Tag Archives: United States

January 12th

On this day in 1995 Qubilah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X was arrested for conspiring to kill Louis Farrakhan.

Qubilah with Malcolm

This is in fact a really shitty little story of a woman being hounded, nasty little FBI informants and, being left with a feeling that it all seemed to be about getting one over on Malcolm’s daughter rather than any real awful murder about to be committed.

Why do I think that? Qubilah had seen her father murdered when she was just four years old. From that moment onwards her mother, Betty Shabazz believed that Louis Farrakhan had been involved in the murder of Malcolm. Farrakhan has denied being actively involved, but at times has said that maybe the things he said led to it happening. Then again in a speech he gave in 1993 he said:

Was Malcolm your traitor or ours? And if we dealt with him like a nation deals with a traitor, what the hell business is it of yours? A nation has to be able to deal with traitors and cutthroats and turncoats.

To be honest, if a man who I had reason to dislike, fear and possibly

Qubilah escorted into court (May 1995) by her lawyer

hate, said that about my father’s murder, I’d be strongly inclined to believe that he had been part of the conspiracy to murder him. Qubilah did hate Farrakhan and worse, she was worried about her mother’s safety. Betty was vocal and without fear in her belief that Farrakhan had planned her husband’s murder. Her daughter feared, rightly or wrongly, that Farrakhan might also plan the murder of her mother.

Forward to 1994. An old school friend of hers, Michael Fitzpatrick, claimed that she called him and asked him to murder Farrakahn. She definitely did call him and there was talk of how dangerous Farrakhan was and that she wanted him dead. Unfortunately for Qubilah, what she didn’t know was that Fitzpatrick was an FBI informant. They spoke throughout May and June of that year. He asked her to marry him and actively encouraged her to talk about her hatred of Farrakhan and her desire to see him murdered.

However, luckily for Qubilah, Fitzpatrick also started recording his phone conversations with her, probably at the request of the FBI. After her arrest she was indicted on the charges of using telephones and crossing state lines in a plot to kill Farrakhan. A couple of surprises came up at this point. One was that the recordings made by Fitzpatrick to prove her guilt, made him look like he was entrapping her. She came across as unsure, nervous, tentative and an unwilling conspirator. The other was that Farrakhan himself spoke in her defence, saying he did not believe her capable of murder, that she was a good girl who had been led astray. Certainly, Qubilah was, by then, suffering from alcohol and drug problems. Her life had not been easy, she was almost certainly paranoid and Fitzpatrick and the FBI had used this to push her into breaking the law.

This is the bit I find so despicable. Hadn’t the woman suffered enough? I mean really, did the FBI think that she was some sort of national danger? Anyway! It was clear that it would be hugely difficult to find her guilty of the original charges (which could have seen her do up to 90 years in jail) and so a plea bargain saw her maintain her innocence, but she took responsibility for her actions. She was then required to undergo psychological counselling and drug and alcohol abuse treatment for two years in order to avoid prison.

As far as I know, the FBI weren’t told to sort themselves the fuck out and nothing happened to Fitzpatrick, even though a good kick up the arse was the very least he deserved for being such a nasty little shitehawk.

Unfortunately, there was more sadness in the Shabazz family in the years following this, but let’s end on something that at least approaches a happy ending. I am in no mood to bring myself and all of you down any further than I already have.

Today is the birthday of French actor and serial dater of hot women, Olivier Martinez.

His name won’t mean much to you if you never read the gossip pages, because while he is an actor, he’s not really that famous as an actor. He is however famous for being good looking and dating, cheating on, breaking up with and then dating, a number of hot famous women. It has been said of him that given the number of women he has probably had pre-marital ghastliness with, his wank bank is probably as big as Fort Knox.

His Milkshake brings all the girls to his yard

He first came to notice as the boyfriend of Mira Sorvino and has since been attached to a lot of famous women, including Kylie Minogue, Rosie Huntington-Whitely and is now, allegedly, engaged to Halle Berry. He’s definitely been her boyfriend for a while and he’d probably be mad to not want to marry her. Well, for all I know she could be as mad as a box of frogs, but she is stunningly beautiful.

