"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Birthdays Today

George Armstrong Custer was born today in 1839.   Everyone recalls Custer's Last Stand, of course, and there have been good books written about it, including the recent book by Nathaniel Philbrick, one of my favorite authors of non-fiction.   (Philbrick is also the author of a really great book about an exploration of discovery and science in the first half of the 19th century, Sea of Glory, and another really good book about an ill-fated whaleship, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.)

But not that many people recall that Custer was an extraordinarily successful young cavalry commander in the Civil War, attaining the rank of Major General by war's end, although only 25.   He fought in the first major engagemen of the wart, the First Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas, if you're a Southerner), and he was on hand when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Today is also the birthday of Walt Disney, born in 1901.   Hard to overestimate the impact of Disney's vision on our culture.  It's ubiqitous, in mostly good ways,

although sometimes not.


Finally, Otto Preminger was also born today, in 1905.   Preminger directed two of my favorite movies, In Harm's Way, which is probably the best John Wayne movies that doesn't involve a horse, and Anatomy of a Murder.   Here's the trailer from Anatomy of a Murder:

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