Sunday, January 31, 2010

42


The bat swinging fellow above is one Jackie Robinson, born this day 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. Of course he is widely known as the man to break the colour barrier and play in the Major Leagues. He took a long road to get there, being born the son of a sharecropper in Georgia, moving to California, joining the military during WWII, and starring in track and field at UCLA. That long road eventually led to Ebbets Field on April 15th, 1947 when he made his major league debut in a 5-3 Dodgers win. The Dodgers had an All-Star at second base, the position Robinson normally played, and so for his first year in the big leagues he played first base. Anywhere would do I suppose, just as long as you are in the show. During his first year the Dodger clubhouse had some fellows who were not fond of the idea of playing alongside Robinson, but manager Leo Durocher quelled the racial tensions by saying "I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin' zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded." That pretty much settled that, and Robinson went on to star for the Dodgers for a Hall of Fame 12 year career. He even played himself in a movie about his life. He faced a lot of abuse during his early playing days, and always responded to it on the field. In fact, when he first became eligible to be voted into the baseball Hall of Fame, he implored voters to vote for it, if they were going to, based upon what he did on the field, not on his cultural impact on the game. He was elected on the first ballot, and I can only think/hope that it is what he did on the field that counted. He retired in 1957, after a 12 year career that will never be forgotten in the long annals of Major League Baseball. In an era of overpaid, overweight, steroid taking asshats, baseball could do well to find another Jackie Robinson to save it from itself. So, for playing America's pastime with such skill, and taking such unwarranted racial abuse with grace, and patience, Jackie Robinson (January 31st, 1919-October 24th, 1973, of a heart attack at the age of 53), you are my (159th) hero of the day.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Get your money back at the door


After spending the greater part of yesterday's icy day playing cards, then falling down and busting my lard ass on that ice, today I had to post a little bit about the nature of the games we play. We being the five other idiot friends of mine who thought it would be a good idea to play a "snow day poker game." The idea for that game was first mooted at 11 a.m., the first cards were dealt about 3:30 p.m. Did I mention we are idiots, my friends and I? We decided to fiddle, fart, and fuck around for 4 daylight hours, and wait until it was near dusk to start playing. The idea was further strengthened by the fact that about the time we started assembling to play it began to piss down (frozen) rain. If it is possible to piss down frozen rain. We did not want to play during the day, when nature was taking a break from pelting sleet down upon us. Where is the fun in that? Let's play at dark in the middle of the worst of the storm, so we can drink a few beers, and then about 11 p.m. risk life and limb getting home. This just goes to show you what a clever lot of fellows we are. Of course, each and every one of us has an advanced degree in something. Proving that education is no bar to acting a clown. Either way, we all made it home alive (as far as I know), and no one pulled a gun on anybody else in the 6 hours or so of poker playing that we did. We played a variety of poker games, but the most popular (except with me, since I can not fathom the rules) is Omaha Hi-Lo. A terrible, terrible game that seems to cause mass confusion, but nevertheless my band of intrepid friends fell in love with it. By hour four of this marathon there were five of us left, and four of them called Omaha almost every time they dealt. It was a money game, and did I mention we are idiots? Idiots playing a money game that one of us did not understand at all, and the other four seemed to have only a loose grasp of the rules. It was great fun, and one fellow lost quiet a chunk of change because he became determined to win a hand of Omaha regardless. He finally did, about three hours into it, and managed to rake a pot of about 5 bucks. That 5 bucks would not even come close to making him even for the night. I usually just folded my Omaha hand, and waited until it was my deal to change the game to draw poker. A simple game, and one that I grew up playing (it is the game that Hawkeye Pierce helped teach me), I did quite well at it, and was able to win a tidy little sum. A good time was had by all (or at least by most), and sliding out of the door at 11 p.m. and landing on my ass was the icing on the idiot cake. Luckily I had enough beer in me that I was unable to feel too much of the pain from the slip. Only my dignity (what little I have) was injured. This little glimpse into my rock start like personal life is just a way of me saying that for today, January 30th, there is no hero of the day.

P.S. How cool is it that W.C. Fields' granddaughter posted a comment on my blog post about him. Or least someone claiming to be her. I guess my fame is spreading, and I should probably be careful that I do not libel anyone in the near future.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I'd rather be in Philadelphia

The bulbous nosed fellow above is one William Claude Dukenfield, as known as W. C. Fields born this day 1880 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was a part-time tavern keeper, and his mother was from an old stock Philadelphia. Fields was to have a life long love of his home town. He left home at the age of 18, and became a tramp juggler in the vaudeville set. By the age of 21 he was a traveling juggling act, and in 1906 made his Broadway debut. Fields' act was juggling, but he soon found out that he could get more laughs if he added snide asides and patter to his act. This is the W. C. Fields that I find heroic, the smart ass, snarling, misanthropic type. The one that still remained a sympathetic figure even as he snarled out his contempt for women, children, and dogs. He was so good at projecting his stage persona that it is really the image that we all have of him as a person. Some parts of it are certainly true, he was known to fire BB pellets at fans that intruded upon his privacy at home, but he also was a rather kind fellow. He had two children, both of whom (after he and the mothers had split) he sent voluntary child support payments to. Try that on for size in today's deadbeat dad society. Another part of his persona, that all too sadly became true, was his fondness for booze. In his younger days, Fields did not drink preferring to keep his wits about him while he was on stage. I guess a drunk juggler probably is not really that funny. However, he would keep a bottle of the sauce around for other performers who did drink because he wanted their company to help fight off the loneliness of the road. It was this that led to his fondness for the bottle. He has been quoted as saying that he did not like water "because of all the things fish do in it." By 1936 he was seriously ill, made worse by his drinking, and his film career was put on hold. He was so ill, and so fond of the sauce that he began suffering from the DT's, and if you ever had anything close to those you will know that just is not a lot of fun. He made a semi-recovery, and had several more film roles. Perhaps his best known film "The Bank Dick" contains a classic example of Fields' dialogue. Fields' character walks into a bar and asks "was I in here last night, and did I spent a twenty dollar bill?" The bartender (played by Shemp Howard) replies "Yes." To which Fields replies "Whew! That is a load off my mind, I had thought I had LOST it." Now that is comedy, and I am a comedy snob, so it takes a lot to impress me in the comedic world. He spent his last weeks in a hospital, and a visiting friend caught him reading a bible, and asked why. Fields replied "I am looking for loopholes." An answer in line with his life long atheism. He died on a holiday that he claimed to despise, Christmas day, 1946. The title for this post is from Fields himself, and many have repeated it in different versions, it merely states the obvious, "on the whole, I would rather be in Philadelphia." So, for being just too damn funny for words, W.C. Fields (January 29th, 1880- December 25th, 1946, at the age of 66) you are my (158th) hero of the day.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hawkeye


The slouching fellow above is one Alan Alda born this day 1936 in the Bronx, New York. He was born the son of an actor and singer father, and a mother that was a former Miss New York. Perhaps that is where he got his looks from, for he is one handsome fellow. The above picture is him in his most famous role, the role that makes him my hero of the day. That of Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce on M A S H. It is fairly ironic that the part he played was an army surgeon during the Korean War, when Alda himself had, after high school, joined the Army Reserve, and did a six month tour in Korea in 1956. For the above role he was nominated 21 times for an Emmy, and won five times. He won for acting, directing, and writing being the first person to ever do so. He wrote the series' final episode that remains to this day the single most watched episode of any TV series, and even though his critics make the claim that he took creative control of the series, and turned it into his own soapbox, Hawkeye remains one of my all time favourite characters of any TV show I have ever watched. He was the only character to appear in all 251 episodes of the show, and remains its defining character. Though the writer who wrote the book that the series was based on was not fond of Alda's Pierce, the writer was a staunch Republican, and Alda played Hawkeye as the sensitive, liberal, left wing type. That portrayal earned him a great deal of respect from the feminist movement (he is a life long feminist), and earned him the title (from the Boston Globe) of "Honorary Woman; a feminist icon." From the feminist movement of the middle 1970's that is high praise indeed. So for playing the role of Hawkeye Pierce so well, and with such passion and sensitivity, Alan Alda (January 28th, 1936-present) you are my (157th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pure Genius


