Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 31st of July, Solar Year 2018

Oh, Happy Day

July 31, 1901 was the birthdate of French painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet.

In 1945, Jean Dubuffet, impressed with painter Jean Fautrier’s abstract paintings, started to use thick oil paint mixed with materials such as mud, straw, pebbles, sand, plaster, and tar. He abandoned the tradition use of the brush; instead, he worked with a paste into which he could create physical marks, scratches and slashes. These impasto paintings, the ‘Hautes Pâtes’ series, he exhibited at his show in 1946 at the Galery Rene Drouin. He received some backlash from the critics but also some positive feedback as well.

Jean Dubuffet achieved rapid success in the American art market, largely due to his inclusion in the Pierre Matisse exhibition in 1946. His association with Matisse proved to be very beneficial. Dubuffet’s work was placed among the likes of Picasso, Braque, and Rouault at the gallery exhibit; he was only one of two young artists to be honored in this manner. In 1947, Dubuffet had his first solo exhibition in America, in the same gallery as the Matisse exhibition. Reviews were largely favorable, and this resulted in Dubuffet having a regularly scheduled exhibition at that gallery.

In his earlier paintings, Dubuffet dismissed the concept of perspective in favor of a more direct, two-dimensional presentation of space. Instead, Dubuffet created the illusion of perspective by crudely overlapping objects within the picture plane. Dubuffet’s “Hourloupe” style in later paintings developed from a chance doodle while he was on the telephone. The basis of it was a tangle of clean black lines that forms cells, which are sometimes filled with unmixed color. Dubuffet believed the style evoked the manner in which objects appear in the mind. This contrast between physical and mental representation later encouraged him to use the approach to create sculpture.

Between 1945 and 1947, Jean Dubuffet took three separate trips to Algeria—a French colony at the time in order to find further artistic inspiration. He was fascinated by the nomadic nature of the tribes in Algeria, particularly the ephemeral quality of their existence. The impermanence of this kind of movement attracted Dubuffet and became a facet of the new Art Brut movement.

Dubuffet coined the term art brut, meaning “raw art”, for artwork produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms, such as art by psychiatric patients, prisoners, and children. He felt that the simple life of the everyday human being contained more art and poetry than did academic art, or great painting. Dubuffet found the latter to be isolating, mundane, and pretentious,  He sought to create in his own work an art free from intellectual concerns; and as a result, his work often appears primitive and childlike.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 30th of July, Solar Year 2018

Reading His Messages

The first Defenestration of Prague occurred on July 30, 1419.

In the early 15th century there was a fair amount of discontent internally within the Catholic Church; in particular, regular folks were angry over the relative amount of wealth held by the clergy and nobility compared with the grinding poverty of the peasant class. As a result , reforming and sometimes radical preachers arose to protest these grievances.

Jan Želivsky was a prominent Czech priest during the Hussite Reformation which was started by reformer John Huss. Želivsky preached at Church of Our Lady of the Snows in Prague. He was one of a few moderate Utraquist priests of the reformation movement at that time and strongly influential. His sermons were noted both for their eloquence and their apocalyptic descriptions.

The first defenestration of Prague began when radical Hussites wanted to free several moderate Hussites imprisoned by the magistrates. The town council had refused to exchange their Hussite prisoners. Jan Želivsky led his congregation on a protest procession through the streets of Prague to the New Town Hall on Town Square.

While they were marching, a stone was thrown at Želivský from the window of the town hall, allegedly hitting him. This enraged the mob and they stormed the town hall. Once inside the hall, the group defenestrated the judge and council members. Some thirty radical Hussites threw the judge and seven members of the Prague Town Council out of the upper stories windows of the New Town Hall, sending them to their deaths on the pikes of the Hussite Army below. The shock of the news caused the Czech king, Wenceslas IV, to die of a heart attack.

The consequences for this defenestration of Prague’s leaders were rather severe. John Huss was burned at the stake after being betrayed with a safe conduct, setting up the tension for Martin Luther a century later under similar circumstances. After that, the rest of Europe fought a “crusade” against the Hussites, who managed to fight them off for twenty years before suffering some military defeats.

The remaining Hussites agreed to a compromise solution that ended up setting up an Utraquist rite that helped portend the Protestant Reformation and led to a complex religious situation in Bohemia. The First Defenestration of Prague could be considered a qualified success, showing the powerlessness of the Luxemburg dynasty and giving the Bohemian nobility significant freedom of religion, though short of the total liberty that many of them wanted.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 29th of July, Solar Year 2018

Stripping Among the Cattails

July 29, 1954 was the publishing date for Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring”.

“The Lord of the Rings” started as a sequel to J. R. R. Tolkien’s work “The Hobbit”, published in 1937. The popularity of “The Hobbit” had led George Allen & Unwin, the publishers, to request a sequel. Tolkien warned them that he wrote quite slowly, and responded with several stories he had already developed; however the publishers thought more stories about hobbits would be popular. So at the age of 45, Tolkien began writing the story that would become “The Lord of the Rings”.

Persuaded by his publishers,Tolkien started the new Hobbit series in December of 1937. After several false starts, the story of the One Ring emerged. The idea for the first chapter , which became entitled “A Long-Expected Party” arrived fully formed, although the reasons behind Bilbo’s disappearance, the significance of the Ring, and the series title “ The Lord of the Rings” did not arrive until the spring of 1938.

Originally, Tolkien planned to write a story in which Bilbo had used up all his treasure and was looking for another adventure to gain more; however, Tolkien remembered the Ring and its powers and thought that would be a better focus for the new work. As the story progressed, he also brought in elements from his “Simarillion” mythology.

