Sunday: Hili dialogue

January 19, 2020 • 6:30 am

a deWell, it would be the Lord’s Day if there were a Lord, but it’s actually just Sunday, January 19, 2020— National Popcorn Day.  It’s also New Friends Day, World Quark Day, World Religion Day, and National Gun Appreciation Day (God and guns always go together).

We had a decent amount of snow in Cambridge last night: somewhere between 1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm).

Like Maru, I have done my best at posting while on R&R, and have succeeded so far. Aren’t you proud of me? The ladies of the Salt Lake City Morning Running Club (SLAM) bet that, despite my warning, my posting wouldn’t fall off, and they were right.

Stuff that happened on January 19 includes:

  • 1788 – The second group of ships of the First Fleet arrive at Botany Bay.
  • 1853 – Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore receives its premiere performance in Rome.
  • 1861 – American Civil War: Georgia joins South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama in declaring secession from the United States.
  • 1883 – The first electric lighting system employing overhead wires, built by Thomas Edison, begins service at Roselle, New Jersey.
  • 1915 – Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube for use in advertising.
  • 1920 – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is founded.

I once volunteered for the ACLU in gratitude for their having gotten me out of being illegally drafted as a conscientious objector (this was after I’d worked 13 months in a hospital). But now they are growing increasingly woke, even criticizing free speech (see here for some of their missteps). They are converging on the Southern Poverty Leadership Conference.

  • 1937 – Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds.

Here’s Hughes landing after his flight; this was well before he lost his mind and became a recluse:

  • 1940 – You Nazty Spy!, the first Hollywood film of any kind to satirize Adolf Hitler and the Nazis premieres, starring The Three Stooges, with Moe Howard as the character “Moe Hailstone” satirizing Hitler.

And here it is—the full episode!

  • 1953 – Almost 72% of all television sets in the United States are tuned into I Love Lucy to watch Lucy give birth.
  • 1969 – Student Jan Palach dies after setting himself on fire three days earlier in Prague’s Wenceslas Square to protest about the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968. His funeral turns into another major protest.
  • 1978 – The last Volkswagen Beetle made in Germany leaves VW’s plant in Emden. Beetle production in Latin America continues until 2003.
  • 1983 – The Apple Lisa, the first commercial personal computer from Apple Inc. to have a graphical user interface and a computer mouse, is announced.

Here’s a Lisa (did anybody have one?), with the Wikipedia caption “Lisa, with an Apple ProFile external hard disk sitting atop it, and dual 5.25-inch “Twiggy” floppy drives.”

  • 2007 – Four-man Team N2i, using only skis and kites, completes a 1,093-mile (1,759 km) trek to reach the Antarctic pole of inaccessibility for the first time since 1965 and for the first time ever without mechanical assistance.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1736 – James Watt, Scottish-English chemist and engineer (d. 1819)[10]
  • 1807 – Robert E. Lee, American general and academic (d. 1870)
  • 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, American short story writer, poet, and critic (d. 1849)
  • 1839 – Paul Cézanne, French painter (d. 1906)
  • 1908 – Ish Kabibble, American comedian and cornet player (d. 1994)
  • 1923 – Jean Stapleton, American actress and singer (d. 2013)
  • 1933 – George Coyne, American priest, astronomer, and theologian

Coyne is the former director of the Vatican Observatory and I suspect is no relation to me. (He is an accommodationist, of course.)

  • 1939 – Phil Everly, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (The Everly Brothers) (d. 2014)
  • 1943 – Janis Joplin, American singer-songwriter (d. 1970)
  • 1946 – Dolly Parton, American singer-songwriter and actress
  • 1954 – Cindy Sherman, American photographer and director

Those who Met their Maker on January 19 include:

  • 1729 – William Congreve, English playwright and poet (b. 1670)
  • 1968 – Ray Harroun, American race car driver and engineer (b. 1879)
  • 1980 – William O. Douglas, American lawyer and jurist (b. 1898)
  • 1998 – Carl Perkins, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1932)
  • 2000 – Hedy Lamarr, Austrian-American actress, singer, and mathematician (b. 1913)
  • 2006 – Wilson Pickett, American singer-songwriter (b. 1941)
  • 2008 – Suzanne Pleshette, American actress (b. 1937)
  • 2013 – Stan Musial, American baseball player and manager (b. 1920)

