31 December 2009


Sorry for the abbreviated post today.  Been feeling increasingly lousy all day and think I'd better go to bed with a hot cup of tea.  Not much interesting to report on the day, anyway.

Vaguely interesting birthdays:  Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Anthony Hopkins (1937), Alex Ferguson (1941), Andy Summers (1942) and Ben Kingsley (1943).

New Years Eve, Hogmanay.  But you know that already.

G'morning/G'night everyone.

30 December 2009


The Granada Massacre took place on this day in 1066.  Around 4,000 Jews, almost the entire Jewish population of Granada, were killed in one day.  The Battle of Wakefield took place in 1460.  The Pirates of Penzance was performed for the first time in Paignton.  Lincoln's Inn accepted its first female student in 1919 and the USSR was formed in 1922.

Born today:  Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), Bo Diddley (1928-2008), John Hartford (1937-2001), Paul Stookey (1937), Michael Nesmith (1942), Davy Jones (1945), Patti Smith (1946), Jeff Lynne (1947), Tracey Ullman (1959) and Tiger Woods (1975).

It is Rizal Day in the Philippines.

29 December 2009


Thomas à Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.  Nearly 300 Oglala and Lakota Sioux were killed in the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.  Ireland became fully sovereign in 1937 when its current constitution went into effect and the 36 year civil war in Guatemala came to an end in 1996.

Born today:  Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764), William Gladstone (1809-1898), Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Jon Voight (1938), Rick Danko (1942-1999), Marianne Faithfull (1946), Alan Rusbridger (1953), Brenda Wildhack (1968), Jude Law (1972) and Kieron Dyer (1978).

It is, not altogether unsurprisingly, the feast day of St. Thomas à Becket.

28 December 2009


The Aurora Borealis over Iowa

Westminster Abbey was consecrated in 1065.  Iowa became the 29th state admitted to the Union in 1846.  In 1879, the central portion of the Tay Bridge collapsed as a train was passing over it, killing 75 people.  An earthquake killed 75,000 in Messina, Sicily, in 1908.  The Peak District became the first national park in the United Kingdom in 1950 and Nepal abolished its monarchy in 2007.

Born today:  Earl "Fatha" Hines (1903-1983), Pops Staples (1915-2000), Stan Lee (1922), Roy Hattersley (1932), Nichelle Nichols (1932), Ana Torroja (1959)

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

27 December 2009


The current Hagia Sophia was completed in 537.  It is the third church to stand on that spot.  The HMS Beagle set sail from Plymouth in 1831.  Spain became a democracy in 1978.  The USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007.

Born today:  Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Jacob Bernoulli (1654-1705), Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992), Gérard Depardieu (1948) and Sarah Vowell (1969).

Today is the feast day of St. John the Apostle.

26 December 2009


Two recent tragedies to mark today.

In 2003, the worst earthquake in Iranian history, measuring 6.6 on the moment scale, devastated the city of Bam.  There were 26,271 people killed and about 30,000 injured.  The 2,000 year-old Bam Citadel was obliterated.

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake measured 9.3 on the moment scale, killed between 228 and 230 thousand people and injured 125,000.  There are 45,000 people still listed as missing and nearly 2,000,000 people were displaced.

25 December 2009


A classic, if slightly surreal, moment from American television. I hope that everyone gets wherever they're going safely and has a wonderful time.  Thank you for being my online family.

24 December 2009

Daily Chat 24/12/09

The Hagia Sophia was rededicated in 562, after having been severely damaged in an earthquake, necessitating massive restoration.  Kiritimati (Christmas Island) was discovered by James Cook in 1777.  The Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812 in 1814.  Cyclone Tracy devastated the city of Darwin, Australia, in 1974, leaving 71 dead and causing more than a billion dollars* in damage.

Born today:  Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), Lemmy (1945) and Carol Vorderman (1960).

Apparently, Christmas Eve is the only thing happening today.

*US billion (1,000,000,000) and US dollars

23 December 2009

Daily Chat 23/12/09

A coelacanth was discovered off the east coast of South Africa in 1938.  The first transistor was demonstrated at Bell Laboratories in Murry Hill, New Jersey, in 1942.  In 1973, sixteen survivors of the crash of Uruguayan Air Force flight 571 were rescued after surviving for 73 days by eating the remains of passengers who had died in the crash.  On that same day, ten thousand people in Managua, Nicaragua, were killed in an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter Scale.

Born today:  Helmut Schmidt (1918), Emperor Akihito (1933), Harry Shearer (1943), Queen Silvia of Sweden (1943), Eddie Vedder (1964) and Mme. Sarkozy (1967).

It is la Noche de Rábanos in Oaxaca.

22 December 2009

Daily Chat 22/12/09

The Battle of Chaumkar, in which 40 Sikhs held off thousands of Mughal troops to defend the life of Guru Gobind Singh and allow him to escape safely, took place in 1704.  Alfred Dreyfus was accused of treason in 1894.  A speed limit of 70 mph was set on all rural roads in Great Britain in 1965.  Brazilian trade unionist and environmentalist, Chico Mendes, was assassinated in 1988.  The Brandenburg Gate reopened in 1989.

Born today:  Jean Racine (1639-1699), Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), Peggy Ashcroft (1907-1991), Maurice and Robin Gibb (1949.  Maurice died in 2003.) and Ralph Fiennes (1962).

It is Mother's Day in Indonesia.

21 December 2009


Most of you probably realise that today marks the 21st anniversary of the Lockerbie air disaster.  I'm always unsure of how to handle dates like today's.  To casually include something like Lockerbie alongside inanities like the premier of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs seems to trivialise it, but I sometimes worry that devoting the daily thread to the memory of a single event is excessively morbid.  After all, life goes on, even for the families.  How long does it take before something like the Lockerbie disaster gets relegated to the status of just something horrible that happened years ago?  Does it loom larger in my mind than it otherwise would because of the release of Al-Megrahi?  Probably, but it would be no less tragic.  It isn't practical for me to list all the victims, but these are the names of the children who should be young adults today:

Joanne Flannigan (10) Lockerbie
Bryony Owen (1) Bristol
Laura Owens (8) Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Anmol Rattan (2) Warren, Michigan
Suruchi Rattan (3) Warren, Michigan
Edina Roller (5) Hungary
Lyndsey Somerville (10) Lockerbie
Paul Somerville (13) Lockerbie
Hannah Stevenson (10) Surrey
Rachael Stevenson (8) Surrey
Stacey Stinnett (9) Duncanville, Texas
Jonathan Thomas (2 months) Southfield, Michigan
Brittany Williams (2 months) Crown Point, New York
Stephanie Williams (1) Crown Point, New York
Chelsea Woods (1) Willingboro, New Jersey
Joe Woods (2) Willingboro, New Jersey

20 December 2009

Daily Chat 20/12/09

On his way back to England after the Third Crusade, Richard I was imprisoned by Leopold V of Austria in 1192.  After eight months and a loss of more than 10,000 Anzac troops, the last of the Australian troops was evacuated from Gallipoli in 1915.  A freight train carrying more than 1,000,000 litres of petrol derailed in the Summit Tunnel near the village of Todmorden in West Yorkshire.  The petrol was ignited and the resultant fire was the largest underground fire in history.  The Picasso painting Portrait of Suzanne Bloch and a painting by Brazilian artist Candido Portinari were stolen from the Museum of the Arts of São Paulo in 2007.

Born today:  Jenny Agutter (1952) and Billy Bragg (1957).

It is the feast day of Saint Dominic of Silos.

19 December 2009

Daily Chat 19/12/09

Henry II was crowned in 1154.  Apollo 17, the last manned lunar flight, returned to Earth in 1972.  Sixteen people were lost at sea in the Penlee lifeboat disaster in 1981.  The original FIFA World Cup trophy was stolen from the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation in Rio de Janeiro in 1983.

Born today:  Ralph Richardson (1902-1983), Jean Genet (1910-1986), Édith Piaf (1915-1963), Limahl (1958), Jake Gyllenhaal (1980), Gary Cahill (1985), Ryan Babel (1986) and Karim Benzema (1987).

It is Liberation Day in Goa.

18 December 2009

Daily Chat 18/12/09

Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty in 1271.  No clue whether the stately pleasure-dome came before or after the dynasty name change.  The Mayflower landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620.  Charles Dawson claimed at a meeting of the Geological Society of London to have been given fossilised human remains that were found in a gravel pit near Piltdown in East Sussex.

Born today:  Charles Wesley (1707-1788), Saki (1870-1916), Paul Klee (1879-1940), Willy Brandt (1913-1992), Betty Grable (1916-1973), Ossie Davis (1917-2005), Keith Richards (1943), Steve Biko (1946-1977), Steven Spielberg (1946), the Bra part of Brangelina (1963) and Robson Green (1964).

The Islamic New Year starts at sundown, when it becomes 1 Muharram, 1431.  May 1431 be a good year for everyone!

17 December 2009

Daily Chat 17/12/09

Pope Paul III excommunicated Henry VIII in 1538.  The first passenger railway in Ireland, the Dublin and Kingstown Railway began operations in 1834.  Australian PM, Harold Holt disappeared while swimming in 1967 and was presumed to have drowned.  The first episode of The Simpsons aired in 1989.

Born today:  Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), Tommy Steele (1936) and John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969).

It is National Day in Bhutan.

16 December 2009

Daily Chat 16/12/09

The only thing that really matters about today is that it is Jane Austen's birthday.  But this stuff happened, too:

Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1497.  Parliament passed An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown in 1689.  The last recorded eruption of Mt. Fuji occurred in 1707.  The first of three major earthquakes on the New Madrid fault line in southeastern Missouri occurred in 1811.  The quake was felt as far away as Boston and New York.  And in 1997, nearly 700 Japanese children were hospitalised after an episode of Pokémon induced seizures.

Also born today:  Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827), George Santayana (1863-1952), Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Noel Coward (1899-1973), Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008), Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), Liv Ullman (1938), Benny Andersson (1946) and Bill Hicks (1961-1994).

It is the Day of Reconciliation in South Africa.

15 December 2009

Daily Chat 15/12/09

Byzantine general Belisarius defeated the Vandals at the Battle of Ticameron in 533.  The first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, was ratified in 1791.  Pushkin House was established in St. Petersburg in 1905 to preserve the cultural legacy of Alexander Pushkin.  The Leaning Tower of Pisa was reopened in 2001 after an 11 year long closure to reinforce the structure, at a cost of $27,000,000.

Believe it or not, the only vaguely interesting birthdays today are:  Nero (37-68), Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) and Dave Clark (1942).

It is Homecoming Day in (on?) Alderney.

14 December 2009

Daily Chat 14/12/09

In 1287, a dike in Friesland broke during a storm, causing one of the worst floods in history -- killing 50,000 and permanently flooding some areas.  Mary Stuart became Queen Mary I of Scotland in 1542.  The Glasgow District Railway, the third oldest subway in the world, opened in 1896.  Roald Amundsen and his team reached the South Pole in 1911.

Born today:  Nostradamus (1503-1566), Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), Aphra Behn (1640-1689), Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), Jane Birkin (1946), Chris Waddle (1960) and Michael Owen (1979).

It is apparently not a holiday anywhere in the world today, but it would be Quartidi, 24 Frimaire CCXVIII, if we were using the French Republican calendar -- Oseille (sorrel) day.

13 December 2009

Daily Chat 13/12/09

Pope Celestine V, who had attempted to flee in order to avoid becoming pope, resigned the papacy after only five months in 1294.  Abel Tasman became the first European to set foot on New Zealand in 1642.  Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt began the last moonwalk of the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.  To date, it is the last time that humans have walked on the moon.  The baiji (Chinese river dolphin) was declared functionally extinct in 2006.

Born today:  Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), Curd Jürgens (1915-1982), Dick VanDyke (1925), Christopher Plummer (1929), and Ted Nugent (1948).

It is Saint Lucia Day.  Beware of Swedish girls with candles on their heads.

12 December 2009

Daily Chat 12/12/09

Guglielmo Marconi received the first transAtlantic radio signal at St. Johns, Newfoundland, in 1901.  Delhi replaced Calcutta as the capital of India in 1911.  Father Flanagan founded Boys Town, Nebraska, in 1917.  Jomo Kenyatta became the first President of Kenya in 1964.  Rhodesia changed its name to Zimbabwe in 1979.  A three-train crash at Clapham Junction killed 35 people and injured 500 in 1988.

Born today:  Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), Connie Francis (1938), Dionne Warwick (1940), Emerson Fittipaldi (1946), Tom Wilkinson (1948), Bill Nighy (1949) and our very own Hank Scorpio (1965) and scherfig (1960-something).

It is Neutrality Day in Turkmenistan.

11 December 2009

Daily Chat 11/12/09

Llewelyn ap Gruffydd was killed near Cilmeri in 1282.  The citizens of Geneva repelled a surprise attack by the Duke of Savoy and Philip III of Spain in 1602.  Arthur Lewis was the last person to be executed in Canada in 1962.  Boris Yeltsin ordered Russian troops into Chechnya in 1994.

Born today:  Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), Pérez Prado (1916-1989), Rita Moreno (1939) and our very own Bitterweed, some time in the mid-20th Century.

Hanukkah begins at sundown.

10 December 2009

Daily Chat 10/12/09

Martin Luther burnt his copy of the papal bull Exsurge Domine, which demanded that he retract 41 'errors' in his 95 Theses by this date.  William Tecumseh Sherman's troops reached Savannah in 1864.  Along their march from Atlanta, begun on 15 November, they destroyed 300 miles of railroad tracks, destroyed bridges and telegraph wires, confiscated 5000 horses, 4000 mules and 15,000 head of cattle.  Edward VIII signed the Instrument of Abdication in 1936.  Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978.

Born today:  Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), César Franck (1822-1890), Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), Rumer Godden (1907-1998) and Kenneth Branagh (1960).

It is Human Rights Day.

09 December 2009

Daily Chat 09/12/09

The Virgin of Guadalupe first appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico City in 1531.  The first episode of Coronation Street aired in 1960.  Small pox was certified to have been eradicated in 1979.

Born today:  John Milton (1608-1674), Dolores Ibárruri (1895-1989), Hermione Gingold (1897-1987), Jean de Brunhoff (1899-1937), Kirk Douglas (1916), Judi Dench (1934), Joan Armatrading (1950), Donny Osmond (1957) and Jakob Dylan (1969).

