Tuesday: Hili dialogue

May 21, 2019 • 6:30 am

It’s Tuesday, May 21, and I leave for Boston tomorrow. But don’t worry: duck tending is all arranged.  You’ll be pleased to know that all ten ducklings are still alive and thriving.

It’s National Strawberries and Cream Day, an estimable dish, and World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

It’s not a banner day in history. On May 21, 1881, the American Red Cross was established in Washington, D.C.  by Clara Barton. In 1904, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in Paris.

And in 1924, just a few blocks from where I sit, University of Chicago students Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks (a resident of Kenwood, immediately north of Hyde Park), just to see if they could do it. (Franks’s body was dumped in Hammond, Indiana.) Unfortunately, they slipped up: Leopold left his glasses at the scene of the crime, and they had an unusual hinge bought by only three customers in Chicago. Loeb confessed, and they were tried for and convicted or murder. In a 12-hour-long impassioned plea, with overtones of determinism, their lawyer, Clarence Darrow, pleaded for them to escape execution. He prevailed with the judge, and the pair were sent to jail. Loeb was murdered in prison in 1936. Leopold was released in 1958, moved to Puerto Rico, and died in 1971. This is still a fairly big deal in Chicago and around the University.

Here is Bobby Franks:

Richard Loeb:

and Nathan Leopold, Jr.:

Their jail mug shots:

On this day in 1927, Charles Lindbergh, completing the world’s first transatlantic solo and nonstop flight, touched down at Le Bourget Field in Paris. He instantly became an international hero, though later he became a white supremacist and a Nazi sympathizer.  Exactly five years later, Amelia Earhart touched down in a pasture in Derry, Northern Ireland, completing the first nonstop flight by a woman across the Atlantic.

If you’ve seen the movie “In the Realm of the Senses” (1976), one of the first art-house semi-pornographic films, you’ll know about the geisha/prostitute Sada Abe, who killed her lover in an erotic asyphyxiation episode and cut off his penis. On this day in 1936, she was arrested after having wandered the streets of Tokyo for days with the severed penis in her purse. This scandalized Japan, but she spent only five years in prison. Here she is:

On this day in 1946, in a sad episode, physicist Louis Slotin was fatally irradiated at Los Alamos National Laboratory when a plutonium core he was manipulating slipped, rising above critical mass and emitting deadly radiation everywhere. He died an agonizing death on May 30.  On May 21, 1972, a deranged Hungarian geologist, Laszlo Toth, vandalized Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peters Basilica in Rome. With his geologist’s hammer, he knocked off Mary’s arm,and damaged her nose and eyelid. Here he is apprehended after the attack:

On May 21, 1991, former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a female suicide bomber near Chennai (25 others were also killed). Finally (and I didn’t know this), Wikipedia reports that on this date in 2011, “Radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted that the world would end on this date.”

Notables born on this day include Mary Anning (1799), Louis Renault (1843, Nobel Laureate), Henri Rousseau (1844), Fats Waller (1904), Andrei Sakharov (1921, Nobel Laureate), Günter Blobel (1936, Nobel Laureate), Al Franken (1951), Jeffrey Dahmer (1960), and The Notorious B.I.G. (1972).  Here is “The Tiger Cat” by Rousseau, which looks for all the world like a B. Kliban cat! I wonder if Kliban got inspiration from the first painting below (specimen by Kliban for comparison):

Rousseau cat:


Kliban cat:

Those who croaked on May 21 include Hernando de Soto (1542), Jane Addams (1935), James Franck (1954, Nobel Laureate), Kenneth Clark (1983), and John Gielgud (2000).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s dialogue is interpreted by Malgorzata: “She wants to be a famous author of a solid theory. The subject doesn’t matter; the fame does.”

Hili: We should develop a solid theory.
A: What about?
Hili: Does it matter?
In Polish:
Hili: Powinniśmy zbudować solidną teorię.
Ja: O czym?
Hili: A czy to ważne?


