April 19

1824, 1943


1824. I have said before that I prefer to record the births rather than the deaths, but that sometimes it is the death that makes the life significant. This is definitely the case for George Gordon, Lord Byron, English poet and "hero" of the Greek attempt to rid themselves of Turkish rule, Lord Byron

                              Who fell at Missolonghi, not from guns,
                              But an incurable affliction of the runs

which is a quote from, a piece of pre-advertising for, my life of Byron, "A Small Drop of Ink", written mostly in heroic couplets and ottava rima, until

                              On Easter Friday, April the 18th,
                              The poetry collapsed into a state of coma,
                              Unrhymed, unmetred, no longer heroic.
                              At six o’clock the next evening,
                              During a violent electrical storm
                              That mirrored the violence of his own last spasm,
                              The poetry simply blanked
                              And died.


Byron actually achieved nothing in Greece, except his death, and his enshrinement with posterity. I rather suspect the same was true of my kinsman Jacub Praszker, or Jakow Praszkier as he is sometimes spelled in the archive documents, who likewise took up arms in the name of a forsaken people, his own, and likewise died in doing so, in his case in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which began today in 1943.

Not that it's easy to find documents of any kind in any archive, but my cousin Terry in Australia (her grandfather and my grandfather were brothers, and they fled Poland together in 1919, making their ways eventually to England) has done such research as there can be, and she has found enough to confirm his heroism.

He was born in 1913, into what was a very poor, very Hasidic branch of the family, probably in Zduńska Wola, just a few miles from the ancestral village of Praszka. 

At the beginning of the war he went to Warsaw with his wife Rosa Mastbaum, and became active at the Headquarters of Dror He-Chaluc, working at 20 Niska Street, living at 18 Muranowska Street, which was the Headquarters of the Refugee Committee, of which he was a member. His official job was to maintain communications with Histadrut Headquarters in Geneva, but he was also a member of the Jewish Military Union (ZZW), for which he obtained arms on the "Aryan" side, and the head of the youth organisation Hanoar Hasyjoni (Zionist Youth) - hard to distinguish He-Chaluc from HH, but Jews always do denominations.

When the Nazis sent their troops into the Warsaw Ghetto, to deport its surviving inhaitants to the nearest death camp, 
Jacub was given command of the Hanoar Hasyjoni teenagers, based at the brushmakers' shop, affiliated with the main Jewish Fighting Organization, the ZOB. 

The abjectly hopeless defense of the ghetto was mostly concentrated around Nalewki, Gesia and Zamenhof, and in Mila (where Leon Uris' novelistic account of the uprising is also focused) and its adjacent streets. The combat groups in the latter (naming them raises a memorial to them: may their memories be a blessing) were commanded by Zachariasz Artsztejn, Ber Braudo, Aron "Pawel" Bryskin, Josef Farber, Lewi Gruzalc, Dawid Hochberg, Lejb Rotblat and Uenryk Zylberberg. At the brush factory, which meant along Swietojerska and Walowa streets, as well as the upper section of Franciszkaiiska Street, the side with the odd-numbered houses, the combat groups were commanded by Hersz Berlinski, Jerzy "Jeleh" Blones, Jerzy Grynszpan, Chanoch Gutman and Jacub Praszkier, all these under the general command of Marek Edelman - the only one of these to survive, he spent his later years as a renowned cardiologist in Lodz.

April 17



A day of freedom, and its obverse...


Four 
birthdates:



1885, Baroness Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), Danish author ("Out of Africa")



1894, Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Premier


1897, Thornton Wilder, American novelist and playwright


1916, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the world's first woman Prime Minister...

which is no doubt true in the specific, but somewhat disingenuous in the general...

Hatshepsut, Pharaohess of Egypt in the 15th century BCE; Nefertiti a hundred years after her, and several Cleopatras later on; Sammuramat of Assyria in the 9th century BCE; Eleanor of Aquitaine; Isabelle of Castille; Queens Mary and Elizabeth of Tudor England (technically Mary Queen of Scots as well, but she was powerless throughout her reign); Catherine de Medici, Queen of France at the same epoch; Amina of Nigeria; Mbande Nzinga of Angola; Catherine the Great of Russia; Queen Victoria of course; Tzu-Hsi and Wu Zetian, both Empresses of China; Sorghaghtani Beki of Mongolia; Nur Jahan of India; Liliuokalani, the very last ruler of independent Hawaii; Queen Seondeok of Korea; the Trung sisters, precursors of Jeanne d'Arc, who led the Vietnamese to freedom from the Chinese in the 1st century CE...

