"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 6, 2011

Birthdays Today

Really great birthdays today.  

First, today is the birthday of Sigmund Freud, born in 1856.   Freud was, of course, the author of the theory of psychoanalysis that dominated much of the middle part of the 20th Century, at least in high European, Western culture.   Freud has never been my cup of tea; I've always thought that his emphasis on childhood sexuality and sexuality generally as the main motivator of human action is both simplistic and sensationalistic.   I think human beings are both more complex and more boring than the sex-crazed loonies that seem to appear from Freud's world-view.   I also think his emphasis on dream interpretation is just silly; and that his use of the "talking cure" as the mode of treatment for depressed or neurotic or even psychotic individuals has had a horrible effect on our entire culture -- we now seem to believe (or, at least, liberals do ) that any problem can be solved simply by talking about it.   But it's hard to overstate his influence on our common cultural vocabulary.   My favorite work of his is probably Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), which deals with the repression of aggressive impulses by society and the formation of a super-ego which internalizes that societal repression.   Essentially Freud says that, while we need civilization to survive, civilization also inherently makes us unhappy because it represses our sexual and aggressive impulses.      "Civilization," Freud writes, "therefore, obtains mastery over the individual's dangerous desire for aggression by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city."


It's also the birthday of Orson Welles, born in 1915.   Welles directed arguably the greatest American movie ever, Citizen Kane, when he was 25, and followed it with some remarkable, lesser-known works, including The Magnificent Ambersons, The Lady from Shanghai and Touch of Evil, as wells as his remarkable series of Shakespearean dramas, Macbeth, Othello, and Chimes at Midnight (focusing on the character of Falstaff).   Here is a great, great scene from a movie he took over directing and starred in, but did not receive credit for directing, The Third Man, with his running mate, Joseph Cotton:


It's also Willie Mays' 80th birthday.   Possibly the greatest baseball player ever; surely the most exciting, Mays provided probably the greatest World Series catch ever, with this grab against the Indians in the Polo Grounds in the 1954 series:


Finally, it's also the 28th birthday of one of our favorite actresses, from one of our favorite shows, Friday Night Lights, Adrianne Palicki, who has been a Girl of the Day in the past, but obviously deserves a reprise:

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