Friday, April 1, 2011

Behind the Seen


پشت مشت های رندان


Today is April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day…

The Fool is a transcendent figure in all cultures, a shifter and a slipper of knots, one whom no power can command - here he is as represented in the Aleister Crowley Book of Thoth tarot, painted by Frieda Harris…

‘To all ye fools out there’, said the jester - ’the jape’s on you!’


Milan Kundera, the famous Czech dissident writer who is best known for his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, is 82 today…

Kundera has lived in exile in France for many years. He is an important figure in European intellectual life, thanks not least to his ability to spot and critique the tragic, yet often grotesquely humorous sides to totalitarianism…

“A novel that does not uncover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral. Knowledge is the novel’s only morality.” — M.K.


Max Ernst, Surrealist painter - died on this day in 1976, the day before his 85th birthday…

Photo: Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington, St Martin d’Ardèche (France), 1939 - by Lee Miller - from: Ruth Brandon, Surreal Lives - The Surrealists, 1917-1945 (Grove Press, New York, 1999)


Jimmy Cliff, Jamaican ska and reggae pioneer is 63 today!

Cliff has had several dance hits and popular soundtrack appearances, but I like the spiritual side of him - this man has had many rivers to cross…

Jimmy Cliff - photo Ruiko Yoshida, 1983


Marvin Gaye, extraordinary soul singer, man of conscience and erotic icon - murdered by his own father on this day in 1984. Marvin was 44…


Nikolai Gogol, the Russian satirist and moralist, author of the famous short story The Nose, about an olfactory organ who develops a life of its own, as well as the novel Dead Souls and the play The Inspector-General, both lampooning Imperial Russia and its bureaucracy - b. April Fool’s Day, 1809 (or according to some, Mar. 31st); d. 1852, partly due to self-inflicted starvation…

“Whatever you may say, the body depends on the soul.” — N.G.


Judy Fiskin (b.Apr. 1, 1945): Signal Hill, Willow and Cherry, Facing Southwest, from the Long Beach, California Documentary Survey Project, 1980 - gelatin silver print on paper mounted on paperboard (Smithsonian)


Robert Doisneau, French photographer famous for the shot reproduced above (Le baiser de l’Hotel de Ville 1950) - died on this day in 1994, aged 81…

“I don’t photograph life as it is, but life as I would like it to be” — R.D.


Birthday of great Russian composer and pianist, Sergei Rachmaninoff: April 1, 1873 - 1943…

Rachmaninoff was a superb composer for his instrument, the piano, and his concerti are known as vast but monstrously difficult works full of “big, fat chords.” He was initially less successful as a symphonic composer, but his second and third symphonies are now in the standard repertoire. Rachmaninoff left Russia after the 1917 Revolution and settled in the US a year later. He was a great success there as a pianist, but composed very little.

I figured we’d celebrate Sergei’s birthday with a regular Rach Fest over the next hour or so, featuring some pieces and a lot of photos from the Library of Congress…

Photo: Rach at the piano


Toshirō Mifune, the great Japanese actor who played the lone swordsman in a number of Kurosawa films (and in a host of other lesser Samurai epics), was born April 1, 1920 (d. 1997).

Above: Mifune in Rashomon, 1950


Samuel R. ‘Chip’ Delany (b. April 1, 1942) is a great science-fiction, fantasy and erotica writer. He is also one of the sharpest critics and essayists around, operating in the cross-field of cultural and literary studies, with a special contribution in Queer studies and theory…

“The only important elements in any society are the artistic and the criminal, because they alone, by questioning the society’s values, can force it to change.” — Delany: Empire Star


Gil Scott-Heron, (born April 1, 1949) is an American poet, musician, and author known primarily for his late 1960s and early 1970s work as a spoken word soul performer…

Heron is an intensely political Black militant artist. His style prefigured rap and hip-hop performance, but he has also been critical of the performers in those genres…

Photo: Gil Scott Heron, Live at Madison Square Garden, 1975 - by Alix Dejean



William Holman Hunt (April 2, 1827 – 1910) was a British painter, and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, after meeting the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Along with John Everett Millais the Pre-Raphaelites sought to revitalise art by emphasising the detailed observation of the natural world in a spirit of quasi-religious devotion to truth. (This religious approach was influenced by the spiritual qualities of medieval art, in opposition to the alleged rationalism of the Renaissance embodied by Raphael.)

Photo by David Wilkie Wynfield, 1860s - albumen print (NPG, London)

William Holman Hunt: Amaryllis, 1884 - Oil on canvas


Giacomo Casanova (April 2, 1725 – 1798) was a Venetian adventurer and author. His name has become synonymous with seduction and sexual escapades - not a bad brand altogether…

Casanova was actually a prolific writer, first and foremost, and spent much of his work criticizing Venetian power players and the Catholic church. He spent considerable time in jail for his writings (and for his ‘immoral’ behaviour)… and wrote a good yarn about his spectacular escape!

Image by Francesco Casanova (his brother), 1750-1755 (Moscow State Historical Museum)


Charlemagne, by Albrecht Dürer, 1512 - oil on panel (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg)

On the occasion of Carolus Magnus’s birthday: Apr. 2, 742 - 814


Lucas Cranach: The Fountain of Youth, 1536 - oil on panel (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)

On the occasion of Ponce de León setting foot on Florida’s coast…


Danish author of fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen (that’s what the Americans call him - we Danes use only his initials, H.C.), was born April 2, 1805 (d. 1875).

Andersen was sexually ambiguous and seems never to have had a consumated relationship with another person of either gender (he did keep a masturbation diary, though - so he wasn’t completely a-sexual)…

H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales are so well-known globally that it’s hard to find a person alive on earth who hasn’t heard of “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling” and other allegorical figures from his tales (but then Disney also had something to do with the branding of Andersen!) Almost all his tales are veiled stories of his own humble origins and burning ambition to rise in the world…

Photo of HCA in Copenhagen, 1862


Max Ernst, German-born Surrealist and a giant in 20th Century art: April 2, 1891 - 1976…

Photo ofMax Ernst by Rogi André, 1936

Max Ernst: The Antipope, 1941-2 - oil on canvas (Peggy Guggenheim Collection)

“Max Ernst settled in New York in 1941 after escaping from Europe with the help of Peggy Guggenheim. The same year he executed a small oil on cardboard (now in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection) that became the basis for the large-scale The Antipope. When Guggenheim saw the small version, she interpreted a dainty horse-human figure on the right as Ernst, who was being fondled by a woman she identified as herself. She wrote that Ernst conceded that a third figure, depicted in a three-quarter rear view, was her daughter Pegeen; she did not attempt to identify another horse-headed female to the left. When Ernst undertook the large version from December to March he changed the body of the “Peggy” figure into a greenish column and transferred her amorous gesture to a new character, who wears a pink tunic and is depicted in a relatively naturalistic way. The “Pegeen” figure in the center appears to have two faces, one of a flayed horse that looks at the horse-woman at the left. The other, with only its cheek and jaw visible, gazes in the opposite direction, out over the grim lagoon, like a pensive subject conceived by Caspar David Friedrich.”


Born April 2, 1840 (d. 1902), Émile Zola is known as a naturalist writer, chronicling the life of a bourgeois family in the Second French Empire. His Les Rougon-Macquart sequence comprises 20 volumes that follow the fortunes of a single family (unlike Balzac’s Comedie Humaine): “I don’t want to describe the contemporary society, but a single family, showing how the race is modified by the environment. (…) My big task is to be strictly naturalist, strictly physiologist.”

Towards the end of his great novel sequence Zola’s cynicism blossoms in the depiction of the homicidal madman who is the protagonist of the melodrama La Bête Humaine (1890)…

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” - Émile Zola

Photo of sad Zola by Nadar


Barbara Bosworth (b. April 2, 1953): Untitled, from the series The Bitterroot River, 1995-1997 - gelatin silver print on paper (Smithsonian)

“The photographs in this series reflect on the intense connection our memory can form between people and place. Drawn from more than one hundred images made along Montana’s Bitterroot River in the years following the death of a loved one, Bosworth later assembled them to create this narrative sequence. The solemn tone of the images speaks of resignation and vulnerability as currents and eddies slip along the river surface from one frame to the next only to disappear. But there is also affirmation and hope to be found in these graceful gestures—the arc of a young tree reaching across the river or a fish offered in outstretched hands—and reassurance in the continually renewing surface of the river: ‘I wanted to hold on to all the life that remained around me, and by securing my world in a photograph I convinced myself it could not totally be taken away.’”—Earth and Sky: Photographs by Barbara Bosworth exhibition label at the Smithsonian


Camille Paglia, b. Apr. 2, 1947, American author, teacher, social critic and dissident feminist…

“Sex is a far darker power that feminism has admitted. Sex is the point of contact between man and nature, where morality and good intentions fall to primitive urges.”

“Man is condemned to a perpetual pattern of linearity, focus, aim, directedness. Woman’s eroticism is diffused throughout her body.”

“Men, bonding together, invented culture as a defense against female nature.” — C.P., Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, 1990


Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight Alec Guinness, English actor: Apr. 2, 1914 - 2000

“A stage actor of distinction before the Second World War, in the late 1940s Alec Guinness extended his range to films and won acclaim with the eight roles he played in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). A string of successes followed, including a number of Ealing Studio films. Notable roles included Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Dr Zhivago (1965). He became an international star when he reluctantly appeared as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first three Star Wars films (1977-83). He is the author of three autobiographical works: Blessings in Disguise (1985), My Name Escapes Me (1996) and A Positively Final Appearance (1999).” — National Portrait Gallery bio…

Photo: Sir Alec Guinness as Hamlet by Angus McBean, 1938 - vintage bromide print (NPG, London)


Poet, editor and associate of the Beats, Anne Waldman was born April 2, 1945…

“In the early 1960s, Waldman became a student of Buddhism. In the 1970s, along with Allen Ginsberg, she began to study with the Tibetan Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In 1974, with Trungpa, Ginsberg, and others, Waldman founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado (now Naropa University), where she remains a Distinguished Professor of Poetics and the Director of Naropa’s famous Summer Writing Program.” (Wiki)


A Phonecall from Frank O’Hara by Anne Waldman

“That all these dyings may be life in death”
I was living in San Francisco
My heart was in Manhattan
It made no sense, no reference point
Hearing the sad horns at night,
fragile evocations of female stuff
The 3 tones (the last most resonant)
were like warnings, haiku-muezzins at dawn
The call came in the afternoon
“Frank, is that really you?”

I’d awake chilled at dawn
in the wooden house like an old ship
Stay bundled through the day
sitting on the stoop to catch the sun
I lived near the park whose deep green
over my shoulder made life cooler
Was my spirit faltering, grown duller?
I want to be free of poetry’s ornaments,
its duty, free of constant irritation,
me in it, what was grander reason
for being? Do it, why? (Why, Frank?)
To make the energies dance etc.

My coat a cape of horrors
I’d walk through town or
impending earthquake. Was that it?
Ominous days. Street shiny with
hallucinatory light on sad dogs,
too many religious people, or a woman
startled me by her look of indecision
near the empty stadium
I walked back spooked by
my own darkness
Then Frank called to say
“What? Not done complaining yet?
Can’t you smell the eucalyptus,
have you never neared the Pacific?
‘While frank and free/call for
musick while your veins swell’”
he sang, quoting a metaphysician
“Don’t you know the secret, how to
wake up and see you don’t exist, but
that does, don’t you see phenomena
is so much more important than this?
I always love that.”
“Always?” I cried, wanting to believe him
“Yes.” “But say more! How can you if
it’s sad & dead?” “But that’s just it!
If! It isn’t. It doesn’t want to be
Do you want to be?” He was warming to his song
“Of course I don’t have to put up with as
much as you do these days. These years.
But I do miss the color, the architecture,
the talk. You know, it was the life!
And dying is such an insult. After all
I was in love with breath and I loved
embracing those others, the lovers,
with my body.” He sighed & laughed
He wasn’t quite as I’d remembered him
Not less generous, but more abstract
Did he even have a voice now, I wondered
or did I think it up in the middle
of this long day, phone in hand now
dialing Manhattan


Rosalind Solomon (b. April 2, 1930): Turkey, 1995, 1995 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)


Marvin Gaye, some time in the ’70s, when the wear and tear of life and faltering health began to haunt him - and yet he looks joyful playing music…
Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984), better known by his stage name Marvin Gaye, was an American singer-songwriter and musician


Young, foxy Emmylou Harris, 64 today…

Emmylou is my favorite ‘country’ vocalist, and I look forward to her new album and the tour she’ll be doing immediately after its release. Last I saw her live was 15 years ago when I was living in Vancouver - next will be in Oslo four weeks from now.

We’ll do a bit of a retrospective for the next hour or so, starting w. some early collaborations that Emmylou did in ’70s - moving on to her golden age ‘mainstream’ country LPs, mid-’70s/early ’80s - then to the more radical ’90s and ’00s stuff she started doing w. Daniel Lanois and Malcolm Burn - closing w. a recent collaborative effort w. Conor Oberst…


William P. Wright, Jr. (b. April 2, 1933): Grandsons of Atwood, from the portfolio The Tiguas: Pueblo Indians of Texas, printed 1994 - gelatin silver print on paper (Smithsonian)

Washington Irving, one of the first professional authors in America, was born April 3, 1783 (d. 1859). Remembered for tales like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle”, Irving is now considered a New England regionalist and an important ambassador of American literature in Europe where his Sketch Book was extremely popular in his life time…

Daguerreotype of Irving, 1862 - LoC

“The tongue is the only tool that gets sharper with use.” — Washington Irving

April 3 is the birthday of great-voiced Canadian musician and vocalist in The Band, Richard Manuel (1943 - 1986, suicide while on tour)…


Frank Gohlke (b. Apr. 3, 1942): Approaching Thunderstorm, near Dean, Texas (Texas Memories #10), 1982 (printed 1988) - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)


Sally Rand, burlesque dancer: Apr. 3, 1904 - 1979…

Born Harriet Helen Gould Beck, Sally Rand was a teenage runaway, circus performer, cigarette girl, model, dancer, stage actress, and silent film star before she ever picked up a pair of ostrich feather fans. From flapper to fan dancer, Miss Rand continued to strut her stuff into the, and also her, sixties. As she said herself, of her illustrious career, “I haven’t been out of work since the day I took my pants off.”


Marlon Brando, actor of the first rank: April 3, 1924 - 2004…


Richard Thompson (b. 3 April 1949) is a recently knighted British songwriter, guitar player and recording and performing musician, famed for his contributions to the development of an English folk-rock genre during his tenure with Fairport Convention.

Some of Thompson’s best work was done on the duo records with his wife Linda, whose powerful vocals lent an extra shine to his fine song-writing. Thompson was also a session musician on many other signature recordings in the early folk and folk-rock era in Britain, for instance one of Nick Drake’s records…

In the ’70s Thompson became a Sufi Muslim.


