Monday, August 1, 2011

Behind the Seen

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August 1, 1837 is the probable birthdate of Mother Jones, one of the great labor organizers in American history…

Mother Jones sound-bites:

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

“You don’t need a vote to raise Hell!”

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Herman Melville, great American author - and the only such to a have a species of whale named after him: August 1, 1819 – 1891…

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.” — Herman Melville (Moby-Dick, or, The Whale)

Photo - 1885

Title page of Moby-Dick, or, The Whale, 1851 - 1st. ed.
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On August 1, 1966 the University of Texas Tower in Austin was the scene of the first university mass shooting in the US. A disturbed young man, holed up on the observation deck with rifles and other weapons, murdered 16 people and injured 32 others before he was shot to death by police…

Photo © 1980, Larry D. Moore

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John F. Sloan (August 2, 1871 – 1951) was a member of The Eight, a group of American artists, and became a leading figure in the Ashcan School of realist artists. He was known for his urban genre painting and ability to capture the essence of neighborhood life in New York City, often seen through his window…

Above: Chinese Restaurant, 1909 - oil on canvas (Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester)

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Born August 2, 1924 - James Baldwin, American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist - d. 1987…

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. ” — James Baldwin

Photo: Carl Van Vechten, 1955 - The Beinecke

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William Burroughs, Beat Grandfather - died this day in 1997, aged 83, from a heart attack (which proves that if the junk don’t get ya, old age will…)

“Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.” — Old Bull Lee

Photo of Burroughs with ‘a brother Sfinx’ - Allen Ginsberg, 1953

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The great Peter Seamus Lorcan O’Toole who was robbed out of several Oscars - 79 today!

Still from Lawrence of Arabia, 1962

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Raymond Carver, American master of the short story form - died this day in 1988, aged 50, from lung cancer…

“Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Go on.” — Raymond Carver

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Claggett Wilson (Aug. 3, 1887 - 1952): Encounter in the Darkness, n.d. - tempera, watercolor and pencil (Smithsonian)

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Dolores Del Rio, star of Mexican and Hollywood film - b. August 3, 1905 (d. 1983)
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Flannery O’Connor, Southern writer (of the novel Wise Blood and short stories) - died this day in 1964, aged 39, from lupus…

“Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” — F. O’C.

Photo of Flannery in front of her self-portrait w. peacock…

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian dissident writer whose two best-known works are The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - died on this day in 2008, aged 89, of heart failure…

Photo of Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag

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Annie Besant & C.W. Leadbeater, Theosophists:

Thought-form of the music of Charles Gounod, from Thought-Forms (1901)

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August 3, 1929 – Jiddu Krishnamurti, tapped to be the messianic “World Teacher”, shocks the Theosophy movement by dissolving the Order of the Star, the organisation built to support him…

In his dissolution speech Krishnamurti said:

“I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path.

I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.”

No guru, no method, no teacher…

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Colette, French novelist who was as famous for her free (and therefore scandalous) life style as for her writing - died on this day in 1954, aged 81…

“To a poet, silence is an acceptable response, even a flattering one.”

Photo of Colette in her performing days…

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Hayden Carruth (Aug. 3, 1921 - 2008) was an American poet of the land and the hard-working folk - and he also knew his Conrad…

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Hayden Carruth: Eternity Blues

I just had the old Dodge in the shop
with that same damned front-end problem,
and I was out, so to speak, for a test run,

loafing along, maybe 35 m.p.h.,
down the old Corvallis road,
holding her out of the ruts and potholes.

That’s out in Montana, the Bitterroot Valley.
Long ways from home is how they say it.
Long ways from home, boys, long long ways from home.

Might as well not put this clunker in the shop
and keep my hard-earned in my pocket,
she wobbles and humps like a scared rabbit.

But it’s a real fine summer day in Corvallis,
and I’m loafing along watching the sprayers
do their slow drag on the fields of alfalfa,

and I come to a side road with a little green sign
says “Kurtz Lane” and I said to myself out loud,
“Mistah Kurtz—he alive. Him doing just fine,”

because of the sign, you see, and because I’m lonesome
and maybe kind of bitter in spite of the sunshine.
It’s still a goddamn long ways from home.

That’s one thing, though, that Heart of Darkness,
I read that story every year, I never forget
that crazy old son-of-a-bitch, that Kurtz.

And the next thing I see about a quarter-mile
down the road is somebody small on the shoulder,
a kid looking for a ride home, I figure.

And he’s a kid all right, maybe ten or eleven,
but no Montana boy, he’s an Oriental,
one of those Laotians that got resettled.

Can’t figure why they brought them to Montana.
He’s got those big eyes and caved-in cheeks
like the pictures on the TV during Vietnam,

and his mouth is open a little. I say to myself,
I’ll give him a ride if he wants, and I even
begin to slow down, but he didn’t

put up his thumb. Just when I went by, he waved,
real quick and shy, but still like he was trying
to reach me. I drove on. Then I bust out crying.

— from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991

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Joseph Conrad, Polish-born novelist who is now celebrated as one of the great masters of the English language novel - died on this day in 1924, aged 66, of a heart attack…

“A word carries far, very far, deals destruction through time as the bullets go flying through space.” — J.C.

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August 3, 1958 – The world’s first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus, travels beneath the Arctic ice cap, reaching the geographical North Pole…

Above: The Navigator’s report of the event to The Commanding Officer…

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Percy Bysshe Shelley - Aug. 4, 1792 - 1822, death by drowning…

Mutability

We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!—yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost for ever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest.—A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise.—One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same!—For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.

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Robert Hayden (Aug. 4, 1913 - 1980) was an African-American poet who was Poet Laureate of the USA (or Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, as the Office was called at that time) from 1976-8…

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Robert Hayden: Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday

Lord’s lost Him His mockingbird,
His fancy warbler;
Satan sweet-talked her,
four bullets hushed her.
Who would have thought
she’d end that way?

Four bullets hushed her. And the world a-clang with evil.
Who’s going to make old hardened sinner men tremble now
and the righteous rock?
Oh who and oh who will sing Jesus down
to help with struggling and doing without and being colored
all through blue Monday?
Till way next Sunday?

All those angels
in their cretonne clouds and finery
the true believer saw
when she rared back her head and sang,
all those angels are surely weeping.
Who would have thought
she’d end that way?

Four holes in her heart. The gold works wrecked.
But she looks so natural in her big bronze coffin
among the Broken Hearts and Gates-Ajar,
it’s as if any moment she’d lift her head
from its pillow of chill gardenias
and turn this quiet into shouting Sunday
and make folks forget what she did on Monday.

Oh, Satan sweet-talked her,
and four bullets hushed her.
Lord’s lost Him His diva,
His fancy warbler’s gone.
Who would have thought,
who would have thought she’d end that way?

— from Collected Poems

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Norwegian author Knut Hamsun (August 4, 1859 - 1952) is probably the only Nobel Literature Laureate to be convicted by the courts to pay reparations to his own government for harboring and expressing Nazi sympathies…

His literary work is another matter:

“I suffered no pain, my hunger had taken the edge off; instead I felt pleasantly empty, untouched by everything around me and happy to be unseen by all. I put my legs up on the bench and leaned back, the best way to feel the true well-being of seclusion. There wasn’t a cloud in my mind, nor did I feel any discomfort, and I hadn’t a single unfulfilled desire or craving as far as my thought could reach. I lay with open eyes in a state of utter absence from myself and felt deliciously out of it.” — Knut Hamsun (Hunger)

Photograph by Anders Beer Wilse: Knut Hamsun in his study at Nørholm, 1929…

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I. Rice Pereira (Aug. 5, 1902 - 1971): Roselit Day, 1953 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)

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Wendell Berry, farmer-poet is 77 today…

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Wendell Berry: They

I see you down there, white-haired
among the green leaves,
picking the ripe raspberries,
and I think, “Forty-two years!”
We are the you and I who were
they whom we remember.