Wouldn't it be so much more interesting and exciting if we gave our kids world history in school, instead of the narrow parochialisms of "the history of those who have ruled our little tiny realm, their wars, their marriages, their occasional refoms", which is all that most countries on planet Earth can manage.


Hai Bà Trưng - the Trung Sisters


and four events:


1534, Sir Thomas More, English statesman and writer, imprisoned


1961, "Bay of Pigs" invasion


1980, Zimbabwe won independence (I have a note that Ian Smith became Prime Minister of Rhodesia on April 17th 1964, but I don't plan to expand on that sad fact in this blog)


1982, Queen Elizabeth gave Canada complete independence from Britain (interestingly phrased! and absolutely questionable - I once had the pleasure of sitting next to Michaëlle Jean, the then General Governor-General, at a Jewish community dinner in Toronto, and in making conversation I asked her, quite directly, about this: she smiled, very graciously, and changed the subject - yes, the word I want to use here is definitely "subject").



And lastly, and quite possibly my favourite recorded historic moment ever: 

Today, in 1986, peace was formally agreed, and signed, between the Netherlands and the Scilly Isles. Who even knew they were at war (or that the Scilly Isles might have the means of making war)?





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April 14


Amber pages:


Today in 1629, Christian Huygens, Dutch physicist and astronomer, discovered Saturn's rings).



Today in 1861, Fort Sumter surrendered to the Confederacy- the event which launched the Amrican Civil War, and which is recorded in detail in my essay "Running Wild in Charleston", in "Travels In Familiar Lands".


Today in 1865, Abraham Lincoln assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.


Today in 1912, at 
11:40 pm, the Titanic struck an iceberg . It sank the following day at 2:27 am, taking 1,517 people down with it - amongst them, the most famous of the dead that day, Ida and Isidor Straus - for whom see December 23.





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April 12


Amber pages:


Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople, today in 
1204


I am adding this date, because the broad subject is interesting, and that war between the three faiths, over Jerusalem but over more than just Jerusalem, is the active daily tale of all our lives, multi-dimensionally, today. But why this specific? On what date did the Third Crusade, or the Second, the First - was there a Fifth? - begin, end, sack, retreat? And did they actually do anything else but sack? I am struggling to determine how, and why, let alone where, or when, to place my focus. So there is the gap between the personal and the universal. So there is a need for bridges.


And between the personal and the universal inside the event as well.  Today, for example, in 
1961: a spaceship was launched, which took the very first human ever out of Earth's atmosphere. A momentous occasion for the human race, of universal significance. 
   Then does it matter that the spaceship was named Vostok 1, that it happened to be launched out of the USSR, that the human happened to be male, rather than female, that he was named Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin.





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April 5


Amber pages:


The personal history requires this first: the tragically youthful death of the man for whom I am first-named, Grandpa Dov, or Dovid, or David on his English gravestone, today in 1933.



Sometimes historical dates are small and narrow, at others universal:


2348 BCE: Noah's Ark grounded... or "mountained", to be geographically precise. And speaking of precision, this is self-evidently another of those "how do they know?" moments, and one for which 2348 BCE will ultimately shown to be out by - about 12 billion years, at current scientific estimation. There never was a physical Ark; like Phaeton's and Helios' Chariot, Noah's tale is a mythological (primordial-scientific) account of the journey of the sun across the elemental waters of the sky, a Babylonian Creation myth, with the breaking of the waters as a distinctly female fertility metaphor - so shouldn't this be on April 1st anyway, the first day of the newly created year?


347 BCE: Plato died... probably of sitting still too long and not getting enough exercise - the key difference between the two schools of education, and the reason why certain types of teacher needed the invention of ADHD, because the Platonic and the Aristotelian are incapable of co-existing in the same classroom - as Aristotle himself discovered, and left Plato's school to found his own, where he taught, among other ADHD students, Alexander of Macedon...


1588: Thomas Hobbes, English philosopher born... 


1614: Pocahontas (a.k.a. Matoaka, a.k.a. Rebecca) married John Rolfe,
in Virginia...



1653: First use of postage stamps, in Paris... was this the first anywhere? If not, not interesting enough to write about. If not, where was the first, and when?


1851: Central Park (New York) proposed (why am I writing about a proposal, and not its formal opening?)


1887 Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller the meaning of the word "water", spelling it out in their literally manual alphabet (as with the postage stamp; was that her very first word? if not...) A full account of these two extraordianry women can be found in my novel "A Journey In Time"...


1895: Oscar Wilde arrested and charged in connection with his intimate
relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas (but this too is surely the wrong date: the arrest isn't the significant part; it's the sentencing... the poem that he wrote in Reading Gaol... his incarnation as Nathaniel in "Les Nourritures Terrestres", the key influence on Gide in Paris later...