Anyway,he’s 46 today, still hot, still making laydeez go weak at the knees and occasionally being in a film that no one ever gets to hear about. I’m not going to wish him a happy birthday. I’m not being churlish, but frankly the man has everything. He needs nada from me!

Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac

January 8th

On this day in 1941 William Randolph Hearst took very much agin Orson Welles and refused to allow any adverts for Citizen Kane in any of his publications.

William Randolph "I'm bog-eyed" Hearst.

Hearst was 70 at the time and probably the most powerful publishing magnate in the US. A bit like Rupert Murdoch, but probably a bit less friendly. Most people are aware that Hearst was not happy about CK and most people know that it’s because the character of Kane was based on Hearst himself. According to those how knew him, the thing about the film that enraged him the most was the depiction of his screen second wife as a drunk and a talentless singer. Welles himself admitted that this part of the storyline was a “dirty trick”. However, other insiders claim that while he was pissed off by the depiction of the second wife – who was a close model of his long term mistress Marion Davies – the thing that enraged him most was Kane’s sledge, the name of which led to his last word on his deathbed: “Rosebud”.

It seems a particularly innocuous word, but if rumours are true, then

Rosebud or "is that a clitoris I see before me?!

rosebud was Hearst’s pet name for Marion Davies’s clitoris. Oh and yes, Marion Davies was an alcoholic, mostly because the life she ended up living with Hearst was so difficult. She was a talented comedienne, but less talented when it came to dramatic roles. Hearst, like Kane, insisted that she be given dramatic roles that were beyond her skill, hence she looked like an idiot and drank more and …art really was reflecting life. Welles was right, this was a dirty trick, more so to Davies than Hearst who was old enough and ugly enough to take that and a whole lot more.

However, the enmity went further than banning adverts. Hearst newspapers printed articles about Welles claiming he was a communist and unpatriotic, dangerous and sick. He also threatened Hollywood studios and made a lot of noises about Hollywood being full of immigrants and refugees. In other words,  Mr Hearst, as well as being a great big crybaby, was also more than a bit anti-Semitic.  Luckily for Hearst, Welles was not very popular in Hollywood, mostly because he was young (only 24 at the time) and didn’t play the game. Louis B. Mayer offered to pay RKO $842,000 to destroy the negatives of the film. The then studio owner, George Schaefer, refused and then threatened to sue Fox, Paramount and Loewes theatre chains when they said they would refuse to show the film. All in all, things were not pretty.

They got less pretty at the Oscar ceremony the following year. CK was nominated for nine Oscars but only got one (screenplay, which went to Welles and Mankiewicz). Some might say that was fair enough, but was it fair to boo Welles and his film at the ceremony? Because that’s what happened.

A man never knowingly more than a couple of feet from a pie

Immediately after this, George Schaefer was pushed out of RKO and so was Welles. Citizen Kane was then put in the RKO archives and forgotten for about 15 years. It was seen as a piece of shit that no one should bother themselves with. Of course, now the film is seen as one of the best movies ever made. To a lot of people it’s still pretty dull, but for any cineastes, there is so much in it that is new and has gone on to influence decades of film makers, that it’s not even a case of “liking” it. It just is a truly great film.

And finally, we know that Welles went on to live his life like a show business Benjamin Button, having all his success as a young man and ending his life in adverts for sherry. Not that that is exactly what Benjamin Button did, but, blah. It’s the whole backward life type thing. Just about all of Welles later problems can be seen to be the work of Hearst. Not that Welles was without faults, he was a bit of an arrogant twat when he felt like it, but his talent, or our chance to enjoy it, was nipped in the bud by William Randolph Hearst. Rupert Murdoch probably learned everything he knows from him.

 

Today is the birthday of …65 today, 65 today, he’s got the key to the … well to his OAP bus pass. He’ll probably be seen at the Post Office a lot, queuing up for his pension and shaking a stick at young people who get in his way and threatening them with his scary false teeth.

Yes, the sublime David Bowie is 65 today, which seems truly mental and

Oh no love, you're not alone

makes me feel old myself. Of course given that I’m only 25 or something, it should have no such effect on me, but I guess I feel the Bowie running in my veins.

What plaudits can I pay him that haven’t already been paid? The man is a genius. He went through a well dodgy stage in the late seventies, when too much coke made him think that giving a Hitler salute was a good idea, which should have been what the government used in anti-drug adverts rather than those ones where attractive skinny people who looked like models with a cold were supposed to put us off heroin. D’oh! Thousands of girls were all like “Fuck me, all I have to do is snort smack off of some tinfoil and I too will look like Kate Moss!” A photo of Bowie doing the Nazi Salute with the caption “Drugs make you think it’s cool to be a Nazi twat” would have been much more powerful. Except of course to people who thought it was cool to be a Nazi, but frankly the thought of them all dying of smack AIDS really doesn’t bother me at all.

Meanwhile! Back in David Bowie land. I have heard nice stories about him from people who sort of knew him. I also like his songs a lot, although less so in the late 80s, but I figure if Mozart had lived to a proper age he might have put out a shit symphony or two, so I don’t really hold that against the lovely Mr B. I spent last night trying to think of a favourite and there really isn’t just one. Depending on my mood, it can be several, but there is something about Rock and Roll Suicide that makes me tingle, so right now, at this moment in time, that’s what I’d like to thank Mr B for as I wish him a very happy birthday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac

January 5th

On this day in 1945 while war still raged in Europe and the far East, while rationing was at its height and the British were living off of powdered eggs and a little fingernail piece of butter a year, something rather wonderful happened in the US of A.

A Chuck Jones cartoon for Warner Brothers was shown for the first time. It was called Odor-Able Kitty. It featured a character called Stinky who fell in live with a male cat who was disguised as a skunk (complete with odour of Limburger) with comical consequences. The character proved rather popular and went on to star in a number of cartoons, including:

Cats and Skunks do not make for a happy couple

Have you guessed who it is yet? If I tell you that he also appeared in a cartoon called Little Beau Pepé you’ll know right away, that Stinky was the first name given to Pepé Le Pew, the skunk who spent his life falling in love with female cats who’d got some white paint on their backs and then had to try to get away from a skunk who didn’t understand the words “no” or “non” or very probably “get your stinky f**king body off me!”

Pepé is not everyone’s cup of tea. He’s no Tom Cat or Jerry Mouse and his stories are all very much the same. He meets cat, he pursues cat like a great big sex pest, he smells bad, he does not get cat. But, all of that aside, he is my cup of tea. Pepé never failed to make me laugh when I was a child and I still love him now, even though he’s beyond well dodgy. Part of the love comes from the wonderful voice, given to him my Mel Blanc doing a rather wonderful impersonation of Charles Boyer from the  1938 film Algiers. If you want to argue with me and tell me that Pepé’s voice was based on Maurice Chevalier, then I will fight you because you are wrong and I, am ever, as right.
So, that was this day, mes amis, that just as the war was entering its

Don't lets ask for the skunk, Pepé, we have the Limberger

final countdown (if I’ve given you a Europe earworm … hahaha!), a little French Skunk entered the world of cartoons and became the horror of pretty little kitties everywhere.

And now, La Marseilliaise! Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé! 
Er, maybe not. That anthem’s a tiny bit violent. Á bientôt!
Today is the birthday of former footballer, “actor”, alleged hard man and annoying twat, Vincent “Vinnie” Jones.
To those reading outside of the UK, Vinnie may be a twat you are unaware of. I envy you. He was a professional footballer in the 1980s and 1990s. Throughout his career he was a dirty player and never quite as good as he wanted to be. He was always more famous for his dodgy fouls than he was for any real skill. He was too shit to play for England, which was going some in the 80s, so eventually he made himself Welsh and played as Captain of the Welsh team. I’ve always thought this was unfair. While the Welsh team have never done that well on the international stage, even they were too good to have to have a no-mark git like Jones as their captain.
When he was still playing football he also put out a video called

Fugly man still playing it "hard" after all these years.

“Hardmen of Football” which showed him and others being violent bastards on the pitch and gave advice to wannabe hardmen. Which was nice. He was banned from playing for six months (I think his team did better without him and even if they didn’t, they probably felt like they did) and he was fined £20,000 for bringing the game into disrepute.

