Friday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

November 17, 2017 • 6:45 am

Hola from Puebla, Mexico, where the weather is predicted to be full-on sunny for the three more days I’ll be here, with highs between 72 and 78° F  (22-26°C). Posting will be light today as I’ve a lot to see and do.  There are old friends here—I rode in from the airport with Robyn Blumer and Steve Pinker—and it turned into a discussion about ways of knowing and moral realism. That’s the view that there are objective moral truths, to which Steve apparently assents, but I’m not yet convinced.

It’s Viernes, November 17, 2017, and today’s holiday is a good one: National Baklava Day, honoring what I think is the best pastry on this planet. It’s also International Students’ Day, which originally commemorated the Nazis’ takeover of Czech Universities and the deportation of students to concentration camps. This happened on November 17, 1939, and is described this way by Wikipedia

Nine Czech students are executed as a response to anti-Nazi demonstrations prompted by the death of Jan Opletal.  All Czech universities are shut down and more than 1,200 students sent to concentration camps. Since this event, International Students’ Day is celebrated in many countries, especially in the Czech Republic.

On this day in 1558, Queen Mary I of England died was succeeded by her half sister Elizabeth I, thus starting the Elizabethan Era. In 1603, Walter Raleigh went on trial for treason, was imprisoned for 13 years, and then was freed. He went on an expedition, returned to England, was tried again for having attacked a Spanish colony in South America, and was beheaded in 1618.  On November 17, 1869, the Suez Canal was officially opened. On this day in 1947, American scientists John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain observed the operation of a transistor-like device; the rest is history (and a Nobel Prize, along with one for William Shockley). On this day in 1970, Lt. William Calley went on trial for his role in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. He was sentenced to life imprisonment (nobody else was tried despite many American soldiers participating), but served only 3½ years of house arrest. He was last reported working at a jewelry store in Georgia.

On this day in 1973, Richard Nixon told these Big Lies to a roomful of reporters. Ah, I remember this well . .

Notables born on November 17 include Eugene Wigner (1902), Shelby Foote (1916, one of the great talking heads of Ken Burns’s Civil War documentary, the greatest documentary ever put on American television), Rock Hudson (1925), Gordon Lightfoot (1938), Martin Scorsese (1942), Lorne Michaes (1944), and Daisy Fuentes and Sophie Marceau (both 1966). Those who fell asleep on this day include Mary I of England (1558; see above), Catherine the Great of Russia (1793, and it did not involve a horse), and Doris Lessing (2013). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has become a feline philosopher:

A: What are you doing over there?
Hili: That’s exactly what I’m wondering about: What am I doing here?
 In Polish:
Ja: Co tam robisz?
Hili: To jest właśnie to nad czym się zastanawiam, co ja tu robię?

Leon’s still prowling the forests around Wloclawek:

Leon: Look out! I’m flying!

Here’s a tweet sent by Matthew Cobb; it’s worth getting all muddy for a big tasty fish!

And a few I stole from Heather Hastie. To my mind this is the Doors’ best song:

Water voles (Microtus or Arvicola):

As Heather says, this is one of the great animal videos of all time:

And two kitties:

Do not fat shame the cat!

51 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

  1. Love that no fishing video. And wow, today I can read polish, had no idea.

    Hate to say but today it’s suppose to hit 78 in Wichita. Just a one day thing.

  2. Can we speak of evolutionary ethics? I suppose we could say there are a couple of universal moral truths: You shouldn’t kill your own; You shouldn’t steal from your own.

    But who are your own? Immediate family? The entire biomass on Earth? We have to eat something to say alive, for instance.

    I guess moral realism considers things that are not genetically determined. Whether the human cultural universal of disapproving killing your own can be extended to apply to all people, is the most important political question there is.

    1. I do not mean to be funny with this at all. In this country, the republicans have proven time and again that they do not give a damn for their own species or others.

  3. Richard Nixon — same seething resentments as Donald Trump, none of the braggadocio. Nixon came from self-effacing Quaker stock in Yorba Linda CA, people for whom Pride was as grave a sin as Lust or Gluttony. He was a humble man — but then, as Churchill might’ve said, he had much to be humble about.

    1. I didn’t live through Nixon, but I’d rather have Nixon than Trump, by a country mile. He seems to have at least had some kind of fear of being exposed as a liar, a fear which is absent in Trump.

