Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 4, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s the first Caturday of the year: Saturday, January 4, 2020, and National Spaghetti Day. (A report on the news Thursday evening about the best diets for 2020 indicated that spaghetti was equivalent poison, something to be eaten only as a rare treat because CARBS!)

It’s also Tom Thumb Day, celebrating the birthday of the dwarf—or should I say “little person”?— who was a headliner at Barnum’s circus (see below),  as well as World Braille Day.  Finally, it’s the eleventh day of the Twelve Days of Christmas (pipers piping).

News of the day: As expected, the Trump-ordered assassination of Qassim Suleimani in Baghdad has unsettled the Middle East, though there’s no war yet. The U.S. has sent 3,500 troops to Kuwait, and it’s only a matter of time before Iran strikes back in some way. Last night I heard on the news of another U.S. killing by drone, but can’t find it in the papers this morning. Reaction to the strike in Congress was pretty much along party lines.

Note to readers: If your trivia question went unanswered on yesterday’s post, please go back and post the answer. There were a lot more questions on that thread than I anticipated, but it was a good one.

Stuff that happened on January 4 includes:

  • 1649 – English Civil War: The Rump Parliament votes to put Charles I on trial.

Charles was executed by beheading on January 30 of that year.

  • 1762 – Great Britain declares war on Spain, thus entering the Seven Years’ War.
  • 1853 – After having been kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South, Solomon Northup regains his freedom; his memoir Twelve Years a Slave later becomes a national bestseller.

I can find no photographs of Northup, and his date of death is unknown.

  • 1903 – Topsy, an elephant, is electrocuted by the owners of Luna Park, Coney Island. The Edison film company records the film Electrocuting an Elephant of Topsy’s death.

You can see the film of Topsy being electrocuted at the last link above, but I watched it only once in my life. It makes me livid because it was a cruel and callous thing to do. It was also a public spectacle and even put on Edison’s kinetoscopes where you could watch it for a fee. The fact that this would no longer be tolerated today is some sign of moral progress. What did Topsy do to deserve this treatment? From Wikipedia:

The elephant had recently been acquired from Forepaugh Circus, where she had a reputation as a “bad” elephant, having killed a drunken spectator the previous year who burnt the tip of her trunk with a lit cigar. After several incidents at Luna Park (sometimes attributed to the actions of her handler, William “Whitey” Alt) the owners of Luna Park, Frederick Thompson and Elmer Dundy, claimed they could no longer handle the elephant and announced they would hang Topsy in a public spectacle and charge admission. [Topsy wasn’t hanged, though they did put a noose around her neck and tightened it after the electrocution.]

  • 1951 – Korean War: Chinese and North Korean forces capture Seoul
  • 1999 – Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura is sworn in as governor of Minnesota, United States.
  • 2007 – The 110th United States Congress convenes, electing Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1643 – Isaac Newton, English mathematician and physicist (d. 1727)
  • 1785 – Jacob Grimm, German philologist and mythologist (d. 1863)
  • 1809 – Louis Braille, French educator, invented Braille (d. 1852)
  • 1838 – General Tom Thumb, American circus performer (d. 1883)
  • 1878 – Augustus John, Welsh painter and illustrator (d. 1961)
  • 1916 – Slim Gaillard, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1991)

Matthew sent this birthday from 1920:

Here’s a well known piece by Slim Gaillard and some famous musicians, recorded on December 29, 1945. Gaillard speaks in his own hipster language called “Vout-o-Reenee”. There’s a lot going on here (read the YouTube notes, which identify the musicians), but it’s famous for having an extemporaneous solo by Charlie Parker, and may be the only recording by Parker on which he’s heard to speak. (Note that Slim calls him “Yardbird”, the source of Parker’s nickname of “Bird”, reportedly given because of his fondness for chicken (“yardbird”, though the story may be apocryphal).

I found this on Gaillard’s Wikipedia entry, a sad reminder of when relations between Jews and African-Americans were better:

Gaillard used Yiddish in at least two of his songs, “Dunkin’ Bagels”, and “Matzo Balls”, where he refers to numerous Jewish ethnic dishes eaten by Ashkenazi Jews.[21][22] The songs were issued by the Slim Gaillard Quartet in 1945 on the Melodisc label, featuring Gaillard on guitar, Zutty Singleton on drums, “Tiny” Brown on bass and Dodo Marmarosa on piano. “Dunkin Bagels” was later included in the 2010 compilation CD Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations, issued by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation.

Gaillard was of course black, not Jewish.

