Five years ago today, Bernard Madoff was finally arrested for his decades of fraud. So remember: when you rip off people, make sure that they are poor! Of course, ol’ Madoff had already had 70 really good years of life. This is far more than most people get. So he has to spend the rest of his life in prison. Big deal. Not a very big punishment as far as I’m concerned. If someone gave a baby the option, which do you think it would take? First option: you can have a great life of wealth and influence where people bow before you and treat you like royalty and then during the last couple of years of your life, you will not be thought well of and you will be in jail. Second option: you will work your whole life and no one will really appreciate it and then you will retire where you’ll live a sad, lonely, and poor life. I think Madoff did very well for himself!
On this day in 1856, the Russian revolutionary Georgi Plekhanov was born. Although he was a huge figure in the Russian Revolution, he did not like the Bolsheviks. He was a Marxist and a social-democrat. After the revolution, he left for Finland where he died of tuberculosis. Even though he was an opponent of the Soviet system, Lenin and his successors held him up as a hero. You know, the way Republicans hold up Martin Luther King as a hero today. Nothing like a great man you hated after he is dead.
The great physicist Max Born was born in 1882. He is one of a group of people who developed quantum mechanics. He worked closely with Heisenberg on the matrix formulation of the theory. In fact, generally speaking, Born has kind of been left out of the credit for this work, even though Heisenberg was very clear about his contributions.
The great modernist composer Elliott Carter was born in 1908. He is absolutely one of my favorite of the recent composers. He was also an amazing theorist. Here is the “Allegro Scorrevole” from his Symphonia: Sum fluxae pretium spei from very late in his career (although he lived to be 103):
Other birthdays: polymath Francesco Algarotti (1712); father of the Bill of Rights George Mason (1725); physicist David Brewster (1781); poet Alfred de Musset (1810); brewer John Labatt (1838); astronomer Annie Jump Cannon (1863); actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (83); singer Rita Moreno (82); pianist McCoy Tyner (75); singer-songwriter David Gates (73); singer Brenda Lee (69); actor Teri Garr (66); and cartoonist Peter Bagge (56).
The day, however, belongs to blues writer and singer Big Mama Thornton who was born on this day in 1926. Her music is just a lot of fun and we could all use a lot more of that. Here she is doing her version of “Hound Dog”:
Happy birthday Big Mama Thornton!