30 April 2010


Supernova SN 1006, the brightest supernova in recorded history, appeared in the constellation Lupus in 1006.  George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States at Federal Hall in New York in 1789.  The 1938 FA Cup Final between Huddersfield Town and Preston North End was the first ever to be televised.  Queen Beatrix ascended the throne of the Netherlands in 1980.

Born today:  Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967), Jane Campion (1954) and Lars von Trier (1957).

It is Queen's Day in the Netherlands and Walpurgis Night wherever Walpurgis Night is celebrated (Valborgsmässoafton in Sweden -- lovely way to spend an evening).

29 April 2010


The first Moorish forces to arrive on the Iberian peninsula, led by Tariq ibn-Ziyad, landed at Gibraltar in 711. Joan of Arc arrived to relieve the Siege of Orleans in 1429.  James Cook arrived at Botany Bay in 1770.  A cyclone with winds as high as 155 mph slammed the Chittagong region of Bangladesh in 1992, killing more than 138,000 people and leaving 10 million homeless.

Born today:  Duke Ellington (1899-1974), Zubin Mehta (1936), Tommy James (1947) and Daniel Day-Lewis (1957).

It is Showa Day in Japan.

28 April 2010


Captain William Bligh and 18 sailors were set adrift from the HMS Bounty in 1789.  The USSR annexed Azerbaijan in 1920.  Australia's worst mass murder happened in 1996 when a gunman in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killed 35 people and injured 21 others.

Born today:  Lionel Barrymore (1878-1954), Kurt Gödel (1906-1978), Oskar Schindler (1908-1974), Feruccio Lamborghini (1916-1993), Alistair MacLean (1922-1987), Blossom Dearie (1926-2009), Harper Lee (1926), Ann-Margaret (1941), Terry Pratchett (1948), Bruno Kirby (1949-2006), Walter Zenga (1960) and Penélope Cruz (1974).

It is National Heroes' Day in Barbados.

27 April 2010


An impoverished John Milton sold the copyright to Paradise Lost for £10 in 1667.  Beethoven composed Für Elise in 1810.  The foundation stone was laid for the Palace of Westminster in 1840.  The riverboat Sultana exploded on the Mississippi River in 1865, killing 1700.  Most of the dead were Union soldiers, survivors of the Andersonville and Cahaba prisoner of war camps.  Expo 67 opened in Montreal.  Betty Boothroyd became the first female Speaker of the House of Commons in 1992.  Zambia's national football team was killed in an airplane crash on its way to Senegal for a World Cup qualifying match in 1993.

Born today: Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), Samuel F.B. Morse (1791-1872), Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), Anouk Aimée (1932), Kate Pierson (1948), Sheena Easton (1959), Russell T. Davies (1963) and Darcy Bussell (1969).

It is National War Veterans' Day in Finland.

26 April 2010


Giuliano de'Medici was killed by members of the Pazzi family in the Duomo during High Mass in 1478.  Guernica was bombed by the Luftwaffe in 1937.  Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania in 1964.  The nuclear accident at Chernobyl happened in 1986.

Born today:  John James Audubon (1785-1851), Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), I.M. Pei (1917), Giorgio Moroder (1940) and Jet Li (1963).

As luck would have it, it is Union Day in Tanzania.  Go figure.

25 April 2010


Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719. The US declared war on Spain in 1898. Watson and Crick published the paper detailing their discovery of the double helix in 1953.

Birthdays: Oliver "Bastard" Cromwell (1599); Guglielmo Marconi (1874); Walter de la Mare (1956); Ella Fitzgerald (1917); Albert King (1923); Al Pacino (1940).

24 April 2010


This is the date traditionally given for the Greeks' use of the Trojan Horse to defeat Troy in 1184 BC.  The United States Library of Congress was established in 1800.  In 1915, 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested in Turkey, an event seen as the beginning of the Armenian genocide.  The Easter Rising in Ireland began in 1916.  The 17th Century warship Vasa was salvaged from Stockholm harbour in 1961.  Alexander Komarov became the first man to die in space exploration in 1967, when the parachute on Soyuz 1 failed to deploy.

Born today:  Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), Shirley MacLaine (1934), Jill Ireland (1936-1990), Barbra Streisand (1942), Captain Sensible (1954) and Paula Yates (1959-2000).

