June 30 is the birthday of Robert Ballard, former U.S. Navy officer and professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. He is noted for his work in maritime archaeology and the archaeology of shipwrecks. He discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic in the North Atlantic on September 1, 1985. . . . You know what happened next: movies, books, tchotchkes, the careers of Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet . . . Few people realize, however, that Ballard’s trip in the summer of 1985 was financed by the U.S. Navy for secret reconnaissance of the wreckage of two Navy nuclear-powered attack submarines, the USS Scorpion and the USS Thresher, which sank in the 1960s, not for the Titanic.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012
June 29 is the birthdate of Slim Pickens (real name: Louis Burton Lindley, Jr.). He's known for his role as Taggart in “Blazing Saddles” (1974), and even better known for his role as Major T.J. “King” Kong in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), in which he memorably closes the movie with enthusiastic bronco-busting on the back of a nuclear warhead. For that one scene, Pickens had to endure more than 100 takes. Major Kong memorably volunteered the information that we all probably have “some pretty strong personal feelin's about nuclear combat.”
Thursday, June 28, 2012
June 28 is the birthdate of Richard Rodgers. Many of the songs he composed with lyricist Lorenz Hart, from the 1920s through 1942, are among the most beautiful and enduring in the Great American Songbook. Pictured: sheet music for “My Funny Valentine,” from the musical “Babes in Arms” (1937), in which the male lead is named Valentine “Val” LaMar. Someone apparently has figured out that this song has been recorded on more than 1300 albums. Miles Davis recorded it twice.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
June 27 is the birthdate of the late Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo, the title character of the children's television series that aired weekday mornings on the CBS television network for nearly 30 years, from October 3, 1955, to December 8, 1984. It was the longest-running nationally broadcast children's television program of its day. The show was conceived by Keeshan, who based the show on "the warm relationship between grandparents and children." Pictured with Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum).
Monday, June 25, 2012
June 25 is the birthdate of George Orwell, nom de plume of Eric Blair. Pictured is the book cover of an edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949), which, along with Orwell's Animal Farm, was one of the best-selling books of the 20th century. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian, satirical novel set in Oceania, where society is tyrannized by The Party and its totalitarian ideology. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record always supports the current party line.
Friday, June 22, 2012
June 22: Happy birthday to Meryl Streep. She’s 63. . . . Streep has received 17 Academy Award nominations, winning three, and 26 Golden Globe nominations, winning eight. She has received more nominations than any other actor in the history of either award. She is well known for her ability to imitate a variety of foreign and domestic accents, from Danish in “Out of Africa” (1985), to British received pronunciation in “The French Lieutenant's Woman” (1981) and “The Iron Lady” (2011), to Italian in “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995). When asked whether accents helped her assume a character, she responded, "I'm always baffled by this question... How could I play that part and talk like me?" When asked how she reproduces different accents, Streep replied, "I listen."
Thursday, June 21, 2012
June 21 is the birthdate of actress Judy Holliday. She is pictured with actor Broderick Crawford in the film version of “Born Yesterday” (1950), for which she received an Academy Award for Best Actress in the role of the not-so-dumb showgirl Billie Dawn. In reality, Judy was not a dumb blonde. As a child, she exhibited a profoundly high intelligence; she had a measured IQ score of 172 that placed her above the 99.999th percentile.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
"Jaws" opened in theaters on June 20, 1975. Director Steven Spielberg was 27 at the time. It was filmed mostly on location on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and had a troubled production. Mechanical sharks malfunctioned, so Spielberg decided to mostly suggest the shark’s on-screen presence though an ominous, minimalistic musical theme by composer John Williams to indicate its impending appearances. This suggestive approach is similar to that of thriller director Alfred Hitchcock. Universal Pictures put the film into a very wide release for a major studio picture, accompanied by an extensive marketing campaign.
