Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stormy Weather


The lovely, and talented lady above is one Lena Horne, born this day 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. She had a bit of a wanders upbringing before she joined the chorus line of the Cotton Club in 1933. From their, her huge amount of talent got her to Hollywood, where she starred in a few films, but by the 1950's she was tired of Hollywood, and went back to her roots of being a club singer. Just as well, since her political beliefs got her blacklisted by those bastards that ran the big films. She was a premier attraction for years, at several big nightclubs, and started making numerous guest appearances on TV. It was on TV that I first "discovered" her. She was Fred Sanford's (that's Sanford.) favourite singer, and he also had a bit of a crush on her. She made an appearance on Sanford and Son, and sang a few bars of the song by which she is most know, i.e. Stormy Weather. Much like Fred Sanford, I was star struck when I heard her voice. It was amazing, and the woman was still gorgeous (this was in the 70's). So, for making that tune her own, and being a talented, amazing singer, Lena Horne (June 30th, 1917-May 9th, 2010, at the age of 92), you are my (311th) hero(ine) of the day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crow


The mallet swinging fellow on the left in the photo above is one Ian Bannen born this day 1928 in Airdire, Scotland. The son of a lawyer, he spent some time in the army before taking up acting. He had his first role at the age of 19, and was an original member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The picture above shows him, and fellow hero Hardy Kruger, in 1965's "Flight of the Phoenix." His role of "Crow" a wise cracking passenger on the ill fated flight that the movie is based upon. For that role, he earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, making him the first Scottish actor to do so. He did not win, but still it is a wonderful role that provides a great deal of muted humour in an otherwise serious film. He went on to a fairly successful career, and had a fairly small, but still excellent role as the elder Robert the Bruce in Mel Gibson's Braveheart. He also starred in "Waking Ned" another lovely film, and his role is well crafted, and well played. He was tragically killed in a car accident near Loch Ness in 1999, but for those roles in some lovely films, Ian Bannen (June 29th, 1928-November 3rd, 1999, at the age of 71), you are my (310th) hero of the day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Starry Night


I have mentioned before that this project was a spur of the moment idea, and that I am so lazy that I do not do a lot of research ahead of the daily post. This causes a few problems, first it puts me constantly on a deadline (which, I admit is not always a bad thing), secondly, it causes me to worry that I am overlooking a great number of people, and thirdly it makes me panicky that I won't have 366 heroes by the time my year is up, and I will have overlooked a bunch of people. Problems two and three overlap a bit, but hey, what can you do? In this case, I decided to do a little research, since I am otherwise wasting my time sitting on my ass, and that research led me to discover that on March 30th, I overlooked the fellow who painted the above picture. I was stunned, how could I overlook Vincent Van Gogh? I hurriedly looked at my post for the day in question, to see whom I could have possibly placed over Van Gogh. The answer, a horse by the name of Secretariat. A good choice, and for people that do not know me as well as they think, a choice that they would think is typical. In some respects they would be right, after all there have been at least three separate horses that have been my hero of the day. I do love to play the ponies, and that part of my personality (i.e. the shallow part) is pretty open and obvious for people to see.

However, I love art, and though I can not draw a properly proportioned stick man, I can appreciate artistic talent. The ability to paint "pretty pictures" like the one above stuns me. I cannot fathom having that kind of talent, that kind of vision. This is the other side of my personality (i.e. the side I don't show much), the side that can look at Van Gogh's paintings, and gasp in awe at such beauty. Sure, Van Gogh was bat shit crazy, and some of his pictures are not so "pretty" but, few artists, musicians, or authors produce solid gold every time they try. Even Shakespeare wrote reams, and reams of absolute dross, but we tend to forgive that (as well we should) because when they get it right it produces works that are astounding.

Van Gogh, and another painter I am fond of, Edvard Munch, both considered their paintings to be their "children." I can see why they would think such a thing. Their paintings are created out of the images in their heads, and the things by which their names are carried on throughout time. These images are the things we instantly access in our own memories when we hear their names mentioned. Van Gogh created many, many fabulous paintings (for all the good it did him while he was alive), and for that I will always stand in awe of his talent. I figure if you are interested enough, you can look up the petty details of his, sometimes tragic, life for yourself.

I also suggest taking a look at his painting, in person if you have the means, if not at least online. Don't just look at them, but see them for what they are. Images of a painter with no formal training, and a slightly tormented mind. Images that he HAD to put on canvas, no matter what the critics might have to say against him, and that about all critics can do, is nay say people with far more talent that then have (it is one reason I think I would make a lovely critic, a lack of talent). Then you will understand (I hope, for your sake at least) what true genius can do, and then you will also realize that, even though I overlooked him for a horse, Vincent Van Gogh (March 30th, 1853-July 29th, 1890, of a self inflicted gunshot wound), you are my (309th) hero of the day.

It's Good to be the King


The funny fellow above is one Melvin Kaminsky, a.k.a. Mel Brooks, born this day 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. His father's family were Polish Jews, and his mother's family were Russian, and M. Brooks would use quite a bit of "Jewish" humour in his films. He was a sickly child that was picked on a lot, but he eventually joined the Army, and fought during World War II. He started his "career" as a stand up comic, and then moved into television, before eventually moving to making movies. His first full-length movie was 1968's "The Producers" for which he won the Academy Award for best original screenplay. He then went onto such comic classics as "Blazing Saddles," and "Young Frankenstein." One of his trademarks is the theory that if you need a good villain in a film, just throw in some Nazis, and you are set. Probably my favorite film of his is "History of the World, Part I." I have seen it about 30 times, and can still quote large portions of it, not that that is anything to be proud of, but hey I never claimed to be highbrow. Well, that is not true, I have claimed to be a comedy snob, but Mel Brooks brand of goofball comedy still makes me chortle with glee today. There is just something sublimely ridiculous about his films that is pure genius. The line that is the title of this post comes from that film, and oddly enough he recorded a rap song with that title that became a dance hit. Mel Brooks, at the age of 55, rapping, and making the dance charts, not even he would put that goofiness in a movie. He is one of the few artists who have won an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy, and a Grammy. Now that superfecta takes some talent, and Mel has loads of it. He actually produced the dramatic film "The Elephant Man," but would not allow his name to be attached to it, because he feared that audiences would think it was a comedy. The man has talent, range, and good sense, those are rare qualities to find in anyone, and even more impressive to find all three of them in one human being. One thing I did learn about him while doing the massive amount of research for this post, is that he created the TV series "Get Smart." There you go, even I can still learn a bit about my heroes. So, for making it "Good to be the King" Mel Brooks (June 28th, 1926-present), you are my (308th) hero of the day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dimitrios

Today's hero is a day early, His name is Eric Ambler, and he was born June 28th, 1909 in London, England. I figured that the English needed a hero for today, and their thrashing at the hands of the stinking Germans, and there was not hero born this day to step up to the plate. So, Mr. Ambler gets elected to be our one day early stand-in. His claim to fame, at least for me, is one of his books entitled "A Coffin for Dimitrios" it is an early example of a spy novel, and it is the book James Bond is reading on the plane in "From Russia With Love." I figure if it is good enough for James Bond to read, then it must be good, and it is a wonderfully written thriller. No fancy explosive devices, or people who possess the ability to fly, just a good, old-fashioned spy novel that's main character is just an average fellow caught up in major events. It was made into a fairly awful film, that the less said of the better, but I suppose that was not Ambler's fault, though he did write a few screen plays in his time. He wrote several other "thrillers" and some of them are quite good, and I would recommend his books to read, he is a big influence on another current writer that I admire as well (his name is Alan Furst). But, for his own writing skill, and for those wonderfully taunt thrillers Eric Ambler (June 28th, 1909- October 28th, 1998, at the age of 90), you are my (307th) hero of the day.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Absolute Zero


I am sure if you were to just read the title of this post, you might expect a picture of me to be added above, well I might be a little harsh on myself, but I am not a total zero yet.

The fellow above is one William Thomson, a.k.a. Lord Kelvin, born this day 1824 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The son of a professor mathematics, and engineering, Lord Kelvin, would to on to become quite the scientific star himself. Our boy Kelvin helped to figure out the first two laws of Thermodynamics, helped to lay a transatlantic cable (for which he was eventually knighted), helped to create a much more reliable mariner's compass, and came with a way of measuring absolute zero. That last little bit got a measurement of temperature named after him, it is called the Kelvin, and my astronomy teacher from log ago always you to use it as a way of saying how cold the surfaces of planets or stars were. What the temperature was in Kelvin he would exclaim "That's brisk!" So, it must be cold. Kelvin was a man of many talents, and I am too lazy to go through them all today. Plus, a few discouraging words about this project have taken a bit of the edge of it today. So, for making every temperature reading seem "brisk!" William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (June 26th, 1824- December 17th, 1907, at the age of 83), you are my (306th) hero of the day.

