Tom's Book of Days
      April 11-20  



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April 11


ladies and gentlemen, it is star time

1814: Napoleon is exiled to Elba

1846: Mexican general Pedro de Ampudia sends a letter of protest to US general Zacchary Taylor: "Hostilities ... have been begun by the United States of America.... Your government ... has not only insulted but also exasperated the Mexican nation, bearing its conquering banner to the left bank of the Rio Bravo [called by the US the Rio Grande].... I required you [within] ... twenty-four hours to break up your camp and retire to the other bank of the Nueces River." See The US-Mexican War.

1956: "The HAAAARDEST working man in SHOW business, Mr. PLEASE PLEASE himSELF, the STAR of the SHOW, JAMES BROWN!" has his first hit, as Please, Please, Please debuts on the R&B chart.

1961: The trial of Adolph Eichman begins in Jerusalem.

April 12





1204: Members of the Second Crusade sack the Christian city of Constantinople.

1857: The first installment of Madame Bovary is published in the Revue de Paris.

1877: The first catcher's mitt is used in a baseball game in Lynn, Massachusetts.

1888: Albert Nobel, inventor of dynamite, is mistakenly thought to have died, and an obituary call hims "a merchant of death." This gets him thinking and ultimately leads to the establishing of the Nobel Prize.

1923, 1933: A great birthday for sopranos: Maria Callas is born in Greece, and ten years later Montserrat Caballé in Barcelona.

1940: Italy annexes Albania.

1945: Franklin Roosevelt dies of a stroke in Warm Springs, Georgia, after sharing lunch with his former paramour Lucy Mercer, whom Eleanor (whose secretary she had been) had pronounced strictly and forever off limits.

1954:The American Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) begins hearings to revoke Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance. Oppenheimer had led the scientists making the atomic bombs during the WW II Manhattan Project but had come to regard the bomb as a weapon of genocide.

1961: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man to orbit the Earth. The controls in his capsule, which is called Vostok, are locked to prevent him from taking control of the ship. He would die in a plane crash in 1968.

1963: Civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, are set upon by dogs and cattle prods.

1968: Sheep deaths in the appropriately named Skull Valley, Utah, are attributed by the National Communicable Disease Center to a nerve gas sprayed earlier by the Army on the nearby Dugway Proving Grounds (despite obstructions and denials from the army).

1985: Federal inspectors declare that four animals of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus are not unicorns but rather goats with surgically implanted horns.

1988 Sonny Bono is elected Mayor of Palm Springs, California.

1988: The first U.S. patent is issued on an animal life form, for a genetically engineered mouse.

The Harvard Oncomouse was genetically altered to be highly susceptible to breast cancer. It was developed by Harvard University with funding from Du Pont. Although the patent is owned by Harvard Medical School, an earlier commercialization arrangement leaves DuPont entitled to exclusive license of the patent. DuPont has claimed patent protection on any anticancer product ever derived from the mice. A major financial magazine labeled the mouse the product of the year. Thus animals can now have their genetic makeup altered to serve as a tool for corporate profit.
      --Today in Science History

April 13


guy fawkes


1570: Guy Fawkes is born (see November 5).

1901: Jacques Lacan is born.

1906: Samuel Beckett is born.

1946: Al Green is born.

April 14


v. mayakovsky

w. guthrie

74: 967 Jews, under attack from the Roman Tenth Legion, commit suicide within the fortress of Masada on this night (according to the historian Josephus).

1722: Miss Elizabeth Russel of Streatham, England, is buried at the age of 104. Most remarkable to her neighbors, she is found to be a man.

1865: US President Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC, and Secretary of State Seward is attacked with a Bowie knife by co-conspirator Lewis Paine.

1930: Vladimir Mayakovsky, betrayed by Stalinist purges, commits suicide.

      in my teeth too,
      and I'd rather
      romances for you--
      more profit in it
      and more charm.
      But I
      setting my heel
      on the throat
      of my own song.
            --Vladimir Mayakovsky, "At the Top of My Voice," 1930

1935: BLACK SUNDAY: During the Dust Bowl, a dust storm blackens the sky in several plains states.

      It fell across our city
      Like a curtain of black rolled down,
      We thought it was our judgment
      We though it was our doom.

            --Woodie Guthrie.

