On this day in 1866, the great writer H. G. Wells was born. One of the holy trinity of early science fiction (with writer Jules Verne and publisher Hugo Gernsback), he is best known for novels like The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. As he got older, he turned away from science fiction and became much more interested in realistic social commentary in the form of the more talented Upton Sinclair, who won the day only yesterday. Still, as with Sinclair, his politics were worthy and he did much to improve society. I find him compelling even when he was wrong about things; if it can be said of anyone, it can be said of him: he had a pure heart.
Novelist Stephen King is 66 today. I’m not a huge fan of his, but I’ve read enough of his work to know what an incredible talent he is. The Shining, for example, is really well done. It is extremely frightening and engaging. According to him, the great Richard Matheson is his biggest influence. (Note: I just learned that Matheson died on 23 June; I had hoped he would make it into his 90s; I’m very sad.) He also said something that I really like, because it means that King thinks I’m talented, “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” I don’t really agree with that, however. I’ve been paid to write some fairly bad stuff and no one is interested in paying me to write my best work. But I do like the idea that no one should be able to doubt my talent because I paid my PG&E bill with money I made from writing.
The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe is 59. He is important because he is now doing in Japan what none of the “serious” rulers in other developed countries are doing: he’s spending money. Roughly 70 years ago, the whole world learned that the way to get an economy out of recession is for the government to spend money. This acts as a way to jump start the economy. But somehow, when the world went suddenly into recession in 2008, all the “smart people” of the world forgot the lessons that we learned from the Great Depression. Instead of calling for governments to spend money, all these people called for balanced budgets and other forms of austerity. After five years of this madness, we clearly see what everyone should already have known: Keynesian economics works. Shinzo Abe is the only major leader who is acting on this. Of course, he hasn’t been in power long enough for us to see the final results. The initial results are good and I have little doubt he will be successful. But I also don’t doubt that once he is successful, the “smart people” will refuse to accept the fact and will instead insist that the only way out of recession is more austerity.
Other birthdays: the great Mannerist painter Lodovico Cardi (1559); low temperature physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853); composer of The Planets Gustav Holst (1874); the founder of Penguin Books Allen Lane (1902); novelist Fannie Flagg (69); producer Jerry Bruckheimer (68); actor Bill Murray (63); filmmarker Ethan Coen (56); actor Rob Morrow (51); actor Ricki Lake (45); and actor Luke Wilson (42).
The day, however, belongs to the great animator Chuck Jones who was born on this day in 1912. He is best known for being the most innovative of the directors during the golden age of Warner Bros. Cartoons. He started as an assistant animator and worked his way up. By 1938, he was directing whole cartoons. At first, these were very much in the tradition of Disney Studios: they were beautifully rendered, but not really funny. Slowly, he developed the style that we associate with Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes; it wasn’t until the late 1940s and 1950s that he was creating his best work. He continued to work for Warner into the 1960s, when he started his own studios (which did work for Warner Bros. in addition to many others). One of his greatest triumphs was the animated Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in 1966. Here is Rabbit Seasoning from the peak of Jones’ creative period at Warner in 1952:
Here is a video clip I found some time ago where Chuck Jones teaches how to draw Bugs Bunny. Of course, using it, I tried to draw the wascally wabbit and found it was not nearly as easy as the master made it appear:
Happy birthday Chuck Jones!