June 20 is the 70th birthday of the prolific Brian Wilson. Beginning in 1962, he wrote or co-wrote more than two dozen Top 40 hits. Pictured: photo shoot for the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” (1966), which is ranked No. 2 on Rolling Stone's list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” God only knows, that’s a good vibration.
Monday, June 18, 2012
June 18 is the birthday of Paul McCartney, a largely self-taught musician. Guinness World Records has called McCartney the "most successful composer and recording artist of all time." He is credited with with 60 gold discs and sales of more than 100 million albums and 100 million singles. More than 2,200 artists have covered his Beatles song "Yesterday ,” more than any other song in history. He has written or co-written 32 songs that have reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. McCartney's earliest musical influences include Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, and Chuck Berry. He has singled out Little Richard as an idol, whose falsetto vocalizations inspired McCartney's own vocal technique.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
June 17 is the birthday of Charles Eames, Jr., American designer who, along with his wife, Bernice "Ray" Eames, made major contributions to modern architecture and furniture. They also worked in the fields of industrial and graphic design, fine art and film. In the 1950s, the Eameses pioneered furniture technologies, creating fiberglass and plastic resin chairs and wire mesh chairs designed for Herman Miller Co. Pictured: The fabled Eames Lounge Chair and ottoman were marketed to a high-end market in 1956 after years of development for Herman Miller. Made of molded plywood and leather, they are part of the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
June 16 is Bloomsday, celebrating the life of Irish writer James Joyce and the events of his celebrated novel, Ulysses, which take place on June 16, 1904. The date is observed annually in Dublin and other places worldwide. Joyce chose the date because that was the day of his first “date” with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle. They walked to the Dublin suburb of Ringsend. “Bloomsday” is derived from the name of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of the novel. Pictured: First edition of Ulysses, 1922.
June 16 is the birthdate of photographer Irving Penn, known for fashion photography, portraits and still lifes. He photographed his first cover for Vogue magazine in 1943 and continued to work at the magazine throughout his career, shooting covers, portraits, still lifes, fashion, and photographic essays. Penn was among the first photographers to pose subjects against a simple grey or white backdrop. He also constructed a set of upright angled backdrops that formed a stark, acute corner. Pictured: portrait of Pablo Picasso.
Friday, June 15, 2012
June 15 is the birthdate of Norwegian composer and pianist Edvard Grieg (1843). He is revered for his sumptuous Piano Concerto in A minor, which he revised seven times (it was one of his earliest works, Op. 16). The second movement, adagio, is perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces composed for piano and orchestra. In 1909, this work was the first piano concerto ever recorded (via gramophone), though in severely abridged form.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
June 14 is the birthdate of photographer Margaret Bourke-White. After graduating from Cornell University in 1927, she went on to become the first foreign photographer allowed to take pictures of Soviet industry, the first female war correspondent, the first female permitted to work in combat zones, and the first female photographer for LIFE magazine (her photograph of Fort Peck Dam appeared on LIFE’s first cover in 1936). Pictured: her celebrated photograph of “Louisville Flood Victims 1937.”
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
June 13 is the birthdate of the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats. He was born and educated in Dublin but spent his childhood in County Sligo. From his youth he was fascinated by Irish legends and the occult, which figured in the early phases of his work (to the turn of the 20th century). As a Symbolist poet, he used allusive imagery and symbolic structures to suggest abstract thoughts and timeless themes. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923, the first Irishman so honoured, for "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation." Yeats is relatively unique in that he completed his greatest works after receiving the Nobel Prize, including The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929). He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he still focused on physical and spiritual masks and cyclical theories of life. Pictured: pencil sketch of Yeats by John Singer Sargent.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
June 12 is the birthdate of John A. Roebling (1806), a civil engineer noted for his wire rope suspension bridge designs, particularly the Brooklyn Bridge. Born in Mühlhausen in Prussia, he began producing wire rope at Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, in 1841. In 1844 he won a bid to replace a canal aqueduct across the Allegheny River with the Allegheny Aqueduct, followed in 1851 by a railroad bridge over the Niagara River. In 1867 he started design work on what is now called the Brooklyn Bridge, spanning the East River in New York. With a main span of 1,595.5 feet, it was the world’s longest suspension bridge from its opening in 1883 until 1903, and the first steel-wire suspension bridge. Roebling devised "an equilibrium strength approach, in which equilibrium is always satisfied but compatibility of deformations is not enforced." In 1869, however, Roebling’s foot was crushed by a ferry while he stood at a dock’s edge to fix the location where the bridge would be built. His injured toes were amputated, he refused further medical treatment, and he died of tetanus 24 days after the accident.
Monday, June 11, 2012
June 11 is the birthdate of German composer Richard Strauss (1864). Like Gustav Mahler, he was also a major conductor of orchestras in Europe, and, like Mahler, his music represented the late efflorescence of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner. Strauss’ advanced harmonic style placed him at the forefront of of the late Romantic and early modern eras of European music. His operas include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome, but he is especially known for his songs (lieder), including Four Last Songs, and his tone poems and other orchestral works, including: Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra and An Alpine Symphony.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
June 10 is the birthdate of American realist painter Fairfield Porter (1907). He was both criticized and admired for maintaining a representational style amid the vagaries of the Abstract Expressionist movement. His subjects were largely landscapes, domestic interiors and portraits of family, friends and fellow artists. Many of his canvases include scenes in or around his family’s summer home on Great Spruce Head Island, Maine. Porter’s work frequently reveals the extraordinary in ordinary life. Pictured: "Island Farmhouse" (1969).
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Composer and songwriter Cole Porter was born on June 9, 1891, into a wealthy family in Indiana. Though he was classically trained in music, he was attracted to musical theater and gained enormous success in the 1920s and 1930s as one of the greatest songwriters ever to write for Broadway. He was unique in that he wrote both the lyrics and the music for his songs. A very short list of the many hit songs Porter composed for both theater and movies includes: "Night and Day," “Anything Goes,” "I Get a Kick out of You," “It’s De-Lovely,” “I've Got You Under My Skin," "You're the Top," "You'd Be So Easy to Love," “So In Love,” “Too Darn Hot,” "I've Got You Under My Skin," "In the Still of the Night" and "True Love."
Friday, June 8, 2012
Thursday, June 7, 2012
June 7 is the 115th birthday of the Hungarian-born conductor George Szell. He was the brilliant, intense and extremely demanding music director of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra from 1946 to 1970. Szell fastidiously honed “the Cleveland sound” into a model of transparency, openness and precision, largely achieved through endless rehearsals. His recordings of the standard classical repertoire are considered among the best ever recorded. His debut in the United States was with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1930. TIME magazine’s profile in 1963 was at best a mixed blessing: “no one is more devoutly convinced of Cleveland's orchestral supremacy than Szell himself, to whom all the excitement is a glowing reflection of his own musical genius. … He arrived in Cleveland in 1946, pruned and rebuilt the orchestra, educated its audience, charmed its angels, and terrified everyone, until he reached a point of supreme control and superb accomplishment. … [H]e calls his orchestra ‘this glorious instrument—an instrument that perfectly reflects my musical ideals.’”
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Gee whiz, Wally, June 2 is the Beaver’s birthday. Jerry Mathers is 64 today. … Two little known facts: 1) Mathers was the first child actor ever to make a deal to get a percentage of the merchandising revenue from a television show. “Leave It to Beaver” still generates merchandise revenue today. 2) The TV series is unique in 1950s sitcom history for its extraordinary number of bathroom scenes. The bedroom of the Beaver and his brother Wally has an adjoining bathroom, and, from the very beginning of the series, scene after scene is set in the bathroom. In fact, one early episode, "Child Care," is set almost entirely in that bathroom. The Beav also flees to the bathroom countless times to escape his brother when he's angry, slamming the door to express his emotions.