As we continue to reflect on the life of Nelson Mandela and arrive today at the birth anniversary of Nobel Laureate, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, we can't help but wonder if their might be some relationship between limitation and greatness. Surely, the Mandela who emerged from prison to lead the richest country in Africa was different from the one who entered it 27 years before. Could it be that the Solzhenitsyn who wrote Gulag Archipelago and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch also could not have existed had he not been arrested for writing that criticized Stalin? Consider Dostoevsky's imprisonment. Or even Stephen Hawkings' physical one, for instance. T.S. Eliot working as a bank clerk. Jonah in the whale (even metaphorically). These are great men, all. As was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but would he be the King we celebrate today were it not for the segregation he helped overthrow. Some characters are formed by adversity. Maybe we all are.
Anyway, Solzhenitsyn was born this day in 1918. He studied mathematics in school and learned to write through correspondence courses. But in the end, he had an important story to tell. Gulag Archipelago can be tough slogging at times, but we are grateful he wrote it. In its way, it is as necessary as 12 Years a Slave, a reality we don't like to think about but must if only to cherish our own hard-won freedom all the more. Below is a documentary on today's birthday laureate (who died in 2008 at the age of 89) from the Solzhenitsyn Center. If you want to know what courage looks like, this is it.
We're not really sure if this delightful and talented actor was born on this day in 1944 or 1949. She says the latter, but the Internet puts her at 69 today. It hardly matters.
Regardless of how long she’s been here, what we care about most is her wonderful contribution to our lives in such films as Tootsie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and of course, Young Frankenstein.
On December 21, 2006, she suffered a brain aneurysm, but through courage and hard work, she managed to free herself from the wheelchair and even made a film, Twins, in 2007, which she promoted on the Dave letterman Show in 2008.
Woody Allen used to berate himself for writing comedy (before he wrote all that dark, heavy stuff) because he felt it was insignificant. But there is a reason theaters display two masks side by side – one smiling, the other near tears. We need them both. If we are to read Gulag and revisit the horrors of slavery – if we are to face dark truths – then we need what Teri gave us too. Thank you so much, Teri, for coming to the planet and making us laugh. Here are a few very funny bloopers from the always hilarious Young Frankenstein.