M


The large eyed fellow above is one László Löwenstein, born this day 1904, in Rozahegy, Austria-Hungary. He is much better known by his stage name Peter Lorre. He ran away from his family when he was a youth, and spent some time working as a bank clerk in Vienna, before turning to acting. He began his acting career at the tender age of 17, by acting on stage. He adopted his stage name Lorre in 1925. His big break came in the film "M" (from which the picture above is taken). "M" is a Fritz Lang film about a serial killer, and Lorre's portrayal of the title character was to make him a star. It was also going to get him typecast as the suspicious looking foreigner in many films, but it was a type that he played with aplomb. After fleeing Berlin, and the Nazis, Lorre made his way to London where (despite not speaking very much English) he was cast by Alfred Hitchcock in "The Man Who Knew Too Much." However it is two films made a year apart (after he had moved to Hollywood) that put him on our hero podium for today. You may have watched them they are "The Maltese Falcon" and "Casablanca" two pretty damn good films, and he played the suspicious foreigner role very well in both of them. His trademark raspy voice helped him a great deal in playing that role, and has been parodied many times (mostly memorably by Mel Blanc in a couple of Looney Tunes cartoons). "Casablanca" was shot in 1942, and I know money was a bit tight, but his reported salary for the film was 500 bucks. He was interviewed during the 40's and 50's by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and asked to give them a list of anyone suspicious he had met since moving to America, Lorre provided them a list alright, he gave them a list of everyone he knew. I guess we are all suspicious if you catch us on the right day, and in the right mood. After World War II, his career took a bit of a nosedive (partially because chronic gallbladder trouble had got him hooked on morphine), but it is for those two films that Peter Lorre (June 26th, 1904-March 23rd, 1964, at the age of 59 of a stroke), is my (305th) hero of the day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Competition


Before I unveil the identity of the fellow above (if you don't know him by his picture, shame on you), I have to take a bit of a detour. You see, today is MY birthday, yes 41 years ago the wolf that raised me, brought me into this miserable world, and sent me off to find fortune and fame. Here I am all those years later pondering whether or not to make myself my own hero of the day. In many ways, I am far, far, from being anything approaching the stuff of which heroes are made, and to make myself my own hero is arrogant beyond belief. I have detailed my many flaws on several occasions in these pages, so there is no need to revisit them here and now.
However, I have been faithfully blogging on my heroes everyday since last August 12th. For a fat, lazy, slob like me that is quite a heroic task, there are a LOT of people who write for a living, and they write far more, and far better than I ever will, but then again that is how they pay their grocer's bill. I make my outrageous salary doing other things than writing. This is a hobby, or a flight of fancy for me, not a way to keep the lights on in my castle. A way for me to "express myself" in ways that my job does not allow. I did gain a major victory over Mother Nature (the Bitch) yesterday, and thought that it would be a good reason to anoint myself a hero. But, really and truly it is not, and I have a much bigger obstacle to becoming the hero of the day.

That reason is the fellow above is name is Eric Blair, though you probably know him better as George Orwell, and he was born this day 1903 in Motihari, India. It was a British possession at the time, and our boy George was therefore a British citizen. His father was a civil servant, and Orwell described his family as "lower-upper-middle class." At the age of one, his mother moved with him and his sisters to England, and he was not to see his father again until 1912. I am struggling with how much detail of his life to include in this already over long post, so I figure I will just hit the highlights. After all, you can read them for yourself. I will focus on the stuff that makes him take in place, in front of me, on our hero podium for today. He when to Spain to "fight against fascism" and joined a group called POUM, one of the many factions of fighters during the Spanish Civil War. His experiences there, including being shot in the throat, and nearly killed, form the basis for a lovely book called "Homage to Catalonia." I have read it at least 3 times, and even though it was a commercial flop when it was released, it is a fantastic book. Orwell requested in his will that no biography of him be written, and I can see why. His life, while not overly long, was full enough for volumes and volumes to be written about him. This request was not honored, and there are several biographies out there of him. I prefer to read him, and not about him. "1984" and "Animal Farm" are two books that will be on reading lists forever. The term Orwellian entered the lexicon, and until my name replaces it, I will forever be stuck behind good old George on the hero list for this day (as a friend of mine pointed out, not in a mean way, last night). Even his first work "Down and Out in Paris and London" is awesome, and it was probably the first book of his I read. Orwell said that the modern author that had the most influence on him was W. Somerset Maugham for "his power to tell a story straightforwardly and without frills." I wish I could do that, it seems I add a bit too many frills when I try to tell a story, and sometimes the story get lost amongst the frills. I suppose I should follow his six simple rules for writers which are

  • "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print".
  • "Never use a long word where a short one will do".
  • "If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out".
  • "Never use the passive voice where you can use the active".
  • "Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent".
  • "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous".
Orwell became quite good at telling stories as well, and even though I would love to put myself on the podium for my own ego's sake, I realize that to do so over Orwell it would be the height of folly. He was no frills to the end, when he died his tombstone simply read ""Here lies Eric Arthur Blair, born 25 June 1903, died 21 January 1950," there is no mention made of his famous pen name. The only consolation I can draw from today, and it is not good, is that unlike George, I am still alive to celebrate the birth date we share. Horrible I know, but small victories mean a lot to someone who shares a birthday with George Orwell. So, for all those wonderful books, and for sharing (hogging more like) my birthday, Eric Blair, a.k.a. George Orwell (June 25th, 1930-January 21st, 1950, at the age of 46 of a burst artery in his lungs), you are my (304th) hero of the day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Falco

There might, just might be a hero who was born on this day, and that person may, or may not make an appearance later today, but for now we go to the sub bench to find our hero of the day. I had a chat with a buddy of mine about this hero of the day idea, and he figured I should have planned it out all in advance, and picked them before hand. He is probably right, but I like the challenge of picking one a day. However, I am sure his approach would probably result in no one being left out. I am quite sure there is a whole raft of people that I will forget by the time this is over, and I am trying to do better about my planning, but time marches on, and we need a hero for today regardless of my desire to plan.

Our stand in hero for today is one Marcus Didius Falco, "born" March 20th or 21st, 41 AD in Rome. I say born, but really Falco is a fictional character created by a lovely English author named Lindsay Davis. He is the main character in (so far) the 20 novels of the series that bears his name. Falco is a pleb, at least when the series starts, and he is from the "other side of the tracks" when it comes to Rome. A lovely place called the Aventine, a place where they don't care for strangers much, and a good place to get your fool self killed. He is a private investigator, and a bit of a gad about. He served his time in the legion, and then moved back to Rome to pursue fame and fortune. An extremely intelligent colleague of mine read the first few books, and commented that "that isn't 1st century Rome being described, but 18th century London." There are clearly "modern" parts of the novels, but they are highly entertaining, and not meant to be weighty literature like "Crime and Punishment." It is a little heavier than fluff, but not by much. And they are quite funny, and another friend of my past read the books, and said that "Falco reminds me a bit of you, quite a bit." I took it as a compliment even if it wasn't one. Falco as a single man is quite entertaining, but in the first novel, he meets the woman that will eventually become his wife. She is the daughter of a senator, and far above his station. Their romance, and Falco's settling down to domestic life with dogs, kids, and servants are a large part of the books, and it is the part that, in many ways, I don't care for. I figure a private investigator needs to be a single man without all of the family issues that make life so bland for the rest of us. Ms. Davis clearly disagrees, but I still read her books faithfully, they are fantastic books, and Falco is a wonderfully drawn character. Cynical, a bit gruff, a fellow who does not take himself, or anyone else too seriously, and an amateur poet. He is generally going to do the right thing, and tries to do it as simply as possible. So, for being a wonderful character, Marcus Didius Falco, (March 20th or 21st, 41 AD-present), you are my (303rd) hero of the day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ages

