Friday, February 26, 2010

I Spy

The dashing young fellow above is one Christopher Marlowe born this day 1564 in Canterbury, England. There is much mystery about our boy Marlowe, and part of that is a reason for him to ascend to hero status. He was born the son of a shoemaker, and attended (eventually) Corpus Christi College, Cambridge where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1584. It was while in college that rumours began to circulate that Marlowe had some secret service smell about him (how's that for alliteration). The Privy Council had to intervene in order for him to be awarded his degree saying that he had performed "good service" and had "faithful dealings" with the Queen. All very mysterious, and Marlowe had had some long term absences from Cambridge that went unexplained. Some surviving records from the college buttery show that he was eating, and drinking like a lord with no visible means of being able to afford to live such a high life. He managed to write seven plays in his brief life on the planet, and was considered one of the best dramatists of the period by his fellow scribblers. Perhaps the most famous tribute to Marlowe was paid to him by William Shakespeare (whom several scholar believe Marlowe to be), with the lifting of lines from Marlowe's play directly into Shakespeare's play "As You Like It." If Shakespeare is ripping you off then are probably pretty damn good. Marlowe was a big influence on the early works of Shakespeare, and that alone would get him into the world of heroes. He also wrote a lovely poem entitled "Hero and Leander." If you know anything about the last 180 some odd posts to this blog, you will see the debt I owe to Marlowe. But, perhaps the best Marlowe story I have to tell is this. A long, long, time ago, I quoted a couple of lines of Marlowe's play "The Jew from Malta" to a lovely young lady, and it had an interesting effect. The lines were "thou has committed fornication, (line break) "Aye, but that was in another country, and besides the wench is dead." The poor girl I quoted those lines to actually thought that I had, at one time, had a girlfriend in another country, and that the girl was dead. Quite funny when I think about it now, quite stupid at the time, but it did get me a LOT of sympathy (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). His death was just a mysterious as his life. The common agreed upon facts are that he and three companions were having a night out on the town in Deptford, and it turned into an ugly brawl over the reckoning of the bill. Marlowe supposedly attacked one of his drinking partners with a knife, and was killed when said knife entered his skull right above his right eye. There have been numerous accounts, and numerous theories to explain both his life and his death, but for some of the best lines of blank verse, and poetry the world will ever have the honour of reading, Christopher Marlowe (February 26th, 1564-May 30th, 1593, at the age of 29), you are my (184th) hero of the day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Today is the halfway point in our hero journey. Halfway in numbers that is today's heroine is another one pulled out of the hero(ine) bullpen. Her name is Marie Curie, and she was actually born on November 7th, 1867, so today is not her birthday. However, I wanted someone particularly outstanding to be the halfway point on this little journey. M. Curie was born Maria Skłodowska in Warsaw, Poland. She had a bit of a hard scrabble childhood, and eventually, through a lot of hard work, wound up at the Sorbonne (being really fucking smart helped too), where she obtained a degree in physics in 1893, and one in mathematics in 1894. In 1895, she married Pierre Curie, and a husband/wife team of brilliant experimental scientists was born. Working almost constantly in the lab, the Curies studied radiation, and uranium, and Marie coined the term "radioactivity" in a paper based on her research. That research, which included the discovery of a couple of elements (one named after her native Poland), won her and Pierre a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903. Pierre was tragically killed in 1906, and Curie was able to take over the chair in Physics that it had created for Pierre, making her the first woman to ever become a full professor at the Sorbonne. This allowed her full control over the lab, and she was able to emerge from her late husband's shadow. In 1911, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Becoming the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes (she was already the first woman to win one), and one of only two people ever to win a Prize in two separate fields. Alas, all that messing about with radioactive "stuff" (very little was known about the long term health effects of the stuff she was dealing with), led to her death in 1934. Her papers are still considered to be dangerously radioactive, and are stored in lead boxes. If you want to see them, and handle them, you have to a radioactive suit. But, for making wonderful discoveries in the world of science, and being an idol of every little girl that wants to do science (myself included), even at the cost of her own health, Marie Curie (November 7th, 1867-July 4th, 1934, at the age of 66) you are my (halfway number 183rd) hero of the day.


"Zoology teaches that a number of flawed individuals can often add up to a brilliant social unit." Robert Musil in "The Man Without Qualities vol. 1.

Yes, I know that I failed in my hero post yesterday. Truth is there was no hero yesterday, and my day just was not conducive to writing a post. However, today is a new day, and I hope to produce a hero for the podium today. In the mean time, I am going to pull back the curtain (just a bit) onto my professional day to day life. The quote above describes my professional life quiet well. I do know hardly anything about zoology, and I do not if Musil was just making the shit up or not, but when I read that line last night a blog post was born. I am a part of a "unit" in my office, a sort of semi-independent grouping that is headed by la grand fromage (i.e. my boss). My boss can be a damn good boss, and at other times, she can be quite scary. There are in her little nest a LOT of flawed individuals, myself included. My flaws are fairly well documented, and fairly well understood. Each of my co-workers have their flaws as well, and that is not always a bad thing. If properly managed, a flaw can easily become a virtue. My boss, being more optimistic, than myself would love for the above quote to be true about our "unit." After some theatrics yesterday, I am beginning to despair of that ever happening. The main flash point is (as they often are) quite silly, but it did involve me doing a (perceived) wrong to the rest of my co-workers. If you ask me I am right, and they are wrong. The part of my job in question involves "assigning" work to the group, and people were of the opinion that I gave myself the good stuff. The problem with that idea is, there is no "good" stuff in our unit. It all stinks (just like the shit it is), and we all get shit, no matter how it is divided. Of course, my argument in my defense was that I had made each and everyone of my co-workers involved mad, so I must be doing my job correct. I do not know that they would agree, nor do I care. It is just a symptom of what I fear is a fatal disease. That the flawed individuals that I spend a great deal of my time with are not going to be able to become a brilliant unit (social or otherwise). Of course, things might take a turn for the better, and our little unit, after a stern talking to from the head master will pull its shit together, and become a brilliant "unit." Stranger things have happened, but for now all this blather has been to distract you from the idea that I am a day late and a hero short for (yesterday) February 24th.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dear Diary

