Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The object of today's history lesson is the well drawn fellow above one Thomas Nast, born this day 1840 in Landau, Germany. The drawing above is a self-portrait by Mr. Nast. After going to sea on a French man of war, and then later on an American ship, Nast joined his family in New York City. The bright lights of the Big Apple were where he was going to make himself a star, and a hero. It was by drawing lovely cartoons that Mr. Nast became known as the "Father of the American Cartoon." All of us fans of gentle, and not so gentle satire owe him a debt of gratitude. All the political cartoons that we are sometimes amused by, sometimes offended by, and sometimes puzzled by, are the result of the drawing talent that nature bestowed upon Mr. Nast. Being artistically challenged ( I can just about draw a stick man), I can appreciated his talent even while I am eaten up with jealousy about his about to sketch drawings of such complexity. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame are the political cartoons he drew attacking Boss Tweed and the corruption ring of Tammany Hall that had been running City Hall in New York City for years. His cartoons are credited with being a major reason in Boss Tweed's downfall. In fact, when Tweed tried to flee the country, first to Cuba then to Spain, he was recognized by authorities in Spain by a drawing of Tweed done by Nast. He contributed many of the drawing that today we take as icons. He was the first to draw Santa Claus as the fat, jolly bastard he is depicted as today. He drew and attached the donkey as a symbol for the Democratic Party, and the elephant that is the symbol for the Republican party. He also gave us the image by which American is mostly known by today, that of Uncle Sam. In 1902, he was appointed as Consul General to Ecuador by then president Theodore Roosevelt. It was this job that brought his drawing career to its final conclusion, he died there of yellow fever later that year, but for giving us all those enduring images, and for showing us less gifted what it is to actually be able to draw, Thomas Nast (September 27th, 1840- December 7th 1902, at the age of 62), you are my hero of the day.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The super sexy woman above is on Ani DeFranco born this day 1970, in Buffalo, New York. She is a fitting heroine for today since she claims to be bisexual, and today for some odd reason, it is Celebrate Bisexuality Day. Woo Hoo. How convenient is that? Although she has been married not once, but twice, and even has a daughter born after she presumably got knocked up the old fashion way, Ani does claim to be a switch hitter, and has written "love" songs to/about people of both genders. Granted, all of her music is not my general type, but she has written some lovely tunes that I even paid to download. I am not sure if this might revoke my "man card" or not. While I can put together a room, and like listening to Ani's music I am still a man damn it, and no I don't wear yellow in public. I just am in touch, so to speak, with my inner lesbian, and Ani helps soothe that part of me that sits up with a pint of ice cream, a box of tissues, and the Lifetime Movie Network. Not that there is anything wrong with that. One song of hers is one of my particular favourites. A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a girlfriend of the moment called into a radio station and requested Ani's "Your Untouchable Face" and even had them "dedicate" it to me. Go and have a listen to it, or if you can't at least read the lyrics. It is not a love song in the strictest sense of the word, but I was still touched. So, for all her great little tunes that make being dicked over in love feel almost pleasant, Ani Defranco (September 23rd, 1970-present), you are my heroine of the day.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The footballer above is one Henrik Larsson, born this day 1971, in Helsingborg, Sweden. You will notice that the picture seems to have been taken by a drunk monkey. Well it some respects it was, but I was sober at the time, and I am the one that took it. From my seat at the game in which I got to see my hero live and in person. He will probably be the only hero on my list that I will be able to say that I have seen live. I even got fairly close to him post-game, but managed to keep myself from fa wing all over him like I wanted to. Henke is probably going to top my hero list for a long, long time. He started his playing career at the age of 17 for Hogaborg, a local club in his home town, from there he moved to the bigger local club, Helsingborg. His first stint at Helsingborg yielded 56 goals in 50 appearances. His major move was from the Dutch club Feyenoord, to Scottish giants Celtic in 1997, and it is there that his legend was cemented. I have a friend who is from Glasgow, and who is a Celtic supporter, he would marry Larsson today if he had the chance. He isn't the only one, Larsson's time at Celtic is the stuff