Thursday, November 11, 2010

... and now we lie, in Flanders fields.

November 11, 1943 -
The under-appreciated wartime-drama Sahara, starring Humphrey Bogart premiered on this date.

The movie utilized real soldiers as background artists and extras. They had been situated close by to the production at Camp Young, California where they were in training.

November 11, 1947 - Elia Kazan's searing expose of anti-Semitism, Gentleman's Agreement, starring Gregory Peck premiered in New York on this date.

When other studio chiefs, who were mostly Jewish, heard about the making of this film, they asked the producer not to make it. They feared its theme of anti-Semitism would simply stir up a hornet's nest and preferred to deal with the problem quietly.

November 11, 1958 -
The (relatively unknown) British-comedy The Horse's Mouth, starring Alec Guinness, opened in the US on this date.

Joyce Carey, the author of the novel which inspired the film, based the role of the self-destructive painter on his good friend, the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Do yourself a favor and rent this one.

November 11, 1925 - Jonathan Winters, the great improvisational comedian and actor, was born on this date.

Life is a little bit nicer know that he's graced it.

I know it's juvenile but November 11 is one of the twelve days of each calendar year I've come to love the most, since it's "11/11" in American and European notation.

It's Veterans Day in the United States and Armistice Day for many in Europe (The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month ...).

I'd like to thank our veterans for having fought, and in many cases died, to preserve my liberties -

and I'd like to apologizes for having made such foolish use of them.

November 11, 397 -
St. Martin of Tours, another in the series of anorexic visionaires is a patron saint of France, soldiers (he is known as the he man's saint), reformed alcoholics and winemakers. When the armistice fell on the Saint Martin’s Day, November 11, 1918, the French people saw it was a sign of his intercession in the affairs of France.

Martin, after another of his life long practice of fasting, has a dream about Jesus wearing the cloak he had recently given to a naked beggar. Pieces of Martin's actual 'cloak' were revered as holy relics and the derivation of the name of the priest who looked after these relics became 'chaplain'.

Betcha didn't know that.

November 11, 1215 -
The Fourth Lateran Council meets. They adopt the doctrine of transubstantiation, meaning that bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

This means all Catholics are essentially cannibals on a feeding schedule, but who am I to judge a theology of which I am a nominal member.

November 11, 1499 -
A young man claiming to be the son of Edward IV landed in Cornwall, England, and declared himself King Richard IV. Unfortunately England already a king, the young man wasn't really the son of Edward IV, and his name wasn't Richard.

He was in fact Perkin Warbeck, and was therefore hanged to death on this date (as opposed to having been well hung.)

November 11, 1634 -
Following pressure from Anglican bishop John Atherton, the Irish House of Commons passes "An Act for the Punishment for the Vice of Buggery". Seven years later, the good Bishop Atherton is himself is found well hanged under the Act.

I guess the religious right has always been a little loose on this issue.

November 11, 1821 - Fyodor Dostoyevsky was born on this date. Mr. Dostoyevsky is universally recognized as one of the pre-eminent authors of nineteenth-century Russia and perhaps one of the finest novelists of all time. As mentioned yesterday, on November 10, 1969, public television broadcast the Children's Television Network's first episode of Sesame Street.

I like to take advantage of this serendipitous occasion by celebrating both of these cultural icons, who have more in common than you might think.

One of Mr. Dostoyevsky's most enduring characters is that of the angst-ridden student, Raskolnikov, who brutally murders an old woman with an axe in order to confirm his own intellectual freedom. One of the most popular characters on Sesame Street is Big Bird, an eight-foot-tall, easily flustered, flightless yellow bird of indeterminate species.

Mr. Dostoyevsky's novels deal with a broad range of complex issues such as as parricide, political philosophy, epilepsy, freedom of the will, suicide, theosophy, revolution, addiction, dissipation, forgiveness, and the legitimacy of absolutist rule. Sesame Street deals frequently with the alphabet and the numbers one through ten.

Mr. Dostoyevsky was once sentenced to death, blindfolded before a firing squad, then reprieved at the very last moment and exiled to Siberia, where he overcame great obstacles to produce some of his finest work. On Sesame Street, Ernie and Bert often bicker over household chores.

Mr. Dostoyevsky was a devout Russian Orthodox Catholic, and in The Idiot he explores the practical difficulties of living a life according to the principles of love, tolerance, and forgiveness set forth by Jesus Christ. Sesame Street features a grumpy green monster named Oscar, who lives in a garbage can and frequently breaks into song to proclaim his love of trash.

Imagine all of those similarities. Now write a two hundred page essay discussing all of this and your have a doctoral thesis.

November 11, 1978 -
A perennial favorite suicide location, the renovated Hollywood Sign is unveiled, due in large part to the public campaign to restore the landmark by shock rocker Alice Cooper.

The original sign was built in 1923, and said "Hollywoodland".

And so it goes

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