Because J.R.R. Tolkien had a full-time academic position and needed to earn further money as a university examiner, his writing on the project was slow. Tolkien abandoned writing the series during most of 1943 not restarting it until April of 1944. This spate of writing became a serial for his son Christopher, who was sent chapters as they were written while he was stationed with the Royal Air Force in South Africa. Tolkien made another concerted effort in 1946, and showed the manuscript to his publishers in 1947. The story was effectively finished the next year, but Tolkien did not complete the revision of earlier parts of the work until 1949. Finished after twelve years, the original manuscript totaled 9,250 pages.

A dispute between Tolkien and his publisher George Allen and Unwin led to the book being offered to Harper Collins Publishers in 1950.  After Milton Waldman, Tolkien’s contact at Collins, expressed the belief that the book urgently needing “cutting”, Tolkien demanded that they publish it in 1952, Collins did not; so Tolkien took it back to Allen and Unwin, stating that he would consider it being published in parts.

For publication, the book was divided into three volumes to minimize any potential financial loss due to the high cost of type-setting and modest anticipated sales: “The Fellowship of the Ring“(Books I and II), “The Two Towers” (Books III and IV), and “The Return of the King”(Books V and VI plus six appendices). Delays in producing appendices, maps and especially an index led to the volumes being published later than originally hoped. The first volume of the “Fellowship of the Ring” was finally published in the United Kingdom on July 29th of 1954.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 28th of July, Solar Year 2018

Coffee and Morning Treat

July 28, 1932 was the release date of the film “White Zombie”.

“White Zombie” is a 1932 American pre-Code horror film independently produced by Edward Halperin and directed by Victor Halperin. The zombie theme was inspired by Kenneth Webb’s Broadway play titled “Zombie”. Webb sued the Halperin brothers for copyright infringement, but lost the case because the screenplay was not based upon his play. The film went into development in early 1932 with the hopes to cash in on the country’s interest in voodoo at that time.

“White Zombie” was filmed in only eleven days in March of 1932 at the Universal Studios lot. Bela Lugosi, who was very popular at the time due to his role as Dracula, starred as the white Haitian voodoo master who turns actress Madge Ballamy, the film’s damsel in distress, into a zombie. Except for the addition of film star Joseph Cawthorn, the majority of the cast were silent film stars whose fame had diminished.

The music of “White Zombie” started with “Chant”, a composition of wordless vocals and drumming created by Guy Bevier Williams, a specialist in ethnic music who worked with Universal Studios. The music of the film was supervised by Abe Meyer, who had orchestras record new versions of works by Wagner, Liszt, Mussorgsky, and other symphonic composers. A piece of music expressly written for the bar room scene in “White Zombie” was a Spanish jota by arranger and band leader Xavier Cugat.

“White Zombie” was released in July of 1932 at the Rivoli Theater in New York City to many critical reviews. Most of the unfavorable reviews focused on the poor silent-era style acting, the stilted dialogue, and a story line that many found comedic instead of dramatic. Harrison’s Reports, a New York City-based motion picture trade journal, wrote that it was not up to the standards of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein”. When it was released in the United Kingdom, the film received the review of “not for the squeamish or the highly intelligent”.

The film “White Zombie”, despite the mixed box office reception and reviews, was a great financial success for an independent film at that time. Later in 1933 and 1934, the film had positive box numbers in small towns, as well as in foreign countries. “White Zombie” was one of the few American horror films approved by the Nazi party in Germany.

“White Zombie” is considered to be the first feature length zombie film and has been described as the archetype and model of all Zombie movies. Although not many early horror films followed the film’s Haitian origins style, other 1930s films borrowed themes of the zombie mythology, such as the blank-eyed stares, the voodoo drums, and zombies performing manual labor. This film, although now considered by some as a classic horror film, was not nominated for any Academy Awards.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 27th of July, Solar Year 2018

Hold

July 27, 1940 was the release date of the film “A Wild Hare”.

An early version of a Bugs Bunny-like character appeared in the 1938 “Porky’s Hare Hunt”. It was co-directed by Ben Hardaway and an uncredited Cal Dalton, who was responsible for the initial design of the rabbit. Porky Pig is cast as a hunter tracing his prey who is more interested in driving his pursuer insane rather than escaping. The white rabbit had an oval shaped head, a shapeless body, and was voiced by Mel Blanc.

This rabbit character appeared in “Prest-O Change-O”, directed by animator Chuck Jones and released in 1939. This version of the character was cool, graceful and controlled. He retained the laugh but was otherwise silent in the film. The third appearance of the rabbit was in the 1939 “Hare-um Scare-um” directed by Dalton and Hardaway. This time he was gray and had his first singing role.

“The Wild Hare” is considered to be the first official Bugs Bunny cartoon. It is the first film where both Elmer Fudd and Bugs, both redesigned by animator and developer Bob Givens, are shown in their fully developed forms as hunter and tormentor. The film is the first in which Mel Blanc uses what becomes the standard voice for Bugs, and says Bugs’ famous catchphrase, “What’s up, Doc”. A huge success in the theaters, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cartoon Short Subject.

Since Bugs’ debut in “ A Wild Hare”, Bugs appeared only in color Merrie Melodies films, alongside Elmer and his predecessors. Bugs made a cameo in the 1943 “Porky’s Pig Feet”, but that was his only appearance in a black-and-white Looney Tunes film. He did not star in a Looney Tunes film until that series made its complete conversion to only color cartoons beginning in 1944. “Buckaroo Bugs” was Bugs’ first film in the Looney Tunes series and was also the last Warner Bros. cartoon to credit Schlesinger, who had produced the film of the original rabbit. The Leon Schlesinger Productions studio was sold to Warner Brothers in1944 after the release fo “Buckaroo Bugs”.

The cartoon 1958 “Knighty Knight Bugs”, directed by Fritz Freleng, in which a medieval Bugs trades blows with Yosemite Sam and his fire-breathing dragon, won an Academy Award for Best Cartoon Short Subject, becoming the first Bugs Bunny cartoon to win that award. Three of Chuck Jones’ films —“Rabbit Fire”, “Rabbit Seasoning” and “Duck! Rabbit, Duck!”— compose what is often referred to as the “Rabbit Season/Duck Season” trilogy and are famous for originating the historic rivalry between Bugs and Daffy Duck.

Chuck Jones’ classic 1957 “What’s Opera, Doc?”, casts Bugs and Elmer Fudd in a parody of Richard Wagner’s opera “Der Ring des Nibelungen”. This cartoon was deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1992, becoming the first cartoon short to receive this honor.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 26th of July, Solar Year 2018

The Dock of the Bay

July 26, 1895 was the birthdate of American comedian Gracie Allen.

Gracie Allen, born in San Francisco, made her first appearance on stage at the age of three and was given her first role on the radio by Eddie Cantor. She attended the Star of the Sea Convent School, at which time she became a talented dancer. She soon began performing Irish folk dances with her three sisters, billed as “The Four Colleens”. In 1909, Allen joined her sister as a vaudeville performer.

At a vaudeville performance in 1923 in Union City, New Jersey, Gracie Allen met George Burns, a vaudeville performer who usually did a comedy routine  and a dance with a girl partner. The two immediately launched a new partnership called “Burns and Allen” with Gracie playing the role of the ‘straight man’ and George delivering the punchlines as the comedian. Burns knew something was wrong when the audience ignored his jokes but snickered at Gracie’s questions. Burns cannily flipped the act around.

Gracie Allen’s part was known in vaudeville as a “Dumb Dora” act, named after a very early film of the same name that featured a scatterbrained female protagonist, but her “illogical logic” style was several cuts above the Dumb Dora stereotype. She and George Burns took the act on the road, gradually building a following. The act was so consistently dependable that vaudeville bookers elevated them to the more secure “standard act” status, and finally to the Palace Theater in New York. After three years together, Gracie Allen married Burns in Cleveland, Ohio in January of 1926.

In the fall of 1949, Jack Benny convinced Gracie Allen and George Burns to join him in the move to the CBS network. The “Burns and Allen” radio show, which had run from the early 1930s, became part of the CBS lineup and a year later a television program. They played themselves, as television stars, bewildering the guest stars and their neighbors, Harry and Blanche Morton, with Gracie Allen’s illogical logic. Each show began with a brief monologue by George Burns about Gracie’s activities on that day. Audiences continued to love Allen’s character, who combined the traits of naivete, zaniness, and total innocence.

Gracie Allen retired in 1958 due to her health. She fought a long battle with heart disease, ultimately dying of a heart attack in Hollywood on August 27, 1964, at the age of 69. Her remains are interred in a crypt at the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale, California.

Gracie Allen Quotes:                                                                                             “I was so surprised at being born that I didn’t speak for a year and a half.”

“I read a book twice as fast as anybody else. First, I read the beginning, and then I read the ending, and then I start in the middle and read toward whatever end I like best.”

“You speak it the same way you speak English, you just use different words.”

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 25th of July, Solar Year 2018

Tiles and a Cluster of Suds

July 25, 1870 was the birthdate of the painter and illustrator Maxfield Parrish.

Born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Maxfield Parrish was the son of painter and etcher Stephen Parrish. His parents encouraged his drawing talent and took the young Parrish in 1884 on a trip to Europe. Parrish was exposed to the architecture and the paintings by the old masters, as he toured England, Italy and France. The family returned to the United States in 1886.

Maxfield Parrish attended the Haverford School, a private school for boys, and later studied for two years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. After graduating, he shared an art studio with his father in Annisquam, Massachusetts. A year later Parrish attended the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry.

Early in his career, Parrish did illustrations for “Harper’s Bazaar” and “The Scribner’s Magazine”. He also illustrated in 1897 the children’s book “Mother Goose in Prose”, written by L. Frank Baum, who went on to write and publish “The Wizard of Oz” three years later. By 1900, Parrish, now a  member of the Society of American Artists, traveled to Europe again to visit Italy.

Parrish worked with many popular magazines throughout the 1910s and 1920s. He also created advertising artwork for companies such as Colgate and Oneida Cutlery. Parrish received an exclusive contract with Collier’s and worked for them from 1904 to 1913. By the 1920s, however, Parrish decided to concentrate on his painting and stopped his illustrative commercial work.

In his forties, Parrish did paintings for children’s books and began working on large murals. His most popular work was the painting “Daybreak” which was produced in 1923. Featuring a scene of a columned portico with two female figures, it had undertones of the now famous Parrish blue color. The print of this work is regarded as the most popular print in the American 20th century based on the number of prints sold, equal to one for almost every four households.

Parrish’s art is characterized by vibrant colors. He achieved such luminous color through the process of glazing. This process involves applying alternating bright layers of oil color separated by varnish over a base rendering, usually a blue and white monochromatic underpainting. He would often project photographs of his draped models onto the canvas, allowing him to accurately represent the distortion of patterns of the draping.

The National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island, claims the largest body of his work, with sixty-nine works by Parrish. However, you can also see works by Parrish at the Hood Museum of Art in New Hampshire and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Parrish’s painting “Daybreak” has changed owners several times but has always been in private collections.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 24th of July, Solar Year 2018

The Terrazzo Floor

July 24, 1952 marks the release date in the United States of the classic film “High Noon”.

“High Noon” is a 1952 American western film produced by Stanley Kramer, directed by Fred Zinnemann, and starring Gary Cooper. The plot, depicted in real time, revolves around a town marshal, who must face a gang of killers alone, torn between his sense of duty and love for his new bride. The film was mired in controversy with political overtones at the time of its release.

