Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Sinful Garden

There are going to be (at least) two threads to follow in this post, and I will do my best to have them make sense. Let's start somewhere closer to the beginning, and hope that it helps. In my job I get lied to a LOT. On pretty much a daily basis I get told a collection of whoppers that would do a village of fishermen proud. Most of these lies are told to me second hand, and usually, but not always, the person telling me the lie doesn't really believe it themselves. They are just doing there job(s). However, a couple of days (at least) a week I get the pleasure of getting lied to directly to my face. After about 5 and a half years of this, I have pretty much heard them all, and many times I just interrupt the liar and finish their lie for them. I mean, now days it has to be a pretty inventive lie to attract my attention.

It is a glimpse into the human race that does not show them in their best light, and I am quite certain that it contributes a great deal to my natural pessimism. It brings out my misanthropy as well, but hey what can you do? It's a living. It does have a small upside, I can now detect a lie in about four words, and a lot of times when I do this, I just stop the person in mid-lie, and walk away to the next liar err person. It has slightly improved my poker game because I can tell (a little more often) when my crazy friends are bluffing. Not much of an upside, but a little upside is better than none. This is the first thread, and it will (hopefully) make sense why I had to put it down in writing before I continued to the second thread, which is the real point of this post.

The second thread starts in bed, and no it isn't nearly as exciting as it sounds. After I tossed, and turned my way to (eventually) falling asleep last night, I began to dream (and for a change not about crows). I don't really remember much about the content of the dream, but luckily the content isn't really important to this story.
What is important is that I was having this detailed conversation with some fellow, and he was assuring me of something. I am not exactly sure what, but he swore up one side and down the other that he was telling me the gospel truth. No big deal, it is a dream after all, and I guess we can hope. The odd part comes when I woke up, which I did for about 30 seconds, just long enough to process what my dream was about, but not long enough to remember all the details. I fell back asleep, and my dream (oddly enough) picked up where I had left it, sort of like hitting the pause button.
However, sadly for me the second dream was slightly different. In the second dream, I was being presented with incontrovertible proof that the fellow in the first dream was lying to me. It was a grand production, and it was pretty obvious that dude had been lying. He was even there, sheepish grin on his face, not really denying his lies. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, this upset me quite a bit, this betrayal upset me so much that I woke up from dream number two.
Now, I understand it was a dream, and a hazy one at that, but all I could reflect upon when I woke up the second time was that my life is so sad, that people are even lying to me in my dreams. I think a small part of the child inside me (which was pretty small to begin with) died with that realization.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Have you ever had the pleasure of watching a mirror break? Or have you ever been so fucking mad that you broke a mirror? If you have, then I hope you aren't still mired in the seven years of bad luck that is supposed to "come with" such an event. I haven't broken any mirrors in a blind rage lately, but I have seen someone I know begin to resemble one. Watching this person over the last 6 months or so has been like watching a mirror SLOWLY breaking. First, a few cracks appear, nothing major just a couple of hairline faults along the edges, just a "bad day" or "not enough sleep" easy enough to overlook, and hopefully easy enough to fix. Though people aren't as easily fixed as mirrors, there is no equivalent to the "glass repairman" for people as far as I know. Maybe those cracks do eventually go away, or self repair for some people, however not for the person I know. They soon spread out from the center, got wider, and deeper, and it became ugly to watch. I can only imagine how horrible it was to feel. Must be a bit like Humpty Dumpty seeing those first cracks appear on his shell, and having that horrible feeling that shit is about to break bad. From the outside it was awful, from the inside, I would think, it would be terrifying.

But, what can we do? The people outside aren't really "set up" for these kinds of problems, and we have our own problems to try to solve. The person "inside" (as it were) must feel totally helpless. Of course, that is assuming they realize that they are cracking up, and want to try and prevent it. Maybe they don't realize the extent of the fissures, or don't care. Maybe cracking up, and being sent off to a rest cure is exactly the angle they are playing. Even if a person possess the self awareness to realize they are cracking up (which I would think would be a rarity), what steps can they take to prevent it? Can you go to your pals, and say "sorry to bother you old bean, but I think I am losing the plot."? Even if they believe you, and there might be no reason why they shouldn't, how are they, or how can they help.

Once those cracks reach a certain depth or width, the integrity of the whole mirror becomes compromised. Then, all bets are off, and it becomes every man for himself. The shattering is inevitable, and all we can do now is try to avoid being cut. That is when the helpless feeling reaches its peak. I mean what the fuck can we or they do? The warning signs were there, and they were duly ignored. Now, we are seconds from disaster, and have only our stupid pride to blame. Pride that we, educated people that we are, can surely prevent this shattering from taking place if only we apply ourselves. That is foolish pride, this shattering, this "falling off the wall" is as certain as the sun's rise in the morning, and we are irresponsible idiots for thinking otherwise.

Once a mirror shatters it is a bit like Humpty Dumpty, i.e. "all the king's horses, and all the king's men" aren't going to be able to put it together again. And do we have a duty to try? I'm not a horse, and I am certainly no "king's man", so where does my loyalty lie? It is with my, now crocked, friend, or is it to the greater good (whatever the hell that means), or is it to myself? I would figure most of us would provide one of those three answers, but which one? If we decided on the greater good, and we try to pick up the pieces, then what do we do with them? They certainly aren't going to go back into the same shape they were before, and how can we be sure we found them all? Even if we put it together into something reasonably close to what we had before, how can we ever look into that mirror again without flinching just a bit, and wondering is it going to break again?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Question

If you read this blog, and fuck you if you don't, you should probably know what I do for a "living" (carefully chosen word there). As a part and parcel of my job I have to ask a lot of people, a lot of questions. Generally, the rule I try to follow when asking these questions is that I already know the answer. The old saying "don't ask a question you don't know the answer to" is pretty accurate in my line of work, and I don't like surprises. It is something that the people I am asking my questions of just can't seem to grasp. How do I know all of these things, well I could say that I am a hard worker, and do my research in advance, but that would be a lie. I am not a particularly hard worker, but I do manage to figure out the answers to my questions in advance. It isn't magic, but I sure sometimes enjoy making it look like it is. It takes the mystery out of the whole thing, but I am not David Copperfield, I don't need illusion and mystery in my working life.

Of course this habit of mine has bled over into my "personal" life, and I sometimes, to the annoyance of my friends, ask them questions that I already know the answer to. It is, by all accounts, not an endearing quality, and I need all the endearing qualities I can get. The problem that I have noticed lately, and it is a problem, or this blog post wouldn't exist is that I am taking this little habit too far. I have began to notice that the only questions that I DO ask are the ones I already know the answer to, and by default not asking questions that I don't know the answer to. This does take a lot of the mystery out of life, but it also deprives me of a lot of information.

I would suspect this habit of mine makes it somewhat difficult to be my friend, and it might be a part of the reason that I have so few of them. I can only hope that admitting that I have this "problem" is the first step on the road to solving the problem. However, there is one small obstacle on this road to being a better friend, and it is one that must be over come first. It is actually quite a large obstacle, and finding it is only half the problem. This obstacle, this barrier, this wall that I must get around is simply this, I have to spent a considerable amount of time asking the one person in the world that I don't want to ask questions that I don't know the answer to. Of course, you will have guessed by now who that person is, it is myself, and I know it seems silly to think that I can ask myself a question I don't know the answer to, but that is about as clearly as I can put it. Let's just hope that I don't do it aloud in a public place, and get carted off to a rest home for the rest of my life. And, let's hope that if I am able to finally answer myself, that I can live with the answer I give myself.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The "NO" Man

I go from "The Man with No Name" to the "NO man", we all need a NO man, or I guess in this politically correct world a NO person, in our lives. We all need that one person that we can turn to when what little power we possess has gone to our head, that can tell us "NO". Hopefully, this person is a friend, but that is not a pre-requisite. It could just be a colleague, or an passing acquaintance, though it is more likely to be a friend. It is the person that stops you just short of that ledge, the one that keeps you from walking into your bosses office drunk, and taking a piss on his/her desk. We all have to have one, I figure that if Hitler and Stalin had possessed a "NO" man the history of the world would be a lot different, maybe not better, but certainly different.