It is International Anti-Corruption Day.

08 December 2009

Daily Chat 08/12/09

Margaret Hughes became the first actress to perform on a public English stage in 1660, playing Desdemona in  a production by the King's Company at the Vere Street Theatre.  Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.  John Lennon was murdered in by Mark David Chapman in New York City in 1980.

Born today:  Horace (65-8 BC), Jean Sebelius (1865-1957), Diego Rivera (1886-1961), James Thurber (1894-1961), Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925-1990), Maximilian Schell (1930), James Galway (1939), Jim Morrison (1943-1971), fellow Iowegian Bill Bryson (1951) and Sinéad O'Connor (1966).

Zen and Shin Buddhists observe Bodhi Day today.

07 December 2009

Daily Chat 07/12/09

The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden opened as the Theatre Royal in 1732.  The first production was William Congreve's The Way of the World.  Delaware became the first state to ratify the US Constitution in 1787.  Max Planck discovered the law of black body emissions in 1900.  The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.  An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale shook Spitak, Armenia, in 1988, leaving 25,000 dead, 15,000 injured and 400,000 homeless.

Born today:  Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), Willa Cather (1873-1947), Louis Prima (1910-1978), Noam Chomsky (1928), Tom Waits (1949) and John Terry (1980).

It is Dìa de las Velitas in Colombia.

06 December 2009

Daily Chat 06/12/09

Colonel Pride purged the Long Parliament in 1648, which is a good enough excuse to listen to this.  Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849.  The Thirteeenth Amendement to the US Constitution, ending slavery, was ratified in 1865.  The Mont Blanc, a French cargo ship fully loaded with munitions, collided with the Norwegian ship, Ivo, in the harbour at Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1917.  The explosion devastated the city, killing around 2,000 people and injuring 9,000 -- 6,000 with serious injuries.

Born today:  Gunnar Myrdal (1898-1987), Dave Brubeck (1920), Steven Wright (1955), Nick Park (1958) and Andrew Flintoff (1977).

It is Independence Day in Finland and Constitution Day in Spain.

05 December 2009

Daily Chat 05/12/09

Cicero read the last of his Catiline Orations in 63 BC.  Christopher Columbus became the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola in 1492.  Prohibition was repealed in 1933, with passage of the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution.  Big day for modernisation in Britain in 1958:  Subscriber Trunk Dialling was inaugurated by a phone call placed by Brenda, in Bristol, to the Lord Provost in Edinburgh and the Preston Bypass was opened.  In 2007, a gunman armed with an AK-47 entered the Von Maur department store at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska.  He killed eight people and injured four others before killing himself.

Born today:  Christina Rosetti (1830-1894), Fritz Lang (1890-1976), Walt Disney (1901-1966), Otto Preminger (1906-1986), José Carreras (1946), Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards (1963) and John Rzeznik (1965).

It is National Day and the King's Birthday in Thailand.

04 December 2009

Daily Chat 04/12/09

The Battle of Lund, one of the bloodiest battles in Scandinavian history, took place on this day in 1676, as King Christian V attempted to retake the province of Skåne from the Swedes.  The first edition of The Observer was published in 1791.  The Montreux Casino caught fire from a flare set off during a Frank Zappa concert.  Deep Purple is eternally grateful.  Terry Anderson was released from captivity in Beirut after seven years in 1991.

Born today:  Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), Ronnie Corbett (1930), Horst Buchholz (1933-2003), Chris Hillman, Anna McGarrigle and Dennis Wilson were all born in 1944.

Christians in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine celebrate Eid il-Burbara today.

03 December 2009

Daily Chat 03/12/09

I was going to do a standard Daily Chat thread.  Had it written up.  Had a completely unrelated image chosen, since none of today's events and birthdays readily suggested one.  But as I typed up the information about what was supposed to have been today's last item, it felt wrong to do it as just another item.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster.  Disaster doesn't seem like the right word, somehow.  Approximately 3800 people died in the immediate aftermath of the leak.  Somewhere between 8000 to 10,000 were dead within 72 hours and estimates of injuries range from 150 to 600 thousand.  In the 25 years since the disaster, it is estimated that 25,000 have died from injuries and illness resulting from the disaster.

Warren Anderson, who was the CEO of Union Carbide in 1984, was arrested at that time but released on bail.  He fled the country and has not been extradited by the United States.  The company paid $470 million in damages and less than $200 million of that had been paid out to victims and survivors as of 2002.  By contrast, Exxon was fined $5,000,000,000 for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which resulted in no human deaths. Apparently American wildlife is more valuable than Indian humans?

02 December 2009

Daily Chat 02/12/09

The University of Leipzig opened in 1409.  The second Eddystone Lighthouse was destroyed by fire in 1755.  (The first had been destroyed in the Great Storm of 1703.  They're apparently on the fourth one now.)  Pu Yi became Emperor of China at the age of two in 1908.  And Benazir Bhutto became the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1998.

