Paris Street; Rainy Day; Caillebotte Was There

Gustave CaillebotteBefore getting to birthdays, we should sit back and savor an anniversary today. Given what’s happening with Glenn Greenwald and his crew, it just makes sense that 60 years ago today, the CIA managed to overthrow the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh. The CIA did it at the request of MI6, so I guess the whole Greenwald thing is just returning the favor. Mosaddegh was a progressive and the British especially hated him because he nationalized the oil industry. This all came home to roost 25 years later.

When I was a kid, I wondered why the United States was always supporting dictators. Mosaddegh, for example, was democratically elected and mostly did right by his people. But we couldn’t support him because he wasn’t doing right by the only constituency that we care about: global corporate and American military power. So he had to go. But the United States has by far the biggest military in the world so our entirely fucked up foreign policy is never held accountable. And most Americans are not even aware of it because we have a press that does nothing so well as yield to power.

On this day back in 1570, the early Baroque composer Salamone Rossi was born. Here is his very pretty Adon ‘Olam:

One of Rembrandt’s favorite students, the great Golden Age painter Gerbrand van den Eeckhout was born in 1621. Epistolary novelist Samuel Richardson was born in 1689. The longer lived of the brothers, Orville Wright was born in 1871. Fashion designer Coco Chanel was born in 1883. Poet Ogden Nash was born in 1902. Novelist James Gould Cozzens was born in 1903.

Gene Roddenberry was born in 1921. He wasn’t great in any way that I can see, but he did create Star Trek and even with its many faults that’s something. Interestingly, when he created Star Trek: the Next Generation, he tried to fix many of those faults. And he destroyed it. Sure, it makes no sense to send the captain out on missions—that’s just not the way things are done! So send out the first officer! But by far the biggest problem was that he made all the characters so well adjusted that there was no human drama.

Co-inventor of the CCD, Willard Boyle was born in 1924. And one of the few jockies I’ve ever heard of, Bill Shoemaker was born in 1931.

Musician Ginger Baker is 74 today. Singer-songwriter Johnny Nash is 73. This is unquestionably a great pop song (slightly out of sync):

Bill Clinton is 67. Actor Jim Carter is 65, so no more acting for him! Speaking of bad Star Trek, the first officer who is always going out on missions, Jonathan Frakes is 61. Actor Peter Gallagher is 58. He was in the terribly under appreciated Tune in Tomorrow. Actor Adam Arkin is 57. And comedic actor Matthew Perry is 44.

The day, however, belongs to painter Gustave Caillebotte who was born in 1848. He died at only 45, but left quite a lot of great work. Surprisingly, he was not considered an important member of the impressionist movement until rather recently. I’ve always found his work incredibly compelling. I especially like his sense of composition, which is much stronger than many of the other painters of the movement. His most famous work is probably Paris Street; Rainy Day:

Paris Street; Rainy Day

I had long known and loved this painting. But I was totally unprepared for seeing it. For one thing, it was far more carefully painted than I expected. Normally when you see a painting close up, you can see the shortcuts that painters use. I definitely got the impression that Caillebotte took much more care than most painters of that time. He also didn’t use an excessive amount of paint. But the biggest surprise was how big the painting is: it is roughly 7 feet by 9 feet. It is a thing to behold for so many reasons.

Happy birthday Gustave Caillebotte!

Update (19 August 2013 8:33 pm)

Great minds fret alike!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Paris Street; Rainy Day; Caillebotte Was There

  1. Mossadegh wasn’t ENTIRELY thrown out by the CIA because the Brits asked us to, and because it was good for BP (then "Anglo-Iranian".) It was also the insane calculus of the Dulles brothers, who saw everything as either pro or anti-Soviet. Because Mossadegh was making some noise about nationalizing the industry, he was seen as possibly having Communist sympathies, hence a goner.

    Now, the following year, when we tossed out Guatemala’s Arbenz at the behest of United Fruit — well, that was pretty much profit as usual. We didn’t really get any material gain out of subverting Iran’s government — well, save the joys of overthrowing a modern, moderate democracy that could have been a model for the region in decades to come. Whoopsies!

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