Saturday: Hili dialogue

August 17, 2019 • 6:30 am

It’s Saturday, August 17, 2019, National Vanilla Custard Day. This is the harbinger of a bland and unappealing day. On the bright side, it’s International Homeless Animals’ Day (adopt one now, please) and World Honeybee Day.

It’s also National Black Cat Appreciation Day, and to help you appreciate it are the black cats of two readers, with Alcestic Jerry (recumbent) and Octavia Sadie (sitting up). Their staff is Gethyn and Laurie, and the sisters were rescued as kittens from a market and adopted out by Feline Friends London, our Official Website Charity®.  In fact, they were adopted exactly six months ago today. At first they were wild and fearful, but now they’re part of the family, even rolling upside down for tummy rubs.

Stuff that happened on August 17 includes:

  • 1498 – Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI, becomes the first person in history to resign the cardinalate; later that same day, King Louis XII of France names him Duke of Valentinois.
  • 1585 – A first group of colonists sent by Sir Walter Raleigh under the charge of Ralph Lane lands in the New World to create Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island, off the coast of present-day North Carolina.
  • 1798 – The Vietnamese Catholics report a Marian apparition in Quảng Trị, an event which is called Our Lady of La Vang.

A Marian apparition is, of course, a vision of the Virgin Mary, like Bernadette’s vision at Lourdes or the one in Fatima, Portugal. But why is it always Mary and never Jesus?

  • 1862 – American Civil War: Major General J. E. B. Stuart is assigned command of all the cavalry of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
  • 1896 – Bridget Driscoll became the first recorded case of a pedestrian killed in a collision with a motor car in the United Kingdom.

The car that struck Driscoll, doing a demonstration on the grounds of the Crystal Palace in London, was going only 4 miles per hour. Nevertheless, she died. Here she is (circled):


And, for your delectation, here’s the short Fantasmagorie, in which a character in pantaloons has many adventures.

  • 1915 – Jewish American Leo Frank is lynched in Marietta, Georgia after a 13-year-old girl is murdered.

Lynching of white men in the South (Frank owned a pencil factory in Atlanta) was a rarity, and Frank appears to be the only Jew in American history ever lynched. If you want to see a photo of his hanging body, there’s one at the link. Most later analyses exculpated Frank and concluded that the likely murderer was the factory’s janitor, but of course Frank was Jewish. Here’s his photo:


Other stuff that happened on this day:

  • 1943 – World War II: The Royal Air Force begins Operation Hydra, the first air raid of the Operation Crossbow strategic bombing campaign against Germany’s V-weapon program.
  • 1945 – Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta proclaim the independence of Indonesia, igniting the Indonesian National Revolution against the Dutch Empire.
  • 1945 – The novella Animal Farm by George Orwell is first published.
  • 1998 – Lewinsky scandal: US President Bill Clinton admits in taped testimony that he had an “improper physical relationship” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky; later that same day he admits before the nation that he “misled people” about the relationship.

Of course, a few months earlier he had denied it, as shown in this video:

  • 2005 – The first forced evacuation of settlers, as part of Israeli disengagement from Gaza, starts.
  • 2008 – American swimmer Michael Phelps becomes the first person to win eight gold medals at one Olympic Games.
  • 2017 – Barcelona attacks: A van is driven into pedestrians in La Rambla, killing 14 and injuring at least 100.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1887 – Marcus Garvey, Jamaican journalist and activist, founded Black Star Line (d. 1940)

The Line, intended to transport African-Americans, was plagued by mismanagement and bad ships. Garvey wound up being convicted for mail fraud and, deported to Jamaica, died in 1940.

  • 1893 – Mae West, American actress, playwright, and screenwriter (d. 1980)
  • 1913 – Mark Felt, American lawyer and agent, 2nd Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (d. 2008)

Felt, of course, turned out to be “Deep Throat” in the Watergate affair, helping bring down Richard Nixon. I see him as a hero.

  • 1929 – Francis Gary Powers, American captain and pilot (d. 1977)
  • 1932 – V. S. Naipaul, Trinidadian-English novelist and essayist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2018)
  • 1943 – Robert De Niro, American actor, entrepreneur, director, and producer
  • 1960 – Sean Penn, American actor, director, and political activist

Notables who expired on August 17 were few; they include:

  • 1786 – Frederick the Great, Prussian king (b. 1712)
  • 1850 – José de San Martín, Argentinian general and politician, 1st President of Peru (b. 1778)
  • 1973 – Conrad Aiken, American novelist, short story writer, critic, and poet (b. 1889)
  • 1987 – Rudolf Hess, German soldier and politician (b. 1894)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has more science questions:

Hili: How do spiders select a place for a spiderweb?
A: You will have to talk to a spider about it.

In Polish:

Hili: Jak pająki wybierają miejsce na pajęczynę?
Ja: O tym musisz porozmawiać z pająkiem.

Reader Keira McKenzie sent a great cat meme:

Su sent this wonderful artwork from You Need More ART in Your Life: “A mother wrench feeding her young.”


