On this day in 1777, the German painter Philipp Otto Runge was born. Much of his work is typically Romantic. But his religious painting seems to me more neoclassical. And it is much more interesting. Romantic composer Franz Berwald was born in 1796. His work is not bad, especially for a saw mill manager. One of the Skagen Painters (basically the Danish Impressionists), Peder Severin Kroyer was born in 1851. The great physicist Walter Schottky was born in 1886. He did not invent the transistor and he was not a racist. (That would be William Shockley.) He did however have one of those little Hitler mustaches. (Shockley did not.) He also invented the ribbon microphone. And the Portuguese singer Amalia Rodrigues was born in 1920. Here she is singing one of her own pieces, “Estranha Forma de Vida”:
Literary critic and long-time editor of Norton Anthology of English Literature, M. H. Abrams is 101 today. That’s what you want in your critics of Romantic era literature, people who actually knew John Keats. Distinctive architect Richard Rogers is 80. Conservative bigot (Redundant?) Don Imus is 73 although he looks more like 113.
Appellate court judge Alex Kozinski is 63. Normally, he wouldn’t merit attention. But he wrote the opinion overturning the conviction of Debra Milke. I’m glad to see that the website devoted to her is back up. They have an article written by Milke last year discussing the day she entered prison (now 22 years ago) on death row, The Day I Arrived… Check it out. Kozinski isn’t exactly a hero. It is just that the Milke case is so screwed up that anyone just doing their jobs properly helps. Meanwhile, despite the fact that the prosecution has no case as far as I can tell, she is set for retrial and the court will not allow her to have bail.
Comedian Jo Brand is 56. Actor Woody Harrelson is 52. I found out two things about him today. First, he has the same birthday as his father, Charles Harrelson who was born in 1938. Second, his father was in the mob and died in prison for killing federal judge John H. Wood Jr. Woody and his father were apparently not close. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is 46. And Monica Lewinsky (who I think has been unfairly criticized) is 40.
The day, however, belongs to hard-boiled detective fiction pioneer Raymond Chandler who was born on this day in 1888. At this point in my life, I find all of that stuff pretty hard to read. It is so over-written. Everything is described in much too much detail. And really, can you tell me the difference between Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade? (Marlowe was probably a nicer guy; that’s about it.) Still, I think it is great and I liked it quite a lot when I was younger.
Happy birthday Raymond Chandler!