The long haired fellow above is one Samuel Pepys born this day 1633 in London, England. He was born, the son of a tailor the fifth of eleven children. Due to the high child morality rate he was soon the oldest child in the household. In 1650 he went off to Cambridge University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1654. It was on January 1st, 1660 that he began the diary that was to put him on the list of heroes. For almost a decade, Pepys was to record his daily life for posterity's sake. It is a peek at the daily life of London during the middle of the seventeenth century, and Pepys chronicles his hopes, dreams, fears, the women he chases, the positions he longs to obtain, and any other thing that comes his way. The decade he kept the diary proved to be an exceptional time in history. The Great Fire of London 1666, the Great Plague of 1665, and the Second Anglo-Dutch War of 1665-1667 were all detailed in the diary. It is also a in depth glimpse at Pepys' personal life, written in shorthand, the diary shows Pepys as a man who loved wine, women, and song. Parts of it could be considered scandalous, but in the main it is a cracking good read. At the end of May, 1669 Pepys concluded that he had to bring the diary to an end to save his deteriorating eyesight. He went on to a moderately successful career in the Admiralty, but for those volumes of witty, insightful, and highly entertaining writings that show what life was really like in London town way back then, Samuel Pepys (February 23rd, 1633-May 26th, 1703, at the age of 70), you are my (182nd) hero of the day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cosmic Pessimism

The fellow above is one Arthur Schopenhauer, born this day 1788 in Danzig, Germany. The picture above is of him as a young man, I feel that too many times we remember our "heroes" as older men or women in the twilight of their lives, and we forget that they too were young once. They had the foibles of youth, and the uncertainties of childhood, they did not come "ready made" mature adults right out of the box. They are not made that way, and we should be thankful they are not, perhaps it was something in their trip to adulthood that made them possess the heroic qualities that we so admire. I have referenced him in a couple of previous blog posts, and invite you to go back and read them to help understand the influence (good or bad) that he has had on MY thought. Herr Schopenhauer was born into a wealthy Prussian family, but when he was 17 his father committed suicide. Perhaps that was one of the underlying reasons for the philosophical genius he was to become. He attended the University of Gottingen, where he studied metaphysics and psychology. He began his mangus opus "The World as Will and Representation in 1814, and finished it in 1818. In 1820, he became a lecturer at the University of Berlin where he famously scheduled his lectures at the same time as G.W.F. Hegel, a philosopher of some note that Schopenhauer could not stand. Hegel was already famous for his works, and to schedule your lectures at the same time, while taking guts, was not a way to assure high attendance. Apparently, only five students showed up for Schopenhauer's lectures and he soon gave up academia forever. In 1821, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer, Caroline Richter, and had a relationship with her for several years. He discarded marriage plans, however, writing, "Marrying means to halve one's rights and double one's duties", and "Marrying means, to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find out an eel out of an assembly of snakes." I can feel his pain, but he was probably a little harsh on the institution of marriage. Schopenhauer had a notably strained relationship with his mother Johanna Schopenhauer. After his father's death, Arthur Schopenhauer endured two long years of drudgery as a merchant, in honor of his dead father. Afterwards, his mother retired to Weimar, and Arthur dedicated himself wholly to studies in the gymnasium of Gotha. After he left it in disgust after seeing one of the masters lampooned, he went to live with his mother. But by that time she had already opened her infamous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with the vain, ceremonious ways of the salon. He was also disgusted by the ease with which Johanna had forgotten his father's memory. When he wrote his first book, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, his mother informed him that the book was incomprehensible I(which to people like me it is, but that is not the point), and it was unlikely that anyone would ever buy a copy. In a fit of temper Schopenhauer told her that his work would be read long after the rubbish she wrote would have been totally forgotten, and it would seem he was correct. I have never read one word of his mother's writing, but have spent several (hard) hours trying to comprehend his. In 1833, he moved from Berlin to settle permanently in Frankfurt (to avoid a cholera epidemic), and died there of heart failure at the age of 72. Thus, a hero is born, has a childhood that is not the happiest, loses his father, and dislikes his mother, Goes to university, becomes of the most original, and influential thinkers of his generation, grows old, and dies. Somewhere in that human drama he called life Schopenhauer began to become a star. A person destined to be remembered by history (some fondly, some not so fondly). His work, and his thoughts I will leave you to suss out for yourselves. For two reasons, one I have not sorted them out myself, and two philosophy should be worked through individually, not spoon fed to us through the prism of another person's ideas, thoughts, and prejudices. Safe to say the small amount of his work I have sorted I admire, and it is for that work that Arthur Schopenhauer (February 22nd, 1788-September 21st, 1860, at the age of 72), you are my (181st) hero of the day.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


The fellow above is one Franz Klammer, and today is not his birthday. He was born December 3rd 1953 in Mooswald, Austria. There are two reasons he is today's hero, first his downhill run to win the gold in the 1976 Innsbruck Olympic games is the stuff of legend, and secondly I wanted to use him to show what a true Olympic champion should do and look like. Since the Olympics are currently happening, and I like the winter games much more than the summer ones, I thought I would bring Franz out of the hero bullpen. In his storied career Klammer won World Cup downhill title 5 times, in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1983. Notice that four of those years were in a row, now that takes some talent, and Franz had talent to spare. One of my early Olympic memories is watching him win that gold in 1976, if you can find it on the web somewhere, you should watch his run. Absolutely amazing, he was dangerously off balance more than once, and skied like an absolute madman to win the gold over defending Olympic champion Bernhard Russi of Switzerland by 0.33 of a second. He was a true madman of a skier, and when you look at today's skiers they pale in comparsion. The "publicity machine" that is Lindsay Vonn makes me want to puke. Watching her celebrate as if she had won the Super G after crossing the line with the best time so far was disgusting. There were still a couple of world class skiers to go, but Vonn just thought "hey I am Lindsay Vonn, I am the best, I won!" Yeah, not so much, the look of sadness on her face when the first skier beat her time was priceless. It was so sweet that I rewound and replayed it on my DVR about seven times. They did not bother showing her face as the second (long shot) skier knocked her down into the bronze medal. Klammer was not the media driven hype machine of Vonn, and therefore was/is much more easy to root for. Hard to root for Vonn as she seems to be, by all media accounts, the second coming. Give me a underdog with guts any day of the week, and that was Klammer. Watching him got me into watching the winter Olympic games, and I suspect, that would made Franz very happy. So for that heart stopping, gold medal winning, near death run all those years ago, Franz Klammer (December 3rd, 1953-present), you are my stand in (180th) hero of the day.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


The fellow above, in case you can not read the caption next to his face, is one Pierre Boulle born this day 1912 in Avignon, France. He studied to be an engineer, and was working on a British rubber plantation in Malaya when World War II broke out. When war came, he enlisted in the French army in Indochina, and eventually joined the Free French Forces, after the fall of France in 1940. In 1943 he was captured by Vichy France loyalists, and was subjected to severe hardships and forced labour. From these and other war experiences would come one of the two books which make him our hero of the day. "The Bridge over the River Kwai" is an excellent book, and was turned into a fantastic film in 1957. The film won several Oscars, including Best Picture, and Best Actor. Boulle won the Oscar for the Best Adapted Screenplay even though he freely admitted to not being able to speak English at the time. He gave what is reported to be the shortest speech in Oscar history by merely saying Merci, and accepting his award. The film's actual writers were blacklisted at the time of the film, but their names were later added to the award as well. The other work that gets him into the hero hall of fame is his 1963 work, the Planet of the Apes. It was also turned into a lovely film, the original that is, the one with Charlton Heston, not the shitty remake done in 2001. Not a bad track record as an author for a guy who was an engineer. So, for writing two lovely works, that were turned into lovely films as well, Pierre Boulle (February 20th, 1912-January 30th 1994, at the age of 82), you are my (179th) hero of the day.


