January 4th

On this day in 1903 Thomas Edison proved that he was as evil as I’ve always said he is. He electrocuted an elephant to death to prove that his way of providing electricity – DC, direct current – was better than the AC (alternating current) preferred by others, notably, George Westinghouse.

Now, before you read on, I warn you that this is upsetting and if you liked Thomas Edison before because you thought he was a great inventor and blah, then if you read on you will hate him and want to stick electric currents up his dead arse. Right, warning given, on with the hideous bastard story.

Hard to find a happy photo of Topsy, this is her memorial

The elephant in question was called Topsy. She was 28 years old and was owned by Forepaugh Circus. She spent the last years of her life, before the electrocution at Coney Island’s Luna Park. To be fair to Edison, which I’d rather not be, but there you go, Topsy wasn’t chosen for no good reason; she had killed three men in three years and so it was decided she need to be executed. The initial decision made about her death was that she should be hanged, but the American society for the protection of cruelty against animals, (ASPCA) complained that this was unnecessary cruelty, so the plan was put on the back burner.

It’s a shame that the ASPCA didn’t point out that the whole thing was cruel, full stop, period, etc. Topsy had a pretty miserable life, with no space to be a proper elephant and enjoy running about. One of the men she killed was a nasty piece of work who tried to make her eat lit cigarettes. She was killing because the life she had been given was slowly making her lose her mind and she was surrounded by utter bastards who deserved anything she did to them.

When the hanging was ruled out, along came Edison who was in the midst of a “War of Current” with Westinghouse (FFS!)and he said

The life Topsy should have had

he’d kill her with electric. The electric chair had already been used in prisons, so they knew it worked, he just wanted to show them that it worked with his direct current. She was fed carrots containing potassium cyanide before the current was put through he body and thankfully she was dead within seconds. Edison, not happy enough to have killed a beautiful creature, also filmed it and released it as a film called Electrocuting and Elephant, which toured the US and was watched by millions. To think that people get upset about that film about the human caterpillar thing when over a hundred years ago people went to the cinema to watch an elephant being murdered. THE BASTARDS!

Edison went down in history as a great inventor, unless you’re like me and have always wanted to smash his face in, in which case he went down in history as an utter twat. Topsy may have had her revenge though. In 1944 Luna Park burned to the ground and the destruction became known as Topsy’s revenge. In 2003 a belated monument to her was erected at the Coney Island Museum.

 

 

Today is and was the birthday of any number of really dull people who I cannot be bothered to write about. In my defence, I did spend much of last night with the Winter Sickness virus which has left me weak and rather irritable. Also, an awful lot of the people were either:

  • Who are you?
  • Dull beyond belief
  • Slightly interesting like Louis Braille, but how much can you possibly write about a man who invented a way of reading for the blind? Don’t answer that. I’m sure you could come up with loads, but I don’t really care
  • Slightly more interesting like Wat Tyler who lead the Peasants Revolt in olden days, but again, I’m not in a “up with the revolution mood
  • Pretty cool, like Michael Stipe, but again, I’m not in an R.E.M. place right now
  • Blah

"Lovely" birthday cake

There’s no one wicked or evil or who one could happily take the piss out of for several paragraphs and anyway, none of them probably spent last night being sick and ill. To be fair that’s because a lot of them are dead, but that’s merely an excuse.

So, there is no birthday celebration today, because I have deemed that none of them are worth my sadly low energy, so they can go elsewhere if they want to see someone being all “happy birthday!” because they ain’t getting it off me.

Ha!

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January 3rd

On this day in 1596, while working for the Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, Leondardo da Vinci, the famous painter, scientist type thing, engineer, and maker up of stuff, apparently failed when he was testing one of his flying machine inventions.

Shit flying machine that kills chickens. Probably

None of us are sure exactly which one it was, all we know is that it crashed and killed the chicken he had dressed up as its pilot. Many have posited that the crash may have been due to the inefficiency of the chicken, who was known to be a rather pure pilot. However, it has also been suggested that he was shit at making wings so even if he’d had a cleverer animal flying the plane it would have crashed.  All we do know for sure is that after it crashed, Ludovico laughed at him and told him he’d be better of getting back to doing a bit of painting for a while and that Leonardo, in a huff, decided to show everyone that he knew from a really good painting idea, so he went back to his Last Supper, and instead of using fresco, which would have insured that it lasted well and didn’t go all mouldy and flaky, he used tempera over a ground of gesso, which ensured that the painting, which was pretty damn fine would go mouldy and flaky within one hundred years.

The above proves that da Vinci was a right git when he was laughed at and would happily cut off his nose to spite his face when it came to getting his revenge. It should be noted, that he never actually cut off his nose to spite his face; he wasn’t that much of an idiot.

This is a rather short entry for today as despite the fact that da Vinci could be a bit of a git, we’re all mostly agreed that he was a big old genius and we don’t really want to take up too much space taking the piss out of him as that would be unfair. Sort of, anyway. So in order to make up the space, it should also be noted that on this day in 1962 Pope John XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro.

Castro had suppressed Catholic institutions in Cuba and naturally enough the pope wasn’t happy about it. Upon hearing what had happened, Fidel is alleged to have picked up his wife’s handbag, held it up against his chest made an “Oooh” noise and then said “Get him!” referring of course to the rather angry pope. In other words: Fidel Castro was not bothered.

To be fair to the pope, he was never going to be happy about having Catholicism dissed. To be fair to Fidel Castro he despised the

Fidel joking with David Essex about how shit the Pope is.

Catholic church for using parts of the bible to make out that it was fine for them to expect women to be beneath men in all things and get pregnant all the time if they weren’t pure enough to keep their lady gardens to themselves and never let a man put his winky up it. He also had an issue with the way that the Catholic Church pretty much sat back and watched Africans getting screwed by the Western World and there basic “Shut up moaning about being poor, it means that you’ll go to heaven and be happy and not have to bend over a bit to walk up a Camel’s arse. Or something.”

Anyway! Excommunicating someone who doesn’t give a flying act of martial ghastliness about your Church is a bit of a waste of time and ends up making you look a bit of an idiot. So, in this particular game of political tennis the score was Pope John XXIII 15 – Fidel Castro 40.

Today was the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien.

He was born in 1892 in Orange Free State, which is now called the Free State Province and part of South Africa. Apparently when he was still a wee thing he was bitten by a baboon spider, which later biographers got quite excited about and were all “Ooh, it probably had an effect on what he wrote about!” He said he had no memory of it at all and as he didn’t write books about spiders that looked like monkeys with big red arses, I’d say that this story is of no use at all other than the fact that a baboon spider sounds well weird . I haven’t bothered to look at a photo of one as it would almost certainly ruin what it looks like in my imagination ( a three-foot tall spider with an actual baboon face and a big red arse. If it doesn’t look like that, I do not want to know).

Hobbits go to Hollywood. Shove them up your arse.

Anyway, la, la. Anyone who knows me reasonably well, knows one thing about me. I fucking hate the books what Tolkien wrote. A lot. I also hate being told that if I just give The Lord of the Rings trilogy a chance, I’ll really love it and it will change my life and blah, etc. It won’t. I am not a 15 year old boy whose only sexual experience is a few wet dreams and wanking  into a sock in my bedroom while thinking of Lorraine Kelly spanking me. I did try to read The Hobbit when I was about 12 and it was shit and full of stupid people with big hairy feet who lived in stupid Hobbity houses and were annoying. Now, if you like these books and the films and all of that stuff, fair play to you. I’m glad that someone gets pleasure out of – what appears to me to be – this pile of wrongness, but I am not of your number and nor do I ever wish to be.

Obviously, Tolkien was quite clever and did language type stuff and made up Hobbit language like some fucking Star Trek geek who makes up a language for the big foreheaded creatures to speak (please to note, I probably do know the name of the big foreheaded creatures, but since getting minor brain damage last year, a lot of words escape me. There name does and frankly I can’t be arsed to look it up. So sue me.) and he went on to live to quite an old age, dying in 1973 with lots of boys crying and stuff because he was like the best author ever. NO HE WAS NOT.

Happy birthday, John Ronald. Btw, if, per chance, there is a heaven and you’re already there and I end up there in a few years time, please do not come up to me and speak to me as a smack in your face will probably upset you and then St Peter will make me embroider flowers on heavenly hosts for half of eternity to make up for my boldness. Thanks.

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January 2nd

On this day in 1791 there was a bit of a massacre in Ohio. At the time Ohio was a country and not a state and people were all starting to move over there because there was a lot of space and as it was in the mid-west, it was less scandalous than places like New York, so those of very little brain could wander off there and be happy worshipping God, snakes and beating their children for having impure thoughts.

Unlike Queen and Spinal Tap, the Wyandot did not like Big Bottomed Girls

That said, they probably didn’t deserve to be massacred, but then neither did the Wyandot Indians deserve to lose their land. All in all it’s a bit of a conundrum when it comes to “whose side should I be on?” To be fair to the Wyandot, they suffered far more in the aftermath as a big war began which was known as the Northwest Indian War. The clue is in the name; it was a war to murder as many Indians as humanly possible.

To be even fairer to the Indians, we need to know what the massacre was called and to understand more about the Wyandot people. The massacre was called The Big Bottom Massacre. The Wyandot people feared large arses and saw them as things that only devil type people had. The Wyandot were a slender and small-arsed tribe. The settlers liked a pie or several and as a result a few of them had rather large backsides.

As a result, on this day, the Wyandot went down to the place where the fattest settlers were staying and murdered 11 men, one woman and two children. From this we can see that the men were the fattest, with only one chunky woman and two chunky children who evidence tells us had a huge Ye Olde McDonald’s habit and were forerunners of kids who eat too many Twinkies and shit like that.

Despite how it may seem, I do not support the murderingof

Wyandot: Please note, no big bottom

overweight people. Far from it. Live and let live is pretty much my raison d’etre, but one has to understand the fear, albeit a bloody stupid one, of the Wyandot. They thought they were being invaded by devils who would kill them in their sleep. As it happens they did end up being murdered in their sleep because they killed the large of arse, so the whole thing is a terrible old mess for all concerned. But, and I do think this is very important, it did give us the wonderfully named Big Bottom Massacre and for that I think we can all be truly grateful.

 

 

 

 

Today was the birthday of Thérèse of Lisieux who went on to die in 1897 and become a saint in 1925.

What was so special about her, you may ask. Or not. Well, she was a sickly sort. She’d been nervy and poorly as a child, joined a convent at the age of 15 and not long after that got TB and died aged 24. But as befits a woman who was to become a saint, she never complained about her suffering and was very Pollyanna about the whole thing. Personally, I think she must have really annoyed some of the other nuns, but we have no record to prove that one way or the other.

Like Ernie Wise, St Theresa had short fat hairy legs

She also said lots of pretty stuff when she was alive, like be nice to other people and you don’t have to do great deeds to be holy, you can do small things as well and that’s just as nice. She was also very tiny due to being ill a lot as a child. Apparently she liked being small because according to her only dwarfs, midgets and children could get into heaven, which indicates that she probably had a strange idea about the entrance of heaven and the ability of taller people to bend over a bit.

She got made into a saint very quickly, probably because people with a cold went along to her grave, said a prayer and oh, my, they stopped sneezing. Or something. Men in the church liked her because she was all tiny and sweet and said things like “Ooh, that book is too hard for my little brain I think I’ll do some embroidery and think about God instead.” [The book in question being “Janet and John add up one plus one.”] In other words, she wasn’t a woman who might kick them in the nuts and tell them to make their own cup of tea.

Since her death and canonisation, she’s been made the patron saint of lots of things, including AIDS. Frankly, given her inability to cure AIDS from beyond the grave, people should be doubting her holiness, but luckily for her, no one has put two and two together yet (they’re still to busy with Janet and John’s One Plus One).

So, happy birthday you little sickly midget. I hope you spend it doing good things like actually curing something rather than faffing about being all “oh what a pretty birdy” like you usually do.

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January 1st

On this day in 1985 Ernie Wise, off of Morecambe and wise made the first mobile phone call from St Katherine’s Dock in a Cokerney part of London to the Vodaphone headquarters in Berkshire.  The conversation he’d been asked to have was “Hello, this is Ernie Wise here, how are you diddling!” before singing “Bring me Sunshine” . He made it clear the he couldn’t possibly sing the song as it would make him cry as his mate Eric Morecambe off of Morecambe and Wise had died the previous year.

Eric and Ernie lived happily together for many decades before Eric's death in 1984

The Vodaphone people, were a bit cross with him about this, but they said that instead he could not sing the song if he was going to be a big baby about it and instead he should say “Crikey lads, this is a great new phone type thing for people to use on the move.” Ernie, who wasn’t being a big baby, just human unlike the robots at the mobile phone company, agreed to this, because despite having short fat hairy legs, he was a very nice man.

Unfortunately for Vodaphone, the first conversation turned out to be a bit different to the one everyone had agreed to. It went thus:

“Hello, this is Ernie Wise.”

[hissing noise can be heard on the earpiece of his phone]

“Hello, hello, can you hear me?”

[More hissing noise and a voice far off in the distance vaguely heard saying “I’m diddling my thingy”]

“Hello? Hello? Hello? Oh fuck this for a game of soldiers, I’m going home to eat some more mince pies.”

The Vodaphone people then got a right bollocking from their boss, Mr Archibald Herod when he found out they hadn’t put any mobile

The early mobile phone that Ernie used

phone masks in Cockerny London. He was so angry that after the bollocking he went off and killed some babies, because that’s just the type of man he was. He died the following year when he was suffocated by seven veils.

Ernie Wise eventually went back to using mobile phones, but because he didn’t really like baby killers he refused to sign up with Vodaphone.

Today was the birthday of J.D. Salinger. He was born in 1919 and was famous for writing some books, most especially The Catcher in the Rye which featured a character called Holden Caufield who he’d written a short story (Slight Rebellion of Madison) in the 1940s. The big famous novel was published in 1951 and had instant “yeah, whatever” reviews. However, by the end of the decade it was totally famous because lots of moody teenagers liked to read it and pretend that they were Holden Caufield and be all “Like Salinger totally gets me, man!” before turning on, tuning in and dropping out.

J. D. Salinger refusing - yet again - to apologise for killing a Beatle

Of course the book got even more famous when it got John Lennon murdered by some nutbag. Salinger had nothing to say on the subject, because he’d been living in a cave like a giant hobbit for decades because he didn’t like people much and all his books after The Catcher in the Rye ranged from sort of okay to a bit shit.

That said, I tried to read TCITR once and thought it was an appalling pile of shite, but then I am a woman and I wasn’t suffering teenage existential angst, so I probably wasn’t the right audience for it and it was probably better than I thought. Or something.

Anyway, happy birthday Jerome. You’re dead  but as even people like me who thought you were a bit of a bore haven’t forgotten you, I guess you’re still quite famous. How nice for you.

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June 7th

On this day in 1977 after months of faffing about, Queen Elizabeth II officially celebrated her silver jubilee. There was loads more stuff after this day as well, but it was on June 7th that everyone was to go out into the streets, have street parties, get pissed, get off with the neighbour and drunkenly slur “Lawd luv her, she’sh a great queen, Gor blessh ‘er!” and other such patriotic bloody nonsense.

This picture makes me sad

We’ll be doing the whole thing again next year when the queen reaches her diamond jubilee (60 years on the throne) and everyone waves flags, a lot of people hang around on the Mall, bonfire beacons are lit up and down the country and some people get drunk again and whilst red in face and full of beer, wine and/or spirits, they will toast the queen before farting loudly and the quietly slipping off their chairs to lie in a drunken coma on the pavement, their carpet or in the gutter. Adultery will be committed in the name of the jubilee, if it’s a hot day there will be sunstroke and pants will be pissed. All in all, a British celebration, meant to evoke the spirit of pride and patriotism, but only managing piss and wind.

To be fair, next year’s one will be far smaller than the celebrations in 1977. For a start there are more people like me who’d quite happily see the back of the whole lot of them and then there is the lack of community spirit that our beloved St Margaret of bastard cunting Thatcher bestowed to us in the 1980s. There will be flag waving on the Mall. There will be some street parties, but there will also be a lot of taking advantage of smaller crowds in supermarkets, going abroad, sitting home and watching it on the tv but in no way getting involved with the neighbours one couldn’t pick out in a police line up if ones life depended on it.

In 1977 a worldwide audience of 500 million watched the queen smiling on a balcony with assorted misfitsmembers of her family. She

Corrie on acid

made nice speeches and there were enough people around who still remembered the war and rationing and “the good old days” to really care about what was going on. And then of course there were The Sex Pistols. They released their single God Save The Queen to coincide with the whole jubilee hullabaloo, after all Malcolm McLaren was nothing if not a PR überkind and my oh my did people seethe at the sheer effrontery. Of course rather like those who don’t like Springsteen’s Born in the USA because “it’s so patriotic and America fuck yeah“, those who hated it so much, hadn’t really listened to the lyrics. It’s not anti the queen, so much as the establishment, the government and all of us dreaming our way in a fog of apathy through our, er, “fascist regime”. To be fair, even if the haters had listened to the lyrics they’d still have hated it, but at least it would have been for the right reasons! The hand sailed along the Thames on June 7th on a barge called the Queen Elizabeth and, well who on earth would have seen that coming! had a bit of a skirmish with the police and found themselves nicked. Oh and the song was banned on the radio, but it still got to no.1 in the charts, but instead of showing it at no.1 they instead left the no.1 spot blank. Ooh, those scary punks! It was a precursor of where we were all going. A more generalised cynicism for pomp and circumstance, although with a sprinkling of sentimentality and love of tradition; a more media savvy class of celebrity (the royals themselves were soon whoring themselves out to the media like Kings Cross crack addicts) and a future that was happy to forget the hardships of the past and demand more for no other reason than they could.

Lawd luv 'er

It was also a comedy rebellion with no teeth, which pretty much sums up the sort of rebellion we British folk excel at. We can’t have revolutions because mum’s got the tea on and we don’t want to miss Coronation Street (btw, they had a special episode for the Jubilee where Annie Walker dressed up as Elizabeth I. The writers had probably taken a lot of acid before they came up with that one). But, if you insist, we will enjoy the silly fellows being a bit angry, after all it’s just a laugh.

So, that was it. I didn’t go to a street party because I didn’t want to. I’ve seen friends’ photos of events they attended. I am so glad I wasn’t tempted. It was a tragic mess of flags, appalling hair and clothing decisions, spam sandwiches and generic fizzy pop for the kiddies.

Lord luv ‘er and all who sail in ‘er.

 

Today was and is the birthday of three singers of some note. The dead one is Dean Martin and the two who are still alive are Sir Tom Jones aka Jones the Voice and Prince.

Now, taking them in order of birth, I start with a man who had a voice that was probably used to get an awful lot of women into bed, both

Dino did like a fag

by him and those who bought his records. Dino Paul Crocetti, started his showbiz career as Dino Martini and then Anglicised it to Dean Martin as he hit the clubs and sought success. He never really got girls peeing their pants and acting like lunatics in the way Frank Sinatra did, but he did have a lovely voice – pretty much modelled on Bing Crosby – and soon most people realised that he was less of a dick than Sinatra and some of them even preferred him to Sinatra. Me? I like them both vocally, but Martin’s the one I’d like to have had a drink with. Now, I know if I dig even a little deeper I can find out horrid stuff about Martin, but I don’t want to, so, you know, he sure did sing pretty and anyone with ears to hear is grateful to him for that.

Put it away, love!

Jones the Voice also sang so fine that he made laydeez throw their knickers at him. I love a lot of stuff he’s done, but what is it with his hair and that stupid bloody nose job. And wearing really tight leather trousers long past a time when anyone could have told him that an ageing  paunchy Taff showing off his meat and two veg is NOT attractive. That said, I have brilliant memories of It’s Not Unusual becoming a hit for the second time and my colleague Zac phoning up to my office to say “It’s on!”. I’d race down to the room where he was working, where they had a radio and he and I would dance like lunatics and then when it was over, get back to our work. So thank you, Thomas and I’m very glad you’ve stopped with the dye jobs. Grey hair is better on you even if it still does look like a Brillo pad.

And then there is Prince Rogers Nelson.  I love Prince. When I saw him live on the Lovesexy tour, he rendered

You sexy motherf***er. Sort of.

me nearly hysterical with, well I don’t know what. Lust, certainly, even though I don’t fancy him. Some sort of manic episode? A temporary madness? Definitely. He’s been laughed at for being a bit odd, a bit short and a bit up himself, but the thing is he is SO talented. A multi-instrumentalist (as opposed to a mentalist, although probably that too), he has written some of the best music I know. Sign o’ The Times, is one of the best albums I know and the title track sums up the eighties in one simple and compelling song. His music can make you happy, it can make you horny (4 real as Prince would write it) and every so often it can make you cry (if you don’t believe me, listen to Sometimes it Snows in April). If he doesn’t, someone else singing one of his songs might: Nothing Compares 2 u. The man was and is a genius and anyone who doesn’t at least acknowledge that he has some good tunes in him is totally wrong in the head. Happy birthday Prince! You make me happy.

 

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June 6th

On this day in 1654 Queen Christina of Sweden abdicated her throne and converted to Catholicism.

Queen Christina liked to have some sort of bird on her horse's bum when she was riding

While she’s known as Queen Christina, she was more properly a king. She took her oath as a king and she was brought up as a prince by the order of her father. Apparently when she was born she was so hairy that at first everyone thought she was a boy, which sounds odd to me. Surely if she was that hairy they’d have thought she was a monkey or a werewolf or something, but no, clearly they thought it was normal for a baby boy to be born covered in hair. Anyway, they noticed she didn’t have a winky and realised she was a boy. Her dad, Gustav II didn’t care, he was just overjoyed that she was bonny and healthy because four children had died before her and he wanted an heir. Her mother didn’t like her so much and spent the first six years of Christina’s life giving her a hard time for being a girl and causing her mother pain when she was born.  Then Gustav II was killed in battle and suddenly Maria, Christina’s mother, was all over her like a rash, clinging to her like a limpet and basically being a huge pain in the arse. Christina didn’t want to hurt her mother, but she did want her to eff the eff off. In fact she was such a pain that eventually she was sent off to live in another castle and Christina was brought up for a few years by her aunt Catherine, as per her father’s wishes.

Apart from having the mother from hell and losing her beloved father so young, Christina had a fairly good childhood and was an intelligent and capable young woman. She spoke many languages fluently, rode well, was well-versed in history and politics and was much admired throughout Europe. She remained in the background politically until she was 18 and then became Queen regnant proper. It’s fair to say that she wasn’t the best of queens, but that was as much due to circumstances as any shortcomings on her behalf. She steered clear of marriage, saying privately that she found the whole thing distasteful and while she enjoyed the company of men, her closest relationships and truest affections were directed toward the women in her life. Was she a lesbian? It’s hard to say for sure, but given her distaste for the institution of marriage and all it entailed, it’s fair to say that if she ever did have sex it was far more likely to have been with a woman than a man. She reigned as queen proper for a decade, but she never really enjoyed it. She had wanted to abdicate long before 1654 but kept agreeing to stay on because parliament begged her. She felt a bit of a hypocrite, ruling over a Protestant country when she was secretly a Catholic, but it also made her a very tolerant woman. She did not discriminate against anyone based on religious distinctions and believed that everyone should be allowed to worship as they saw fit. These were very liberal views for the time.

But la! She had a nice abdication ceremony and then buggered off through Denmark and down to Rome, where they were well happy to

She wasn't much of a looker

see her what with her being all famous and a Catholic convert. They didn’t even seem to mind too much that she’d made most of her journey dressed as a man. That was another thing about her: she did like men’s clothes. She made quite the impact among the gentle ladies of Italy who were astonished by her manners and the ease with which she comported herself. She got invited to loads of parties and everyone was keen to have her in their home because she was such a big celebrity. The rest of her life was spent between Paris and Rome with short trips back to Sweden and elsewhere before she eventually died in Rome and was buried in St Peter’s Basilica, which is well posh.

The thing that makes her stand out in history is that she wasn’t like others around her. She dressed how she pleased, she did what she wanted and she wasn’t at all bothered by the constraints of class and gender. That she managed to do this whilst still being accepted by the establishment of Europe and the Roman Catholic church, which was even more Conservative with a capital C and a “don’t you be  poof or a Jew or one of those funny laydeez around us, you fucking weirdos!” then than it is now. So much was her masculine demeanour and her deep voice noted at the time, that in the 60s her body was exhumed so that scientists could figure out if she was intersex and/or had a winky and a lala. They weren’t able to discern from her bones whether or not this was the case, but as there are diary entries along the lines of “Fuxace!!!!1 On the rag. Again!!!!111!1”, we do know that she menstruated, so she did have a lala even though she looked a bit like a man.

 

Today was the Birthday of the novelist, Virginia Andrews.

She may mean nothing at all to a lot of the men out there. To be fair a lot of women may also be going “Who?” But there are a lot of us who remember reading Flowers in the Attic and then if were obsessed nutters, the whole series of Dollganger novels. It’s fair to say that her books were the crack cocaine of trashy literature and we were her desperate little junkies all wanting just a little more of her sick and twisted little world.

Like Village of the Damned with added incest

If you’ve never read these books, here’s the story. In Flowers in the Attic we first come across the Dollganger children, Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie. Their parents are Christopher and Corrine. Christopher dies in a car accident and Corrine who is afraid of being destitute asks her mother, Olivia, if the children can live with her while she tries to get work, etc. Olivia is all “yeah, that’s fine, but your father cannot know about them, so we must hide them in the attic.” The kids are all “Do we have to?” and Corrine is all “Yeah, your grandfather didn’t like it when I married my half-uncle and he’d have a fit if he knew we had children, but he’s going to die soon, so I’ll be nice to him, he’ll leave me lots of money and then we can all live together.” and so the kids have to live in the attic. It’s horrible up there, Grandma’s a bitch, Mum pretty much reneges on her word, there’s arsenic, drinking blood out of hunger,one of the twins dies and Chris and Cathy end up doing sex. They escape when they realise that their mother is trying to murder them and head out to an unknown future.

Petals on the Wind, is even more batshit mental. The other twin dies, Cathy gets to be a ballet dancer and Chris a doctor. She tries to stay away from him, but he still loves her. She wants revenge on her mother. There’s death, love,madness, a fire, more death and then Chris and Cathy give in and pretend to be husband and wife. Onto If There Be Thorns which again ups the mentalism. Cathy and Chris are together with “their” children, except they’re not, they’re Cathy’s with her first husband and her mother’s husband. She’s nothing if not prolific when it comes to inappropriate relationships. They adopt a little girl. Everyone’s happy then Bart starts visiting the old lady next door who is … oh come on, she’s Corrine the evil mother with her evil butler and Bart gets made all mental by the pair of them and there’s another fire and more death and at the end, Cathy and Chris are safe and Bart’s a bit less mental.

Seeds of Yesterday concentrates on the children, Bart, Jory and Cindy. Bart is still mental, Cindy’s a bit of  a strumpet and Jory, a ballet

This is the woman who came up with this crazy web of incestuous madness

dancer, has an accident and ends up in a wheelchair. Much mentalism ensues. Chris is killed in a car crash just like his dad and Cathy goes up to the attic and dies. As you do. This is the end of the series, but then – oh joy (really, I wish I was being sarcastic, but I’m not) – there’s Garden of Shadows,  a prequel wherein the madness begins to make some sort of sense. Not in a real “oh well that’s all right then!” way, but more “Well bugger me with witch’s broomstick, the whole damn lot of them are a bunch of incestuous mentals!”

By this time, Virginia Andrews had died of breast cancer. The last book was partly written by her and partly by a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, who was hired by her estate. He is still writing books as Virginia Andrews, which brings a nice touch of real-life mentalism to her literary heritage. Not as crazy as the plots of the books she actually wrote, but pretty strange all the same.

Anyway! I’m sorry, I have introduced you to a strange world of wrong, or maybe reminded you of it, if like me you wallowed in this filth. I should have chosen a more worthy subject, but if it’s any consolation, going back through the plot summaries of these awful, trashy, outrageously schlocky books has made me want to read them again. Surely that is penance enough?

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June 5th

On this day in 1833 the seventeen year old Ada Byron, later to be Ada Lovelace, met Charles Babbage for the first time. It was a meeting that led to a lifelong friendship and to Ada becoming known as the first computer programmer.

A photo of the young Ada

Now, there is some debate about how much input she had into the “programming” for Babbage’s Analytical Engine, but from what I can see this is mostly because she was a lady and Babbage was a big old clever man, so she was probably just writing down stuff that he’d told her to write down and wasn’t that clever at all. My response to this sort of stuff is quite simple: whatever. There is more than enough to suggest that the Countess of Lovelace was plenty clever enough to have created a dinky little algorithm on all her ownsome. I’ll tell you more about her and not too much about Babbage, because, you know how it is, that man gets all the publicity. Time for him to lurk in the shadows for a while.

Ada was born in 1815 and her father was, as you know, the really rather gorgeous and allegedly mad, bad and dangerous to know, Lord Byron. However her mother (Anne Milbanke) and father separated soon after her birth, he died when she was nine and she never knew him. He wrote this about her in Childe Harold:

`Is thy face like thy mother’s, my fair child!
Ada! sole daughter of my house and of my heart? 
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled’ 
And then we parted,-not as now we part, 
but with a hope.’

Which was quite pretty. Her mother thought that Byron was  total mentalist and to ensure that her daughter didn’t end up all loco in the coco, she decided that she should be well-educated in mathematics and science. I can see her logic, what with maths and science being all, well logical, but if she’d had a proper think about it, she would have realised that a lot of scientists and mathematicians are barking. Thankfully, she didn’t and so Ada received an education which as unusual for a girl of her background in that period. She had fine tutors and it was generally agreed that she was a first-rate student who might go on to be a first-rate mathematician. Despite this, biographers still like to give it “well maybe it was Babbage who told her what to do”. Shut up, already!

When she met Babbage, she was already a fine maths geek and their friendship was in part based on their mutual love of the subject and

Right nice painting of Ada

interest in research and doing big hard sums. Babbage also called her the Enchantress of the Numbers, so it’s probably not out of the realm of possibility that he wanted to get into her pantaloons. But he didn’t. She got married to an earl and he tried to make mechanical computer type things. Her algorithm was written in 1842-43, when he asked her to translate something an Italian had written up for him about his Analytical Engine and  how it worked. He also asked her to add her own notes, which she did, her notes exceeding the text she’d translated. The fact is that Babbage saw his engine as pretty much a giant calculator; Ada saw that it could be more than that, that it could in fact be used to analyse just about anything. He was the mechanical genius, but she was more able to visualise the actual workings of the “software”.  That’s putting it simplistically, but it’s along the lines of how it was, so we really don’t need more complexity.

Her algorithm was to do with calculating Bernoulli numbers. Now, I could tell you all about Bernoulli numbers, but you don’t really need to know much other than they’re a sequence of rational numbers. I could pretend to know more than that, but frankly I started reading about them and my brain started to hurt a lot, so I stopped.  The engine that could have made this algorithm work wasn’t built, but according to computer type people, it would have worked and even though computers are electronic and not mechanical, and even though she wasn’t writing for something that she didn’t know would exist, she had written a proper programme of sorts.

All that really matters is she was very bloody clever, she knew what she was doing at a time when women were supposed to wander around being dim and fainting if someone said “nice tits” and her expansion of the theory/practice of what the analytical engine/computer could do was ground breaking, which is why she has  computer programming language named after her.  Them there Byrons had some pretty fine genes!

 

Today is the birthday of Marky Mark.

Now, I know I should be nice and call him Mark Wahlberg, but that man could live to be 102 and people will still remember that once upon a time he was Marky Mark off of the Funky Bunch and that Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were really quite shit. That said he was better looking than his brother Donnie who was in New Kids on the Block and many a teenager swooned for his six-pack. I found it a bit unnecessary, but each to their own.

Nice arse, awful pants

Marky Mark was also trouble and was in enough trouble in his childhood (racist beatings, attempted murder, etc) to last most shitbags a lifetime. He repented his bad ways and went straight, but there’s still something a little “meh” about him. That said, I hold my hand up to falling a little in love with him in Boogie Nights when he played Dirk Diggler. However, I realised in retrospect that it was the slightly simple Dirk I thought was lovely and not the muscled up dick, Marky Mark.  I first saw the film with a couple of friends. There were only about five other people in the cinema (it was an early daytime showing) and within a few minutes three of those had walked out. We figured they thought they were coming to see a bit of a disco film and were shocked by all the cock and stuff. And of course that’s the other thing.  How disappointing must it be for women to go home with Marky Mark and find out that the cock at the end of Boogie Nights was a prosthetic? Poor old Marky Mark, destined to always be a disappointment.

So, he can act quite well at times, he was in a rubbish band and he’s been a deeply unpleasant criminal in his time. To be honest, I’m only writing about him because (a) I love Boogie Nights, (b) it amuses me to call him Marky Mark, and (c) it’s given me the excuse to say cock more than is strictly polite.

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June 4th

On this day in 1411 King Charles VI of France, granted a monopoly on cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Not just any cheese, natch, because that would be unfair to the rest of France, which is a nation of cheese makers (who as we all know are blessed), but their own brand of stinky blue cheese, riddled with mould and stuff. From that day if your cheese wasn’t made in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, then you could not call your stinky blue cheese, riddled with mould and stuff, Roquefort.

A cave of cheese beyond your wildest dreams

This has been repeated throughout the ages from the days of yore right up into smoking hot modernity. In 1925 Roquefort got France’s first ever Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, which was basically what Chaz had given them back in the day and then in 1961 there was some sort of council meeting in Millau, which is near the special caves of Roquefort (more of those in a minute) called a Tribunal de Grande Instance, where they told everyone that they could use the same method of cheese manufacture if they felt like it, but if they tried to call it Roquefort they would have their goodies cut off. Probably.

So, there we have a little potted history of how special Roquefort is, even though it’s stinky, blue and full of mould. But how do they make it so mouldy? Well, here’s the legend, which is more full of holes than the cheese before they stick mould in it. A little shepherd boy was having a breather in the caves when he saw a fit lass and thought “I’ll have me some of that” and he went off to follow her, leaving his bread and cheese behind. So far, so plausible if dull and uninspired. Then, we are expected to believe that he didn’t go back to the cave for “a couple of months”. What now?! I mean, yes, one could get struck by a bit of a coup de foudre, but what was he doing for a couple of months? What about the sheep? And why didn’t some other animal or something happen into the cave and go “Mmm! Cheese! I’ll have me some of that!” But no. Allegedly the little shepherd boy went back there a couple of months later and there was his cheese gone all mouldy. Rather than be put off by it, he was apparently so hungry that he decided to eat it and upon eating it he  was all “Well, bugger me sideways with my shepherd’s crook, that sure is tasty!” It’s actually more likely that he mounted a sheep, entered it into a rodeo and then stuck a chicken feather up his arse and flew to Paris.

But, however the whole thing started, there is a long history of cheese making in that region. Pliny the Eldermentioned it in AD 79 (his

They call it blue, but yes, you're right, it's green

words were along the lines of “For something so minging to look at, it tastes pretty good, but when it comes to a nice snack I prefer wolf nipple chips“) and archaeologists have found prehistoric cheese colanders in the region.  How do they make it. Well there’s something in the caves around Roquefort-sur-Soulzon that produces the specific type of mould that gives the cheese its taste. Back in the day they’d put bread in the caves until it moulded up good and proper, then reduce it to powder and stick it into holes they’d made in the cheese and then leave the cheese in the caves until it was good and ripe. These days they can make the mould in laboratories if they want and they tend to inject it using aerosols. None of it sounds particularly pleasant, but the aerosol thing makes me think of cheese in a can, which is even less appetising than blue cheese (you might have guessed by now, I’m not a big fan).

And there it is. You’re left with a nice crumbly white, ewe’s cheese that’s full of mould and rather salty and well-liked by those who like that sort of thing. The French do; it’s their second favourite cheese after Comté which is not blue.

Today is the birthday of Russell Brand.

Brand is a bit like Marmite. Those who love him love him. Those who hate him need to get over themselves. I do understand, well sort of. There was a time when I thought I hated Marmite, but one day I found out that Twiglets– which I love – are basically a wheat based snack

Rusty Rockets in the flesh

covered in Marmite, so I did in fact love Marmite.

I didn’t have a Damascene conversion about Mr Brand. I found  him hilarious from the get-go and if anything find him even more hilarious now. I think that his shift into the world of movies may be a mistake, but he’s hard to touch as a stand up. The man is funny. He is very, very funny, and despite his rat-like teeth, he is also quite attractive in an “I know I’ll feel dirty if I go there, but I can always have a shower afterwards” kind of a way.

He’s a Victorian urchin, mixed with a terrible rogue, mixed with a filthy horndog, mixed with a raconteur of rare erudition and wit, mixed with … he’s funny, he speaks all cockney, he used to be a smackhead, he isn’t now, he used to be led by his cock, but now he’s apparently found true love with Katy Perry.  And he supports West Ham, which shows that the man knows all about suffering.

If you’ve never seen him do stand up watch the video. I love him and I’m happy to wish him a well happy birthday.

 

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June 3rd

On this day in 1140 a chap by the name of Peter Abelard was found guilty of heresy.  He probably would have been sentenced to death, but he got past that by heading off to Rome to plead for clemency and dying on the way. Smart move.

Fulbert catches Abelard trying to tit Héloïse up the armsleeve

The name may be ringing a bell with you. If so, yes, you’re right. This is Peter Abelard of Abelard and Héloïse, the couple who had the great love affair. Apparently. I have my doubts about this. Is it really true love when, after popping his lady love’s cherry, the popper goes around bragging about it to his mates? See, I don’t really think so. To me, it’s more the medieval equivalent of pulling in a nightclub, going back to hers, making her sleep in the wet spot and then leaving before she wakes up and, of course, not leaving your phone number.

That said, he didn’t leave her. The continued their illicit relationship, but were found out by Héloïse’s guardian, Fulbert and forced to separate. They did, but were still getting up to their filthy shenanigans in secret. So much so that Héloïse got pregnant. Abelard, ever the gentleman, sent her off to a convent to give birth. Here, again, we can find parallels with modern behaviour. You know how people love to laugh when celebrities give the fruits of their loins unusual names like, Apple or Fifi Trixibelle, or Dweezil or even Moon Unit. These slebs are so far behind the times. Héloïse called her son, Astrolabe after the scientific instrument. Nice.  Anyway, by this time Fulbert the guardian is a bit pissed off, so Abelard suggests they have a secret wedding. Héloïse isn’t too keen, but somehow she gets talked into it. Why secret? Well, it wouldn’t be good for Abelard’s career as king of all the philosophers and the best teacher in all the world, if he were married and anyway, all the sex is having a deleterious effect on that career. Yet again, Héloïse finds herself  carted off to a nunnery and this time Fulbert decides that Abelard is abandoning her, so he decides that he’ll put a stop to the whole thing, which he does by hiring some blokes to attack him in the middle of the night and to, well not to put too fine a point on it, cut his nuts off. That’s right, Abelard was to spent the rest of his life castrated and nutless.

That pretty much put the kibosh on the love affair and Héloïse stayed in the nunnery, eventually becoming prioress, even though she hated being a nun, and Abelard joined a monastery and became a monk. The legend of  their “romance” is held in the letters they then wrote to each other, but frankly, some of those letters just tell the story of Abelard taking advantage of a young woman, being a bit of a dick, getting her pregnant, abandoning her and always putting  his career first. On those grounds an awful lot of women are having great love affairs these days and they should stop being so bloody miserable about being taken for granted and be happy that in  a thousand years time someone will be writing about them and being all “Aw, isn’t it romantic!” or some bitch will blog about them saying “what a shit relationship that was!”

Anyway! None of this was the reason that Old Peter the porker got convicted of heresy, although it does show some of the character

Abelard teaching a class shortly before he parted company with his balls

traits that made him enough of a dick to make powerful enough enemies to get him to a place where they decided to take the fucker down. The thing is, Abelard was a brilliant man (and for the record, Héloïse was a brilliant woman who was far too good for him). He was a genius philosopher and changed the direction of western philosophy. He was also a  sought after teacher and famous throughout the known world. All of this stuff went to his head and he thought that he was King Cock of Christendom. This sort of arrogance is bound to make you a powerful enemy or several and his particular nemesis was Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard was one of those dead holy blokes who gets all “you can’t say that” if people get a bit rational and all about the human reason. When Abelard used this method to discuss the Trinity, Bernard was not a happy chappy. What followed was basically twenty years of recriminations, Abelard being all “I know you are but what am I?” until finally, Bernard got his wish and a Council of Bishops decided that Bernard was right, Abelard was a heretic and whatever. Personally, I think that the bishops had just had enough of two old men going at it over and over and over again, so they just decided to go along with Bernard, who was the one giving them the most earache. Historic decisions have been reached for far more flimsy reasons.

And then, dear readers, Abelard ended up in Cluny  and died. Apparently his dying words were “I don’t know”. What is less well publicised is that they were the answer to the question “If you had to shag one of them or die, would you do Hale or Pace?”

Today was the birthday of  Tony Curtis, but do you know what? I think he was an utter prick, so that is all we will say about Mr so-called Curtis today.

Josephine in the 1920s

Instead, I’d like to talk about another birthday person: Josephine Baker. Ms Baker was, to put it succinctly, an amazing woman. She grew up dirt poor, she worked as a servant for a while, but she was abused by the women she worked for and left to live on the streets when she was still a child. She made money by dancing on street corners and that’s how she was discovered. She went on to be the best paid chorus girl in Vaudeville and then a company she was with toured Europe starting with France. She pulled out of her US contract, went to work at the Folies Bergères and became one of the biggest stars in the world.

Starting out as a dancer who sang a little, she became a singer with a big and powerful voice. She was the muse to many artists at the time including Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Picasso and Christian Dior. She made three movies, becoming the first ever black leading lady and she was adored.

The adoration grew during the war. She was such a big star that even the Nazis were loath to treat her badly. She, however, hated them and worked for the resistance, helped refugees and was an all round top woman. For her efforts she won the Croix de Guerre, the Rosette de la résistance and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by Charles de Gaulle.  Unable to have children, she adopted her rainbow tribe, twelve children of differing nationalities and ethnicities. She continued to perform and although no longer an American citizen she became active with the NAACP and the Civil Rights Movement in the US. She spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 and in 1968,

Josephine with 9 of her 12 adopted children

when Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, his widow asked her to take over leadership of the movement. Josephine eventually turned the offer down because her children were too young and still needed her.

After one final performance, which received rave reviews, Josephine suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died peacefully a few days later. She left behind a fine legacy. Her talent will long be remembered, but more importantly, her humanitarian work, her generosity, her fearlessness and the fact that she made it on her own in a time when that was hard for any woman, let alone a dirt poor black woman. She was a damn fine woman and it’s a shame that she had to travel to another country for this to be appreciated. But she did, it was and there ain’t many of us can say that.

Happy birthday, Josephine.

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June 2nd

On this day in 1774 things got a bit testy in North America when the latest in a series of Acts known as the Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts was passed. This one was called the Quartering Act and I’m going to tell you all about it. Probably.

"Yo bitch! This is our house now!"

First things first. Don’t get all worried that this is the sort of quartering you get in “hanged, drawn and quartered“; the British were not looking to enact a mass geometrical dismembering of the American people. It was a little more prosaic than that. Basically, it was all about putting soldiers up, ostensibly in empty houses, barns etc. Some claimed that if the Governor of the colony wanted his soldiers to live in an already occupied private home, they could. This may have been the case, but there’s no evidence it ever actually happened. Why was the act passed? Well because governors of the colony were getting a bit pissed off when they’d say to the good people of Boston – for example – “all right, mate. Can you put up some of my boys?” and the good people of Boston – for example – said “Fuck you, buddy!”

Of course the other reason it got passed, along with a whole load of other intolerable acts (don’t worry, I’m not going to list them, but suffice it to say they were a big slap in the face for the colonialists and robbed them of a lot of stature and independence) was because the English were well angry about a little thing called the Boston Tea Party that had gone down in December 1773. Communication being what it was back in the days of yore, they didn’t find out about the little party until January, but when they did they were incandescent with rage and stuff like that. They wanted all the tea paid for, and they wanted the colonials to bloody well behave themselves. It’s probably worth noting that at this point in our mutual histories, tea was really terribly expensive. Nowadays if you toppled a load of PG Tips into the sea everyone would be pretty much “whatEVAH!” about it. Then, it was more or less tantamount to lobbing gold bars into the sea and showing your arse to a bunch of nuns. In other words, a bit bloody naughty.

So, anyway. British soldiers were allowed to live where they wanted. The American colonists were not happy about it. Everyone was well grumpy about the whole damned thing. No one wanted to pay for the tea, do what the English said, or indeed have anything more to do the English and their mad German king. And that’s it. Dull, boring, meh and terribly whatevs. But it did lead to a little bit of a contretemps that I think we all know about, but I’ll save that in case I’m desperate at some point in the future and want to write about Paul Revere or that terrible little turncoat Benedict Arnold.

Today was the birthday of one disgusting old fuck and is the birthday of another. The first is the Marquis de Sade, who I was going to write about, but then I remembered trying to read Justine and thought “No, really just no.” So, then I looked up other birthdays and thought “Oh,how lovely, Keith Allen.” who as it happens is also a git.

The Marquis de Sade

You know enough about the Marquis de Sade. He was in prison, he was out of prison, he was brutalising his servants and various prostitutes whenever he could, although he probably slowed down as he turned into an early Gallic predecessor of Jabba the Hutt in his later years. He’s been called a demon and a demonic genius. He’s been vilified and deified and rarely been viewed as the boring nasty piece of aristocratic shit that he was. But he was and that’s all we need to know, other than the fact that as a writer of pornography he sucked appallingly.

Keith Allen is nowhere near as much of a pointless waste of lard, as the aristocratic sick fuck, but he tries. Oh, he really does try. He was quite funny once upon a time in the 1980s, but he seems pretty much perpetually chippy, a bit angry and far too reliant on coke to maintain what once seemed like a

Keith Allen: Git

spark of real talent. He is that sad and pathetic thing, an ageing enfant terrible and a man who thinks that being edgy means saying a few swears on a culture programme like a teenage rebel. What’s charming and passionate in a young man, becomes petulant and tragic in a man who should have learned some lessons along the way, but was drinking too much and taking too much coke to hand in his homework. In short the man is a twat, a twat’s twat and a dick to boot. As such he can take his birthday and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Or up his arse, whichever’s nearer to hand.

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