Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I think


The thoughtful fellow above is one Rene Descartes born this day 1596 in Indre-et-Loire, France. The son of a member of the provincial parliament, young Rene graduated from a local Jesuit school, and was sent off to university to obtain his degree. This degree was to satisfy his father's wish, that Rene become a lawyer. Thankfully, fate took a hand, and M. Descartes joined the army to participate in the Thirty Years' War, it was while serving in this war that his destiny was revealed to him. While stationed at Neuburg, Germany, Descartes had three dreams which were to determine the course of his life. Deeply affected by these dreams, and with what he believed they meant, he decided that the study of science would be the path to true wisdom, and thereafter dedicated his life to that study. Thus, the world was saved from having another fucking lawyer foisted upon it, and science gained a pretty fair thinker. After the war, he returned to France, where some shrewd investments made him well off enough to pursuit his dream of studying science. He moved to the Dutch Republic, and enrolled at the University of Leiden to study Mathematics. After that, he became a bit of a vagabond, living in at least 14 different cities over the next 11 years, while writing what would be his major works. On of these works was the "Discourse on the Method" which was one of the first philosophical books I was exposed to while pursuing my own degree, and even though that was many, many moons ago, I still can recall the pleasure of reading Descartes' writing(s). He has been rightfully called the Father of Modern Philosophy, and his thought contains a degree of rationalism that I remain enamoured of all of these years later. He is most remembered for his declaration Cogito, ergo, sum (I think, therefore I am). A lot of the worlds philosophy can be traced to those three little Latin words, and rightfully so. I am on the side of the thinker(s) rather than the doer(s) in this world. Partly because I am a lazy, lazy man, but mostly because I feel that if you are thinking (no matter what about, but try to have a least 10 minuets of deep thought a day), you are being, not just existing. There is a fine line between those two things (at least in my opinion), but the line is there nonetheless. I wish I lived up to that level of thinking daily, but I fear that sometimes I just wool gather. Read some of his writings, and ponder them when you have the chance, it will be well worth your time. He so impressed the Queen of Sweden at the time (a past heroine), that he was asked to move to that cold, dark land and become her personal tutor. He died there on February 11th, 1650, of pneumonia probably because he just was not used to the climate. So, for teaching me that thinking is the first step to being, and showing us the rational way of looking at things, Rene Descartes (March 31st, 1596-February 11th, 1650, at the age of 50), you are my (217th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Big Heart



I know it is a small picture, but that is today's hero out there in the front. His name is Secretariat, and yes I am having an equine hero for two days in a row. Did I mention i loved to play the ponies? Our four footed hero was born this day in Caroline County, Virginia. The son of Bold Ruler (quite a horse in his own right), and Somethingroyal. His owner was decided by a coin toss, and if you wish to read that convoluted story, look it up for yourself. The man that won that coin toss, Christopher Chenery, was one lucky bastard. After 10 attempts to name the horse (10 names were rejected for various reasons), number 11, Secretariat was picked, and is a name that horse player revere to this day. In his first race ever, at Aqueduct Park, he finished fourth after being impeded at the start, it was the only time in 21 races he would ever finish out of the money. He went on to win the Eclipse award for best two year old of the year, and even took a share of horse of the year, which has only happened one other time since. He was a special horse, and it was obvious his was in a league of his own. He finished third in his last prep before the Kentucky Derby, but his performance on that first Saturday in May is still the stuff of legend. On his way to a still-standing track record (1:59 2/5), he ran each quarter-mile segment faster than the one before it. The successive quarter-mile times were: 25 1/5, 24, 23 4/5, 23 2/5, and 23. This means he was still accelerating as of the final quarter-mile of the race. When almost any other mortal horse would be slowing down, and running that last sixteenth of a mile slower, he was speeding up. He then went on to win the Preakness by 5 and a half lengths, and only four horses showed up to challenge him in the last leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes. It was that race that the above picture is taken from. He won by an amazing 31 lengths, and broke the track record by more than two seconds. It has been worked out that if the Beyer Speed figures had existed at the time (horse players know what I am talking about), his score would have been 139! That is fucking amazing, and would have been the highest Beyer score ever. No other horse has ever came within a second of his record for the mile and a half on dirt, and I doubt one ever will. After his death (he was euthanized at the age of 19), it was discovered that his heart weighed 22 pounds. That is the biggest heart ever recorded in a horse, and is probably one of the reasons his was the legend that he is. So, for that big heart, and for setting records that will probably stand forever, Secretariat (March 30, 1970-October 4th, 1989, at the age of 19), you are my (216th), hero of the day

Monday, March 29, 2010

Upset


Ok, so blogger is acting potty, and refuses to upload the image of the hero of the day. I am quite put out about all of this, but the show must go on, as they say. Today's hero is a horse, I never said that all my heroes were going to be human, and anyone that knows me, knows I love to play the ponies. I love betting, I love the horses, and I love betting on the horses. The hero today is one Man o' War foaled this day 1917, in Lexington, Kentucky. Clearly, before my time as a pony player, but if I had been around I might have put 2 bucks on him to win, and win he did. In 21 life time starts Man o' War won 20 times. No a bad record for a horse that was sold at auction for a mere 5,000 quid. During the time he was racing, there were no starting gates, horses would line up behind a flimsy piece of webbing known as a barrier, and were sent off when it was raised. In his only loss, the 1919 Sanford Memorial Stakes, Man o' War was still circling around behind the barrier, and when the barrier went up his back was to the starting line. His jockey then made several riding errors, in order to try and recover from this gaffe, and Man o' War eventually finished second by a half-length to the aptly named Upset. This was to be the only loss of his career, but is not the origin (as many people think) of the term "upset." Man o' War would go on to win the Preakness, and the Belmont, he did not race in the Kentucky Derby because his owner did not want him to, thus depriving racing of a sure Triple Crown winner. The first recognized Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, provided Man o' War his competition in what was his last race. The 1920 Kenilworth Park Gold Cup was a match race between the two, and Man o' War won by a solid seven lengths. He was a super horse make no mistake, and usually ended up carrying far more weight than his competitors, which makes his record even more amazing. He was retired after his 3 year old campaign, and spent the next 27 years at stud, having lots of sex, and living the high life. He was the sire of War Admiral, who won the Triple Crown in 1937, and a host of other fine racers. In Blood Horse Magazine Man o' War ranks number 1 of a list of the top 100 American Thoroughbred Champions. So, for being a super horse, and a super stud for all those years, Man o' War (March 29th, 1917-November 1st, 1947, at the age of 30, of an apparent heart attack), you are my (215th) hero of the day.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hunger

