Monthly Archives: September 2012

Almanac – September 30

Today is Blasphemy Day.
Blasphemy Rights Day International, on  which individuals and groups are encouraged to openly express their criticism of, or even disdain for, religion. It was founded in 2009 by the Center for Inquiry  in Amherst, New York.

Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry said regarding Blasphemy Day, “We think religious beliefs should be subject to examination and criticism just as political beliefs are, but we have a taboo on religion,” in an interview with CNN.  The day was set on September 30, to coincide with the anniversary of the publication of satirical drawings of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper, resulting in the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.

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Evidently a good day to premiere something…

The Magic Flute [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart] in Vienna in 1791.
The Pearl Fishers [Georges Bizet] in Paris, 1863.
Porgy & Bess [George Gershwin], Boston, 1935
– The first demonstration film of Cinerama – the imaginatively titled This Is Cinerama – in New York, 1952.

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1888 – The deaths of  Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, generally considered the third and fourth victims of Jack the Ripper, though its theorised that Stride may not have been a Ripper victim.

 

 

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1955 – James Dean died. American film actor and  a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled Los Angeles teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were as loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955), and as the surly ranch hand, Jett Rink, in Giant (1956). Dean’s enduring fame and popularity rests on his performances in only these three films, all leading roles. His premature death in a car crash cemented his legendary status.

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1967 –  The BBC’s  Light Programme, Third Programme and Home Service were replaced with BBC Radio 2, 3 and 4 respectively.
BBC Radio 1 – the official answer to the outlawed  pirate pop stations –  was also launched with Tony Blackburn (himself an ex-pirate) presenting the first show, and the first record played was…

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William McGonagall – Collected Poems

  Showcasing items from our online bookstore.

As today is the 110th   anniversary of the death of the near-legendary Scottish poet William McGonagall,  we take the opportunity of pointing you towards –

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AUTHOR-          William McGonagall

PUBLISHED-     Birlinn, Edinburgh. 1992

FORMAT-          Pb, 558pp

CONDITION-     Used. Some wear around the spine and cover.
Otherwise good, sound & clean condition.

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“The most startling incident in my life was the time I discovered myself to be a poet, which was in the year 1877”

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William  McGonagall (March 1825 – 29 September 1902) was a Scottish weaver, doggerel poet and actor. He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of or concern for his peers’ opinions of his work.

He wrote some 200 poems, including the infamous “Tay Bridge Disaster”, which are widely regarded as some of the worst in British history. Groups throughout Scotland engaged him to make recitations from his works; contemporary descriptions of these performances indicate that many of these listeners were appreciating McGonagall’s skill as a comic music hall character, and as such his readings may be considered a form of performance art.

The chief criticisms of his poetry are that he is deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. In the hands of lesser artists, this might generate merely dull, uninspiring verse. McGonagall’s fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings generate.

The inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most spontaneously amusing comic poetry in the English language. His work is in a long tradition of verses written and published about great events and tragedies, and widely circulated among the local population as handbills. In an age before radio and television, their voice was one way of communicating important news to an avid public.

This omnibus volume brings together his three famous collections –
•    Poetic Gems
•    More Poetic Gems
•    Last Poetic Gems

and includes all the valuable autobiographical material which appeared in the original volumes.

This book is available for purchase at a very reasonable price. You’ll need to sign up for an account with our store’s host, eBid (works basically the same as eBay, and you can use your PayPal account just the same).

Will mail worldwide.

William McGonagall –   Collected Poems page.  

Wolfs Head Bookstore front page.

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Almanac – September 29

Michaelmas
One of the old Quarter Days of the year, and also a time of hiring fairs

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1902 – William  McGonagall died. Scottish weaver, doggerel poet and actor. He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of or concern for his peers’ opinions of his work – at least that’s the official view. Contemporary accounts suggest that he was actually a pretty good performance poet,  and his works were made to hear, rather than to be read. He wrote about 200 poems, including his infamous “The Tay Bridge Disaster”, as well as one about the Victoria Hall Disaster, here in Sunderland.

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1916 – John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire during a share boom in the USA.

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1935 – Jerry Lee Lewis born. The Killer.

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1997 – Roy Lichenstein died. American pop artist. During the 1960s, along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist, and others he became a leading figure in the new art movement. His work defined the basic premise of pop art better than any other through parody, favoring the old-fashioned comic strip as subject matter, his work was heavily influenced by both popular advertising and the comic book style. He described Pop Art as, “not ‘American’ painting but actually industrial painting”.

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Almanac – September 28

The ghost of Walter Ralegh is said to walk in the gardens of his former home, Sherborne Castle, Dorset, on this day.