Also from Su:

Here’s a tweet Grania sent me on January 3 of this year, saying “Here: you will enjoy this.” It’s from the fake DPRK News site. And yes, I did enjoy it:

Reader Thomas sent this tweet with a poignant conversation between Anderson Cooper and Steven Colbert. You may know that Colbert lost his dad and two brothers in a plane crash when he as ten: that’s the incident to which he refers. Although he’s a Catholic (which mystifies me in a man so smart and thoughtful), at the beginning he sounds like a Buddhist.

Nilou once again demonstrates how wicked and sly birds can be:

Two cat tweets from Heather Hastie, who got them from Ann German. I believe that’s John Lennon in the photo:

I love this ad:

And two tweets from Matthew Cobb, who has the weight of the world (Brexit, Trump, global warming, etc.) on his shoulders. This tweet has apparently added to it.

But here’s something that cheered him up:


33 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. I’d not seen ‘Fantasmagorie’ before. Visually it reminds me of an old Playstation game called Vib Ribbon.

    I feel like I may have recommended this to Jerry before, but if I haven’t this is ‘Cuphead’, an indie videogame from a few years ago with one of the most extraordinary visual styles of any game ever made:

    It really is a fabulous pastiche/tribute to the classic era of 2D animation.

    Unfortunately(and surprisingly, given its cheery art style) it’s also one of the most brutally difficult games ever made, so it’s hard to recommend to anyone casually interested in it.

  2. “Although he’s a Catholic (which mystifies me in a man so smart and thoughtful), at the beginning he sounds like a Buddhist.”

    It kind of flummoxes me as well. I can’t help thinking his affinity for Tolkien has something to do with it. Not that Tolkien fans are all prone to religion, but…I’ve known more than a few people enamored with the medieval mindset whose religion seems to flow naturally from it. Or they are more open to it. It’s hard to nail down. It’s like they’ve stopped developing at the Thomas Aquinas stage. (Like your good buddy Edward Feser :))

    It’s like we come to a fork in the road. One way is a rational scientific mindset. The other way leads to a place where thinking that God’s sacrifice relates him to humans makes some kind of realistic sense.

    1. Perhaps when Colbert was young and impressionable, the shock of his tragic loss cemented him into the Aquinas stage.

    2. I was thinking that with some speculation, I could then understand why S. Colbert holds to Catholicism. If that was a thing that was very important to his family when he was young, he might choose to fiercely hold on to it as an attachment to them.

    1. The religion thing…these days I find it harder and harder to hold it against someone when they believe in god for the reasons Colbert seems to believe: ie. as a coping mechanism to deal with something titanically awful.

      I know when I’ve been down in the depths I will grab for anything, absolutely anything*, that offers me some kind of respite, so I can’t begrudge anyone who does the same with god.

      I know that that’s a very specific kind of religious belief: the kind of religious belief that is(arguably) both necessary and psychological helpful. Most religious belief isn’t like that.

      But for some people god really does protect them from loneliness and hopelessness – that doesn’t make them stupid or weak, or less intellectually upright than myself or atheists like me, it just makes them human. They have been through something unspeakable, or they’re in a very dark place mentally speaking, and the reality of atheistic materialism, the sight of the universe unclothed, is just too much for them.

      I always bridled at Dawkins’s claim that the preceding paragraph is a ‘little people argument’. It’s not inherently condescending to accept that some small number of vulnerable people need a myth like god. It’s not necessarily patronising.

      Besides, no-one’s entirely free of self-delusion. I have myths of my own. Everyone does – you only have to read up on behavioural psychology and you see how many lies we tell ourselves just in order to get through the day without slowly slumping to the floor and rolling into traffic like a draught excluder.
      Eg. everyone thinks they’re a better driver than the other person, that they do more housework than their spouse, that they came to their political beliefs through pure ratiocination, that their achievements had nothing to do with luck, that they could have chosen to do otherwise at any point, that their dog is cleverer(or at least more of an individual) than the average dog, that their kid’s potato prints show early signs of genuine talent…etc.

      I’m not proposing that we junk any intellectual standards and I’m not claiming that ‘everything’s a myth’, or something similarly self-defeating and relativistic. Just that there are circumstances where belief in god is…if not exactly understandable, then at least explicable.

      *and I mean ANYTHING…I’m only one depressive spell away from being recruited by a wicker man cult.

      1. Well said, and I generally agree. I’m sure even in Scandinavia, where atheists abound, there are still some who feel the need for such a crutch. But, with an egalitarian economy, there are many fewer who live in terror.
        I have not seen The Wicker Man. I’ve ordered it from my library. Thanks for the tip.

  3. “Yes,” replies the comedian. “It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.”

    Sounds suspiciously like a nonexistent god. But then on the other hand a nonexistent god wouldn’t be able to appear on toast, now would it.

    1. “But then on the other hand a nonexistent god wouldn’t be able to appear on toast, now would it.”

      I think you just answered PCC’s question, “A Marian apparition is, of course, a vision of the Virgin Mary… But why is it always Mary and never Jesus?”

      Because Big J is saving himself for the toast?



  4. “But why is it always Mary and never Jesus?”

    Contractual arrangements with the RCC limit Jesus to appearing on toast, pancakes and in flames, etc.

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