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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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April 22nd

On this day in 1886 the state of Ohio passed a statute that made seduction unlawful. It was aimed at all men over the age of 18 who were teachers or instructors of women and girls. It didn’t matter if the sex was consensual, they could still be charged and face between two and ten years in prison.

C'mon love, you know you're gagging for it

Ohio wasn’t the only place to have laws against seduction; they existed in other states and in England, where it was a common law or civil wrong. Of course, as with most laws governing issues of sex, it was less about the woman who may have been seduced and more about her status as property.  The seduced woman was nearly always unmarried and she herself could not press suit against her seducer; this role fell to her father. However, if the woman in question was a servant and she had been seduced by her master, her father could not bring suit against him, which only goes to underline that it was all about a woman as chattel and not as a person with rights and feelings of her own.

Various states had differently worded laws against seduction. In Virginia it was illegal for a man to have “an illicit connexion with any unmarried female of previous chaste character”, if he finagled this by promising to marry her. Similarly in New York it was illegal to “under promises of marriage seduce any unmarried female of previous chaste character.” Georgia was more descriptive in its statute which stated that it was unlawful for a man to “seduce a virtuous unmarried female and induce her to yield to his lustful embraces and allow him to have carnal knowledge of her.” Saucy.

There is very little information about these laws, because on the whole they weren’t enforced and when they did come to court judges were loath to convict. In Michigan a man was convicted, probably because there were three counts of seduction against him – the slag – but the appeal court tried very hard to have all the charges thrown out. Two charges were thrown out because the defence argued that the woman in question was no longer virtuous after her first encounter with the man. The other charge was thrown out on the grounds that the woman’s testimony – that they’d gone at it in a buggy – was medically impossible. I’ve never attempted relations in a buggy myself, but I have a feeling it would be more than possible. Clearly the appeal court of Michigan was lacking in imagination.

It does appear that in the US, unlike in the UK, women could bring charges themselves. Some did so in order to coerce their seducer into marriage. On the one hand this is hardly laudable, but on the other, given that they were living in a time when virginity (or at least the appearance of it) was vitally important, if everyone knew a certain gent had had access to your glittering prize, you couldn’t blame a woman for pushing for marriage. A trial in New York turned into a wedding ceremony when the accused proposed to his accuser.

Most of these laws are now – thankfully – defunct, but there was a case brought in 1938 in New Jersey. The accused in this instance

Mug shots of Ole Blue Eyes from the "seduction" arrest

was Frank Sinatra, who was charged with having enticed a woman of good-repute to have sexual intercourse with him by using false promises of marriage. Unfortunately for the woman involved, the case was dropped when it was discovered that she was already married.

In the course of rooting around in this subject, I’ve noted a cultural and historical change in our perceptions of seduction. Whereas in the past the act of seduction has been seen as a male preserve, with the man has seducer and the woman as innocent victim, these days seduction seems to be all about women. Look for images of seduction and you will see semi-clad women, adverts for all sorts of products are often sold to us as something that will seduce our partners or any passing man who takes our fancy. Men are now the objects of seductresses, but they’re not portrayed as innocent, more as waiting for us to get the right seduction recipe brewed up to stir their eager loins. The subjects and objects have changed places, the idea of chattel has all but disappeared, but deep down, it’s still about money: seduce him and he’ll buy you more pretty things to seduce him with. Or something.

Of course we can forget the outdated notions of the old laws and ignore the messages of some of the advertising and, as consenting adults, just have an awful lot of fun with seducing each other, because without all the lies and broken promises it is a rather jolly thing  to do!

Today was the birthday of a woman who could certainly be called a seductress, Bettie Page.

Lovely bum

Page started modelling in about 1950 when she was in her late twenties. Before that she had wanted to be a teacher and then an actress. She had been a good student, graduated high school as her class salutatorian, married, divorced and moved to New York where she met a police officer called Jerry Tibbs who was interested in photography. She modelled for him and her career began.

Bettie quickly became famous, appearing in magazines like Wink, Titter, Eyeful and Beauty Parade. She was uninhibited and was happy to do most anything in her photos. She is famous these days for the many bondage shoots she did; she also starred in some silent stag shorts, either as the dominatrix or the bound slave. These were all female films and there was very little actual nudity and no sex.  In 1955 she was a Playboy centrefold and was voted Miss Pin-up Girl of the World. In short during this period, Bettie was at te top of her career, was well-loved and very successful.

In 1959, much to the chagrin of all who had liked looking at her in the nuddy, Bettie found God in Key West and from that day onwards she never got her kit off for the camera again.  She spent much of the sixties working for Billy Grahamand being all evangelical. In the seventies she was diagnosed with schizophrenia after violent attacks on her landlord. She only became aware of renewed interest in her pin-up career in the late nineties and was still trying to get some recompense for the use of her image in 2008 when she died.

Jungle Bettie

Bettie was interesting. She appealed to both men and women, but she was a silent image that anyone could impose their own fantasies upon. For men she was the smiling kinkstress always ready to try whatever they wanted. For women, I think, she is seen as a strong woman, not afraid to be out and proud about her own sexuality. I don’t think any of us have it quite right. For all the images of Bettie Page that exist, we know so very little about who she really was.

So, happy birthday, nudie laydee evangelist. You’re everywhere and nowhere,baby.


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April 19th

Much as Almaniacal shies away from being all topical, the fact that April is a bit of a favourite time for royal weddings can’t be avoided and as today’s date saw two royal weddings a mere 186 years apart I have been prompted to stop being shy and come right out into the topical sunshine.

Marie Antoinette at about the time of her marriage

First up in 1770 the fourteen year old, Maria Antonia, Archduchess of Austria was married by proxy – a proxy wedding is one where either or both of the spouses is absent and their place is taken by another party – to the French Dauphin. She then became Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France and entered into a whole world of trouble. By the by, the party who took the place of her groom, was her brother, Ferdinand. Those royals really do know how to make their formal events really bloody strange. One hundred and eighty-six years later it was Hollywood aristocracy who walked up the aisle to meet with her prince when Grace Kelly gave up being a film star and became Princess Grace of Monaco.

Both marriages had their problems, but it’s likely that once Marie Antoinette and Louis got over the fact that they didn’t know how to have sex and Louis, especially, got over the fact that he wasn’t that fussed about learning, they were the couple with the happier marriage. At first there was little in the way of warmth or affection between them, but as this was a political match, it’s hardly surprising that they weren’t all loved up. There was also the issue of the political match being a bit defunct by the time they married, that is, the Franco-Austrian pact was pretty much dead in the water as the Kleine Österricherin married her Petit Prince and the French really didn’t like the Austrians much at all. It took them about seven years, but after a visit from Marie Antoinette’s brother the Emperor Joseph, who almost certainly taught Louis how to use his royal winky, the couple had their first child and from then on were closer. Certainly, by the time they were prisoners of the new French Republic there was a lot of love and affection between Mr and Mrs Capet and she truly mourned him when he was executed before her.

Now, I’m aware that at times I can go on here and also aware that you’d probably like to know the truth of all the terrible stories about Marie Antoinette, so rather than go into great detail, I’ll just tell you that the woman was much maligned. She was a queen, so she was hardly a socialist feminist icon, but she was nothing like the image of her that was promulgated. Maybe we’ll come back to all that another time, but right now we have another royal wedding to consider, so we shall get to that quick smart!

It might seem odd to state that the political union of Louis and his bride was happier than the love match of Princess Grace and Prince

Grace Kelly on her wedding day. I bloody love that frock!

Rainier, but things aren’t always as simple as they seem. Firstly, was it really a love match? Obviously it was sold as that to the world’s media and everyone lapped it up because we all love a romantic fairytale, but given that Rainier was sniffing around Hollywood for a missus, one who could look all nice, seem all proper and make his little principality seem more exciting, it’s hard to believe that it was love at first, second or even third sight for the couple. Secondly, there’s the dowry. Mr and Mrs Kelly had to give the Prince $2 million. What now?! I mean yes, he’s a prince, but he’s the prince of the tiniest little place imaginable, he’s no oil-painting and he’s getting to marry Grace Kelly who in every way imaginable is way out of his league! But that’s the whole royalty thing for you. Especially royalty down on its luck. And then of course, after the marriage, Rainier doesn’t want her films shown in Monaco and he doesn’t want her making any more films because it’s not dignified. Obviously being the prince of some shitty little principality whose main economy is gambling and being a tax haven for rich parasites is SO dignified!

Maybe I’m a cynic. Maybe poncing around the Mediterranean being all royal and giving birth to heirs and spares was everything that Princess Grace had ever wanted, but somehow I think, and many accounts back this up, that she soon began to realise that she’d got into something that she wasn’t really happy with. Her Catholicism meant that she would stick with it to the end.

I’m not sure that one should see any real pattern of what a royal marriage is from these two examples. I’m sure that Catherine Middleton won’t be executed, I’m sure that her fiancé knows how to do the whole sex thing and thus far the economy of the UK isn’t all about casinos and tax refugees (give it time!) However, once she walks down that aisle and becomes either a princess or a duchess, (whatever the Queen decides, as it’s up to her which titles she gives her grandson and his new wife) her life will change in ways she really can’t imagine right now. Like Marie Antoinette her popularity may wax and wane, she will almost certainly have dreadful lies told about her. Like both princesses her womb will be a subject of public scrutiny and until she’s popped out least two babies, every slight breeze that makes her look as though she’s sporting a small bump will be pronounced a pregnancy, with huge disappointment when it turns out to be a bit of gas.  She’ll hardly ever see her own family or her old friends. Everything will be new, except, one hopes, the love of her husband. I’m sure she’ll be happy, but I’m equally sure there’ll be nights when she sits up alone at 3am and wonders what in the name of holy fuckery she’s done.

Being a princess really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Long live being as common as muck, dahlings!

Today is the birthday of Jiroemon Kimura. I doubt you’ve heard of him. He’s a retired Japanese post-office worker and a retired farmer who lives in Kyoto. What makes him unique is that at this moment he is the world’s oldest living man. He was born in 1897 and is now 114 years old and a few days. It’s funny that the older one gets the more the days matter. They matter when you’re a little baby, they’re important to you when you’re a child and then you go through most of your adult life not worrying about days, weeks or months when it comes to your age, but become a supercentenarian and oh my, those days matter all over again.

Mr Kimura at home. Nice gaff

Mr Kimura likes to stay healthy, as I guess you’d have to if you were going to be alive that long. For those who’d like to achieve stupendous longevity, he puts his long life down to eating small portions of food. Being Japanese it’s unlikely that those portions consist of dairy produce and lashings of lard, so that probably helps too. He likes to read the newspaper each morning using a magnifying glass (shit eyes) and watch parliamentary debates on television, so I’m guessing another contributor to his longevity is actively seeking out boring pursuits.

He lives with the widows of one of his sons and one of his grandsons. He has outlived two of his children (five surviving), one of his grandchildren (fourteen surviving) and has 25 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren. Clearly Mr Kimura did not have Louis XVI‘s problem with marital ghastliness.

Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY (I’m typing it loud, if his eyes have gone, his ears probably have too) Kimura San, I shan’t wish you many more, because life must get difficult when all you have known keeps disappearing, but I hope each birthday you have left is sweet and happy.

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February 14th

On this day in history some bloke called Valentine was beheaded for making a deal with Hallmark cards and Forever Friends that would leave most people feeling a little disgruntled for all eternity. Alas the loss of his head had no impact on the expansion of sappy romantic nonsense, but one good thing came of that day, and this is the main focus of today’s entry, for …

Also on this day in 1929 a young scientist by the name of Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. The night before he’d had to

Fleming designed his own advertising posters

leave his laboratory in a hurry, because the shops were closing and if he didn’t give his wife chocolates and flowers first thing on Valentine’s Day she would refuse to have marital relations with him for the rest of the year. In his haste, Alexander left a petri dish out under a heat lamp and when he returned the next day it had gone all mouldy. He realised immediately that this was no normal mould, because some bacteria that had been in the dish had been killed by it (or something scientific like that), therefore it must be penicillin. Of course, he didn’t come up with the name penicillin immediately, because that would be just silly. He toyed with calling it mould juice, but someone told him that would be hard to market. He moved on to Valentinium, because of the date, but again, a marketing expert pointed out to him that he might end up with a drug that people only bought once a year, so he settled on penicillin, which was pretty prosaic, but functional. Once a name had been settled on, he called a press conference to tell the world about his new wonder drug. The press were very excited because the first thing Fleming said was: “Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am here to tell you about penicillin which is a cure for syphilis and gonorrhea. How d’ya like them apples!” They liked them a lot, apart from one dissenting voice who asked “Er, does it cure genital herpes as well?” to which Fleming replied “Don’t be stupid, we’re not even going to classify that until the 1960s!” and the rest of the press pack were all “Yeah, shut up, idiot!”

Fleming and his team worked hard that night to package the drugs and they were on the market the very next morning. Thus it was that 1929 was the first year that people could have pre-marital ghastliness with anyone of their choosing and not worry about cooties the next day, because they could eat some of Alexander Fleming’s mould and the cooties would go away. Things were great for a while, but as is always the case whenever downstairs rudery is involved, there was a moral outcry. Fleming realised that his wonder drug could end up banned, if he didn’t act quick smart. So he did! He wrote a letter to the Moral Outrage headquarters, informing them that he condemned all jiggery-pokery not sanctified by marriage, and by the way did they know that his magic mould could also cure TB!!  The day was saved, penicillin was not banned and dirty boys and girls could continue to have all of the sex without worrying about downstairs dreadfulness.

Today is the birthday of former TV star, unlikely heart-throb, and generally untalented, Dean Gaffney.  Gaffney made his name by appearing as congenital halfwit Robbie Jackson in the BBC’s flagship misery-drama Eastenders, where he formed a double act with his

Dean Gaffney

dog Wellard, with Wellard being the better looking and more intelligent of the two. On the back of his TV success, young Dean became something of a Lothario, proving that even if one does have a face like a badly put together pizza, one can still find women willing to play with ones trouser ornaments, if one is a little famous (cf. Wayne Rooney).

Since leaving Eastenders,  Robbie Dean’s career has mostly consisted of a few appearances on reality television as a has-been and falling out of clubs and ladies’ va-jay-jays. Maybe this will be the year he makes his way back to the top, so hold onto the dream, young Gaffney and a very happy birthday to you, you grubby little man!

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