The fellow above is one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart born this day 1756 in Salzburg, Austria. He is the hands down choice for the hero of the day, and back in my younger days he made me feel quite small. Listening to his 25th Symphony used to help me quell some of the young man rage that we all feel, by helping me release it. His 29th Symphony is one of the calmest, most relaxing pieces of any type of music I have ever listened to. His father, Leopold, was a deputy Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, and a minor composer in his own right. However, he gave that position up when it became apparent that he had sired an absolute musical genius. We have (at least we all should) know about the musical prodigy the four year old Mozart giving piano recitals for the Queen of France, the piles and piles of music of unbelievable quality. It would appear that all this genius was wrapped in an unremarkable package. He was a small, little fellow with a fine mane of hair, of which he was quite vain, but people who knew him would say that there were no outward signs of genius. Of course, I am not sure what an outward sign of genius would look like. His cause of death was, and remains, a mystery but it was not quite like the movie version portrayed in "Amadeus." He was during his final illness composing the Requiem Mass, but not quite as dramatically as seen in the movie. For several years, my friends and I (back when I had friends) would hold a Mozart wake on the day of his death. We would listen to his music, and drink cheap (i.e. Blue Nun) German wine. I can tell you for a fact that Blue Nun and Oreoes do NOT mix. So for writing music of such pure, fucking genius, and being a pretty entertaining drunk, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27th, 1756-December 5th 1791, at the age of 35), you are my (156th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sgt. Pretty Legs


The curly haired fellow above is one Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte born this day 1763 in Pau, France. He is more commonly known by his other name that being Charles XIV John of Sweden. How he got from name A to name B is part of the reason his is today's hero. Part of his rise from private in the French army to the throne of Sweden can be attributed to his marrying well. He married an ex of his emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, who keep a sweet spot in his heart for Bernadotte's wife. I guess not all ex's are at daggers drawn after all. Another helping factor for his rise to fame was the coming of the French Revolution. That got him from private to (eventually) Marshal of France. He being one of the twenty-six men that Napoleon raised to that rank during his reign. Bernadotte had some fair amount of military talent, but he was also famous for being a fence sitter. Always weighing this options until the last minute until deciding o which side to come down in support of. Usually he was smart enough to pick the winning side. He served with some distinction in a couple of Napoleon's earlier campaigns, but also ran afoul of his emperor during the Battle of Wagram. This little setback could have been fatal to his career aspirations, but lucky for him the Swedes came calling. He was popular in Sweden because of his previous good treatment of Swedish prisoners of war, and Sweden, who's King Charles XIII was ill and heir less, needed a solider on the throne to protect themselves against Russian aggression. It seems he sort of "fell into" the job of Crown Prince. A Swedish dipolmat, Karl Otto Morner, offered the position to Bernadotte without any authority to do so. Bernadotte stated that he would not turn the job down if it was offered (I mean who would? Crown Prince is probably a pretty sweet gig). Napoleon, for his part thought the whole idea was absurd, and Morner was arrested for his whole "making job offers without an authority to do so." However, the idea began to gain popularity, and eventually on August 21st 1810, he was elected Crown Prince of Sweden. One installed in that job, he took to it like a duck to water. The King was ill and left a lot of the power in the newly minted Crown Prince's hands. He oversaw Sweden's annexation of Norway, to help compensate for losing Finland to Russia, and was not, as had been feared, a puppet of the French. He eventually came down from the fence, joined the Allies in helping to defeat Napoleon. He became King of Sweden and Norway, and while he never learned to speak either of those languages (French was still widely spoken as a diplomatic language so he had no issues), was a fairly popular king at least in the beginning. In 1840, in response to the unpopularity of his ultra-conservative views, the Riksdag did consider compelling him to abdicate, but he survived that little bump in the road, and remained king until his death in 1844. One of his more famous statements was made to alleviate fears of undue French influence upon him was his statement that "I, who was once a Marshal of France, am now merely King of Sweden." His heirs reign in Stockholm today, I have seen his statute, his tomb, and his palace. So for merely being King of Sweden, when they really needed one, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (January 26th, 1763- March 8th, 1844, at the age of 81), you are my (155th) hero of the day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hammers and Strings

As the multitude of my readers will know I am a die hard Minnesota Vikings fan, and any of them that have not been under a rock for the last 24 hours will know that today just is not a good day to be a Vikings fan. Watching my team, quarterbacked by a bastard I have loathed for 18 years, fall in the championship game to a team they dominated was one of the saddest moments in my recent history. As my readers will also know that statement is a line that should be sad enough to make you cry. Less than a month ago, my father died, and yet I felt/showed more anger, denial, and other emotions when a fucking football team I support (albeit for 32 years) loses a fucking football game. I understand that American loves a winner (thanks Patton), and we love our sports, and take them to almost religious heights, but I am appalled at my own behaviour. Granted, I was not a fan of my father, and did not much care for him as a person, but he is still, one of, the reasons that I exist. Without him knocking boots with my mater, I would be non-existent. Of course, there does exist the chance that my mater would have given it up to some one else (perhaps a Rockefeller, or a Rothschild), and I would have still come into existence. But would I really be "me?" Would I be the same set of neurosis, and (dis)beliefs, with the same character traits and flaws if that had happened? There exists a school of thought that would give a resounding "NO" to that question, and I think I have to concur. I would be an asshole surely, but I believe I would be a different sort of asshole than the one typing these lines now. Who knows with a different sire, I might not be here typing these lines now. I might be in Federal prison, or I might have been one of the people killed in Hurricane Katrina, or I might be a minor league (left handed) relief pitcher somewhere. Or I might not be. I would like to say that I thank the bastard for that, and in some respects I do, after all I am alive, fairly healthy, and I have a job that pays the bills. I also, in my less deprecating moments, like to think I am a pretty bright boy. All or some of this I do owe to him, and it is not his fault that I am a Vikings fan (see the post about not knowing his favourite football team), that blame rests solely with the wolf that raised me, though to this day she denies it. Then again most criminals deny their crimes. I lack the words, and the talent to put the few words I do have down in any coherent form to tell you how disgusted all of this makes me. The fact that a tree in my yard is lacking a branch due to the anger I expressed over a fucking game of football appalls me, especially when I think back to leaning over my father's corpse and whispering for him to "rot." I am incomplete, lacking the human parts that most of you (I hope) take for granted. A football team! I can recount the last four times (counting yesterday) that the Vikings have lost, in my lifetime, a NFC championship game, and yet could not have told you, until I found it out at the funeral, the name of my father's father. Try that on for size, how does that asshole shirt fit? Perfect for you, right colour, right fit, and everything. All of this whining, and it is whining I know, is to say that maybe I have my own self to blame for being the fat bastard typing this for posterity. And today I accept that blame, I understand that long after I have shuffled off this mortal coil, the Vikings will still be the same fucking losers they are today, and that it does not matter. Knowing my father's father's name does not matter. Him rotting does not matter, and this post does not matter. I do know that the disgust I feel with myself for my reaction to something as trivial as a football game (gasp! the heresy), matters. It matters to me. It is not the anger I felt over a football game that causes me to ponder what manner of beast I am, but the fact that the anger, and sadness exists. It exists to such a degree that I had nightmares about the fucking game last night. I hope it exists because in that moment of breaking that tree limb, and screaming curses about how it is all just so fucking unfair, maybe I became just a little more human.

Of Human Bondage


The dapper fellow above is one W. Somerset Maugham born this day 1874 in the British Embassy in Paris, France. It was important to his father, a lawyer who handled embassy business in France that he be born on "British" soil, so he would not be liable to be conscripted into the French army. His father and grandfather were lawyers, and it was taken for granted that he would follow in their footsteps. Lucky for us, and the law that he chose a different path. His mother died when he was six, and the experience traumatized him for life. Until his dying day, he kept a picture of his mother by his bedside. Two years after his mother's death, his father died of cancer and he was sent back to England to be raised by an uncle who was a vicar. If you have ever read Maugham's masterpiece "Of Human Bondage" you will see the biographical similarities between his and the protagonist's upbringing. He was sent to King's School in Canterbury, a place that was a bit like hell on earth to him, and where he developed the stammer that he was to keep for the remainder of his life. It was his stammer that substituted for Philip Carey's clubfoot in the book. Both Carey and Maugham are damaged, or hampered by something so obvious and so physical that their lives's are altered in deep ways. After leaving King's School he studied for a year in Germany where he had his first homosexual affair. Upon his return it was decided, by his guardian, that he was to study medicine, which he did for the next five years. It was during this time that , he late reflected, he met the "low" sort of people that he would not have met otherwise, and was able to use this interaction in his writings. His first major work Liza of Lambeth met with critical success, and convinced him to give up medicine (he had qualified as a doctor), a become a full time writer. By 1914 he was famous with 10 novels published, and 10 plays produced. He was too old to enlist in WWI, but did join up as an ambulance driver. He continued to write until the end of his long life, but his reputation has suffered. At least with "literary" people. No so with me, "Of Human Bondage" remains one of my top ten favourite books, and it had a deep impact on my as a young lad (I guess the main character's clubfoot is something that I can relate to). It is for that book, and a couple of his short stories that I admire, that W. Somerset Maugham (January 25th, 1874-December 16th, 1965, at the age of 91), you are my (154th) hero of the day.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Nutcracker


