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1st November 2016

5:01pm: Read: Words Are My Matter, by Ursula K. Le Guin (2016-57)
I have never met a book by Le Guin that I didn't enjoy - no, not even the seemingly-much-disliked _Malafrena_ - and this isn't one either. Le Guin's nonfiction has been special to me since the essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie," which was read aloud to raucous laughter at a Mythopoeic meeting, and pre-destroyed that month's fated, or rather _doomed_, book.

This particular collection of nonfiction, almost all from the actual if not the nominal 21st Century, is divided into three almost-thirds and a final bit.

The first almost-third consists of "Talks, Essays, and Occasional Pieces," on topics ranging from a (most gracious) response to essays on one of her books to her young life in a house designed by Bernard Maybeck, from the disappearing of women writers to animals in fiction, and culminating quite satisfactorily with the now-somewhat-famous short speech Le Guin gave in accepting the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, itself a huge contribution to American letters. These pieces simply sparkle with Le Guin's wit and humanity.

The second almost-third consists of "Book Introductions and Notes on Writers." Not surprisingly, Le Guin appears to have been asked on more than a few occasions to books. It also isn't surprising that most of the books sh'e asked to introduce are sf/f in nature. Here she writes generously of Dick and MacDonald, Wells and the Strugatsky brothers, and several others, including Boris Pasternak and Western writer H.L. Davis. For the books I'd read - most of them - they provided me with new insights; most of the others I now _want_ to read.

The last almost-third consists of "Book Reviews." This was the part of the book I anticipated most and enjoyed least, probably because most of them are very short, three to four pages, and just tease my attention before they're over. This was true of _some_ of the pieces in the earlier sections; but there it was varied with longer and even shorter pieces; here it creates a kind of repetitive rhythm that becomes, for me, a bit tiresome. But again I come away with several additions to my To-Read list, so that's all good.

Finally the "and a final bit" is the exception to the "almost all." In 1994, Le Guin spent a week at the Hedgebrook writer's colony, a place that gives women writers a quiet and peaceful environment in which to escape the quotidian and concentrate on their work. Here, she wrote (it says here) one of the novellas that form the story suite _Four Ways to Forgiveness_, and also a journal. The final bit is the journal. It is very rooted, says almost nothing about her process as a writer, and ties the book together into a whole in a way that I cannot explain, for I do not understand it, but it does.

If you love Le Guin's writing, you will love this book. If not, probably not. But you should at least read the prize speech ("Freedom"). It's very short and you can read it standing in the aisle at the library or bookstore, should you be so lucky as to still live near a bookstore. Or you can watch her deliver it here.

29th October 2016

8:48pm: Seen: The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do The Time Warp Again
This, like almost all Hollywood remakes, was completely unnecessary; and at the same time full of potential. The original RHPS was done on a microscopic $1.2M budget, and this had - well, many times that. It seems to have been spent mostly on sets; the SFX are still cheezy and cheap. As, perhaps, they should be.

Some of what is done right:

Many of the scenes/moments/routines are done with more, well, subtlety than the original - which is, let us be frank (oh, let's), about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

The whole thing is framed with an audience coming to a viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The audience is repeatedly shown doing and saying the things RHPS audiences do and say, so there's that little fan appreciation thing which I liked.

Like the original, it mostly features people I'd never heard of before, with four exceptions.

o Dr. Frank-n-Furter is played by Laverne Cox, best known for her role in Orange Is the New Black. It is, I suppose, curious and interesting having Frank played by a real life transsexual, but Cox lacks the same ambiguity Tim Curry lacked: where his Furter was unambiguously male, hers is unambiguously female, which takes away a bit of bite from the song "Sweet Transvestite."
o Eddie is played by Adam Lambert, a singer I respect more than I like. He does an excellent job, but the direction spoils his scene somewhat, and takes away Frank's concluding line.
o Dr. Scott (or should I say ... Doctor von Scott?) is played by Ben Vereen. He too does an excellent job, but it's a little hard taking him for the uncle of the extremely white Adam Lambert.
o And the Criminologist is played by Tim Curry. This is sad; Curry is confined to a wheelchair these days, and his delivery is slow and forced.

Of the other main characters, Columbia (Annaleigh Ashford), Magenta (Christina Milan), and Janet (Victoria Justice) are arguably better than than the originals. Riff Raff (Reeve Carney) lacks Richard O'Brien's amazing gawkiness and his sense of menace.

The one outstanding, unquestionably better-than-the-original actor, then, is Staz Nair, who plays Rocky with far more range than Peter Hinwood did; it was almost worth remaking the movie just for his performance.

But only almost.

The music is a muddled mess, with a few exceptions ("Science Fiction/Double Feature" and "I'm Coming Home" are the only ones that may top the originals). There was an opportunity to update it, and instead they went for a '50s feel that doesn't feel anything like the '50s.

Similarly, there was an opportunity to improve the direction, which, in the original, is merely adequate. In many places, directory Kenny Ortega chose to use a direct, shot by shot, homage/ripoff/copy of the original A more modern approach could have brought so much more to some of these scenes.

And the theatrical audience should have been used more or not at all.

And finally.

The original RHPS is, at this point, something of a guilty pleasure; it was (in its cheezy way) shocking in its day but tame now. The opportunity to bring back its shock value was there, even if it was FoxTV, and they took not one chance with it. And that is why it is not fit to stand with the original.
8:23pm: (re-)Read: 'Salem's Lot, by Stephen King (2016-56)
It's been decades since I last read this book, and I'm surprised by both how much I *do* remember and how much I *don't*. The general plot stayed with me, and a few characters; and a few key scenes are seared onto my memory - not by horror, but by sheer human agony.

I'll not play coy and pretend spoiling 'Salem's Lot is even possible at this point; if you care to read it, you already have.

Perhaps the thing that most stands out for me in the "not remembered" category is the sheer richness of the prose. Stephen King, at this point - and I'm not saying that he isn't now - was a careful craftsman and artist with words. Long and not-at-all-boring passages are spend on psychological and sociological analysis, sheer description, and such. And the book isn't padded at all, the way that some claim King's books to be; everything - and I mean everything - in it is necessary and contributive to the whole effect.

King introduces characters slowly, bringing in some fairly major characters fairly late in the narrative - and yet, somehow, this works. The pivotal character of Father Callahan doesn't really enter the plot till well over half the book is past, and yet he is perhaps the best developed character, with the most interesting and meaningful story arc.

For those who need reminding: he is a middle-aged Catholic priest, slumping into alcoholism, largely due to the banality of his life. He entered the priesthood wanting to fight Evil, and finds himself dealing instead with the dull and repetitive evils that make up so much of human life.

When the Fearless Vampire Hunters come to him, he is more than prepared to believe: he has seen the strange things happening, and he wants to finally fight Evil. And, armed with holy things, he works a minor miracle or two in the fight ... and then gets his comeuppance in a standoff with the head vampire, Barlow. Barlow holds the boy Mark Petrie; Callahan holds up his cross, and it glows brightly and forces Barlow to move back; but he still holds Mark. He offers Callahan a deal: if the vampire releases Mark, will the priest throw aside his cross? To prove his good faith, as it were, he releases Mark.

And Callahan's faith fails him. He does not put down the cross ... and its bright light fades, and Barlow, rather than drinking the Father's blood, forces the Father to drink his.

Returning to his church, he cannot enter. The doors fend him off with blue fire. He leaves the town on a midnight bus, obsessed with his uncleanness...

But hidden in there is Barlow's mocking comment: "If you had cast the cross away, you should have beaten me another night. In a way, I hoped it might be so. It has been long since I have met an opponent of any real worth."

