This just in: Peter O’Toole is dead. He was 81. Not exactly one of my favorite actors, but he was wonderful in some of my favorite films: The Lion in Winter, My Favorite Year, and Dean Spanley. Actually, a lot more than that. But if you haven’t seen any of those films, you’d better get on it! I am truly sad to see the old man gone. Although if you watch him in Dean Spanley, he does seem awfully frail. And that was five years ago.
On this day in 37, Emperor Nero was born. He was dead not long after—at the age of 30. I think he has a bad rap. As for all that stuff about burning of Christians for light at night, well, I suspect that is all a myth. Imagine what people would say of Obama 2,000 years from now if they were basing history on the writings of Pamela Geller.
The great architect and civil engineer Gustave Eiffel was born in 1832. He did extensive work with the French rail system—both buildings and especially bridges. But we all know him because of that tower he built. What’s the name. Gustave Tower? Oh, that’s right: the Eiffel Tower. It was built for the 1889 Universal Exposition and took a year and a half to construct. Of course, he didn’t design it. A couple of his people did. You know how it goes.
A truly vile man, J Paul Getty was born in 1892. But I have to admit, the Getty Center is a wonderful thing. Rich people are generally much more useful to society after they die. I don’t say that to be mean. It is just that Getty really was an awful human being. Had he been born an alligator, I guess he would have been about average. When his grandson was kidnapped, Getty loaned his son the money to get the grandson back. You know what they say: profits first, family second, or third, or forty-fifth, I don’t really remember.
Buddy Cole was born in 1916. I don’t think much of him, but it gives me the opportunity to play this fine version of Rosemary Clooney singing “Blue Moon”:
Physicist Freeman Dyson is 90 years old today. Good for him! I’m not a fan. As for his work on QED, I don’t really understand it so I don’t have much to say about it. Anyway, he is mostly know for being a crank. I don’t mean “crank” in a bad way; I’m a crank in many ways myself. Most people know him for his “work” on metaphysics. He claims that just as all of our neurons go into making up our consciousness, maybe all of we living creatures make up a greater consciousness that we might call “God.” So he’s basically a pantheist, and so am I. But I find his thinking on the matter kind of muddled. And I don’t like the idea of a universal “consciousness.” A bee colony may work the same way that our brain does, but that doesn’t mean that the bee colony has a consciousness. Also he’s been constantly wrong about global warming in his attacks on the IPCC, which has been, if anything, way too conservative. Like I said: he’s a crank. But it’s important that cranks don’t get too much attention. Why? Because they’re cranks! Their function is to push the Overton Window open. But they are almost always wrong.
Other birthdays: playwright Maxwell Anderson (1888); gun designer Uziel Gal (1923); jazz pianist Barry Harris (84); musician Dave Clark (71); musician Paul Simonon (58); and actor Michelle Dockery (32).
The day, however, belongs to comedian Tim Conway who is 80 today. Other than a couple of movies, I mostly know him from McHale’s Navy the The Carol Burnett Show. Here he is as Mr. Tudball with Carol Burnett as Mrs. Wiggins:
Happy birthday Tim Conway!