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4th August 2016
Coast Guard Day
Also, feast of St. John Vianney (the Curé of Ars), patron of parish priests. :
1693: Champagne, Kingdom of France - Traditionally, on this day, Dom Pierre Pérignon, O.S.B., invented sparkling champagne wine. There is some reasonable doubt as to whether he invented or improved existing techniques, and in either case, whether he did it in one day.
1790: Philadelphia, PA - A tariff act pushed through Congress by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton creates the Revenue Cutter Service. In 1915, this service will be merged with the United States Life-Saving Service to form the modern Coast Guard.
1821: Philadelphia, PA(?) - Publication of the first issue of a weekly newspaper, the Saturday Evening Post
1892: Fall River, MA - Andrew Jackson Borden and Abby Durfee Gray Borden are found murdered. Their daughter, Lizzie, is accused but ultimately found innocent.
1944: Amsterdam, occupied Netherlands - Anne Frank and her family are discovered and arrested by Gestapo following a tip from an anonymous Dutch person.
1958: The first Billboard Hot 100
premieres, with Ricky Nelson's "Poor Little Fool" at #1.
1964: Mississippi - The bodies of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney are found; nobody will be found guilty of the murder for over forty years.
1964: Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam - Two US destroyers report coming under attack by North Vietnamese forces. These reports turn out to be false.
1969: Paris, France - Secret peace negotiations between Henry Kissinger (for the US) and Xuân Thuỷ (for North Vietnam) begin; they will ultimately fail.
1977: Washington, DC - President Jimmy Carter signs the legislation that creates the US Department of Energy.
1987: Washington, DC - The Federal Communications Commission rescinds the "Fairness Doctrine," opening the path for Fox News's "fair and balanced" reporting.
1993: Los Angeles, CA - LAPD officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell are sentenced to 30 months in prison for violating the civil rights of motorist Rodney King by beating him half to death.
2007: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of Phoenix
1755: Nicolas-Jacques Conté, painter and inventor of the pencil led (thus "Conté crayons").
1792: Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet and playwright ("Ozymandias", Prometheus Unbound
1821: James Springer White, founder of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
1834: John Venn, philosopher, inventor of the Venn diagram.
1839: Walter Pater, writer and critic (Marius the Epicurean
1901: Louis Armstrong, trumpeter and singer.
1915: Warren Avis, founder of Avis Rent-A-Car System.
1918: Iceberg Slim, pimp and writer (Pimp: The Story of My Life
, Mama Black Widow
1920: Helen Thomas, White House correspondent.
1955: Billy Bob Thornton, who was Karl Childers.
1961: Barrack Obama, 44th President of the United States.
1965: Dennis Lehane, novelist (Gone, Baby, Gone
, Shutter Island
3rd August 2016
1492: Palos de la Frontera, Spain - Christopher Columbus sets out on his first voyage of exploration. :
1778: Milan, Italy - Inauguration of the Teatro alla Scala (La Scala).
1795: Greenville, modern OH - General Anthony Wayne and the Western Confederacy of Native American peoples sign the Treaty of Greenville, which establishes settlement rights in much of modern Ohio, and begins the "annuity" system in which the US Government provides the Native American peoples yearly grants of money and/or goods.
1852: Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire - In the first American intercollegiate athletic event on record,
Harvard beats Yale in the first Boat Race.
1907: Chicago, IL - The Standard Oil company is found guilty of 1,903 counts of violating the Elkins Act. Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis fines them the maximum, $29,240,000, though the fine and verdict are later overturned on appeal.
1913: Wheatland, CA - Striking hop pickers riot against police sent to break up their meeting. In the ensuing violence, a District Attorney, Deputy Sheriff, and two hop pickers are killed. Though the Wheatfield Hop Riot began when police fired a shotgun, two IWW organizers are found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
1921: Chicago, IL - The day after the "Black Sox" baseball players are found innocent of accepting bribes in a courtroom, Commissioner of Baseball Kennesaw Mountain Landis affirms their ban from professional baseball.
1936: Berlin, Germany - Jesse Owens messes up Adolf Hitler's plan for an Aryan sweep of the Olympics by winning the 100m dash. The silver goes to Ralph Metcalfe, another African-American.
1946: Santa Claus, IN - Opening of Santa Claus Land (now Holiday World & Splashin' Safari), the world's first themed amusement park.
1948: Washington, DC - Before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Whittaker Chambers accuses Alger Hiss of being a Communisty spy.
1972: Washington, DC - The US Senate ratifies the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
1977: Washington, DC - The US Senate begins hearings on the CIA MKUltra program.
1803: Joseph Paxton, gardener and architect (The Crystal Palace).
1811: Elisha Otis, inventor and businessman, founded Otis Elevator.
1867: Stanley Baldwin Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, whom Dinsdale nailed.
1900: Ernie Pyle, war correspondent.
1900: John T. Scopes, educator.
1904: Clifford D. Simak, writer (City
, Way Station
1909: Walter Van Tilburg Clark, writer (The Ox-Bow Incident
, The Track of the Cat
1920: P.D. James, writer (the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries).
1924: Leon Uris, writer (Exodus
1926: Tony Bennett, singer and painter.
1941: Martha Stewart, businesswoman.
1950: John Landis, director (The Twilight Zone
1951: Jay North, who was Dennis Mitchell, Prince Turhan, and Bamm-Bamm Rubble.
1994: Esther Earl, writer and vlogger.
2nd August 2016
Read: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by Rowling, Tiffany, and Thorne (2016-49)
It's years later. Harry is head of Magical Law Enforcement, Hermione is Minister for Magic, and Ron runs the family Joke Shop. And, as seen at the end of _Deathly Hallows_, Harry and Ginny have three children, and Ron and Hermione have two. :
Albus Severus Potter goes off - somewhat reluctantly - to Hogwarts, where he befriends Scorpius Malfoy. Both of them are Sorted into Slytherin, and they become fast friends.
But all is not well with Albus. He lives under the burden of being his father's son, and it irks him. He feels that he cannot please his father, and what's more, that his father doesn't need him - that his older brother James is Harry's real son and he's, well, the spare.
One evening, Albus overhears his father discussing, with the aging Amos Diggory, Diggory's desire that Harry use a time-turner to undo the killing of his son Cedric. Albus meets Delphini, who introduces herself as Amos's niece, and together they plot to do what Harry will not.
Of course, things go awry, and saying how would fall squarely into spoiler-land.
It's interesting to read this as a play, with almost all the plot advanced by dialog - though there is a fair amount of stage direction, too. Most of the old Harry Potter cast shows up in some form or another, and the world, once again, is threatened to be plunged into the Hell of Dark Magic.
The scriptwriter, Jack Thorne (Rowling and director John Tiffany collaborated on the story, but the script is by Thorne), does a pretty good job of capturing the characters of Harry and Ron, Hermione and Draco, a couple of decades on; and does an excellent job of presenting the new characters.
I enjoyed it a good deal, and will shut up now before I give something away that I shouldn't.
Feast of St Basil Fool for Christ
216 BC: Apulia - Hannibal's army of 50, or 60,000 troops defeats and essentially destroys a Roman army of 79,000 at the Battle of Cannae. :
1343: Paris, France - Olivier de Clisson is beheaded at Les Halles. His wife, Jeanne de Clisson, believing him to have been murdered under the auspices of law, sells her lands and takes up privateering against Philip VI of France and Charles de Blois, which she and her "Black Fleet" will continue for thirteen years.
1776: Philadelphia, PA - Members of the Second Continental Congress formally sign the Declaration of Independence.
1790: United States - the first US Census is conducted. The population is 3,929,326 persons (though my source does not state whether, or how, this number includes the 3/5 persons for slaves and "Indians not taxed").
1869: Japan - Abolition of the Samurai class.
1873: San Francisco, CA - The Clay Hill Railroad begins operating the first of San Francisco's cable cars.