There is a deep morality here that I find very satisfying. Yet so much of the book is about the power of evil, in both its capital-E vampiric form and its small-e banal, human form. There are plot elements which might be described unkindly as soap-operatic, or more honestly as slices of village life. And the main character of the book emerges not as the vampire, nor the Fearless Vampire Hunters, but the village itself, the Lot, which we see in a series of panoramic and close-up images of itself and its people, and if the Lot dies at the end, well, so do all good things in this world. Some see in 'Salem's Lot a condemnation of the people of a small New England town; it seems to me rather a love letter to those people and their towns. While they are flawed and often petty, there is not a real villain among them.

26th October 2016

7:56pm: Seen: Batman vs. Superman - Dawn of Justice (2016)
Sigh. With just a little bit more attention this could have been *such* a good movie.

I shall assume that anybody who actually cares about spoilers has already seen it, so be warned if you haven't and do.

OK: we start with the iconic scene of Thomas and Martha (Lauren Cohan) Wayne being killed by some punk thief, complete with the pearl necklace, in front of their small son Bruce (Brandon Spink).

Next we get a recap of the climactic battle from Man of Steel, from the point of view of an adult Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who sees his building destroyed and, despite his evacuation order, many of his employees killed.

After this, I'm not clear on the sequence of events; it proceeds as a bunch of set pieces whose order doesn't matter very much.

There is a growing conflict between Batman and Superman (Henry Cavill): Batman believes that Superman is dangerous and out of control, while Supes believes that Bats is an outlaw vigilante. Things get worse as Bats gets grimmer, beginning to brand some of his victims captured criminals.

Meanwhile, young Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has discovered a curious green meteor that destroys Kryptonian cells; but a Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) blocks his attempt to bring it into the country.

Well, and many people are concerned about the big red S, the strange being from another planet. Some see him as a kind of savior. Some protest him as a menace. The government wants to know that he will not go rogue. He accepts a request to appear in front of a Senate subcommittee (headed by Finch), and fails to notice the bomb that kills everyone in the room - except, of course, for himself.

In the meanwhile, Clark Kent is getting in trouble with Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), who wants him to cover football instead of obsessing about the Gotham vigilante.

Somewhere in here, Luthor gets access to the Kryptonian wreck from MoS, and manages to take control of its computer.

Clark and Bruce meet at a party honoring Luthor, where Bruce is attempting to raid LexCorp's files for a clue to the location of the Kryptonite. He meets a mysterious woman (Gal Godot) who also wants those files, for a picture that "belongs to me." When Bruce decrypts the files, he finds a photo of the mysterious woman -- as Wonder Woman, in WWI -- in a file about mysterious "metahumans," including the Flash and Aquaman.

Bruce steals the Kryptonite from LexCorp and builds Kryptonian-killing weapons, setting up the big badaboom of the title. Lex summons Supes -- by pushing Lois Lane (Amy Adams) off a building, one of many times she stars as the Woman In Peril in this film -- and explains that he has Martha Kent, at a location he does not know, but she will be killed if Supes does not bring him the head of the Bat in one hour.

Superman rushes off to Gotham, hoping to enlist Bruce to find his (Clark's) mom. They fight for a while and things get smashed up; then, just as Bruce is about to kill Clark with a Kryptonite spear, Clark croaks out "Save Martha!" which gets Bruce all angsty 'cause that's the name of his dead Mom, as we have been reminded several times during the course of the film. He listens and agrees to save Martha while Clark goes after Luthor.

Set piece of Bats saving Martha.

Luthor, realizing that his plan to make Superman look reeeeally bad has failed, releases the thing that he has been breeding in the Kryptonian ship - "Your doomsday," a Kryptonian rage monster with full Kryptonian powers, plus bonus! hurting it makes it stronger. Wonder Woman shows up to help, and the three core DC heroes fight Doomsday, while Lois goes after the Kryptonite spear Bruce has thrown away. After one more Lois In Peril sequence, Supes retrieves the spear and nearly dies doing it. But determined as he is, he takes it up and flies it into Doomsday's body - and gets stabbed through the heart (his invulnerability being, apparently, weakened by proximity to Kryptonite) by a spike D. grew when WW. cut off his arm. (Did I mention she's a pretty badass Wonder Woman?)

Cue funeral scenes, with no real explanation of how both Clark (in Smallville) and Superman (in, apparently, Arlington) can be buried simultaneously..

Cue Lex in jail, getting his hair cut off and panicking about a worse alien coming - "He's hungry and he's coming" kind of thing.

Cue Bruce telling Diana that he wants her help gathering the other metahumans to work together, because he has a feeling it will be needed.

The end.

So what went wrong?

First of all, I don't begrudge the mandatory Superman-Batman fight sequence, or the way it's resolved. That's the stuff of which comix are made. But dragging in the whole Doomsday/Death of Superman sequence damaged what could have been a beautifully themed movie, about the nature of the responsibility held by these characters for their actions and the things that happen around them.

Because, while both of them are trying to use their various abilities to Do Good, both are right to be suspicious of the other. Batman *is* a vigilante (he even admits that he's technically a criminal); Superman *is* a trouble magnet whose solutions tend to involve massive destruction. For them to have seen each other's points of view and worked out a mutual solution might have been a brilliant denouement to this film.

But, no. They didn't do that. They went for action-adventure and cheap melodrama, and, since we all know that the S will be back, the attempted pathos of the funerals comes off bathetic.

Except for Alfred (Jeremy Irons, who is magnificent in the role), Batman's supporting cast is completely absent, while Superman's is badly mishandled. Perry White is turned into a cynic about the entire newspaper business, who would rather have Clark play it safe than do some real investigative reporting. Lois is the Girl Hostage supreme.

Well, it is what it is, and we can only hope they get better from here. I was a big DC fan as a kid, and even as a grownup, but Marvel has done a much -- much! -- better job of adapting its characters to the big screen, while DC seems to insist on a hamfisted Grim'n'Gritty approach that was cool in the '80s but boring now.


25th October 2016

5:08pm: Seen: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2006)
I don't have a lot to say about this one. It was fun, but not exceptional. It was clever and witty, but not laugh-out-loud funny. It was quirky and, yes, peculiar, but not overthetop weird.

If you don't know what it's about, go look it up. I'm tired.
4:41pm: Seen: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
This is why I go see movies. Go see it if you still can - it's still playing, here and there. I wanted, at the end, to rise and cheer, I felt so good about it and about the fact that something this wonderful can still make it through amongst the SPECTACULAR!!!S and remakes of remakes. It is, in fact, as close to a perfect movie as I have seen these many years.

The story begins in a storm. A young woman (Charlize Theron) is asea in a small boat, with a shamisen - three-stringed Japanese banjo sort of thing - during a storm. She slashes the strings of the instrument to ward off a great wave; when another comes, she washed up on a beach, along with her package - a still-breathing infant (who is however bleeding from the socket of one eye).

Flash forward several years.

A boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson), who is obviously that baby, wakes and feeds his near-comatose mother in the cave they live in. He takes his musical instrument and many squares of paper to town and tells a story, which he illustrates by magically animating the squares to form origami and act out the parts of the story. The story concerns a brave Samurai and an evil Moon King (Ralph Fiennes, eventually), but - as, it seems, always - he has to cut it off and run home before the sun sets. When he arises and night falls, his mother regains consciousness for a few hours and they are happy-ish together. We learn that Kubo must not, under any circumstances, be out under the moon; and that he must always carry with him a figurine of "Mister Monkey."

Of course, the very next day, during a festival for the loved dead, he does stay out after nightfall. Two masked and sorcerous Sisters come for his other eye, saying that they are his Aunties (Rooney Mara), and his mother shows up just in time to die saving him. Oh, and: she's their sister, too; they are the daughters of the Moon King.