Before I introduce the fellow above who happens to be today's hero, I must toot my own horn for a second. This post is number 500. 500 posts is a lot for a lazy, unmotivated slob like myself. Still 500 posts in slightly less than four years could be considered to be an achievement. Both for the number of posts (if not their content), and for the fact I have been doing this for almost four years. I had really hoped for a super, duper, dynamic hero to be the subject of my 500th post, but instead I got the fellow above. His name is Giambattista Vico, and he was born this day 1668 in Naples, Italy. He was born the son of a bookseller, and maybe that is what inspired his life long love of books. He eventually rose to the position of royal historiographer to Charles III, the King of Naples, and apparently got paid the big bucks. His hero status rests on his theory of history. A theory that I once knew a lot more about than I do today. In my previous life as a history graduate student, I had to read a bit of Vico, and I had a mentor who was quite a fan of his. If your mentor is a fan of a historian, you become a fan to, whether you want to or not. Luckily for me, I became a fan all on my own. Being forced to read him helped, but I did like what I read. His major idea, and the one I was forced to recite like a good boy was that civilization go through recurring cycles of three ages. These ages, are the divine, the heroic, and the human. These three cycles follow one upon the other throughout history, and to Vico this constitutes his idea of an ideal eternal history. Of course, his idea is much more complicated than that, and I lack the skill to simplify it for you. After all, no one dumbed it down for me, I had to sort it out on my own, and in front of a class room full of fellow bored history students under the baleful glare of my mentor. Life is hard for a historian, or for those that aspire to be historians, and I figure if you want to know bad enough, you can look him up, and read his works for yourself. Or you can remain in the dark about his idea, but realize that a great deal of what he says makes sense, and we as a society would do well to heed his words. So, for showing me, all those years ago, that the history of the world is just one big cycle (kind of like laundry) Giambattista Vico (June 23rd, 1668-January 23rd, 1744, at the age of 75), you are my (302nd) hero of the day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Action!


The fellow above is one Samuel "Billy" Wilder, born this day 1905 in Sucha, Austria-Hungary. His mother nicknamed him Billie, which he changed to Billy when he moved to America. His parents ran a successful cake shop, and tried to get him to take over the family business, but cakes were not Billie's style, and he moved to Vienna to find fame and fortune. After dropping out of the University of Vienna, he became a journalist, and moved to Berlin. It was through this journalistic connection that he became interested in film, and since he was Jewish, he decided in the early 1930's to move to Paris. He eventually moved to Hollywood in 1934, and there he made the films that put him on our hero podium for today. His 1994 film "Double Indemnity" has been credited with being the first "film noir." He went on to a massively successful career, and the list of his outstanding films is lengthy indeed. "Sunset Boulevard" "The Lost Weekend" "Staalag 17" "Witness for the Prosecution", and "Seven Year Itch" are just some of his films. In total, he directed 14 actors or actresses that were nominated for Academy Awards in his films. He was nominated eight time for the Best Director Oscar, and won two of them. In 1960 he won the Best Director, the Best Writing, and Best picture with the film "The Apartment" quite a feat, and pretty much impossible to achieve in today's Hollywood. Most of Wilder's films were bereft of overt political overtones, and that was his intent. He wasn't too terribly interested in day to day politics, preferring instead to focus on human nature. His later years were marred by Hollywood's refusal to give him any more work, and he complained loudly, and often that it was because of his age. Regardless of that little blip, he was a fine director, and made some absolute masterpieces on film. So, for those wonderful films that are just plain brilliant, Billy Wilder (June 22nd, 1906-March 22nd, 2002, at the age of 95 of pneumonia) you are my (301st) hero of the day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Belly


"It's a funny thing, but have you ever noticed that you can always find someone to buy you a drink, but there is never anyone who will pay for something to eat?" Emile Zola- "The Belly of Paris"

Looks good doesn't it all nice and tasty. Read that sentence again, and think about it for a few seconds. Ever had a really shitty day, and are telling one of your pals about it? What do they do? Do they say "shit, that sucks, come on I'll buy you a drink." Sure they do, because bad days or bad news is handled best with booze, and that's what pals are for, to buy you drinks when the world is clearly not on your side. Does that pal ever say "shit, that sucks come on I will buy you a quart of Chunky Monkey ice cream.?" I would sort of hope not, and it has never happened to me, and I have had a few shit days in my time. Of course, some of us do medicate ourselves with the ambrosia of the gods pictured above. Chocolate, the Lifetime Movie Channel, and a box of tissues have been the answer to many of life's problems. Zola wasn't talking about solving life's little bad days, but about life itself. Hunger can be pretty well disguised by a couple of drinks, and besides booze makes us feel better than food right? I have a buddy going through a bit of a rough patch, but they are always trying to avoid booze. How hard is that? What do I tell them, "come on, I will buy us a Frosty?" It is a puzzler to try and sort out how to be a good friend to them, but not buy them a drink. After all a drink will make it all better right? One little drink couldn't hurt, could it? Of course, one drink is so very rarely one drink. The first tastes so damn good, and hits the spot just perfectly why not have another. Besides, we are just getting to chatting about the problem(s) you are facing, so you can't leave now, we haven't sorted anything out. Two drinks won't hurt will it? Boy does that second one taste even better than the first, and now dusk is falling, people are beginning to come into the joint, and maybe if you have one more things might perk up. After all, you don't have anywhere to be, but some lonely, dark apartment. Why not sit here with your buddy that cares enough to listen to you have a good moan, and drink on his dime? Three drinks, and you realize that all you have been doing is discussing your life or problems, and haven't even asked your pal about his day, or about how his life is progressing. That is just rude isn't it? Might as well let him get what is troubling him out as well, after all, he was kind of enough to suggest this idea in the first place. Four drinks, and by now maybe a couple of other regulars have wandered into the bar, you can't just up and leave now can you? Besides with all the interruptions of people coming in and you greeting them, or people leaving, and you saying bye to them, you haven't really got too deep into your little heart to heart with you pal. Been an age since you've seen the bugger, and even longer since you were able to talk for more than two consecutive minutes. Five drinks, and man these things are just sliding down into, what you now realize is your empty belly, because after all your buddy offered to buy you a drink, not to take you to dinner. Six drinks, and you and your buddy are finding all sort of personal tidbits out about each other, maybe some that you didn't want to hear, but after all he is your pal right? He is the one that suggested this idea in the first place, and it would be rude to say "sorry lad, but your desire to murder your spouse for the insurance money is a bit too weird for me." By now your in for a penny, in for a pound. What is one more? You've been afflicted with the "one more disease" and it has claimed a lot of other people besides you. It is an insidious disease, and very, very difficult to resist. Even if you had the willpower to resist, which you don't because you've already had six, or was it seven, drinks. Sure you will feel like warmed over ass tomorrow, and you will curse your buddy for keeping you out till 1 a.m. drinking, but at least you got some things off your chest. And after all, there are somethings that chocolate just can not fix.


P.S. Dedicated to three people, two alive, and one dead. One a inspiration, one a source, and one a source of inspiration. You know who you are (at least the live ones do).

Nausea part Deux


The fellow above is one Jean-Paul Sartre, born this day 1905 in Paris, France. Since I have already made the main character of one his most famous works my hero, I figured I should give the same title to the guy would created the character. He was born the son of a French naval captain who died when Sartre was only 15 months old. When he was 12 his mother remarried, and moved to La Rochelle. As a teenager, Sartre became interested in philosophy, and earned a doctorate in philosophy. While doing this, he met another heroine of my day Simone de Beauvoir, and they begin there long on again, off again romance. It was in 1938 that Sartre wrote "Nausea" the book that was in many ways to become a sort of existential "bible." It is a great, eye-opening, depressing book, and I have read it about 3 times, and each time I learn something about myself. The mark of a great book is exactly that, something you can read multiple times, and still no reach the bottom. Another famous of work of his is the play "No Exit" that contains one of the all time great lines in literature "Hell is other people." If you have to deal with other people on a day to day basis, you will understand what that means, and how true it is. Sartre was the first person to win, and then turn down the Nobel Prize (in 1964), stating that he did not want to be "transformed" by the award. He other masterpiece "Being and Nothingness" has sailed over my head (like most things do), but the one thing I managed to take from it was the crux of his argument that existence precedes essence. Ponder on that for a while, and see if you can understand and appreciate it. I will just crawl back to rereading "Nausea" until I sort it all out in my head. So, for that one wonderful book, and a lot of other important achievements in the world of philosophy that I am not bright enough to understand, Jean-Paul Sartre (June 21st, 1905-April 15th, 1980, at the age of 74 of edema of the lung), you are my (300th) hero of the day.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rouge

