Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guy Fawkes est mort

1606 Westminster, London, UK: Guy Fawkes (b. 1570), the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions, jumped to his death from the gallows moments before his execution for treason in the plot to blow up James I of England. The punishment for treason involved the offender being dragged on hurdles through the streets to the execution-place, hanged, but taken down while still alive, castrated, disembowelled and cut into quarters (as four of the Gunpowder Plotters were executed on January 30). Fawkes was thus mutilated after his death.
Gunpowder Plot     More, in the Scriptorium

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on this day, January 30

Mohandas Gandhi1948 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi; b. 1869), Indian leader and proponent of civil disobedience was assassinated in New Delhi by a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse. The Mahatma (Great Soul) was on his way to evening prayer at Birla House.

Gandhi's principle of satyagraha – using nonviolent methods when working for social change – not only helped deliver independence to India, but has also inspired countless activists, such as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. During a trip to India in 1959, King met some of Gandhi's followers and decided the Gandhian method was the one to use in the US civil rights movement, though King had been influenced by Gandhi (and Henry David Thoreau, one of Gandhi's influences) as early as 1950.
The Indian lawyer, activist and spiritual leader was shot three times in the chest from point blank range. Gandhi died with the name of Lord Rama on his lips – his last words: "Hey Ram!"

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Born on this day in 1888, was a bloke who has changed all our live with his music:

LeadbellyLeadbelly (Huddie William Ledbetter), multi-instrumentalist American blues singer, who twice sang himself out of jails, and who helped to inspire the folk and blues revivals of the 1950s and '60s. (Some sources give January 15 and perhaps others as Leadbelly's date of birth.) In Texas, it was a song written for the Governor that won his freedom. In Louisiana, John and Alan Lomax discovered him in Angola Prison and persuaded the Governor to set him free.
Pete Seeger and The Weavers took his (Goodnight) Irene to the top of the charts just six months after the great blues artist died of amyathopic lateral sclerosis on Devcember 6, 1949. Rock Island Line was a hit for Lonnie Donegan and Leadbelly's classic Cottonfields became a major success for the Beach Boys ...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 28 is a day to consider Serendipity, one of my favourite words

See also: fortune, luck
1754 English politician and writer, Horace Walpole (1717 - '97), in a letter to Sir Horatio Mann, explained how he coined the word 'serendipity'. He said that he based it on the title of a fairy story, The Three Princes of Serendip, because the princes "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of". 'Serendip' is the Persian name for Sri Lanka.
One of my favourite shops in my home town of Bellingen is called Serendipity. Not only does the word fascinate me for various other reasons, like my son Remy's mother coming from Sri Lanka, I find some great cheap stuff at that shop, because it is like a bargain centre, with excellent inexpensive, new goods from all around the world. Damn! I should ask Bronwyn to pay for that 'free' ad.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Book of Days

On this day in 1810, was born  Robert Chambers (d. March 17, 1871), who grew to become a Scottish publisher, geologist, proto-evolutionary thinker, author and journal editor who, like his elder brother and business partner William Chambers, was highly influential in mid-19th-Century scientific and political circles.

Chambers was an early phrenologist, and was the anonymous author of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, which was so controversial that his authorship was not acknowledged until after his death.

I borrowed extensively from Chambers, for text and images, when building this almanac. I would catch a bus from Palm Beach, were I was a caretaker for a multi-millionaire, and copy everything by hand, then come home and below a poor light, transcribe as much as I could. (I'm not whingeing, I had a wonderful time at Palmy, mostly). At the Mitchell Library, at a book sale, I got Volume 1 of Chambers's book, but haven't been able to find Volume II. If you have a copy, and wish to part with it, please name your price.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The South Sea Bubble

 On this day, January 22, was, in

South Sea Bubble, 17201720 The beginning of the infamous South Sea Bubblethe name given to the economic bubble which occurred due to overheated speculation in and subsequent disastrous collapse of the South Sea Company.
In 1717, in England, a group of speculative merchants (including the English statesman Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford, and Edward Gibbon, the grandfather of the famous historian), who had formed a huge corporation called the South Sea Company, proposed to the government that they should take on the national debt of 30,981,712 pounds. The public had confidence in the scheme and stock rose from 130 per cent to 300. Only soon-to-be Prime Minister Robert Walpole opposed the scheme, and he warned the country of the likely consequences, but was ignored.
The speculators spread rumours about their prospects in places such as Mexico and Peru, and stock went to 400, then settled at 330. Soon after the bill was passed by parliament, the stocks went up to 340. Crafty speculators made huge profits with sham or 'bubble' companies. The Prince of Wales (later King George I) was said to have reaped 40,000 pounds. Such investors merely put money in to raise the public hope, only to pull it out again as stocks rose. One of the schemes was "A company for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is" ...

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20: F Matthias Alexander

Australian therapist F Matthias Alexander teaching the Alexander Technique to American educator John Dewey1869 F Matthias Alexander (Frederick Matthias Alexander; d. October 10, 1955), Australian actor and elocutionist who developed the educational process that is today called the Alexander Technique – a method of helping people learn to free habitual reactions of moving, learned by improving one's kinesthetic judgment. He was born in Tasmania, later moved to Melbourne, and finally settled in London in 1904.
Some people who used the Alexander Technique: John Cleese, Aldous Huxley, Nikki Tinbergen, guitarist Julian Bream, flautist James Galway, educator John Dewey (who had Alexander Technique lessons for 35 years) and New Zealand anthropologist, Derek Freeman.
During Australia's bicentennial celebrations in 1988, Alexander was recognised as one of the two hundred great Australians.

