On this day in 1598, one of the greatest sculptors of all time, Gian Lorenzo Bernini was born. He was also a great painter and architect. Oh, and he was involved in the theater and wrote plays. He’s not as well known as Michelangelo, but he is at least as good and I would say better. He pretty much invented Baroque sculpture. Of course, that is why he isn’t terribly well known outside of art circles. With the rise of the Neoclassical movement, Baroque art fell out of favor. I much prefer the Neoclassical period myself. But it does show how stupid art criticism tends to be. The old saying is all you really need to go by, “I may not know art, but I know what I like!” Caveat: that doesn’t mean what you don’t like is bad.
The composer Pietro Mascagni was born in 1863. He composed in that wonderful period between Romantic and Modern, where the music was crisp but beautiful. He is mostly known as an opera composer. Indeed, his one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana is still one of the most performed to this day. What follows is the Intermezzo from that opera. I dare you not to love it.
The great actor Eli Wallach is 98 today. Good God! And he’s still working. I just saw him in two recent films Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and The Ghost Writer. I once worked with his nephew on a short film that I was making. His name was Marz, and was an ND. And a horrible actor. All he did was mug at the camera. I gave up after two days. But he was a very nice and smart guy. Regardless Uncle Eli and Aunt Anne are great actors. Here is Wallach in his iconic role of Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:
The great Tom Waits is 64. Here he is doing “Heart Attack and Vine”:
Other birthdays: poet Allan Cunningham (1784); composer Ernst Toch (1887); actor Ted Knight (1923); actor Ellen Burstyn (81); musician (who I really don’t like for a couple of reasons) Harry Chapin (1942); and basketball player Larry Bird (57).
The day, however, belongs to Noam Chomsky who is 85 today. He is one of the greatest linguists of the 20th century. But unlike other linguists who I can understand, I don’t really understand his work. The basics of it are simple, however: linguistic syntax is built into our biology. If you want to know more, check out the Wikipedia page on, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.”
Chomsky is mostly known for his political writing. He had a profound impact on my thinking. But actually, he’s pretty hard to read. A colorful writer he is not. But I am with him on his analysis of American imperialism and neo-liberalism. And I too consider myself a libertarian socialist, which he explains beautifully in the following audio file:
Happy birthday Noam Chomsky!