Kubo wakes up in a wasteland, awakened by a Monkey who says she is (a) the figurine, (b) not a Mister at all, and (c) here to protect him. She leads him on a quest for the three pieces of a set of magickal armor which, together, might protect him from the Moon King: a sword, a helm, and a mail jacket. They are joined by a befuddled anthropomorphic Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) , who, apparently, was one of the samurai serving the story in Kubo's tales - his own father. They are attacked repeatedly by the Sisters, but stay on the trail of the armor until Much Is Revealed -- really, nothing surprising to a student of story, but so right that it doesn't matter that it doesn't surprise -- and Kubo alone must face his Grandfather.

The story alone is enough to make for a good movie.

The voice acting - Oh, didn't I mention it was animated? It is - pumps it up a notch. I see I haven't even mentioned George Takei or Brenda Vaccaro: they're in there too.

But what pushes it over the top - way, way over the top - of the heap is the look of the thing. It isn't just animated; it's stop-motion animated, amazingly, with very little CGI and that mostly for environmental enhancement. This is a film by Laika, who made ParaNorman and Coraline, and they don't settle for beautiful.

Put it all together and this is unquestionably the best film I have seen this year.

10th October 2016

8:15pm: Read: Death's End, by Cixin Liu (2016-55)
So this is the end of a trilogy, which means a certain amount of spoilerage for previous volumes is in order. I'll put them behind the clickythingy.

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Cixin Liu is the kind of writer who tosses off ideas in passing that other writers would make into entire series, and there are a lot of ideas tossed off in the course of this trilogy and especially its last volume.

If there's a theme to all this, it's an existential kind of theme: the Universe is a cold and heartless place, indifferent not only to Humanity but to life at all; life will always distrust and destroy life different from itself; and the only meaning to it all is what we make. It's not a cheering view - but it's a bracing one.

Recommended to fans of Clarke, Stapledon, Baxter, and the like.
10:08am: End of it
I had been planning on ending the almanacking soon anyway, when I had completed a year of it. I'm endingn it early because I fell yesterday. Gashed my left hand and sprained two fingers on the right. Typing is very painful. So, it's over.

8th October 2016

10:50am: Can you believe the year is 282 days old?
1645: Montréal, QU - Jeanne Mance opens the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, the oldest established hospital (and first lay hospital) in North America.
1860: San Francisco-Los Angeles - A telegraph line between these two cities is opened.
1871: Four major fires break out on the shores of Lake Michigan, including the Great Chicago Fire, which will kill 300 people. It was is believed to have been caused by a knocked-over lantern, though there is no substantive evidence for this - and none at all for the "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" story. It kills about 300 people; another of the fires, in Peshtigo, WI, however killed at least 1500 and possibly as many as 2500, and is the deadliest wildfire in recorded history.
1956: New York, NY - Yankee Don Larsen pitches a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Yankee Stadium, the only perfect game ever played in a World Series.
1967: Bolivia - A CIA-backed force captures Che Guevara; two days later, they will execute him.
1974: Mineola, NY - Collapse of the Franklin National Bank, with Mafia involvement. This is the largest bank collapse in US history up to this point.
1982: Poland - Bans Solidarity and all labor unions. We all know how that turned out.
1982: New York, NY - Broadway premiere of Cats.
2001: Washington, DC - President George W. Bush announces the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

1834: Walter Kittredge, songwriter ("Tenting Tonight").
1890: Eddie Rickenbacker, flying ace, race car driver, and head of Eastern Airlines.
1895: Zog I, King of the Albanians.
1895: Juan Perón, President of Argentina.
1907: Richard Sharpe Shaver, crank.
1910: Kirk Alyn, who was Superman, Blackhawk, and General Sam Lane.
1917: Walter Lord, historian (A Night to Remember, Day of Infamy).
1920: Frank Herbert, writer (Dune, The Dosadi Experiment).
1929: Betty Boothroyd, first and only woman Speaker of the British House of Commons.
1936: Rona Barrett, gossip columnist and philanthropist.
1939: Harvey Pekar, comix writer-illustrator (American Splendor).
1941: Jesse Jackson, minister without portfolio and activist.
1941: Shane Stevens, writer (Dead City, Anvil Chorus).
1943: R.L. Stine, writer ("Goosebumps" series).
1949: Sigourney Weaver, who was Ellen Ripley, Dana Barrett, Gwen "Tawny Madison" DeMarco, and The Director.
1959: Carlos I. Noriega, astronaut.

7th October 2016

6:24am: Poetry Day
3761 BC: Eden, presumably - Day Zero of the Hebrew calendar.
1571: Northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth - The "Battle of Lepanto," not very near Lepanto, takes place. Ships from the "Holy League" of Catholic maritime states - mainly Spain and Italy - meet and demolish an Ottoman fleet. This is often said to have ended the Turkish expansion, though they actually soon took Cyprus from Venice.
1691: London - King William and Queen Mary of England issue a new Charter for the Massachussetts Bay Colony, over the objections of Increase Mather, making it a Province. One of the effects of this was to change the test for the franchise from religious to financial; also, senior officials of the Provincial government would be appointed by the Crown rather than elected.
1763: London - King George III of England issues the "Royal Proclamation of 1763," which draws an end mark to white colonialization along the Allegheny Mountains, reserving the land beyond for aboriginal peoples.
1826: Quincy to Milton, MA - The Granite Railway, for the purposes of hauling granite from a quarry in Quincy to the Neponset River, opens. It is the first chartered railway in the US.
1919: Amsterdam, Netherlands - Eight Dutch businessmen found KLM (short for Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, the "Royal Aviation Society"), the national airline of the Netherlands. It is the oldest commercial airline still running under its original name and charter.
1944: Oświęcim, Poland - Hundreds of Jewish Sonderkomanndos revolt. The revolt is thoroughly unsuccessful, killing three SS guards and 451 Jews, plus many who escaped and were executed on recapture. Crematorium IV was destroyed in the fighting.
1950: Calcutta, India - Saint Teresa of Calcutta establishes the Missionaries of Charity.
1955: San Francisco, CA - At the Six Gallery (a garage with a dirt floor), six poets read their work. One of these is Alan Ginsberg, who performs Howl for the first time, and receives a huge, tribal response to his shamanic performance (the audience is only about 125 people).
1958: Washington, DC and elsewhere: "Project Astronaut" changes its name to Project Mercury.
1959: Space - Soviet prove Luna 3 sends the photographs to Earth of the far side of the Moon.
1963: Washington, DC - President John Kennedy signs the "Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty," which forbids nuclear tests in the atmosphere, under water, or in outer space, leaving as Hobson's Choice the underground tests that follow.
1985: Off the coast of Egypt - Members of the Palestinian Liberation Front hijack the Italian ship Achille Lauro, killing one disabled Jewish passenger and throwing his body overboard. The Lauro appears to have been a singularly unfortunate ship; as well as the hijacking, it suffered, in its forty-five year career, two major collisions, and four onboard fires or explosions, the last of which destroyed her in 1994.
1998: Laramie, WY - The body of gay student Matthew Shepard is found beaten and tied to a fence.
2003: California - Governor Gray Davis is recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

1576: John Marston, playwright (Eastward Ho [with George Chapman and Ben Jonson], Antonio and Mellida).
1849: James Whitcomb Riley, poet ("Little Orphant Annie", "The Raggedy Man").
1879: Joel Emmanuel "Joe Hill" Hägglund, labor activist.
1885: Niels Bohr, physicist.
1893: Alice Dalgliesh, editor (edited Robert Heinlein's juvenile series).
1897: Elijah Muhammed, not-exactly-but-sort-of founder of the Nation of Islam.
1900: Heinrich Himmler, builder of extermination camps.
1907: Helen MacInnes, writer (Assignment in Britanny).
1927: R.D. Laing, rogue psychiatrist and writer (Knots, The Divided Self).
1931: Desmond Tutu, archbishop.
1934: Amiri Baraka (a/k/a LeRoi Jones), poet and playwright.
1935: Thomas Keneally, writer (Schindler's Ark, Blood Red, Sister Rose).
1943: Oliver North, colonel and shredder.
1955: Yo-Yo Ma, cellist.
1964: Dan Savage, columist, founder of "It Gets Better."

