Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Behind the Seen

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Forugh Farrokhzad
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پشت مشت های رندان
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Great Harlem Renaissance (and beyond) poet, Langston Hughes - Feb. 1, 1902 - 1967…

Langston Hughes: April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.



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James Joyce (born 2 February, 1882; died 13 January, 1941) pictured above, aged six, in an 1888 photograph made in the Irish seaside resort of Bray

Ecce Puer

Of the dark past
A child was born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!

—first published in the New Republic, Nov. 30, 1932


“The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.” — James Joyce

“The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole Life to reading my works.” — James Joyce

Portrait of Joyce by Wyndham Lewis, 1920 - lithograph (NPG, London)


James Joyce (born February 2, 1882) reads Anna Livia Plurabelle (1929)

UbuWeb - Recording James Joyce, by Sylvia Beach:

Joyce himself was anxious to have this record made, but the day I took him in a taxi to the factory in Billancourt, quite a distance from town, he was suffering with his eyes and very nervous. Luckily, he and Coppola were soon quite at home with each other, bursting into Italian to discuss music. But the recording was an ordeal for Joyce, and the first attempt was a failure. We went back and began again

Joyce, with his famous memory, must have known “Anna Livia” by heart. Nevertheless, he faltered at one place and, as in the Ulysses recording, they had to begin again

Ogden gave me both the first and second versions. Joyce gave me the immense sheets on which Ogden had had “Anna Livia” printed in huge type so that the author-his sight was growing dimmer-could read it without effort. I wondered where Mr. Ogden had got hold of such big type, until my friend Maurice Saillet, examining it, told me that the corresponding pages in the book had been photographed and much enlarged.


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Stan “The Sound” Getz (Feb. 2, 1927 - 1991), one of the great cool saxophone players, one of many Jewish American players to embrace the essentially African-American music of jazz. From cool jazz, via bossa nova, to fusion, Getz participated crucially in the continued hybridization of the art form…

Photo: William Claxton

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, feat. Astrud G.: Para machucar meu coração (To Hurt My Heart) - from Getz/Gilberto, 1963
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The Bill Evans Trio, feat. Stan Getz: Emily - from But Beautiful, 1974

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Stan Getz: Nature Boy - from Stan Getz Is Jazz (Live in Cannes 1980)



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Composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, b. Feb. 3, 1809 (d. 1847 after multiple strokes), was not only a shining example of the ability to channel beautiful melodies to the task of expressing strong emotions (take his haunting violin concerto…), but also a musical archeologist who to a very large extent was able to hear Bach’s relevance for a new age, dust him off and get his works performed again - in new settings appropriate for the Romantic taste for larger-than-life effects…

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847): Song without words in E major, Op. 30, no. 3 (Lieder ohne Worte, Book 2, 1833)

Daniel Barenboim - piano

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Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto In E Minor, Op. 64 - 1st movement: Allegro molto appassionato

Performed by Hilary Hahn; Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra: cond. Hugh Wolff

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Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No.2 in d, op.40 - 2. Adagio

Jean Yves Thibaudet, piano; Gewandhaus Orch, Leipzig, Herbert Blomstedt, cond.

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Birthday of wonderfully gloomy, Danish film director, Carl Th. Dreyer: Feb. 3, 1889 - 1968…

Great works: The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, silent); Vampyr (1932, largely silent - but with sparse dialogue, a score and assorted animal imitations…); Day of Wrath (1943); The Word (1955); Gertrud (1964)

Dreyer died before he could complete his long-dreamed-of biopic of Jesus Christ…

Photo via The Royal Danish Library





Some Dreyer stills:

Nicolas de Gunzburg in Vampyr
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Some Dreyer stills:

Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928


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Some Dreyer stills:

Ordet - Preben Lerdorff Rye as Johannes (standing), Birgitte Federspiel as Inger (dead in coffin, about to be raised…)


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Tortured Austrian Symbolist Georg Trakl: Feb. 3, 1887 - 1914, suicide in the face of war and army service…

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Georg Trakl: Lament

Sleep and death, the dusky eagles
Around this head swoop all night long;
Eternity’s icy wave
Would swallow the golden image
Of man; against horrible reefs
His purple body is shattered.
And the dark voice laments
Over the sea.
Sister of stormy sadness,
Look a timid dinghy goes down
Under stars,
The silent face of the night.

Photo - 1914

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Maria Schneider, French actress who memorably starred opposite Marlon Brando in Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris in 1972 - died today after a long illness, aged 58…

Still from Last Tango in Paris



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I’ve had this one before, but it went completely unloved…

Charles Fager (b. Feb. 3, 1936 - 75 today!): Thinking about Self-Portraits, 1978 - porcelain (Smithsonian)



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Paul Auster, one of my favourite story-tellers, is 64 today!

His many novels oscillate between convoluted meta-fictional constructs with colour-code narrators and good old-fashioned yarns that are laden with conspicuous coincidences, fated encounters and far-fetched plot-turns.

In other words, he is great…

“If you’re not ready for everything, you’re not ready for anything.” — P.A.

Photo: Tine Harden


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Simone Weil, Jewish-French political activist, writer and thinker, b. Feb. 3, 1909 (d. 1943, heart failure brought on by excessive fasting) - a modern Joan of Arc and philosopher of compassion…

Weil studied the foundations of logic and questioned its universality, but she is best known for her religious philosophy, bordering on mysticism, in which she investigates the function of suffering…

“Difficult as it is really to listen to someone in affliction, it is just as difficult for him to know that compassion is listening to him.” — Simone Weil


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Gertrude Stein, the female Buddha of Modernism: Feb. 3, 1874 - 1946…

Unlike almost any other avant-garde writer, Stein actually enjoyed great popular success with some of her work, not least thanks to its whimsy and playful use of language - constantly bordering on nonsense, but ever through repetition and minute variations producing surprising new forms of sense…

“A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears”. — G.S.