The steely eyed fellow above is one Lee Marvin born this day 1924 in New York City. He bounced around a few schools in his youth, getting expelled from several, before finishing school and joining the Marines. During World War II he was wounded at the battle of Saipan, received a Purple Heart. After the war, while working as a plumber's assistant he was asked to fill in for an actor who had fallen ill at a small theatre in upstate New York. That little twist of fate was his big break in some ways, and he moved to New York City to pursue more roles, beginning with amateur off Broadway productions. He moved to Hollywood in 1950, and a star was soon born. He played in a lot of war movies, due to his combat experience, and played a lot of hard boiled tough guys as well. In 1965 he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in "Cat Ballou" a role that was just a bit out of his usual type. A lot of this roles are worthy of hero status, but it is for his role as Hickey in "The Iceman Cometh" that I put him on the hero stand. It is a lovely movie, and he does a fantastic job in the main role, if you have not seen it you should. He even somehow managed to get some oddball secret society named after him. It is called "the Sons of Lee Marvin" and the main criteria for getting membership is some physical resemblance to Lee Marvin. Apparently the real son of Lee Marvin is not a fan of the group, and it is probably just a goofy way of making themselves feel "cool." And one thing Lee Marvin was, was cool, and for being one cool, tough guy, and for all those lovely roles in some damn good films. Lee Marvin (February 19th, 1924-August 29th, 1987, at the age of 63), you are my (178th and a day late) hero of the day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


The fellow above is one Alessandro Volta, born this day 1745 in Como, Italy. He was the product of the "public schools" of Como. Now, I am a public school child myself, and I somehow doubt that the system I was "educated" in was the same as the system that produced Volta. Neither myself, nor any of my classmates (as far as I know), have contributed anything to the world on par with Volta's contributions. One of those contributions was the discovery of methane in 1776, seems he came up with that "discovery" by collecting the gas from marshes. His name is probably familiar to anyone who has ever shocked the piss out of themselves as well. The word "volts" that stuff you send through you body when being shocked or electrocuted is taken from his name. His most famous "invention" is the voltaic pile, an early precursor to today's modern batteries. So the next time you turn on anything that operates on batteries (you ladies especially) give a word of thanks to good, old Alessandro Volta. So, for that invention that makes a lot of people's lives safer, better, and happier. Alessandro Volta (February 18th, 1745-March 5th, 1827, at the age of 82), you are my (177th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beautiful Failures

I have begun to detect a sad pattern in my miserable existence on this planet. It seems I am a champ at picking beautiful failures. I am sitting here, on my ass, watching my SECOND team of the day fail. One of them has already failed in most spectacular fashion, and the wheels are very rapidly coming off my second team as I type. This has been dominated by weeks of my team(s) failing. Every weekend it seems I endure another team of mine failing. Sometimes I have multiple failures a day (like today), sometimes they all fail in a seven day period. They are just fucking failures, and truth be told, are not really beautiful failures. Failing, after a certain number of years, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It has gotten so bad, that at the start of any game in which my team is playing, the sense of doom from the beginning is overwhelming. A certain inevitability pervades my senses as I watch my team fail, and they fail in everything. Soccer, hockey, football, horse racing, and basketball, it seems that I must be a jinx. If I root for you, you are born to lose, and destined to fail. I should call teams and threaten to become a fan of them unless they pay me a large amount of money not to, sort of a fan blackmail. I am a jinx, I will make your team fail by rooting for them, so pay me not to root for them if you want to succeed. The sad part of it is that I know this. I know, before I park my ass down to watch my team, that they are going to fail. And yet, here I am still watching. You would think I would learn my lesson, and just give up, but it seems I am either a) loyal, b) stupid, c) optimistic, or d) fucking retarded. Perhaps it is some odd combination of all of the above, but this is awful, just plain awful. This is like rooting for Custer against the Indians. There is absolutely no hope, no chance of anything other than being crushed like a bug. I feel like a boxer that just keeps getting knocked down by some better fighter, and just keep getting back up. Someone should come in here and throw in the towel for my own good. Clearly I am too stupid to just "stay down." This is like a train wreck that has been hit by a tornado in the middle of a hurricane. It is just plain ugly it has gotten so bad that reading the sports page is worse than reading the obituaries. I hope that this post (whine) get my point across. I have read nine books this year already, and started number 10 last night, just to try and stop the madness. I think maybe I just need to cut my cable, and become totally cut off from the wide world of sports. All of this is to say, that for today February 17th, there is no hero of the day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The cool fellow above is one Tracy Marrow, better known as Ice-T, born this day 1958 in Newark, New Jersey. His mother died of a heart attack when he was in third grade, and his father died of one four years later. If I were him, I would have a heart doctor on speed dial. After his father's death, he moved to Los Angles to live with an aunt, and after graduating high school spent four years in the U. S. Army. It was an experience he did not enjoy, he went on to release, in 1991, he first album "O.G. Original Gangster" this was back in my "rap" phase, when I actually understood some of the lyrics, and was cool like that (or, at least thought I was cool like that). He caused some controversy with his song "Cop Killer," which is ironic since he now plays a cop on Law and Order SVU. That role, in which he was told to act like Ice-T would act if he was a cop, is one of the reasons he is on the hero podium for the day. He also gave a great performance as King James in 1992's "Trespass." A great film that, if you have not seen it, you should. He has had his share of critics, but who doesn't? When you have been in the business as long as he has, you are bound to have people bitch and moan about your "message." So, for writing some truly inspiring rap songs, and playing a cop on TV as cool as ice himself, Ice-T (February 16th, 1958-present) you are my (176th) hero of the day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Adventure of Ideas

