Monday, May 31, 2010

Blondie


The steely eyed fellow above is one Clinton "Clint" Eastwood, born this day 1930 in San Francisco, California. After graduating high school, he had intended to enroll in university, but a little thing called the Korean War got in the way, and he did a stint in the U. S. Army. He came back, moved to Los Angeles and got married. His first big break came with him being cast as Rowdy Yates in the TV series Rawhide. By this time he was thirty years old, and did not really like the character of Yates that much dubbing him "the idiot of the plains." It was in 1963 that he would get the role that puts him on my hero podium for today. That role is as "the Man with No Name" in Sergio Leone's "Dollars Trilogy." He signed on for $15,ooo, and a Mercedes to be gifted to him upon the completion of filming. He considered it a paid vacation since filming was to take place in a remote area of Spain. Eastwood himself was the major source for the character's visual look. The black jeans he bought and roughened up a bit, the hat, the leather bracelet, and the trademark black cigars were all Eastwood's idea (though he is a non-smoker, and hates the smell of cigar smoke). Though, Leone commented, "The truth is that I needed a mask more than an actor, and Eastwood at the time only had two facial expressions: one with the hat, and one without it." Whatever that facial expression was it was bad ass, and even as I sit here writing this TCM is showing the trilogy. I did not care much for the Dirty Harry films, and some of his later stuff is so-so, but Clint Eastwood is the baddest fucking cowboy on the planet. The laconic way he played "the Man With No Name" is outstanding, and my favourite of the three is "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." That is the film which Eli Wallach's character calls him "Blondie." It is one of my favourite films of all time, and it starts in about 10 minutes, so I need to wrap this up quickly. The rest of his career is also fantastic, and he is now well regarded as a director as well. I could write about his career, and it highlights until his birthday next year, and still not give him the credit he is due. It is for a writer with much more talent, and time that me to write the big picture of his life. All I need for him to be my hero is "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," which is about to start. So, for that iconic, laconic role as Blondie, Clint Eastwood (May 31st, 1930-present) you are my (279th) hero of the day.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I say

A quick calculation has led me to the horrid realization that I will be somewhere between 10-15 heroes short by the time end of the year for this little project. So, I figure since I know I have heroes enough I needed to double up a few days. As I mentioned in the previous post, Mr. Blanc voiced a few characters that would be on this list, and I decided in further tribute to him to add one of those characters that I enjoyed watching so much as a child. The cocky fellow above is one Foghorn J. Leghorn, first voiced by Mr. Blanc on August 31st, 1946, but as I have all the power to decided "birthdays" we are going to celebrate Foghorn's birthday on the same day as that of the fellow who gave him his voice. A leghorn is a breed of chicken, and "Foghorn" describes his manner of speaking, loud that is. In all he appeared in 28 cartoons during the "Golden Age of Animation" all were directed by the fellow who created him, one Robert McKimson. His usual nemesis is a dog known at first as George P. Dog, but also referred to as "The Barnyard Dawg." Their rivalry was not always won by Foghorn, and sometime the dog got the better of him. Foghorn has a pronounced Kentucky accent, and one of his more famous lines is "That a joke, I say, that's a joke son" delivered in his good old boy fashion. He also seems to be fond of the song "Camptown Races" humming in on occasion when he was about to unleash a prank on the dog. He is also hunted by a very small chicken hawk named Henery Hawk, who was going to "get him that chicken." This gag was made all the more humorous by the fact that Henery was about 1/50th Foghorn's size. So, for providing me hours of entertainment all those years ago, Foghorn J. Leghorn (August 31st, 1946-present) you are my (278th) hero of the day.

That's All Folks


The unassuming fellow above is one Melvin Jerome "Mel" Blanc, born this day 1908 in San Francisco, California. His face is not going to be familiar to anyone, but it was his voice(s) that made him famous, and makes him our hero of the day. Mel provided the voice for a whole of Looney Tunes characters that I grew up watching. Daffy Duck, whom he voiced for 52 years, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, whom he voiced for 49 years, Woody Woodpecker, Foghorn Leghorn, and a whole host of other unforgettable characters. The face man may get all the credit, but without M. Blanc there would have been a great big entertainment hole in my childhood. It is difficult to believe that Yosemite Sam, and Tweety Bird were voiced by the same fellow, and Blanc called himself "The Man with a 1000 Voices." That probably was as close to true as it could get. All of those memorable characters done by one fellow, it boggles the imagination. I suspect there are a couple of more of his characters that will show up on this list in their own right, but without him they just would not have been the same. He once said that it was Yosemite Sam's voice that gave him the most trouble. The sheer volume, and raspiness of Sam caused his throat some major pain, but he soldiered on nonetheless. He died of heart disease in 1989, and the cartoon world has been a poorer place every since. By his request his tombstone reads "That's All Folks" the line he voiced to sign off at the end of many of the Warner Brothers cartoons that were sometimes entirely voiced by him. So, for giving voices to all those fantastic characters from my childhood, Mel Blanc (May 30th, 1908,-July 10th, 1989, at the age of 81), you are my (277th) hero of the day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Just a Dash


The white stuff of above is sodium chloride, otherwise known as salt, and for reasons that will become clear it is our hero of the day. The human list of possible heroes was a bit disappointing, and so I began to look around for something, anything to continue my hero parade. Salt is a bit of a stretch, but it is my list, so I guess I can do what I want within reason. So, salt it is. It is essential, in small qualities for animal life, and since we are animals, in more ways that one, there is one good reason for it to be a hero. Of course, like all good things that you can't live without a little of, too much of it will kill you. Its major function is to help regulate the water content in the human body, but too much of it and you will probably stroke out from high blood pressure. However, the table salt that you and I use to season our food is not the only useful thing that salt does. Only 17.5% of the world salt production is used for food purposes, it is a necessary ingredient in the production of pulp, paper, soap, and detergents among many other things. It is supposed to be good luck to throw a pinch of it over your shoulder, and it has many mentions in various religions throughout world history. But, today's reason for it being my hero is something a little more sinister. Salt has also been used throughout history as a weapon of war. When Rome finally defeated Carthage, and razed that city to the ground, they sowed the earth with salt to make sure that nothing would ever grow there again. Now, if you read this blog, you know of my ongoing battle with Mother Nature (the Bitch). Well, today I decided to go all Roman on her, and salt a little portion of the earth under my possession. It was not to be merely symbolic, it was for the purpose of helping a couple of well entrenched stumps (the remnants of trees that I have cut down) come out of the ground. I tried at two separate places to buy large quantities of salt, and was foiled at both. The first place I tried, the people looked at me like I had two heads when I asked if they even HAD salt. Salt? Do we sell salt? was the puzzled reply I received to my question. I almost said "yes, salt you know the stuff Romans used to salt the earth at Carthage" but, I figured that would probably only result in them calling the police, and asking them to remove me from the premises because I was clearly a madman. The second place I tried did have salt, but only in small packages. Clearly, my need for salt is a need for salt in large amounts, and I asked an employee if perhaps, they sold salt in larger portions. Once again, I was looked at as if I was an alien, and told "no." I did not bother with any further attempts to find large sacks of salt, and purchased an smaller amount just to get the ball rolling on my project of salting my own little bit of earth. So, for all its commercial, food, and symbolic uses, Salt (sodium chloride), you are my (276th) hero of the day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

For Your Eyes Only


The suave looking fellow above is one Ian Fleming born this day 1908, in London, England. We all pretty much know why he is our hero of this particular day. He created James Bond, who will all by himself grace these pages on day, and any fellow who can create a smooth motherfucker like James Bond deserves to be a hero in his own right. Fleming had a pretty interesting life in his own right, after leaving the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst early, he went abroad to study foreign languages. During World War II, he hatched all sorts of evil plots and plans to do grief to the Nazis. He even sort of commanded a group of elite commandos for a while. Some of Bond's traits, and some of the names of his villains are drawn from Fleming's war experiences. The name James Bond actually came from a family friend who was a fairly famous ornithologist of the same name. Imagine that James Bond international spy, and bird watcher! In all he wrote 12 novels and nine short stories with Bond as the subject, and I am quite sure that a few of us have seen a lot of the films based upon his books. Like Bond, he lived large. He smoked too much, drank too much, and loved too much, and eventually it caught up with him. But, for bringing to live the super secret agent that we all want to be, Ian Fleming (May 28th, 1908-August 12, 1964, at the age of 56from a heart attack), you are my (275th) hero of the day.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Night

I am just too lazy or too tired to try to hunt down a photograph of today's hero, so a non visual post will have to do. His name is Louis-Ferdinand Celine, and he was born this day 1894 in Courbevoie, France. He was born the only child of a lacemaker mother, and a father who worked in an insurance firm. At the age of 18 he, being mostly self-taught, obtained his baccalaureat degree, and begin to have aspirations of one day becoming a doctor. He joined the army in 1912, and saw a great deal of service during World War before eventually being declared unfit due to his war wounds. After the war, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, and after a great deal of hard study, he obtained the necessary degree in 1924. However, the life of a doctor was not to be his stopping point, while obtaining his M.D. he had acquired a wife, and a daughter, both of which he left for good in 1925. Deciding to do a bit of world traveling, he visited Switzerland, Cameroon, the United States, and various other countries. It was during this time he began to write. His first book, and the one book by him I have read "Journey to the End of the Night" was published in 1932. It is an awesome book, full of the hate that Celine harbored against pretty much everything. Its writing style has been called "savage." An example of the type of savagery he wrote with, and of the picture of the horrible world that Celine believed we inhabit is below.

The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows.

That little paragraph is by turns, savage, bleak, and fucking beautiful, and it is a fantastic paragraph, it explains a lot about his world view, and it also happens to be one that I, in my more morose moments, share. The book made him a star, and he would go on to write a lot of other books that are on my to read list. I highly recommend you reading him, but be warned a little Celine goes a long way, and be prepared to be shocked, impressed, disturbed, and a little scared by him. However, each of those feelings is worth it, and you should start, as he did, with "Journey to the End of the Night." It is a highly autobiographical work, and if you keep your courage up to finish it, it will have a profound effect upon you. His record during World War II does not make for pretty reading, he was a pretty solid anti-Semite, and eventually fled France because he feared being executed for treason. He was found guilty, in absentia, of high treason, and spent a year on death row in Denmark (to where he had fled). I can't says that I condone his politics, or his views on race, but I can put that aside when I read him, because his prose is just fucking brilliant. He was eventually allowed to return to France, and regained some of his earlier fame. However, he does remain a polarizing figure to this day. Not for me, I am solidly pro-Celine, and I am pretty sure he would tell his detractors to go fuck themselves, and for that, and for writing some outstanding prose in a style that cannot be duplicated (Charles Bukowski wrote, "First of all read Celine, the greatest writer of 2,000 years.") Louis Ferdinand Celine (May 27th, 1894-July 1st, 1961, at the age of 67 of ruptured aneurysm), you are my (274th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Duke



The lantern jawed fellow above is one Marion Mitchell Morrison, otherwise known as John Wayne, born this day 1907 in Winterset, Iowa. His is the classical Ameican movie star, an icon of the strong willed, square jawed, tough as nail, male role model that doesn't take shit from anyone. To attempt to condense his impact, and biography into a blog post would be unfair to him, and is beyond my limited talent. Plus, I am actually exhausted mentally today because I had to do some "real" lawyering for a change. My favourite line from John Wayne is "I'm not going to hit ya" "I'm not going to hit ya, and then just before he hits the fellow he had been saying this to "The hell I'm not!" That is John Wayne in all his cowboy/war hero greatness. His political leaning were, in my opinion, horrid, but he was "The Duke" and who am I to say a bad word about him or his politics. I confess that a lot of his Westerns don't do too much for me, but the one that I like are fucking awesome. Several of his war movies are just plain brilliant, and you can't really imagine anyone but John Wayne in them. He was the model of what it was to be "a real man." His last film "The Shootist" is awesome as well, and made all the more touching because the role he plays, a dying gunfighter, was pretty much what he was at the time. He was dying when he made the film, and this was his last round-up so to speak. He was one hell of a man, and one hell of an actor, and for those reasons, John "The Duke" Wayne (May 26th, 1907-June 11th, 1979, at the age of 72 from cancer) you are my (273rd) hero of the day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Casualties







The three photos above are lovely pictures of my trophies of war, the war I am waging against Mother Nature (the bitch), and her of her minions, big and small. The carnage you see above took me quite some time, and I think I lost about 5 pounds of water weight while executing my attack. It was, in the main, a success. Several members of Mother Nature's (the bitch) death squad were eliminated, and good riddance to them. I am sure, since it rained yesterday, that her and her minions are even now plotting their comeback/revenge. More power to them, I will be there, chainsaw, axe, or weed eater in hand to meet them at the gates of my citadel. I have mentioned before, and will say again, nothing green can stay. Of course, Mother Nature (the bitch) did leave her mark during this weekend's skirmish. It seems I have got a bit of poison ivy or poison oak (not sure which) for my troubles, but fear not citizens, the Grand Inquisitor is not deterred by such cheap tricks. A poultice has been obtained, and the rash is no longer driving me crazy with itching, therefore, I will continue to prosecute my war against Mother Nature (the bitch). Since there was no one worthy of being a hero today that was actually born today, I decided (decreed more like) that today's hero is a fellow few of us have ever heard of, but who is critical to my purposes. His name is George Ballas, and I have no idea when or where he was born. I have no clue if he is still alive or not, but I do know one important thing about him. It is that one thing that makes him a member of our hero parade. He invented, in the early 1970's, that wonderful device known as the weed eater. The idea came to him as he was taking his car through an automatic car wash, the brushes used to clean his car were the inspiration, and a wonderful device for killing Mother Nature's (the bitch) minions was born. So, for inventing one of the devices I use to continue making my yard Hell's Half Acre, George Ballas (?-?) you are my (272nd) hero of the day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

We are not Amused



The lovely lady above is one Queen Victoria born this day 1819, in London, England. She was the only legitimate child of the fourth son of George III, and when King George IV died in 1830. When King William IV died in June of 1837, the, just turned 18, Victoria became Queen of England. Her actual first name was Alexandrina, and at first she was expected to reign under the name of Alexandrina Victoria, but, at her request, her first name was dropped, and she became Queen Victoria. It was to be a long reign, 63 years and 7 months to be exact, longer than any other king or queen of England, and the longest reign of any female in the world. They named an entire era after her, so she must have been pretty impressive. She started the tradition of bride's wearing white at their wedding, by wearing white at her own wedding in 1840 to Prince Albert. Theirs was a happy union, and his death in 1861 devastated her. She was to wear black for the remainder of her life, and was referred to as the Widow of Windsor because Albert died at Windsor Castle. Her withdrawal from her duties after her widowhood made her, for a time, quite unpopular, but by the time her Golden Jubilee came around in 1887 (to mark the 50th year of her reign), she was once again an extremely popular monarch. She survived numerous assassination attempts, and the law governing high treason underwent radical changes to death with all the lunatics that tried to kill her. Her face adorned the first ever postage stamp, the design based upon a portrait of her when she was 15 years of age. She is supposedly the source of the quote that is the title of this post, but the sources are pretty slim. Either way, she was a fantastic queen, and for over 63 years! So, for reigning over perfidious Albion for so very long, and for having an entire era named after her, Queen Victoria (May 24th, 1819-January 22nd, 1901, at the age of 81 of a cerebral hemorrhage), you are my (271th) hero(ine) of the day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Opposites Attract


The fellow above is one Carl Linneaus born this day 1707 in Rashult, Sweden. He and I are polar opposites, he loved nature and plants, whilst I have spent the larger part of this weekend killing plants, and waging war on nature. Clearly, he never had one of the plants that he loved so much try to kill him. Attempted murder has a chilling effect on friendships. Linneaus' claim to fame, and his claim to the hero podium is based mostly upon him being the fellow that laid the foundation for binomial nomenclature. He gained most of his higher education at Uppsala University, where he eventually became a professor of botany. He did some serious traveling throughout Sweden, collecting plants, and classifying them. He decided that the old way of naming plants was a bit too confusing, and came up with a system for naming things with just a species and genus name. Thus, making life a whole lot simpler for plant freaks all around the world. He helped to found the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, and published a couple of master works in which he classified over 7,300 species. For all of his good work, the King of Sweden ennobled him, and he took the name Carl von Linne. Part of the irony of his life was that a man known for naming things changed his name, and that name was actually taken by his father from a linden tree in the family's front yard. Though the way that he grouped plants and animals has been changed a bit over the years, and advances in science have changed a lot of the way things he did things, the foundational principles of his naming system remain in place. He was acclaimed world wide by some pretty impressive fellows, like Rousseau, von Goethe, and Strindberg. Like I said before, I doubt me and Carl would have been fast friends, considering my life goal is to obliterate all the lovely little plants that he wanted to name. Maybe a five hour regime of weed eating, lawn mowing, and stump removal would change his views on the joys of plants, but I can still appreciate his efforts. So, for helping to name all the plants that I am intent on destroying, Carl Linnaeus (May 23rd, 1707-January 10th, 1778 from a stroke at the age of 70) you are my (270th) hero of the day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Creator