1923: Vermont - Upon the death of Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge becomes President. His father, a notary public, administers the oath of office (though it will be readministered the next day by Supreme Court Justice Adolph A. Hoehling Jr., just to make sure).
1932: Pasadena, CA - Carl David Anderson discovers the positron.
1934: Berlin - Following the death of German Reichspräsident
Paul von Hindenburg, Hitler and his cabinet promulgate the Gleichschaltung
, merging the President's powers into those of the Chancellor, effectively making Hitler supreme dictator.
1939: United States: Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard write - well, basically, Szilard writes and Einstein signs - a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt urging the development of an "atomic weapon," which leads to the Manhattan Project.
1943: Pacific Ocean - Japanese destroyer Amagiri
collides with and destroys Patrol Torpedo boat (P.T.) 109. The boat's commander, Lt. John Kennedy, survives and saves all but two of his crew.
1990: Middle East - Iraq invades Kuwait.
1754: Pierre Charles L'Enfant, architect; designed (layout of) Washington, DC and Paterson, NJ.
1834: Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, sculptor; designed the Statue of Liberty.
1835: Elisha Gray, businessman; founded Western Electric.
1867: Ernest Dowson, poet.
1892: Jack Warner, producer, co-founder of Warner Bros.
1900: Holling C. Holling (you have to wonder about his parents...), writer-illustrator (Paddle-to-the-Sea
1905: Myrna Loy, who was Nora Charles and Mrs. Blanding.
1923: Shimon Peres, President of Israel.
1924: James Baldwin, writer (Go Tell It on the Mountain
, If Beale Street Could Talk
1924: Carroll O'Connor, who was Archie Bunker and William O. Gillespie.
1932: Peter O'Toole, who was T.E. Lawrence and Eli Cross.
1942: Isabel Allende, writer (Eva Luna
, The House of the Spirits
1946: James Howe, writer (co-creator of Bunnicula).
1949: Bertalan Farkas, astronaut.
1957: Mojo Nixon, singer-songwriter ("Elvis is Everywhere," "Debbie Gibson is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child").
1st August 2016
Read: Property of a Lady Faire, by Simon R. Green (2016-48)
The problem with reviewing a series book is, how much context do you put in for those who haven't read any of the series? And the answer her, I think, is the heck with that, if you haven't read any of the other "Secret Histories" novels, you aren't likely to start with this one. :
So Eddie Drood comes home from a reasonably successful mission to find that his grandmother, the late Matriarch of the Droods, has left him a bequest. In the meanwhile, the Merlin Glass is acting strangely. And someone has opened a Door to the grounds of Drood Hall, which should be impossible. _And_ when he goes, with Molly Metcalf, to ask some questions at the Department of the Uncanny, he finds everyone there - including his grandfather, the Regent of Shadows - dead, messily dead, as in torn to pieces.
A Voice informs him that, if he wants his parents back, he must provide the Voice with the Lazarus Stone - of which Eddie has never heard. And, with everyone (including his own family) believing that he and Molly committed the murders at the Department ... well, even asking questions is going to be a little tricky.
Eddie will fight through False Knights, blood-red men, and Siberian Death Wurms, before he comes to Ultima Thule, where the Lady Faire waits...along with the enemy Eddie never expected.
The book is as good as any in the series, with supernatural action and sarcasm galore. It ain't Hie Arte, but it's entertaining as hell, and what more do you want for eight bucks these days?
Lughnasadh (or Lugh or Lammas)
...and also the commemoration of the Holy Maccabean Martyrs (the woman with seven sons). :
1620: Delfshaven, Netherlands - The Speedwell
, a mostly-forgotten sister ship to the Mayflower
, sets sail for Southampton, England where she will pick up a supercargo of Pilgrims. In fact, due to leakage, she never actually leaves English waters, and the Pilgrims sail solely on the Mayflower
1715: England - The Riot Act comes into force. This contains a prescribed wording to be read to rioters; if they did not disperse within an hour after the reading, the civil authorities might use any and all forms of force against them and be immune to prosecution. The Riot Act is still technically in force but has not been used since 1919.
1800: London - The Acts of Union 1800 are passed, incorporating the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland into a single United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
1834: British Empire - The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 comes into effect, outlawing slavery throughout the Empire. Well, except for those territories in possession of the East Indian Company. And Ceylon. And Saint Helena. And the actual emancipation didn't take place for four to six years. And the slave owners were compensated to the tune of £20,000,000, while the slaves got nothing to live on. But it's the idea that counts, right?
1907: Brownsea Island, England - Robert Baden-Powell holds the first Scout camp with 20 or 21 boys, marking the beginning of the worldwide Scouting movement.
1911: Garden City, NY - Harriet Quimby, flying a Blériot-type monoplane, becomes the first American woman to gain a pilot's license. She will also be the first woman to successfully fly the English Channel, and will die in a plane crash on 1 July, 1912.
1944: Warsaw, Poland - Beginning of the Warsaw Uprising against the occupying German army, the larges single resistance operation in WW2. In the end nearly 25000 people will die, 2/3 of them Poles, and the city will be pulverized.
1961: Washington, DC - Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara orders the creation of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), who make CIA look like friendly neighbors.
1966: Austin, TX - Charles Whitman stabs his mother and wife to death, and then, with a small arsenal, enters the University of Texas campus. He kills people seemingly at random, enters the main building of the campus ("The Tower"), and, from its 28th-floor observation deck, shoots at people on the ground, then turns in and kills people in the Tower proper. He is killed by police; his final death toll is 18, plus many wounded. An autopsy reveals a tumor in his brain which may
have triggered this rampage.
1966: China - The Cultural Revolution begins. Intellectuals and "Imperialists" are purged and persecuted for years.
1980: Reykjavik, Iceland - Vigdís Finnbogadóttir is elected as President of Iceland, becoming the world's first democratically-elected female head of state.
1981: US - MTV begins its first US broadcast with the Buggles's "Video Killed the Radio Star."
2001: Montgomery, AL - Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of the Alabama State Supreme Court, installs a monument of the Ten Commmandments installed in the Montgomery Judiciary Building. This leads to a lawsuit and, ultimately, to Moore's removal from his post. He will regain the post and be suspended again.
10 BC: C-c-c-Claudius, Roman emperor.
126: Pertinax, who will be Roman emperor for three months, and then die, in 193, the "Year of Five Emperors."
1744: Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck, taxonomist and the first to use the word "biology" in its modern sense. He also believed that evolution occurred and was driven by natural laws, including an organism's adaptation to its environment.
1779: Francis Scott Key, poet and lawyer.
1815: Richard Henry Dana, Jr., writer (Two Years Before the Mast
1819: Herman Melville, writer (Moby-Dick
and lesser works).
1843: Robert Todd Lincoln, only son of Abraham Lincoln to survive to full adulthood; he was present at the assassinations of both James A. Garfield and William McKinley, and on one occasion had his life saved by Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth.
1903: Paul Horgan, writer (The Fault of Angels
) and historian (Great River
, Lamy of Santa Fe
1911: Jackie Ormes, considered the first African-American woman cartoonist (Torchy Brown
1914: Alan Moore, painter of Bergen-Belsen.
1932: Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League.
1942: Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead.
1948: David Gemmell, writer ("Drenai" series).
1949: Jim Carroll, poet (The Basketball Diaries
1954: James Gleick, science writer (Chaos: The Making of a New Science
31st July 2016
Seen: Finding Dory (2016)
A year has passed since Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneris) helped Marlin (Albert Brooks) find Nemo (Alexander Gould in 2003; Hayden Rolence in 2016), and she begins to remember things. Slowly, one detail at a time, she remembers isolated details about her family...and realizes that she has to go and find them, especially when she remembers where they lived: the "Jewel of Moro Bay." :
Marlin objects that Moro Bay is across the ocean - how the fish know these things is an ongoing mystery in these movies - but Dory convinces him that she must go, so Marlin and Nemo accompany her. Crossing the ocean quickly with the help of sea turtle Crush (Andrew Stanton) and his friends, they find Moro Bay a dark place full of kelp and danger. At the Moro Bay Aquarium Park (which the voice of Sigourney Weaver informs us is the Jewel of Moro Bay), Dory is captured by an Aquarium boat and brought to their Quarantine section.
So that's the basic setup: Dory looking for her family in the aquarium, with the reluctant help of breakout character Hank the Septapus (Ed O'Neil), while a very worried Marlin and Nemo try to ... wait for it ... find Dory. Interspersed with flashbacks of Dory's childhood, Finding Dory
successfully turns her from the one-joke character in Finding Nemo
to a character of depth and sadness, while adding depth to Marlin as well.
was basically a quest picture, Dory
is all about character. There is the quest element as described above, and that is what children will see, but this film has much more to offer ... which is its strength and its weakness. It is, in almost every way, a better film
than Finding Nemo
, but it fails as a family film. Some of the character "moments" stretch on too long for the attention of small children, and we saw and heard the resulting bits of boredom in our theater. I would not take a child less than about 8 to see this film.
The animation, wisely, is only subtly advanced over that in Nemo
- there is no jarring change of appearance, only subtle improvements in things like closeup textures and underwater lighting.
Which makes the accompanying short, "Piper," something of a statement: "Look what we could
have done." The quality of animation in "Piper" enters the uncanny valley and comes out the near side; the water effects, in particular, look like actual film footage, while the sandpiper "characters," while they retain a certain element of cartoonery, are amazingly real (if not "realistic"). Animation fans should definitely see "Piper" in a theater, while movie fans should see Dory
in one while they still can.
Feast of St Ignatius Loyola
30 BC: Egypt - At the Battle of Alexandria, most of Marc Antony's forces desert. Antony commits suicide. :
1492: Spain - The Alhambra Decree takes effect, expelling Jews from Spain.
1703: London, England - Following the publication of his satirical pamphlet, "The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters," Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory for three days, then sent to Newgate Prison. Legend has it that, rather than stones, passers-by pelt Defoe with flowers and drink his health.
1777: Philadelphia, PA - The Second Continental Congress passes a resolution granting the Marquis de Lafayette the rank of Major-General.
1790: Philadelphia, PA - Samuel Hopkins is granted the first U.S. Patent.
1930: United States - Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The "Shadow" radio show broadcasts for the first time.
1941: Berlin - Hermann Göring orders Reinhard Heydrich to submit a general plan for the "desired Final Solution to the Jewish question."
1964: Space - Ranger
7 sends to Earth the first close-up photographs of the Lunar surface.
1970: Earth - This is "Black Tot Day," the final day on which British sailors are given their daily rum ration (or "tot").
1867: S.S. Kresge, businessman.
1886: Fred Quimby, producer of the Tom and Jerry cartoons.
1892: Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the "Worldwide Church of God" and publisher of The Plain Truth
1912: Milton Friedman, economist.
1916: Bill Todman, producer (with Mark Goodson) of game shows.
1919: Primo Levi, chemist and writer (The Periodic Table
, Survival in Auschwitz
1921: Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International.
1929: Lynn Reid Banks, writer (The Indian in the Cupboard
1932: Ted Cassidy, who was Lurch and Ruk.
1952: Faye Kellerman, writer (the "Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus" novels).
1956: Lynne Rae Perkins, writer (All Alone in the Universe
1962: Wesley Snipes, who was Blade.
1966: Dean Cain, who was Clark.
30th July 2016
Read: Tinker Bell An Evolution, by Mindy Johnson (2016-47)
While there's actually a great deal of text, this is at its heart a large-format art book, and as such difficult for me (with very little art background) to review. I can say, "Gee, it's got a lot of purty pickchers in it," but that isn't really very helpful, is it? So I'll mostly review the text. :
What Johnson does, she does in three parts.
The first part ("The World's Most Famous Fairy") is short, and describes, first, how J.M. Barrie came to invent Tinker Bell; second, how she has been historically portrayed on the stage; and finally, and least familiar to me, her portrayal in a 1924 silent Peter Pan
film. Both on stage and in the cinema, Tink called for surprising amounts of innovation to carry off.
Part II ("The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up") begins with Walt and Roy Disney's boyhood visit to a theatrical performance of Peter Pan
. The story fascinated him and, when he began producing cartoons, seemed to him an obvious subject for animation. It took years for Pan
to come to a boil, beginning with some difficulty in obtaining the cinema rights for the story; and once Disney had them, WW2 intervened, pushing all his large animation projects out into the future.
In the meanwhile, designs came and went for the Pan
sets and characters. Tink herself went through dozens of incarnations, until, in the early 50s, Marc Davis, one of the Nine Old Men (as they were not yet called...), came up with her final basic design. Several women posed for Davis as he produced style sheets and sample illustrations. Attempts were made to write and cast dialogue for her, but her voice was finally produced by Jimmy MacDonald, Disney's lead sound effects man.
And so, in 1953, the film debuted to a smashing success, or so the story goes. Tinker Bell became an icon, first as the intro/hostess for Disney's television program (originally known as Disneyland
), then flying across the sky over Disneyland to introduce the nightly fireworks.
The book's final part ("Products, Pitches, and Pixie Dust") is, to my mind, the least interesting. It has its fascinating moments as Tink becomes the pitchperson from peanut butter to Hudson and Nash automobiles, but it is basically a recitation of the various Tinker Bell products that have come down the Disney assembly line over the years, from an early glow-in-the-dark wand that was sold as a Disneyland souvenir, to the Pixie Hollow direct-to-home "feature" films.
But I DO
have to talk about the purty pickchers after all, because what intrigued me most, thumbing and reading, was the vast variety of Tinker Bells - drawings, animation cels, and live action, uh, actors - that have emerged from the House of Mouse, both before and after the release of the film when (you'd think) her form would be set in concrete. But that form did continue to evolve, and the latest form - the 3D animated Tink of the Pixie Hollow films - falls creepily close to the Uncanny Valley. I expect and hope that this iconic character will not only survive but recover from this.
International Day of Friendship
762: Baghdad, Persia - is founded by Al-Mansur, the second Abbasid caliph. :
1419: Prague, modern Czech Republic - A mob led by Jan Želivský, a radical Hussite priest, marches on the New Town Hall and throws the judge, the burgomaster, and some thirteen members of the town council out of the windows. This is the First Defenestration of Prague, and is the turning point that leads to the Hussite Wars.
1608: Ticonderoga, New York - Samuel de Champlain shoots and kills two Iroquois chiefs.
1619: Jamestown, VA - The House of Burgesses meets for the first time. This is the first example of representative government in the Americas.
1866: New Orleans, LA - Armed Confederate veterans attack a meeting of Republicans, resulting in 48 dead and 100 injured. It was not an easy peace.
1916: New York, NY - On Black Tom Island (near Liberty Island), German saboteurs set a fire, which results in an explosion, in a munitions factory.
1956: Washington, DC - President Dwight Eisenhower signs a joint resolution of Congress adopting "In God we trust" as the national motto.
1965: Washington, DC - President Lyndon Johnson signs the Social Security Act of 1965, which creates the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
1971: The Moon - Apollo
15 Lunar Module Falcon
, carrying David Scott, James Irwin, and the first Lunar Rover, lands in the Mare Imbrium.
1975: Bloomfield Hills, MI - Labor leader Jimmy Hoffa disappears from a restaurant parking lot, never to be seen again.
2003: Puebla, Mexico - The production of the last "old style" Volkswagen Beetle is serenaded by mariachi musicians. The car is never sold but moved directly to the Volkswagen Museum in Wolfsburg, Germany.
1818: Emily Brontë, writer (Wuthering Heights
1856: Thorstein Veblen, economist (The Theory of the Leisure Class
1863: Henry Ford, engineer, businessman, fascist.
1890: Casey Stengel, "The Old Perfessor," baseball player and first manager of the Mets.
1898: Henry Moore, sculptor-illustrator.
1909: C. Northcote Parkinson, historian and theorist, creator of Parkinson's Law of Triviality.
