"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

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Birthdays Today

Somewhat interesting birthdays today.   First, it's Harry Houdini's birthday.   Born in 1874 -- in Appleton, Wisconsin of all places -- Houdini became famous at a time when live performances without "special effects" or "computer generated images" were unknown.   You had to make magic the old-fashioned way, and Houdini was the greatest of all time.   

It's also Malcolm Muggeridge's birthday.  Born in 1903, Muggeridge was an English journalist, soldier, spy and all-around cultural raconteur.  He is noteworthy for being one of the main popularizers of Mother Theresa, having become a Catholic convert late in his own life.   He also wrote one of the great examples of what I would call "The God That Failed"-genre -- memoirs in which former 1930s communists repented their youthful idealism after seeing the horrors of Stalinism.   His memoir was called Chronicles of Wasted Time.


Finally, Steve McQueen was born in 1930.   McQueen is one of the great film actors.   "Film actors," because McQueen was one of the few who could command the screen without saying anything.   None of his best movies are dialogue-driven; instead, they are driven by the sheer presence of McQueen physically on the screen.   The best in my mind is the great cop movie, Bullitt.   Here's a scene:

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