Photo: Carl Mydans, 1944 - LIFE .Gertrude Stein broadcasting to the US, 1944…




Gertrude Stein: Matisse - Written in Paris, early 1911; recorded in New York, Winter 1934-35


“America is my country, but Paris is my hometown” — G.S.
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The great Jussi Björling, Swedish lyric tenor: Feb. 5, 1911 - 1960…

Björling became one of the principal singers at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1940s and 1950s, with an interruption during World War II. He sang many major tenor roles in operas in the French and Italian repertoire, including Il trovatore, Rigoletto, Aida, Un ballo in maschera, Pagliacci, Cavalleria rusticana, Faust, Roméo et Juliette, La bohème, Madam Butterfly, Tosca, and Manon Lescaut. Many of his recordings of these roles are still considered the best by any tenor in this repertoire…

Jussi Björling: The Flower Song from Bizet’s Carmen, 1938

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Carl Spitzweg, German Romanticist painter and illustrator, born Feb. 5, 1808 (d. 1885): Der Arme Poet [The Poor Poet], 1839 - oil on canvas (Neue Pinakothek, Munich)

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Joris-Karl Huysmans (pen name of Charles-Marie-Georges Huysmans) (born 5 February, 1848; died 12 May, 1907), in an 1894 photograph

From Against the Grain (À rebours)

‘Thus, out of hatred, out of scorn for his childhood, he had hung from the ceiling of this room a little cage of silver wire in which an imprisoned cricket sang, as they had [in his childhood] in the ashes of the fireplace of the castle of Lourps; when he would hear this sound, heard so many times before, all the constrained and mute evenings at his mother’s, all the abdication of a suffering and repressed youth rose up before him, and then, in the thrashings of the woman he was caressing mechanically and whose words or whose laugh broke his vision and brought him brusquely back to reality, in the bedroom, on the ground, a tumult would rise up in his soul, a need of vengeance for the sorrows endured, a raging desire to soil by turpitude these familial memories, a furious desire to pant on cushions of flesh, to exhaust to their last drops the most vehement and the most bitter carnal excesses.’

—from Against the Grain (À rebours) (1884; translated from the French by Jefferson Humphries)

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Musique Promenade (another version), a conceptual sound work elaborated from 1964 through 1969 by Luc Ferrari (born 5 February, 1929; died 22 August, 2005)

Musique Promenade, a conceptual sound work elaborated from 1964 through 1969 by Luc Ferrari (born 5 February, 1929; died 22 August, 2005)

Visage I, a 1969 composition by Luc Ferrari (born 5 February, 1929; died 22 August, 2005); performed here by Michel Maurer, piano



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Birthday of the great French New Wave film director, François Truffaut: Feb. 6, 1932 - 1984…

Among his early master works are The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim and Fahrenheit 451 (after Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel about a book-burning dictatorship)…

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Claudio Arrau -piano

Beethoven: Sonata No. 8 in C Op. 13 ‘Pathetique’ II

Claudio Arrau, Chilean piano virtuoso, Feb. 6, 1903 - 1991…

Arrau mastered both the Baroque repertoire, centered around Bach, the Romantics, esp. Schumann, and contemporary composers - but more than anyone he specialized in Beethoven. Arrau added a round, somewhat Romantic tone to his interpretations - a bit too fruity for many…

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Frederick Brown (b. Feb. 6, 1945): Stagger Lee, 1983 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)
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Gustav Klimt, Austrian Symbolist painter - died this day in 1918, a victim of the great influenza epidemic of that year (an earlier stroke had weakened him), aged 55…

Photo - Vienna, 1914





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Bob Marley - Is this Love?


Jamaican reggae master Bob Marley: Feb. 6, 1945 - 1981, cancer…

His music put non-European/non-American rhythms on the charts in a major way for the very first time, and helped pave the way for other world-musics in later decades. Hits such as “Buffalo Soldier”, I Shot the Sheriff” and “No Woman, No Cry” thematized social injustices, the fall-out from colonial and imperial practices - among them racism - and the prospect of hope (often through Rastafarian beliefs) and improvement through perseverance…

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Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Love Over and Over - from Love Over and Over, 1982



Canadian songstress Kate McGarrigle: Feb. 6, 1946 - 2010…

Kate and her sister Anna McGarrigle had a successful and influential folk duo act in Montreal in the 60s and through their 1970s records became more widely known. Kate McGarrigle was married to singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, and their two children Rufus and Martha have become successful musicians in their own right…


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Charles Dickens (born 7 February, 1812; died 9 June, 1870, pictured above in the 1839 portrait by Daniel Maclise (1806-1870); in the collection of the Tate, London

‘I gathered from the conversation that Mr. Skimpole had been educated for the medical profession and had once lived, in his professional capacity, in the household of a German prince. He told us, however, that as he had always been a mere child in point of weights and measures and had never known anything about them (except that they disgusted him), he had never been able to prescribe with the requisite accuracy of detail. In fact, he said, he had no head for detail. And he told us, with great humour, that when he was wanted to bleed the prince or physic any of his people, he was generally found lying on his back in bed, reading the newspapers or making fancy-sketches in pencil, and couldn’t come. The prince, at last, objecting to this, “in which,” said Mr. Skimpole, in the frankest manner, “he was perfectly right,” the engagement terminated, and Mr. Skimpole having (as he added with delightful gaiety) “nothing to live upon but love, fell in love, and married, and surrounded himself with rosy cheeks.” His good friend Jarndyce and some other of his good friends then helped him, in quicker or slower succession, to several openings in life, but to no purpose, for he must confess to two of the oldest infirmities in the world: one was that he had no idea of time, the other that he had no idea of money. In consequence of which he never kept an appointment, never could transact any business, and never knew the value of anything! Well! So he had got on in life, and here he was! He was very fond of reading the papers, very fond of making fancy-sketches with a pencil, very fond of nature, very fond of art. All he asked of society was to let him live. THAT wasn’t much. His wants were few. Give him the papers, conversation, music, mutton, coffee, landscape, fruit in the season, a few sheets of Bristol-board, and a little claret, and he asked no more. He was a mere child in the world, but he didn’t cry for the moon. He said to the world, “Go your several ways in peace! Wear red coats, blue coats, lawn sleeves; put pens behind your ears, wear aprons; go after glory, holiness, commerce, trade, any object you prefer; only—let Harold Skimpole live!”’