French writer and film director, Marguerite Duras: April 4, 1914 - 1996…

Duras was the author of a number of autobiographical fictions, including the celerbrated volume, The Lover (a story from colonial days in Vietnam about a very young French girl and her affair with an older Chinese businessman), which won her the Prix Goncourt in 1984 and became a succesful film…

Quotes: “I believe that always, or almost always, in all childhoods and in all the lives that follow them, the mother represents madness. Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.”

Photo: Marguerite Duras and her mother…

For Marguerite Duras’ birthday, a poem by Robert Gibbons from his forthcoming chapbook, Rhythm of Desire & Resistance - a twelve poem sequence for Richard Hoffman


Comte de Lautréamont was the pen name of Isidore Lucien Ducasse, Uruguayan-born French poet: April 4, 1846 – 1870

His only works, Les Chants de Maldoror and Poésies, had a major influence on modern literature, particularly on the Surrealists and the Situationists. Maldoror, whose narrator is a being of pure evil, is often described as the first surrealist book…

Maldoror was illustrated by a young Salvador Dalí in 1932.

Above - Dalí: Portrait imaginaire de Lautréamont à 19 ans obtenu d’après la méthode paranoiaque-critique, 1937


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., American preacher, activist and a leader of men - cowardly murdered on this day in 1968, aged 39…

“He freed a lot of people, but the good die young.”

Photo of MLK, Jr., 1960 - Marvin Koner


Poet Maya Angelou is 83 today. Her birthday falls on the same day of the year as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death day. Angelou worked for Dr. King when she was young and has many things to say about his person and the inspiration she continues to find in his words -

Maya Angelou: “The music of the “I Have a Dream” speech is a replication of the music which comes out of the mouths of the African American preacher. Preacher, singer, blues singer, jazz singer, rap person, it is so catching, so hypnotic, so wonderful that, as a poet, I continue to try to catch it, to catch the music. If I can catch the music and have the content as well, then I have the ear of the public. And I know that’s what Martin Luther King was able to do, not just in the “I Have a Dream” speech — although that has become a kind of poem which is used around the world — but in everything he said there was the black Southern Baptist or Methodist preacher, singing his song, telling our story — not just black American story either, but telling the human story. And as a poet, if I can replicate that, I am okay, Jack.”


William H. Jackson (April 4, 1843 - 1942): The Old Carreta, Laguna, New Mexico, ca. 1875 - albumen print on paper mounted on paperboard (Smithsonian)

Barbara Ess (b. April 4, 1948): Untitled, 1985 - C-print, ed. 5, AP1 (Malmö Konsthall)


Today’s three fine film-makers (and some of their tools)…

1. Elegantier film director Éric Rohmer was born April 4, 1920 and died Jan. 11, 2010…

He is regarded as a key figure in the post-war New Wave cinema and is a former editor of influential French film journal Cahiers du cinéma. If you like your film dialogue rich, philosophical and slightly Catholic, go Rohmer…

2. Dissident Russian film maker Andrei Tarkovsky: April 4, 1932 - 1986…

Although he only directed 7 feature films in his career which was cut short by cancer, at least three of them are masterpieces: Andrei Rublev in 1966, Solaris in 1972, and Stalker in 1979. If you like your film stark, brutal and occasionally cryptic - go Tarkovsky.

3. Aki Kaurismäki, the Finnish genius film director is also born April 4 - in his case in 1957…

Of all the off-beat depictions of the national melancholia of the Finns, none are more gut-wrenchingly funny than Kaurismäki’s - in films such The Match Factory Girl, I Hired a Contract Killer and The Man without a Past (not to mention the over-the-top Leningrad Cowboys films)… If you like your film almost without dialogue, but with intense pent-up emotions and an enormous sense of humour - go Kaurismäki.


Blues great Muddy Waters (I’ve loved that name ever since I first heard Danish radio d-j’s ID his records back in the early 70s when radio still had space for the blues) was born April 4, 1915 (d. 1983)…


Christian Marclay: Untitled, 1987 - Vinyl records (Courtesy of the artist & Paula Cooper Gallery, New York)

1. Heath Ledger (ghostly double here): Born April 4, 1979 — gone 2008…

2. Robert Downey Jr. - b. April 4, 1965…

South African musician Hugh Masekela turns 72 today!

Masekela learned the trumpet while quite young and played jazz with some of the other great South African musicians in the late 50s and early 60s (among them Dollar Brand who later became Abdullah Ibrahim).

At the height of Aprtheid persecution of black South Africans of dissident persuasions, Masekela left for London and later the US, where he had several surprise pop jazz hits with his fresh African take on instrumental music, including “Grazing in the Grass”…

Masekela has collaborated with Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon and many others. He has returned to his roots both musically and through his work for the reconstruction of South Africa after the return of Nelson Mandela…

Photo: Hugh Masekela, 2010


Booker T. Washington, uplifter and educator of African-Americans and first head of the Tuskegee Institute (April 5, 1856 - 1915)…

“No greater injury can be done to any youth than to let him feel that because he belongs to this or that race he will be advanced in life regardless of his own merits or efforts.” — Booker T. Washington


Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French painter of Rococo frill and fluff - April 5, 1732 - 1806…

The Love Letter, 1769-1770 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)


Algernon Charles Swinburne, English poet (April 5, 1837 - 1909), author of what was considered then decadent poetry, showing signs of the poet being a depraved homosexual…

The Oblation

Ask nothing more of me, sweet;
All I can give you I give.
Heart of my heart, were it more,
More would be laid at your feet—
Love that should help you to live,
Song that should spur you to soar.

All things were nothing to give,
Once to have sense of you more,
Touch you and taste of you, sweet,
Think you and breathe you and live,
Swept of your wings as they soar,
Trodden by chance of your feet.

I that have love and no more
Give you but love of you, sweet.
He that hath more, let him give;
He that hath wings, let him soar;
Mine is the heart at your feet
Here, that must love you to live.

Photo: London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, circa 1865 - albumen carte-de-visite (NPG, London)


Thomas Hobbes (April 5, 1588 - 1679), English political philosopher who founded the discipline by outlining, in his book Leviathan, a social contract theory explaining the rationale of having a sovereign ruler to prevent general anarchy and ‘the war of all against all’…

“All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called “Facts”. They are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain.” — Th.H.

Portrait of Hobbes, after William Faithorne, late 17th century - line engraving (NPG, London)



Director of the day: Peter Greenaway, b. April 5, 1942…

Works such as these experimental films from the late ’80s and early to mid ’90s were very fascinating to me:

The Belly of an Architect (1987), Drowning by Numbers (1988), The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), Prospero’s Books (1991), The Pillow Book (1996)

Photo: Steve Pyke, 1983 - bromide print (NPG, London)


Kurt Cobain, American singer/songwriter - committed suicide by shotgun on this day in 1994…

“Rather be dead than cool.” — K.C.


Allen Ginsberg, Beat poet - died this day in 1997, aged 70, from liver cancer…

Things I’ll Not Do (Nostalgias)

Never go to Bulgaria, had a booklet & invitation
Same Albania, invited last year, privately by Lottery scammers or recovering alcoholics,
Or enlightened poets of the antique land of Hades Gates
Nor visit Lhasa live in Hilton or Ngawang Gelek’s household & weary ascend Potala
Nor ever return to Kashi “oldest continuously habited city in the world”
bathe in Ganges & sit again at Manikarnika ghat with Peter,
visit Lord Jagganath again in Puri, never back to Bibhum take notes tales of Khaki B Baba
Or hear music festivals in Madras with Philip
Or enter to have Chai with older Sunil & Young coffeeshop poets,
Tie my head on a block in the Chinatown opium den, pass by Moslem Hotel, its rooftop Tinsmith Street Choudui Chowh Nimtallah
Burning ground nor smoke ganja on the Hooghly
Nor the alleyways of Achmed’s Fez, nevermore drink mint tea at Soco Chico, visit Paul B. in Tangiers
Or see the Sphinx in Desert at Sunrise or sunset, morn & dusk in the desert
Ancient sollapsed Beirut, sad bombed Babylon & Ur of old, Syria’s grim mysteries all Araby & Saudi Deserts, Yemen’s sprightly folk,
Old opium tribal Afghanistan, Tibet - Templed Beluchistan
See Shangha again, nor cares of Dunhuang
Nor climb E. 12th Street’s stairway 3 flights again,
Nor go to literary Argentina, accompany Glass to Sao Paolo & live a month in a flat Rio’s beaches and favella boys, Bahia’s great Carnival
Nor more daydream of Bali, too far Adelaide’s festival to get new scent sticks
Not see the new slums of Jakarta, mysterious Borneo forests & painted men and women
Nor mor Sunset Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, Oz on Ocean Way
Old cousin Danny Leegant, memories of Aunt Edith in Santa Monica
No mor sweet summers with lovers, teaching Blake at naropa,
Mind Writing Slogans, new modern American Poetics, Williams Kerouac Reznikoff Rakosi Corso Creely Orlovsky
Any visits to B’nai Israel graves of Buda, Aunt Rose, Harry Meltzer and Aunt Clara, Father Louis
Not myself except in an urn of ashes

(Photo of a quietly gleeful Ginsberg - Elsa Dorfman, master of the giant polaroid…)


Saul Bellow, Chicago-based Nobel Award winning Jewish-American author - died this day in 2005, aged 89, leaving behind a five-year-old daughter…

“People can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.” — S.B.

Photo of Bellow in his home-town…


Film - old Hollywood section…

Spencer Tracy, the most solid leading man ever: April 5, 1900 - 1967…


Continuing our celebration of the old Fairport’ers…

Powerhouse of musical joy, fiddler and songwriter, Dave Swarbrick of Fairport Convention fame, is 70 today…


Film, old Hollywood section…

Gregory Peck, of the rocky jaw and high cheekbones, the perfect masculine idol: April 5, 1916 - 2003


Film, old Hollywood section…

Bette Davis, queen of the melodrama, and never afraid of playing the unsympathetic characters: April 5, 1908 - 1989

Photo: Fashions of 1934


Today is the birthday of Danish weaver, ceramicist and artist Holcha Krake (April 6, 1885 - 1944, cancer) who in 1930 married the great African-American painter William H. Johnson. They lived together in Denmark and Norway until they saw the writing on the wall offered by Nazism encroaching on the rest of Europe and the couple relocated to the US in 1938…

Photo of Willie and Holcha on the Atlantic crossing…

Holcha Krake’s major work was a modern recreation of the Norwegian medieval tapestry, The Baldishol Tapestry

Photostat of Holcha’s drawing for the tapestry, SI, AAA

The Baldishol Tapestry, currently at Industrimuseet, Oslo (late 12th C.)


Celebrating French portrait master Nadar (April 6, 1820 - 1910), the person responsible for several crucial developments in the history of photography (including experiments with aerial photography and artificial lightning - the catacomb photos), but also a friend of the arts and the brilliant eye behind many, many portraits of writers and painters in his Paris studio…

Above - Nadar: Revolving Self-Portrait

Théophile Gautier, by Nadar, 1856.

One of Nadar’s several Baudelaire portraits…


Erich Mühsam (6 April 1878 – 10 July 1934) was a German-Jewish anarchist, writer, poet, dramatist, and cabaret performer.

Mühsam achieved international prominence during the years of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) for works which satirized Adolf Hitler and condemned Nazism before Hitler came to power in 1933….

The Nazis took their cowardly revenge the year after and tortured Mühsam to death in the Oranienburg KZ-camp…

A little ditty of spring awakening:


Wieder hat sich die Natur verjüngt,
wieder sich mit frischem Stoff gedüngt,
und dem Moder wie den jungen Keimen
hat die Kunst zu malen und zu reimen.
Die Gebeine harren der Bestattung,
währenddem die Früchte der Begattung
fröhlich ins Bereich des Lebens ziehn ­
insoferne sie soweit gediehn.
Viech- und Menschern heben sich die Büsen;
in den Bäumen quillt’s und den Gemüsen.
Tief im Kern der Erde hat’s gekracht:
Ja, der Früh-, der Frühling ist erwacht.


Gustave Moreau (April 6, 1826 - 1898), French Symbolist painter…

Above: Perseus and Andromeda, c. 1870


Surrealist painter and novelist Leonora Carrington turns 94 today!

Photo: John Mack

Leonora Carrington: The Temptation of St. Anthony, 1947 - oil on fabric


Death to the King of Diamonds!

Harold E. Edgerton (April 6, 1903 - 1990) invented a technique to use stroboscope light in photography and started producing amazing images…


Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse (April 6, 1849 - 1917) painted mythological females and Shakespeare heroines galore…

John William Waterhouse: Crystal Ball, 1902


Merle Haggard (b. Apr. 6, 1937 - 74 today) is a seminal country singer and songwriter…

Here’s two of my favorite songs by The Hag…

Photo: Piper Ferguson


Today’s Classical birthday:

André Previn (b. April 6, 1929 - 82 today) is a German-born naturalized American pianist, conductor, and composer. He is a winner of four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings.

Photo: André Previn conducting from the piano…


Igor Stravinsky, Russian-born French, later American composer, pianist and conductor - died this day in 1971, aged 88…

“Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.” — I.S.

Photo: Courtesy of Indiana University.


Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known simply as Raphael (April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520 - both dates are uncertain…), was one of the most accomplished Renaissance portrait artists and ran a very large workshop to assist his production of large canvases…

Raphael’s death at a quite young age has had art historians speculate - here is one version: “According to Vasari, Raphael’s premature death on Good Friday (April 6, 1520) (possibly his 37th birthday), was caused by a night of excessive sex with his mistress, Luti (known as La Fornarina), after which he fell into a fever and, not telling his doctors that this was its cause, was given the wrong cure, which killed him…”

Above - La Fornarina or Portrait of a young woman, 1518-1519 - oil on wood (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica)


Frank Black - b. Apr. 6, 1965…


Gerry Mulligan (Apr. 6, 1927 - 1996): jazz composer, arranger and baritone sax player…


Pictured above, a solar eclipse that occurred in 1980, in a photograph made by the High Altitude Observatory/ National Center for Atmospheric Research

A solar poem by Homero Aridjis (born April 6, 1940)

Old Sun, I Salute You
(In homage to the Comte de Lautréamont)

Old Sun, I salute you
when you appear in the center of the sky
like a yolk sunny-side-up
surrounded by white insidious cloud.

I salute you, Sun of the polluted city,
when everyone passes
cursing the heat,
not even giving you a glance.

I salute you, Sun of the cold walls
and deserted rooms
where nobody lives nor looks in.

I salute you, unique eye,
white pupil
of night overall.

I salute you, old Sun of the jovial face,
forever different and similar to yourself,
grand solitary, handsome in your blue kingdom.

I salute you, Sun of the vital rays,
you who move with a musical measure
through this ancient sky.

I salute you, Sun of the icy mornngs
brimming like an anemic yolk
over the horrible buildings.

