On this day in 356 BC, Alexander the Great was born. Or maybe it was tomorrow. It was a long time ago. Memories fade. I’ve never thought much of him and his pointless life. His was a very typical story: conquered a bunch of stuff, die, and it all falls apart. I don’t mean to say that had his accomplishments lasted it would have made his life more meaningful. But it surely is the case that the only real purpose of his conquests was power. In this regard, Genghis Khan comes off a lot better. The one thing that’s always interested me is that Aristotle was his tutor. In general, it tends to lower my opinion of the philosopher who regardless was never one to question existing power. I do hope he was paid well to teach the little bastard.
German impressionist Max Liebermann was born in 1847. He thankfully died before the Nazis got to kill him. The same cannot be said of mathematician Otto Blumenthal who was born in 1876. He managed to escape to the Netherlands. Unfortunately, that was not far enough away as the Nazis took over control of the country in May of 1940. Blumenthal was deported to Theresienstadt, where I assume he was simply murdered in 1944.
The great songwriter Cindy Walker was born in 1918. She wrote many songs you know and love, but especially this one:
And Natalie Wood was born in 1938. For the record, I tend to think she was not murdered. But I think we can all learn an important lesson from her death. It is a really bad idea to get drunk at sea. I’ll go further: it is a bad idea to go to sea at all. I’m not a huge fan of hers, but here she is pretty much holding her own with Rosalind Russell (who kills it) in Gypsy:
The oldest living cardinal, Ersilio Tonini is 99 today. Novelist Cormac McCarthy is 80. Diana Rigg was born on the same day as Nattalie Wood and is 75. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig has a birthday today, and other than hoping he spent it in an airport bathroom, I have nothing to say. Kim Carnes is 68. She is best known for her cover of “Bette Davis Eyes.” I like her performance, but I can’t listen to the song. That whole period of quasi-new wave production is almost unlistenable. But here is Jackie DeShannon’s version of the song (which she co-wrote):
Thomas Friedman is 60. I mention it only so I can present this very funny and accurate analysis of him:
The day, however, belongs to the father of genetics Gregor Mendel who was born on this day in 1822. There are two reasons that I really like him. First, his was about the only stuff I ever understood in biology class. Everything else was far too complicated with lots of memorizing. Typical of the way science is taught at the low levels, they remove almost everything interesting. But Mendel’s theory about inheritance with peas was simple and elegant. Second, he’s one of those rare thinkers who truly are ahead of their time. But it doesn’t show that the “great man” theory of history is right; it shows just the opposite. If the intellectual soil around a great man is not fertile, his work just won’t be noticed.
Happy birthday Gregor Mendel!