The lovely lady above is one Nicole Kidman, born this day 1967 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The accent and the nationality usually associated with her, come from the fact that both her parents are Aussies, and she moved back to Australia at the age of four. To be honest most of her films don't do much for me. Other than the fact that she is in them, I doubt I would have watched too many of them. Although clearly I am in the minority because her films have grossed over 2 billions dollars, with 17 of them raking in over 100 million each. I did like a couple of them, but certainly her appearance in them helped a whole lot. It is a purely "man pick" that gets her on our hero(ine) podium for today. I think she fucking gorgeous, and I once told a girl whom I was err being intimate with to "shut up I was pretending she was Nicole Kidman." Not the wisest move, but I was not entirely in control of my faculties at that particular moment. Needless to say that relationship did not progress much further. She has managed to win an Academy Award, and many other lesser awards along the way, so I figure my opinion on many of her films must be wrong. It isn't that I don't think she has a load of acting talent, it is just that, for me, all she really has to do is stand there and exist. I never claimed not to be (most of the time) a brainless, shallow man. I fear that as age catches up to me and her, that my brainlessness will only increase, and I will be going to more of her films just to watch her on screen. Plot, and all that stuff probably won't be too necessary. One day she will dump husband number two, and run off to some tropical island with me, of this I am certain. But, until then just for being tall, gorgeous, and redheaded Nicole Kidman (June 20th, 1967-present), you are my (299th) hero(ine) of the day. And, yes I understand the irony of having Blaise Pascal my hero one day, and Nicole Kidman the next, but I say again it is my choice, and I never said that the tomato route was above me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pensees

The thoughtful, wagering fellow above is one Blaise Pascal, born this day 1623 in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The son of a judge, his mother died at the age of 3, and at the age of 8 his widowed father moved the family to Paris. There the younger Pascal would begin to demonstrate the genius that made him famous. He was a bit of a prodigy, and a mathematical whiz kid. He wrote and essay on conics that was quite advanced for its time, and especially impressive considering he was only sixteen years old at the time. His father got a different job while in Paris that required him to do a lot of adding and subtracting (taxes), so the dutiful son Blaise (at the tender age of 19) invented a calculator to help the old man out. It was the first mechanical calculator of its kind, and it was duly named the Pascaline. However, it did not prove to be a commercial success, but Pascal would continue to improve his design, and eventually made twenty more of the machines. Pascal was more than just a math whiz, he invented the hydraulic press and the syringe. However, I mostly know him from my days as a confused philosophy student, when I was forced to read (I mean craved to read) his masterpiece the "Pensees." It was to have been a sustained examination and defense of the Christian religion, but it was left unfinished at his death. Nevertheless what was completed was brilliant. It has been called "the most eloquent book in French prose," and if you have ever read any French prose, you will understand what high praise that is. The most famous Pensee was the note to number 233, in which Pascal sets out his theory that would eventually be called Pascal's Wager. It states that reason can not determine the existence of god, but that a person should wager that god exists because living life as if god exists gives a person everything to gain, and nothing to lose. It might not be true, but that is the safe way to bet, is another way of summing it up. It is much deeper than that, and it has had its critics over the years, but when I first read it all those years ago it made a lot of sense to me. However, a few more years of study, and a doubting nature, eventually led me to reject Pascal's Wager. Hard to believe, but the man proposed a bet that even I can not accept. However, he was much, much more than the Wager that bears his name, and for all of those other contributions to the world of knowledge, Blaise Pascal (June 19th, 1623- August 19th, 1662 at the age of 39), you are my (298th) hero of the day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Have Gun will Travel


The weathered fellow above is one Richard Boone, born this day 1917 in Los Angeles, California. After leaving college early, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941, and saw some combat action during World War II. After the war, he used his G I Bill money to study acting at the Actor's Studio in New York City. He made his debut on Broadway in 1947. He then moved to movies and TV, and it was his role as Paladin in the series "Have Gun-Will Travel" that shot him to stardom. It was, in many ways, a groundbreaking series, and it made him a household name. He appeared in some pretty big films with some pretty big names, but it is for the role of Major James Lassiter in 1964's "Rio Conchos" that I anoint him my hero for today. Truth be told, it is not a great film, it is barely a good film, but Boone makes it worth watching. His grizzled looks, and unique voice/accent are a wonder to watch, even though you know how the movie will end. His performance is the only reason to watch it, and I have, about 5 times. Each time I like him more. He had a long, and successful career, and had other roles that I admire, but the role in "Rio Conchos" is the one I will always remember him by. Sometimes doing one thing really, really well is all it takes, and so for that superb role in a shit film, Richard Boone (June 18th, 1917-January 10th, 1981, at the age of 63 of throat cancer), you are my (297th) hero of the day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Surrounded

It is amazing at the amount of day to day chores that pile up when you have been drunk for almost two whole days. Where in the blue fuck did all this trash come from? Why are all of my clothes dirty? Has anyone ever run a dust rag over this joint before? Perhaps I should pay more attention to household chores, and less money to my barkeep. But, it has been a rough week, and it certainly isn't looking to get any brighter anytime soon. You see I am surrounded, surrounded by people with whom I share some fundamental differences with. They have every doorway covered, and there is a bunch of them. There is, thankfully, only one me. They're going to get me eventually, one day I will zig instead of zag, and poof! There I go like morning mist when the sun comes up, I will be gone. I am not delusional enough to believe that I will be missed for any considerable length of time. If I was younger, stronger, and more clever, I might give them a run for their money, but even as I write this another birthday is only a week away. Another year of wear and tear, in which I got older, slower, and dumber, making myself an even easier target. Eventually the number of them needed to surround me will begin to dwindle, not because they are getting weaker, but because they will need fewer people to keep me in line. None of us can win the battle with the years. The years pile up like dirty laundry (have I mentioned I hate laundry?), but you can not throw them in the wash, and have them come out smelling fresh and being clean. Nor can you tumble dry them low, and have all the wrinkles magically disappear. The years do not stop, they are merciless, and uncaring. Not even the 296 men and women that I call my heroes can stop them. Most of them have yielded to the years already, the remainder will eventually. It is a dead cert, much like Spain underachieving in the World Cup, it is inevitable. And so, we try not to make any sudden moves lest someone get hurt, but looking out and seeing yourself surrounded can be demoralizing. And morale is important it helps keep the natives from getting restless, and nobody wants restless natives. Rimbaud once wrote that "I is someone else", and a lot of people have pondered what the hell he meant by that. I am far from being an expert, and my scholarly days have long since passed, but maybe "I" needs to be someone else. Perhaps instead of "acting" our lives, we should "direct" them. Write the script instead of reading, or memorizing it. After all, "I" is the only real thing we, with our limited knowledge of any possible afterlife, can rely upon. Maybe if we direct our lives we truly make "I" someone else, and from that new, and novel vantage point clarity can be found. The changed angle might be the best thing for us, or it might horrify us so badly that we never return to the directors chair, but stay trapped in the "I." Frozen in stasis for the remainder of our day, terrified by what we saw, or perhaps what we didn't see. I am quite sure this is not as simple a task as I would like to think, and before I can yell "action" I need to yell "cut!" After all, I have laundry to do.

The End


I find it rather ironic, that today is the fellow above birthday. He is Charles XII of Sweden, and he was born this day 1682 in Stockholm, Sweden. The irony of his date of birth is that it falls one day behind Axel Oxenstierna, the man who did so much to create the Swedish Empire. Because our boy above, without really meaning to, contributed a great deal to the destruction of the Swedish Empire. It was not his plan, after all he was born to be king, and he did become King of Sweden in 1697 at the tender age of 19. Within three years, he was to find himself attacked by Russia, Denmark, and Saxony, countries that wanted a slice of the Swedish pie, and figured that a good time to attack Sweden was when it was ruled by such a young, inexperienced King. They would, at first at least, learn the error of their respective ways. First, Denmark was handed its ass, and sued for peace in August of 1700, then Russia, and its Czar Peter the Great, were taught a sharp lesson at the battle of Narva in which around 17,000 Russian lives were lost at the cost of around 700 Swedes. Next it was Poland, and Saxony that learned the lesson that this Charles XII dude from Sweden was a fucking brilliant military mind, and fucking with him was probably not such a good idea. After kicking the crap out of Poland and its Saxon allies, Charles decided to install his very own King of Poland. However, Charles XII was a very driven man, and one who believed very strongly in his prinicples (regardless if they were right or not, and regardless if they were self-destructive or not), and those prinicples led him to invade Mother Russia in 1709. He was the first of the three great invaders, the others being Napoleon and Hitler, to learn that Russian winters are fucking cold. It all when pear shaped, and the Russians defeated, in a big way, Charles' army at the Battle of Poltava. The battle is considered to be the beginning of the end for the Swedish Empire, and Charles fled south to the Ottoman Empire with only about 1,000 men. After his intrigues in the Empire caused him to be placed under house arrest, he managed to escape, and covered the distance from Turkey to the Baltic in 15 days, quite a feat on horseback. Charles then attempted to regain in the west what he had lost in the east, and invaded Norway in 1718, it was to be his last campaign. While besieging the fortress of Fredriksten, he was killed by a shot to the head that destroyed most of his brain, and killed him instantly. The dream was dead, and the Swedish Empire had reached its end. He was famous for his wars, but he was also known to be a teetotaler, and probably died a virgin. He was reported to have an almost inhuman tolerance for pain, and was apparently devoid of emotion. He was probably not a fellow you want to invite to your friendly poker game, but he was one hell of a military genius. That genius was also his downfall, as it so often is for people. But, it is for that genius, and his unwavering devotion to his principles that Charles XII (June 17th, 1682-November 30th 1718, at the age of 36) you are my (296th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wisdom