In 1951, during production of the film, Carl Foreman, the screenwriter of the movie, was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee during its investigation of “Communist propaganda and influence” in the Hollywood motion picture industry. He was labeled an “uncooperative witness” by the committee, making him vulnerable to blacklisting, the practice of denying employment to suspected Communists.

After Carl Foreman’s refusal to name names was made public, Foreman’s production partner Stanley Kramer, the producer of the film, demanded an immediate dissolution of their partnership. As a signatory to the production loan, Foreman remained with the “High Noon” project; but before the film’s release, he sold his partnership share to Kramer and moved to Britain, knowing that he would not find further work in the United States.

Gary Cooper played the lead role of Marshal Will Kane, even doing the fight scenes, despite ongoing problems with his back. He wore no makeup, to emphasize his character’s anguish and fear, which was probably intensified by pain from a recent ulcer surgery. Grace Kelly was given the part of the marshal’s wife, Amy Fowler Kane, despite the thirty-year age disparity with Gary Cooper, after producer Stanley Kramer saw her in an off-Broadway play.

The running time of the story almost precisely parallels the running time of the film itself, an effect heightened by the frequent shots of clocks, to remind the characters, and the audience, that the villain the marshal will have to fight will be arriving on the noon train. Thus the title “High Noon”. Upon its release, critics and audiences expecting chases, fights, spectacular scenery, and other common Western film elements were dismayed to find them largely replaced by emotional and moralistic dialogue until the climactic final scenes.

“High Noon” was criticized in the then Soviet Union as “glorification of the individual”. The American Left lauded it as an allegory against blacklisting and McCarthyism, but it gained respect in the conservative community as well. Now considered a classic western, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four: Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Music Score and Best Music Song. It also won four Golden Globe Awards in the categories of Actor, Supporting Actress, Score, and Black and White Cinematography.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 23rd of July, Solar Year 2018

Framing His Own Portrait

July 23, 1886 was the day that American Steve Brodie jumped (supposedly) off the Brooklyn Bridge and survived.

The Brooklyn Bridge, then known as the East River Bridge, had opened just three years before Steve Brodie’s claimed jump. A swimming instructor from Washington DC, Robert Emmet Odium, was killed while attempting the same stunt in May of 1885. Brodie, who was unemployed and aware of the publicity generated by Odium’s fatal jump, bragged to people in the Bowery section of New York City that he would take the jump. Wagers were made for and against; but Brodie never officially announced he would make the attempt.

The jump supposedly made by Steve Brodie on July 23, was from a height of 135 feet, the same height as a fourteen-story building. The New York Times in its coverage put the height at about 120 feet. The newspaper backed Brodie’s account of the jump, saying that Brodie had practiced by making shorter jumps from other bridges and from masts of ships. They also cited two witness descriptions by their reporters.

The New York Times account stated that Steve Bodie leaped into the East River, feet first, and emerged uninjured , except with a pain on his right side. Upon reaching shore, Steve Brodie was arrested by the police. The New York Times described Brodie as a newsboy and long-distance pedestrian who jumped from the bridge to win a two-hundred dollar bet. Another account that surfaced after the jump was a claim by Moritz Herzber, a liquor dealer, who said he offered to back a saloon for Brodie if he made the jump.

If true, Steve Bodie would have been the first person to survive a jump off the Brooklyn Bridge; however, his claim was disputed, which still lingers today. In 1930 it was reported that a retired police sergeant and friend of Bodie, Thomas K. Hastings, said that Steve Brodie had told him he didn’t make the jump and never said he did. In his book “The Great Bridge”, historian David McCullough said it was commonly believed by skeptics that a dummy was dropped from the bridge, and that Brodie merely swam out from shore and surfaced beside a passing barge.

After the stunt, Steve Brodie opened a saloon at 114 Bowery near Grand Street, which also became a museum for his bridge-jumping stunt. He became an actor capitalizing on his reputation, appearing in the vaudeville musicals “Mad Money” and “On the Bowery”. He later opened another saloon in Buffalo, New York. Brodie died in San Antonio, Texas in 1901; the cause of death described as either diabetes or tuberculosis. His fame persisted after his death, with the term “to do a Brodie”, meaning to take a chance, specifically a suicidal one, entered the language.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of July, Solar Year 2018

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

July 22, 1947 was the birthdate of actor, comedian and producer Albert Brooks.

Albert Brooks led a new generation of self-reflective comics appearing on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”. His onstage persona was  that of an egotistical, narcissistic, nervous comic, one who tore himself down before an audience by disassembling his mastery of comedic routine. He once performed a humorless, five-minute stand up comedy routine on “The Tonight Show” in 1962 that didn’t produce a single laugh until the punchline – when he explained to the audience that he had been working as a stand up comic for five years and had run out of material. Johnny Carson swore the hilarity which followed this set-up lasted a full minute.

Brooks appeared in 1976 in his first mainstream movie role as Tom in Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” , where Scorsese allowed him to improvise much of his dialogue. Brooks directed his first feature film, “Real Life”, in 1979, playing the lead role as a man obnoxiously filming a typical suburban family in an attempt to win an Oscar as well as a Nobel Prize. His film, “Lost in America”, released in 1985, was one of his best-received productions. It featured Brooks and Julie Hagerty as a couple of yuppies who drop out and travel in a motor home, meeting obstacles and disappointments in their dream.

Albert Brooks received good reviews for his films in the 1990s, showing his off-beat style and his seamless successions of shots in his filming. His “Defending Your Life” comedy with Meryl Streep portrayed an after-life trial of Brooks to determine his cosmic fate. Brooks received positive reviews for “Mother” in 1996 as a middle-aged writer moving back home to his mother, played by Debbie Reynolds. His 1999 film “The Muse” featured him as a Hollywood screenwriter who lost his edge and finds an authentic muse, played by Sharon Stone, to give him inspiration.

Brooks played an insecure, supremely ethical network television reporter in James L. Brooks’ hit “Broadcast News”. For this role he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also appeared as the vicious gangster Bernie Rose, the main antagonist in the motion picture “Drive”, a role given much critical praise and positive reviews.

Albert Brooks did voiceover work in the Pixar film “Finding Nemo” in 2003, voicing the character of Marlin, one of the film’s protagonists. He reprised the role of Marlin in the 2016 sequel “Finding Dory”. Brooks also appeared as a guest voice on “The Simpsons” five times during its run, always under the name of A. Brooks, and is particularly known for his role as super-villain Hank Scorpio in the episode “You Only Move Twice”. He later also voiced the character of Russ Cargill, the central antagonist of “The Simpsons Movie”.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 21st of July, Solar Year 2018

Gathering Apples on High

July 21, 1920 was the birthdate of Constant A. Nieuwenhuys, a painter turned architect and one of the founders of the Situationist International.

Constant Nieuwenhuys was a Dutch artist born in Amsterdam and one of the founding members of the Situationist International formed in 1957. He is also known for his utopian project, New Babylon, on which he worked for nearly twenty years starting in 1956. Constant was one of the theoretical drivers behind the Situationists alongside Guy Debord. It was a widening gulf between their two positions that eventually led Constatnt Nieuwenhuys to leave the group in 1960.

The Situationists were an overtly political group whose critique of the alienation of capitalist society has had a lasting effect on contemporary culture. They saw modern society as a series of spectacles, discrete moments in time, where the possibility of active participation in the production and experience of lived reality were eluded.

The rift between Constant and Debord focused on the structuralist tendencies of Constant. Through his exploration of “unitary urbanism”, Constant focused not only on the atmosphere and social interactions of the Situationis city, but also on the actual production of the city as a built space. His project New Babylon is today considered and exemplary expression of a Situationist city.

Designed around the abolition of work, New Babylon was a city based on total automation and the collective ownership of land. With no more work, citizens were free to move around; New Babylon being designed to facilitate a nomadic lifestyle. Divided into a series of interconnected sectors, the city operated on a network of collective services and transportation.

Through a large number of models, drawings and collages, Constant explored the various sectors, floating above ground on stilts, interconnected with bridges and pathways. Traffic flowed above and below; while the inhabitants traveled by foot from section to section. The degree to which the details of the city had been worked out and Constant’s own discourse showed that he viewed this as a concrete proposal for a future city rather than just a polemical project.

Constant Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon focused on the social construction of space with every aspect of the city controllable by its citizens in order that they could construct new atmospheres and situations within the given infrastructure. It was a dynamic environment that could easily be adapted and changed, allowing inhabitants to explore their creativity through play and interaction. Constant, ultimately, did not see New Babylon as a city, but rather as a design of a new culture.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of July, Solar Year 2018

A World of Blue Tiles

July 20, 1938 was the birthdate of English actress, Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg in Yorkshire, England.

Diana Rigg’s career in film, television and theater has been wide-ranging. Her professional debut was in the production of “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” at the York Festival in 1957. She made her Broadway debut with the play “Abelard and Heloise” in 1971, earning the first of three Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Play. She received her second nomination in 1975 for her role in “The Misanthrope”.

In the 1990s, Diana Riggs had triumphs with roles at the Almeida Theater in Islington, England, including “Medea” in 1992, which moved to Broadway where she received the Tony Award for Best Actress, “Mother Courage” at the National Theater in 1995, and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” at the Almeida Theater in 1997. In 2011 Riggs played Mrs. Higgins in “Pygmalion” at the Garrick Theater in the West End of London; in February of 2018 she returned to Broadway in a non-singing role of Mrs. Higgins in “My Fair Lady”.

Diana Rigg appeared in the British 1960s television series “The Avengers” from 1965 to 1968 opposite Patrick McNee as John Steed, playing the secret agent Emma Peel in 51 episodes. Rigg auditioned for the role on a whim, without ever having seen the program. Although she was hugely successful in the series, she disliked the lack of privacy that it brought. Also, she was not comfortable in her position as a sex symbol, She also did not like the way that she was treated by the Associated British Corporation (ABC).

In 2013, Diana Rigg secured a recurring role in the third season of the HBO series “Game of Thrones”, portraying Lady Olenna Tyrell, a witty and sarcastic political mastermind popularly known as the Queen of Thorns, the grandmother of regular character Margaery Tyrell. Her performance was well received by critics and audiences alike, and earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2013.

Diana Rigg reprised her role in season four of “Game of Thrones” and in July 2014 received another Guest Actress Emmy nomination. In 2015 and 2016, she again reprised the role in seasons five and six in an expanded role from the books. The character was finally killed off in the seventh season, with Rigg’s final performance receiving critical acclaim.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 19th of July, Solar Year 2018

Sailing Away

The steamship SS Great Britain is launched on July 19, 1843.

The SS Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, an English mechanical and civil engineer, for the Great Western Steamship Company’s transatlantic service between Bristol and New York. While other ships had been built of iron or equipped with a screw propeller, SS Great Britain was the first to combine both features in a large ocean-going ship.

The ship’s design team, led by Brunel, were initially cautious in the adaptation of their plans to iron hulled-technology. With each successive draft however, the ship grew ever larger and bolder in conception. By the fifth draft, the vessel had grown to 3,400 tons, over 1,000 tons larger than any ship then in existence. The ship was originally designed to use paddle-wheels for propulsion: however, after testing a number of different screw propellers over several months, Brunel persuaded the company directors  to build completely new engines suitable for powering the new propeller.

The launching or, more accurately, the “floating out” took place on 19 of July, 1843. Conditions were generally favorable and diarists recorded that, after a dull start, the weather brightened with only a few intermittent showers. Following the launch ceremony, the builders had planned to have Great Britain towed to the Thames for her final fitting out. Unfortunately, the harbor authorities had failed to carry out the necessary modifications to their facilities in a timely manner. This dilemma was to result in another costly delay for the company. After being trapped in the harbor for more than a year, SS Great Britain was at last floated out in December 1844.

When completed in 1845, Great Britain was a revolutionary vessel—the first ship to combine an iron hull with screw propulsion, and at 322 feet in length and with a 3,400-ton displacement. She had four decks, including the spar upper deck, a crew of 120, and was fitted to accommodate a total of 360 passengers, along with 1,200 tons of cargo and 1,200 tons of coal for fuel. An innovative feature was the lack of traditional heavy bulwarks around the main deck; a light iron railing both reduced weight and allowed water shipped in heavy weather to run unimpeded back to sea.

On 26 July 1845, seven years after the Great Western Steamship Company had decided to build the ship, and five years overdue, SS Great Britain embarked on her maiden voyage, from Liverpool to New York under Captain James Hosken, with 45 passengers. The ship made the passage in 14 days and 21 hours, at an average speed of 9.25 knots, almost 1.5 knots slower than the prevailing record. She made the return trip in thirteen and a half days, again an unexceptional time. In her second season of service in 1846, Great Britain successfully completed two round trips to New York at an acceptable speed, but was then laid up for repairs.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 17th of July, Solar Year 2018

Stylized Flowers

July 18, 1937 was the birthdate of American journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson.

Hunter S. Thompson carved out his niche in creative writing early in life. He was born in 1937, in Louisville, Kentucky, where his fiction and poetry earned him induction into the local Athenaeum Literary Association while he was still in high school. Thompson continued his literary pursuits in the United States Air Force, writing a weekly sports column for the base newspaper. After two years of service, Thompson endured a series of newspaper jobs, all of which ended badly, before he took to freelancing from Puerto Rico and South America for a variety of publications. The vocation quickly developed into a compulsion.

In 1967, Thompson published his first nonfiction book, “Hell’s Angels”, a harsh and incisive firsthand investigation into the infamous motorcycle gang then making the heartland of America nervous. He spent a year of research living and riding with the motorcycle gang to write the account of their experiences.

In 1970 he wrote an unconventional magazine feature entitled “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” for Scanlan’s Monthly magazine which both raised his profile and established him as a writer with counter-culture credibility. It also set him on a path to establishing his own sub-genre of New Journalism which he called “Gonzo,” which was essentially an ongoing experiment in which the writer becomes a central figure and even a participant in the events of the narrative.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, which first appeared in Rolling Stone in November 1971, sealed Thompson’s reputation as an outlandish stylist successfully straddling the line between journalism and fiction writing. The book tells of a savage journey to the heart of the American Dream in full-tilt gonzo style, Thompson’s hilarious first-person approach, and is accented by British illustrator Ralph Steadman’s appropriate drawings.

Thompson completed “The Rum Diary”, his only novel published to date, before he turned twenty-five. Bought by Ballantine Books, the novel was finally published to glowing reviews in 1998. The story, written when Thompson was twenty-two, involves a journalist who, in the 1950s, moves from New York to work for a  major newspaper in Puerto Rico. It was Thompson’s second novel, preceded by the still-unpublished “Prince Jellyfish”.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 16th of July, Solar Year 2018

Two Birch Trees

July 17, 1889 was the birthdate of American detective writer Erle Stanley Gardner.

Erle Stanley Gardner, as a lawyer, enjoyed litigation and the development of trial strategy but was otherwise bored by legal practice. In his spare time, he began writing for pulp magazines; his first story was published in 1923. Gardner created many series characters for the pulps, including the ingenious Lester Leith, a parody of the “gentleman thief”; and Ken Corning, crusading lawyer, crime sleuth, and archetype for his most successful creation, Perry Mason.

While the Perry Mason novels did not delve into their characters lives very much, the novels were rich in plot detail which was reality-based and drawn from Gardner’s own experience. In his early years writing for the pulp magazine market, Gardner set himself a quota of 1,200,000 words a year. With the success of the Perry Mason book series, which eventually ran to over 80 novels, Gardner gradually reduced his contributions to the pulp magazines until the medium itself died in the 1950s.

Gardner created Perry Mason as a recurring character in a series of Hollywood films of the 1930s, and then for the radio program “Perry Mason”  which ran from 1943 to 1955. In 1954, CBS proposed transforming the radio program into a television soap opera; but Gardner opposed the idea. In 1957, “Perry Mason” became instead a long-running CBS-TV drama series, starring Raymond Burr in the title role. Burr had auditioned for the role of the district attorney Hamilton Burger; but Gardner reportedly declared he was the embodiment of Perry Mason. The series’ last episode was “The Case of the Final Fade-Out” in 1966 with a cameo appearance of Gardner as a judge.

Gardner devoted thousands of hours to “The Court of Last Resort”, in collaboration with his many friends in the forensic, legal, and investigative communities. The project sought to review, and when appropriate, reverse miscarriages of justice against criminal defendants who had been convicted because of poor legal representation, abuse, misinterpretation of forensic evidence, or careless or malicious actions of police or prosecutors. The resulting 1952 book earned Gardner his only Edgar Award, in the Best Fact Crime category, and was later made into a TV series.

Gardner died in March of 1970 at his ranch in Temecula- the best-selling American writer of the 20th century at the time of his death. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin holds Gardner’s manuscripts, art collection, and personal effects. From 1972 to 2010, the Ransom Center featured a full-scale reproduction of Gardner’s study that displayed original furnishings, personal memorabilia, and artifacts.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 15th of July, Solar Year 2018

Summer Heat

July 16, 1911 was the birthdate of actress, dancer and singer Ginger Rogers.