The balding fellow above is one Alfred North Whitehead, our 175th hero of the day was born this day 1861, in Ramsgate, Kent, England. He was a bright lad, and turned into a fucking brilliant adult. He gained his B.A. from Trinity College, Cambridge, and would go on to teach and write mathematics at the university until 1910. He resigned that post in 1910 in protest at what he saw was an unfair dismissal of a colleague. From 1910 to 1925 or so he taught physics in London, and it was in this field that he came up with a rival idea to Einstein's general theory of relativity. One of my philosophy professors many, many moons ago tried to explain Whitehead's theory to me and a group of my fellow classmates. It sails right over my head, it seems that Whitehead's theory was MORE complex than Einstein's which is saying something, and it was entirely lost on my dumb ass. That same professor was quite taken with Whitehead's philosophical writings, and since he was one of three philosophy teachers I had to choose from, I got to read, and try to comprehend a LOT of Whitehead. His "Adventure of Ideas" is quite a good book, and not TOO horribly complex. I even managed to understand about 15% of it. However, his "Process and Reality" once again sailed ever so lazily past me, but I hear it is a very good philosophical work. Not that I could tell you one end of it from the other, but I at least got some exposure to it. Enough to say that I have heard of it, and read it, which might be enough to impress someone at some cocktail party. If I ever went to cocktail parties (which I don't), or wanted to impress someone at them (which I wouldn't). Either way, for at least giving me a couple of items that made me think back in the day when I could think, and for writing some quite decent philosophy, Alfred North Whitehead (February 15th, 1861- December 30th, 1947, at the age of 86), you are my hero of the day.

Yet it Moves

The bearded fellow above is one Galileo Galilei born this day 1564 in Pisa, Italy. The son of a famous music theorist, he was the oldest of six children. After seriously considering the priesthood, he enrolled in University of Pisa to pursue a medical degree. He did not complete this degree, instead deciding to study mathematics. He was appointed to a chair of mathematics in 1589 at Pisa, but in 1592, after the death of his father, he moved to the University of Padua teaching geometry, astronomy, and mechanics until 1610. It was in 1610 that he published one of the works that was to get him into so much trouble with the church. His observations of the moon of Jupiter led him to argue in favour of a Sun-centered universe. This was in opposition to the prevailing theory of the time, and the church was not amused. He was called to Rome to answer for his "heresy," and was enjoined from teaching the Sun-centered theory. He was tried for that heresy, and found guilty, being placed under house arrest with his movements restricted by the pope. The story goes that as he was found guilty he muttered words to the effect that say what you want "yet it moves," (speaking of the Earth that was supposed to be non-moving at the centre of the universe). However, that story has no scholarly evidence to support it, but if he did say it then good for him. The famous experiment showing him dropping balls of different weights off the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that outside a vacuum they would fall at the same rate also probably did not happen in real life, but was more of a thought experiment. He has been called the father of modern science, and Stephen Hawking has said that "Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science." That is pretty high praise from a pretty impressive source. This little post hardly scratches the surface of his contributions to the world of knowledge, and I encourage you to read about him further for yourself. Whether he made that rebellious statement or not really does not matter. It is the idea that he had the balls to take his observations to the church, and say "you fellows are making a cock-up of the universe thing, and this is the truth." For that courage, and for all the other contributions to the world of science, Galileo Galilei (February 15th, 1564-January 8th, 1642, at the age of 77), you are my (174th) hero of the day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's Magic

The quiet fellow above is one Raymond Joseph Teller, born with that name this day 1948 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has since legally changed his name to just Teller, and holds one of the few United States passports with just one name on them. He is known as the, mostly silent partner, of Penn and Teller. The famous magic act that is amazing when seen on TV. I can only imagine how cool their show is live. Teller's trademark silence during the act comes from his time in college. He found that if he kept quiet during his performances he did not get heckled or beer thrown on him. It seems he was performing in front of some tough crowds. Teller is the details man of the act, and it is that attention to detail that makes the act work so well. He and Penn are, in many ways polar opposites, Penn is the larger than life, big picture, social type, while Teller is the quiet, thinking man's man type. It works to perfection every time, and it quite amazing. However, no sleigh of hand, magic bullet, or red ball trick can stop the advance of time, but for making that time advance in such amazing ways, Teller (February 14th, 1948-present), you are my (173rd) hero of the day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Shooter's Choice

Today is someones birthday. Some where in this spinning globe, someone (many, many someones in truth) is celebrating their day of birth. It might be someones great Aunt Sophie, who survived the camps in Nazi Germany, and is something like 93 years old today. It might be your nephew Blake who just turned 21, and is on his way to the strip club for some "entertainment." If you think hard enough you will figure out that someone you know, or (as they say in my courtroom a lot) someone that you know of, is celebrating the day they screamed their way into the world. Maybe you should send a card, or maybe you hate the bastard, and should send someone to give them a birthday beating. Maybe you could care less if it is their birthday or not. Truth be told, I am not a big fan of birthdays myself. I guess after a certain number of them, they become like re-runs of a not so favourite TV show. Same actor(s), same script, and the same general outcome. Leaning over the shrubbery and throwing your guts out gets old after a while. Of course, we all get old after a while, that what birthdays are there to remind us of. That another 365, or 366 days of "your" life have passed, and an indeterminate amount of them remain. Another Fourth of July, another President's day, another Yom Kippur, another Darwin day have passed, and here you are sitting behind a cake with a group of people you call your friends here to celebrate the day of your birthday. Make a wish they tell you, close your eyes, and try at least to blow out the candles that may be threatening to set off the fire alarm. Make that wish, blow out those candles, and open those cards or presents before we all die of boredom. Hope you got at least something you wanted or needed, and hope you can return all the dross that you got from some well intentioned grandmother. Enjoy the day, and have a few drinks during the night, maybe get yourself something nice for the best gifts are usually the ones we buy ourselves. Then stumble, stagger, or crawl off to bed, and wake up tomorrow another year older, and wonder why you feel like someone is playing the drums inside your head. As you ponder your new age, and before you take that out new age out for a spin. Filling out any paper work today? Make sure you check the right box on the age group question. Before you do stagger out into the world to face the new day with your new age, remember today is someone else's birthday. All of this is, of course, to say that today, for me at least, there is no hero of the day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Man on the Moon

