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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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Almanac – October 26

 

899 – Alfred the Great died. King of Wessex from 871 to 899,  Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against  Viking attempst at conquest, and by his death had become the dominant ruler in England. He is the only English monarch to be accorded the epithet “the Great”.

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1440 – Gilles de Rais died. Gilles de Montmorency-Laval (1404–1440), Baron de Rais, was a Breton knight, a leader in the French army and a companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc. He is best known, however, for  his reputation and conviction as a prolific serial killer of children.

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1764 – William Hogarth died. English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called “modern moral subjects”. Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as “Hogarthian.”


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1881 – The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place at Tombstone, Arizona, at about 3:00 p.m. Generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Old West, the gunfight, believed to have lasted only about thirty seconds, was fought between the outlaw cowboys Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and his brother Frank McLaury, and the opposing lawmen Virgil Earp and his brothers Morgan and Wyatt Earp, aided by Doc Holliday acting as a temporary deputy of Virgil.

Cowboys Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran from the fight unharmed, but Ike’s brother Billy Clanton was killed, along with both McLaurys. Lawmen Holliday and Morgan and Virgil Earp were wounded. Only Wyatt Earp came through the fight unharmed.

The fight has come to represent a time in American history when the frontier was open range for outlaws opposed by law enforcement that was spread thin over vast territories, leaving some areas unprotected.

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1911 – Mahalia Jackson born. American gospel singer. Possessing a powerful contralto voice, and known  as “The Queen of Gospel”,  Jackson became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She was described by entertainer Harry Belafonte as “the single most powerful black woman in the United States”. She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen  million-sellers.
“I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free,” Jackson once said about her choice of gospel, adding, “It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.”

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1977 – The last natural case of smallpox was discovered in Merca district, Somalia. The WHO and the CDC consider this date the anniversary of the eradication of smallpox, the most spectacular success of vaccination.

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1985 – The Australian government returned ownership of Uluru to the local Pitjantjatjara Aborigines.

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Almanac – August 5

Oyster Day

Traditionally the beginning of the oyster-eating season.

Greengrocers rise at dawn of Sun
August the fifth – come haste away
To Billingsgate the thousands run
Tis Oyster Day ! Tis Oyster Day !

Every-Day Book, 1829

It was thought that anyone eating an oyster on this day would not lack for money for the rest of the year [an idea no doubt encouraged by oyster-sellers – “the more you eat, dearie, the richer you’ll be.”]

Kids in parts of London used to take more practical steps towards ensuring prosperity by gathering discarded oyster shells and building with them cone-shaped grottos with lighted candles inside or on top, exhibiting them on the streets and begging coins from passers-by for their efforts.

910 – The last major Danish army to raid England was defeated at the Battle of Tettenhall by the allied forces of Mercia and Wessex, led by King Edward the Elder and Earl Aethelred of Mercia.

1850 – Guy de Maupassant born.  19th-century French writer, considered one of the fathers of the modern short story and one of the form’s finest exponents.

1862 – Joseph Merrick born. Englishman with severe deformities who was exhibited as a human curiosity, popularly known as  the  Elephant Man.

1895 – Friedrich Engels died.  German-English industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx.

1925 – Plaid Cymru  formed with the aim of disseminating knowledge of the Welsh language that was at the time in danger of dying out. As a political party in Wales it advocates the establishment of an independent Welsh state. It won its first seat in 1966 and  by 2012 had 1 of 4 Welsh seats in the European Parliament, 3 of 40 Welsh seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, 11 of 60 seats in the National Assembly for Wales, and 206 of 1,264 principal local authority councillors.

1962 – Nelson Mandela  jailed. He would not be released until 1990.

1962 – Marilyn Monroe died.  Dr. Thomas Noguchi of the Los Angeles County Coroners office recorded cause of death as “acute barbiturate poisoning”, resulting from a “probable suicide”. Many theories, including murder, circulated about the circumstances of her death and the timeline after the body was found. Some conspiracy theories involved John and Robert Kennedy, while other theories suggested CIA or Mafia complicity. It was reported that President Kennedy was the last person Monroe called.

Mr. Frankenstein

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