Poor Richardson’s April Almanack

Thoughts on witches, poetry, computers and boxing rules

April, the month whose showers bring May flowers except in Reno when we just get stuff that makes us sneeze, wheeze and make sounds in our throats like we all speak Hebrew. Or Kchebrew. Foo.

OK, try this: April, the month of the Toms, the Steves and Algernon (bless you).

Actually, Algernon isn’t a sneeze. Algernon Charles Swinburne was a passionate poet born April 5, 1837 (and April is Poetry Month, so there). He didn’t make the cut into the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. ("What Every American Needs to Know” it claims, though it makes no mention of “for God’s sake don’t depend on Enron stock to get you through retirement,” acchhh ptooo! Damn! It must be flower time in Reno.)

But we have diverged from our subject, the fiery little redhead Swinburne. In the mid-1800s, he wrote poems with torrents of swooshing vowels and landslides of alliteration and influenced generations of poets including Oscar Wilde (arrested April 5, 1895, for being gay, with one of his lovers being the son of Marquess of Queensberry, the same Marquess now known for boxing rules).

Swinburne also influenced the satirical rock group Fugs, who did “The Swinburne Stomp” in 1965 for Algernon, using words from his poems. William Burroughs (the poet arrested April 1946 for narcotics, thus beating the trend by two decades), George Plimpton and James (The Source) Michener were Fugs and “Swinburne Stomp” fans.

This is all going in one ear and out the other, isn’t it? OK, OK, the Steves. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs formed Apple Computer April 1, 1976, and proceeded to build the best personal computers in the world for the next 27 years, not that you’d know it in this Windows world.

Windows 3.1, a pitiful attempt by Microsoft to emulate the elegant Apple Macintosh operating system, was announced in April 1992, and marketing beats elegance every time. Just ask any lonely Betamax owner.

Tom is Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the best mind ever in American politics, born April 13, 1743. Means Clay Jenkinson is 259. (Never mind if you don’t get it, over at UNR’s history department they are laughing their asses off.) It is likely that Jefferson’s only children were from his slave, Sally Hemmings—which means that the only living descendants of the writer of the Declaration of Independence are black.

Sunday, April 7, began Daylight Saving Time. Except in Arizona. Unless you are on the Arizona Navajo reservation, which does observe DST. Moving the clock ahead an hour to make more daylight was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin (died April 17) who also wrote Poor Richard’s Almanack, the spirit of which echoes in these words more than 200 years later.

April 30 is the Witches’ Sabbath. On the Witches’ Sabbath in 1939, the first regularly scheduled TV broadcasting began in the U.S. Coincidence? Hmmm.

“April is the cruelest month,” wrote another Tom, poet Tom Eliot, who you know better as T.S. Eliot. Perhaps he was speaking of the weather—but I suspect he may have anticipated the birth of a medium that would bring us The Chair and Reno referee Mills Lane looking at the stub of Evander Holyfield’s ear and wondering what in hell happened to Queensberry’s rules.