      And he has primed a significant proportion of the country to automatically disbelieve legitimate news-sources – so how will they react if he loses the 2020 election? All elections involve a tacit agreement among the populace that they will actually accept the result. That agreement is deceptively tentative – it’s like a bridge that only exists if you believe in it. If I lived in the Trumpist bubble, only watched Fox and only read his tweets I’d feel more and more empowered to just reject any unfavourable result and tear shit up. And the longer he lasts, the more he normalises that kind of mindset. It’s perfectly possible that he gets soundly beaten in 2020 and he just declares the result fake news. What does the country do then?
      Nixon never had Trump’s contempt for the very foundation of politics. He’d probably have been appalled by Trump.

      1. Yes, Nixon is hardly comparable to Trump, other than he was president and he had to leave in a hurry. Nixon was a professional politician and got things done, something Trump knows nothing about. Nixon was a paranoid and probably had other mental problems but Trump is a super Narcissist and very much thinks himself the dictator with very little understanding of American democracy at all. Tyranny is just a dictator gone bad. I don’t see this lasting until 2020.

        1. I’m not so sure about that:

          Richard M. Nixon told an aide that they should find a way to secretly “monkey wrench” peace talks in Vietnam in the waning days of the 1968 campaign for fear that progress toward ending the war would hurt his chances for the presidency, according to newly discovered notes.

          NY Times

          1. Yes, and that was extremely bad but why didn’t the Democrats or LBJ do anything about it? The comparison is still full of holes. Trump has done nothing but bad and worse. Nixon did away with the draft, not so sure that was good but most people who have avoided it since would think so. He started the EPA with the clean air act and clean water act. Title IX to reduce discrimination in schools. Gave Native Americans rights to Tribal self-determination, did a lot on organized crime. Trump has done just the opposite on most all of this and will continue to wreck this country everyday. The comparison is still crap from my view.

            1. Johnson was persuaded against revealing Nixon’s treason (which it legally was) because his advisors thought it would tear apart the country. Nixon’s later Vietnam policy–illegally bombing Cambodia and Laos–was just as cynical and immoral, and killed far more people than Trump has (so far). And so far Trump has not sunk so low as to order burglars to break into the offices of his opponents, unlike Tricky Dick and his “plumbers.”
              As for the liberal legislation Nixon signed in office, it went through because he didn’t gave a damn—his focus was on international affairs and pretending he was a great statesman, so he let the Democrats in congress have their way. Had Congress been occupied by today’s bozos, Nixon would hardly have stood in their way.
              Trump is vile and kleptocratic, while Nixon was vile and super-competent. I’m not sure which is worse.

              1. Just in case you are missing out on the news what Trump has already done with the Russians will all come out. Whether it is to steal the election, put money in his pockets and grovel to Putin and all other dictators, we will add them up. Sending a few guys to break in to your opponents office, sure, just like taking hacked email from the Russians. Obstructing justice attempting to save your national security adviser who also has done so much illegal stuff, calling him a traitor would be a gift. Tricky Dick was robbing a candy store compared to this nut job. And by the way, he will improve his finances by a good billion if he can jam this corrupt tax bill through. Maybe he will still be able to build his tower in Moscow he was working on during the campaign.

              2. I remember watching, as a school kid in Europe, Nixon’s first TV speech after bombing Cambodia. Until that day it had been “war in Vietnam”, but now it was suddenly “war in Indochina”. Of today’s statesmen the one resembling Tricky Dick the most has got to be Putin.

              3. Did you ever ask yourself, why was he bombing in Cambodia or Laos? Because that is where the North Vietnamese were. That was the supply line to the south. In other words, he wasn’t just doing it because he wanted to bomb Cambodians. There was a purpose. I am not justifying the war, just giving you a reason that you don’t seem to either want or care about. Always good to remember, Nixon did not start this conflict…The Democrats did that.

              4. North Vietnamese supply lines were indeed in Cambodia, and Nixon’s bombing spree targeted not just enemy strongholds in the east but the entire country. Nixon and Kissinger’s illegal actions destabilized the country and led to the eventual Khymer Rouge genocide. Democrats certainly started the War—and Nixon clinically prolonged it long enough to cut his losses after his re-election. His hands are as bloody as Johnson’s, even without his treason at the Paris Peace Talks.
                The rehabilitation of Nixon in light of Trump is no better than the similar rehabilitation of Bush Junior. Both Republican Presidents caused far more devastation to the world than Trump…so far.

      2. Nixon had a base level of governmental competence, an interest in public policy (at least as it related to international affairs), and an undivided loyalty to US interests (vis-à-vis those of any foreign state) — three things Trump plainly lacks.

      3. Nixon had many admirable qualities I can see Trump lacking: meeting with students to discuss a point of view he didn’t share; creating the EPA, and finally having the sense of honour to resign when all his other nasty parts finally caught up to him.

        1. I’ve read that he was one of the more moderate Republicans, and that his resume as a president was pretty good, until the whole having-to-resign-in-disgrace thing; which is a blot I admit.

          And compared with Trump? Night and day. That’s one thing the orange microdexter has taught me – the distinction between good Republicans and bad Republicans. He’s an acid test for decency, and few of his fellow Reps pass, but the ones that do I really salute them. The very idea that that dismal, gurning twerp, with his silly, camp hands, goes around insulting someone like John McCain with complete impunity – he’s crossed the line a million times, but his insulting McCain over his war-record really should have been a red line for conservatives.

          1. I would also put in a recommendation to read, The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump. From 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health experts it provides much good information and education for the layman (that would be me). From unbridled and extreme present hedonism to pathological narcissism to malignant normality these specialist believe they have a duty to warn.

    2. Being of Quaker stock didn’t hold Tricky Dicky back when it came to poker [he favoured a five-card stud game called “five-ten”], he got into politics after the navy with the help of the $5k bankroll of winnings he built up in late WWII through to ’46

  4. I have noticed you say “Those who fell asleep on this day” instead of “those who died.” Why the squeamishness? You say “born” why not died? Also, the phrase you use is incomplete. If you want to be that delicate, then it would be “those who fell asleep and did not wake.”

    Wow, getting to run elbows with Steven Pinker, sounds like fun!

    1. I’ve explained this before: as Ken said, it’s a joke. When visiting St. Ives in Cornwall, I noticed that a lot of the tombstones gave birthdates but the death dates were preceded by the words “Fell asleep”.

  5. There can be no objective moral truths – Friedrich Nietzsche already knew that:

    “There is no egoism that is self-contenting and does not override others – so there is no legitimate, morally indifferent egoism.

    You always promote your ego at the expense of others. Life always lives at the expense of the other life – who does not understand that, has not taken the first step to honesty. “

    1. In a sense that’s trivial to us, but perhaps wasn’t in the Christian environment Nietzsche despised, of course “life always lives at the expense of the other life”, but let me throw Hume’s guillotine right back at you:

      How would you go about deriving “there is no legitimate, morally indifferent egoism” from simple facts of metabolism and natural selection?

      1. Evolution has no goal and knows no norm. Moral systems announce that one standard would exist for all over time. None of this makes sense, if you look at it from an evolutionary point of view. Every one brings a different biology into the game of evolution, the individual physiological requirements and needs are always different from those of others, how can there be a morality for all or an indifferent egoism?

        1. Nietzsche wasn’t aware and not everyone even now seems to be aware that we all bring more or less the same genetic material and the same metabolism to the game.

          1. But, as stated above, moral realists wonder about universal values. From Pinker’s books it’s impossible to derive his stand on the issue.

            When I was a kid I took Hume and Kant seriously, but they did live in a pre-Darwin world. Who would deny that all life automatically tries to protect its genes?

  6. Shelby Foote wrote considered himself a novelist (he wrote six), but I’ve never read any of his fiction. I’ve read and re-read his history of the Civil War, and would recommend it.

  7. At one point water vole number 2 addresses water vole number 1 with his tail in the air. I’d have to guess this is some kind of signal of submission or cooperation.

    “Don’t bite. I’m your friend”.

  8. Re: the Doors’ lyrics. I dunno, I’ve always been partial to their rhyming “wallow in the mire” with “becomes a funeral pyre.”

      1. The Doors were a great covers band – their live versions of ‘Gloria’ [Van Morrison, Them] & ‘Who Do You Love’ [Bo Diddley] are stunning re-workings – the Doors version of the latter is a study in menace & a fine antidote to ‘Flower Power’.

        1. Who Do You Love is a pretty scary song – ‘I use a cobra snake for a neck tie’. The Jesus and Mary Chain do a very nasty, hissing cover on their b-sides album.

    1. Isn’t one of the lyrics ‘his brain is squirming like a toad’ or something? I don’t think lyrics were their strong suit, although Jim Morrison seems to have thought he was some kind of Byronic reincarnation. Even at their best they were always a bit ridiculous.