A two for one hero day today. The fellow above in one E.T.A. Hoffman born this day 1776 in Konigsberg, East Prussia. He was the son of a jurist, and would follow in the family tradition. After a somewhat unhappy childhood, our boy Hoffman, at the tender age of 20, he got just a bit too "attached" to a married woman, and had six children. The family protested that Hoffman was a bit too close to their relation, and he was shipped off to an uncle in Silesia. His time with his uncle was spent passing exams in order to become a jurist, and attempting (unsuccessfully) to become a composer. From 1800 to 1803 he had moved on to the province of Greater Poland, this was his first time outside the supervision of his family, and he took advantage of it to live a "dissolute" life style. He got married during this time, but an indiscretion at his job led to him being promoted (which really meant exiled) to a post in New East Prussia. He despaired of his exile, but did take the time in exile to begin composing, and writing short stories. It was those short stories, and his critical reviews of music that were to make him famous. He wrote the story that the Christmas favourite "The Nutcracker" is based upon. He had some rough times during the Napoleonic Wars, and his family was involved in the Battle of Dresden. He eventually settled back in Berlin, and was reappointed his job as a jurist that he had previously lost. He even managed to get an opera performed successful on the Berlin stage, but alcohol abuse, and the effects of syphilis were taking their toll. He was paralyzed by 1822, and his last works were dictated to either his wife or his secretary. He died on (my birthday) June 25th, 1822 at the age of 46. However, for writing fiction that showed him a pioneer of the fantasy genre (being a major influence on Edgar Allan Poe), E.T.A. Hoffman (January 24th 1776-June 25th, 1822, at the age of 46) you are my (153rd) hero of the day.

Death at the Opera


The beribboned fellow above is one Gustav III of Sweden born this day 1746 in Stockholm, Sweden. Born the heir to the throne, he received a spotty education but had a natural intelligence which he used to read widely, and he could be considered a fairly bright boy. He married, by proxy, a daughter of the King of Denmark, and dutifully produced his heir to the throne, but the marriage was an unhappy one and there were (unfounded) rumors that Gustav was a little light in the loafers. Upon his ascension, he had to deal with a bitterly divided political nation. The Caps and the Hats were the two main factions, and they were not in a making nice kind of mood. When he open his first Riksdag in June of 1771 by giving a speech in Swedish, he became the first Swedish monarch to do so in more than a century. The attempts of the dominant Cap faction, that wanted him to be a powerless king, and to have Sweden under the sway of Russia, made him contemplate a revolution. Exactly how a King can lead a revolution remains a mystery to me, but it seems our boy Gustav pulled it off. No mean feat to lead a revolution when you are the guy, nominally at least, in charge. I suppose it speaks to his ability, and to his persuasiveness that he led a "successful" one. Or at least for a while, the first Riksdag he called after the revolution was quite docile, and passed many of the reforms that Gustav wanted. However, the next time around, in 1786, the deputies of that body were not quite so friendly. I suppose the realization that instead of a powerless king they had become a rather powerless Riksdag had set in. Like most reformers, Gustav had made some powerful enemies, and they had plans for the King. Those plans came to fruition at a masked ball at the Royal Opera House (a place that Gustave had commissioned to be built), and they did not include giving him a bunch of roses. He was shot in the back by one of the conspirators, but lived until almost 3 weeks until the wound, which had become infected, killed him off. His last words were ag känner mig sömnig, några ögonblicks vila skulle göra mig gott ("I feel sleepy, a few moments rest would do me good"). He got more than a little rest, he got eternal rest. However, he was a damn fine King, and is credited with creating Swedish theatre, and even was a fair hand as a playwright. He also founded the Swedish Academy, you know the group of fellows who now days hand out Nobel prizes. So, for being an enlightened monarch that was somehow about to lead, and survive a revolution, Gustav III (January 24th, 1746- March 29th, 1792, at the age of 46) you are my (152nd) hero of the day.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Le Rouge et le Noir


Back on to the right track today with the fellow above, our 151st hero of the day. His name is Marie-Henri Beyle, but he is much more famous under his pen name of Stendhal. He was born this day 1783, in Grenoble, France. He is another of my sad hero bunch that suffered an unhappy childhood, bored with life in the provinces of France, and disliking his unimaginative father. His mother died when he was a young lad, and his education was put into the hands of a pious aunt and a Jesuit priest, both of whom he detested. At the tender age of 16, he moved to Pairs to pursue a career as a playwright. However, history intervened, and your Henri joined the French army in 1800, and became a lieutenant in the dragoons. He saw action in Italy, Germany, and Russia. In 1814, he was placed on half-pay and moved to Italy. There he experienced such an overwhelming physical reaction to the art and beauty of the country that a syndrome was named after him. The Stendhal Syndrome is the psychosomatic reaction to an overdose of beautiful art that can lead to confusion and hallucinations. He was forced to move back to Paris in 1823, and seven years later the book for which I hold him in hero status appeared. "The Red and the Black" is a lovely book, and its hero/villain is a character that both repulses, and attracts. Stendhal's use of irony, and his ability to tell a good story are amazing, and it is a book well worth reading. He was a bit of a dandy about Paris, and had a few romantic trysts worthy of mention, and even wrote fairly sympathetic female characters. He is mentioned favourably by Simone de Beauvoir in her book "The Second Sex." In one of those romantic trysts he managed to contract syphilis, and suffered greatly from it during his later years. He dropped dead from apoplexy on the streets of Paris in 1842 at the age of 59. So, for writing that one (and a couple of others) fine, psychological novel, that I need to go back and reread, Marie-Henri Beyle (January 23rd, 1783- March 23rd, 1842, at the age of 59), you are my hero of the day.

A Summer's Day


I realize I am a day late, and probably a dollar short, but sometimes life is just happening too quickly to sort out the hero the day in time. Either way, the smoothly dressed fellow above is one George Gordon otherwise known as Lord Byron born January 22nd, 1788 in London, England. He was the son of a sea captain, and the woman he married for her money. He had a childhood that included a governess that would crawl into his bed when he was 11 years old, and "play tricks with his person." After the typical English schooling which saw him be on the field for the first ever Harrow vs Eton cricket game, he spent some time traveling in the Near East. In 1812, he embarked on a scandalous love affair with the married Lady Caroline Lamb. It was to be one of many dangerous affairs he would have, and long after Byron broke off the affair, Lady Caroline stalked him by coming to his house dressed as a page boy. She supposedly was a bit off in the head, and sent him letter containing her pubic hair. Losing Byron made her so upset that she lost a lot of weight, and Byron cruelly remarked that he was being "haunted by a skeleton." It was Lady Caroline that famously said that Byron was "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." He eventually married a cousin of Lady Caroline in 1815, but the married was not a happy one with rumors of abuse, and it lasted barely over a year. He left England in 1816, mostly to get away from the frowning public opinion about his personal life. He was not to return to his native soil alive. The last eight years of his life were spent abroad, living the high life on the continent. Living in Genoa from 1821-1823 he was drawn to the plight of the Greeks that were seeking independence from the Ottoman Empire. He went to Greece, and in spite of his lack of military training, decided to help the Greek army fight for their independence. It was here that he caught the violent fever that was to kill him at the age of 36. It was literature's great loss. Some of his poems are just fucking masterful "She Walks in Beauty like the Night" is one of my favourites, and Don Juan is not a bad piece of writing either. He and I shared a common affliction, we both have/had a club foot. We even share the fact that it is our right foot that is the club foot. Byron was quite sensitive about his affliction, not allowing portraits of him to show the club foot. He was one wild man, and lived his life like a wild man. So for living that life to the limits, and writing some damn fine poetry, and being a real life hero to the Greeks, George Gordon, Lord Byron (January 22nd, 1788- April 19th, 1824, at the age of 36), you are my (150th) hero of the day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Who loves ya Baby?


