point out Lawrence's eccentricities, but not to the extent that he was very eccentric. He was apparently a masochist that paid people to beat him. I guess we all have our personal issues that we do not talk about at parties, or want exposed to the light of day. Lawrence's issues should not distract from his achievements, helping to tie down thousands of Ottoman troops in Arabia probably saved thousands of lives on some other front of the war, and his death even had it positive effects on the world. He died of head injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident that led his attending physician, Hugh Cairns, to eventually help develop crash helmets. For that, and for writing a cracking good yarn, T.E. Lawrence (August 16th 1888- May 19th 1935) you are my hero of the day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Short but .......

Today's hero is the short, but stocky man above. Napoleon I born this day in 1769 on the lovely isle of Corsica which was owned by the French at the time. Thus, one of the world's greatest military geniuses was, by the accident of birth French rather than Italian. Not sure he really came out ahead or behind in that particular lottery. Huge biographies have been written on him, but I suggest David Chandler's "The Campaigns of Napoleon" as required reading. It is a weighty tome of about 1100 pages, but well worth the read. Our boy above had to be a genius after all he led the French in conquering the majority of Europe. This was presumably before they became cheese eating surrender monkeys that got their asses handed to them three times by the stinking Germans. Pretty large task getting the French to fight like real men, but he managed it for about 20 years of so. Of course, as any of us who have had to beat up a really short man in a bar know, he is also the "origin" of the famous Napoleon complex. Seems he was really about 5 foot 7, and the whole complex thing was created by Alfred Adler. Still the name persists, and people like Tanner of the Bad News Bears continue to try to prove their manhood by fighting the entire world. Since our boy above eventually had the whole of Europe ranged against him, I guess the name is not that far off base. Amongst all his warring he did find time to establish the Napoleonic code which is in effect in a quarter of the world's jurisdictions. Not bad for a man whose reputation is mainly based on war. He also emancipated the Jews in France, quite the modern thing to do at the time. Not a man of peace certainly, but a restless genius that had an interest in almost everything. Slept only about 6 hours a night, and was quite incapable of "doing nothing." Perhaps this boundless energy was gained at the cost of his star burning out at the fairly young age of fifty-one. There are many theories on the cause of his death, including poison by arsenic, but the official cause at the time was listed as stomach cancer. Napoleon Bonaparte August 15, 1769- May 5, 1821, you are my hero of the day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Own Far Side

Today's hero is the first of the lot that is still alive, lucky him. His is Gary Larson born this day in 1950 in Tacoma Washington. He is the fellow behind one of the great "comic strips" of all time the Far Side. The one above is the one he was requested to draw for the New Yorker. That such a snobby, pseudo-intellectual, rag like the New Yorker would request a mere "cartoonist" to do there cover is a sign of this man's ability. We all have our favorite Far Side strips, ones with cows smoking, and drinking martinis, and doing other "human" acts. One of his most famous strips got him into trouble with the Jane Goodall institute it is detailed in his Wikipedia article. I encourage you to go read it. It shows that sometimes people just take shit too seriously. Sort of like the New Yorker pretending to be something it isn't. Mr. Larson's great gift to show the surreal nature of life, and to point out that taking it too seriously means you miss out on a great deal of laughter. Of course, I hate him for this talent, because I can not draw a proper stick man. If I were to actually get a stick man drawing correctly done, I believe my mother would put in on her refrigerator in a place of pride. "Look at what my boy drew! Isn't it fantastic." I can just her the pride in her voice, sadly it is not to be. The skill of drawing has passed me by forever I believe. However, the gift of looking at life as a bit of a surreal journey, and the ability to think that at some level everything is funny, I still possess in great quantity. Mr. Larson's drawings and captions have made that journey much more pleasant, and put many a smile on my (and millions of other people's) face, and for that, he is my hero of the day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Birds

Today's hero is our laughing boy above one Alfred Hitchcock. Well known director, and a man whose imagination could conjure up things to scare the piss out of people world wide. He remains the rest that every time I see a flock of birds, or just one determined bird that appears to be swooping in my direction causes a moment of panic on my part. Though I know it is irrational (as are most fears) birds still sometime freak me out. His films are so good that it makes me want to watch Carey Grant, and I am in no way a fan of Carey Grant, but with Hitchcock directing you can almost forget you are admiring Carey Grant as an actor. Of course, Hitchcock did have the great good sense to cast Ingrid Bergman in a couple of films, and you can't go wrong with Swedish beauties can you? Even no talent bums are helped by having a brilliant Swedish actress to direct, and Hitchcock had enough talent for three people. All in all, quite a hero, especially if you like black and white films from back in the day, of which I happen to be a huge fan. Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980 of renal failure), my hero of the day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Diamond Jim

