October 21

Amber pages

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, British poet, critic, and philosopher, born today in 1772; an extended essay on him ("The Shaping Spirit of the Imagination") will be published. eventually, in my collection of literary essays, "Homage To Thomas Bowdler"

Alphonse de Lamartine, French poet, born today in 1790

Alfred Bernhard Nobel, inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prize, born today in 1833 (am I right in saying that he did not actually found the Nobel Peace Prize? He would certainly never have won it)

Sir Georg Solti, conductor, born today in 1912

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, jazz trumpeter, born today in 1917

Sir Malcolm Arnold, composer, born today in 1921

Ursula Le Guin, authoress, born today in 1929

The British fleet defeated the Franco-Spanish fleet, off Trafalgar, today in 1805; many deaths, but the only one that gets specifically remembered is Horatio Nelson, the British naval commander - for whom see under September 29; and click here for some intriguing speculation as to whether Nelson plotted his own death at Trafalgar as an act of suicide

Thomas Edison invented the first practical incandescent lamp, today in 
1879. Well, actually, no he didn't - see under July 24

Chinese troops occupied Tibet, today in 1950

The Guggenheim Museum opened, today in 1959. Information from an American almanac, so they can only mean the New York Guggenheim, as opposed to the Bilbao Guggenheim or the Venice Guggenheim - both of the latter created by the great Peggy, who discovered Pollock and many others (see December 30). The New York helter-skelter, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was once described by Peggy as "my uncle Solomon's warehouse". Don't you just love that!

The Aberfan disaster in Wales (see the photo at the top of this page), today in 1966, 140 people killed and half the town decimated, because stupid people wanting to save money build slag-heaps of coal-waste where they shouldn't.

Vietnam protestors stormed the US Pentagon, today in 1967. Fortunately the Pentagon didn't use napalm or "agent orange" to disperse them, as they would have done if the protest had taken place in Vietnam.

The day started so well too, with all those worthy births. Then downhill all the way, sliding into Aberfan, slurrying into Vietnam. And then, god damn it, two of the best of them:

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, "Jack" to his publisher, pulled his daisy and drove off the road, today in 1969. Who knew that was his real name?

And Francois Truffaut, French film director, swapped day for night, today in 1984 

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