The bald headed fellow above is our 149th hero of the day. His name is Telly Savalas, and he was born this day 1922 in Long Island, New York. He was the second of five children born to Greek American, and when he entered high school he only spoke Greek. He was proud of his heritage, and was to make "Everybody needs a little Greek in them" one of his catch phrases. After picking up English in high school, he became a lifeguard, and was once unsuccessful in saving a man from drowning. It was an experience that was to haunt him for the rest of his life. He graduated from Columbia University where he first gained an interest in acting. After a three year stint in the army during WWII, he managed to become a character actor on TV during the 1950's and 1960's. He shaved his head for his role of Pontius Pilate in 1965's "The Greatest Story Ever Told", and chose to remain bald afterwards. It was part of his "look". It is for his role and the lollipop eating Kojack that Telly achieves hero status. His "Who loves ya baby" and the lollipop were just too cool for an impressionable youngster such as myself. He also had memorable roles in "The Dirty Dozen" and "Kelleys Heroes" again roles that were just too smooth for words. He was a world class poker player that finished 21st at the 1992 World Series of Poker, and he loved to play the ponies. Even buying a part ownership of a fairly successful race horse. He even managed to play arch villain Blofeld in the first James Bond movie, a fact that I myself did not know about him. I knew this blog had educational value. However, it is mostly for his role as the over the top, lollipop eating cop Kojack that I remember him, and so for that dynamic role, Telly Savalas (January 21st, 1922- January 22nd, 1994 at the age of 72), you are my hero of the day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sue Me


The carefully drawn fellow above is one Eugene Sue, born this day 1804 in Paris, France. He was the son of a famous surgeon in Napoleon's army, and the Empress Josephine was his godmother. Not a bad start to your life, it beats being born the son of a nobody plumber, and not have a godmother at all. Or so I would think. However, money is no guarantee of happiness, and young Sue endured an unhappy childhood. It seems the major source of his unhappiness was his relationship with his father. I guess Doctor Daddy did not want some layabout writer as a son. His mother died young, so our boy Sue lost an important buffer in respects to his father. His education was a bit hit and miss, with it being more miss than hit. He was not too thrilled with the idea of following in the father's footsteps and becoming a doctor, he prefer to draw, and to create things with his imagination. Imagination and doctoring have very little, if anything, in common, and Sue left school in 1821 with no formal qualifications. He eventually found himself enlisted in the navy as a auxiliary surgeon third class, and actually saw battle in 1827. He quit the service in 1830, and moved back to Paris. During his absence his father had died, and left Sue a considerable fortune. I guess being a disappointment as a child did not disqualify him as the heir to the throne, and with his inheritance Sue was set for life. Or so he thought, it seems that upon his return he decided to live the high life. Wine, women, and song, and of course the ponies. Those little hobbies led to him blowing through most of his fortune by 1837. If all else fails write a book or two and hope for the best, and Sue did manage that. He, in his prime, was more popular that Dumas pere, and Balzac. He wrote popular novels, and based some of them on his experiences in the navy. He was called the king of the serial novel, and that is no mean feat considering the competition. However, his insistence upon writing upon topical subjects has led to him falling into virtual oblivion today. I would not say that he is a great author, and it may be that oblivion is where he belongs, but in his prime he was a damn fine read. A sort of French version of James Fenimore Cooper. Not going to make you ponder the nature of the universe, but going to give you a good, decent yarn for your money. And sometimes a good yarn is a whole more fun than pondering the nature of the universe. So, for writing those yarns, and being a proper man about town during a great period of French Literature, Eugene Sue (January 20th, 1804- August 3rd, 1857, at the age of 53) you are my (148th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nevermore!


The well dressed fellow above is number 147 on our list, and his name is Edgar Allan Poe, born this day 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was orphaned shortly after his birth as his mother died when he was young, and his father abandoned the family. He was taken in by the Allan family of Richmond, but they never formally adopted him. He attended the University of Virginia for one semester, but was forced to leave for lack of money. He had a messy personal life that you can read all about on your own. He wrote some cracking good yarns, and I am still able to quote "The Cask of Amontillado" first few lines from memory. Which, given how old I am, and since I last read it when I was about 15 is no mean feat. He invented the detective story with his "The Murders in Rue Morgue." Though it was Gothic horror stories for which he remains famous, read some of his works some late night before you go to bed, and see if you have a nice night's sleep. "The Raven" is one of my favourite poems, and the Simpsons did a good job using it in one of their Halloween episodes. Poe is particularly well thought of in France, partly because of another hero of mine Charles Baudelaire's translation of his works. His death under the strange circumstances has been the point of serious debate since it happened. For years and years there was a man called the "Poe Toaster" who would, on Poe's birthday, toast his grave site with cognac, and leave three roses on the grave. However, this year the Toaster, for reasons unknown, failed to show up at Poe's grave. So, for writing such stories as "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Tell-Tale Heart", and so many others, Edgar Allan Poe (January 19th, 1809- October 7th, 1849, at the age of 40), you are my (second) hero of the day.

Open Cezanne


The self-painted fellow above is hero number 146, and his name is Paul Cezanne born this day 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, France. His father was the co-founder of a bank, and was financially secure allowing for Cezanne to have a fairly secure life, and to come into a large inheritance. No "starving artist" was he. At the age of 16, he entered the College Bourbon, where he met and became BFF with Emile Zola. He stayed there for six years, and then began, per his father's wishes, began studying law at the University of Aix. In 1861, against his father's wishes, he moved to Paris to become an artist partially on the advice of his friend Zola. Eventually his father got on board with his son the artist idea, and Cezanne later received an inheritance of 400,000 francs from the old man, which pretty much set him up for life. Of course that wasn't till later, and he did have some up and downs along the way. In 1888 he broke off his friendship with Zola after Zola modeled the main character in Zola's book "The Masterpiece" on Cezanne. He acquired a mistress of which his father did not approve, and there was a threat or two of being cut off financially, but it never happened. He eventually married the mistress, and had a son, but the marriage was a stormy one, and Cezanne cut her out of his will, and moved off to an isolated studio where all he had to do was paint. And paint he did, and paint he could there is a quote attributed to both Picasso, and Matisse that Cezanne was "the father of us all." High praise there, and so for being the father of us all, and painting some damn fine painting, Paul Cezanne (January 19th, 1839- October 22nd, 1906, at the age 67), you are my hero of the day.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh Pooh


The pipe smoking fellow above, our 145th hero of the day, is on A.A. Milne born this day 1882 in London, England. He was lucky enough, as a child, to be taught for a year by H.G. Wells. He then went on to attend Cambridge where his writings for the student newspaper caught the eye of the humour magazine "Punch." He soon became a contributor, and later an assistant editor at Punch. He got himself all married up in 1913, and 1920 his only child, a son named Christopher Robin, was born. That name sound familiar? I hope so for it was the books that Milne wrote for, and starring his son, that puts him on the hero list for today. In all Milne wrote four volumes of stories (from 1926 to 1928) with Pooh and his friends as them subject. It became a smashing hit, but it also became his millstone. Milne did not stop writing with the Pooh stories, but he became a victim of his own success. His fame rests almost completely on the Pooh books, and this was to become, in his lifetime, a source of great annoyance to Milne. His goal as a writer was to "write what I want to write". A noble goal if there ever was one, but sort of like Conan Doyle and his Holmes stories, the public was much more interested in Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore, than any other writings of Milne, and by the late 1930's the audience for his grown up writings had virtually vanished. I guess sometimes you can be too successful. We all have our favourite Pooh character, I know several Eeyore's and a couple of Rabbits. I myself have always been a fan of Tigger, after all the wonderful thing about Tigger's is that "I'm the only one." A clarion call for individualist's around the world if there every was one. So, for creating those timeless characters living in the Hundred Acre Wood, A.A. Milne (January 18th, 1882-January 31st, 1956, at the age of 74), you are my hero of the day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Plante This

Today's hero (number 144 on our list) is the fellow that made the mask above famous, and no I do not mean Jason Voohries. The man's name is Jacques Plante, and he is the goaltender that first beginning wearing a mask full time. Before that goaltenders did not wear masks, and had to face that little puck of vulcanized rubber without any protection for their pretty faces. Plante first started wearing the mask in 1959, and hockey had been around for quite some time before that. I doubt that the goaltenders of those years ever got the girl. Not sure if you have ever held a hockey puck, but I have, and when frozen the son of bitch is HARD. It would take a lot of money to get me to put my dashing good looks on the line facing a hockey puck without a mask. Plante began wearing the mask after receiving a cut during a game, and came back onto the ice with the mask that he had been using in practice. His coach at the time did not appreciate the mask, but Plante was his only keeper at the time. Plante kept wearing the mask and his team, the Montreal Canadiens kept winning. Nothing like a winning streak to change your coach's mind about the mask. The streak reached 18 games, until Plante did not wear it at his coach's request. The Canadiens lost that game, and the mask was back to stay. Plante played for Montreal from 1953-1963, and during that time the Canadiens won six Stanley Cups, including five in a row. He won just about everything it is possible to win as a goaltender, and brought many innovations to the game. After his lengthy career, he became a much sought after goaltender coach, and even wrote a book on the training of goaltenders which remained popular for years and years. So for helping my hockey team life the cup five times in a row, and for making goaltenders pretty boys, Jacques Plante (January 17th, 1929-February 27th, 1986, at the age of 57), you are my hero of the day.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Casbah