The NO man is the one that prevents us from getting so drunk on our own sense of power that we bludgeon someone to death with a package of frozen peas. It is a difficult task to be the NO man, and no many of us are cut out to do it. Most of us will agree with our friends ideas, no matter how insane they might be, because they are our friends, and we realize that they are harmless. Stalin was far, far, from fucking harmless. Few of us have the juice to tell our bosses "NO", and fewer still will try. After all, the economy is in the tank, and getting shit canned because you told the boss something they didn't want to hear is a little risky. Unless you have plans to emigrate to a foreign country, you had best just nod and smile at whatever foolishness your boss spouts.

However thankless the task, the NO man is a necessary character in our own little passion play, we need a sense of balance to keep us from thinking we are much more brilliant than we actually are. Being told Yes all the time has, in my opinion, a chilling effect on our moral fiber. If everyone agrees with us all the time, then why the hell am I not ruling this planet? If my ideas are so "spot on" then why do I need to limit myself to thinking about how best to save money on staples, I should be plotting a coup in the Central African Republic.

We all need to be reined in at one time or another lest we become like a runaway horse and we run ourselves to death. This is the task of the "No" man, the one man, woman, or child, that you can turn to and get that "honest" opinion that brings you crashing back down to earth. The one person that reminds you that you are mortal, and you should probably keep your big mouth shut for a change. Unless the NO man is extremely lucky, their role will not make them overly popular, and they have to be careful not to cross the line between NO man, and doomsayer. It is a fine line, and many a NO man has lost his position by crossing it at the wrong time. A certain, high level of respect is necessary in order to be a NO man, people don't take No as an answer with grace, and the NO man has to be certain that his opinion will be taken into account. It is tricky, it is tough, and it is necessary, but it might not get you invited to christmas dinner that often.

If you are lucky enough to have one, be careful with them. Because a good NO man is nearly impossible to replace, they were probably hard to find, and they will be a bugger to replace. Any damn fool can be a Yes man, but it takes a special type of person to be a NO man. We should all have one in our lives, maybe two, but if you have more than two then you might just be surrounded by a bunch of suicidal maniacs. Remember, NO is a powerful tonic that can cure a lot of problems, but drink too much of it, and you become paralyzed. Trust your NO man with things you wouldn't tell other people, but realize their job, their raison d'etre is to tell you not what you want to hear, but to tell you "NO!", try not to hold it against them.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Day in the Life

Woman: "you shouldn't say such bad things about him, he's your friend isn't he?"
Man: "of course he is my friend, I just don't like him very much."
Woman: "what? how can you say that? that makes no sense."
Man: "Oh, it is ok, he doesn't like his friends very much either."
Woman: "Oh"

I won't divulge whether the little chat above was had BY me with someone else, or was ABOUT me, and reported to me later. It does make a lot difference if you are the object of the above conversation, or if you are the subject of the above conversation. Or, at least it should, I am not for certain that in my case that it does. Which, I think, says a lot about my current situation. Of course, I am not fully aware of my current situation, and that says a lot about me. I have been told, by more than one person, that I am "the smartest person they've ever met." Sounds awesome doesn't it? Well, since I am a bit of a cynic by nature (who would have guessed that?) that comment made me think two things. First, they were lying their asses off, or two, they really haven't met that many people, and should get out of the house around adults more often. Because if I am the smartest fellow you've ever met, then the world is in a LOT of trouble. And, I do mean a lot of trouble.

But, if we take these people at their word, and they were quite insistent that they weren't lying, or that they had not spent the last 15 years surrounded by "special needs" pre-school children, then I weep for the world. Mainly because, and I say this with a great deal of confidence, I am an idiot. Not the drooling over himself type of idiot that spends his days near the window in some rest home staring out into space until the staff comes to feed and change him, but a full blown, "should know better, but doesn't do better" type of idiot. I figure on the idiot scale, if such a thing exists, my type of idiot has to be at, or near the top.

My type of idiot skates very close to Einstein's definition of insane. Which is "doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result." That's correct, I am the dangerous type of idiot, both to myself (no loss there), and to others (where the potential for mass destruction lies). The type of idiot that you do not want near sharp object, fire, and/or your children. In my wake, I leave mountains crumbled, milk curdled, crops failing, wells poisoned, and livestock barren. In many ways I am the anti-Bond, stiff, classless, clueless, rude, and coarse. It is quite a burden to bear, but I made it so I have to shoulder it myself. A better comparison would be with The Groke, and if you get that obscure reference (without having to Google it) then you are miles ahead of me in the cleverness race. Of the two choices I would pick The Groke, because, at least as far as I can tell, The Groke isn't to blame for the devastation she causes. I am pretty certain that the devastation I cause is almost entirely my fault.

That is an important difference, and I compound that particular crime by having a certain degree of fore knowledge. I seem to have a knack for creating disasters, and I make it worse because most of the time, I KNOW that I am creating a disaster, and run the risk anyway. That is almost as bad as a war crime, and I should be taken out, stood up against the nearest wall, denied the use of a blindfold, and shot like a dog. There is really no defense (even if I chose to provide one) for this type of behaviour. It is reprehensible, and it makes me one of the worst human beings that I have ever had the (dis)pleasure to know, and I know a lot of really bad human beings.

There are days, and I am sure we all have them I just seem to have more than my share, where everything I touch becomes a disaster. It is like a plane falling out of the sky onto a two trains that have wrecked into each other that happened in the middle of a hurricane. However, I do think that sometime before I passed out, err fell asleep last night (eventually) I may have stumbled upon one of my core problems. At least I think I did, I am hoping that it wasn't one of those discoveries that are just so perfect just before you drift off to sleep, and then look retarded in the bright light of day. I have not had a lot of time to test my idea, since I did actually have to drag my ass into work, and work just has a nasty habit of getting in the way of a lot of things.

I have made the statement before that I believe that one should attempt to see one's life from the outside. It is difficult, and it takes a lot of imagination, but I think it is possible. I believe that you should be like a film director when it comes to your life. That way, you are on the outside looking in rather than trapped on the inside where you lose perspective. And it is perspective that is critical, you have to begin to see other people (certain ones more than others) not as "actors" making a guest appearance, but as "co-stars", people who are going to do more than a one off episode in/of your life. Then you have to realize, you can't "direct" them, they are like free radicals, and are going to make your orderly little "set" experience some major upheaval.

It will be this upheaval that will be your introduction back into life, back into being more than an outsider. Once you break the fourth wall, and start talking TO your audience or co-stars, rather that AT them, or using them as props in your own one man show, then progress can be made. It is going to be difficult, but most things worth their salt are difficult, and you are going to face a lot of change (and you probably fear change). But, it is something that must needs doing. Once you manage it, if you manage it, you can be both star (or at least co-star), and director of your own life. Remember that creative control is about both being creative, and being in control, and sometimes you have to sacrifice one for the other. Just make sure the candle is worth the game before you do.

And whether you turn your life into a sparse production a la Bresson, or some grand epic like DeMille, is entirely up to you (and the number of co-stars you have). Be aware you don't get the 50 retakes that Bresson demanded of his models, and you probably won't have the budget that DeMille was working with. Keeping it on budget, and getting it in one take is essential, in fact, you only get one take, so you had best make it a good one.

P.S. this has been the work of three days or so, and I saved it I couldn't just go another day without posting. I miss my heroes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Man with No Name

Well, this is it, the end of the line of our hero parade. Number 366, and the last in the line. Last in line, but very close to being my number one hero of all time is the hard bitten fellow above. No, not Clint Eastwood, we have already had him as a hero, but the character he is portraying in the above picture. He is "The Man with No Name" but, he does get called three different names in the Dollars Trilogy. First, he is "Joe" then he becomes "Manco" and finally "Blondie." I suppose you can say that he was "born" in 1964, since that was the year "A Fistful of Dollars" was released, but he doesn't really need to have a birthday.

He is not your "white hat" type of cowboy hero, he is not going to save the day, unless saving the day does something for him. He lies, cheats, steals, and kills on his own terms, and while he does do the occasional act of kindness for no reward (such as sharing his cigar with the dying solider in the scene that he obtains the famous green poncho), he is usually morally ambiguous, and he could do with a good shave. Eastwood himself helped to create the visual image of No Name, he bought the black jeans from a shop on Hollywood Boulevard, then had them bleached out, and roughened up a bit. The hat came from a shop in Santa Monica, and the trademark cigars came from a store in Beverly Hills. The cigars are the classical touch, and Eastwood claims they put him in a "scratchy mood" that allowed him to play No Name so well (he was a non-smoker, and hated the smell of the cigar smoke, it also helped to contribute to his famous squint).

He is laconic to a fault, and that is a trait that I am actively pursuing. I have been attempting to be laconic at work for the past two days, and so far it seems to be working, it also seems to make people a bit mad, but what do I care? There is a lot to be said for not saying a lot, and I have even been told that recently I made someone cry with just a look. I am not proud of that fact, nor was it the effect I was going for, but maybe there is something to this whole laconic thing.

Eastwood himself said, about playing the character:

"I wanted to play it with an economy of words and create this whole feeling through attitude and movement. It was just the kind of character I had envisioned for a long time, keep to the mystery and allude to what happened in the past. It came about after the frustration of doing Rawhide for so long. I felt the less he said the stronger he became and the more he grew in the imagination of the audience.

And it works brilliantly, Eastwood took a lot of dialogue OUT of the screenplay, and thank goodness he did. You can't really picture No Name as anything but a man of precious few words. Of his past we learn precious little, unlike Tuco, we don't know if he has any family or not, we have no idea where he came from, or where he is going. We know that "he never found home that great", and we know he likes money, and will do a lot of shady things to make it, but he still has some sort of moral code that determines what lengths he will go to in order to get money. It is HIS moral code, he makes it, and he is probably the one person alive who knows its boundaries. And even more that his laconic-ness it is this trait that I am trying to emulate. I have spent a considerable amount of time in the last few days exploring/creating my OWN moral code, and while I am unsure if I have been very successful, I at least feel the need to try, and to keep trying. I need to define my code, to learn the boundaries of it, so I can figure out what kind of man I am.

He is independent, he calls his own shots, and while he may have partners from time to time, he is always looking out for "number one", and that is important to remember. Loyalty to others is a wonderful thing, but the first person you need to be loyal to is yourself. It must be a wonderful feeling, to be the master of his own destiny, not owing anybody, anything, and being free to walk away when he wants to. These are the traits that usually get him cited as being the prototypical anti-hero. I would suspect he is not the only anti-hero on this list, and that No Name and James Bond would get along like a house on fire. Perhaps it is the type that I am fond of, and I can't say that it is a bad thing. I like John Wayne and Roy Rogers and all, but they are just a little too "heroic" for me. I am a man of many flaws, and I need my hero to have them as well. Without those flaws, he would be too much like a cardboard cut out hero, I need my hero to exist in that grey area between right and wrong.

He doesn't say much, but you get the idea that what he says, he means, and you had probably pay attention to what he says. One line of speech from him is like a soliloquy from someone else. I saved him for last, because of the profound attraction that I have for many of his character traits. I am not skilled enough to "play" him with any conviction, but I am working on the squint, and using as few words as possible (at least while talking, writing is a different matter).

It is for those stirring performances in all three films, that I have made him my last hero of the day. There is unlikely to be another hero post anytime soon, and I wanted to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. I am quite proud of myself that I was able to finish this project, and even though the majority of the writing is dross, that should not be held against the 366 men and women that I picked out to be my heroes. Their heroic qualities should shine through my awful attempts at explaining them. I plucked them out of an extremely large group of people, each for his or her own reason, and sometimes in spite of other people's bad opinions of them. They are MY heroes, the 366 people that I would have dinner with, some more than others, but each one has a special place in my "heart." Not to sound too sappy, but I love them all. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

So to close the circle, for being in many ways the man I always wanted to be, The Man with No Name (1964-present) you are my (366th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Cask

"The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge." "The Cask of Amontillado" Edgar Allan Poe 1846.
Welcome to what should be technically the end of the hero of the day parade, today is number 365 on our list, and even though there have been no hero days, and multiple hero days, I was going for one day on average. With today's hero (soon to be revealed) we are at the 365 mark. However, since I love my readers (both of you) so very much, I promised 366, a sort of one to grow on hero, or one for a leap year hero, and tomorrow I will provide number 366. He (for it is a he) is already picked out, and the post is almost completely written, in my head at least. However, before we unveil our "last" hero, we have to deal with the day in front of us.
The hero of this particular day is the man quoted above (not Poe, but his character) his name is Montresor, and since he is fictional, we will give his birthday as sometime in November, 1846 since that is the date "The Cask of Amontillado" was first published.
Our hero is an Italian nobleman, and lives in an unnamed Italian town, and has a grudge against another nobleman by the name of (you guessed it) Fortunato. Montresor is telling this tale of how he revenged himself upon his enemy 50 years later, and we assume while still at liberty. The story is wonderful, and I will only attempt a brief summing up of it, read it yourself for the full effect. During Carnival, Montresor tells Fortunato that he has recently acquired a pipe of Amontillado, which is a rare sherry wine, and claims he wants Fortunato's expert opinion on the vintage. He invites Fortunato to test the wine that is stored in the Montresor family wine cellar, Fortunato, all dressed up for Carnival in jester's motley, agrees, and off they go to test the wine.
Along the way, Montresor gives hints as to his real motive for luring his victim to his wine cellar, but Fortunato just isn't catching onto them. They arrive at the location where the wine is stored, a niche in the wall, and Fortunato enters looking for the booze. Montresor quickly chains Fortunato to the wall, and begins bricking up the niche with a handy trowel that he just brought along in case of emergency (one of those aforementioned hints). While bricking up his rival, Montresor pauses a few times to listen to Fortunato's screams, and cries for mercy. Finally, Fortunato, all sobered up now, pleads "For the love of God, Montresor!" To which Montresor replies "Yes, for the love of God!" He then drops his torch into the niche, and lays the last brick. Thus ends Fortunato. When know from the story that Montresor is relating this story 50 years later, and that he has never been caught or punished for his crime. Thus, in some respects he got away with murder.
It is a revenge story, a story of a man pushed too far. The "thousand injuries" are never explained, but they could be any number of things. From the petty, to the outrageous, you never know what other people are going to take offense to. The "insult" is not described either, but it was the last straw for Montresor, the final slight that he could not allow to pass. His revenge, so expertly plotted, is pulled off without a hitch, and he got away with it.
I understand that many people would consider Montresor more of a villain of the day candidate, but I have (as usual) a different view. We all have our Fortunatos, the one (hopefully just one) person that just seems to get out of bed in the morning to make your life as miserable as possible. I have them, you have them, we all do. The best thing we can hope for is that our Fortunato does not have the power to achieve his goal of making your life hell. If he or, she does then you are screwed. Bricking people up in the family wine cellar has mostly fallen out of fashion these days, and would require you to HAVE a family wine cellar (which I do not). So, your Fortunato is probably going to be spared the fate that Montresor provided.
One alternative strategy (and the one I am beginning to advocate) is to brick up yourself. Not literally of course, but figuratively speaking. Seal yourself (the real self that you possess) off from your Fortunato, and never allow him/her past the wall you have erected. It will be tough, and you have to be exceedingly careful to make sure you don't brick out the rest of the world as well. Those injuries and insults you have borne probably hurt, but you have to "keep a stiff upper lip" and not allow your Fortunato to become aware of their success. If he/she finds out something that they know wounds you, they will pound you with it mercilessly. Make sure you use some sturdy bricks, and some high grade mortar, because once your Fortunato knows you are walled off, they will probably redouble their efforts to get to you. I wish you luck.
So, for providing us a blueprint for revenge, even if it might be frowned upon today, and getting his revenge, Montresor (November, 1846-present), you are my (365th) hero of the day. Nemo me impune lacessit.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Returning my Ticket