I salute you, Sun of the bloody afternoons
when your beams beat death’s tom-
toms on the temple walls.

I salute you, Sun of the playful mysteries
when your thoughts prance like golden
jaguars on the mountain peaks.

I salute you, Sun of the blind
when you descend along black hands
playing stringed instruments in the street.

I salute you, Sun of the bruised lips
and wounds that never close,
as you alight on the bodies of the dead.

I salute you, Sun of the total eclipses,
when, encircled by the dark,
you see us, inside and out.

Old Being, I salute you,
Unique Eye
white Pupil
of my night overall

(published originally in 2005; translated from the Spanish by George McWhirter)


Gabriela Mistral (April 7, 1889 - 1957) was a Chilean poet, educator and feminist, who in 1945 became the first Nobel Literature Laureate from a Latin American country.

She received the prize “for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world…”

Mistral’s tragic personal life with abandonment by her father and suicide of the love of her life made for a certain pathos in her poetry…


The Rose

The treasure at the heart of the rose
is your own heart’s treasure.
Scatter it as the rose does:
your pain becomes hers to measure.

Scatter it in a song,
or in one great love’s desire.
Do not resist the rose
lest you burn in its fire.


William Wordsworth (April 7, 1770 - 1850) - the Romantic poet who refused to die young…

IT is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year;
And worship’st at the Temple’s inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.


Donald Barthelme (April 7, 1931 - 1989) - American writer whose playful short stories and other prose fictions (for lack of a better term) are joyously postmodern in their celebration of absurdity and lack of closure…

In an unexpected tie-in with the previous classic country posts, it appears that Don B. was one half of the inspiration for Thomas Cobb (who had taken writing classes w. Barthelme in the early ’80s) in creating the novel Crazy Heart which was turned into a film of the same name in 2009, detailing the life of a drunken down-and-out country singer (played by Jeff Bridges) looking for redemption (the other half of Cobb’s inspiration was the life of Hank Thompson, an actual country singer…)

Photo: Wendy Watriss


Country great Bobby Bare is 76 today…

I first heard him in 1966 on my very first LP record - The Very Best of Country & West where he did “Streets of Baltimore”, which is still a cool song…

Above: Young Bobby B., early ’60s


Film director Francis Ford Coppola was born April 7, 1939, and in his 72 years has produced numerous masterpieces, chief among which are the Godfather films and Apocalypse Now, a Vietnam epic loosely based on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Coppola has worked both as screen writer and director on all his best movies. He has 5 Oscars to his name…

Photo of Coppola and his equally talented daughter, Sofia, chillin’ in Argentina (promoting Louis Vuitton)…


Birthday of Lady Day!

Billie Holiday - April 7, 1915 - July 17, 1959

Photo: William P. Gottlieb, 1946-8, Carnegie Hall - via Library of Congress


Freddie Hubbard (April 7, 1938 - 2008) was a tough little hard bop trumpet player who recorded his best work (for Blue Note) during the period in the 1960s when jazz fell out of favour with the young generation. Hubbard’s unmistakable and influential tone contributed to new perspectives for modern jazz and bebop…


Birthday of Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar (b. April 7, 1920), who first blew everybody in the West’s mind at the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967.

Pandit Ravi Shankar embodied that era’s attempt to bring East and West together in fruitful dialogue, whether musically or spiritually…


Gino Severini (April 7, 1883 – 1966), was an Italian painter and a leading member of the Futurist movement…

Above: Souvenir de Voyages, 1911 (private collection, presumed lost until 1994)


Emil Cioran (April 8, 1911 - 1995) was a Romanian philosopher and aphorist, who spent the greater part of his life in Paris, publishing all the books he produced after his mid-twenties in French…

Cioran in youth flirted with totalitarian thought, but recanted these ideas after seeing the results of blind following of ideologies. His writing gradually became more and more an analysis of the individual’s futile struggle to make sense of life, and his skepticism, nihilism and pessimism prefigured the style and thoughts of French Existentialism…

“Everything is pathology, except for indifference” —E.C.

Photo: E. Boubat


Alfred Cheney Johnston (April 8, 1885 - 1971): Jean Ackerman, Ziegfeld Follies girl…

By 1915 Johnston had become one of the two chief photographers working for the most famous theatrical photography company in New York. Florenz Ziegfeld, taken with Johnston’s portraits of Showgirls in the 1915 and 1916 Follies and at two portrait sessions of Billie Burke, his wife, that were published in VANITY FAIR, hired Johnston to photograph his theatrical enterprises…


Clarence Hudson White - American master of photography was born April 8, 1871 (d. 1925)…

Above: Drops of Rain, 1903 - platinum print


Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum (b. April 8, 1944)…

He studied at The Art Academy in Oslo, Norway, but became dissatisfied with the direction of modern art, and began to teach himself how to paint in a Neo Baroque style, with the guidance of Rembrandt’s technique and work as a primary influence. In doing so he placed himself in direct opposition to most aspects of the school, including his primary painting instructor, his fellow students, and a curriculum designed to have Norway seen as a country with an up-to-date artistic culture. He, in his own words was chased from the academy after a two year period like a “scroungy mutt”.

Odd Nerdrum: Man in a Boat, c. 1997


John Fante (April 8, 1909 - 1983) was an Italian-American novelist and screen-writer who has never reached a large mainstream audience, and who has never been claimed by his own ethnic group.

In reality he is a gritty LA writer, a forerunner to the Beats and Bukowski, not least because of his quasi-autobiographical quartet of novels about Arturo Bandini’s hopes and despairs as a struggling artist in the land of golden dreams, including Wait Until Spring, Bandini (1938) and Ask the Dust (1939)…


Bill Burke (b. April 8, 1943): KPNLF Fighter with Lake Ampil RPG, Thai Cambodia Border, 1984 - gelatin silver print


Laura Nyro, magnificently talented singer-songwriter - died this day 1997, aged 49, from ovarian cancer…

“And when I die and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.”
— L.N.: When I Am Dead


Jacques Brel, intense Belgian poet and singer/songwriter, was born April 8, 1929 (d. 1978, lung cancer)…

Brel lived and worked in Paris from 1954 and his energy and passion as a performer is legendary.


Pablo Picasso, the greatest artist of the 20th C - died this day in 1973, aged 91, during a dinner with his friends. His last words were: “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more…”

Yousuf Karsh:Arnold Newman, 1954

Picasso: Black Jug and Skull, 1946 - Lithograph on paper (Tate)


Charles Baudelaire, poète maudit: April 9, 1821 - 1867…

The Alchemy of Sorrow

One man lights you with his ardor,
Another puts you in mourning, Nature!
That which says to one: sepulcher!
Says to another: life! glory!

You have always frightened me,
Hermes the unknown, you who help me.
You make me the peer of Midas,
The saddest of all alchemists;

Through you I change gold to iron
And make of paradise a hell;
In the winding sheet of the clouds

I discover a beloved corpse,
And on the celestial shores
I build massive sarcophagi.

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

Photo - Nadar


Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect - died during surgery on this day in 1959, aged 91…

“Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” — The Future of Architecture (1953)

Photo - Library of Congress

Frank Lloyd Wright: The Guggenheim, N.Y., 1956-9

“New York is the biggest mouth in the world. It appears to be prime example of the herd instinct, leading the universal urban conspiracy to beguile man from his birthright (the good ground), to hang him by his eyebrows from skyhooks above hard pavement, to crucify him, sell him, or be sold by him.” — The Living City, 1958


Danish super-architect, Jørn Utzon (of Sydney Opera House fame), was born April 9, 1918 (d. 2008)…

Photo: Jozef Vissel


Eadweard J. Muybridge (April 9, 1830 – 1904) was an English photographer, known primarily for his early use of multiple cameras to capture motion, and his zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting motion pictures that pre-dated the celluloid film strip that is still used today…

From Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion book: Woman Descending Staircase and Turning, c 1887 - collotype on paper


Today’s movie icon - Jean-Paul Belmondo is 78…

Photo from his younger days…


Paul Robeson, world famous bass singer (Ol’ Man River), actor and civil rights activist: April 9, 1898 - 1976…


Leland Rice (b. April 9, 1940): Untitled (green dumpster, houses), from the Long Beach Documentary Survey Project, ca. 1975 - color photograph (Smithsonian)

Charles Burchfield (April 9, 1893 - 1967): Orion in December, 1959 - watercolor and pencil on paper (Smithsonian)

Tom Lehrer (b. April 9, 1928), Jewish math geek turned brilliant satirist, chastizing American conformism in the late 50s, early 60s…


Rock and rockabilly (country-destilled) pioneer and Sun Studio artist, Carl Perkins: April 9, 1932 - 1998…


Phil Ochs, American topical singer and anti-war activist - committed suicide by hanging on this day in 1976 after years of mental illness. Phil was 35…

“I ain’t a marching anymore” — P.O.

Photo, 1963 publicity shot


American colour field artist, Kenneth Noland, was born April 10, 1924 (d. 2010)…

Most of Noland’s paintings fall into one of four groups: circles, or targets, chevrons, stripes, and shaped canvases… Today we do the targets:

Earthen Bound, 1960 - Acrylic on canvas (Artist’s web site)


April 10, 1918 was the birthday of fine photo journalist Cornell Capa (d. 2008), whose brother Robert took perhaps the most famous war photograph of all time…

Cornell Capa had a long career with LIFE and as a Magnum photographer.

Above: The Bolshoi Ballet


Birthday of Max von Sydow: April 10, 1929…

Still from The Seventh Seal, 1957 - dir. Ingmar Bergman


Birthday of Omar Sharif: April 10, 1932…

Still from Lawrence of Arabia, 1962


Claude Bolling (b. April 10, 1930), is a renowned French jazz pianist, who already by age 14 was playing jazz piano professionally, with Lionel Hampton, Roy Eldridge, and Kenny Clarke…

Photo: Duke Ellington checking out the French Kid’s chops…


Charismatic actor Joel Gray (b. April 11, 1932) in his signature role as the camp Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret, 1967 - w. Liza Minelli…


Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., American writer of anti-glacier novels - died this day in 2007 from irreversible brain injuries following a fall at his home… So it goes.


Former poet laureate of the USA, Canadian-born Mark Strand: b. April, 11, 1934…

Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.


Ko Un (born 11 April or 1 August, 1933), pictured above in Krakow, in October 2009, in a photograph by Mariusz Kubik

Elder Cho’s Wife

Cho Kil-yŏn from Saemal, over the fields from Kalmoe,
received a huge stretch of paddy and rich land at his marriage
but he squandered it all.
Now he earns his living farming someone elses paddy,
or rather he entrusts it to his lazy wife and pretends to farm it.
Yet this Cho Kil-yŏn sings nothing but hymns.
Even in the privy, its hymns he hums
and Elder Chos wife is just the same.
For laziness, shes first cousin to a maggot,
outdoing any outhouse-fed grub.
Even if cursed late-autumn rain comes pouring down
on the buckwheat on straw mats, the red beans on small mats,
she lies stretched out full length on the warmest part of the floor,
if anyone opens the door, she cries:
Aigu, what awful rain, what rain!
Well, cold rain makes a man, they say, and it makes grain tasty.
Then she gently summons sleep again.
As if she were descended from some leisurely angler,
she gently summons sleep again.
Meanwhile Elder Chos daughter, Sun-bok,
works as hard as she can.
She comes flying across their rented field
like a butterfly,
like a bee on a radish flower,
scoops the grain out of the yard,
rolls up the sodden sacks, piles them in the store-room.
At which, good heavens!
faint late-autumn sunshine emerges,
banishing all thought of rain.

—from Ten Thousand Lives (Moninbo) (originally published in the late 1980s; translated from the Korean by Brother Anthony at Taizé, Kim Young-Moo and Gary Gach)


Attila József (born 11 April, 1905; died 3 December, 1937), pictured above in a photograph taken in the mid-1930s

The Lord is High

The Lord is High
the lard is low,
the rich get sick,
the poor get sicker.

Who comes here
on the twists and turns
of winding trails?
Milking girls
with foamy pails?

Is it the poor?
Are they coming to praise the Lord?
But the Lord is hard and old.
He belongs to the cardinals.

Sausage for the poor?
Skirt for the wife?
Homage to the Lord?

If only He’d look out
on all the beaten roads,
He’d see the poor heading
toward the warm south.

If He’s not for them now,
He can forget them.
At the hour of their death
they will be dead men.

(translated from the Magyar by Peter Hargitai)


Christopher Smart (born 11 April, 1722; died 21 May, 1771), in an engraving (after an unknown artist) by Henry Meyer (1782-1847); in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London


O guide my judgment and my taste,
Sweet SPIRIT, author of the book
Of wonders, told in language chaste,
And plainness not to be mistook.

O let me muse, and yet at sight
The page admire, the page believe;
“Let there be light, and there was light,
“Let there be Paradise and Eve!”

Who his soul’s rapture can refrain?
At Joseph’s ever-pleasing tale,
Of marvels, the prodigious train,
To Sinai’s hill from Goshen’s vale.

The Psalmist and proverbial Seer,
And all the prophets’ sons of song,
Make all things precious, all things clear,
And bear the brilliant word along.

O take the book from off the shelf,
And con it meekly on thy knees;
Best panegyric on itself,
And self-avouch’d to teach and please.

Respect, adore it heart and mind,
How greatly sweet, how sweetly grand!
Who reads the most, is most refin’d,
And polish’d by the Master’s hand.

—from Hymns for the Amusement of Children (1771)


50 years of space travel!

April 12, 1961 Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin completed an orbit of Earth in his Vostok spacecraft….

Photo of German Titov (l - Titov was the second person to orbit Earth) and Yuri Gagarin (r), 1962


In honor of American photographer Imogen Cunningham’s birthday (April 12, 1883 – 1976), as usual, a mini-portfolio of some of her work:

The Offering, 1912

Imogen Cunningham: Snake in a Bucket, 1920

Lily Pons (April 12, 1898 – 1976) was a French-American coloratura soprano who had a thirty year star career at the New York Metropolitan Opera.

On the odd side of things, she has had a village in Frederick County, Maryland, named in her honor. As Wikipedia informs us: “the town, Lilypons, is known for its commercial tropical fish ponds” (ponds being a pun on Pons, I would assume…)

Photo of Pons as Lucia di Lammermoor


Abbie Hoffman, Jewish Yippie trickster of ’60s renown and author of the greatest self-help book ever (Steal This Book) - died this day in 1989 as a result of ingesting 150 Phenobarbital tablets…

“Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.” — A.H.


Also, we celebrate the birthday of a fine Modernist artist:

Robert Delaunay (April 12, 1885 – 1941) was a French artist who was a leading proponent of Orphism (a term coined by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire), a movement whose aesthetics was similar to Cubism, but with an emphasis on the sensation of bright colors…

Robert Delaunay; Homage to Bleriot, 1914 - tempera on canvas (Kunstmuseum Basel)


American performer (falsetto vocals and ukulele, usually) Tiny Tim (April 12, 1932 - 1996) scored a fairly big hit with his signature song Tiptoe Through the Tulips in 1968.