Ginger Rogers had two films in the 1933 that have now become classics. The public was enamored by her in the song and dance “Gold Diggers of 1933”, She did not have top billing but the public remembered her beauty and voice. One song she popularized in the film was the now famous “We’re in the Money”. Rogers played the character of Ann Lowell in “42nd Street”, a musical film with big stage choreography by Busby Berkeley. The film became one of the most profitable ones of the year and received two Academy Award nominations.

Ginger Roger’s real stardom occurred when she was teamed up with actor and dancer Fred Astaire becoming one of the best cinematic couples ever to hit the silver screen. They first appeared in the 1933 “Flying Down to Rio”, a film with marvelous dance numbers, including a breathtaking dance number on the exterior of a formation of airplanes flying over the audience.

Rogers and Astaire did two films in 1935. The first was “Roberta”, an RKO production costarring Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott. The second film of that year was probably the best remembered of her films, “Top Hat”, a screwball musical comedy with a music score by Irving Berlin and the famous dance scene with Rogers wearing a white ostrich-feather dress.

Ginger Rogers made several dramatic pictures; but it was the 1940 “Kitty Foyle” that won her an Academy Award for portrayal in the title role of Kitty Foyle, a working girl facing life-changing decisions. Rogers followed this film with a comedy in 1941 “Tom, Dick, and Harry”. playing a woman who has to decide which of three men she wants to marry. Through the rest of the 1940s and early 1950s she continued to make movies but none of them near the caliber of those before World War II.

After “Oh Men, Oh Women” with David Niven in 1957, Ginger Rogers didn’t appear on the silver screen for seven years. In 1965, she had appeared for the last time in the film “Harlow”, a Paramount production about the life of Jean Harlow. Afterward, she appeared on Broadway and other stage plays traveling in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. After 1984, she retired and wrote an autobiography in 1991 entitled, “Ginger, My Story” recounting her more than sixty films including those with Fred Astaire. On April 25, 1995, Ginger Rogers died of natural causes in Rancho Mirage, California. She was 83.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 15th of July, Solar Year 2018

Sunflowers in Blue Vase

On July 15, 1799, French Captain Pierre-Francois Bouchard finds the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone is a granodiorite stele, inscribed with three versions of a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The top and middle texts are in Ancient Egyptian using the Hieroglyphic script and the Demotic script, respectively, while the bottom is in Ancient Greek. As the decree had only minor differences between the three versions, the Rosetta Stone proved to be the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The Rosetta Stone is a fragment of a larger stele; no additional fragments were found in later searches. Owing to its damaged state, none of the three texts is absolutely complete. This fragment of the stele is 3 feet 8 inches high at its highest point, 2 feet 6 inches wide and 11 inches thick. It weighs approximately 1,680 pounds. The front surface is polished smooth with the incised text; the sides are smooth; and the back is only roughly worked as this would not have been visible when erected.

The stone, carved in black granodiorite, similar to granite, is believed to have been originally in a temple, possibly at nearby Sais. It was moved during the medieval period, and was eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid in the Nile Delta. During the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt, Pierre-Francois Bouchard discovered the stone and was immediately convinced of its importance. It was the first Ancient Egyptian bilingual text recovered in modern times; it aroused widespread interest with its potential to decipher previously untranslated hieroglyphic language.

Study of the decree was already under way when the first full translation of the Greek text appeared in 1803. It took another 20 years, however, before the transliteration of the Egyptian scripts was announced by Jean-Francois Champollion in Paris in 1822.  It took longer still before scholars were able to read the Ancient Egyptian inscriptions and literature confidently.

The major advances in the decoding of the Rosetta Stone were: The recognition in 1799 that the stone offered three versions of the same text; It became known in 1802 that the demotic text used phonetic characters to spell foreign names; Thomas Young recognized in 1814 that the hieroglyphic text did so as well, and had pervasive similarities to the demotic text; Champollion saw in his 1822-1824 studies that. in addition to being used for foreign names,  the phonetic characters were also used to spell native Egyptian words.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 14th of July, Solar Year 2018

Black Pants and Gray Cap

Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish director and writer, was born on July 14, 1918.

Ingmar Bergman’s film career began in 1941 with his work rewriting scripts. His first major accomplishment was in 1944 when he wrote the screenplay for “Torment”, a film directed by Alf Sjöberg. Along with writing the screenplay, he was also appointed assistant director of the film. The international success of this film led to Bergman’s first opportunity to direct a year later. During the next ten years he wrote and directed more than a dozen films, including “Prison” in 1949, as well as “Sawdust and Tinsel” and “Summer with Monika”, both from 1953.

Bergman first achieved worldwide success with his 1955 “Smiles of a Summer Night”, which won for “Best Poetic Humor” and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes the following year. This was followed by “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries” released in Sweden ten months apart in 1957. “The Seventh Seal” won a special jury prize and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and “Wild Strawberries” won numerous awards for Bergman and its star, Victor Sjöström. Bergman continued to be productive for the next two decades.

Bergman usually wrote his films’ screenplays, thinking about them for months or years before starting the actual process of writing, which he viewed as somewhat tedious. His earlier films are carefully constructed and are either based on his plays or written in collaboration with other authors. Bergman stated that in his later works, when on occasion his actors would want to do things differently from his own intention, he would let them. As his career progressed, Bergman increasingly let his actors improvise their dialogue. In his latest films, he wrote just the ideas informing the scene and allowed his actors to determine the exact dialogue.

