Bambi

… premiered 72 years ago today.

Is there a sadder movie ever than this Disney classic?

Roger Ebert wrote an excellent review when Bambi was released yet again in 1988. He starts generally positive:

In the annals of the great heartbreaking moments in the movies, the death of Bambi’s mother ranks right up there with the chaining of Dumbo’s mother and the moment when E. T. seems certainly dead. These are movie moments that provide a rite of passage for children of a certain age: You send them in as kids, and they come out as sadder and wiser preteenagers.

And there are other moments in the movie almost as momentous. “Bambi” exists alone in the Disney canon. It is not an adventure and not a “cartoon,” but an animated feature that describes with surprising seriousness the birth and growth of a young deer. Everybody remembers the cute early moments when Bambi can’t find his footing and keeps tripping over his own shadow. Those scenes are among the most charming the Disney animators ever drew.

But then he questions the whole effort:

Hey, I don’t want to sound like an alarmist here, but if you really stop to think about it, “Bambi” is a parable of sexism, nihilism and despair, portraying absentee fathers and passive mothers in a world of death and violence. I know the movie’s a perennial clasic, seen by every generation, remembered long after other movies have been forgotten. But I am not sure it’s a good experience for children – especially young and impressionable ones.


Ben Hogan

… was born 102 years ago today. Hogan was the great golfer of mid-century, overcoming injuries from a severe, near-fatal auto accident. Hogan won four U.S. Opens, two Masters, two PGAs and one British Open between 1946-53.

At some point NewMexiKen read a story about Hogan playing in a pro-am. The duffer with him kept asking how he, Hogan, did this and how he did that, as if the amateur could match Hogan’s skills if only he used the right club. Finally, after a wonderful chip shot, the amateur asked Hogan which club he had used. That was too much. Hogan proceeded to pull out every club in his bag and make perfect chip shots onto the green with each.

James Dodson’s is a good biography of Hogan.


Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz

… is 88 today. He took control of Cuba in 1959.

Castro wrote a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940. (He says he was 12, but should have been 13 or 14.) “If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american in the letter [back] because never have I not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.” Castro went on to say, “I don’t know very English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you [FDR] don’t know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American.”

Perhaps if FDR had given him the $10 history might have been different.

I saw Castro give a speech outside the Hotel Nacional in Havana in 1993.


August the Twelfth Twenty Fourteen

Cantinflas, the great Mexican comedian, acrobat and musician — and bullfighter — was born 103 years ago today. His actual name was Fortino Mario Alfonso Moreno Reyes. Cantinflas appeared in more than 50 films, most famously as Passepartout in Michael Todd’s 1956 Around the World in Eighty Days. In English-speaking countries, David Niven was billed as the star. Elsewhere Cantinflas took top billing — he was the highest paid actor in the world at the time. He saved the movie from the stiff Niven if you ask me.

William Goldman is 83 today. He won Oscars for best original screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and best adapted screenplay for All the President’s Men. Other screenplays he has written include The Princess Bride, adapted from his own novel, Heat, Harper, Maverick and Marathon Man.

Parnelli Jones is 81 today. Jones won the Indianapolis 500 in 1963.

George Hamilton is 75 today.

Mark Knopfler is 65. Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.

Pete Sampras is 43.

Katharine Lee Bates was born on this date in 1859. A poet, she is best remembered for the words to “America the Beautiful,” first published in 1895 and refined until 1913. She had been to the top of Pikes Peak in 1893.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

If you know anything about mythology you probably first learned about it from Edith Hamilton, born on this date in 1867. Hamilton’s book Mythology, written after she had retired as a school head mistress, was published in 1942.

Christy Mathewson was born on this date in 1880. Mathewson was one of the original five inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 — with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson. Mathewson had died in 1925.

As charismatic and popular as any player in the early 1900s, the college-educated Christy Mathewson won 373 games over 17 seasons, primarily for the New York Giants. Using his famous fadeaway pitch, Matty won at least 22 games for 12 straight years beginning in 1903, winning 30 games or more four times. A participant in four World Series, Mathewson’s lone title came in 1905 when he tossed three shutouts in six days against the Athletics. He set the modern National League mark with 37 wins in 1908.

Baseball Hall of Fame

The movie producer Cecil B. DeMille was born on August 12th in 1881. Known for his extravaganzas (e.g., The Ten Commandments), DeMille won his only Oscar for The Greatest Show on Earth (still fun to watch if you ever went to the circus under the Big Top).

Three-time Emmy winner Jane Wyatt, Margaret Anderson of Father Knows Best and Spock’s mother on Star Trek, was born 104 years ago today. Her Emmys were in 1958, 1959 and 1960. She died in 2006.

The actor, director John Derek was born on August 12, 1926 (he died in 1998). Derek’s wives included Ursula Andress, Linda Evans and Bo Derek.

Alvis Edgar Owens Jr. was born on August 12, 1929. As Buck Owens with his band the Buckaroos he had 21 number one country music hits. Owens also co-hosted the television comedy-variety show Hee Haw 1969-1986.

And it’s the birthday of Zerna Sharp, born in Hillisburg, Indiana, on this date in 1889. According to The Writer’s Almanac a few years back, Ms. Sharp is the woman who —

invented the characters Dick and Jane to help teach children how to read…Sharp’s idea was to use pictures and repetition to teach children new words. She took her idea to Dr. William S. Gray, who had been studying the way children learn to read, and he hired her to create a series of textbooks. She didn’t write the books, but she created the characters Dick, Jane, their sister Sally, their dog Spot, and their cat Puff. Each story introduced five new words, one on each page.

The IBM PC (Personal Computer) was released 33 years ago today.

Cleopatra VII Philopator committed suicide on this date in 30 B.C. She was Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt for 21 years (ruling with her two brother-husbands and her son). In addition to her two brothers, her spouses were Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. She wasn’t yet 39 when she died.


August Oneth

William Clark, the Clark of Lewis and Clark, was born on this date in 1770. He died in 1838. Here is Clark’s journal entry on his 36th birthday [1806] from Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Online. He was on the Yellowstone River in what is now eastern Montana.

We Set out early as usial the wind was high and ahead which caused the water to be a little rough and delayed us very much aded to this we had Showers of rain repeetedly all day at the intermition of only a fiew minits between them. My Situation a very disagreeable one. in an open Canoe wet and without a possibility of keeping my Self dry. the Country through which we passed is in every respect like that through which I passed yesterday. The brooks have all Some water in them from the rains which has fallen. this water is excessively muddy. Several of those brooks have Some trees on their borders as far as I can See up them. I observe Some low pine an cedar on the Sides of the rugid hills on the Stard. Side, and Some ash timber in the high bottoms. the river has more Sand bars today than usial, and more Soft mud. the current less rapid. at 2 P. M. I was obliged to land to let the Buffalow Cross over. not withstanding an island of half a mile in width over which this gangue of Buffalow had to pass and the Chanel of the river on each Side nearly ¼ of a mile in width, this gangue of Buffalow was entirely across and as thick as they could Swim. the Chanel on the Side of the island the went into the river was crouded with those animals for ½ an hour. [NB: I was obliged to lay to for an hour] the other Side of the island for more than 3/4 of an hour. I took 4 of the men and killed 4 fat Cows for their fat and what portion of their flesh the Small Canoes Could Carry that which we had killed a few days ago being nearly Spoiled from the wet weather. encamped on an Island Close to the Lard Shore. two gangues of Buffalow Crossed a little below us, as noumerous as the first.

Francis Scott Key was born on August 1st in 1779.

Richard Henry Dana, author of the classic memoir Two Years Before the Mast, was born on August 1st in 1815. His trip to California was 1834-1836. Subsequently he graduated from Harvard Law School, practiced law and was a prominent abolitionist. Two Years Before the Mast (before the mast meaning among the crew, not as an officer) was published in 1840.

Herman Melville was born on August 1st in 1819. The Writer’s Almanac had a brief bio that included this:

The Melvilles then settled into a farm near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It was here, in 1850, that Melville would meet Nathaniel Hawthorne, whom Melville would come to think of as a dear friend and confidant. The following year, after an intoxicating period of exploring the ideas of transcendentalism and allegorical writing, Melville penned his enduring masterpiece, Moby Dick, the lyrical, epic story of Ahab and the infamous white whale, dedicating it to Hawthorne in “admiration for his genius.” Moby Dick was met with mixed reviews. The London News declared Melville’s power of language “unparalleled,” while the novel was criticized elsewhere for its unconventional storytelling, and Melville’s fans were disappointed not to find the same kind of adventure story they had loved in Typee and Omoo. It was the beginning of the end of Melville’s career as a novelist and, following a series of literary failures, he turned to farming and writing articles to support his family.

The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor [excerpt]

Mary Harris Jones was born on this date in 1830 (or, more likely, 1837, or possibly May 1, 1837). She is better known to us as Mother Jones. The magazine named after her has a brief biographical essay that includes this:

The moniker “Mother” Jones was no mere rhetorical device. At the core of her beliefs was the idea that justice for working people depended on strong families, and strong families required decent working conditions. In 1903, after she was already nationally known from bitter mine wars in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, she organized her famous “march of the mill children” from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home on Long Island. Every day, she and a few dozen children — boys and girls, some 12 and 14 years old, some crippled by the machinery of the textile mills — walked to a new town, and at night they staged rallies with music, skits, and speeches, drawing thousands of citizens. Federal laws against child labor would not come for decades, but for two months that summer, Mother Jones, with her street theater and speeches, made the issue front-page news.

The rock of Mother Jones’ faith was her conviction that working Americans acting together must free themselves from poverty and powerlessness. She believed in the need for citizens of a democracy to participate in public affairs.

NewMexiKen has known about Mother Jones since the eponymous magazine first came out in 1976. What amazes me is that I had no knowledge of her before that, despite majoring in American history, and even though “For a quarter of a century, she roamed America, the Johnny Appleseed of activists.”

Robert Todd Lincoln, the first child of Abraham Lincoln and the only one to survive to adulthood, was born on this date in 1843. He died in 1926. (Lincoln’s son Eddie was born in 1846 and died in 1850. Son Willie died at age 12 in 1862. Son Tad (Thomas) died at age 18 in 1871.)

Jerry Garcia was born on this date in 1942. He died in 1995.

Elliot Charles Adnopoz was born 83 years ago today. He is known as Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, prominent among the folk singers of the late 1950s and early 1960s, and very influential on Bob Dylan.


Right for the Wrong Reasons

This is from six years ago today when I sold the revolver from my dad’s estate. I repost it for the punchline, wherein my satire has proven instead to be prescient (about not needing to worry).


I sold the revolver without incident — for a good price too, I think.

The shop was interesting — and very busy before 11 in the morning. I am not anti-gun by the way. I’d kind of like to own some authentic 19th century firearms if I knew what I was doing — as an investment. When I was curator of Richard Nixon’s musuem items (after he left office), I was impressed by the nice collection of firearms the firearm manufacturers had given him. I suspect most politicians — and at least five supreme court justices — have similar collections.

Two guys working in the gun shop wanted to talk about the election; how it worried them. I assured them not to worry, that the black liberal guy was sure to win.


Black Hawk’s War

On this date in 1832, the fortunes of American Indians in Illinois, Iowa and Michigan Territory took a significant turn for the worse. On August 1-2 of that year, the final confrontation of the Black Hawk War took place just south of the Bad Axe River in the western region of modern day Wisconsin. The result was as decisive as the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794) had been for the Indians of the Ohio River Valley, or the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814) had been for the Creeks. Though it is often overshadowed by the drama of the Cherokee removal, the Black Hawk War was no less critical to the history of Indian peoples east of the Mississippi.

The Edge of the American West tells the rest of the story (from 2008).