The wise fellow above is one Axel Oxenstierna, born this day 1583 in Fano, Sweden. After the death of his father, his mother decided that young Axel needed to broaden his horizons, and he was sent abroad to further his studies. He entered the diplomatic service, and rose quite quickly, becoming a member of the Privy Council in 1609, and becoming Lord High Chancellor in 1612. It was during these and the following years that he was to bring about sweeping changes to the Swedish administrative system. Making it more uniform, and effective, and even today those tricky Swedes are pretty organized. His reforms helped make it possible for Sweden's warrior-king Gustavus Adolphus to build the "Swedish Empire." The partnership between the two men was crucial to Sweden's rise. The King was the heat and Oxenstierna provided the coolness that kept the king from making some extremely rash decisions. After the king's death, he led the regency that took over while the heir (who was only 6 at the time) reached her majority. He would go on to serve Queen Christinia as well as he had her father. Many other "great" men of the day expressed deep respect and admiration of him. Hugo Grotius considered him to be "the greatest man of the century" and Cardinal Richelieu considered him "an inexhaustible source of fine advice." Perhaps his best know quote was given in a letter written to his son, he wrote "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?" And when you think about it, no truer words have ever been spoken. Take a look around at the world's "leader" and you will see some true fools. Even in our day to day lives, most of us know or have someone who is their boss. A lot of us wonder how our boss, or someone higher up in the food chain got to where they are considering that (in our opinion) they are depriving a village of an idiot. Luckily for Sweden, and the rest of the world at the time Oxenstierna was quite wise, and used that wisdom well to govern. So, it is for that wisdom that helped to make Sweden (for a time at least) an empire that Axel Oxenstierna (June 16th, 1583-August 28th, 1654, at the age of 71) you are my (295th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When in Rome


The fellow in the self-portrait above is one Nicolas Poussin, born this day 1594 in Les Andelys, France. His early sketches attracted the notice of a local painter, whom Poussin apprenticed to until he decided to run away to Paris at the age of 18. He got some further training in his art in Paris, and after two failed attempts to "run off" to Rome, he finally succeeded in getting there at the age of 30. He would spent the rest of his life and career there except for two years when he was recalled to Paris to become the First Painter to the King. Probably his most famous painting is "The Rape of the Sabine Women" an interesting work that would inspire Jacques-Louis David (himself a hero, and Napoleon's somewhat official painter). It is hard to describe in words what I find fascinating about Poussin's works, and I highly recommend you Google him yourself, and take a gander at some of his paintings. His landscapes are fantastic, and the above self-portrait is brimming with a sort of realism unusual for his time. So, for painting "some pretty pictures" Nicolas Poussin (June 15th, 1594-November 19th, 1665, at the age of 71), you are my (294th) hero of the day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What's in a Name


The fellow depicted on the plaque above is one Alois Alzheimer, born this day 1864 in Marktbreti, Bavaria. The son of a local notary, Alzheimer received his medical degree from Wurzburg University in 1887. Soon after, he took a post at the city asylum in Frankfurt am Main where he was to make the discovery that puts him on our hero podium for today. In 1901, one of his patients Auguste Deter began to exhibit strange behavioral symptoms including short term memory loss. For the next five years Mrs. Deter was to be Alzheimer's obsession, and when she died in 1906, he had her brain and medical records brought to the lab he was working at in Munich. On November 3, 1906 he gave a lecture which describes the pathology of the disease that was to bear his name, Alzheimer's Disease. A fellow neuropathologist Emil Kraepelin, was the first person to give the disease Alzheimer's name, and it stuck. Sadly Alzheimer was only able to discover the disease, not its cure, but knowing the disease and its pathology is a major step, and perhaps one day soon the disease that carries his name will fade into history along with his fame. I am sure he would not mind be non-famous if they could find a cure. So, for being the first to recognize, and begin to study such a terrible disease, Alois Alzheimer (June 14th, 1864-December 19th, 1951, at the age of 51 of heart failure) you are my (293rd) hero of the day.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Worth a Thousand Words

















They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I figured three pictures equals three thousand words. My head hurts, a lot, and I am just too tired to search for, find, and write some pithy blog post about a hero today. So, without further ado, I give you Cinita Dicker, Brazilian supermodel and SI swimsuit issue regular. All five foot ten of her, and scantily clad as is proper for a swimsuit model. Her real birthday is December 6th, 1986, and she was born in Campo Bon, Brazil. She is very easy on the eyes, and I am sure my devoted readers will thank me for not writing three thousand words, and just give them three very lovely photographs to look at instead. So, for just being herself, Cinita Dicker (December 6th, 1986-present), you are my (292nd) hero(ine) of the day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ace of Spies


The dapper fellow above is one Sidney Reilly, and today is not his birthday. His birthday was a bit crowded, so I stashed M. Reilly away for a day like to day. June is rough, for the third day running we are having a stand-in hero because no one born on this day meets my high standards of heroism. Therefore, we have to dip into our ever decreasing store of stand-ins. He was born sometime around March 24th in either 1873 or 1874 in Odessa, Russia. His origins are a bit murky, and he told several different stories about them over the course of his life. This is in keeping with what he would become, the first 20th century super spy. A spy needs to have mysterious origins, and several good yarns about his background, and Reilly spun a good yarn. His lineage is Jewish, but as to the true identity of mom and pop scholars disagree. Most of his early exploits are shrouded in mystery, and there are numerous tales, and numerous sources that describe Reilly's life before him washed up in London in 1896. Once again, this type of mystery just makes him all the more intriguing of a character. Even his "name" was adopted, he took the maiden name of his first wife after possibly helping do away with her first husband, and helping her inherit a considerable sum from the poor bastard. There is a theory that Ian Fleming used Reilly as one of the inspirations for James Bond, and the two share several character traits. They are both multi-lingual, they both loved the ladies (and the ladies loved them back), they both liked high living, and they both liked to gamble, a lot. His exploits whilst serving as a British spy would take ages to recount. There is an excellent mini-series called "Reilly: Ace of Spies" with Sam Neill playing Reilly to perfection, I highly recommend it. It is a good view, and is based upon one of the several books written about Reilly (this one by Sir Robin Bruce Lockhart, a contemporary of Reilly's, so it is a good source and as accurate as you can be about Reilly). His exploits did win him, in 1919, a Military Cross, and he was an extremely talented and valuable agent for the British Secret Service. But, unlike our immortal hero (for another day) James Bond, Reilly was not able to escape all the traps laid for him. Eventually, he was lured to Russia by agents of the OGPU, (the successor to the Cheka), and eventually executed in November of 1925. Even after his death, rumours swirled that he was not actually dead, and there were reported sightings of him in places such as New York City, St. Petersburg, and London. The evidence is pretty convincing that the Russian, as was there wont, took him out one day, stood him against a wall, and shot him. Thus ending the career of one of the most brilliant spies the world has ever seen. It is sort of poetic that mystery surrounded his death, his life was one big mystery and I like to think he would smile a bit if he knew that his death was one too. So, for all those wonderfully mysterious stories, origins, and exploits, Sidney Reilly (March 24th or March 25th, 1873 or 1874-November 5th, 1925, at the age of 51 or 52) you are my (291st) hero of the day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Keeper


