On this day back in 1509, the religion reformist John Calvin was born. There are actual theological distinctions between Calvinists and Lutherans, but they are mostly lost to time. My biggest problem with modern day Christianity is that it has lost its theological basis; it is all about culture now. What Calvinists are mostly known for today is exactly this: being very resistant to having any fun. But at this point that doesn’t much differentiate them from other Christian faiths. There is a standard joke applied to just about any type of Christian, but applied to Calvinists in the film Rob Roy, “Why are Calvinists against fucking while standing up? Because they’re afraid it might lead to dancing.”
The Flemish painter David Teniers III was born in 1638. He was the third David Teniers to be a painter, and his son of the same name was as well. But I think he was by far the best of the clan. You wouldn’t know based upon the amount of coverage the men get. His father (David Teniers the Younger) seems to have been the most important. But if you are looking for great art, go for the son—or as they have said, “The younger Younger”!
Mathematician Roger Cotes was born in 1682. He is best known for helping Newton, but he did a lot of important work himself. And then died young. At his death at the age of 33, Newton said, “”If he had lived we would have known something.”
The great Impressionist Camille Pissarro was born in 1830. When I was younger, I didn’t much care for his work, but I’ve come to love it as I’ve gotten older. In particular, when I was at the Getty Center last year, I was really struck by it. German brewer Adolphus Busch was born in 1839. Marcel Proust was born in 1871. He probably would have taken the day, but the truth is that I haven’t managed to finish one of his novels. I have read enough to conclude that even in translation, he is a great writer. But there is so much to read and given that Proust effectively just wrote one incredibly long novel his whole life, I’m afraid he is destined to be neglected by me. The great ragtime guitarist Blind Boy Fuller was born in 1907. Here he is doing “Truckin’ My Blues Away” that gives a good idea of his talent:
Our Herman Munster, Fred Gwynne was born in 1926. And our Count von Count (“The Count”), Jerry Nelson was born in 1934. When I told Andrea that he died of emphysema, she—typical of her great sense of decorum and respect—started doing the Count, “One cigarette! Two cigarettes!” I thought it was funny, but I was not exactly pleased. (It is not at all clear that he was a smoker, actually.) Here he is as The Count:
One of the better live performers I’ve ever seen, Greg Kihn is 64. One of the best gymnasts ever, Ludmilla Tourischeva is 61. Cinematographer Ellen Kuras is 54. And the bad guy from the Firefly movie Serenity who killed Ron Glass’ character Shepherd Book, Chiwetel Ejiofor is 36.
The day, however, belongs to the great scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla who was born on this day in 1856. He was a brilliant man who was critical to the development of AC electricity, which is the only real way we have to transmit electricity over long distances. Unfortunately, most people idolize Tesla for his more nutty ideas. Not that there is anything wrong with nutty ideas. For one thing, I’m sure that there was more to his nutty ideas than we normally realize. But his quest of these ideas took all of his money at the end of his life. Most people see this as sad, but I don’t. What was the point of dying rich? He used his money in the pursuit of his interests and I think that’s great.
Happy birthday Nikola Tesla!