The fellow above is one Charles Darwin, born this day 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. I have had the good fortune of reading a lovely two volume biography of M. Darwin, and I would recommend those works to you if you are really interested in the man. I do not think that (after the large lunch I just had) that I feel "up" to the task of giving too much detail about his life. I do not think that a couple of paragraphs can do it justice, and from two volumes to one page is a bit too much cutting. Read about him, the stuff we know, and the stuff you did not know. The evolution thing (just look at Wayne Rooney and you can see maybe Darwin was correct), the survival of the fittest thing (which was partially borrowed from Alfred Russell Wallace), the journey of the Beagle, and all the other things that put him on the hero pedestal all by his lonesome for today. It is for his vast knowledge, hard work, and clear thinking that Charles Darwin (February 12th 1809-April 19th 1882, at the age of 73), you are my (172nd) hero of the day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


The fierce looking fellow above is one Maximillian "Max" Baer who was born this day 1909 in Omaha, Nebraska. The son of a fellow of French/Jewish ancestry, Max turned to professional boxing in 1929, at the age of twenty. A ring tragedy about a year later almost ended his career before it had a chance to get started. Baer fought Frankie Campbell in a match to determine the "unofficial" Pacific Coast Champion. During the 2nd round, Baer slipped to the canvas, and Campbell turned to his corner to await a count. That count did not come, and Baer got off the canvas and hit Campbell in the back of the head with a bit of a "sucker punch." Even though Campbell went on to win the next two rounds, he complained that he felt "something snapped in his head." Baer went on to batter Campbell to the ropes were the only thing Campbell up, Campbell's corner refused to throw in the towel until it was too late. Eventually, Campbell collapsed was counted out, taken to a hospital, and died the next day. It was later determined that Campbell's brain had been knocked completely loose from his skull. Baer was distraught by what happened, and gave several subsequent purses from his fights to Campbell's family. According to his son (the actor Max Baer Jr.), Baer had nightmares about what he did to Campbell for years. In 1933, Baer fought, and beat Max Schmeling (Hitler's boxer) while wearing trunks with the Star of David on them, he vowed to wear the Star in all of his subsequent fights. Baer was an entertainer both in, and out of the ring, and he liked to party. It was his part life style that probably cost him in his most famous bout. He had won the Heavyweight Championship in 1933 by knocking out Italian Primo Carnera. However, in 1935 he fought and lost to James J. Braddock, it was the match on which the movie "Cinderella Man" was based. Baer's talent began to decline, and he retired in 1941 with a career record of 71-13-0 with 53 of his wins coming by knockout. He went on to a halfway decent career in Hollywood, acting in over 20 films. He died of a heart attack at the age of 50. He was, by almost all accounts, a generous and kind man. He was very active in the Fraternal Order of Eagles, who, after his death, helped to raise millions of dollars to help fight heart disease. So for being an entertainer with a generous heart, and a gentle spirit who could knock a grown man completely out, Maximillian Baer (February 11th, 1909- November 21st, 1959, at the age of 50), you are my (171th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Paper Man

Here I was thinking the hero of the day post was done and dusted, when I realized that yesterday while doing my (well in advance) research for today, I ran upon the fellow above. His name is Matthias Sindelar, and he was born this day in Kozlov, Moravia then a part of the Autro-Hungarian Empire. His claim to fame is that he was the captain of Austria's Wunderteam. That team, for which he scored 27 goals in just 43 caps, had from the time he joined in 1926 until 1934 won or drawn 28 out of the thirty one games it had played, and was considered the first team to play "total football." He led Austria to a four place finish at the 1934 World Cup, and it was widely thought that the referee in the semi-final Austria lost to Italy made an extremely harsh decision that led to the Austrian defeat. It was while playing for this fantastic national side that he earned the nickname "The Paper Man" for his slight build, and the way he fluttered around opponents on the pitch. One of his most famous games came against the stinking Germans in 1938. And when I say the stinking Germans in 1938, I mean Hitler's stinking Germans. The Nazis did not like to lose, and they did not want to lose to a country that they had recently been "rejoined" with in the Anschluss of earlier in the year. The game was supposed to represent Austria's "coming home to the Reich," and the deal was that the game should end in a lovely scoreless draw. For about 70 minutes Sindelar and his strike partner, Karl Sesta, played like they had two, very clumsy, left feet, but after a while it became more than they could bear. First Sindelar, and then Sesta scored, and the game ended in a 2-nil Austrian win. Sindelar decided to celebrate quite lavishly in front of the Nazi big wigs attending the game. Ten months later, he was dead. There has been all sorts of stories about his demise, he was found naked on the bed with his latest (and last) girlfriend unconscious beside him, after a friend noticed he had seen Sindelar in a while, and broke down the door to his apartment. He was already dead from carbon monoxide poisoning, and the girlfriend, beyond all hope, died a few hours later. The theories about his death are thick on the ground. He was murdered for showing up the Nazis, he committed suicide because he could not face what was happening to and in his country, or it was a gangland hit tied to his huge gambling debts, or the most likely theory, it was an accident caused by a stopped up chimney flue. How he died is not really that important, it is what he did in the precious few years he had on the planet. For a few of those years, he was quite simply the most talented fellow to step onto a football pitch, and it is for that Matthias Sindelar (February 10th, 1903-January 23rd, 1939, at the age of 35), you are my (170th) hero of the day.


The pensive looking fellow above is one Boris Pasternak, born this day 1890 in Moscow, Russia. He was born into an artistic family, his father was a famous artist, and teacher at the Moscow School for Painting. His mother was a fairly well known concert pianist. Boris was brought up in a intellectual setting, and his home was visited by many writers, poets, and novelists of the day. One of those being a previous hero, Rainer Rilke. At first he wanted to be a composer, then turned to philosophy before finally settling on the career that makes him a hero, a writer/poet of amazing talent. His most famous book, Doctor Zhivago is set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and is a wonderful book. They even turned it into a lovely 3 hour movie that I was forced to watch while in undergraduate school. I thank the professor who made me watch it, for it is an awesome movie, and as usual the book is even better. In order to be published, the book was smuggled out of the USSR by Isaiah Berlin, and first published in Italian. It became an immediate best seller, spending twenty-six weeks at the top of The New York Times' best seller list. Years later it was determined that the CIA had help fund the book's first publication in Russian just in time for it to be considered for the 1958 Nobel Prize. Pasternak won the Noble Prize in 1958, and was at first sent a very excited, thankful telegram to the Swedish Academy. However, a few days later he sent another telegram to the Academy declining the award. The intense pressure from Soviet authorities had led to Pasternak's refusal. Pasternak's son eventually was allowed to accept the award on his father's behalf in 1989. Pasternak himself had no role in the publication of the novel in Russian, and was unaware of the CIA's involvement, but nevertheless paid the price. He died of lung cancer in 1960. But, for writing a sweeping novel of love and life in pre-Soviet Russia, that is a fantastic read, Boris Pasternak (February 10th, 1890- May 30th, 1960 at the age of 70), you are my (169th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Flour Town