Since today marked the opening games of the 2010 World Cup, and the day was light on the heroes of the day, I decided to draft the fellow above as a substitute hero of the day. His name is Thomas Ravelli, and he was born August 13th, 1959. His claim to fame is tied into the outfit he is wearing. It is the outfit of a goalkeeper for the national team I follow, Sweden. Since Sweden is currently in Group M (M as in Motherfuckers did not qualify) of the World Cup being played in South Africa, I thought I would relive some of their glory days. M. Ravelli was born in Vimmerby, Sweden, the son of Austrian immigrant with Italian descent. At the club level, he played around 200 games for Oster IF, and for IFK Goteborg of the Swedish league, but his major claim to my hero status is his performance in the 1994 World Cup. He eventually would earn a total of 143 caps with the Swedish national team, and his moment of glory was saving two penalty kicks in the quarterfinal match between Sweden and Romania (which Sweden won 5-4 on penalties). Those magic saves allowed Sweden to eventually finish third in the 1994 World Cup, one of the high points in their soccer history. Ravelli was a bit of a loon (as most goalkeepers are), and was known to do cartwheels after big saves. I still have an image of him cartwheeling off the pitch after the above mentioned victory. It is for those big saves, and every other game he turned out for the Swedish national side that Thomas Ravelli (August 13th, 1950-present), you are my (290th) hero of the day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nightmares by the Sea


This post is going to violate all of my own rules, I try to keep a great deal of "personal" stuff out of my posting, and I rarely mention my job, this post is going to violate both of those sensible rules. As I mentioned in the previous hero post the song "Nightmares by the Sea" by Jeff Buckley is extremely poignant, and it usually makes me sad to hear it. Since I made him my hero for today, I thought I would give it a listen, and that is when this post "starting writing itself" in my head, and I had to come back and write it down. That is how my creative (using the word very broadly) process works. An idea hits me, and then I "hear" the lines I need to write down in my head, maybe I am a lunatic just hearing voices, but I prefer the term creative genius. Even now I am trying to write down the first lines I "heard" while trying to keep the next lines from overwhelming my overtaxed brain. This is going to get interesting, and it might get ugly.

As I wrote in the previous post, the lines "stay with me under these waves tonight, be free for once in your life tonight" have a spooky quality about them given the nature of Buckley's death. But, until just now I did not realize that perhaps they hold a different meaning to me. You see, I have the idea that I am not free. Now, I realize the stupidity of that statement on many levels. After all, I am not a victim of human trafficking, nor am I am slave. I am free in the broadest sense of the word, but I like to deal in narrow senses sometimes. One of the reasons I feel unfree is because of my present location. I am typing this from "my" living room. In the 4500 square foot lot that I "own." This land, this house that I call "home" that I bought when I lost my single-ness (and my mind), and that I had to keep after resuming my bachelor status. It is the place from which all the evil plans I hatch to rule the world originate, the place in which I am waging my unending war with Mother Nature (the bitch), the place that I consider an albatross around my neck (Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner anyone?) It provides me shelter, but it also is something that I can not get rid of. It is not going away, and it ties me to this place like a shackle around my ankle. There is no escape, I am paying for my own bad judgment (which is justice in a way I suppose). To keep it, I have to stagger to my job five days a week.

And this is where I break rule two, my job. The job that allows me to keep the (twice replaced) roof over my head. I am an attorney, not a particularly good one, but I do manage to do my job with a reasonable amount of competence. One of the reasons I am not a good attorney is because it bores me a bit, sad to say but the intellectual content of the majority of my days would not keep a donkey interested. That is bad enough, but my situation is made worse by the subject matter of my job. I work in a certain unit of my office that deals with a certain type of case. Domestic violence, say those words around the courthouse, and you will hear a groan. These cases have their own special issues, and a lot of them are pretty emotionally charged. I have been doing it for over 5 years, I am, and sort of proud of the fact, the longest serving member of the Domestic Violence unit in my office. My stint in DV is the record, everyday I go to work I set the record. It is an achievement or a punishment, I am not sure which. Other attorneys ask me how I "put up with DV cases, they are the worst." To which I generally reply "I drink, a lot." That is mostly true, I drink, not as much as I used to, but I drink (I am having a beer now as I write this). It is one of the ways that I attempt to stay sane. I know it is not the healthiest thing to do, but I do it anyway. The past month my case load has been littered with one train wreck after another, and my drinking has increased accordingly. I consider, at least three times a day, running away from it all and joining the circus. A colleague of mine, when I mentioned that I am tired of train wrecks, mentioned a solution, "find other employment" she said. Easy to say, hard to do, and I am not sure that the grass is any greener anywhere else. Nevertheless, I am trapped, not free, unable to say "you win DV, I have had enough, I can not pay the emotional toll you demand." It is a high toll, and I pay it on a daily basis repeatedly, and I worry that I might be becoming (more than just morally) bankrupt.

I can relate to Buckley father's song "I Never Asked to be Your Mountain." I do not remember the moment, if it happened at all, that I signed up for all of this. I am not a mountain. I might be big, but I am not that big. Besides, even mountains get worn down over time, and I am not a mountain. I am not free, or I am too afraid to be free. Buckley, in those last few moments he spent on this mortal coil backstroking in the Wolf River, was free. Singing Zeppelin, and being free if only for a few minuets before disaster struck. There are times, and this is clearly one of them, that I long to take him up on his offer. I ponder the idea of staying ". . . under these waves tonight." In the (vain, I am sure) hope that I will "be free, for once in my life tonight." I know it is fool's gold, and I know I lack the moral courage to do it, but it is a siren's song for me nonetheless. I am quite certain there are other ways to be free without any waves being involved, but certainly that path is by far the clearest path to freedom that I can see.

This is not some sort of "cry for help." Even if I needed help, which I do not, I am much too proud (i.e. stupid) to accept it. It is merely a totaling up of a grocery bill that I will one day have to pay. I ran up the bill, and I should be the one to pay it, it is my burden I will shoulder it. Moments of weakness aside, I might not be a mountain, but I am sure as fuck going to give my best impression of one. After all, I can not swim.

My Sweetheart, the Drunk


The handsome fellow above is one Jeff Buckley, and today is not his birthday, but since today lacked a true hero of its own, I once again decided to bring in a substitute. M. Buckley was born November 17th, 1966 in Anaheim, California. His father was the renown folk singer, Tim Buckley, but Tim was not the "stay at home, and help rear the children type of dad" and Jeff apparently only met him once (when he was 8 years old). He was raised by his mother and a step father in a "rootless trailer trash" existence in southern California. His mother was a classically trained pianist and cellist, and Jeff was brought up around music. It is his music that puts him on our hero podium for today. After bouncing from coast to coast, playing in all sorts of bands, and trying to make it big, he made his public singing debut at a tribute to his father in 1991. He sang one of his father's songs entitled "I never asked to be your Mountain," a song his father had written about the infant Jeff and his mother. After that he begin to play a few venues in New York City, Sin-e being the most famous, and it was these venues that he learned how to be a performer, and begin to attract a dedicated group of fans. He eventually got noticed, and released his first studio album, Grace, in 1994. It kicks ass, if you don't have it, go buy it, now. His cover of Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" is haunting. His voice was amazing, and some of the songs will blow you away. He was that fucking good. The album received critical acclaim, but little radio play, which was a fucking shame, because the man could SING. He moved to Memphis in early 1997 to begin work on his second album which was to be called "My Sweetheart, the Drunk." Whilst waiting for his band mates to arrive, he played a dive bar in downtown Memphis (if only I had lived here then). Then on May 29th, 1997 it all went horribly wrong. He was hanging out with a friend of his near the Wolf River in downtown Memphis when he decided, on the spur of the moment, to take a swim. It was to be a fatal decision. Diving into the river fully dressed while singing "Whole Lotta of Love" by Zeppelin (Zeppelin was a huge influence on his music), a passing boat caused a wave, and he was gone. Just like that, one of the best upcoming musical talents of my generation was lost to us. His body was found June 4th, and the dream was over. His second album was cleaned up a bit, and released, and there is one song on it that is chilling. It is called "Nightmares by the Sea" and it contains the lines "stay, with me under these waves tonight, be free for once in your life tonight." Considering the way he died, those lines are pretty spooky. His death was an incredible loss to music, and I actually felt as if I had lost a friend when I learned of it. Here it is 13 years later, and I am still sad when I think about all the music he could have given to the world. It is quite depressing, but for the wonderful fucking tunes he did leave the world, and for that beautiful, haunting voice Jeff Buckley (November 17th, 1966-May 29th, 1997 at the age of 30), you are my (289th) hero of the day.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Uncle Donald


The smartly dressed fellow above is one Donald Duck, born/created this day 1934 in his debut film, "The Wise Little Hen." There is quite a bit of debate about his actual birthday, but for our purposes today will do. His most obvious personality trait is his famously short temper. Who would expect such anger out of a duck? This temper is in contrast to him also being a bit of a prankster, and having a bit of a happy go lucky view on life. His voice makes it a bit hard to understand what all the fuss it about, but it a trademark of his, and I can't imagine him speaking any other way. He made a lot of shorts during World War II, and became the mascot of a lot of different military units. He engages in a bit of professional jealousy with Mickey Mouse, and I have always liked Donald much more than Mickey. Donald is much easier to relate to that some goofy ass mouse. For some odd reason, Donald is widely popular in Scandinavia, and Germany having his own Christmas special in Sweden and Denmark. He has three nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and back many, many moons ago I ran with a couple of guys, and we had a older buddy named Donald. I always referred to him as Uncle Donald, and he called us Huey, Dewey, and Louie it was funny at the time. I still enjoy revisiting Donald's cartoons that so entertained me as a child, and it is for those little comedic cartoons that Donald Duck (June 9th, 1934-present), you are my (287th) hero of the day.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Mind the Gap



The starry eyed fellow above is one Giovanni Cassini, born this day 1625 in the Republic of Genoa, Italy. Our talented boy above was the first to observe four of Saturn's moons, he also shares the glory (with Robert Hooke) of discovering Jupiter's Giant Red Spot. He is also known for, and it is named after him, for finding the Cassini division in the rings of Saturn (back when I learned about the stars it was called the Cassini gap, but I guess things change after a hundred years or so). He also made the first successful measurement of longitude by using the method another bright boy, Galileo suggested. In 1671 he helped to set up the Paris Observatory, and remained its director for the rest of his life. He was also the official astronomer and astrologer to King Louis XIV. During this time, Cassini helped to take the first accurate measurement of the size of France, it turned out it was much smaller than people thought, and the King remarked that Cassini had taken more territory from him that he had lost during all of his wars, and King Louis XIV waged a lot of wars. But, for all of those heavenly discoveries, and accurate maps that added a great deal to man's knowledge of the universe around him, Giovanni Cassini (June 8th, 1625-September 14th, 1712, at the age of 87), you are my (286th) hero of the day.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Question

The question that struck me today after I finished my daily post was "what happens when I finish?" I looked at my blog page and realized that during my little hero of the day parade there have been months were I wrote almost as many blog posts as I had in the previous year, or the year before that. My previous high in output had been 43 posts, 43 in a whole year! Last month alone I did 38, so I begin to wonder what happens when I don't have the daily hero of the day? Not that I think too many people read, and/or care about it. I am pretty sure today's Hungarian communist did not stir the passions of too many people, and I am fairly certain that I can count my readers on one hand.

Of course, that isn't really the point of the blog. It was a way for my to express myself, however badly. A way for me to step out of my life so boring, and force myself to attempt to commit and to create something on a daily basis. We are fast approaching the four year anniversary of this blog, and soon after that the year of the hero will come to an end as well. These dates fill me with both excitement and dread. Excitement because I can not believe I stuck to blogging for four whole years, and I can not believe that (when I finish it) I will have written 366 blog posts in a year. Dread because I am faced with the question "now what?" I have toyed with my villain of the day idea, but I am not sure that a whole year of that would be significantly different from my hero of the day concept. Dread because I will miss the challenge of finding someone, or something to make heroic on a daily basis. Sure, a lot of my writing is just biographical stuff lifted from other websites, and not overly original, but the idea was sound, and the reason that the hero is a hero is solely my own. They are, for good or bad, MY heroes, for my reasons alone. Certainly a great number of them are worthy of being other peoples heroes as well, but I doubt you would find many people so wildly in love with Pleasant Colony.

A few of the brave souls that do read these pages have told me that I write really well, and that they can hear my voice when they read my writings. Both of those comments (if they are true) are high praise, and wholly undeserved. I am uber critical of my writing, and am self-aware enough to know that grammar and I are not particularly close friends. One of the first posts I ever wrote (I cringe when I go back and read it now) was about finding my voice. I suppose that if people read what I write, and hear my voice whilst they are reading, then I have accomplished that goal. I have found my voice, but in the spirit of be careful of what you wish for, I am now wondering (after this hero thing wraps up) what the hell I am going to say next?

1956


The fellow above is one Imre Nagy, born this day 1896 in Kaposvar, Austria-Hungary. Born into a peasant family, he apprenticed to a locksmith before he joined the army in 1915. He was duly shipped off to the Eastern Front, where he was taken prisoner, had a change of religion and became a Communist. Later, upon his return to Hungary, there was a rumour or three that he was secretly a NKVD agent, and was spying upon his fellow party members for the Russians. These were probably true, but for the most part it was common practice among communists eager to prove their loyalty. He eventually made it to be prime minister of Hungary from 1953-1955, during which he promoted his idea of "New Course" in Socialism. Soviet Russia was not interested in one of its satellite states going off on any sort of new course, and Nagy fell out of favour with the powers that be in Moscow. In 1955 he was shit canned as Prime Minister, stripped of his Central Committee status, and relieved of all other party functions. Change was coming in Hungary, and the 1956 revolution was Hungary's big chance to get rid of the Soviet yolk. By popular demand, Nagy again became Prime Minister, but the Soviet tanks were on the way, and the revolution was eventually crushed. Nagy took refuge in the Yugoslav embassy, but despite a free pass issued to him, he was arrested when he tried to left the embassy. He was secretly tried, and found guilty of treason, and hanged in June, 1958 as a "lesson to all other leaders in socialist countries," the lesson taught by Mother Russia. Lesson learned the hard way, but for having the courage of his convictions, and attempting to stand up to his Russian masters, Imre Nagy (June 7th,1896-June 16th, 1958, at the age of 62 by hanging), you are my (285th) hero of the day.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Bear


The fellow above is one Bjorn Borg, born this day 1956 in Sodertalje, Sweden. Since today is his country's national day, and one of his compatriots is currently getting his ass handed to him in the French Open, I figured that Borg should be today's hero. He made his professional debut at the age of 14, and became the (at the time) youngest winner of the French Open in 1974, at the tender age of 18. Then, at the age of 20, he became (at the time) the youngest winner of Wimbledon. From 1978-1980 he won both the French Open and Wimbledon, which tennis officials consider to be an almost impossible feat, only two men Nadal and Federer (both pretty good themselves) have managed to pull it off since Borg did, and he did it three years in a row. At his peak, he was damn near unbeatable. With his rough-looking, jerky strokes, he played powerful ground strokes from the baseline, and added a two handed backhand shot that he had picked up from his childhood hockey playing days. His one jinx was the U.S. Open, he lost in the finals of it four times, and he only played the Australian Open once. However, back when he was playing all of this wonderful tennis, it was quite common for players to skip Grand Slam tourneys. It was not like today, when all that is talked about is how many Grand Slams or Grand Slam events a player has won. His calm demeanor, and coolness under pressure won him the nickname Ice-Borg. Part of his success was attributed to his wonderful conditioning, although it was not, as rumor had it, based solely upon his low resting heart rate (for his military exam at the age of 18, his pulse rate was recorded as 38), he was just one determined motherfucker. His loss at the finals of the 1981 U. S. Open to John McEnroe effectively ended his career, and he retired from tennis at the age of 26. Twenty-six years old, and had won Wimbledon 5 times, and the French Open six times. We will skip over his attempt at a comeback in the early 90's, the less said of it the better. We prefer to remember him as he is in the picture above, winning and playing some glorious, groundbreaking tennis. So, for that glorious tennis, Bjorn Borg (June 6th, 1956-present), you are my (284th) hero of the day.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Wealth


