Tom's Book of Days
      October 21-31  

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October 21


Celia Cruz

1805: At the Battle of Trafalgar a British fleet under Admiral Lord Nelson defeats French and Spanish forces off the coast of Spain, spelling an end to France as a naval power and paving the way for British colonial expansion.

1917: Dizzy Gillespie is born.

1924: Celia Cruz is born.

On her famous phrase"azucar!": "It started when we were dining with friends in a restaurant and the waiter asked if I wanted coffee with or without sugar … and I answered "azúuuuuucar," because it was obvious I couldn't drink Cuban coffee without it. That night during the show, I told the story and the audience died laughing. Later, the public started requesting that I tell them the story about the sugar… Until I grew tired of it, and before they asked I came out screaming: "¡Azucar!"… I never told the story again, but I kept repeating the word.
      — From a link that has gone bad (link rot is the scourge of the web)

1945: Juan Peron marries Eva Maria Duarte.

1959: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opens in New York City.

1999: Two Christensens speak at the Poetry Center at San Francisco State.


October 22


m. rimbaud


1885: Arthur Rimbaud decides to run guns for King Menelik of Shoa.

1942: Annette Funicello is born.

1943: Catherine Deneuve is born in Paris, during the Nazi occupation.

1926: Scribners publishes The Sun Also Rises.

1964: Jean-Paul Sartre refuses the Nobel Prize for literature.


October 23


Dr. Ussher

4004 BCE : According to James Ussher (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin, the creation of the world takes place. Ussher's claimed would be inserted into a 1701 bible and take on some of the authority of scripture. It is often reported that Ussher claimed that the creation occurred at precisely 9:00 am, but Ussher scholars and admirers deny that libelous assertion. After all, that would be unscientific.

1923: Ned Rorem is born in Richmond, Indiana. We would publish his journals at North Point Press.

1926: Leon Trostsky is expelled from the Communist Party.

1950: T.S.Eliot is quoted in Time magazine: "The years between 50 and 70 are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things and yet are not decrepit enough to turn them down."

1977: Elso S. Barghoornthe announces the discovery of fossils of the earliest known life form, a Pre-Cambian spherical one-celled algae called Eobacterium), estimated to be 3.4 billion years old,

1978: Knopf publishes The Stories of John Cheever.


October 24


C. Love

1648: The signing of the Treaty of Westphalia ends the Thirty Years War.

1936: The match is patented.

1901: US Marines land in Samar during the Philippine Insurrection. General Jacob H. Smith ("Hell-Roaring Jake") issues orders: "The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness. I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn the better it will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms [10 years of age and above] in actual hostilities against the United States." (Teodoro A. Agoncillo, "A Short History of the Philippines," New American Library, 1969).

1923: Denise Levertov is born in Ilford, Essex, England.

1947: Fifty Hollywood writers, producers, and actors, headed by Humphrey Bogart, charter a plane to fly to Washington DC to express their displeasure with House Un-American Activities Committee. Included are Lauren Bacall, Groucho Marx, Frank Sinatra, John Huston, Ronald Reagan, Danny Kaye.

2002: It probably helped to get it off her chest: releases the following report: "Courtney Love's telling pals she's devastated by the tragic death of her dog! When Courtney had a doc remove her breast implants, she brought them home as 'souvenirs' ... and the poor pooch ate one and died!"


October 25


henry fielding

Saint Crispin's Day: The Catholic church has backed off from acknowledging the sainthood of Crispin, who might be a form of a Celtic deity. In Shakespeare's Henry IV, Crispin (Crispian) delivers a speech recalling the battle of Agincourt, which took place on this day in 1415.

1748: Henry Fielding is commissioned as a justice of the peace for Westminster.

1854: Lord Cardigan leads the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade (about half of the 673 cavalry under his command are killed) during the Battle of Balaklava in the Crimean War. England had entered the war between Russia and Turkey on the side of the Turks because Russia was seeking to control the Dardanelles and thus threaten England's Mediterranean sea routes. During the conflict, Florence Nightengale reforms the way hospitals are run.

Half a league, half a league,
      Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns," he said:
Into the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.
            --Alfred Lord Tennyson

1984: My old home town: Richard Brautigan commits suicide in Bolinas, California.

1994: The first internet banner ad appears, a 468 x 80 banner for AT&T that appears on the HotWired site.

1999: "Black Monday." On this day AltaVista, the number one web search engine, presents new SERPs (search engine report pages) incorporating a filter designed to block spam. Among the consequences of the resulting disaster, which would see the loss of large chunks of data from AltaVista's index, would be the inexorable decline of AltaVista from its leadership search engine position. Refusing to die politely, it would continue to haunt the web as a pale spectre enthralled to Yahoo. In its stead a new king would rise. Would this new power, Google, repeat the mistakes of the past?


October 26


desideramus erasmus

1466: Desiderius Erasmus is born in Holland.

People can’t long tolerate a ruler, nor can a master his servant, a maid her mistress, a teacher his pupil, a friend his friend nor a wife her husband, a landlord his tenant, a soldier his comrade nor a party-goer his companion, unless they sometimes have illusions about each other, make use of flattery, and have the sense to turn a blind eye and sweeten life for themselves with the honey of folly.
      --Erasmus, In Praise of Folly

1740: Tobias Smollett sails to Jamaica as a second surgeon's mate on the H.M.S.Chichester; this experience will serve as the basis for Roderick Random.

1970: Doonesbury debuts in 28 papers.


October 27


tim enchanter (john cleese)

ALLAN APPLE DAY: In Cornwall, England, an old pagan method of love divination is traditionally performed. Want to know your future spouse? Put an apple under your pillow on this day. The next morning, wait under a tree. The first eligible person who walks by will be yours. This kind of British tradition may explain John Cleese (next item).

1939: John Cleese (shown at left as Tim the Enchanter in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) is born. In later years, he will be "happily unmarried and the President of the Holland Park Schadenfreude Society."

... I read other Rectorial Addresses, and found that moral qualities have been very popular in the past. But then to my dismay I realised that all the good ones had been done. Courage has gone. Sir James Barrie nicked that. And independence and magnanimity and freedom... I've been left with things like good taste and chastity. And frankly, I feel whatever I speak on I should have some genuine feeling for. And the only quality that I am aware of possessing more than my fellow man is that of physical cowardice. I don't wish to boast, but I am widely regarded as one of Europe's Six Leading Cowards. I have been a coward ever since I could run. Cowadice runs in my family. The Duke of Wellington encountered my great great grandfather running full pelt from the field at Waterloo. He was merely anticipating Ambrose Bierce's definition of a coward as 'one who in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs'. But the Duke didn't know this. 'Why', he thundered, 'are you running away ?' 'I am running', replied my great-great, 'because I am physically unable to fly' ...
      --The Rectorial Address of Mr John Cleese, M.A., LLD ("On Cowardice")
1940: Maxine Hong Kingston is born in Stockton, California.

1972: The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is created.


October 28


evelyn waugh

FEASTS OF SAINT SIMON AND SAINT JUDE: Simon is the patron saint a zealots; the more appealing Jude is the patron of hopeless and desperate cases.

1492: Christopher Columbus sights Cuba—bad news for Cubans.

1726: Gulliver's Travels is published.

1853: Henry David Thoreau receives a shipment of more than 700 remaindered copies of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and writes in his journal that he has a library of better than 900 books, more than 700 of which he had written himself.

1863: Black Rain is reported at Slains, Scotland.

1903: Evelyn Waugh is born at 11 Hillfield Road, Hampstead.


October 29


sir wally baccy

1618: Walter Raleigh is beheaded at the Tower of London for suspicion of colluding with the Spanish in a failed Guiana expedition. Viewing the axe, Raleigh remarks, "This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all Diseases." His head, upon removal with said instrument, would be embalmed presented to his wife, who would carry it with her for the next three decades until her death at 82.

1787: Don Giovanni is first performed.

1889: Katsu Goto, Hawaiian merchant and advocate for Japanese workers, is lynched by a mob of plantation workers.

1929: Stock market crashes.

1969: During the Chicago Eight Trial, Judge Hoffman orders Bobby Seale bound and gagged for the four days, following his refused to permit Seale to serve as his own counsel.

2003: Edwin Gallart drops his cellphone into a toilet on car 8371 of the 6:19 p.m. Harlem Line train out of Grand Central Terminal. When he reaches in to retrieve the phone his arm becomes trapped. After a supervisor is unable to extricate the appendage, the train is forced to stop at Fordham Station, where firefighters free Gallart by cutting through the toilet with the jaws of life. Commuter traffic is brought to a stop for hours. Subsequent attempts to reach Gallart by phone would prove unsuccessful.


October 30


jane austen

1811: Sense and Sensibility: A Novel (in three volumes) By a Lady is published by Thomas Egerton. The author takes pains to keep the book’s publication little known.

1817: Simon Bolívar establishes the independent government of Venezuela.

1871: Paul Valéry is born.

1873: Francisco Madero is born.

1885: Ezra Pound is born in Idaho Territory.

1986: Attorney General Ed Meese, as part of an anti-drug initiative, urges employers spy on workers in "locker rooms, parking lots, shipping, mail room areas, even the nearby taverns."

1995: The province of Quebec vote to remain within the federation of Canada by 50.6 to 49.4 percent.


October 31



SAMHAIN: Samhain (pronounced "Sow' en"), or Ancestor Night (or the Eve of All Hallows Day, or Hallowe'en), marks the beginning of the Celtic New Year. This year's harvest is in; now, in the dark and cold of winter, the next year's seeds begin the processes that will cost them to germinate and emerge in spring (Imbolc, Feb. 2).

Dead Dudes, 2006  (Tom Christensen on right)On November Eve they are at their gloomiest, for, according to the old Gaelic reckoning, this is the first night of winter. This night they dance with the ghosts, and the pooka is abroad, and witches make their spells, and girls sit at a table with food in the name of the devil, that the fetch of their future lover may come through the window and eat of the food.
      --William Butler Yeats

EL DIA DE LOS MUERTOS: In Mexico the day of the dead traditionally begins at midnight on this day and continues until 2 November. The photo above right was taken at a 2006 Dia de Los Muertos celebration in Oakland, California, by Anne Christensen.
    In 2007 we held a Day of the Dead reading

2006: A truck spills two tons of pigs' heads on a road in western Germany.

continue to November 1


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