On this day in 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born. As you probably know, I don’t do politicians. But FDR wasn’t a politician; he was leader of the free world for 12 years. I’m not a huge fan on the man. (I’m much more a fan of his wife.) I think of him the way that I think of Barack Obama: he was the best president we could reasonably expect. The fact that he was so much better than Obama gives you some idea of just how much our politics has disintegrated.
Computer scientist Douglas Engelbart was born in 1925. He died last year. He is known for having invented the computer mouse, an invention he got no royalties for. I won’t get into the politics of that, because I know what conservatives would say; rest assured, I have a counter argument. But the main reason I mention Engelbart is that he’s dead. How can the inventor of the mouse be dead? Well, there is this:
The World Chess Champion Boris Spassky is 77 today. He still has a FIDE rating of 2548, which is damned good for a man in his late 70s who seems more interested in the good life that chess has allowed him than chess itself. He is the guy who Bobby Fischer beat. But Spassky was a great player who wasn’t a total freak. There is a lot to be said for that. Looking back, I tend to think that Fischer was not as dominant as he appeared. I think that all of Fischer’s bad behavior at the beginning of the tournament had a bad effect on Spassky. I really hate the way that Fischer behaved. And to a large extent because of that, I have a soft spot for Spassky. And face it: if you got to choose which life to lead, it would be Spassky. I’d rather have a great life and be remembered as a great chess player than have a tormented life and be remembered as one of the best chess players.
Dick Cheney is 73 today. I was going to give the day to him. But then I checked and saw that I had not give the day to Hitler on his birthday. Does this mean I think Cheney is is bad as Hitler. I actually do, but in a different sense than you might think. I believe that there are lots of megalomaniacs around today who under the right circumstances would have been Hitler. And just the same, had Hitler been born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1941, he would have turned out very much like Cheney. Certainly we can all admit that Hitler’s megalomania would not manifest in modern America by an explicit genocide. He would probably be a conservative who claimed that the poor deserved to die of hunger and lack of medical care. It’s a mistake to get too hung up on Hitler. There are plenty of evil men around America today who are well respected and well rewarded. Dick Cheney is one of the best examples of this.
Other birthday: trumpet player Roy Eldridge (1911); film director Michael Anderson (94); film director Delbert Mann (1920); comedian Dick Martin (1922); actor Dorothy Malone (89); actor Gene Hackman (84); actor Vanessa Redgrave (77); singer-songwriter Marty Balin (72); documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield (66); comedian Brett Butler (56); and actor Christian Bale (40).
The day, however, belongs to singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel who is 55 today. I just wrote an article about one of his songs, I’ve Been a Mess. So I’m not going to add a bunch. The main thing about him is that his songs are deeply felt but with a great sense of humor. There is no better example of this than the American Music Club song “Hula Maiden.” And I got smashed on the beach. Yeah, I was thinking of you… That’s brilliant.
Happy birthday Mark Eitzel!