It is Republic Day in the Gambia.

23 April 2010


Happy St. George's Day!

You know how Google anticipates your search and gives you suggestions?  When I typed "st george flag" (I don't bother capitalising when I'm doing a Google search -- it's not case sensitive and that shift key is just such a pain...), Google added the word "racist" at the top of the anticipated searches.  How freaking sad is that?  Time to reclaim the flag of St. George from racist fuckwits, perhaps?

As most of you surely know, it's also the day designated as Shakespeare's birthday in 1564 and the day he died, in 1616.  Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra also died on this day in 1616 and those lovely Catalonians celebrate la Diada de Sant Jordi by giving each other roses and books.  That's a holiday I could get into, so:

¡Feliç diada de Sant Jordi!


22 April 2010


Around 50,000 people rushed into the Oklahoma Territory at noon in 1889 to stake homestead claims.  Pravda was published for the first time in 1912.  An explosion in Guadalajara in 1992 killed 206, injured about 500 and left 15,000 homeless.

Born today:  Henry Fielding (1707-1754), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Madame de Staël (1766-1817), V.I. Lenin (1870-1924), Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), Charles Mingus (1922-1979), George Cole (1925), Laurel Aitken (1927-2005), Jack Nicholson (1937), John Waters (1946), Peter Frampton (1950), Paul Carrack (1951), Sean Lock (1963) and Kakà (1982).

It is Earth Day here in the US.

21 April 2010


This is the traditional date given for the founding of Rome in 753 BC.  Henry VIII ascended to the throne in 1509.  Republic of Texas troops, led by Sam Houston, defeated Santa Anna's forces in the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836.  Brasília became the capital of Brazil in 1960.  The Seattle World's Fair opened in 1962.  Haile Selassie visited Jamaica in 1966 -- a day that is commemorated by Rastafarians as Groundation Day.  Around 100,000 students gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989 for a peaceful protest.

Born today:  Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), John Muir (1838-1914), Anthony Quinn (1915-2001), John Mortimer (1923-2009), Brenda (1926), Iggy Pop (1947), Robert Smith (1959), James McAvoy (1979).

(Late) Happy Birthday to the Duke and (if my reading of things is correct) to NapoleonKaramazov today!

20 April 2010


The University of Rome La Sapienza was founded in 1303.  Oliver Cromwell dissolved the Rump Parliament in 1653.  Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard completed the first tests of pasteurisation in 1862.  Pierre and Marie Curie refined radium chloride in 1902.  Billie Holiday recorded "Strange Fruit" in 1939.  Enoch Powell delivered his "Rivers of Blood" speech in 1968.  In 1999, twelve students and one teacher were killed and 24 other students were injured at Columbine High School in Colorado when two students went on a shooting rampage through the school.

 Born today:  Muhammad (571-632), Joan Miró (1893-1983), Lionel Hampton (1908-2002), Tito Puente (1923-2000), George Takei (1937).

It is the feast day of Blessed Oda of Brabant.

19 April 2010


At 9:02 a.m. on 19 April 1995, a truck containing more than 2200 kg of explosives was detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6 who were in a federal employees' daycare centre located in the building.  The bomber and his three co-conspirators were not Muslim fundamentalists who supposedly hated us for our freedom.  They were white Americans who thought that they were fighting tyranny.

It would be nice to think that Americans learned a lesson from the Oklahoma City bombing, but apparently we haven't.  The conditions that created the climate in which Timothy McVeigh thought that bombing a federal building and killing other Americans was an act of heroism are with us again, perhaps in an even more intense form.  Right-wing extremists have much easier access to each other, to feed off each other's hatred and paranoia through the internet.  Inflammatory anti-government rhetoric is normalised by right-wing talk radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy and by Fox News personalities like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.  

Even prominent Republican politicians feel comfortable fanning the flames.  Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said of Nancy Pelosi, "she should be put on the firing line."  House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said that Rep. Steve Driehaus, a Democrat also from Ohio, would be "a dead man" when he returned to his district, after having voted for the healthcare reform bill.  And the ever-charming Sarah Palin told a gathering of Tea Partiers, "Don't retreat -- reload!"