Tim left the planet in 1996 after a long, somewhat cult-like career, which however included such highlights as singing for 600.000 people at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970…


Herbie Hancock, the versatile pianist, keyboardist and composer, who started as one of the primary post-bop piano players in Miles Davis’s ‘young’ quintet (with Ron Carter (b) and Tony Williams (dm) rounding out the rhythm section) in the early 60s, turns 71 today…

“I’ve had the great fortune to be a jazz musician. It means I can play music freely, that I can explore territory, try new things and expand in various ways, because jazz is not restrictive.” - H.H.


The Prelude and Fugue in g minor, from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, composed in 1722 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750); performed here by Heinrich Neuhaus (born 12 April, 1888; died 10 October, 1964)

Southern writer Eudora Welty (April 13, 1909 - 2001) was one of the finest short story writers in America (although it was her novel The Optimist’s Daughter that finally won her the 1973 Pulitzer)…

“Writing fiction has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists.” — E.W.

An excerpt from the 1920 film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, directed by Robert Wiene, and starring Conrad Viedt as Cesare the somnambulist

In her memoir, Eudora Welty (born 13 April, 1909; died 23 July, 2001) describes seeing The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as a child in Jackson, Mississippi:

‘All children in those small-town, unhurried days had a vast inner life going on in the movies. Whole families attended together in the evenings, at least once a week, and children were allowed to go without chaperone in the long summer afternoons—schoolmates with their best friends, pairs of little girls trotting on foot the short distance through the park to town under their Japanese parasols.


The silent movies were a source also of words that you might never have learned anywhere else. You read them in the captions. “Jeopardy,” for example, I got to know from Drums of Jeopardy with Alice Brady, who was wearing a leopard skin, a verbal connection I shall never forget. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari turned up by some strange fluke in place of the Saturday western on the screen of the Istrione Theatre (known as the Eyestrain) where it was seen by an attendance consisting entirely of children. I learned “somnambulist” in terror, a word I still never hear or read without seeing again Conrad Veidt in black tights and bangs, making his way at night alongside a high leaning wall with eyes closed, one arm reaching high, seeing with his fingers. But of course all of us together in the movie had screamed with laughter, laughing at what terrified us, exactly as if it were funny, and exactly as grown-up audiences do today.’

—from One Writer’s Beginnings (1983)

Eudora Welty never won a Nobel, but her friend Willie did…

The Nobel trio of April 13 is rounded out by the 2008 Literature Laureate, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, b. this day in 1940…

“My message will be very clear; it is that I think we have to continue to read novels. Because I think that the novel is a very good means to question the current world without having an answer that is too schematic, too automatic. The novelist, he’s not a philosopher, not a technician of spoken language. He’s someone who writes, above all, and through the novel asks questions.” — Le Clézio


Seamus Heaney, the Bog Man Laureate of 1995 (“for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past…”), is 72 today!

Bogland by Seamus Heaney

for T. P. Flanagan

We have no prairies
To slice a big sun at evening—
Everywhere the eye concedes to
Encrouching horizon,

Is wooed into the cyclops’ eye
Of a tarn. Our unfenced country
Is bog that keeps crusting
Between the sights of the sun.

They’ve taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up
An astounding crate full of air.

Butter sunk under
More than a hundred years
Was recovered salty and white.
The ground itself is kind, black butter

Melting and opening underfoot,
Missing its last definition
By millions of years.
They’ll never dig coal here,

Only the waterlogged trunks
Of great firs, soft as pulp.
Our pioneers keep striking
Inwards and downwards,

Every layer they strip
Seems camped on before.
The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage.
The wet centre is bottomless.

Photo: Mark Gerson, June 1996 - modern bromide print (NPG, London)


Samuel Beckett (born 13 April, 1906; died 22 December, 1989), pictured above in two 1979 photographs by Richard Avedon (1923-2004)

From More Pricks than Kicks, a 1934 collection of stories, all centered around the life of Belacqua Shuah:

‘My sometime friend Belacqua enlivened the last phase of his solipsism, before he toed the line, and began to relish the world, with the belief that the best thing he had to do was to move constantly from place to place. He did not know how this conclusion had been gained, but that it was not thanks to his preferring one place to another he felt sure. He was pleased to think that he could give what he called the Furies the slip by merely setting himself in motion. But as for sites, one was as good as another because they all disappeared as soon as he came to rest in them. The mere act of rising and going, irrespective of whence and whither, did him good. That was so. He was sorry that he did not enjoy the means to indulge his humour as he would have wished, on a large scale, on land and sea. Hither and thither on land and sea! He could not afford that, for he was poor. But in a small way he did what he could. From the ingle to the window, form the nursery to the bedroom, even from tone quarter of the town to another, and back, these little acts of motion he was in a fair way of making, and they certainly did do him some good as a rule. It was the old story of the salad days, torment in the terms and in the intervals a measure of ease.


I have had glimpses of him enjoying his little trajectory. I have been there again when he returned, transfigured and transformed. It was very nearly the reverse of the author of the Imitation’s “glad going out and sad coming in.”

He was at pains to make it clear to me, and to all those to whom he exposed his manoeuvre, that it was in no way cognate with the popular act of brute labor, digging and such like, exploited to disperse the dumps, an antidote depending for its efficaciousness on mere physical exhaustion, and for which he expressed the greatest contempt. He did not fatigue himself, he said; on the contrary. He lived in a Beethoven pause, he said, whatever he meant by that. In his anxiety to explain himself he was liable to come to grief. Nay, this anxiety in itself, or so at least it seemed to me, constituted a breakdown in the self-sufficiency which he never wearied of arrogating to himself, a sorry collapse of my little internus homo, and alone sufficient to give him away as inept ape of his own shadow. But he wriggled out of everything by pleading that he had been drunk at the time, or that he was an incoherent person and content to remain so, and so on. He was an impossible person in the end. I gave him up in the end because he was not serious.

One day, in a positive geyser of confidence, he gave me an account of one of these “moving pauses.” He had a strong weakness for oxymoron. In the same way he over-indulged in gin and tonic-water.’
—from ‘Ding-Dong,’ in More Pricks Than Kicks (1934)


Al Green (b. April 13, 1946) is the best exponent of deep soul…

We celebrate the Reverend’s 65th birthday with a small selection of smooth vocals and groovy tunes as the midnight hour approaches. Enjoy, as your favorite Tumblr. gives you a pleasant, relaxing back-rub…


Growing up, as I did on a steady diet of 60s soul and r&b, plus the white equivalents of those types of music, one could not help but to love Little Feat, the great musicians’ musicians, whose funky and bluesy stomps and ballads were so incredible…

My affection fell mainly with the extraordinary singer, songwriter and slide guitarist Lowell George (April 13, 1945 - 1979), who tragically died of a massive heart attack at the too young age of 34. Lowell was always, and perhaps too much so, Willin’…


James Ensor (Apr. 13, 1860 - 1949) was one of the most original painters of the late nineteenth century. Populated with masks and skeletons, his macabre images are morbid commentaries on the human condition, his hometown of Ostend on the North Sea, Belgian history, and his own mortality. Human bones were regularly uncovered in Ostend well into the twentieth century, residue of the carnage there during early seventeenth-century warfare, and Ensor retained childhood memories of their exhumation. In 1888 he made a little etching of himself as a reclining skeleton in slippers, entitled My Portrait in 1960 (that is, at age one hundred)…

James Ensor: Self-Portrait w. Flowery Hat, 1883-8 - oil on canvas (Kunstmuseum am Zee, Ostend)

No single label adequately describes the visionary work produced by Ensor between 1880 and 1900, his most productive period. His pictures from that time have both Symbolist and Realist aspects, and in spite of his dismissal of the Impressionists as superficial daubers he was profoundly concerned with the effects of light. His imagery and technical procedures anticipated the colouristic brilliance and violent impact of Fauvism and German Expressionism and the psychological fantasies of Surrealism.

James Ensor: Skeletons Fighting over a Pickled Herring, 1891 - oil on panel (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels)

After these literati, we need an analyst…

Fortunately this is the birthday of extremely influential and eccentric French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan (April 13, 1901 - 1981)…

Crash course in Lacanian psychoanalysis:

The unconscious is structured like a language, the mirror stage is a permanent structure of subjectivity, and the Symbolic Order always wins…


One more writer’s birthday today…

Nella Larsen (April 13, 1891 - 1964) was an outstanding author of the Harlem Renaissance and used the unusual circumstances of her own tangled origin and family background (biographers still fight over the story, but we do know for certain that she was half Danish) to great effect in her two late 1920s novels Quicksand and Passing

“These people yapped loudly of race, of race consciousness, of race pride, and yet suppressed its most delightful manifestations, love of color, joy of rhythmic motion, naive, spontaneous laughter. Harmony, radiance, and simplicity, all the essentials of spiritual beauty in the race they had marked for destructions.” — Nella Larsen, from Quicksand

Photo: Carl Van Vechten (via The Beinecke)


Ken Nordine, word jazz wizz, is 91 today…

Photo: Ken Nordine, Chicago 2009 by Jim Herrington

Tom Waits: “Ken Nordine, yea I know that guy, I heard his voice 1000 times, he’s the guy in the bus station that says “go ahead I’ll keep an eye on your stuff for you,” and you see him the next day walking around town wearing your clothes. He broadcasts from the boiler room of the Wilmont Hotel with 50,000 watts of power. I know that voice, he’s the guy with the pitchfork in your head saying go ahead and jump, and he’s the ambulance driver who tells you you’re going to pull thru. He’s the guy in the control tower who talked you down in a storm with a hole in your fuselage and both engines on fire. I heard him barking thru the Rose Alley Carnival strobe as samurai firemen were pulling hose. Yea he’s the dispatcher with the heart of gold, the only guy up this late on the suicide hotline. Ken Nordine is the real angel sitting on the wire in the tangled matrix of cobwebs that holds the whole attic together. Yea Ken Nordine, he’s the switchboard operator at the Taft Hotel, the only place in town you can get a drink at this hour. You know Ken Nordine, he’s the lite in the icebox, he’s the blacksmith on the anvil in your ear.”


Russian art: Victor Borisov-Musatov, Symbolist painter, April 14, 1870 - 1905 (heart attack)…

Above: Phantoms, 1903 - Tempera on canvas (The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia)


Simone de Beauvoir, French existential philosopher, novelist and feminist historian and theorist - died this day in 1986, aged 78, of pneumonia…

“It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life’s parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny: in a way it preserves it by giving it the absolute dimension. Death does away with time.” — Simone de Beauvoir

Photo: Simone de Beauvoir, Paris, 1946


Vladimir Mayakovsky, Soviet poet hunk - died this day in 1930, aged 36, by his own hand…

Past one o’clock. You’re probably in bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night
No need for me to rush. I have no reasons left
to disturb you with the lightning of my urgent telegrams
And thus, as they say, the incident is ‘dissolved’.
The Love Boat is smashed up against dreary routine.
We’re even. There’s no use in keeping score
of mutual hurts, affliction and spleen.
Look here, the world exudes an eerie calm.
The sky has bequeathed us its constellations.
In times like this I’d like to be one
with the ages, history and creation.

(Photo: Alexander Rodchenko - Mayakovsky with Scottie, 1924)


Georg Friedrich Händel, German-born Baroque composer of operas, oratorios and concertos galore - died this day in 1759, aged 74, having been blind for the better part of his last decade due to bungled eye-surgery…

Whether I was in my body or out of my body I know not. God knows it! — Händel on composing the “Hallelujah” chorus from Messiah

Above: The ‘Chandos Portrait’ of G.F.H., ca. 1720 - unknown British artist

Georg Frideric Handel - Giulio Cesare in Egitto - "Va tacito e nascosto"


Emil Ganso (April 14, 1895 - 1941): Nude on Sofa, ca. late 1920s-early 1930s - woodcut on paper (Smithsonian)

Howardena Pindell (b. Apr. 14, 1943): Untitled, from the A. I. R. Print Portfolio, 1976 (Judith Solodkin (Printer)) - color lithograph with chine colle on paper (Smithsonian)

Chicago style jazz tenor man Gene Ammons, called The Boss: April 14, 1925 - 1974…


British actress Julie Christie (b. April 14, 1941) is an icon of the “swinging London” era of the 1960s…

Photo: Michael Ward, 1963 - bromide print (NPG, London)


Great English Shakespearean actor, John Gielgud - April 14, 1904 - 2000

Photo: Carl Van Vechten, 1936 (The Beinecke)


Coal-miner’s daughter, classic country singer-songwriter, Loretta Lynn - b. Apr. 14, 1932…


An electric water-kettle deisgned by Peter Behrens (born 14 April, 1868; died 27 February, 1940) in 1909 for AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft); in the collection of Christos Vittoratos

New Ways, a 1926 home designed by Peter Behrens (born 14 April, 1868; died 27 February, 1940), in Northampton, England; (photographer not known)


Fredric Jameson (born 14 April, 1934), in a 2008 picture from the Duke University website

‘The end of the bourgeois ego, or monad, no doubt brings with it the end of the psychopathologies of that ego—what I have been calling the waning of affect. But it means the end of much more—the end, for example, of style, in the sense of the unique and the personal, the end of the distinctive individual brush stroke (as symbolized by the emergent primacy of mechanical reproduction). As for expression and feelings or emotions, the liberation, in contemporary society, from the older anomie of the centered subject may also mean not merely a liberation from anxiety but a liberation from every other kind of feeling as well, since there is no longer a self present to do the feeling. This is not to say that the cultural products of the postmodern era are utterly devoid of feeling, but rather that such feelings—which it may be better and more accurate, following J.-F. Lyotard, to call “intensities”—are now free-floating and impersonal and tend to be dominated by a peculiar kind of euphoria, a matter to which we will want to return later on…’

—from Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991)

Birthday of troubled Swiss writer Robert Walser - April 15, 1878 - 1956

Walser was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, but new research suggests he may have had Asperger’s instead. He said when he was committed to the madhouse: “I am not here to write, I am here to be mad.” Sounds pretty sane to me…


Robert Walser: Oppressive Light

Two trees stand in the snow,
tired of the light, the sky
heads home – nothing nearby
where the gloom makes its abode.

And behind those trees,
houses tower in the dark.
Now you hear someone speak,
now the dogs begin to bark

The round, beloved moonlight
lamp appears in the house.
When again the light goes out
A gaping wound remains in sight.

What a small life to know
and so much nothingness nearby.
Tired of the light, the sky
has given everything to the snow.

The two trees dance with grace,
bend their heads and nod.
Clouds race across the sod
of the world’s silent face.