When he finished playing most of us hoped we’d never have to look at his decidedly ugly face again or hear him giving it large. Unluckily for us, Vinnie decided he was going to be an actor and noted Mockney wanker Guy Ritchie (for those of you who don’t know, he comes from a proper posh family and goes around pretending he’s a right proper eastender. He makes me wish the Krays were still alive to show him from hard. They could probably take out Vinnie at the same time) gave him a part in one of his many “gangster films”. Vinnie played himself, or what he thought was himself, as I suspect he’s about has hard as the penis of an 85 year old man who’s run out of Viagra.
If there is anyone in the world who actually likes Vinnie Jones and finds him funny, you have my sympathy and  my advice that you please go to the hospital and have a brain transplant.
And that is all. I am not going to wish you happy birthday, Vinnie Jones, because you are an ugly untalented shithead who is part of everything that is wrong with the world we live in. My present to you is a finger. Given that you live in LA these days, I’m sure you can figure out what that means.

1 Comment

Filed under Almanac

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Almanac

June 2nd

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

"Yo bitch! This is our house now!"

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

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

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

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

The Marquis de Sade

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

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

Keith Allen: Git

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

2 Comments

Filed under Almanac

May 27th

On this day in 1813 former president Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to former president John Adams to let him know that their mate, Benjamin Rush (who had never been president) was dead.

Thomas "Your Mum" Jefferson

All three men were signatories to the Declaration of Independence and they’d been great mates back in the day. But by 1800, things went totally tits up for John and Thomas. Adams was president, but in the election he was beaten by Jefferson and was so annoyed that he wouldn’t talk to Thomas. This was fair enough as Jefferson keep sending him letters which were all along the lines of “I’m President and you’re not. Ha!” Although this was very childish behaviour, it  has to be said that Jefferson was, on the whole, a better man than Adams. He didn’t go in for lots of formality of office and wasn’t a one for the bling, unlike Adams who was known as Magpie Boy because of his love of a bit of sparkle.

This level of disharmony really upset their mutual friend Benjamin, who was quite a religious chap and just wanted everyone to get along.  He eventually wrote letters to both men, reminding them of all the fun they’d had in Paris – although not all of it; he didn’t know about the whores and booze and the donkey fetish – how great it had been to be alive in the age of revolution and independence and, like, c’mon guys, can’t we just, like, you know, totally, feel the

John "The one who smelt it dealt it" Adams

love, and like, get along? In 1812, he was successful and the two started up a cordial correspondence, swapping recipes, talking about the books they were currently reading and what had been on at the theatre the night before. Then on April 19th 1813, Ben shuffled off this mortal coil and when the news reached Thomas, he took it upon himself to inform John.

He got a bit maudlin, waffled on about the revolution and wrote: “We too must go; and that ere long. I believe we are under half a dozen at present; I mean the signers of the Declaration.” On receiving the letter, John replied: “Cheer up, you miserable bugger. It’s shit that Ben’s snuffed it, but you sound like some old black-clad spinster who’s regretting never being curious enough to seek out the pleasures of the trouser-snake.” It was only Benjamin who had kept them civil. The moment he was dead, they went back to their old ways. Each trying to outdo the other in terms of being a bit offensive and all “I know you are but what am I.” These are the things they never tell us about the great men of history. We see their serious letters and we’re all “Ooh, wasn’t he quite the serious and noble chap.” Yeah. Whatever.

Benjamin "Goody two-shoes" Rush

There was a difference this time. From 1800-1812, they had not exchanged a word; there was a complete schism. From 1812-1826, they wrote to each other all the time.  Most of the letters that post-date the death of Benjamin Rush (whose great-great-great-great-great grandchildren moved to Canada and formed the famous rock combo, Rush) have been “lost” or burned, but a few remain and are living proof, that Jefferson invented the “Your mum” joke and that Adams was pretty much a connoisseur of fart humour. A rapprochement of sorts was reached in early 1826, when Jefferson wrote to Adams: “Your mum’s farts are so loud that when she blows off herds of cattle in Texas stampede.” It was a weak  joke, but both men were elderly and it made Adams chortle, even though his mother’s farts had in fact been very gentle little wafts of eggy badness. Within months, both men died on July 4th 1826, which was nicely fitting for signatories to the DoI. You can find all their dull and boring and “Oh do you remember when John Hancock signed the Declaration and his signature was so big and how we laughed” correspondence in official collections. Honestly, don’t bother. Think instead of Adams trying to send a fart cushion to Jefferson through the mail and Jefferson nearly peeing his pants with glee each time he came up with a new “your mum” joke. It’s what they both would have wanted.

