Monthly Archives: August 2012

Almanac – August 31

12 – Caligula born.

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1810 – Eliza Hancock, while gleaning in a field in the parish of Box, near Bath, was accused of stealing wheat from the sheaves, which she denied, and wished she might be struck dead if she had.

She was found dead in the field about two hours after.

The Stamford News, 1810

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1867 – Charles Baudelaire died.  French poet who produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century.

Baudelaire’s highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé among many others. He is credited with coining the term “modernity” (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.

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1888 – Mary Ann “Polly”  Nichols murdered. Generally considered the first victim of Jack The Ripper.

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1928 – The Threepenny Opera, by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, had its premier in Berlin.

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Almanac – August 30

1797 – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley born. English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet  Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

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1812 – The Observer reported: “Mr. J. Toupin, while on a sailing expedition last week, with a party of ladies and gentlemen, about a mile from Exmouth Bay, discovered an animal resembling the description given of the Mermaid.

One of the boatmen threw it some pieces of boiled fish, which it ate with apparent relish. A medical gentleman offered a reward of 20 pounds…in consequence of which all the fishermen are busily preparing to ensnare it.”

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1918 – London’s policemen went on strike against wages lower that those of unskilled workers, long hours, badly organized and unpaid overtime. Technically a mutiny, the action ended when concessions were granted.

Lloyd George was later to claim that Britain was “nearer to Bolshevism” that night than she was ever to be again.

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1995 – Sterling Morrison died. Guitarist with The Velvet Underground. Victim of  non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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Almanac – August 29

1915 – Ingrid Bergman born.  Swedish born American actress who starred in a variety of European and American films. She won three Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, and the Tony Award for Best Actress and is ranked as the fourth greatest female star of American cinema of all time by the American Film Institute. She is probably best remembered for her roles as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca (1942), and as Alicia Huberman in Notorious (1946), an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

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1920 – Charlie Parker born. American jazz saxophonist and composer. A highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop, he introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas, including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions.
Parker was an icon for the hipster subculture and later the Beat Generation, personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual, rather than an entertainer.

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1982 – Ingrid Bergman died. (see above)

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Almanac – August 28

1814 – Sheridan Le Fanu born.  Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. Perhaps best remembered for Carmilla, a compelling tale of a lesbian vampire, set in central Europe. This story was to greatly influence Bram Stoker in the writing of Dracula and also inspired several films, including Hammer’s The Vampire Lovers and  Roger Vadim’s  Blood and Roses .
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1833 – The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 received Royal Assent, abolishing slavery through most the British Empire.

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1906 – John Betjeman born. English poet, writer and broadcaster. He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture. Starting his career as a journalist, he ended it as one of the most popular British Poets Laureate to date.

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1942 – Sterling Morrison born.  Guitarist with The Velvet Underground.

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1955 – Black teenager Emmett Till  murdered in Mississippi, aged 14, after reportedly flirting with a white woman , an event that galvanized  the nascent American Civil Rights Movement.

Till was from Chicago, Illinois, visiting his relatives in the Mississippi Delta region when he spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor of a small grocery store. Several nights later, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam arrived at Till’s great-uncle’s house where they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River.

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well, now you can count them one by one
it-could-be-your-son,
and you can count them two by two,
it-could-be-me-and-you
well, into-the-river-they-go, into-the-river-they-go,
now you can count them five by five,
now-they-don’t-come-out-a-live.
now you can count them six by six
in-Mississippi, they-got-it-fixed.
now you can count them seven by seven,
Mississippi, it-ain’t-no-heav-en
now you can count them eight by eight,
and-they-were thrown-in-because-of-hate.
now you can count them Nine by Nine
and Mississippi this a no Crime
you can count them Ten by Ten
and you would wonder when the right win

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Almanac – August 27

551 BC – Birthdate given for Confucius

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1784 – First balloon ascent in Britain, by James Tytler over Edinburgh.

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1890 – Man Ray born. American modernist artist who spent most of his career in Paris, France. He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements.

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1896 – War broke out between the UK and Zanzibar. Happily, it didn’t become a prolonged affair – war was declared at 09:02, peace was declared at 09:40, making this 38-minute long war the shortest on record.

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1913 – Russian pilot Lieutenant Peter Nesterov became the first person to perform the loop-the-loop.

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1937 – Alice Coltrane born. American jazz pianist, organist, harpist, and composer. Wife of John Coltrane.