Seeya tomorrow. OK? Cool.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19, 1809: That remarkable Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allen Poe

Poe coincidences
There are few persons, even among the calmest thinkers, who have not occasionally been startled into a vague yet thrilling half-credence in the supernatural, by coincidences of so seemingly marvellous a character that, as mere coincidences, the intellect has been unable to receive them.
Edgar Allan Poe
October 28, 1884: The Times of London reported that in a life boat on the open sea, a cabin boy named Richard Parker had been cannibalised by the three surviving crew members of the wrecked yawl Mignonette. In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe had published a story called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym which told of a parallel set of circumstances to the Mignonette's misfortune, in which a sailor was also eaten. His name was Richard Parker. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ben Franklin, born on this day in 1706

Benjamin Franklin 

Young Franklin1706 Benjamin Franklin (d. April 17, 1790), American journalist, publisher, author, philanthropist, public servant, scientist, diplomat, and inventor who was also one of the leaders of the American Revolution, known also for his many quotations and his experiments with electricity. He corresponded with members of the Lunar Society and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1775, Franklin became the first US Postmaster General.
Franklin was born on January 6, 1706, which was then Epiphany, but in 1752, when he was 46, England and her colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar and also changed to New Style, which dropped 11 days. Thus we remember this American 'Renaissance man' on January 17.
Long before there was Wilson's Almanac, there was Poor Richard's Almanac, by Ben Franklin, the first American bestselling book, which gave the young Franklin financial security to begin his life's work doing … absolutely everything.
The prodigious accomplishments of the boy who left school aged ten include: the foundation of the Society to Abolish Slavery and the American Philosophical Society, the first US hospital and its first lending library, its first police and fire departments and the first American fire insurance company. He invented the lightning rod, a platform rocking chair, the step ladder that folds down into a chair, the Franklin stove (still popular today) and bifocals. He created the first efficient postal service in the USA, and an academy that became the University of Pennsylvania
He was America's first newspaper cartoonist; the US Ambassador to England and France (helping to cement the alliance so valuable to the American Revolution); a musician, philanthropist, cartographer, linguist and printer. He sat on the committee that drafted the US Declaration of Independence. He founded a popular publication, the Pennsylvania Gazette, later to become The Saturday Evening Post. He invented swim fins, and a tool to get books off of high shelves; he headed the Pennsylvania delegation to the Albany Congress; he established two major fields of physical science, electricity and meteorology. Old Ben wrote a scientific essay that for the first time described the existence of the Gulf Stream.
He also wrote essays on how to select a mistress (pick an older woman) –  he was something of a ladies' man and a member of England's infamous and licentious Hellfire Club* – and how to avoid flatulence (drink perfume); in 1737 he drew up the first formal list of American slang terms for drunkenness (coming up with an impressive 228).
On top of all that, he was also said to have been a likeable man.
There is the story of the young Franklin arriving in Philadelphia so poor that all he could buy was a penny-roll to eat. A local girl, Deborah Powell, laughed at him. Years later she became his common-law wife.
"Franklin appears to have been the first to use, at least in print in English, these electrical terms: armature, battery, brush, charged, charging, condense, conductor, discharge, electrical fire, electrical shock, electrician, electrified, electrify, electrized, Leyden bottle, minus (negative or negatively), negatively, non-conducting, non-conductor, non-electric, plus (positive or positively), stroke (electric shock), uncharged."
Benjamin Franklin, by Carl Van Doren, 1939
 How did he do it all in one lifetime? His extraordinary autobiography tells, among many things, of his daily regimen.
Many sayings commonly used today were written by Ben Franklin:
Keep conscience clear, then never fear.
Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Don't throw stones at your neighbors', if your own windows are made of glass.
God helps them that help themselves.
For want of a nail a shoe is lost; for want of a shoe a horse is lost; for want of a horse the rider is lost.
(Sayings from Poor Richard's Almanac)
" … invented swim fins, bifocals, a glass armonica, watertight bulkheads for ships, the lightning rod, a wood stove, and an odometer. While serving as Postmaster General in 1775, Franklin decided to analyze the best routes for delivering the mail. He invented a simple odometer to help measure the mileage of the routes that he attached to his carriage."   Source
*The Hellfire Club
"The Hell Fire Club initially was based at Medmenham Abbey which Sir Francis bought and converted into an erotic garden. The members of the Hell-Fire club took part in mock religious ceremonies and used masks and costumes to allow them to indulge in varying degrees of debauchery. Medmenham gained some notoriety so the Hell Fire club moved to a more secluded site at West Wycombe caves. Members of the club included Sir Francis Dashwood, the Earl of Sandwich, Thomas Potter (the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury), John Wilkes, William Hogarth, the Earl of Bute, the Marquis of Granby, the Prince of Wales and possibly Benjamin Franklin and Horace Walpole. It was alleged that the 'monks' took prostitutes down the Thames from London in barges to act as masked 'nuns'. The members of the Club also were accused of celebrating the Black Mass over the naked bodies of aristocratic ladies, one of whom was Lady Mary Montagu Wortley, the mother-in-law of the Earl of Bute."  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Concordia, today


ConcordiaFeast day of Concordia, ancient Rome
In Roman mythology, Concordia was the goddess of agreement and understanding. Her oldest temple was on the Forum Romanum and was built in 367 BCE by Marcus Furius Camillus. The Roman Senate often met there.
In art, Concordia was depicted sitting, wearing a long cloak and holding onto a sacrificial bowl and a cornucopia. Sometimes, she is shown standing between two members of the Royal House shaking hands ...

Sunday, January 15, 2012


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