(Revised version (w. restored rhyme scheme) of Daniele Pantano’s translation)


Henry James’s birthday: April 15, 1843 - 1916…

James’ psychological realism is challenging for both readers and teachers of his work - I particularly enjoy teaching The Turn of the Screw with its many traps for the unwary reader…

Photo: Frederic Hilaire D’Arcis, 1913 - platinum print (NPG, London)


More Italian beauty:

Italian (Tunisian-born) film star Claudia Cardinale, known from many Visconti and Fellini films, turns 72 today…

Still from Visconti’s The Leopard, 1963


Today is the birthday of Mr. Renaissance Man - scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer - Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 - 1519)…

Leonardo: Ginevra de’ Benci, c. 1474/1478 - oil on panel (National Gallery, Washingotn D.C.)


César Vallejo, Peruvian exile poet - died this day in 1938, aged 46, from an unidentified illness, now thought to have been malaria…

Weary Rings

There are desires to return, to love, to not disappear,
and there are desires to die, fought by two
opposing waters that have never isthmused.

There are desires for a great kiss that would shroud Life,
one that ends in the Africa of a fiery agony,
a suicide!

There are desires to… have no desires, Lord;
I point my deicidal finger at you:
there are desires to not have had a heart.

Spring returns, returns and will depart. And God,
bent in time, repeats himself, and passes, passes
with the spinal column of the Universe on his back.

When my temples beat their lugubrious drum,
when the dream engraved on a dagger aches me,
there are desires to be left standing in this verse!

(Transl. Clayton Eshleman)


Theodore Rousseau, French painter of the Barbizon school (April 15, 1812 - 1867): Forest Interior, 1857 - oil on panel

Jean Genet, French writer and thief - died this day in 1986, aged 75, from injuries sustained in a fall…

“Would Hamlet have felt the delicious fascination of suicide if he hadn’t had an audience, and lines to speak?” — J. G.

Photo: Hans Koechler, 1983


Jean-Paul Sartre, French Existentialist philosopher and Nobel refusenik- died this day in 1980 from a lung edema, aged 74…

“One is still what one is going to cease to be and already what one is going to become. One lives one’s death, one dies one’s life.” — J.-P. S.

Photo: Sartre at the Terrazza Martini, Milan


Birthday of Armenian-American painter, Arshile Gorky - April 15, 1904 - 1948…

Born in Armenia, Arshile Gorky (whose real name was Vosdanik Manoog Adoian) , he immigrated to the United States in 1920 and lived with relatives in New England before moving to New York.

Although Gorky had some art training, he was largely self taught. Most of his education was obtained by close study of the works of modern European masters on his frequent visits to museums and galleries and reproductions of their art in books and magazines. His early paintings were particularly indebted to those of Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso. During the 1920s and 1930s Gorky was producing still lifes in a modernist, nonrepresentational style, but he was also creating a series of affecting portraits of himself and members of his family—an autobiographical element in the artist’s work that would be a hallmark of his mature paintings. In the 1930s Gorky was also attracted to Surrealism, particularly to the work of the Spanish artist Joan Miró…

Photo: Gjon Mili - LIFE

Arshile Gorky: The Liver Is the Cock’s Comb, 1944 - oil on canvas (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY)

This painting represents the peak of Gorky’s achievement and his individual style, after he had emerged from the influence of Cézanne and Picasso…


We celebrate the birthday of the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith: April 15, 1894 - 1937…


Morris Kantor (April 15, 1896 - 1974): Captain’s House, 1929 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)

Best known for his paintings executed in a realistic manner, over the course of his life Kantor also spent time working in styles such as Cubism and Futurism, and produced a number of abstract or non-figural works…


Greta Garbo, reclusive Swedish-born movie star - died this day in 1990, aged 84, from pneumonia and renal failure…

“I just want to be let alone.” — G.G.

Photo: Clarence S. Bull, set of Mata Hari, 1931


Tomas Tranströmer (born 15 April 1931), pictured above in a 1965 photograph



The train stalled far to the south. Snow in New York,
but here we could go in shirtsleeves all night.
Yet no one was out. Only the cars
sped by in flashes of light like flying saucers.


“We battlegrounds are proud
of our many dead … “
said a voice as I awakened.

The man behind the counter said:
“I’m not trying to sell anything,
I’m not trying to sell anything,
I just want to show you something.”
And he displayed the Indian axes.

The boy said:
“I know I have a prejudice,
I don’t want to have it, sir.
What do you think of us?”


This motel is a foreign shell. With a rented car
(like a big white servant outside the door).
Nearly devoid of memory, and without profession,
I let myself sink to my midpoint.

(translated from the Swedish by May Swenson; 1966)


Anatole France (April 16, 1844 — 1924) was a French man of letters (poems, novels, journalism, epigrams) who won the Nobel Literature Prize in 1921, for his “nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament…”

“It is human nature to think wisely and act in an absurd fashion.” — A.F.

Photo: Anatole F. always looks like a benevolent alien with those huge eyes…


Francisco Goya, subversive Spanish painter and political commentator - died this day in 1828, aged 82…

Above: Vision fantástica o Asmodea, 1819-23 - oil mural transferred to canvas


Sarah Kirsch (born 16 April, 1935), pictured above in a photograph taken, I believe in the late 1980s

Raw Medley

But what’s nicest of all: with you
Or without you
Roaming the boulevards nothing in my bag
But raisin bread, wine, and tobacco
Keeping the people from distant countries
In view and later
Discussing them, describing the sky the snow
You come with the west wind and I
From the north, we collect
All that, the tiny horses
The vertical palm trees, the stars, coffeemakers
In the afternoons half past four, when the bell
Swings and screams in the cage

(translated from the German by Peter Constantine)


Ford Madox Brown, English painter and member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was born April 16, 1821 (d. 1893)…

Photo by Elliott & Fry, circa 1870 - albumen carte-de-visite (NPG, London)

Ford Madox Brown: Lear and Cordelia, 1849-54 - Oil on canvas (Tate)

This is one of three paintings by Ford Madox Brown illustrating Shakespeare’s play King Lear. This scene shows Lear with his youngest daughter, Cordelia, on the right. Lear’s doctor orders the musicians to play more loudly and awaken him. But Cordelia is anxious that her ailing father should sleep and she speaks the lament inscribed on the painting’s frame. In the play Lear divides his kingdom between his other two daughters and their husbands. But, after a painful period of self-discovery, he realises that Cordelia is his only true loving child.

(From the Tate display caption July 2007)


Also birthday of The Little Tramp…

Charlie Chaplin: April 16, 1889 - 1977!

Of his method:

“All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.”

Of The Little Tramp:

“I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born.”

Of the Tramp - and himself:

“A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.”

Photo: Homer Peyton, circa 1929 - bromide print (NPG, London)


Kingsley Amis (April 16, 1922 - 1995) was an English novelist, poet, critic and teacher. He wrote more than twenty novels, three collections of poetry, short stories, radio and television scripts, and books of social and literary criticism.

In the 50s Amis was perceived as part of The Angry Young Men of Brit-Lit, thanks to his debut novel Lucky Jim. After the troubles in Hungary, Amis turned right-wing, anti-communist, hard-drinking and serious philanderer - all of which must have seemed to him to be aspects of the same thing…

Amis quote: “If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.”


Kingsley Amis: Untitled

Things tell less and less:
The news impersonal
And from afar; no book
Worth wrenching off the shelf.
Liquor brings dizziness
And food discomfort; all
Music sounds thin and tired,
And what picture could earn a look?
The self drowses in the self
Beyond hope of a visitor.
Desire and those desired
Fade, and no matter:
Memories in decay
Annihilate the day.
There once was an answer:
Up at the stroke of seven,
A turn round the garden
(Breathing deep and slow),
Then work, never mind what,
How small, provided that
It serves another’s good
But once is long ago
And, tell me, how could
Such an answer be less than wrong,
Be right all along?
Vain echoes, desist


Photo by Mark Gerson, June 1957 - modern bromide print (NPG, London)


Birthday of the sad Romanian country boy:

Dada originator, Tristan Tzara, born Samuel Rosenstock; April 16 1896 - 1963…

Tzara took a long walk from Romania to Paris in 1919 and settled there to make his mark. He debated vigorously against his fellow Dadaists and Surrealists, until he finally sided with Breton, not least because of their shared belief in automatic writing as a true expression of the unconscious and fantastic…

Tristan Tzara: Proclamation without Pretension

Art is going to sleep for a new world to be born
“ART”-parrot word-replaced by DADA,
PLESIOSAURUS, or handkerchief

The talent THAT CAN BE LEARNED makes the
poet a druggist TODAY the criticism
of balances no longer challenges with resemblances

Hypertrophic painters hyperaes-
theticized and hypnotized by the hyacinths
of the hypocritical-looking muezzins


Hypodrome of immortal guarantees: there is
no such thing as importance there is no transparence
or appearance

BLIND MEN take the stage

THE SYRINGE is only for my understanding. I write because it is
natural exactly the way I piss the way I’m sick


Art is a PRETENSION warmed by the
TIMIDITY of the urinary basin, the hysteria born

We are in search of
the force that is direct pure sober
UNIQUE we are in search of NOTHING
we affirm the VITALITY of every IN-

the anti-philosophy of spontaneous acrobatics

At this moment I hate the man who whispers
before the intermission-eau de cologne-
sour theatre. THE JOYOUS WIND

If each man says the opposite it is because he is

Get ready for the action of the geyser of our blood
-submarine formation of transchromatic aero-
planes, cellular metals numbered in
the flight of images

above the rules of the
and its control


It is not for the sawed-off imps
who still worship their navel


Photo of Tzara reading to a crowd, 1921


One of the greatest natural acting talents of the 20th C., Peter Ustinov - actor and director - April 16, 1921 - 2004…

Photo: Gordon Anthony, 1940 - bromide print (NPG, London)


Jerome Liebling (b. April 16, 1924): Butterfly Boy, 1949

Dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham - April 16, 1919 - 2009…

Photo of Cunningham (l) w. his partner, composer John Cage, holding clock…

Jack Mitchell, 1965

Merce Cunningham leaping, Martha Graham sitting…

Photo: Philippe Halsman


Dusty Springfield (April 16, 1939 - 1999) was a British singer and one of the most notable white soul artists…

Photo by John d’Green, 1967 - bromide print (NPG, London)


George B. Fry III (b. April 16, 1943): Untitled (Loges $2.50), n.d. - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man - died this day in 1994, aged 80, from pancreatic cancer…

The act of writing requires a constant plunging back into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghostlike. — R.E.

Photo: James Whitmore, 1957 - LIFE


Fred Gardner (April 16, 1880 - 1952): Poor Student, 1932 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)


Jazz and r&b flautist Herbie Mann: Apr. 16, 1930 - 2003…

Photo: Paul Slaughter


Born on the 17th of April, 1897 (d. 1975), American novelist and play-wright, Thornton Wilder - recipient of three Pulitzers (prose - The Bridge of San Luis Reyr; drama - Our Town) and one National Book Award (The Eighth Day)…

Photo of Thornton Wilder as Mr. Antrobus in his own play (his third Pulitzer win) The Skin of Our Teeth, 1948 - Carl Van Vechten


Staying with the Danish geniuses…

Danish aphorist, designer and inventor Piet Hein passed away April 17, 1996, but his small grooks are still memorable…


The road to wisdom?
— Well, it’s plain
and simple to express:
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.


(Photo: Rigmor Mydtskov)

Piet Hein is remembered chiefly as a designer, and many of his items are based on his invention, the super-egg - a three-dimensional realization of his mathematical discovery, the super-ellipse (a combination of the rectangle and the ellipse) - which he used extensively in his designs, from architecture to furniture, crockery and trinkets…

Above: The super-egg as Zodiac stone. Shown here, a Heliotrope stone for Aries - an appropriate present for my up-and-coming birthday on Wednesday…


Danish author Karen Blixen (known often in the English-speaking world by her pseudonym Isak Dinesen; she also published as Pierre Andrezel) was born April 17, 1885. The Baroness passed away in 1962…

Iconic photo of Blixen by Rie Nissen, 1935 (Royal Danish Library)


Smart fiction and erudite and polemic essays are the trademarks of Cynthia Ozick, the prolific Jewish-American author (b. April 17, 1928)…

“After a certain number of years, our faces become our biographies.” — C.O.

Photo (very cartoonish!): Marion Etlinger


ctor William Holden - three-time Academy Award nominee - April 17, 1918 - 1981…

Still from Picnic, 1955 - Kim Novak getting up close and personal w. Mr. Holden…

William Holden in an even bigger pickle:

Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, sandwiching Audrey Hepburn - Sabrina, 1954


American photographer Eliot Elisofon was born April 1, 1911 (d. 1973), and habitually introduced himself as ‘the greatest LIFE photographer’…

“A LIFE editor, Ray Mackland, in reviewing the work of the young Eliot Elisofon, began to grow tired of Eliot’s ceaseless assertiveness and self-promotion. Finally he had enough and complained to Elisofon, “I just don’t understand how you can keep introducing yourself as ‘the greatest LIFE photographer’.” Eliot considered the matter for a moment and then replied, “You’re right. You should be doing it for me.”

Eliot Elisofon:

Jane Russell, 1942

This year’s Eliot Elisofon portfolio:

Midtown scene showing the Chrysler Building, Empire State & surrounding buildings enclosed in clouds of smog under the downtown skyline - November 12, 1953… _____________

Eddie Cochran, rockabilly pioneer: 1938 - Apr. 17, 1960…


Billy Fury, English hip-gyrating pop kid: April 17, 1940 - 1983…


Isak Dinesen (pen-name of the Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke) (born 17 April, 1885; died 7 September, 1962), pictured above, standing beside her 1934 Ford cabriolet de luxe, with her mother, in a 1936 photograph

‘Children of my day lived differently. We had little in the way of toys, even in great houses. Modern mechanical playthings, which furnish their own motion, had hardly come into existence. We had simpler toys and had to animate them. My love of marionettes springs from this, I think. I’ve tried my hand at writing marionette plays. One might, of course, buy a hobbyhorse, but we loved better a knotted stick personally chosen in the woods, which our imagination could turn into Bucephalus or Pegasus.

Unlike children of today, who are content from birth to be observers . . . we were creators. Young people today are not acquainted with the elements or in touch with them. Everything is mechanical and urban: Children are raised up without knowing live fire, living water, the earth. Young people want to break with the past, they hate the past, they don’t want to even hear of it, and one can partly understand it. The near past to them is nothing but a long history of wars, which to them is without interest. It may be the end of something, of a kind of civilization.’