1929: Syd Krofft, surreal puppeteer/producer.
1934: Bud Selig, Baseball commissioner.
1947: Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was the Terminator and the Governator.
1948: Jean Reno, who was Leon, Vincent, and Count Thibault of Malfete.
1958: Kate Bush, singer-songwriter ("Wuthering Heights").
1961: Lawrence Fishburne, who was Morpheus.
1964: Vivica A. Fox, who was Copperhead.
1975: Kate Starbird, professional basketball player, computer science Ph.D., assistant professor.
29th July 2016
International Tiger Day
1588: Gravelines, Netherlands - The English Navy defeats the theoretically superior Spanish Armada, demonstrating the value of their more maneuverable ships. :
1836: Paris, France - Inauguration of the Arc de Triomphe.
1864: Washington, DC - Confederate spy Belle Boyd is arrested and held at the Old Capitol Prison.
1921: Munich, Germany - Adolf Hitler becomes the party chairman of the NSDAP ("Nazis").
1957: Vienna, Austria (nominally) - The International Atomic Energy Agency opens for business.
1958: Washington, DC - President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law, which creates NASA.
1973: Greece - Votes to abolish the monarchy.
1976: New York, NY - David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz commits his first confirmed shooting, killing Donna Lauria and wounding Jody Valenti.
1981: London, England - Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer. The televised ceremony is viewed by over seven hundred million people.
1987: Jerusalem, Israel - Ivan/John Demjanjuk, a Ukranian-American who had been a POW in World War II, is acquitted by the Israeli Supreme Court of charges of having been "Ivan the Terrible," a Nazi prison camp guard.
2005: Palomar Observatory, CA - Astronomers announce the discovery of Eris, a trans-Neptunian dwarf planet.
1646: Johann Theile, composer (Adam und Eva
1805: Alexis de Tocqueville, historian and philosopher (Democracy in America
1849: Max Simon Nordau, co-founder of the World Zionist Organization.
1869: Booth Tarkington, writer (Penrod
, The Magnificent Ambersons
1876: Maria Ouspenskaya, who was the Gypsy Woman.
1878: Don Marquis, writer (archy and mehitabel
1883: Benito Mussolini, bad guy.
1885: Theda Bara, who was Carmen, Cleopatra, and Salome.
1887: Sigmund Romburg, composer of operettas and musicals (The Student Prince
1892: William Powell, who was the Thin Man.
1904: J.R.D. Tata, founder of Tata Motors and Tata Global Beverages.
1905: Clara Bow, who was the primary physical model for Betty Boop.
1905: Dag Hammarskjöld, second Secretary-General of the United Nations.
1905: Thelma Todd, who was Connie Bailey.
1907: Melvin Belli, who was Gorgan the Friendly Angel.
1914: Irwin Corey, the World's Greatest Authority.
1924: Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia.
1936: Elizabeth Dole, US Secretary of Labor.
1941: David Warner, who was Evil, the MCP, and Chancellor Gorkon.
1953: Geddy Lee, bassist-singer (Rush).
1955: Dave Stevens, comix writer-illustrator (The Rocketeer
1972: Wil Wheaton, who was Wesley and is a pretty good guy.
28th July 2016
World Hepatitis Day
1794: Paris, France - Maximilien Robespierre and Louis Antoine Saint-Juste are guillotined, which more or less marks the end of the Terror. :
1866: Washington, DC - Vinnie Ream is commissioned to sculpt a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Ream is the first, and youngest ever, female artist to receive a commission from the US government.
1868: Washington, DC - Certification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. It's an interesting mishmash of five basically unrelated clauses: it guarantees citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the US, repeals the 3/5 compromise (while leaving "Indians not taxed" out of the count), forbids (by a somewhat complex formula) many rebel government officials from holding Federal office, and denies all claims of compensation for the South.
1915: Port-au-Prince, Haiti - 300 US Marines land, marking the beginning of a 19-year US occupation of Haiti.
1932: Washington, DC - President Hoobert Heever orders the US Army to forcibly evict the "Bonus Army" of WWI veterans who have gathered in the city.
1942: Moscow, Russia - Joseph Stalin issues Order #227, the Ni shagu nazad!
("Not one step back!") order. Essentially, it provides drastic punishment for any soldier or officer who retreats before the Germans.
1943: Hamburg, Germany - RAF/USAAF Operation Gomorrah results in a massive firestorm, killing 42,600 civilians and wounding 37,000 more.
1945: New York, NY - A B-25 bomber piloted by William Franklin Smith, Jr., becomes confused in zero-visibility fog and crashes into the North face of the Empire State Building, between the 78th and 80th floors. One engine plows through the South face and onto a nearby rooftop, starting a fire; the other engine and part of the landing gear plummet down an elevator shaft. The fire started in the ESB is extinguished within 40 minutes, the only fire at such a height ever to be brought under control. Fourteen people die and an elevator operator is injured.
1965: Washington, DC - President Lyndon Johnson orders that the number of US troops in Vietnam be increased from 75,000 to 125,000.
1996: Kennewick, Washington - Discovery of the prehistoric fossil known as Kennewick Man.
2005: Northern Ireland - The Provisional IRA announces the end of its thirty-year armed campaign against the British and Orange Irish.
1804: Ludwig Feuerbach, philosopher (The Essence of Christianity
1844: Gerard Manly Hopkins, poet ("Pied Beauty").
1856: Ballington Booth, founder of Volunteers of America.
1866: Beatrix Potter, writer-illustrator (The Tale of Peter Rabbit
, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck
1874: Ernst Cassirer, philosopher (The Myth of the State
1887: Marcel Duchamp, painter and sculptor.
1902: Karl Popper, philosopher (The Logic of Scientific Discovery
, The Open Society and Its Enemies
1907: Earl Tupper, creator of Tupperware.
1909: Malcolm Lowry, writer (Under the Volcano
1915: Dick Sprang, comix artist.
1927: John Ashbery, poet.
1929: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, first lady and publisher.
1932: Natalie Babbit, writer (Tuck Everlasting
, Nellie: A Cat on Her Own
1945: Jim Davis, cartoonist (Garfield
1947: Sally Struthers, who was Gloria Stivic.
1954: Hugo Chávez, who stood up to W.
1960: Jon J. Muth, comix artist-writer (Moonshadow
, Sandman: The Wake
27th July 2016
...and in Finland, it's Sleepy Head day. :
1054: Sigeweard ("Siward"), Earl of Northumbria, defeats Mac Bethad mac Findlaích ("Macbeth") in battle.
1663: London, England - Parliament passes the Second Navigation Act, a/k/a the Act for Encouragement of Trade. This requires that all European goods bound for or from England's American colonies must pass through England and be inspected there, and furthermore must be carried in English ships.
1694: London, England - a Royal Charter is granted to the Bank of England. The creation of the Bank is largely a measure of necessity; England needs to build a powerful new navy to compete with France, and William I's credit is poor. The creation of the Bank brings together investors who would not individually have been able to fund the navy.
1789: New York, NY - Creation of the first Federal agency of the United States under the Constitution: the Department of Foreign Affairs, now know as the Department of State.
1866: Atlantic Ocean - Completion of the first "permanent" transatlantic telegraph cable, stretching from Valentia Island, Ireland, to Heart's Content, Newfoundland.
1890: Auvers-sur-Oise, France: Vincent van Gogh shoots himself. The suicide attempt at first appears unsuccessful, and van Gogh walks back to his lodgings; he dies two days later from an infection in the wound.
1940: Hollywood, CA - Warner Bros. releases Tex Avery's cartoon "A Wild Hare," the first cartoon to feature the fully formed Bugs Bunny. Both Elmer Fudd's ("Be vewy vewy quiet... I'm hunting wabbits") and Bugs's ("Eh ... What's up, Doc?") opening catchphrases are present.
1974: Washington, DC - The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives votes 27-11 in favor of the first article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon, on a charge of obstruction of justice.
1768: Charlotte Corday, assassin of Jean-Paul Marat.
