Tag Archives: Surrealism

Almanac – January 08

1697Last execution for blasphemy in Britain; of Thomas Aikenhead, student, at Edinburgh. He had been indicted in December 1696, the indictment reading:

That … the prisoner had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras: That he ridiculed the holy scriptures, calling the Old Testament Ezra’s fables, in profane allusion to Esop’s Fables; That he railed on Christ, saying, he had learned magick in Egypt, which enabled him to perform those pranks which were called miracles: That he called the New Testament the history of the imposter Christ; That he said Moses was the better artist and the better politician; and he preferred Muhammad to Christ: That the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them: That he rejected the mystery of the Trinity as unworthy of refutation; and scoffed at the incarnation of Christ.

Thomas Babington Macaulay said of Aikenhead’s death that “the preachers who were the poor boy’s murderers crowded round him at the gallows, and. . . insulted heaven with prayers more blasphemous than anything he had uttered.”

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 1843 – Frederick Abberline born. A Chief Inspector for the London Metropolitan Police and was a prominent police figure in the investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. As such he’s been represented (sometimes not very authentically) in numerous works of literature, cinema and television.

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1880 – Joshua A. Norton died. The self-proclaimed Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco, California, who in 1859 proclaimed himself  Emperor of the United States  and subsequently Protector of Mexico. Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humored by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments he frequented.

Norton collapsed at a street corner, and died before he could be given medical treatment. The following day, nearly 30,000 people packed the streets of San Francisco to pay homage.

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1896 – Paul Verlaine died. French poet associated with the Symbolist movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle in international and French poetry.

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1897 – Dennis Wheatley born. English author whose prolific output of stylish thrillers and occult novels made him one of the world’s best-selling writers from the 1930s through the 1960s. His Gregory Sallust series was one of the main inspirations for Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories, but he’s perhaps better known for titles such as The Devil Rides Out, To The Devil – A Daughter, and  The Ka of Gifford Hillary. He even had a crack at the nascent UFO market (Star Of Ill-Omen, 1952).

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1935 – Elvis Presley born.

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1947 – David Bowie born.

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1948 – Kurt Schwitters died. German painter who  worked in several genres and media, including Dada, Constructivism, Surrealism, poetry, sound, painting, sculpture, graphic design, typography and what came to be known as installation art.

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1981 – A local farmer reported a UFO sighting in Trans-en-Provence, France, claimed to be “perhaps the most completely and carefully documented sighting of all time”.  

Renato Nicolaï, a fifty-five year-old farmer, heard a strange whistling sound while performing agricultural work on his property. He then saw a saucer-shaped object about eight feet in diameter land about 50 yards (46 m) away at a lower elevation.

According to the witness, “The device had the shape of two saucers, one inverted on top of the other. It must have measured about 1.5 meters in height. It was the color of lead. This device had a ridge all the way around its circumference. Under the machine I saw two kinds of pieces as it was lifting off. They could be reactors or feet. There were also two other circles which looked like trapdoors. The two reactors, or feet, extended about 20 cm below the body of the machine.”

Nicolaï claimed the object took off almost immediately, rising above the treeline and departing to the north east. It left burn marks on the ground where it had sat.

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Almanac – January 05

1895 – Elizabeth Cotten born.  American blues and folk musician, singer, and songwriter. A self-taught left-handed guitarist, Cotten developed her own original style. Her approach involved using a right-handed guitar (usually in standard tuning), not re-strung for left-handed playing, essentially, holding a right-handed guitar upside down. This position required her to play the bass lines with her fingers and the melody with her thumb. Her signature alternating bass style has become known as “Cotten picking“.

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1900 – Yves Tanguy born. French surrealist painter.

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1923 – Sam Phillips born. American businessman, record executive, record producer and DJ who played an important role in the emergence of rock and roll as the major form of popular music in the 1950s.

He was a producer, label owner, and talent scout throughout the 1940s and 1950s. He most notably founded Sun Studios and Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Through Sun, Phillips discovered such recording talent as Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. The height of his success culminated in his launching of Elvis Presley’s career in 1954.

He is also associated with several other noteworthy rhythm and blues and rock and roll stars of the period. Phillips sold Sun in 1969. He was an early investor in the Holiday Inn chain of hotels. He also advocated racial equality and helped break down racial music industry barriers.

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1979 – Charles Mingus died. American jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader. Mingus’s compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop and drew heavily from black gospel music while sometimes drawing on elements of Third Stream, free jazz, and classical music. Yet Mingus avoided categorization, forging his own brand of music that fused tradition with unique and unexplored realms of jazz.

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Almanac – December 14

1476 – Vlad Tepes died. Vlad III, The Impaler,  Prince of Wallachia, member of the House of Drăculesti. His Romanian patronymic Dragwlya (or Dragkwlya), Dragulea, Dragolea, Drăculea is a diminutive of the epithet Dracul “the Devil” carried by his father Vlad II. He might be better known in the west (with a little help from Bram Stoker) as Dracula.

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1503 – Nostradamus born. Michel de Nostredame, French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of prophecies that have since become famous worldwide. He is best known for his book Les Propheties (The Prophecies), the first edition of which appeared in 1555.

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1895 – Paul Eluard born.  French poet and one of the founders of the Surrealist movement.

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1911 – Roald Amundsen’s team, comprising himself, Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, and Oscar Wisting, became the first to reach the South Pole. Amundsen’s expedition benefited from careful preparation, good equipment, appropriate clothing, a simple primary task (Amundsen did no surveying on his route south and is known to have taken only two photographs), an understanding of dogs and their handling, and the effective use of skis. In contrast to the misfortunes of Scott’s team, Amundsen’s trek proved rather smooth and uneventful.