— from Given, 2005

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Photo: Guy Mendes

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Fred Becker (Aug. 5, 1913 - 2004): Guitar Player, 1938 - wood engraving (Smithsonian)
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Thomas Thomson (August 5, 1877 – 1917) was an influential Canadian artist of the early 20th century. He directly influenced a group of painters that would come to be known as the Group of Seven, and though he died before they formally formed, he was included as a member. Thomson died under circumstances which added to his mystique…

Above: Autumn Foliage, 1916

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The great movie director John Huston (The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952) The Misfits (1960), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), and Annie (1982), a.m.o.) was born Aug. 5, 1906 (d. 1987)…

Photo: Herb Ritts

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Guy de Maupassant (Aug. 5, 1850 - 1893) was a popular 19th-century French writer and considered one of the fathers of the modern short story. He delighted in clever plotting, and served as a model for Somerset Maugham and O. Henry in this respect.

“Everything is false, everything is possible, everything is doubtful.” — G. de M.

Guy De Maupassant also penned his own epitaph: “I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing.”

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George Tooker (b. Aug. 5, 1920): Mirror, 1978 - color lithograph on paper (Smithsonian)


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Jess (Burgess Franklin Collins) - Aug. 6, 1923 - 2004: If All the World Were Paper And All the Water Sink, 1962 (De Young Museum, San Francesco)

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Never forget—-

The devastation created by the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945…

Photo - U.S. National Archives…

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Birthday of English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (August 6, 1809 - 1892) - Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom for much of the Victorian era…

The Kraken

Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge sea worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

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Photo by Elliott & Fry, late 1860s - albumen cabinet card (NPG, London)

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Pop art leading light and icon - Andy Warhol, August 6, 1928 - 1987…

Andy Warhol: Portrait of Joseph Beuys, 1980

Andy Warhol: Debbie Harry , 1980 - 42 inch polaroid…
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Today is the 20th birthday of the World Wide Web!

We celebrate with a photo of its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee…

The first Web site built was at CERN, and was first put on line on August 6, 1991. It provided an explanation of what the World Wide Web was, and how one could use a browser and set up a Web server… (See what it looked like!)

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Watching Truffaut’s last film, Vivement Dimanche! (a.k.a. Confidentially Yours.) w. Fanny Ardent…

Truffaut’s last film is based on the hard-boiled dime novel, The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams, 1962

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Linda Rich (b. August 9, 1949): Untitled - from the portfolio East Baltimore Documentary Survey Project, ca. 1975 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

This photo was used as the cover image for the book Neighborhood: A State of Mind (East Baltimore, Maryland)

Linda Rich: Untitled - from the portfolio East Baltimore Documentary Survey Project, ca. 1975 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)


Linda Rich: Untitled - from the portfolio East Baltimore Documentary Survey Project, ca. 1975 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

“Trustful and generous, radiating a firm belief that things will work out in the end, these people gaze steadily into the camera’s eye… Their photographs are a celebration not only of a geographical area, but also of a certain quality in the human spirit — a fierce independence and resiliency that should make all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, proud to know them.” — Anne Tyler, New Republic

Linda Rich: Untitled - from the portfolio East Baltimore Documentary Survey Project, ca. 1975 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)


Linda Rich: Untitled - from the portfolio East Baltimore Documentary Survey Project, ca. 1975 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

“A successful attempt to preserve photographically and through the mechanism of oral history a way of life that is changing and will probably pass.” — Choice

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Sharon Tate, actress and wife of Roman Polanski, the movie director - died this day in 1969, aged 26, murdered by the Manson Family…
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Today is the birthday of the creator of the beloved Moomin figures, Tove Jansson (Aug. 9, 1914 - 2001).

Moomins still wander the streets of most Finnish cities, certainly Helsinki and Tampere, and I am sure the woods and valleys of Suomi are littered with them…

Tove Jansson…
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Joe Orton, gay English playwright - died this day in 1967, aged 34, when his jealous boyfriend bludgeoned him to death with a hammer, dealing him nine blows to the head…

“With madness, as with vomit, it’s the passerby who receives the inconvenience.” — Joe Orton

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Audrey Tautou, charming French actress, perhaps 33 - or perhaps 35 - today…

Tautou likes to read Oscar Wilde and Paul Auster, and lists her favorite poets as Charles Baudelaire and Tristan Tzara…

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Alvan Fisher (Aug. 9, 1792 - 1863): The Great Horseshoe Fall, Niagara, 1820 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)

Two scenes by Fisher (this painting and Fisher’s A General View of the Falls of Niagara) capture the thrill of visiting Niagara Falls, a site in upstate New York that quickly became a symbol of the continent’s epic scale and natural beauty. Tiny figures throw out their arms as if trying to describe to one another the vastness of what they see. Elegant tourists peer decorously across the chasm through opera glasses, while one young lady covers her ears against the stupendous noise. Reckless young men lie on their stomachs, daring one another to draw closer to the rock’s edge. — Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

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Izaak Walton (Aug. 9, 1593-1683), author of The Compleat Angler

“I have laid aside business, and gone a’fishing.” — I.W.

Ill. of ‘Izaak Walton, the old English Angler’ - by and published by Dean & Co
hand-coloured lithograph, published circa 1849-1855 (NPG, London)

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Birthday of English dramatist, Poet Laureate and wit, John Dryden - Aug. 9, 631 – 1700…

“There is a pleasure sure,
In being mad, which none but madmen know!”

— JOHN DRYDEN, The Spanish Friar

Portrait of Dryden by Godfrey Kneller, 1693 - oil on canvas (National Portrait Gallery, London)

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Philip Larkin (Aug. 9, 1922 - 1985): Aubade

I work all day, and get half drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not used, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never:
But at the total emptiness forever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it cannot feel, not seeing
that this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows most impulses down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no-one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

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Herman Hesse, German-Swiss author, Nobel Laureate and Steppenwolf - died this day in 1962, aged 85, of a stroke while reading The Confessions of Augustin

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

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Montreal-born painter, who lived mostly in Paris - James Wilson Morrice (Aug. 10, 1865-1924): From the Studio Window, Quai des Grands Augustins, c. 1919
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Otto Lilienthal was a German glider pioneer who experimented successfully with a number of wing designs in the last decade of the 19th C.

Lilienthal was killed when his glider stalled during a flight and he fell to the ground, breaking his spine. He died on August 10, 1896, aged 48. His dying words were “Small sacrifices must occasionally be made…”

Photo of one of Lilienthal’s 1893 test flights…


Otto Lilienthal in his prime, ready to take off from the hill he had constructed in Berlin in such a manner that he could practice gliding no matter the direction of the wind…

Photo: 1894 - Lilienthal with ‘the small flapping wing apparatus’ - a prototype glider with flappable wings…

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Alfred Döblin, Jewish-German author and psychiatrist: Aug. 10, 1878 - 1957 - originally affiliated with the Expressionist Movevent, but now best known for his 1929 novel Berlin, Alexanderplatz

“I read like the flame reads the wood.” — Alfred Döblin

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Wayne Sorce (b. Aug. 11, 1946): Chicago, IL., ca. 1970 - vintage gelatin silver print (Joseph Bellows Gallery)


Wayne Sorce: Chicago, IL., ca. 1970 - vintage gelatin silver print (Joseph Bellows Gallery)

Wayne Sorce: Chicago, IL., ca. 1970 - vintage gelatin silver print (Joseph Bellows Gallery)

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Death of Jack the Dripper:

Jackson Pollock, Abstract Expressionist painter - died this day in 1956 in an alcohol-related car crash, aged 44…

Photo - Tony Vaccaro: Pollock in his studio

Jackson Pollock: White Light, 1954 - Oil, enamel, and aluminum paint on canvas (MoMA)


In 1961, Ornette Coleman’s seminal album Free Jazz - A Collective Improvisation by the Ornette Coleman Double Quartet featured Jackson Pollock’s White Light on the inside gate-fold cover. A window was cut open in the front cover to reveal a detail of the art work…

The link between the kindred processes of Pollock’s swift painting and free jazz improv. was thus strongly underlined.

Album design: Loring Eutemey

Jackson Pollock’s last canvas: Scent, 1955 - oil on canvas (private collection)
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Fernando Arrabal (b. August 11, 1932) is a Spanish playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist and poet. He settled in France in 1955, and describes himself as “desterrado,” or “half-expatriate, half-exiled.”

Who is Arrabal? One can answer as Cervantes, as Dostoevsky or as Socrates, if we cease to believe in Plato. I could answer as all of them: “I am what am… I am myself”.

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Aug. 11, birthday of Alex Haley (1921 - 1992) - American historian and novelist, co-author of the Autobiography of Malcolm X, author of Roots

“The first time he had taken the massa to one of these “high-falutin’ to-dos,” as Bell called them, Kunta had been all but overwhelmed by conflicting emotions: awe, indignation, envy, contempt, fascination, revulsion—but most of all a deep loneliness and melancholy from which it took him almost a week to recover. He couldn’t believe that such incredible wealth actually existed, that people really lived that way. It took him a long time, and a great many more parties, to realize that they didn’t live that way, that it was all strangely unreal, a kind of beautiful dream the white folks were having, a lie they were telling themselves: that goodness can come from badness, that it’s possible to be civilized with one another without treating as human beings those whose blood, sweat, and mother’s milk made possible the life of privilege they led.” — Alex Haley (Roots)

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Louise Bogan (Aug. 11, 1897 - 1970) was a gifted, emotionally high-pitched American poet…

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Louise Bogan: Leave-Taking

I do not know where either of us can turn
Just at first, waking from the sleep of each other.
I do not know how we can bear
The river struck by the gold plummet of the moon,
Or many trees shaken together in the darkness.
We shall wish not to be alone
And that love were not dispersed and set free—
Though you defeat me,
And I be heavy upon you.

But like earth heaped over the heart
Is love grown perfect.
Like a shell over the beat of life
Is love perfect to the last.
So let it be the same
Whether we turn to the dark or to the kiss of another;
Let us know this for leavetaking,
That I may not be heavy upon you,
That you may blind me no more.

(Originally published in Poetry, August 1922)

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Hugh MacDiarmid, uncompromising Scottish poet - Aug. 11, 1892 - 1978…

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Hugh MacDiarmid: The Little White Rose

(To John Gawsworth)

The rose of all the world is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet—and breaks the heart.

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(Photo of MacDiarmid in front of Robert Heriot Westwater’s portrait, presented to the poet on his 70th birthday…)

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Jerzy Grotowski (August 11, 1933 - 1999) was a Polish theatre director and innovator of experimental theater, the “theatre laboratory” and “poor theatre” concepts…

From Towards A Poor Theatre: “The education of an actor in our theatre is not a matter of teaching him something; we attempt to eliminate his organism’s resistance to this psychic process. The result is freedom from the time-lapse between inner impulse and outer reaction in such a way that the impulse is already an outer reaction. Impulse and action are concurrent: the body vanishes, burns, and the spectator sees only a series of visible impulses. Ours then is a via negativa - not a collection of skills but an eradication of blocks.”

Photo: Tadeusz Szwed

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Joe Deal (Aug. 12, 1947 - 2010): Grand Prix Car Wash, Long Beach, California, from the Long Beach Documentary Project, 1980 - gelatin silver print on paper (Smithsonian)


Joe Deal: View, Magic Mountain, Valencia, California, 1977 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

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Doris Kreindler (Aug. 12, 1901 - 1974): Reflection, ca. 1970
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William Blake died on Aug. 12, 1827 - impoverished, considered eccentric, if not a lunatic by his contemporaries, and with all of his writings languishing in obscurity…

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.


William Blake: Albion Rose, 1794-5 - colour printed etching with hand-drawn additions in ink and watercolour (British Museum)

William Blake: The Ghost of a Flea, 1819-1820- tempera mixture with gold painting on mahogany type tropical hardwood panel, miniature (Tate UK)

Having informed painter-astrologer John Varley of his visions of apparitions, Blake was subsequently persuaded to paint one of them…



William Blake: Songs of Innocence and Experience - frontispiece, 1794

Voice of the Ancient Bard

Youth of delight! come hither
And see the opening morn,
Image of Truth new-born.
Doubt is fled, and clouds of reason,
Dark disputes and artful teazing.
Folly is an endless maze;
Tangled roots perplex her ways;
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead;
And feel—they know not what but care;
And wish to lead others, when they should be led.

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Great movie directors get in despite being bullies and power brokers:

Cecil B. DeMille, boisterous bully on set and the type of director who goes for the spectacular rather than the subtle, was born August 12, 1881 (d. 1959). He is now mostly remembered for his late films, The Ten Commandmends (1956) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), but he directed ground-breaking silent films for 40 years before that…

C.B. posing during the making of Cleopatra, 1934…

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Austrian Nobel laureate in physics, Erwin Schrödinger - Aug. 12, 1887 - 1961…

Schrödinger is best known for the thought experiment he developed after corresponding w. Einstein - Schrödinger’s Cat:

A cat, along with a flask containing a poison, is placed in a sealed box shielded against environmentally induced quantum decoherence. If a Geiger counter detects radiation then the flask is shattered, releasing the poison which kills the cat. Quantum mechanics suggests that after a while the cat is simultaneously alive and dead, in a quantum superposition of coexisting alive and dead states. Yet when we look in the box we expect to see the cat either alive or dead, not a mixture of alive and dead.

Quantum mechanics thus do away with the problem of the excluded middle, by excluding both ends as well.

Schrödinger seemed in life also to want to have his cat and eat it too, living in effect in a double marriage with two women, one of which was de jure married to his research assistant - both however, de facto, sharing in the upbringing of Schrödinger’s child…

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Madame Blavatsky - mystic, founder of Theosophy and a woman whose ideas attracted many a reputable modernist, including Joyce and Yeats - was born (this time around) on August 12, 1831, and shuffled off that mortal coil in 1891…

In 1877, H.P. Blavatsky published Isis Unveiled, which, she said, was ‘the fruit of somewhat intimate acquaintance with Eastern adepts and study of their science…’

“Man is also triune: he has his objective, physical body, his vitalizing astral body (or soul), the real man; and these two are brooded over and illuminated by the third — the sovereign, the immortal spirit. When the real man succeeds in merging himself with the latter, he becomes an immortal entity.”

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Nobel Literature Laureates get in regardless of how fucked-up their politics might be:

Jacinto Benavente (August 12, 1866 – 1954) was once considered one of the foremost Spanish dramatists of the 20th century. He got the Nobel in 1922, but his progressive aesthetic program of returning drama to reality by way of social criticism gave way to patriarchal and even Fascist ideas later in his life…

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Abbott Handerson Thayer (Aug. 12, 1849 - 1921): Sunrise or Sunset, ca. 1905-09 - oil on wood (Smithsonian)

Abbott Handerson Thayer is recognized today for his ethereal angels, portraits of women and children, landscapes, and delicate flower paintings. A New Englander who expressed the spiritual in much of his work, he was known as a “soul painter…”

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Philippe Petit, b. Aug. 13, 1949 - French high wire artist…

Photo of Philippe walking the line in Man on Wire

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I always loved the thrill of the films of Alfred Hitchcock - Aug. 13, 1899 - 1980…

Photo: Alfred directing the MGM Lion…




The animals most commonly associated with Alfred Hitchcock - birds of all sorts!

Photo: Albert Watson

Alfred Hitchcock, the family man, catching snowflakes during a sleigh ride with his kids, 1960…
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Birthday of fashion and celebrity photographer Herb Ritts - Aug 13, 1952 - 2002…

Above - Versace gown, El Mirage, CA, 1990 - from his book The Golden Hour

A favorite Herb Ritts subject: Cindy Crawford

Herb Ritts - good w. silhouettes: Batman, 1988…

Herb Ritts in a relatively rare foray into portraiture of men of intellect: William Burroughs…

Herb Ritts catching the ‘essence’ of Mick Jagger…

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Great German-born film director Wim Wenders (here seen with Tim Roth during the shooting of Don’t Come Knocking) turns 66 today…

Photo: Donata Wenders


Wim Wenders as photographer:

Dennis Hopper and Nicholas Ray

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August 14, 1867 was the birthday of Nobel Literature Laureate, John Galsworthy, playwright and novelist, now remembered (if remembered at all) for The Forsyte Saga, which in its BBC adaptation cleared the streets when broadcast in 1967…

“I don’t know much about morality and that, but there is this: It’s always worth while before you do anything to consider whether it’s going to hurt another person more than is absolutely necessary.” — from In Chancery (1920); Third part of The Forsyte Saga

Photo: E.O. Hoppé, 1922

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French photographer, Willy Ronis - Aug. 14, 1910 - 2009

Place Vendome, 1947 - Silver Gelatin print

Willy Ronis: Deena de dos, 1955 - silver gelatin print

Willy Ronis: Le Nu Provençal, 1949 - silver gelatin print
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H.C. Ørsted, brilliant Danish physicist, Aug. 14, 1777 - 1851…

Ørsted discovered that electric currents create magnetic fields, an important aspect of electromagnetism…

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Many will be familiar with the famous historical romances of Sir Walter Scott (Aug. 15, 1771 - 1832) such as Waverley, Rob Roy and Ivanhoe

“O what a tangled web we weave, when first we pratice to decieve…” — Walter Scott

Above: Pencil and chalk drawing by William Brockedon, circa 1830 (NPG, London)

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Paul Outerbridge (Aug. 15, 1896 - 1958) was an interesting pioneer of colour photography. His weird nudes were avantgardes of fetish photography in the mid to late 1930s…

Paul Outerbridge: Nude with Mask and Hat, c.1936 - carbro color print


Paul Outerbridge: Cyclops, c.1935 - carbro process

Paul Outerbridge: Redhead, 1937 - carbro color print
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Aug 15, 1843 – Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest still intact amusement parks in the world, opens in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Ill. The original Tivoli Concert Salon, 1843


Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen - seen from above, 1922 - photo taken from Spelterini’s balloon…
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Heinz Trökes - German Expressionist - Aug. 15, 1913 - 1997: Colorbands (detail), early 1970 - color silk screen print on paper
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René Magritte, Belgian Surrealist - died this day in 1967, aged 68, from pancreatic cancer…

Photo: This is not the pipe and passport of René and Georgette Magritte-Berger

René Magritte:The Portrait, 1935 - oil on canvas (MoMA)
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Roland (d. Aug. 15, 778) was a Frankish military leader under Charlemagne who became one of the principal figures in the literary cycle known as the Matter of France. Historically, Roland was military governor of the Breton March, with responsibility for defending the frontier of Francia against the Bretons.

Einhard’s Vita Karoli Magni narrates his death at the Battle of Roncesvalles, when the rearguard, under his command, and the baggage train of a Frankish army was beset by rebellious Basques.

Later versions of/references to the epic of Roland include Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, a brief reference in Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

Ill. One of Gustave Doré’s plates for Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso


Count Roland lifts the horn up to his mouth,
Then sets his lips and blows it with great force.
The hills are high; the horn’s voice loud and long;
They hear it echoing full thirty leagues.
King Charles and his companions hear it sound.
The king declares, “Our men are in a battle.”

Chanson de Roland, Stanza CXXXIII

Ill. François Guizot: Roland at Roncesvalles, 1883 in The History of France from the Earliest Times to the Year 1789, publ. London, 1883


Rollant is dead; his soul to heav’n God bare.
That Emperour to Rencesvals doth fare.
There was no path nor passage anywhere
Nor of waste ground no ell nor foot to spare
Without a Frank or pagan lying there.
Charles cries aloud: “Where are you, nephew fair?
Where’s the Archbishop and that count Oliviers?
Where is Gerins and his comrade Gerers?
Otes the Duke, and the count Berengiers
And Ivorie, and Ive, so dear they were?
What is become of Gascon Engelier,
Sansun the Duke and Anseis the fierce?
Where’s old Gerard of Russillun; oh, where
The dozen peers I left behind me here?”
But what avail, since none can answer bear?
“God!” says the King, “Now well may I despair,
I was not here the first assault to share!”
Seeming enraged, his beard the King doth tear.
Weep from their eyes barons and chevaliers,
A thousand score, they swoon upon the earth;
Duke Neimes for them was moved with pity rare.

The Song of Roland, CLXXVII

Ill. The death of Roland at the Battle of Roncevaux, from an illuminated manuscript c.1455–1460



What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
The round squat turret, blind as the fool’s heart
Built of brown stone, without a counterpart
In the whole world. The tempest’s mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf
He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

— Robert Browning, from Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, 1855

——

Ill. Thomas Moran: Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower Came, 1859 - oil on canvas (private collection)

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Thomas de Quincey, author of Confessions of an English Opium Eater was born Aug. 15, 1785 (d. 1859)…

“…here was the secret of happiness, about which philosophers had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered; happiness might now be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat-pocket; portable ecstasies might be had corked up in a pint-bottle; and peace of mind could be sent down by the mail.” — Confessions of an English Opium Eater

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Birthday of Hugo Gernsback, publisher of the world’s first science-fiction magazine: Aug. 16, 1884 - 1967…

Above: First issue of Amazing Stories, art by Frank R. Paul - April 1926

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Les Krims (b. Aug. 16, 1943): Feeding Jesus Strawberry Ice Cream with a Small Spoon Mary Miracle, 1976
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Agostino Carracci was an Italian artist, born in Bologna on Aug. 16, 1557 (d. 1602). He painted religious allegories for a living, but also had a sideline in erotica…

Above: Polyenos & Chrisis

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Cult poet and novelist Charles Bukowski - Aug. 16, 1920 - 1994…

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock.

people so tired
mutilated
either by love or no love.

people just are not good to each other
one on one.

the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.

we are afraid.

our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners.

it hasn’t told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place
alone

untouched
unspoken to

watering a plant.

— from Love is a Dog From Hell: Poems, 1974-1977

****

Photo: We’ve had Bukowski writing, Bukowski drinking, Bukowski having sex - but today Buk is bucolic!

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Aug. 16, 1927 – The Dole Air Race from Oakland, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii begins, during which six out of the eight participating planes crash or disappear…

Above - the winner: Woolaroc, a Travel Air 5000, NX869, flown by Arthur C. Goebel and navigated by William V. Davis Jr.

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Steve Fitch (b. Aug. 16, 1949): Motel, Highway 66, Elk City, Oklahoma, 1973 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

Steve Fitch: Motel, Highway 66, Holbrook, Arizona, 1973 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

Steve Fitch: Tourist Lady, Highway 66, Meteor Crater, Arizona, 1971 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)
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It is the birthday of great Italian-born muse and photographer Tina Modotti: Aug. 17, 1896 - 1942…

Tina Modotti: Woman with Flag, 1928

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The great Larry Rivers - Aug 17, 1923 - 2002 - friend of all the Beats and New York School poets…

Photo of Larry in his studio by Allen Ginsberg

Larry Rivers: Déjà vu and the Red Room: Double Portrait of Matisse (1996) - a riff on Matisse’s Harmony in Red
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Also the birthday of great German-born photographer, Lotte Jacobi: Aug. 17, 1890 - 1990…

Above: Olga Klein in Astrachan Costume, Berlin, 1928

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Pierre de Fermat, was born on Aug. 17, 1601 - 410 years ago. A lawyer at the Parlement of Toulouse and a gifted amateur mathematician, he made breakthroughs in several fields of calculus, probability, geometry and number theory, but is best known for a brief note he made in the margin of a book of arithmetic:

“It is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into two fourth powers, or in general, any power higher than the second, into two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.”

Google doodle: Fermat’s Last Theorem: xn + yn ≠ zn

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V.S. Naipaul (b. Aug. 17, 1932) - West Indian Nobel Laureate, author of many works of fiction as well as a very substantial body of non-fiction. Novels include The Mimic Men, and A Bend in the River

“The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.” — V.S. Naipaul (In a Free State)

Photo by Derry Moore, 1972 or 1973 - bromide fibre print, NPG, London

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Mae West (Aug. 17, 1893 - 1980) never said no to a bit of costume excess (or any other kind of excess for that matter), either…

One of the first sex symbols of the 20th century, West projected a provocative and alluring physicality, but should be remembered also for her wit…

“Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.”

Still from The Heat’s On, 1943

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Robert De Niro, 68 years old on Aug. 17.

Still from Taxi Driver, 1976

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Ted Hughes - Aug. 17, 1930 - 1998 - a fine poet.

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The Thought-Fox

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

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Jonathan Franzen - post-ironic novelist, author of The Corrections and Freedom - 52 today…

“The human species was given dominion over the earth and took the opportunity to exterminate other species and warm the atmosphere and generally ruin things in its own image, but it paid this price for its privileges: that the finite and specific animal body of this species contained a brain capable of conceiving the infinite and wishing to be infinite itself.” — Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections)

Photo: Lars Hansen

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The novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was first published in the US on this day in 1958, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Relatively little scandal attended and the book was a quick bestseller - 100.000 copies in three weeks…

Ill. First page of the novel…


DEAR PLAYBOY ADA FRAGMENTS BEAUTIFULLY PRINTED BUT GOODNESS WHAT ILLUSTRATIONS THAT IMPROBABLE YOUNG MAMMAL AND TWO REVOLTING FROGS

Telegram from Nabokov to Playboy Magazine (which published fragments of his novel Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle), in their April issue, 1969.

Ill. April ‘69 cover of Playboy - which as you can see had a number of other tantalizing features (by which I mean the Ginsberg interview, of course…)

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In August 1877, American astronomer Asaph Hall discovered Dread and Fear - the two moons of Mars which were later named Deimos and Phobos by the science master of Eton, Henry Madan, who - being English - had read Homer’s Iliad in the Greek, and thought these names grandly appropriate for attendants of Mars, whom the Greeks called Ares:

So Ares spoke, and ordered Deimos (Fear) and Phobos (Terror) to harness his horses, and himself got into his shining armour… (The Iliad, Book XV)

Asaph, b.t.w. is Hebrew for “God has gathered”, and Madan was the name of the third son of Abraham, but that’s another story…


Asaph Hall discovered Deimos on August 12, 1877 - using the great telescope of he United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. - and on August 18, shortly after 4 a.m. he discovered Mars’ other moon, Phobos…

Phobos is a funny little moon which rises and sets twice a day on Mars, because of its tight orbit and great speed…

Phobos is not round at all and looks like a pock-marked potato. It’s most prominent crater (which is so big that it has several smaller craters embedded within it) is named Stickney, after Asaph Hall’s wife’s maiden name…

Photo: Viking 1

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Blind children studying the hippopotamus - photo by Julius Kirschner, May 1914 - via American Museum of Natural History Library’s Picturing the Museum.

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Birthday of director Roman Polanski, creator of very effective movies in a number of genres, such as Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown

Photo: Horst Tappe, 1972


Polanski stills:

Repulsion (1965) - a psychological horror film, starring Catherine Deneuve…


Polanski stills:

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) - horror/thriller combo, starring Mia Farrow…


Polanski stills:

Chinatown (1974) - hard-boiled detective film, starring Jack Nicholson…


Polanski stills:

Tess (1979) - costume drama, adapting Thomas Hardy’s novel, starring Nastassja Kinski…

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British science fiction great - both author and historian of the genre - Brian Aldiss was born on this day in 1925. At age 86 he is apparently still going strong…

I recommend Barefoot in the Head (1969).

The fine, comprehensive Brian Aldiss website

Photo: Jerry Bauer

For a short while Ace paperbacks were gloriously trashy and psychedelic all at once - viz. Aldiss’ Barefoot in the Head
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French novelist and screen-writer/film-maker Alain Robbe-Grillet - Aug. 18, 1922 - 2008. He was Nouveau back when that was new…

“The true writer has nothing to say. What counts is the way he says it.” — Alain Robbe-Grillet

Photo: Daniel Janin


Poster for one of Robbe-Grillet’s more enigmatic films, L’Année dernière à Marienbad (1961) - directed by Alain Resnais, screen-play Alain Robbe-Grillet…

My friend Norm Holland has a good analysis here


Stills from another Robbe-Grillet film - this he both wrote and directed (and ‘acted’ in) - Trans-Europ-Express, 1966; starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Marie-France Pisier. This film contains a number of fantasy scenes, much as Last Year in Marienbad (perhaps!) does…
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Robert Redford - one of the great leading men in recent Hollywood history - 75 today!

In this vintage photo reportage he is chilling at home in Sundance, Utah with his then wife Lola Van Wagenen…

Photo: John Dominis, 1972 (LIFE)


Stills from vintage Redford films:

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969 - co-starring Paul Newman…


Stills from vintage Redford films: The Sting (1973), co-starring Paul Newman…

That’s Robert Shaw on the left, being set up.


Stills from vintage Redford films:The Great Gatsby (1974), co-starring Mia Farrow…



Stills from vintage Redford films:

Barefoot in the Park, 1967 - co-starring Jane Fonda…

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Birthday of Marcel Carné (Aug. 18, 1906 - 1996), director of Les Enfant du Paradis (1945 - screenplay by the great Jacques Prévert) and several other fine classics…

Marcel Carné directing Jean Gabin in Le Jour se lève (1939)…
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Neal Slavin (b. Aug. 19, 1941) takes funny group photos - here is one he did for The Washington Post Magazine…

Neal Slavin: The Grand Canyon park rangers - from When Two or More Are Gathered Together
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The very first post on A Good Day was about Federico García Lorca, Spanish poet, who died on this day in 1936, aged 38 - shot by Fascists.

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Remanso, Final Song

The night is coming.

The moonlight strikes
on evening’s anvil.

The night is coming.

A giant tree clothes itself
in the leaves of cantos.

The night is coming.

If you came to see me,
on the path of storm-winds….

The night is coming.

….you would find me crying,
under high, black poplars.
Ay, girl with the dark hair!
Under high, black poplars.