Today's hero is the above fellow, one Knut Hamsun, and today is not his birthday. There was no hero of the day for today, so I figured I would bring out M. Hamsun as a substitute. His actual birthday is August 4th, 1859, and he was born in Lom, Norway. The reason I am trotting him out today is mainly because as of a week ago, I started Weight Watchers. Now, I am a big guy, and I have a big personality, and I have been a tub since I was born. I am used to being a tub, and in someways fat and happy is not a bad way to go through life. However, some work friends, and I decided to give Weight Watchers a try, and even put a small wager on whose fat ass could lose the most weight. Tomorrow is the first weigh in, and I have been hungry all week. I just ate, and I am still hungry. I am not too sure about this plan, but I am willing to give it a shot for more than one week. There is a fine line between being hungry and irritable, and taking joy in depriving yourself of things. I fear that I am still on the irritable side of that line. Now I am sure you are asking what the fuck does any of this have to do with M. Hamsun? Well M. Hamsun wrote a happy, little book titled "Hunger" it was his first novel, and I think his best. It is a semi-autobiographical work about a young writer's descent into near madness from poverty and hunger in pre-1900 Kristiania. Hamsun lived a lot of what he describes in the novel, and hunger was not new to him. He was born into an extremely poor family, and was shipped off, at the age of nine, to an uncle. That uncle used to starve, and beat the young Knut, and at the age of 15, he decided to try his luck in the wide, wide world. He took any job that would pay, and even spent a considerable time in America looking for, and taking any kind of work. He contracted what was thought to be a terminal case of TB while in America, and his friends raised the money to ship him back to Norway. He supposedly took a train, sat on the top of the car with his mouth open taking in huge gulps of fresh air, and declared himself half way cured when he reached New York. Whether it worked or not, he remained TB free for the remainder of his life. "Hunger" is a lovely book, and it supposed to be the inspiration for Kafka's short story "A Hunger Artist" which is also a lovely tale. I am still not convinced that hunger is a good thing. After all, I live in the land of plenty where being obese is a way of life, and portion sizes are gigantic. Which may explain the current bloated size of my waist line. My pants could probably serve, when I am not almost bursting out of them, as a big top for a traveling circus. The problem is that joy does not fall from trees, and I seem to eat for the pure joy it gives me. I need to replace eating joy with some other kind of joy, and am willing to listen to suggestions, but do not try to tell me "if you lose weight you will FEEL better." That is bollocks, I feel fine. My blood pressure is fine, and my cholesterol is fine. At least in "Hunger" the main character is hungry because he is poor. I am not rich, but I can afford to eat what I want to eat, when I want to eat it. Perhaps I should take the money I would spend on feeding my fat face, and donate it to a soup kitchen.Maybe that would put me on the side of angels. Hamsun was no angel, and he had a unsavoury love of the Nazis that would cause him a lot of grief in his later life. He wrote a eulogy for Hitler in which he praised Hitler as a warrior for mankind, and a prophet of justice for all of mankind. That kind of thinking got Hamsun shipped off to a mental ward, which was the only thing that saved him from being tried for treason against Norway. Today, Norway still has a love/hate relationship with Hamsun, and he has been described as a "ghost that won't stay in the grave." However, I tend to overlook his later crimes, and focus on the 31 year old Hamsun, toiling away in relative obscurity, and trying to keep body and soul together (i.e. not starve to death), while writing one of the best novels I have ever read. So, for that novel that is a sort of solace in my own time of Hunger, and for showing me that my hunger is not really hunger, Knut Hamsun (August 4th 1859-February 19th, 1952, at the age of 92), you are my (214th) hero of the day.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

X man


The bearded fellow above is one Wilhelm Rontgen born this day 1845, in Lennep, Prussia. The only son of a cloth merchant and his Dutch wife, young Wilhelm eventually enrolled at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. He graduated from there with a degree in mechanical engineering, and eventually obtain his PhD from the University of Zurich in 1869. A PhD at the age of 25, not sure he was on some sort of accelerated pace or not, but that degree at that age is a pretty neat little accomplishment. After bouncing around a bit, he eventually would up, by special request of the Bavarian government, as the chair in physics at the University of Munich. He had considered emigrating to America, and had even bought the ticket, and accepted a post at Columbia University, but World War I sort of changed his plans, and he remained at the University of Munich for the rest of his career. It was while at Munich that, in 1895, he made the "discovery" that made him famous, and makes him our hero of the day. That discovery, made somewhat on accident, was the discovery of X-rays. The second picture above is an image of the first X-ray ever taken, that of his wife's hand, notice the wedding band, and upon seeing the result she exclaimed "I have seen my death!" Maybe she saw it that way, but for millions of us since the X-ray has been very important in preventing death. Herr Rontgen named the unknown ray he discovered the "X" ray, using the letter that represents an unknown in algebra, and he resisted any attempt to change that name to something honouring him. However, in some countries they are, to this day, known as Rontgen rays. He published his first paper on the new kind of rays 50 days later, and subsequently wrote a total of three papers on them. For this discovery, which was not as accidental as people have been led to believe (it was an accident of timing, he was on the right road, and would have made the discovery sooner or later), he was awarded the first ever Nobel Prize in physics in 1901. He died on February 10, 1923 of cancer of the intestine, but it seems that his work with his fancy new type of rays was not the cause of his death. He was one of the few early researchers in the field to use lead protective shields. So, for discovering a way for doctors to get a good peek at our skeletons, and other vital parts without having to cut us open like an overripe watermelon, Wilhelm Rontgen (March 27th,1845-February 10th, 1923, at the age of 77), you are my (213th) hero of the day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Shropshire Lad

The thoughtful looking fellow above is one Alfred Edward Housman born this day 1859 in Bromsgrove, England. He was born the eldest of seven children to a country solicitor, and eventually made his way to St. John's College, Oxford where he studied classics. It was this classical education that was to lead to him being considered one of the greatest private scholars England ever produced. It was while at Oxford that he met the love of his life, a fellow by the name of Moses Jackson. Sadly for Housman, Mr. Jackson was hetero, and did do reciprocate his feelings. A couple of his poems are clearly written with Jackson in mind, and they are just as lovely as the rest of his works. The following poem is written with Jackson in mind, and it detailed Housman burying his love for Jackson.


Because I liked you better
Than suits a man to say
It irked you, and I promised
To throw the thought away.
To put the world between us
We parted, stiff and dry;
Goodbye, said you, forget me.
I will, no fear, said I
If here, where clover whitens
The dead man's knoll, you pass,
And no tall flower to meet you
Starts in the trefoiled grass,
Halt by the headstone naming
The heart no longer stirred,
And say the lad that loved you
Was one that kept his word
Good stuff that, and his cycle of 63 poems, entitled A Shropshire Lad contain some of his best works, and some of the best poems of the period. Read some of his works, and marvel at the depth of his scholarship, and the brilliance of his verse. I do. I will leave you with another one of his poems which I have always loved.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
"Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free."
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
"The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue."
And I am two-and-twenty
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.
So for such lovely verses as the ones above (and a great deal more), A.E. Housman (March 26th, 1859-April 30th 1936, at the age of 77), you are my (212th) hero of the day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mastery

Today's hero is a blast from the past in more ways than one, his name is Arnold John Percival Taylor, commonly known as A.J.P. Taylor, and his claim to fame is being one of the most intellectually gifted historians that I have ever been forced to, err had the pleasure of reading. The so a historian as a blast from the past, and the fact that in my previous life as a history graduate student (an abject failure I was), his "The Struggle for Mastery in Europe" was the first book I was assigned to read. I should have known from the start that perhaps a career in law was a better option, because Mr. Taylor's scholarship, and writing style sailed so far over my head that I was shocked at my own lack of learning. The "presentation" that I had to provide for my classmates on my reading of the book was rather disastrous. I figure you are bright enough to click your own way over to his website, and read all the details of his life, and also I am feeling quite lazy today. I will say that if you feel brave, and attempt to read any of Mr. Taylor's works prepare for a long haul. He will tell a story in the most complicated way possible, and he will drop names and use words that he ASSUMES you already know. The problem is that usually you don't know the names he is dropping, and therefore you feel a bit abashed when you have to Google the name to find out who in the blue fuck Taylor is talking about. It makes reading one of his books take about 3 times longer than normal. However, if you can keep up (which is tough) it is a worthwhile endeavour. Taylor is an awesome writer, and a extremely smart man, and you will learn something in virtually every paragraph. Whether that is from your own lack of education or his over abundance of it, is not really important, you still learn. He is even credited (though it is disputed) with coining the term "The Establishment" when referring to the British elite class. Taylor was a populist type of historian, and was vehemently opposed to the "Great Men" of history theory. He was famous for making statements that ridiculed, or pointed out the flaws of leaders. He once wrote of Metternich's political philosophies that, "most men could do better while shaving." He was determined to bring history to the common man, and many numerous appearances on TV in order to make that happen. His literary style was probably a bit much for the common man, but at least it was magnificent. So, for writing the book that whipped my entire ass as a budding historian, and is probably why I am a lawyer today, A.J.P. Taylor (March 25th, 1906-September 7th, 1990, at the age of 84) you are my (211th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chapters

