Almanac – January 11

1928 – Thomas Hardy died. English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist, in the tradition of George Eliot, he was also influenced both in his novels and poetry by Romanticism, especially by William Wordsworth. Charles Dickens is another important influence, and, like Dickens, he was also highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society.

While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life, and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially therefore he gained fame as the author of such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895).

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1906 – Albert Hofmann born.  Swiss scientist known best for being the first person to synthesize, ingest, and learn of the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Hofmann was also the first to isolate, synthesize, and name the principal psychedelic mushroom compounds, psilocybin and psilocin. He authored more than 100 scientific articles and a number of books, including LSD: My Problem Child.

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2007 – Robert Anton Wilson died. American author and polymath who became at various times a novelist, philosopher, psychologist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, civil libertarian and self-described agnostic mystic.

Wilson described his work as an “attempt to break down conditioned associations, to look at the world in a new way, with many models recognized as models or maps, and no one model elevated to the truth”. His goal being “to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone but agnosticism about everything.”

Among Wilson’s 35 books, and many other works, perhaps his best-known volumes remain the cult classic series The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975), co-authored with Robert Shea. Advertised as “a fairy tale for paranoids,” the three books–The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan, soon offered as a single volume—philosophically and humorously examined, among many other themes, occult and magical symbolism and history, the counterculture of the 1960s, secret societies, data concerning author H.P. Lovecraft and author and occultist Aleister Crowley, and American paranoia about conspiracies and conspiracy theories.

Wilson and Shea derived much of the odder material from letters sent to Playboy magazine while they worked as the editors of the Playboy Forum. The books mixed true information with imaginative fiction to engage the reader in what Wilson called “guerrilla ontology” which he apparently referred to as “Operation Mindfuck” in Illuminatus!

The trilogy also outlined a set of libertarian and anarchist axioms known as Celine’s Laws (named after Hagbard Celine, a character in Illuminatus!), concepts Wilson revisited several times in other writings.

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2010 – Mick Green died. English rock and roll guitarist who played with Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas, and from the 1970s with reformed versions of The Pirates, a band well able to give the young guns of Punk a run for their money.

His ability to play lead and rhythm guitar simultaneously influenced a number of British guitarists to follow, including Pete Townshend and Wilko Johnson.

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