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Robert Dawson (b. Aug. 19, 1950): Cracked Mud and Vineyard near Arvin, California, from the Great Central Valley Project, 1985 - gelatin silver print on paper (Smithsonian)
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French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte was born Aug. 19, 1848 (d. 1894, pulmonary congestion)…

Caillebotte loved boating with a vengeance but that is so boring… Much better when he does a little city scene, as above:

Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877 - Oil on canvas (Art Institute of Chicago)

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Fashion pioneer Coco Chanel, Aug. 19, 1883 - 1971…

What a little black dress can do…

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Groucho Marx, comedian and master of the insult - died this day in 1977, aged 86, from pneumonia…

“Die, my dear? Why that’s the last thing I’ll do!” — purported last words…

Photo: Richard Avedon, 1976

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Orville Wright (Aug. 19, 1871 – 1948) - American pioneer of human flight…

Photo of Orville flying over Ft. Myer, VA, September 1908 - unknown photographer…

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Robert Vickrey (Aug. 20, 1926 - 2007): Salinger, 1961 - Egg Tempera on board (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Time magazine)
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Roy Moyer (Aug. 20, 1921 - 2007): Snow-covered Mountains, 1980 - acrylic on canvas (Smithsonian)
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Joe Clingan (Aug. 20, 1873 - 1952): Joe Clingan, Tattooing Artist, c. 1920s - pen and ink and ink wash on paperboard (Smithsonian)
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Finnish architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen, father and son, share August 20 as their birthday. Eliel lived from 1873 - 1950 and epitomized Finnish art nouveau architecture. His son Eero was a greater artist, choosing the modernist idiom for himself - he lived from 1910 to 1961…

Photo of the design of the famous Tulip Chair, one of Eero Saarinen’s successful furniture pieces, developed with and manufactured by Florence Knoll Bassett (L)…


The Tulip Chair owes some of its fame to its use as part of the furnishings of the starship USS Enterprise in the 60s Star Trek TV show…

Above: Knoll furniture ad, playing on the Star Trek association…

The modified Tulip Chair in use in Star Trek - Spock hitting us with a space harp vibe here…


Another lovely space design by Eero Saarinen: The TWA terminal, JFK airport, New York - 1962

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Italian Nobel Literature Laureate, Salvatore Quasimodo (Aug. 20, 1901 - 1968) received the Prize in 1959 - “for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times.”

Only if Love Should Pierce You

Do not forget that you live in the midst of the animals,
horses, cats, sewer rats
brown as Solomon’s woman, terrible
camp with colours flying,
do not forget the dog with harmonies of the unreal
in tongue and tail, nor the green lizard, the blackbird,
the nightingale, viper, drone. Or you are pleased to think
that you live among pure men and virtuous
women who do not touch
the howl of the frog in love, green
as the greenest branch of the blood.
Birds watch you from trees, and the leaves
are aware that the Mind is dead
forever, its remnant savours of burnt
cartilage, rotten plastic; do not forget
to be animal, fit and sinuous,
torrid in violence, wanting everything here
on earth, before the final cry
when the body is cadence of shrivelled memories
and the spirit hastens to the eternal end;
remember that you can be the being of being
only if love should pierce you deep inside.

— from Complete Poems, trans. by Jack Bevan

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Birthday of the great Magnum photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson: Aug. 22, 1908 - 2004…

Above: Romania, 1975

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Pause between two Poses, 1989

Henri Cartier-Bresson: VENICE—Ezra Pound, 1971 © Magnum Photos

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Henri Matisse, Vence - 1944
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Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian master storyteller and metafictionalist: Aug. 24, 1899 - 1986…

“Let others pride themselves about how many pages they have written; I’d rather boast about the ones I’ve read.” — Jorge Luis Borges

“Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.”

— Jorge Luis Borges, from the preface to Dr. Brodie’s Report
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A.S. Byatt (b. Aug. 24, 1936) - a fine critic and a great representative of the British tradition for meaty historiographic and playful multi-level novels. She specializes in bringing the Victorian era into interpley with our postmodern world…

Photo Mark Gerson, June 1992 - modern bromide print (NPG, London)

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Jean Rhys (Aug. 24, 1890 - 1979), British/Dominican author, known for her post-colonial intervention into the story of Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë’s character) in the ‘prequel’ Wide Sargasso Sea...

Photo: Paul Joyce, July 1977 - bromide print on card mount (National Portrait Gallery, London)


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Icons of style:

Aston Martin DB5 & Sean Connery - 81 today (Sean, that is - Aston is only 58!)

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Filmmaker Tim Burton - 53 today!
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Novelist Martin Amis (b. Aug. 15, 1949), doing his best to be punk/new wave in 1978…

“It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses, in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, as it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay. ” — Martin Amis (Time’s Arrow)

Photo: Angela Gorgas - bromide print (NPG, London)

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It’s exactly 111 years since FW bought the farm…

“In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

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Dorothea Tanning (b. August 25, 1910) is an American painter, printmaker, sculptor and writer - the last surviving Surrealist at 101!

Photo by Irving Penn: Max & Dorothea, NYC - 1947

Dorothea Tanning: Birthday, 1942 - oil on canvaas

Dorothea Tanning: Composition Surrealiste (Hommage a Max Ernst), 1976 - color lithograph


Dorothea Tanning: Pincushion to Serve as a Fetish, 1979 - Mixed media (Tate)

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Peggy Guggenheim, collector and patron of the arts like no other: Aug. 26, 1898 - 1979…

From August 1939 to April 1940 Peggy Guggenheim writes: “Having plenty of time and all the museum’s funds at my disposal, I put myself on a regime to buy one picture a day.”

When finished, she had acquired ten Picassos, forty Ernsts, eight Mirós, four Magrittes, three Man Rays, three Dalís, one Klee, one Wolfgang Paalen and one Chagall among others…

Photo: Ida Kar, 1952-1953 - 2 1/4 inch square film negative (NPG, London)

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Julio Cortázar (August 26, 1914 – February 12, 1984) was an Argentine author of novels and short stories. He influenced an entire generation of Latin American writers from Mexico to Argentina, but most of his best-known work was written in France, where he established himself in 1951…

“I realized that searching was my symbol, the emblem of those who go out at night with nothing in mind, the motives of a destroyer of compasses.” — Julio Cortázar

Photo by Pierre Boulat, Paris, 1969 - LIFE




You look at me, you look at me closely, each time closer and then we play cyclops, we look at each other closer each time and our eyes grow, they grow closer, they overlap and the cyclops look at each other, breathing confusion, their mouths find each other and fight warmly, biting with their lips, resting their tongues lightly on their teeth, playing in their caverns where the heavy air comes and goes with the scent of an old perfume and silence. Then my hands want to hide in your hair, slowly stroke the depth of your hair while we kiss with mouths full of flowers or fish, of living movements, of dark fragrance. And if we bite each other, the pain is sweet, and if we drown in a short and terrible surge of breath, that instant death is beauty. And there is a single saliva and a single flavour of ripe fruit, and I can feel you shiver against me like a moon on the water. — Julio Cortázar

(Photo - Pierre Boulat, 1969)

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Guillaume Apollinaire (Aug. 26, 1880 - 1918) was the author of a variety of different texts: prose fiction, drama, librettos etc., yet it could be argued that he published only two significant works during his lifetime: Alcools: Poèmes 1898-1913 (1913) and Calligrammes: Poèmes de la paix et de la guerre 1913- 1916 (1918)…

Guillaume Apollinaire: Marie - from Alcools, 1913

Vous y dansiez petite fille
Y danserez-vous mère-grand
C’est la maclotte qui sautille
Toute les cloches sonneront
Quand donc reviendrez-vous Marie