The dashing fellow above is on Charles Boyer, and today is NOT his birthday, but with the dearth of actual heroes born on today's date, and since I am getting old of writing the "no hero of the day post", I decided to pull M. Boyer out of the past and celebrate today as his birthday. Our 143rd hero of the day was born August 28th, 1899 in Midi-Pyrenees, France. He moved to Paris from the small town of his birth in order to continue his education, but he found the call of the theatre too much to deny, and began taking small acting parts. He had a few decent roles, and had been signed to a contract before 1929, but it was in 1938's "Algiers" as the thief Pepe le Moko (where in the trailer for the film he invited Hedy Lamarr to "come with me to the Casbah") that gets him on the hero board for me. This line would stick with him for years, thanks mainly to imitators, and that his character in the movie became the basis for the Looney Tune character Pepe le Pew. He was nominated for an Oscar four times, but never won. One of those nominations was for 1944's "Gaslight" co-starring another hero(ine) Ingrid Bergman. It is a fantastic film, and he gives a fantastic performance. In contrast to his on screen image of a suave, dashing, rake, Boyer began losing his hair early, and was, by all accounts, a bookish reserved man in real life. He spoke five languages and was married only once, and it lasted 44 years. Near the end of his career he recorded an album of love songs that were merely spoken by him in his deep, distinctive voice with his rich French accent. It was reportedly Elvis Presley's favourite album during the last 11 years of the king's life. No bad for a romantic actor with a receding hairline, and a pot belly. That 44 year marriage was truly the "death do us part" type, and Boyer committed suicide two days after his wife's death from cancer, and two days before his own 79th birthday in 1978. But, for making a line famous that he never spoke in the actual movie, and being one suave son of a bitch, Charles Boyer (August 28th, 1899- August 26th, 1978, at the age of 78), you are my (substitute) hero of the day.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Comedy French Style

I am happy to annoucne that the drought is over, and today we have a real life bona fide hero. His name is Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, but he is more commonly known by his stage/pen name of Moliere. He is our 142nd hero of the day, and wise readers will remember he has been referenced in this blog before. Unwise readers are encouraged to search for that mention, and read the post in which I reference him, because I happen to think it was a cracking good post. However, on to business, Moliere was born this day 1622 in Paris, France into a lovely bourgeois family. His mother died when he was 10 years years old, and like someone else I know, he was not particularly close to his father. At the age of the 21 he decided he was meant for the stage, and ran off to join a theatre troupe. His skill soon made him the leader of the troupe, which has it perks, but it also led to him spending a brief stint in debtor's prison at the age of 23 when the troupe could not pay its debts. It was about this time that he adopted the name Moliere possibly to spare his father the shame of having an actor in the family. Oh how the times have changed, now days we might be proud of an actor in the family, and use bourgeois is an insult. Despite his own preference for tragedy, it was for his farces that would lead to his fame and fortune. The most famous is, of course, Le Misanthrope, and it is widely regarded as his masterpiece. I, for one, am a huge fan, and if you read the other post dealing with it you will understand why. Some days, most days people just fucking suck, and today is no exception. Trust me on this, they do not improve no matter how many chances you give them. I advise that you lower your expectations of everyone (including yourself). Sorry for that digression, but I just felt the need to put it out there. It is a lovely story, and I can identify with the plot. Molière suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, possibly contracted when he was imprisoned for debt as a young man. One of the most famous moments in Molière's life was his last, which became legend: he collapsed on stage in a fit of coughing and hemorrhaging Molière insisted on completing his performance. Afterwards he collapsed again with another, larger hemorrhage before being taken home, where he died a few hours later, The superstition that green brings bad luck to actors is said to originate from the colour of the clothing he was wearing at the time of his death. Now that is a way to go out, with a bang and bleeding to death as you give your farewell performance. So for being a trooper and making sure the show went on, even when he should have been home sick in bed, and for that lovely misanthropic play, Moliere (January 15th, 1622-February 17th, 1673, at the age of 51), you are my hero of the day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Words

Today is another barren day in the forest of heroes. No man, woman, child, or character made it onto the hero podium for this day in my own version of history. So today the hero is words. "Words are no longer adequate for today's reality." I am quoting a fellow by the name of Gregor von Rezzori, and he wrote that group of words over 30 years ago. I have to agree with his view point, which I believe is even more true today than when he wrote them. Think of the last movie you saw, now try to put that things you SAW in that movie into words. You do not have to use fancy five dollar words if you do not want to. Just use simple words, descriptive words. It may be that you are describing the food fight scene in Animal House, what colours are there? What are the people wearing? How big is the room? Put that scene into words, not images. Images are easy, pictures are worth a thousand words they say. "They" might just be right, how much easier is it to go and watch Pickpocket than is it to read "Crime and Punishment"? A movie is two hours at best, a book if you are a quick read, and depending on the length can be a week or so. If you are a slow reader, or if you are busy, or if you like to savor a good book like a fine meal, you take your time with it rather that just ripping through the pages like you are wolfing down a bowl of cornflakes. Some books are like that you know, some books need to be slowly digested, and mulled around about in the mind before you move onto the next book in your ever growing "to be read" stack. How much easier is it to shove in a DVD or to DVR a movie, pop some popcorn, and get settled in your ass groove on the couch and watch the movie? Easier on the eyes maybe. Easier on the wallet maybe, easier on the mind certainly. But still we need some words, unless it is a silent movie, the actors are still going to use words, but they can use those words to drive the "plot" (if in a rare occasion, one of today's movies actually has a plot). So very much can be "shown" on screen that requires not one single word to be written. Emotions on some starlet's face, or that same starlet's tits can just be shown for a few brief seconds and everyone of the male species is suddenly really paying attention. Reading about emotions flitting across someones face, or reading a description of a nice pair of knockers (no matter how well written) just is not as easy, or as much fun right? I am as big a fan of hooters as the next guy, but I feel that so very much is lost in this visual culture that I find myself dropped into. Do not get me wrong some movies are fantastic ( I find the older the movie generally the better, plot is your friend), some movies can make you think, and some make you want to "read the book". And you should read the book, read Von Rezzori he is fantastic let him show you his world with his words, and see if you like it. Who knows you might like it enough to start trying to use words yourself, and not just in a text message.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Janvier Blows

In more ways that one can imagine, this month just plain sucks. It is a month when suicide spike, and it has 31 long, useless, dreary days that just get you nowhere. It means that the two time I get paid a month are an extra day apart, and for some of us with small working margins that can sometimes make a difference. And finally, but more importantly it seems to be bereft of heroes, and for my purpose that is January's biggest crime. It is with regret that, once again, I have to inform you, there is no hero of the day.


P.S. and tomorrow is not looking too good either.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Travels

Shall I regale you with tales of my recent travels dear reader? In the past 6 months or so, I have been to Sweden, Austria, France, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Granted the last three countries were only stop overs of all too brief hours, but I guess they still count as travels. Would a tale of sitting in the Cafe Central in Vienna, the same place that Trotsky used to hang out and plot his idea of revolution, be fun? Of being in that Cafe, and seeing the waiter treat everyone like shit because it is now a tourist trap, and he does not have to worry about offending people who will most likely never come back. Or maybe a quick trip to the Goulash Museum where I ate, and completely enjoyed, horsemeat for the one, and probably only time in my life. Or maybe a dash to Helsingborg to watch my hero Henke play in one of his last home games before age caught up to him? I have actually told that story already, and do not wish to be some grumpy, old man sitting on some park bench who repeats himself over and over until eventually only the pigeons and crows are there to listen. How about a dash through Charles De Gaulle airport after your plane arrives late, and then finding that the line is about 5 miles long for your next flight, and that everyone is being searched? Or a trip to the palace of the Habsburgs, and seeing the breathing taking view that they woke up to every day, and realizing that they might have thought "I rule the fucking world" Or worse, my recent trip to the podunk town from which I escaped all those years ago to bury the man who they called my father. The man who seemed to take a perverse pleasure in calling me a tub of lard, not that he was not right, but he just seemed to enjoy saying it too often, and too much. Fear not it seems the mantle of commenting on my (over) weight has been taken up by my (formerly) favourite uncle. That was my least favourite trip, and not necessarily for the reason(s) you would think. I was just happy that I was not forced to dig the hole. Of course all of this dross is just a smoke screen, an attempt to divert your attention from the fact that today has not lived up to its end of the bargain, and produced anyone that I can call a hero. I do ever so hope that it worked, and that some sort of entertainment was gained, but it is with regret (again) that I have to report that for today January 12th, there is no hero of the day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Sawbuck