Born today:  Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and Maria Callas (1923-1977).

It is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

01 December 2009

Daily Chat 01/12/09

John, 8th Duke of Braganza, was declared King of Portugal in 1640, putting an end to the Iberian Union.  Rosa Parks, a 42 year-old seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus.  She was charged with violating Montgomery's segregation laws.  Channel Tunnel workers from the UK and France met 40m beneath the seabed in 1990.

Born today:  Marie Tussaud (1761-1850), Lou Rawls (1933-2006), Gilbert O'Sullivan (1946) and Julee Cruise (1956).

It is Military Abolition Day in Costa Rica.

30 November 2009

Daily Chat 30/11/09

Happy St. Andrew's Day!

King Charles XII of Sweden led 8500 troops in the Battle of Narva, defeating a Russian force of 37,000 men in 1700.  Scotland and England played to a scoreless draw in the first international football match ever played in 1872.  The Folies Bergère performed for the first time in 1886.  The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936.  At least 40,000 people massed in downtown Seattle in 1999 to protest the opening of the ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation.  Police were unprepared for the scale of the demonstrations and  the presence of anarchist groups, and the protest is now known as the Battle in Seattle.

Born today:  Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Mark Twain (1835-1910), Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942), Graham Crowden (1922), Ridley Scott (1937), Billy Idol (1955) and Gary Lineker (1960).

29 November 2009

Daily Chat 29/11/09

More than 700 Colorado Territory militiamen attacked a village of Arapaho and Cheyenne, killing 133 people, including 105 women and children in 1864.  The incident is known as the Sand Creek Massacre.  The Meiji Constitution, establishing a constitutional monarchy in Japan, went into effect in 1890.  King Tutankhamen's tomb was opened to the public in 1922.  And in 1972, Atari unleashed Pong on an unsuspecting world.

Born today:  Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007), Jacques Chirac (1932), John Mayall (1933), Kasey Keller (1969) and Ryan Giggs (1973).

It is Liberation Day in Albania.

28 November 2009

Daily Chat 28/11/07

A bond of £40 was paid for the marriage licence of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway in 1582.  The Royal Society was formed in 1660.  The Times was printed by steam-powered presses for the first time in 1814, making newspapers available to a wide readership for the first time.  Women in New Zealand voted in the general election in 1893, marking the first time in any country that women were allowed to vote in a national election.

Born today:  Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), William Blake (1757-1827), Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), Nancy Mitford (1904-1973), Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) and Berry Gordy, Jr. (1929).

It is Independence Day in Albania and Mauretania.

27 November 2009

Daily Chat 27/11/09

Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade in 1095.  Macy's in New York held their first annual Thanksgiving Day parade in 1925.  The descent module of the Soviet Union's Mars 2 became the first man-made object to reach the surface of Mars when it crash landed in 1971.  Helen Clark became the first elected female Prime Minister of New Zealand in 1999.

Born today:  Anders Celsius (1701-1744), Buster Merryfield (1920-1999), Ernie Wise (1925-1999), Bruce Lee (1940-1973), Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) and Caroline Kennedy (1957).

Eid al-Adha begins at sundown.

26 November 2009

Daily Chat 26/11/09

James Cook became the first European to visit the island of Maui, in 1778.  While there, he soaked up some rays, caught some totally righteous waves and made it with a hot wahine.  Thomas Telford's Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was completed in 1805.  The heaviest rainfall ever recorded was at Basse Terre, Guadaloupe, in 1970, when 1.5 inches fell in one minute.  Last year, ten coordinated attacks in Mumbai killed 164 people and injured 250.

 Born today:  William Cowper (1731-1800), Eugène Ionesco (1909-1994), Cyril Cusack (1910-1993), Tina Turner (1939), John McVie (1945), Hilary Benn (1953) and Keith Vaz (1956).

In addition to being Thanksgiving Day here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave™, it is Independence Day in Mongolia.

25 November 2009

Daily Chat 25/11/09

Mother Nature seems to have been an especial bitch on this day throughout history.  A list of the devastation:

1343  An earthquake in the Tyrrhenian Sea created a tsunami that destroyed much of Naples
1667  An earthquake near Shemakha, in the Caucasus, left 80,000 dead
1703  The Great Storm of 1703 devastated southern England.  The storm began on 24 November, but reached a climax on 26/27 November, with winds up to 120 mph.  Somewhere between 8000-15000 people were killed (including the Bishop of Bath and Wells).  Daniel Defoe reported that 700 ships were destroyed from Shadwell to Limehouse, alone, and the Royal Navy lost 13 ships.
1759  An earthquake in the Mediterranean killed 30,000-40,000 and destroyed Beirut and Damascus.
1833  An earthquake measuring between 8.7 and 9.2 on the Richter scale created a tsunami that ravaged Sumatra.
1839  A cyclone hit India, destroying the port city of Coringa, 20,000 ships and killing 300,000 people.
1926  Twenty-seven tornadoes hit the several states in the Central US, killing 76 and injuring 400.
1950  A violent snowstorm slammed the Northeastern US and Appalachia.  The storm killed 323 people and parts of West Virginia received as much as 57 inches of snow.
1987  Typhoon Nina hit the Philippines, with wind speeds as high as 165 mph.  1036 people were killed.
1996  An ice storm hit the Midwestern US, killing 26 people.  Florida was hit with 90 mph winds on the same day.
2000  An earthquake measuring 7.0 hit Baku, Azerbaijan, killing 26 people.