—from a 1956 interview with Eugene Walter for The Paris Review

Today is the 93rd birthday of Danish-French film director, Gabriel Axel - b. April 18, 1918…

Above: Still from Axel’s Oscar winning film Babette’s Feast (1987), based on a story by yesterday’s birthday Baroness, Karen Blixen…


Clarence Darrow (April 18, 1857 - 1938) - perhaps the greatest trial lawyer ever…

Darrow started as a labor lawyer, working for a number of unions to ensure fair trials for members accused of crimes in connection with labor conflicts and violent clashes between union members and scabs or thugs. He was also a leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union…

Later Darrow switched to criminal cases, passionately combating the death penalty whenever possible. He became renowned for moving juries and even judges to tears with his eloquence. In more than 100 cases, Darrow only lost one murder case in Chicago…


Albert Einstein, physicist, activist, wit - died this day in 1955, aged 76, from internal bleeding caused by an aneurysm in his abdomen…

“Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.” — Big Al

Photo: Doris Ulmann, 1931


Max Weber (April 18, 1881 - 1961): “Painter, sculptor, poet - Weber was an adventurous modernist who assimilated the influences of Cubism, Futurism, Orphism and Postimpressionism. Weber later memorialized his Jewish heritage in such works as Students of the Torah (1940) and Adoration of the Moon (1944).” - Joan Stahl. American Artists in Photographic Portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection (Washington, D.C. and Mineola, New York: National Museum of American Art and Dover Publications, Inc., 1995).

Max Weber: Still Life With Palette, 1947 - Oil on canvas (Hirshhorn)

Morris Engel (April 18, 1918 - 2005) - American photographer and film maker…

“Morris Engel was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a child Engel was, “very interested in pictures, and as a teenager I collected pictures that I liked, and cut them out and put them in a scrap book.” He explored his love of pictures at The Photo League, an organization primarily interested in documentary photography of social significance. In 1935 Engel enrolled in the Photo League’s basic photo course taught by Berenice Abbott. Throughout the late 1930’s he honed his skills working with members of the Photo League. Joining the League’s “Feature Group”, Engel worked with Aaron Siskind on his “Harlem Document” and other projects.” — George Eastman House

Morris Engel: Fred Wagner, Shoeshine Boy 14 St., 1948

Morris Engel: Rebecca, Harlem - 1947

A favourite writer: Kathy Acker (April 16, 1947 – 1997) was an American experimental novelist, punk poet, playwright, essayist, postmodernist and feminist writer - and we lost her way to soon to cancer…

“We don’t have a clue what it is to be male or female, or if there are intermediate genders. Male and female might be fields which overlap into androgyny or different kinds of sexual desires. But because we live in a Western, patriarchal world, we have very little chance of exploring these gender possibilities.” — K.A.

Photo: Kim Stringfellow


Birthday of blues, country and cajun great Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, guitarist, fiddler composer and arranger - April 18, 1924 - 2005…


Wynn Bullock, Apr. 18, 1902 - 1975 - American photographer…

While living in Paris in the mid-20s, Bullock became fascinated with the work of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists. He then discovered the work of Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy and experienced an immediate affinity with photography, not only as an art form uniquely based on light, but also as a vehicle through which he could more creatively engage with the world…

Photo: Imogen Cunningham, 1966

Wynn Bullock: Woman and Thistle, 1953

Wynn Bullock’s most celebrated and controversial photograph:

Child in Forest, 1951

In the mid-1950s, Wynn’s artistry came into the public spotlight when Edward Steichen chose two of his photographs to include in the 1955 “The Family of Man” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. At the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, his photograph “Let There Be Light,” was voted the most popular of the show. The second, “Child in Forest,” became one of the exhibition’s most memorable images…


West Coast acid casualty, Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence - founding member of both Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape, song-writer and multiinstrumentalist who exacerbated his mental problems with excessive drug use: April 18, 1946 - 1999…

Alexander “Skip” Spence: War in Peace - from Oar (1969)


Just finished streaming Emmylou Harris’ new album, Hard Bargain, on NPR. Like it - will love the concert in Oslo in two weeks!

Photo: Jack Spencer


Lord Byron, English Romantic poet and war hero - died this day in 1824, aged 36, from a violent fever, presumably brought on by excessive blood letting…

If yet thy gentle spirit hover nigh
The spot where now thy mouldering ashes lie,
Here wilt thou read, recorded on my heart,
A grief too deep to trust the sculptor’s art…

— from Epitaph on a Beloved Friend

Image of Byron by Henry Meyer, after James Holmes, 1818 - stipple engraving printed in colours (National Portrait Gallery, London)


The Fantasia in f-sharp minor (Op. 28), the ‘Sonate écossaise,’ composed around 1833 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847); performed here by Murray Perahia (born 19 April, 1947)


More Nobel Literature Laureates who fallen into the cracks of history - even here on OF:

Giosuè Carducci (1835 – 1907) was an Italian poet and teacher. He was regarded as the official national poet of modern Italy, a nd in 1906 he became the first Italian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The sedate Swedes did not single out Carducci’s Hymn to Satan, but that should not prevent us from quoting part of it here:

He shines in the bright
blood of grapes,
by which transient
joy persists,

Which restores fleeting
life, keeps
grief at bay,
and inspires us with love

You breathe, O Satan
in my verses,
when from my heart explodes
a challenge to the god!


The early Nobels for literature were often given out to academics rather than literati. One case in point is Theodor Mommsen, the second Literature Laureate ever (1902), who was a historian specializing in the Roman era. In his youth, Mommsen had been a revolutionary in Leipzig which got him fired from his law professorship…


1904 was not a very auspicious year for the Literature Nobel Prize. The committee shared it between Frédéric Mistral and José Echegaray (April 19, 1832 - 1916) - both of whom have slipped into almost complete obscurity…

Above: Echegaray in his salon


Octavio Paz, Mexican Nobel Laureate poet and diplomat - died from cancer on this day in 1998, aged 84…

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

Brotherhood: Homage to Claudius Ptolemy


Roger Martin du Gard, the 1937 winner “for the artistic power and truth with which he has depicted human conflict as well as some fundamental aspects of contemporary life in his novel-cycle Les Thibault

Photo of du Gard in conference w. Andre Gide (l)


Colombian artist Fernando Botero (b. April 19, 1932) owns fat!

Above: Dancers, 1987


Jayne Mansfield, ill-fated actress and movie star - born April 19, 1933, killed in a horrendous car crash in 1967…

Frequent references have been made to Jayne Mansfield’s very high IQ, which she advertised as 163. She spoke five languages, and was a classically trained pianist and violinist. Mansfield admitted her public didn’t care about her brains. “They’re more interested in 40-21-35,” she said…

Still from The Girl Can’t Help It, 1956


Charles Darwin, English naturalist - died this day in 1882, aged 73, from a mysterious illness which had plagued him on and off for decades. Several competing diagnoses have been forwarded, but perhaps Darwin himself described his torments best:

For 25 years extreme spasmodic daily & nightly flatulence: occasional vomiting, on two occasions prolonged during months. Vomiting preceded by shivering, hysterical crying, dying sensations or half-faint. & copious very pallid urine. Now vomiting & every paroxys[m] of flatulence preceded by singing of ears, rocking, treading on air & vision. focus & black dots – All fatigues, specially reading, brings on these Head symptoms…

Photo by Herbert Rose Barraud, circa 1881 - albumen carte-de-visite (NPG, London)


J.G. Ballard, English s-f and avant-garde novelist - died this day in 2009, aged 78, from prostrate cancer…

“Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.” — J.G.B. in “Fictions of Every Kind” in Books and Bookmen (February 1971)

Painting by Brigid Marlin, 1987 - oil and tempera on board (NPG, London)


Germaine Tailleferre (April 19, 1892 - 1983) was a French composer associated with the anti-Wagnerian group Les Six

Tailleferre wrote many of her most important works during the 1920s, including her 1st Piano Concerto, The Harp Concertino, the Ballets Le marchand d’oiseaux (the most frequently performed ballet in the repertoire of the Ballets Suédois during the 1920s) and La nouvelle Cythère which was commissioned by Diaghilev for the ill-fated 1929 season of the famous Ballets Russes, and Sous le ramparts d’Athènes in collaboration with Paul Claudel, as well as several pioneering film scores, including B’anda in which she used African themes…

She also wrote several works which could be considered to be inspired by Surrealism, including the 1948 Ballet Paris-Magie (scenario by Lise Deharme), the Operas La Petite Sirène (book by Philippe Soupault) and Le Maître (book by Eugène Ionesco).


Celebrating French coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay (b. April 19, 1965).

Dessay simplified the spelling of her last name when she became internationally famous because her previous version, “Dessaix”, invariably came out very close to “The Sex” in America…

Photo by Simon Fowler

Dessay performs "The Bell Song" from "Lakmé"


William Klein (b. April 19, 1928): Atom Bomb Sky, 1955

“I saw the book I wanted to do as a tabloid gone berserk, gross, grainy, over-inked, with a brutal layout, bull-horn headlines. This is what New York deserved and would get.” — William Klein

William Klein: Anouk Aimée, Paris, 1961

William Klein: Paris, 1968


Staying with the female musical talent we celebrate the birthday of folk singer/songwriter and activist Dar Williams, b. April 19, 1967…

Dar has built a nice little indie career on a hard work ethic and a great ability to tap into inspiration in her music - check her out below if you haven’t already. The Beauty of the Rain from 2003 is a good place to start…

Dar Williams- Mercy of the Fallen


Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, jazz bassist extraordinaire - died from a heart attack on this day in 2005, aged a mere 58 years old…

NHØP played with absolutely everybody and was possibly the best double-bass player in jazz from age 17 onwards…

Oscar Peterson & Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, in "Just Friends", Live Concert.


Harvey Stein (b. April 19, 1941) is a professional photographer, teacher, lecturer, and author based in New York City…

New York Street Life


Harvey Stein: from New York Street Life

Philip Underdown (b. Apr. 19, 1965): Green Pond, 1991 - from Making Nature


Phil Underdown: Field 002.3, November 2004

I’m Too Sad to Tell You, a 1971 performance by Bas Jan Ader (born 19 April, 1942; disappeared at sea 1975)


Crystal K. D. Huie (b. April 19, 1941): Gunnar’s Pool, Arkansas, 1972 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

Crystal K. D. Huie: Old Mill in Lakewood, Arkansas, 1972 - gelatin silver print on paper (Smithsonian)

Lionel Hampton (April 20, 1908 - 2002) owns Vibes!

Still from Howard Hawks’ A Song Is Born, 1948: Charlie Barnet, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong - Lionel Hampton!

Lionel Hampton - Flying Home (1957)


Erica Baum: Corpse, 2009 - from Dog Ear



Edie Sedgwick, bright but ill-starred muse: April 20, 1943 - 1971…

Harold Lloyd, silent era stunt/humor king: April 20, 1893 - 1971…

Still from Safety last! - 1923


Today’s big art birthday belongs to Joan Miró (April 20, 1893 - 1983), Catalan painter of childlike ‘happy’ surrealist canvases…

Photo: Carl Van Vechten, 1935

Personnage, a painting made in 1925 by Joan Miro (born 20 April, 1893; died 25 December, 1983); in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Estate of Karl Nierendorf (© 2011 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris)

Drawing-collage, a work made in 1933 by Joan Miro (born 20 April, 1893; died 25 December, 1983); in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (© 2008 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris)

Joan Miró: Nocturne, 1940 - Tempera, gouache, egg, oil, and pastel on paper

Nothing prepared me for music like this' … John Eliot Gardiner Photograph: Chris Christodoulou
English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner (Sir John was born 20 April 1943…!)

Sir John Eliot Gardiner performs Mozart, Mass in C minor (messe en ut)


Sandschleifen, composed by Isabel Mundry (born 20 April 1963); performed here by Ensemble recherche


Today’s man of the movies is Anthony Quinn (April 21, 1915 – 2001) - a Mexican/Irish-American actor, as well as a painter and writer.

Quinn starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including Zorba the Greek, Lawrence of Arabia, and Federico Fellini’s La strada. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice; for Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust for Life in 1956…

Photo of Anthony Quinn and Anna Karina, The Magus set, Majorca, 1967 - Eve Arnold


John Muir doing his other thing - writing…

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

“The power of imagination makes us infinite.”

Today’s mountain man is John Muir (April 21, 1838 - 1914), who - though Scottish-born - became one of America’s great walkers…

Muir founded The Sierra Club and worked to preserve the wilderness of the Yosemite Valley and the Sequoias as National Parks.


Today’s literary lady is Charlotte Brontë (April 21, 1816 - 1855), famous for Jane Eyre: “Reader, I married him!”


Today’s wild music man is Iggy Pop - The immortal Stooge!

James Newell Osterberg, Jr. is 64 today, and his Lust for Life is seemingly undiminished…

Photo - Martin Schoeller, famous for his extreme close-ups…


Today’s man of the movies is Anthony Quinn (April 21, 1915 – 2001) - a Mexican/Irish-American actor, as well as a painter and writer.

Quinn starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including Zorba the Greek, Lawrence of Arabia, and Federico Fellini’s La strada. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice; for Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust for Life in 1956…

Photo of Anthony Quinn and Anna Karina, The Magus set, Majorca, 1967 - Eve Arnold

Ira Louvin- Life is too short


Lewis Chessmen, 12th C. - walrus ivory (presumably carved in Trondheim, Norway)

Jean Hélion (April 21, 1904 - 1987): Espaces Bleus, 1936 - oil on canvas (Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art - Luxembourg)

“Of the Europeans who exerted firsthand influence on American abstract artists of the 1930s, Hélion is among the most significant. A Frenchman who studied chemistry and architecture before taking up painting, Hélion’s involvement in artists groups dates from the late 1920s. He was a founding member of Art Concret and played a prominent role in Abstraction-Création. Moreover, he helped (with his fluent command of English) to bring Americans working in Paris during the early 1930s together with the continental artists who were influential in shaping European modernism.” - Virginia M. Mecklenburg. The Patricia and Phillip Frost Collection: American Abstraction 1930–1945 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1989).


Alfred H. Maurer (April 21, 1868 - 1932): Four Heads, ca. 1930 - Tempera on fiberboard (Hirshhorn)

While living in France, 1897–1914, Maurer had abruptly switched from conventional painting to the modernist approach, ahead of his American contemporaries; later he experimented with Cubism and other styles, his work becoming increasingly abstract.

Maurer took his own life by hanging several weeks after his father’s death. At the time of his death, examples of his works were included in the Memorial Hall Museum in Philadelphia, PA, the Phillips Memorial Gallery in Washington, DC. the Barnes Collection in Merion, PA, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.


Mark Twain, American humorist writer - died of a heart attack on this day in 1910 as he had predicted he would:

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’”

Photo of Twain looking out the window, 1907


Watching Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (1966) w. Oskar Werner and Julie Christie…

Sandy Denny, English singer-songwriter and key figure in the development of folk-rock - died this day in 1978, aged only 31, following a fall in her home…

Parting comes too soon, my weary tune
Has lost its pleasure.
Waiting for the time, this lonely wine
Has lost its treasure.