1824: Alexandre Dumas, fils, writer (Camille
1870: Hillaire Belloc, writer (Cautionary Tales for Children
1905: Leo "The Lip" Durocher, baseball player and manager.
1916: Elizabeth Hardwick, writer (Sleepless Nights
1922: Norman Lear, producer (All in the Family
and spinoffs galore).
1929: Jean Baudrillard, philosopher (Simulacra and Simulation
, Forget Foucault
1929: Jack Higgins, writer of thrillers (The Eagle Has Landed
1938: E. Gary Gygax, cocreator of Dungeons and Dragons</b>.
1953: Yahoo Serious, who was Young Einstein.
26th July 2016
Read: Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow (2016-46)
This massive and quite unskimmable volume has taken me a month to read: a month that I do not regret in the least. Packed with an extraordinary quantity of detail, Chernow provides us with not only a biography, but a character study, and a huge amount of context concerning the milieux in which Hamilton lived and worked. :
From his boyhood as an orphan bastard on St. Nevis and nearby islands, Hamilton seems to have been an ambitious man with a fierce intellect, unfathomable moral courage, and an overweening pride in his own virtue. He came to the British North American colony of New York on a sort of scholarship arrangement, attended school, and mixed in politics, eventually becoming an artillery officer in the local militia. His gifts brought him to the attention of several generals, and he became an aide to George Washington, a relationship that would bear fruit for both until Washington's death.
Following the success of the American War of Rebellion, Hamilton began agitating for a national constitution stronger than the obviously-flawed Articles of Confederation. These had bound the various states together well enough to get through the Revolution, but would never allow the United States to be truly united, nor to pay off its war debts. Hamilton was a major character in the drama of the Constiutional Convention, then returned to New York to prod his home state into joining the new Union -- a nearly-impossible task, that became possible only when it was clear that, by not doing so, New York would be left out of a done deal.
Washington appointed Hamilton the first Secretary of the Treasury, and Hamilton began what is to this day the fundamental capitalistic structure of the United States national economy. He established the first National bank, established a system of customs and tariff collection, caused lighthouses to be built and maintained, and planted the seeds of the Coast Guard and of West Point.
While many - notably Jefferson's "Democratic Republicans" - cheered the French Revolution, Hamilton predicted that it would lead to anarchy and ultimately to a dictatorship (as indeed it did). He tried to steer America towards neutrality in the war between France and Britain - and, indeed, favored Britain as America's "natural" trade partner. Though a loyal servant to his President, Hamilton's rivalry with Secretary of State Jefferson was a part of the growing partisan split, in which Hamilton emerged as the natural leader of the Federalists.
Enough of summary. Summary fails utterly to do justice to this tome. It is in the almost-daily details of Hamilton's life that Chernow brings him back to a kind of literary life (a kind that Hamilton, himself a copious writer, would have approved). Chernow explains why Hamilton did most of what he did in his life, both pragmatically and psychologically, and offers conjectures on some of Hamilton's more difficult-to-explain choices.
Hamilton emerges as a mostly-admirable man who prided himself on rationality and intellectual accomplishment, on the service of his country and the integrity of his character. This integrity radically failed him only once, that we know of, in his adulterous affair with Maria Reynolds, a married woman, and the payments made to her husband. His rationality failed him rather more often, as he twice published papers that undermined his public character, in the name of saving it.
In the end, of course, he met Aaron Burr in the duel that ended his life. The events leading up to the duel are detailed with a fine sense of inevitability, as indeed there seems to have been in Hamilton's attitude towards the affair. The nominal cause of the affair of honor was an adjective, one not even used by Hamilton himself: the word "despicable." Burr himself weaves through Hamilton's story as friend and rival, rival and friend, so that, even as they planned their duel, they met amicably at public and private events.
I have deliberately saved for last what may be the single biggest theme in Chernow's presentation of Hamilton's life: Hamilton's wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. The book begins and ends with the image of Eliza, fifty years a widow, faithfully guarding her husband's memory and good name. Theirs seems to have been a true soul match, such that even Hamilton's philandering did not break (though it undoubtedly strained) their marriage. Hamilton's life is very much the story of his love for Eliza and their children. It is a terrible irony that, not long before Hamilton died in his duel with Burr, his eldest son died in a duel over words with a Burrite.
Chernow, without painting Hamilton as a plaster saint, redeems him from many of the calumnies that stuck to him through the success of the rival party. "The victors write the history," and Jefferson and Adam, Monroe and Madison, survived Hamilton by decades and, well, wrote the history.
Feast of St. Anne, Mother of Mary
1581: The Hague - The Low Countries sign the : Plakkaat van Verlatinghe
(Act - lit. "Placard" - of Abjuration), in which they declare their independence of the Spanish throne.
1745: Near Guildford, England - The first recorded women's cricket match takes place between Bramley and Hambledon.
1775: Philadelphia - The Second Continental Congress establishes the first national Post Office (though we weren't, technically, a nation
yet, but let that be).
1882: Bayreuth, Germany - Premiere of Richard Wagner's Parsifal
1887: Warsaw, Poland - First publication of the "Unua Libro
," or first book: the first book on the Experanto language, beginning a noble but doomed crusade for a universal language.
1908: Washington, DC - US Attorney-General Joseph Bonaparte orders the staffing of the "Office of the Chief Examiner," which will morph into the FBI. The first chief is Stanley Finch.
1944: Lviv (Lwow), Ukraine - The Soviet army enters the city, finding that, of the 160,000 Jews who lived there before German occupation, 300 remain alive.
1947: Washington, DC - President Harry S Truman signs the National Security Act of 1947, which creates the Central Intelligence Agency, United States Department of Defense, United States Air Force, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the United States National Security Council.
1948: Washington, DC - President Harry S Tryuman signs Executive Order 9981, which officially desegregates the US military.
1951: London, England - Premiere of Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland
1953: Short Creek, AZ - Arizona National Guard raids a community of 400 Mormon fundamentalists in the largest mass arrest of polygamists in US history. 263 of those taken prisoner are children, many of whom will not be returned to their parents for two years or longer.
1958: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of Explorer
4, to study the van Allen belts.
1963: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of Syncom
2, the first geosynchronous communciations satellite.
1971: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of Apollo
15, which will be the first "J-mission," missions where the lunar descent crew spends three days (and three EVAs) on the Moon's surface. This is also the first mission to use a Lunar rover.
1971: Newport, RI - Nicolette Milnes-Walker becomes the first woman to sail solo across the Atlantic 44 days after setting sail from Milford Haven, UK.
2005: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of Discovery
on STS-114, the first mission to launch after the loss of Challenger
1739: George Clinton, Governor of New York for 22 years (total) and Vice President of the United States for seven years. Considered a Founding Father, Clinton helped feed the army at Valley Forge. However, he was also known for oppressing Tories after the Revolution had ended.
1796: George Catlin, painter of Native Americans.
1875: Karl Jung, psychiatrist and philosopher.
1894: Aldous Huxley, writer (The Doors of Perception
, Brave New World
1895: Gracie Allen, who never said "Good night, Gracie."
1897: Paul Gallico, writer (The Poseidon Adventure
, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
1909: Vivian Vance, who was Ethel Mertz.
1921: Jean Shepherd, radio personality and writer (A Christmas Story
; co-wrote I, Libertine
with Theodore Sturgeon</b>).
1923: Jan Berenstain, bear co-creator.
1928: Stanley Kubrick, auteur (2001: A Space Odyssey
, A Clockwork Orange
1943: Mick Jagger, lips with attached singer.
1945: Helen Mirren, who was Queens Charlotte, Elizabeth I, and Elizabeth II, Ayn Rand, Hedda Hopper, and Dean Hardscrabble.
1956: Dorothy Hammil, figure skater.
1956: Nana Visitor, who was Kira Nerys.
1959: Kevin Spacey, who was Hopper and Richard M. Nixon.
1973: Kate Beckensale, who was Selene.
