1966 — Buster Keaton dies

One of the greatest stars of the silent movie era, and still recognised for his comedic genius even today, Buster Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton on October 4, 1895. His parents were both vaudeville actors, and he followed them into the trade. When Hollywood beckoned, Keaton moved to Los Angeles and throughout the Twenties, was one of the great stars of the screen. His mastery of physical comedy was combined with a deadpan stoicism so famous that he became known as ‘the Great Stone Face’.

The jump to the talkies proved to be too much for Keaton, although part of the problem was his choice of studio: MGM placed great restrictions on him creatively and forced him to use a stunt double, both of which contributed to his lack of success there. Although he scored the occasional lead role over the rest of his career (and Keaton worked right up to his death), most of his work was as a supporting actor or as a writer (he wrote for the Marx Brothers in ‘Go West’ and ‘At The Circus’, for example).

Keaton died of cancer, although he himself was told only that he had bronchitis. He was seventy years old.

Referenced in:
Done Too Soon — Neil Diamond

1981 – Trevor Chappell bowls underarm in an international match

It is one of the most scandalous incidents ever to have disturbed the televised narcolepsy that is Professional Cricket: on this day in 1981, Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl underarm to New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie.

It was a one day match at the MCG in Melbourne, the third of five in a series, and so far the series was tied 1-all. And on the last bowl of the day, McKechnie, if he hit a six, could tie the game. The infamous underarm bowl was intended to prevent this from happening. It was legal under the rules of the game, but it was widely seen as unsporting behaviour, not living up to the spirit of fair play.

The rules of One Day International Cricket were changed after the end of the 80-81 season to prevent a recurence of the event, and the bad reputation it gave them has dogged the Chappell brothers (more Trevor than Greg) ever since.

Referenced in:
The Power and the Passion – Midnight Oil

2002 — The Patriot Act takes effect in the USA

The PATRIOT Act (in full: the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) doesn’t just mark the zenith of Congress’ love affair with torturous acronyms. It also marks the point where, in the name of protecting the freedoms of American citizens, Congress (with the enthusiastic collaboration of the executive branch) deemed in necessary to restrict, abrogate and even destroy those self-same freedoms.

Among other things, it introduced a sweeping new surveillance regime (including controversial provisions such as library record data mining and so-called “roving” wiretaps), increased the punishments for terrorism, provided for compensation for the families of people killed by terrorists, and beefed up both border security and the investigation of money laundering. In short, it was a mixed bag of things, some of which had a fairly tangential relationship to terrorism. Supporters of the Act (and it would cost a politician their career not to be one) said it was a reasonable and logical step to fight terrorism; opponents decried its attack on civil liberties and constitutional rights.

Referenced in:

Point of No Return — Immortal Technique