1951: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg sentenced to death for stealing atomic secrets, which is mostly interesting because almost all the Los Alamos scientists were Germans and Russians bought in, or defected in, or brought in, so the Yanks could get there first...




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April 9


Amber pages:


Charles Baudelaire, French poet, born today in 
1821; click here for my piece about him in "Private Collection"


Paul Robeson, actor and singer, born today in 1898


Tom Lehrer, singing satirist and Harvard Math professor, born today in 
1928


and two historic dates, the first of which is meaningless to me, though I have heard it mentioned many times - so why not take the opportunity to flesh it out, or even try to make a silk purse out of it: today, in 1731, Robert Jenkins's ear cut off, leading to the "War of Jenkins's Ear"...



the second, today, in 1865, Robert E. Lee (what does the E. stand for; and who was the first American to give such importance to the initial letter of the middle name?) surrendered to General whatever-he-was-called Grant (that is a very subtle, multi-lingual, Homeric and Joyceian jest; please send your solutions to DavidHPrashker@polyphemus.net), ending the military hostilities part of the American Civil War (almanacs tell me it happened at 1:30 pm, but which time zone was that? as far as I can tell the non-military hostilities are still on-going, in several states of the USA).





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April 4

That's a Z on a triple-letter + ... no, you can't get to 1993

Amber pages:



Today, in 1896, the Yukon Gold Rush began... the northern branch of the California Gold Rush, which then grew into the Great San Francisco Grape Fraud, and is still continuing today, on blank walls in cyberspace filled up with advertising, in Silicone Enhancement Valley...


Marguerite Duras, French author, born today in 
1914.

Marguerite Annie Johnson (Maya Angelou sounds so much more... authorial?  authoritative? authorised?)  born today in 1928 ... (click here for a surprising Ghana connection)


1969 :First artificial heart transplant (Dr. Denton Cooley). [I thought this was done by Christian Barnard, or was that the transplant of an authentic human heart]


1949 :NATO established...


1968 :Martin Luther King Jr, civil rights leader, killed. (interesting take on this on the 50th anniversary, in Russia Today: https://www.rt.com/op-ed/423170-mlk-clinton-obama-king/)







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April 3



Amber page:


1882, Jesse Woodson James shot Robert Ford - click here for one of my very favouritest ever gravestones 


1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald married Zelda Sayre. 


1966, The Soviet Luna 10 became the first spacecraft to orbit the moon.





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The Argaman Press


April 2


Amber page:


742, birthdate of Charlemagne, French emperor, though some historians insist that the day is correct, but not the year - 743 the antagonist.



Uncertainty about this date too: Giovanni Casanova, Italian adventurer and lover, born, most likely today, and definitely in 1725. Giovanni Casanova... a splendidly Romantic sounding name, don't you think, perfect for a Byronesque life. In Italian anyway. In English it would translate into the very dull John Newhouse, no good for Byron, no good for Dickens, we can hadly imagine him interesting Jane Eyre or any of the Bennet sisters...

And how would it translate into French? Jean de Nouvelle-Maison might make it work for Victor Hugo - imagine him on the barricades with 
Jean Valjean, demanding brand-new homes for every working man and woman. And definitely a candidate for one of Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart novels - Zola was born today in 1840: Emile Edouard Charles Antoine Zola, to give him his full due... but I have mentions of him, and a longer piece about Hugo, elsewhere - click here, and here, and here as well.



And speaking of brigandry and other forms of immoral behaviour, the rape of the Americas was rathermore Oldcastle than Newhouse, or Vieja Castilia in the Spanish. 

Today, in 1513, Florida was discovered by Juan Ponce de Leon (that man of Casteel, dare I mispronounce him?). 

And in 1982, Argentine troops stormed the Falkland Islands (I am putting it on this date, rather than going for "April 26, 1982: Argentine troops surrendered to the British on the Falkland Islands", because I feel rather more loyalty to Morality than I do to Great Britain... and the truth is, like the Elgin Marbles and Gibraltar and Northern Ireland and a great deal more of the old empire, this should have been handed back to its rightful owners, and with reparations, decades ago, without needing a war to try to achieve it...




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March 4


Amber page:


1519: Cortez landed in Mexico (a link to Neil Young's song in the interim? - why not: click here. And this too - though this is about Columbus' arrival in Hispaniola)


1852, Gogol became a dead soul. Actually, he already was, though whether in Pushkin's sense of the "dissolute" or Nabokov's "poshlost"... 







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March 31


Amber page:



1889, Eiffel Tower inaugurated - and is that, or am I imagining it, a deliberate shadow of the Eiffel Tower, along the spine and surface of the new World Trade Tower, Freedom Tower in New York?


