The Madcap Syd Barrett

Syd BarrettWhat we know of the Elizabethan theater world is largely due to Philip Henslowe‘s diaries. He was owner of the Rose in partnership with the greatest actor of the period Edward Alleyn. We don’t know when Henslowe was born, even the exact year. But we know when he died and it was today in 1616.

On this day in 1412, Joan of Arc was most likely born. To me, she’s a cautionary tale. Strong belief in God is dangerous. And it is especially when he starts telling you to do things. Given her age, I assume she was suffering from schizophrenia. She was of that age, as I will discuss more in a bit. But whatever the sources, they got her involved in the conflict between England and France. She supported France regaining its independence. This ended with her being put on trial for heresy by a the Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon, who supported the British. She was found guilty as people pretty much always were. It’s kind of like being accused of “Gribble temporal trending folk bottles.” What do you say in your defense? So she was burned at the stake at the age of 19. Just so you understand: she was a Catholic and she was killed by part of the Catholic Church. Twenty-five years later, the Pope looked at her case and found her innocent. If you are a Christian and believe all its dogma, then that might mean something to you. To me, a young woman was tortured to death because she was born in the wrong country.

Joan of ArcHeinrich Schliemann was born in 1822. He was one of the most important archaeologist of all time. In particular, he was the first person to dig at Hissarlik, which later archaeologists were able to prove was the actual site of the Trojan War, which by the 19th century was thought to be pure myth. Schliemann also, unfortunately, destroyed much of the site because of his belief that old sites had to be deep. And it turned out that seven main cities had been built on top of the site dating from about a thousand years before Troy. The whole story is amazing, and I highly recommend watching In Search of the Trojan War, which you can find links to in my article, Jesus and Troy. For any Homer fan (And Schliemann was definitely that!) it is a joy.

E L Doctorow is 83 today. He is known for his historical fiction in the best sense of that phrase. His books are expansive, even epic. But I have to admit, I’ve only read Ragtime. It’s interesting. Milos Forman made a great film based upon the book. But he only used a tiny slice of the novel. And the movie is pretty complex. So that ought to give you some idea. Both the book and the movie are recommended. I really should read more of Doctorow’s books. There is so little time!

E L DoctorowOther birthdays: co-inventor of the hot air balloon Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier (1745); the great French painter and engraver Gustave Dore (1832); the great Romanian painter Stefan Luchian (1868); poet Carl Sandburg (1878); suprematism painter Aleksandra Ekster (1882); actor Danny Thomas (1912); actor Loretta Young (1913); musician Earl Scruggs (1924); actor Vic Tayback (1930); and comedian Rowan Atkinson (59).

The day, however, belongs to Syd Barrett who was born on this day in 1946. He was, of course, the founder of the band Pink Floyd. He is probably best known for going crazy and having to leave the band. I’m not going to go into it much here, because I discussed it in some length in, Cause We’re the Fishes. But there is a general belief that Barrett became schizophrenic because of his use of the drug LSD. I don’t think that’s true. Barrett, just like Joan of Arc, developed the disease at the age when people develop it: the late teens and early twenties. I just found this very short video of a television interview where Barrett shows himself to be extremely wellspoken and intelligent. Regardless, if you want to know more about him, read the other article. For now, enjoy one of his many great songs of The Madcap Laughs, kind of the title track, “Octopus” (note: a couple of the images are of Pink Floyd without Syd, but mostly they are correct):

Happy birthday Syd Barrett!

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