Our first hero is the surprisingly slim fellow above one "Diamond" Jim Brady. The slim photo is a surprise because it seems Mr. Brady was a man with a legendary appetite. Seems that his breakfast consisted of enough food to feed a family of four for about a week. For dessert, he enjoyed pastries and a two pound box of candy. This is after main course of two whole ducks, six or seven lobsters, a sirloin steak and all sorts of other goodies. Any man that can eat a two pound box of candy is a hero of mine. It seems that he did balloon up a bit in later years, I mean who wouldn't after meals like that? I would gain five pounds just watching the fat bastard eat all of that candy. After his death it was discovered that his stomach was six times larger than an average person's stomach, so at least there is a good explanation for his appetite. He also pulled himself up by the bootstraps to amass a fortune valued at around $12 million dollars, and this was in 1912! He was that rare breed, a generous rich man, who gave away large portions of his fortunes to Johns Hopkins University. All things considered quite the hero, and quite the bon vivant. I can only hope one day to manage to get two whole pounds of candy down one day. "Diamond" Jim Brady (August 12th 1856-April 13th 1917), you are my hero of the day.

Hero of the Day

Sorry to steal a line from Metallica, and I am sure that Danish bastard Lars will find out about it and sue my pants off, but too bad. I have a project in mind, and it is to find a hero of the day. There are around 6 billion people alive on the planet right now, and untold billions have came before us. I need 366 heroes, one for everyday of a normal year, and a back up for the crazy leap year(s). I figure that there has to be 366 people that I can safely attach the label "hero" to, and not feel like I am off base. Granted I want them to be my heroes, not necessarily generally acclaimed heroes. So Abraham Lincoln need not apply, nor Oliver Cromwell. I want my heroes to be people that I would admire, or at least be able to stand for 5 consecutive minutes if I was in an elevator with them. The idea for this project is that for each day of the year I will post (I hope) a little blurb about the hero of the day. This is going to be a lot of work, and feel free to write in your own suggestions. Just be aware they are MY heroes, and I hold them dear. I will select my hero of the day on their birthday just to make it tougher on myself. I figure it is, in theory at least, better to celebrate the hero's birth rather than their death, no matter how noble it might have been. I would suspect that the majority of my heroes might be dead, but at least dead heroes can no longer screw up their hero status. Also, having the benefits of a classical education, might make my hero bandwidth a bit narrow, but I will try to venture far afield to find people that I can at least find something heroic about. Of course this idea seemed much cooler last night when I thought it up than it does in the harsh glare of this morning as I realize that this hero of the day crap is going to be a lot of work.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I am man hear me Roar(Whimper)

I am a guy. I like to think I am a man's man. Burly, strong, square jawed, and radiating masculinity. Of course I can still put together a room, and I might not stride the world like Olympus due to a minor birth defect, but I still like to think of myself as the John Wayne type. All this being said, men mature at a MUCH slower rate than women. The gentleman above, one Arthur Schopenhauer, went so far as to equate men to fine wine. The older we get the better we taste maybe? Clearly, an eighteen year old boy is a mere child when compared to an eighteen year old girl. This is just a sad fact, though no more sadder that the fact that the seventeen year old boy is hitting his sexual peak with no real clue what to do about it. However, it led me to thinking about another sad, in my opinion, fact. The fact is that we are about to send that seventeen year old, immature boy to college. Where he will, in theory, receive the education that will prepare him for life in the "real world." Of course, being the immature idiot that he is most of it will be lost on him for the first two years. After all, there are GIRLS here, and booze, and frat parties, and football games. How the hell is he supposed to react? Not that girls have it any easier, they may be more mature, but they get to be surrounded by immature jackasses like our boy who just want to grope, paw, and fondle her. Perhaps this is just sour grapes on my part as I realize, now that I am a 40 year old geezer, that the stuff I was exposed to would be MUCH more appreciated by me now. I suppose youth is wasted on the young, and all that crap, but no wonder the vast majority of men are the fucks up we are. By the time we are mature enough to appreciate it, the education we should have had, has already passed us by, and we are too busy rearing children, and/or dodging the rampaging boss to do anything about it. It is sad that now, this late in my life, I feel so much more ready to learn the philosophy of fellows like the guy in the photo above. At least that is what I tell myself, as I watch another stirring episode of Family Guy, and feel my IQ drop by 5 points or so. I actually had a philosophy teacher, despairing of trying to get simple precepts into my thick skull, said that I should come back to philosophy when I was 40 so I could then better understand and appreciate it. Perhaps he was right, and perhaps I need to get off my stagnant ass, and do something about it, but of course there are two full hours of Family Guy on tonight.