      1. I think it’s difficult to follow Blake, Baudelaire, Verlaine & Rimbaud [some of his influences] – Jimbo didn’t work hard enough at his wordsmithery & he was too easily satisfied by his, mostly, second rate work. Perhaps fame & booze ruined his judgement. Example of almost, but not quite, getting there:


        Did you know freedom exists

        In school books

        Did you know madmen are

        Running our prisons

        Within a jail, within a gaol

        Within a white free protestant


        We’re perched headlong

        On the edge of boredom

        We’re reaching for death

        On the end of a candle

        We’re trying for something

        That’s already found us

        1. I say they were ridiculous, but I appreciate any artist who’s really prepared to make a fool of themselves in chasing greatness. No-one who was worried about looking or sounding silly would have committed themselves to writing something as absurd and sublime and atmospheric as The End.
          Give me that any day over some parochial, John-Peel-show tune by a band whose only career goal is to write some songs that sound like The Smiths and then split up.

          1. Screw The Smiths! I’d rather The Fall any day of the week.

            Doors-wise I liked the tunes where all of the band pulled the stops out… L.A. Woman, Shaman’s Blues, Texas Radio & The Big Beat and Peace Frog – all of ’em rockers that are still covered live by a couple of non-tribute bands around my way. The kids today love to play those tunes.

      2. ” The Doors? Jim Morrison? He’s a drunken buffoon posing as a poet. … Give me The Guess Who. They got the courage to be drunken buffoons, which makes them poetic.”

        — Lester Bangs

    2. I wrote this on Heather’s site as well. But I found it curious that the name crossed out next to Morrison’s was Krieger. The song is credited to all the musicians. I wonder if Jim crossed out Robbie’s name for some reason. Being a drunken buffoon perhaps.

      1. @ Mark R

        The writing credits for ‘Riders On The Storm’ off album 6 [‘L.A. Woman’] are ‘Morrison, Manzarek, Krieger & John Densmore’ which is unusual – it might be the only tune where they are individually named. The song was built & recorded from the ground up at the Doors Workshop [next to a couple of topless bars] rather than the studio. It started as a voice/guitar jam between Jim & Robbie [Jim had a mic in the bathroom which was great acoustically]. It might be that Jim initially put it down as a Morrison/Krieger song, but by the time it was down it was recognised as a group effort.

        The Doors [the real Doors prior to Jimbo’s death after album 6] always split the royalties four ways equally no matter who did the work. Albums 1, 2 & 3 had “written by The Doors” on them, but from album 4 [The Soft Parade] onwards Krieger started writing more songs & they started giving credit to who wrote what as a matter of pride. Thus on ‘The Soft Parade’ Krieger is credited with 4.5 of the 9 songs on the album – but the royalties still went even-stevens.

        PS Krieger was wholly responsible for the lyrics & music of ‘Light My Fire’ off album 1, but this wasn’t generally known for years due to their early “written by The Doors” policy.

        As a general rule it was Krieger who came up with the overarching musical ideas, Morrison the lyrics & then the other two added their twist. Thus the cocktail piano jazz feel underneath ‘L.A. Woman’ was a latish suggestion by Manzarek which absolutely makes that song – the weird combo of innocent ‘tra la la dum de dum’ with murder & rage on top. Class.

  9. Wow, watching that Nixon video all these years later and with the benefit of hindsight, I think I see some very interesting and revealing body language. A fleeting and perhaps significant hesitation: “And in all of my years of public life, I have never–[ever-so-slight pause, quick lowering and then raising of eyes]–obstructed justice.” He stops pointing at the audience and pounding his fist on the lectern during that sentence, and he holds onto the lectern with both hands (for strength as he lies?).
    And then there’s the camera angle near the beginning: from behind and showing the surface of the lectern in front of the president. That would never happen now!

  10. Nixon was the most physically awkward, uptight person to occupy the White House during my lifetime. Trump is more loosey-goosey, but he displays a similar physical awkwardness when it comes to public displays of affection, such as hugging or cheek-kissing. It may be mere germaphobia — but it could reflect a deeper psychopathy.

    1. Not so sure. Nixon played the piano and did so in public. He could swear like a sailor but then he was in the navy. He even had a nice story about checkers, his dog. Public displays of any affection are not possible for Trump because there is no empathy. I think both of them were very rough and abusive toward women but Trump excelled at this.

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