April 15


bessie smith


1452: Leonardo da Vinci is born.

1898: Bessie Smith is born in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

1912: The steamer Titanic hits an iceberg and sinks, taking with her 1513 of the 2224 passengers.

1961: CIA invasion force lands at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. It will be defeated within two days.


April 16


albert hoffman

1844: Jacques Anatole François Thibault (Anatole France) is born.

1889: Charlie Chaplin is born.

1937: German planes bomb Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

1922: Kingsley Amis is born.

1943: Albert Hoffman accidentally absorbs lysergic acid diethylamide. Before long all hell breaks loose.

April 17


heroic pooch



ST. HILDEGUND'S DAY: St. Hildegund is the patron saint of cross-dressers (among them my beloved
great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Dorothy Jones).

1521: Martin Luther is excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

1847: "A very romantic young lady, rescued from drowning, while in a state of insensibility, declared upon reviving, that she must and would marry the noble preserver of her life. On enquiring the name of her generous deliverer, to her great dismay she learned it was a Newfoundland dog" (Scientific American, vol. 2, no. 30, April 17, 1847).

1850: In a confrontation presaging the Civil War, Mississippi Senator Henry Foote, a slaveholder, threatens Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton with a pistol in the Senate chamber during a debate about slavery.

Here, Senator Foote suddenly broke off. Benton had stood up at his desk, pushed his chair violently from him, and started walking down the passage behind the bar toward Foote's seat. Now Foote backed down the aisle toward the Vice-President's dais, drawing and cocking as he did so a five-chambered loaded revolver. At first Benton, checked by his old friend Senator Dodge of Wisconsin, had started back toward his seat, but when he saw the pistol he turned and followed the retreating pistol-wielder down the aisle. Pandemonium ... Senators leaping from their seats ... calls for the Sergeant-at-Arms ... cries for order ... while Dodge tried forcibly to detain Benton, and a number of other Senators surrounded Foote. But Benton would not be restrained and continued his advance toward Foote, who crouched by the Vice-President's desk, pistol still pointed at Benton. As he stode forward, Benton called out in what one observer remembered as a "loud and defiant" voice:
    "Let hiim fire! Stand out of the way! I have no pistols! I disdain to carry arms! Stand out of the way, and let the assassin fire!" But while Foote still held his gun, he was nearer fleeing than firing.
    Finally, Senator Dickinson of New York confiscated the revolver and locked it in his desk, and both Benton and Foote were persuaded to return to their seats. Blandly, Clay intoned, "I hope that order will be preserved." Immediately, Benton rose in his place:
    MR BENTON. We are not going to get off in this way. A pistol has been brought here to assassinate me ...
    MR. FOOTE. I brought it here to defend myself.
    MR. BENTON. Nothing of the kind, sir. It is a false imputation. I carry [no pistol], and no assassin has a right to draw a pistol on me.
    SEVERAL SENATORS. "Order," "order."
    MR. BENTON. It is a mere pretext of the assassin. Will the Senate take notice of it, or shall I be forced to take notice of it by going and getting a weapon myself?
    The Senate established a committee of seven to investigate the affair. Benton peppered its chairman (the Whig Senator from Maryland, James A. Pearce), with letters, expressing his willingness to testify; insisting that Senators Dodge, Jones, Bright, Bradbury, and Hamlin, all Democrats, be called as witnesses; complaining that the committee was putting himself and his antagonist "very much on a footing"; and insisting that the committee consider his charge of premeditated malice on Foote's part. He urged District Attorney Tindall of Washington to bring the matter before a grand jury for criminal action.
    At the end of July, Pearces's committee reported. It condemned Foote for precipitating the threat of violence by introducing "offensive and insulting" personalities without "any sufficient provocation," noted that Benton had conducted himself "for a long time with great forbearance," but rapped him for finally respinding in kind. It absolved Foote of "any design or desire to assassinate MR. BENTON," but condemned him for "wearing arms" in the Senate, while it held him justified in the belief that Benton intended to "assault" or "intimidate" him. As to action, the committee forebore recommending any - and there the matter dropped.
        --William Nisbet Chambers, Old Bullion Benton, Little, Brown, 1956

1961: Cuba crushes the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) invasion, takes 1200 prisoners.

1966: The Beatles record Revolver at Abbey Road in London.

1998: Octavio Paz dies in Mexico City.

April 18


singing cowboy

1775: Paul Revere warns the citizens of Massachusetts of the approach of the British.

1839: Charles Baudelaire is expelled from College Louis-le-Grand, where he was difficult and rebellious, often fighting with other students. Following his expulsion, his mother sent him away on a merchant cruiser to remove him from "bad influences."

1906: The great San Francisco Earthquake, estimated at 7.9-8.3 on the Richter Scale, destroys much of the city. Van Ness Avenue (wide for an SF street) marks the line where the fire that resulted from the earthquake was stopped.

1936: Gene Autry records Back in the Saddle Again.

April 19


will adams

1600: Englishman Will Adams arrives as a castaway in Japan (known to the Japanese as Miura Anjin, he will continue to be celebrated in festival of that name).

It was agreed that we should leave the coast of Peru and direct our course for Japan, having understood that cloth was good merchandise there and also how upon that coast of Peru the king's ships were out seeking us, having knowledge of our being there, understanding that we were weak of men, which was certain, for one of our fleet for hunger was forced to seek relief at the enemies' hands in Saint Ago. So we stood away directly for Japan, and passed the equinoctial line together, until we came in twenty-eight degrees to the northward of the line, in which latitude we were about the twenty-third of February, 1600. We had a wondrous storm of wind as ever I was in, with much rain, in which storm we lost our consort, whereof we were very sorry. Nevertheless with hope that in Japan we should meet the one the other, we proceeded on our former intention for Japan, and in the height of thirty degrees sought the northernmost cape of the fore-named island, but found it not by reason that it lay false in all cards and maps and globes; for the cape lies in thirty-five degrees and one half, which is a great difference. In the end, in thirty-two degrees and one half we came in sight of the land, being the nineteenth day of April. So that between the Cape of St. Maria and Japan we were four months and twenty-two days; at which time there were no more than six besides myself that could stand upon his feet.
    So we in safety let fall our anchor about a league from a place called Bungo. At which time came to us many boats and we suffered them to come aboard, being not able to resist them, which people did us no harm, neither of us understanding the one the other. The king of Bungo showed us great friendship, for he gave us a house and land, where we landed our sick men, and had all refreshing that was needful. We had when we came to anchor in Bungo, sick and whole, four and twenty men, of which number the next day three died. The rest for the most part recovered, saving three, which lay a long time sick, and in the end also died.
        --from a letter written by Will Adams in1611

1882: Charles Darwin is born.

1939: Connecticut finally approves the Bill of Rights (but recent polls show that most Americans don't know what they are, and when the rights are explained, many are opposed to them).

1995: 168 people die in the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

1998: Octavio Paz dies in Mexico City.

April 20


miro m'a fait

420 (STONER DAY): According to the April 20, 2000, San Francisco Chronicle, thousands of people honor "Stoner's New Year" at 4:20 pm on this day. "If you've never heard the term 420 (that's 'four-twenty,' not 'four hundred and twenty') used in quite this way, you're not hip," Chronicle staff writer Maria Alicia Gaura declares, and I guess we all judge our hipness quotient by daily newspaper standards, right? "And if you do know what 420 refers to, odds are that you have no idea where the term came from," Gaura, who seems to have no elevated estimation of her audience, continues. Her answer: "the term 420 originated at San Rafael High School, in 1971, among a group of about a dozen pot-smoking wiseacres who called themselves the Waldos. The term 420 was shorthand for the time of day the group would meet, at the campus statue of Louis Pasteur, to smoke pot."
      The Chronicle reports that the the Fourth Annual 420 Hemp Fest will be held at Maritime Hall in SF, a ritual smoke-out will occur at Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, an annual Hash Bash will be celebrated at the University of Michigan, and a fund-raiser will be held in Washington DC for the yearly Fourth of July smoke-in in front of the White House (wonder what the funds are used for).

1836: The territory of Wisconsin is created.

1893: Joan Miro is born.

1923: Tito Puente is born.

1941: 100 German bombers attack Athens. For information on the devastating but little-known Holocaust in Greece, see Rebecca Camhi Fromer's The House by the Sea: A Memoir of the Holocaust in Greece (Mercury House).

continue to April 21



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