 

Today was and is the birthday of both Vincent Price and Christopher Lee. Given that Peter Cushing was born yesterday, it’s a total Hammer House of Horror birthday fest.

Vincent, who would be 100 today if still living, was a top chap. He was eccentric, generous and outspoken against religious and racial

Christopher "I don't always play Dracula, you know" Lee

prejudice. He was also a huge gift to horror, because he never seemed to take it quite seriously, which made his performances an absolute joy to watch. He had a great career before the horror as well and was a fine all round actor. Horror was his saviour,though, because he was a big old gangly thing at 6’4″, which made producers less likely to cast him in case he made the leading man look like a dwarf. In the horror genre, his height was a bonus.

Lee is still with us and to be honest he gets a bit hissy about the whole Dracula thing “Dahlings I am a classical actOR, I have done so much besides all of this horror and stuff.” Yeah, he’s also been in Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings as baddies. Big diversity there. Am  being unnecessarily cruel to an old man? I think I probably am, but, you know, be proud of what you’ve done. You didn’t hear Vincent Price and Peter Cushing getting all

Vincent "Legend" Price

“Dahlings!” about their work. They did it, they got paid for it, they enjoyed it and to hell with snobbery. Also Lee is a supporter of the bum-faced overlord party, so fuck him. Also his anecdotes are a bit boring, unlike Vincent’s who told the story of when him and Peter Lorre went to see Bela Lugosi at the funeral home. Lugosi was dressed in his Dracula costume and Lorre said “Do you think we should drive a stake through his heart just in case?”. There’s funny. Also he starred in Theatre of Blood which is a top film.

In short, Price: Top Bloke; Lee: Bit of a Prick.

2 Comments

Filed under Almanac

May 4th

On this day in 1886 there was a bit of a fracas in a square in Chicago and frankly things got very, very out of hand. What happened on that day and its grim aftermath had a profound impact on international workers’ movement.

Contemporary illustration of what went down. Not very illustrative to be honest

At the time of the riot/massacre/uprising/bombing/shooting, America was experiencing a high number of strikes (somewhere between 300,000 to 500,000 workers were on strike). These revolved around the “eight our day movement”, which is pretty self-explanatory: they were trying to get legislation passed to ensure that workers only had to work for eight hours a day. This hardly seems like asking for a lot from our perspective, but back then it was. And back then it was why unions were so vitally important. Without them many of the rights we now take for advantage wouldn’t be enshrined in law. Anyway, political lecture over! In Chicago there was a strike at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co, which had been going on for some months; workers had been locked out since February. Scab labour had been brought in, but even so many of those “scabs” had defected to the strike. Throughout the strike there was a certain amount of trouble, but by and large it was non-violent. There were, however, problems, which is hardly surprising. For a start, and maybe for a middle and end as well, the owners of the factory had employed Pinkerton agents to keep an eye on the strikers and ensure that there was no violence. Police officers, up to four hundred at a time, escorted the scab labour into the factory. The strikers weren’t angels; they did harass scabs who went through the factory gates, but they in turn were harassed and subjected to violence by the Pinkerton agents.

Fast forward to May 3rd and a rally outside the gates of the factory. The rally was addressed by a leader of the eight-hour day movement called August Spies. He urged the striking workers to hold it together and to stand together with their union if they wanted to succeed. All was well until the end of day bell rang. Some of the strikers surged forward to confront the scab workforce and at that moment police and/or Pinkerton agents fired into the crowd, killing at least two strikers. Some contemporary accounts state six, but there are no definitive records. This incident was incendiary and led to the immediate call for a meeting the next day in Haymarket Square. Flyers were made up by a local anarchist group and initially stated “Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force!” but August Spies said he would refuse to speak at the meeting unless that wording was removed. It was and all but a couple of hundred of the original flyers were destroyed. In short, the meeting was to be peaceful. The workers and their representatives were not planning trouble.

