Please note: I am drinking a second beer tonight. That means I am well past my comfort zone for alcohol. What am I drinking? Our own great local Lagunitas’ The Censored Rich Copper Ale. It’s a damned fine beer.
On this day in 1254, it is possible that Marco Polo was born. There is a 1 in 365 chance. But he’s got to go somewhere and Wikipedia mistakenly put him on this day, so why not? The French astronomer Jean Sylvain Bailly was born in 1736. He isn’t that important, but he was executed during The Terror, and that’s pretty cool for a scientist. More cool? Evariste Galois, who will definitely win the day on 25 October.
The author of The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper was born in 1789. Physicist Edward Bouchet was born in 1852. He was the first African American man to earn a PhD at an American college (Yale in his case). He spent most of his life as an educator but you know her must have been an amazing intellect, or he never would have received the degree. In a fundamental way, he is a great example of how racism harms all of us. But there is no doubt that he was a very great man.
Composer Horatio Parker was born in 1863. I don’t especially like him, but he writes nice stuff. Here is the suite that he created from his opera Fairyland:
Novelist Robert Benchley was born in 1889. I mention him only because he is a good example of the fact that America is a class society. Peter (this son) is really not that good a writer. Mystery writer Agatha Christie was born in 1890.
The great filmmaker Jean Renoir was born in 1894. Until today, I had no idea that he was the son of the painter. I’ve only ever seen his movies. And if you haven’t seen his movies, you really should. The following trailer of The Grand Illusion does provide some idea of his greatness. It is, after all, a 1937 film and it looks much more modern than that. On the other hand, it gives a totally skewed idea of what the film is about; it is really about class, or at least, that is always what strikes me.
John Mitchell was born in 1913. He was a real villain as Attorney General under Nixon. But I love everything Nixon. Have I mentioned that I’ve written a number of puppet plays that involve the Nixon administration? But I’ve never included John Mitchell. I really should. I think he would shake things up. Awful people are always improved when they are presented as puppets.
And comedian Nipsey Russell was born in 1918.
Comedian Norm Crosby is 86 today. Most of his act was a series of malapropisms. When I was kid, I thought he was hilarious. Now, not so much. Actor Tommy Lee Jones is 67 and looks 86. And the great screenwriter and director Oliver Stone is 67 and looks about that old. In addition to his art, his politics are right on:
The day, however, belongs to the great singer Bobby Short who was born on this day in 1924. He was great, but I mostly love him just because of the songs that he sings. Unfortunately, it is hard to find much video of him. But here he is doing Cab Calloway’s “She’s Tall, She’s Tan, She’s Terrific”:
Happy birthday Bobby Short!