Tuesday: Hili dialogue

December 3, 2019 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Tuesday, December 3, 2019. It’s National Peppermint Latte Day, a day that will live in infamy, National Apple Pie Day (a day that won’t),  Let’s Hug Day (remember to get enthusiastic consent), and it’s the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Also, there are only 22 shopping days until the beginning of Coynezaa, and 27 until that joyous holiday ends.

Posting may be very light today as I have a writing job to complete plus a doctor’s appointment downtown this morning (I’m okay).

Stuff that happened on this day include:

  • 1775 – The USS Alfred becomes the first vessel to fly the Grand Union Flag (the precursor to the Stars and Stripes); the flag is hoisted by John Paul Jones.

Here’s the bastardized US/British flag hoisted by Jones:

The election was decided, as stipulated by the Constitution, by ballots taken in the House of Representatives, with each state casting a vote for either Jefferson or Burr. Jefferson won on the 36th ballot!

  • 1818 – Illinois becomes the 21st U.S. state.
  • 1910 – Modern neon lighting is first demonstrated by Georges Claude at the Paris Motor Show.
  • 1927 – Putting Pants on Philip, the first Laurel and Hardy film, is released.

And here it is!

This is a silent movie, but was made in the year that the first “talkie” appeared (The Jazz Singer). As Wikipedia notes, the duo persisted well into the sound era (see here for a 1938 example):

[Laurel and Hardy] appeared as a team in 107 films, starring in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, and 23 full-length feature films. They also made 12 guest or cameo appearances, including the Galaxy of Stars promotional film of 1936

That is a LOT of movies!

  • 1960 – The musical Camelot debuts at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. It will become associated with the Kennedy administration.

Camelot is, to my mind, one of the last great, classic Broadway musicals with memorable tunes. (The problem with modern Broadway musicals is that the tunes, while often complex and clever, aren’t memorable. And yes, I know others will disagree strongly.)

It’s a Lerner and Lowe show, originally starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet. They were replaced in the far inferior movie by, respectively, Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, and Franco Nero. Below are Goulet and Andrews, as the doomed lovers Lancelot and Guinevere, singing two of the classic songs of that show (I know the words of all of them, as my parents had the LP). But don’t forget this song, either, surely the only Broadway song to contain the word “transmute”!

This is from the original cast album, the one my parents had. What a voice Julie Andrews had!

While I’m dilating on Broadway musicals, let me add that Lerner and Lowe also wrote my favorite musical, Brigadoon, which started its run on Broadway in 1947. The original cast comprises people unknown to all of us, but they were fabulous (you can hear the original cast album here). But for the movie they were again replaced by inferior singers, including Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, and Van Johnson. The movie is dreadful.

More stuff that happened on this day:

  • 1979 – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini becomes the first Supreme Leader of Iran.
  • 1984 – Bhopal disaster: A methyl isocyanate leak from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, kills more than 3,800 people outright and injures 150,000–600,000 others (some 6,000 of whom would later die from their injuries) in one of the worst industrial disasters in history.
  • 1997 – In Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, representatives from 121 countries sign the Ottawa Treaty prohibiting manufacture and deployment of anti-personnel landmines. The United States, People’s Republic of China, and Russia do not sign the treaty, however.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1755 – Gilbert Stuart, American painter (d. 1828)
  • 1857 – Joseph Conrad, Polish-born British novelist (d. 1924)
  • 1895 – Anna Freud, Austrian-English psychologist and psychoanalyst (d. 1982)
  • 1922 – Sven Nykvist, Swedish director and cinematographer (d. 2006)
  • 1925 – Ferlin Husky, American country music singer (d. 2011)
  • 1948 – Ozzy Osbourne, English singer-songwriter
  • 1960 – Daryl Hannah, American actress and producer
  • 1965 – Katarina Witt, German figure skater and actress
  • 1985 – Amanda Seyfried, American actress

Stuart, of course, is most famous for his iconic (and unfinished) portrait of George Washington, painted from life. It’s this portrait that adorns the U.S. one-dollar bill:

Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on this day include:

  • 1888 – Carl Zeiss, German physicist and lens maker, created the optical instrument (b. 1816)
  • 1910 – Mary Baker Eddy, American religious leader and author, founded Christian Science (b. 1821)
  • 1980 – Oswald Mosley, English lieutenant, fascist, and politician, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (b. 1896)
  • 1993 – Lewis Thomas, American physician, etymologist, and academic (b. 1913)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili essays a foray into the night:

Hili: I’m going out into the dark night.
A: When will you be back?
Hili: As soon as I get homesick.
In Polish:
Hili: Idę w noc ciemną.
Jak: Kiedy wrócisz?
Hili: Jak tylko zatęsknię

From Amazing Things, pants that will freak you out:

A tweet sent by reader Mark, describing the attack of the “narwhal tusk hero” at the London Bridge. The narrator also implies that there were two tusk-attackers involved!