The next evening, the meeting convened. A large number of policemen observed the rally from the sidelines. August Spies was the first speaker and his opening words were recorded thus:

“There seems to prevail the opinion in some quarters that this meeting has been called for the purpose of inaugurating a riot, hence these warlike preparations on the part of so-called ‘law and order.’ However, let me tell you at the beginning that this meeting has not been called for any such purpose. The object of this meeting is to explain the general situation of the eight-hour movement and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it.”

And the evening pretty much went on like that. The Mayor had popped by to see if it was kicking off and it wasn’t so he went home

August Spies. Fine moustache

early. Samuel Fielding was the last speaker of the night and he finished at 10.30pm, at which point the police lined up to disperse the crowd and make them go home. And then it happened. A pipe bomb was thrown at the police, killing one officer immediately and it all went mental. The police started firing into the crowd. There are reports that some of the crowd were armed and fired back, but these are very fragmentary and there are no numbers for how many may have been shooting. Similarly, numbers of dead and injured are hard to establish. We do know that eight policemen died that night and that most of them died under friendly fire. That is, that it was dark, the police were all gun happy and ended up shooting each other in the panic. At least four workers were killed and many more injured. A couple of police spokesmen, talking off the record, stated that they knew that far more workers than police had been hurt or killed, but that due to fear of arrest, many had not sought medical treatment. The whole incident lasted no more than about five minutes, but the carnage was appalling.

Who threw the bomb? Nobody knows. It was claimed by the police and the media that it was an anarchist and it may have been. It may also have been a Pinkerton agent trying to stir up trouble. Many believed this to be the case. It is clear that the meeting was peaceful until the throwing of the bomb and the reaction to it. With no suspect the police decided to arrest the men who had addressed the crowd. The prosecution did not even pretend that they were actively involved in the bombing, but focused instead on the fact that they had not discouraged the anonymous bomber and as such they were co-conspirators. It sounds like nonsense, mostly because it is, but they were all found guilty. Of the eight men convicted, seven were sentenced to death and one to fifteen years in prison.

The press around the country lined up to condemn the men calling them monsters, cowards and brutes among many other things. But the world heard the story too and many were disgusted with the treatment of the eight men who all agreed had played no part in the bombing or murder. The very fact of their radicalism and their insistence on standing up for workers’ rights against business interests had landed them where they were. All the name calling and fear-mongering the US press could come up with was no barrier to the pure and simple truth.  There was an appeal the following year and two of the men, including Fielding, had their sentences commuted, but the rest were still to be executed. One of their number, Louis Lingg, committed suicide (he used a dynamite cap, it was horrific and he took six agonising hours to die) and all of the rest, including August Spies, who had specifically called for peace and non-violence, were executed.

The outcome of the trial and the subsequent executions has been seen as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the US. Within six years the governor of Chicago had issued pardons for all of the men and acknowledged that the tragedy had happened because the police had let the Pinkerton agents away with too much. It singled him out as a man who understood what justice should be, but also ended his political career. There is a memorial to the martyrs in Chicago and the May 1st workers’ day celebrations are in part in memory of the men who died on that day in May and later on the gallows. We go back again to the point of unions. However much people may now see them as redundant – a view you won’t be surprised to hear I disagree with – we should never forget that over the years they have been made up of men and women who have sometimes gone so far as to lay down their lives for greater rights for all of us. These men and other men and women like them deserve a moment of our time and that, dear readers, is what I hope I’ve just given them.

Today is the birthday of a German footballer.

He’s not very well known internationally. He’s only 21 and not in the national team, although maybe his day will come. He plays for a team called Karlsruher F.C., which I happily admit I’ve never heard of. He’s only played four games for the first team and has yet to

Cuntzy

score a goal.

All in all, he’s a pretty ordinary bloke, probably not that good at football or anything and someone no one’s really heard of outside of German football fans or maybe even only fans of Karlsruher F.C., so why do we get to wish him a happy birthday?

His name is Matthias Cuntz. That is all it takes really and yes I am that juvenile. Did you ever doubt it?

Happy birthday, Matthias Cuntz.

3 Comments

Filed under Almanac

April 24th

On this day in 1704, the first regular newspaper in the United States, The Boston News Letter, went into publication.

