Tom's Book of Days
December 1-10  

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December 1


the silent speaker

1663: Thirty-two-year-old John Dryden marries Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the first Earl of Berkshire.

1792: Nikolay Ivanovich Lobachevsky, the father (along with János Bolyai of Hungary) of non Euclidean geometry is born. He disputed Euclid’s postulate that only one line can be drawn through a point that not on a second line that will not eventually connect to that line (in other words, that parallel lines and only parallel lines never meet). This point of view (so to speak) anticipates Einstein.

1860: The first installment of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

1896: Rex Stout is born in Noblesville, Indiana.

1955: In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give her front bus seat to a white man.

1969: The first draft lottery for the Vietnam War is held.

1971: Muhammed Ali sees a UFO while jogging in Central Park.

1990: Three years to the day after beginning to dig, British and French workers meet and shake hands underneath the English Channel. Relations between the two countries go downhill from there.

1999: Russia's State Duma (the lower house of parliament) passes an animal rights bill that prohibits people from eating their pets.

December 2


john brown

1793: Samuel Taylor Coleridge enlists in the Light Dragoons.

1814: The Marquis de Sade dies in a mental asylum near Paris. His last will asks that he be kept in an open casket for 48 hours to establish that he is definitely dead.

1823: The Monroe Doctrine, claiming for the US the exclusive right to exploit the Western Hemisphere, is announced.

1859: John Brown (pictured) is hanged in Charleston, Virginia, for inciting slave rebellion.

1867: Charles Dickens gives his first New York reading: people stand in two lines, almost a mile long, for tickets.

December 3


Jean-Luc Godard

1930: Jean-Luc Godard is born.

1946: More than 100,000 workers from 142 AFL unions participate in a General Strike in Oakland, California. The three-day strike opposed police brutality & supported striking Oakland department store workers.

1947: A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Jessica Tandy, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden, opens at New York's Ethel Barrymore Theater.

1976: Unidentified gunmen fire into Bob Marley's house in Kingston, Jamaica, where he and the Wailers are rehearsing.

December 4


1154: The only English pope, Nicholas Breakspear (Adrian IV), takes the papal throne.

1875: Rainier Maria Rilke is born.

1970: Cesar Chavez is jailed in Salinas, California, for refusing to call off a United Farm Workers lettuce boycott.

1993: Fifty-two-year-old Frank Zappa ("Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.") dies of pancreatic cancer.

December 5



1901: Werner Heisenberg is born in Wurzburg, Bavaria (... but is it certain?).

1931: Vachel Lindsay commits suicide by drinking Lysol.

December 6


1492: Columbus sights Hispaniola. Bad news for the islanders, who will soon be extinguished.

1889: The trial of the Chicago Haymarket anarchists begins.

1920: Dave Brubeck is born.

1933: The US lifts the ban on James Joyce's Ulysses.

1990: Police in Oakland, California, rush to capture a gunman who has barricaded himself inside his home. After firing ten tear gas canisters into the building, officers discover that the man is standing beside them, shouting "please come out and give yourself up!"

December 7


harry crosby


1956: Larry Bird is born.

1929: Hart Crane gives a party for his publishers, Harry and Caresse Crosby of Black Sun Press (publishers of Crane, Kay Boyle, James Joyce, Rene Crevel, and T.S. Elliot, among others). William Carlos Williams, Malcolm Cowley, e. e. cummings, and a group of drunken sailors attend. The euphoria doesn't last: the thirty-one-year-old Crosby kills himself and his mistress.

December 8


734: Yik’in Chan K’awiil (K’awil the Sky Darkener), son of King Hasaw Chan K'awil (Ah Cacao) and Lady Kalajuun Une Mo (Lady Twelve Macaw) , accedes to the throne as the 27th king of Tikal. With its magnificent temples and population of more than 60,000 people, Tikal is one of the world’s most magnificent cities of the eighth century, and King Yik’in’s reign would mark a period of expansion in which several neighboring city states would be defeated. This is the flowering of the Late Maya period, in which Tikal recovers from its previoius setbacks and flourishes for a time, before being abandoned around 900, probably as a result of a combination of environmental stresses, overpopulation, and defeats in warfare. The great temple called Temple IV (at 230 feet the tallest pre-Columbian monument) is dedicated to Yik’in; nonetheless, he is buried beneath Temple VI. His father is buried beneath the temple called Temple 1; Temple II may be a monument to his mother.

1864: Pope Pius IX issues the Syllabus Errorum, which condemns Liberalism, Socialism, and Rationalism.

1886: Diego Rivera is born in Guanajuato.

1925: The Marx Brothers' The Coconuts opens on Broadway.

1980: Mark Chapman, having obtained John Lennon's autograph hours before, shoots and kills the singer.

December 9


la virgen de guadalupe

marianne moore

1531: Ten years after the fall of the Aztec capital of Tenochitlan to Hernán Cortés (1521), Catholic missionaries are well along in their efforts to follow the military conquest with a religious one. One of their converts is a young man to whom they have given the name Juan Diego. On this day, on his way to mass, he encounters a vision of a dark-skinned woman (on the site of an Aztec temple--destroyed by order of the bishop--dedicated to Tonatzin, earth godess, mother of the gods and protectress of humanity) . Addressing him in Nahuatl, she calls him "my son" and identifies herself as the Virgin Mary. She wants a church built, but unfortunately Juan Diego is not one empowered to make such decisions. On December 12 (where her significance is briefly discussed), however, he encounters the virgin for a second time, and she advises him to pick some roses and take them to the bishop. Imagine the astonishment when he drops the roses to reveal a perfect image of the virgin on the cloak to which he had them pressed! Needless to say, the bishop orders a church built on the site of the former temple.
      The Miracle of Guadalupe is officially recognized by the Vatican in 1745. The image of the Virgin never fades from Juan Diego's mantle, which is subjected to extensive analysis over the years, confirming that it dates from the 16th century, but leaving the nature of the image a mystery.

1955: Poet Marianne Moore, hired by the Ford Motor Co. to select a name for the car eventually called the Edsel, produces the following suggestions:

  • The Anticipator
  • The Thunder Crester
  • The Silver Sword
  • The Regna Racer
  • The Magigravue
  • The Turcotingo
  • The Pastelogram
  • The Varsity Stroke
  • The Mongoose Civique
  • The Utopian Turtletop
  • The Intelligent Whale
  • The Resilient Bullet
  • The Adante Con Moto


December 10


père Ubu

1896: Ubu roi opens in Paris.

1929: Harry Crosby is found in bed with a .25-caliber hole in his right temple, next to a young woman with a matching hole in her left. One of his hands clutches the pistol, the other the woman (see December 7).

continue to December 11.


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