—from Bleak House (1852-1853)


“I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”


A contemporary artist’s impression of how Dickens got his work done…

R. W. Buss: “Dickens’s Dream” - 1875


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Eubie Blake: Charleston Rag, 1917


Eubie Blake, ragtime pianist: Feb. 7, 1887 - 1883…

He was one of the first African-American composers to have a Broadway musical of his produced (Shuffle Along, 1921). Blake also recorded sound-on-film movies as early as 1923…

Blake’s longevity (he actually claimed to be older than he was - thus making it to 100 in his own calculation) meant that an authentic performer from the dawn of jazz was present on the scene until the 1980s - Blake continued to be active till the very end…

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Sinclair Lewis, American realist novelist - Feb. 7, 1885 - 1951 - winner of the 1930 Nobel Prize in Literature (as the first American ever)…

“Intellectually I know that America is no better than any other country; emotionally I know she is better than every other country.” — S.L.

Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt, LIFE


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Once again a foray into Danish Surrealism - celebrating the birthday of our fine local artist, Wilhelm Freddie: Feb. 7, 1909 - 1995

1961 photo of Freddie doing a ‘live replica’ of his notorious 1936 work Sexparalyseappeal, which landed him in jail for pornography… (by Jørn Freddie)




Wilhelm Freddie: Zola and Jeanne Rozérot, 1938 - oil on canvas (Museum Sønderjylland, Kunstmuseet i Tønder)

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Lana Turner, Feb. 8, 1921 - 1995, major MGM star from the age of 16 onwards…



Frank Ohara: Lana Turner has collapsed
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One more song from birthday boy, Tom Rush:

Child’s Song (by Murray McLauchlan) - from Tom Rush, 1970


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Today is the 70th birthday of folk singer/songwriter Tom Rush (Feb. 8, 1941), whose cover versions of other songwriters’ stuff are often at least equal to the original versions, and sometimes better…

Photo: David Gahr


Tom Rush: No Regrets, 1968 - from The Circle Game


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Painter Franz Marc (Feb. 8, 1880 - 1916) was a founder member of Der Blaue Reiter, a German Expressionist group. Marc was killed in the Battle of during WWI….

“In this time of great struggle for a new art we fight … against an old established power. The battle seems unequal, but spiritual matters are never decided by numbers, only by the power of ideas.” — F.M.





Franz Marc: Gelbe Kuh [The Yellow Cow], 1911 - oil on canvas (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)

Marc gave an emotional meaning or purpose to the colors he used in his work: blue was used for masculinity and spirituality, yellow represented feminine joy, and red encased the sound of violence…

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Jack Lemmon’s b-day today: Feb. 8, 1925 - 2001…

Photo: Jack Lemmon as C.C. Baxter in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, 1959



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Exquisite and restrained American poet Elizabeth Bishop was born Feb. 8, 1911 (d. 1979). Her output of poems published in her life time is less than one hundred…


Rain Toward Morning - Elizabeth Bishop

The great light cage has broken up in the air,
freeing, I think, about a million birds
whose wild ascending shadows will not be back,
and all the wires come falling down.
No cage, no frightening birds; the rain
is brightening now. The face is pale
that tried the puzzle of their prison
and solved it with an unexpected kiss,
whose freckled unsuspected hands alit.

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J. M. Coetzee (born 9 February, 1940), pictured above in a photograph by Bert Nienhuis

‘And if the old man climbed out of the cart and stretched himself (things were gathering pace now) and looked at where the pump had been that the soldiers had blown up so that nothing should be left standing, and complained, saying, ‘What are we going to do about water?,’ he, Michael K, would produce a teaspoon from his pocket, a teaspoon and a long roll of string. He would clear the rubble from the mouth of the shaft, he would bend the handle of the teaspoon in a loop and tie the string to it, he would lower it down the shaft deep into the earth, and when he brought it up there would be water in the bowl of the spoon; and in that way, he would say, one can live.’

—from The Life and Times of Michael K (1983)
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Thomas Bernhard (born 9 February, 1931; died 12 February, 1989), pictured above in a 1971 photograph by Erica Schmied, at Bernhard’s home, called ‘Krucka’

‘The climate in the lower Alps makes for emotionally disturbed people who fall victim to cretinism at a very early age and who in time become malevolent, I said. Whoever lives here knows this if he is honest, and whoever comes here realizes it after a short while and must get away before it’s too late, before he becomes just like these cretinous inhabitants, these emotionally disturbed Salzburgers who kill off everything that isn’t yet like them with their cretinism. At first he thought how nice it would be to grow up here, but two, three days after his arrival he already realized what a nightmare it was to be born and raised here, to become an adult here. This climate and these walls kill off all sensitivity, he said. I couldn’t have said it better. In Leopoldskron we were safe from the town’s boorishness, I thought as I entered the inn. Basically it wasn’t only Horowitz who taught me to play the piano to its absolute capacity, it was my daily contact with Glenn Gould during the Horowitz course, I thought. It was the two of them who made music possible for me, gave me a concept of music, I thought. My last teacher before Horowitz had been Wührer, one of those teachers who suffocate a pupil with their own mediocrity, not to mention the teachers who finished their degrees earlier and who all have brilliant careers, as they say, performing at every moment in world cities and occupying highly paid chairs at or famous music conservatories, but they’re nothing but piano-playing executioners without the faintest understanding of the concept of music, I thought. These music teachers are playing and sitting everywhere and ruining thousands and hundreds of thousands of music students, as if it were their life’s mission to suffocate the exceptional talent of our musical youth before it’s developed…’

—from The Loser (originally published in 1983; translated from the German by Jack Dawson)
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Boris Pasternak, (Jewish) Russian poet, novelist and Nobel Laureate, famous in the West for his tragic epic novel Doctor Zhivago, but more celebrated as a poet in the former Soviet Union: Feb. 10, 1890 - 1960…

Although Pasternak was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition”, he was pressured by the authorities to decline the Prize. Therefore there is no Nobel Lecture or Banquet Speech from that year…

“I come here to speak poetry. It will always be in the grass. It will also be necessary to bend down to hear it. It will always be too simple to be discussed in assemblies.”Boris Pasternak


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Leontyne Price: Ave Maria (Schubert); Herbert von Karajan - Wiener Philharmoniker

…pardon the inappropriate seasonal connotations…


Leontyne Price (b. Feb. 10, 1927), African-America opera diva of great vocal power and verbal wit, is 84 today!

Price was the first black star at the Met in New York, opening the 1961 season and singing multiple prima donna parts over a number of seasons - and despite often being type-cast in operas such as Porgy and Bess and Virgil Thomson’s all-black opera (w. a Gertrude Stein libretto) Four Saints in Three Acts, she also became known as a Verdi specialist…

“I am here and you will know that I am the best and will hear me. The color of my skin or the kink of my hair or the spread of my mouth has nothing to do with what you are listening to.” — L.P.


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Great German playwright and drama theorist, Bert Brecht, was born Feb. 10, 1898 (d. 1956)…

Brecht was a passionist Marxist and firm believer in the great benefit of using theatre to educate the masses. In order not to hoodwink the audience into believing in the illusion of the stage as reality he invented a theory of distancing or estrangement, where the audience would be addressed directly or allowed to view the mechanics of a performance to remind them that they were in a constructed, mediated artificial environment - and that, as that make-believe world was changeable, so was their real world…

“Hungry man, reach for the book: it is a weapon.” — Bertolt Brecht

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Fleur Adcock, poet and editor, was born in New Zealand but has mainly lived and worked (as a librarian and free-lance writer) in Britain - 77 today…

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Fleur Adcock: Leaving the Tate

Coming out with your clutch of postcards
in a Tate gallery bag and another clutch
of images packed into your head you pause
on the steps to look across the river

and there’s a new one: light bright buildings,
a streak of brown water, and such a sky
you wonder who painted it - Constable? No:
too brilliant. Crome? No: too ecstatic -

a madly pure Pre-Raphaelite sky,
perhaps, sheer blue apart from the white plumes
rushing up it (today, that is,
April. Another day would be different

but it wouldn’t matter. All skies work.)
Cut to the lower right for a detail:
seagulls pecking on mud, below
two office blocks and a Georgian terrace.

Now swing to the left, and take in plane-trees
bobbled with seeds, and that brick building,
and a red bus…Cut it off just there,
by the lamp-post. Leave the scaffolding in.

That’s your next one. Curious how
these outdoor pictures didn’t exist
before you’d looked at the indoor pictures,
the ones on the walls. But here they are now,

marching out of their panorama
and queuing up for the viewfinder
your eye’s become. You can isolate them
by holding your optic muscles still.

You can zoom in on figure studies
(that boy with the rucksack), or still lives,
abstracts, townscapes. No one made them.
The light painted them. You’re in charge

of the hanging committee. Put what space
you like around the ones you fix on,
and gloat. Art multiplies itself.
Art’s whatever you choose to frame.

Photo: George Newson, 1990 - bromide fibre print (National Portrait Gallery, London)

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Arthur Miller, exceptional American playwright and dean of cultural leftism in the US during the ’50s - died of congestive heart failure on this day in 2005, aged 89…

Miller’s works such as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible are canonical specimens of realist, psychological drama with a socio-critical agenda. Of Miller’s three wives, two were notable cultural personalities in their own right - Marilyn Monroe, the actress and sex symbol; and Inge Morath, the Magnum photographer…



Marilyn M. meets the Salesman…


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Hand-Georg Gadamer (born 11 February, 1900; died 13 March, 2002), pictured above in a 1998 photograph by Richard Palmer

‘In fact history does not belong to us; but we belong to it. Long before we understand ourselves through the process of self-examination, we understand ourselves in a self-evident way in the family, society and state in which we live. The focus of subjectivity is a distorting mirror. The self-awareness of the individual is only a flickering in the closed circuits of historical life. That is why the prejudices [pre-judgments, Vorurteil] of the individual, far more than his judgments, constitute the historical reality of his being’

—from ‘The Discrediting of Prejudice by the Enlightenment,’ from Truth and Method (1986; originally published in 1960; translated from the German)
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Leaves of Orchidea, a ‘photogenic drawing’ (what is today more commonly known as a ‘photogram’) made in the spring of 1839 by William Henry Fox Talbot (born 11 February, 1800; died 17 September, 1877); in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Leaves from the Notebook of a Horse Girl, a 1970 painting by Roy De Forest (born 11 February, 1930; died 18 May, 2007); in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC
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Sylvia Plath, American confessional poet and novelist - killed herself on this day in 1963, aged 30…

Last Words - Sylvia Plath

I do not want a plain box, I want a sarcophagus
With tigery stripes, and a face on it
Round as the moon, to stare up.
I want to be looking at them when they come
Picking among the dumb minerals, the roots.
I see them already—the pale, star-distance faces.
Now they are nothing, they are not even babies.
I imagine them without fathers or mothers, like the first gods.
They will wonder if I was important.
I should sugar and preserve my days like fruit!
My mirror is clouding over —-
A few more breaths, and it will reflect nothing at all.
The flowers and the faces whiten to a sheet.

I do not trust the spirit. It escapes like steam
In dreams, through mouth-hole or eye-hole. I can’t stop it.
One day it won’t come back. Things aren’t like that.
They stay, their little particular lusters
Warmed by much handling. They almost purr.
When the soles of my feet grow cold,
The blue eye of my turquoise will comfort me.
Let me have my copper cooking pots, let my rouge pots
Bloom about me like night flowers, with a good smell.
They will roll me up in bandages, they will store my heart
Under my feet in a neat parcel.
I shall hardly know myself. It will be dark,
And the shine of these small things sweeter than the face of Ishtar.

