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Almanac – June 15

1381 – Wat Tyler murdered. A leader of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, he marched a group of protesters from Canterbury to the capital to oppose the institution of a poll tax.

While the brief rebellion enjoyed early success, Tyler was killed by officers of King Richard II during negotiations at Smithfield in London.

 

 

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1785 – Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and  Pierre Romain  became the first-ever known  casualties of an air crash when their hot air balloon exploded during their attempt to cross the English Channel.
After making some progress, a change of wind direction pushed them back to land some 5 km from their starting point.

The balloon suddenly deflated (without the envelope catching fire) and crashed near Wimereux in the Pas-de-Calais, from an estimated height of 1,500 feet.
A commemorative obelisk was later erected at the site of the crash.

 

 

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1878 – Eadweard Muybridge, an English photographer,  took a series of photographs to prove that all four feet of a horse leave the ground when it runs; the study became the basis of motion pictures.

 

 

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Almanac – June 13

1381 – The Peasants Revolt led by Wat Tyler entered London and, joined by many local townsfolk, attacked the gaols, destroyed the Savoy Palace and the Temple Inns of Court, set fire to law books and killed anyone associated with the royal government.

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1884 – Gerald Gardner born. English Wiccan, as well as an author and an amateur anthropologist and archaeologist.

He was instrumental in bringing the Contemporary Pagan religion of Wicca to public attention, writing some of its definitive religious texts and founding the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca.

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Almanac – May 31

1837 – Joseph Grimaldi died.  English actor, comedian and dancer, who became the most popular English entertainer of the Regency era.

In the early 1800s, he expanded the role of Clown in the harlequinade that formed part of British pantomimes, notably at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Sadler’s Wells and Covent Garden theatres, and  became so dominant on the London comic stage that harlequinade Clowns became known as “Joey”, and both the nickname and Grimaldi’s whiteface make-up design were, and still are, used by other types of clowns. He also originated catchphrases such as “Here we are again!”, which continues to feature in modern pantomimes.
In his last years, Grimaldi lived in relative obscurity and became a depressed, impoverished alcoholic, dying at home in Islington in 1837, aged 59.

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1872 – W. Heath Robinson born.  English cartoonist and illustrator, best known for drawings of eccentric machines.

In the UK, the term “Heath Robinson” has entered the language as a description of any unnecessarily complex and implausible contraption, although it  is perhaps more often used in relation to temporary fixes using ingenuity and whatever is to hand, often string and tape, or unlikely cannibalisations.

Its popularity is undoubtedly linked to Second World War Britain’s shortages and the need to “make do and mend“.

 

 

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1996 – Timothy Leary died. American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs.

During a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment.

Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were fired from the university nonetheless because of the public controversy surrounding their research.

Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy such as “turn on, tune in, drop out” (a phrase given to Leary by Marshall McLuhan); “set and setting“; and “think for yourself and question authority“.

He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase and life extension (SMI²LE), and developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977).

During the 1960s and 1970s, he was arrested often enough to see the inside of 29 different prisons worldwide. President Richard Nixon once described Leary as “the most dangerous man in America“.
His death was videotaped for posterity at his request, capturing his final words. During his final moments, he said, “Why not?” to his son Zachary. He uttered the phrase repeatedly, in different intonations, and died soon after. His last word, according to Zach, was “beautiful.”
Seven grams of Leary’s ashes were arranged  to be buried in space aboard a rocket carrying the remains of 24 others including Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek), Gerard O’Neill (space physicist), and Krafft Ehricke (rocket scientist). A Pegasus rocket containing their remains was launched on April 21, 1997, and remained in orbit for six years until it burned up in the atmosphere.

 

 

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Almanac – May 16

1923 – Peter Underwood born.  English author, broadcaster and paranormalist,  a prolific author on books covering ghosts by region of the United Kingdom.

He is a leading expert on Borley Rectory, and  traced and personally interviewed almost every living person who had been connected with what the press had dubbed the ‘most haunted house in England’.

He built up a volume of correspondence with paranormal investigator Harry Price and after Price’s death, he became literary executor of the Harry Price Estate.

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1951 – Jonathan Richman born.  American singer, songwriter and guitarist.
In 1970 he founded The Modern Lovers, an influential proto-punk band. Since the mid-1970s, Richman has worked either solo or with low-key, generally acoustic, backing.

He is known for his wide-eyed, unaffected and childlike outlook, and music that, while rooted in rock and roll, often draws on influences from around the world.

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1953 – Django Reinhardt died. Pioneering virtuoso jazz guitarist and composer, often regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time and is the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the idiom.

Using only the index and middle fingers of his left hand on his solos (his third and fourth fingers were paralyzed after an injury in a fire), Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture.

With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.”

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Almanac – May 15

913 – Hatto I, Archbishop of Mainz, died.

One account of his death claimed he was struck by lightning,  another that he was thrown alive by the devil into the crater of Mount Etna.

His memory was long regarded in Saxony with great abhorrence, and stories of cruelty and treachery gathered round his name.

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1718 – James Puckle, a London lawyer, patented the world’s first machine gun.

Puckle demonstrated two versions of the basic design: one, intended for use against Christian enemies, fired conventional round bullets, while the second variant, designed to be used against the Muslim Turks, fired square bullets, which were considered to be more damaging and would, according to its patent, convince the Turks of the “benefits of Christian civilization.”

