Before getting to the birthdays, we need to stop and note that this is a different kind of birthday. Sixty-eight years ago, the nuclear age started. That happened in the form of Trinity, the first nuclear explosion in the history of the world. I’m not keen on the nuclear age, but I am especially depressed about the role that the United States played in it. The small sliver of goodness is that it is an excellent example of “American know-how” combined with “government will” solving a very difficult problem. But that is a very small sliver indeed compared to all the harm that was done. It was not necessary to drop the two bombs on Japan. Now it seems very clear that the whole purpose was to show the USSR what we could do, and we didn’t care about the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians we killed in the name of sending that “message.” I tend to think that our genocide of the native peoples in America throughout the 19th century is worse; but Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a close second. And 68 years ago, it all started in a real way.
It is a good day for artists. One of the great painters of the High Renaissance Andrea del Sarto was born on this day in 1486. The English sculptor Joseph Wilton was born in 1722. English painter Joshua Reynoldswas born in 1723. And the great French painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was born in 1796.
The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy was born in 1821. God must have been looking out for her health, because she lived to be 89. She was clearly a freak, but I have a great deal of respect for people who take their religion seriously. What really pisses me off is the modern fashion of faux spirituality. I know people who don’t accept Darwin’s theory of natural selection. These opinions are based upon the fact that their pastors have told them that natural selection is incompatible with the Bible. But they don’t doubt all the medical advances that have come about from the the theory that they assume is wrong. These people are willing to accept all the good things that science provides them, but the moment that science requires the smallest rethink of their religious beliefs, they balk at it. If you really think God is so great, let him cure your disease. And don’t be like modern Christian Scientists who run to the doctor with a broken leg as if God can cure cancer but can’t manage to set a broken bone. If you believe, then believe and live with the consequences!
The great and tragic baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson was born in 1887. I don’t know if he was guilty or not. But I think MLB is a hypocritical organization. They allowed some truly vile men to both play and enter the Hall of Fame. For example: Ty Cobb. The truth is that Jackson is one of the great players and he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The idea that MLB or any professional sporting organization is made up of anything but a bunch of assholes and often even monsters is preposterous. Of course, the fact that I think professional sports is just a bunch of bullshit probably makes my opinion less important than it could be.
Modern classical composer Goffredo Petrassi was born in 1904. His music is very difficult—so difficult that I find most of it impossible to enjoy. But here is a short choir piece that is among his most accessible:
Popcorn king Orville Redenbacher was born in 1907. And they still use him in some of their commercials. Creepy! Hollywood beauty and a damned good actor Barbara Stanwyck was also born in 1907, but died 5 years before Orville. And Dancing legend (And quite a good actor!) Ginger Rogers was born in 1911. Here she is with Fred Astaire in Swing Time. Remember: she’s doing all that in one take with three-inch heals:
The first ever Jewish Miss America (perhaps not coincidentally in 1945), Bess Myerson is 89 today. Representative Barbara Lee is 67. As usual, I have a reason for listing politicians. There is lots nice to say about her, but she’s here today because she was the only person in Congress who voted against the Afghanistan War. And that really says something because a number of good people voted for it, even though at the time it seemed pretty obvious that the country was just lashing out rather than responding appropriately to 9/11. The founder of the band The Police, Stewart Copeland is 61. Screenwriter Tony Kushner is 57. Great poker player and by all accounts horrible human being, Phil Hellmuth is 49. Will Ferrell is 46. Look, none of my friends like him (that’s an understatement), but I’m just going to say it: he is a comedic genius. There are a number of his films that I didn’t like, but it isn’t because of him. I find him funny as hell. I especially recommend the much maligned Semi-Pro. I love that film. Here is one of his many brilliant Old Milwaukee Beer commercials:
The day, however, belongs to Wikipedia founder Larry Sanger who is 45 today. I have more problems with Wikipedia than most people, but it is still a great thing that makes the internet a much better research tool. And in particular, it is responsible for about 80% of all the research that I do for these birthday posts. I always thought he would have more hair, but now that I see him, I think he’s just perfect.
Happy birthday Larry Sanger!