25th July 2016
1603: London, England - James VI of Scotland is crowned James I of England. Technically they remain separate kingdoms, "two crowns on one head." :
1837: London, England - William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone demonstrate the commercial viability of the electric telegraph, using their system of needles pointing to a letter of the alphabet.
1853: Near (what will become) Coalinga, CA - California Rangers, led by Harry Love, either do or do not kill Joaquin Murieta and his associate "Three-Fingered Jack" Garcia. There remains some doubt as to the identity of the Mexicans killed on this day. Murieta was the primary inspiration for El Zorro; however, Murieta himself was basically just a bandit.
1866: Washington, D.C. - Congress authorizes a new military rank, General of the Army. It is granted first to Ulysses S. Grant.
1898: Guánica, Puerto Rico - U.S. troops under General Nelson Miles invade the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico, ultimately capturing it as a US territory. It remains so.
1909: Calais, France to Dover, England - Louis Blériot makes the first heavier-than-air flight across the English Channel in 37 minutes.
1925: Moscow, Russia - Founding of the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, or TASS.
1946: Bikini Atoll - The United States detonates an atomic bomb underwater as part of Operation Crossroads.
1946: Atlantic City, NY - Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin appear at Club 500, their first show as a comedy duo.
1952: Puerto Rico - Adopts a constitution.
1959: Calais, France to Dover, England - The SR.N1, the first practical hovercraft, crosses the English Channel in just over two hours.
1965: Newport, RI - At the Newport Folk Festival, Bob Dylan performs his first electric set, which provokes controversy, though the audience's reaction to the set is generally positive.
1969: Washington, DC - Declaration of the "Nixon Doctrine," the general principle that America's Asian allies are to take care of their own defense. This begins the "Vietnamization" of the war, though American troops will remain in Vietnam until 1975.
1976: Space - Viking
1 takes the famous "face on Mars" photo.
1978: Oldham, England - Birth of Louise Brown, the first successful human baby conceived by in-vitro fertilization, a/k/a "test-tube baby."
1984: Space - Svetlana Savitskaya, cosmonaut on Salyut</b> 7, becomes the first woman to make a spacewalk.
1165: Ibn Arabi, Sufi poet, mystic, and saint.
1750: Henry Knox, Revolutionary War general, first US Secretary of War.
1844: Thomas Eakins, painter and sculptor.
1870: Maxfield Parrish, painter/illustrator.
1896: Josephine Tey, writer (The Man in the Queue).
1902: Eric Hoffer, philosopher (The True Believer).
1905: Elias Canetti, writer (Kafka's Other Trial).
24th July 2016
Seen: The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
The new film from Illuminations, the company that brought us the surprisingly good : Despicable Me
, hits the laughs out of the park, but provides very little for the brain to chew on. It's essentially yet another buddy film with a gimmick.
The gimmick here is that the buddies are housepets. Max (voiced by Louis CK) is a terrier who has a really happy life in New York City with his owner, Katie *Ellie Kemper) ... until Katie brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a very large, shaggy dog who quickly takes over. Max and Duke square off and wreak havoc, until they find themselves, collarless, in an Animal Control van. They are rescued from the van by a bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart) and his cohort of "flushed pets," who seek the destruction of humanity.
Meanwhile, Max's neighborhood friends, notably a pomeranian named Gidget (Jenny Slate) who will do anything to get him back, mount a search. Aided by a hawk named Tiberius (Albert Brooks) and an elderly, two-legged basset hound named Pops (Dana Carvey), they scour the city for the missing duo.
Set pieces include a sausage factory and the Brooklyn Bridge, in a sequence more than vaguely reminiscent of a certain Spider-Man movie. Max and Duke (of course) become fast friends by depending on each other through their adventures, and the ending is as happy as one would expect.
The animation is run-of-the-mill modern 3D, adequate but nothing spectacular or new. The roller-coaster-motion-sickness factor is fairly low. This is, in short, an excellent popcorn movie.
Or, in Utah, Pioneer Day :
1148: Damascus - Louis VII of France lays siege to the city. After a week, the siege ends in a decisive defeat for the besiegers, and the Second Crusade falls apart.
1567: Loch Leven Castle, Scotland - Mary, Queen of Scots, held prisoner here, is forced to abdicate in favor of her one year old son, James VI of Scotland (who will become James I of England).
1847: Salt Lake Valley, UT - Brigham Young leads 148 Mormons into this valley (currently claimed by Mexico), where they found Sal Tlay Ka Siti.
1866: Tennessee/Washington D.C. - Tennessee is the first rebel state readmitted to the Union.
1901: Columbus, OH - William Sydney Porter, better known as the writer O. Henry, is released from prison after serving three years for embezzlement. Porter may never have spent a night on the cell block; he was a licensed pharmacist, and worked the pharmacy in the prison hospital, where he was given a room.
1911: Machu Picchu, Peru - Is (re)discovered by Hawaiian explorer Hiram Brigham III. No, he wasn't a Mormon.
1929: Paris and the World - The Kellogg-Briand pact goes into effect. It has 62 signatories at this point. Its basic theme is an agreement to give up war as a manner of settling disputes between nations. Thank God, we've had nothing but peace for 87 years since then.
1950: Cape Canaveral, FL - Official opening of Cape Canaveral AFB, with the launch of a Bumper rocket.
1959: Moscow, Russia - At the American National Exhibition, American Vice President Richard Nixon has a spontaneous debate with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on the relative values of the US and Soviet systems. Because the debate, which is televised live, takes place in the Exhibition's "model kitchen of the future," it is called the "Kitchen Debate."
1969: Pacific Ocean - splashdown of Apollo
1974: Washington, DC - SCOTUS orders President Richard Nixon to turn over subpoenaed tapes to the Watergate Special Prosecutor.
1783: Simón Bolívar, revolutionary and second President of Venezuela.
1802: Alexandre Dumas, père, writer (The Three Musketeers
, The Man in the Iron Mask
1860: Alphonse Mucha, painter.
1867: E.F. Benson, writer (The Lucia series).
1878: Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany, writer (The King of Elfland's Daughter
, The Gods of Pegana
1895: Robert Graves, writer (The White Goddess
, I, Claudius
1897: Amelia Earhart, pilot.
1899: Chief Dan George, who was Old Lodge Skins.
1900: Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, inspiration and writer (Save Me the Waltz
1916: John D. MacDonald, writer (The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything
; the Travis McGee series).
1920: Bella Abzug, feminist and Congresscritter.
1935: Aaron Elkins, writer (The Gideon Oliver series).
1935: Pat Oliphant, cartoonist.
1936: Ruth Buzzi, comedian.
1942: Chris Sarandon, who was Prince Humperdinck.
1951: Lynda Carter, who was Princess Diana.
1968: Kristen Chenoweth, who was Sally Brown and Galinda.
1981: Summer Glau, who was River Tam.
1982: Anna Paquin who was Rogue.
23rd July 2016
1829: Washington, DC - Letters Patent issued to William Austin Burt for the "typographer," a strange predecessor to the modern typewriter. :
1921: Shanghai, China - Founding national congress of the Chinese Communist Party opens.
1929: Italy - The Fascist government bans the use of "foreign words." How they determine what words are "foreign" is beyond my ability to reckon.
1962: Space - Telstar relays the first live transatlantic television program.
1968: European airspace - Three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijack an El Al jet en route from London to Israel. The jet is diverted to Algeria, where most of the passengers are deplaned and moved to France. The crew and some Israeli passengers are held for a forced prisoner exchange. This is the only time an El Al plane is successfully hijacked; it is also, at 40 days, the longest hijacking incident on record.
1865: Max Heindel, Rosicrucian.
1888: Raymond Chandler, writer (The Big Sleep
1892: His Majesty Haile Selassie, Ras Taffari.
1894: Arthur Treache, who was Jeeves and a fish'n'chips icon.
1914: Virgil Finlay, illustrator.
1928: Hubert Selby, Jr., writer (Requiem for a Dream
, Last Exit to Brooklyn
1936: Anthony Kennedy, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Status.