-The Collected Poems, October 21, 1961





Portrait of me, made by Sylvia Plath, circa 1957

— Ted Hughes


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Gene Vincent: Lotta Lovin’, 1957

Gene Vincent (Feb. 11, 1935 - 1971) was a rockabilly and rock-n-roll pioneer - but like most 50s rockers he fell on hard times in the 60s when tastes and tunes changed towards a more laid-back style. Vincent never had a real comeback, and he died at age 36 from a ruptured stomach ulcer…

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Gene Vincent (Feb. 11, 1935 - 1971) was a rockabilly and rock-n-roll pioneer - but like most 50s rockers he fell on hard times in the 60s when tastes and tunes changed towards a more laid-back style. Vincent never had a real comeback, and he died at age 36 from a ruptured stomach ulcer…

Gene Vincent: Lotta Lovin’, 1957

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Psychoanalyst and writer, free woman - friend of Nietzsche, Wagner, Freud and Rilke, but chiefly her own person - Lou Andreas-Salomé: Feb. 12, 1861 - 1937…

“If you have no more happiness to give:
Give me your pain.” — Lou Andreas-Salomé

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One of the finest melodious songwriters of the ’80s, Australian founder member of The Go-Betweens, Grant McLennan was born Feb. 12, 1958…

Grant should still have been with us, making music, but he died suddenly of a heart-attack in May of 2006. Badly missed…

Promo photo for Beggars Banquet by Ray Lego


The Go-Betweens: Love Goes On! - from 16 Lovers Lane, 1988



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And a track with Robert Forster, the other leader and songwriter of The Go-Betweens on vocals…

The Go-Betweens: The House That Jack Kerouac Built - from Tallulah, 1987



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Charles Darwin, the epitome of the Victorian scientist - a positivist and an empiricist: Feb. 12, 1809 - 1882…

Photo: Elliott & Fry, 29 November 1881 - albumen cabinet card (National Portrait Gallery, London)


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German artist, Max Beckmann: Feb. 12, 1884 - 1950…

Beckmann was a tireless self-portraiteur, and the changing styles of his career are intriguingly displayed in these works. Beckmann himself fought being labelled with the Expressionists and preferred the counter-movement known as Die Neue Sachlichkeit

Above: Max Beckmann - Self-portrait with Horn, 1938-1940 (Neue Galerie, Museum for German and Austrian Art, New York City)

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George Meredith (born 12 February, 1828; died 18 May, 1909), pictured above in an 1896 caricature by Max Beerbohm (1872-1956)

‘Comedy is a game played to throw reflections upon social life, and it deals with human nature in the drawing-room of civilized men and women, where we have no dust of the struggling outer world, no mire, no violent crashes, to make the correctness of the representation convincing. Credulity is not wooed through the impressionable senses; nor have we recourse to the small circular glow of the watchmaker’s eye to raise in bright relief minutest grains of evidence for the routing of incredulity. The Comic Spirit conceives a definite situation for a number of characters, and rejects all accessories in the exclusive pursuit of them and their speech. For being a spirit, he hunts the spirit in men; vision and ardour constitute his merit; he has not a thought of persuading you to believe in him. Follow and you will see. But there is a question of the value of a run at his heels.

Now the world is possessed of a certain big book, the biggest book on earth; that might indeed be called the Book of Earth; whose title is the Book of Egoism, and it is a book full of the world’s wisdom. So full of it, and of such dimensions is this book, in which the generations have written ever since they took to writing, that to be profitable to us the Book needs a powerful compression.

Who, says the notable humourist, in allusion to this Book, who can studiously travel through sheets of leaves now capable of a stretch from the Lizard to the last few poor pulmonary snips and shreds of leagues dancing on their toes for cold, explorers tell us, and catching breath by good luck, like dogs at bones about a table, on the edge of the Pole? Inordinate unvaried length, sheer longinquity, staggers the heart, ages the very heart of us at a view. And how if we manage finally to print one of our pages on the crow-scalp of that solitary majestic outsider? We may get him into the Book; yet the knowledge we want will not be more present with us than it was when the chapters hung their end over the cliff you ken of at Dover, where sits our great lord and master contemplating the seas without upon the reflex of that within!

—from the Prelude to The Egoist (1879)


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Ray Manzarek, the musical engine of the Doors with his fine keyboard embellishments and rock steady bass-lines (produced on the Fender Rhodes bass keyboard module perched on top of his Vox), turns 72 today…

Photo of The Doors in old Europe, Ray on the left…


This may not be the coolest Doors track around, but I’ve always loved Ray Manzarek’s keyboards on this one, and it’s his birthday…

The Doors: Riders on the Storm - from L.A. Woman


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Allen Hess (b. Feb. 12, 1950): Railroad Ferry Incline/Mississippi River, Low Water, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, 1988, printed 1989 - selenium toned contact print on paper (Smithsonian)

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Lois Conner (b. Feb. 12, 1951): Central Park, New York City, 1986 - platinum-palladium print on paper (Smithsonian)
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Richard Wagner, German opera composer - died this day in 1873, aged 69, of a heart attack…

Photo of Wagner in Luzern, 1868



Birgit Nilsson: Isolde’s Liebestod - from Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Hans Knappertsbusch)


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Peter Gabriel (b. Feb. 13, 1950), English musician of repute from his days in the group Genesis, and innumerable solo records.

From the late 70s onward, Gabriel has done a tremendous job in popularizing music mixed from many cultures with catchy rhythm structures…

In addition to his music he has become a human rights and peace activist.

Photo: Andy Fallon for Mojo

Peter Gabriel & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Taboo - from Voices of the Real World


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The beginning of one of the Japanese ghost stories interpreted by Masaki Kobayashi (born 14 February, 1916; died 4 October, 1996) in his 1965 film, Kwaidan.


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Giacomo Puccini: O mio babbino caro - from Gianni Schicchi (1918)

Renée Fleming, soprano;
Sir Charles Mackerras; London Philharmonic Orchestra



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President Obama kisses poet and author Maya Angelou after giving her the 2010 Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011 in Washington, DC.

"Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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Nat ‘King’ Cole: It’s Only a Paper Moon - from The King Cole Trio

Personnel: Nat - piano, vocals; Johnny Miller - double bass; Oscar Moore - guitar

Nat ‘King’ Cole, American jazz pianist and crooner, entertainer, TV-host and much else - died this day in 1965, aged 45, from lung cancer (Kool Menthols…)

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Pictured above, Sydney Smith (1771–1845), in an 1840 painting by Henry Briggs, based on an 1833 original; in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London

Here is the text of Sydney Smith’s famous letter of 16 February, 1820, to Georgiana, Lady Morpeth:

‘Dear Lady Georgiana,

Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done—so I feel for you. Here are my prescriptions.