Ten members of the US House of Representatives and at least two US senators (Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both of Washington) have received death threats since the passage of the healthcare reform bill.  The brother of one Democratic congressman returned home to find a propane line at his home severed after his address was published on a Tea Party blogger who mistakenly thought that it was the congressman's address.  The constituency offices of two Democratic congresswomen and the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Sedgwick County, Kansas, have been vandalised.

Not one, but two "Right to Carry" protests are scheduled to take place in the Washington D.C. area today.  One will be held on the Mall by the Washington Monument.  The other will be across the river in Virginia.  That one was moved to Virginia to allow participants to open carry weapons during the demonstration.  

One of the most chilling things, to me, is that in Oklahoma of all places, conservative members of the Oklahoma legislature are discussing the formation of an officially-sanctioned militia with the express purpose of "defending Oklahoma from an over-reaching federal government".

I have no statistics or studies to back this up, but I believe that the safety and security of an average American is in far greater danger from white people who consider themselves good Christians and patriots than from anyone or anything else.

What a wonderful way to memorialise 168 innocent people who were killed by right-wing extremists.

18 April 2010


The cornerstone of St. Peter's Basilica was laid in 1506.  An earthquake measuring approximately 7.9 on the Moment Scale devastated San Francisco in 1906, leaving at least 3000 dead.  Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980.

Born today:  Thomas Middleton (1580-1627), Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), Margaret Hassan (1945-2004), Hayley Mills (1946), David Tennant (1971) and our very own BeautifulBurnout.

Happy Birthday, BB!

17 April 2010


Geoffrey Chaucer first told some of the Canterbury Tales at the court of Richard II in 1397.  The Republic of Ireland came into being at midnight in 1949.  A group of CIA funded and trained Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs to attempt to overthrow Castro's government in 1961.  The republics of Bangladesh and Sierra Leone were created in 1971 and the 335 year-old, casualty-free war between the Netherlands and the Scilly Isles came to an end in 1986.

Born today:  Karen Blixen (1885-1962), Thornton Wilder (1897-1975), William Holden (1918-1981), Jan Hammer (1948), Olivia Hussey (1951), Nick Hornby (1957), Sean Bean (1959) and Victoria Beckham (1974).

It is Women's Day in Gabon.

16 April 2010


Masada fell to the Romans in 73.  Martin Luther made his first appearance before the Diet of Worms in 1521.  The Battle of Culloden was in 1746.  Lenin arrived in Petrograd in 1917.  Bob Feller pitched the only Opening Day no-hitter in the history of Major League Baseball in 1941.  An explosion on a freighter in the port of Texas City, Texas, in 1947 set fire to the city.  At least 600 people were killed and 5000 were injured in the town, the population of which was only 15,000 at the time.  At Virginia Technical University in 2007, a student went on a shooting rampage, killing 32 people and injuring 25 others.

Born today:  Elisabeth-Louise Vigée le Brun (1755-1842), Anatole France (1844-1924), John Millington Synge (1871-1909), Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977), Spike Milligan (1918-2002), Merce Cunningham (1919-2009), Peter Ustinov (1921-2004), Kingsley Amis (1922-1995), Henry Mancini (1924-1994), Dusty Springfield (1939-1999), Gerry Rafferty (1947), Rafa Benítez (1960) and Pierre Littbarski (1960).

I'm sure it's the feast day of some obscure saint, but I forgot to write one down & can't be bothered to look now.

15 April 2010


Insulin first became available for use in 1923.  Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, becoming the first black man to play Major League Baseball.  Today is the 21st anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Born today:  Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Henry James (1843-1916), Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983), Bessie Smith (1894-1937), Prof. Em. Thomas S. Szasz, Claudia Cardinale (1939), Dave Edmunds (1944), Emma Thompson (1959), Samantha Fox (1966), Emma Watson (1990).

As you know, I don't normally do the anniversaries of people who died on this date, but (as a list) the people who died on this date are, generally, more interesting that those who were born on this date, so here they are (with the year of their death, only):

Filippo Brunelleschi (1446), Madame de Pompadour (1764), Mikhail Lomonosov (1765), Abraham Lincoln (1865), Matthew Arnold (1888), Robert Musil (1942), Jean Paul Sartre (1980), Corrie ten Boom (1983), Jean Genet (1986), Greta Garbo (1990), Leslie Charteris (1993) and Joey Ramone (2001).