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1946 – Jane Birkin born. English actress and singer. She had a passionate and creative relationship with Serge Gainsbourg which, amongst other things, produced this…

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Almanac – November 21

1694 – Voltaire born. (François-Marie Arouet ).  French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, free trade and separation of church and state.

He was a prolific writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken supporter of social reform, despite strict censorship laws with harsh penalties for those who broke them.

As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day, and was one of several Enlightenment figures whose works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions.

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1898 – René Magritte born. Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. His work challenges observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality.

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1905 – Albert Einstein‘s paper, Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?,  published in the journal “Annalen der Physik”. This paper reveals the relationship between energy and mass, leading to the mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc².

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1937 – Ingrid Pitt born. Polish-born actress best known for her work in horror films of the 1960s and 1970s, icluding The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula and The Wicker Man, although she also appeared in films like Doctor Zhivago and Who Dares Wins.

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1940 – Dr. John born. American singer-songwriter, pianist and guitarist, whose music combines blues, pop, jazz as well as zydeco, boogie woogie and rock and roll.

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1953 – The British Natural History Museum announced that the “Piltdown Man” skull, initially believed to be one of the most important fossilized hominid skulls ever found, was a hoax.

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1959 – American disc jockey Alan Freed, who had popularized the term “rock and roll” and the music itself, was fired from WABC-AM radio for refusing to deny allegations that he had participated in the payola scandal.

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Almanac – November 18

2347 BC – Some say this was the day Noah’s Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Some also say that Noah was then  600 years old.

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1803 – The Battle of Vertières, the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution, was fought, leading to the establishment of the Republic of Haiti, the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere.

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1922 – Marcel Proust died. French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time; earlier translated as Remembrance of Things Past). It was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927.

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1926 – George Bernard Shaw refused to accept the money for his Nobel Prize, saying, “I can forgive Alfred Nobel for inventing dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize”.

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1936 – Don Cherry born. African-American jazz trumpetist whose career began with a long association with saxophonist Ornette Coleman.

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1952 – Paul Eluard died.  French poet and one of the founders of the Surrealist movement. During World War II, he was involved in the French Resistance, during which time he wrote Liberty (1942), Les sept poèmes d’amour en guerre (1944) and En avril 1944: Paris respirait encore! (1945). He later embraced communism, and when he  died,  from a heart attack, his funeral was organized by the Communist Party.

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1953 – Alan Moore born. English writer primarily known for his work in comic books, a medium where he has produced a number of critically acclaimed and popular series, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell. Frequently described as the best graphic novel writer in history, he has also been described as “one of the most important British writers of the last fifty years”.

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1976 – Man Ray died. American modernist artist who spent most of his career in Paris, France. He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements, although his ties to each were informal. He produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all. He was best known in the art world for his avant-garde photography, and he was a renowned fashion and portrait photographer. Ray is also noted for his work with photograms, which he called “rayographs“.

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1978 – In Jonestown, Guyana, Jim Jones led his Peoples Temple cult to a mass murder-suicide that claimed 918 lives in all, 909 of them in Jonestown itself, including over 270 children.

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Almanac – November 09

1623 – William Camden died. English antiquarian, historian, topographer, and officer of arms. He wrote the first chorographical survey of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and the first detailed historical account of the reign of Elizabeth I of England.

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1877 – Allama Muhammad Iqbal born.  Philosopher, poet and politician  in British India who is widely regarded as having inspired the Pakistan Movement. He is considered one of the most important figures in Urdu literature,  with literary work in both the Urdu and Persian languages.

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1888 –  Mary Jane Kelly murdered, generally considered the last known victim of Jack the Ripper.

Or was she ? Although the victim was found in Kelly’s room, the body was badly mutilated,  there were supposed sightings of her after she was dead, leading to the theory that someone else was using her room for purposes of prostitution and got unlucky. If Kelly did survive, she vanished from history at that point.

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1918 – Guillaume Apollinaire died. French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic born in Italy to a Polish mother.
Among the foremost poets of the early 20th century, he is credited with coining the word Surrealism and writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play The Breasts of Tiresias (1917) . Two years after being wounded in World War I, he died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 at age 38.

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1953 – Dylan Thomas died.  Welsh poet and writer.  A post mortem gave the primary cause of death as pneumonia, with pressure on the brain and a fatty liver as contributing factors.

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1967 – First issue of Rolling Stone Magazine  published.

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Almanac – October 02

OLD MAN’S DAY

Braughing, near Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire.Reign of Elizabeth I.

As the coffin of one Matthew Wall, a local farmer, apparently deceased, was being carried to the church, a bearer slipped on some dead leaves and it was dropped.
To the suprise (and probably terror) of mourners, the corpse was revived by the jolt and subsequently made a full recovery, living on to a ripe old age.
In gratitude he instituted a dole to be distributed on this day.

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1869 – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi born. Commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.

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1890 – Groucho Marx born.  American comedian and film and television star,  known as a master of quick wit and widely considered one of the best comedians of the modern era. His rapid-fire, often impromptu delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers and imitators. He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born, and  also had a successful solo career, most notably as the host of the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life. His distinctive appearance was  carried over from his days in vaudeville and  included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, glasses, cigar, and a thick greasepaint mustache and eyebrows.

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1968 – Marcel Duchamp died.  French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Considered by some to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Duchamp’s output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art.

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1959 –  The Twilight Zone premieres on CBS television in the USA.

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