A tweet called to my attention by reader Su. If I’m not mistaken, the caracal can jump higher in relation to its size than any other species of cat: sometimes ten feet off the ground.


A goose-stepping parade from reader Barry. I hope they’re not being led to the slaughter! Sound up, please.

Nilou calls our attention to the fact that face-slapping contests are really a sport in Russia. My money is on the big guy in this one (who may be the champion shown in this video).


Tweets from Matthew, who says he’s seen a mole once, and so have I:

Extra credit if you know where the title of the tweet comes from:

The best library return ever:

Butterfly sex: maybe this behavior is a kink?

Matthew labeled this “NSFL”: not safe for lunch:

Tweets from Grania. She says this about the one below: “What happens to naughty Goats (if you read the responses, this appears to be a common solution)”. It’s the caprid equivalent of a dunce cap.


An illusion:

I wonder if any woman who wore these was injured or killed:

60 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

    1. Ever since Apple started naming OS releases after locations in California (macOS Sierra, macOS Mojave, etc), I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of macOS Somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert.

  1. Lindbergh was living proof that you could be a good pilot and be very stupid otherwise.

    I would go outside and read the rain gauge but it is still raining. Since yesterday noon I estimate 5 inches.

        1. Nearly 10 am. now and the rain has stopped for now. So it looks like a 24 hour reading on this is 5.75 inches. Approx. 14.6 centimeters Addition rain is expected later this week.

        2. Where do you live, Randall? We drove through mucho rain yesterday and today in Oklahoma panhandle (fog) and Kansas and Illinois. Were warned off going through Oklahoma City and Tulsa because of tornados.

  2. Can’t resist–could not do otherwise–throwing some love to Don Novello, who, long before he became ‘Father Guido Sarducci,’wrote ‘The Lazlo Letters,’ in the persona of Lazlo Toth. Along with his faux HS yearbook, ‘The Blade,’ it’s one of the funniest books I have ever read. So thanks to LT for inspiring Don!

    1. Indeed! Don Novello in his incarnations as Father Guido Sarducci and Lazlo Toth was wonderful. Oh, and The Blade was a stroke of ovine genius.

      I spoke to him once on the phone. Problem was that he spoke as Fr. Sarducci and it was quite difficult (and rather unnerving) to talk to Don Novello and have Fr. Sarducci respond.

  3. I remember the furor created by Harold Camping, a deluded religious lunatic, who predicted the exact day the world was supposed to end, although strangely revised when the world survived a prior prediction. I do not know if Camping actually believed his idiocy, but at least some people did, who sold their houses and gave away their money. The sad thing is not Camping’s ravings, but that some people actually believed it. The Camping incident is but another example of P.T. Barnum’s wisdom.

    1. I became a great fan of Harold Camping and would listen to his program almost every night (it was great with a doobie). Sometimes I taped it so that I could listen later I was fascinated and learned a lot. People from all over the world phoned in, worried about the Rapture. They’d ask him if they should get rid of their belongings, liquidate their savings, continue to send their children to school, get married, be treated for disease — critically important things. I’m sure readers know what his answers were. It was very sad and infuriating, his responses and the abysmal credulity of the callers.

      IMCO, Camping most assuredly believed every word that came out of his deluded brain. (C for considered)

  4. “…geisha/prostitute Sada Abe, who in 1956 killed her lover in an erotic asyphyxiation episode…”
    I believe that is a typo for 1936.

  5. I assumed the face-slapping video was footage of the Russian parliament choosing their elected representatives.

  6. When I was at art school I always wanted to do something like the 3d art sculpture in the video. I wanted to have a room that the viewer walked into, full of odds and ends, and a single lamp light that panned across. At a certain point, like in the video where at the right angle you see the human head, it would cast a shadow on the far wall of some figures in a frozen scene that recreated some past event from the attic’s history and the shadow would be cast by lots of different bits and bobs arranged in just the right way.

    The actual logistical problems involved were always the sticking point; that and my proclivity for the kind of narcotics that make you lie on the floor all day listening to psychedelia and eating twix ice cream bars.

    I also wanted to, and would still quite like to, do an exhibit which casts huge silhouettes of various insects and arachnids onto a huge gallery wall, somewhere like the Tate’s initial hall. A huge silhouetted spider crawling across an eighty foot wall for example.
    I wanted to do it at art school, but my tutor said it would be “cruel to the insects”. I left it at that for some reason.

    1. Fascinating idea, but it would also be cruel to the viewers. That’s a lot of cruelty. 😎

      1. That was part of the point though 😉 – to arouse and frighten, but also to transform something nasty and creepy-crawly into something awesome and titanic and terrifying.

        And thinking about it now I’m sure there’s a way to do it that’s not cruel to the insects. The main factor that put me off was finding some kind of light source that would cast a silhouette of sufficient size, contrast and definition. I didn’t really know where to begin.

        1. I’d consider using live video with a macro lens to capture the beasties image and then a projector to enlarge it.

          1. Yes, that would be a perfect solution, but it would also fundamentally alter the idea, which is to have a live creature, in the room, its shadow blown up to huge size.

            And the fact that it’s a shadow, a silhouette, means it has a lot of barely conscious associations that people nevertheless instinctively understand, and they’re lost if it’s just film footage. It just becomes very large footage of a nature program, projected onto a wall. It’s complicated. To be honest I’m not even sure it’s possible to pull it off the way I envisioned it.

        2. I experienced [“saw” is inadequate] Louise Bourgeois’s 10 metre tall, 3 ton [or so] steel spider Maman at the Turbine Hall twenty years ago. By chance it was after dark when I visited & the merciless, egg sac laden arachnid was lit by end-of-the-world red searchlights. The hall has peculiar echo acoustics which heightened the spookiness factor.

          Maman is named for Bourgeois’s mum, there must be a story there.

          1. I haven’t seen that. I have seen something a little like its reverse, which was an exquisitely modelled diorama by the Chapman brothers of a battlefield with toy soldiers and explosions and general violent carnage. Into this scene they added a couple of hefty sized tarantulas which crawled over the landscape like eight legged tanks.

            1. I haven’t seen Mueck’s stuff although I imagine it must be ‘happy valley’ creepy. I love the Chapman bros. though I don’t recall a diorama with spiders in it.

              HERE is Jake talking nonsense about the brilliant Hell & Fu*king Hell in the enclosed video. Artist should let the work speak.

              1. Hell & Fucking Hell was stunning. The battlefield diorama was part of that exhibition I think, although it was fifteen years ago.

    2. Directly beaming a hugely magnified shadow image [magic lantern style] will fry poor little spidey, but…

      The technology is on the way to compute & ‘project’ the equivalent. At the moment one can project an arena wide 3D light image above the audience area or the stage – not a real time projection yet due to current computing limitations. Real time scanning a spider with something like ultra low power, infrared LiDARs [doesn’t exist yet at the small scale] might be possible & then compute a 2D projection at any scale to a projection wall. One laser could easily harmlessly scan a spider many times a second.

      1. I don’t think it’s necessary to “hugely” magnify it, or even magnify it at all. Depending on the angle of the light source the shadow cast can be large or small. Sure, casting it onto something like the Turbine Hall’s wall might require some magnification but initially I just wanted it to cover the wall of a normal sized room.

        1. If you’re casting a 12″ wide Goliath birdeater spider onto an 8′ wide wall so that the spider shadow occupies the width of the wall you are by definition magnifying by a factor of 8. Yes?

          Using the geometry of similar triangles… to directly project a recognisably spidery spider [not too stretched at the extreme ends of the wall] without the use of fancy macro optics, the spider would need to be a minimum 4′ from the wall plane with the light source around 1/8 that distance behind the spider = approx 6″ from the spider. The light would have to be a wide angle point source – the ‘point’ being say 1/8″ diameter to achieve a leg shadow on the wall – the width of the light source emitter obviously must be less than the thickness of the spider leg, which are fairly chunky on birdeaters 🙂

          I couldn’t find an LED source small enough which has the needed 120º [or more] even spread of light, but I’m sure it exists.