1946: Andy Mackay, obonist and composer (Roxy Music, Rock Follies
1947: Gardner Dozois, writer and editor (Strangers
1957: Theo van Gogh, martyr.
1961: Woody Harrelson, who was Tallahassee.
1973: Monica Lewinsky, handbag designer.
1989: Daniel Radcliffe, who was Harry Potter.
22nd July 2016
Pi Approximation Day (22/7)
and also the Feast of St Mary Magdalene. :
1099: Jerusalem - Godfrey of Bouillon is elected by the Crusaders to rule the recently-conquered Jerusalem. As he believes the rightful King of Jerusalem is Jesus Christ, Godfrey takes the title Advocate (or Defender) of the Holy Sepulchre.
1209: Béziers, France - In the first major battle of the Albigensian "Crusade," the city of Béziers is sacked by the Abbot of Citeaux, Arnaud Amalric, who was also the Papal legate. When the townspeople had been rounded up, it was impossible to tell the Catholics from the heretics, so 20,000 people were put to the sword. (The story that Amalric said, "Kill them all, God will know his own," is of uncertain veracity and first appeared twenty years later.)
1706: London - Commissioners from the Scottish and English governments agree on the text of the Acts of Union, which would create the Kingdom of Great Britain when enacted in 1707. Though the two kingdoms already had a common monarch, the Acts of Union were far more than a formality, as there were a number of issues to be addressed, ranging from trade issues to inclusion of Scottish Peers in the House of Lords to the Presbyterian establishment of the Church of Scotland.
1793: Bella Coola, Canada - Alexander Mackenzie completes the first crossing of the North American continent (north of Mexico, by a European...), ten years ahead of Lewis and Clark.
1894: Paris to Rouen, France - The first ever (official) motorcar race, sponsored by Le Petit Journal
. The fastest time (5 hr 40 min) was made by Jules-Albert, Comte de Dion, in a Dion-Bouton steam car, but he was disqualified because he required a stoker; in the event, he was given the second prize. The first prize is shared by "Les fils de Peugeot Frères," Albert Lemaître and Auguste Doriot, who drove a pair of Peugeots and made times of (respectively) 5 hr 45 min and 5 hr 50 min.
1933: New York, NY - Wiley Post completes the first solo flight around the world in 7 days, 18 hours, and 40 minutes.
1934: Chicago, IL - John Dillinger is fatally shot by Federal agents outside the Biograph Theater.
1937: Washington, DC - The Senate votes down the "Judicial Procedures Reform Bill," also known as the "Court Packing Act," by which President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to increase the number of Justices on the Supreme Court, so as to get more favorable rulings on his New Deal policies. The oddly-worded bill would have allowed the President to appoint one more Justice for each sitting Justice over the age of 70 years 6 months.
1942: Warsaw, Poland - Germany begins systematically deporting Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka concentration camp.
1951: Space - Two dogs, Dezik and Tsygan, become the first Earthlings in space, surviving a suborbital flight whose maximum altitude was 110 miles. Dezik will eventually die in another flight when its parachute fails to deply; Tsygan is adopted as a pet by a Soviet physicist.
1962: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of the Mariner
1 probe. It almost immediately develops guidance problems, and is "destructively aborted" less than five minutes into the flight.
1991: Milwaukee, WI - Arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer.
1844: William Archibald Spooner, priest and scholar.
1849: Emma Lazarus, poet ("The New Colossus").
1882: Edward Hopper, painter.
1889: James Whale, director (Frankenstein
, The Invisible Man
1890: Countess Rose Kennedy, philanthropist.
1898: Stephen Vincent Benét, writer ("The Devil and Daniel Webster," "The King of the Cats</b>).
1908: Amy Vanderbilt, etiquette-ologist.
1923: Bobdole, candidate.
1932: Tom Robbins, writer (Another Roadside Attraction
, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
1940: Alex Trebek, game-show host.
1941: Vaughn Bodē, comix writer-illustrator ("Cheech Wizard").
1941: George Clinton, singer-songwriter-bandleader (Parliament/Funkadelic/P.Funk Allstars).
1941: David M. Kennedy, historian (The American Pageant
1946: Danny Glover, who was Harry.
1948: S.E. Hinton, writer (Rumble Fish
, That Was Then, This Is Now
1949: Alan Mencken, composer (Score for "Little Shop of Horrors" and many Disney films).
1964: John Leguizamo, who was Sid the Sloth.
1992: Selina Gomez, who was Mavis.
21st July 2016
In "Universal" GMT, this is the anniversary of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon. I don't think of it as confusing - I think of it as getting to celebrate twice. :
There are some interesting resonances below...
356 BC: Ephesus, modern Turkey - A man named Herostratus, in a bid for fame at any cost, sets fire to the roofbeams of the Temple of Diana, destroying it. He is not merely sentenced to death; it is forbidden to ever speak his name again. But his name survives, not only as such, but in the metonym "herostratic fame."
365: Crete/Alexandria - An earthquake in Crete causes massive damage in southern and central Greece. It is followed by a tsunami which causes devastation along the Mediterranean coast; the most significant damage is in Alexandria, where 5000 people are killed (another 45000 are killed outside the city).
1865: Springfield, MO - In a fight over a poker debt, Wild Bill Hickock shoots and kills Davis Tutt. This is not only one of the few one-on-one pistol battles actually fought in the Old West, it is the first known.
1873: Adair, IO - Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang rob a train. This is the first recorded train robbery in the Old West.
1904: Ostend, Belgium - Driving a Gobron-Brillié automobile, Louis Rigolly becomes the first human being to break the 100 mph barrier.
1925: Dayton, TN - The "Scopes Monkey Trial" ends. Schoolteacher John T. Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution and fined $100.
1925: Pendine Sands, Wales - Driving a Sunbeam automobile, Sir Malcolm Campbell becomes the first human being to break the 150 mph barrier.
1961: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of Mercury-Redstone 4 mission. Aboard Liberty Bell
7, Gus Grissom becomes the second American in space.
1983: Vostok Station, Antarctica - The lowest temperature ever recorded in a (sort of) inhabited place happens here. -128.6 Fahrenheit/-89.2 Celsius.
2011: Cape Canaveral, FL - Atlantis
lands at Kennedy Space Center, ending the Space Shuttle program.
1816: Paul Reuter, journalist.
1851: Sam Bass, train robber.
1899: Hart Crane, poet (The Bridge
1899: Ernest Hemingway, writer (The Sun Also Rises
, The Old Man and the Sea
1911: Marshall McLuhan, theorist (The Medium Is the Massage
1920: Isaac Stern, violinist and conductor.
1921: James Cooke Brown, author (The Troika Incident
), game designer ("Careers"), and language designer (Loglan).
1924: Don Knotts, who was Mr. Limpet and the Reluctant Astronaut.
1933: John Gardner, writer (Grendel
, Jason and Medea
1938: Janet Reno, Attorney-General.
1944: Paul Wellstone, Senator.
1946: Ken Starr, self-aggrandizing attorney.
1948: Snooty, manatee.
1948: Yusuf Islam, who was Steven Demetre Georgiou and Cat Stevens, singer-songwriter.
1948: Garry Trudeau, cartoonist (Doonesbury
1951: Robin Williams, who was Mork.
1962: Ryk E. Spoor, writer.
1966: Sarah Waters, writer (Night Watch
, Tipping the Velvet
20th July 2016
1304: Stirling, Scotland - King Edward I of England takes Stirling Castle using the "War Wolf," an immense trebuchet capable of hurling three hundred pound stones. Seeing it as it was assembled, the Scots attempted to surrender, but Edward sent them back into their castle, saying "You don't deserve any grace, but must surrender to my will." The first stone hurled leveled a section of the castle's curtain wall. :
1807: France - Napoleon Bonaparte grants a patent to Nicéphore Niépce for the Pyréolophore, an internal combustion engine. Using a fuel made of moss spores, coal dust, and resin, it successfully powered a boat up the river Saône.
1932: Washington, DC - The US Army routs the Bonus Expeditionary Force, a group of impoverished WWI veterans seeking redress, using tanks and tear gas.
1934: Minneapolis, MN - Police fire on striking teamsters, killing two and injuring sixty-seven.
1934: Seattle, WA - Police fire tear gas and use clubs on striking longshoremen. Something must have been in the air that day.
1938: New York City - The US Department of Justice files suit against the entire motion picture industry, alleging that the "studio system" violates the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Ten years later, the studios will be broken up.
1940: Southern California - Opening of (most of) the Arroyo Seco Parkway, a/k/a the Pasadena Freeway, California's first freeway.
1944: Rastenburg, Germany - With the activation of Operation Valkyrie, Claus von Stauffenberg smuggles a bomb into Hitler's headquarters. The bomb detonates, but Hitler is not killed (though his trousers are singed a bit). In the aftermath, 7000 people are arrested, and 4980 of them are executed.
1960: Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) - Election of Sirimavo Bandaranaike to the Prime Ministry, making her the world's first elected female head of government.
1968: Chicago, IL - The first Special Olympics are held at Soldier Field, for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
1969: Space - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land Apollo
11's lunar module on the Moon. Depending on time zone, they also complete the first moonwalk today or tomorrow.
1976: Space - Viking
1 successfully lands on Mars.
1977: Fairfax, VA - The CIA, under the Freedom of Information Act, releases documents about MKUltra, a program that experimented on humans to find effective methods of mind control. Methods used included surreptitious administration of drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as various forms of torture.
1997: Boston, MA - The USS Constitution
, fully refurbished, as a celebration of its 200th "birthday," sets sail for the first time in 116 years.
2016: US and Cuba - resume diplomatic relations after five decades.
356 BC: Alexander the Great.
1304: Petrarch, poet and scholar; believed to have coined the term "Dark Ages."
1822: Gregor Mendel, monk and botanist.
1919: Edmund Hillary, mountaineer.
1920: Elliot Richardson, Attorney-General who resigned rather than fire a special prosecutor.
1924: Thomas Berger, writer (Little Big Man
1932: Dick Giordano, comix illustrator and editor.
1933: Cormac McCarthy, writer (No Country for Old Men
, The Road
1938: Diana Rigg, who was Mrs. Peel.
1938: Natalie Wood, who was Maria and Susan Walker and Anna Muir.
19th July 2016
Read: Poems, by C.S. Lewis (2016-45)
Read over a period of several months, so as not to potatochip them, these poems form a nice constellation of Lewis's thought. There are light poems and heavy, rhymed and un-. Some of them use unusual forms (internal rhyme schemes, alliterative verse); others are straightforward sonnets and such. :
The first section ("The Hidden Country") deals with light and often fantastical matters. Here we find the "Narnian Suite," along with many others. Then comes "The Backward Glance," a set of poems largely on scientific and critical matters. "A Larger World," paradoxically, goes deeper; and then "Further Up & Further In" becomes very personal indeed, meditations on Lewis's own soul. Finally, "A Farewell to Shadow-Lands" consists of a few "Epigrams and Epitaphs."
Lewis' handling of meter and other sound effects is generally deft. Occasional bouts of syntactical stiffness occur, especially in the first section, but are mostly minor and mostly forgivable. Overall, I rate this quite high for a single-author poetry collection.
I mean, the best I can come up with is National Daiquiri Day, and that just doesn't cut it. Some mornings it just isn't worth it. :
1553: England - After just 9 days' reign, Queen Jane (Lady Jane Grey) is replaced by Mary I.
1701: Albany, NY - The Iroquois Confederation signs a treaty with acting colonial governor John Nanfan, the Nanfan Treaty. The Iroquois cede territory including the Western ends of modern New York and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, most of Illinois, the lower peninsula of Michigan, and a bit of modern Canada, not getting much of anything in return.
1843: Bristol, England - Launch of the Great Britain
. This is the first oceangoing ship with both an iron hull and a propeller screw, and is designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It is the largest vessel afloat in the world, and makes the crossing to New York in fourteen days.
1848: Seneca Falls, NY - The Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention in the United States, opens. Planned by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and local Quaker women, with Frederick Douglass as a featured speaker, the Convention releases two documents: a "Declaration of Sentiments," and a list of resolutions, which includes the right of women to vote - partly at Douglass' urging.
1900: Paris - the first line of the Métro (subway system) opens.
1979: Nicaragua - Sandnista rebels overthrow the Somoza family's government of this country.
1814: Samuel Colt, gun manufacturer.
1834: Edgar Degas, painter.
1860: Lizzie Borden, accused murderer.
1865: Charles Horace Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic.
1883: Max Fleischer, animator (Popeye, Betty Boop).
1898: Herbert Marcuse, philosopher (A Critique of Pure Tolerance
1922: George McGovern, Presidential candidate.
1924: Arthur Rankin, Jr., animator (The Hobbit
, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
1930: Darko Suvin, critic.
1946: Stephen Coonts, writer (Flight of the Intruder
1947: Brian May, guitarist for Queen and Doctor of Astrophysics.
1956: K.A. Applegate, children's writer ("Animorphs" series and many others).
1963: Garth Nix, writer (the "Abhorsen" trilogy).
18th July 2016
Nelson Mandela International Day
Or just July 18. :
64: Rome - The Great Fire of Rome destroys half the city. Nero either started it or didn't, either blamed Christians for it or didn't, either organized containment measures or didn't, and either provided for refugees or didn't. One of history's great uncertainties. What is certain is that he didn't fiddle, as the fiddle hadn't been invented yet, though a roughly-contemporary report has him playing the lyre (though other contemporary reports have him nowhere near Rome when it happened...)
1290: England - King Edward I issues the Edict of Expulsion, banishing all Jews from England. There were about 16,000 Jews to be banished. They were not permitted to return until the 1650s, when Oliver Cromwell let them back in, expecting financial assistance in return.
1870: Rome, Italy - The first Vatican council defines the doctrine of Papal infallibility.
1925: Munich, Germany - Publication of Mein Kampf
1966: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of Gemini
10, a 70-hour mission that included docking with two Agena
1968: Mountain View, CA - Founding of Intel.
1969: Chappaquiddick Island, MA - Senator Edward Kennedy drives his car off a bridge. His passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, dies.
1976: Montreal, Quebec, Canada - Nadia Comăneci, along the way to winning three Olympic gold medals in gymnastics, becomes the first person to score a perfect 10 for a routine (on the uneven bars).
1995: Montserrat - Beginning of the Soufrière Hills volcano eruption that devastates the island and forces most of the population to flee. The eruption continues to this day.
1797: Immanuel Hermann Fichte, philosopher, opponent of Hegel.
1811: William Makepeace Thackeray, writer (Vanity Fair
, The Luck of Barry Lyndon
1867: Margaret "The Unsinkable Molly" Brown, socialite, philanthropist, activist; Titanic
1887: Vidkun Quisling, traitor.
1895: George Francis Barnes, Jr., a/k/a Machine Gun Kelly, gangster.
1902: Jessamyn West, writer (The Friendly Persuasion
1906: S.I. Hayakawa, general-semanticist and politician.
1909: Harriet Nelson, of Ozzie and Harriet fame.
1913: Red Skelton, comedian.
1918: Nelson Mandela, activist and politician.
1921: John Glenn, astronaut and politician.
1922: Thomas Kuhn, physicist and philosopher (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
1929: Screamin' Jay Hawkins, singer-songwriter ("I Put a Spell on You").
1930: Burt Kwuok, who was Cato.
1937: Hunter S. Thompson, writer (Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
1938: Paul Verhoeven, director (Starship Troopers
, Total Recall
1943: Joseph J. Ellis, writer (Founding Brohthers
, American Sphinx
1950: Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group.
1967: Vin Diesel, who was Richard B. Riddick.
1969: Elizabeth Gilbert, writer (Eat Pray Love