Do you read? Do you read something other than the U S Today, or the occasional Spider-Man comic? If so, when you read, do you read to the end of a chapter in your book before you stop for the day or night? Or does your stopping point, providing you are not forced to stop by some outside event, depend on what it is you are reading. Can you zip through to the end of each breath taking chapter of Zola's "The Masterpiece," but Chandler's "The Campaigns of Napoleon" slow you down to just getting 5 or 10 pages done at a time? Is it material based whether or not you read to the end of the chapter, or are you a plugger? Someone that has to, out of some sense of obligation to the author, finish the chapter. Or is it that you just do not have a decent bookmark handy, and if you get to the end of the chapter you can remember the next chapter number? I am currently reading a lovely book titled "Beware of Pity" by Stefan Zweig, a previous hero, and an outstanding writer. However, this book poses a dilemma to the above question(s), it has NO chapters. It has a short introduction, and then is a 360 page story (a lovely story so far, I might add), but there is no chapters. The same can be said of Sir Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series. Sir Terry can not be arsed to write chapters either, and why should he? It is his book, and if he wants to do without them then fine, that it is right, that is his privilege as the author. However, I, as the reader, have rights and privileges as well. The first one is, of course, whether or not to read the book at all. The second is to read it in my own time, and that is the important part. I read in MY own time, and I do not let the author push me around by telling me "hey here is the end of a chapter, now would be a fine time to stop." Bollocks to that, I will stop reading when I want to stop reading, and besides half of the time, chapters end in some sort of cliff hangar like plot device, so you do not want to stop at that chapter anyway. Read until you are tired, or read until you pass out, or read until you feel like you can not comprehend anymore, but certainly do not allow the author to hold your time hostage to his or her whim. I have been told that, since I do read chapters, I am both a bit of a snob (I can not deny this), and/or a person who is so stubborn, and hardheaded that he will not be told what to do even by some (in some cases) long dead writer (I can try, but I can not effectively deny this accusation either). To both of those charges I have to plead "guilty as charged." The scary part of this is that I have took a bit of a poll amongst my co-workers and friends, and the majority of them read to the end of the chapter. The one that does not is a bit goofy, and it is a little disconcerting that he and I share similar reading patterns. Either way read how you want it is your mind, do not let it be stripped away without your permission. I can only hope that I was able to hold my vast readership's attention long enough so that they could get to the end of this post. After all, there are no chapters.

Mr Cool


The cool looking fellow above is one Terrence Steven "Steve" McQueen born this day 1930 in Beech Grove, Indiana. He had a rough childhood with a bastard of a step-father would beat his ass on a few occasions, and this lead to his eventually winding up at a "reform" school for boys. After a few bad steps he got his shit together at this school (called Boys Republic), and after he became famous, he would go back to the place and give lectures. That's how fucking cool Steve McQueen was. He eventually joined the Marine Corp in 1947, and at first reverted back to his rebellious ways, but a trip to the brig for 41 days, and being busted down to private seven different times, forced him to rethink his life, and he eventually became a model Marine. He was honourable discharged in 1950, and used the money from the G.I. bill to take up the study of acting, so Uncle Sam in a way funded one of the best actors the American screen has ever seen. The first film that lands him on the hero podium, is 1963's "The Great Escape" (from which the picture above is taken). A gritty war drama which he plays an American POW that is always being sent to the "cooler" for failed escape attempts. He did a lot of his own stunts in the film, and at one point near the end of the film he is, through the magic of editing, trying to escape on one motorcycle as his character, and chasing himself on another motorcycle dressed as a German solider. Then in 1966 came "The Sand Pebbles" another awesome film, and his role is fantastic. 1968 saw him in "Bullitt" with its famous car chase scene, and he was pretty much the biggest star in Hollywood after that. He liked to drive fast and take chances, and considered becoming a professional race car driver at one point. He was famous for asking for products in bulk while filming a movie, items such as razor and blue jeans, it was eventually found out that he would take the products, and donate them to Boys Republic, the school that "reformed" him as a child, that was how fucking cool Steve McQueen was. He remains a symbol of the rebellious, anti-hero, and is the King of Cool. His role in "The Cincinnati Kid" is a perfect example of how fucking cool Steve McQueen was, and is to this day. His death at the age of 50, was a great blow to American cinema, but cool dudes should not live to be 80, Steve McQueen was too fucking cool to live to a ripe old age. So, for being the King of Cool, and showing us that a little rebellion can go a long way, Steve McQueen (March 24, 1930- November 7th, 1980, of cancer), you are my (210th) hero of the day.


P.S. I am mortified that I forgot to mention McQueen's role in 1973's Papillon with Dustin Hoffman, go WATCH it NOW! It is one of the best movies I have ever seen (about 9 times), and his performance is outstanding. That is how fucking cool Steve McQueen was, he could play a Frenchman with a nickname of butterfly, and make you feel like he was the biggest, baddest, motherfucker on the planet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mad Films


The fellow above is one Akira Kurosawa born this day 1910, in Tokyo, Japan. I am pretty sure he is the first hero to represent the Far East on this list, which I am not sure is something I should be writing down. However, he is a more than worthy hero for the day, no matter where he called home. His father was a director of a junior high school, and embraced Western culture, and was well off enough to send young Akira to "better" schools. He began his film career as a benshi (a person who provided live narration to silent films), but, in 1936, enrolled in a director's apprentice program. From there the sky was the limit, and the sky he reached upon several occasions. He made several films before 1950's "Rashomon" won him the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the film can be considered one of the first, if not the first, to introduce Japanese cinema to the West. He was known by the nickname Tenno, meaning Emperor for his dictatorial approach to his films. He was a renown perfectionist, that ordered a roof taken off a house because it was "too ugly" to be seen in one shot from a passing train. He knew what he wanted, and by damn he made it happen, for a scene in Rashomon the rain (provided by fire trucks) was not showing up well enough on film to suit him, so he had it dyed with ink in order to achieve the effect of heavy rain. I am sure the actors getting pissed upon by dyed rain were fucking thrilled. He was such a perfectionist that he would edit his own film after shooting, spending hours after the school in the cutting room. I like that, I am a bit of a perfectionist myself (not when it comes to grammar obviously), and if you want me to make a film, then stand where I want you to, say what I tell you too, and do as I say. If you do not like that then piss off, I will find someone who needs the work more. He once demanded a stream be forced to run the wrong way because he did not like the shot he got with it flowing the right direction. Talk about having some guts, demanding that water flow the way he wanted took some guts. His influence can not be underestimated AMC is showing his films all month in celebration of his 100th birthday. He has influenced such directors as Francis Ford Coppola, Sam Peckinpah, George Lucas, Werner Herzog, and Martin Scorsese amongst a host of others. See "The Seven Samuri" a classic film that is one of the best I have laid eyes upon, or "Throne of Blood" with its final scene where the main character had REAL arrows shot at him by expert archers that came with centimeters of his body. That is probably real fear on the actor's face during that scene. So for making "mad" films that are timeless, and serve as an example of how to do it right and his way, Akira Kurosawa (March 23th, 1910-September 6th, 1988, at the age of 88), you are my (209th) hero of the day.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hogan!