Sandy Denny - Fhir A Bhata


Michael Timmins (2nd from left) of cool Canadian brother/sister act Cowboy Junkies turns 52 today. Long the main songwriter for the C. Junkies, Michael also provides the understated trademark guitar-work that characterises their performances of originals and well-chosen covers…

Cowboy Junkies: "Misguided Angel"


Glen Hansard - Song For Someone


Nina Simone, American/Pan-African singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist - died this day in 2003, aged 70, after years of battling breast cancer…

Nina Simone - I Loves You Porgy


Glen Campbell, Beach Boy to be and major-league country-folk singer (b. April 22, 1936)…
Glen Campbell: Gentle On My Mind (John Hartford cover) - from Gentle on My Mind, 1967


In jazz, the extraordinary double bass player, arranger, composer (and pianist!) Charlie Mingus, a truly mercurial and inspirational figure to generations of jazz (and folk and rock) musicians across instruments: April 22, 1922 - 1979 (Lou Gehrig’s disease)…

Jazz Classics: Charles Mingus - Boogie Stop Shuffle


Kathleen Ferrier (April 22, 1912 - 1953, cancer) was a gifted English contralto whose repertoire ranged from Baroque to Elgar and English folk song.

Her voice has a hypnotic quality, due to her control over the deep range…

Kathleen Ferrier - Handel - Serse - Ombra mai fu 1949


Vladimir Nabokov (April 22, 1899 - 1977), the great Russian-American novelist and butterfly collector…

Lolita is famous, not I. I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name.” — Interview with Herbert Gold, The Paris Review Interviews: Writers at Work, 4th series (1977)


Today is Earth Day 2011 - go hug a tree before it’s too late!

Art for Earth Day:

Richard Diebenkorn (April 22, 1922 - 1993): Ocean Park #111, 1978 - Oil and charcoal on canvas (Hirshhorn)


One of the violin talents of the century, Yehudi Menuhin (April 22, 1916 - 1999) not only mastered a vast repertoire, but also led an intense life of the spirit, seeking enlightenment in Oriental thought and practices…

The painter of light, Jospeh Mallord William Turner was - perhaps! - born April 23, 1775 (d. 1851)…

Turner more than any artist before him captured pure light on the canvas, inspired in his technique by Goethe’s colour theory…

Above: The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 1835 – oil on canvas (Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia)

Today is Book Day - as is every day on OF

As usual the literary bookends of Book Day are Shakespeare and Cervantes - one was born April 23, the other died on that day…

William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564, but the birthday is traditionally celebrated today, on St George’s Day, April 23…

Above: Statue of The Bard, plaster cast, circa 1620 - after Gerard Johnson (National Portrait Gallery, London)


Miguel de Cervantes (October 9, 1547 – April 23, 1616), Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel by many, is a classic of Western literature…

Actually, today is not only Cervantes’ death day, but also the day of Shakespeare’s death, April 23, 1616 - but note that this date is according to the Julian calendar, which was replaced by the Gregorian calendar in most of Europe in 1582. Therefore Shakespeare and Cervantes did not in actuality die on the same day in 1616, but 10 days apart!

Today being the abbreviated Easter Holiday version of OF, we’ll only do a small Lee Miller portfolio…

Lee Miller, April 23, 1907 - 1977, was an American photographer. Born in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1907, she was a successful fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris where she became an established fashion and fine art photographer with Man Ray, whose assistant, muse and lover she became.

During the Second World War, she was an acclaimed war correspondent for Vogue magazine covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.

Above: Lee Miller’s WWII identification papers and credentials

One of Man Ray’s Lee Millers:

Lee Miller, round, c. 1930…

One of Lee Miller’s portraits:

Charlie Chaplin, c. 1930


George Steiner (born 23 April, 1929), pictured above in a portrait made between 1999 and 2000 by Christopher Mark Le Brun; in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London

‘It is a banality to note the deluge of subliteracy which has engulfed much of American secondary schooling. Evidence is somewhat surreal. The most proverbial of scriptural allusions, of references to world classics, go unrecognized. Seminal dates, even in American history, draw a blank. Some eighty percent of high school graduates could not tell whether Ireland lies to the east or to the west of Great Britain. Undergraduates, even at reputable colleges or universities cannot assign Aquinas, Galileo, or Pasteur to their appropriate century. An understanding of sentences with dependent clauses is dwindling, as is the available vocabulary. For a growing majority, even the elements of calculus are an arcane mystery. The catalog of emptiness runs on. The statistics of school dropouts, of the near-illiterate, worsen from decade to decade. Ideological insinuations add to the dilemmas of what has been called, by American observers, “our idiocracy.” There is the pap and censorship of “political correctness”; the blackmail of religious conservatism, even fundamentalism, in the conservative heartlands, but also in “middle America.” Irony, skeptical inquiry are unpatriotic. Attempts to muzzle the theory of evolution are only the most notorious example. Yet at the very top, American graduate training is incomparable. It leads the planet in the pure and applied sciences, in business studies. America is the powerhouse of international scientific publications, of medical research, of information theory and technology. Microsoft and Google span the Earth. It is to the great American libraries and archives that the European scholar must resort. The tawdry violence and pedagogic misery of an inner-city high school will neighbor on a college campus or university, or on a hub of research that is the envy of the world.’

—from My Unwritten Books (2008)


Roy Orbison, the great songwriter with the distinct high barytone voice, who in the latter years of his career became the ghostly white clown of rock, hiding behind his tainted prescription glasses, was born April 23, 1936. He died of a massive heart attack in 1988, when - thanks to The Traveling Wilburys - he was enjoying a resurgence in his career…

Photo: Roy w. his E-type Jaguar…


Joe Henderson, American jazz saxophonist: Apr. 24, 1937 – 2001…


Southern writer and US Poet Laureate, Robert Penn Warren (April 24, 1905 - 1989) - the only person to win the Pulitzer for Poetry (twice) as well as one for Prose (All the King’s Men, 1946). Penn Warren has been associated with the rise of New Criticism and his views on race relations were anything but progressive, until the 1950s when he started sympathizing with Civil Rights activists…


Robert Penn Warren: San Francisco Night Windows

So hangs the hour like fruit fullblown and sweet,
Our strict and desperate avatar,
Despite that antique westward gulls lament
Over enormous waters which retreat
Weary unto the white and sensual star.
Accept these images for what they are—
Out of the past a fragile element
Of substance into accident.
I would speak honestly and of a full heart;
I would speak surely for the tale is short,
And the soul’s remorseless catalogue
Assumes its quick and piteous sum.
Think you, hungry is the city in the fog
Where now the darkened piles resume
Their framed and frozen prayer
Articulate and shafted in the stone
Against the void and absolute air.
If so the frantic breath could be forgiven,
And the deep blood subdued before it is gone
In a savage paternoster to the stone,
Then might we all be shriven.

Among the virtually forgotten Nobel Literature Laureates, we find Carl Spitteler (April 24, 1845 - 1924), the Swiss poet who published some of his work under the strange pseudonym Carl Felix Tandem…
Otis Spann, Chicago blues pianist - died this day in 1970 from liver cancer…

Otis Spann - Evil Ways


Lyubov Popova (April 24, 1889 – 1924, scarlet fever) was a Russian avant-garde artist (Cubist, Suprematist and Constructivist), painter and designer.

Photo by Aleksandr Rodchenko

Lyobov Popova: Space-Power Construction, 1921

Lyobov Popova: Two Figures, 1913

yubov Popova: Set design, The Magnanimous Cuckold - for Vesevolod Myerhold’s production…

The set and the action was based entirely on industrial production, bringing scientific movement to present work efficiently in theatre- actual workers’ theatre. The set had large wheels that kept everything in time to their rotation, so the play progressed like an orderly factory floor. It was an attack on traditional theatre - the actors did not stand out as individuals and there was no attempt to explore individual psychology…


Willem de Kooning (April 24, 1904 – 1997) was an abstract expressionist artist, born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In the post-World War II era, de Kooning painted in a style that came to be referred to variously as Abstract expressionism, Action painting, and the New York School.

Above: Pink Angels, 1945 - oil & charcoal on canvas

Willem de Kooning: Light in August, 1947 - black and white household enamels (Museum of Contemporary Art, Teheran)

Willem de Kooning, Asheville, 1948, oil and enamel / cardboard (The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.)

The greats of film include Al Pacino - b. Apr. 25, 1940 - 71 today…

Known for his nuanced portraits of powerful, yet wounded men (from the Godfather films to Scent of a Woman), Pacino is one of the best actors on the planet - but also a dedicated theatre man and a gifted director…

His mature work includes the sublime Shakespeare film The Merchant of Venice in which he performed the part of Shylock as it had never been seen before… Pacino had already tangled with Shakespeare in his directorial debut in Looking for Richard, a quasi-documentary film about the relevance of Shakespeare and the tragedy of the overly powerful individual to Americans…


Today we celebrate the birthday of Ross Lockridge, Jr. (April 25, 1914 - 1948), author of Raintree County, a fine novel telling the story of a small-town Midwestern teacher and poet named John Shawnessy, who, in his younger days before his service as a Union soldier in the Civil War, meets and marries a beautiful Southern belle; however, her emotional instability leads to the destruction of their marriage.

Only a few weeks after the publication of his novel in 1948 Lockridge committed suicide by monoxide inhalation in his garage. He left behind a loving wife and four children. The mystery of why he would kill himself at the height of his success (the novel was one of the most hyped literary events of the year and the film rights had won him a fortune) led to even more press attention and speculation…


Cy Twombly (b. April 25, 1928) is an American artist well known for his large-scale, freely scribbled, calligraphic-style graffiti paintings, on solid fields of mostly gray, tan, or off-white colors…

Cy Twombly: Untitled, 1961 - oil, house paint, crayon and pencil on canvas (private collection)

Cy Twombly: Untitled I, 1972 - Rubber stamp, crayon, graphite, and ink on paper

Karel Appel (25 April 1921 – 2006) was a Dutch painter, sculptor, and poet. He started painting at the age of fourteen and studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in the 1940s. He was one of the founders of the avant-garde movement Cobra in 1948.

Above: Three Birds, 1970 - lithograph


Today’s other American literary birthday involves Ted Kooser (b. April 25, 1939), the 2004 US Poet Laureate, who apparently is such a quiet plainsman that nobody really noticed his tenure…

Screech Owl

All night each reedy whinny
from a bird no bigger than a heart
flies out of a tall black pine
and, in a breath, is taken away
by the stars. Yet, with small hope
from the center of darkness,
it calls out again and again.

(From Delights & Shadows, 2004)


H. Lyman Saÿen (April 25, 1875 - 1918): Fugue, 1915 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)

In jazz we remember the great vocalist of the Swing era and beyond, Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 -1996) who performed with everyone of importance on the jazz scene over her six-decade-long career. Her repertoire covered a wide array of standards, not confined to jazz, but the ‘American Songbook’ as a whole.

Photo: Carl Van Vechten, 1940

Ella Fitzgerald - I've Got a Crush on You (1950)


Mal Waldron, hard bop pianist w. Billie Holiday, Mingus, Coltrane, Dolphy a.m.o. - Apr. 25, 1925 - 2002…



Eugene Richards (b. April 25, 1944): Uphams Corner (Dorchester, Mass.), 1974 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

Herbert Matter (April 25, 1907 - 1984): Paperboard Fills the Soldier’s Pack! - from the Early Series, 1941 - photomontage with gouache on paperboard (Smithsonian)

Matter was a Swiss-born American photographer and graphic designer known for his pioneering use of photomontage in commercial art. The designer’s innovative and experimental work helped shape the vocabulary of 20th-century graphic design…


Albert King (April 25, 1923 – 1992) - great blues guitarist and singer…

Photo of The Velvet Bulldozer w. his trademark upside-down Gibson Flying V…

Albert King - I'll Play The Blues For You


Ben E. King: Stand By Me, 1961 - written by King, Leiber & Stoller - from the album Don’t Play That Song!


Anita Loos (April 26, 1888 - 1981) was an American writer for both the theatre and the screen. Her best known work is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1926), which was later followed by But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes… (1928), and the screen-play for Red-Headed Women in 1932.

“Show business is the best possible therapy for remorse.” — Anita Loos

Photo: Anita Loos, ca 1926 - by Edward Steichen


Jewish-American novelist Bernard Malamud (April 26, 1914 - 1986), though not prolific, was one of the many prose writers and story tellers of the 20th century who kept a Jewish legacy alive in an American context (Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and many others were his peers). Of Malamud’s 8 novels, The Natural (1952) is perhaps the best known thanks to the film version starring Robert Redford. The Fixer won him the most critical acclaim, winning both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1967.

“All men are Jews, though few men know it.” — B.M.

Photo: Seymour Linden, 1961

Spanish poet Vicente Aleixandre (April 26, 1898 - 1984) - Nobel Literature Laureate for 1977 - started out a Surrealist and developed into a symbolist poet…

Aleixandre set out his poetic dictum in his Nobel lecture:

“Hours of solitude, hours of creation, hours of meditation. Solitude and meditation gave me an awareness, a perspective which I have never lost: that of solidarity with the rest of mankind. Since that time I have always proclaimed that poetry is communication, in the exact sense of that word.”

Photo: Aleixandre at his home Velintonia; Ricardo Zamorano


Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was born April 26, 1889 (d. 1951).

Wittgenstein was quite restless, particularly in his later years. After initially having sought out Bertrand Russell at Cambridge, Wittgenstein decided to seek isolation in a small cottage in Norway - a stay which he, surprisingly, interrupted to serve in WW I…

After the War he became a primary school teacher in Austria (believing that he had already exhausted the discipline of philosophy with his Tractatus), but this was a vocation for which he was ill suited, having little patience with children. He then threw himself into design and architecture, creating the Stonborough House for his sister (a starkly beautiful modernist building), only to return to Cambridge after its completion, where Tractatus was examined and accepted as a doctoral thesis by G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell (at the end of the thesis defence, Wittgenstein clapped the two examiners on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, I know you’ll never understand it.”)

Wittgenstein’s second sojourn at Cambridge was interrupted by lengthy stays in Norway and Ireland, and marred by the difficult negotiations to save his Viennese family from the Nazis (the Wittgensteins were converted Jews). After WW II he resigned his professorship and travelled widely through Europe and the US. Prostrate cancer cut his life short, and he left mounds of unpublished (and unedited) manuscripts and journal entries…

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” — L.W.


One of the great architects of our time I.M. Pei was born April 26, 1917 - 94 today!