The fellow above is on Alexander Hamilton born this day 1755 in Charlestown, British West Indies. He is our 141st hero of the day, and one of the few ones I can say has had a huge influence on my actual thinking. That is, of course, back in the day went I did some actual thinking. He was born a bastard son of a Scot peddler to a gad about mother. If you want to know as much as I did about Hamilton I suggest two books both biographies, one my Forrest McDonald, and the other by Ron Chernow. I could go on and on about Hamilton's pulling himself up by the bootstraps to make it to the colonies, and his attending Columbia. His become George Washington's Chief of Staff during the Revolution, and his heroic military career. His becoming a lawyer in New York City, and how he studied for and passed the bar at warp speed. How he is considered the patron saint of the American school of economics. How, his report on Public Credit, and his founding of the U.S. Mint are the backbone of the financial system under which we operate today. In my earlier years, I was much more of a fan of Hamilton, and I still detest his main political rival, Thomas Jefferson. I still share Hamilton's dislike of the common man, which is confusing since you do not get much more common that myself, but some of his theories I have outgrown as I have aged. Which is, in some respects, a shame. Maybe the heroes of our youth are not meant to be the heroes of our middle age. One thing I do still like about him is the ability he possessed to make enemies. A lot of people have a lot of opinions on Hamilton, and not all of them are nice, but to make that many enemies he had to live by his own motto. Which was "you have to stand for something, or you will fall for anything." And here I am sure that we all thought that was just the title of some bullshit country song. A man like Hamilton, who divided opinion on him so greatly, had to be a man of great talent and ability to achieve everything that he did. If you are lucky, or have been to the bank lately, you are probably carrying around a portrait of him right now. His is the mug that graces the ten dollar (sawbuck) bill. It was his term as the first Secretary of the Treasury that put into place many of the economic policies that we still follow today. Did I mention he was also a fucking genius, his First Report on Public Credit was written in a little over three months, and was 140,000 words long, and is a document of breathtaking brilliance. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of his life is the fact that the system he created was destined to be run by a bunch of bumbling idiots. The bankers of today are just not up to the Hamiltonian standard, which is probably why the U.S. is in such a shithole financially. He was killed in a duel by the Vice-President at the time, Aaron Burr, on the same dueling ground that his son Philip was killed three years earlier. Not a good choice of locations, but I guess destiny, that fickle bitch, had it in for the Hamilton family. I studied him a lot in graduate school, and I need to refresh my memory as to a lot of his ideas, and policies, but I can say that I was able to write this post pretty much from memory, and for that he might be proud. So, for building that economic system that keep a struggling, newly minted United States from going completely bankrupt, and for being an lawyer of considerable skill, Alexander Hamilton (January 11th, 1757- July 12,1804, at the age of 49), you are my hero of the day.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Bravest of the Brave

The decorated fellow above is one Michel Ney born this day 1769 in Saarlouis, France. The son of a master cooper, Ney, after the usual education, became a notary in his hometown. The life of a civil servant did not suit him, and I can feel his pain in the regard, and he enlisted in a Hussar regiment in 1787. His talent got him quickly promoted through the ranks, and he was promoted general de brigade in 1796, and general de division in March, 1799. He was clearly a man of war, and the world was obliging he was born right in time to be involved in the Napoleonic wars that were to ravage Europe for nearly 25 years. He was promoted to Marshal of the Empire in 1804, and was given many commands under Napoleon. He fought in Austria, Spain, and Italy, and was given the command of a Corps during the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. He was one of the few French generals to enhance his reputation during the murderous retreat from Moscow.He was given command of the rearguard during the retreat, and was cut off, and managed to rejoin the main body more than once. It was for these feats that Napoleon gave Ney the title "the Bravest of the Brave." Legend has it that he was the last French solider to cross the bridge at Kovono thus being the last Frenchman to exit Russia. He supposedly was given up for lost, but burst into a French outpost, and demanded some soup. The French soldiers had no clue who he was, and up asking he replied "I am the rearguard!" With the defeat of Napoleon, Ney swore allegiance to the restored Bourbon monarchy, but during the Hundred Days Campaign went back over to Napoleon's side. It was to be his last, and a fatal mistake. After Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, Ney was tried for treason, and executed on December 6th, 1815. He refused the blindfold, and was given the right to give the order for the firing squad to fire. His last words were "Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her ... Soldiers, Fire!" Thus, one of the bravest men of his generation was no more, but for keeping the rearguard body and soul together during impossible conditions, and proving his bravery over and over again Michel Ney (January 10th, 1769-December 6th, 1815, at the age of 46), you are my (140th) hero of the day.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Second Sex


The lovely lady above is our 139th hero(ine) of the day. Her name is Simone de Beauvoir, born this day 1908 in Paris, France. She was the daughter of an one time lawyer, and part time actor who did not make it a secret that he wanted a son. He did tell her that she had "the brain of a man", and at that time that was an important thing for her to hear. She decided at the age of 15 that she wanted to be a writer, and was drawn to the subject of philosophy. She attended the Sorbonne, and at the age of 21 became the youngest person, and only the 9th woman to obtain the agregation in Philosophy. She took 2nd place on the final examination with Jean-Paul Sartre (her long time lover), who was taking the exam for the second time, took 1st. There was apparently a great deal of discussion about who should get the 1st, but Sartre was eventually awarded it. I suspect it had something to do with his gender, but that is just my humble opinion. It was at the Sorbonne that she obtained her life long nickname Castor, the French word for beaver. She wrote several books, and won the Goncourt Prix for "The Mandarins" in 1954. However, the book that brought her to my attention many moons ago is "The Second Sex" a ground breaking book that set out feminist existentialism. In it she argues that man has always been the ideal that woman are supposed to live up to, and that women had been considered deviant. Beauvoir stated that this belief had always made women outsiders, and that the deviant assumption had to be set aside to allow women to move forward on par with men. For that work and many others, she is considered the mother of post-1968 feminism, and that is something to write home about. It is the kind of feminism, that as a sexist pig man can support, not the shave your head, in your face, men are the root of all evil (which may be true), type of feminism. A thinking woman's (or man's) feminism. For writing that book, and for some many other contributions to the world of literature, feminism, and philosophy, Simone de Beauvoir (January 9th, 1908-April 14th, 1986, at the age of 78), you are my heroine of the day.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Bright Side of Life

All day long I thought I had done by hero post, and was sitting on my ass smug in the knowledge that I had done my work for the day, when "A Fish Called Wanda" came onto to the telly, and suddenly it struck me that today is also the clever fellow above birthday as well. His name is Graham Chapman, and he is number 138 on my list. Looks like today is making up for yesterday's dearth of heroes by providing us with two wildly different types of heroes. He was born in Leicester, England on this day in 1941, and is, of course, known for being one of the six members of Monty Python. That group was formed in 1969, and included his fellow Cambridge student John Cleese. Chapman was a qualified doctor, but never practiced medicine, instead he and Cleese became writers for the BBC, and eventually formed Python, and comedic history was soon to be made. Cleese has said that Chapman, while technically the co-writer for many sketches, contributed were little actually writing. It was his sense of was was funny or not that made Chapman a major contribution to the Python madness. Chapman was an alocholic from his time in medical school, and would often need a drink or two just to face the day, and would often forget lines written in the morning for the afternoon sketches. After one particularly drunken, and erractic interview he went sober on Boxing Day 1977. He came out as a gay (one of the first "stars" to do so), in the mid 70's, and in 1989 died of a rare form of spinal cancer. I outright steal the lines below said by John Cleese at his Python Memorial Service.

"Graham Chapman, co-author of the Parrot Sketch, is no more.

He has ceased to be. Bereft of life, he rests in peace. He's kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky. And I guess that we're all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, of such capability for kindness, of such unusual intelligence, should now so suddenly be spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he'd achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he'd had enough fun.

Well, I feel that I should say: nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard, I hope he fries.

And the reason I feel I should say this is he would never forgive me if I didn't, if I threw — threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him but mindless good taste"

So, for making millions of people laugh, and still being able to sing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" while freezing his ass off tied to a cross, Graham Chapman (January 8th-1941- October 4th, 1989, at the age of 48), you are my (second) hero of the day.