6th October 2016

6:24am: October 6
Day 3 of National Space Week...

1600: Florence, Italy - Premiere of Euridice. Created for the wedding of Henry IV of France to Maria de Medici, it is the earliest surviving opera. Music by Jacopo Peri, with additional music by Giulio Caccini, and libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini; it weirdly gives a happy ending with Eurydice actually reaching the upper world.
1683: Modern-day Philadelphia, PA - Thirteen German Quaker and Mennonite from Krefeld found "the bailiff, burgesses, and commonality of Germantown," as their charter from William Penn calls it. Germantown is the birthplace of the American anti-slave movement. It was consolidated into Philadelphia in 1854.
1723: Philadelphia - Arrival of the 17-year-old Benjamin Franklin.
1876: Philadelphia - Founding of the American Library Association.
1927: New York - Premiere of The Jazz Singer, which, while it did usher in the age of the talking movie, was not the first talkie. The premiere date was deliberately set for Yom Kippur.
1973: Middle East - Egypt and Syria launch a coordinated attack on Israel, beginning the Yom Kippur War.
1976: Barbados - A Cubana flight crashes into the ocean after two bombs, planted by terrorists connected to the CIA, explode, killing all aboard.
1976: Beijing, China - The new Premier, Hua Guofeng, orders the arrest of the Gang of Four (Jiang Qing - Mao's last wife - , Jiang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen) as "major counter-revolutionary forces," marking the end of the Cultural Revolution.
1979: Washington, DC - Pope John Paul II becomes the first Pope to visit the White House.
1981: Cairo - Members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, under a fatwa obtained from Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (who would later be convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing), assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

1820: Jenny Lind, soprano, whom P.T. Barnum would exhibit as "The Swedish Nightingale."
1846: George Westinghouse, engineer, founded Westinghouse Air Brake Company.
1866: Reginald Fessenden, inventor of the radiotelephone.
1887: Le Corbusier, architect.
1908: Carole Lombard, who was Helen Hathaway, Mildred Plotka, and Irene Bullock.
1914: Thor Heyerdahl, ethnographer, adventurer, and writer (Kon-Tiki, Apu-Apu).
1942: Britt Ekland, who was Rachel Schpitendavel, Willow, and Goodnight.
1950: David Brin, writer (Startide Rising, The Practice Effect).
1965: Peg O'Connor, Wittgensteinian feminist.

5th October 2016

6:40am: Fast of Gdalia
plus, bonus! World Teachers Day.

869: Constantinople (not Istambul) - The Fourth Council of Constantinople is convened. This Council will depose Patriarch Photius of Constantinople, who challenged the authority of the Pope. However, the Eastern Church considers this council invalid, and held its own Fourth Council of Constantinople ten years later; the Eastern Church reveres Photius as a Saint.
1582: Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain - This day does not exist in these countries because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar.
1789: Versailles, France - A mob of 7000 women march on the Palace, seeking Queen Marie Antoinette for her ignorant and dismissive attitude towards hunger amongst the commons. They kill two of her bodyguard, but she escapes, emerging later on a balcony: amazingly, the musket-bearing women do not kill her. The mob demanded that the bread hoarded in the palace be distributed, that the King sanction the August Decrees (which ended feudalism) and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen; and that he accompany them to Paris to see how his subjects lived. He and the Queen were then prisoners of "the people" until their executions in 1791.
1793: Paris - Christianity is disestablished as the State religion of France.
1813: Near Chatham, ON - In the Battle of the Thames, William Henry Harrison defeats British and Shawnee forces, killing Tecumseh.
1857: Anaheim, CA - is founded by German families. The name comes from the Santa Ana river plus the German suffix "-heim," home: thus "a home by the Ana."
1877: Near present-day Chinook, MT - Hinmatóowyalahtq̓it ("Chief Joseph") surrenders to General Nelson A. Miles. Though it is attributed to him, he probably did not say "I will fight no more forever."
1905: Huffman Prairie, OH - Wilbur Wright makes a circling flight totaling 24 miles in 39 minutes 23 seconds, longer than all the flights the Brothers had made in 1903 and '04. This record will stand for three years.
1921: New York - The World Series (the first "Subway Series" featuring the New York Giants and Yankees [in their first Series appearance]) is the first ever to be broadcast on radio. With an injured Babe Ruth mostly out of action, the Yankees lose the series, 3 games to 5.
1944: France - Women receive the vote.
1945: Hollywood, CA - After six months' striking against various studios, 300 members of the Conference of Studio Unions gather to picket at the main gate of Warner Brothers. Cars full of scab workers were stopped and overturned. Reinforcements brought the strikers to roughly 1000 people, while Glendale, Los Angeles, and Burbank police, with Warner Security, attempted to keep the peace. When another wave of scabs showed up, a riot broke out, with over 40 injuries. This is known as "Hollywood Black (or Bloody) Friday," and contributed directly to the downfall of the CSU and the passage of the abominable Taft-Hartley Act.
1947: Washington, DC - President Harry Truman gives the first ever televised White House address.
1955: Anaheim, CA - Opening of the Disneyland Hotel.
1962: London, England - Premiere of Dr. No, the first (official) James Bond film; there had been a sort-of telefilm of Casino Royale in 1954.
1962: England - Release of the Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do," backed with "P.S. I Love You."
1962: Due to the two events above, the "Sixties" can be meaningfully said to start on this day (and continue till either Nixon's resignation in 1973 or the fall of Saigon in 1975, take your pick...)
1966: Frenchtown Charter Township, MI - Fermi 1, a prototype "fast breeder" reactor, suffers a partial meltdown. No radioactive material is released.
1968: Derry, Northern Ireland - The Government bans a civil rights march. The marchers defy the ban and are beaten "indiscriminately and without provocation" by baton-wielding police. This nominally marks the beginning of "The Troubles."
1969: United Kingdom - The first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus airs on BBC One, concluding with the "Funniest Joke in the World" sketch.
1970: United States - First airing of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), which replaces National Educational Television (NET).
1982: Nationwide - In response to seven deaths due to cyanide-laced Tylenol in Chicago, Johnson and Johnson recalls all products in the Tylenol line.
1986: London - The Sunday Times announces what pretty much everybody already knew, that Israel had a stockpile of nuclear weapons.

1703: Jonathan Edwards, pastor, famous for his "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermon.
1713: Denis Diderot, writer, critic, and Encyclopédist.
1728: Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d'Éon de Beaumont, the Chevalier d'Éon, crossdressing spy.
1829: Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States.
1882: Robert H. Goddard, inentor of the multi-stage rocket and the liquid-fueled rocket.
1902: Louis "Larry Fine" Feinberg, the Middle Stooge.
1902: Ray A. Kroc, creator of McDonald's as we know it.
1907: "Mrs. Miller," singer, whose vibrato-laden voice was compared to "roaches scurrying across a trash can lid," but who cracked the Billboard Hot 100 with her rendition (if that is the right word) of "Downtown."
1916: Stetson Kennedy, who infiltrated the KKK and lived to tell the tale.
1922: Bil Keane, cartoonist (The Family Circus).
1923: Glynis Johns, who was Mrs. Banks.
1928: Louise Fitzhugh, writer (Harriet the Spy).
1938: Teresa Heinz Kerry, ketchup heiress and philanthropist.
1950: Jeff Conaway, who was Zack Allan.
1951: Karen Allen, who was Marian Ravenwood.
1952: Clive Barker, writer (The Books of Blood, Arabat).
1958: Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and cosmologist.