First issue of the Boston Newsletter. Even the layout was "super-exciting"

It’s a shame that an earlier newspaper, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick only lasted for one issue in 1690, because it was a much better name for a newspaper and would have been more fun to look back at. It’s opening sentence was to let the readers know that it would be published monthly or “if any Glut of Occurrences, oftener”. Unfortunately, the paper was shut down by the government who were mighty displeased that no one had asked them permission to publish it and that it had printed things that they didn’t agree with.

The Boston News Letter was government approved and must have been a really great read for all the colonists, containing, as it did, lots of news about London, the British Parliament, the royal family, wars in Europe and all sorts of stuff that didn’t matter a damn to people living thousands of miles away.  The first issue concentrated heavily on Papist threats to England, Scotland and Ireland and had lots of warnings about the “bloody designs of the Papists and Jacobites”. There was also some mention from a Dublin newspaper of November 27th (yep, not only was the news all about stuff they weren’t interested it was months out of date to boot!) about bad Catholics “beginning to form themselves into bodies, and to plunder the Protestants of their arms and money.”

To be fair there was one whole column dedicated to “local news”, like which ships had arrived, how some judge had got appointed as Judge of the Admiralty and a report on the “excellent” sermon of Rev. Mr Ebenezer Pemberton of Old South Church, Boston. He’d taken 1 Thessalonians 4:11 “And do your own business” as his lesson. Nothing about real local issues, like whether or not Mistress Goheavily was indeed stepping out with Master Snoresum, or if in fact, as Mistress Breams suggested, the lady’s troth was already pledged to Midshipman Crozier. Ships, appointments and a dull sermon that most of the readers had probably already slept through the previous Sunday. With so much stimulation now on hand, it’s a wonder the good people of Boston didn’t all just fall into a coma through sheer excitement.

It took about fourteen years for there to be something vaguely worth reading in the paper, but an account of how Blackbeard was

Ebenezer sending everyone to sleep with his shit sermons

killed in hand-to-hand combat on his own ship must have almost been worth waiting for. From 1722, the paper was under new ownership and gave more space to local events, but given that it was all a bit prissy in Boston, it was many years before there were thrilling accounts of naughty behaviour and illicit goings on. I am left wondering what exactly the Rev. Mr Ebenezer Pemberton had to say about doing your own business. Try as I might I can’t figure out how I could do somebody else’s business without the sort of efforts that I’m pretty sure are physically impossible. Maybe that first issue wasn’t so boring after all!

Today’s shared birthday is a rum one. A chap called Enda Kenny was born in 1951 and another one called Eamon Gilmore was born in 1955. The names will mean something to my Irish readers, but little to anyone else. Well Enda is the Taoiseach of Ireland and Eamon is the Tánaiste, in English, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland.

Look at me, I'm the Taoiseach!

This strange coincidence makes me wonder if there wasn’t a conspiracy to only have men with the same birthday in power, but rather than go through the whole Irish cabinet to see if it was true, knowing full well that all I’d find was a variety of birthdays, I decided to leave it at these two and just make “hmm” type noises with a knowing look on my face.

I doubt either man is having much fun at the moment, what with Ireland being broke and all, but Enda has had a visit with Barack Obama in which he (Enda) looks like just the sort of man I would trust only as far as I could throw him (I throw very badly and he’s a fair-sized man). Eamon looks a bit more trustworthy, but who can tell. I’ve seen no photos of him with the American President.

So this pair of likely lads are from Mayo (Enda) and Galway (Eamon) and now they run Ireland.

Eamon's a great man for the cake

I shall wish them both a happy birthday, because if they have miserable ones they’ll only make sure the rest of Ireland suffers, probably, and I shall rely on one of my cousins to comment here and tell us whether or not I’ve got it right about either of this pair.

Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac

April 12th

On this day in 1861 after bubbling under for quite some time and threatening to explode for quite some time, the American Civil War started.

A painting of the bombardment of Fort Sumter

I am loath to tell you too much about this as I am aware that I have a number of US readers and I’d hate to be in the position of teaching my collective grandmothers to suck eggs. However, the truth is that I’m quite the expert on this subject, so I’m going to have to give you a little bit of information or I would be failing in my task to edumacate the world. Here goes then.

