Tag Archives: death

June 8th

On this day in 1191,  Richard I who was, among other things, the King of England, arrived in Acre in Palestine and so started his part in the Crusades.

The day Dick took some acid and thought he was a bear

Many of you will know him better as Richard the Lionheart, although if we were going to give him a more accurate epithet for him would be Richard the great big fighty bastard who didn’t care about anything other than having big old fights and killing people, who was a really shit king. This is, admittedly, a slightly long epithet, which is why, despite a lot of effort on my part, he’s still known as the Lionheart and why people who’ve never studied any history at all, but have seen Robin Hood, think he’s all great and lovely and have no idea what an utter twat he really was.

Here are a few nice facts about this lovely king. At his coronation in Westminster, he said that Jews and women were not allowed in because they were shit. When some Jewish people came along to give him presents, he and his men stripped them, beat them and threw them out. This made the people of London, who were notoriously stupid, think that what their king wanted was for them to kill Jews. So they did. There was basically a huge massacre which he eventually told them to stop, not because he cared about the people who’d been killed, but because he wanted to go off and kill Muslims and if everyone at home was killing Jews, then there might be a bit of an upset and someone else might get to be king while he was off getting his jollies being a killer.

How long did he spend in the country that he was king of in total over a ten-year reign? Eight minutes. Well, probably eight months, but he didn’t like it here, didn’t speak much English and thought the only point of being king was taking lots of money from the country so he could go to other countries and kill people.

His brother, King John, you know, the bad guy i6541n all those Robin

A toilet seat in honour of the Lionheart. Just what every king wants. To be shat on.

Hood films, was not necessarily a good king, but he was better than Richard in that at least he bothered to be here and didn’t whinge about it being cold and rainy here all the bloody time.

Anyway, he died of a manky arm on 6th April 1199. He was crying like a baby in his mother’s arms and being all “it’s not fair!” Probably. He did die in his mother’s arms. And that’s Richard I for you. Crusader, shit king, killer of anyone who was a bit Middle Eastern and all round the most over-hyped king in history.

One final note which is true and tickled me a lot. A Bishop of Rochester wrote about him in the 13th century that he spent 33 years in purgatory for being a big old sinner, and then finally got into heaven in March 1232. There’s nice.

Today is the birthday of a few unimportants, but before I go on to one of them, it was also the birthday of my brother Bobby, who once sung about a crooked zebra to a small wee girl. Not me, by the way, as I was his big sister and never heard of the crooked zebra while he was alive.

Moving on. Today is also the birthday of a man who makes it hard

Look away from the horror!

for all other gingers to be taken seriously. Yes, Mick Hucknell was born in 1960, go famous in the early 60s for singing a bit and having curly ginger hair and a very ugly face. He also liked to have as much sex as he could with as many women as possible, which is probably why he got into music, because frankly if he wasn’t famous he’d have been lucky to have managed the sex with even one laydee. He is 52 today and not doing so much of the singing and probably a bit less of the sex as he’s getting on and one imagines his willy is a bit bored and more easily tired these days.

This is what happens when you listen to Mick Hucknall

Some of his songs were okay, but the man is such an unbearable wanker, that it’s hard to like any of them because you know that you’re listening to him and this whole cognitive dissonance thing happens and could lead normally sane people to a moment of self-harm. That said, at least he’s not Bonio off of U2.

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January 6th

On this day in 1066 Harold Godwinson became the king of England after the death the day before of Edward the Confessor.

Godwinson being all "I'm the king now"

Now, the whole thing about who got to be king after Edward the Confessor was a bit of a nightmare. Edward had no children of his own and hadn’t got round to saying for sure who he wanted to be king after him before he got sick, fell into a coma and died. There were three men who were up for the job. Godwinson, Harold Hardraada and William Duke of Normandy. None of them had what could be called cast iron rights to the throne, but that didn’t stop them all getting a bit fighty about the whole thing. Harold Hardraada’s claim was that when Harthacnut (son of the often misspelled Cnut the Great) was alive him and Magnus, who went on to be King of Denmarkhad made a pact that if one of them died then the other could become king of their country. But as Magnus was king of Denmark he didn’t bother going after England when Harthacnut died and let Edward the Confessor have it. In

"Oh bugger, that cad Godwinson is about to kill me!"

short, Harold Hardraada had no real claim to the throne, but Harold Godwinson’s brother Tostig said “Go for it mate, me and all the noblemen in Britain will be right behind you!” This was a bit of an exaggeration, but Hardraada went for it. He went over to the North of England in September of 1066 and had a big fight with the other Harold and his army . The big fight happened at Stamford Bridge – luckily Chelsea were not playing at home that day, because then the fight would have to have taken place somewhere else – and Godwinson won. So, for the time being Godwinson remained king.

What was Godwinson’s claim to the throne? Well there was minor family connection, but ultimately, him and his mates reckoned that just before he died, Edward the Confessor came out of his coma and said “yeah, be the king for me, Harold Godwinson, not Hardraada or William of Normandy… ach, urgh…[silence]” before dying. When William heard about this over in Normandy he thought it was all a bit chinny, chinny,

William "I'm the king now!" the Conqueror

reck-on. That said, although he too had a tiny bit of a family connection, his claim to the throne was based on the fact that back in 1051 Edward had told him he wanted William to be the King of England when he died and that Harold G had agreed that he should be in 1062. It seems an awful lot of people were claiming things that had been said when no one else was around, but then that was what it was like in ye olden times with no digital recorders or mobile phones or computers and stuff like that. They couldn’t even write quickly, so by the time some monk had got round to copying down what Edward the Confessor had said it would probably be the next year and he’d have taken so long drawing nice pictures around the first capital letter that he’d have forgotten half of it and had to make the rest up as he went along.

Any road up. As we all know, after betting the other Harold, the still living Harold had to get his arse down to Hastings or Battle – which was so named because it was a good place for a bit of a barny – and have another fight with William. He wasn’t so lucky this time and ended up deaded. Some say it was with an arrow through the eye, but in fact he had the shit kicked out of him by William and three of his mates. The cartoon that they drew of it all after, like the writing by the monks, took a long time to put together and a lot of it was made up.

Since this date, The English have been afeared of having a king named Harold in case the same sort of thing happens to him, so the name has been banned by the Royal Family, along with the names, Jason, Vincent, Kevin and Nigel.

Today is the brithday of a so-called actress who is generally known as Trudy Styler, Mrs Sting, or as I like to call her, in reference to her stupid face, a jug-eared, monkey-faced cunt*.

She met Sting while she was appearing in Macbeth with a drunk Peter O’Toole and her friend and Sting’s then wife Frances Tomelty. She stole her husband and then started having lots of babies by him, spending his money, pretending to give a shit about the planet and ill-treating her staff.

Jug-eared, Monkey=faced Cunt

Her and Sting like to go on about how much sex they have and how good at it they are. Listening to this is a good way of making yourself sick if you have accidentally swallowed poison. Sting claims that he is a master of Tantric sex and so he can do it for hours without coming. What he fails to admit is that if he’s doing it with a normally attractive woman he comes in about 5 seconds and it’s only because Styler has a face like a jug-eared monkey-cunt that he cannot come and so he pretends to be all tantric and shit.

Anyway, she is an unpleasant piece of nothing who is only famous because she nicked her mate’s husband and gave birth to his progeny. As well as being a shit human being, she is also a shit actress. She is also a shithead of a producer type thing as can be evidenced by her love of mockney Guy Ritchie. Today she is probably dressed like a clueless bint and eating baby mice while drinking champagne while imagining that she’s good at sex because her so-called tantric husband takes hours to come.

Should I wish her a happy birthday? Ha! I think not.

*Please note that I am a great lover of monkeys and would hate to insult them in any way by claiming that they look like this she-devil.  Given that I have done that, can I please apologise and make it clear that when I call her a monkey-faced cunt, I am referring to a very rare monkey so ugly that even its mother would not be able to love it. Thank you.

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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 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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May 30th

On this day in 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for being a heretic and wearing men’s clothes. The hussy.

A pretty much contemporary image of Joan

The day is celebrated in France and is a Catholic holy day (although not a holy day of obligation). It’s nice that the Catholic church remember her, as it was their English contingent that tried her and found her guilty in 1431 and then it took nearly 500 years to decide that she was a saint – she was canonised in 1920. I don’t know why this annoys me, as I don’t believe in saints, but it just seems that because she was a bit active and going out there and getting something done – which isn’t the Catholic model of the passive virgin female saint – they ignored her for as long as they could. In effect, I’m allowing myself to be annoyed by the sexism of an inherently sexist institution and about the canonisation of some girl when I don’t believe in any of that nonsense. And there was me thinking I was at the very least a semi-rational human being.