Briefly, Time


The smiling fellow above is number 137 on my hero list, and his name is Stephen Hawking. He was born this day 1942 in Oxford, England. I know that today is also Elvis Presley's birthday, and considering where I live he should probably be a hero, but I just never cared for his music that much (my mother, on the other hand, thinks he hung the moon. I guess swiveling hips are her kind of thing). Instead, I choose the fellow above, and he is probably one of the smartest ten people on the planet. I confess that all I have read by him was his "Brief History of Time", and most of it sailed lazily over my head. The parts I did (I think) understand made me so depressed that I figured I would leave Mr. Hawkins' writing alone for a while for my own sake. He is quite simply a fucking genius. A genius that, as you can tell by the photo above, has had MASSIVE physical obstacles to overcome, but has managed, with a lot of help, to overcome then enough to have been the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University for the last thirty years. You generally don't get that type of gig if you are a moron, and he is far and away one of the brightest minds dealing with black holes, and theoretical physics in the world. When he first got the disease that put him in the wheelchair, ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease, he was told he had two to three years to live. That was when he was 21, today he is 68 and still alive, but has had to retire from the Professorship due to his illness. However, for showing us all that the mind is free of the body's disabilities in spectacular fashion, Dr. Stephen Hawking (January 8th, 1942-present), you, and not Elvis, are my hero of the day.


P.S. I know I said I would catch up with the hero parade, and post one for yesterday, but I searched and was unable to find one. Therefore, since it is my blog, and my rules apply the post about my little secret will have to suffice, but for form's sake I will, with regret, have to say that for January 7th, there is no hero of the day.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A lovely little secret

No hero post today, but I will do the necessary catching up on that soon enough. No today is about a lovely, delicious, secret that I have been carrying around for about 8 hours now. Have you ever known something that no other (living) person knew? Sure you have, we all have, and is it not just a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing it? Of course, my secret is not really that juicy, and no one has even asked me to reveal it. In fact, probably no one knows that I have the secret at all except me, but I am putting the cart before the horse as they say. The fellow on the right above is one John Castle. In the photo Mr. Castle is playing the part of Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany in the 1968 film "The Lion in Winter." Truth be told, Mr. Castle's role was not the juicy one, and he was probably one of the least famous actors in the film. He plays the (always troublesome) middle son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The unloved son as it turns out. Henry's favourite is John the youngest (and the other fellow in the photo above), Eleanor's favourite is Richard (the Lion-Hearted) played by a young Anthony Hopkins. All this playing and picking favourites leaves poor Geoffrey out in the cold. One of the best lines in the movie is when Geoffrey asks Henry "you don't think much of me do you?", and Henry replies "Much? I don't think of you at all." Brutal parenting, but it shows you how Geoffrey is rated by his parents. As far as the movie "reality" that is a shame, because Geoffrey is quite an interesting fellow, and being a namesake of his (of sorts), I quite like the character. I know we have gotten off track of what the secret is that I am holding in my head, but the detour was necessary in order for it all to make sense (or at least I hope it makes sense). As you know, dear reader(s), my father shuffled off this mortal coil a couple of days ago, and today was the day that we got to stick him into the cold, hard ground. You may have also guessed that him and I did not really rate each other. Different views about too many different things, and as I sat there today listening to the priest drone on about all that stuff we all hear at funerals I was trying to think of the last words I would say to my father if I had the chance. "Via con dios" was an option, but neither he nor I were/are religious which also ruled out "Burn in Hell." I usually am pretty good at turning a phrase, and I became determined to find something to lean down and whisper into my (now dead) father's ear. Something to send him on his way with all the feelings that I had for him. This is where the movie above comes into place. Our boy Geoffrey is arguing with his mother about who will or will not become king, and the argument takes a few twists and turns, but at the end in response to his mother asking "you will help us won't you?" Geoffrey kisses her hand, and utters one word "Rot." That was the same thing I leaned down and whispered into my dead father's ear as a last goodbye. At least I know that he will be able to fulfill my last request, and now you all know my dirty little secret. I know I am a bastard, but at least I get it honestly.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Holmes!


The pipe smoking fellow above is number 136 on the hero list. He is Sherlock Holmes, and today is widely agreed upon to be his birthday. My heroic Holmes is the one of the four novels, and fifty-six short stories written about him by his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He is the consulting detective that solves crimes and other sticky situations for people long before the plodders of Scotland Yard sort out anything. He is a brilliant, violin playing, sometime drug taking, genius. I believe the best on screen portrayal of him is by a fellow named Jeremy Brett who gave an outstanding performance of Holmes in a PBS series long ago. I have not, and refuse to watch the latest Holmes movie directed by that douche bag Guy Ritchie. From the previews I know all I need to know about what kind of "movie" it is. If you want to do a James Bond film, Mr. Ritchie, do a James Bond film, please do not try to make Holmes the last action hero. Sure there is some action in the stories, but it restrained and not over the top, car chases, shit blowing up, half naked women running around sort of action. If you want that kind of stuff go see a Bond flick, or some Jason Bourne shit. Not for Holmes. He is a fucking mental genius. So smart that he does not have to rely on brute force (though he could use it if he had to) to catch the villain. Read some of the short stories and you will see why I am raging so much against this new film. When you eliminate the impossible that which remains must be the truth is one of my favourite quotes of Holmes, and one which I on occasion have to use in my job. The scary part is that Holmes himself said that his older brother, Mycroft, was even smarter (see my post on him). So for making the detective story about the detective, and solving all those unsolvable crimes, Sherlock Holmes (January 6th-present), you are my hero of the day.

Adulthood

Papa died today (to steal and slightly change a line from Camus), actually the paterfamalis died last night at about 8:30. I was, sad to say, dead asleep from the cold meds I have been taking, and 200 or so miles away. Not much I could have done anyway, his life had been a downward sprial for a few years, and I said good bye to him a long time ago. I never really knew the dead man, and the perfect example of that came to me this morning as I struggled out of bed. As usual it will be a long winded example, so stick with me. I did not know my father's favourtie football team. Simple enough right? Well you see anyone who knows anything about ME knows my American football team is the Vikings, and that came about through an act of the wolf that raised me, not my father. Also, anyone who ever sees me without a long sleeved shirt on will know my favourite English football club. It is Arsenal, and I have a tattoo of their crest on my left arm. None of this is to say that I am easier to know than my late father, it is just to say that the nature of our relationship was such that I never knew his team, or for that matter, if he even HAD a favourite team. A petty, trivial bit of knowledge you would think, but remember I live in the South. Football, American style, is close to a religion in these parts, and you can learn a lot about a man or woman if you know their team, it speaks volumes. All of this is to say that, according to the Roman custom, today I am an adult. Free of the fatherly yoke, and now able to enter adulthood. Ever heard the expression "now you are the man of the house"? That is a nod to that custom. Also, since I have to return to bury him not to praise him, it means that the hero march will have to be on a couple of days hiatus. Because where I am going to stick my father in the cold, cold ground there is no internet, there is no cable, and there is no phone service (for me at least). However, fear not when I return from the great wasteland that some people think I call "home" I will pick the thread back up, and attempt to see the project through to the bitter end. After all today is all about bitter ends.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Close Shave

The closely shaved fellow above is number one 135 on the hero list. His name is King Camp Gillette born this day 1855 in Fon du lac, Wisconsin. And all the male readers of this blog will know why he is on the hero list. He is the genius that came up with the disposable safety razor, making it possible for all us real men who can grow hair on their face to keep that hair off our face. I loathe shaving, but I suspect I would loathe it more if I had to use some straight blade razor that needed to be sharpened all the time. I would probably cut me own throat with one of those death machines. So I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Gillette for coming up with the idea of a disposable razor, and for making it so readily marketable. He founded the Gillette Safety Razor Company, and put his face on the packaging. He was recognized around the country because of that marketing idea, and people often were surprised he was a real person, and not just a marketing ploy. He made a huge fortune, but invested it unwisely and died virtually broke. But for making it possible to shave without cutting off valuable parts of my pretty little face, King Camp Gillette (January 5th, 1855- July 9th, 1932, at the age of 77), you are my hero of the day.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The blind fellow above is number 134 on our hero list, and his name is Louis Braille born this day 1809 in Coupvray, France. If you have any trivia knowledge at all, you will recognize the name and what he is on our list for. But, since I have a post to do I will fill you in anyway. At the age of 3, Louis was playing with a sharp object of his father's, and poked himself in the eye. At first it did not seem to be a serious injury, but it became infected and he soon when blind in that eye, and due to something called sympathetic ophthalmia, soon lost his sight in both eyes. Blind at the age of 3, what a shit hand to be dealt, but our boy Louis was a bright boy, and was soon off to France's School for the Blind one of the first of its kind in the world. It was not as amazing at it sounds. The students were often fed stale bread, given only water to drink, and locked up as punishment. In 1821, a French army captain visited the school, and shared his night writing system. This system was based upon 12 raised dots, and allowed soldiers to communicate on the battlefield without speaking. The system was too complex for Louis, and he simplified it to 6 raised dots, and thus Braille was born. The simplest ideas are usually the best, and by the age of 15 our boy Louis had the system worked out enough to publish it. Like most trail blazers, Louis was not recognized as such in his lifetime. He became a teacher at the Institute for the Blind, but his system was not taught there. He died of tuberculosis, partly due to the bad air in the school. But, for allowing an entire group of people the ability to read and write without the luxury of sight, and opening new worlds to them through books, Louis Braille (January 4th, 1809-January 6th, 1852, at the age of 43), you are my hero of the day.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Mill Lands