Born today:  Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), Karl Benz (1844-1929), Percy Sledge (1941), Imran Khan (1952), John F. Kennedy, Jr. (1960-1999), Xabi Alonso and the Bush twins (Barbara and Jenna) were born in 1981.

It is National Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

24 November 2009

Daily Chat 24/10/09

Abel Tasman was the first European to discover an island south of Australia, which he named Van Dieman's Land, in 1642.  Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Department in 1963.  The incident was broadcast live on television, as the networks were covering Oswald's transfer at the time.  Donald Johanson and Tom Gray discovered a 40% complete skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis female in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia in 1974.  She was named Lucy, after the Beatles' song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  In 1993, eleven year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were convicted of the murder of two year-old James Bulger.

Born today:  Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), Scott Joplin (1868-1917), Ian Botham (1957) and Arundhati Roy (1961).

It is Teachers' Day in Turkey.

23 November 2009

Daily Chat 23/11/09

John Milton's Areopagitica was published in 1644.  The Cutty Sark was launched from Dumbarton in 1869.  And every sensible person's favourite sci fi television programme, Doctor Who, had its debut in 1963.

Born today:  Boris Karloff (1887-1969), Harpo Marx (1888-1964), Erté (1892-1990), Diana Quick (1946) and Asafa Powell (1982).

It is Labour Thanksgiving Day in Japan.

22 November 2009

Daily Chat 22/11/09

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species went on sale in London in 1859.  Tutankhamen's tomb was opened in 1922.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.  Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias was declared King of Spain in 1975.

Born today:  George Eliot (1819-1880), André Gide (1869-1951), Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), Terry Gilliam (1940), Tom Conti (1941), Billie Jean King (1943), Jamie Lee Curtis (1958), Boris Becker (1967) and Scarlett Johansson (1984).

It is Independence Day in Lebanon.

21 November 2009

Daily Chat 21/11/09

Judas Maccabeus restored the temple in Jerusalem in 164 BC.  The Mayflower Compact, setting out the rules by which Plymouth Colony would be governed, was signed by 41 men in 1620.  The Verrazano Narrows Bridge opened in 1964.  It was the largest suspension bridge in the world at the time.  Bombs exploded in two pubs in Birmingham, killing 21 people, in 1974.

Born today:  Voltaire (1694-1778), René Magritte (1898-1967) and Björk.

It is World Hello Day.  Greet 10 people to promote peace and better communication.

20 November 2009

Daily Chat 20/11/09

In 1820, an 80 ton sperm whale attacked the Nantucket-based whaling ship, Essex, an event that inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick.  The Nuremberg Trials began in 1945.  Brenda and Phil got married in 1947. Francisco Franco died in 1975.  He's still dead.  And a fire in Windsor Castle caused £50 million in damage.

Born today:  Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940), Alistair Cooke (1908-2004), Nadine Gordimer (1923) and Joe Biden (1942).

It is Teacher Day in Viet Nam.

19 November 2009

Daily Chat 19/11/09

Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address during the dedication of a cemetery for the soldiers lost in that battle.  (Lincoln can be seen almost exactly in the middle of the photograph.  He appears to be looking down to his right.)  In 1969, Pelé scored his 1000th goal on a penalty kick during a match between Santos and Vasco da Gama.  Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to make an official visit to Israel in 1977.

Born today:  Indira Gandhi (1917-1987), Ofra Haza (1957-2000) and Jodie Foster (1962).

It is International Men's Day.

18 November 2009

Daily Chat 18/11/09

A sea wall on the Zuider Zee broke, flooding 72 villages and leaving 10,000 dead in 1421.  William Caxton published the first book in England to be printed on a printing press in 1477.  St. Peter's Basilica was consecrated in 1626.  Members of the People's Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana, committed mass murder/suicide in 1978.  Hours after members assassinated Congressman Leo Ryan, who had come to investigate the cult, they drank poisoned Kool-Aid on the orders of cult leader Jim Jones.  There were 270 children amongst the 918 dead.  A fire in the Kings Cross/St. Pancras tube station killed 31 people in 1987.

Born today:  Margaret Atwood (1939), Graham Parker (1950), Kim Wilde (1960) and Peter Schmeichel (1963).