Anyway! The gen on this execution and martyrdom is as follows. We all know that Joan, or Jeanne or Jehanne heard some voices telling her to go and fight for the Dauphin and to help him beat the bloody English in a war that had been going on forever and a day. The One Hundred Years War, to be precise. So she got on her horse, dressed as a man, got herself some armour and went up to see the Dauphin and told him he needed to get his arse in gear and that she was just the warrior to get him out of schtuck. Of course she said it much more politely and in French, but you get the gist.

The Dauphin was wary at first. His father, Charles VI had been barking mad (he thought he was made of glass, which on a scale of 1 to that is one of the maddest things I’ve ever heard, ranks pretty bloody highly) and he didn’t want to let some girl with visions get in front of his army if she was either mad or could be proved to be not holy enough and therefore in league with the devil. He had some ecclesiastical types check her out and while they couldn’t confirm that she had been chatting with saints Catherine, Margaret and Michael, they were able to tell him that she was a top lass, very virtuous and properly holy and stuff. That was enough for him. To be honest, he was so fuckered at the time that he was prepared to try anything. This is hardly surprising; one can’t imagine a king in that period being all “Yeah, a girl, that’s just the secret weapon I need!”

So, young Joan, got on her warhorse, with a standard and a sword and marched out in front of the French army to give the English a bit

Joan being led to her death

of  a seeing too. And she did. Thanks to her, the English fortunes went into reverse and she did what the saints had told her to do; she got the Dauphin crowned King Charles VII of France. This is all pretty amazing really. She was an illiterate girl from a village. She had no training in warfare, she was about 19 years old and yet somehow, she managed to plan, strategize and bring victory to an army that until that point had been dead on its feet. That’s the thing with Joan, it’s not that she’s a saint that makes her notable, it’s the stuff she actually did and that history shows that she did. She stands out as an utterly amazing person whose deeds are pretty much beyond explanation.

Unfortunately, although she was the cause of victories and the king getting his crown, fortune very quickly turned against her. She was captured by Burgundian forces, who weren’t on the king’s side. At this point a ransom should have been paid and she should have been handed back to her family; this wasn’t going to happen given that her family weren’t wealthy. Charles VII should have paid to have her released, but he did not, which was frankly shitty of him. Joan attempted a few escapes, but was eventually captured again and then sold by the Burgundians to the English who were not at all happy with her. What followed was a trial so dodgy that even Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA and noted bent bastard, would have blushed at the proceedings. Joan had no one to speak for her, no recourse to legal representation, was refused the right to send word to those who could help her, including the pope and was basically stitched up like a kipper.

The transcripts of the trial show her as an uncommonly intelligent and quick woman. A lot of these can be read in George Bernard Shaw‘s Saint Joan. Shaw was so impressed by them, that he included much of Joan’s own words, verbatim, in his script. None of it mattered. The court who was trying her knew that they would execute her. They made up evidence, the ignored facts and within a short period of time found her guilty and sent her to be burned. She died in this most heinous of ways in front of a horrified crowd and at the hands of an executioner who feared for his soul, so wrong did he know this outcome to be. And then nearly 500 years later, she got to be a saint because, thankfully as well as being a top bird she’d also been a virgin. If she hadn’t been a virgin, she’d just be that bird what got burned. The Catholic church has standards to uphold after all!

 

Today was the birthday of Irving Thalberg, one of the greatest film producers of all times. His life was short, he died at the age of 37, but his achievements have rarely been equalled. He had a golden touch when it came to picking scripts, actors, directors and putting together films that were critical and commercial successes.

Thalberg with wife Norma Shearer in 1929. Effortless glamour

The Oscars has the Irving G Thalberg award which is given to producers whose body or work shows a consistently high level of achievement. It’s not awarded every year, because, frankly, there aren’t that many people whose body of work comes close to making them even slightly eligible.

Thalberg started work for Universal Studios at the age of 20. By the age of 21 he was the executive in charge of production at Universal City. He then moved to MGM where he was vice-president and supervisor of production. He reigned supreme until 1932 when he had a heart attack and was sidelined by Louis B Mayer, who was jealous of him, but thanks to Nicholas Schenck, who was president of Loewe’s (MGM’s parent company), this was more or less overruled and Thalberg went on to produce many more amazing films before his premature death in 1936.

