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.