It is Buß- und Bettag in Saxony.

17 November 2009

Daily Chat 17/11/09

Elizabeth I became Queen of England in 1558.  The Suez Canal was inaugurated in 1869.  Nine Czech students were executed, 1200 were sent to concentration camps, and Czech universities were closed in 1939 for anti-Nazi demonstrations.  Tenzin Gyatso became the 14th Dalai Lama at the age of 15 in 1950.  And in 1989, riot police suppressed a student demonstration in Prague, sparking the Velvet Revolution.

Born today:  F.A. Möbius (1790-1868), Rock Hudson (1925-1985), Peter Cook (1937-1995), Gordon Lightfoot (1938), Auberon Waugh (1939-2001), Martin Scorsese (1942) and Jonathan Ross (1960)

It is International Students' Day.

16 November 2009

Daily Chat 16/11/09

Jadwiga was crowned King of Poland in 1384.  Prettiest king ever, so they say.  Pizarro captured the Inca emperor Atahualpa in 1532.  Fyodor Dostoevsky was sentenced to death for anti-government activities in 1849, though the sentence was later commuted to life at hard labour.  Benazir Bhutto was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988.

Born today:  W.C. Handy (1873-1958), Alexander Blok (1880-1921), Chinua Achebe (1930), Griff Rhys Jones (1953), Frank Bruno (1961), Diana Krall (1964) and Paul Scholes (1974).

It is the International Day for Tolerance, so get out there and tolerate things!

15 November 2009

Daily Chat 15/11/09

Thomas Wolsey was invested as a cardinal in 1515.  Francisco Pizarro arrived in Cuzco in 1533.  The Continental Congress approved the Articles of Confederation in 1777.  William Tecumseh Sherman's troops burn Atlanta at the beginning of Sherman's March to the Sea in 1864.  The first assembly of the League of Nations met in Geneva in 1920 and the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed in 1985.

Born today:  Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986), Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960), Petula Clark (1932) and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (1945)

It is Shichi-Go-San Day in Japan.

14 November 2009

Daily Chat 14/11/09

In 1889, pioneering female journalist Nellie Bly(aka Elizabeth Cochrane) begins a successful attempt to travel around the world in less than 80 days. She completes the trip in seventy-two days. Jules Verne eat your heart out.

Czechoslovakia became a republic on this day in 1918, while in 1940, the city of Coventry is attacked and Coventry Cathedral almost razed to the ground by the Luftwaffe.

In 1971, the Mariner 9 reaches Mars, inspiring David Bowie as well as one of the best cops shows on British television so far this century. In 1982, Lech Walesa, leader of the outlawed Solidarnosc movement in Poland, is released from internment.

Happy Birthday to Freddy Garrity of Freddie and the Dreamers, Bernard Hinault the cyclist, Letitia Dean, Sharon from EastEnders, and, interestingly, both Dominique De Villepin and Condoleezza Rice (which just goes to show that astrology must be a load of bollocks).

13 November 2009

Daily Chat 13/11/09

Slow day in history.

King Ethelred the Unready ordered the deaths of all Danes in England in 1002.  The Denny Party landed at Alki Point on the Puget Sound in 1851 and founded the settlement that became the city of Seattle.  Great Britain defeated France in the final of the first Rugby League World Cup in 1954.

Born today:  Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Hermione Baddeley (1906-1986), Jean Seberg (1938-1979), Art Malik (1952), Gerard Butler (1969) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (1969).

It is the feast day of St. John Chrysostom.  It's Tridi, 23 Brumaire CCXVIII (Garance day), if you're using the French Republican calendar.

12 November 2009

Daily Chat 12/11/09

Tibetan troops occupied the Tang dynasty capital of Chang'an for 15 days in 764.  Plymouth became the first town in England to receive a charter from Parliament in 1439.  Leon Trotsky was expelled for the Communist Party in 1927 and Seymour Hirsh broke the story of the My Lai Massacre in 1969.

Born today:  Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Roland Barthes (1915-1980), Princess Grace (1929-1982), Neil Young (1945), Nadia Comaneci (1961) and Mariella Frostrup (1962).

It is Constitution Day in Azerbaijan.

11 November 2009

Armistice Day

Four years, three months, fourteen days
9.7 million military deaths
6.8 million civilian deaths
21 million wounded

London 1918

London 2008

10 November 2009

Daily Chat 10/11/09

The Stockholm Bloodbath came to an end in 1520.  As near as I can tell, around 215 people were killed over a four-day period by Danish King Christian II's men.  René Descartes apparently had some dreams in 1619 that lead him to write Meditations on First Philosophy.  In 1969, American children were introduced to a happy world where people of all ethnicities lived in peaceful harmony with monsters and mutant birds when Sesame Street hit their tv screens.  The freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank suddenly during a storm on Lake Superior in 1975.  Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of the Movement to Save the Ogoni People were executed in Nigeria in 1995.