The monocled fellow above is one Werner Klemperer born this day 1920, in Cologone, Germany. The outfit above is from his most famous role of Colonel Klink in the series Hogan's Heroes. He was the son of a famous conducted, Otto Klemperer, and young Werner was musically talented as well, being a accomplish violinist and concert pianist. His family was Jewish, and had to flee the Nazis in 1935, which is fairly ironic (in the American sense) since his most famous role was playing a German POW commandant. He also played the role of a Nazi judge in "Judgment at Nuremberg." I guess having a bit of a German accent helped, and any work is good work in the acting business. He agreed to play the bumbling Colonel Klink on the condition that he would be a fool that never succeeded, and he played it to perfection. Klink was known for being gullible, and for his horrible violin playing (mocking Klemperer's own gift on the instrument). For the role that puts him on the hero podium, he was nominated for six Emmys, and won twice. After "Heroes" he went on to a fairly decent career on stage, and a few guest spots on TV, even recording a few studio tracks of his violin playing. But, for playing the bumbling Colonel Klink to absolute perfection, Werner Klemperer (March 22nd, 1920-December 6th, 2000, at the age of 80), you are my (208th) hero of the day.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Heat

The smug looking fellow above is one Joseph Fourier born this day 1768, in Auxerre, France. I have to admit that before today, I knew fuck all about M. Fourier, but sometimes research pays off, and a hero emerges from the mists of time to take their place in the hero parade. Today was looking a bit grim in the hero list, and I had to do a lot of reading, and hoping that someone, ANYONE would show up, and take the hero mantle. He was born the son of a tailor, but was orphaned at the age of ten. His education was provided for by a recommendation of the Bishop of Auxerre, and he put it to good use. He managed to get himself attached to Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, and was eventually made governor of Lower Egypt. Of course, that little expedition did not go exactly as planned, and Fourier was shipped back to France by the victorious British. Upon his return, he became prefect of a department of France, and begin to make the discoveries that would make him famous. That research had something to do with the transfer of heat between two bodies, and I must confess that much of it is a bit like Greek to me, but people smarter than me have labeled his results as "Fourier's Law." I do know enough to know that you do not get "laws" with your name attached to them by being a dullard. I do have a slightly firmer grasp on his other "claim to fame." He is generally regarded as "discovering" the Greenhouse Gas Effect. That gases in the atmosphere might increase the surface temperature of the Earth. This he sorted out in 1824! All the literature that is spewing forth, both for and against this idea can be traced back to his experiments, and his papers on the subject. Not bad for an orphan that started as the son of a tailor. He was convinced that heat was essential for a healthy body, and advocated keeping yourself wrapped in blankets. He died after tripping, and falling down a flight of stairs, let's hope for his sake that he did not trip over a blanket. But, for making those observations that now bear his name, and showing the world that an poor orphan can make good, Joseph Fourier (March 21st, 1768-May 16th, 1830, at the age of 62), you are my (207th) hero of the day.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Neighbor


The kind, smiling fellow above is one Fred Rogers born this day 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He is known to millions of people of a certain (my) age as the gentle spirited host of "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood," which aired from 1968 to 2001 on PBS (mostly). The show was a semi-staple of my childhood. Of course, looking back it is corny as hell but at the time it was like a nice, warm blanket. Evil did not exist in Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Each of the 895 episodes started the same way with Mr. Rogers singing a lovely tune, changing into his trademark sneakers, and cardigan sweater. There was a life lesson in each program, and each one also included a trip to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where King Friday XIII held sway. The show was simple in the extreme, no fancy animations, or other bells and whistles that most programs rely on today to hold children's attention. Mr. Rogers composed all the music for the show himself, and was apparently a truly nice man who loved children, and not in any sort of Catholic priest way. He was an ordained minister who was specifically charged by his church to continue making his show because it was such a good way of teaching children the lessons of life. He only ever appeared on TV one time as someone other than himself, as a traveling preaching in "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," and never was a pitchman for any product. Though, he did lend his image to several non-profit, educational groups. He continued making his own, special brand of TV until his death from stomach cancer in 2002. The wasteland that is TV is a poorer place for his loss. Despite the Eddie Murphy caricature of him, Fred Rogers was a damn fine, gentle, soul that helped make the world a better place for a lot of people. It is a bit of gold from a time that has since long passed (i.e. my childhood, and the few moments of innocence I ever possessed). So, for making a show that clearly showed us the line between reality and fantasy, and for letting us into his safe neighborhood, Fred Rogers (March 20th, 1928-February 27th, 2003, at the age of 74), you are my (206th) hero of the day.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Honey


Again I take the tomato route. The lovely lady above is one Ursula Andress born this day 1936, in Bern, Switzerland. The picture above is of her in one of her most famous roles, that of Honey Ryder in 1962's "Dr. No" the first James Bond movie. Apparently in the book, Miss Ryder comes out of the surf wearing ONLY the knife (look closely she has a knife), but that was just a bit too risque for 1960's movie goers, and the bikini (which she fills out so admirably) was added to avoid shocking the audience. Her entrance in the bikini has become a defining Bond moment, and the bikini she is wearing was sold at auction in 2001 for thirty-five thousand quid (i.e. pounds). She became THE Bond girl, and her entrance has been voted the number 1 in a poll of Greatest Sexy Moments by a UK TV station. Her performance in "Dr. No" won her a Golden Globe, and she has had a long acting career since then, but sometimes hero(ines) are made in a moment. A flash of utter brilliance, or in this case smoking hotness (is that a word, it is now). However, she is not just a pretty face, she is fluent in four languages. The sad part of this story is that I would have SWORN she was Swedish, and was quite shocked to see that she was Swiss, so it seems this hero of the day stuff can still teach me somethings as well. No matter, Swedish, Swiss, or Red Chinese she is one fine looking woman, and for today Ursula Andress (March 19th, 1936-present), you are my (205th) hero(ine) of the day.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Trucking


The fellow above is one Rudolf Diesel born this day 1858, Paris, France. The son of German immigrants, his father was a bookbinder, and his mother was the son of a leather goods merchant. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war forced his family to emigrate first to London, then back to the fatherland. After finishing his primary education at the top of his class, he decided he wanted to be a engineer. He eventually wound up graduating at the top of his class from an engineering school, and became the director of an ice plant in France. Of course, his claim to fame is the engine that bears his name. Improving upon the earlier types of engines that were only about 10% effective, he made the right adjustments to improve that, and a hero was born. His death had quite the aura of mystery about it, and is still debated till this day. In the September 1913, Diesel boarded the post office steamer Dresden in Antwerp on his way to a meeting of the Consolidated Diesel Manufacturing company in England. He took dinner on board the ship and then retired to his cabin at about 10 p.m., leaving word for him to be called the next morning at 6:15 a.m. He was never seen alive again. Ten days later, the crew of the Dutch boat "Coertsen" came upon the corpse of a man floating in the sea. The body was in such an advanced state of decomposition that they did not bring it aboard. Instead, the crew retrieved personal items (pill case, wallet, pocket knife, eyeglass case) from the clothing of the dead man, and returned the body to the sea. On 13 October these items were identified by Rudolf's son, Eugen Diesel, as belonging to his father. There are theories that he was "offed" by competitors, but more likely it was suicide. Either way, he had made his contribution to society. I have a relative that has spent a lifetime driving a truck with M. Diesel's engines in them, and I am sure he is grateful for it. So, for designing an engine that has become the backbone of the trucking industry, Rudolf Diesel (March 18th, 1858-September 29th, 1913, at the age of 55) you are my (204th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Does Northern Count

Today is St. Patrick's Day, big whoop as far as I am concerned, but a lot of people are suddenly wearing the green, and Irish. If they only knew. I can not say that I am a big fan of the Emerald Isle or its inhabitants, but it seems a lot of people are. I did manage to find an Irish hero, well sort of he is Northern Irish, and that will have to be enough. His name is Patrick James Rice born this day 1949, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His claim on the hero podium is quite simple, it is for the 379 times he donned an Arsenal jersey and the 12 goals he scored while playing right back for the (my) club. He was the first choice right back for the club for the decade of the 1970's, and played every game they had for 3 different seasons. Including the youth and reserve team games Rice played 528 games for the club. Not bad for the son of an bloody Irish son of a greengrocer. After leaving Arsenal, he went to play over a hundred games for Watford. He became a youth coach for Arsenal in 1984, and remained in that position for 12 years. leading the team to two FA Youth Cup titles. He has been Arsene Wegner's number two since the day that Wegner took over at Arsenal, and has done a fine job. So, before any Irish cunts make an issue of it, I know enough Irish history to know that a Northern Irishman does not count. The orange do not wear the green. However, for those 500 odd games for the Arsenal, and for being a damn fine coach James Patrick Rice (March 17th 1949-present), you are my (203rd) hero of the day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Old Bailey


The fellow above is one Reginald "Leo" McKern born this day 1920, in Sydney, Australia. Leo made his first stage appearance in 1944, and never looked backed. He played a lot of roles, a "number two" in the famous British TV series "The Prisoner", and a role as Thomas Cromwell in "The Man for All Season." However, his most famous role was as Horace Rumpole of the Bailey, from his first appearance in 1975 until 1992. Only seven total seasons of the series were shot, a mere forty-four episodes, but they were, and remain lovely TV. Not like the dreck you see on TV today, but famous roles sometimes come at a price. McKern was always concerned (quite rightly) that he would be forever known as Rumpole. He even commented his obit would read "known to millions as Rumpole." I have not read an obit of him, and I do really want to (it would be too sad), but I figure there is a high probability that somewhere in one of them that line appears. However, never one to follow a crowd, I put Leo on the podium for his role in the PBS series "Reilly: Ace of Spies." He played (brilliantly) the role of Basil Zaharoff in that series, and did a wonderful job with a role that was not that big. There are no small parts, only small actors. It seems that Leo suffered from stage fright that got worse as he got older, taken that into consideration his performances in his later years are even more remarkable to perform whilst scared shitless, and have no one notice is quite a feat. So, for those two major roles, one of which most of us remember him by, and one of which I remember him by Leo McKern (March 16th, 1920-July 23rd, 2002, at the age of 82), you are my (202nd) hero of the day. Happy birthday, you Aussie prick!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pumpkin King


The painfully thin, forlorn looking fellow above is one Jack Skellington, a.k.a. the Pumpkin King from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." I am pretty sure his birthday is somewhere around Halloween, but since the real world decided not to produce a hero for us today, Jack will have to step into the breach. As long as it is a tall, thin breach, he should be able to fill it nicely. The Pumpkin King is he, and the Pumpkin King he remains for all of us who have ever watched the film (some of us about 6 times). Stop motion is a lovely thing, and say what you will about Mr. Burton, but he has been very protective of Jack. Disney tried to do a sequel using computer animation, but Mr. Burton said no. Pretty sure it would have made him quite a bit of money, but keeping the image of Jack in Stop Motion was more important. Our boy Jack has remained a popular character, and was listed as the number 25 hero of all time in the Disney universe. Not bad for a skeleton that can be, at time, quite scary. His misguided attempt to "give Santa the night off" and run Christmas are the basis of the film, and you can see that there is no real malice in Jack, just a misguided idea that headless dolls are not exactly what little Jane wants for Christmas. All is well in the end, and Jack even helps save Santa from the Oogie Boogie man. So, for his attempt to liven up Christmas with a little Halloween spirit, and saving Santa Claus from the evil clutches that he was sort of responsible for, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, (1993-present), you are my (201nd) hero of the day. Happy Birthday you bag of bones!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pi day


The smug looking fellow above is, of course, one Albert Einstein, born this day 1879, in Ulm, Germany. Since today is 3-14, and is Pi day, I thought Albert would make a good (second) hero of the day, and since the next hero I was going to blog about was going to be number 200, why not chose a man that was voted Time magazine's Person of the Century. After all, 200 is a milestone, at least for me, and we needed a larger than life hero to celebrate it. Herr Einstein certainly fits that bill to a "T." He was born the son of a saleman/engineer who would go on to found a company that was based upon the promotion of direct current. Papa Einstein and his brood were non-observant Jews, and little Albert when to a Catholic school from the ages of 5 to 10. In 1894, his father's business failed as direct current lost the "war of currents" to alternating currents, and the family moved to Italy. There are at least two 800 page biographies of Einstein that are supposed to be fine books. I must confess to having not read either of them. They are on my, ever expanding, to read list, and I am sure if you really wanted to you could read them before me (considering my to read list is about 14 books long at the moment). If you manage to make it through those books, I am sure you will know all the reasons that Herr Einstein makes it onto the hero list, and why he is reserved for the number 200. I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV or in real life, so the majority of his works sail over my head by a good distance. I do know that any man's name that becomes synonymous with the word genius, must have been pretty damn smart. That genius got him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, along with a host of other awards throughout his lifetime. His Theory of Relativity is probably what is he most known for, and I could not explain it if I wanted to. Sort it out for yourself, and then come explain it to me, but I am warning you, you better bring beer when you try. He had his detractors, and made his mistakes, but who the hell does not? And I figure a mistake by Einstein is better than the majority of us could do on our best day. So for all those numerous contributions to science, and for being a pretty damn decent human being in the process Albert Einstein (March 14th, 1879-April 18th 1955, at the age of 76, of abdominal aortic aneurysm), you are my (200th) hero of the day. Happy birthday you fucking genius!

Mr. Grim


The fellow above is one Maurice Joseph Mickelwhite, known to the acting world as Michael Caine, born this day 1933 in London, England. The son of a char lady and a part Roma fish market porter, young Michael grew up in WW II London, but was evacuated, to escape the Blitz, to Norfolk. After graduating grammar school, he worked as a clerk and a runner for a film company until he was called up for his National Service from 1952 to 1954, during which time he saw active service in Korea. When he first became an actor he adopted the stage named Michael Scott, but was told that another actor had that name already, and he needed to pick a new one post haste. He was on the phone with his agent when told this, and he tells the story that he looked out of the booth and saw that "The Caine Muinty" was playing at the Odeon Cinema. Thus, Michael Caine was born, he tells the joke that if he had looked the other way he would have been named Michael One Hundred and One Dalmatians. He began acting in the early 1960s after answering an advert for an assistant stage manager at a theatre in Sussex. His first "big" role was as Gonville Bromhead in 1964's "Zulu", it is a lovely film, and a lovely role, and I have seen it numerous times. He went on to one of his more famous roles in 1966's Alfie, a much better performance that an unnamed fellow gave in the remake. Watch the original, and appreciate that Cockney accent that is one of his trademarks, and what helped him stand out to American audiences. He made numerous films since then, and some of them were quite horrid. He commented about one major failure saying that he had never seen the entire film, but heard it was quite horrible, but he had also seen the house it built, and it was quite lovely. I guess actors taking roles solely for the money is something that we just have to accept, after all, a man's got to eat. One of the roles that I love him in, and gets him up onto the hero podium today is as Scrooge in "The Muppet's, A Christmas Carol" an awesome film, and he does an excellent job playing the grim Scrooge, evening singing a song or two, quite well I might add. He has the habit of being able to quote odd facts from the Guinness book of World Records at the drop of a hat, and usually would end his tidbit with the line "not many people know that." That line has become a bit of a trademark of his, and he even wrote a book with that title. Unlike most actors, he still uses his real name Micklewhite in his everyday dealings, leaving the stage name for the stage. So, for all those lovely roles (and even for the bad films), Maurice Joseph Mickelwhite (March 14th, 1933- present), you are my (199th) hero of the day. Happy Birthday you Cockney bastard!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wolf Man

The fellow above is one Hugo Wolf born this day 1860 in Windischgratz, Slovenia. He was a child prodigy learning the piano and the violin by the age of four. However, young Hugo had a bit of a rebellious streak in him, and he was booted out of more than one school or conservatory due to his temper. After being expelled from the Vienna conservatory he begin to teach pupils music. It was that rebellious streak that had his father despairing of Hugo ever amounting to anything. Luckily papa Wolf was wrong, Hugo managed to get it together enough to compose hundreds of art songs known as Lieder. Although he did have to live the life of a starving artist, while he was composing this lovely music for the world. He did have a few patrons, one of which had a lovely wife named Melanie Kocherts with whom Hugo carried on a torrid affair. Walking a thin line there banging the old lady of the one guy that is keeping you off the dole, but Hugo and Fra Kocherts pulled it off with aplomb. None of their close friends or associates had any clue of the simmering love affairs they were carried on right under their noses. Great parts of this affair was carried on by each of them posting coded messages in a Vienna newspaper that allowed them to communicate with each other, and to plan their little trysts. He was eight years her junior, a small little man, who, by accounts, looked liked a small child with a glued on mustache (his beard was sparse because of his habit of plucking the hairs from it when he was nervous). Eventually Herr Kocherts caught on to the fact that his "music man" was playing more than just the violin, but the affair continued until Hugo's death of syphilis in 1903. The decline he suffered was quick horrid to read about his mind started to go as an result of the disease, he lost his ability to make music, and once tried to drown himself in a river. He eventually was placed in a Viennese asylum at his own request. Fra Kocherts met with a bad end as well, she visited Hugo until his death, and still tormented by her unfaithfulness to her husband, she committed suicide in 1906. So for living life in the pursuit of his muse, and for composing some lovely songs that are quite fun to listen to till this day, Hugo Wolf (March 13th, 1860-February 22nd 1903 at the age of 42), you are my (198th) hero of the day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Garden


Today's hero is the fellow responsible for the lovely little garden above. His name is Andre Le Notre, and he was born this day 1613 in Paris, France. Andre was born into a family of gardeners, which is appropriate considering the work above. In case you do not recognize it, it is the gardens at the Palace of Versailles. If you have the means, I would highly recommend seeing them in person, as a picture just does not do them justice. No wonder old Louis XIV had such a big ego. Staggering out of bed, throwing open the window, and looking out on stuff like what is in the picture above would give me a "I rule the fucking world" complex as well. Andre's father was the head gardener at the Tuileries, and it was from him that Andre got his education in planning breath taking scenes like the one in the above picture. There is little mention of Le Notre in the royal accounts, and he seldom wrote down his ideas. Rather his ideas were expressed in his garden designs. No need for sketches, or blueprints, just go to the garden and see his genius writ large. So coming from a man who has, at one time, declared "nothing green can stay" his status as a hero is a bit surprising. I guess given enough room, money, and ideas nature can be forced to be beautiful, orderly, and not as deadly as my particular patch of it is. So, from a self-confessed nature hater who still can appreciate beauty, Andre Le Notre (March 12th, 1613-September 15th, 1700, at the age of 87) you are my (197th) hero of the day.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Bandit


The handsome fellow above is one Burt Reynolds born February 11th, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan. I know I am a month late, but Burt is as good a hero as you want to have, and today was hero light again. A bit of a military brat, Burt started off in Lansing, but did most of his growing up near West Palm Beach, Florida. His first ambition in life was to be a football player, and he was a star at first. He eventually attended Florida State University on a football scholarship, but a knee injury and a car accident ended his hopes of playing professional football. He continued his studies with the hope of becoming either a police officer, like his father, or a parole officer, but soon fell into an acting class. He bounced around a bit, like most starving actors, until in 1972 he got the role that made him a star. That role was in a little movie called Deliverance (from which the above photo is taken), and it made Burt a household name, for much better reasons that it made Ned Beatty famous. He has made a lot of films, and been on a lot of TV, but the films that make him my hero are "The Longest Yard," and "Smokey and the Bandit." Two films that made him an icon of the 70's, and Burt lived large during this time. He posed nude for Cosmo magazine, and spent a lot of money, had a lot of affairs, and lost most of his hair. He has been in more than his share of stinkers, but keeps making comeback after comeback. Most of these comebacks are fueled by the fact that he made, and spent a shit ton of money. His divorce from Loni Anderson, made him headlines for the wrong reason, and cost him millions. His career was pretty much dead when he appeared in "Striptease" with Demi Moore, but his role in that stinker was highly praised. His next role, in "Boogie Nights" gained him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He is still churning out films to this day, but he will forever be the Bandit to me. The cheesy mustache, the funny laugh, and the self-deprecating sense of humour are what puts him on the hero podium today. So, for all those qualities that some many of us lesser men would love to have, Burt Reynolds (February 11th, 1936-present) you are my stand in (196th), hero of the day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cup o' Joe


It is a little light on the hero front today, but since we all (or at least a lot of us) have to start out our day with a cup of the above nectar of the gods (i.e. coffee) today's hero is one Alfred Peet born this day 1920 in Alkmaar, Netherlands. His father ran a small coffee roastery before WWII, and it is in this field that M. Peet acquires hero status. He immigrated to San Franciso, and was soon dismayed by the poor quality of American coffee, he introduced custom roasting to American. He has been called "the Dutchman that taught Americans how to drink coffee." He started his own company for selling coffee, and taught those bastards that started Starbucks how to custom roast coffee as well. So they could then get us all hooked on 7 dollar cups of the stuff. So for teaching how to drink coffee, and then fleecing us blind for the good shit, Alfred Peet (March 10th, 1920-August 29th, 2007, at the age of 87), you are my (195th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

In Like a Lion

There is a saying that March comes in like a lion, and leaves like a lamb. Well, I am not so sure about that. March has been pretty lamb like in the hero department so far, and I am just too tired, or too lazy to go out and find a substitute hero for today. It is a lot of work keeping this horrible idea of mine going day in and day out, and when I troll through the list, and see a hero-less day shaping up, it just plain depresses me. The idea that I have to write something, anything is beginning to wear on me just a bit. After all, I do have a "real" job, and I even have to do it once in a while. I know I am not a Hemingway, or a Kafka waiting to happen, and that the amount of work I put it to this blog is pretty minuscule in the grand scheme of things, but did I mention I am lazy? The fact that I am so incredibly lazy should be taken into account when you read these posts. They might be dry as dust, or written with the grammar of a five year old, but at least they are written. Every damn day, by me, and nobody else but me. Not that I deserve some prize, but just keep in mind I am lazy, and not that bright. These heroes or heroines do not just drop down out of the sky you know. I hope that they have not slipped into mindless drudgery, and that tomorrow as Scarlet O'Hara says "is a better day." Until then we shall have to do as Alexander Dumas tells us "wait and hope." All of this is to say that for today, March 9th, there is no hero of the day.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Today is, in some countries, though not my country, International Woman's Day. A day that has it roots in socialism (as the picture above clearly shows), which is probably why it is not celebrated in my capitalistic country. A day that good, old, V. I. Lenin made a holiday in the USSR in 1917. It is a day to celebrate working women (though I think that idea has evolved a bit to include all women). So, let's celebrate women. Let's pause to remember, and celebrate all the women that are in our lives. The women who gave us life, the women who keep us alive (i.e. doctors, nurses and the like), the women who have been in our lives, for good or bad. The "Rosie the Riveter", the courtesans that willingly warmed a lot of our beds. The Mother Thereseas of the world, that selflessly give of themselves so that the world can and will be a better place. The Queens, and Crown Princesses that a lot of us admire, and a few of us would like to emulate. Even the uncrowned ones. A Queen does not have to rule a country, other things can be ruled as well. Let us celebrate the sisters that some of us have, the wives that some of have, the girlfriends that most of strive to have, the mothers that we all have. Sadly, it has been taken a bit too far by some women who use it as a kind of "man-hating" day. That is not what it should be about, feminism is all well and good, but should be moderate like most things. Of course, it is not overly fair that there is also an International Men's Day (November 19th, send gifts) that my country DOES recognize, but I suppose life is just not fair sometimes. I also figure it does not take your country recognizing the day in order for you to celebrate it. So, for having to put up with all of my, and the other brutes of my gender, women everywhere from Austria to Zambia, whoever and whatever they may be are my (194th), hero(ine) of the day.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Excellent!


The scrawny fellow above is one C. Montgomery Burns, and I am not sure when his actual birthday is, but since today is lacking in the "real" hero category Mr. Burns steps up to the hero podium. He is not the most cuddly, or well intentioned hero, but if you watch the Simpson's as much as I do, you will begin to appreciate Monty as a character. He is corporate greed personified, and spends a great deal of his time in his office "checking" on his employees via close circuit TV. The character was principally based upon Norwegian Fredrick Olsen, a reclusive shipping magnate and the owner of Timex. His body is based upon a praying mantis, and Monty is one evil dude. He has been described as pure evil, and the actor that does his voice, Harry Shearer, has called Burns his favourite character because of that trait. I guess if you are going to be evil you should be as evil as possible, strive to be the best in everything that you do, even if what you do is to try and crush the world. Monty is one rich fellow, his net worth has been calculated at $996 million, not bad for a man who is at least a hundred years old. His social security number has been given as 000-00-0002 (damn you Roosevelt). His trademark phrase is to tent his hands in front of him and mutter "excellent" in a low, sinister voice. He likes to "release the hounds" on unwanted (which is pretty much everyone) visitors to his palatial estate. That estate includes some really interesting objects, such as a model train that takes 3 hours and 47 minutes to complete its journey, and comes back with snow on it, a theatre that shows plays 24 hours a day, regardless if there is an audience or not, and a human chess board. These are just a few of the trapping of wealth that Monty has, and liked to use in order to do whatever he wants, when he wants to do it. He has been voted the 45th greatest villain of all time, not bad since he isn't "real." One of my favourite quotes of his is when his assistant Smithers asks for time off to produce a play in New Mexico, Burns responds with "hold on chief, there is a NEW Mexico." That quote shows how out of date his world view is, he still refers to Siam, and to the Belgian Congo. His driver's license expired in 1909, and he writes with a quill pen. However, despite of all these evils tendencies, he is one cool character, and it is for all of his quirks that C. Montgomery Burns (March 7th over a hundred years ago-present), you are my (193rd) hero of the day.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

How do I love Thee


The lovely lady above is one Elizabeth Barrett Browning born this day 1806 in Durham, England. She was born the eldest of 12 children, and her family had made their money owning sugar plantations in Jamaica. Her father decided to raise the family in England while his fortune continued to grow abroad. Elizabeth was educated at home, taking lessons from her brother's tutors. It was a good education for a girl at the time, and her first poem was written at about the age of six. It is for her poems that I declare her worthy of the hero(ine) podium for today. At the age of 20 she began her lifelong battle with an illness that the medicos at the time where unable to diagnose. This illness was to cause her to become addicted to morphine, and as a result most of her poems were written at home. Financial reverses caused her to move about a bit during the 1820's, and her doctor advised her to move to Torquay for her health, but while there her brother drowned in a sailing accident, stricken with grief, she returned to her family's home. Her book of Poems released in 1844, made her one of the most popular writers of the time, and it was this work that gained the attention of Robert Browning. Thus began one of the great literary courtships of all time. She was, by far, the more famous of the two at the beginning, and it was her fear that Browning did not love her as much as he professed to that led her to write her "Sonnets from the Portuguese." Portuguese was Browning's pet name for Elizabeth. Their courtship was carried out in secret, and eventually love won out, and Browning married her, and carried her off to Italy. They were to remain married, and happy (for what that is worth) until her death in 1861, but for writing some of the loveliest love poems (of which the title of this post is a quote) Elizabeth Barrett Browning (March 6th, 1806-June 29th, 1861, at the age of 55), you my (192nd) hero(ine) of the day.

Friday, March 05, 2010

King Henry


The sceptre holding fellow above is one Henry Plantagenet, the second of the name, born this day 1133 in Le Mans, France. His mother was the Empress Matilda from which he got his claim to the throne of England. At the age of 19 he married Eleanor of Aquitaine, and began producing children. It was those children, and his relationship with Eleanor that was to be the focus of one of my favourite movies of all time "The Lion in Winter." Like most movies, it does take some liberties with the actual truth, but all in all, it is an awesome movie. He "became" King of England in 1154 (the exact title he was the first to use, rather than King of the English), and proceeded to become one hell of a king. His major claim to fame that puts him on the hero stage, for me at least, is the Assize of Clarendon, held in 1166 that transformed English law. The major shift was one from trial by ordeal, or by combat to one based on evidence inspected by laymen. Given my chosen profession, and my lack of ability in swordplay, I owe a big, fat thank you to good, old King Henry. He did however, have his flaws, and a bit of a temper was one of them. His anger at his old friend Thomas Becket got the better of him, and four of his knights taking his angry outburst as a sign that he wanted Becket "rid of" did just that by murdering Becket. It was, and remains a blot on his reign, and a black spot on his legacy. He was the father of two future kings of England, Richard the Lion-Hearted and John. Neither would be able to hold a candle to their old man, and it was their rivalry along with a third son Geoffry that eventually broke old King Henry's spirit, and put him in the grave. But, for a fantastic character that Peter O'Toole brought to the big screen twice in two lovely films, and for being the King that helped bring law to England, Henry Plantagenet second of that name by the grace of god, Count of Anjou, and Maine, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, Nantes, and Gascony, Lord of Ireland, etc. etc. (March 5th, 1133-July 6th 1189, at the age of 56) you are my (191th) hero of the day.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Shemp


The ugly fellow above is one Samuel Horwitz, a.k.a. Shemp Howard born this day 1895, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the older brother of Moe Howard, and was the third stooge in the early years of the act. He was a notoriously phobic person, his fears included airplanes, dogs, automobiles, and water. How you could be scared of water is a little beyond me, but Shemp managed it. He got his "break" when he was in the audience while his brother Moe was on stage performing. Moe yelled at Shemp to get onstage, and Shemp yelled back and walked onto the stage. A career was launched by something just as simple as his brother yelling at him. In those early years the "Stooges" were the Howard brothers, and Larry Fine, and they were a part of an act with Ted Healey. The stooges were always in disputes with Healey over bookings, billings, and money, and Shemp left the act in 1932. He had a moderately successful solo career before rejoining the Stooges after Curly's stroke in 1946. He would go on to appear in 73 shorts with Moe and Larry, and while not an "original" Stooge as most fans would know it, he was still a incredibly funny man, and the chemistry between him and Moe is a thing of beauty to watch. He died on November 22, 1955, while in a taxi cab while returning from a boxing match. After telling a joke, he slumped forward onto his friend's lap dying from a massive heart attack. But for taking the Stooge torch from Curly, and being a damn funny man in his own right Shemp Howard (March 4th, 1895-November 22nd, 1955, at the age of 60, you are my (190th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I'm giving her all she's got


The fellow above is one James Doohan born this day 1920 in Vancouver, Canada. Born the youngest of four children, young James' father reported invented a form of high octane gasoline in 1923, but was apparently a raging alcoholic that tormented the family. He served in the Royal Canadian Artillery during World War II, and participated in the Allies invasion of Normandy, where he was wounded in three places. After the war, he began working in radio, but privately studied Shakespeare in order to get into a more challenging field. After appearances on several well known TV shows, he auditioned for the role of chief engineer in the TV series Star Trek. At his audition he tried out several different asked, and when he was asked which he preferred he replied "well if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because, in my experience, the best engineers have been Scottish." To this day, there are many Star Trek fans that did not realize that Doohan was not Scottish, and did not speak in a Scottish accent all the time. He used those considerable vocal skills to help develop the Vulcan and Klingon language used in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." He revised his role in seven further Star Trek films, but was basically trapped in the character of Scotty. It appears that even working together for so long, he and William Shatner were not particularly fond of each other. However, it was for that role as chief engineer Scotty, that "gave her all she's got Captain" that James Doohan (March 3rd, 1920- July 20th 2005, at the age of 85), you are my (189th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Qualities

"There is always something ghostly about living constantly in a well ordered state. You can not step into the street or drink a glass of water or get on a streetcar without touching the balanced levers of a gigantic apparatus of laws and interrelations , setting them in motion. . . . ."

So one denies their existence, just as the average citizen denies the air, maintaining that it is empty space. But all these things that one denied, these colorless, odorless, tasteless, weightless, and morally indefinable things such as water, air, space, money, and the passing of time, turn out in truth to be the most important things of all, and this gives life a certain spooky quality."
Robert Musil "The Man Without Qualities"


Read those lengthy quotes again, and then ponder on them for about five good minutes. If you are still around after that continue reading, if not well then you probably do not need to be reading this blog anyway. Think of the census that is about to take place this year, is that the apparatus of a well ordered state. I, myself, did not answer the census back in 2000, so am I really counted as a person, as an American, as someone who pays (most of) their taxes, and (most of their bills)? Can you go anywhere outside of your house without running into some arm of the "state" some lever or device that the government has put into place to affect your life? Maybe it is for the better, or maybe it is for the worse, but can you even go to buy stamps at the local post office without being affected by the modern state? The answer is clearly, certainly, and surely, no, no you can not. Is this a good thing? My job, one could argue, makes me an apparatus of the "state." Which is quite a larf if you knew me in person, and would be even funnier if you knew me many moons ago in my rabble rousting days (ah college the joys of self-discovery and sticking it to "the man"). I am not sure if we any longer deny the existence of these levers of power, but I sometimes thing that we wish we could. Musil was writing in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when maybe air was a little more odorless and colourless. Not so much today. Of those things he lists as being denied that the most important things of all, I would have to name two of them as more important than others. One of which is money, and to say this makes me want to throw up, but money makes our world go around. Don't believe me? Try going without it for just twenty four hours. Just one day try to not have to spend one red cent. Maybe you can do it, maybe it is not as difficult as I think, but just give it a shot, and see how hard it might be. It might be simple, but would it be any fun? I am a prole, I was born a prole, I was raised a prole, and I will die a prole, so money was the one thing we did not have an overabundance of, but we sure thought it would be nice to have some. It pains me a great deal to realize the fact that money makes a lot of things a whole lot easier to do or obtain, but there it is. The second of those most important things is the passing of time, even the fifteen or so minutes that it has taken me to write all these brilliant thoughts (if I do say so myself) down, could have probably been spent in some other, more productive way. What that way is or was could depend on a lot of things, but the argument is still there for the having. Ever had to wait on someone or something? Of course you have, we all have, we do it everyday, and will probably be waiting on some fool waiter to bring the check when the world comes to a fiery end. That is time passing, time you were wishing would move faster. "Wishing our lives away" is what some people would call it. "I wish that bastard would hurry up and get here already." As the clock moves, and strikes the passing of another hour of the limited (oh so very limited) hours you are allotted on this planet, do you take five or ten minutes out of those quickly passing sixty to mark the time? Do you think about "those most important things," or are you just wondering when the fucking dishwasher will stop making so much damn racket? I wish I could say that I notice those "morally indefinable" things more than you average sea horse, but truth be told, I don't. I do not know if that makes me a bad person, or just a stupid one, but I know that it is something that I should work on improving. Water finds its own level, do people? Do we as a "person" have a level that we reach, and then can go no higher no matter how hard we try? At what point does potential cease, and we have actualized ourselves as a person? It is spooky when at a certain age you look back, and reflect upon how you got where you are in life, and wonder how the fuck it happened. Was the path you took to get here the "right" path, the only path that led to this one spot, at this one time that makes you what you are today? What about all those other "roads less travelled" that you could have (should have?) taken? Would those lead you to a higher sense of purpose and being? Is it too late for you to retrace your steps (a few steps at least), and go back to a fork in your own road that might led you to a greater happiness? I am not sure there is an answer, and maybe asking the question just wastes time that could be better spent waiting for the next Simpson's episode to start.

Suchet


The fellow above is one Louis Gabriel Suchet born this day 1770 in Marseilles, France. His photo has appeared on this blog before, and his name has been used in vain in at least one other post. That is part of the reason that he gets to step onto the hero podium. He was (as we all know) one of Napoleon's more brilliant general, and was one of the few that managed to enhance his reputation in the Peninsula War in Spain. That war was to Napoleon what Vietnam was to the United States, a place where military superiority, and military reputations when to die. That war did make him famous, and got him promoted to a Marshal of France in 1811, and near the end of Napoleon's reign he conducted a brilliant campaign to at least stop the rot. He was unable to prevent the defeat of Napoleon's France, but at least he was able to show what a brilliant general he was, and isn't that enough? Shouldn't we, when faced by life's challenges that we know are going to defeat us, be proud that we at least made it close. We kept it from being a blow out, and it a couple of things had broken our way maybe we would have pulled it out after all. Maybe so, maybe being brilliant in defeat is better than being average in victory. Here's hoping that is so, for all the beautiful losers amongst us. So, for being a damn fine general, and keeping his head when others around were losing theirs, Louis Gabriel Suchet (March 2nd, 1770-January 3rd, 1826, at the age of 55), you are my (188th) hero of the day.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Daffy

The animated fellow above is one Daffy Duck, and today is not really his birthday, but a dearth of any real, life human being to be the hero, Daffy has to step up to the podium. Truth be told, today was not just a people kind of day anyway. Several, real, life human beings made me want to bash their heads in, and made me consider a career as a hermit. Not sure what kind of career path a hermit has, but early this morning I was willing to give it a shot. Either way, Daffy, our duckish hero made his first appearance April 17, 1937 in "Porky's Duck Hunt." Daffy was voiced by Mel Blanc for 52 years, making him the longest characterization of an animated character by his original actor. The voice that Blanc gave to Daffy included a lisp, there are different versions on how, or why Daffy got his trademark lisp, but it is as part of his character as his tail feathers. Daffy would appear in 129 shorts during the golden era of the Looney Tunes, third behind Bugs Bunny's 166, and Porky Pig's 152. He was voted 14 on TV Guides list of top 50 animated characters of all time, not a bad feat for a duck that is usually in Bugs Bunny's shadow. Daffy has under gone quite a number of character changes in his long career from the early, zany duck, to the lankier, taller duck that was Bugs Bunny's rival in the early 1960's. Even at his meanest, there was no real malice in Daffy. Most of his plots to gain the spotlight back from Bugs Bunny usually ended up with singed tail feathers and dignity for Daffy. It takes a while to learn to love Daffy, but once you realize he is what he is, and that is all you can ever ask him (or any other character to be) then you will under why, of all things, a duck is a hero. For those 129 wildly different appearances in the cartoons of my childhood, Daffy Duck (March 1st-present), you are my (187th), hero of the day.

March Madness


The fellow above is one Dean Smith born February 28th, 1931 in Emporia, Kansas. Both his parents were public school teacher, and his father also coached the high school basketball team. So it was at a young age that M. Smith was exposed to the sport which he was to have such a profound effect upon. After a college career that included his playing varsity basketball at the University of Kansas, Smith went on to catch his lucky break in 1958 when legendary coach Frank McGuire asked him to join his staff at the University of North Carolina. Eventually, Smith was to become head coach at UNC in 1961, and was to remain there for the rest of his coaching career. He retired in 1997 as the (at the time) the coach with the most career wins in NCAA men's basketball history. Though he has since been passed by that dickhead Bobby Knight, Smith is still one of the best coaches I have ever seen. At least he did it the right way, UNC was never placed on any sort of probation during his long tenure, and the joke goes that he is the only man ever able to keep Michael Jordan from scoring more than 25 points a game. He won two glorious NCAA titles during his time at UNC, and the building where UNC plays their home games is named after him. So, for being a damn fine coach, and one class act, Dean Smith (February 28th, 1931-present), you are my (186th) hero of the day.

Essay



After a weekend out of town watching (and betting on) my horse stroll ever so slowly around the track at Oaklawn Park, I am back to the daily grind of writing a hero of the day post. Since I am two days behind, the fellow above, one Michel de Montaigne, will have to stand in for February 27th. His actual birthday is February 28th, 1533 in Bordeaux, France. He was born into a very wealthy family, and from the beginning his education was extremely well planned. He was sent to live with a peasant family for 3 years, in order to get what we would call today "grounded." You can read all about his planned education, and how it worked quite well, as well as anything else about his life you want to know on your own. His is mostly known today for his Essays. A book that takes himself as the subject. At the time, it was seen as him being wildly self-indulgent. He is very well known for his skeptical remark 'Que sais-je?' ('What do I know?). A good question that we should each ask ourselves everyday of our lives in some form or another. Some of his best quotes, I steal below:
If you belittle yourself, you are believed; if you praise yourself, you are disbelieved.
When I play with my cat, how do I know that she is not passing time with me rather than I with her?
Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.
All good quotes, and you should read his book. You will learn a lot about life, and a whole lot about Montaigne. During his life he was known more as a statesmen that as a writer, but it is as a writer willing to take himself for a subject that Michel de Montaigne (February 28th, 1533-September 13, 1592, at the age of 59), you are my (185th) hero of the day. (for the 27th of February).