Tweets from Matthew. Imagine how scared Baby Jesus is in the first tweet!


The answer to this question is “no fricking way!”

Honk in a box! Would you like this for Christmas?


Read the story of the disappearance and reappearance of the Persian kitty Violet:

Matthew has three moggies on his team! His book about the brain will be out next spring; stay tuned:

Here’s a fun fact that will make you a big hit at parties—so long as you go to parties populated by geeks:


36 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. “the tunes, while often complex and clever, aren’t memorable”

    I have noticed this as well. Perhaps it is [1] hard to truly break new ground in music and [2] there is value to music that challenges the listener to study the pieces. My own examples I puzzle over regularly are John Williams themes for Hedwig and Kylo Ren. They are fascinating but do not stick like Raiders or Darth Vader. Which brings me to [3] I’m old.

    1. I’ve sometimes wondered how many pieces of music there are (say, assuming one standard notation and restricted to sounds humans can hear and of some upper bound in length).

      1. You mean something like the permutations and combinatorial result of 12 notes with 1-### beats per minute, etc.? Has it all been written by now? I’d say “no” but that’s not the interesting part.

  2. What Hollywood did with Broadway musicals continues to amaze. Rodgers and Hammerstein seem to have come off well (at least with Oklahoma, South Pacific, and Carousel), but the idea that Juile Andrews should be replaced in My Fair Lady because she was unknown in favor of the non-singing Audrey Hepburn is bizarre. The ultimate folly, though, was taking Guys and Dolls, and casting Marlon Brando in the singing role and Frank Sinatra in the non-singing role. (Nathan Detroit was played on Boradway by Sam Levene who was tone-deaf. His ‘songs’ in the show, like “Adelaide’s Lament”, only have him speaking. When they put Sinatra in the movie, they actually had to add a real song for him, “Adelaide”.)

  3. I’m confused about the narwhal tusk(s?). My interpetation is that Rupert Myers has misinterpreted the interview and mistakenly thought Lukasz was the narwhal-tuskman, when in reality Lukasz had grabbed an ordinary pole. The interview guy says that a second un-named person grabbed the narwhal tusk.

    1. That’s correct, Lucasz had the pole. I can imagine future patriotic mimes featuring the Pole, the
      FireExtinguisher and the Narwhal….

  4. As long as we’re gonna carp about Lerner and Lowe musicals in which original Broadway cast members were replaced in the film by inferior singers, we dasn’t omit My Fair Lady, in which Ms. Andrews was replaced by Audrey Hepburn, whose singing had to be dubbed by Marni Nixon.

    For that matter, Rex Harrison, who played Prof. Higgins on both stage and screen, couldn’t sing a lick either and basically just spoke the lyrics over the music (though that’s probably more than enough for the moment for a straight guy to know about Broadway musicals of that period). 🙂

    1. Leave it to Ken to use “dasn’t”, which I hadn’t heard in yonks!

      If Ever I would Leave You makes my heart go pitter pat. I actually saw the original play on Broadway in 1960 when I was 13, the night before we sailed for London. My impression then was “meh”, but I guess I was too young. Saw it again in Toronto in maybe 1980 with Richard Burton in the older role and the songs “stuck” and I’ve been belting them out ever since (much to the dismay of those around me…).

      1. Don’t know that I’ve ever used “dasn’t” before. (One didn’t hear it much in the working-class neighborhood where I grew up — but then, one didn’t refer to oneself as “one” much there either. 🙂 ) It seemed somehow appropriate to the subject matter though.

        1. I think my mother usedta use “dasn’t” kinda tongue-in-cheek and my Scots-Canuck mother-out-law used it in all seriousness (she didn’t refer to herself as “one”, though.)😬

    2. Karl Haas used to have a classical music program (Adventures in Good Music) on the radio, which aired on WNIB (now defunct) in Chicago. He always had some theme he examined. One of those that I still remember from the 80s was non-singers in “singing” roles. One those was Rex Harrison (another was Sam Levene, see my comment above). I can’t remember the others after all these years.

  5. Ah, Conrad. Love him or hate him? I’m full of love, especially for his under-appreciated The Secret Agent–with Winnie Verloc as the female hero! This is the novel that proves JC is not a one-trick seafaring pony.

    1. I loved Nostromo but couldn’t get into Heart Of Darkness at all.

      Apocalypse Now and I, Claudius are the only cases where I prefer the screen version to the book (very loosely based in the former case, of course).

      1. If I might add to your list, Coppola’s majestic The Godfather is far superior to Mario Puzo’s pulpy mob story. I also prefer Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon to Thackeray’s lugubrious novel.

        1. I love Barry Lyndon and think that Ryan O’Neal was superb as the Irish rogue; I need to re-watch that come to think of it. Too bad O’Neal is most remembered for being Farrah Fawcett’s long-time partner and not for many of his great movie roles from the 70’s.

          1. Is ol’ Ryan still around? I remember the lovely Mozart piano concerto in Barry Lyndon. Barely remember the film, but liked it 30-40 years ago.

            1. I saw an interview with Ryan a few years ago and I remember him being a pitiable figure, lamenting that all his children have gone bad. I think he accused them of being drug addicts who would not listen to him. It was a really sad situation. He obviously thinks he should be much more famous and perhaps much more wealthy than he is. He was almost in tears. Sad.
              I never considered him a great actor. He did well on the Payton Place series which pushed his career forward, but after that, not as important.

      2. I liked Heart of Darkness when I read it. I have never seen Apocalypse Now, except for the Ride of the Valkyries scene on TV. Later, when I read Proust’s Recherche I realised where that scene came from.

    2. Me too. I think that most of his novels are still well worth reading. The Secret Agent is my favourite, but so many others stick in the mind, not excluding The N-word of the Narcissus.

      George Orwell wrote a penetrating review of Conrad’s work, in which he pointed out that Conrad’s first language was (of course) Polish, and his second was French; and that in effect he thought his books out in those two languages, and only then turned them into English. Orwell noted that this resulted in a certain exoticism in Conrad’s English, which is part of his appeal as a writer.

      1. Interesting. I wonder if Nabokov thought his books out in Russian first. When I think of his writing style in Lolita, the word “exoticism” fits rather nicely.

        1. I’m pretty sure Lolita was originally written in English. Might be worth noting, though, that Nabokov and the celebrated literary critic Edmund Wilson, formerly the best of friends, had an epic literary feud triggered by disagreements regarding Nabokov’s English translation of Alexander Pushkin’s novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin.

          1. Yes, I’m sure it was written first in English as well. Just musing on what Mr. Pollard said about Conrad: “thought out his books in those two languages, and only then turned them into English.” Wondered if Nabokov first thought in Russian before writing English prose.

            Thanks for the info on the literary feud. Always interesting, those feuds. What stays in the canon seems to be the crux of many feuds, I never considered “bad” translations as a contentious issue.

              1. Indeed, he did, though it was probably hubris on his part to think he knew it better than the native Russian speaker Nabokov. Even so, there were others who maintained Nabokov took unwarranted liberties with Pushkin’s writing. There was a book about their famous feud published a couple years ago.

              2. I think that very book is languishing on my shelves, as yet unread. Not enough hours in the day. I have read most of Nabokov’s oeuvre, including his wonderful lectures on French and Russian lit.

  6. “The problem with modern Broadway musicals”

    I agree. I find the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber nausea inducing.

  7. I knew Lewis Thomas in the late 70s and early 80s when he was President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute. He was a wonderfully sweet and funny man, a poet at heart and very kind to me. I often wondered how much administration he actually did. Not much, I concluded, he was there to inspire the others.

    Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

    The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.

    It is in our genes to understand the universe if we can, to keep trying even if we cannot, and to be enchanted by the act of learning all the way.

    Perhaps the safest thing to do at the outset, if technology permits, is to send music. This language may be the best we have for explaining what we are like to others in space, with least ambiguity. I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again. We would be bragging of course, but it is surely excusable to put the best possible face on at the beginning of such an acquaintance. We can tell the harder truths later.

    As far back as 1990 he even (sort of!) foresaw the rise of Twitter, etc:

    Given any new technology for transmitting information, we seem bound to use it for great quantities of small talk. We are only saved by music from being overwhelmed by nonsense.

  8. On the 2012 International Day of People with Disability, the United Kingdom government introduced mandatory work for disabled people who received welfare benefits in order to “Improve disabled peoples chances of getting work by mandatory employment”. The founder of the Susan Archibald Centre stated that the mandatory employment of people with disabilities is a breach of article 27/2 of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.[14] The Guardian noted that from this United Nations appointed day onwards people with disabilities and illnesses ranging from cancer to paralysis to mental health may be forced by the U.K government to work for free or else they can risk being stripped of up to 70% of their welfare benefits

    That is how the tory party treats the disabled of this Great Britain of ours ,to be honest neu labour were just as bad .

  9. I love Laurel and Hardy .

    The pair are at a kitchen window begging for food .

    Oliver Hardy
    “We haven’t eaten for three days ”

    Stan Laurel
    “Yes ,yesterday ,today ,and tomorrow ”

    I don’t know the name of the film ,but it is one where Stan Laurel finally gets his own back on Oliver Hardy .

Leave a Reply