4th October 2016

7:17am: Feast of St. Francis of Assisi/World Animal Day
...and the beginning of World Space Week.

1535: Wurms, Germany(?) - Publication of the Coverdale Bible. Translated by William Tyndale and, after his execution for heresy, Miles Coverdale, this was the first printed Bible in the English language.
1883: Paris to Istanbul - First run of the train Orient Express. A train had run on this route for a while, but its terminus was Vienna.
1927: Black Hills, SD - Gutzon Borglum begins sculpting Mount Rushmore.
1941: Indianapolis and elsewhere: The Saturday Evening Post cover is Wilie Gillis: Food Package, the first of eleven "Willie Gillis" covers Norman Rockwell will paint for the Post. Gillis is a private and thus an "everyman" in World War II and shortly after.
1957: Baikonur, USSR - Launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, and the beginning of the Space Race as a practical thing.
1965: New York, NY - Pope Paul VI becomes the first Pope to visit the Americas.
1985: Boston, MA - Founding of the Free Software Foundation, now host of GNU and the GNU General Public License.
2004: Mojave Desert and SPACE - SpaceShip One wins the Ansari X Prize by reaching 100km altitude for the second time in two weeks.
2006: (?) - Julian Assange registers the wikileaks.org domain.

1515: Lucas Cranach the Younger, painter.
1542: St. Robert Bellarmine, who cautioned Galileo, and provided a document acknowledging that Galileo had not been forced to abjure and do penance (he had not at this point).
1626: Richard Cromwell, Lord Protector of Great Britain.
1822: Rutherford B. Hayes, American President.
1861: Frederic Remington, painter and sculptor.
1862: Edward Stratemeyer, publisher, creator of the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Bobbsey Twins, Bomba the Jungle Boy, Rover Boys, and other series.
1880: Damon Runyon, writer ("Little Miss Marker", "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown").
1892: Robert Lawson, writer-illustrator (Ben and Me, Rabbit Hill).
1895: Buster Keaton, who was Erroneus, Lonesome Polecat, and a variety of Elmers.
1923: Charlton Heston, who was Moses, Judah Ben-Hur, George Taylor, Robert Neville...
1924: Donald J. Sobol, writer (The "Encyclopedia Brown" series).
1928: Alvin Toffler, writer (Future Shock).
1941: Roy Blount, Jr., writer (I Am Puppy, Hear Me Yap, One Fell Soup).
1941: Anne Rice, writer (Interview with the Vampire, The Mummy: or, Ramses the Damned).
1943: H. Rap Brown, activist.
1946: Susan Sarandon, who was Janet Weiss, Louise Sawyer, Marmee, and Sister Helen.
1956: Christoph Waltz, who was SS-Standartenführer Hans Landa and Dr. King Schultz.

3rd October 2016

1:07pm: Seen: Star Trek Beyond (2016)
After Into Darkness I was prepared to not like this one. Indeed, I wanted to not like this one.

I did like it.

New Universe Enterprise is about halfway through its five-year mission and is taking crew R&R at Starbase Yorktown, when an escape pod enters Yorktown space. An unknown alien in distress, Kalara, claims her ship was wrecked in an uncharted nebula and pleads for help to rescue her crew.

Enterprise is sent to respond Kalara's plea, and is quickly destroyed, with most of the crew escaping in pods of their own. It turns out that the big E is carrying the MacGuffin that will give the chief bad guy, Krall, control of a Terrifying Ancient Alien Weapon. Plot happens, and things are resolved satisfactorily.

Then four slow notes sound, and the familiar "Space ... the final frontier" speech begins. But it isn't spoken by Kirk, or Spock, or any individual: the whole crew takes turns. This brought something of a tear to my eye.

Yes, it's another damn Star Trek As Action-Adventure film, where things go fast and blow up. But I'm used to that now, and at least the script mostly made sense this time. I blame Simon "Scotty" Pegg for that, just as I blame Abrams for the parts where it doesn't. It has genuinely funny and unexpected "moments," some really good McCoy-Spock interaction, and in general is much more Trek-like than the last one.
6:27am: Islamic New Year
42 BC: Philippi, Greece - Brutus and Cassius are sort-of defeated by Marc Antony and Octavian. Cassius commits suicide; Brutus lives to fight another day - upon which he will be utterly defeated and commit suicide also.
1283: Shrewsbury, England - Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales, is hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason against King Edward I of England. He is the first nobleman known to have been executed in this manner.
1712: Scotland - James Graham, 1st Duke and 4th Marquess of Montrose, issues a warrant for the arrest of Robert Roy ("Rob Roy") MacGregor.
1789: New York, NY - President George Washington declares 26 November of this year to be the first Thanksgiving designated by the Constitutional government.
1849: Baltimore, MD - Edgar Allan Poe is found delirious in a gutter. He will die four days later without becoming coherent.
1863: Washington, DC - President Abraham Lincoln declares the fourth Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving.
1873: Fort Klamath, OR - War leader Kintpuash (known to white troops as "Captain Jack") is tried and hung for his part in the Modoc war. Very little pretense of a fair trial is made: Kintpuash is not granted a lawyer, and they build the gallows outside the courtroom even as the trial is taking place. The key prosecution witness is a Modoc warrior named Hooker Jim. Kintpuash's last words: "You white people did not conquer me. My own men did."
1942: Peenemünde, Germany - A V2/A4 rocket designed by Wernher von Braun is the first manmade object to reach space.
1949: Atlanta, GA - WERD, the first African-American-owned radio station in the United States, opens for business.
1957: San Francisco California - Judge Clayton Horn of the California State Superior Court rules that Allen Ginsberg's book Howl and Other Poems is not obscene.
1962: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of Sigma 7, the sixth Mercury misison, carrying astronaut Wally Schirra on six orbits.
1985: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of STS-51-J, the maiden flight of Atlantis. Its cargo is a classified Department of Defense package.
1990: Germany - The German Democratic Republic (DDR) formally ceases to exist and is absorbed into the Federal Republic of Germany. October 3 is now celebrated as German Unity Day.
1995: Los Angeles, CA - O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
2003: Las Vegas, NV - During their nightly act, Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy is mauled by one of their tigers.
2008: Washington, DC - President George W. Bush signs the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, less formally known as the Bank Bailout.

85 BC (or earlier) - Gaius Cassius Longinus, Cassius of "Brutus and Cassius."
1790: Koo-wi-s-gu-wi ("Little White Bird"), a/k/a John Ross, who led the Cherokee "Nation Party" on the "Trail of Tears" and attempted (unsuccessfully) to reunify the Cherokee in Indian Territory.
1885: Sophie Treadwell, playwright (Machinal, Highway).
1900: Thomas Wolfe, writer (Look Homeward, Angel, You Can't Go Home Again).
1916: James Herriot, veterinarian and writer (All Creatures Great and Small).
1924: Harvey Kurtzman, editor of Mad magazine.
1925: Gore Vidal, writer (Burr, Kalki).
1936: Steve Reich, composer (Piano Phase).
1938: Eddie Cochran, singer-songwriter ("Summertime Blues", "C'mon Everybody", "Twenty Flight Rock").
1941: Chubby Checker, singer-songwriter ("The Twist" and others), first and only artist to place 5 albums in the Top 12 at once.
1944: Roy Horn, magician, of Siegfried and Roy.
1947: John Perry Barlow, lyricist for the Grateful Dead, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
1949: Lindsay Buckingham, singer-songwriter and guitarist (Fleetwood Mac).
1954: Al Sharpton, minister and activist.
1967: Rob Liefeld, comix writer-artist (The New Mutants, Youngblood).
1975: india.arie, singer-songwriter ("Video").