The serious looking fellow above is one Arthur Conan Doyle born this day 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since he is the creator of two of my heroes, I figured he deserved his place on the podium in his own right. There remains some mystery, which considering his later achievements is appropriate, regarding the origin of his "Conan Doyle" surname, but that need not detain us here. He was sent off to prep school, then to college, during which time he was to become an agnostic, and then to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. After obtaining his medical degree, and having one failed partnership to his name, he set up his own private practice in Portsmouth. His attempt at first was not very successful, and since he had arrived in town with less than 10 quid to his name, things were looking pretty bleak. While waiting for patients to begin to flock to his door he began writing short stories, and in 1887 he gave the world a hero for the ages in "A Study in Scarlet." That hero was one Sherlock Holmes, said to be based on Joseph Bell, whom was one of Conan Doyle's former university professors. He continued writing the Holmes stories until in 1893, after growing weary of Holmes, and wanting to devote more time to his historical novels, he killed Holmes off in "The Final Problem." Public outrage followed, and he was persuaded by it to bring Holmes back. He ended up writing 4 novels, and 56 short stories containing Holmes, and they are fantastic stuff. In those stories he also created the older Holmes brother, Mycroft, who was also a hero of the day. So, for creating two heroes of the day, and writing excellent works of fiction to bring them to life, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (May 22nd, 1859-July 7th, 1930, at the age of 71 from a heart attack) you are my (269th) hero of the day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lobster Man


Since today was short on heroes, and tomorrow had more than one, we are going to engage in a little time sleight of hand. A hero from tomorrow will have to serve his duty a day early. The fellow above is one Gerard de Nerval born May 22nd, 1808 in Paris, France. I am sure he would not mind be celebrated a day early for the sake of art. The son of an army doctor, a few of his formative years were spent being raised by a grandfather. When his father's army travels were over, his rearing was finished by his father. Like a lot of fathers, Nerval's wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor. Like a lot of sons, Gerard was none too keen on that idea, and decided to become a poet. He believed that poetry, like sleep, allowed people to open doors to invisible. Writing that "in sleep we enter a new life, free of space and time." Clever idea there, of course, sleeping is critical to enter that world. He was a great friend of another hero of mine, Charles Baudelaire, and both were "card carrying" members of the Club des Hachischins. You can well imagine what kind of club it was. His poetry is sometimes some really far out shit, and it shows his longing for a spiritual world. His opinion of the material world was far from pleasant; "This life is a hovel and a place of ill-repute. I'm ashamed that God should see me here." Not sure I disagree with him too much there. He experienced his first of what was to be three, breakdowns in 1841, and there was even a mock obituary of him printed after he "disappeared" for a while. He was one odd duck. He had a pet lobster named Thibault which he would take for walks around Paris at the end of a blue, silk ribbon. It seems he had "rescued" Thibault from a lobster trap while on vacation, and upon being accosted by the mayor of the town, who wanted de Nerval to apologize for stealing from the lobster traps, he decided to make "reparations" and bring the lobster back to Paris with him. He has been quoted as saying, in defense of his choice of a pet that "Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? ...or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs do." I guess there is some (twisted) logic in that way of thinking. After his third mental breakdown, he was found hanging from a window grating leaving behind a suicide note (addressed to his aunt) saying "Do not wait up for me this evening, for the night will be black and white." I suppose, in some ways, most nights are black and white. So, for some lovely imaginative poems, and some surrealist prose works, and for being one odd duck, Gerard de Nerval (May 22nd, 1808-January 26th, 1855, at the age of 46), you are my (268th) hero of the day.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Comedy


The chubby fellow above is one Honore de Balzac born this day 1799, in Tours, France. His father was a poor fellow who moved to Paris with one gold coin to his name, and achieved a middling amount of success. The "de" he added to his name, was added to make him look the aristocrat, and was not sanctioned by the people that handle that sort of thing. At the age of eight, he was shipped off to a grammar school, where he apparently spent more time in the "alcove" (a place of punishment where the "bad" children were sent) over 100 times during his years there. After he finished his schooling, he was persuaded by his father to study law (a cruel man he must have been), he trained, and worked at the office of a lawyer for three years before he decided it was not for him. He wrote two lovely quotes (which I shamelessly steal) about why the law was not for him. The first was written in his 1840 novel "Le Notaire" and it explains what a young person sees in the legal profession, "the oily wheels of every fortune, the hideous wrangling of heirs over corpses not yet cold, the human heart grappling with the Penal Code." The other quote was written after he declined to become his employer's successor, he wrote that he did not want to be "a clerk, a machine, a riding-school hack, eating and drinking and sleeping at fixed hours. I should be like everyone else. And that's what they call living, that life at the grindstone, doing the same thing over and over again…. I am hungry and nothing is offered to appease my appetite." Now you might begin to understand why a lot of lawyers are miserable bastards. I happen to be one, and I agree with both of those quotes wholeheartedly. He moved to a small apartment in Paris, and launched his literary career. Like most beginners, he started slowly, but in 1832 he came up with his brilliant idea. A massive series of novels which he entitled "La Com├ędie humaine." A series that would eventually grow to include 95 published works. Its goal was to paint a panoramic picture of all the aspects of human life, and there are some wonderful novels contained within the series. His works habits were the stuff of legend, and he would work all sorts of odd hours, drinking massive amounts of coffee to sustain himself. He was an obsessive reviser (is that a word?), that constantly corrected printer's proofs with additions and changes. I am sure it drove his publisher mad. I clearly have not read all 95 of his works, and probably won't manage to get around to it during my lifetime, but I can highly recommend him. Although he was a deeply conservative Royalist, he was, it is claimed, the favourite author of Fredrich Engles. That little fact shows what kind of ability he possessed. To be as right wing as you can get, and still show such insight into the lower, and working class that you get the co-author of "The Communist Manifesto" to claim you as a hero takes talent. So, it is for that enormous talent that Honore de Balzac (May 20th, 1799-August 18th, 1850, at the age of 51), you are my (267th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

O fer

There were a lot of people born today, and maybe you know one or two of them. Maybe you personally, or maybe you have just heard of them somewhere (maybe some long forgotten history class). There were at least three candidates for our hero podium today, but as it will soon become clear, none of them could get over the hump. Our first candidate was a fellow by the name of Ho Chi Minh, a great hero in the country of Vietnam, and before the country of my birth got their noses bloodied in Vietnam, Ho Chi could have probably been a hero, but as an American who has seen the scars left by that conflict on society I could not, in good conscious, give the hero title to M. Minh. So, I moved on to candidate number two, a fellow by the name of Ataturk, the man most responsible for making Turkey the modern, secular state that it is today. However, I have never been overly sympathetic towards the "terrible Turk," and I think that might be because I clerked under a judge with Hungarian ancestors. That judge, an extremely brilliant fellow, might have influenced my apathy towards the Ottoman Empire and its successor. Thus, Ataturk, while possessing some truly marvelous qualities, just could not overcome that apathy to make it onto our hero podium. Finally, we come to candidate number three, a fellow who came to be known as Malcolm X. Now surely he is a hero right? He probably is to a lot of people, and of the the three he came the closest to taking the grand prize, but I am a lighter shade of grey that Malcolm, and considering my job, I might just be a part of the "white America" he railed against so eloquently. Not that I consider myself a racist, and I have rabble rousting sympathies myself, and thing that uptight America (white or black) needs a good kicking, but being called a member of a race of devils is a little too much for me to bear. Though I can respect him for raising the self-esteem of many African-Americans, and preaching self-reliance (both admirable qualities no matter what race, gender, or creed you are), I just could not put him on the podium either. Thus, after sailing those rough waters of patriotism, religion, and racism (and hopefully not coming across as some honky, christian, bigot), I must inform you that, for today May 19th, there is no hero of the day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spleen

