Saturday, May 31, 2014
Friday, May 30, 2014
It is the birthday of jazz clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman (1909), who grew in prominence in the 1930s, and by 1936 was known as the King of Swing throughout the country. Music historians mark his January 16, 1938 performance at Carnegie Hall as the point when jazz became accepted by mainstream audiences. It was the first time jazz had been presented in the famous classical music venue. At first the audience reaction was lukewarm but by the end it was decidedly enthusiastic. The 2,760-seat hall was filled to capacity. Patrons had paid $2.75 for the best tickets. In 1938, that was expensive for a concert ticket. Here is a video that includes footage, archive photos and, a recording of "Sing, Sing, Sing" from that performance.
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Colette Bancroft, book editor of the Tampa Bay Times has written an excellent remembrance of the esteemed poet: "America is not a nation much given to honoring its poets, but Maya Angelou is an exception. Ms. Angelou, who was 86, died Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., after a period of failing health." The article continues here.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
It is the birthday of writer Dashiell Hammett (1894), who contributed Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles and the Continental Op to the pantheon of American detective fiction. He was called the dean of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction by The New York Times and is considered one of the best crime fiction writers of all time. Here is a short documentary about Hammett, which includes narration by his granddaughter.
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Friday, May 23, 2014
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
|Self portraits of Albrecht Dürer at various points in his life.|
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
|Thornton's design for the Capitol Building. Inset, William Thornton.|
Monday, May 19, 2014
iIt is the birthday of Ho Chi Minh (1890), Vietnam’s communist revolutionary leader who sought to free his country from French colonial rule. He served as prime minister for 10 years in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He served a president for 24 years, beginning in 1945. As a young man, Ho lived abroad in France, Great Britain, the United States, and Russia, absorbing various cultures and learning how to mount a revolution. He was living in Paris when President Woodrow Wilson was there to present his ideas about forming the League of Nations. Ho tried unsuccessfully to meet with Wilson to discuss Ho’s ideas for liberating Vietnam from French colonial oppression. However, he found a sympathetic ear in Moscow and soon embraced communism. Here is a fascinating program from the History Channel about Ho Chi Minh.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Friday, May 16, 2014
Thursday, May 15, 2014
It is the birthday of entertainer and peace activist Wavy Gravy (1936), whose clown antics figured prominently in the 1960s counterculture movement. He is remembered for leading the Hog Farm collective, a group that helped keep order at the first Woodstock Festival in 1970. Gravy has worked with spiritual leader Ram Dass to build sustainable health projects around the world, built a camp for underprivileged children, Camp Winnarainbow, and created art collages. He was born Hugh Romney but legally changed his name after blues guitarist B.B. King called him wavy gravy at a pop festival in Texas in 1969. He is the author of two books, The Hog Farm and Friends (1974) and Something Good for a Change: Random Notes on Peace Thru Living (1992). He currently has two radio programs on Sirius Satellite Radio, Gravy in Your Ear and The Wavy Files. He is featured in the documentary film Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie (2010).
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
|Thomas Gainsborough, left, and his portrait "The Blue Boy." Inset: Robert Rauschenberg|
A rival artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723), contended that the major colors in portraits should be yellows and reds, and that blues, grays, and greens should be kept to a minimum. Gainsborough didn’t agree. Historians think his life-size portrait is the son of a wealthy merchant, but nobody knows for sure.
In any case, the portrait was sold in 1796, when the merchant filed for bankruptcy, went through a succession of owners and ended up with a famous British art dealer, Joseph Duveen, in 1921. By then it was pretty famous, having been published in various periodicals and shown at the Royal Academy and the British National Gallery.
Along came Henry Huntington, who had made a fortune in building Los Angeles’ world-class trolley system, and was an avid collector of art are rare books. Huntington bought “The Blue Boy” and a portrait by Reynolds from Duveen for what would have been more than $8.5 million in 2014 dollars.
The transaction caused a patriotic uproar in Britain, and the director of the National Gallery, Sir Charles Holmes, scribbled in pencil on one of the stretchers for “The Blue Boy” a parting message, “Au devoir, C.H.” The paintings were put on display at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, where they remain today.
In 1943, future modern artist Robert Rauschenberg was a Navy draftee stationed at San Diego Naval Hospital. On furlough, he hitchhiked up the coast and visited the Huntington Library, where he saw “The Blue Boy,” and, for the first time, realized that people could earn a living as an artist. Rauschenberg went on to become one of the most famous pop artists of all time.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Monday, May 12, 2014
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Friday, May 9, 2014
Thursday, May 8, 2014
He spent lavishly on productions, but in the end they were never as successful as the variety shows, comedies, dramas, and vaudeville that played at the theaters he built. New York’s Metropolitan Opera once paid him $1.2 million to stop producing opera in America for 10 years. He took the money and built a theater in London to compete with Covent Garden’s Royal Opera Company. In two years, he’d spent it all. A reporter once asked him if there was any money in opera. He replied, “Yeah, mine.”
Hammerstein’s grandson, Oscar II, who grew up in the theaters his grandfather built and his father managed, became the great musical theater lyricist who wrote Carousel, Showboat, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Desert Song, The King and I, and The Sound of Music.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
We honor the birthdays of Hungarian composer Johannes Brahms (1833) and Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky (1840) with two of their most popular pieces, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 and Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien Op 45. Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
|Cartoonist John McCutcheon (inset) won a Pulitzer for this cartoon in 1932.|
Monday, May 5, 2014
Saturday, May 3, 2014
It is the birthday of Bing Crosby (1903), whose laid-back singing style made him one of the most beloved performers of all time. He sold half a billion records, starred in radio, television, and movies. During World War II, he was named the person who did the most for American armed forces morale. in the movies, Crosby warmed the hearts of millions as a Catholic priest Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way, in which he sang Swinging on a Star.
Friday, May 2, 2014
His closest competitors were a French ace, who was credited with 75 kills. and a Canadian pilot, credited with 72. Recent research suggests the Red Baron’s record may have been as many as 100, but that’s including some that were unconfirmed. Historians point out that many of his victories occurred against vastly superior allied air forces.
The Red Baron was killed in combat over France in 1917. Royal Air Force Captain Arthur Roy Brown was originally credited with the victory though more recent scholarship shows that Richthofen was actually killed by anti-aircraft fire.
Richthofen wrote his autobiography, The Red Fighter Pilot (1917), while he was recovering from battle injuries. He was required to do so by the propaganda section of the German air force. He read an English translation, The Red Battle Flyer (1918), before it was published and thought it made him sound more arrogant than he believed himself to be.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
After losing her husband and her four children to a yellow fever epidemic and her dress workshop to the Great Chicago Fire, Mary Harris Jones turned to organizing mine workers and their families.
She became a forceful speaker and catalyst for organizing labor in coal mines and silk mills, even once leading children on a march from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home in Oyster Bay, New York, to call attention to child labor conditions. She became increasingly well known in labor circles and sometime in the 1890s she acquired the nickname Mother Jones. In 1902, she was hauled into court in West Virginia for her organizing activities among mine workers, where a district attorney labeled her “the most dangerous woman in America.”
She differed with fellow women activists of the time on a couple of points, though. She opposed abortion and women’s suffrage. “You don’t need the vote to raise hell,” she said. She told the story of her life in The Autobiography of Mother Jones (1925)
Mother Jones Magazine, founded in 1970, is named for her. Poet Carl Sandburg suggested in The American Songbag (1927) that the song “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” refers to Mother Jones.