of football legend. He is referred to as either the Magnificent Seven (the number he wore at Celtic), or King of Kings. He made 221 appearances in a Celtic shirt, and scored a remarkable 174 goals. He remains the all time leading scoring in the Scottish Premier League. He was voted Celtic's all time greatest player in a poll conducted in 2002. He left Celtic in 2004, and joined the Spanish side Barcelona. While there he set up both goals in the 2006 UEFA Champions League final in Paris against my club Arsenal. It was a lovely, and heartbreaking performance. Watching your favourite team be sliced open by your favourite player of all time is not something I would recommend. However, any fool can look up Henke's Wikipedia page, and read about all his achievements, and the honours bestowed upon him (even including a MBE). I have seen the man player it was this year in July, and it was fantastic. I was in Sweden for a vacation, and had bought tickets to see Helsingborg (the hometown club to which he has returned) play Djugardens in Stockholm. It was going to be the highlight of the trip for me, I say going to because as I planted my ass in my seat at Djurgardens stadium Henke was nowhere to be seen. An injury had made him a last minute scratch, and he was not even on the bench. I was crushed. Here I was in fucking Sweden six thousand miles from home, and I was going to miss seeing my hero play. He was 37 years old at the time, and the number of chances to see him play live are getting pretty slim. Especially if you live in America. However, I was not to be denied. Even though it meant changing my travel plans, and ended up costing me a small fortune, I bought train tickets, and rented a hotel room in Helsingborg for the next week in hopes that Henke would play their next game. If he hadn't I would probably still be in a Swedish prison awaiting trial for the pitch invasion that I would have perpetrated on that day. He played, and his team won. Perhaps the only thing that would have made it better was if he had scored, but he didn't but I didn't care. I had got to see him play, and that was enough. I was very lucky for about 3 weeks later he broke his kneecap while playing in a Europa Cup game, and may never play football again. The picture above, and about four or five others are saved on to my hard drive, and the game is etched into my memory. I know I sound like a love struck teenage girl, but I do not care. My unabashed man love for Henke remains a running joke amongst my friends. I take it all in stride, mainly because I can not deny it even if I wanted to. So, for being a consummate professional, and for those 37 goals he has scored for the Swedish national team, and even though you ripped a little part of my heart out on May 17th 2006, Henrik Larsson (September 20th, 1971-present), you are my hero of the day.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The bearded fellow above is one Lajos Kossuth born this day 1802, in Monok, Hungary. Bet you did not know that M. Kossuth is the earlier person ever born to have his voice recorded. It happened in 1890, in Turin Italy as he was giving a short, patriotic speech. Pretty par for the course because that is what he was a patriot, an Hungarian patriot to be precise. After entering his father's legal practice, he also began a political career. He wrote letters about the debates of his local county Assemblies. Those letters eventually got him arrested and charged with high treason in 1837. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but only did three. I say only because I am not the motherfucker that had to do the time. All in all, it probably seemed a life time to Kossuth. One small advantage of his imprisonment was that he had time to learn English. He learned it mostly by reading the Bible and Shakespeare. It was one of his later characteristics that he spoke English like he learned it, like a character out of Shakespeare. He played a major role in the Hungarian revolt against the Habsburg Empire in 1848, and was eventually elected regent-president of Hungary. The winter campaign of 1848-1849 in which Hungary tried in vain to win its independence was his finest hour, and his greatest failure all rolled into one. With help from Russia, the Habsburgs were able to defeat the revolution, and Hungary was frog-marched back into line as a province of Austria. Kossuth became a fugitive, and crossed the border into the Ottoman Empire alone in late 1849. He was to be an exile for the rest of his life. He eventually made his way to England where he was welcomed with open arms at first. However, he soon began to wear out his welcome, and traveled to the United States. His fellow exiles were not big fans of his, claiming that Kossuth was hogging the spotlight, and claiming to be the only true Hungarian revolutionary exile. He was stripped of his Hungarian citizenship, and there after refused to take part in several amnesties that were offered to other exiles that had participated in the revolt. He eventually settled in Turin, Italy, and died there still an unrepentant exile in 1894, but for being a hero of a nation that sorely needed heroes, and for maintaining his beliefs to the bitter, exiled end, Lajos Kossuth (September 19th 1902- March 20th, 1894 at the age of 91), you are my hero of the day.