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1948 – Brian Eno born. English musician, composer, record producer, singer, and visual artist,  one of the principal innovators of ambient music.

He joined  Roxy Music as synthesiser player in the early 1970s, but  soon tired of touring and of conflicts with lead singer Bryan Ferry.

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1956 – Austin Osman Spare died.  English artist and occultist who worked as both a draughtsman and a painter.

 Influenced by symbolism and the artistic decadence of art nouveau, his art was known for its clear use of line, and its depiction of monstrous and sexual imagery.

In an occult capacity, he developed idiosyncratic magical techniques including automatic writing, automatic drawing and sigilization based on his theories of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious self.

Spare’s esoteric legacy was largely maintained by his friend, the Thelemite author Kenneth Grant in the latter part of the 20th century, and his beliefs regarding sigils provided a key influence on the chaos magic movement and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth.

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Almanac – May 12

1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti born. English poet, illustrator, painter and translator.

He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.

His work also influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement.

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1942 – Ian Dury born. English singer-songwriter, bandleader, artist and actor.

Dury formed Kilburn & the High Roads in 1971 –  they found favour on London’s pub rock circuit and signed to Dawn Records in 1974, but despite favourable press coverage and a tour opening for The Who, the group failed to rise above cult status and disbanded in 1975.

Their more successful successors, Ian Dury & The Blockheads,  sound drew from its members’ diverse musical influences, which included jazz, rock and roll, funk, and reggae, and Dury’s love of music hall.

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Almanac – May 05

1901 – Blind Willie McTell born (probably – the year 1898 is also given).  Piedmont and ragtime blues singer and guitarist.

He played with a fluid, syncopated fingerstyle guitar technique, common among many exponents of Piedmont blues, although, unlike his contemporaries, he came to use twelve-string guitars exclusively.

McTell was also an adept slide guitarist,  and his vocal style, a smooth and often laid-back tenor, differed greatly from many of the harsher voice types employed by Delta bluesmen, such as Charley Patton. McTell embodied a variety of musical styles, including blues, ragtime, religious music and hokum.

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1937 – Delia Derbyshire born.  English musician and composer of electronic music  and musique concrète.

She is best known for her electronic realisation of Ron Grainer‘s theme music to the British science fiction television series Doctor Who and for her work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

When Grainer first heard it, he was so amazed by her rendering of his theme that he asked “Did I really write this?” to which Derbyshire replied “Most of it”. 

Grainer attempted to get her a co-composer credit but the attempt was prevented by the BBC bureaucracy, who then preferred to keep the members of the Workshop anonymous.

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Almanac – April 23

1564 – William Shakespeare born. English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

 His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, two epitaphs on a man named John Combe, one epitaph on Elias James, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

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1907 – Lee Miller born. American photographer. She was a successful fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris, with the intention of apprenticing herself to the surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray. Although, at first, he insisted that he did not take students, Miller soon became his photographic assistant, as well as his lover and muse.

While she was in Paris, she began her own photographic studio, often taking over Man Ray’s fashion assignments to enable him to concentrate on his painting.In fact, many of the photographs taken during this period and credited to Man Ray were actually taken by Miller.

Together with Man Ray, she rediscovered the photographic technique of solarisation. She was an active participant in the surrealist movement, with her witty and humorous images.

 During the Second World War, she became an acclaimed war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.

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1965 – George Adamski died.  Polish-born American citizen who became widely known in ufology circles, and to some degree in popular culture, after he claimed to have photographed ships from other planets, met with friendly Nordic alien Space Brothers, and to have taken flights with them.

The first of the so-called contactees of the 1950s, he was called a “philosopher, teacher, student and saucer researcher“, though his claims were met with skepticism.

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1991 – Johnny Thunders died. American  guitarist, singer and songwriter. He came to prominence in the early 1970s as a member of the New York Dolls,  later played with The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist.

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Almanac – April 19

1791 – Richard Price died.  British moral philosopher and preacher in the tradition of English Dissenters, and a political pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the American Revolution.

He fostered connections between a large number of people, including writers of the Constitution of the United States. He spent most of his adult life as minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church, where possibly the congregant he most influenced was early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who extended his ideas on the egalitarianism inherent in the spirit of the French Revolution to encompass women’s rights as well.

In addition to his work as a moral and political philosopher, he also wrote on issues of statistics and finance, and was inducted into the Royal Society for these contributions.

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1928 – Alexis Korner born.  Blues musician and radio broadcaster, who has sometimes been referred to as “a Founding Father of British Blues”

A major influence on the sound of the British music scene in the 1960s, he was instrumental in bringing together various English blues musicians.

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1933 – Jayne Mansfield born. American actress in film, theatre, and television, a nightclub entertainer, a singer, and one of the early Playboy Playmates. She was a major Hollywood sex symbol of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Frequent references have been made to Mansfield’s very high IQ, which she claimed was 163.  She spoke five languages, including English,  fluent French and Spanish, German that she learned in high school, and she studied Italian .

 Reputed to be Hollywood’s “smartest dumb blonde”, she later complained that the public did not care about her brains: “They’re more interested in 40–21–35,” she said.

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