Thursday, December 7, 2023

Hanukkah, Night One

Public domain. This photo depicts the handprints of Leonard Nimoy in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

An Entire Year's Worth of Unfortunate Literary Happenings

Do you like bad things? Want to bum yourself out? You can now read the complete set of unfortunate, mostly literary happenings that happened in past months:

Douginamug, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons











specifically Halloween



I hope your winter holiday season, or summer if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, is going better than the days any of these people had. One day I'll put these, and many, many other weird and unfortunate events, out in ebook and printed almanac form. I'll shoot for 2024 as a goal. 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Unfortunate (Mostly) Literary Happenings of Past Decembers

Read November's post here.

Content warning for mentions of suicide.

December 2, 1984: Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, is so poorly maintained it causes the largest industrial disaster in history. The accidental release of methyl isocyanate causes the immediate suffocation deaths of more than 2,000 people, injuries in more than 50,000 people, and an additional gas-related death toll of perhaps another 8,000 people. Although the Indian government charged Union Carbide executives with homicide, the company claimed it was not under Indian jurisdiction and these officials did not appear in court to face these charges.

December 4, 1987: Children’s book author and illustrator Arnold Lobel dies of AIDS-related cardiac arrest. He is 54 years old.

December 5, 1931: Poet Vachel Lindsay dies by suicide after intentionally drinking a bottle of lye. His last words are reportedly, “They tried to get me; I got them first!”

December 6, 1949: Folk and blues musician Huddie William Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, dies at age 61 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

December 7, 1941: A surprise attack on U.S. territory by the Japanese military at 8 a.m. on this Sunday morning kills 2,403 Americans (2,335 military personnel and 68 civilians) and wounds 1,143. The attack on the U.S. naval base on the Hawaiian island of Oahu was intended to incapacitate the Pacific Fleet of the American Navy, even though the U.S. was officially neutral in World War II at this time. 

Among the wounded was my paternal grandfather Bill, 17 years old at the time. He was blown off his ship and knocked, unconscious, into the water, awakening in the base hospital with a shoulder injury. He recovered and was reassigned from pharmacist’s assistant to EMT so he could help care for the more seriously wounded sailors.

December 7, 2010: Kim Tinkham, age 36, dies of what was most likely metastatic breast cancer. Tinkham had appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008 to talk about the then-popular book The Secret. Tinkham claimed her Stage 3 breast cancer had been successfully treated with alternative medicine. The doctor who appeared with Tinkham on that show and backed up her claim, Robert Oldham Young, was arrested in 2014 and convicted in 2016 for theft and practicing medicine without a license. 

Young’s claim was that cancers are caused by an imbalance of the body’s pH and that an “alkaline diet” can treat and prevent cancer. Little to no scientific research supports this claim.

December 8, 1980: John Lennon is murdered by handgun outside his apartment building in New York City.

December 9, 1977: In the NBA, the L.A. Lakers play the Houston Rockets. At the beginning of the second half of the game, Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Rocket Kevin Kunnert scuffle over a rebound. In the scuffle, Kunnert elbows Abdul-Jabbar’s teammate Kermit Washington. Washington punches Kunnert in the head. 

Kunnert’s teammate Rudy Tomjanovich runs over, intending to help break up the fight. Washington takes a swing at Tomjanovich, striking him in just such a way that fractures his skull. Tomjanovich falls to the court, unconscious and bleeding, although he quickly recovers and, apparently due to a rush of adrenaline, walks around the court in a seemingly aggressive manner. Tomjanovich doesn’t know it yet, but in addition to a broken jaw and nose, he has a fracture near the base of his skull leaking cerebrospinal fluid. He has to be rushed to the emergency room and given emergency surgery, since this is a life-threatening skull fracture. Tomjanovich requires five months of physical recovery before he can play again. 

December 9, 1995: American author Toni Cade Bambara dies of colorectal cancer at the age of 56.

December 10, 1816: The body of Harriet Westbrook Shelley, the estranged wife of Percy Shelley and the mother of his son and daughter, is discovered in the Serpentine River. She is pregnant and has apparently died by suicide. She is only 21 years old.

December 10, 1929: Poet, publisher, and World War I veteran Harry Crosby kills his mistress, Josephine Noyes Rotch, and himself inside a friend’s apartment. Crosby’s wife Caresse becomes worried about her husband’s whereabouts when he fails to show up for a dinner party with the poet Hart Crane. Crane will also die by suicide two years later.

December 11, 2021: Anne Rice dies at the age of 80 of complications from a stroke.

December 12, 1999: Satirical novelist Joseph Heller dies of a heart attack at the age of 76.

December 13, 2011: Gianluca Casseri, a far-right author, Germanic neo-Pagan, devotee of American fascist Ezra Pound, and historian of J.R.R. Tolkien goes on an anti-immigrant shooting spree in Piazza Dalmazia, Florence, Italy. He shoots five street vendors who are all immigrants from Senegal, wounding three and killing two. Casseri then kills himself.

December 14, 1920: George “The Gipper” Gipp, legendary Notre Dame football player, dies of strep throat and pneumonia in St. Joseph Hospital (then in South Bend, now located in Mishawaka). He is 25 years old. 

George Gipp is buried in his native Michigan, but an often-told legend around the Notre Dame campus is that Gipp's ghost haunts the old theater building, Washington Hall. According to the legend, when Gipp missed curfew and got locked out of his dorm building, he would sleep outside Washington Hall. 

December 14, 1995: 28-year-old professional skydiver Rob Harris dies while filming a Mountain Dew commercial. The commercial, a James Bond spoof in which a Bond-like figure snowboards out of an exploding plane, is aired featuring previous takes, but none of the footage from Harris’s final jump, contrary to urban legend. Harris’s fatal fall is triggered by tangled lines and a backup chute that fails to deploy in time.

December 16, 1913: Ambrose Bierce writes to his literary secretary, “I am going to Mexico with a pretty definite purpose which is not at present discloseable. If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags, please know that I think that’s a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico–ah, that is euthanasia!” Neither Bierce’s literary secretary nor any of his other acquaintances ever hear from him again after this letter. He’s presumed to have died in Mexico, perhaps in an early example of “suicide by cop,” or in this case, suicide by revolutionary.

December 18, 1966: Tara Browne, the heir to the Guinness stout fortune, dies in the hospital one day after crashing his Lotus Elan sports car into a parked truck. Browne had been driving at over 100 miles per hour through London and sped through a red traffic light before crashing. Browne’s passenger, model Suki Potier, was not injured in the accident. 

In popular cultural, Browne is remembered as the man who “blew his mind out in a car” in the Beatles song “A Day in the Life.” Browne and Paul McCartney and John Lennon were acquaintances.

December 18, 2015: A fire at Mzuzu University Library in Mzuzu, Malawi, destroys an estimated 45,000 pieces of media.

December 19, 1848: 30-year-old Emily Brontë dies of tuberculosis.

December 19, 1991: Musician Henry Rollins and roadie Dennis Cole return home from a Hole concert at the Whiskey a Go Go nightclub when they are held up by a pair of men with guns. The men demand money, and when they discover that Rollins and Cole only have $50 of cash between them, the men order Rollins to go inside the home (which Rollins and Cole share) to get more. Rollins escapes and calls the police. Cole is shot in the face by the robbers and dies. The assailants have never been identified or arrested.

December 21, 1940: Heavy-drinking author F. Scott Fitzgerald dies of a heart attack, leaving his novel The Last Tycoon unfinished.

December 22, 1940: The day after F. Scott Fitzgerald dies, author Nathanael West runs a stop sign while driving home to Los Angeles from a trip to Mexico. He and his wife Eileen McKenney are both killed. 

December 23, 1888: Vincent Van Gogh, suffering from a severe bout of depression, cuts off a piece of his own left ear with a razor.

Vincent van Gogh, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

December 24, 1851: A fire at the U.S. Library of Congress destroys 55,000 books, or approximately two-thirds of its collection at the time, including most of the books donated by Thomas Jefferson that made up the library’s original collection.

December 27, 1974: Ned Maddrell dies at the age of 97. He was the last fluent speaker of Manx, a Celtic language of the Isle of Man.

December 27, 2016: Actress and author Carrie Fisher dies during her fourth day in the intensive care unit of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. She has suffered from respiratory failure while aboard a flight on December 23rd. Her exact cause of death could not be determined, but artery disease, sleep apnea, and use of cocaine and opiates are all thought to be contributing factors. Fisher is 60 years old.

December 29, 2003: Maria Sergina, the last fluent native speaker of the Akkala Sámi language, dies and the language goes extinct. Akkala Sámi was spoken by the indigenous Sámi people of the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

December 30, 1903: The Iroquois Theatre in Chicago hosts a performance of Mr. Blue Beard before an audience filled with women and children out making a day of after-Christmas shopping. A faulty arc light causes the background scenery to catch fire. A number of inadequate fire safety precautions, including too few exits, lead to a disastrous fire that kills more than 600 people. 

Visit me on Ko-fi for more daily history posts!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

My Spotify Wrapped 2023

Of course the Wallflowers were one of my top artists this year; we finally got to see them live. I listened to plenty of both Jacob Dylan and his dad Bob. 

My favorite podcasts have hardly changed at all since last year. 

Of course my top artist is Lady Gaga again this year. It's always Lady Gaga. I just like so many of her songs. 

I think this is the first time one of the songs from my Halloween playlist, the charmingly innocent 1950s bop "Batman, Wolfman, Frankenstein or Dracula" by the Diamonds, made my top 5. I guess I hit the Halloween playlist hard this spooky season. I indulged my urge to listen to songs that made me feel nostalgic. 

Tell me some fun facts about YOUR Spotify Wrapped in the comments. Were you surprised by anything?

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving!
The poem:

Over the river and through the wood,
    To grandfather's house we go;
         The horse knows the way
         To carry the sleigh
    Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood--
    Oh, how the wind does blow!
         It stings the toes
         And bites the nose,
    As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood,
    To have first-rate play.
         Hear the bells ring,
    Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,
    And straight through the barn-yard gate.
         We seem to go
         Extremely slow--
    It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood--
    Now grandmother's cap I spy!
         Hurrah for the fun!
         Is the pudding done?
    Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

More Thanksgiving reads:



Sunday, November 19, 2023

Behind the Door: The Dark Truths and Untold Stories of the Cecil Hotel

Told by the hotel's former general manager who appeared in the 4-part Netflix documentary (The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel) that centered on the case of Elissa Lam, this 1st person account gives context and humanity to the hotel's wild reputation. 

Amy Price seems like a decent woman and apparently she's a creative and talented interior designer and jeweler. I still feel terrible for Elissa Lam's family. So does Amy Price. 

I hope she doesn't stop at writing just this one book because she seems like she has an aptitude for storytelling.

I borrowed this book from the Indianapolis public library through the Libby app. I was not obligated in any way to review this library book.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

Song: Ava Gardner

Here's a song which I feel is very cool: "Ava Gardner" by SuperKnova. Deliberately crafted in an homage to "Buddy Holly" by Weezer, instead of Buddy Holly and Mary Tyler Moore, it asks us to imagine roleplaying the love story of Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at a table in a restaurant in Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam) on December 13, 1951 Photo Ben van Meerendonk. Via Wikimedia Commons.