Tom's Book of Days
      September 20-30  



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September 21


chief joseph

leonard cohen

1327: Edward II, king of England from 1307-1327 (and the middle of three straight King Eds), is murdered by order of his wife, Queen Isabella, daughter of King Philip IV of France. It has not been a happy marriage: Edward is tortured and murdered with a red hot poker in the dungeon of Berkeley Castle, and his twisted and torn corpse is placed on view for the citizens of Bristol.

1520: Suleiman the Magnificent becomes Sultan. Under his leadership, the Ottoman empire will reach its greatest height of power, grandeur, and artistic achievement.

1904: Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph dies of what his doctor diagnoses as a "broken heart."

1915: As a present for his wife, a certain Mr. Chubb buys Stonehenge at auction for 6,600 pounds sterling ($11,500).

1934: Leonard Cohen is born.

Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day
in the Tower of Song


September 22


Shaka the Zulu

1598: In the same year in which he has presented his first play, Every Man in His Humour (with William Shakespeare as one of the actors), Ben Jonson is indicted for manslaughter after killing a fellow actor in a duel. He will escape the gallows by pleading "benefit of clergy" (in other words, by proving he could read and write, which entitles him to appear before a more lenient ecclesiastical court).

1828: Shaka the Zulu (his name is sometimes rendered "Chaka") is murdered by his half-brother Dingane.

1903: The ice cream cone is patented.

1914: T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound meet at Pound's flat in Kensington.

1999: Anuban Bell, 24, and Sunee Whitworth, 39, are killed by a bolt of lightning in London's Hyde Park when their underwire bras act as electrical conductors.


September 23


leo tolstoy

MABON; SHUUBUN-NO HI; OKTOBERFEST; ANANTA-CHATURDASI: Needless to say, there are many more autumn equinox festivals than these (although they seem not as numerous or as significant as vernal equinox celebrations). I think the date of the equinox can range from September 21 to 23.
      Mabon is the Celtic celebration of the Autumn equinox or "second harvest." It is named for the Welsh God representing the male fertilizing principle. Despite the gender reversal, some equate him with the Greek deity Persephone, who figured in Greek equinox mythology.
      Shuubun-no hi is the autumn equinox festival in Japan. Some families visit ancestors' graves.
      Despite the name, the German Oktoberfest, which is said to have begun with a celebration of the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese von Saxchsen-Hildburghausen in October of 1810, is now celebrated around the equinox in September, when the weather is better.
      Ananta-Chaturdasi, the "Festival of Ten Virtues," is a ten-day fast and meditation for the Jains.

63BCE: Caesar Augustus is born.

1862: Count Leo Tolstoy, 34, marries Sophie Andreyevna Behrs, 18.

1952: Not a crook, Republican vice-presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon delivers the "Checkers" speech refuting allegations of improper campaign financing.

1973: Juan Peron resumes the role of president of Argentina after 18 years in exile.

1999: Tom and Carol Christensen receive copies of their translations of Céline's Ballets Without Music, Without Dancers, Without Anything, from the publisher.


September 24


pedro almodovar

1717: Horace Walpole is born in London.

1896: Francis Scott Key (F. Scott) Fitzgerald is born in St. Paul, Minnesota. (He is named for Francis Scott Key, a distant relation--the lower middle-class family clung to this evidence of "breeding.")

1949: Film director Pedro Almodóvar is born in Calzada de Calatrava, Province of Ciudad Real, administrative district of Almagro and archbishopric of Toledo, Spain. (I have also seen his birthdate given as September 25, 1951, but I tend to trust the people at the cool link above ("Almodóvarlandia.")

2003: A Computer and Communications Industry Association report advises that dominance of computer technologies by Microsoft threatens the national infastructure.


September 25



APPROX. FIRST DAY OF SUKKOT (Jewish Feast of Tabernacles): This "Feast of the Ingathering" originally celebrated the fruit harvest. The name may come from the booths or tabernacles in which Jews lived during the harvest, or from the shelters used in the wanderings through the wilderness. During the festival many people build small huts in their backyards or on the roofs of their houses. (This is a date on the lunar calendar, so the exact calendrical day varies.)

1519: Vasco Nuñez de Balboa views the Pacific.

1959: DC COMICS debuts a new series of Pat Boone adventures, starring the singer.


September 26


dylan poster


1066: William the Conqueror lands in England.

1774: John Chapman ("Johnny Appleseed") is born.

1961: Bob Dylan debuts at Gerde's Folk Place in New York City.

1983: Stanislav Yefgrafovich Petrov helps to prevent nuclear annihilation. Around midnight, Petrov, the duty office at a satellite surveillance site, is shaken by a computerized alarm indicating an incoming U.S. missile attack. Since attack by a single missile seems unlikely, he labels the alert a false alarm.
    But the alarms return, now indicating four incoming missiles. A few weeks before, the Soviet Union had shot down a Korean jet carrying several Americans, and the military had recently been warned about possible U.S. reprisal. Nonetheless, after a moment of agonizing, Petrov declares these to be false alarms as well.
    The alarms would turn out to have been the result of a software glitch. But Petrov's decision would be intensely scrutinized, his career would take a downturn, and he would end up taking early retirement (he was 44 at the time of the incident).
    Later Petrov would reveal that he hadn't mentioned the incident to his wife. 'So what did you do?' he would report her asking much later, when his role was finally recognized, to which he would answer, "I did nothing."


September 27


matchbook cover

MASHIYYAT (Sheen-Ya-Hamza): Mashiyyat is an important holiday in the Baha'i faith. It expresses the phenomenon of Sha'a or Yasha, meaning intention or desire. As I understand it, the day is given to meditation on the mystery of Allah's intentions in dertermining the laws of the physical world and the human life. But because those intentions are finally beyond mortal comprehension, the laws themselves, as expressed in the Holy Quran, are the most appropriate subject of contemplation and the best guide to right living.

1700: William Congreve writes a married woman friend: "For my part I keep the Commandments, I love my neighbour as my selfe, and to avoid Coveting my neighbour's wife I desire to be coveted by her; which you know is quite another thing."

1892: Book matches are patented.


September 28



490 BCE: The Persian army is defeated at Marathon. A Greek soldier runs 26 miles to tell Athenians of the victory and dies after his announcement. He becomes the model for the marathon race.

551 BCE: Confucius is born (according to Chinese tradition). Known as "Teacher's Day," his birthday is typically celebrated with a dawn ceremony including dances, costumes, and music.

1066: Normans are victorious at the Battle of Hastings.

1864: Marx and Engels create the Workers' International Association (first International).


September 29


miguel de cervantes

s & Rita Hayworth

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco Publications Department Birthdays: Both members of the Publications department, Tom Christensen and Jason Jose, were born on this day.

1547: Miguel de Cervantes de Saavedra is born.

1634: John Milton presents Comus, his first treatment of conflict between good and evil, for the Earl of Bridgewater.

1810: Novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, companion of Charlotte Bronte (and author of Life of Charlotte Bronte ), is born in Cheyne Row, Chelsea.

1864: Miguel de Unamuno is born in Bilbao, Spain.

1902: In Paris, September 29 can be chilly. Sixty-two-year-old Emile Zola leaves a fire going at bedtime and dies in his sleep from smoke inhalation when the chimney clogs.

1906: The US ousts Cuban leader Estrada Palma by military intervention.

1923: The Steinhart Aquarium opens in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. There is a good scene in Orson Welle's Lady from Shanghai that is set in Steinhart Aquarium.

1935: Jerry Lee Lewis is born.

1991: California Gov. Pete Wilson vetoes a bill outlawing job discrimination against homosexuals.


September 30


robinson crusoe

1452: Johann Gutenberg publishes a Bible printed (apparently for the first time in the West) with movable type, according to traditional dating.
    (I have no idea how the conventional date of September 30, 1452, got codified — certainly not on the basis of any actual evidence. See my essay on Gutenberg and the Asian tradition in printing.)

1598: Edmund Spenser is appointed Sheriff of Cork.

1659: Robinson Crusoe is shipwrecked. The image at left is from The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. London: Ernest Nister; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1895. Illustrated by Joseph Finnemore (1860-1939), with G. H. Thompson (fl. 1833-84) and Archibald Webb (1870-?).

1841: Samuel Slocum patents the stapler.

1846: Dentist William Morton uses ether as an anesthetic for the first time. For information on the psychoactive effects of ether, consult Dale Pendell's Pharmako/Poeia (Mercury House).

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