2nd October 2016

11:49am: International Day of Non-Violence
1187: Palestine - Saladin captures Jerusalem.
1528: England - William Tyndale publishes The Obedience of a Christian Man.
1789: New York, NY - George Washington sends twelve proposed Constitutional Amendments, ten of which will be ratified and known as the Bill of Rights, to the States.
1925: Hastings, England - John Logie Baird demonstrates the first working (mechanical!) television.
1928: Madrid, Spain - Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer has the vision that leads to the founding of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and the Work of God (Opus Dei).
1937: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Rafael Trujillo orders the slaughter of 20,000 Haitians living in the Domincian borderlands.
1950: Nine US cities - The first Peanuts strip, by Charles M. Schulz, appears in newspapers.
1959: CBS-TV, US - The premiere episode ("Where Is Everybody?") of The Twilight Zone appears.
1980: Washington, DC - Congresscritter Mike Myers is expelled for his involvement in Abscam.
1996: Washington, DC - President William Clinton signs the Electronic Freedom of Information Amendments.
2002: Washington, DC and environs - the "Beltway Sniper" shootings begin.
2006: Nickel Mines, PA - Charles Carl Roberts shoots and kills five girls at an Amish school, then suicides.

1452: Richard III of England.
1800: Nat Turner, rebel slave.
1869: Mahatma Gandhi.
1879: Wallace Stevens, poet.
1890: Julius Groucho Marx, comedian/actor.
1897: Bud Abbot, comedian/actor.
1904: Graham Greene, writer (Our Man in Havana, The End of the Affair).
1911: Jack Finney, writer (The Body Snatchers, Time and Again).
1915: Chuck Williams, founded Williams-Sonoma.
1938: Rex Reed, film critic.
1944: Vernor Vinge, writer (Grimm's World, A Fire Upon the Deep).
1945: Don McLean, singer-songwriter ("American Pie").
1948: Avery Brooks, who was Commander Sisko.
1948: Persi Khambatta, who was Lt. Ilia.
1949: Annie Leibovitz, photographer.
1950: Mike Rutherford, bassist-songwriter (Genesis, Mike and the Mechanics).
1951: Sting, bassist-singer-songwriter.

1st October 2016

8:29pm: Seen: The Devil's Carnival (2012)
Three people die and find themselves in a very strange carnival - well, of course it's strange, it's Hell, as envisioned by writer Terrance Zdunich (who plays Lucifer) and director Darren Lynn Bousman. Each of them has a different experience: two of them are killed (though already dead), presumably to become players in the Carnival; the third ... well, that would be telling, but it is worth noting that he's the only one of the three who seems to care about anything but his own gratification: he's searching for his son Danny.

Who, it appears, is listening to Aesop's Fables as told by Lucifer. Which strangely reflect the fates of the three dead people.

The carnival is populated by players like the Painted Doll, the Twin, and the Scorpion, each of which is truly frightening in his or her own very different way.

The esthetic of the film is, perhaps, conveyed in Lucifer's line: "I'm not in the business of murdering innocent children. That's God's jurisdiction."

And, I should mention ... it's a musical.

IMDB estimates the budget as half a million dollars, and every penny is clearly on the screen. The only actor I've ever heard of is Paul Sorvino, who plays God.

The biggest downside is the soundtrack. The music is good enough, in a very dark and Brechtian way, but it's hard to hear the lyrics - a production problem that should have been solved before release. But it doesn't make anything really incomprehensible, so I can recommend this to anyone who likes not-particularly-gory horror.
8:17pm: Seen: Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)
In the mid-1970s, Chilean avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky set out to make a film of Frank Herbert's Dune.

Well, sort of.

His grand vision for the film began with a zoom-in from infinite space on a pirate spaceship attacking a spice freighter, and ended with Paul dying and becoming universal, or the Universe, or everyone, or something. Oh, and the spice was a blue sponge, and Duke Leto was a eunuch...

Hey, it was the '70s, and there were probably drugs involved.

What was definitely involved was an amazing crew and cast.

Design work by Chris Foss (who did a complete, multi-hundred page, storyboard), H.R. Giger, and Jean "Moebius" Giraud. Planned special effects by Dan O'Bannon.

(By the way, if that sounds like a familiar list...all four of them worked on Alien. Just sayin'.)

Pink Floyd had agreed to do music.

Cast? He had arranged for Orson Welles to play the Baron Harkonnen, and Salvador Dali as the Emperor. He had Mick Jagger as Feyd-Rautha. And he put his son through a year of intense martial arts training to be Paul.

But, after all this development work, not a studio in Hollywood would touch it.

I probably would have hated this movie had it been made. But the story of Jodorowsky's vision and his failure are fascinating, and well told by this documentary.
4:51pm: Read: Getting things Done, by David Allen (2016-54)
It's a self help book, I guess, but it feels more like a business book. Mostly, it's about organizing the stuff in your life so that you are more in control of it, and accomplish more.

I've gotten some benefit from it already, enough so that I bought my own copy for review (this was a borrowed book). The simplest piece of advice it gives - and one that has been amazingly useful to me - is the "two minute rule." It's obvious enough in retrospective: when handling a new task/piece of input/whatever, if it will take you less than two minutes to do, just do it.

The basic concept of Getting Things Done is to get things (tasks, ideas, projects, etc.) out of your head and into some sort of "external brain," be it a set of paper lists, an electronic filing system, or whatever. Divide them into tasks (actual physical actions), projects (anything that takes more than one physical action), and someday/maybe things. Then for the projects, decide what the next action is - that's a real physical action - and put it on a next-actions list.

The idea behind this is that your brain is better at thinking about things than at remembering them (other than rote memorization). Things that you know you have to deal with cause stress and anxiety, but if you put them where you know you won't forget them, you can forget _about_ them until you actually deal with them - you won't have the nagging feeling of guilt that you haven't dealt with "that" yet if you have a physical plan for dealing with it.

It takes a fair amount of implementing, and I certainly haven't done it yet, but I'm going to give it a try.

30th September 2016

5:56am: Feast of St Jerome; also, Blasphemy Day
1791: Vienna, Austria - The premiere performance of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) takes place at the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden.
1882: Appleton, WI - Thomas Edison's first hydroelectric plant, the Vulcan Street Plant (a/k/a The Appleton Edison Electric Light Company), opens.
1888: London, England - The bodies of Jack the Ripper's third and fourth victims, Elizabeth "Long Liz" Stride and Catherine Eddowes, are found early this morning.
1927: (Washington, DC? New York, NY?) - Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run of the season, setting a record that will stand for decades (and still stands for the shorter season of those days).
1931: Bloemfontein, South Africa - Founding of the "Die Voortrekkers" youth movement, which may be seen, depending on your point of view, as an analogue of either the Scouting Movement or the Hitler Youth - though I'd say more the former.
1954: Groton, CT - Commissioning of the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine.
1955: US Route 466 (now SR 46), near Paso Robles, CA - James Dean dies in a car crash.
1962: Stockton (area), CA - 35-year-old César Chávez founds the National Farm Workers Association, which will become the United Farm Workers (UFW).
1962: Oxford, MI - James Meredith enters the University of Mississippi, breaking the segregation of that institution.
1980: Palo Alto, CA - Xerox PARC publishes the Ethernet standard in association with Intel and DEC.
1982: Chicago (area), IL - Six people are killed by cyanide-laced Tylenol. Seven will die in all, plus several more in "copycat" killings. No one is ever charged or convicted of the murders, though James William Lewis is convicted of taking credit for them and attmepting to extort $1M from Johnson & Johnson. J&J, incidentally, did the right thing, halting production of Tylenol, recalling the product, and ceasing all production until "tamperproof" (actually tamper-resistant) packaging could be introduced.
2005: Viby J, Denmark - Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten publishes cartoon drawings of Prophet Muhammad, leading to violent protests around the world, and much more offensive cartoons in other journals.

1207: Rumi, mystic and poet.
1832: Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis, mother; with her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, is credited with founding the American holiday of Mother's Day.
1861: William Wrigley, chewing gum magnate.
1882: Johannes "Hans" Wilhelm "Gengar" Geiger, physicist, invented (part of) the Geiger counter.
1915: Lester Maddox, scumbag.
1923: Donald Swann, pianist-composer, of Flanders and Swann.
1924: Truman Capote, writer (Breakfast at Tiffany's, In Cold Blood), inspiration for Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird.
1927: W.S. Merwin, poet.
1928: Elie Wiesel, writer (Night).
1953: S.M. Stirling, writer (Marching Through Georgia, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings).
1957: Fran Drescher, who was Connie, Pamela Finkelstein, and Bobbi Flekman.
1960: Nicola Griffith, writer (Ammonite) and editor (the "Bending the Landscape" series).

29th September 2016

6:43am: National Coffee Day (Yay!)
1789: New York, NY - The US Department of War, under Secretary Henry Knox, establishes America's first standing army, consisting of several hundred soldiers and officers.
1850: Rome - Pope Pius IX issues the bull Universalis Ecclesiae, which re-establishes the Roman Catholic hierarchy of dioceses and parishes in England. There had been no such hierarchy since the time of Elizabeth I. To avoid confusion with the Anglican dioceses, which had succeeded the old Catholic dioceses, the new Catholic dioceses were given new names. However, the bull raised anti-Papist feeling among many English people.
1923: Palestine - The British Mandate for Palestine takes effect. The Mandate system of the League of Nations was essentially a way of (a) administering the lands of the defunct Ottoman Empire, and (b) maintaining European control over significant parts of the world, including Palestine/Eretz Yisrael. Mandatory Palestine will continue as such until Arab revolts and the local civil war in the 1940s creates Israel, transfers the West Bank to the Kingdom of Jordan, and puts the Gaza Strip in control of ethnic Palestinians.
1941: Nazi-occupied Kiev, Russia - After the destruction (by, as it turned out, the NKVD) of several German-occupied buildings, the Germans, blaming the Jews, issue an order for their assembly and "resettlement," telling them to bring their documents, money, and valuables to a certain site. Here they are made to strip naked and herded to the ravine of Babi Yar, where 33,771 are machine-gunned to death, the largest single mass killing the Nazis will commit.
1954: Western Europe - Twelve countries sign the agreement that creates CERN.
1957: Mayek Production Association, between Chelyabinsk and Ekaterinburg, USSR - A class-6 nuclear "event" releases 50-100 tons of high-level radioactive waste, equaling 740 petabecquerels of radioactivity, contaminating approximately 750 km2/300 mi2 of Ukraine; the accident is kept secret for 30 years or so, though signs telling people to "close all windows and drive as quickly as possible for the next XX km" were hints.
1975: Detroit, MI - WPGR, it says here, becomes the world's first black-owned-and-operated television station, though I have trouble believing there were none in Africa at the time.
1988: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of STS-26 (Discovery's seventh mission), the "Return to Flight" mission after the Challenger disaster.
1990: Washington, DC - Construction of the National Cathedral is completed, 83 years to the day after the laying of the cornerstone.
2008: New York, NY and elsewhere - Following the bankruptcies of Lehman Bros. and Washington Mutual, the Dow Jones drops 777.68 points, the largest single-day drop in its history.

106 BC - Pompey, Roman general and first counsel.
1511: Michael Servetus, physician/cartographer/theologian; described the function of pulmonary circulation, condemned by both Catholics and Protestants, and burned at the stake in Geneva.
1547: Miguel de Cervantes, writer (Don Quixote), poet, and playwright (El Trato de Argel).
1571: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, painter.
1703: François Boucher, painter
1758: Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté.
1810: Elizabeth Gaskell, writer (North and South, Wives and Daughters).
1864: Miguel de Unamuno, philospher (The Tragic Sense of Life) and novelist (Abel Sánchez: The History of a Passion).
1881: Ludwig von Mises, economist and philosopher (The Theory of Money and Credit, A Critique of Interventionism).
1899: László Bíró, inventor of the ballpoint pen.
1899: Billy Butlin, creator of British holiday camps.
1901: Enrico Fermi, "architect of the nuclear age."
1904: Greer Garson, who was Elizabeth Bennet, Calpurnia, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
1907: Gene Autry, singin' cowboy.
1923: Stan Berenstain, writer-illustrator, co-creator of the Berenstain Bears.
1927: Pete McClosky, respectable Republican.
1930: Colin Dexter, writer (The "Inspector Morse" mysteries).
1934: Stuart M. Kaminsky, writer (The Cold Red Sunset and many other mysteries).
1935: Jerry Lee Lewis, pianist-singer-songwriter.
1936: Silvio Berlusconi, crook.
1942: Madeline Kahn, who was Trixie Delight, Lili von Shtupp (the Teutonic Titwillow), and Elizabeth.
1942: Ian McShane, who was Al Swearingen, Blackbeard, and Tai Lung.
1942: Jean-Luc Ponty, violinist (Frank Zappa, Return to Forever).
1943: Lech Wałęsa, electrician and politician.
1944: Mike Post, composer of television theme music.
1956: Suzzy Roche, singer-songwriter (The Roches).
1963: Les Claypool, bassist-songwriter (Primus).

28th September 2016

7:22am: Freedom from Hunger Day
Also, International Right to Know Day.

And, perhaps related, Ask A Stupid Question Day.

48 BC: - Pompey the Great arrives in Alexandria. Ptolemy XIII does not want to welcome him (and offend Julius Caesar) or cast him out (and offend him, in case he returns to power) - so he orders Pompey assassinated.
935: Bohemia - Duke (knize) Wenceslaus I - "Good King Wenceslas," or Vaclav the Good - is murdered by his brother Boleslaus the Cruel.
1066: Pevensey, England - William the Conqueror lands, beginning the Norman Conquest of England.
1787: Philadelphia, PA - The Congress (under the Articles of Confederation) votes to send the proposed Constitution of the United States to the various State legislatures, to set up state conventions for the purpose of ratification.
1791: France - Grants legal equality to Jews, the first European country to do so.
1889: Sevres, France - The first prototype meter is created.
1924: Seattle, WA - Three Douglas World Cruisers land in Seattle, having completed the first circumnavigation of the globe in 175 days.
1928: London, England - Alexander Fleming observes a mold that kills bacteria in his laboratory, and discovers what will come to be known as penicillin, the first antibiotic.
1973: New York, NY - In an act of protest against the Pinochet coup in Chile (in which ITT was alleged to have played a part), the ITT building is bombed.
2008: Omelek Island, Marshall Islands - Launch of SpaceX's Falcon 1, the first private spaceship to achieve Earth orbit.

551 BC: Kong Qiu, known as Kong Fuzi (Confucius), politician, editor, teacher, philosopher.
1803: Prosper Mérimée, writer (La Vénus d'Ille, Carmen).
1836: Thomas Crapper, plumber and inventor. No, he did not invent the flush toilet, but he did invent the ballcock mechanism commonly used in modern toilets.
1901: William S. Paley, broadcaster, founded the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
1901: Ed Sullivan, host.
1905: Max Schmeling, boxer.
1909: Al Capp, comix writer-illustrator (Li'l Abner).
1914: Maria Franziska von Trapp, refugee and singer ("Louisa").
1925: Seymour Cray, founder of Cray Research, inventor of the Cray Supercomputer.
1934: Brigitte Bardot, actress.
1938: Ben E. King, singer ("Stand by Me", "Spanish Harlem", "Save the Last Dance for Me").
1967: Moon Unit Zappa, actress-writer.
1969: Piper Kerman, writer (Orange Is the New Black).

27th September 2016

6:29am: National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Also, World Tourism Day.

And the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul.

1066: Mouth of the River Somme, France - William the Conqueror sets sail for Britain, beginning the Norman Conquest.
1529: Vienna, Austria - Ottoman Emperor Suleiman I besieges the city. The city holds fast, and the siege ends by mid-October. This is the high-water mark of the Ottoman Empire's conquering days.
1540: Rome - Pope Paul III charters the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
1590: Rome - Urban VII dies only thirteen days after being chosen as Pope, the shortest reign of any Pontiff.
1777: Lancaster, PA - Is the "capital of the United States" for one day, as the Continental Congress flees the British investment of Philadelphia. They then flee even farther, to York, PA.
1822: Paris, France - Jean-François Champollion announces the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone.
1905: Berlin, Germany - The Annalen der Physik receives the manuscript of Albert Einstein's paper, "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?", which introduces the formula E=mc2.
1908: Detroit, MI - First production instance of the Ford Model T is built at the Ford Piquette Avenue plant.
1941: Baltimore, MD - Launch of the SS Patrick Henry, the first Liberty Ship. In the event over 2700 will be built.
1954: New York, NY - From the Hudson Theatre, the NBC program Tonight Starring Steve Allen - the "Tonight Show" - premieres.
1956: Mojave Desert, CA - USAF Captain Milburn G. Apt, flying the experimental Bell X-2, exceeds Mach 3; unfortunately the plane soon goes out of control, and Apt is killed attempting to bail out over Edwards Air Force Base.
1962: Boston, MA - Houghton Mifflin publishes Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
1983: Cambridge, MA - Richard Stallman announces the GNU (GNU's Not Unix) project. Its initial goal is to develop a free UNIX-like operating system; it has since developed into an entire ecosystem of free software.

1722: Samuel Adams, philosopher, politician, revolutionary, and, no, not a beer brewer, but a maltster.
1840: Thomas Nast, political cartoonist; created the Republican elephant and popularized the Democratic donkey.
1885: Harry Blackstone, Sr., magician.
1894: Lothar von Richtofen, younger brother of Manfred "the Red Baron," and an ace in his own right with over 40 victories.
1896: Sam Ervin, racist, but investigator of both Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon.
1906: William Empson, poet and critic (Seven Kinds of Ambiguity).
1906: Jim Thompson, writer (The Killer Inside Me, The Grifters).
1913: Albert Ellis, psychologist, founder of Rational-Behavioral Therapy.
1916: Louis Auchincloss, writer (The Embezzler, The Cat and the King).
1920: William Conrad, who was Matt Dillon and Nero Wolfe.
1921: Bernard Waber, writer-illustrator (Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile).
1936: Don Cornelius, host of Soul Train and keeper of the MLK light.
1947: Meat Loaf, singer, who was Eddie.
1951: Jim Shooter, comix writer/illustrator/editor (The Legion of Super-Heroes).
1954: Larry Wall, programmer, created the Perl programming language.
1966: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Congresscritter.
1972: Gwyneth Paltrow, who was Pepper Potts and Margot Helen Tennenbaum.

26th September 2016

6:58am: Johnny Appleseed Day
1580: Plymouth, England - The Golden Hind sails into harbour with Francis Drake and 59 remaining crewmen, having circumnavigated the globe.
1687: Athens - Bombs set by Venetian forces attacking Turks stationed here partially destroy the Parthenon.
1789: New York, NY - Thomas Jefferson is appointed the first United States Secretary of State, John Jay is appointed the first Chief Justice of the United States, Samuel Osgood is appointed the first United States Postmaster General, and Edmund Randolph is appointed the first United States Attorney General.
1914: Washington, DC - The Federal Trade Commission Act establishes, of all things, the Federal Trade Commission.
1933: Memphis, TN - Arrest of George Francis "Machine Gun Kelly" Barnes. As the FBI and Memphis police move in, Kelly surrenders, shouting, "Don't shoot, G-Men!" - which becomes a nickname for FBI agents. He will die in prison.
1934: Clydebank, Scotland - Launch of the RMS Queen Mary.
1960: Chicago, IL - The first televised Presidential debate takes place, between candidates Senator John Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon.
1969: Worldwide? - Release of Abbey Road, the Beatles' final studio (and last-recorded) album.
1980: Munich, Germany - Right-wing extremist student Gundolf Köhler plants an IED at the entrance to the Oktoberfest. It detonates prematurely, killing him and 11 others, and wounding 211, including 50 with life-threatening injuries.

1774: John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman, gardener and environmentalist of a sort.
1791: Théodore Géricault, painter (The Raft of the Medusa).
1849: Ivan Pavlov, physiologist and dog-torturer.
1867: Winsor McCay, cartoonist (Little Nemo in Slumberland, Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend) and animator/performance artist (Gertie the Dinosaur).
1881: Hiram Williams, Imperial Wizard.
1888: T(homas) S(tearnes) Eliot, poet.
1889: Martin Heidegger, philosopher (What Is Metaphysics?, Being and Time).
1898: George Gershwin, pianist and composer.
1901: George Raft, who was Rinaldo, Steve Brodie, and Raoule De Baere.
1914: Jack LaLanne, fitness guru.
1936: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, activist and war criminal.
1945: Bryan Ferry, singer-songwriter.
1946: Andrea Dworkin, activist and writer (Right-Wing Women, Woman Hating).
1946: Louise Simonson, comix writer (Power Pack, Steel).
1956: Linda Hamilton, who was Sarah Connor and Catherine Chandler.
1981: Serena Williams, tennis player.

25th September 2016

9:20am: Gold Star Mothers Day
Or, National One-Hit Wonders Day.

1513: Chucunaque River, Panama - Balboa "discovers" the Pacific Ocean.
1689: Boston, MA - Richard Pierce and Benjamin Harris publish the first (and only) issue of Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, the first multi-page newspaper to be printed in what will become the United States.
1789: New York, NY - Congress passes and submits to the States twelve Amendments to the Constitution. Ten will, in the event, be ratified by the States, and are known as the Bill of Rights.
1790: Beijing, China - In honor of the 80th birthday of the Qianlong Emperor, the "Four Great Anhui Troupes" perform Anhui opera for him. This is regarded as the beginning of Peking Opera.
1868: Off Jutland - Wreck of the Alexander Nevsky.
1906: Bilbao, Spain - Leonardo Torres y Quevedo demonstrates to the King of Spain and a large crowd the invention he calls the Telekino, the first remote control, which he uses to guide a boat from shore.
1912: New York, NY - Founding of the Columbia School of Journalism.
1929: Mitchell Field, Hempstead Township, NY - Pilot Jimmy Doolittle makes the first blind flight from takeoff to landing, demonstrating the feasibility of instrument-based flying.
1992: Cape Canaveral, FL - Launch of Mars Observer, which fails.

1764: Fletcher Christian, mutineer.
1782: Charles Maturin, writer (Melmoth the Wanderer).
1897: William Faulkner, writer (The Sound and the Fury, The Reivers).
1906: Dmitri Shostakovich, composer (Lady Macbeth of Mtinsk, various symphonies and quartets).
1915: Ethel Rosenberg, spy, maybe.
1930: Shel Silverstein, writer (Where the Sidewalk Ends) and songwriter ("Queen of the Silver Dollar").
1951: Mark Hamill, who was Luke Skywalker and the Joker.
1952: Christopher Reeve, actor and activist.
1968: Will Smith, who was Agent J and Muhammad Ali.
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