1st. Live as well as you dare.

2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.

3rd. Amusing books.

4th. Short views of human life—not further than dinner or tea.

5th. Be as busy as you can.

6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.

7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.

8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely — they are always worse for dignified concealment.

9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.

10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.

11th. Don’t expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.

12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and every thing likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.

13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.

14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.

15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.

16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.

17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.

18th. Keep good blazing fires.

19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.

20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana, Very truly yours,—Sydney Smith’


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Corelli, in a 1704 mezzotint, after a lost portrait by Hugh Howard (1675-1737); in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London

Variations on La Folia, the last sonata in the twelve sonatas of the Opus 12, published in 1700 by Arcangelo Corelli (born 17 February, 1653; died 8 January, 1713); performed here by Aldo Bova on recorder and Ernst Stolz at the organ, playing the continuo part

‘Corelli appears to have been of the most amiable disposition, and a model of truly artistic modesty. He was very simple and unpretentious in all his habits. Handel, though esteeming him highly, used to say of him: “He likes nothing better than seeing pictures without paying for it, and saving money.” He dressed almost shabbily, and would on no account hire a carriage, but always went on foot…’

—from The Grove Dictionary of Music, Third Edition (1953)


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Gertrude Abercrombie (Feb. 17, 1909 - 1977): The Stroll, n.d. - oil on fiberboard (Smithsonian)

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Fred Frith: Sparrow Song - the opening song of documentary film Step Across The Border, 1990



Fred Frith (b. Feb. 17, 1949): English avant-garde guitarist, composer, improviser and teacher, who has recorded with the ‘rock’ group Henry Cow and collaborated with a slew of cutting edge rock, jazz, classical and experimental musicians, including Robert Wyatt, Brian Eno, Lars Hollmer, The Residents, Lol Coxhill, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Derek Bailey, Iva Bittová and Bob Ostertag… all in all more than 400 recordings!

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Ross Moffett (Feb. 18, 1888 - 1971): Woman in Blue by the Sea, 1928 - monotype on paper (Smithsonian)
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André Gide, queer French author and Nobel Laureate - died this day in 1951 at the ripe old age of 81 from pneumonia…

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not.” — A.G.

Photo: possibly Yale Joel, 1947



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Gil Shaham is an Israeli-born American violinist - b. Feb. 19, 1971 - 40 today!


Gil Shaham & Göran Söllscher (guitar) - Schubert: Schwanengesang, D 957 - Ständchen

Antonin Dvorak: Romantic Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op.75 - 1st mov.: Allegro Moderato

Violin: Gil Shaham; Piano: Orli Shaham


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Great English poet W.H. Auden was born Feb. 21, 1907 (d. 1973). Fiercely political in the 1930s, Auden turned more personal and philosophical after his relocation to the US in 1939…

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W.H. Auden: Musée Des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

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Regrettably the photo credit eluded me for this photo…

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Andrés Segovia - Recuerdos de la Alhambra

Birthday of Spanish guitar virtuoso Andrés Segovia (Feb. 21, 1893 - 1987), who to a large extent was responsible for the revitalization of the classical Spanish guitar tradition in the early part of the 20th C…

His preferred repertoire, with the exception of some Baroque pieces, came from the Spanish National Romantic period, and from contemporary composers (often non-guitarists) whom he persuaded to write pieces for him.

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The High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone (Feb. 21, 1933 - 2003)…

Simone was a charismatic singer, whose low vocal range and unusual timbres made her instantly recognizable, no matter the choice of repertoire. She also played a distinct piano, having received some classical training on the instrument. Most of her albums contain a few original compositions by her (such as “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”), but the vast majority of her recordings are covers of current popular songs, culled from gospel, blues, jazz, folk, pop and rock…


Nina Simone: Turn Me On — from Silk & Soul, 1967



Nina Simone: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free - from Silk & Soul, 1967

A civil rights message became standard in Simone’s recording repertoire from the mid-60s (it had already become a part of her live performances years earlier). Simone performed and spoke at many civil rights meetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches. Simone advocated violent revolution during the civil rights period as opposed to Martin Luther King’s non-violent approach, and hoped that African Americans could, by armed combat, form a separate state…


Nina Simone: My Baby Just Cares For Me, 1958 - from Little Girl Blue

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I used to follow The Dream Syndicate in the mid-80s, where I even co-wrote a little fanzine, The John Coltrane Stereo News, on them and other Paisley Underground bands…

Today is the 51st birthday of Steve Wynn (not the casino owner, nor the saxophone player), lead singer and songwriter of the Syndicate and prime mover in many later solo and group projects (I particularly love Danny & Dusty)…

I met Steve a few times, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more


The Dream Syndicate: Tell Me When It’s Over - from The Days of Wine and Roses, 1982 (one of the best guitar driven alt-rock albums of the decade)


Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3: Resolution - from Northern Aggression, 2010



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Birthday of Cuban-French diarist and writer of elegant erotica, Anaïs Nin (Feb. 21, 1903 - 1977). Nin grew up in Barcelona and New York City, before moving with her first husband to Paris in 1924. Nin became involved in Bohemian circles in Paris, and was an avid student of psychology and literature. Her affair with Henry Miller is well documented, both in her Diaries and in the film Henry and June

“This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice.” — A.N.

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Sam Peckinpah, Feb. 21, 1925 - 1984, American film-maker with a bit of a reputation for creating violent opuses: The Wild Bunch (1969); Straw Dogs (1971) - one of the most unpleasant movies I’ve ever seen; and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) - one of my favorite ‘Westerns’…

Sam seems to share a taste for paisley bandannas with David Foster Wallace, or was DFW wearing them as a tribute to his elder birthday-mate?


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Hugo Ball (Feb. 22, 1886 – 1927) was a German author, poet and one of the leading Dada artists.

As co-founder of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, Hugo Ball led the Dada movement in Zürich, and is one of the people credited with naming the movement “Dada”, by allegedly choosing the word at random from a dictionary.

Photo of Ball and his wife Emmy Hennings, 1916 - Zürich



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Feb. 22, 1892 was the birthday of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (d. 1950). She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, for The Harp-Weaver, and Other Poems - becoming the first woman to win this prize…

Millay was quite a Bohemean during her time in Paris and Greenwich Village, indulging in numerous affairs with partners of both genders - one of them being the poet George Dillon with whom she collaborated on translating Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal and to whom several of her sonnets were addressed…

Spring

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots,
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.



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Ishmael Reed, master of postmodern Hoodoo literature: b. Feb. 22, 1938…

Reed is a one of a kind prose artist, combining African-American oral storytelling techniques with high-calibre postmodern political satire in a number of novels and short story collections…

High-lights include: The Freelance Pallbearers, 1967; Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, 1969; Reckless Eyeballing, 1986

Photo: Chris Felver


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Louis Buñuel, the great Spanish Surrealist film maker: Feb. 22, 1900 - 1983…

Buñuel started his director career when he co-wrote and filmed a 16-minute short film Un chien andalou (1929) with Salvador Dalí. This film, featuring a series of startling and sometimes horrifying images of Freudian nature (such as what appears to be the slow slicing of a woman’s eyeball with a razor blade) was enthusiastically received by French surrealists of the time. He followed this with L’Âge d’or (1930), partly based on the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom.

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William Scharf (b. Feb. 22, 1927): A Fire Cave, 1981 - acrylic on paper (Smithsonian)
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Andy Warhol, American pop artist, famous for much longer than 15 minutes - died this day in 1987, aged 58, following a gall bladder operation…

“Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there - I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television.” — Andy Warhol



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Kazimir Malevich (Feb. 23, 1878-1935) was a Russian avant-garde painter, the founder and leading artist of the Suprematist movement, and one of Russia’s best-known modern painters…

Above: Aeroplane Flying, 1915 - Oil on canvas (MoMA)


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Edgar Ende (Feb. 23, 1901 - 1965), German Surrealist painter, father of fantasy author Michael Ende (The Never-Ending Story)…

Ende was an extraordinary painter in terms of method. He would go in his studio, dim the lights and brnig himself in a meditative state - at which point images would come to him. He would then quickly sketch them down for use, perhaps months or years later in his paintings…

Above: Die Brennende Fahne, 1934 - oil on canvas (Private collection)


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John Keats, Cockney poet and poster boy of the tragic Romantic artist/hero - died on this day in 1821, aged 25, from tuberculosis…

“Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”



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Georg Friedrich Händel (Feb. 23, 1685 - 1759) is one of my favourite composers. His delightfully peculiar operas brim with tunes and bizarre protagonists, such as castrato Caesars and other androgynous and half-devine creatures… I’ll hit you with a couple of specimens now.

Engraved image of Händel, 1741


Cecilia Bartoli, David Daniels, etc.; Christopher Hogwood: Academy Of Ancient Music & Chorus: Handel: Rinaldo - Act 2: Lascia Ch’Io Pianga


Händel: Il Trionfo Del Tempo E Del Disinganno - Lascia La Spina, Cogli La Rosa

Cecilia Bartoli & Marc Minkowski: Les Musiciens Du Louvre - from Bartoli - Opera Proibita


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Nicky Hopkins (Feb. 24, 1944 – 1994) was an English pianist and organist, best known as a session man and in particular as one of the favourite keyboardists of The Rolling Stones (He played on Exile on Main Street and Their Satanic Majesties Request and several other Stones albums between 1967 and 1976…)


The Rolling Stones: She’s a Rainbow - from Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967), feat. the distinct piano vibe of Nicky Hopkins…

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Steve Jobs, founder of Apple: 56-year-old whiz-kid today
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Judith Butler (b. Feb. 24, 1956) is an influential feminist philosopher and critic, esp. in the fields of gender studies and performativity studies, where her constructivist thoughts on gender and socialization have been utterly foundational… Her 1990 book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity is a classic.

“There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender… identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results.” — J.B.


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Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (born 24 February, 1885; died 18 September, 1939), pictured above in a photograph made in 1930

‘It is more difficult to prove something than to be ironical, although injecting a certain amount of vitriol into one’s arguments is perhaps the best way of carrying on a discussion…

In a work of art the important thing is the proportion of real-life and formal elements, and not the systematic elimination of the former for the sake of the latter. There is no denying that the judgments we make in evaluating these proportions will, within certain limits, be subjective…

I have no wish to deprive words of their meaning, nor actions of theirs. Both these composite elements have a basic sensory and signifying component: the articulated sound and the conceptual significance of the word, and the visual image and the significance of the action…’

—from ‘Second Response to the Reviewers of The Pragmatists’ (1922; translated from the Polish by Daniel Gerould)

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Beatles guitarist, mystic, activist, film producer and much more - George Harrison: Feb. 25, 1943 - 2001…

Photo: George Harrison by Arnold Newman, 1978 - colour dye transfer print (NPG, London)


George Harrison: My Sweet Lord - from All Things Must Pass, 1970

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The Stanley Brothers and The Clinch Mountain Boys: I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow, ca. late 1940s

Ralph Stanley: False Hearted Lover Blues - from Ralph Stanley, 2002

Ralph Stanley (b. Feb. 25, 1927) is an American bluegrass artist, known for his high lonesome singing style and his banjo playing…

Stanley became much better known to a broad audience after his contribution to the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack in 2000, but he had been recording since the 1940s…

Dr Ralph has recently had heart surgery and a pacemaker inserted - here’s wishing him a speedy recovery…


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Auguste Renoir: Self-Portrait, 1910 - Oil on canvas (Private collection)
Pierre Auguste Renoir, master of colour, beauty and sensuality on canvas: Feb. 25, 1841 - 1919…

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The great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso was born Feb. 25, 1873 and died in 1921…

Caruso was a true multimedia genius of his day, always getting in the news, cutting records, appearing on radio and film, as well as live in all the great opera houses of Europe and The Met in NYC…

Photo: Enrico Caruso by Carl Vandyk, published by J. Beagles & Co, 1904-1905 - bromide postcard print (NPG, London)


Enrico Caruso: Una furtiva lagrima from L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti

Recorded exactly a century ago - 1911…

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Landscape with Three Trees, an ink drawing made in 1850 by Victor Hugo (born 26 February, 1802; died 22 May, 1885); in the collection of the Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris

Tonight in clouds the sun has gone to bed…

Tonight in clouds the sun has gone to bed.
Tomorrow, storms will come, and dusk, and night;
Then sunrise with its mist-obstructed light;
Then nights, then days— Time’s ever-fleeing tread!

And all those days will pass— will pass in throngs
Across the seas and peaks and silver dreams
And forests ringing with a sound that seems
Like our beloved dead chanting dim songs.

The oceans’ surface, the peaks’ canopy
Wrinkled but ageless, and the green woods teem
Constantly; constantly the rural stream
Draws water from the mountains to the sea.

Yet I must pass; daily my head must fall
Lower; soon, chilled beneath the sunlight’s play,
During this carnival I must go away—
And the whole radiant world will lose nothing at all.

(translated from the French by E. H. and A. M. Blackmore)

Le soleil s’est couché ce soir dans les nuées…

Le soleil s’est couché ce soir dans les nuées.
Demain viendra l’orage, et le soir, et la nuit ;
Puis l’aube, et ses clartés de vapeurs obstruées ;
Puis les nuits, puis les jours, pas du temps qui s’enfuit !

Tous ces jours passeront; ils passeront en foule
Sur la face des mers, sur la face des monts,
Sur les fleuves d’argent, sur les forêts où roule
Comme un hymne confus des morts que nous aimons.

Et la face des eaux, et le front des montagnes,
Ridés et non vieillis, et les bois toujours verts
S’iront rajeunissant ; le fleuve des campagnes
Prendra sans cesse aux monts le flot qu’il donne aux mers.

Mais moi, sous chaque jour courbant plus bas ma tête,
Je passe, et, refroidi sous ce soleil joyeux,
Je m’en irai bientôt, au milieu de la fête,
Sans que rien manque au monde, immense et radieux !

—from Les Feuilles d’automne, 1831

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Birthday of the Man in Black: Johnny Cash (Feb. 26, 1932 – 2003)…

Johnny Cash: I Walk The Line, 1956

Johnny Cash: Ring of Fire, 1963


Johnny Cash: When I Stop Dreaming (Louvin Bros. cover) - from Personal File, 2006 (unreleased recordings from 1973 - 1982)


Johnny Cash: Ain’t No Grave - from American VI: Ain’t No Grave, 2010



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Marian Anderson, Feb. 27, 1897 - 1993, African-American contralto, whose long career (1925-65) took her through the US and Europe with recital and concert programs (she eschewed opera performances, but included operatic arias in her repertoire)…

In 1939, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions - after the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) had refused permission for Marian Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall…

Photo: Richard Avedon, 1955


Marian Anderson: Crucifixion




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John Steinbeck, American left-leaning novelist and 1962 Nobel Laureate: Feb. 27, 1902 - 1968…

Steinbeck, who was both a master at the epic format (as in The Grapes of Wrath) and the humorous short tale of eccentrics in the backwaters of California, received the Prize “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception”…

Steinbeck said in his acceptance speech:

“Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.”

Photo of and by Robert Capa, photographing Steinbeck in Moscow, 1947


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Liz Taylor is still with us I think, and so she turns 79 today…

We celebrate her legendary beauty and acting prowess with a fine Yousuf Karsh portrait from 1946 (NPG, London)…

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Gidon Kremer, Latvian violinist, equally a genius as soloist on the violin and an amazing mentor as ensemble leader for the Kremerata Baltica, born Feb. 27, 1947…

Photo of Gidon Kremer with Arvo Pärt, whose music Kremer has been an early supporter and popularizer of…


Gidon Kremer w. Kremerata Baltica: Verano Portena: Summer in Buenos Aires (by Astor Piazzolla) - from Eight Seasons

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Patricia Petibon - b. Feb. 27, 1970 - specialist in the coloratura arias of French and Italian baroque…

Lyric coloratura soprano Patricia Petibon: Quando voglio (aria from Sartorio’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto) - from Rosso: Italian Baroque Arias


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Mirella Freni (b. Feb. 27, 1935) is one of the great Italian opera divas of the middle 20th C. generation - her debut coming in 1955, and her formal retirement not ‘till 2005 when she was 70…


Mirella Freni: Un bel di vedremo - from Madama Butterfly

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Brian Jones, Feb. 28, 1942 - 1969, founder member of The Rolling Stones - guitarist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist of said band…

I’ve collected a few music posts to show-case his importance to the early career of The Stones, 1962-69…

Photo of Brian w. his Les Paul…



The Rolling Stones: Time Is On My Side - from Rolling Stones, No. 2, 1965

Brian Jones plays guitar and does backing vocals on this track - the bread and butter of his early contributions to the Stones’ early life as a great cover band…


The Rolling Stones: Lady Jane - from Aftermath, 1966

Brian Jones plays dulcimer and harpsichord on this Elizabethan flavoured track…


The Rolling Stones: Under My Thumb - from Aftermath, 1966

Brian Jones plays the distinctive marimba on this track…


The Rolling Stones: Ruby Tuesday, 1967

Brian Jones plays recorder on this haunting track - according to some sources he also wrote the tune…

The Rolling Stones: Street Fighting Man - from Beggars Banquet, 1968

Brian Jones plays sitar and tamboura on this track…


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Balthus (Feb. 29, 1908 - 2001), Polish/French painter - famous/notorious for his erotically charged art…

Balthus: La Patience, 1943 (Art Institute of Chicago)


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Feb. 29 is also the birthday of multi-talented Jean Negulesco (1900 - 1993), a Romanian ex-pat who had a good career as a director in Hollywood, and who was also a talented painter…

Above - one from his Seated Nude & Dancer series, 1953

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Diary rescue for the poor sods who are born on the 29th of February.

Birthday of Italian composer (and gourmand!) Giacochino Rossini, creator of 34 operas, sacred vocal music and chamber works: Feb. 29, 1792 (d. 1868)…


Rossini: Sonate A Quattro Vol. 2, Une Larme: Duetto In D Major, 2. Andante Molto

Performed by Love Persson, Double Bass & Roel Dieltiens, Cello




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