Born today:  Martin Luther (1483-1546), William Hogarth (1697-1764), Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931), Richard Burton (1925-1984) and Screaming Lord Sutch (1940-1999).

Turkey observes the Day of Remembrance of Ataturk today.

09 November 2009

Daily Chat 09/11/09

The de Medici became rulers of Florence in 1494.  The Treaty of Seville was signed in 1729.  The Tokugawa Shogunate ceded power to the Emperor of Japan in 1867.  Jack the Ripper killed Mary Jane Kelly, his last known victim, in 1888.  Wilhelm II abdicated in 1918.  Kristallnacht began in 1938.  This date in 1963 was especially tragic in Japan.  An explosion at the Miike coal mine killed 458 people and sent 839 to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning, while in Yokohama, a three-train collision killed 160.  And the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

Born today:  Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883), Carl Sagan (1934-1996) and Billie August (1948).

It is Independence Day in Cambodia.

08 November 2009

Daily Chat 08/11/09

Aztec emperor Montezuma welcomed Hernán Cortes into Tenochtitlán with a great celebration in 1519.  That worked out well for him, didn't it?  The Bodleian Library opened to the public in 1602.  The Louvre was opened to the public as a museum in 1793.  Wilhelm Röntgen discovered x-rays in 1895 and the death penalty was abolished in the UK in 1965.

Born today:  Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476), Edmond Halley (1656-1742), Bram Stoker (1847-1912), Christiaan Barnard (1922-2001), Alain Delon (1935), Guus Hiddink (1946), Bonnie Raitt (1949), Kazuo Ishiguro (1954), Gordon Ramsay (1966) and Joe Cole (1981).

It is Remembrance Sunday in the UK.

07 November 2009

Daily Chat 07/11/09

A meteorite landed in a wheat field near Ensisheim, Alsace, in 1492.  The London Gazette was published for the first time in 1665.  Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the US House of Representatives in 1916.  Only four months after opening, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed when steady 42 mph wind caused the bridge to begin swaying.  Carl Stokes became the first black mayor of a major US city (Cleveland) in 1967.  Douglas Wilder became the first black governor of a US state (Virginia) in 1989.  David Dinkins became the first black mayor of New York City, also in 1989 and Mary Robinson became the first female president of the Republic of Ireland in 1990.

Born today:  Captain James Cook (1728-1779), Marie Curie (1867-1934), Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), Albert Camus (1913-1960), Mary Travers (1937-2009), Jean Shrimpton (1942), Joni Mitchell (1943), Danny Grewcock (1972) and Rio Ferdinand (1978).

It is National Day in northern Catalonia.

06 November 2009

Daily Chat 06/11/09

One of those days.  Nothing interesting happened.  No one interesting born.  (Well, no one interesting who's achieved enough recognition to be in a "born today" list.  I'm guessing there are actually quite a few really nice, interesting people celebrating birthdays today.  Happy Birthday to them.)

It's Swedishness Day in Finland.

No reason for the Tasmanian devil beyond the fact that I like them.

05 November 2009

Daily Chat 05/11/09

I'm guessing you're all vaguely aware of what happened on this day in 1605.  In 1872, Susan B. Anthony cast a vote in the presidential election.  She was fined $100 for her illegal vote two weeks later, but never paid the fine.  In 1916, twelve members of the IWW from Seattle were killed when the boat they were on was fired upon by vigilantes trying to prevent them from attending a demonstration by striking IWW members in the town of Everett, Washington.  Two of the vigilantes were also killed.  IWW members were charged with the murders of the vigilantes, but charges were dropped because they'd been shot in the back by gunfire from other vigilantes.  In 1917, Communist revolutionaries overthrew the provisional government in Estonia.

Born today:  Roy Rogers (1911-1998), Vivien Leigh (1913-1967), Ike Turner (1931-2007), Lester Piggott (1935), Elke Sommer (1940), Art Garfunkel (1941), Gram Parsons (1946-1973), Peter Noone (1947) and Tilda Swinton (1960).

Happy Guy Fawkes Night!

04 November 2009

Daily Chat 04/11/09

In 1333, the Arno River flooded, causing massive damage to the city of Florence.  The Newport Rising took place in 1839.  Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the first woman to be elected governor of an American state in 1924.  In 1966, the Arno again flooded, killing 113 and leaving 30,000 homeless.

Born today:  Chris Difford (1954) and Lena Zavaroni (1963-1999).

It is the feast day of Our Lady of Kazan in the Russian Orthodox Church.

03 November 2009

Daily Chat 03/11/09

Columbus sighted Dominica in 1493.  The Times of India was founded in 1838 and in 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik II with Laika, the first mammal in outer space aboard.

Born today:  Thomas Kyd (1558-1594), Karl Baedeker (1801-1859), Jeremy Brett (1933-1995), Lulu (1948) and Adam Ant (1954).

It is Independence Day in Panama.