Let’s get right to the obvious stuff. Last year, Maurice Sendak died shortly before his 84th birthday. Having been born in 1928, he would have been 85 today. He was an author and illustrator of what he refused to call children’s books. His best known book is Where the Wild Things Are though he wrote and (especially) illustrated loads more. Google created an excellent doodle that runs for a minute and 45 second for the occasion. Check it out.
The great French realist painter Gustave Courbet was born on this day in 1819. His self-portrait is one of the best I’ve ever seen. When anyone thinks of 19th century French paintings, they think of the Academic and Impressionist schools. And the Realist school fed into those two. But Courbet’s art has a nearly unhinged aspect to it that is especially compelling.
Andre Derain was born on this day in 1880. He founded Fauvism along with Henri Matisse. I’m very fond of this school of art (which should surprise no one). And I’m fond of Derain. But I’m more fond of Kees van Dongen. That’s probably just because he painted more pretty girls. I fully admit that Derain is the greater artist. He’s also greater than Matisse who mostly annoys me in my old age.
One of my favorite writers when I was a kid (go figure), Saul Bellow was born in 1915.
French singer Patachou is 95 today. Controversial sociobiologist E. O. Wilson is 84. Celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey is 80. Much vilified politician John Edwards is 60. Human frailties aside, I think he would have made a better president than Obama or Clinton. It’s sad that unlike the Republican Party, the Democratic Party seems incapable of forgiveness. And speaking of Republicans, John “Torture Memo” Yoo is 46. The Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility found that he had committed professional misconduct and recommended that the Pennsylvania Bar discipline him. This was later blocked, of course. And Yoo continues to be a Berkeley Law School professor and to get good paying speaking engagements. Similarly, Bobby Jindal is 42. He’s noted for claiming that the Republicans should stop being the “stupid party” while going around every day acting as proof that it is.
The day, however, belongs to another of my endless list of crushes: Judy Garland who was born on this day back in 1922. What’s not to love? She was beautiful, talented, and unstable—the Holy Trinity for me! Here she is doing a song from the turn of the century, “I Don’t Care”:
Happy birthday Judy Garland!