Les masques sont silencieux
Et la musique est si lointaine
Qu’elle semble venir des cieux
Oui je veux vous aimer mais vous aimer à peine
Et mon mal est délicieux

Les brebis s’en vont dans la neige
Flocons de laine et ceux d’argent
Des soldats passent et que n’ai-je
Un cœur à moi ce cœur changeant
Changeant et puis encor que sais-je

Sais-je où s’en iront tes cheveux
Crépus comme mer qui moutonne
Sais-je où s’en iront tes cheveux
Et tes mains feuilles de l’automne
Que jonchent aussi nos aveux

Je passais au bord de la Seine
Un livre ancien sous le bras
Le fleuve est pareil à ma peine
Il s’écoule et ne tarit pas
Quand donc finira la semaine

The poet Guillaume Apollinaire in Picasso’s atelier (11 Bld. de Clichy), Fall 1910 - by Pablo Picasso
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British novelist Christopher Isherwood, Aug. 26, 1904 - 1986, is chiefly remembered for his memoirs and stories of decadent days in Berlin during the Weimar Republic…

“I am a camera, with its shutter open. Someday, all of this will be developed, printed, fixed.” — Christopher Isherwood

Photo: Paul Joyce, April 1977 - bromide print on card mount (NPG, London)

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LIFE photographer Margaret Bourke-White, pioneering photo journalist - died this day in 1971, aged 67, from Parkinson’s disease…

Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1943 - LIFE


Margaret Bourke-White: Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi reading next to a spinning wheel at home, 1946 (LIFE)
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It’s the 121st birthday of Man Ray, the innovative Surrealist photographer and artist…

Above: Self-Portrait as a Fashion Photographer, 1936


Man Ray, the master portraiteur

Above: Tristan Tzara, 1921

Man Ray: Untitled - solarized profile, 1930

Man Ray: Primacy of Matter over Thought, 1929


Man Ray: Mathematical Object, 1934 - a Poincaré surface…


Man Ray: Solarized Portrait of Mary Gill, 1931
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Swiss architect Le Corbusier, trailblazer of Modernism in design and architecture - died of a heart attack while swimming, aged 77, on this day in 1965…

“Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.”

Photo: Architect Le Corbusier sitting in chair & holding book in hands— Paris France 1965

Le Corbusier: Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France, 1950–1954
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Theodore Dreiser, American novelist of the naturalist school, b. Aug. 27, 1871 (d. 1945)…

“The most futile thing in this world is any attempt, perhaps, at exact definition of character. All individuals are a bundle of contradictions — none more so than the most capable.” — Th. Dreiser

Photo via NYPL

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C.S. Forester, Aug. 27, 1899 - 1966, was a British novelist, famous for the Hornblower series of heroic naval exploits during the Napoleonic wars (about which Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying, “I recommend Forester to everyone literate I know”) - and for the 1935 novel The African Queen which became a fine movie, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn…

Photo by Bassano, 25 May 1939 - half-plate glass negative (NPG, London)

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W.E.B. Du Bois, scholar and activist, tireless champion of African-American uplift - died this day in 1963, aged 95, while living in Ghana working on the Encyclopedia Africana

Photo of Du Bois as a young student at Fisk or at Harvard University, via NYPL

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Jack Kirby, creator of comics: Captain America, The Fantastic Four, X-Men a.m.o. - born Aug. 28, 1917 - d. 1996…

Photo: Neal Kirby, Jack’s son…

Jack Kirby: Captain America, 1977 - pencil
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Aug. 28, 1749 - 1832):

“A man can stand anything except a succession of ordinary days.”

Photo - Jo’s death mask…

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Rita Dove is 59 today - African-American poet, Pulitzer Prize winner, and former US Poet Laureate, known for her sensitivity to place and motion in her work…

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Rita Dove: Golden Oldie

I made it home early, only to get
stalled in the driveway-swaying
at the wheel like a blind pianist caught in a tune
meant for more than two hands playing.
The words were easy, crooned
by a young girl dying to feel alive, to discover
a pain majestic enough
to live by. I turned the air conditioning off,
leaned back to float on a film of sweat,
and listened to her sentiment:
Baby, where did our love go? - a lament
I greedily took in
without a clue who my lover
might be, or where to start looking.
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Robertson Davies, Aug. 28, 1913 - 1995, wrote a Canadian brand of magical realism - informed by Jungian psychological theory…

“The love of truth lies at the root of much humor.” — Robertson Davies

9 Robertson portraits by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (Story here)

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Louis Faurer (Aug. 28, 1916 - 2001): Union Square, New York City, 1950 - gelatin silver print (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)

Louis Faurer: Staten Island Ferry, 1946 - gelatin silver print

Louis Faurer: Twin Sisters, New York, 1948

Louis Faurer: 14th Street Horn and Hardart, New York City, c. 1947
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Alan Cohen (b. Aug. 28, 1943): NOW: Guernica, Spain, 2003

“NOW pictures lift known cataclysmic events into the present. Through the documentation of contemporary ground the viewer is moved to ground zeros, killing and burial sites and the paths of cruel barriers now dissolved.” - Artist’s web-site

(Source: alan-cohen.com)

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Jean Auguste Ingres (Aug. 29, 1780 - 1867): Odalisque with Slave, 1842 - oil on canvas (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore)
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Jack Butler Yeats (Aug. 29, 1871 - 1957) was an Irish artist - the brother of poet W.B. Yeats…

Above: Fair Day, Mayo, 1925 - oil on canvas

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Maurice Maeterlinck (August 29, 1862 - 1949) was a Belgian playwright, poet and essayist who wrote in French…

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911 “in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers’ own feelings and stimulate their imaginations…”

Photo: Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs - NYPL



Photo from a performance of Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1901 mystic/Catholic play, Sister Beatrice…

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts / Billy Rose Theatre Division

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ngrid Bergman passed away on her 67th birthday, Aug. 29, 1982…

Still - Ingrid Bergman as Paula in Gaslight, 1944…

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Gay Anglo-American poet Thom Gunn, Aug. 29, 1929 - 2004…

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Thom Gunn: Painting by Vuillard

Two dumpy women with buns were drinking coffee
In a narrow kitchen—at least I think a kitchen
And I think it was whitewashed, in spite of all the shade.
They were flat brown, they were as brown as coffee.
Wearing brown muslin? I really could not tell.
How I loved this painting, they had grown so old
That everything had got less complicated,
Brown clothes and shade in a sunken whitewashed kitchen.

But it’s not like that for me: age is not simpler
Or less enjoyable, not dark, not whitewashed.
The people sitting on the marble steps
Of the national gallery, people in the sunlight,
A party of handsome children eating lunch
And drinking chocolate milk, and a young woman
Whose t-shirt bears the defiant word WHATEVER,
And wrinkled folk with visored hats and cameras
Are vivid, they are not browned, not in the least,
But if they do not look like coffee they look
As pungent and startling as good strong coffee tastes,
Possibly mixed with chicory. And no cream
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Ishi, considered the last Native American to make contact with European Americans, emerged from the wilderness of northeastern California on Aug. 29, 1911 - one hundred years ago today…

The Ishi story was told by anthropologist Alfred Kroeber in scientific form, and by his wife Theodora Kroeber, first as a biography and then in fictional form for children. The Kroebers, btw are the parents of Ursula LeGuin, the world’s best fantasy/s-f author…

Photo from Kroeber’s collection, of Ishi fashioning a bow…

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Argentine Surrealist artist: August 30, 1907 – 1996…