He was married to Norma Shearer from 1927 until his death and they had two children. A brilliant and driven man, those of us who love movies have a lot to thank him for. Here’s a short list of some of those films:

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
  • Greed (1924)
  • Flesh and the Devil (1926)
  • Anna Christie (1930)
  • Mata Hari (1931)
  • Freaks (1932)
  • Grand Hotel (1932)
  • The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)
  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
  • A Night at the Opera (1935)
  • Camille (1936)
This is a fraction of his output, but more than enough to see how damned good he was. Happy birthday, Mr Thalberg, if I believed in all that heaven stuff, I’d imagine you making films up there for all of us to see when we’re deaded!

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April 14th

On this day in 1881 some heavy shit was going down in El Paso, Texas. Mosey on down with me pardners and I’ll tell y’all about it.

My name is Dallas and I'm about to kill you dead.

Now the first thing you should know about this part of the world in the latter part of them there nineteenth century years is that it was one helluva fighty ole place. In this very year the Southern Pacific, the Texas and Pacific and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railways arrived in the town and the population grew to 10,000. Doesn’t sound like that much by today’s big city standards, but it was pretty much a boom town at the time. The boom was great for the economy, but a real bugger for the crime statistics, and that, my friends, is where we come in. You see, in the middle of this fightiness, there was a gunfight. It was epic. It was awesome. It was The Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight. Sure, you’re all more familiar with the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but let me tell you something, those shooters took about 30 seconds to kill three people. I call that, well, frankly, disappointing. So let’s forget about the O.K. Corral and learn all about a real gunfight! Yeehaw!

Here’s what happened leading up to that fateful day. One of the big crime problems was cattle rustling and Johnny Hale, a rancher just outside the city, was a noted cattle rustler. He’d been stealing cattle from some Mexicans and two vaqueros (that’s a Mexican cowboy) named Sanchez and Juarique had been up to El Paso looking for thirty head of cattle he’d stolen off them. But, they’d been gone some time, and their friends and neighbours had set up a posse to come looking for them. Now, this was 1881, and even back then there was a deal of racism aimed at Texas’s Mexican neighbours. Mexicans were not allowed to carry firearms within the city limits. This is not what caused the problem though. The mayor, when he heard why the posse was there, was pretty sympathetic and allowed them to keep their guns and hunt out that low down dog, Hale. A constable called Gus Krempkau rode out with them to the ranch and lo and behold, they found the corpses of Sanchez and Juarique close to the ranch.

Turns out that Hale and some of his cattle rustling brethren were worried that the two Mexicans would find the cattle and come back with more men to dispense justice. So, two of them, Fredericks and Pervey, killed them stone dead. The whole sorry affair was taken to court where it was decided that Pervey and Fredericks would stand trial for murder. Krempkau, who spoke Spanish, was on hand to translate for the Mexicans. When the court adjourned everyone headed out for dinner and beer and that should have been the end of it. But, of course, there was more to come.

Hale had turned up with a friend of his, George Campbell, who had been the town marshal of El Paso (he lost the job because he was a drunk and a dick). They were not happy, but retired

The street where it all went down

to a local tavern to drink and drink and drink a little more. Across the road from the tavern, the newly appointed town marshal, Dallas Stoudenmire, was eating some dinner. He’d been in the court room too and knew all that had gone down. All was quiet until Gus Krempkau arrived at the tavern. Hale and Campbell were pretty much the worse for wear by this time and Campbell started trash-talking Krempkau for being a Mexican lover and talking their goddamned greasy language. He probably said worse. If Deadwood has taught us anything it’s that people in frontier towns and places like that swore like utter fucking bastards back in the day. In the midst of the trash-talking, Johnny Hale – who was so pissed he could barely see straight – got hold of one of Campbell’s pistols shouted “I got you covered, George!” and shot Krempkau. And now the stopwatch starts. Krempkau reeled back and collapsed against a wooden joist, he pulled out his own gun. Dallas Stoudenmire had heard the shot and he ran from the diner with his pistols drawn. He started shooting as he ran and gunned down an innocent bystander, a young chap named Ochoa; this did not slow him down, not even a little bit. Hale saw that his ass was on the line and managed to jump behind an adobe pillar, but Stoudenmire was too quick for him. Hale, popped his head around the pillar and Stoudenmire shot him right between the eyes. Campbell screamed at Stoudenmire to keep out of it, Krempkau, on the verge of losing consciousness shot Campbell twice. One bullet hit him in the wrist, breaking  his hand, the other got him in the foot. He screamed again and Stoudenmire whirled toward him and shot him, hitting him square in the stomach. He carried on walking toward Campbell who was now writhing in agony. Stoudenmire stood over him. Campbell’s last words were “You big bastard! You’ve murdered me!” And indeed he had.

It was all over. Krempkau, Ochoa, Hale and Campbell all lay dead. Now, call me picky, but I think that all of this may have taken a tiny bit longer than five seconds. Indeed some bystanders said afterwards that they thought it was closer to ten seconds. I guess four dead in ten seconds just don’t have that same ole murderous ring to it. Either way, there were still more dead than they managed at the O.K. Corral and in much less time, but for some reason it’s always been overshadowed by them thar Earps and that thar Doc Holliday. I dunno, I guess that maybe the guys from Tombstone had better P.R. agents or something.  But Dallas and Gus have me now and I’m bigging up those shooty men for fearlessly waving their guns around and killing each other for no damn good reason at all. Respec’ y’all!

For Today’s birthday we’re sticking with the law, but going for a less-shooty kind of law man. Today it’s Frank Serpico’s birthday. If you thought he was just a character in a film, played by Al Pacino, shame on you!

Serpico at the time of the Knapp Commission

Frank Serpico was a simple NYPD police officer. He worked as a patrol man, in finger printing and then got assigned to plainclothes where things got a little, sticky. Serpico was pretty disgusted by the widespread corruption he encountered and as a result of him trying to avoid it and refusing to be a part of it his career there was short-lived.  However, he didn’t just walk way from it. He spent the next years trying to bring the corruption to the attention of his superiors. Funnily enough they didn’t seem that interested. He was stymied by red tape and bureaucracy and seemed to be getting nowhere until he hooked up with another officer, David Durk, who felt the same way that he did. Now he head someone on his side, but as time passed  they were still being ignored. Finally after years of trying to go about things the right way, Frank went to the press. In 1970 he contributed to a New York Times story on corruption in the NYPD. This forced the mayor of NYC to do something and the Knapp Commission was appointed to investigate police corruption.

In 1971, Serpico was with other officers on a drug raid, when it became clear that his peers were not happy with him. The story of how he got shot in the face is long and convoluted, but at its heart lies the indisputable evidence that while the officers on the raid with him may not have deliberately sent him to be executed, they certainly did not give him back up, support him, or call in his injury when he was shot. Without the assistance of an Hispanic man in the building being raided, Serpico may have died. As it was he was left deaf in one ear and in constant pain from gunshot fragments left in his brain.  Later that year he testified to the Knapp Commission, becoming the first NYPD officer in its history to have the courage to publicly confront corruption in the force.

He retired in 1972 and after spending a decade living in Europe he returned to live in upstate NY. He lectures at universities and

Frank Serpico as he is now

police academies, helps out officers in similar positions to his own and campaigns against corruption and the weakening of civil liberties. Frank Serpico is an ordinary man who refused to stand by and see dishonesty cow honesty into silence.  When Al Pacino met him in 1973 to talk to him in preparation for playing him, he (Pacino) asked why he had done what he did, with all its concomitant risks. Frank replied, “Well, Al, I don’t know. I guess I would have to say it would be because … if I didn’t, who would I be when I listened to a piece of music?”

I doubt this blog is your cup of tea (or even coffee), Mr Serpico, but if you happen across it, I want you to know that I think you are a genuine hero, a good and fine man who refused to stay quiet. We need more people like you and it makes me happy to tell people a little more about you. Happy birthday, sir, and I hope you have many, many more.

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April 10th

On this day in 1925 one of the greatest novels of all time was first published. The date should give you a good idea what the novel was, so should the phrase Jazz Age. Are you there yet? It had a few titles before the author finally settled on the one we all know today. Trimalchio; Trimalchio in West Egg; Under the Red, White and Blue; The High-Bouncing Lover. If you’re still not there yet, there was one more title before he saw the light and went for something accessible and memorable. Gold-Hatted Gatsby became The Great Gatsby and The Great Gatsby became a pretty big critical success. Commercial success was a while in coming and mostly arrived after Fitzgerald’s death, but when people finally got it, they never tired of it. And it’s not hard to see why.

The original Dust jacket. Fitzgerald liked it so much he "wrote it" into the novel

I’ve referred to the book as a novel, but in truth it’s so compact it’s almost a novella. It doesn’t contain one extraneous word. Each and every word serves a purpose and that purpose is to weave a world you’ve never known, to create a place you feel as though you remember, to take you there and show you the futility of so much in human endeavour and to do it in such a bittersweet way that you close the book and feel a sharp nostalgia for something that never was. It is poetic, but not poetry, it is a literary masterpiece, but as easy to read as a comic from your childhood. It holds you captive and the truth is that something of it stays with you; it never really lets you go.

Yes. I know. I’m waxing a bit poetic myself, but this book is important. Read it and you have enriched your life. Never read it and you’ve missed out on one of the great pleasures that life has to offer you. If you read it when you were much younger and it didn’t do it for you, you were too young. This is a book that touches on youth, but can probably be only truly appreciated by those who’ve lived a little, loved a little, lost a little. Everyone in the book is, in one way or another, doomed. Indeed, even though Fitzgerald couldn’t have known it when he was writing the book from 1922-1925, the world he was bringing to life was in its final death throes. The depression would come and those bright young things would be tarnished and their lights would flicker and die.

No jokes, today, just  plea to let Nick Carraway take you by the hand and lead you to Great Egg. To introduce you to Jay and Daisy and Tom and the cast of major and minor characters. To witness Jay’s love for Daisy and know that it is  love built on dreams that have decayed, just as life around them is in the process of decaying. Am I making this sound like the most depressing book ever written? It’s not. It is full of a sadness that you will never see so well realised anywhere else, but the sadness is beautiful, everything about the novel is beautiful and when you close the book on the final chapter, the final word, you will feel uplifted, even if your heart squeezes a little with sorrow and you find a rogue tear or two threatening to spill over onto your cheeks.

If you haven’t read it [stern look here], read it. If you have read it re-read it. Maybe save it until the summer has truly arrived and the nights are sultry, so that as you close your eyes you may imagine that you see the green light calling to  you just as Nick did. Or maybe you’ll email me and tell me that I’m full of shit and please not to be getting all la-di-da about literature again. I promise that if that is the case I won’t cut you.

Today is the birthday of both Steven Segal and Gloria Hunniford. You might wonder what they have in common and the answer to that would be, very little other than their shared birthday. That said I’ve always been unfeasibly irritated by Gloria Hunniford and Steven Segal is a total and utter dick.

Have you ever sat through one of his films? I  haven’t. He can’t act, he is a fat dick and he used to beat up his wife. That’s enough for me

This is the fat bastard who ate all the pies

to find him unwatchable. And he’s a total and utter dick who looks sweaty and like a great big fucknuckle at the same time. Am I wishing him happy birthday? Am I fuck! I would like him to be on a big boat like he is in some film or another and for it to sink and for him to live for a while, being all blubbery and floaty and then to get eaten by several sharks. Several, because I like sharks and fear Mr Segal would be too much for one shark to eat. It’d get all fat and it might die of sinking to the bottom of the ocean. I don’t want any sharks to suffer for the death of Mr dick features.

Gloria Hunniford, on the other hand, is really not all that bad, but she can be an awful drag of a woman and back in the eighties she definitely thought she was all that when she most certainly was not. She used to be the team captain on an early Saturday evening quiz show called That’s Showbusiness and she was all prissy and “Ooh look how clever I am” and more often than not her team would win beating Kenny Everett‘s team. Now obviously he turned out to be a great big Torywanker, but he was funny on the show and she was not. As a consequence when my mum and I

Eff off you big C! (Im channelling my mother here)

watched it together we would call her hideous names, trying to outdo each other with our profanity. It was a bit like Mornington Crescent, but with “cunt” being the winning word. We really hated her. A lot.

But, she’s not a bad old bird, I guess, even if she does still irritate me and is annoying and blah, so happy birthday Gloria Hunniford. My mum thought you were a cunt.

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