On this day in 1894, the iconic sex researcher Alfred Kinsey was born. He was trained as an entomologist, which I suppose is as good a form of training as anything to study human sexuality. Kinsey’s great insight was simply that if you wanted to understand human sexuality, you just needed to ask humans about their sexuality. People are surprisingly honest about that kind of thing. Even as late as the discovery of natural selection, co-discoverer Alfred Russel Wallace was shy about placing man in with the other animals. To this day I find that many people think there is something fundamentally different between animals and humans. So the idea that human sexuality would be just like that of animals was and still is quite shocking to people. Ultimately, Kinsey’s main findings should not be surprising: human sexuality is a statistical continuum—deviance is a social and not a physical construct.
The great choreographer and film director Bob Fosse was born in 1927. It is really hard to pick something to showcase his work. It is best to watch one of his best films: Sweet Charity, Cabaret, Lenny, and All That Jazz. But here is a great scene from that last film with much credit to editor Alan Heim:
And June Carter Cash was born in 1929.
American embarrassment Clarence Thomas is 65 today. A good day to retire? Actor Frances McDormand is 56. I’ve been a fan of hers as far back as Mississippi Burning, where she had the weight of the whole of the decent white people of Mississippi. But she’s best known for Fargo. I’m not that big a fan of the film, but I really do love this scene near the end of the picture where she sums up its theme, “I just don’t understand it.” No, none of us really do:
And Joss Whedon is 49 today. I’m very fond of Firefly. I also think he wrote a good script for the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I think Fran Rubel Kuzui made a mess of. I’ve tried to like the series but apart from developing a crush on Alyson Hannigan, I think the show errs in not realizing it is first and foremost a comedy. I liked his script for Alien Resurrection. And you can read what I had to say about The Avengers. So he’s a mixed bag and certainly way overrated.
The day, however, belongs to the father of the computer Alan Turing who was born on this day back in 1912. He was also extremely important in breaking Nazi codes during World War II. We rewarded him by castrating him for the “crime” of homosexuality which quickly led to his suicide at the age of 41. But lest you think I am suggesting that we are somewhat more enlightened now, I’m not. Here’s what I wrote about Michelle Obama’s interest in Downton Abbey:
We are a horrible people and we always will be. My very great apology to Turing and all of the rest. But for today, I hope, I can say without irony: