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6th May 2016

9:23pm: Read: I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest (2016-30)
When May was in grade school, she met Libby. They were both kind of outsiders. Libby could draw, and May could tell stories; together they created Princess X, a fantasy character, and for years wrote and drew her adventures.

Then Libby's mom drove off a bridge with Libby in the car.

Three years pass. May's parents divorce and her mom takes her back to Georgia, while her dad stays in Seattle. She's visiting her dad for the summer when she sees the sticker on the wall - it's Princess X. Apparently this has been going on for a while, and there's a Princess X webcomic. Reading it, May becomes convinced that Libby is still alive.

With the help of a hacker, she begins to trace the clues she is certain are embedded in the comic.

Then someone tries to kill them...

This is a fun, well-told YA novel with a nicely messed-up protagonist and supporting cast. The pacing is taut, and the action stays at a level that I would have no problem giving to a twelve-year-old - or an intelligent ten-year-old.
6:35am: Space Day
1527: Rome - Is sacked by German and Spanish troops.
1536: Cuzco, Peru - Is besieged by Incan forces trying to retake the city from conquistadores.
1536: London - Henry VIII orders English-language Bibles to be placed in every church in the realm. This results in the publication of "the Great Bible," the first authorized (by Henry) English-language Bible.
1836: New York - Publication of the first issue of the New York Herald.
1840: United Kingdom - The Penny Black goes into use.
1844: London - The Glaciarium, the world's first mechanically frozen ice skating rink, opens.
1877: Near Fort Robinson, NE - Chief Crazy Horse, Little Big Man, and the Oglala Lakota surrender to U.S. troops.
1882: Washington, DC: Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act, forbidding the immigration of Chinese laborers; President Chester A. Arthur signs it the next day. This law will be renewed twice and not repealed until 1943.
1889: Paris - The Eiffel Tower, at this time the tallest building in the world, opens to the public.
1915: New York, NY - Babe Ruth, at this time a pitcher (his record for the year is 18-8) for the Boston Red Sox, hits his first Major League home run. This is the "dead ball" era, and home runs are relatively rare.
1935: Washington, DC - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issues Executive Order 7034, creating the Works Progress Administration.
1937: Lakehurst, NJ - German Zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg catches fire while attempting to dock, resulting in 36 fatalities (there were 97 people on board).
1941: March Field, Riverside County, CA - Bob Hope performs his first USO show.
1949: Cambridge - EDSAC ("Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator"), the second stored-program computer and the first practically useful one, runs its first programs (a table of squares and a list of primes).
1954: Oxford - Roger Bannister runs a mile in under four minutes for the first time in history.
1994: England and France - opening of the Chunnel.
1994: Washington, DC - Paula Jones files a sexual harassment lawsuit against standing President William Jefferson Clinton.
1996: Wicomico River, MD - The body of former CIA Director William Colby is found in a marsh, leading to conspiracy theories about murder and suicide, though the ME calls it an accidental drowning.
1999: Scotland and Wales - the first elections to the "devolved" (i.e., separate) Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are held.
2001: Syria - Pope John Paul II becomes the first Pope to enter a mosque.

1668: Alain-René Lesage, author and playwright, probably best known for Gil Blas.
1758: Maximilien Robespierre, revolutionary and Terrorist.
1856: Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis.
1856: Robert Peary, who probably didn't reach the North Pole after all.
1868: Gaston Leroux, journalist, wrote The Phantom of the Opera.
1880: William Joseph Simmons, founder of the second Ku Klux Klan, and the first to use burning crosses (a symbol derived from the movie Birth of a Nation).
1895: Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla, better known as Rudolph Valentino, romantic silent-film star.
1904: Moshé Feldenkrais, martial arts expert and founder of the Feldenkrais Method of "self-awareness through movement."
1915: Orson Welles, auteur.
1915: Theodore H. White, historian and writer of the "Making of the President" series.
1916: Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Disney's Snow White, also heard as the voice singing "Wherefore art thou Romeo" in The Wizard of Oz
1931: Willie Mays, baseball player and coach.
1934: Richard Shelby, switch-hitting Senator.
1942: Ariel Dorfman, writer of, among other things, How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic.
1953: Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister.
1960: John Flansburgh, half of They Might Be Giants.
1983: Gabourey Sidibe, actress.

5th May 2016

6:30am: Cinco de Mayo; Yom HaShoah
1215: England - Rebellious barons renounce their allegiance to King John.
1494: Jamaica - Christopher Columbus lands here and claims the island for Spain.
1809: Washington, D.C. - The first patent is awarded to a U.S. woman, Mary Kies.
1862: Puebla, Mexico - Troops led by Ignacio Zaragoza put a stop to a French invasion.
1865: North Bend, OH - The first train robbery in the United States takes place.
1866: Waterloo, NY - The first celebration of what would come to be known as Memorial Day.
1891: New York, NY - Opening of "The Music Hall," later known as Carnegie Hall.
1904: Boston, MA - Cy Young pitches the first "perfect" game in "modern" baseball.
1912: Saint Petersburg, Russia - The first issue of Pravda is published.
1920: Braintree(?), MA - The arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti.
1925: Dayton, TN - John T. Scopes is arrested for teaching evolution in violation of the Butler Act.
1934: USA - Release of "Woman Haters," the first Three Stooges short.
1936: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Italian troops occupy the city.
1941: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - The return of Emperor Haile Selassie to the city, commemorated to this day as Patriot's Victory Day or Liberation Day.
1961: Florida - Alan Shepard becomes the first American to reach space in Freedom 7.
1965: Menlo Park, CA - A band called the Warlocks has their first public concert; they will later be known as the Grateful Dead.
1973: Louisville, KY - The horse Secretariat wins the Kentucky Derby, setting a time record (1:59 2/5) which stands to this day. Secretariat will go on to win the Triple Crown.
1977: USA: The first part of the Nixon/Frost interviews, concerning Watergate, is broadcast.
1985: Germany - "Bonzo goes to Bitburg" - Ronald Reagan visits the military cemetary at Bitburg, containing criminal SS Waffen officers.
1987: Washington, DC: Televising of the Iran-Contra hearings begins.
1994: Singapore - American teenager Michael P. Fay is caned for theft and vandalism.

1813: Søren Kierkegaard, philosopher and theologian.
1815: Karl Marx, philosopher and economist.
1830: John Batterson Stetson, founder of the Stetson company.
1832: Hubert Howe Bancroft, eponym and ethnologist.
1864: Nellie Bly, investigative journalist; went "around the world in 72 days."
1903: James Beard, cook and writer.
1905: Floyd Gottfredson, comix writer-artist, did the Mickey Mouse strip for 45 years.
1910: Leo Lionni, children's writer-artist.
1925: Leo Ryan, who holds the distinction of being the only member of the U.S. House of Representatives to have been assassinated while holding office (during the Jamestown massacre in Guyana).
1937: Delia Derbyshire, composer and keyboardist, created the electronic version of the Doctor Who theme.
1940: Sir Michael Edward Lindsay-Hogg, producer/director; best known for his work with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones; directed Nasty Habits among other good things.

4th May 2016

6:26am: UN Anti-Bullying Day; International Firefighters Day
And, yeah, all right, May the Fourth be with you, okay?

1415: Constance, Germany - John Wycliffe and Jan Hus are condemned as heretics by the Roman Catholic Church's ecumenical council.
1626: New Netherland (now Manhattan Island) - Arrival of Dutch explorer Peter Minuit.
1776: Rhode Island - Renounces its allegiance to the British crown, the first American colony to do so.
1814: Elba - Napoleon Bonaparte arrives to begin his exile.
1871: Fort Wayne, IN - the Fort Wayne Kekiongas host the first professional baseball game as the National Assosciation of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP, usually referred to as the National Association) begins its first season.
1886: Chicago - A labor dispute at Haymarket Square turns violent as someone tosses a bomb at a policeman; in retaliation, the police fire into the crowd. Eight anarchists are convicted of conspiracy; four of them are eventually hanged.
1919: Beijing - At Tiananmen Square, students demonstrate against the Treaty of Versailles.
1932: Atlanta, GA - Al Capone begins his eleven-year sentence for tax evasion; he will be paroled (from Alcatraz) in 1839.
1946: San Francisco Bay - US Marines put a stop to a prison riot at Alcatraz.
1961: Washington, DC - the first "Freedom Rider" bus departs for a tour of the South, ending in New Orleans.
1970: Kent, OH - Ohio National Guardsmen fire into a crowd of students, killing four and wounding nine others.
1972: Vancouver, BC - The "Don't Make A Wave Committee," founded to protest underground nuclear tests at Amchitka, AK, morphs into Greenpeace.
1979: London - Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
1989: ? - Oliver North is convicted on three charges related to the Iran-Contra affair (these convictions will later be overturned on appeal).
1994: Oslo - Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat sign an accord granting self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jericho.
1998: Sacramento, CA - Theodore Kaczynski is sentenced to four lifetimes plus thirty years in a plea agreement.

1655: Bartolomeo Christofori, inventor of the pianoforte.
1796: Horace Mann, founder of the Common School movement (free public education) in America.
1825: Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist, known as "Darwin's Bulldog" after his debate with Bishop Samuel "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce on the subject of evolution.
1826: Frederic Edwin Church, landscape painter.
1852: Alice Pleasance Liddell (Hargreaves), and if you have to ask who she was, go ask Alice.
1889: Francis Cardinal Spellman, proponent of the Vietnam War.
1913: John Broome, comix writer.
1916: Jane Jacobs, writor of The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Dark Age Ahead.
1917: Edward T. Cone, musicologist and composer.
1929: Audrey Hepburn, who was the World's Champion Blind Girl.
1939: Amos Oz, writer.
1940: Robin Cook, writer.
1941: George Will, pundit.
1949: Graham Swift, writer.
1953: Pia Zadora, who was Gimar.

3rd May 2016

6:29am: Teacher's Day. World Press Freedom Day. Roodmass.
1802: Washington, DC - is incorporated as a city.
1915: Ypres, France - Lt. Col. John McCrae writes the poem "In Flanders Fields."
1921: Charleston, WV - The first state sales tax is passed.
1948: Shelley v. Kramer - SCOTUS rules that covenants forbidding the sale of real estate to particular ethnic groups are not legally enforceable.
1960: New York, NY - The Fantasticks opens in Greenwich Village; it will become the longest-running musical of all time.
1973: Chicago - at 1451 ft., the Sears Tower becomes the world's tallest building.
1978: Cyberspace - A Digital Equipment Corp. marketing rep sends the first SPAM to every ARPANet address on the west coast of the United States.

1469: Niccolò Machiavelli, philosopher.
1896: Dodie Smith, writer of The One Hundred and One Dalmatians and I Capture the Castle.
1898: Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel.
1903: Bing Crosby, singer and actor.
1906: Mary Astor, who was Brigid O'Shaughnessy.
1910: Norman Corwin, radio writer and librettist.
1912: Virgil Fox, composer.
1912: May Sarton, writer.
1917: Betty Comden, screenwriter and librettist.
1919: Pete Seeger, singer-songwriter and activist.
1933: Steven Weinberg, physicist and popular-science writer.
1935: Ron Popeil, founder of Ronco.
1940: David Koch, businessman and "philanthropist."
1947: Doug Henning, magician.
1958: Bill Sienkiewicz, comix artist-writer.

2nd May 2016

7:32pm: Read: More Than Melchisedech, by R.A. Lafferty (2016-28)
Rather longer than the first two books in the "Argo" or "The Devil is Dead" trilogy, _More Than Melchisedech_ is a polymorph, it keeps changing shape. It starts out looking like the life of a magician (the titular Melchisedech, or sometimes Michael, Duffey). Then it becomes a set of apocalyptic fantasies. And it ends as - but that would be giving away too much, wouldn't it?

And that's just the main novel: it is epilogued with a few short stories that compliment and contribute to the whole, and, indeed, the ending of the trilogy proper is embedded in the last of these stories, "How Many Miles to Babylon," in which - but that would also be giving away _much_ too much.

But this third book _does_ explain the lanky and disjoint feel of the trilogy as a whole. It is about huge issues like, well, the Apocalypse, and the nature of the Church, and what it means to be human (and superhuman and subhuman and parahuman), and the whole thing may be a huge shaggy human story.

But be that as it may, it's an engaging - in a lanky and disjoing way - novel, funny - in a "H'mmm" way more than a "Bwahahaha" way - and full of depth, though the depths of it are not easily plumbed: I'm quite certain that I missed a great deal.

The closest thing to a comparison I can come up with for Lafferty's masterpiece is Gene Wolfe's Solar Cycle, a monumental work that says as much by what it doesn't say (and alludes to or elides) as by what it does. Sadly, Lafferty never had the publicity or popularity (well, more or less) of Wolfe, but his work is still there for those who can find it.
7:10am: National Life Insurance Day
1536: England - Anne Boleyn is arrested on charges of adultery, incest, treason, and witchcraft.
1559: Scotland - John Knox returns from exile.
1568: Scotland - Mary Queen of Scots escapes from Loch Leven Castle, with the help of her jailer's family.
1611: London - First publication of the King James Version of the Bible.
1670: England - King Charles the II grants the Hudson's Bay Company a permanent charter for fur trading in North America.
1808: Madrid - The people rise up against French rule, the "Dos de Mayo" event which will be immortalized in a painting by Goya.
1920: Indianapolis - First game of the Negro League.
1933: Berlin - Adolf Hitler bans trade unions. Don't tell me he was a Leftist.
1952: London to Johannesburg - First flight of the De Haviland Comet.
1986: Chernobyl, USSR - The city is evacuated, only six days after the disaster.
2001: Abbottabad, Pakistan - Osama bin Laden is killed by US Special Forces.

1660: Alessandro Scarlatti, composer.
1729: Catherine the Great of Russia.
1772: "Novalis," Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, romantic writer.
1808: Emma Darwin, wife of Charles and daughter of Josiah Wedgwood.
1859: Jerome K. Jerome, writer.
1860: Theodor Herzl, one of the founding fathers of Zionism.
1885: Hedda Hopper, gossip columnist.
1890: Edward E. Smith, Ph.D., science fiction writer and food chemistry engineer.
1903: Benjamin Spock, pediatrician.
1931: Martha Grimes, mystery novelist.

1st May 2016

9:38am: May Day; Labor Day just about everywhere but the United States...
...where it is "Law Day" and "Loyalty Day."

1707: Britain - the Act of Union joins the Kingdoms of England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.
1753: Sweden - Carl Linnaeus publishes _Species Plantarum_, inaugurating the modern taxonomy of the plant kingdom.
1759: London - Josiah Wedgwood founds the Wedgwood pottery company.
1776: Ingolstadt, Bavaria - Adam Weishaupt forms the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria.
1786: Vienna - Premiere of Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro.
1840: United Kingdom - Issuance of the "Penny Black," the first official adhesive postage stamp.
1851: London - Queen Victoria dedicates the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.
1869: Paris - Opening of the Folies Bergère.
1884: Toledo - Moses Fleetwood Walker becomes catcher for the Toronto Blue Stockings, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.
1893: Chicago, IL - Opening of the World's Columbian Exposition.
1901: Buffalo, NY - Opening of the Pan-American Exposition.
1930: Pluto is officially named. (The dwarf planet, not the cartoon dog.)
1931: New York, NY - Official dedication of the Empire State Building.
1933: New York, NY - First publication of the Catholic Worker.
1945: Reichsgarten - Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda poison their children, then commit suicide.
1956: First public availability of the Salk polio vaccine.
1960: Over the Soviet Union - Pilot Gary Francis Powers is shot down in a U-2 spy plane, provoking an "incident."
1982: Knoxville, TN - the 1982 World's Fair opens.
1989: Orlando, FL - Disney-MGM Studios park opens.
2003: USS Abraham Lincoln - President George W. Bush proclaims "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.
2009: Sweden - Same-sex marriage legalized.
2011: Washington, DC - President Barack Obama announces the killing of Osama bin Laden.

1672: Joseph Addison, essayist; co-creator of The Spectator.
1769: Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington, field marshall and Prime Minister.
1827: Jules Breton, painter.
1852: Martha "Calamity" Jane Cannary.
1857: Theo van Gogh, art dealer.
1862: Marcel Prévost, novelist and playwright.
1881: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, priest and philosopher.
1910: J. Allen Hynek, ufologist.
1923: Joseph Heller, novelist and playwright.
1924: Art Fleming, original host of Jeopardy!
1924: Terry Southern, novelist and screenwriter.
1925: Scott Carpenter, astronaut.
1954: Joel Rosenberg, science fiction writer.
1956: Phil Foglio, cartoonist.

30th April 2016

8:50am: National Bugs Bunny Day
1492: Spain - Christopher Columbus receives his commission of exploration from the Crown.
1517: London - "Evil May Day" riots begin as the native population rebels against the growing number of aliens in the city; eventually five thousand troops are required to quell the violence.
1789: New York, NY - George Washington takes the first ever US Presidential Oath of Office.
1803: Paris - American representatives led by James Monroe sign the Louisiana Purchase.
1812: Louisiana - the Territory of Orleans becomes the 18th State.
1863: Hacienda Camarón, Mexico - In a legendary battle, 65 French Foreign Legionnaires hold off 2000 Mexican soldiers until they are utterly crushed by numbers, a formational moment in the Legion's history.
1900: Vaughan, MS - Wreck of the Cannonball Express and death of Casey Jones.
1904: St. Louis, MO - Opening of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair.
1927: Hollywood, CA - Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford leave the first concrete footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater.
1938: US - The animated short "Porky's Hare Hunt" appears in movie theaters, giving the public the first view of "Happy Rabbit," who would become Bugs Bunny.
1939: New York - the 1939-40 World's Fair opens. NBC begins its first scheduled television service with President Franklin Roosevelt's opening day address.
1945: Führerbunker: Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide.
1948: Bogotá, Colombia - Establishment of OAS.
1956: Lexington, VA - Former Vice President Alben W. Barkley makes a speech. Saying, "I'm glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty," he collapses and dies.
1966: San Francisco - Anton Szador LaVey establishes the Church of Satan.
1973: Washington, DC - John Dean is fired; H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman resign.
1975: Saigon - end of the Vietnam War as Communist troops gain control of the city and President Dương Văn Minh surrenders unconditionally.
1980: London - Six members of the "Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan" seize the Iranian Embassy and take 26 hostages, including a police officer.

1623: Saint Francis de Laval, Bishop of Quebec.
1651: Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, patron of teachers.
1777: Carl Friedrich Gauss, mathematician and physicist.
1812: Kaspar Hauser, feral child.
1877: Alice B. Toklas, subject of memoirs.
1888: John Crow Ransom, poet.
1916: Claude Shannon, information theorist.
1938: Larry Niven, science fiction writer.
1945: Annie Dillard, novelist.
1960: David Miscavige, head Scientologist.
1971: John Boyne, novelist.
1973: Naomi Novik, fantasist.
1976: Amanda Palmer, singer-songwriter.

29th April 2016

6:38am: Day of Rememberance for All Victims of Chemical Warfare; also, International Dance Day...
...both of which are official UN commemorations. Go figure.

1429: Orléans, France - Jeanne d'Arc arrives at the Siege of Orléans. The siege had been going on for half a year, but collapsed nine days after Jeanne's arrival.
1770: Botany Bay, Australia - Captain James Cook reaches, and names, the place, though I presume the first peoples already had names for it.
1862: Berlin - Ernst Werner von Siemens tests the "Elektromote," the first (sort of) trolleybus.
1910: London - Parliament passes the "People's Budget," with the express intent of redistributing wealth. A product of the Asquith government, it was championed by David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.
1945: Berlin - Adolf Hitler marries Eva Braun in the Führerbunker.
1945: Dachau - the concentration camp here is liberated by Allied troops.
1946: Washington, DC - Father Divine marries Edna Rose Hitchings; this was somewhat controversial because she was white (Father Divine was African-American), and much younger than he.
1953: Los Angeles, CA - KECA-TV broadcasts an episode of Space Patrol in 3d; this is the first 3d television broadcast.
1967: US - Muhammad Ali is banned from boxing for refusing induction into the U.S. Army.
1968: New York, NY - Opening of the musical Hair.
1974: Washington, DC - President Richard Nixon announces that transcriptions from White House tapes would be released, with "information related to national security" redacted.
1992: Los Angeles - Following the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King, three days of rioting begin, which will claim 53 lives.
2011: London - The wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey.
2015: Balitmore - The official low attendance record for a Major League baseball game is set -- Zero attendants. This is because the park is closed due to rioting.

1667: John Arbuthnot, physician, creator of John Bull.
1847: Joachim Andersen, composer and co-founder of the Berlin Philharmonic.
1854: Henri Poincaré, polymath: 3-body-problem theorist, champion of the Lorentz transform, toplogist, astronomer, mathematician, philosopher of free will.
1863: William Randolph Hearst, publisher, politician.
1875: Rafael Sabatini, writer, creator of Scaramouche and Captain Blood.
1899: Duke Ellington, pianist and composer.
1920: Harold Shapero, composer.
1933: Rod McKuen, kitschy poet and songwriter.
1933: Willie Nelson, songwriter.
1936: Zubin Mehta, conductor.
1938: Bernard Madoff, fraudster.
1960: Robert J. Sawyer, writer of science fiction.
1965: Michel Bussi, writer of mysteries.

28th April 2016

6:29am: Workers' Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work
Or, if you prefer, National Blueberry Pie Day.

1192: Jerusalem - Two days after obtaining the right to the throne, Conrad I, King of Jerusalem, is killed by hashashin (hashishim, assassins).
1789: South Pacific - Fletcher Christian leads a group of mutineers in taking the armed merchantman Bounty by force and setting Captain William Bligh and a number of loyalists adrift with one week's provisions.
1869: Central Pacific Railroad - Chinese and Irish laborers lay ten miles of track in one day, something that modern machinery has never duplicated.
1881: Mesilla, NM - Henry "Billy the Kid" McCarty escapes from the Lincoln County jail.
1945: Mezzegra, Italy - Summary execution of Benito Mussolini (and his mistress, Clara Petacci) by a firing squad of resistance fighters.
1947: Callao, Peru - Thor Heyerdahl and his crew set sail on Kon-Tiki.
1948: New York - Premiere of Igor Stravinsky's ballet Orpheus.
1970: Washington, DC - President Richard M. Nixon authorizes the use of American troops in Cambodia, expanding the Vietnam war.
1986: Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant, Sweden - radiation from the Chernobyl disaster sets off alarms, causing the Soviet Union to announce the event.

1630: Charles Cotton, poet; contributed to The Compleat Angler.
1758: James Monroe, anti-Federalist and fifth President of the United States.
1854: Hertha Marks Ayrton, engineer and mathematician, first woman to present papers to both the Institute of Electrical Engineers and (several years later) the Royal Society.
1868: Lucy Booth, composer of Salvation Army songs.
1906: Kurt Gödel, who had a Theorem.
1908: Oskar Schindler, who had a List.
1910: Sam S. Merwin, pulp science fiction writer.
1914: Philip E. High, science fiction writer.
1916: Ferruccio Lamborghini, founder of Automobili Lamborghini.
1924: Dick Ayers, comix artist.
1926: Bill Blackbeard, founder and director of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art.
1926: Harper Lee, writer of To Kill A Mockingbird.
1928: Eugene Merle Shoemaker, who, with Levy, had a Comet.
1937: Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq.
1941: Ann-Margret, who was Tommy's mother.
1944: Alice Waters, founder-chef-owner of Chez Panisse.
1948: Sir Terry Pratchett, fantasy writer.
1950: Jay Leno. Is he really Godzilla in disguise? Who can say? Compare their chins...
1955: Eddie Jobson, electric violinist.
1960: Ian Rankin, mystery writer.

27th April 2016

6:50am: In South Africa, it's both Freedom Day and Unfreedom Day...
...the latter being an unofficial day for teachins and such about the unfreedom of poverty.

711: Gibraltar - Tariq ibn Zayid begins the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. Incidentally, Gibraltar is named after him (Jabal Tariq, "Tariq's Mountain.")
1521: Mactan, Philippines - Ferdinand Magellan is killed in battle by natives led by chief Lapu-Lapu.
1667: London - John Milton, blind and nearly destitute, sells the copyright to Paradise Lost for £10.
1749: London - Premiere performance of George Frederic Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks.
1805: The Shores of Tripoli - US Marines, aided by Berbers, attack the city of Dema.
1810: Vienna - Ludwig van Beethoven composes the "Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor," better known as "Für Elise."
1861: Washington, DC - Abraham Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus.
1865: Albany/Ithaca, NY - The New York State Senate creates Cornell University to take advantage of the "Land Grant" Morrill Acts.
1967: Montreal, Canada - Expo 67, a World's Fair, opens.
1974: Washington, DC - 10,000 people march demanding the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.
1981: Palo Alto, CA - Xerox PARC introduces the computer mouse. (The trackball has been around since 1941; a mouse-like "roller ball" was patented in 1947 but never manufactured.)
1987: Washington, DC - US Department of Justice bars Austrian President and former United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim from entering the United States, claiming that he had materially participated in the Holocaust.
1989: Beijing - Mass demonstrations are held in response to the April 27 Editorial.
1992: London - Betty Boothroyd is the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons.
2006: New York - Construction begins on One World Trade Center, then known as Freedom Tower.
2014: Rome - Popes John XXIII and John Paul II are declared saints.

1737: Edward Gibbon, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
1759: Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist writer.
1791: Samuel Morse, painter, co-inventor of Morse Code.
1812: Friedrich von Flotow, composer.
1820: Herbert Spencer, philosopher, biologist, political theorist; "wrote about evolution before Darwin did;" coined the phrase "survival of the fittest."
1822: Ulysses S. Grant, general and President of the United States.
1882: Jessie Redmon Fauset, writer and editor of The Brownies Book.
1898: Ludwig Bemelmans, writer of the Madeleine books.
1899: Walter Lantz, animator, creator of Woody Woodpecker and many other characters.
1904: Cecil Day(-)Lewis, Poet Laureate of the U.K.
1926: Tim LaHaye, minister and co-writer of the Left Behind books.
1927: Coretta Scott King, activist.
1932: Casey Kasem, disc jockey and the voice of Shaggy.
1951: Ace Frehley, guitarist for KISS.
1963: Russell T. Davies, screenwriter and producer.

26th April 2016

6:26am: Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel; World Intellectual Property Day
1564: Statford-upon-Avon, England - Baptism of William Shakespeare.
1777: (ending at) Danbury, CT - The Midnight Ride of Sybil Luddington.
1803: L'Aigle, France - Thousands of meteor fragments impact, an event that leads to scientists, who had previously denied that there could be "stones in the sky," to admit the existence of meteors.
1865: Port Royal, VA - Federal troops shoot John Wilkes Booth as he refuses to leave a burning barn.
1923: Westminster Abbey - The Duke of York, the future George VI of England, marries Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.
1933: Prussia - Herman Göring forms the Geheime Staatspolizei, better known by the abbreviation Gestapo, from two police forces.
1937: Guernica, Spain - bombing by the Luftwaffe.
1962: The Moon - Crash landing of Ranger 4.
1970: Ubiquitous - The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization comes into force.
1986: Chernobyl, Ukraine - Meltdown of Nuclear Reactor Number Four.
1989: Beijing - The People's Daily publishes an editorial that fans the flames of the Tiananmen Square protests.

121: Marcus Aurelius, emperor and stoic.
1697: Adam Falckenhagen, lutenist and composer.
1774: Christian Leopold von Buch, who defined the Jurassic system.
1785: John James Audobon, ornithologist and painter.
1798: Eugène Delacroix, painter.
1822: Frederick Law Olmstead, landscape architect, designed Central Park.
1834: Charles Farrar Brown, "Artemus Ward," Abraham Lincoln's favorite writer.
1862: Edmund C. Tarbell, painter.
1889: Anita Loos, writer of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
1889: Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher.
1912: A.E. van Vogt, writer.
1914: Bernard Malamud, writer.
1916: Morris West, writer.
1917: I.M. Pei, architect, designed the Bank of China Tower and the Louvre Pyramid.
1933: Carol Burnett, actress and comedienne.
1935: Patricia Reilly Giff, children's writer.
1941: John Mitchell, composer.
1963: Jet Li, martial artist/actor.

25th April 2016

6:23am: ANZAC Day...
...though I suppose it's already over in Oz and Enzed.

1792: Paris - Highwayman Nicholas Pelletier is executed, the first person ever to be guillotined. The crowd complains that the guillotine is too clinical and provides insufficient entertainment.
1792: Strasbourg - Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle composes the "Marseillaise."
1859: (the future Port Said,) Egypt - French and English engineers break ground for the building of the Suez Canal.
1901: New York State - License plates are required on automobiles for the first time (previously the State had required that the owner's initials be "clearly visible" on the back of the car).
1915: Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey - the first landings at Anzac Cove and Cape Helles mark the beginning of the invasion of the Peninsula and the extremely bloody battle that would follow.
1938: Washington, DC - Erie Railroad v. Tompkins - SCOTUS overturns the older Swift v. Tyson ruling, ending the power of federal courts to create federal common law for cases that do not involve an issue of federal law. "...no clause in the Constitution purports to confer such a power on the federal courts."
1944: Tuskeegee - Incorporation of the United Negro College Fund.
1945: San Francisco - Fifty Allied nations gather to begin the United Nations Conference on International Organization, which results in the drafting of the United Nations Charter.
1953: Cambridge, England - Francis Crick and James Watson publish (in Nature) the paper "Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid."
1954: Bell Labs, Murray Hill, NJ - Demonstration of the first practical solar cell.
1959: Canada - Opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
1961: Washington, DC/San Jose, CA - Robert Noyce is granted the first patent for an integrated circuit.
1981: Tsuruga, Japan - More than 100 workers are exposed to radiation at a power plant.
1983: Deep space - Pioneer 10 crosses the orbit of Pluto.
1990: Mangua - Violeta Chamorro becomes the first female President of Nicaragua.

1599: Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of Great Britain.
1723: Giovanni Marco Rutini, composer.
1873: Walter de la Mare, poet and novelist.
1874: Guglielmo Marconi, businessman and discoverer of Marconi's Law.
1892: Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the "Betsy-Tacy" books.
1900: Wolfgang Pauli, physicist.
1906: William J. Brennan, Jr., Associate Justice of SCOTUS.
1908: Edward R. Murrow, journalist.
1909: William Pereira, designer of the Transameric Pyramid.
1914: Ross Lockridge, Jr., writer of Raintree County.
1915: Mort Weisinger, comix editor.
1917: Ella Fitzgerald, singer.
1925: Sammy Drechsel, German comedian. Yes, there is such a thing.
1926: Johnny Craig, comix writer and artist (EC Comics).
1932: Meadowlark Lemon, for many years the heart of the Harlem Globetrotters.
1933: Jerry Leiber, the lyricist of the Leiber-Stoller songwriting team.
1945: Bjorn Ulvaeus, the first B in ABBA.
1953: Ron Clements, animator for Hanna-Barbera and Disney.
1955: Zev Siegl, co-founder of Starbucks.
1958: Fish, singer.
1961: Dinesh D'Souza, felon.

24th April 2016

9:13am: Pigs in a Blanket Appreciation Day
(I'm not making these days up, you know...)

1479 BC: Egypt - Thutmose III ascends to the throne of Egypt. His stepmother/aunt Hatshepsut is the effective ruler for over two decades.
1184 BC: Ilium - Traditional date for the fall of Troy.
1704: Boston, MA - First publication of the Boston News-Letter, the first regular newspaper in the British American colonies.
1800: Washington, DC - President John Adams signs legislation establishing the Library of Congress (not yet so named).
1907: Derry Township, PA - Milton S. Hershey establishes a park (now the theme park Hersheypark) for the exclusive use of his employees.
1913: New York, NY - Opening of the Woolworth Building.
1914: Germany - Presentation of the Franck-Hertz experiment, which establishes the quantum nature of atoms.
1915: Istanbul - Beginning of the Armenian Genocide as Armenian intellectuals and leaders are arrested.
1923: Vienna - Publication of Sigmund Freud's seminal paper Das Ich und das Es (The Ego and the Id; literally, the I and the It), outlining the mechanism of ego-superego-id.
1953: England - Queen Elizabeth II knights Winston Churchill
1967: Near-Earth space: The parachute of Soyuz 1 fails to open, killing cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov.

1581: St. Vincent de Paul, the "Apostle of Charity."
1743: Edmund Cartwright, inventor of the power loom.
1815: Anthony Trollope, Barchester novelist.
1897: Benjamin Lee Whorf, linguist/anthropologist.
1900: Elizabeth Goudge, writer.
1904: Willem de Kooning, painter.
1905: Robert Penn Warren, writer.
1906: William Joyce, "Lord Haw-Haw."
1914: William Castle, producer of low-budget horror films and Rosemary's Baby.
1934: Shirley MacLaine, actress and spiritualist.
1940: Sue Grafton, author of alphabetical mysteries.

23rd April 2016

3:50pm: International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day
1014: Battle of Clontarf - Brian Boru defeats an invading Viking force but is himself killed in the battle.
1348: England - King Edward III announces the foundation of the Order of the Garter. Honi soit qui mal y pense!
1910: Sorbonne, Paris, France - ex-President Theodore Roosevelt gives his "Man in the Arena" speech.
1940: Natchez, Mississippi - The Rhythm Club catches fire, killing 209 people (mostly African Americans).
1967: USSR - Soyuz 1 is launched, carrying Vladimir Komarov into orbit.
1985: Atlanta, GA, and elsewhere - Coca-Cola company releases "New Coke," an unmitigated marketing disaster.

1791: James Buchanan, 15th and arguably worst President of the United States.
1813: Stephen A. Douglas, politician mostly remembered for debating Abraham Lincoln.
1857: Ruggero Leoncavallo, composer.
1858: Max Planck, physicist.
1858: Ethel Smyth, composer.
1891: Sergei Prokofiev, pianist and composer.
1895: Ngaio Marsh, writer of mystery novels.
1908: Myron Waldman, animator with Fleischer Brothers and Famous Studios.
1923: Avram Davidson, science fiction and fantasy writer.
1926: J.P. Donleavy, writer of "Fairy Tale of New York."
1928: Shirley Temple (Black), actress and diplomat.
1929: George Steiner, philosopher and critic.
1932: Jim Fixx, health and exercise guru who died of a heart attack at age 52.
1936: Roy Orbison, bespectacled singer with THAT VOICE.
1941: Ray Tomlinson, who implemented the first email program on ARPANet.
1943: Hervé Villechaize, actor. The plane! The plane!
1949: David Cross, violinist.
1954: Michael Moore, director and activist.
1968: Timothy McVeigh, American terrorist.

22nd April 2016

6:04am: Earth Day ... Feast of the Firstborn...
...and, God save the mark, National Jellybean Day.

1500: Brazil - Pedro Álvares Cabral "discovers" Brazil.
1529: Zaragoza, Aragon (Spain) - the Treaty of Zaragoza divides the Eastern Hemisphere between Portugal and Spain.
1864: Washington, DC - The Coinage Act of 1864 puts "In God We Trust" on all future US coins.
1876: Philadelphia, PA - The first game of the National League is played at the Jefferson Street Grounds between the Boston Red Stockings (lineal descendant of the modern Boston Braves) and the Philadelphia Athletics (a team with no modern descendant), generally considered the first game of Major League Baseball.
1889: Oklahoma - the "Oklahoma Land Rush" officially starts at noon, as people hurry to enter the two million acres of "unassigned" land and claim homesteads. Some sneak in early and hide until the noon deadline, to claim the best land; these people are called "Sooners," giving the State of Oklahoma its eventual nickname.
1915: Ypres - The Germans release chlorine gas as a chemical weapon.
1954: Washington - Broadcast begins of the Army-McCarthy hearings.
1964: Flushing Meadow Park, NY - The 1964-65 New York World's Fair opens for its first season.
1970: Many places - the first Earth Day is celebrated.
1993: Cyberspace - Mosaic 1.0, the first popular Web browser, is released.
1998: Orlando area, FL - Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park opens at Walt Disney World.
2000: Miami - Federal agents seize six-year-old Elián González from relatives' home.
2000: United Kingdom - the Big Number Change affects many phone numbers and ensures growth potential for the more impacted areas.

1658: Giuseppe Torelli, composer.
1707: Henry Fielding, novelist.
1724: Immanuel Kant, a real pissant who was very rarely stable.
1766: Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, "Madame de Staël," writer, saloniste, and outspoken opponent of Napoleon.
1870: Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, a/k/a Lenin, lawyer, revolutionary, and philosopher.
1873: Ellen Glasgow, novelist.
1884: Otto Rank, psychologist.
1891: Nicola Sacco, anarchist.
1899: Vladimir Nabokov, novelist.
1904: J. Robert Oppenheimer, "Father of the Atomic Bomb," victim of the Red Scare.
1906: Eddie Albert, who was Oliver Wendell Douglas.
1907: Ivan Yefremov, paleontologist and science fiction writer.
1916: Yehudi Menuhin, violinist and conductor.
1922: Richard Diebenkorn, painter.
1922: Charles Mingus, bassist and bandleader.
1923: Bettie Page, actress, model, and inspiration to WW2 military men.
1923: Aaron Spelling, schlockmeister.
1933: Anthony Llewellyn, astronaut.
1937: Jack Nicholson, actor.
1943: Janet Evanovich, mystery novelist.
1946: John Waters, shockmeister.

21st April 2016

11:57am: Grounation Day
753 BC: Rome - is founded by Romulus, traditionally speaking.
1782: Chao Phraya River - the city of Rattanakoskin, better known as Bangkok, is founded by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke.
1898: Cuba - the US Navy blockades Cuban ports. Four days later, the US Congress will issue a declaration of war against Spain acknowledging that the war actually began on this date.
1918: Vaux-aux-Somme, France - "Red Baron" Manfred von Richthofen is shot down and killed.
1934: UK - the Daily Mail prints the "Surgeon's Photograph" of the "Loch Ness Monster."
1960: Brazil - the city of Brasília officially becomes the capital.
1962: Seattle - the World's Fair opens.
1964: Near-Earth space - a Transit-5bn satellite, having failed to reach orbit, decays in the atmosphere, dispersing nearly a kilogram of plutonium into the atmosphere.
1965: Flushing Meadows, New York City - the 1964-65 New York World's Fair opens for its second season.
1966: Jamaica - Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia visits the island nation.
1970: Australia - the Principality of Hutt River secedes from Australia; it still exists and still claims to be an independent nation.
1989: Beijing - about 100,000 students gather in Tiananmen Square to honor the memory of Hu Yaobang.
1992: Pulsar PSR 1257+12 - the first extrasolar planets are discovered by Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail.

1555: Ludovico Carracci, painter.
1630: Pieter Gerritsz van Roestraten, painter.
1816: Charlotte Brontë, novelist.
1838: John Muir, environmentalist and writer.
1889: Efrem Zimbalist, Sr., composer.
1905: Pat Brown, Governor of California.
1922: Alistair MacLean, writer of thrillers.
1923: John Mortimer, writer and attorney; created Rumpole of the Bailey.
1926: Elizabeth II of the United Kngdom.
1936: James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.
1939: Sister Helen Prejean, death penalty abolition activist.
1947: Iggy Pop, singer.

20th April 2016

7:39am: 4/20
1535: Stockholm - massive sundogs appear, inspiring the Vädersolstavlan.
1653: London - Oliver Cromwell dissolves the Rump Parliament, saying, "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately ... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"
1657: New Amsterdam (later New York) - Freedom of religion is granted to Jews.
1871: Washington, DC - Congress passes the Civil Rights Law of 1871, which grants the President (then U.S. Grant) to suspend habeas corpus for purposes of combating the Ku Klux Klan and other white-supremacist organizations.
1884: Rome - Pope Leo XIII issues Humanum genus, which condemns Freemasonry.
1902: Paris - Marie and Pierre Curie isolate radium chloride.
1918: France - Manfred von Richtofen, the "Red Baron," shoots down his 79th and 80th enemy planes; he will be shot down himself tomorrow.
1939: New York, NY - Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit" for the first time.
1951: Romania - Dan Gavriliu performs the first human organ transplant surgery, an esophagus.
1961: Bay of Pigs, Cuba - the invasion attempt, planned by the Eisenhower Administration but carried out by the Kennedy Administration, collapses completely.
1972: Apollo 16 lands on the moon.
1985: Elijah, AR - Raid by the ATF on the compound of the Christian Identity/Survivalist group The Covenant, The Sword and the Arm of the Lord (yes, it was really capitalized that way) ends a four-day siege. This is said to be a contributing factor to the Oklahoma City terrorist attack.
1986: Moscow - Vladimir Horowitz performs in his native Russia for the first time in 61 years.
1999: Columbine, CO - Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kill 13 people and injure 21 others before committing suicide at Columbine High School.
2007: Houston, TX - at the Johnson Space Center, worker William Phillips kills one hostage and himself.
2010: Gulf of Mexico - the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilling rig explodes, killing eleven workers and beginning the worst environmental disaster in American history.

1494: Johannes Agricola, founder of Protestant Antinomianism.
1586: St. Rose of Lima, first American-born saint to be canonized.
1748: Georg Michael Telemann, composer and theologian.
1889: Adolf Hitler, archetypical villain.
1893: Harold Lloyd, comic actor.
1893: Joan Miró, painter.
1920: John Paul Stevens, associate justice of the Supreme Court.
1923: Mother Angelica, broadcaster.
1923: Tito Puente, drummer.
1936: Pat Roberts, Senator.
1937: George Takei, actor.
1939: Peter S. Beagle, writer.
1950: Steve Erickson, writer.
1964: Andy Serkis, who was Gollum and King Kong.
1965: April March, animator.
1966: David Filo, cofounder of Yahoo!

19th April 2016

6:23am: National Garlic Day (US); Primrose Day (UK)
1529: Speyers, Holy Roman Empire - At the Diet of Spires, the Edict of Worms is reinstated and Lutheranism condemned; this results, six days later, in the actual protestation that gives the Protestant movement its name.
1770: Paris and Vienna - Proxy wedding of Louis-August, Dauphin of France to Marie Antonia (Antoinette) Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen, Archduchess of Austria.
1782: The Hague - John Adams, having assured the support of the Dutch Republic for the rebellious States, establishes the first United States Embassy.
1927: New York City - Mae West is sentenced to ten days at "Welfare Island" prison, plus a $500 fine, for obscenity related to her play Sex.
1928: Oxford - The publication of the original Oxford English Dictionary is completed with the printing of the last fascicle.
1943: Basel, Switzerland - Dr. Albert Hoffmann takes the first ever deliberate dose of LSD.
1956: Monaco - Prince Ranier marries actress Grace Kelly after a year-long courtship.
1971: Baikonur Cosmodrome, USSR - Salyut I, the first space station, is launched. It will orbit the earth for 175 days, during only 23 of which it will have human inhabitants. (The first crew was unable to enter the station; the second succeeded but died on reentry.)
1971: Los Angeles - Charles Manson is sentenced to death for conspiracy to murder.
1975: Kasputin Yar, USSR - India's first satellite, Aryabhata, is launched.
1987: United States - First broadcast of The Simpsons as a short on the Tracy Ullman Show.
1993: Waco, TX - A fire breaks out in the besieged compound of the Branch Davidian cult. There is still controversy over whether this fire was an accident and who was responsible for it. In all, 81 people die.
1995: Oklahoma City - Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, apparently in vengeance for events at Waco and Ruby Ridge. 168 people die. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are eventually found guilty of the bombing.

1721: Roger Sherman, the only person to have signed all four of the founding documents of the United States: the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.
1806: Sarah Bagley, advocate for laborers' and women's rights; abolitionist.
1877: Ole Evinrude, inventor of the outboard motor.
1883: Richard von Mises, scientist and positivist.
1892: Germaine Tailleferre, composer.
1894: Elizabeth Dilling, writer of Commie-baiting tracts.
1900: Richard Hughes, writer of A High Wind in Jamaica.
1903: Eliot Ness, lawman.
1912: Glenn T. Seaborg, chemist, has an element named after him; he taught my Chem I class at UC. (He was a lousy teacher.)
1935: Dudley Moore, who was Stanley Moon.
1938: Stanley Fish, writer and theorist.
1946: Tim Curry, who was Frank, Darkness, and Rooster.

18th April 2016

6:28am: International Day for Monuments and Sites...
...or, if you prefer, Animal Crackers Day.

1025: Gniezno - Boleslaw Chrobry becomes the first King of Poland.
1775: Boston - The ride of Paul Revere (who didn't get very far), Samuel Prescott, and William Dawes.
1857: Paris - Allan Kardec publishes Le Livre des Esprits, marking the beginning of Spiritualism in France.
1906: San Francisco, California - The '06 earthquake.
1909: Rome - Beatification of Jeanne d'Arc.
1923: New York City - Opening of Yankee Stadium.
1930: England - BBC reports "no news" and goes to piano music.
1958: Washington, DC - A Federal court rules that Ezra Pound must be released from St. Elizabeth's psychiatric hospital, where he had spent over twelve years after being ruled unfit to stand trial for treason
1983: Beirut - A suicide bomber attacks the US Embassy.
2007: Wachington, DC - SCOTUS upholds the partial-birth abortion ban.

1580: Thomas Middleton, playwright; appears to have "adapted" some of Shakepeare's work.
1648: Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon ("Madame Guyon"), quietist mystic who was imprisoned for 8 years for the "heretical" work Le Moyen Court Et Autres Écrits Spirituels (The Short and Easy Method of Prayer).
1772: David Ricardo, economist.
1857: Clarence Darrow, attorney; defended John Scopes and also Leopold and Loeb, losing both cases.
1865: Richard Harding Davis, journalist and writer.
1882: Leopold Stokowski, conductor. ("Leopold!")
1901: Al Lewis, lyricist ("You Gotta Be A Football Hero"; "Blueberry Hill.")
1915: Joy Davidman, writer; wife of C.S. Lewis.
1918: Clifton Hillegass, founder of Cliff's Notes.
1927: Samuel P. Huntington, author of the "clash of civilizations" theory of the post-Cold War world.
1942: Robert Christgau, critic.
1944: Francis Gertrude Claire D'Souza, Baroness D'Souza, Lord Speaker.
1947: Kathy Acker, writer.
1959: Susan Faludi, analyst of power.
1971: David Tennant, the tenth Doctor and Barty Crouch.

16th April 2016

9:17pm: Read: Notes from Undergrond, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (2016-27)
_Notes_ is long on thought and character, and short on incident.

In the first (and shorter) part, there are literally _no_ incidents; it consists of a great deal of existential-ish philosophizing and critiquing of society (and of the personality of the narrator, who is never named). Even more, the narrator critiques contemporary scientific utopianism, insisting that, even if human nature were reduced to mathematics, it would still be human nature and perversely inconsiderate of its own best interests; that Man is not a rational animal at all but an emotional animal who demands, above all else, freedom (or its illusion). Man, he says, feels oppressed even by simple mathematics; he wants to be free to declare, when he chooses, that twice two is five.

Determinism, he observes, relieves Man of the burden of guilt; Man, he implies, cannot live without it. Implied but never stated (though apparently it was stated in the original text and removed by Russian censors) is that only through faith in Christ can this paradox be overcome.

The second part consists, basically, of two sequences of events.

In the first, the narrator decides to insult an officer by bumping into him on the street, and eventually does, to no effect.

In the second, he invites himself to a party of farewell for a man he doesn't like, gets drunk and behaves badly, berates a prostitute, and makes an ass of himself in front of his servant.

Really, at the level of plot, that's about it. It doesn't so much end as is cut off, first by the narrator's claim that he will write no more, then by a fictitious editor's claim that he did, indeed, write more, but that there's no point in continuing.

Fortunately, there's a great deal that _isn't_ at the level of plot: deep and detailed analysis of Russian society of the nineteenth century ... which turns out, really, to be analysis not of society, but of the narrator himself, whom we quickly realize is not a reliable or objective speaker. In fact, _Notes_ is a portrait, a portrait of a thoroughly unpleasant and despicable human being; who is, nonetheless, a human being and not some kind of metaphorical cockroach. Even as the narrator demands our despite, Dostoevsky invites us to love him as a perversely damaged image of Christ.

15th April 2016

7:52am: Father Damien day; Jackie Robinson day
1395: Terek River, north Caucasus - Timur (Tamurlane) defeats the Golden Horde and razes their capital city.
1755: London - Samuel Johnson publishes A Dictionary of the English Language, claiming that he had done in eight years what took forty Frenchmen forty years.
1865: Washington, DC - Abraham Lincoln, having been shot the previous night, dies.
1892: Schenectady, NY - Founding of the General Electric Company by merging several of the Edison General Electric Company (itself a merger of several of Edison's various corporate interests) with the Thomson-Houston Electric Company.
1920: South Braintree, MA - two security guards (Alessandro Beardelli and Frederick Parmenter) are murdered during a robbery at the Slater-Morrill Shoe Company; anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti will be executed (many say unfairly) for these murders.
1922: Washington, DC - Senator John B. Kendrick (D-WY) introduces a resolution which ultimately uncovers the Teapot Dome scandal.
1923: First general availability of insulin as a treatment for diabetes.
1924: Chicago, IL - Rand McNally publishes their first Road Atlas.
1947: Brooklyn, NY - Jackie Robinson breaks "the color line" by playing his first game for the Dodgers of the National League at Ebbets Field.
1955: Des Plaines, IL - Ray Kroc opens the first franchised McDonald's restaurant.
1969: Sea of Japan - North Korea shoots down a U.S. Navy EC-121M aircraft, killing all 31 people aboard.
1983: Tokyo - Tokyo Disneyland opens.
2013: Boston - Two bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
2014: Chibok, Nigeria - Over 200 schoolgirls are kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists.

1452: Leonardo da Vinci.
1707: Leonhard Euler, mathematician, logician, and physicist; polymath of sorts.
1841: Joseph E. Seagram, founder of the Seagram Company, at one time the largest maker of alcoholic beverages in the world.
1843: Henry James, writer.
1858: Émile Durkheim, generally regarded as the father of sociology.
1889: Thomas Hart Benton, painter.
1890: Percy Shaw, inventor of the cat's eye road reflector.
1892: Corrie ten Boom, imprisoned for saving Jews from the Holocaust.
1894: Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet politician.
1894: Bessie Smith, singer.
1907: Nikolaas Tinbergen, ethologist.
1912: William Congdon, painter and sculptor.
1912: Kim il-Sung, dictator.
1915: Elizabeth Catlett, sculptor and painter.
1916: Alfred S. Bloomingdale, "father of the credit card."
1917: Hans Conreid, who was Dr. T and the voice of Captain Hook.
1920: Thomas Szasz, psychiatrist.
1923: Robert dePugh, founder of the anti-Communist Minutemen Organization.
1924: Neville Mariner, conductor.
1933: Elizabeth Montgomery, who was Samantha Stephens.
1942: Kenneth Lay, criminal.
1951: Ponce Kiah Marchelle Heloise Cruse Evans, "Heloise," lifestyle columnist.
1951: John L. Phillips, astronaut.

14th April 2016

4:36pm: Read: a, b, c: three short novels, by Samuel R. Delany (2016-24, 25, 26)
In an Afterword to these novels, Delany speaks (among many other things) about people who come up to him on the street (or elsewhere) to tell him, "_X_ is my favorite of your books."

Confession: I don't _have_ a favorite Delany book. Or, rather, whichever I'm reading at any given moment (in those moments when I'm reading one) tends to be my "favorite" at that moment, because I am - sometimes to my amazement - discovering new pleasures in a given text. (Though there are some that I don't reread often, and one that disturbed me so badly I may _never_ reread it...which means it's a pretty powerful book...)

These three novels are, in some very broad sense, Delany's first three novels. They aren't the first he ever wrote (at least one or two from his teenage years, now lost, would fit that definition...); nor are they the first three he published. I suppose it would be accurate to say that these are the first three novels Delany wrote that, eventually, got published.

A, B, and C are the primary locations in which the novels take place:

A is for Aptor. _The Jewels of Aptor_ is, yes, Delany's first work, cut brutally to fit the short side of an Ace Double and later restored (and lightly reedited, revised, redacted ... choose your word but choose it carefully; he didn't change character or incident, just pruned and twiddled individual phrases). I've read this book at least six or seven times in my life, from that Ace Double to this shiny new edition.

It's a tale of four men of Leptar who, after a few harrowing incidents, find themselves on the forbidden island of Aptor, with a double mission: to retrieve the young priestess who is the current Argo Incarnate; and to steal the third of the three Eyes of Hama (the titular Jewels), baubles of great power that Argo's mother, Argo, wants for Leptar. On the level of plot, that's about it, though it may be noted that the book fools the reader with an anticlimax then whipsaws out a _real_ climax.

Aptor and its dangers (including people) are presented (read: the reader represents them to him/her self) with a hallucinatory intensity that makes this book still vivid after six or seven readings, and after fifty-plus years. (No, _I_ didn't read it that long ago; I was not yet four when it was published and, while I was beginning to read, it would be a _bit_ longer before I was ready to read something like this.) It can be read at a single sitting - I did - which, I think, adds to the impact.

(The subtitle is, after all, three _short_ novels.)

The book is laced with philosophical and pseudoscientific speculations, most of which stand up pretty well after ... well, you know. Some of them, like the "double impulse," stand up less well than others, but none come across as puerile or facile.

In fact, it's a heckuva promising first novel and we may hope to see more and better work from this young man.

B is for Beta-2. When he began to write _The Ballad of Beta-2_, Delany was in the middle of writing his _Fall of the Towers_ trilogy, and had indeed completed the first volume; but if you count _Fall_ as a single work, then this is the third of the three novels to be completed. It wasn't published until after the last volume of the trilogy, so it is his fifth-published book (or third-published work). But the last of these novels had, in some sense, been written before _Fall_, so go figure.

_Beta-2_ is a very short book, only eighty-six pages in this edition. It is also one of Delany's weakest, which is to say it's still a pretty good book.

Joneny Horatio T'waboga is a student of Galactic anthropology, who is assigned - against his will - to uncover the meaning of a ballad, the Ballad of Beta-2. Beta-2, you see, is one of twelve ships that were launched in a fleet before the discovery of FTL travel. Ten ships eventually arrived at the Laffer system in such a state of cultural and physical decay that those who had already taken possession of the system decided the best thing to do was to isolate them in their ships. Which they did.

The Ballad is evocative and weird, full of words that obviously don't mean what they seem to mean; and the surface plot concerns Joneny's discovery (with the help of a being called the Destroyer's Children) of what the proper referents of those words are. The plot is pretty much linear, taking place over, at most, a few days of Joneny's time.

The first time I read _Beta-2_, at fourteen or so, I found the secret meaning of the ballad shocking. If I read it today, I might not dismiss it as puerile, but it certainly would not be a shock: the losses and gains of fifty years of reading science fiction. It _is_ an imaginative and even charming short novel, but it doesn't have the gravitas of Delany's later work - or even the work immediately around it in this volume.

C is for Çiron. _They Fly at Çiron_ took a strange and laborious path to publication. It began as a series of linked stories, which was submitted to Donald Wollheim at Ace as the followup to _Aptor_. Wollheim rejected it, leading Delany (as his Foreword to this book details) to a new understanding of why _Aptor_ worked and _Çiron_ didn't. So he put it away and began writing _The Fall of the Towers_.

A while later, Delany gave _Çiron_ to James Sallis, who rewrote bits of it and sold it to _F&SF_, where I first read it. Twenty years later, Delany rewrote it himself, eliding Sallis's parts and expanding it greatly, adding a couple of related short stories, and published it through Incunabula Press. I read that too, for the first time since the magazine version (which hadn't _quite_ worked for me...) was new.

And here it is again, as brutal as ever.

Çiron is an idyllic, peaceful village that doesn't even have a word for "weapon." They are invaded by the conquering armies of Myetra who, frankly, don't give a rat's ass how peaceful the villagers are; they are there on a mission to create for Myetra a vast span of _lebensraum_, and the people of Çiron are just in the way.

The next place the Myetrans plan to devastate is Çiron's neighboring community, Hi-Vator. Hi-Vator is the home of the Winged Ones, whom the people of Çiron fear without knowing quite why.

A villager named Rahm, fleeing the Myetrans and his own emotions, accidentally saves the life of Vortcir, the Handsman of the Winged Ones, and is taken by him to Hi-Vator.

And a wandering singer named Naä teaches a few of the Çironians something about guerilla warfare.

There's a lot more than _that_ going on, but it will do to give you a sense of what kind of book this is. It's a very taut read; a great deal happens in a hundred fifty or so pages, and no easy answers are given. We see things through the eyes not only of Çironians but also of Myetrans, and, while it's fairly clear (_fairly_ clear: ambiguity remains) who are the "good guys" and who are the "bad guys," there's no moral polarity of good and evil -- one of the most attractive characters is a Myetran foot soldier.

In the end, _a, b, c_ brings three entertaining books back into print after twenty years or more; gives us more than fifty pages of new Delany in the Foreword and Afterword; and is generally a good thing in my estimation.
6:28am: Dolphin day
1775: Philadelphia - The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, the first abolition society in North America, is founded by Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush.
1828: Noah Webster registers the copyright on An American Dictionary of the English Language.
1846: Springfield, Illinois - A band of 87 pioneers led by George Donner and James F. Reed sets out for California. 48 will arrive.
1860: San Francisco - Arrival of the first West-bound Pony Express rider.
1865: Washington, D.C. - John Wilkes Booth shoots President Abraham Lincoln. In a related incident, Secretary of State William H. Seward and his family are attacked in their home by Lewis Powell.
1881: El Paso - The "Four Dead in Five Seconds" gunfight.
1894: New York City - The first commercial venue specifically for the viewing of motion pictures opens with ten Kinetoscopes.
1906: Los Angeles - The Azusa Street Revival, led by pastor William J. Seymour, opens, leading to the spread of modern Pentecostal Christianity.
1909: Adana Vilayet, Turkish Empire - the Adana Massacre, which takes the lives of twenty to thirty thousand Armenians.
1912: Northa Atlantic - The R.M.S. Titanic strikes an iceberg.
1927: Gothenburg, Sweden - the first Volvo car rolls off the assembly line.
1935: Oklahoma and Texas - the "Black Sunday" dust storm covers vast areas in dust; it is the worst dust stom of the "Dust Bowl."
1939: New York - the Viking Press issues the first edition of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.
1956: Chicago - first demonstration of videotape.
1958: Near-Earth space - Sputnik II, the one that carried Laika, falls from orbit after 162 days.
1986: Gopalganj district, Bangladesh - the heaviest hailstones ever recorded (some as big as 1 kg) fall to Earth, killing as many as 92 people.
2003: (International) - Completion of the Human Genome Project.

1126: ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd, better known as Averroes, polymath and defender of Aristotelian philosophy.
1629: Christiaan Huygens, discoverer of Titan, inventor of the pendulum clock.
1866: Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's "Miracle Worker."
1889: Arnold Toynbee, historian and historiographer, champion of the "great men" theory of history.
1929: Gerry Anderson, supermarionator.
1933: Boris Strugatsky, writer.
1934: Fredric Jameson, postmodern theorist.
1935: Jack McDevitt, writer.
1935: Erich von Däniken, crazy person.
1936: Frank Serpico, honest cop but not a good team player.
1941: Pete Rose, disgraced baseball player.
1949: Dave Gibbons, comix artist and writer (Watchmen).
1954: Bruce Sterling, writer (Schismatrix).
1958: Peter Capaldi, the twelfth Doctor.
1961: Daniel Clowes, comix artist and screenwriter (Art School Confidential).
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