Philosopher and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on this day in 1803. I tend to accept a lot of his thinking, but his religious thought (understandably) is stuck in the early 18th century. Of course, that thinking is still far in advance of most religious people today. (Does that sound snarky? I don’t exactly mean it that way. I do however find religion fascinating and most believers devoid of any interesting thought at all. Religion is probably the worse subject for that. In economics, people might be constrained 90% by dogma. With religion it is often 100%.)
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was born in 1878. He is most known for the movies he made with Shirley Temple. He was a capable dancer, but there’s nothing especially compelling about it. Of course, I’m not a huge dance fan. The bigger issue is that in the Temple films, he plays such “inoffensive” black characters. I understand that he was a trailblazer and important to race relations. But it’s still hard to watch. He seems to have been a good guy.
What I find most interesting about him is Jerry Jeff Walker’s song “Mr. Bojangles.” It appears that it was based upon a true story. But the dancer he described was not Bill Robinson. It couldn’t have been him since Robinson had died in 1949, when Walker was 7 years old. It is just that Robinson (like Robert Johnson) was so popular that people made entire careers out of impersonating him. So the song tells the story of one of these men, probably at the end of a downhill slide. Here is my favorite version of it by David Bromberg:
The other half of Burt Bacharach, Hal David was born in 1921. The great novelist Robert Ludlum was born in 1927. Poet and short story writer Raymond Carver was born in 1938. Actor Dixie Carter was born in 1939.
Producer Irwin Winkler is 82 today. Actor Ian McKellen is 74. Director and the soul of Miss Piggy, Frank Oz is 69. Vagina monologist Eve Ensler is 60. Comedian Mike Myers is 50. And that picked upon actor Jamie Kennedy is 43.
The day, however, belongs to Igor Sikorsky who was born on this day back in 1889. Contrary to popular opinion, he did not invent the helicopter. He did however, pretty much invent what we think of as a helicopter today. It’s a wild idea. Having one big rotor on top, should make the the bottom of the craft just spin the other way. But Sikorsky’s design the main rotor with a back rotor that is almost perpendicular to it that managed to equalize the angular momentum. Really, if I hadn’t grown up with helicopters and flown in them a few times, I wouldn’t even believe such a thing was possible. The modern helicopter is a work of engineering genius. Of course, Sikorsky did a lot more than that. Go read about him if you are interested.
Happy birthday Igor Sikorsky!