Bergman’s films usually deal with existential  questions of mortality, loneliness, and religious faith. In addition to these cerebral topics, however, sexual desire features in the foreground of most of his films, whether the central event is a medieval plague as in “The Seventh Seal”, the upper-class family activity of early twentieth century Sweden in “Fanny and Alexander”, or contemporary alienation in 1963’s “The Silence”. His female characters are usually more in touch with their sexuality than the men, and unafraid to proclaim it, sometimes with breathtaking overtness.

Ingmar Bergman retired from filmmaking in December 2003. He had a hip surgery in October of 2006 and was making a difficult recovery. He died in his sleep at the age of 89; his body was found at his home on the island of Fårö, on July 30, 2007. (It was the same day another renowned film director, Michelangelo Antonioni, also died.) The interment was private, at the Fårö Church on Fårö Island, Sweden, on August 18, 2007.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 13th of July, Solar Year 2018

Shades

July 13, 1793 marks the murder of French political theorist, scientist, and radical journalist, Jean-Paul Marat.

The first of Jean-Paul Marat’s large-scale publications detailing his experiments was “Research into the Physics of Fire”. It described 166 experiments conducted to show that fire was not, as widely held, a material element but an “igneous fluid”. The Academy of Sciences appraised his work and endorsed Marat’s methods but did not agree with its conclusions. This marked the beginning of worsening relations between Marat and many of the Academy’s members.

Jean-Paul Marat’s second biggest work was “Discoveries on Light”, focusing on an error in Newton’s light theory. Marat showed through experiments that white light was broken down into colors by diffraction, and not by refraction as Newton proposed. Once again Marat asked the Academy of Sciences to review his work. From June 1779 to January of 1780, Marat performed experiments in the presence of the Academy’s commissioners showing his conclusions. Their repost was only three paragraphs stating that while there were a lot of experiments, the commission did not believe that Marat proved his theory. Goethe described Marat’s rejection by the Academy as a glaring example of scientific despotism.

On the eve of the French Revolution , Jean=Paul Marat left his career as a doctor and scientist and took up his pen on behalf of the Third Estate, devoting himself entirely to politics. On September 12, 1789, Marat began his own newspaper, “The People’s Friend”, attacking influential groups in Paris, the Constituent Assembly, and Louis XVI’s Finance Minister, Jacques Necker. Between 1790 and 1792, Marat was often forced into hiding, sometimes in the Paris sewers. He only emerged publicly on the August 10 Insurrection, when the Palace was invaded and the royal family was forced to shelter in the Legislative Assembly.

Forced to retire from the French Convention as a result of a worsening skin disease, Marat continued to work at home, where he soaked in a medicinal bath. Marat was in his bathtub on July 13, 1793, when a young woman, named Charlotte Corday, appeared at his flat claiming to have vital information for Marat. Their interview lasted about fifteen minutes, with him writing details on an improvised desk of a board across the tub. After he finished his writing, Corday rose from her chair, drawing out a five inch knife, driving it hard into Marat.s chest. It opened the carotid artery, close to his heart; the massive bleeding was fatal within seconds. Charlotte Corday was guillotined on July 17, 1793 for the murder.

Calendar

 

A Year: Day to Day Men: 12th of July, Solar Year 2018

Small Flowers

July 12, 1908 was the birthdate of American comedian Milton Berle.

Milton Berle, born Mendel Berlinger, appeared as a child actor in his first silent film “The Perils of Pauline, filmed in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and released in 1914. He continued to play child roles in many other films: “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” with Mary Pickford; “The Mark of Zorro” with Douglas Fairbanks Sr.: and “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” with Charlie Chaplin and Marie Dressler.

By the early 1930s, Milton Berle was a successful stand-up comedian. Berle was hired in 1933 by producer Jack White to star in the short musical theatrical film, “Poppin’ the Cork”, about the repeal of Prohibition. Berle co-wrote the musical score for that film and also the title song for the RKO 1940 “Lil Abner”, starring Buster Keaton. The Philip Morris company sponsored “The Milton Berle Show” which aired on NBC starting March 11, 1947. It teamed up Berle with comedian Arnold Stang, later a familiar face as Berle’s sidekick. This show, which lasted until April 13, 1948, became a major stepping stone for Berle’s television career.

His first television series was “The Texaco Star Theater” on ABC, showcasing Berle’s highly visual style, characterized by vaudeville slapstick and outlandish costumes. After the show moved to NBC, it dominated Tuesday night television for years and won two Emmy Awards the first year. Berle’s autobiography notes that in Detroit, “an investigation took place when the water levels took a drastic drop in the reservoirs on Tuesday nights between 9 and 9:05. It turned out that everyone waited until the end of the Texaco Star Theatre before going to the bathroom.” Television set sales doubled after Texaco Star Theater’s debut.

Like his contemporary Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle proved a solid dramatic actor and was acclaimed for several such performances, most notably his lead role in “Doyle Against the House” on the Dick Powell Show in 1961, a role for which he received an Emmy nomination. He also played the part of a blind survivor of an airplane crash in “Seven in Darkness”, the first in ABC’s popular Movie of the Week series.

During this period, Berle was named to the Guinness Book of World Records for the greatest number of charity performances made by a show-business performer. Unlike the high-profile shows done by Bob Hope to entertain the troops, Berle did more shows, over a period of 50 years, on a lower-profile basis. Berle received an award for entertaining at stateside military bases in World War I as a child performer, in addition to traveling to foreign bases during World War II and the Vietnam War.  The first charity telethon was hosted by Berle in 1949.  A permanent fixture at charity benefits in the Hollywood area, he was instrumental in raising millions for charitable causes.

In 1979, Milton Berle was awarded a special Emmy Award, titled “Mr. Television” He was in the first group of inductees into the Television Hall of Fame in 1984. Milton Berle has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, placed on February 8, 1960, for his work in television and radio.