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1967 – Brian Epstein died.  English music entrepreneur, best known for being the manager of The Beatles. He died of an overdose of Carbitral, a form of barbiturate or sleeping pill.

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1975 – Emperor Haile Selassie died. Revered as the returned messiah of the Bible, God incarnate, among the Rastafari.

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Almanac – August 26

1880 – Guillaume Apollinaire born.   French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic. Among the foremost poets of the early 20th century, he is credited with coining the word Surrealism and writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play The Breasts of Tiresias (1917).



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1930 – Lon Chaney, Sr. died.  American actor during the age of silent films. He is regarded as one of the most versatile and powerful actors of early cinema, renowned for his characterizations of tortured, often grotesque and afflicted characters, and his groundbreaking artistry with makeup. He was known for his starring roles in such silent horror films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. His ability to transform himself using makeup techniques he developed earned him the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Faces.”

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1944 – Maureen “Moe”  Tucker born.  Drummer with The Velvet Underground.

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1958 – Ralph Vaughan Williams died.  English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many folk song arrangements set as hymn tunes, and also influenced several of his own original compositions.  My favorite British classical composer.

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50 Shades Of Grey

“Whenever books are burned, men too are eventually burned.”

(attributed to Heinrich Heine, 1797-1856)

I have to admit I’ve not read current publishing success 50 Shades Of Grey, although I have read various reviews and comments, as well as extracts from the book itself. The general opinion seems to be that it’s badly written soft-porn, or more precisely something apparently called “mummy porn” (which sounds like something dubious  indulged in by certain archaeologits and curators of museum Egyptology departments.)

But I digress – 50 Shades.. sounds crap, it probably is crap, so I’ll give it a miss, thanks. Some may get a kick out it, and good luck to them.

So I was a little suprised to see that a womens group from this very city have launched a campaign against the book, collecting copies of it with the intention of burning them all on Bonfire Night (November 5th).

Clare Phillipson, director of Wearside Women In Need, told local rag the Sunderland Echo that:   “It’s absolutely disgusting. It normalises abuse, degrades women and encourages sexual violence.”

“With it being in the media so much many men and women have rushed out to buy it, and many have come to me and told me how distressed they are by what’s written. Passages in it are about women submitting to men, obeying their orders and violence being used in a sexual and erotic manner. It’s disgusting and sends out the wrong message.”

“I’ve come across people who have been confused by it, people who have been enraged by it and others that are bewildered. Some women come away thinking ‘is this how I should be behaving in the bedroom’ and ‘is there something wrong with me because I’m not’ and that’s not right.

“It sends out the idea that this kind of Mr Rochester character is a heroic romantic and masculine in his domination. Really he controls the powerless, unworldly girl who must submit to his temper. It is not how a relationship between a man and woman should be. In this day and age, books like this should not be written.They send out the wrong message and are in fact encouraging abuse, sexism and misogyny.”

I’m certain that  WWIN do sterling work in their chosen  field of domestic violence, but they’ve sure  got a lot to learn about human psycholology – you could  almost guarantee that a denouncement like that will intiate a stampede to the local bookshops by people who probably were only dimly aware of the book’s existence before – as one comment on the Echo’s website said: “Well done ladies, the book is selling like hot cakes in Asda this morning. I don’t see any if them ending up in your bin and I don’t see the fire brigade needing to worry about this bonfire. I doubt there’ll be enough heat to cook a sausage.”

It’s a strange situation –

– The offending book was written by a woman (a man might have made her do it, but I suspect not.)

– It seems to be primarily aimed at, and bought by, women and

– Its women protesting against it and threatening to burn it.

What worries me, though, is when people start dictating what other people should or should not be writing, publishing or reading, as well as making wildly generalized statements about the effect the said book will have on its readership.  I’ve recently been doing a bit of background reading on the Jack the Ripper murders – not fiction like 50 Shades…  but real women who suffered the ultimate abuse. But it hasn’t encouraged me to start behaving in a similar manner, nor all the other men – and women – who’ve read the same books. If it did, we’d be knee-deep in bodies and prostitution as an industry would just about be wiped out.

Some readers of 50 Shades… may find it disturbing, some may be turned on by it and good luck to them. The majority will probably say “God, why did I waste money on that piece of shit ?”

But really, you’ve got to let them find out for themselves.

Mr. Frankenstein

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