Those who had their demise on January 4 include:

  • 1821 – Elizabeth Ann Seton, American nun and saint (b. 1774)

Seton was the first American saint, canonized in 1975. I can find no record of the miracles that helped propel her to sainthood. She had been married and widowed, and later founded a religious community dedicated to caring for the poor.  Her “feast day” is in fact today.

  • 1941 – Henri Bergson, French philosopher and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1859)
  • 1960 – Albert Camus, French novelist, philosopher, and journalist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1913)
  • 1961 – Erwin Schrödinger, Austrian physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1887)
  • 1965 – T. S. Eliot, American-English poet, playwright, and critic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1888)

Yesterday’s New York Times published an article on Eliot’s “secret love life” with Emily Hale; it’s not clear if they experienced carnal relations.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is a bit arcane in today’s dialogue. Malgorzata explains:

The urge to talk in some people (and to meow in some cat) is such that they talk without thinking. Hili is of the opinion that you should know what you are meowing about and that means that you must give it some unrestrained/free thought.

To wit:

Hili: The freedom to meow should not suppress the freedom to think.
A: I totally agree with you.
In Polish:
Hili: Swoboda miauczenia nie powinna tłumić swobody myślenia.
Ja: Całkowicie podzielam twoje zdanie.

From Jesus of the Day:

And from Bizarro Comics:

From Mark:

Remember the “austere scholar” characterization of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

He’s going in but he’s not coming out (see next tweet after this one):

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. This first device is cool, but what is it good for? In restaurants on a ship?

A good protective mechanism; see here to find out how its used and the mechanism of “folding”:

Tweets from Matthew. Who says Greta Thunberg doesn’t have a sense of humor? Listen to the first before you see the second:

And yes, she changed her Twitter handle:

Does the Beeb have someone vetting their tweets? “Depleted” indeed!

And we all need a squee today:



24 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

      1. I can’t see what’s wrong with it. They could have said ‘reduced’ or ‘diminished’ or any other synonym. What would have been more suitable?

        Unless they wanted to go into the reason – which we all know anyway. Presumably they didn’t need to at that point.

        It’s a bit like saying ‘Anglo-Saxon ceased to be the dominant language of English after 1066’ – it isn’t always necessary to reference the Norman invasion under William the Conqueror.


  1. Since this is a new year why not hear all those predictions. What will happen with Great Britain and removal from EU? We are in our forth year of government by twitter, so who wins the next election? Is it war in the Middle East? On the first I have no idea, on the second, sadly I’ll say Biden, and more war will come.

  2. I am surprised no one remembered the musician Will Scarlet. I am quite sure all of you heard about him when you were young. He played and was the only musician in Robin Hood’s band of merry men.

    1. There was second musician in Robin’s band of merry men – the minstrel Alan Adale.Some people say he was just in it for the lute.

  3. Tom Thumb day, you say?

    Sounds like an apt occasion for one of the most enduring tunes by one of our American Nobel laureates:

  4. My dad’s favorite Slim Gaillard song was “Cement Mixer,” which was also a regular offering on the Dr. Demento radio show.

    My brother-in-law Rex, who grew up in Santa Monica, CA, was friends with Gaillard’s son. Rex remembers going over to their house and seeing Gaillard. He also claims to have homemade cassette tapes of Gaillard recordings somewhere, though I’ve never seen nor heard them.

  5. “Slim” Galliard was part of the duo “Slim and Slam” with Leroy “Slam” Stewart, who played the guitar. Their most famous recording was “Flat Foot Floogie [floozie] (with a Floy Floy).” Check out this video of Galliard playing “Cement Mixer”, where he flips his hands (what hands!) over, and plays with the backs of his fingers.

    1. Damn, look at the size of the mitts on that cat Slim. His must rival the keyboard hand spans of Liszt or Rachmaninov.

  6. Another report on the news ranked diets according to medical professionals’ opinions and the Mediterranean Diet came in #1 and they mentioned specifically that an occasional pasta was fine. I think I will go with that as I love pasta. 😉

  7. Interesting how the mimosa plant has figured out how to move – it’s all just moving salts around. An olde tyme botany professor of mine used say that he loved plants “because they are always thinking”.

  8. Thanks for the Slim Gaillard post. Has one of my favorite Charlie Parker solos, so damn spontaneous and beautiful. Also my favorite verbal quote – “Orange soda?’ That phrase was repeated a zillion times by me and my friends back in the day.

  9. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I seem to recall that the execution of Topsy was promoted by Edison as an example of the dangers of alternating current in his battle with Nikola Tesla over the relative virtues of alternating vs direct current.

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