"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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Birthdays Today

Good birthdays today... first, the artist Paul Klee was born in 1879.   The Swiss Klee was a leading figure and theorist of modern abstract painting who studied and lived in Germany until forced to flee the Nazis in 1933.   I've never liked Klee as much as his close friend, Kandinsky, but some of his paintings are quite beautiful:

Also born today, in 1886, was the greatest Detroit Tiger of them all, Ty Cobb.   Cobb, whose lifetime batting average of .367 is the best in baseball history, was also according to legend the most hated man in baseball when he played, due to his "take no prisoners" style of baserunning and his generally nasty personality.    That view of Cobb has come down through history, and perhaps even grew, as his supposedly Southern racist views, perhaps typical in the early decades of the 20th century, became anathema after the Civil Rights movement.   Was Cobb a racist?   Well, after baseball, he became very successful in business, ending up with an estate of some $12 million by the early 1960s, a tidy sum.   He used some of this to endow scholarships for needy Georgia students to go to college, regardless of race.   He used other money build a hospital in Roylston, Georgia, his hometown, which served its community regardless of race.   In some ways, probably yes.   In other ways, probably no.   Historical figures shouldn't be judged by modern standards, but against the standards of their own times and places, just like batting averages need to be judged against batters of a particular era.   Here's an article that puts this complicated person in perspective.    

Also born today, in 1916, was Betty Grable.  I knew about her status as the number one pinup girl of World War II -- the picture below is among the most famous pictures ever -- but I didn't know she was born in St. Louis, nor that, for a period of about ten years from the early 1940s to the early 1950s she was the top female star in Hollywood for eight out of ten years.   Amazing, since, looking down the list of her movies --Down Argentine Way, Moon Over Miami, Springtime in the Rockies, Coney Island, Sweet Rosie O'Grady, Pin Up Girl, Diamond Horseshoe, The Dolly Sisters, Mother Wore Tights,  That Lady in Ermine, When My Baby Smiles at Me, Wabash Avenue, My Blue Heaven, Meet Me After the Show, How to Marry a Millionaire, Three for the Show -- not one of them has lasted as a "classic."  I am a movie guy, and I have never seen a single Betty Grable movie.  But, as they say, facts is facts.  

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