We are in the final yards of the hero parade, and I am glad I "saved" some of my best ones for the last, since today is hero less as well. I have been pondering what I am going to do at the conclusion of this project, and I have not yet come up with an answer. There has been the idea of a villain of the day mooted, but I am not sure that I am up to another year of daily posting. It is a bit like work, and I am not getting paid for it nor am I usually happy with the results. However, I am also pretty sure that I will "miss" the daily blogging, and will now have a lot of "extra" time to fill (which in my case means that I will waste it). I may take a breather between hero and villain (if I do it) just to get some of the "research" done on the front end, instead of the seat of my pants shit I have been doing for the heroes. But, enough of this rank speculation, on to the hero of the day.

Our hero for this day is another fictional character. His name is Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov, and if he had to be "born" I guess it would be sometime in 1880 when "The Brothers Karamazov" was first published. Our boy Ivan is a 24 year old brilliant student and a fervent rationalist, and it both of those qualities that led to his "downfall." He is the brother that I feel the most connection with. His views on God and evil are, to me, the most moving passages in the book, therefore, he must be quoted at length.

"Can you understand why a little creature, who can't even understand what's done to her, should beat her little aching heart with her tiny fist in the dark and the cold, and weep her meek unresentful tears to dear, kind God to protect her? Do you understand that, friend and brother, you pious and humble novice? Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted? Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth, for he could not have known good and evil. Why should he know that diabolical good and evil when it costs so much? "

That is just a part of his justification for his "rebellion" against god. It is his concern for human suffering that leads him to reject god. There is no good argument that explains why an all-knowing, all-just, all-good, god would allow the horrible suffering that Ivan sees in the world. Ivan is not a happy character, trapped by his logic, he keeps the rest of humanity at a distance, and realizes that he will never be able to pursue happiness for himself.

He further states:

"I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket."

The "return my ticket" line is one of the most powerful images that I have ever came across in literature, it has been about 20 years since I read "The Brothers Karamazov" , but I still remember Ivan's "ticket" speech quite well. It had quite an effect on me, and my way of thinking, and the chapter following this speech in which Ivan's poem "The Grand Inquisitor" might look familiar to readers of this blog. It is where I shamelessly stole my nom de plume from, and is, in many ways, the starting point for this blog. I owe a lot to Ivan Karamazov, even if he is a bit of a cold bastard. He goes off the rails a bit near the end of the novel, and is facing an uncertain future, there are a few passages in the book that hint that he might recover, and live happily ever after, but it is unclear.

And that is what life is, unclear, happily ever after generally is a lot more difficult to obtain than one would think, and Ivan is clearly in the "doubter" camp, and so am I. But, for being one of the fictional character that I owe a great intellectual debt to, and for having such a profound insight into a lot of really important ideas, Ivan Karamazov, (1880-present), you are my (364th) hero of the day.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


The handsome fellow above is one James Bond (the drawing itself is done by Ian Fleming, and it represents what he thought Bond looked like), and he was "born" April, 13th, 1953. Of course, born is kind of a broad term, that is the date that "Casino Royale" was first published. There is a great deal about the history of Mr. Bond, and included in that debate is his actual birth year. There have been several years (1917, 1920, 1921, or 1924) that have been thought to have been the year he was born, but Fleming never said the year, so I figure it is not that important. For, really and truly, James Bond is immortal even if that weren't true of every literary character on some level, it is very true of James Bond. The world, shithole that it is, will ALWAYS need James Bond. His remit is never going to be revoked, his license to kill, his saving the day, will never grow out of date.

I was thinking of saving Mr. Bond until the last day of the hero parade, since he is probably in the top 5 of my all time heroes, but since today was hero light, I brought him out. I figure it being 8-8 means we should bring out oo7 (and those are o's not zeroes). Also, there was a mini-marathon of Bond movies on last night, and I watched a bit of them, then decided to go to my local bar, and with the help of the internet, my obliging bartender attempt to recreate Bond's martini. I tried to recreate the "Vesper", and though I had to substitute a few ingredients, and made do with Beefeater gin instead of Gordon's , I was able to get the drink made. I must confess that at first it tasted a bit like furniture polish, but after a couple of more sips it got better. I can also see why Bond stated that he only would drink one of them when he was trying to concentrate. About halfway through, I got that warm, fuzzy feeling that means happiness is right around the corner, and I figure two or maybe three of these would be sufficient for an entire night's drinking.

I must confess I am a fan of the movie Bond, and have not really read many of the stories that Fleming wrote about him, it is shameful of me to say that but it is true. There is a lot of differences between our big screen Bond, and the Bond that Fleming described, and you could spend the rest of the day (if you want) reading all about them. His background is a bit blurry, but one thing we do know is the name came from some famous ornithologist (Fleming was a avid birdwatcher, and the real Mr. Bond had written a book on bird that Fleming owned). Fleming said that he wanted a bland name something that was not exotic, and it is a tribute to Bond that now days, "Bond, James Bond" is a catchphrase in popular culture. Taking a bland name, and making it that famous takes some skill.

Bond's heritage is partly Scottish (written in by Fleming after he was so impressed with Sean Connery's portrayal of Bond), and the family motto is "Orbos non sufficit" (Latin for "the world is not enough). Fleming's Bond was a bit more gritty that you see on screen. He smoked somewhere on average 70 cigarettes a day, in total (in all the books) he consumed 317 drinks, and only 17 of there were the martinis which made "the shaken not stirred" line famous. It is an average of one drink every 7 pages, so our boy Bond is not exactly going to join the Temperance League anytime soon. Most people agree that Bond is heavily based upon Fleming himself, they both went to the same schools, liked the same schools, and shared many of the same personal habits. Where ever the inspiration came from for Bond, Fleming created a masterpiece (the code name oo7, came from a bus line that Fleming was familiar with, and is still in service today). A hero that saves the world from evil over and over again, at a cost certainly, but some cost is to be expected. England (at first), and then the rest of the world (as his popularity grew) needed Bond. In 1953, a hero (an English) hero was just what England needed, someone who was able to with all that class, and style, still be a cold blooded, ruthless killer that got the job done.

The screen Bond has gone through a lot of changes as well, and differs in many respects from Fleming's written Bond. My favourite Bond, by miles, is Sean Connery. He was the first Bond that I saw, and like a first love, has remained my idea of James Bond every since. I could not stand Roger Moore's "comic" Bond, and lost a lot of interest in Bond for the decade that Moore portrayed him. In all, the film Bond has been portrayed by a Scot, an Aussie, a Welshman, an Irishman, and two Englishmen, that is a pretty wide grouping, but thankfully (at least in my opinion) no American has played Bond in any "official" status. It just wouldn't be right, almost as bad as having Robert Downey Jr. play (badly in my view) Sherlock Holmes. There are some characters that just have to be English (or at least from the general area). Each one of them brought their own interpretation to the role, and not all of them were to my taste, but James Bond is still James Bond, no matter who is currently in the role.

