On this day back in 1743, the great Russian poet Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin was born. But what do I know? I don’t read Russian. The inventor of the theory of the Aryan master race, Arthur de Gobineau was born in 1816. Who would have thought that a Frenchman would give the Nazis their philosophical start? I hate to bring it up on Bastille Day. On the other hand, I think it is important for modern day conservatives to remember: Gobineau is what it is to be a conservative.
Special message to conservatives: This is what history will think of you. I know you all don’t see it now. But your belief in “equality of opportunity,” which even if it weren’t a myth, will eventually be seen for what it is: a form of intellectual aristocracy. You won’t say it, but you really do believe the race would be better if these “inferior” people just died out. And guess what? Over time, we’re going to need as much genetic diversity as possible. Because what is really valuable (or at least highly prized) now is very specific to this time and place. It will not always be so. But I don’t think that is what you should be thinking about. You should be thinking about what bigots you will ultimately be seen to be.
The writer Owen Wister was born in 1860. He pretty much invented the modern western. What is most interesting about his work is that it shows that even at the beginning the western was fundamentally about protecting the property of the rich. It wasn’t then and pretty much isn’t now about the rugged individualist, except in as much as that rugged individual can help protect the profits of the rich. The painter Gustav Klimt was born in 1862. He was a really interesting artist, but I just don’t find him that compelling.
The great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman was born in 1918. It was very hard to not give him the day. I don’t think he is unerring in his brilliance. But his films are always interesting and often great. It may be a cliche, but The Seventh Seal is one of the truly great films. And I am especially fond of Scenes from a Marriage. But sometimes, he’s really a bit too much as in Cries and Whispers. Since you really can’t appreciate Bergman in a short snippet, here is a parody of him that is delicious fun:
Okay! Here is probably the most famous scene from the beginning of The Seventh Seal. There are no subtitles. For those who haven’t seen it (And why is that?) Death has come for the knight. But the knight convinces him to delay his death until they finish a chess game. When choosing colors, Death picks black and then notes, “Appropriate, don’t you you think?”
Actor Harry Dean Stanton is 87 today. He’s interesting because he’s looked old for such a long time, he doesn’t look too bad now. Blockbuster film producer Joel Silver is 61. Comedian Jane Lynch is 53. And David Mitchell is 39. Here he is with Robert Webb lampooning the unequal crime fighting duo as we saw recently in Marvel’s the Avengers:
The day, however, belongs to the great folk singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie who was born on this day in 1912. Here he is doing “Hard Travelin'” which sounds very much like it could be on the first Bob Dylan album.
Happy birthday Woody Guthrie!