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The serene fellow above is one Grigory Potomkin born this day 1739, in Chizhovo, Russia. He is best known for his attempts to populate the wide, underpopulated steppes of southern Ukraine. He helped oust the weak emperor Peter III in 1762, and soon became a "favourite" of the new ruler Catherine II. Anyone who knows anything about Catherine II (she of "horse riding" fame) knows that being a favourite meant a lot more than just helping her keep the account book in balance. From 1774 to about 1791, due to his exalted status as Catherine's boy toy, he was the most powerful man in Russian. It seems he gloried in it. He was apparently a great fan of the "if you have it flaunt" school of money. Absolute power also seemed to be a bit of a rush of blood to his head as well. I guess money, sex with the empress, and unlimited power will go to your head in a big way, and our boy Grigory was no exception. For all his, um, "hard" work he was appointed governor of Russia's newly acquired southern provinces. This is the work for which he is best remembered. He founded the Russian Black Sea Fleet, helped annex the Crimea to the empire, and founded several towns including Sevastopol. His other claim to fame is the "Potemkin village." During Catherine's tour of his newly minted provinces he supposedly erected fake villages with fat, prosperous peasants, and charming little houses to mask the grinding, soul-numbing reality of the poverty that the "real" peasants were faced with under his rule. Historians disagree on the details of these "villages" but, that never stopped it from being attached to his name, and for being one of the reasons he is remembered by history. Near the end of his life, it had become apparent that he was quite mad, possibly suffering from the effects of an untreated STD. Well, sleeping with Catherine II did have it risks. Although there is no evidence that he had an STD, or that he got it from Catherine, historical facts need not stop us from engaging in some delicious gossip should it? He died among the open steppes that he tried to populate supposedly as a consequence of eating an entire goose while in a high fever. So, for that awesome manner of death, and for showing us that things are much better than they appear, Grigory Potyomkin, (September 13th, 1739-October 5th, 1791 at the age of 52), you are my hero of the day.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
The long haired fellow above is one Alfred Jarry, born this day 1873, in Laval, France. Apparently M. Jarry was a brilliant child who was "writing" plays and performing them for his classmates at the age of 15. At the age of 17, both of his parents died, and left him a small inheritance which he quickly spent. He was a shining example of the "live fast, and die young" type. Referring to alcohol as his "sacred herb" and, to absinthe as his "green goddess." He was drafted into the army in 1894, but since he was not even 5 feet tall, the quartermaster could not find any uniforms to fit him. I suppose he must have looked like a little kid playing grown up soldiers in a uniform many sizes too big for him. Eventually even the French figured out that fighting with midgets was not a good plan, and he was discharged for "medical reasons." His most famous play was Ubu Roi whose main character is an antihero — fat, ugly, vulgar, gluttonous, grandiose, dishonest, stupid, jejune, voracious, cruel, cowardly, and evil. Ubu was Jarry's metaphor for modern man. Sounds like a real lovely fellow, one you would love to invite to the mother in law's parties. The play was performed one time during Jarry's lifetime, opening night created such a stir that the theater director cancelled any further productions. M. Jarry was one weird cat, he lived in an apartment that was subdivided horizontally, rather than vertically, and while he could stand up in it, his guests has to stoop, or sit on the floor. He also liked to practice his shooting while at home, and when one of his female neighbors complained that his target practice was endangering her children he replied "If that should ever happen, ma-da-me, we should ourselves be happy to get new ones with you." He is credited with creating the world of pataphysics which are the laws which govern exceptions and will explain the universe supplementary to this one. He is even given credit for writing the world's first cyborg sex novel. Good stuff I bet. He lived to drink, and drank to live, and eventually it caught up with him. He died of TB, made worse by his drinking. His last request was supposedly for a toothpick, but for bringing the character of Ubu Roi to life, and the stage, Alfred Jarry (September 8th, 1873-November 1st, 1907), you are my hero of the day.
Monday, September 07, 2009
I have to admit that I do not know the jack hammering fellow above, but he and millions like him are the reason that I have the day off today to contemplate writing this blog post. Because today is Labour Day in my fair country. Of course this idea was stolen from Canada in 1882. Oregon was the first state to pass "Labour day into law, and in 1894 the Federal Government pushed through the legislation to make it a Federal holiday. This was done in an attempt to placate the working man after the Pullman strike of 1894. The law was passed through Congress is just six days, try that now days and see what happens. The president at the time, Grover Cleveland, was worried that a day to celebrate labour would be attached to the "May Day" celebrations of labour in Europe. That just smacked a little to "red" to good old Grover, so the first Monday in September was designated Labour Day. Still with all that political bullshit it is a day to celebrate the working class of the world, and to stop and think as you walk into that high rise to go to your 40th floor office about the nameless fellows who actually did all the heavy lifting during its construction. I have always had a bit of an allergic reaction to physical labour, and therefore need to remember to be especially mindful of the people for whom it was the only way to feed the family. My own paterfamilias was one of these people, and though he is far, far from being any sort of hero in my book, he still had to work his ass off to feed my fat ass. Granted he bitched and moaned about it on a daily basis, and found way too much solace in good, old American lagers when the workday was over, but he and millions like him, still managed to get the job done. So for ensuring that we have all those lovely buildings in which slackers like myself work, but not labour, and for all the other services that they provide, the "working class" (from the beginning of time-present), you are my heroes of the day.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Saturday, September 05, 2009
The fellow above is one Arthur Koestler born this day, 1905, in Budapest, Hungary. He was educated, and spent most of his childhood in Austria. He joined the German Communist Party in 1931, but left the party in 1938 after becoming disillusioned with the Party. My major exposure to him is reading (more than once) his witheringly anti-Communist novel "Darkness at Noon." I highly recommend it, and have read it several times over the years. It sort of reminds me of a couple of "relationships" I have had in my past. Read it, and that comment will make all the sense in the world. He lived an extremely active, and adventurous life. Joining, and deserting from the French Foreign Legion, being imprisoned by Francisco Franco's Nationalists forces during the Spanish Civil war, meeting Menachem Begin when he was still just a Jewish terrorist. All of this before he was forty! He was a prolific author, and wrote books until the effects of Parkinson's Disease made the physical act of writing nearly impossible. He always stated he wasn't afraid of death but of the act of dying, and on March 1st, 1983 he and his wife committed suicide. Since it is so very poignant I have pasted a copy of his suicide note below.
To whom it may concern. The purpose of this note is to make it unmistakably clear that I intend to commit suicide by taking an overdose of drugs without the knowledge or aid of any other person. The drugs have been legally obtained and hoarded over a considerable period. Trying to commit suicide is a gamble the outcome of which will be known to the gambler only if the attempt fails, but not if it succeeds. Should this attempt fail and I survive it in a physically or mentally impaired state, in which I can no longer control what is dome to me, or communicate my wishes, I hereby request that I be allowed to die in my own home and not be resuscitated or kept alive by artificial means. I further request that my wife, or a physician, or any friend present, should invoke habeas corpus against any attempt to remove me forcibly from my house to hospital.
My reasons for deciding to put an end to my life are simple and compelling: Parkinson's Disease and the slow-killing variety of leukaemia (CCI). I kept the latter a secret even from intimate friend to save them distress. After a more or less steady physical decline over the last years, the process has now reached an acute state which added complications which make it advisable to seek self-deliverance now, before I become incapable of making the necessary arrangements.
I wish my friends to know that I am leaving their company in a peaceful frame of mind, with some timid hopes for a de-personalised after-life beyond due confines of space, time and matter and beyond the limits of our comprehension. This 'oceanic feeling' has often sustained me at difficult moments, and does so now, while I am writing this.
What makes it nevertheless hard to take this final step is the reflection of the pain it is bound to inflict on my surviving friends, above all my wife Cynthia. It is to her that I owe the relative peace and happiness that I enjoyed in the last period of my life – and never before.
Pretty sad stuff, and it saddens the heart to read it, but at least it went out on his on terms, and in his own time. But for showing me that Darkness sometimes comes at Noon, and that we are in some respects all Sleepwalker, Arthur Koestler (September 5th, 1905- March 1st, 1983 by suicide), you are my hero of the day.