The blond fellow above is on Johan Mjallby born this day 1971 in Stockholm, Sweden. It is quite possible, since I am too lazy to look, that old Johan may be the first hero that is younger than I am. His major claim to (my)fame is the 49 times he was capped for the Swedish national football team, that and the 4 goals (hey he was a defender) that he scored for the team. He made his name first playing for those Stockholm thugs, AIK, where he played in at least two sides that won the Swedish League. The first time, in 1992, Mjallby refused a winner's medal because he felt that he did not contribute enough to deserve it. Not many professional footballers would do such a foolish thing today. In 1998, AIK won the league again, and Mjallby was able to collect his winner's medal. After that he was off to Celtic, continuing a bit of a Swedish tradition at the club, he played there until 2004. He was captain of the Swedish national team that went to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and played in both Euro 2000, and Euro 2004. During his stay at Celtic he won 3 Scottish Premier League winner's medals, and a host of other medals including an UEFA runner's up medal in 2002. His career was hampered, and eventually cut short by injuries, but for those 49 caps, and those 4 goals, Johan Mjallby (February 9th, 1971-present), you are my (168th) hero of the day.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Since tomorrow is looking bleak on the hero front I decided to complete the trifecta for today, by having hero number three recognized. His name is Dmitri Mendeleev, born this day 1834 in Tobolsk, Russia. He was thought to be the youngest of 14 children (the numbers differ), and at the age of 13 his father died. This upheaval was quickly followed by the burning down of his mother's factory which caused the, now impoverished, family to relocate to Saint Petersburg. His life took many twists and turns, including becoming technically a bigamist, but his main claim to fame is the table above. Any of us who have suffered through either high school, or college chemistry has become VERY familiar with it. It is the periodic table, and he "came up" with it in the 1860's while teaching at Saint Petersburg University. I will confess that the majority of it sails right over my non-scientific head, but I figure that if my dumb ass is being tested on this crap over a hundred years later, then it might be pretty important. Also, my science friends seem to think it is important, and I suppose, in this regard at least, I should trust their judgment. His other claim to fame affects me more personally on a semi-daily basis. While he was the Director of the Bureau of Weights and Measurements he was tasked with the job of formulating a new state standard for vodka. As a result, in 1894 new standards for the production of vodka were introduced, and from then on all vodka had to be produced with 40% alcohol by volume. This, much more, than the periodic table, has a more day to day influence on my life. But, it was for the chemistry work that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1906. He is also credited with introducing the metric system to Russia. So, for all those achievements Dmitri Mendeleev (February 8th, 1834-February 2nd, 1907, at the age of 72 of influenza), you are my (167th) hero of the day.


The fellow above is one Jules Verne, our second hero of this particular day, was born this day 1828 in Nantes, France. Nantes was a bustling port city during his childhood, and he and his brother would often rent a boat for a franc a day. When he was 12 he stuck onto a steamer bound for India, but was soon caught and severely whipped by his father. This led him to claim that "from now on I will only travel in my imagination." And what an imagination it was. After finishing lycee, he moved to Paris to study law. Notice how many of my heroes start out studying law? It is a disturbing trend, and a sad commentary on my own life that they at least wound up as writers of fame, and talent while I still practice law. Like a few heroes before him Verne suffered for his art. His father, once he found out his son was trying to be a writer instead of a lawyer, withdrew his financial support. It seems the purse strings where cut for a writer. Verne was forced to support himself by becoming a rather successful stock broker, a job that he hated despite his talent for it. But it was writing which was to make him famous, and his meeting with Pierre-Jules Hetzel, one of the most important publishers in France, was to provide the launching pad for Verne's career. Hetzel was to help Verne improved his writing, even helping him change some of the sad endings that Verne originally wrote to happy endings. I guess the reading public loved a happy ending. I also suppose that in order to get published a happy ending could be squeezed out, and a sad one replaced. Hetzel was soon publishing two volumes of Verne's work a year, and the stories that we all associate with Verne (20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Around the World in 80 days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, etc, etc) were published by Hetzel. It was about this time that Verne wrote "Paris in the 20th century" a futuristic, dark novel, that was quite pessimistic in tone. Hetzel convinced Verne to delay publishing by twenty years. However, the manuscript was placed in a safe, and forgotten under discovered by a great-grandson, and only published in 1993. Verne's writings predicated many inventions that we take for granted today, he predicated/wrote about helicopters, jukeboxes, submarines, and projectors. His writings have suffered a great deal from translation, and have been said to be unsuitable for adults. But, in my opinion, Captain Nemo is one awesome character no matter what your age. So, for creating that Nobody in his submarine, and writing a ton of other fine work, Jules Verne (February 8th, 1828- March 24th, 1905, of diabetes, at the age of 77), you are my (166th) hero of the day.

Du Camp

The wavy haired fellow above is one Maxime Du Camp, born this day 1822 in Paris, France. Besides have one of the coolest names I have ever heard, Du Camp has only one small claim to fame. However, it is enough of a claim to get him on the hero board for the day. He was born the son of a successful surgeon, and it was Daddy's money that allowed him to travel the Near East from 1849 to 1851 with another hero Gustave Flaubert. This trip, in which Du Camp, took about 220 lovely photographs with the calotype method. These photographs were later published in book form, and eventually earned Du Camp the Legion d'honneur from Napoleon III. That was the official reason for the trip, so that Du Camp could take his photos, and Flaubert could use his pen to expound upon the great works of antiquity. They managed to do that with some style, and even managed to visit a fair amount of brothels along the way. A lovely little book, written by Flaubert, does a very good job explaining the trip, and the adventures that he and Du Camp got into while they were exploring Egypt for the sake of "art". So, for being a boon companion of a man who was to go on and write much bigger, and better things (he did provide Flaubert with some ideas and criticisms as well), Maxime Du Camp (February 8th 1822-February 9th 1894, at the age of 72), you are my (165th) hero of the day.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Man for all Seasons

The serious looking fellow above is one Sir Thomas More, born this day 1478 in London, England. Born the son of a successful lawyer, he was duly sent off to the University of Oxford to pursue a legal career. He nearly gave up all the fame and fortune of the lawyer life to become a monk, spending four years at the London Charterhouse subjecting himself to the discipline of a Carthusian monk. He finally decided that becoming a monk was something he was unable to do, because he did not think he could keep the vow of celibacy. I guess Thomas like the horizontal mambo just a bit to much to retire to a life in a monk's cell. He married in 1505, but throughout his life his followed many monkish habits, wearing a hair shirt for the remainder of his life, and on occasion engaging in flagellation. Having become a successful barrister in 1501, More became a Member of Parliament in 1504 where he was soon to rise to the posts that have made him famous. His first marriage resulted in four children, and when his first wife died in 1511, he remarried almost immediately, did I mention he was a bed room Olympian? He rose quickly in the ranks of Henry VIII's government, being a under sheriff in 1510, the Master of Requests in 1514, and a Privy Counsellor in 1518. While doing all this government work, More found time to write what is his most famous book. "Utopia" was completed in 1516, and is More's attempt at describing a perfect society with complete religious tolerance. Some people see the work as a satire, as it propounds ideas that More, as a staunch Catholic, surely could not have been in favour of. Either way, it is a lovely book, and the word Utopia entered the lexicon because of it. In 1529, he became Lord Chancellor, and it was from this high terrain that he was to fall. At first he and Henry VII worked hand in hand expanding the king's power. But, as we all know Henry had a lot of martial problems. The main problem was that he was married to a woman who was unable to produce an heir. The king's main duty was to produce an heir, and Henry loved the ladies and produced many a royal bastard, but no heir. Henry attempted to get his first marriage annulled, believing that he had found a filly, Anne Boleyn, upon which he would sire an heir to the throne. The pope at the time refused to grant Henry's request, and after a lot of back and forth, Henry decided to break with Rome and set up a Church of England with himself at the head. This was more than More could bear, and in 1531 he was allowed to resign as Lord Chancellor. The eventual "reason" for his trial and execution for treason was his refusal to sign the Act of Supremacy, which would acknowledge Henry as the head of the church in England. The panel of judges included the new queen's father, uncle, and brother. I doubt a "fair" trial would have been possible before that group, but More gave his best defense, and refuted a great number of the claims against him. He was ultimately convicted based upon testimony that was almost certainly perjury, and condemned to death. He was executed on July 6th, 1535, telling the executioners as he was mounting the steps of the scaffold "I pray you, I pray you, Mr Lieutenant, see me safe up and for my coming down, I can shift for myself". He was beatified in 1886, canonized in 1935, and added to the Catholic calendar of saints in 1980. He is the patron saint of lawyers (for one), and I guess if I were a praying man, he would be the one I would pray to for guidance when I needed it at my job. I am not a praying man, but I can still admire, and make a hero a man who was willing to die for his beliefs whether I agree with them or not. So, for having that type of courage, Sir Thomas More (February 7th 1478-July 6th, 1535, at the age of 57), you are my (164th) hero of the day.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


I am old, and I am getting older by the minute. It is not a pleasant experience, and I can only imagine that it will continue to get worse. Things hurt longer, the cold seems colder, I piss more often, and I like to take naps. These are the things that come with age. Not any of them are any good. Perhaps I am a bit wiser, but only by the fact that I now realize what a complete fuck up I was when I was younger. There is a "if I knew then what I knew know" feeling about getting old, and I expect that will get worse as well. In ten years, providing I live that long, I am sure I will look back on this time of my life and say "damn I should have done XYZ then." Another thing about aging is that it would appear I have "outgrown" some of my heroes. There were two fairly decent prospects for today's hero. One a lovely fellow by the name of J.E.B. Stuart, a dashing Confederate cavalry commander, who performed some heroic feats (and made a blunder or two) in the war of Northern Aggression. There was a time in my undergraduate days when I read, and was quite interested in that particular war, and if I had been thinking of heroes back then M. Stuart would have been an easy choice. However, I have lost interest in that phase of American history, and therefore the me of today can not choose M. Stuart. Perhaps, one day in the future, I will renew my interest in the era, and "JEB" will ride again as a hero, but not for today. The other fellow is a scheming bastard by the name of Aaron Burr. I must confess to having, at an early stage in my education, an admiration for M. Burr, but that was quickly dispelled when I got to read a little more about him, and his life's ambitions. He was quickly replaced in the hero pantheon by his rival, and the man he shot down like a dog in a duel, Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton has already taken his place on the hero list of this blog, and Burr has been consigned to my own personal "dustbin of history." Outgrown, and no longer admired. I now sort of wish that, if such a place exists. that Burr burns in hell. So, it would seem that along with all the gray hair, ear hair, and all the other joys of getting older, heroes are dropping like flies as well. That being the case, and since I could not find any suitable replacements, it is with regret that I have to inform you that for today, February 6th, there is no hero of the day.

Friday, February 05, 2010


The lurking fellow above is one Javert, police inspector of the Paris police in the Victor Hugo novel Les Miserables first published in 1862. The exact date of his birthday is not, as far as I can tell, mentioned anywhere in the novel. However, today is light on the actual hero front, and therefore I have unofficially declared today to be his birthday. A great number of people who have read the book or saw the musical who claim that Javert is a bastard. Well, being a bastard has never been a bar to being a hero, and my theory is that Javert is more of a misguided bastard as opposed to an evil bastard. Javert goes off the rails by his blind faith, and belief in the Law. "I am the Law, and the Law is not mocked" is one of his quotes that stands out most to me. He has very little wiggle room between the "Law" and being moral. For him the law is morality, and his fatal flaw is that he can not fathom how Jean Valjean could be both a "hardened" criminal that has committed the most heinous of crimes, and still be a "good" man capable of selfless acts of love that save lives. Throughout the book Javert sees Valjean do both kinds of things, commit crimes that would be worthy of a death sentence, and then save people's lives with little regard for the bad consequences to himself. It is when Valjean, given the chance to kill Javert, releases him instead that makes life untenable for Javert. "There is nothing on Earth that we share. It is either Valjean or Javert." That is one of the final quotes from the musical that Javert utters, and it pretty much sums up the problem he is facing. That problem is too much for him, and he throws himself in the Seine, rather than live in the "debt of a thief". However, Javert does have his purpose, and does have moments in the book where he acts in heroic ways. He is just, at his core, too misguided to understand the grey areas that the majority of us operate in, on a day to day basis. But for those heroic moments, and for having the courage of his convictions, Inspector Javert (February 5th, 1862-present), you are my (163rd) hero of the day.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


