Nelson Mandela at 95

Nelson MandelaThe great French Baroque painter Hyacinthe Rigaud was born on this day in 1659. He is one of the best painters of that era. You really should check him out. The anti-Hegel, philosopher Immanuel Hermann Fichte was born in 1796. See if you don’t think he looked a lot like Denholm Elliott. The great satirical novelist and write of Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray was born in 1811. The great physicist Hendrik Lorentz was born in 1853. Gangster Machine Gun Kelly was born in 1895. He is notable because he lived to the ripe old age of 59. It helps to be caught. But just to show that in many ways, the universe evens out, the same year Kelly was born, so was one of the 20th century’s greatest ballerinas, Olga Spessivtseva. There is only one video of her dancing; it isn’t great, but it is worth watching:

The playwright Clifford Odets was born in 1906. He is perhaps best known for his first play, Waiting for Lefty. Overall, he’s known for his socially conscious Great Depression era plays. That was when a financial collapse actually caused the country to think about what had happened. Today, it is more like Sarah Palin said: it’s a hopey changey thing. The great theatrical producer and damned good actor Hume Cronyn was born in 1911. Comedian Red Skelton was born in 1913. His humor is far too broad for me now, but when I was a kid, I thought he was hysterical. In fact, I saw him when I was a kid and he was very much like this on stage:

The great historian of science Thomas Kuhn was born in 1922. Wildman Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was born in 1929. Here he is doing one of my very favorite songs:

And writer Hunter S. Thompson was born in 1937.

Astronaut John Glenn is 92 today. Reuben, Reuben director Robert Ellis Miller is 81. Kitschy science fiction film (e.g. Total Recall) director Paul Verhoeven is 75. Steve Forbes is having a birthday today, but who cares? Actor Elizabeth McGovern is 52. And actor Vin Diesel is 46.

The day, however, belongs to Nelson Mandela who is 95 today and apparently out of intensive care. What I find so remarkable about him is our perceptions of him. There is a good article on this in the current hard copy edition of The Nationas it applies to South Africa. But it is important to remember that here in the west, he was loudly labeled a terrorist by those great defenders of freedom Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. But now, of course, he is the “good negro.” It is just the same old conservative idea: any man who demands his rights is a terrorist. Regardless, Mandela was never a terrorist. He was just a man who made the lives of the power elite harder. And that’s why he’s a great man.

Happy birthday Nelson Mandela!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Nelson Mandela at 95

  1. A thought occurred to me today while I was reading your birthday post: what are you planning to do with the birthday articles next year? Have you given it much thought? I was thinking at first that you might be purposefully leaving certain people off the lists to save them for next year because I noticed you didn’t mention Che Guevara on his birthday. Then again, you might consider him a political figure. I’m not saying he should’ve won birthday of the day, but it seems to me that he’s at least worth mentioning.

    I’m just curious to see what you do with the birthday lists next year because there are only so many famous people’s birthdays to write about. Are you going to continue it but changed in some way, or are you going to drop it entirely? What about switching to some other daily post theme?

    I hope you find some way to continue it while keeping it fresh because I really enjoy the birthday posts. It seems everyday that I learn about someone I had never heard of before or hadn’t given much thought to previously. The B-day articles are always a good learning experience. Keep up the good work.

  2. @Mack – I actually mentioned early on that there is little rhyme or reason to who gets included. In particular, some days I’m in a big rush. It is very easy to miss someone and that is definitely true of Che Guevara. I would have had a few things to say about him, plus I would have embedded a version of "Panic in Detroit."

    At first I wasn’t going to continue it past the first year, but now I think I will. But I’m going to do it differently in the second year. I want to limit it somehow. I’ve been thinking maybe only people born before 1500 or something. I noticed that Ed Kilgore is doing something every day: the anniversary of historical events. That got me thinking that I might do something very different. Or maybe for the second year I’ll do deaths. I like deaths.

    The one bad thing is that they take the longest of any articles to write. And that’s even with my doing as little as possible. I could easily spend the whole day on them. Anyway, I’m glad you like them. I do them more just to remind and introduce myself to people. I always learn a lot.

  3. I like the idea of doing deaths. That could be interesting. Have you thought much about continuing the birthday posts but writing more in-depth articles about one person, like, for example, the birthday of the day winner?

    Anyway, in regard to Che Guevara, have you ever seen Steven Soderbergh’s biopic about him? I noticed last night that it’s on Netflix and I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to spend over four hours watching it. I don’t mind long movies, but four hours seems a bit excessive.

    The reviews haven’t been all that helpful, either. A great many of them are just rants about Marxism. I wonder how many of the reviewers have actually watched the film.

    If you’ve seen it, I’d love to read your thoughts about it.

  4. @Mack – I haven’t seen it but Soderbergh has made some decent films. I’m not that into biopics though. I’ll let you know if I do see it.

  5. Yeah, I’m not really all that into biopics either. The ones I’ve seen have been hit and miss. But Che Guevara was an interesting and complicated character. I think a film about his life could have potential, if done right.

    And yes, Soderbergh has made some decent films, but what initially piqued my interest about [i]Che[/i] is that it stars Benicio del Toro. I really liked him in just about every movie I’ve seen him in. I just watched [i]21 Grams[/i] this morning and he had a great performance in that role.

    Anyway, I’ll do the same for you: if I see [i]Che[/i] first I’ll let you know how I liked it. I’ll probably end up watching it sometime this week.

  6. @Mack – Didn’t they do [i]Traffic[/i] together? Or at least some film? I agree: I’m very fond of him. But wouldn’t he be kind of old for the part? Che Guevara was still in his 30s when he died. Anyway, I think I am going to watch it. I’m just not sure when. I spent all of last night watching three James Whale films. You never know what will send me off on a tear.

  7. Yeah, they did work together on [i]Traffic[/i]. I remembered del Toro’s part in the film, but forgot that Soderbergh directed it. It’s been quite a long time since I last saw it. I remember really liking it when I first watched it, but after my experiences as an illegal drug user, and all the reading/research I’ve done on the topic, I may have a different take on it today. If it’s on Netflix I’ll certainly be adding it to my queue.

    As for [i]Che[/i], Benicio del Toro would’ve been 40 or 41 when he filmed it, so they probably could use makeup and other effects to make him look younger. Then again, maybe he looked plenty young enough at 41. I know that I could pass as a teenager if I needed to for a role. I’m almost 26 and I still get carded when I go to see R-rated movies!

    Anyway, now that we’ve been talking about it I will definitely be watching it as soon as I can. I look forward to seeing what you have to say about it.

  8. @Mack – The question will be how they frame the story. If they tell it from the last couple of years of his life, then it’s fine. I’m sure they manage regardless.

    I thought [i]Traffic[/i] was okay. In general, I don’t like drug movies for various reasons. But there were a few real problems. One was that the Drug Czar’s daughter becomes a crack whore over the course of a weekend. And I hated the ending where he shows up at the NA meeting "just to listen." Really?! That’s where you’re going to get the lowdown on drugs? At an NA meeting. Fucking brilliant.

    I also though the ending where Don Cheadle manages to plant a bug in the house was stupid. On the other hand, the totally delusional DEA agents was about what I suspect: they don’t realize how they are part of what makes the global drug trade such a lucrative business. And they do it by hurting the weak!

    But it’s hard for me to like a movie that tries so hard to be evenhanded. The problem is that I know it isn’t like that. It’s just a system meant to keep the poor down. (And NA is definitely part of that!) So it’s hard for me not to rant about it.

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