Stan Musial (real name Stanisław Franciszek Musiał, the son of a Polish immigrant) is my favorite baseball player of all time. He was always a gentleman, never questioned an umpire’s call, and was really fast, able to score from first on a single. I saw him play once, at the end of his career, and my dad, as a Cardinals fan, saw him play many times.  Wikipedia summarizes his stellar career:

Musial batted .331 over the course of his career and set National League (NL) records for career hits (3,630), runs batted in (1,951), games played (3,026), at bats (10,972), runs scored (1,949) and doubles (725). His 475 career home runs then ranked second in NL history behind Mel Ott’s total of 511. His 6,134 total bases remained a major league record until surpassed by Hank Aaron, and his hit total still ranks fourth all-time, and is the highest by any player who spent his career with only one team. A seven-time batting champion with identical totals of 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road, he was named the National League’s (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times and led St. Louis to three World Series championships. He also shares the major league record for the most All-Star Games played (24) with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

Stan the Man:

  • 2016 – Richard Levins, American ecologist and geneticist (b. 1930)

Dick Levins, a close friend of my advisor Dick Lewontin, had an office on our floor at the MCZ Labs at Harvard along with his group of graduate students. The lab operated as a Communist collective, even having Chinese-Marxist-style “criticism sessions,” in which one person would be selected to be vilified for ideological missteps. I remember seeing the group exit from the office after one such session, with the student victim in tears.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili shows some scientific curiosity:

A: What are you doing here?
Hili: I wonder what was before the Big Bang.
A: It’s difficult to tell, we don’t have enough data.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tu robisz?
Hili: Zastanawiam się nad tym, co było przed wielkim wybuchem?
Ja: Trudno powiedzieć, mamy za mało danych.

From reader Bruce (the Goop candle memes just keep coming):

From Stash Krod:

And the photo of the day from Wild and Wonderful:

The argument below is made frequently, and I can understand why minorities get fed up with calling out instances of bigotry. On the other hand, who better to understand and point out racism? Had Martin Luther King not done that, we would not have had the Civil Rights Act of 1964 until later. And isn’t it the job of we Jews to educate people about anti-Semitism? I think it is.

This has got to be the Tweet of the Year so far:

From Merilee: a caterpillar with penguin markings on its back:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. First, a badger greeting:

I wonder what became of this kitten (or, for that matter, the soldier).

Four tweets from Matthew. He says this first woman is on vacation in Hawaii:

One of the great jazz/pop drummers of all time. He was born on January 15, 1909:

And an optical illusion—Matthew’s favorite genre:


28 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. If it makes you feel any better about the weather it’s 3F (-16C) in northern Cook county this morning, plenty of residual snow from Friday that’s not going anywhere soon. So you aren’t missing much.

      1. Nope. Aquatic bird score right now is 0. Squirrels and small birds on the feeders, and rabbit tracks outside, but can’t see any. No coyote tracks right now either. I’m off outside to distribute mammal and avian food supplies in a bit. Or I guess for the coyotes something that can be converted to a food supply.

        There were 25-30 Canada geese out there yesterday afternoon, sitting in the wet snow above the ice and looking depressed – if a goose can manage that, but they flew off to somewhere before sundown.

        The ducks will reappear within hours of any open water, for now they are probably at either the north fork of the Chicago river or the Des Plaines river. Depending on whether they turned left or right this morning. There were a bunch of them waiting to cross the road after they landed in the evening, I have no idea where they hang out at night, but it seems to involve walking across a road, stopping traffic as needed, through a neighbor’s yard and disappearing into some trees.

  2. “Almost 72% of all television sets in the United States are tuned into I Love Lucy to watch Lucy give birth.”

    Ours was one. I bet most of the rest had a bad tube and needed repair. My father was a TV repairman in those days. He once fixed Bob Hope’s TV set but he didn’t get to meet the man.

  3. Can someone please explain to me what “educate on racism” really means? Is it a euphemism for telling someone, “Hey! Don’t be racist!” Or are there really very many people out there that are accidentally racist? I suppose little kids need to be taught about it but I’m betting that’s not what people mean when they use this phrase.

    1. Beside the blatant examples of racism, there are more subtle forms, and perpetrators and bystanders may not even be aware of it. It is often said, for example, that in grade school when kids act out – being noisy when they should not be for example – that a white teacher will exert harsher punishment on a black child than on a white child.

    1. There has been plenty of it:
      But there has been plenty criticism over other aspects too. She is an American, and of course now the couple has made a break with their expected royal duties. So imo it has never been entirely about race.
      I don’t think anyone marrying into the royal family can escape criticism, right down to what they choose to wear. We all recall how Princess Diana was excoriated for not fully accepting her role in The Family, and for what she wore in public or on a beach. A person can’t win.

      1. If you want to build a case for racism b ing the cause of Markle’s bad treatment in the British press, I don’t think bringing up Diana is going to work. She was about as English as it is possible to be.

    2. Meghan seems to be getting worse treatment from the media than Kate Middleton did. This woman is assuming the the root cause of that is racism. I suppose it might be the cause, But I think it is just as likely that it is because Markle is an “uppity” woman who does not want to play the role of a traditional princess.

      It’s telling that, in the interview, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu was unable to furnish any actual examples or racism.

  4. The bit on Howard Hughes reminded me of John Hartford’s song about the man locked up in his hotel. Here’s a little heard live version…

  5. The lack of anti-Nazi pictures prior to 1941 is noteworthy. The Stooges’ short and Confessions of a Nazi Spy come close to being the only ones. While Communist domination of Hollywood never succeeded in churning out a lot of pro-Soviet pictures, it did manage to stifle anti-Nazi pictures during the period of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, when the two were allies. Of course, once the Germans invaded Russia, the floodgates on anti-Nazi stuff were opened.

    1. I think it was rather that Hollywood made lots of money sending films to Nazi Germany and even Hitler was a big fan.

      1. … and one would expect the studio beancounters to have kept their corporate cards firmly against their chests, in case the Klan and the rest of the American far right (well, a bit further right than average) achieved their own dictatorship.
        Meanwhile, plenty of European refugees would have been looking for other places to escape to if there were another anschluss.

      1. Chaplain very much as auteur – Hollywood would have dismissed it as “he held a gun to our heads, Herr Obergruppenfuhrer!
        Interesting snippet from Chaplain’s Wikipedia page :

        Chaplin was […] mobbed by fans on a 1931 trip to Berlin, which annoyed the Nazis. Resenting his style of comedy, they published a book titled The Jews Are Looking at You (1934), describing the comedian as “a disgusting Jewish acrobat” (although Chaplin was not Jewish). Ivor Montagu, a close friend of Chaplin, relates that he sent the comedian a copy of the book and always believed that Chaplin decided to retaliate with making Dictator.

        If true (it sounds perfectly credible to me), Chaplain knew pretty well would happen to him if the American Nazi Party gained power in the 40s, and what emoticons would have been pinned onto his sleeve … as they pinned a shooting target over his heart.
        Before hanging him.
        The … “shooting script” almost writes itself.

  6. I remember going to see a demonstration of Apple’s Lisa when it first came out. I was blown away. No way could I afford one, though, at $10K, so I waited for the Mac to appear.

  7. The picture you paint of the Levine lab is quite disturbing. I can imagine similar situations arising within sociology/ethnic/women/lgbt study departments today, but that it took place in a proper science department seems far worse. I fear we might be seeing the return of ideology-driven science around subjects such as neuroscience as it relates to male/female differences in today’s universities. It makes me weep for current students but ever hopeful that the self-correcting mechanisms of science will knock the rust from their gears and stir to life once more. But when…?

  8. Jerry, I am surprised you didn’t have more about Hedy Lamarr. She was an amazing woman.

    Re: candles. Ew.

    Re: Hili. “Before the Big Bang” may be a meaningless phrase. Time is part of space-time, the geometry of the universe. Since space-time began with the Big Bang, before that may not make sense with out understanding of time.

    Yeah, it makes my head hurt too.

    So does the “two circles” optical illusion. Good one.

    1. Had to open the two circles in Photoshop to trace them. I knew there were only two, but I couldn’t even folllow them with my finger on screen. My eyes rebelled.

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