Tom's Book of Days
      August 11-20  

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August 11


jackson pollack


3114 BCE : The Maya calendar begins (according to the Tedlock correlation, a dating system embraced by a small minority of Mayanists in an ongoing argument over a two-day difference; see August 13).

1880: Greenwich Mean Time is officially adopted by the British Parliament. It would be adopted worldwide on November 1, 1884.

1933: In what is supposed to be a world record, a temperature of 136 F (58 C) is recorded at San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

1934: Ernest Hemingway, to demonstrate his machismo, assaults Max Eastman in Maxwell Perkins' office.

1956: Jackson Pollock is killed in an automobile accident.

1965: Five days of rioting begin in Watts.


August 12



1867: Edith Hamilton is born in Dresden, Germany.

1883: The last quagga dies at the Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam, and the species (a type of zebra) goes extinct.

1898: In a busy day for US president William McKinley, Hawaii is formally annexed to the US and a peace protocol ending the Spanish-American War is signed.

1956: William Shatner marries Gloria Rand.



August 13


bert lahr


3114 BCE : The Maya calendar begins (according to the Lounsbury/Schele correlation, a dating system embraced by a small minority of Mayanists in an ongoing argument over a two-day difference; see August 11).

1422: William Caxton, "the father of English printing," is born. Caxton was not a particularly talented printer, but he did bring Dutch "old style" typefaces to England.

1521: Spanish conquerors under Cortés capture Mexico City from Aztecs.

1895: Irving Ahrheim (Bert Lahr) is born.

1926: Fidel Castro is born.

1987: Fossil remains found in Texas are said to be those of the world's first birds.


August 14



410: Alaric sacks Rome .

1834: Nineteen-year-old Richard Henry Dana leaves aboard the Pilgrim for two years before the mast.

1846: According to a number of sources on the web (among them the excellent Daily Bleed) Henry David Thoreau is jailed on this day for tax resistance, protesting the US-Mexican War. Jack Mingo, co-author of the newspaper feature Random Kinds of Factness, has called to my attention that this event actually occurred on July 23. I have not yet had an opportunity to investigate how this error got started and perpetuated. What was Thoreau really doing on August 14, 1846? If you know the answer, let me know.

1893: France issues the first driving licenses, included a required test.

1947: Pakistan gains independence from Britain.


August 15


t.e. lawrence


1057: Macbeth, King of Scotland, is slain by the son of King Duncan.

1771: Sir Walter Scott is born in Edinburgh.

1888: Thomas Edward Lawrence is born.

1939: The Wizard of Oz premiers at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

1945: Korea achieves independence from Japan.

1971: President Nixon announces a 90-day freeze on wages, prices, and rents.


August 16



1762: Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds set out on a walking tour through Devonshire.

1925: Fess Parker is born. In the 1950s, every little boy in America will wear a coonskin hat in his honor. The ghostly spiritual power of all those dead coons seaping into little brains will lead to the hippy revolution of the 60s.

1955: Fiat Motors orders the first private atomic reactor.

1984: An LA federal jury acquits auto maker John Z DeLorean of cocaine charges.


August 17



1773: Boswell and Johnson set off for the Hebrides.

1786: David Crockett is born. Wasn't I just talking about him?

1835: Solymon Merrick of Springfield, Massachusetts, patents the wrench.

1887: Marcus Garvey is born.

1896: The first traffic fatality is recorded. Mrs Bridget Driscoll of Croydon, Surrey, is hit by a car traveling at 4 mph.

1945, 1950: Indonesian Independence Day: In 1945, nine days after Japan's surrender ends World War II, Indonesia declares independence from Netherlands. Sukarno is proclaimed president and Mohammed Hatta vice-president. With the help of the British, the Dutch attempt to restore colonial rule, and they do not recognize Indonesian sovereignty until 1949. Then, in 1950 (also on August 17) the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia is established. But not everyone is celebrating: According to João Carrascalão, President of the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT), Indonesia's Independence Day marks the creation of a corrupt Javanaese colonial state that delights in brutally crushing its adversaries through rape, torture, murder and genocide.


August 18


alain robbe-grillet

1922: Alain Robbe-Grillet is born. After working in a German tank factory during World War II, he would take a degree in agronomy and then supervise banana plantations in the West Indies, experience he would draw on in his novel La Jalousie (1957). Beginning in the mid-1950s he would act as a consultant for the French publisher Les Editions de Minuit. At Minuit he would be among a group of writers sharing a belief that the social novel in the nineteenth-century style was dead; these would include Claude Simon, Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor, Jacques Derrida, and Pierre Bourdieu. Robbe-Grillet would advocate a technique of impersonal description that would become known as the nouveau roman. His For a New Novel (1963) attacked the notion of "engaged" writing, leading to a dispute with such writers as Sartre and Camus. Despite his emphasis on apparent objectivity, however, Robbe-Grillet would remain one of the most distinctive and peculiar writers among his circle.

1950: A four-month-old kitten, trailing a climbing party, scales the Matterhorn in three days.


August 19


joseph conrad


1839: Louis Daguerre announces the invention of the daguerreotype photographic process, said to be the first process to chemically fix an image as a permanent picture.

1848: The New York Herald reports that gold has been discovered in California.

1856: Gail Borden patents a process for condensing milk.

1886: Joseph Conrad acquires British citizenship.

1934: German voters give Adolf Hitler complete power in a plebiscite.

1947: J Arens and D van Villages synthesize vitamin A.


August 20


h.p. lovecraft

1778: Bernardo O'Higgins, the son of an immigrant Irishman, is born in Chile, whose independence he will one day win.

1890: H.P. Lovecraft is born.

1920: First commercial radio station, WWJ, begins broadcasting in Detroit.

1960: Senegal declares its independence (from Mali).

1968: Alarmed by liberalizing actions of president Dubcek, Russians send tanks into Czechoslovakia.

continue to August 21  


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