His is an ageless, timeless (wearing either the Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster watch), classy, womanizer, that can, and will kill people in cold blood without a second thought. He isn't an animal, but he can be at times, he is suave, but has a lot of his own personal demons (just like the rest of us). He might not be a "good guy" instead he might be a "bad guy" just fighting on the good team, but he is certainly someone you want on your side, flaws and all. He will always be one of my idols, one of the people I strive to be a bit more like (minus the killing people part I suppose). I doubt I will ever come close, and I shudder to think how badly it would end if the world was relying on me to save it. But, the world doesn't need me to save it (since I doubt that I would try), it has James Bond for that, and while he might not always think the world is worth saving, he still does his duty, and saves it nonetheless. So, it is for those world saving feats, done with such class, and style, that James Bond (April 13th, 1953???-present), you are my (363rd) hero of the day.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


The youthful looking fellow above is one Marcus Berg, and his is another in our long list of stand-in heroes. His actual birthday is August 17th, 1986 (so I am at least close), and he was born in Torsby, Sweden. His is probably, though I have checked it to make sure, by far the youngest hero that I have put onto this list.

I must confess that part of his hero status is based upon hope. Since our boy Marcus is one of Sweden's bright young stars in the footballing world, I based his status on the hope that he will perform heroic deeds for his country on the football pitch. He has already flashed some potential to be a superstar, scoring 7 goals in last year's UEFA under 21 championship held in Sweden, including two lovely goals against perfidious Albion.

His performance in that tournament won him both the Tournament's MVP award, and the Golden Boot. It also raised my hopes that my club, Arsenal, would go out and splash the cash to buy him. Considering is just about the age that the gaffer in charge of my team likes (he likes em young does Arsene), but it was not to be. He moved to Hamburg SV, and has since been loaned out to the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, where he is playing along side his under-21 strike partner Ola Toivonen. Here is hoping that they form a wonderful partnership for both club and country.

He has since been called up to the full Swedish national side, and has managed 3 goals in 14 appearances. I sincerely hope that he continues to perform as well in the years to come. So, for those wonderful under-21 goals that got Sweden into the semis, and for all of the potential he brings to the Sweden national team, Marcus Berg (August 17th, 1986-present), you are my (362nd) hero of the day.

Friday, August 06, 2010


For once in my useless life I have actually managed to produce what I think to be an original quote. It is a rather long story how it came about, but the quote itself is "I would at least like to be the architect of my own downfall." Clever isn't it? I know it isn't exactly original, but it is probably as close as I am ever going to get. Of course, the more I think about it I am certain that I stole it from some movie, and I just can not remember which one.

Where ever the quote came from, it doesn't change the overall idea. It is about control, control of you own destiny. Maybe, if you are lucky, or super important, you might have the luxury of someone who is plotting your downfall. I would think few of us are so fortunate, but the number might be higher than I suspect. Maybe there are a lot of people plotting someones little downfall, some petty bullshit at work, or maybe some jealous lover plotting some silly little revenge. I doubt that many of us have some plotting our utter downfall. Perhaps it is just too much work, or maybe we just aren't worth all the trouble. Though for some of us it might not be too much trouble to achieve.

The thing is, that I don't want someone else being the architect of my downfall. It's not that I don't think they could do an excellent job of accomplishing my demise, it is that I just don't want to give that kind of control/power to anyone else. After all, that is a lot of power to surrender to someone, and it may be that we are not surrendering the power it is that the other person is taking it. Either way, it just does not sound like a pleasant experience.

The theory is that if I manage to achieve my own downfall, then at least I have no one else to blame, and I should be able to go back, and think to myself "there, there was the moment when it all started going pear shaped." If only I had not done "X". I would have been in good shape, and not the derelict of a human being you see in front of you today. Of course, that hindsight shit is 20/20, and I would think very few of us take the decision that leads to our downfall without pause. Reckless abandon is not something with which you should approach your downfall. Then again, if you consider your downfall with some sort of deep thought isn't that a bit like suicide? Aren't you saying (on some level) "I know this will be a disaster for me, but I just don't give a shit, goddammit."

Then again, at least you are able to "own" your downfall, and once it occurs you will probably own precious little else. So perhaps the ability to take solace in the fact that you know exactly what you did to deserve this will help keep you warm as you lean against the loneliest lamp post any clown (like yourself) has ever leaned against. As you stand there in the apocalypse that you created of your life, maybe that will be the only thing left to cling to that in spite of all of the warnings you were given, and blithely ignored, you were the architect of your own downfall.

Wisdom Lingers

The bearded fellow above is one Alfred (Lord) Tennyson, born this day 1809, in Lincolnshire, England. He was the son of a rector, and his mother was the daughter of a vicar, so I wonder how he managed to avoid the pitfalls of the church.

He began writing poetry in his teens, and it is for his (later) poetry that we are making him our hero of the day. And what poetry is it, he is the second most quoted author (after Shakespeare) in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, and there is no shame in being out-quoted by Shakespeare. Lines like "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die", "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all", and "Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers" are just some of the lovely verses that flowed from his pen.

"The Charge of the Light Brigade" is one of his more famous poems, and it has one of the most recognizable opening lines in all of the poetry universe. He wrote awesome lines about a wide variety of things, from nature, to medieval legends, many subjects would be enlivened by his pen, and for that Alfred, Lord Tennyson (August 6th, 1809-October 6th, 1892, at the age of 83), you are my (361th) hero of the day.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Elephant Man

The horribly deformed fellow above is one Joseph Merrick, born this day 1862 in Leicester, England. This is going to be difficult to explain why Mr. Merrick is a hero. He didn't solve any crimes, he didn't discover anything or anywhere, and he did not play any sport for a team I root for.

What he did is have a deformity that literally turned him into a traveling freak show, and for many years that is how he made his "living." The exact cause of his deformed nature has never really been conclusively determined, and it has been studied quite closely by a lot of people. He was given the nickname "the Elephant Man" by the owner of the freak show with which he spent many years traveling throughout England. There is an 1980 film about Mr. Merrick's life, produced by Mel Brooks of all people, and it is a very sad film. It takes some liberties with the truth, but what film doesn't?

Mr. Merrick eventually wound up at a London hospital, where he was treated by a Dr. Fredrick Treves, and was allowed to live on the hospital grounds for the remainder of his life. Dr. Treves visited him daily, and the two developed quite a close friendship. Good for Dr. Treves, good for him having the ability to look beyond the package and see the prize underneath. Merrick's speech was impaired by his deformity, and he was very difficult to understand, until you got used to it. Dr. Treves became so used to it that he would sometimes act as an "interpreter" for Merrick when people came to visit him. Of course, the way he got to be so good at understanding Merrick was by talking to him. Not gawking at him like he was some sort of fucking animal that should be in a zoo.

I suppose that is where Merrick's heroism comes into play, of all the bad hands that you can be dealt, Merrick's was pretty fucking bad. A lot of us have pretty exteriors, and can get by with just that. Sometimes pretty on the outside is all a person needs for fame and fortune to come calling. For a lot of us, the look test is the first test we give a stranger, and if they fail that test, we move on, and don't give that person a second thought. Don't mistake me, I am sure Merrick was no saint, and could be at times a real dickhead, but if had been dealt his hand, how would you act? If people think you're a monster then it is very easy to act a monster then become a monster. It's called typecasting, and we all do it, whether we mean to or not. Do you know a blonde girl? Does she have "huge tracts of land?" When she does something goofy, do you tell her she's having a "blonde moment?" Sure you do, and I am sure it is all fun and games, but sometimes, deep down in places she doesn't talk about at parties, she is probably a little bit hurt by that comment.

Maybe she shouldn't, or maybe the fat guy whose weight you "tease" him about shouldn't take those comments too seriously, but you never know. Maybe he has been "husky" all of his life, and has been getting stick about it since long before you knew him. Merrick had to hear much worse comments that the majority of us have to take. Through it all he remained the one thing that a lot of us strive for, the one thing that a lot of mental health professionals make a lot of money trying to get people to be, the one thing that all the fucking derision, all the fucking gawking, all the fucking spite, and all the fucking ignorance couldn't take away, he remained a human being.

So, for keeping his humanity when a lot of people just figured him a monster, and remaining human under such difficult conditions, John Merrick (August 5th, 1862-April 11th, 1890, at the age of 27), you are my (360th) hero of the day.


The fellow above is on Guy de Maupassant, born this day 1850 in Dieppe, France. Today is his actual birthday, and that is a cause for celebration, at least on my part since the last few days have had a lot of stand in hero types.
He was born into a fairly well to do family, but his parents when their separate ways when he was 11. He was shipped off (eventually) to Paris to study law, but decided to join the army when the Franco-Prussian war began. After that hiding the French took, he joined the civil service, but hated his job, spending most of his time chasing women. Not a bad thing I guess, but it was to have some serious consequences later in his life. He started writing for a few newspapers, and in 1880 brought out one of the short stories that were to make him famous.
'Boule de Suif' is a wonderful tale, and there is speculation that it was the inspiration behind John Ford's "Stagecoach." Not a bad film to inspire. It was for the short stories that he produced that both make him famous, and our hero for this day. "The Necklace" is a lovely story, with a twist at the end that just break the heart, I highly recommend it. De Maupassant did have one important thing going for him as he churned out nearly 300 short stories, one of his mother's good friends was a fellow by the name of Flaubert, and it was Flaubert's guidance that helped de Maupassant become the polished writer that we enjoy reading today.
Eventually that youthful skirt chasing caught up with him in the form of syphilis, and he became as mad as a March hare later in life. He attempted suicide by taking a razor to his throat, but did not succeed. After that little stunt, he was committed to an asylum, and died there in 1893. He took the liberty of composing his own epitaph, which I take the liberty of stealing. It was as follows, "I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing." Not the most uplifting thing to say about one's self, but surprisingly deep when you think about it. So, for all of those wonderful stories, Guy de Maupassant (August 5th, 1850-July 6th, 1893, at the age of 42), you are my (359th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Rocket

The well dressed fellow above is one Maurice "the Rocket" Richard, born this day 1921 in Montreal, Canada. You wouldn't know it by the outfit above but M. Richard was a hockey player, and quite possibly the best hockey player ever to wear a Habs sweater, and that is saying A LOT.
He was the first player to score 50 goals in a season, and the first to score 500 in a career. He won the Stanley Cup eight fucking times, including four times in a row. He played in every NHL All-Star game for twelve straight years. When he retired in 1960 he was the NHL's all time leading scorer. The next year he was inducted into the NHL's Hall of Fame, the customary three year waiting period was waived in his case. That is how good his was, in a hockey mad town he received, when the old Montreal Forum was closed, the longest standing ovation in the history of the city, the crowd applauded him for 16 fucking minutes. This is Montreal people, a hotbed of hockey, and they don't take it lightly.
However, he did not walk on water, his actions in a game in 1955 sparked was has become known as the "Richard Riot." Neither he or the Montreal fans acted much like a hero that night, so the less said of it the better. I guess it does serve as a contrast, it shows that he might be a hero, but he is a flawed one. And, I suspect, that is how most heroes are, heroic, but flawed. Nobody is perfect, and if we found someone who we thought was perfect we would probably hate or stone them, or both.
Even though he had been retired for 40 years, at his funeral there were 115,000 people in attendance. That says a lot, both about what a fantastic player he was, and about how mad about hockey Montreal still is to this day. I am an unabashed Habs fan, and while I never saw "the Rocket" play, I understand his importance. I realize, from the old highlights, just how good his was, and why is name is said in a reverent hush. So, for all those "biscuits in the basket," and bringing home the Cup 8 times, Maurice "the Rocket" Richard (August 4th, 1921-May 27th, 2000, at the age of 78), you are my (358th) hero of the day.

The Tower

Today's hero is the fellow that painted the pretty picture above. His name is Pieter Bruegel (the Elder), and he was born sometime in 1525, in Breda, Netherlands. Since no specific date of birth is given, I have, by royal decree, made this day his birthday.
He was apprenticed to a painter, who's daughter he married, did a bit of traveling (to France, and Italy, as most painters do), moved back to Brussels, and lived as a master painter, I hope happily ever after. He did sire two other famous painters, so we know he did have a fair bit of fun in his life. However, both of these painter/children were very young when our hero kicked the bucket, so it is unlikely that they learned a lot of dear old dad (welcome to the club, boys).
The painting above is entitled "The Tower of Babel," and it is one of about 45 painting by Bruegel (the Elder) to survive. To my everlasting shame, I learned that one-third of his surviving paintings are in a museum in Vienna. I visited Vienna last christmas, and had no idea, therefore missing a wonderful chance to see some of his beautiful (but disturbing) paintings for myself. It is embarrassing, but I guess it just means I will have to go back, and check them out.
He was called Peasant Bruegel because he had the habit of dressing up like a peasant, and attending weddings. You could say he was the original wedding crasher, but for him, weddings provided him with inspiration for his paintings. There is no word on whether he got to kiss the bride, or drank all the free whiskey.
His other famous painting, and one of my all time favourites is "The Triumph of Death." I am not sure if a wedding provided any inspiration for this painting, but if it did that must have been one hell of a reception. So, for painting some lovely works of art, that I admire greatly, Pieter Bruegel (the Elder) (?, 1525- September 9th, 1569, at around 44), you are my (357th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The No-Name

This hero is going to be hard to describe, and this post might be all too brief. The hero in question goes by the name of K. J. Parker, but that is not her (at least I think it is a her) real name. There are even arguments to be made that she is a he. I wouldn't be overly surprised it K.J. Parker is both a he and a she. No, I don't mean that he/she is some freak of nature with both man and woman parts, but a pair of writers, writing in tandem each taking certain sections of the book(s) published under Parker's name. The only thing I am certain of is that Parker is English, and even of that I am not entirely certain. A good "cover" can be a joy to behold, and Parker has fashioned a damn fine cover for him/herself.

The major reason I think this is simple, there are parts of Parker's books that just simply must have been written by a man, and I am not being some sexist pig. There are also great portions of it that simply had to have been written by a women, at least in my opinion. I once knew a fairly bright person that said Shakespeare must be a woman, because of the depth of his understanding of a woman's emotions. I feel that way in reverse about Parker, some of the technical stuff seems to be something that only a man would ever care to try and learn. And, if Parker is a woman, then she is a fucking brilliant one with the patience of Job, and a mind like a steel trap. I repeat I mean no offense at saying that I think this way, it is just my opinion, and I hopefully won't get sued for slander (is it slander to call someone a man?).

Either way, man, woman, ape, or child Parker's books are fantastic. I read his/her Scavenger Trilogy quite a while ago, and have the feeling I need to read it again. I read it during (another) time of insomnia, and it inspired one of the best blog post that I think I have ever written. Of course, that isn't saying a whole lot, but at least it was good for me. So, for all of those brilliant books, that I enjoyed so much K. J. Parker (???-present), you are my (356th) hero of the day.

