On this day in 1546, the great observational astronomer Tycho Brahe was born. In fact, before the advent of the telescope, he was certainly the greatest. That’s pretty amazing: doing observations of the stars and the planets without the help of any optical instruments except, you know, the two we are born with. He is most known for two things. First, while in college, he had part of his nose cut off in a duel. This duel was over the solution to a mathematical problem. Yep, that was the way in the 16th century: my equation is right because I’m better with a sword. The two duelers made up, but the nose did not. So Brahe wore a false nose made of silver and gold for the rest of his life.
The other important thing about Brahe is that Johannes Kepler came to work as his assistant the last couple of years of his life. Apparently, Brahe didn’t really trust Kepler though. So it wasn’t until Brahe died that Kepler got his grubby little hands on all the observational data. And this resulted in one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time: Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion. Basically, Kepler found that planets did not move in circles but in ellipses. What’s more, the closer they got to the sun, the faster they moved. It’s all basic conservation of energy that any high school physics student can explain. But it was a huge breakthrough! And beautiful mathematics.
The English writer Aphra Behn was born in 1640. Like Cervantes, she was one of those people who were perfecting what would become the modern novel. In her case, you might say she invented the romance novel. She was actually more of a playwright, however—and quite a successful one. Unfortunately, Shakespeare sucks just about all the oxygen out of English language plays until the 19th century.
I only know the names of two porn stars. One of them is that girl who caused the freak out when it turned out that she had been making porn films when she was 16 or something. And even now, I can’t remember her name. The other is Ginger Lynn who is 51 today. Now, I haven’t seen either of these women performing. And I have no idea why the name “Ginger Lynn” has stuck in my mind all these years. Anyway, I’m not very much into video pornography. It strikes me as too much like gynecological exams—with all the sexiness that goes along with them. I’d much rather read porn where I can picture sex the way it ought to be rather than the way it is. But I think that’s why there is this trend in video porn to have all gentles shaved. I used to think it was trying to turn adults into children—which is extremely creepy. But now I think it is trying to turn humans into simple functional devices. This too is creepy, but not nearly so much so. I’m glad I came up with that theory; it makes me feel a lot better. Eventually, it will get to the point of having me just “hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick.” That’s right, folks! Only at Frankly Curious do we start with porn star Ginger Lynn and end with Shakespeare! (Extra points for naming the play!)
Other birthdays: French painter who I really don’t like Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824); Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta (1853); English painter I really like Roger Fry (1866); comedian Morey Amsterdam (1908); choreographer June Taylor (1917); 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt (1922); actor Patty Duke (57); and chess grandmaster Jan Timman (62).
The day, however, belongs to the great comedic bandleader Spike Jones who was born on this day in 1911. He did some very funny things. Let me just share a few with you. First there is “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” which caused the American Federation of Musicians to ban him from making commercial recordings for two years. I don’t actually see the problem. It is a very silly song that seems to be saying that we fart in Hitler’s face. But maybe in 1942, it was too silly.
The whole band was made up of a bunch of nutcases. Here is “Cocktails for Two”:
And here is “My Old Flame,” the second part of it sung by “Peter Lorre”:
And finally, here is a song that is not by Spike Jones’ band, because Spike Jones died the year before. But it’s his gang, primarily Doodles Weaver, doing a very confused version of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”:
Happy birthday Spike Jones!