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551 BC – Some say this was the date of the birth of Confucius.

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935 – Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia died.  purportedly assassinated  in a plot by his own brother, Boleslav the Cruel.
He’s the “Good King Wenceslaus” of the carol.

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1066 – William the Bastard’s  army lands in  England,  beginning the Norman Conquest.

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1745 – That appalling dirge the British National Anthem had its first public performance, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, in the wake of the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Prestonpans. Which is why the original version had this verse-

Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May by thy mighty aid,
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.

Its been omitted from the current version, we dont crush Scots no more.

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1791 – France  becomes the first European country to emancipate its Jewish population.

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1836 – Thomas Crapper born. English plumber who founded Thomas Crapper & Co in London. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He did, however, do much to increase its  popularity, and developed some important related inventions, such as the ballcock.

It has often been claimed that the slang term for human bodily waste – crap –  originated with  Crapper,  the most common version of this story being that American servicemen stationed in England during World War I saw his name on cisterns and used it as army slang, i.e., “I’m going to the crapper”.

However, the word is actually of Middle English origin; and  predates its application to bodily waste. Its first application in that particular field, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, appeared in 1846 under a reference to a crapping ken, or a privy ( ken means a house).

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1928 – The U.K. Parliament passes the Dangerous Drugs Act outlawing cannabis.

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1934 – Brigitte Bardot born. French fashion model, actress, singer and animal rights activist. She was one of the best-known sex symbols of the 1960s, and in  1969 her features became the official face of Marianne (who had previously been anonymous) to represent the liberty of France.  (Marianne is a national emblem of France and an allegory of Liberty and Reason.)

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1964 – Harpo Marx died.  Second-oldest of the Marx Brothers.

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1966 – André Breton died. French writer and poet, known best as the founder of Surrealism. His writings include the first Surrealist Manifesto (Manifeste du surréalisme) of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as “pure psychic automatism”.

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1971 – The Parliament of the United Kingdom passes the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 banning the medicinal use of cannabis.

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1991 – Miles Davis died.

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Almanac – September 27

1953 – Robbie Shakespeare born. One half of Sly and Robbie, the  prolific Jamaican rhythm section and production duo, who are estimated to have played on or produced 200,000 recordings.

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1968 – The day after censorship was abolished on the British stage, the musical Hair – featuring 13 naked actors – opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London.

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Almanac – September 26

1449 – An unusual battle took place near Little Cornard, Suffolk. In a marshy field on the Suffolk/Essex border, two Dragons engaged in an hour-long combat. One was black and lived on Kedington Hill, the other “reddish and spotted”, came from Ballingdon Hill.The Red & spotted Dragon won, after which both creatures returned to their respective hills “to the admiration of many beholding them”.

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1774 – Johnny Appleseed born (as Jonathan Chapman).  American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. He became an American legend while still alive, largely because of his kind and generous ways, his great leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples.

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1888 – T. S. Eliot born. Publisher, playwright, literary and social critic and “arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century.” Although  born an American, he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 (at age 25) and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927.
The poem that made his name, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock—started in 1910 and published in Chicago in 1915—is seen as a masterpiece of the Modernist movement, and was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including Gerontion (1920), The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), and Four Quartets (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935).

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1937 – Bessie Smith died. American blues singer, probably  the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on subsequent jazz vocalists. She  was critically injured in a car accident while traveling along U.S. Route 61 between Memphis, Tennessee, and Clarksdale, Mississippi, the day before.

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1950 – Blue Moon  over Britain. A pale blue Harvest Moon shone over places as far apart as Bristol, London, Bridlington and Scotland [which also had a Blue Sun that afternoon]. An RAF plane investigated and found a thin dust layer at 43,000 feet, with a layer of ice particles in cyrrhus cloud at 20,000 to 30,000 feet.The dust was probably from an American sandstorm a few days earlier.

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Almanac – September 25

1066 – Battle Of Stamford Bridge, Yorkshire. The equally important, in many ways more important – precursor to the Battle of Hastings and the  Norman invasion of England.

An English army under Harold Godwinson, elected King of England, defeated a Norwegian invasion force commanded by Harald III of Norway.

Three days later, the Normans landed on the south coast, and the remnants of the English force had the long march south to meet them. If they hadn’t had to deal with Stamford Bridge and a few hundred miles of forced marching, the outcome of the Battle of Hastings would probably have been quite different.

Interesting to speculate what might have happened if the Norwegians had won at Stamford Bridge, since it would effectively have left three armies in the field – the Norwegians in the north, the Normans in the south, and the remnants of the English army plus whatever back-up they could draw on from the further-flung counties. Whatever, history would tell quite a different story.

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