Now as you all know, even before the war began things were in quite a two and eight. The south was not happy that Abe Lincoln was President, the north was getting off with the south being all about “we can do what we want, screw you.” Everyone was all “You do it our way!” “No, you do it ours!” and then the secessions began. These caused even more problems. As state after state seceded (seven had done one even before the election of Abe, so it wasn’t all down to him by any stretch of the imagination), things got more prickly, especially as the federal government refused to recognise the rights of the states to secede. This then started a big old argument about federal property, mostly focusing on military strongholds. The Secession states wanted the federal government to leave them and hand them over; they would not. Then the new Confederacy offered to pay for them, especially Fort Sumter which sat in the harbour entrance to Charleston. Abe told them they could sing for it because it wasn’t going to happen. His view, reasonable enough and also totally unreasonable if you were a Confederate, was that if he said “Oh go on then, you can buy it off us” he would be recognising the legitimacy of the Confederacy, which he was not about to do. So in March and April of 1861 everyone was looking at a stalemate.

The stalemate ended when Confederate troops began to bombard Fort Sumter on April 12th. The Union army inside the fort had been in a state of siege throughout 1861. The bombardment was pretty much a formality and also the opening salvo in a vicious war that would divide the nation, divide states, families and friends for the next four years.

Of course, while the bombing of Fort Sumter started the war, the event needed to be reported so that everyone could be all “War!

The barbecue at Twelve Oaks before it all got a bit fighty

War!” and get into their uniforms and have some battles. The day after the bombardment, we know that in a mansion called Twelve Oaks in Georgia, a couple of brothers ran into a big barbecue and what was going to be a ball, to tell everyone that the war had started, which made all the men get very excited and run off to get on their horses and find a battle. All except Rhett Butler who was nobody’s fool and decided that he’d made a shitload of money off the war instead.  You may have seen this in a film, but what you won’t know is that after Scarlett O’Hara married Charles Hamilton in a fit of pique, because stupid old Ashley Wilkes is going to marry Miss Melly, she gets up the duff. In the film they’re all “Oh she got married a lot before Rhett, but she didn’t do marital ghastliness with Charles and Frank Kennedy”. She did!  A lot! She also had a sister called Careen which is v. close to my own name, but her Careen became a nun, which is pretty far from being like me.

Anyway! That’s how the war got properly started. I won’t bore you with details of all the battles that happened between April 1861 and April 1865, because you wouldn’t thank me and maybe I’ll turn to one of them another time if I’m lacking inspiration. Or Reconstruction which was so unbelievably stupidly administered that it more or less guaranteed that the US would fail to have anything close to racial equality, harmony and fairness for the next hundred years.

Today is the birthday of long-time crush, even when he was way too young and I felt a bit icky about it, Paul Nicholls.

He originally came to the forefront of the British consciousness when he played Mad Joe in Eastenders. He got called Mad Joe a lot,

Paul Nicholls when he was a little younger

which was pretty shitty, given that Joe Wicks, as his character was more properly called, was suffering from schizophrenia. I loved him from the first moment and even the tin foil all around his room did not put me off.

Thankfully, after he left Eastenders, he went on to get lots more jobs and to grow even more handsome – and delightfully hirsute – with age. He was in something once where there was a glimpse of his meat and two veg, and oh my, that was an impressive glimpse.

He is currently featuring in a thing on BBC1 called Candy Cabs, which is mostly pure shite, but I don’t really care as I get to look at him and think “I love you!” He’s a sort of British Jake Gyllenhaal in that he has lovely eyes, has played a mentalist, has got better with age and has got much hairier as he has gone from vaguely

Older, hairier, and oh my, just look at him!

pedalo crush of shame to full-grown hot man who gives me butterflies in my tummy when he twinkles and smiles on screen.

He is, however, married which is just dreadful. I mean, I honestly can’t believe that he didn’t give me at least one go first! Ah well. His wife seems like a nice lass and they seem like  a happy couple and that is a really lovely thing.

Paul, if you are reading this (highly unlikely), I’m not as obsessed as I sound, and you are a real darling. I hope your birthday was full of love and cake and champagne and fun and laughter. I mean, it would have been better if it had also been full of me, but [sigh], I’m sure you got by nearly as well without me!

Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac