On this day in 1503, the great Italian Mannerist painter Parmigianino was born. He was a master, but a bizarre one. He was known for his physical distortions of forms. For example, the highly stylized Madonna with the Long Neck, presents the Virgin Mary with an almost giraffe neck. The Vision of Saint Jerome shows Jesus as awkwardly tall and Jerome with a very long finger.
The Norwegian composer Christian Sinding was born in 1856. He is best known for his lyrical piano compositions. They can be overwhelming. A good example of this is Rustle of Spring, which would probably drive you crazy if it were twice as long. But as it is, it’s kind of cool:
The great Russian composer Reinhold Gliere was born in 1875. He is especially known for his ballets. Like many Russian composers of that time, he used a lot of folk melodies, which may explain the enduring charm of this work. A good example of this is Russian Sailor’s Dance:
It’s a big day in drug history. Seventy-five years ago, Albert Hofmann synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD. I remember a story (possibly apocryphal) dating back to the 1970s. On the first day of Introduction to Chemistry, a certain professor would walk in and write on the chalk board:
He would then say, “This is the chemical formula for LSD. I don’t want to be asked for the rest of the year!” Of course, it would take at least another year of chemistry to gain the skills in organic chemistry to learn how to make it. In his way, Hofmann was as much an advocate for the drug as was Timothy Leary. And he was so right up to his death a few years ago at the age of 102.
Other birthdays: pathologist James Paget (1814); botanist Joseph Charles Arthur (1850); Munich School Greek painter Georgios Jakobides (1853); the great American sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder (1870); physicist G W Pierce (1872); Australian painter Nora Heysen (1911); science fiction writer Jerome Bixby (1923); television producer David Wolper (1928); guitarist Lee Ritenour (62); and actor Amanda Peet (42).
The day, however, belongs to the great political humorist Jim Hightower who is 71 today. I still enjoy reading his column at the back of every issue of The Progressive. In addition to being very funny, he’s also very insightful. He’s responsible for two of my favorite lines. He was the first person to reference “trickle-down economics” as “tinkle-down economics,” as I discussed in Pee on Me. And he also said that Bush the Junior was “born on third base, thought he had hit a triple.” Here he is ten years ago on The Daily Show:
Happy birthday Jim Hightower!