I am 50 today. I wouldn’t be so keen to tell you that, but it is public information for reasons I am still kind of fuzzy on how it came to be. But somehow it got on Wikipedia and so it is there forever. Whatever. I don’t particularly care that I’m 50 today, because I still feel about 17. What bugs me is who else is 50 today: Glenn Beck.
Now I should be clear, although I think Beck is a nutcase, there is something I like about him. He is a searcher. He really is interested in finding out the truth. I value that because I am very much the same. The problem is that Beck is a sub-genius: someone who is smart but not very smart. And that means he is smart enough to get lost in conspiracy theories. I think a lot of people miss this about Beck. They focus on his conservative politics, but he is really just Alex Jones, except a little smarter. I think that somewhere along the line, Beck read Cleon Skousen’s The 5,000 Year Leap and he thought he had found the Truth™. And everything pretty much flows from that.
In a purely commercial sense, Beck has been extremely successful. He has a large group of people who hang on (Off?!) his every word. Politically, of course, he is irrelevant. The people who follow him are already far to the right politically. Beck’s main power is to drain them of money, although if he wants, he can whip them up to vote or encourage them not to vote. I figure they already vote consistently, though.
But Glenn Beck is well worth having around to pollute our intellectual discourse because it resulted in some of the best satire ever by Jon Stewart. Here is the first part of it. In the second part, he nails exactly why Beck was fired from Fox News, “Well maybe Fox News thought it would be useful to hire some random talk radio host rehashing the same tired old John Birch Society conspiracy theories to seed an ultra-conservative viewpoints into the news cycle while making the rest of the network seem centrist by comparison. But he then began to believe his own messianic delusions and became a giant pain in the ass.” That’s about right. Click the link before for the whole thing. Or just watch the beginning:
The singer Roberta Flack is 77 today. I mention her only as an excuse for listening to Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”:
Other birthdays: naval commander William Cornwallis (1744); writer Charles Lamb (1775); great French Romantic painter Ary Scheffer (1795); saccharin co-creator Ira Remsen (1846); Russian writer Boris Pasternak (1890); actor Judith Anderson (1897); the Father of Modern Vaccines, John Franklin Enders (1897); actor Stella Adler (1901); actor Lon Chaney Jr (1906); great cinematographer Douglas Slocombe (101!); film composer Jerry Goldsmith (1929); actor Robert Wagner (84); swimmer Mark Spitz (64); and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan (47).
The day, however, belongs to the great playwright Bertolt Brecht who was born on this day in 1898. I know him mostly as the guy with all the books in the section where I’m looking for Beckett plays. Despite the fact that he didn’t live that long, he wrote a tremendous number of plays—all of which have been translated into English. He is best know, of course, for writing the book and lyrics of The Threepenny Opera. But among theater people he is ridiculously important—not only because of his plays but because of his extensive writing on theatrical theory and practice. Here is “The Ballad of Mack the Knife” from the 1931 film based on the play:
Happy birthday Bertolt Brecht!