Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31

July 31 is the birthday of Milton Friedman, economist and Nobel laureate. His political philosophy promoted the free market economic system and minimal government intervention. In his book Capitalism and Freedom (1962) he advocated a volunteer military, freely floating exchange rates, abolition of medical licenses, a negative income tax and education vouchers. In recent years Friedman’s libertarian and laissez-faire views have met with fierce challenges.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30

July 30 is the birthday of alto saxophonist David Sanborn, who is 67. He grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri, and began playing the saxophone at a young age on a doctor's advice to strengthen his weakened chest muscles and improve his breathing, which had been compromised by polio. Since the 1980s Sanborn has been influential in the areas of pop, R&B and crossover. It may be noted that Mr. Sanborn was the single, overwhelming reason why certain persons took up playing the saxophone in the late 1980s.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29

July 29 is the birthdate of Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinker and historian best known for Democracy in America (two volumes, 1835, 1840), which he wrote partly to help his countrymen understand their position between a fading aristocracy and an emerging democratic order. He toured the United States in the 1830s, when market forces, westward expansion and Jacksonian democracy were changing the nation. He focused on the balance between the liberty of the individual and equality within society, and he viewed equality as an unstoppable force in modern life.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 28

July 28 is the birthdate of English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. He is considered an early Modern poet, a daring innovator in a period of traditional (Victorian) verse. His poetry is notable for the use of “sprung rhythm” (unconventional metre), stunning imagery and intricate use of language and rhyme. He died of typhoid fever at age 44.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27

July 27 is the birthdate of Charlotte Corday, who offers a major cautionary tale. The daughter of an impoverished aristocrat, in 1793 she assassinated Jean Paul Marat, fiery proponent of the French Revolution, whom she regarded as the unholy enemy of France. Marat's death fueled the Reign of Terror, during which thousands of royalists and Girondins were executed. And yet Corday announced, prior to her decapitation, "I killed one man to save 100,000." Marat became an adulated martyr of the Revolution. Pictured: Jacques-Louis David’s “The Death of Marat” (1793).

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26

July 26 is the birthdate of American film director Stanley Kubrick. A few of his films are Spartacus (1960), Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), and The Shining (1980). Kubrick’s first title for the third of these was Journey Beyond the Stars. Co-writer Arthur C. Clarke noted that Kubrick eventually used Homer's The Odyssey as inspiration for the title. "It occurred to us," he said, "that for the Greeks the vast stretches of the sea must have had the same sort of mystery and remoteness that space has for our generation."

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June 26

June 26 is the birthdate of graphic designer Milton Glaser. Pictured: two of his iconic works: the Bob Dylan poster insert he designed for a Dylan recording for CBS Records in 1966, and the ubiquitous promotional logo (actually, a rebus) he designed in 1977 to promote tourism for New York State and the City of New York. Glaser created the “I Heart New York” design entirely pro bono; it is now probably worth many billions of dollars.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25

July 25 is the birthdate of American realist painter Thomas Eakins. He was born, lived and died in Philadelphia. Eakins painted many portraits and adhered to realist representation, with little concern for flattering his subjects. His paintings reflect the passing of time, awareness of mortality and the nobility of everyday life. Rejected by the public and the art establishment, he sold less than thirty paintings in his lifetime; he’s now regarded as one of America’s greatest painters. Pictured: Miss Amelia Van Buren (ca. 1891), one of his finest works. She was an artist who studied with Eakins.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24

July 24 is the birthdate of John Henry Newton. He was pressed into the Royal Navy in his youth and later became a slave ship captain. In 1748 he had a religious epiphany at sea and eventually became a minister, hymn-writer and abolitionist. He authored many hymns, including "Amazing Grace" (lyrics composed in 1772), which reflected his long spiritual struggle. The hymn achieved obscurity in Britain but became popular in the U.S. after 1800 during the Second Great Awakening (Christian revivals). Its modern popularity owes much to singer/activists Mahalia Jackson, Joan Baez and Judy Collins.

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July 24

On July 24, 1911, American archaeologist Hiram Bingham first saw Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca settlement high in the Andes near Cuzco, Peru. The site is believed to have been a summer retreat for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years afterwards, its existence was a secret known only to natives living in the region. That all changed with Bingham's search for the famous "lost" cities of the Incas.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22

July 22 is the birthdate of novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler. In 1932, at age 44, he lost job as an oil company executive and decided to become a writer of detective fiction. His character Philip Marlowe is synonymous with the idea of a private detective, and Chandler is considered to be a founder of the “hard-boiled” school of crime/detective fiction. The Long Goodbye (1953) is notable for the role played by a “portrait of Madison” (a $5000 bill).

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 21

July 21 is the birthdate of realist painter Edward Hopper. His works often capture solitude, loneliness, regret, boredom and resignation, using light and shadow to create mood. Hopper’s written notes indicate that his best-known painting, “Nighthawks” (1942), is a carefully planned essay in the dramatic night-time effects of manmade light. The picture is usually viewed as an evocation of loneliness and isolation, but Hopper said (in keeping with the title) that it has more to do with the possibility of predators in the night than with loneliness.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20

July 20 is the birthdate of Alexander the Great, king (“basileus”) of Macedon in northern ancient Greece. He was tutored by Aristotle until he was 16. By age 30, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, ranging from Greece to Egypt to the Himalayas, and was undefeated in battle. He was short and stocky, with one green eye and one brown. He was dead at age 32. Pictured: detail of the stunning Alexander Mosaic (ca. 100 BC) from Pompeii, showing Alexander on his horse, Bucephalus, which he tamed at age 13.

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July 20

July 20 is the birthdate of Ernest Hemingway. He published seven novels, six short story collections and two non-fiction works during his lifetime. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. His experiences serving in the Italian campaigns during World War I formed the basis for his novel, A Farewell to Arms, the bleak story of a doomed romance between a soldier and a British nurse. It was first serialized in Scribner’s magazine in 1929. The success of the book made Hemingway financially independent.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 19

July 19 is the birthday of Edgar Degas, French artist regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism. He rejected the term and preferred to be called a realist. Degas is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and more than half of his works depict dancers. He always painted indoors, preferring to work in his studio, either from memory, photographs or live models, and belittled the Impressionists’ practice of painting en plein air. Pictured: “Ballet Rehearsal” (1873-78).

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 18

July 18 is the birthday of John Glenn, former Marine Corps pilot, astronaut and U.S. senator. He was the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth on the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission on February 20, 1962, aboard a spacecraft named Friendship 7. The launch was postponed four times from its original date. The space capsule was built in 1960-1961 by McDonnell Aircraft on a St. Louis assembly line. In the photo, note the liberal use of what appears to be duct tape. Scott Carpenter teased Glenn by saying, “Remember John, this whole thing was built by the low bidder.”

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17

July 17 is the birthday of Berenice Abbott, American photographer best known for her black-and-white photography of New York City architecture and urban design of the 1930s. She was part of the straight photography movement, which stressed the importance of not manipulating photographs in either the subject matter or the developing processes. Pictured is one of her most famous photographs, “Nightview, New York” (1932).

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Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16

July 16 is the birthday of actress and dancer Ginger Rogers. She was born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, Missouri, in 1911. Rogers made 73 films, 10 of which were Hollywood musicals in which she was the partner of Fred Astaire. Pictured with Fred in “Swing Time” (1936).

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15

July 15 is the birthday of Julian Bream, CBE, English classical guitarist and lutenist. His recordings range from 17th century transcriptions, many pieces by Bach arranged for guitar, popular Spanish pieces and contemporary music. In 1960 he formed the Julian Bream Consort, a period-instrument ensemble in which he was lutenist. The consort led a revival of interest in the music of the Renaissance and the Elizabethan era.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

July 14

July 14 is the birthdate of Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman, who directed more than 60 films and documentaries, most of which he also wrote. “The Seventh Seal” (1957), the tale of a medieval knight confronting Death and the silence of God, is generally regarded as his masterpiece and a classic of world cinema. Key scenes have become iconic (through both parodies and homages), including the final “danse macabre” in which the knight and his followers are led away by Death. Bergman worked with Sven Nykvist, regarded as the greatest of all cinematographers.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

July 13

July 13 is the birthdate of Dave Garroway, the first host/anchor of NBC’s Today Show. He was a graduate of University City High School and Washington University in St. Louis. He started at NBC as a page in 1938 and began on the Today Show in 1951. The early use of chimpanzees deserved ridicule, but at least Garroway did not live to see the even more repulsive depths to which the feckless morning program has now sunk, e.g., humiliating and firing its female co-hosts and peddling tabloid trash. Garroway shot himself in 1982.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12

“Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.” . . . July 12 is the birthday of Henry David Thoreau. His name is synonymous with Walden; or, Life in the Woods, one of the most provocative and influential works of American literature. Thoreau built his cabin at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts, in 1845 and stayed there for two years, two months and two days. He spent nearly four times as long working on the manuscript as he actually spent in the woods, writing eight different drafts before the book was published in 1854. By that time, he considered his (relative) solitude at Walden strictly an experiment.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11

July 11 is the birthday of E.B. (Elwyn Brooks) White, author and long-time contributor to The New Yorker magazine. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921. His children’s book, Stuart Little, was published in 1945, and Charlotte's Web, about a pig named Wilbur, appeared in 1952. White’s interesting short book, Here is New York (1949), is a fascinating and surprisingly timeless assessment of the great city. The final pages seem to eerily foretell the events of September 11, 2001. Pictured: cover of the reprint, 2000.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10

July 10 is the birthday of German composer Carl Orff. His cantata “Carmina Burana” (1937) is based on 24 secular songs from a medieval collection, almost entirely in Latin. It deals with topics that include the fickleness of fortune and wealth and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust. The stirring "O Fortuna," with which the cantata begins and ends, has become a staple of popular culture and topped a list of the most-played classical music of the past 75 years in the UK.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9

July 9 is the birthday of British painter and multimedia artists David Hockney. He’s 75. Active in the Pop art movement of the 1960s, he lived in California during that period and made a series of paintings of swimming pools in Los Angeles, using the relatively new medium of acrylic paints, which he employed in a realistic style with bright colors. “A Bigger Splash” (pictured) from 1967 is one of his most well-known paintings. Hockney has the condition synesthesia, in which he sees colors in response to musical stimuli. This has influenced his design of stage sets for various ballets and operas.

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