Tom's Book of Days
      August 1-10  

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August 1


Herman Melville

LUGHNASSADH: Lughnassadh (or Lammas) is the Celtic "first harvest" festival (lammas means "loaf-mass," while lughnassadh derives its name from the Irish sun-god Lugh). It is one of the cross-quarters, the four High Holidays or Greater Sabbats of Wiccan practice (the actual cross-quarter is around August 6, but by tradition Lughnassadh is celebrated on the first; the sixth is sometimes referred to as "old Lammas"). The Burning Man festival is supposed to have its roots in the Lughnassadh tradition of erecting giant wicker "men" (often made of corn) and setting them on fire.

1815: Richard Henry Dana is born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1819: Herman Melville (pictured) is born in New York.


August 2


James Baldwin

1869: Middlemarch begins with a single step: Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) begins work on the novel.

1873, 1877: San Francisco is rapidly growing. On this day in 1873, the first trial run of a San Francisco cable car is made, on Clay Street between Kearny and Jones. Exactly four years later, the San Francisco Public Library opens with 5,000 volumes.
   Unfortunately, many volumes will be discarded when the city will build a new library in the early 1990s, seemingly with room for everything but books. Then, instead of standing side by side and thunbing through the various drawers of a card catalogue, library readers will queue up to use an electronic catalogue one by one.

1924: James Baldwin is born in Harlem Hospital, New York City.

1935: Alexander Wollcott writes (to Mrs. Otis Skinner that he has been "weeping steadily because once again I have come to the great healing last chapter of the brothers Karamazov. It always chokes me up and fills me with a love of mankind which sometimes lasts till noon of the following day."

1988: Raymond Carver dies at fifty. Bill Kittredge's recollections of him in Who Owns the West? (Mercury House, 1996) are worth reading.


August 3



1492: Christopher "Wrong Way" Columbus, having miscalculated the circumference of the globe by a failure to convert units of measurement, sets sail from Palos, Spain, for the Indies. (Some five hundred years later, NASA will repeat his conversion error in its effort to land a monitor on Venus.) On the same day, the catholic monarchs of Spain officially expel all Jews.

1635: The shogun Iemitsu establishes the system by which samurai must spend alternate years at Edo and their native regions. This system is designed to ensure samurai loyalty by effectively keeping their families, who were required to stay in Edo, hostages in alternating years.

1954: Colette (pictured) dies in Paris at the age of 80. Denied Catholic burial for having twice married outside the Church, she is given a formal funeral by the government and lies in state like a military hero.


August 4


ST DOMINIC'S FEAST DAY: Saint Dominic founded the Dominican order of Catholic priests. His day is observed by native Americans in New Mexico with the ritual corn dance.

1693: Dom Perignon invents champagne.

1753: George Washington becomes a master mason.

1902: The Greenwich foot tunnel under the River Thames opens. Here's a picture I took of it.


August 5


detail of wyeth portrait of helga testorf


1850: As Hawthorne and Melville are meeting at a literary picnic in New Hampshire, a French woman is giving birth, across the Atlantic, to Guy de Maupassant.

1957: American Bandstand airs on network TV.

1986: The existence of 240 drawings and paintings by Andrew Wyeth of his neighbor Helga Testorf is revealed. A detail from one of the paintings is shown.


August 6


Robert Burns

Diane Di Prima

1651: François de Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon is born. Although archbishop Fénelon will be exiled to his diocese by the pope for his liberal views on politics & education, those ideas will exert a lasting influence on French culture.

1786: Scottish poet Robert Burns (pictured) does public penance for the sin of fornication.

1825: Bolivia gains independence from Peru.

1934: Diane Di Prima is born in Brooklyn, NY. She will be the author of 34 books of poetry and prose. Her autobiography Recollections of My Life as a Woman will be published by Viking in 2001 (she also wrote Memoirs of a Beatnik, which was published in 1969).

1960-1961: contributing editor to Kulchur
1961-1963: Co-editor with Le Roi Jones (Imamu Amiri Baraka) of Floating Bear
1963-1969: Editor of Floating Bear
1963-1965: associate editor of Signal 1964-1969: publisher and editor of The Poets Press
1972-1976: publisher and editor of Eidolon Editions, Point Reyes, California
1974- : instructor, Naropa Institute
1979- : instructor, New College of California


August 7


mata hari

1754: Henry Fielding leaves England for Lisbon, hoping its climate will cure him of ill health.

1804: William Blake writes, "Money flies from me. Profit never ventures upon my threshold." (I've been there.)

1876: Dutch-born German spy Mata Hari is born in 1876. Ernest Hemingway would claim publicly to have slept with her, but she would be killed before he traveled to Europe.

1974: The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (a response to falsely reported attacks on US destroyers) passes the House 416-0 and the Senate 88-2. It gives the president (LBJ) extraordinary powers, authorizing him to use "all necessary steps" to win the war in Vietnam. Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska are the only legislators to vote against the resolution. (The FBI begins collecting the names of supporters of Morse and his office phone lines are tapped.)

Our government has no right to send American boys to their death in any battlefield in the absence of a declaration of war, and Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution vests the prerogative of declaring war in the Congress of the United States. And no war has been declared in Southeast Asia, and until a war is declared, it is unconstitutional to send American boys to their death in South Vietnam, or anywhere else in Southeast Asia. I don't know why we think, just because we're mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right. And that's the American policy in Southeast Asia. It's just as unsound when we do it as when Russia does it.
      --Wayne Morse


August 8




1876: Thomas Edison patents the mimeograph.

1899: A.T. Marshall of Brockton, Massachuesetts, patents the refrigerator.

1930: On the same day that Betty Boop debuts in Dizzy Dishes, Edmund Wilson writes to F.Scott Fitzgerald that to live abroad is he greatest mistake an American writer can make. (Wilson treated his college roommate Fitzgerald with arrogant condescension his entire life.)

1969: The cover photo for the album Abbey Road is taken.

1974: Richard Nixon announces his resignation as president.


August 9


Mr. Thoreau

378: At the Battle of Adrianople, the Visigoth cavalry defeats the Roman Eastern army of emperor Valens, who chose not to wait for aid from Gratian, the Roman emperor of the West; cavalry will go on to dominate infantry for the next thousand years. (Adrianople is now Edirne, Turkey.) St. Ambrose calls the battle of Adrianople "the end of all humanity, the end of the world."

1854: Henry Melville escapes from the Typee cannibals who have held him captive for a month in the Marquesas Islands.

1854: Henry David Thoreau publishes Walden.

1944: Pilot Saint-Exupery is reported lost.

1974: Unelected Gerald Ford becomes 38th US president. (The next unelected president will not appear until 2000.)


August 10



1519: Magellan sets sail with five ships on a circumnavigation of the world.

1809: Ecuador declares independence from Spain.

1846: An Act of Congress establishes the Smithsonian Institution.

1889: Charles Darrow is born. He will be credited with inventing the board game Monopoly. According to As It Happens, "amateur game sleuth Patrice McFarland says that was not how it was played in the game of life. Lizzie Maggie came up with the idea long before Darrow got into the game." Their site only has audio, however, not a transcript. If anyone wants to listen to it, you can follow this link and tell me what it says. I don't have the patience.

1912: Leonard Woolf and Virginia Stephen are married at St Pancras Registry Office.

1985: Michael Jackson buys ATV Music, including all Beatle songs, for $47 million.

2005: Lee Seung Seop dies of exhaustion and dehydration after playing World of Warcraft and StarCraft for fifty consequtive hours at an internet cafe in Taegu, South Korea.

continue to August 11


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