Bugger for the Bottle

The marble fellow above is one Aristotle, born sometime during the year 384 BC is some place I have never heard of, it goes by the name of Stageira, and is somewhere in Greece. I am pretty sure you have heard of him, and pretty sure you've probably studied a bit of his thinking. For your sake, I hope so, but clearly my issue is how do I put Aristotle into a blog post?
The answer is that I can't, and I would be an even bigger fool that I am now to try. Pick up some of his writings, and be amazed for yourself. If you can understand his "Metaphysics" please, please come explain it to me. I have tried 3 different times, each unsuccessfully, to read that particular book, and finally gave it up as being beyond me (pun intended).
The best thing I can do is say that I am mostly in Aristotle's camp, his idea that "god" is pure thought thinking itself is one of the most beautiful ideas that I have ever ran across, and caused quite a stir in my shallow mind. That when we die, and we are all going to you know, we return back to the collective unconscious. A bit of a "soul exchange" if you will, and that idea is fucking brilliant as well.
He dabbled in pretty much everything type of science, all kinds of philosophy, music, art, and poetry. He was a Renaissance man long before the Renaissance happened. Back in the day when I could string two thoughts together, Aristotle was, in many ways, my pole star. In many ways, when I am still in a pondering mood, he still is. The man was just that smart, smart enough to be selected to tutor Alexander the Great, and I suspect that job had some competition.
I once told someone that all of the world's people can be divided into those that are followers of Plato, or those that are Aristotelian. Two things can be drawn from that statement, I am an Aristotelian, and the person (girl) in question hung up on me. I guess she was a fan of Plato. Either way, for making such a deep, deep impression upon my youthful, impressionable mind, and coming up with a way of thinking that I am a huge fan of, Aristotle (384 B.C.-322 B.C., at the age of 62), you are my (355th) hero of the day.

From the Balcony

The two cranky fellows above are Statler (on the right), and Waldorf (on the left). Of course, today isn't their birthday(s), but I figure by now, since I am this close to the finish, all bets are off. Once again, my blog, my rules, and chaos is a rule of sorts. The bigger debate I have having is how to count them, should I say they are one because they are a team? Or since they are separate characters count them as two?
Either way these two ornery fellows are the hecklers that sit in the balcony during the Muppets show, and dislike pretty much everything they see (in that regard we have a lot in common, hence their hero status). They made their first appearance in 1992, and one of their most memorable performances in "The Muppets Christmas Carol." In that wonderful film, they played Marley and Marley, and sang a lovely song to Scrooge about where being rotten had gotten them. Also it contains the lovely lines "It's good to be heckling again" "It's good to be doing anything again!" They are classical curmudgeons, and don't like anything they see on the show. The closest they ever came to liking something was when they made fun of a speech by Fozzy Bear, saying that "at least it was short." They are just that mean, and it is hilarious.
They were both named after famous New York hotels, Statler for the Statler Hilton, at which I have actually stayed (under its new name The Hotel Pennsylvania), and Waldorf after the Waldorf-Astoria (at which I could not afford to stay). They even had their own show called "From the Balcony" where they would do movie reviews. I confess I never got the chance to see it, but it certainly sounds like something I would love. Word on the street is that sometime this year they will release a book with the same title. I guess I am going to wander over to amazon. com, and start looking.
So, for heckling everything and everybody with equal disdain, which is the key to heckling (you can't play favourites), Statler and Waldorf (???-present) you are my (354th) hero(s) of the day.

Monday, August 02, 2010


The race for 366 is heating up, and I am beginning to realize just how many people I have skipped over in my haste to churn out a hero of the day.
The fellow above is one Jerry Orbach, and he was born on October 20th, 1935 in New York City, making him the third hero of the day born on the 20th of October. I guess if I hadn't been so lazy back in October, I could have done all three of them then, but I was and I didn't. He was born the son of a greeting card manufacturer, and a vaudeville performer.
He got his start in musical theatre, (and even won a Tony) but it is for the role he is playing in the above picture that makes him number amongst our heroes. For 12 years he was Detective Lennie Briscoe, the wise cracking member of the 27th Precinct that helped bring criminals to justice on the original "Law and Order." You can see the 25 years of crime fighting etched onto his face, and I debated on whether to make Briscoe or Orbach the hero. I figure Orbach wins out by a whisker, because I just can't imagine anyone else playing Briscoe. It was Briscoe that always provided the quip that closed the opening scene where the crime is first discovered, and he had a sense of timing that was impeccable.
Orbach was so popular that a part of the street in the neighbor he lived was renamed "Jerry Orbach Way." I doubt they will be naming any streets after me or posting any decrees of mine when I cash in my chips. Also, the day after his death, the marquees on Broadway were dimmed in mourning, one of the highest honors of the American theatre world. Pretty high honours for some kid from the Bronx. So, for playing Detective Lennie Briscoe with just the right amount of world-weariness, and wise ass, Jerry Orbach (October 20th, 1935-December 28th, 2004, at the age of 69 of prostate cancer), you are my (353rd) hero of the day.

More New Wave

The fellow above is one Jean-Pierre Grumbach, and since I am into my French films, I figured to add him to the ever expanding hero list as well. His actual birthday is October 20th, 1917, and he was born in Paris, France. However, his films (and I have seen a lot of his films) are directed under the name of Jean-Pierre Melville. It seems that Melville was he favourite author, and so he took the name for his own.

After serving in the French Resistance during World War II, he applied for a license to become an assistant director and was refused. He said bollocks to that and started his own production company, and his first real film "LeSilence de la Mer" was shot with a skelton crew on a shoestring budget. It was to get much better for Melville, and his 1955 film "Bob le flambeur," while not a commercial success is an outrageously good film. During the first phase that I had of being interested in French cinema unearthed several more of his films "Le Samourai" "Un Flic" "Le cercle rouge" and "L'Armee des ombres" are all excellent films, and I recommend them all. He only did a total of fourteen films, but at least six of them are considered to be classics, not bad for a guy who was refused a license just to be an assistant director. I guess sometimes you just have to give "the man" the finger, and strike out on your own path.

He is not for everyone, and his films can be, to today's audiences where people can fly in films, slow paced, and focused too much on style. I suppose tastes change, and I am behind the times, but I will take Melville's worst film over some shit like "The Last Airbender" any day of the week. So, for those wonderful paced and plotted films, Jean-Pierre Melville (October 2oth, 1917-August 2nd, 1973 of a heart attack), you are my (352nd) hero of the day.


The slightly balding fellow above is one Raoul Wallenberg, and today isn't is birthday either. He was actually born August 4th, 1912 near Stockholm, Sweden. But, I took a gander at the 4th, and it seemed that I had one hero too many, so I decided to advance M. Wallenberg a couple of days in time. I don't think he would mind too terribly much.
He was born the son of a diplomat, and it was as a diplomat that he would make his name, and get himself counted amongst our heroes. He was shipped off to American to study to be an architect, and learned to speak quite a few languages while he was at school. After bouncing around a bit, he was hired by an Hungarian Jew who ran an import-export business. He learned Hungarian while working in Budapest, and it was in Hungary that he was to perform the acts that make him our hero of the day.
He was posted to the Swedish legation in Budapest, and in that capacity began to issue "protective passports" which identified the bearers as Swedish citizens. These passports had no legal basis, but were accepted as genuine by the German and Hungarian authorities. He also rented 3o some odd buildings, and had them declared such things as "the Swedish Library" or "the Swedish Research Institute." These buildings were extra-territorial, and eventually housed nearly 10,000 people. People who might have been shipped off to the camps to die without this type of subterfuge.
Sadly for Wallenberg it was the Red Army that "liberated" Budapest, and they arrested him on suspicion of being an American spy. He was shipped (eventually) to Moscow, and was supposedly executed in 1947, but the mystery surrounding his death swirls to this day. There were several reported sightings of him after 1947, and I am pretty sure no one either knows or is telling exactly when he died or how. But, for saving tens of thousands of people from the murdering Nazis at the cost of his own life, Raoul Wallenberg (August 4th, 1912-???) you are my (351st) hero of the day.

Loitering with Intent

The pretty fellow above is one Peter O'Toole, and he was born in either Leeds, England or Galway Ireland. He has conflicting birth certificates, and the Irish one gives a June, 1932 birthday. However, he has pretty much accepted August 2nd, 1932 as his birthday, and for our purposes, so shall we. Wherever he was born, he was the son of a Scottish nurse, and an Irish racecourse bookmaker. This led to him, at the age of one, embarking on a tour of the racecourses in Northern England. After leaving school, he worked as a trainee journalist, but eventually wound up at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He was there from 1952 to 1954, and then took his act onto the stage.

