Tag Archives: humanist

Almanac – May 03

1469 – Niccolò Machiavelli born.  Italian historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He was for many years an official in the Florentine Republic, with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs.

He was a founder of modern political science, and more specifically political ethics. He also wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is renowned in the Italian language.

He was Secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power.

He wrote his masterpiece, The Prince, after the Medici had recovered power and he no longer held a position of responsibility in Florence.

His moral and ethical beliefs led to the creation of the word machiavellianism which has since been used to describe one of the three dark triad personalities in psychology.

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1932 – Charles Fort died. American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena.

Today, the terms Fortean and Forteana are used to characterize various such phenomena. Fort’s books sold well and are still in print today.

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1940 – Conny Plank born.  German record producer and musician.  

His creativity as a sound engineer and producer helped to shape many innovative recordings of postwar European popular music, covering a wide range of genres including progressive, avant-garde, electronic music and krautrock. His immense catalog of work has greatly influenced modern studio production and engineering techniques.

As a musician, Plank is credited on albums by Guru Guru, Kraan, Cluster, Liliental and Os Mundi.

He collaborated with Dieter Moebius on five Moebius & Plank studio albums recorded between 1979 and 1986. The Moebius & Plank sound foreshadowed techno and electronica and influenced many later musicians.

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1963 – The police force in Birmingham, Alabama switched tactics and responded with violent force to stop the “Birmingham campaign” protesters. Images of the violent suppression are transmitted worldwide, bringing new-found attention to the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

The Birmingham campaign was a movement organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to bring attention to the unequal treatment that black Americans endured in Birmingham.

Led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, the spring 1963 campaign of nonviolent direct actions culminated in widely publicized confrontations between black youth and white civic authorities, and eventually led the municipal government to change the city’s discrimination laws.

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Almanac – March 09

1763 – William Cobbett born.  English pamphleteer, farmer and journalist, who was born in Farnham, Surrey. He believed that reforming Parliament and abolishing the rotten boroughs would help to end the poverty of farm labourers, and he attacked the borough-mongers, sinecurists and “tax-eaters” relentlessly. He was also against the Corn Laws, a tax on imported grain.

Early in his career, he was a loyalist supporter of King and Country: but later he joined and successfully publicised the radical movement, which led to the Reform Bill of 1832, and to his winning the parliamentary seat of Oldham. Although he was not a Catholic, he became a fiery advocate of Catholic Emancipation in Britain.

Through the seeming contradictions in Cobbett’s life, his opposition to authority stayed constant. He wrote many polemics, on subjects from political reform to religion, but is best known for his book from 1830, Rural Rides, which is still in print today.

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1895 – Leopold von Sacher-Masoch died.  Austrian writer and journalist, who gained renown for his romantic stories of Galician life. The term masochism is derived from his name.

During his lifetime, Sacher-Masoch was well known as a man of letters, a utopian thinker who espoused socialist and humanist ideals in his fiction and non-fiction.

Most of his works remain untranslated into English. The novel Venus in Furs is his only book commonly available in English… and also (coincidently ?) the name of a song by the Velvet Underground – see John Cale, below.

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1930 – Ornette Coleman born.  American saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s

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1942 – John Cale born.  Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of The Velvet Underground.

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1994 – Charles Bukowski died. American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles.  It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work.

Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife“.

Regarding Bukowski’s enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, “the secret of Bukowski’s appeal. . . [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero.”

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Almanac – January 24

41 – Roman Emperor Caligula assassinated by his  Praetorian Guards, who then proclaimed Caligula’s uncle Claudius as Emperor.

There are few surviving sources on Caligula’s reign, although he is described as a noble and moderate ruler during the first two years of his rule. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, extravagance, and sexual perversity, presenting him as an insane tyrant.

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76 – Hadrian born.  Roman Emperor from 117 to 138,  best known for building Hadrian’s Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain.

In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in most of his tastes. He was the third of the so-called Five Good Emperors.

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1947 – Warren Zevon born. American rock singer-songwriter and musician. He was known for the dark and somewhat bizarre sense of humor in his lyrics.

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1986 – L. Ron Hubbard died.  American pulp fiction author and the founder of the Church of Scientology. After establishing a career as a writer, becoming best known for his science fiction and fantasy stories, he developed a self-help system called Dianetics which was first published in May 1950.

He subsequently developed his ideas into a wide-ranging set of doctrines and rituals as part of a new religious movement that he called Scientology. His writings became the guiding texts for the Church of Scientology and a number of affiliated organizations that address such diverse topics as business administration, literacy and drug rehabilitation.

He suffered a stroke on January 17, 1986, and died a week later.His body was cremated following an autopsy and the ashes were scattered at sea.

Scientology leaders announced that his body had become an impediment to his work and that he had decided to “drop his body” to continue his research on another planet, having “learned how to do it without a body.”

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