          The really tricky part of your art project is measuring, manufacturing & fitting spider Aviator-style mirror shades [2 large & 6 small lenses] – plus the spider lacks nose & ears to steady her Aviators. Tricky!

          1. I wouldn’t call it ‘magnified’ since that implies there’s some kind of magnifying lens involved. That’s all I meant.

            As for the rest, I’ll take your word for it, although I was told much the same thing by engineering students while at uni, and a trial of it using very simple light sources made a bollocks of their predictions. Otoh, they were all from a local polytechnic.

            Re. the need to shield the spider’s eyes, I always planned on just telling him/her to turn away from the light source.

          2. Damn, I could have used this example when teaching 15-yr.-olds geometry! I suspect the boys would have loved it and most of the girls (and probably me) not so much.

              1. Perish the thought – you’d stab me up if I hinted at such a thing 🙂

  7. That dress looks to be the color of absinthe, a substance that brought more Parisians to a bad end than arsenic.

    I the bodice on the dress in the upper right quadrant made of old lace?

  8. Additional factoid about the murder of Bobby Franks. Nathan Leopold was a birder and well known in ornithology circles. When the police found his glasses his attempted alibi was that he had dropped them on a birding trip.

  9. Are the butterflies “twitching” in an attempt to grasp the plant for support? Mating butterflies are easy marks for hungry predators and probably shouldn’t twitch for the fun of it.
    Notice that the male (left) is visibly tattered and faded compared to the female. Male butterflies tend to be sexually active over their entire lives. In contrast, the female typically mates just once soon after she leaves the pupa and stores enough sperm to fertilize eggs over the rest of her life.

  10. The band Nickel Creek recorded a lovely song called “21st of May”. I don’t how to post a YouTube link without it playing but it’s certainly not hard to search out.

    “They laughed when Noah built his boat
    and cried when came the rain.
    They mock me now but I will float
    on the 21st of May”

    1. I _think_ this is how you do it:


      You have to chop off the http// bumph at the start otherwise it embeds. I can’t test it so I just have to assume it worked.

      And I’m only posting this because I listened to the song and thought it was sweet as a nut.

  11. The sad story of Louis Slotin, which I had not heard, reminded me of the excellent mini0-series “Chernobyl” that is running currently on HBO. Lots of people dying terrible deaths in that one. The Russkies don’t come off well in this telling. I would be interested to know from those who were there whether the HBO version is accurate.

    1. Now that a certain, huge HBO series has come to its ignominious end I’m quite curious about new TV shows to watch. Chernobyl seems to be getting good reviews.

      1. I think Chernobyl is only 6 episodes so it won’t really replace GOT as HBO’s next big thing. HBO has also had big changes at the top of their management and ownership so perhaps they will go “all reality, all the time” or something equally horrifying.

        1. Yes I understand it’s not going to be on for long – I’d be a bit suspicious if they span out the Chernobyl disaster into an eight season epic.

          I’m thinking of catching up with Westworld – I watched the first two episodes and drifted away, but I remember being impressed by how seriously it took some very weighty philosophical ideas. And there’s an HBO Watchmen coming which might be worth a look.

          1. The second season of Westworld lost me. I found that I had to read synopses online to understand what was really going on. I appreciate the human vs android themes and the quality of the production but it was starting to become like a soap opera or “Lost” with somewhat arbitrary twists and turns. I felt bad about dropping it.

            On the human vs android subject, I prefer the relatively low-budget “Humans”.

            Yes, “Watchmen” does look interesting though I am not generally fond of comic book adaptations.

  12. The movie “Rope” was based on the Leopold and Loeb killing. It starred James Stewart, and was directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
    You can see it here.

    My favourite Jimmy Stewart movie is “Harvey”. I always find it refreshing to meet strangers who know about the Pooka.

    ” The Pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. A benign but mischievous creature. Very fond of rum pots, crack pots, and how are you Mr. Wilson?”

Leave a Reply