Tag Archives: political activist

Almanac – May 27

1894 – Dashiell Hammett born. American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories, a screenplay writer, and political activist.

Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse).

In addition to the significant influence his novels and stories had on film, Hammett is now widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time  and was called, in his obituary in The New York Times, “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.”

Time magazine included Hammett’s 1929 novel Red Harvest on a list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005.

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1907 – Rachel Carson born. American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

 Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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2011 – Gil Scott-Heron died. American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer in the 1970s and ’80s.

His collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron.

 His own term for himself was “bluesologist“, which he defined as “a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues.”

His music, most notably on Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul.

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Almanac – April 15

1452 – Leonardo da Vinci born.  Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer.

His genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance Man, a man of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination“.

 He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.

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1802 – William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy saw a “long belt” of daffodils, on a walk around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater, in the Lake District,  inspiring the former to pen I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud a couple of years later, inspired by Dorothy’s journal entry describing the walk –

When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up — But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed and reeled and danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway — We rested again & again. The Bays were stormy & we heard the waves at different distances & in the middle of the water like the Sea.

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1894 – Bessie Smith born. American blues singer. Nicknamed The Empress of the Blues, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, and is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on other jazz vocalists.

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1912 – The British passenger liner RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic at 2:20 a.m., two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg. Only 710 of 2,227 passengers and crew on board survived.

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1980 – Jean-Paul Sartre died. French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic.

He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism.

His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines.

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Almanac- April 14

1917 – L. L. Zamenhof died.  Jewish doctor, linguist, and the creator of Esperanto, the most successful constructed language.

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1929 – Gerry Anderson born.  English publisher, producer, director, and writer, famous for his futuristic television programmes, particularly those involving supermarionation, working with modified marionettes – Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray, Fireball XL5, etc.

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1935 – Erich von Däniken born. Swiss author best known for his controversial claims about extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, in books such as Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968.

Däniken is one of the main figures responsible for popularizing the “paleo-contact” and ancient astronauts hypotheses.

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1986 – Simone de Beauvoir died. French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist.

While she did not consider herself a philosopher, Beauvoir had a significant influence on both feminist existentialism and feminist theory. She wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography, monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues.

 She is perhaps  best known for her novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, as well as her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism.

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Almanac – January 29

1737 – Thomas Paine born. English political activist, author, political theorist and revolutionary. As the author of two highly influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, he inspired the American Patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment era rhetoric of transnational human rights. He has been called “a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.”

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1936 – James Jamerson born. American bass player. He was the uncredited bassist on most of Motown Records’ hits in the 1960s and early 1970s (Motown did not list session musician credits on their releases until 1971), and he is now regarded as one of the most influential bass players in modern music history. He performed on 30  number-one hits, more than any person or group in music history, and on more than 70 number-one R&B hits, also the most ever.

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1946 – Bettye Lavette born.  American soul singer-songwriter who made her first record at sixteen, but achieved only intermittent fame until 2005, with her album, I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise. Her eclectic musical style combines elements of soul, blues, rock and roll, funk, gospel, and country music.

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1958 – Linda Smith born. British stand-up comic and comedy writer. She appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4 panel games, and was voted “Wittiest Living Person” by listeners in 2002.

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2011 – Milton Babbitt died. American composer, music theorist, and teacher. He was particularly noted for his serial and electronic music.

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Almanac – January 09

1890 – Karel Čapek born.  Czech writer, his  first international success was Rossum’s Universal Robots, a dystopian work about a bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. The play was translated into English in 1922, and was being performed in the UK and America by 1923, and introduced to the world the word robot.

While it is frequently thought that he was the originator of the word, he wrote a short letter in reference to an article in the Oxford English Dictionary etymology in which he named his brother, painter and writer Josef Čapek, as its actual inventor. In an article in the Czech journal Lidové noviny in 1933, he also explained that he had originally wanted to call the creatures laboři (from Latin labor, work). However, he did not like the word, seeing it as too artificial, and sought advice from his brother Josef, who suggested “roboti”.

The word robot comes from the word robota, meaning literally serf labor, and, figuratively, “drudgery” or “hard work” in modern Czech (in Slovak, Russian, Polish, archaic Czech and other Slavic languages a similar word means simply “work”).

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1908 – Simone de Beauvoir born.  French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist.

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1911 – Gypsy Rose Lee born.  American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act. She was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.

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1918 – Battle of Bear Valley. A small engagement fought in 1918 between a band of Yaquis and a detachment of United States Army soldiers.

On January 9, 1918, elements of the American 10th Cavalry Regiment detected about thirty armed Yaquis in Bear Valley, Arizona, a large area that was commonly used as a passage across the international border with Mexico.

A short firefight ensued, which resulted in the death of the Yaqui commander and the capture of nine others. Though the conflict was merely a skirmish, it was the last time the United States Army engaged hostile native Americans in combat and thus has been seen as one of the final battles of the American Indian Wars.

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1925 – Lee Van Cleef born. American film actor who appeared mostly in Westerns and action pictures. His sharp features and piercing eyes led to his being cast as a villain in scores of films, such as Kansas City Confidential, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

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1943 – Scott Walker born. American-British singer-songwriter, composer and record producer. He is noted for his distinctive baritone voice and for the unorthodox career path which has taken him from 1960s pop icon to 21st century experimental musician.

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