I am unconscious, asleep, knocked out, or just dizzy from the pills, but I am unconscious. To look at me you would not know that I am unconscious, I am sitting, fully dressed, here in front of this computer screen with my eyes wide open. My fingers are hitting the keys that are typing this little elegy to the gods, but I, myself, am unconscious. I have been unconscious for a while, I sleepwalk through a lot of stuff. I function, but do not excel. Little things bother me more than they should, perhaps because I can not seem to give the big things enough conscious thought. It is those big things that should jolt me out of my unconsciousness, but for reasons I either can not fathom, or am unwilling to share, they do not. I am even having conversations, some of which are quite long, and, in theory, meaningful all the while I am unconscious. Everyday, I get out of bed, and stagger off to make my daily bread while being, unconscious. I would like to say it is a neat trick, but it is not. It is not even fun, it is, in some respects, deeply depressing, and more than a little disturbing. To quote Rilke "ultimately, and precisely in the deepest and most important matters, we are namelessly alone" this line, this answer, sums up a great of the reason for my unconsciousness. Only the deepest and most important matters are concerning me at the moment. Not that I am some deep, philosophical thinker, I am far from it, but I have sorted, or had them sorted for me, the majority of the little things that creep into this petty pace from day to day. Once again, not that I have it figured out, but simply that the cement has mostly dried. Breaking cement is not easy, nor is it "safe". A sublime indolence has taken possession of me, and rendered me unconscious, unable to perform any task that is not beyond the pale of a three year old child. Although, the day to day stuff, in some respects, fascinates me. The stuff we all have to do just to get into the stream of life is rarely discussed. Probably it is boring to most people, but when you read a book, a biography, or a poem written by someone, do you ever wonder how did they get their laundry done? Probably not, and maybe you shouldn't, after all is it really that important where, or how, Poe got that fancy suit of his clean? Then again, maybe it is, maybe too much starch in the collar was the reason he sat down, and wrote the Raven. Sure it is unlikely, but have you ever been pissed at your dry cleaner? Inspiration comes in strange packages, and who knows if perhaps the most mundane thing in the world did not, somehow, inspire some of the world's greatest art or literature. Somewhere in those little things that make up my day to day existence there resides the germ of inspiration that lead me to write this post. It is from from great literature, but it is about the best that I can do, after all I am writing it while being, unconscious.

P.S. This is clearly written with the idea of informing you that for today, there is no hero of the day.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Mad Scrambler

The football wielding fellow above is on Francis Tarkenton born this day 1940 in Richmond, Virginia. Considering what has happened to the (my) team that Fran quarterbacked to three Super Bowl (losses), today's post will be quite short. He was part of the reason that the Vikings reached three Super Bowls in the 1970's, and he was part of the reason they lost them. With this Sunday being a Super Bowls Sunday that should include the Vikings, I just can't write much more without breaking down into tears. So for at least getting my team to the Super Bowl, regardless of the result, Francis Tarkenton (February 3rd, 1940-present), you are my (162nd) hero of the day.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Prince of Diplomats

The serious looking fellow above is one Charles Maurie de Talleyrand, born this day 1754 in Paris, France. He was born with a club foot that, after a family council, was deemed to prevent him from pursuing the family's usual military career. His fate was to be shunted off to a career in the church. He was duly ordained a priest in 1779, and through the connections of his family and friends was made Bishop of Autun in 1789. Pretty clever of him since he was by that time fairly well known to be a non-believer. That year was to be an ominous year for France, the Revolution swept across the land, and Talleyrand, with his background, was in a tricky position. He support the revolution, and even helped to write the Declaration on the Rights of Man. He was sent to England twice between 1792 and 1794 in the hopes of being able to avert war between England and France. His mission was not a success and he was expelled from England by William Pitt in 1794. He spent two years in the United States, a sometimes bank clerk, and a sometimes house guest of Aaron Burr, before being allowed to return to France in 1796. He became foreign minister in 1797 (for what was to be the first of four times), managed to get himself implicated in the XYZ affair, and attached his wagon to the rising star of Napoleon. He became Napoleon's foreign minister, holding the post from 1799 until 1807 when he resigned his post in protest of France's alliance with Russia. He became more and more estranged from the Emperor until the break was complete in 1812 when Napoleon invaded Russia. It was while serving under Napoleon that he began to accept bribes from opposing powers. Believing that Napoleon's endless ambitions were going to lead France to destruction, Talleyrand began looking out for number one, and with Talleyrand number one was always Talleyrand. His relationship with Napoleon got so bad that at one point Napoleon, in front of a large group of people, said that "he could break Talleyrand as easily a breaking a glass," and that Talleyrand was "shit in a silk stocking." Talleyrand's clever reply was "Pity that such a great man should have been so badly brought up." Talleyrand survived Napoleon's fall, and eventually became foreign minister under the newly crowned Louis XVIII, even going the famous Congress of Vienna as France's chief negotiator. A clever man who can be foreign minister to the government before Napoleon, the foreign minister of Napoleon, and foreign minister to the government after Napoleon. He was considered a womanizer, and a great wit. A couple of my favourite quotes of his are
"Regimes may fall and fail, but I do not."
"I am more afraid of an army of one hundred sheep led by a lion than an army of one hundred lions led by a sheep
." and one last one that I find absolutely brilliant. When he was informed of the death of the Turkish ambassador to France, Talleyrand said "I wonder what he meant by that?" Sure he was crooked, and sure he was a bastard, but at least you knew that on the front end, perhaps some of today's politicians should take lessons from him. He lived to a ripe old age of 84, and survived almost all the other bastards he had dealings with. So, for being a slippery bastard that always seemed to survive, and doing it with such cleverness, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (February 2nd, 1754-May 17th, 1838, at the age of 84), you are my (161st) hero of the day.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Boot strapping

The young fellow above is one Hugo von Hofmannshal born this day 1874 in Vienna, Austria. The son of an upper crust mother, and a bank manager father, Hugo began to write poetry and verses at a young age. He attended "grammar" school with a fellow hero of mine named Stefan Zwieg, and I confess that the reason that Hugo has made it to hero status is because of Zweig's high opinion of him. In his memoir, Zweig speaks very highly of Hofmannshal, proclaiming how talented Hugo was. Considering Zweig's talent that is high praise, and enough for me to give Hugo the hero crown for the day. I have to admit to the horrible crime of never have read any of Hofmannshal's stuff, and I probably won't get around to it soon, considering my to read list is at about 15 books and growing everyday. He is purely a hero based upon him being a hero of mine hero. A hero's hero as it were. Hofmannshal's and Zweig did have other things in common, other than a remarkable writing ability, both of them felt the "fall" of the Hapsburg empire deeply, and both expressed that loss quite well in their writings. So, for being a hero of a hero, Hugo von Hofmannshal (February 1st, 1874-July 15th, 1929, at the age of 55 of a stroke), you are my (160th) hero of the day.