Tom's Book of Days
      January 21-31  

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January 21



1793: Louis XVI is guillotined near the Palace of the Tuileries (the present Place de la Concorde).

1908: An ordinance makes public smoking illegal for women in New York City.

1921: Anthropologist Marija Gimbutas is born in Vilnius, Lithuania.

1941: Placido Domingo is born.

1959: Former "Little Rascal" Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer is shot and killed in Sun Valley, California, after apparently breaking into a sleeping man's house in order to threaten him with a jackknife in an effort to collect a debt (the death is ruled a justifiable homicide).


January 22


August Strindberg

1849: August Strindberg (pictured) is born.

1879: Francis Picabia is born.

1964: The world's largest cheese (15,723 kg) is manufactured in Wisconsin.

1966: Nancy Sinatra releases These Boots Are Made for Walkin'. Years later, US agents will play it repeatedly in an effort to induce those inside the Waco compound to surrender. See also January 24 below.


January 23


django reinhardt

Alexander Woollcott

1605: John Donne is ordained a priest of the Church of England.

1783: Stendhal (Marie Henri Beyle) is born.

1910: Django Reinhardt is born..

1911: In New York City, novelist David Graham Phillips is shot by a man (who then shoots himself) who believes that Phillips based a character in his best-seller The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig on his sister.

1943: Alexander Woollcott dies of heart attack while appearing on the radio program The People's Forum.

1980: Leonard Peltier, already sentenced to two life sentences, is given an additional seven years for escaping from a federal prison. Peltier is an American Indian Movement (AIM) activist who many believe was framed on the charge of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation on June 26, 1975. Arrested in Canada on Feb. 6, 1976, he has remained in prison ever since.


January 24


franz kafka

41: Caligula is assassinated. A couple millennia later he would generate a bit of correspondence:

Jan. 25, 2003

Mr. Christensen:

I noticed that in this past week we remember that Caligula was assasinated and that Nancy Sinatra's signature song was put to use of a mixed sort. There is a certain rightness in this, since Caligula means Little Boots, a moniker given him by Roman soldiers because they enjoyed the dance performances he gave them when he was but a lad.

I look forward to next week's daybook offerings.

Michael Ramsey-Perez

* * *

January 23, 2011

Hi Tom

Tomorrow on your Book of Days (the 24th) is the assassination of Caligula in the year 41.

I thought you'd like to add a link/info to the following from the Guardian UK, Jan. 17. Apparently thieves stumbled on Caligula's lost tomb, stole a statue, and then were arrested this week -- nearly 1970 years to the day after the killing. Excerpt below.

The lost tomb of Caligula has been found, according to Italian police, after the arrest of a man trying to smuggle abroad a statue of the notorious Roman emperor recovered from the site.

After reportedly sleeping with his sisters, killing for pleasure and seeking to appoint his horse a consul during his rule from AD37 to 41, Caligula was described by contemporaries as insane.

With many of Caligula's monuments destroyed after he was killed by his Praetorian guard at 28, archaeologists are eager to excavate for his remains

LINK: Caligula's tomb found after police arrest man trying to smuggle statue (The Guardian: World News)


Mark, Bellemeade Books

1776: E. T. A. Hoffmann is born.

1913: Franz Kafka abandons his novel Amerika and never publishes again.


January 25


Gerard de Nerval

1640: Robert Burton, author of Anatomy of Melancholy, dies at 62 in Oxford, around the date he had predicted by casting his horoscope. Gossipy students will spread the rumor that he had killed himself rather than admit an error in his calculations.

1855: Gerard de Nerval (pictured) hangs himself in the street in Paris, France.

1931: Paavo Haavikko, Finnish poet, dramatist, and fiction writer, is born. He is best known (by me) for this quote: "I have seen quite a few things in my time. I don't recall that a single one of them seemed reasonable."

1981: Mao's widow Jiang Qing is sentenced to death.


January 26



ST. TIMOTHY'S DAY: The feast day of St. Timothy, the patron of those with intestinal problems.

1784: Benjamin Franklin calls the bald eagle "a Bird of bad moral character" who lives "by Sharping and Robbing" and expresses regret at its selection as national symbol of the United States. Franklin prefers the turkey, "a much more respectable Bird and withal a true original Native of America."

1907: Police are called to Dublin's Abbey Theatre to quell an angry crowd at the opening of John Millington Synge's Playboy of the Western World.

1939: Franco takes Barcelona.


January 27


dante's death mask

1302: Dante Alighieri, a White Guelf, is expelled from Florence. "Guelf" comes from "Welf," the name of Bavarian dukes who vied for the imperial throne during the 12th and early 13th centuries. The White Guelfs--like a previous political party, the Ghibellines (whose name comes from Waiblingen, the castle of the Welfs' opponents, the Hohenstaufen dukes of Swabia)--favor an emperor while the Black Guelfs are papists. Thanks to his politic affiliation, Dante will spend the remaining twenty years of his life in political exile.
Not long after Dante's death the whole matter of Guelfs and Ghibellines will be mostly forgotten, as there will be little imperial involvement in Italy and the popes will move from Rome to France. Dante's death mask, however, seen at left, will return to Florence.
      All is vanity ...

1832: Lewis Carroll (Charles Ludwidge Dodgson) is born.

"In some ways, you know, people that don't exist are much nicer than people that do."
       --Lewis Carroll

1910: Thomas Crapper dies (see January 17).

1972: G. Gordon Liddy presents a plan to Attorney General Mitchell (the nation's highest law enforcement official) for disrupting the 1972 Democratic Convention. It calls for "mugging squads, kidnapping teams, prostitutes to compromise the opposition, and electronic surveillance."

1984: Michael Jackson's hair bursts into flames while filming a Pepsi commercial.


January 28


Colette en petite faune

1547: Nine-year-old Edward VI (son of Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour, and raised by a nurse known as "Mother Jack"), considered by Jane Austen "on the whole of a very amiable character," ascends to the throne of Enland, but things go downhill from there. His projected marriage to his cousin Mary Queen of Scots will fall through and he will die of consumption by age sixteen. Still, that will be better than his successor, the intellectual Lady Jane Grey (granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary)--she will hold the throne a mere nine days and lose her head on the block. Her successor will be "Bloody" Mary I, and the Brits do make a muddle of things, don't they?

1860: Britain returns Mosquito Coast to Nicaragua.

1871: Paris falls to the Prussians.

1873: Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette is born into the generation of writers that includes Proust, Valerie, Gide, and Claudel (all born between 1868 and 1871). At 20 she would marry "Monsieur Willy" (Henri Gauthier-Villars), a writer and music critic. For Willy she would write her Claudine novels about a teenage girls adventures, reportedly locking in her room until she had completed her quota of pages.
      She would divorce in 1906 (remarrying the editor Henri de Jouvenel des Ursins in 1912) and become a music-hall performer, causing scandal by baring a breast on stage and embracing another woman; an affair with her stepson would add to her notoriety.
      She would write more than 50 novels and many short stories. She would be friendly with Jean Cocteau and admired by Proust. She would be the first woman admitted to the Goncourt Academy. Though denied catholic burial after her death on August 3, 1954, she would receive a state burial that would draw huge crowds.

"The lovesick, the betrayed, and the jealous all smell alike."

1917: US forces withdraw from Mexico after failing to locate Pancho Villa.

1953: Patsy Cline wins first place on the TV show "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts," singing "Walking after Midnight."

1984: Eighty-seven-year-old Glynn Wolfe, a Baptist minister, marries for the 26th time in Las Vegas. For his wife, fifty-five-year-old Linda Essex-Wolfe, it is only the 23rd marriage. He will die of heart failure ten days shy of their first wedding anniversary.


January 29



1739: Thomas Paine is born in Thetfield, England. See January 10.

1927: Ed Abbey is born in Home, Pennsylvania.

1919: The US Secretary of State proclaims the 18th amendment (prohibition).

1939: Germaine Greer is born.

1959: Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty is released.

1963: My distant cousin Robert Frost dies in Boston.

1997: Physician's Weekly publishes an article claiming that Mona Lisa's smile was caused by a "facial paralysis resulting from a swollen nerve behind the ear."


January 30


1960s poster


1815: The United States Library of Congress is reestablished (after its destruction in the War of 1812) with the acquisition of Thomas Jefferson's 6,457-volume library.

1847: Yerba Buena is renamed San Francisco.

1933: Adolf Hitler is appointed chancellor of Germany by President von Hindenberg.

1935: Ezra Pound meets Benito Mussolini and reads aloud several lines from a draft of his Cantos, which he gives to him as a present.

1961: The contraceptive pill goes on sale.


January 31



1606: Guy Fawkes and the other Gunpowder Plot conspirators are executed.

1848: John Frémont (1813-1890), one of the great jerks of U.S. history, is court-martialed.
      Following the acquisition of Alta California from Mexico by military force (through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo), General Stephen Kearny was assigned the task of establishing a government in California. Frémont had been appointed military governor by Commodore Robert F. Stockton, and in typical fashion he refused to relinquish control. Kearny brought charges of insubordination against Frémont, who was found guilty by a court martial and subjected to penalties, including removal from the army.
      Unfortunately, the decision would be reversed by President Polk, and the appalling Frémont would go on to wealth, popularity, fame, and nomination as the first Republican Party presidential candidate (he would lose to Democrat James Buchanan).

1871: The sky grows dark in San Francisco, as millions of birds fly over the city.

1929: Leon Trotsky is banished from the Soviet Union.

1935: Kenzaburo Oe is born on the island of Shikoku, Japan. He would recall his childhood home after moving to Tokyo, and he would win the Nobel Prize for Liuterature in 1994.

1963: US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara reports, "The war in Vietnam is going well and will succeed."

continue to February 1


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