The homely fellow above is one Adam Smith, born this day (depending on whose calendar you go by) 1723 in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. The exact date of his birth is unknown, but he was baptized on June 16th, 1723, so I figure today is as close as we need to be to put him on the hero podium. Not a whole lot is known about his childhood, but there is a story of him being kidnapped by a band of gypsies at the age of four, and then quickly rescued from them. Not sure if it is true or not, but I am sure it made for one hell of a dinner time story. He entered Glasgow University at the age of fourteen, and eventually made it to Oxford University. He came to Scotland, and begin a teaching career by starting to give lectures at the University of Edinburgh. In 1751, he got a professorship at the University of Glasgow, and spent the next 13 years there teaching logic and moral philosophy. But, any damn fool can go and read the minor, and major points of his life. He is famous for writing "The Wealth of Nations" a book that, ages ago when I was trying to be an intellectual I had to become fairly familiar with. Now, that I am just a dumb lawyer pushing papers around a desk, I have forgotten most of what I gleaned from his writings. That does not detract from his influence, a good teacher he made, and it is not his fault that I was such a poor student. In the book he introduces the idea of the Invisible Hand guiding the marketplace, and keeping its seemly chaotic meanderings from spiraling out of control. The best passage, and one often quoted from "The Wealth of Nations" is "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages." True enough words there, like the apothecary who, against his own will, sells Romeo the poison, and whom Romeo reminds "I pay thy poverty, not thy will" we are prisoners of the marketplace. We may like the brewer as a friend, we may have even be raised in the same neighborhood, or we may be some how related, but at the end of the day, the brewer has to eat too. And good will and friendship does not taste nearly as good as a nice, fat, juicy, steak. Perhaps we get the occasional freebie, but in the long run, we are in a buyer/seller relationship with a lot of people. A lot of Smith's ideas have been misinterpreted by, and for a lot of different causes. I suspect that is a sign that your ideas have some staying power, when a lot of very diverse groups try to latch onto them, twist them a little, and call them their own. His ideas were groundbreaking, and for those ideas, and for writing a fantastic book that is a foundation of modern economic thought, Adam Smith (June 5th, 1723-July 17th, 1790, at the age of 67), you are my (283rd) hero of the day.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Ohhhh-kkkkaaayyy


The gloomy fellow above is Eeyore born sometime in 1926 in the A.A. Milne books about Winnie the Pooh, and Christopher Robbins. Today is not exactly his birthday, but since there is no one who's birthday is today that is hero worthy, our boy Eeyore is stepping up to take his place on the hero podium. The "old, grey, donkey" lives in the southeast corner of Hundred Acre Wood in a place called "Eeyore's Gloomy Place: Rather Boggy and Sad." Eeyore is not what you would call an uplifting character, despite the bright pink bow attached to his tail. His favourite food is thistles, and he has a fairly low opinion of the other animals in the forest describing them as "having no brain at all, some of them." For a donkey, he is fairly bright since he is able to read and write, although his spelling is fairly bad. He is also the focus of the annual "Eeyore's Birthday Party" which is held in Austin, Texas on the last Saturday in April. Of course this party has little to do with Eeyore's actual birthday, but seems to be a good excuse for a bunch of hippies to party in the park, and get bombed. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just seems odd that such a grounded, down to earth donkey who might need a little cheering up is the subject of a party in the park. Perhaps his gloom stems from the fact that he is full of sawdust, that would make me grumpy. Despite being a bit of a downer, he is still one fantastic character, and for those wonderful appearances in those wonderful books, Eeyore (1926-present), you are my (282nd) hero of the day.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Second Time

This is of course my way of telling you that for today, June 3rd, there is no hero of the day.

Let's flash forward a bit in (my) history, and discuss the second time I had a bit of a "run in" with clowns. After the first time, I was pretty wary of clowns, and did not really care to go to the circus again. However, I learned that the circus does not have a monopoly on clowns. I have a sister, and that sister decided, when I was about 22 or so, to produce an offspring. Now, that is all well and good, but I, being the loser I am, was still living with my parents. My parents who are now the doting grandparents of a child who hung the moon. Anything my niece, the little monster, wanted she got. Granny's house was a place where the rules of the world did not apply to her. If she wanted to watch cartoons, we watched cartoons, if she wanted to stand on the coffee table, she stood on the coffee table, if she wanted to punch her loving uncle, well she did, and got hit back because loving uncle doesn't like to be hit. Years of this behaviour went by, and I eventually moved out, but I still received a lovely invite to my niece's 7th birthday party. Of course hanging out with my parents, my sister, and a bunch of seven year olds was not high on my to do list, but there was a promise of free cake (I love cake), and since I was a starving student at the time, free food was a big enough prize to lure me to the party. I was invited only, and was not consulted about the guest list, or about the entertainment. I arrived on time like a dutiful son, all ready to tear into some cake and ice cream, and begin trying to studiously avoid any sort of contact with the other "guests" (I think children are disease factories). Everything was going as well as could be expected when my mother decided to spring her big surprise, and announce that for her only grandchild she had cobbled together the money, and sprung for Tully the Clown. Gleeful clapping from the children, and a look of horror (that was quite unnoticed) on my face. A clown? Why the hell did that lunatic hire a clown? Couldn't we have got a pony instead? By now free cake is no longer worth it, and I begin to try and think of ways to make a swift, but uncowardly exit. Too late. In tumbles Tully the Clown. I decided that a corner of the room far, far away from him would be the best place for me, and for a while things go as planned. However, thing soon took a turn for the worse (if they hadn't then I wouldn't be writing this post now would I?). I, being suspicious by nature, and having a prior "run in" with clowns begin to pay close attention to our buddy Tully the Clown. Remember the little family silver thing from my previous post? Well sure enough, our cheerful little clown was quietly pocketing what I considered to be, one day, my inheritance. Not that our family silver was worth a ton of money, but it was the principle of the thing. I pondered exactly what to do, I mean how do you confront a clown in front of a party of seven year olds when you are somewhat terrified of clowns? This could only go badly for me, but I felt the need to at least attempt to have a quiet word with Tully, and attempt to save what was left of the family silver. This, sadly, proved to be a mistake. A quite word, whilst he was outside on a "smoke" break turned into the recently purloined family steak knife being shoved gently against my ribs, and Tully whispering (with real menace) for me to "keep my fucking mouth shut, if I didn't want to ruin the party." Needless to say, I saw the wisdom of his argument, and besides what is a little family silver? I am sure it was just misplaced, or lost by some clumsy child, and will turn up eventually. And, since I didn't want to turn up face down by the docks, I thought that Tully's plan made perfect sense. Although he didn't beat me up, Tully made his point very clear, and this was the second time I was terrorized by clowns. It was not to be the last.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Maddening Crowd


The fellow above is one Thomas Hardy, born this day 1804 in Dorset, England. The son of a stonemason, Hardy was not one of the upper crust, and his formal education only lasted until the age of 16. At that age he became an apprentice to an architect, and moved to London to pursue that career in 1862. However, London was not his type of town, he was acutely aware of his (low) social status, and after five years, he moved back to Dorset. His move back was for "health reasons", and it also was at this time that he decided to devote himself to writing. And what writing he did! "Far from the Maddening Crowd," "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," "Jude the Obscure", and a whole host of other prose and poetry. It is his poetry that puts him on our hero podium for today. I "discovered" him a long, long time ago, in a place far, far, away, but "The Man he Killed" is one of the best poems I have ever read. I cannot give his career justice, and hesitate to try, but he was one fine writer. So, for all of those lovely poems, and timeless novels, Thomas Hardy (June 2nd, 1840-January 11, 1927 at the age of 87 of cardiac syncope), you are my (281st) hero of the day.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Shadows

The shadowy fellow above is one Robert Cecil a.k.a. the 1st Earl of Salisbury, born this day (they think) 1563 in Salisbury, England. He was the son of William Cecil, who was the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I, and probably the source for the younger Cecil's political education. After graduating from Cambridge, he became Secretary of State in 1590, and upon the death of his father in 1598, the Queen's leading minister. However, most of his life was spent serving as spymaster for James I. He helped to smooth the way for James' succession, and the King rewarded him with a peerage. First making him a baron, then a viscount, and finally an Earl (that of Salisbury). He had been born with a pronounced hump in his back, and his political enemies (he had them in spades) made political hay with that. Stating that "a crooked back, makes a crooked man." He was critical in uncovering the Gunpowder Plot (though his detractors have made it a popular theory that he had something to do with plotting it as well). That is the beauty/problem with being a spymaster, you work in the shadows, and you don't made friends easily. Much of his later work remains veiled in mystery, which is how he would probably like it, but for being a skilled manipulator that allowed a couple of monarchs to rest more easily on the throne of England, Robert Cecil (June 1st, 1563-May 24th, 1612, at the age of 48), you are my (280th) hero of the day.