"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

Friday, May 20, 2011

Birthdays Today

Today is the birthday of Honoré de Balzac, the great French novelist, born in 1799.   Balzac is one of my wife's favorites, and I've always meant to read more of his works.   The one I read, which was great, was Pere Goriot, which centers, like so many 19th century novels, on a social climber, this one named Rastignac, who has eyes for Old Father Goriot's married daughter, Delphine.  

The picture of Balzac above, by the way, reminds me of the Rodin sculpture of Balzac, which I had always thought was abstract, but which apparently was pretty accurate.   Not a handsome guy:

It's also the 65th birthday of Cher.   Wow!   Tempus fugit, again, and again.   Here she is back before Botox, when she was pretty cute in a weird 60s sort of way:

Finally, leaving the best for last, today is the birthday of Jimmy Stewart, Princeton '32, who was born in 1908.   Stewart was, of course, one of our greatest actors, but my favorite thing about Stewart is the fact that, at age 33, in March 1941, nine months before Pearl Harbor, he quit Hollywood, and enlisted in the Army Air Force.   During the war, Stewart, already a fine pilot, flew more than twenty combat missions over Germany in a B-24 unit, and rose from Private to Colonel, receiving along the way two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Croix de Guerre, and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and served as group operations officer to the 453rd Bombardment Group and, later, as Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force.    Later, after the war, he continued in the Air Force Reserve, rising to the rank of Brigadier General.  

Here is Stewart in one of my favorite movies, The Shop Around the Corner, with Margaret Sullavan:

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