The dapper fellow above is one Ray Milland born this day 1907 in Neath, Wales. He is number 133 on our hero list, but Ray Milland was not the name his was born into the world with. That name was Reginald Alfred John Truscott-Jones quite a mouthful, and not one that would look good in the bright lights of Hollywood. Probably because it would have taken way too many lights to put that name up on the marquee. There are several stories on how he came to change his name, but the one from his autobiography is the one I will take as true. That story is that after many hours of arguing with his agent, he got up and said I do not care what you call me, but I have to keep the initial "R" because my mother has had it engraved on my luggage. What a sweet boy making sure that his mother's gift did not go to waste. He finally gave up and said I it doesn't matter what you call me but come up with something soon, or I am packing these suitcases and moving back to the mill lands from where I came. Thus, Ray Milland was christened. His best known performance is in Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor. It is a lovely film, and he gives a lovely performance. Becoming the first Welsh actor to win an Oscar, and giving the shortest speech in Oscar history (he merely bowed his thanks, and causally walked off the stage). And who said Welshmen talk to much. His other notable performance was opposite Grace Kelley in "Dial M for Murder." Another great performance, and he does a lovely job of playing a husband trying to get away with the perfect murder of his wife. His star declined rather rapidly, and he took a turn directing a few films with uneven results. But, for those two stellar performances, and for keeping his winning speech unbeatably brief, Ray Milland (January 3rd, 1905- March 10th, 1986, at the age of 79 of lung cancer), you are my hero of the day.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Count


The fellow above is one Count Folke Bernadotte born this day 1895 in Stockholm, Sweden. He has the honour of being the new years first human hero, and is number 132 on the hero list. Those of you who know your Swedish history (both of you), will recognize our boy's last name as a fairly famous one in Sweden. It (Bernadotte) is the name of the ruling house of Sweden, and our boy's grandfather was none other than King Oscar II of Sweden. Big name, big expectations to have to live up to, but Folke did his best, and managed to make it to hero status. Which I am sure will be a consolation to his surviving family members. After attending school in Stockholm, Bernadotte joined the military and was commissioned a cavalry lieutenant in 1918. He got himself a little American wife in 1928, and starting making babies. In 1943 he was appointed to be vice chairman of the Swedish Red Cross. It was in this post that he performed the feat that landed him on my hero list. After the death of Adolph Hitler, Bernadotte began negotiations with Himmler for the release of thousands of Danish and Norwegian POW's from concentration camps in Germany. This was the famous "White Buses" mission, named for the buses used to transport POW's that were painted entirely white except for a red cross on the side. This was done to make absolutely sure that no one could mistake the buses for a military target. It was estimated that Bernadotte's mission saved around 31,000 people from the concentration camps including between 6,5000 and 11,000 Jews (the irony of this will become clear later). After the end of World War II, he was appointed the first ever official UN mediator. His task was to meditate the violence that had broken out in Palestine between Jewish and Arab factions. His attempt to settle the disputes between the groups was not successful, and he was criticized by Jewish groups for being insensitive to the loss of Jewish settlers lives. Not stopping at criticism, Jewish terrorists (yes there was such a thing, no need to avoid calling a spade a fucking spade), assassinated Bernadotte on September 17th, 1948. There is your irony for you, a man who had saved thousands of Jewish lives during World War II at great risk to himself and members of his organization was gunned down by members of the Zionists group Lehi. This group's reasoning for killing Bernadotte is as big a pile of shit as you will ever want to see, and smacks of such hypocrisy that it makes you want to puke. The murder was condemned by the United Nations, and rightfully so, it making very little sense to, in cold blood, kill the man sent to try and help bring you peace. I am no Jew hater by any stretch of the imagination, but you have to wonder if perhaps because his killers were Zionists rather than Arabs if this little incident has went down much more quietly in history than it should have. No one was ever charged with the killing, and relations were a bit frosty for a while between Sweden and Israel. Israel did try to smooth things over by planting a forest in Bernadotte's name, and at a ceremony in 1995 issued a statement expressing regret at his murder in a terrorist way. Big deal, a few fucking trees, and a regret about the manner of his death. Tell that shit story to his widow and fourteen year old son. Either way for standing up and doing the right thing, and for saving all those thousands of lives (even the Jewish ones), Count Folke Bernadotte (January 2nd, 1895- September 17th 1948, at the age of 53), you are my hero of the day.

Friday, January 01, 2010

All the King's Horses

Today is a multiple hero day as befits the start of a new calendar year. Today is officially the birthday of EVERY Thoroughbred horse in the United States. The above picture is one of the greatest American racehorses that ever lived, Secretariat, who won the 1972 Belmont stakes by 31 lengths. A victory that was so stunning, and by such a wide margin that the cameras of the time had to pan back in order to catch the second placed horse in the field. It seems wide angle lens were quite invented yet. I admit I was only about 3 years old when Secretariat thundered home in that race, so I was unable to put my two quid on him to win. Which would not have paid anything to speak of anyway. However, I do love the ponies, and I have since I became of age, placed several wagers on several horses that are turning a year older today. Some of them were lovely beasts that managed to reward my faith in them by coming across the wire in the correct order. I remember the first ever Kentucky Derby I "picked" correctly, and I remember the heartbreak of watching that horse (Pleasant Colony) lost his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont. That story is a story for another day. I have torn up a lot of losing tickets since then, and will tear up quite a few more before I am done with playing the ponies. I was even quite taken aback when on my recent travels, I was afforded a chance to order horse meat goulash. I ordered it in the hopes that it tasted better than a few of the mules I had bet on, and was quite surprised when I discovered that it was quite good, and I would probably order it again given the chance. However, I am still not sure how I feel about the whole idea of eating horse. Either way betting on them (win or lose), or eating them I do love the ponies, so for today the hero of the day is every Thoroughbred in the United States.

Captain Bligh


We are almost up to date on our hero trek. Today's (December 31st's that is) hero is the smooth looking fellow above, one Anthony Hopkins born December 31st, 1937 in Port Talbot, Wales. Number 130 on our hero list was born the son of a baker, and did have a productive schooling due to his having dyslexia. He was encouraged to go into acting by country man Richard Burton, and has made quite a career of it. He was spotted by Sir Laurence Olivier, and impressed Sir Laurence enough to become his understudy at the Royal National Theatre. He soon grew tired of repeating the same role night after night, and longed to be in films. His first film just happens to be in one of my favourite films of all time "The Lion in Winter" his first film role, in which he plays Richard the Lion Hearted. That role was to propel him to stardom, and quite a few (well known) roles followed. Most people will know him from the role of Hannibal Lecter, the role for which he won an Academy Award (his screen time of 16 minuets being the shortest amount of time on screen for a winner of the Best Actor Award). However, a much earlier role, that of Captain Bligh alongside Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian in "Mutiny on the Bounty" is one of my favourite roles of his. Not a great film, but one that he impressed me with his acting ability. He is renowned for his acting style in which he works on his lines over and over, sometimes repeating them upwards of 200 times before walking on camera to deliver them in an almost casual style. He appeared in numerous other films that people will easily remember him for Remains of the Day, Howard's End, and Legends of the Fall, but he has stated that his favourite role was as Burt Monro in "The World's Fastest Indian" a role that I doubt too many of us have seen. However, for those couple of roles that I actually did see, and was incredibly impressed with, Sir Anthony Hopkins (December 31st, 1937- present), you are my hero of the day (December 31st).