Posts tagged birthdays.

Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853 – July 29, 1890)

I haven’t got it yet, but I’m hunting it and fighting for it, I want something serious, something fresh—something with soul in it! Onward, onward.

Quotes from Einstein the socialist, civil rights activist, and suspected communist:

My trip to this institution was in behalf of a worthwhile cause. There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

Many a sincere person will answer: “Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability.”

I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery.  The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 - April 18, 1955)

To inquire after the meaning or object of one’s own existence or that of all creatures has always seemed absurd from an objective point of view. And yet everybody has certain ideals which determine the direction of his endeavors and judgments. In this sense I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves - this ethical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty and Truth.

Winslow Homer (February 24, 1836 - September 29, 1910)

In dark, cold solitude of winter months… I thank the Lord for this opportunity for reflection.

January 22, 1875: D.W. Griffith is born.

Called “the Teacher of us All” by Charlie Chaplin, David Llewelyn Wark Griffith was born in Kentucky to a Confederate Civil War veteran and his wife and began his creative career not as a director but a playwright. As a playwright, he was hideously unsuccessful; only one of his plays was ever performed, and it played for only two weeks. In 1907 Griffith attempted to sell a script to Edwin S. Porter, an early film pioneer who rejected the script but signed Griffith on as an actor in one of his films instead. Cinema in its primitive stages was little more than a novelty, and it was somewhat formless narrative-wise because there existed no standard ”grammar” concerning the frames, shots, scenes, and sequences that make up a movie. Some early attempts to transform film into a legitimate art form involved no less than simply performing staged theater productions in front of an immobile camera, resulting in largely unedited films composed of one or a few shots.

They were not the first to innovate with film form, but D.W. Griffith and his cinematographer Billy Bitzer were two figures who helped to codify this “film grammar”, the visual language of cinema, through which complex stories and emotion could be depicted with continuity. During his career, which lasted from 1908 to 1935, Griffith directed over 500 films and utilized techniques that are standard today: combinations of shots of varying distances, tracking and panning shots, match on editing, and notably parallel editing.

However, Griffith also infamously directed the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, a Reconstruction-era story that glorified the Ku Klux Klan as saviors of the white South from the combined forces of brutish black freedman and scheming white Northerners. It was one of the first ever American feature-length films, and it was technically innovative but morally repugnant, containing racist depictions of African-Americans that were criticized most significantly by the NAACP, which attempted to have the film censored. In response, Griffith made his 1916 high-budget epic Intolerance, which addressed none of his criticisms and did little to mollify his critics, but was highly influential (along with Griffith’s oeuvre as a whole) to filmmakers of the school of Soviet montage editing. Similarly, his atmospheric and eerie 1919 film Broken Blossoms may have influenced the concentrated visual style of German Expressionist directors. 

October 28, 1897: Edith Head is born.

Over her fifty-four-year career, Edith Head earned eight Academy Awards (from a total of thirty-five nominations), the most of any woman in film history. Born Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, Head began her prolific career as a costume designer at Paramount Studios toward the end of the silent film era and at the start of the “golden age” of Hollywood - an age which she shaped through her designs - in 1923. In 1938, she became the first woman to head a design department at a major film studio when she became the chief designer at Paramount, a position which she held until her move to Universal Pictures in 1967. The eight films which she received Academy Awards for Best Costume Design were: The Heiress (1950), Samson and Delilah (1951), All About Eve (1951), A Place in the Sun (1952), Roman Holiday (1954), Sabrina (1955), The Facts of Life (1961), and The Sting (1974). She passed away in 1981 - four years after receiving her last Academy Award nomination.

Today’s Google Doodle: