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January 9th

On this day in 1493 Columbus sailed the ocean and stopped to do a pee.

Do I look like a pretty mermaid, you twat?

That is a lie, although I’m sure that he did at least one pee on this day, but he didn’t stop to do it. What happened was that as he was sailing near the Dominican Republic, or to be more precise about the name of the Island itself, Hispaniola, he was one of the first people to see not one, but three manatees. What did he have to say about this sighting? that they were “not half as beautiful as they are painted.”

Yes, that’s right, Christopher Columbus was an idiot who thought that the manatees were mermaids. Thankfully, for the sanity of the manatees, as far as we know neither Columbus nor any of his sailors attempted to have sexual congress with the manatees. Not because they weren’t all a bit sexually frustrated, but because as they thought they were mermaids, they had no idea where they should put their willies and were too embarrassed to ask.

All in all, this sighting tells us a lot about sexual frustration, being at see

There are no photos of Mermaids, only paintings. This is because they are not real, dirty sailor boys!

for months on end and how desperate sailors must get if they can see a manatee – not the prettiest of animals – and actually think that it is a woman, albeit a half fish, half human woman. We should note that Columbus said they weren’t half as pretty as they were painted, not, as any sane person would say “they’re a bit bloody ugly”. Actually that’s unfair to sane people. Sane people would not think for one second that a manatee was a laydee. Ergo, sailors are mentalists who would probably shag anything that stayed still for long enough. What a bunch of dirty boys they are.

Today was the birthday of a chap called Josemaría Escrivá. Since 2002 he’s been known as St Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás. He was a Spanish priest, the founder of Opus Dei and according to Pope John Paul II who canonised him he should be “counted among the great witnesses of Christianity.”

Like buggery should he. Opus Dei is a well dodgy movement. Of course the members would say that they are not and anyone who says they are has an agenda. But given that in the late sixties all c.50 male members of Opus Dei had volunteered to join the “Blue Division” in 1941, one might poke ones tongue out at the Opus Dei bunch and say “yeah, well what about your agenda, ha!” The Blue Division was a collection of Portuguese and Spanish volunteers who joined the German army in their fight against the Soviet army in the Eastern Front.

Opus Dei say they are not political, as did Josemaría, but the evidence is that for all their claims of apolitical holiness, they are extremely anti=communist and have got into bed with some rather dodgy people as a result of this.

Some of you might say that there’s nothing wrong with anti=communism, but being chummy with Franco? Allegedly claiming that Hitler wasn’t so bad as he was anti-communist and probably didn’t kill 6 million Jews (only 4 million, which is but a tiny amount. Not!) and popping over to stick your tongue up Pinochet’s arse? In short, it’s difficult to see either Josemaría or the whole organisation are as neutral as they claim.

This man was dodgy as fuck

It’s also clear that Josemaría was a bit of an elitist, thought he was above the Vatican and basically did not live the life that one might expect of a man who’s now a saint. He lived in luxury and he was a stranger to compassion and charity.

So, how did he get made into a saint if all this is true? I dunno, maybe the fact that JPII was also not all that fond of the communists had something to do with it. That and the fact that try as they might to be decent, a lot of the Catholic church and the whole of the Vatican are as bent as a 10 bob note.

Should we celebrate his birthday with joy? Should we fuck. He was a vile man and when he got made a saint, the RC church might as well have been seen kneeling down to suck Hitler’s dead cock. That’s how bad it was. So screw him and his happy birthday. He sort of makes me want to believe in heaven and hell, because I like the idea of a saint being poked in the arse by a laughing Satan in a pit of fire.

Please note that any offence given to Opus Dei or it’s batshit nasty members is totally non-accidental. Thank you.

Oh! Just a wee bit more. Opus Dei is well secretive, which is probably because it’s a cult. And old Josemaría had some super cool stuff to say about women. He told wives that it was their job to look purty for their husbands at all times and not try to be all clever and shit as that wasn’t very feminine of them. In short Opus Dei hates women. That hasn’t stopped Madonna from allegedly joining up with them, but then she is, much as I love/hate her, a bit of a stupid cow.

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March 5th

On this day in 1933 there was an election in Germany which was won by … have you guessed yet? Yes, that’s right. The election was brought to you by the letters S and S and the ordinal number 3rd. The Nazi party won. So much for democracy, well sort of. Here’s how those bastards did it.

 

Adolf's hopes of a career as a catalogue model never came to fruition

Firstly, despite winning a majority, they only had 43.9% of the vote and 288 seats out of 647. They had to form a coalition which they did with the German National People’s Party (DNVP) who were pretty unpleasant and racist but far less cuntish than the National Socialist Party. The coalition had 340 seats and a clear parliamentary majority, but not big enough for Hitler to do exactly as we wished. We’ll come back to that when we delve more into the winning of this election.

 

The election took place a few days after the Reichstag had been burned down by those pesky communists. Allegedly. Of course the Communist party (KPD) had the square root of sweet F.A. to do with this grievous act of arson; most historians agree that the Nazis did it and then pointed the finger at the KPD and had their leaders arrested. When Germany went to the polls the KPD were a little less popular than they had been and their vote went down by 19% (from 100 to 81 seats). The main opposition to the Nazis was the Social Democrat Party (SPD) whose share of the vote did not alter by much; they lost one seat. So, despite winning, despite increasing its percentage of the vote and number of seats, Adolf was not a happy man. The SPD were still there, the KPD hadn’t been completely destroyed and he hadn’t cracked the 50% barrier which he was sure had been possible. The long and the short of it is this, even at the height of their popularity, the Nazis weren’t as popular as all that.

But 43.9% is a pretty good vote, you might say and I’d agree. But is it as good when you consider that the SS and SA were monitoring the vote in Prussia. We could probably replace “monitoring” with either fiddling or intimidating or both. The KPD leadership was locked up and its membership were being threatened. But they weren’t the only ones. While the SS were being a little more gentle with the SPD, the leadership were worried enough that they’d legged it to Prague. We  have fiddling, we have intimidation, we have arson and still poor old Adolf couldn’t quite get more than nearly 44% of the vote. What a useless fucker he was.

However, this election, with all the legitimacy of (the pretence of) democracy surrounding it had nothing whatsoever to do with democracy. Hitler planned to use it to pass the Enabling Act (this would allow him to pass laws without going through the Reichstag), but he needed a two-thirds majority to do this and as we can see he didn’t have it even with his dirty little coalition. What was a  homicidal wannabe dictator to do! First things first, a little more intimidation. His biggest rivals in the Reichstag were the SPD, who were never going to vote for the Enabling Act, so he set the SA and SS to the task of making it incredibly difficult for them to take their  seats. Once that was achieved, he needed to get persuasive and he did. He managed to convince the Centre Party (74 seats) to vote with the coalition and before the end of the month Hitler was the de facto dictator of Germany, the KPD and the SPD were outlawed and Germany had become a totalitarian state in little more than the blink of an eye.

I bring you this because there are people out there who like to point to the democratic legitimacy of Hitler “back in the day”, either because they want to be fair or because they’re some swivel-eyed maniac who thinks that David Irving is an actual historian and all that Holocaust stuff was made up. In future as well as telling them to fuck the fuck off, you’ll also be able to stab them with facts. No need to thank me, it’s all part of the service!

 

Today is the birthday of a trio of musical mavens. The first of these was born in 1957-ah and even at the grand old age of 54-ah, he’s still plying his trade-ah. He’s  foul-mouthed fucking fucker who was once quite a pretty boy-ah, but these days he more closely resembles a shrivelled walnut with a face painted on it or Alex Higgins just before he died. I’m talking, of course, about Mark E. Smith-ah of The Fall, a band that has been performing – although with an ever-changing line-up – for about 35 years. Their success has

Mark-ah is known for his clean-living ways and adherence to a good dental hygiene regime

always been outside of the mainstream, but cult or not, they are loved with a deep and abiding devotion by those who are their fans. I am not one of that number, but even I have to hand it to Smith. For a loud-mouthed, chippy fucking bastard with all the charm of urine soaked mattress, he has stuck it to the world for the best part of four decades and shows no sign of stopping soon. Nice work, you strange little man.

 

On to the other two who were born within minutes of each other in 1962, they both resemble strangely assembled albino-esque reworkings of Buddy Holly and they also both resemble each other to an astonishing degree. This may be because the boys from Auchtermucthy  are twins Craig and Charlie Reid, aka The Proclaimers. They formed their band in 1983 and found success in 1986 when they were invited

Charlie and Craig have always worn slightly different glasses to assist those who can't tell them apart

to tour with The Housemartins as a support act. It’s hard to pin a genre on them, but as they started out in punk, it’s probably fair to say that they’re a mash-up of punk, folk and football stand anthemic. They’ve had a degree of mainstream success but never been full-on pop stars. This is probably down to their music which sits outside of pop whilst saying a very polite hello to it and their looks. Personally I find them pleasant enough to look at, by they’re not the sort to moisten the gussets of hormonal teenagers or inspire young boys to live fast and die young. But they’re solid Scottish lads with solid left-wing credentials and a fine line in rousing tunes that have even the most terribly, terribly posh of the English persuasion bawling out “If you go will you send back a letter from America” in the closet approximation to Scottish dialect they can find.

 

Happy birthday, Craig and Charlie. You’re a great bunch of lads!

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Stuff that happened in February 1976

To begin at the very beginning. February 1976 started quite unexpectedly on February 1st and over in the US of A, Rich Man, Poor Man (which introduced us to Peter Strauss and Nick Nolte) premiered on ABC television. To people in the UK, it’s worth knowing – or not – that ABC is the station that shows the Oscars and has for ever and a day. Rich Man, Poor Man came to the UK as well and very popular it was too. It was about a rich man and a poor man  and years later we also got to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy which was  much waited for sequel and featured Alec Guinness as a spy in search of the missing beggar man and thief.

Travis Bickle gets cross when his passenger shows no interest in who he had in the back of his cab the other day

And that was just the beginning of the month. Staying with visual entertainment type stuff, films that were released that month included: Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Return of the Pink Panther and the truly sublime Taxi Driver which starred Robert de Niro as a slightly killy taxi driver and Jodie Foster as a prostitute. One of the most wonderful things about the film was its moral ambiguity and an ending that would just not be allowed today, well not in a mainstream Hollywood movie anyway. It was very much part of a new golden age of movies that started with Bonnie and Clyde and ended some time around the period that the whole world got a hard on for Star Wars. That’ s not to say that George Lucas is totally to blame for the 80s glut of “high concept” movies, but along with his mate Steven Spielberg he pretty much opened the way to the Don Simpsons of this world. The utter twat. Please to  be noting, I do like Star Wars – especially Han Solo and Chewbacca – I just mourn the passing of the ethos surrounding movies in the 1970s, although to be fair to Mr Lucas, it was probably cocaine that messed things up every bit as much as he did.

Moving on! Much as I’d like to stay with films and television, there were other things afoot in February 1976. There was some sport in Innsbruck, when the 12th Winter Olympic Games opened on 4th February. Lots of people did skiing and skating, some of them jumped on tea trays and slid down icy tubes of death and everyone had a tremendous amount of fun in the snow and ice. Meanwhile, away from the Winter Wonderland, political type events were going on.

The US were still doing nuclear testing in Nevada. Why? Well there’s a question. One would have figured that they knew how everything worked by then, but no, they kept on testing. Maybe the government had something against Nevadans and wanted them all to get nuclear type diseases to keep them in their place. One thing’s for sure, even Mulder and Scully never investigated that one, so, well, yeah. Something really strange must have been going on. Conspiratorially yours, etc.

Over in Africa, the last of the Europeans were pulling out. Not out of the goodness of their own hearts, lawks a mercy no! The Spanish pulled their armed forces out of the Western Sahara on 26th February and the following day the Western Sahara declared its Independence. Coincidence? I think not! That said Spain did keep a couple of enclaves in the region, but  not for long. Probably. Hey! I’m only looking at February 1976, I don’t want to give the whole story away!

In the Netherlands a huge scandal was emerging centring around the Lockheed Corporation and bribes. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands had received a lot of money from the corporation and he wasn’t the only one. Internationally, Lockheed had been handing out millions of dollars to all and sundry to ensure that their planes were bought by the military. Their Chair and Vice-Chair had to resign on 13th February in the face of everyone being all “Ooh, how dreadful, you corrupt so and sos!” (It was 1976, swearing wasn’t quite as common as it is now, so even when very angry, people were careful not to call a fucking bastard an utter bollockhead). Of course, Lockheed didn’t suffer too much. A few laws were passed to stop bribery and corruption, most notably in the US, but funnily enough bribery and corruption didn’t quite go away.

Meanwhile, somewhere far, far away in the South Atlantic, Argentinian destroyers fired across the bows of a British ship called the Shackleton. It was probably the start of a wee bit of trouble that later developed into the Falklands war, which was the moment that British people all went to their maps and breathed a huge sigh of relief when they discovered the Falklands weren’t islands just off Scotland so we weren’t about to be invaded by Eva Peron.

One other political type happening is worth remembering. Moscow, still under the rule of Leonid Brezhnev, prepared to issue posters of Margaret Thatcher, not yet PM, but getting ready to thrust herself upon the world and make the 1980s utterly bloody miserable for most of the UK, depicting her as the Wicked Witch of the Cold War. Alas, there is no pictorial evidence of this available to us, but it’s nice to know that the Soviets were one step ahead of the rest of us in recognising what a stain on humanity Maggie really was.

Onwards and upwards. Heaven sent type stuff. In this month Basil Hume became Archbishop of Westminster (and was called a

Basil tells his mate about the time I rubbed his belly. Hilarity ensues

cardinal a few months afterwards). When I was but a young girl, I got to meet Basil Hume on retreat. We were in the queue for dinner and for reasons that totally escape me now, I rubbed his belly – it was a little rounded, which sort of belied his lean image – and, well, I rubbed a Cardinal’s belly. I think I asked him if I could, but knowing me I probably didn’t and just went for the rub. I hasten to add that this was entirely innocent on both our parts. Hume did not order me to rub him and there was no frisson between us. It was just a very ordinary belly rub, albeit, a very strange thing for a young girl to do to a Cardinal. He was a very nice man indeed.

Before we get to the very end of this strange round-up of events, we should take a quick peek into the hallowed world of art. In this month the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain), put on display Equivalent VIII, which quickly became known as “The Bricks”. It was, to all intents and purposes a pile of bricks. The public was in uproar about it, or to be more precise, the media said the public was in uproar about it. Well, taxpayers’ money had been paid for the bricks and oh my gosh! The Tate had been conned, etc.  The Bricks, were just the latest in a long line of artworks that left people thinking that they’d discovered that the Emperor was naked. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. Equivalent VIII is still on show at the Tate Modern. These days people get in less of a two and eight about them.

And finally we turn our minds to death. This month saw the death of an artist who was loved by everybody, L.S. Lowry. Thought of by many as a naive artist, Lowry’s most famous paintings and drawings are of the industrial landscape of Salford, featuring many vaguely abstract figures, often called matchstick men. Lowry’s influence has been wide and the love of his work is still going strong 35 years after his death.

No cats were harmed in the formulation of Heisenberg's principle, which is more than can be said for his mate Schrodinger

This month also saw the tragically early death of Florence Ballard, the real voice of the Supremes. She was dropped from the group in 1967 after one too many arguments with Berry Gordy who had made Diana Ross his mistress and the leader of the Supremes. She had a solo career, but things were never right for Florence after the Supremes and she died of coronary thrombosis on February 22nd 1976.

There were many other births and deaths in this month, but compiling a list of them would be tedious for both you and me. I shall leave you with one last death: on the first day of this month, as Rich Man, Poor Man was starting on ABC, Werner Heisenberg breathed his last, of this we are certain. We think.

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February 9th

On this day in 1950 Senator Joseph McCarthy gave a speech to the Women’s Republican Club of Wheeling, West Virginia, in which he played the big old braggart and claimed that he had a list of 205 members of the State Department who were in fact dirty Communist spies. He was a bit backward about coming forward with actual names, mostly because he was making it all up. That said, he was taken aback by how much publicity his speech got and in later speeches and meetings he kept changing the number of real honest to badness communists. It was 205, then it was 57, then it was 81 and then … etc. Poor old Joe forgot that the first rule of telling a good lie is to keep it simple and not to change the story when you think you might be found out, no matter how outrageous the lie.

Joseph McCarthy's idea of what a communist looked like

However, brazen, silly and easily pulled to pieces as the lie was, it created what became known as “the Second Red Scare”, because people were looking for something to be scared of. The first “Red Scare” was particularly nasty and involved people getting executed for being a bit too bright and a bit too far to the left of centre. That didn’t happen this time around, but it did get a bit bloody silly, given that it was all based on the rantings of an alcoholic who had a bit of a stick up his arse about communism and wasn’t afraid to go on for hours about how he knew that X person was in fact a top communist spy. There was a big hearing which was set up by Democrats to discredit McCarthy, but it backfired, despite the fact that McCarthy talked pure shite the whole time. This just made McCarthy worse. He had begun naming names in the committee hearing and when it was over he named more and more ridiculous names including, the lone Ranger and Tonto, Speedy Gonzalez and Harry Truman’s dog Feller. Despite this he got re-elected to the Senate in 1952 and continued to malign anyone he felt like having a pop at. By now Truman was out of office and Feller was left alone a little, although for the rest of his life, he was known to get a bit bitey if  he encountered a man who looked anything like Joseph McCarthy.

Thankfully, he went too far with Dwight D. Eisenhower when he started in on the army. Eisenhower was already a bit pissed off with McCarthy, but this made him go ballistic. While he remained a calm demeanour in public, in private he was saying to his closest aides, “It was bad enough when he went after that poor dog, but now he’s messing with the army, I’m going to kick that sonofabitch up the ass!” And he did. In a secret event that has never before been publicised, Eisenhower invited McCarthy for drinks and pretended that he had dropped his pen on the carpet. When McCarthy bent down to pick it up for him, Dwight took a run at his target and kicked him right up the arse. It was the beginning of the end for the old soak. Everyone started turning against him. Ed Murrow did a spot on his TV show wherein he stated that “McCarthy is an old drunk and a bastard liar.” and everyone who had been going “Yeah! That dog is a communist. Kill it!” was now all “Aw, the poor doggie. Shut the old drunk up!”

He continued to get all red in the face about communism (this was quite painful for him, as he’d see his face and hallucinate that it was turning into the Soviet flag) for another couple of years, but no one paid him any attention and so one of the bigger liars of history, met his end in obscurity in 1957. He was survived by Feller, who may or may not have peed on his grave.

Today would be the birthday of Brendan Behan, who met a premature death in 1964. Jaysus he was a grand aul soak! (that is Irish for “good golly, he liked a drink!”) and a fine writer. The drinking started early. Biographer Ulrick O’ Connor, tells the story of an 8-year-old Behan out with his grandmother. A passer-by was alarmed by the look of the lad and declared, “Oh my! Isn’t it terrible,

Brendan was a bugger for the bottle

Ma’am, to see such a beautiful child deformed?” Granny replied, “How dare you! He’s not deformed, he’s just drunk!” Brendan described himself as a drinker with a small writing problem. Unfortunately, the writing problem became smaller as the drinking became bigger. He left behind some great work, including The Quare Fellow and Borstal Boy, but he knew that his public reveled in his drinking and despite his diabetes and other health problems, the grand aul soak, drank himself to death. ‘Tis a coincidence and an irony that both of today’s entries involve men who were far too fond of the sauce. In the case of our first drunk, ’tis a grand aul shame that he didn’t drink himself to death earlier and in the case of the very wonderful and much missed, Brendan, ’tis an awful shame that he didn’t wean himself off the demon teat and live to write us a million more stories.

Happy birthday, you silly old fool, you may have been deformed by the drink, but you left a fine legacy behind you!

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