1991:Warsaw pact formally dissolved.

March 23


Amber page:


What an absolutely splendid headline:

"Messiah premieres in London", today in 1743!

Handel's "Messiah" I presume, or maybe it was the real thing, himself - I think that should be capitalised: Himself - making his first appearance in a pulpit since the last time he was in shul, or Temple anyway - was it not his lambasting of the unethical capitalists who were running their flea-market in its very courtyard, rather than anything theological, that caused the last straw to break the camel's back and him to have the authorities come down on his forehead with a hedge fund and a Ponzi scheme of their own?

Or is that take on history too non-conformist for you, too much of a challenge to your traditional position; too Dadaist even. But appropriate: the Dada manifesto was published today in 1918...

And then, today in 1940: the All-India-Muslim league adopted a Muslim homeland resolution; and sixteen years later, in 1956, presumably choosing this date for that reason, Pakistan declared itself a republic.


(Shall I do this as an essay on the stupidity of the 2-state solution?Pakistan was anyway three from the outset, the West Bank around Lahore, the Gaza Strip on the Bay of Bengal, and the regional superpower keeping the two apart, while being itself the third part of the equation. A recipe for war.)




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The Argaman Press

March 13


Amber page:


From the completion of that most holy place, the Second Temple in Jerusalem, just three days ago (but in the realm of the goddess, three days is a very significant number), to that other place of worship of the goddess, the Temple of the naked female form, for yea, verily, lo and behold, it was today, in Paris, in 1894, that the gods of prurience and pornography got together and invented what had never been known or performed on Earth before, not ever, not anywhere, the act known as the striptease.

Or maybe just the name was new - though I would be prepared to have myself nailed to the mast and swear that Homer would have known it (and maybe a Christian theologian would like to place a comment in the box below, on what exactly was taking place in Mark 6:21-29).

And while I am presuming this was either the Moulin Rouge or the Folies Bergère, I know that "presume" is insufficient if one wishes to have the name "scholar" attached with "satis" and "smicha"; and so I have looked it up on the godweb and learned that it was neither - the Divan Fayouau is where it took place, and it involved "a young woman before a paying audience in a public theatre" who "acted out various events that required her to undress, such as taking a bath, being examined by a doctor, and finding a flea in her undergarments." 


That research also led to two other fascinating pieces of information, without which the world would indubitably be a poorer place.

The first recorded striptease dance on a pole was performed in Mugwumps strip club, in Oregon, in 1968, by a lady who probably wasn't christened Belle Jangles.

Wentworth Court in Surbiton, Surrey, has a blue plaque attached to it by English Heritage, honouring the fact that here, in the 1930s, at Flat 15 to be precise, lived Phyllis Dixey, "burlesque dancer" - ah but we do love our euphemisms!

And now, to enable this page to go from amber to green, it requires an illustration? But where can I find one?




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March 8


Amber page:

1481, William Caxton translates and publishes "The Mirror of the World"  - why was this significant? I had imagined spending some weeks researching this extraordinary man, who brought printing to England, published Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", translated books himself... the Adam of the trade, for a writer and blogger and publisher such as me. But now I know that I will never write this piece, because it would be pointless, because it would simply be a translation into my own words of Tony Edwards' comprehensive and definitive piece, on the website of the British Library. You can read it here.


1618, Johannes Kepler announces the 3rd law of planetary motion. I have said "announces", and am wondering if that is how the giving of the laws in the Bible should be translated: "And YHVH said to Mosheh, Do not... " And God announced. But this is a scientific law. Do scientific laws get "announced", or do they get "passed", like civil and religious laws; and if so, how do you repeal or amend them?



Britannica, not Wikipedia, so I am confident that this is correct.



March 1


Amber pages:


1692, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba arrested for witchcraft 1692, the historical events behind Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible", and what most of us think of when we call something a "witch-hunt", though of course "witch-hunts" were in existence long, long before John Proctor.



1870, Pennsylvania became the first state to abolish slavery. An important date for American almanacs, I have no doubt; but need to point out that, not even needing a Civil War to achieve it, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in the British Parliament in July 1833, applicable in most British colonies (America one of the obvious exceptions, though not the only one), freeing more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number in Canada. It received Royal Assent on August 28, 1833, and took effect on August 1, 1834.


1896, Radioactivity discovered - apparently by somebody named Henri Becquerel.







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February 27


Amber page:



John Steinbeck, born, somewhere East of Eden, down Salinas Way, today in 1902, 


Lawrence Durrell, barely written off and already back in print, born today in 1912 (click here for my piece on him in Private Collection)