I have a good young friend who is way into skydiving. That’s right, one of my friends is a crazy person. And I cannot image ever jumping out of an airplane myself unless it is absolutely, positively necessary. That makes me want to never go up in a plane again. Regardless, I was very excited last night to see that Google had created another doodle, this one in celebration of 216th anniversary of the first recorded parachute jump by Andre-Jacques Garnerin. He jumped from a height of 1,000 meters. That’s interesting, because my understanding is that skydivers are now supposed to open their chutes at that altitude. I’m sure that Garnerin wasn’t skydiving himself, and so he too opened his chute at the same height. I think that’s just a coincidence. The doodle is a little game, so click on over and check it out! (And, yes, I know that I am perhaps too fond of Google Doodles.)
The great journalist who covered the Russian Revolution, John Reed was born in 1887. He died soon after in 1920. It would have been interesting to see how he would have reacted to how badly the revolution went after the death of Lenin. When I was kid, I was very impressed that a local grammar school was named after him—after an avowed communist who fled the country! But I was being silly. “John Reed” is a common name and apparently, the school was named after some local developer. Oh well.
The great actor Derek Jacobi is 75 today. He is best known for playing the title character in I, Claudius. I know him better as the title character in the Cadfael television movies (I own them all). He is always wonderful. But when I think of him, my mind immediately goes to his fantastic performance of Chorus in Henry V. Now I could write a rather long article about how brilliantly Kenneth Branagh includes the character into the movie. But you can see it in this opening scene. Effectively, Chorus is explaining how the players will do their best to present a whole war on the tiny stage. It’s the sort of thing that could easily have been removed from the film. But I am so glad the Chorus stayed, because it is the best part of the play. Also notice that this two minute scene is a single take. “Who prologue-like, your humble patience pray; gently to hear, kindly to judge our play”:
Other birthdays: actor Sarah Bernhardt (1844); comedian Curly Howard (1903); actor Joan Fontaine (96); poet Doris Lessing (94); Timothy Leary (1920); author Ann Rule (78); “Squeaky” Fromme is 65, so she won’t be trying to assassinate any more presidents; comedy writer Bob Odenkirk (51); and the great film director Spike Jonze (44).
Look, there were a lot of great birthdays today. The day, however, belongs to the great Romantic composer Franz Liszt who was born on this day in 1811. As you probably know, I’m not a great fan of this period. But the great Romantic composers are still great. And Liszt is wonderful and playful. He is also engaging and often challenging. But let us enjoy one of his very fun compositions, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. First done by humans:
Second done by a rabbit:
Happy birthday Franz Liszt!