Pei’s signature buildings include the pyramid extension to the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, many, many other museum buildings, university departments, places of worship, airport terminals and hotels…

Above - one of Pei’s own favorites: The John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, MA, 1977-9


Two American street photographers today:

William Suttle (b. April 26, 1938): Untitled, n.d. - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

Two American street photographers today:

Max Yavno (April 26, 1911 - 1985): Untitled, from the Los Angeles Documentary Project, 1979-1980 - gelatin silver print on paper (Smithsonian)


Eugène Delacroix (April 26, 1798 - 1863) was a French Romantic painter, famous for his 1830 canvas Liberty Leading the People showing the people of Paris in full revolutionary mode…

Eugène Delacroix: Woman with a Parrot, 1827 - Oil on canvas (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons, France)

Count Basie, American jazz pianist and big band leader - died this day in 1984, aged 79, from pancreatic cancer…

Photo of Basie at The Aquarium, N.Y., 1946-8 - William P Gottlieb, LoC

Count Basie The Heats On


Anouk Aimée, French actress famed for both her intense acting and her sultry beauty, who has worked with the great directors from Fellini to Altman, turns 79 today…

Still from Lola by Jacques Demy, 1961


Cecil Day-Lewis (whose son Daniel is far more famous nowadays) was born in Ireland April 27, 1903 (d. 1972). Day-Lewis, having chosen British citizenship after WW II, renounced some of his earlier radical views in disillusionment with the Soviet version of Communism. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford in the fifties, then Norton Professor at Harvard, and finally Poet Laureate of England in the late sixties until his death.


Cecil Day Lewis: (Extract from) Poem 3 from The Magnetic Mountain

Somewhere beyond the railheads
Of reason, south or north,
Lies a magnetic mountain
Riveting sky to earth.

No line is laid so far.
Ties rusting in a stack
And sleepers – dead men’s bones –
Mark a defeated track.

Kestrel who yearly changes
His tenement of space
At the last hovering
May signify that place.

Iron in the soul,
Spirit steeled in fire,
Needle trembling on truth –
These shall draw me there.



Photo: Cecil Day Lewis, 1942 - by Cecil Beaton


Hart Crane, American poet - died this day in 1932, aged 32, committing suicide by leaping from his ship into the ocean…


At Melville’s Tomb by Hart Crane

Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
The dice of drowned men’s bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.

And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
The calyx of death’s bounty giving back
A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
The portent wound in corridors of shells.

Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
And silent answers crept across the stars.

Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
No farther tides … High in the azure steeps
Monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.


(Photo: Walker Evans)


Edward Gibbon (born 27 April, 1737; died 16 January, 1794), pictured above in a drawing made some time between 1785 and 1790 by an artist now unknown; in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London

‘…the wit, the genius, the massive intellect, were housed in a physical mould that was ridiculous. A little figure, extraordinarily rotund, met the eye, surmounted by a top-heavy head, with a button nose, planted amid a vast expanse of cheek and ear, and chin upon chin rolling downward. Nor was this appearance only; the odd shape reflected something in the inner man. Mr. Gibbon, it was noticed, was always slightly over-dressed; his favourite wear was flowered velvet. He was a little vain, a little pompous; at the first moment one almost laughed; then one forgot everything under the fascination of the even flow of admirably intelligent, exquisitely turned, and most amusing sentences. Among all his other merits this obviously ludicrous egotism took its place. The astonishing creature was able to make a virtue even of absurdity. Without that touch of nature he would have run the risk of being too much of a good thing; as it was there was no such danger; he was preposterous and a human being.’
—from Portraits in Miniature and Other Essays (1931), by Lytton Strachey (1880-1932)

Sergei Prokofiev, the great Russian composer, was born April 27, 1891 (d. 1953). His mature ballets have remained particularly popular internationally, whereas the reputation of his symphonies has languished by comparison, in all probability because his involvement with the Soviet state apparatus after his return in 1935 (he had lived abroad in the US, Germany and France since 1918) has remained unclear…

PROKOFIEV - Romeo & Juliet - Ballet


Jack Welpott, American photographer, born April 27, 1923 (d. 2007).

“On my darkroom door there is a sign that says, I’ve gone to find myself, if I get back before I return keep me here! I found that sign in the high country of Arizona and when I laid eyes on it I felt it was a true expression of my life in photography. It has always been a personal quest. A quest with an unknown destination. Photography fleshes out one’s life, gives it meaning and direction. For that I am deeply grateful.”

The only advice I can give was offered by Minor White, “Look at it not for what it is, but for what else it is.”” - Jack Welpott, Inverness CA.

Jack Welpott: Trish, 1980


Bryan Harvey (April 27, 1956 – 2006) was an American musician noted for his fronting role in House of Freaks. He was murdered with his wife Kathryn and their two daughters on January 1, 2006…

Photo of Harvey performing w. Steve Wynn’s Gutterball, 2003 - Larry Tucker

House of Freaks Tivoli Utrecht (nl) 1994 part one


Hard-boiled crime fiction is alive and well - it just speaks with a funny accent and lives in Scotland…

Ian Rankin, author of the Inspector Rebus novels is 51 today….

Photo of Ian Rankin - James Eckersley, 2007 - bromide print (NPG, London)


Southern writer Harper Lee is famous for her controversial novel To Kill a Mockingbird which won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1960 and was made into a film two years later. Lee turns 85 today!

Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel was born April 28, 1906 (d. 1978) - his major contribution to logic and mathematical philosophy - more specifically, set theory - came at the tender age of 25 when he formulated his incompleteness theorems.

Basically put:

Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true, but not provable in the theory.


“Gödel found a hole in the center of mathematics”

Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1962 - LIFE


Roberto Bolaño (born 28 April, 1953; died 15 July, 2003), pictured above in a photograph made around 1999 for the Chilean magazine, Paula

Godzilla in Mexico

Listen carefully, my son: bombs were falling
over Mexico City
but no one even noticed.
The air carried poison through
the streets and open windows.
You’d just finished eating and were watching
cartoons on TV.
I was reading in the bedroom next door
when I realized we were going to die.
Despite the dizziness and nausea I dragged myself
to the kitchen and found you on the floor.
We hugged. You asked what was happening
and I didn’t tell you we were on death’s program
but instead that we were going on a journey,
one more, together, and that you shouldn’t be afraid.
When it left, death didn’t even
close our eyes.
What are we? you asked a week or year later,
Ants, bees, wrong numbers
in the big rotten soup of chance?
We’re human beings, my son, almost birds,
public heroes and secrets.

—from The Romantic Dogs, comprising poems written between 1980 and 1998 (translated from the Spanish by Laura Healey)


Ann-Margret, surnameless Swedish actress, was born April 28, 1941. She came to the US a child of five, and quickly entered showbiz, first with her parents, but soon with her own independent dual career as a recording artist and a film actress…

In ‘64 Ann-Margret and Elvis shot Viva Las Vegas! together and began a romantic involvement - aren’t they cute!?

Still from Viva Las Vegas, 1964

Ann-Margret solo and in living color: Still from The Swinger, 1966

Percy Heath, bassist w. The Modern Jazz Quartet - died this day in 2005, aged 81, from bone cancer…

Percy Heath - Suite For Pop (first two movements: Prelude & Lament) - 2003


Francis Bacon, Anglo-Irish painter and innovator of the figurative/portrait tradition - died, aged 82, on this day in 1992 from respiratory problems and subsequent cardiac arrest…

Photo: Jane Brown, 1980 - bromide print on card mount (NPG, London)

Francis Bacon: Self-Portrait, 1971 - oil on canvas (Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris)

1971 was the year of Bacon’s lover, George Dyer’s suicide…


Yves Klein was a French artist and author of ‘actions’: April 28, 1928 - 1962 (heart attack)

Klein has left a multifaceted legacy, including his very own colour ‘Klein Blue’…

Photo: Ida Kar, 1957 - 2 1/4 inch square film negative (NPG, London)

Yves Klein: Anthropometry, 1961

Yves Klein: Untitled Fire Color Painting (FC1), 1961 - private collection

See also

Photo from the making of Yves Klein’s Anthropometry, 1961

Conductor’s day: Malcolm Sargent - April 29, 1895 - 1967…

Othello Suite Coleridge-Taylor Sir Malcolm Sargent


Conductor’s day: Thomas Beecham - April 29, 1879 – 1961…

Delius On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring RPO Sir Thomas Beecham


Conductor’s day: Zubin Mehta, b. Apr. 29, 1936…

Mahler Symphony No.2 in C minor "Auferstehung"
With Christa Ludwig and Ileana Cotrubas
Wiener Philarmoniker
Zubin Mehta
Recorded in 1975


Aufersteh'n, ja aufersteh'n
Wirst du, Mein Staub,
Nach kurzer Ruh'!
Unsterblich Leben! Unsterblich Leben
wird der dich rief dir geben!
Wieder aufzublüh'n wirst du gesät!
Der Herr der Ernte geht
und sammelt Garben
uns ein, die starben!

Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you My dust,
After a brief rest!
Immortal life! Immortal life
Will He who called you, give you.
To bloom again were you sown!
The Lord of the harvest goes
And gathers in, like sheaves,
Us together, who died.




Henri Poincaré (April 29, 1854 – 1912) was a French mathematician and theoretical physicist, and a philosopher of science. Poincaré is often described as a polymath, and in mathematics as The Last Universalist, since he excelled in all fields of the discipline as it existed during his lifetime.

“Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things” — H.P.


Daniel Day-Lewis (b. April 29, 1957) is one of the most intense and interesting actors to watch on the screen - often portraying eccentric and not particularly sympathetic characters in films from The Unbearable Lightness of Being, via My Left Foot, to Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood - two of which won him Oscars…

Photo: Richard Burbridge, 2007


Otis Rush, b. April 29, 1935, blues guitar lefty…

Otis Rush - All Your Love (I Miss Loving) (Cobra 5032)


Frank Auerbach (born April 29, 1931) is a German-born British painter. His work typically portrays either one of a small group of mainly female models, or scenes around London, especially Camden Town…

Photo: Frank Auerbach with Primrose Hill, 1980 - Photograph by William Packer, 1986

rank Auerbach: Head of Gerda Boehm, 1965 - oil on board

The pictures of Auerbach’s much older cousin Gerda Boehm executed between 1961 and 1982 were often made in close proximity and silence. The dependency common to many blood relations contributes to the anxiety conveyed. At times two versions of one pose register conflicting emotions, such as forebearance or disappointment; at others this happens within a single work, especially if he turns the canvas on its side as he does while working. Viewed obliquely Boehm’s diamond-shaped cranium and handsome features invite trust, but if we look again, from another vantage point, we see a beseeching, pinched carapace, and then a subdued gamine, gently dozing.

Frank Auerbach: Looking Towards Mornington Crescent Station—-Night, 1972-3

By many considered the most influential jazz musician and composer of all time, Duke Ellington was born April 29, 1899 (d. 1974)… Duke’s big band was a veritable hothouse of genius performers, songwriters and arrangers in their own right, and Duke knew how to compose and present material that showcased their talents.

Photo: Don Hunstein, N.Y.C., 1959

Duke Ellington, Caravan, Juan Tizol 1952


Three Candles (Drei Kerzen), a 1982 oil painting by Gerhard Richter

A poem by Constantine Cavafy (born 29 April, 1863; died 29 April, 1933):


Days to come stand in front of us
like a row of lighted candles—
golden, warm, and vivid candles.

Days gone by fall behind us,
a gloomy line of snuffed-out candles;
the nearest are smoking still,
cold, melted, and bent.

I don’t want to look at them: their shape saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their original light.
I look ahead at my lighted candles.

I don’t want to turn for fear of seeing, terrified,
how quickly that dark line gets longer,
how quickly the snuffed-out candles proliferate.

—translated from the Greek by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard


Peter ‘Bucking Horse’ La Farge (April 30, 1931 - 1965, drug related…) never really made it into the mainstream, but he remains an influential songwriter and recording artist from the early folk era, prior to and including the Greenwich Village heyday…

Most folks interested in folk music and the ’60s remember Peter’s passionate songs advocating Native rights, chief among which is The Ballad of Ira Hayes, memorably recorded by Johnny Cash…

Peter La Farge - The Ballad of Ira Hayes


On a great day for music we celebrate the birthday of the most distinctive male country singer alive: Willie Nelson at 78!

Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) Willie Nelson & Calexico


Faust, Mephistopheles, and Will-O’-the-Wisp, in a woodcut made between 1920 and 1922 by Ernst Barlach (1870-1938)

The initiation to Walpurgisnacht begins, in Faust, Part One, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)


World of magic, land of dreams!
We have entered you, it seems.
Wisp, lead well and show your paces;
We must get there, we must hurry
In these wild, wide-open places!

Trees and trees in quick succession:
See them pass us, see the scurry!
Feel the beetling cliffs’ oppression,
Hear those rocks as the winds roar,
How their long snouts snore and snore!

Through the rocks and through the grasses
Streams and streamlets swift descending,
murmuring water, murmuring voices:
Are they singing love’s unending
Sweet complaint from days gone by?
How we hope, how we sigh!
And an echo, like the story
Of old times, still makes reply.

Night-owl, screech-owl: can you hear them?
Pie and peewit territory:
All awake as we pass near them.
Bloated long-legged salamanders
Haunt the thicket; all around us
Twisting roots that would ensnare us,
Slither snakelike from the sand,
Writhing from the rocks to scare us;
Trunk-knots, tree-growths, how they thrive,
Thick and fleshy, long and live,
Each a reaching polyp-hand,
Tangled tentacles to bind us!
Mice in many-coloured hosts
Scuttle over moss and moor,
And a million fireflies lure
Us to follow, glittering ghosts
Swarming densely to confound us.

Are we coming? are we going?
Are we standing? There’s no knowing!
All is whirling, all is flowing!
Rocks and trees with weird grimaces
Shift their shapes and change their places;
Wild fires wander, teeming, growing.

—translated from the German by David Luke


Seascape: Baltic Sea, near Rügen, a 1996 photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto

A poem by Juhan Liiv (born 30 April, 1864; died 1 December, 1913):


“Don’t push me so hard!”
said one wave to another.
“Why do you always push me?
Leave me alone.”

“I`m not pushing anyone,
I`m being pushed.
The sea is full of us,
my opposition is futile.”

—translated from the Estonian (translator not known)

German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss - April 30, 1777 - 1855…

Among his many contributions is the formulation of the prime number theorem:

The prime number theorem states that if a random number nearby some large number N is selected, the chance of it being prime is about 1 / ln(N), where ln(N) denotes the natural logarithm of N. For example, near N = 10,000, about one in nine numbers is prime, whereas near N = 1,000,000,000, only one in every 21 numbers is prime. In other words, the average gap between prime numbers near N is roughly ln(N).


Gertrude Stein made her constant companion, Alice B. Toklas (April 30, 1877 - 1967) famous for her ‘autobiography’ (which Gertrude actually authored…)

Photo: Carl Van Vechten


Annie Dillard, nature and eco-writer, was born April 30, 1945. Perhaps her best known work is the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning volume of non-fiction, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

“Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping block.” — A.D.


In film: Today is the 55th birthday of Danish film director Lars von Trier, known as the originator of the Dogme 95 manifesto for film direction, which is a return to basics in terms of film poetics, and as the director of Dogville and a large number of other films within that paradigm…

Photo: Jan Buus


No comments: