On this day in 1503, the great Italian Mannerist painter Bronzino was born. I love his work, but I’m especially taken with his name. Because “Bronzino” was not his last name. His actual name was Agnolo di Cosimo. He apparently went by Bronzino because of his dark skin. It’s like if John Boehner were a painter, he might sign them, “Orange Man.”
The mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius was born in 1790. He is best known for the Mobius strip, which is a three-dimensional object that has only one side. When people are introduced to it in grammar school, it is usually referred to as “one sided piece of paper.” Mobius was a student of Gauss, which is generally enough to make anyone famous. But of course, most of his work was highly technical and not really suitable for children or basically anyone educated in the United States. His main work was in projective geometry and number theory. He also apparently did work in astronomy, but I don’t know what it was.
The great comedian Peter Cook was born in 1937. Here he is doing a great bit as a coal miner talking about his work, “My Experiences Down the Mine.” It is very funny:
The great film director Martin Scorsese is 71 today. I specifically did not give him the day because I don’t especially like him for the things that other people like him for. Most notably: Raging Bull and Goodfellas. I don’t like how Taxi Driver is widely misunderstood. But he’s directed some of my favorite films: Kundun and Bringing Out the Dead most especially. But what I most like about Scorsese is his appreciation of film. You can hardly watch a documentary about a film without Scorsese there saying the most insightful things. He really loves film—and in a way that resonates for me. If he had not been a filmmaker, he could have been a truly great film critic—like Roger Ebert in his love for the art form but with far greater insight. (Of course, he wouldn’t necessarily have been as good a writer; Ebert’s prose was really good.)
And just for JMF, Jeff Buckley was born in 1966. Here he is doing “Hallelujah”:
Other birthdays: Grace Abbott (1878); philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin (1895); actor Lee Strasberg (1901); historian Shelby Foote (1916); actor Rock Hudson (1925); singer-songwriter Gene Clark (1944); actor Danny DeVito (69); television producer Lorne Michaels (59); baseball player Tom Seaver (59); actor Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (55); and actor Rachel McAdams (35).
The day, however, belongs to the singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot who is 75 today. I tend to like folk music of his type because I like stories. And he always sounds kind of sad and wrote “Rainy Day People.” In general, I can listen to him for a fair amount of time before he starts to annoy me. Now I’m going to play one of his big hits, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” But understand this: I think the song could have used a few more rewrites. The story itself is so compelling that the song works. But the lyrics are weak and the music could be a whole lot less plodding. So given that rousing introduction, here it is!
Happy birthday Gordon Lightfoot!