Dora Maar: Leonor Fini, 1936

Leonor Fini: D’un Jour a l’Autre, 1941 - oil on canvas

Leonor Fini as Justice…
Leonor Fini: L’élue de la nuit, 1986

Leonor Fini: Self-Portrait with Red Hat, 1968
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Jacques-Louis David (August 30, 1748 – 1825): Portrait de Madame Récamier, 1800 - Oil on canvas (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

René Magritte: Perspective: Madame Récamier by David, 1951 - Oil on canvas (National Gallery of Canada)
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Sandy Walker (b. Aug. 30, 1942): Joyce, 1973 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)

“I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile, and cunning.” — James Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)

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Robert Crumb (b. Aug. 30, 1943), initiator of the Underground comix movement…

Photo— Baron Wolman, 1969

R. Crumb - 68 & mellow…
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between august 29th and august 30th, Jean Dorothy Seberg took a blanket, one piece of paper, a bottle of water, an addled lion’s share of barbituates, and finally: herself, loading them into a white Renault parked in the Rue Gènèral Appert located within the sixteenth arrondisement of Paris. cocooned in said blanket and wedged between the front and rear row of seats, she was gone far before the police opened a door and found her enervated body ten days later.

after towing the Renault and undoing her from the inner layer of her makeshift chrysalis, they put her in a rubber sheet and shipped her off to the morgue. when officials received what was left of the woman publicitors once dubbed “a girl in a million,” it was then that they would find the piece of paper containing the transcription of a silenced voice. the paper said:

Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves. Understand me. I know that you can and you know that I love you.

Be strong.

Your loving mother,

Jean

that went on longer than i thought it would. but now we’re past it.

i’m certain that i fell for the same Jean that everyone else did, the chill sylph that once said “We’re hiding like elephants when they’re happy” while portraying the bittersweet betrayer. when i heard “New York Herald Tribune!” i wanted to drop everything to give my depreciated american dollars for a copy of that fucking paper. i hate the news. the first time i saw breathless my beat trilled for a bit at that scene, something that’s only happened twice in my days of living voyeurism.

as the movie went on the feeling subsided but the joy never really stopped. later with a twist of her lips, she let me go. i was really glad the movie was over. in a small chat about her, an interfriend named oscar asked me if i had read any of the books that chronicled her. i said no, but i was planning on it. there was no opting out of that. ages later, a myriad of beginnings and endings played on with her between a substantial few of them in vlc. google is still being cavity searched for any recorded interviews with her or her affiliates and old, borderline obscure movies with a limited dvd run. by the time i had bought david richards’ Played Out: The Jean Seberg Story, i was dreaming of visiting the grave of a cultess.

the book began and pretty much ended with perspectives of her death. i was prepared to ache a bit, hell, i wanted that, but the harrowing events of her life really do seem to come one after the other. i wasn’t expecting the duration, the plenty, the season of the sting. and while richards tries to hem his novelistic sensationalism and include some good glimmers of her, he can’t reverse her downward spiral. if i was a track during some of those parts, i would be i do not want this.

from being drug through the mud by the fbi, to being manipulated by a jive-glutted, wannabe cousin of malcolm x, to starring in underwhelming and mostly unfufilling films, to the obfuscation of desire and simple american values, to becoming estranged from the son she did have, to losing her baby soon after birthing it by cesarean and having to bury it herself in a glass coffin so that she could try to prove to those closest to her that the baby was white and she was not cheating on her husband, to - god i don’t know where i am at and i’m probably not finished, but the point, the barbed point is that jean was a victim of her kind, caring, courageous, and hopeful nature. in st.joan these traits are seen as hallmarks of the revolutionary jeanne d’arc, but since she finished that role, lost her beauty marks and literally burned for it, it would be the beginning of her frayed and bare, near armorless living.

it’s heartbreaking because not only do you know the bad happens, david richards has to tell you. and you see how she’s making these mistakes and never really learning from them, still trying to play the knight, still trying to retain the image of patricia, still trying to mend the gulf between who she was and would become, loving desperately and chasing windmills. jean’s father ed said :

Jean attempted all of her life to be of help and comfort to any who were in need. The dogs and cats she would bring home when she was a child saying “They followed me.” The Indians, the Blacks, the friends, the relatives, the others, any who thought would help them. And she did. She lived her convictions until the people in the world showed they did not understand her convictions. Then she gave up.

harry druker said “Jean was always trying to do it all by herself - save the world.”

you get it. she gave too much of herself and lost. one thing richards does very well is having her gravitate around her most vital film roles as archetypes. by the end of the book all are blurred into her, indistinct, but wholly her. by the end of her life she’s not st. joan, not patricia, not lillith, but literally sick and tired - the reality of which well distorts the common perpetuation of that phrase.

“she had this need in her, almost to the point of an obsession, to make the world a better place. all you had to say was “people are being hurt,” and she was like putty. she could be used by anyone if she thought that person was sincere, and there were those who took advantage. i’d talk to her about kids on drugs or the problems of the elderly, and her eyes would just start to well up. a terrible civil war was going on inside her - she had this desperate need to get the worldto care, and this over whelming frustration that she couldn’t do it alone.”

so the remainder of the book was very bleak, nothing but watching her hurt herself, basically. rather than be disillusioned, i was given more depth to her. along with that, i knew that the end was coming. all things considered, it was - well. i don’t really want to say it. i was glad the book was over.

the ultimate salute doesn’t go solely to the saint, the lilith, the femme fatale, the sufferer, the mother, the wannabe writer, the daughter, the wife, the fling, the dear friend, the activist, the girl left behind in marshalltown, the woman with the black tongue who preceded her first name with “blue,” but to the being that is jean seberg, whom one could say i burn a bit for. so good night, good knight jean. good night.

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James D. Butler (b. Aug. 30, 1945): Sponge-Cake, 1971 - lithograph on paper. Publisher: Lakeside Studio Editions; printer: Harry Westlund (Smithsonian)
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William Saroyan (Վիլյամ Սարոյան August 31, 1908 - May 18, 1981) was an American author who wrote many plays and short stories about growing up impoverished as the son of Armenian immigrants. These stories were popular during the Great Depression. William Saroyan’s heart is buried with other Armenian artists and intellectuals at the Pantheon Park in Yerevan, Armenia.
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Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel, Viennese beauty and serial heart-breaker: Aug. 31, 1879 - 1964…

Alma’s three last names reveal her marriages to Gustav Mahler, the composer; Walter Gropius, the architect; and Franz Werfel, the novelist…


Alma also had a number of affairs that did not lead to marriage - the most remarkable one with Oskar Kokoschka, the painter…

Above: One of Kokoschka’s portraits of Alma and himself - Two Nudes (Lovers), 1913 (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)

When Alma left poor Oskar, he had Hermine Moos manufacture a life-size and relatively life-like doll of Alma which - by the nature of such things - would never leave…
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Charles Baudelaire, poète maudit - died on this day in 1867, aged 40, two years after suffering a debilitating stroke causing aphasia and semi-paralysis….

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The Promises of a Face

I love your elliptical eyebrows, my pale beauty,
From which darkness seems to flow;
Although so black, your eyes suggest to me
Thoughts in no way funereal.

Your eyes, in harmony with your black hair,
With your buoyant mane,
Your swooning eyes now tell me: “If you wish,
O lover of the plastic muse,

To follow the hope we have excited in you,
And all the fancies you profess,
You will be able to prove our truthfulness
From the navel to the buttocks;

You will find at the tips of two heavy breasts
Two slack bronze medallions,
And under a smooth belly, soft as velvet,
Swarthy as the skin of a Buddhist,

A rich fleece, which truly is the sister
Of this huge head of hair,
Compliant and curly, its thickness equals
Black night, night without stars!”

— Geoffrey Wagner, Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire (NY: Grove Press, 1974)



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