This is the third attempt at trying to write a coherent blog post, the first two ended in absolute disaster, and I am not holding out much hopes for this attempt. But, I have to give it a shot, and hope for the best even though I expect the worst. I have tried, in those first two attempts, to convey a feeling that I have. The problem is, that the feeling I have is very hard to explain. It is somewhere been sadness and despair. I can not find the right word(s) in any of the languages I have any familiarity with, and the blinding rage that has seeped into my day is not helping matters any. Today started off badly, and has only gone to hell in a hand basket since I staggered out the door to work. Reading a bit too much Baudelaire before bed had caused me to dream in French, so I was a little disoriented from the beginning, but then it all went pear shaped. And pear shaped it has remained. No amount of "heroics" could save this indistinguishable day. Scan the annals of time all you want, you will be unable to find anyone, anywhere, from anytime that could rescue this day from itself. Some days just fade into the background, some days would be better off with your participation, for me, this is one of days. An episode in my life that would have been better if my part in it had been written out. The part of GI has been deemed unimportant today, and will therefore will NOT be shown in its entirety. A mere glimpse is all that is necessary in order for, even the most dense person, to see that my role in this day is pointless. It is one of those days that I should be snoring away the afternoon away in my own bed, rather than at work trying to keep it together until quitting time. Keeping it together at work is important you know, mustn't let the mask slip too much, or people will start to talk. Luckily for me I was able to call my therapist, Dr. Kronenbourg, and schedule an early afternoon appointment. He is a most understanding chap, and I hope that some quality time with him will at least put me in a better mood. Call for me tomorrow, and perhaps I will be less of a grave man, until then it is with only a little regret that I must inform you that for today, May 18th, there is no hero of the day.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pox


The fellow above is one Edward Jenner born this day 1749 in Gloucestershire, England. He first trained as an apprentice to a surgeon for eight years, before he moved up to St. George's Hospital to study surgery and anatomy. From there he went on to become the "Father of Immunology." He is the fellow given the most credit for discovering the vaccine for smallpox, using the less virulent coxpox to infect people, and making them immune to smallpox. It is said of him that his work saved more lives than the work of any other man. I still have my little smallpox mark on my shoulder, so I should give personal thanks to Mr. Jenner. He got the notice he deserved in his lifetime (so few of us do) and was appointed Physician Extraordinary to King George IV in 1821. So for those wonderful discoveries that saved a shit ton of lives, Edward Jenner (May 17th, 1749-January 26th, 1823, at the age of 73 from a stroke), you are my (266th) hero of the day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bond # 5

The laughing fellow above is one Pierce Brosnan born this day 1953 in Drogheda, Ireland. Born the son of a carpenter and a nurse he had a rough childhood. His father left the family when Brosnan was an infant, and his mother moved to England to work as a nurse, leaving young Pierce to be raised by his grandparents. Upon their death he was shifted to an aunt, then to a friend of the family. He describes his childhood as solitary, and his education, by some group called Christian Brothers as "dreadful." After moving to London to be with his mother and her new husband, he left school at 16 to be a commercial illustrator. He moved from job to job, and even spent some time busking in the circus, until he found his way to the London Drama Centre. He had some success, and the older women amongst us will remember him as Remington Steele, but it was as his role as James Bond (the fifth actor to assume the mantle of the secret agent) that puts him on our hero podium for today. He played the role in four films, and was a massive improvement over his predecessor, Timothy Dalton. He retired from the role in 2004, I suspect because of his age, and Daniel Craig took over. He had a wonderful role in "The Matador" which is an awesome film, and you should check it out. He is a dedicated environmentalist had donated money, and supported many caused that are trying to make the world a better place. Good for him, and another reason for his hero status. So, for rescuing James Bond from the horror that was Timothy Dalton, and being a solid citizen of the world, Pierce Brosnan (May 16th, 1953-present) you are my (265th) hero of the day.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Humbert

The darkly, handsome fellow above is one James Neville Mason born this day 1909 in Yorkshire, England. He was the son of a wealthy merchant, and was educated at Marlborough College, then Cambridge where he studied architecture. While there he was told by fellow student Alistair Cooke to keep up the study of architecture, and give up his attempts at becoming an actor. From 1935 to 1948 he starred in a number of British "quota quickies." He was a handsome fellow, and had a very distinct voice which allowed him to play a villain to great effect. He was nominated for three Academy Awards during his career, and was a fantastic actor. His role in 1962's "Lolita" as the aging professor Humbert Humbert who falls into a mad passion for a teen age girl is classic. It was on just yesterday, and the memory is fresh, but it was not the first time I had been amazed at his performance. His role as an explorer seeking the center of the Earth in 1959's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is also memorable. His other role that put him onto the, already crowded, hero podium for today was a master spy in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest." He was even considered, despite his age, for the role of James Bond. It would have been an interesting casting, but the role went to Sean Connery. But for the roles he did receive, and for playing them so well, James Mason (May 15th, 1909-July 25th, 1985, at the age of 75 of a heart attack), you are my (264th) hero of the day.

Eyes Shut


The portly fellow above is one Arthur Schnitzler, born this day 1862 in Vienna, Austria. He was born the son of a famous Austrian doctor, and followed in his father's footsteps (at least for a little while). He obtained his doctorate of medicine from the University of Vienna in 1885, and worked at the Vienna General Hospital for a while, but eventually he threw over his medical career in order to write. Must have been nice to toss away all those years of work, and education in medicine, and just write. I guess bravery, talent, and family money sort of helped make the decision a bit easier. One of his most famous works is "La Ronde" in which ten pairs of character are seen before and after the sexual act. The story begins and ends with a prostitute (thus, the circle of life is complete). The work caused a HUGE scandal in the world of German theatre, and ended with him being acquitted after a six day obscenity trial. He was a fairly close friend of Sigmund Freud, and Freud's envy of Schnitzler's insight into the depth of the human mind, is well known. Another sure sign of his talent is that he works were later branded "Jewish filth" by one Adolph Hitler. Pretty much anything that Hitler panned was probably good stuff. He once responded to an interviewers question about the subjects he chose to write about, he replied "I write of love and death, What else is there?" That sums it up about as well as it can be, and far be it from me to try to put anymore of a twist on his writings. He was a intrepid diary keeper, keeping from from about the age of 17 until two days before his death. In it he describes numerous, numerous sexual contacts he had throughout his life, even going so far as to keep count of the number of times he and certain woman had sex. One of them did the deed with him 400 times in the year 1888. Talk about a busy man, and that was not even the only girlfriend he "pleased" that year. The work that most of our most familiar with is the novella "Dream Story," upon which the Stanley Kubrick film "Eyes Wide Shut" is based. Hey, anything with Nicole Kidman is worth a look. So, for all of those racy plays, novellas, and novels, and for being one hell of a lover boy, Arthur Schnitzler (May 15th, 1862-October 21, 1931, at the age of 59 of a brain hemorrhage), you are my (263rd) hero of the day.

Cotten

Today is a multi-hero day, and it is also a day that I REALLY need to do a ton of yard work. However, since I LOATHE yard work, I figured I would crown multiple heroes in order to give myself an excuse not to do any work. I hope I am a better writer than I am yard worker, and therefore can say I made the right choice, but I am not so sure. I will just still with being lazy, and continue my assault on Mother Nature on another day.

Our first hero of this day is the fellow above. His name is Joseph Cotten, and he was born this day 1905 in Petersburg, Virginia. After graduating high school, he got a gig with an advertising agency, but eventually became a theatre critic. That work led to him decided to walk the boards himself, and he made his Broadway debut in 1930. During this time, he met and became friends with another hero of ours, Orson Welles. He joined Welles' theatre company, and eventually got the role as the main character's best friend in Welles' masterpiece, Citizen Kane. That role was superbly done, and he did other films with Welles, the best of which, in my opinion, was "The Third Man." His character drives the film, and his performance is wonderful. He was never nominated for an Academy Award, which is a damn shame, but he has one of the best quotes of all time when describing his career he said, "Orson Welles list "Citizen Kane" as his best film, Alfred Hitchcock opts for "Shadow of a Doubt", and Sir Carol Reed chose "The Third Man", and I am in all of them." That pretty much sums it up. All three of those men have graced this blog on the appropriate day, and today I would be remiss if I did not pick M. Cotten. He also had a pretty good role opposite Charles Boyer, and Ingrid Bergman in "Gaslight." Clearly, a man that walked amongst heroes, and is a hero in his own right. So, for all those wonderful roles played to perfection Joseph Cotten (May 15th, 1905-February 6th, 1994, at the age of 88), you are my (262nd) hero of the day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

BBQ

The porcine fellow above is a pig, and in my fair city this week and weekend is one long party devoted to him and his kind. All parts of the pig is eaten is some form or another, and my town is a big fan of pork and all of its by products. A butcher friend of mine said that the only thing wasted on a pig is the oink, and he was in a position to know. BBQ Fest is one hell of a party, and I managed to live it up for the last two days. I even took part in my little group's annual canasta tournament, and donated the entry fee to a good cause, we are a charitable lot, always trying to improve the lives of those less fortunate. This post is short, and none too sweet because of the exhaustion brought on by all of my celebration of the pig. It also might be short because I might need open heart surgery to repair the damage I am doing to my arteries. However, the show must go on, and a hero had to be found. After looking high and low for a human hero, and being sadly disappointed by the results I have decided to make the little porky above and all his chubby friends my (261st) hero of the day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pap


The smug looking fellow above is one Georgios Papanikolaou, born this day 1883 in Kimi, Greece. Women throughout the world might (maybe) recognize the name. He graduated from the University of Athens with his medical degree in 1904, and eventually wound up as a pathologist at New York hospital. It was there, in 1928, that he made the "discovery" that puts him on our hero podium for today. He first that uterine cancer can be diagnosed by means of a vaginal smear. Hence the name "Pap Smear." The importance of his work was not realized until he and another doctor published a paper on his discovery in 1943. Millions of women have had to endure his test since, and I am quite certain that the test has saved untold lives. Granted, I have no direct benefit from the good doctor's discovery, and do not know anyone personally that had their life saved by an early detection of the disease he tried to treat, but we all should still give a silent word of thanks to him for his genius. So, for discovering that method that has saved all sorts of lives, Georgios Papanikolaou, (May 13th, 1883-Feburary 19th, 1962, at the age of 78), you are my (260th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Lady with the Lamp


The compassionate lady above is one Florence Nightingale, born this day 1820, in Florence, Italy. She was born into a well heeled, i.e. rich family, and was named after her place of birth (as were both of her sisters). I am pretty sure anyone with any sort of schooling whatsoever has heard of her, and knows why she is on the hero(ine) podium for today. I exhausted myself with my lengthy post earlier in the day, and am just too lazy/tired to do the good lady justice. She is laid the foundation for modern, professional nursing by founding a nursing school at St. Thomas' Hospital, London. Today nurses take what is called the Nightingale Oath as they enter their profession, and today is celebrated as International Nurses Day. She got her nickname "the Lady with the Lamp," and rose to fame for her tireless nursing efforts during the Crimean War. She was a bit of an odd duck, and for all her good work for the causes of women, held women generally in contempt, and even referred to herself as a "man of action." However, let's not let that little oddity overshadow a life well-spent devoted to good causes for mankind in general. So, for providing as much confront as humanely possible to numerous men who were in great need of it, Florence Nightingale (May 12th, 1820-August 13th 1910, at the age of 90), you are my (259th) hero(ine) of the day, and I apologize for giving you such an unworthy post.

The First Time



Bear with me, and the image above will become a little more clear. Before that clarification we have to take a little side trip, and I hope I do not lose you, or myself along the way. The side trip begins with an apology, an apology for the badness of yesterday's post. I have the idea that writing, like a lot of things, can be an "in form" type of activity. Much like a striker who just has to kick the ball forward and it goes in the goal, form can be outstanding, or in the alternative, form can be fleeting. Sometimes no matter how close you are to goal, and no matter how many glorious chances you get, you just can not put the biscuit in the basket. I feel that my form for yesterday was "off." I can only hope that the saying "form is fleeting, class is permanent" applies to writing as well (whilst also hoping that I have class). Either way I am sorry, and will try to do better in the future (isn't that what we all say?).

The above image of clowns is there for a couple of reason(s), one it is a direct challenge to a blogging friend of mine (and you know who you are), and two, clowns are important to this post (other than the clown writing it, that is). For that to happen, we have to take a trip into the murky depths of my past. When I was a child, and yes I was a child once, my small town did not have much in its favour. It was, and remains a dull, drab, place, where the sidewalks are rolled up at about 8 p.m. So you can imagine the excitement when, in my 13th year, the circus came to town. It wasn't much of a circus, the elephant (yes one elephant) looked about 100 years old, and the big top was crumbling a bit, but for my town, it was the end all of entertainment. We had not seen this much excitement since the Civil War. It was THE place to be, and after doing my chores (otherwise known as being slave labour for my parents), and receiving my pittance of an allowance, I raced to see the sights, hear the sounds, and mostly importantly eat the exotic food of the circus (hey, I did say I was reared in a backwater, funnel cake was exotic I tell you). There I was wandering around taking it all in, the slightly overweight strongman, the ancient elephant, the lion tamer who looked just a little too tame, and there was no lion which I thought was odd, but what the hell did I know? I was 13.

Well, as children are wont to do, I wandered off from the wolf that raised me, and got my goofy ass lost. Too much sugar had ruined my sense of direction, and I found myself wandering the back alleys between the big top, and the bearded lady (is that really supposed to be a lady?). That is when it all went pear shaped, throw in a bearded lady, and shit goes bad quick. I noticed a knot of people gathered together, and thought "hey, I will go ask those adults the way home." They were dressed a little funny, so I did not just rush up and start to bawl, but hung back a bit so I could sort out if they were the "not to take candy from" type of strangers. Of course, they were clowns, and they were having a VERY animated conversation about something. Being the inquisitive type, I decided to take a listen to see what a group of such gaudily dressed gentlemen could be talking about. This was, in the terms of the day, a shit idea. I got a good listen, and even at 13, I knew that this was not something clowns should be discussing. My town was tiny, and we did not have a lot going on, but we had a bank. That bank was one of about 3 in the county, and our "police force" consisted of about three people, one of which could not work on the weekends because he was a bootlegger on Saturday, and a preacher on Sunday. I soon found out that the group of clowns (literally in this case) were talking about the bank, and were discussing what appeared to be making an "unscheduled withdrawal from the bank. I was too young to do much banking (my allowance was about 5 bucks a week, the piggy bank I possessed had more than enough room for any left over allowance). Now these were clowns, and they seemed to be drinking (there was a bottle in the typical paper bag that they were passing around), and maybe they were talking out of their collective ass, I did not know, and more importantly I was in no real mood to burst into their little chat and find out. I figured, since they were not locals, that they had no account at our little bank, and even I was clever enough to understand that they were planning a heist. This was when I decided that the wolf that raised me probably really needed to see me urgently about something, anything, and I tried to sneak away. Well, as you can guess me sneaking is not something that goes well. Even at 13, the force of my personality (my words) was too much to allow for me to do anything but steal the show when I appeared (and I also usually stole some candy too). One small trip over a tent rope, and one heavy fall later, I found myself the center of the clowns (unwanted) attention. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, they were less than pleased. A couple of them were the "evil" clown type, and figured that one lost child would make a lovely addition to the circus as a dwarf (they even had some suggestions as to how to keep me from getting taller).

Unlike the men and women I blog about on a daily basis, I am no hero. I am not one today, and I sure as fuck was not one at the tender age of 13. The only reason I made it to the age of 14 and beyond is due to one of the group (I assume the leader) took pity upon me, and kept me from being a perpetual sideshow. He must have been moved by the, quite real, tears I was shedding(yes, I can actually cry, or at least used to be able to). He dissuaded the others from their evil plan, and told me that "today was my lucky day." While he was arguing for me to be allowed to continue my growth spurt, I was able to determine that is what clowns do. There is some "head clown" somewhere in the world, I did not figure out where, that controls all clowns, be they the circus type, or the type that goes to little Annie's fourth birthday party (how much silver comes up missing after having a group of 10-15 wild children around that is put down to being lost?). It seems that they are worse than the mob, better organized, and entirely unsuspected of being evil (this was before Pennywise raised some suspicion about clowns, and terrorized an entire generation of children). They had the perfect plan, and perfect get away, they went from Podunk town to Podunk town, robbing banks, and moving on to the next town in the line. So, there I was in my 13th year, and had stumbled upon the great clown conspiracy. Only because the "head" clown took pity on a crying, fat kid, am I here to tell this tale today. However, all was not going to be forgiven, a vow of silence was extracted, and a threat (which I took to be quite real) to come back an turn me into that dwarf was made. I gave the vow willingly, and took the threat seriously. I am now breaking that 27 year silence, and plan to never go to the circus again, or have a clown over for a party. Here's hoping I have covered my tracks enough to keep me from being tracked down, and killed by vengeful clowns. I was allowed to return to the more trafficked area of the circus, but not before the "evil" clown faction made sure I would not forget them, they beat me up, not took badly, and were good enough to make my "I fell down" story easy to believe, but they whipped my ass. Thus, this was the first time I was beaten up by clowns, it was not to be the last.

So there it is my challenge to at least one of my fellow bloggers (probably two actually), but my legion of readers are welcome to write some experience, good or bad, they have had with clowns.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Proxy


The fellow above is one Karl Fredrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Munchhausen, born this day 1720 in Bodenwerder, in the present day Germany. We mostly know of him from the "disease" called Munchhausen by proxy, but he was a real life fellow. He joined the Russian army, fought in two campaigns against the terrible Turks, and came back home with a mind full of tall tales. Some of those tales included his riding cannonballs, and traveling to the moon, though I am not sure he rode cannonballs to the Moon, now that would have been a feat. There are actually two syndromes named after the good Baron. The first is Munchhausen syndrome, in which a person will feign, or simulate an illness to gain attention and sympathy. It was named in Munchhausen's honour by Richard Asher in 1951 (he named it out of respect for the Baron), the other syndrome is Munchhausen by proxy in a which person projects an fake illness onto someone in their care in order to appear the martyr. So for telling some cracking good yarns (or tall tales) that are still worth telling today, and having not one, but two illnesses named for him Baron von Munchhausen (May 11th, 1720-February 22nd, 1797, at the age of 76), you are my (258th) hero of the day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Non-Flying Dutchman


The well turned out fellow above is one Dennis Bergkamp, born this day 1960 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In the picture above he is wearing the Arsenal shirt, and his performance whilst wearing that shirt is what puts him on our hero podium for the day. He was a product of the famed Ajax youth system, joining the club at the grand, old age of 12. He went on to make 185 appearances for the club, and scored 103 goals. Not a bad return at all in today's game. In 1993, he signed for Inter Milan for 12 million pounds, a figure which made him the second most expensive footballer in the world at the time. After two unhappy, and for him, rather unproductive season in Italy, he signed for the Arsenal for 7.5 million quid, and when on to be worth so very much more than that. It took him seven games to "break his duck" in English football, but after he did he went on to score, score, and score. He banged in 87 goals in his 315 appearances with Arsenal, and scored the greatest goal I have ever seen scored in a World Cup game against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. YouTube it and gasp in awe at his control, and his finishing. He scored a total of 37 goals in 79 games with the Dutch national side, and remains one of my favourite players of all time. He was famous for his fear of flying, leading him to be nicknamed the "non Flying Dutchman." So, for all those glorious goals for the Arsenal, and for all the goals he created, Dennis Bergkamp (May 10th, 1969-present) you are my (257th) hero of the day.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

1664


Today I am less of a grave man, but I am still not entirely over yesterday's issue. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not, but I am quite sure that no one really gives a rat's piss or not, so I move on with the show. Today is Mother's Day in my country, and I guess I could elect to have as hero(ines) of the day all of those mother's out there, but I think that Mother's Day is one day where we tend to remember, usually fondly, our particular mother. We may remember our friend's mothers or our friends who are mothers, and for most of us that is still a fond memory. We remember the "June Cleaver" type mothers on this day, and I think we shove the undesirable part of the truth towards a back alley in our memories and minds. We don't remember the mother who ran her children into a pond, nor do we remember the fact that there are mothers out there that are about 22 years old, and have 4 or 5 children already. They are baby machines, not mothers. I understand, and accept the fact that this is not a popular viewpoint, but those are the types of "mothers" I see on a day to day basis, and so perhaps I am a bit jaded. I do not get to see too many of the June Cleaver or Clair Huxtable type of mothers. Plus, the wolf that raised me, while doing the best she could with the material she had (i.e. me) is not going to win any good housekeeping awards either. So, I apologize to the mothers of the world, but you just could not quite overcome those problems, and make it onto my hero(ine) podium. Therefore, I chose a year to be my hero, and not just any year. As you can tell by the picture above, it was a year that the lager I choose to poison myself with (otherwise known as Kronenbourg 1664), was first brewed. May 4th, 1664 to be exact, now I hear the gasps of "you drink a French beer? We knew your loyalty, and sanity were suspect." Well, yes I do drink a French beer, and my loyalty is to beer, my sanity is another question entirely. In mine defense, it is brewed in Strasbourg, France, which has been German several times in it's history. So, at least my beer is from the "German" part of France. 1664 was a leap year, it started on a Tuesday, and had a few interesting things happen in it, other than the invention of my beer. New Jersey became a colony of England, the Royal Marines were first formed, the Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam to the English, the French East India Company was formed, the Swedish statesman Arvid Horn was born, the Ottomans lost the battle of Saint Gotthard to the Austrian Empire, and future Sultan Mustafa II was born. These are just a few of the other reasons that 1664 was a good year for other than just beer, but mostly, for me at least, 1664 is a hero because of the beer. Though it might, on occasion, make me howl at the moon, and do some really stupid shit, it is still my choice of beer, and the major reason that for today the year 1664 (MDCLXIV), you are my (256th), hero of the day.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Triste

For reasons that are mostly my own, and therefore, not really important, and for other reasons that are other people's and therefore not my story to tell, today will be hero-less. It might not have started (or ended) that way, but these things happen. The one constant "person" in this little parade of heroes, and by extension a peek into the birdhouse that is my soul, is me. I am the one grunt that has staggered, drug himself to, or waddled to various keyboards in at least two different countries to write these sad little posts on a daily basis, and I am from from heroic. Today's list was pretty slim, but I am sure I could have put a square peg in a round hole, and provided at least one hero, but I am not up to that task today. Call for me tomorrow, perhaps I will be less of a grave man, and normal service on this hero stuff will be resumed. Even now as I write this particularly crappy post, I am thinking of how much differently it should have turned out. Perhaps that is what being a hero is, having one plan or goal in life, and due to events (that may or may not be beyond our control), realizing that plan B is now the way to go. I fear that I have no plan B, I am not sure I had a plan A. Which could be a small problem, life is probably (not that I would know) better if it is somewhat planned. I like plans, I do well with plans, and I used to think I was good at making plans. However, the last week or so has shown me the foolishness of that way of thinking. It appears I am not good at making plans, and I am shit at following plans. Maybe not being able to follow what is a shit plan is a virtue, but from where I am standing I can not see it. Yes, there is some simple minded, but obscure reason for this pity party of a post, but the window into the birdhouse of my soul is going to have to (by popular demand, and my own royal decree) remain closed to it. The reason is not really important, and I am sure tomorrow it will seem frivolous, or stupid, but for now that reason, vague as it may be, is the reason that I have to inform you (and not really with much regret) that for today, May 8th, there is no hero of the day.

Friday, May 07, 2010

That's her picture on the wall


The homely fellow above is one Robert Browning born this day 1812, in London, England. He was born the son of a bank clerk for the Bank of England, and a musician. There was some family money, but it was held by the grandfather, a wealthy slave owner in the West Indies. However, Browning father was revolted by slave owning, and moved to England, where he met, and married Browning mother. In 1845, he met, courted, and later married the poetess Elizabeth Barrett ( a previous heroine of the day), and I am pretty sure they have become the first man and wife to both be selected as heroes of the day. I am always breaking new ground with this blog, first I actually edited a post, then I tried to used paragraphs, and now I am having the first husband/wife team as heroes. There are two poems that I greatly admire by Browning they are "The Last Duchess," and "Porphyria's Lover." Both are lovely poems, and I highly recommend reading them if you haven't already. Of course, being favourites of mine means they are not the most uplifting, optimistic, poems in the world, but I never claimed to be little Mister Sunshine. He also a wrote a version of a work that more people are familiar with titled "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." So, for those three works, and many other that I am sure if I bothered to read them, I would also admire, Robert Browning (May 7th, 1812-December 12th, 1889, at the age of 77) you are my (255th) hero of the day.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Rosebud


The young, rakish, looking fellow above is one Orson Welles, born this day 1915, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I have debated with myself for the majority of this day on M. Welles' hero status. I arrived home to find his magus opus playing on TV. I am referring to "Citizen Kane," and I am slightly embarrassed to say that until today, I had never seen it before. It is rated, in many circles, as the greatest American film of all time. I watched, and hope, and pondered that statement, and I regret to say that I can not agree. It is a fantastic film, and Welles was a fucking genius as an actor, and as a director. He was miles ahead of his time, and if he had been born later, he might have had a career that went from one outstanding success to another. However, he was born when he was, and therefore his career had quite a number of unmitigated disasters. I have not seen a great number of his films, but the one that I absolutely love is "The Third Man," and it is for that role in that wonderful film that I have come off the fence and put him on the hero podium for today. His speech from the top of the Vienna Ferris wheel is priceless, and is delivered with perfection. Same can be said of the scene in which he talks about the cuckoo clock. It is for that role as the, quite frankly, rotten bastard Harry Lime, that I will forever remember him. I will overlook the later stages of his life when he ballooned up to over 400 pounds, and became as odd as a duck whacked upon the head. The making of "Citizen Kane" did gain him quite a few, very powerful enemies, and if that had not happened I believe he would be considered the greatest (rather than just one of the greatest) American director to ever put a story on film. However, he did remain true to his vision, and for that and all those fantastic films, Orson Welles (May 6th, 1915-October 10th, 1985, at the age of 70 of a heart attack), you are my (254th) hero of the day.

Cigars, Sex, and Cocaine


I figured that title was a pretty good way to grab attention. The fellow above is one Sigmund Freud born this day in Priobr, Austria-Hungary. Once again I have another larger than life, and bigger than my talent to write a post about, hero of the day. We all should have some working knowledge about our boy Sigmund, and of course it is all about sex. He was also one the earliest people to use cocaine for medicinal purposes. Writing several articles on cocaine on the antidepressant qualities of the drug. In fact, he just missed out on having scientific priority for discovering the use of cocaine as an anesthetic (as it was used with good effect as one in certain types of eye surgeries). However, the recreational use of the drug, and the face that one of Freud's close friends,a fellow by the name of Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow, eventually died because of his addiction to cocaine (he was using it on Freud's recommendation to help combat an heroin addiction), damaged Freud's reputation a great deal. We all have at least a vague notion of the id, ego, and super ego, and on his work with the interpretation of dreams. Read them yourselves for your own theories on it, and maybe, after I finish the 800 page biography of Freud that is sitting on my desk, I will be able to come back, and edit this post with more in-depth thought. I would not count on it, since I am not much of a editor, and since there is about 15 books in front of the biography, but we can always hope for the best. The picture above shows Freud with his trademark cigar in hand, he was a heavy, heavy smoker, and had to endure over 30 operations in his life due to oral cancer. After fleeing the Nazis, he committed suicide, with the aid of a doctor friend (who gave him large doses of morphine). However, he remains a central figure in the field of psychology, and though some of his theories have been proved to be absolute horse shit, he is still one of the starting points. So, for showing us that cocaine, cigars, and sex have their place in the world, Sigmund Freud (May 6th, 1856-September 23rd, 1939, at the age of 83), you are my (253rd) hero of the day.

Looter


The uniformed fellow above is one Andre Massena, born this day 1758, in Nice, Italy. The son of a shopkeeper, he ran off at the age of 13 to be a cabin boy on a merchant ship. He sailed on it around the Mediterranean, and on two long voyages to French Guiana. After those voyages he joined the French Army where he made it all the way to warrant officer, the highest rank he could achieve being a non-nobleman, before leaving the army in 1789. However, that pesky little thing called the French Revolution was just kicking off, and he was back in harness by 1791, and a colonel by 1792. Talent like his has a way of rising to the top, and the head fellow in charge, Napoleon himself said that Massena was "the greatest name of my military Empire." Pretty high praise, and even more so as it came from a megalomaniac. He distinguished himself in many a campaign, and was made Duc de Rivioli (one of the many victories that he helped bring about), in 1808. He fought till the end of the Napoleonic wars, and had his highs and lows, but he was one of the most talented field commanders of his or any other generation. He also bought an estate upstream from Napoleon's estate, and was heard to say that he could "piss on him (Napoleon) whenever he wanted to." Pretty funny stuff, and for that type of humour, and for being a damn fine military mind, Andrea Massena (May 6th, 1758-April 4th, 1817, at the age of 58), you are my (252nd) hero of the day.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Prole


The impressively bearded fellow above is one Karl Marx, born this day 1818 in Trier, Prussia. As I stated in today's first brief post, I am not in the mood, nor do I possess the skill to do justice to my hero(es) of this particular day. We all should know Marx, we all should have read a least a little bit of or about him, we all think we understand more of him than we do. The one quote that I feel the most "connection" with by Marx is The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." I like to think that I possess very little racism or sexism in my day to day thinking. I understand that a little bit of both of those unattractive qualities are probably unavoidable in today's society, but I do not doubt for a minute that class is the great divide, in my thinking, that separates modern society. The division between the have and the have nots is even greater today than it was in Marx's time. There may be, on average, more of the "haves" but the gulf between them and the "have nots" has widened considerably. Marx knew the have not life, he pretty much lived it the majority of his life. The hand to mouth existence that is the great struggle for a large part of the world's population during any given time, was familiar ground to Marx. I can not claim, with any conviction, to be living that type of life today, but there were times when hand to mouth was my existence as well. Looking back at those times, I have a tendency to think that perhaps I am a better person for that experience, but that could just be some sort of fucked up nostalgia for times past. I am pretty sure that at the time I was living this hand to mouth existence I was desperately hoping for my money ship to come in, and give me a better life. I don't pretend to be able to grasp 98% of Marx's thought, but I do know that he is probably one of the most misinterpreted thinkers of all time. He once proclaimed with firm belief that he was "not a Marxist." That little statement should tell you a great deal about the battle to interpret, and use Marx as a basis for all sorts of harebrained ideas, both political and economical. Next to that long biography of Kierkegaard on my bookshelf is an equally lengthy biography of Marx, this should tell you two things one, I read way too much, and two, you should probably look somewhere else for an in-depth analysis of Marx and his thoughts. This is about class, and don't be silly ALL things are, in my opinion, at their core about class. I am of the decidedly lower class, and live by the motto, stated more than once in this blog, of "once a prole, always a prole." A prole I was born, and a prole I shall die, just like it should be. I might be a comedy and an intellectual snob, but there is no upward, social movement in my future. A prole I remain, and in some ways that is fine with me. So, for showing us that "workers of the world" need to "unite, and cast off their chains," and that being a prole is not like being a leper, Karl Marx (May 5th, 1818-March 14th, 1883, at the age of 64), you are my (251st) hero of the day.

The Great Earthquake

Yesterday's post (of which I am actually proud of) was always going to be a hard one to follow, and today has been "one of those days", but the hero parade does not stop just because I had a busy, hectic, or shitty day. However, this post, and the one following it (two in one day!) are probably going to be brief, and are certainly going to be too brief for the subjects they contain.
The fellow above is one Soren Kierkegaard, born this day 1813, in Copenhagen, Denmark. I read a lot of Kierkegaard when I was in college, and I read a 800 page biography of him about two years ago, therefore a pithy blog post is not going to come close to doing his life and work justice. Especially one written, by me and by me in a rush. I will say that, at its root, Kierkegaard's thought is mostly much too complex for my pudding like brain, and we disagree on one VERY important idea, i.e. the existence of a god, but it is the existentialism of his philosophy that attracted me.
His "Diary of a Seducer" is a fabulous read, and "The Sickness Unto Death" in which he deals with despair is (or at least the parts I understand) outstanding as well. I read a great deal of his journals with delight, and even understood what he meant by having a "great earthquake" that shook him loose from his moorings, and led to a great deal of his writings. In his case, it was the breaking off of his engagement with Regina Olsen that propelled him upon the path that he eventually blazed in modern philosophical thought, might was not quite as "great", and does not seem to have led to any pinnacle of great modern thinking, but it was an earthquake nonetheless, and probably necessary for me to have at that time in my life.
Like Sartre, and Heidegger, I glory in Kierkegaard as a philosopher, but I cannot follow him in his "leap of faith" as a religious thinker. It is the point where our paths diverge, but while on the same path as him, I learned (and continue to learn, I hope, a lot). One of the most quoted passage from his writings comes from his journal entry for August 1st, 1835, when a 22 year old (think on that for a second) wrote, "The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die." Pretty deep stuff, and very deep stuff for a 22 year old man to be pondering, but that is what he was the great ponderer.
So, for writing all of those pages to ponder upon, and for being a source to turn to when faced with my own existential crisis, Soren Kierkegaard (May 5th, 1813-November 11th, 1855, at the age of 42), you are my (250th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Colony or birth of a gambler


The lovely beast above is one Pleasant Colony foaled this day 1978. His celebrated birthday, like all thoroughbreds is January 1st, but today was the day he came into this world. He was a late foal, and two days shy of his actual 3rd birthday when he galloped home a winner in the 1981 Kentucky Derby. About a month before that great triumph is when he entered my life. When I started this "hero of the day" blog idea he was one of the first heroes whose birthday I marked off. I did not even look at any other possible heroes for this day, because, in my mind, there could be no other. I have been writing this blog post in my mind since that day in August when I hatched the idea of a hero of the day, and I know that even now I won't be able to put everything I think or feel about him into words. After changing trainers (after a bad run of form), to a "fat guy from New York" named John Campo, he won the 1981 Wood Memorial. Nothing to it right? Well the reason he (and all of his children, grandchildren, etc) are, and will remain forever, my hero is that he was the FIRST horse I ever picked to win a race. I was a grand total of 11 years old, and was sitting in my grandmother's living room with my (gambling) uncle. I picked Pleasant Colony to win and he did, my uncle turned to me and said "boy when you get old enough I am taking you to the track." I am pretty sure he did, though that memory has been lost to me. Either way on May 2nd, 1981 there I was again glued to granny's TV to watch Pleasant Colony bolt through the middle of the field, take the lead, and win by 3/4 of length over Woodchopper at odds of 13-1, (watch for yourself here http://www.kentuckyderby.com/history/year/1981). Needless to say, I was (and remain) in love with this horse. He wasn't much to look at, he was a bit scrawny (but 17 hands high), his ears drooped, and his ribs stuck out, but he had the heart of a champion. I watched when he, as the 3-2 favourite, beat Bold Ego in the Preakness by a full length (after a grueling stretch run), and I was there to watch the second weekend in June when it all came crashing down. That weekend was the Belmont, a mile and a half marathon that caps the Triple Crown trail. He was the 4-5 favourite, and I was happily thinking that we were about to have a Triple Crown winner, and he was going to be my horse. However, some New York cunt threw fireworks near him before he loaded in the gate, and my belief to this day, is that act of stupidity upset him, and cost him the race. He finished third behind Summing, and Highland Blade, two horse for which I harbour eternal hatred. He lost the Triple Crown by 1 and a half lengths, and my 11 year old heart was broken, and in some way it still is. I realize it is stupid to admit/write that, but it is true. A small part of me (maybe not that small) has never gotten over that loss. It was perhaps one of the earliest instances of me seeing a hero fail. I took it hard, but I did not lose my love of the sport or of Pleasant Colony. To this day, if I see his name, or the name of any of his offspring, in a horse's pedigree I will place a wager on that horse. It usually does not work, but I remember the 31-1 shot Pleasant Home making me proud by winning the 2005 Breeder's Cup Distaff. I cashed that ticket, and said a thank you prayer to Pleasant Colony (a relative on the distaff side). I also remember my buddy, whom I talked out of placing a bet on Pleasant Home, because I explained the dumb reason behind my wager, being furious at me (and is to this day) about me screwing him out of a winner ticket. Pleasant Home, and by extension Pleasant Colony, bought a few rounds of drinks that night to make things better. In a way that was a healing of the wounds I suffered at the 1981 Belmont, I was never old enough to (financially) profit from my picking Pleasant Colony, but I like to think that he was looking down from horse heaven that day in 2005 (he had died in 2002 at the age of 24), and said "Inquisitor, I am going to pay your devotion to me and mine back," and he did. I know it is sappy, and I know it is silly to still be carrying a torch around for a) a horse, and b) a dead horse, but c) I unabashedly do, and do not give a fuck who knows. So, for coming in first that day in April, 1981, and winning my 11 year old heart forever, and I have long since forgiven him not winning that horrid day in June, 1981, Pleasant Colony (May 4th, 1978-December 31st, 2002, at the age of 24), you are my, and will remain, my (249th) hero of the day.

Monday, May 03, 2010

O Niccolo

The cunning fellow above is one Niccolo Machiavelli born this day 1469 in Florence, Italy. We all know of him, we all know the term taken from his name to signify cunning and deceit in politics. Most of us either had to or wanted to read his masterclass "The Prince" at some point in our lives. Some of us even gave that book as a gift/hint to our boss. Most of us also know that "The Prince" was not published until Machiavelli had been dead for five years, although he did circulate it privately amongst his friends (that took some guts, here you are my pal, now read this book where I show you why that might be a bad idea). He had his up and downs as a civil servant in the service of the Florentine Republic, scaling the heights of power to where he was responsible for the militia of Florence, and went on several diplomatic missions to foreign powers, and plumbing the depths of the lows, being deposed from office in 1513, and tortured "with the rope" and exiled to his estate outside of Florence. There he wrote the book that made him famous, and is still widely read, and studied today. I do not subscribe to the theory that he was evil or all bad, I think his dark side is a bit overblown. He was, in my opinion, at heart a realist. A man who understood what it takes to rule, and that sometimes a boot in the arse is necessary to get things in order. A kind, gentle, ruler is all well and good, until people start to take him or her for granted, and then they start taking liberties, soon you have chaos, and generally chaos in government is a bad thing. A little fear can go a long way, and if you are the guy in charge, I believe it is still probably better to be feared than loved. It is a cynic's approach to the world, but then I am a confirmed, card carrying cynic (how is that for alliteration). So, for showing us that to rule, a little bit of ass kicking is necessary, and necessary is some times the only reason you need for doing something, Niccolo Machiavelli (May 3rd, 1469-June 21st, 1527, at the age of fifty-eight), you are my (248th) hero of the day.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

He Makes a Mean Pizza Too

The dashing, decorated, fellow above is on Manfred von Richthofen a.k.a "The Red Baron" born this day 1892, in Breaslau, Germany. He began his military training at the age of 11, and soon joined a cavalry unit. The outbreak of World War I saw him still a cavalryman, but the trench warfare of the Western Front did not call for a lot of cavalry, and his unit began to be used as infantry. That did not suit the young Manfred, and he applied for, and was accepted into the German "Air Force" in May, 1915. He entered pilot training in October, 1915, and after a few training runs flying in two seater aircraft, gained his first confirmed kill on September 17th, 1916. After this first victory, he ordered a silver cup engraved with the date, and the type of machine killed from a Berlin jeweler (hey fly boys are arrogant pricks), he continued this until he had 60 cups, he could get no more silver from the jeweler due to the blockade of German ports, but I am sure he would have kept the little tradition alive till the end. He was not the flashy type of pilot that his brother, Lothar, was he preferred to dive upon his victims coming out of the sun, using it to blind them as he riddled them with bullets. He most famously connected with the Fokker Dr. I. triplane, it is the red one that we see in all the movies, but only 20 of his 80 victories were recorded in that type of plane. It was the Albatros D. III that he first painted red, and that was the plane in which he built his reputation. It was April of 1917 that was to be his highwater mark, he is credited with 22 kills in that month alone. He became effectively a wing commander (even though still a captain), and his group was nicknamed the Flying Circus. All well and good, but he also became a symbol, and that is part of the problem with him as a hero. He really was not the nicest fellow, and I guess if I had been alive during his lifetime, I would have been rooting for the other team, but he was one hell of a fucking fighter pilot, and I don't care for symbols that much. Who knows? If Germany had won World War I, things might have not turned out so bad in the next twenty years, and the Baron did his best to make that happen, and that is what a soldier is supposed to do. Whether he is flying in a gaudy coloured airplane in the clouds above, or shoveling mud in the trenches below. But he was not immortal or bullet proof, he sustained a serious head wound on July 6th, 1917, and was grounded until that October. The wound was to have lasting effects, causing him headaches and post flight nausea, and has even been thought to be a reason for his lack of judgement during his final flight in the great blue yonder. That flight happened on April 21st, 1918, when just after 11 a.m. he was hit by a single bullet (probably fired from the ground), and died a fairly speedy death. Before he died he managed to make a controlled landing, and the Allied soldiers that reached him recorded his last word to be "kaputt." And kaputt he was, I doubt he will be considered a popular hero, he was a stone cold killer, but you have to remember the people he shot down were trying to (and eventually did) kill him. It was war, and he did his duty, and that is all that matters. I am sure Snoopy would agree that he was a worthy, brave, flier that the likes of the world will not see again. So, for doing his duty, against the odds and usually better equipped opponents, Manfred von Richthofen (May 2nd, 1892-April 22nd, 1918, at the age of 25) you are my (247th) hero of the day.