However, it was in 1962 that he got "the" break all actors dream about. He was cast as the lead in David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia." It is an awesome, awesome film, though I have heard it described as a "three six pack" movie. It is worth a look, and I have seen it all the way through about 3 times. It is one of those films that never get old, and it earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. It is an award for which he has been nominated 8 times, and has never won. It is pretty hard to believe that such an actor giving such performances like the ones he gave in "The Lion in Winter," "Beckett," or "My Favorite Year" could lose out to anyone, but he did. His 8 nominations without a win is the record, and a damn shame.

He eventually accepted, in 2003, an Honorary Oscar, but it is a crying shame he never won it outright. He has lead a rather eventual personal life too, and has written about it in his book(s) "Loitering with Intent." I might have to check it out one day, if I can ever pull myself away from watching his films. It for those films, and those 8 nominations that Peter O'Toole (August 2nd, 1932-present), you are my (350th) hero of the day.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


The fellow above is one Robert Bresson born September 25th, 1901 in Auvergne, France. Of course today isn't his birthday, but I figured since I was having a French movie type day, I should throw him into the hero mix.

Bresson is considered a patron saint of French cinema, and not just for his spiritualism, and his Catholicism that heavily influence his films. He was known for his actor-model theory of actors. He used non-professionals as actors, he used them once, and no more. He sort of treated his models like disposal razors, one use and they were done. This was partially because Bresson did feel that he had "used up" what a model could give him in one film. He was famous for his perfection, once making the star of his film "A Man Escaped" shoot one scene 50 times in order to make it just right. Right for Bresson would equal devoid of emotion, he wanted the physical movement, no emotion, no striving for style, just the act of doing whatever the character is supposed to be doing.

I must confess that I have only seen two of his films "Pickpocket" and "A Man Escaped", but they are both extremely good films, and I have seen them both about 5 times, so by my theory I have seen 10 of his films. He was a master craftsman, and had talent enough for three directors. Anybody that can take some fellow off the street, or as in the case of the star of "A Man Escape" plucked from philosophy class at the Sorbonne, and get them to turn out the performances they do for him, is a fucking genius. So, it is for that genius, that I am sure is evident in all of his films, but especially for the two films of his that I watch over and over that Robert Bresson (September 25th, 1901-December 18th, 1999, at the age of 98), you are my (349th) hero of the day.


The unassuming fellow above is one Martin LaSalle, and after multiple searches in more than one language on the web, I have been unable to locate anything that tells me his date of birth. The photo above is from the wonderful 1959 film "Pickpocket" a movie directed by the Frenchman Robert Bresson. Mr. LaSalle, is as far as I can tell from Uruguay, and this film was his acting debut. Actually, that is quite true, he was not an actor at all until M. Bresson plucked him from obscurity, and made him the star of this film.

Bresson was like that, he used non-actors in most of his films, and he used them once and discarded them. To him they were not actors, they were models. Actor or not M. LaSalle gives a wonderfully understated performance in a grim picture. There are a lot of overtones in the film to "Crime and Punishment" even though Bresson would claim that he did not intend any sort of the thing. LaSalle plays a man who has a compulsion to steal, and believes he is an extraordinary man. This belief, he argues, gives him a "right" to steal just to get his career started. It is an interesting film, and LaSalle does a wonderful job with a role that calls for him to be as blank as a slate.

However, M. LaSalle's career did not end with Pickpocket, he went on to make numerous films, and is still alive as far as I can tell, but for this one film, this one role, that is just amazing Martin LaSalle (???-present), you are my (348th) hero of the day.

Raising Hell

The fellow behind the microphone it one Francois Truffaut, and he was born February 6th, 1932 in Paris, France. It seems that August is suffering from July's disease of not producing heroes of the day, so once again I am forced to find a stand-in hero. Also, the ending date of this project is fast approaching, and I realize that I have overlooked a few heroes, like Truffaut, and that I am facing a deficit of about 10 heroes. Therefore, the heroes are going to have to come fast and furious for about a week or so.

Truffaut's hero status is based almost entirely on his autobiographical 1959 film "The 400 Blows." That is the English title which is a poor translation of the French title les quatre cents coups, which is based upon a French expression meaning "to raise hell" or "to live a wild life." The film's "hero" and Truffaut's childhood are pretty similar, and it is not a happy tale of a loving family raising a "normal" child. Truffaut's did not even live with his parents until the age of 10, and by the age of 14 he was living his own wild life. Being expelled from several schools, he decided to be self-taught with the stated goals of watching three movies a week, and reading three books a week. Of course, movie admission wasn't free, and he would normally sneak into the cinema to watch movies.

The rest of his biography you can sort out for yourself, or you can do what I am doing as I write this, which is watching "The 400 Blows." Since it is near the end, and a particularly famous scene is taking place at this moment, I am a bit distracted. I am sure that Truffaut would understand, and not hold it against me. After all his "auteur theory" would state that the film is his personal vision, and that it the director that is to be considered the true author of the film. Far be it for me to write anything approaching my own personal vision of Truffaut while I am watching his personal vision unfold right in front of me. So, for that theory, and this lovely film that is helping me pass an otherwise boring Sunday afternoon, Francois Truffaut (February 6th, 1932-October 21st, 1984, at the age of 52 from a brain tumor), you are my (347th) hero of the day.


Somewhere in the picture above picture is our hero of this day (or night rather). He is Morpheus, and not the character in the Matrix. Our body, or girl, or whatever form it decides to take, is the Greek god of dreams. Some sources say his mother is Nyx, the goddess of the night, other sources have him as the son of Hypnos the god of sleep. He counts among his siblings Phantasos and Phobetor. Each of these tricky bastards have a different function in our dreams. Phantasos produces tricky, or unreal dreams, hence the term "fantasy." Phobetor produces the nightmares (the term phobia, i.e. fear is eventually taken from his name). This leaves our hero Morpheus with the ability to take any human form in dreams.

The reason that I singled out Morpheus, although maybe his brothers are co-heroes of the day, is that I haven't seen much of him in any form in a couple of days. I fear that I am embarking on another journey through the insomniac world, similar to the one I took about two years ago. That journey was a whole lot of no fun, and produced some really weird post, so brace yourself dear readers this could get ugly quickly.

Either way our boy Morpheus is given special ability to shape dreams, and it is his talent to be able to take any human form in a dream. So, in theory, any human being that you (if you are lucky enough to sleep, AND dream), encounter in your dreams (as you are drooling the drool of remorse into the pillow of regret) is Morpheus.

Another reason that Morpheus takes hero status over his siblings is that he was given the special task of overseeing the dreams of heroes, and kings. So again, in theory, all the heroes that I have posted about are having special Morpheus led dreams. Lucky them, at least they are dreaming, which to some is the point of sleeping. Personally, I would take some good old fashioned dreamless sleep right now, and count myself lucky. I long to see Morpheus, and if this sleeplessness continues I might even start to long for his mean brother, Phobetor to make an appearance. Even if it means having a nightmare or three. Because you can't have a good nightmare without first being asleep.

Of course, if I knew a doctor willing enough, I could get some sort of derivative of the drug morphine since the "discoverer" of that drug gave it that name based upon it effects on people (i.e. sleepy and relaxed). Morpheus is probably seen a lot by people taking that drug that he lent his name to, but I am, sadly, unlikely to get anything so exciting to get myself to sleep. Also, I am not a big fan of taking things just to get to sleep. I figure that the god of sleep should be doing his job as well. I mean after all these god fellow are supposed to work in tandem right? Either way, for that ability to shape dreams of heroes, kings, and even fools like me, Morpheus (????-present??), you are my (346th) hero of the day.

Please find me in order to collect your award, I shall be tossing and turning in bed anxiously awaiting your appearance. And, yes I did just invite a god to come to bed with me, I would prefer he comes as a goddess, but beggars can't be choosers.