Careful readers will notice something else interesting about today's births/deaths.  It's the first time since we went to this daily thread format that I've noticed this particular thing occurring.

14 April 2010


The first abolitionist society in North America was formed by Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush in 1775. They gave it the snappy name, The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.  Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre in 1865.  The Titanic hit an iceberg in 1912, resulting in 1517 deaths.  A 1999 hailstorm in Sydney cause A$2.3 billion in damage -- the costliest natural disaster in Australian history.

Born today:  John Gielgud (1904-2000), Rod Steiger (1925-2002), Loretta Lynn (1935), Julie Christie (1941), Ritchie Blackmore (1945), Robert Carlyle (1961).

It is the Day of Mologa in Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia and New Year's Day in several South & SE Asian cultures.

13 April 2010


Constantinople fell to the Fourth Crusade in 1204.  Henri IV issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598.  The first public performance of Handel's Messiah took place in Dublin in 1742.  Parliament granted freedom of religion to Roman Catholics in 1829 and Hungary became a republic in 1849.

Born today:  Catharine de Medici (1519-1589), Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Richard Trevithick (1771-1833), F.W. Woolworth (1852-1919), Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), Eudora Welty (1909-2001), Howard Keel (1919-2004), Stanley Donan (1924), Edward Fox (1937), Seamus Heaney (1939), Christopher Hitchens (1949), Peter Davison (1951), Rudi Völler (1960), Garry Kasparov (1963), Carles Puyol (1978).

It is Songkran (New Year) in Thailand and Laos.

12 April 2010


The trial of Galileo Galilei for heresy began in 1633.  Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumpter in 1861, beginning the US Civil War.  The Salk polio vaccine was declared safe for use in 1955.  Yuri Gagarin became the first man in outer space in 1961 and Disneyland Paris opened in 1992 as Euro Disney.

Born today:  Montserrat Caballé (1933), Alan Ayckbourn (1939), Herbie Hancock (1940) and Bobbie Moore (1941).

It is the feast day of Zeno of Verona.

11 April 2010


The last execution for witchcraft in Germany was in 1775.  The inaugural concert at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw was in 1888.  Fifty-one tornadoes in six states on Palm Sunday in 1965 left 256 people dead.  Three hundred police and 65 civilians were injured during riots in Brixton in 1981.

Born today:  Peter Riegert (1947), Neville Staple (1955), Stuart Adamson (1958-2001), Jeremy Clarkson (1960) and Anton Glanzelius, the cute little boy from Mitt liv som hund, turns 36 today.  Boy do I feel old.

It is Juan Santamaría Day in Costa Rica.

10 April 2010


Mt. Tambora, in Indonesia, began eruptions in 1815 that would continue until 15 July.  It was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, killing 71,000 people, of whom 11,000-12,000 died as a direct result of the eruptions.  The remainder died mostly of starvation and disease brought about by the destruction of agriculture in the area.  The original Big Ben was cast in 1858, but it cracked in testing.  The Titanic left Southampton in 1912.

Born today:  William Hazlitt (1778-1830), Matthew Perry (1794-1858), Max von Sydow (1929), Omar Sharif (1932), Gloria Hunniford (1940), Bunny Wailer (1947) and Brian Setzer (1959).

It is the feast day of William of Occam.  I'm sure he was a nice guy and all, but that razor of his wouldn't shave hair off a bowling ball.

09 April 2010


Robert de la Salle found the mouth of the Mississippi River and claimed the entire river basin for France in 1682.  Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia in 1865, ending the US Civil War.  Marian Anderson performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, after having been denied to perform at Constitution Hall, owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution.  The first British-built Concorde took its maiden flight in 1969.  Twenty people were killed in Tblisi in 1989, when Soviet troops dispersed what had been a peaceful anti-Soviet demonstration.

Born today:  Isambard Brunel (1806-1859), Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), Paul Robeson (1898-1976), Jean Paul Belmondo (1933) and Dennis Quaid (1954).

It is the feast day of Saint Waltrude.

08 April 2010


Winchester Cathedral was dedicated in 1093.  The Venus de Milo was discovered on the island of Melos in 1820.  Liaquat Ali Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru signed the Liaquat-Nehru Pact in 1950, intended to guarantee minority rights in Pakistan and India and avert a war between them.  Jomo Kenyatta was sentenced to 7 years of hard labour and indefinite detention thereafter for alleged involvement in the Mau Mau Rebellion in 1952.

Born today:  Mary Pickford (1892-1979), Sonja Henie (1912-1969), Jacques Brel (1929-1978), Kofi Annan (1938), Vivienne Westwood (1941) and Julian Lennon (1963).

Japan is celebrating Hanamatsuri today.

07 April 2010


Charles University in Prague was founded in 1348.  Mount Vesuvius had a major eruption in 1906 which killed more than 100 people, destroyed a few villages and covered Naples in ash.  Josip Broz Tito was declared President for Life in 1963.

Born today:  William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Billie Holiday (1915-1959), Ravi Shankar (1920), Andrew Sachs (1930), Ian Richardson (1934-2007), Francis Ford Coppola (1939), David Frost (1939), Gordon Kay (1941), Janis Ian (1951), Jackie Chan (1954), Russell Crowe (1964), Franck Ribéry (1983).

It is the feast day of Blessed Notker.

06 April 2010


Richard I died of an infection in 1199.  Jan van Riebeeck started a re-supply camp on the Cape of Good Hope that would become Cape Town in 1652.  Napoleon was exiled to Elba in 1814.  The first modern Olympics began in Athens in 1896.

Born today:  Raphael (1483-1520), Jean-Baptiste Rousseau (1671-1741), Alexander Herzen (1812-1870), André Previn (1929), Paul Daniels (1938) and Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute (1941).

It's Tartan Day.

05 April 2010


St. Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary in 456.  Pocahontas married John Rolfe in 1614.  The first civic public park opened in 1874 in Birkenhead.  Mahatma Gandhi was arrested for making salt in 1930.

Born today:  Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Joseph Lister (1827-1912), Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), Spencer Tracy (1900-1967), Betty Davis (1908-1989), Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989), Gregory Peck (1916-2003), Nigel Hawthorne (1929-2001), Jane Asher (1946) and Agnetha Fältskog (1950).

It is Hansik in Korea.

04 April 2010


Awkward day for me to deal with.  As many of you know, Dr. King is one of my heroes, so I don't think I could treat the anniversary of his assassination as just one event among others to have occurred on this date.  But it is also Easter, which should be celebrated as a joyous holiday.  So here are two rather incongruous images/thoughts for the day:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
15/01/29 - 04/04/68

And Happy Easter, Everyone!

03 April 2010


Edward the Confessor became King of England in 1043.  The first successful run of the Pony Express from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, began in 1860.  President Harry S. Truman signed the Marshall Plan in 1948.

Born today:  George Herbert (1593-1633), Washington Irving (1783-1859), Leslie Howard (1893-1943), Doris Day (1922), Marlon Brando (1924-2004), Jane Goodall (1934), A.C. Grayling (1949) and Richard Thompson (1949).

It is the feast day of St. Richard of Chichester.

02 April 2010


Haile Selassie was declared Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930.  The first official panda crossing was placed near Waterloo Station in 1962.  Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982 and Rita Johnston became the first female premier of a Canadian province in 1991, when she became Premier of British Columbia.

Born today:  Charlemagne (742-814), Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), Emile Zola (1840-1902), Max Ernst (1891-1975), Alec Guinness (1914-2000), Marvin Gaye (1939-1984), Penelope Keith (1940), Leon Russell (1942), Roshan Seth (1942), Emmylou Harris (1947), Camille Paglia (1947), Linford Christie (1960) and Teddy Sheringham (1966).

It is World Autism Awareness Day.

01 April 2010


Berwick upon Tweed was captured by the Scots in 1318.  Household Words began publishing Charles Dickens's Hard Times as a serial in 1854.  The Royal Canadian Air Force was established in 1924.  Same-sex marriage became legal in the Netherlands in 2001.

Born today:  Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), Edmond Rostand (1868-1918), Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), Toshiro Mifune (1920-1997), Milan Kundera (1929), Debbie Reynolds (1932) Wangari Maathai (194), Jimmy Cliff (1948), Gil Scott-Heron (1949) and Susan Boyle (1961).

Contrary to what my 8 year-old self thought, today is not Monday Thursday.