Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 21, 2020 • 6:45 am

We’ve reached Caturday, March 21, 2020, National Crunchy Taco Day. There are a ton of holidays today: it’s also Maple Syrup Saturday, National French Bread Day (if that’s not cultural appropriation, I don’t know what is), National California Strawberry Day, National Corn Dog Day, National Flower Day, and National Healthy Fats Day. Finally, its also these holidays:

In honor of the international nature of poetry, I’ll proffer a link to a great poem by Ezra Pound; his rendition in English of a verse written by the eighth-century Chinese poet Li Po, also known as Li Bai: “The River-Merchant’s Wife: a Letter.” I don’t think Pound could read Chinese, so his “translations” are probably poetic renditions of other people’s translations.

News of the Day: The lockdowns of American cities growing, and now include Chicago as of 5 p.m. today.  Fortunately, thanks to our President and Provost, I’ll still be able to take walks and feed the ducks. Also, country singer Kenny Rogers died yesterday at 81.

Stuff that happened on March 21 includes:

  • 630 – Emperor Heraclius returns the True Cross, one of the holiest Christian relics, to Jerusalem.

Here’s one of a gazillion pieces of the True Cross; photo from Wikipedia labeled “Treasure Room, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. In center: the True Cross. Near the walls: holy relics.”

And a painting depicting the finding of the True Cross, supposedly discovered around 300 AD along with two other False Crosses. The painting was by the Florentine Agnolo Gaddi, and was made about 1380. What a crock cross! It’s remarkably well preserved after being buried for 300 years, no?

  • 1556 – On the day of his execution in Oxford, former Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer deviates from the scripted sermon by renouncing the recantations he has made and adds, “And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine.”
  • 1871 – Journalist Henry Morton Stanley begins his trek to find the missionary and explorer David Livingstone.

Livingston was found on November 10; and here’s the meeting. The famous words, “Dr. Livingtsone, I presume?” are apocryphal,

  • 1925 – The Butler Act prohibits the teaching of human evolution in Tennessee.

This was of course the act that John Scopes was convicted of violating in the famous Monkey Trial. Note that the statute did not prohibit the teaching of evolution—something that many people get wrong, but the teaching of human evolution. Had Scopes simply taught evolution without mentioning humans, it’s doubtful that the trial would have taken place (Scopes volunteered himself as a test case).

  • 1935 – Shah of Iran Reza Shah Pahlavi formally asks the international community to call Persia by its native name, Iran.
  • 1946 – The Los Angeles Rams sign Kenny Washington, making him the first African American player in professional American football since 1933.
  • 1952 – Alan Freed presents the Moondog Coronation Ball, the first rock and roll concert, in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • 1963 – Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary (in California) closes.
  • 1965 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leads 3,200 people on the start of the third and finally successful civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
  • 1986 – Debi Thomas became the first African American to win the World Figure Skating Championships
  • 1999 – Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones become the first to circumnavigate the Earth in a hot air balloon.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1839 – Modest Mussorgsky, Russian pianist and composer (d. 1881). He was outlived by his arrogant brother, Immodest Mussorgsky.
  • 1902 – Son House, American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1988)
  • 1910 – Julio Gallo, American businessman, co-founded E & J Gallo Winery (d. 1993)
  • 1920 – Éric Rohmer, French director, film critic, journalist, novelist and screenwriter (d. 2010)
  • 1932 – Walter Gilbert, American physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate

Wally Gilbert ‘n’ me in Chicago discussing photography on May 30, 2013 (photo by Manyuan Long). After Wally retired, he took up artistic photography full time, but since I know a bit about it, we had some stuff to talk about. One of his photos is on the computer screen behind us.


More births:

  • 1962 – Rosie O’Donnell, American actress, producer, and talk show host
  • 1970 – Cenk Uygur, Turkish-American political activist

Cenk is 50 today. I don’t like him.

Ronaldinho, now retired, was one of the greats of soccer, and a terrific ball handler. (Curiously, he’s now imprisoned for six months in Paraguay for entering the country using a false passport.) Here he demonstrates his pedal dexterity.


Those who “passed” on March 21 include:

  • 1556 – Thomas Cranmer, English archbishop and saint (b. 1489)
  • 1617 – Pocahontas, Algonquian Indigenous princess (b. c. 1595)
  • 2017 – Chuck Barris, American game show host and producer (b. 1929)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Szaron appears in his first Hili dialogue. Hili is not letting him onto the veranda (but they still have peaceful relations).

Szaron: May I come in?
Hili: Try.
In Polish:
Szaron: Czy mogę wejść?
Hili: Spróbuj.

Szaron is developing quite the personality, which right now seems to be skeptical:

Szaron: Most questions still remain without answers.

In Polish: Szaron: Większość pytań nadal pozostaje bez odpowiedzi.

In nearby Wloclawek, Leon and Mietek have been silent for a while, as Elzbieta’s camera broke. Fortunately, here’s one recent photo of Leon and his staff on Elbieta’s FB page, though there’s no caption:


From Merilee:

A gif from Nicole:

Predicted Aussie neologisms posted by Stash Krod:

From Pliny the In Between’s Far Corner Cafe (click to read text):

The Queen calls out Ilhan Omar:

I retweeted this, but the original whistling-walrus tweet came from Matthew. Listen to it go!

An excellent tweet from Simon, showing the necessity of science, and the futility of faith, during this pandemic:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. This first one breaks my heart:

And a surprising hoarder:

Tweets from Matthew. First, the director of the National Institutes of Health reacts to another Trumpism:

A black panther, which in this case is simply a leopard with a mutation giving it a dark coat. (In the New World, “black panthers” are jaguars that carry a similar mutation.)

Watch this BBC segment and tell me if you don’t think the Brits produce the world’s best eccentrics. One of my favorite books when I was younger was Dame Edith Sitwell’s The English Eccentrics. 

A cat plays Super Mario Bros 3!!

66 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. 1. I think the cross stuff produces a feeling that we can somehow be in connection with the figures in the artwork. The tangible artifacts, the soothing environment, the hypnotic artwork – spellbinding work of religion.

    2. Whistling walrus – cute.

  2. The walrus is playing C to the D below.

    Putting that with chords, it’s C major to D major.

    It’s uncanny!

  3. Thomas Cranmer, English archbishop and saint

    Cranmer was made a saint? He was executed by the Catholics as a heretic because he was instrumental in the creation of the Church of England. I think it unlikely he would be a candidate for sainthood.

      1. Oops, I wasn’t quite right above. The Church of England (CofE) includes various protestant “martyrs” in its version of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the Calendar of Common Worship. The CofE doesn’t designate them as saints or make claims about their “heavenly status”. Charles I is the closest person to be recognised as a saint, but this is only the view of a tiny minority and certainly not by the Anglican church generally.

  4. Fun fact about the cross: Jehovah’s witnesses believe that Jesus was crucified on a straight stake with no cross-timber. The reference version of their New World Translation bible justifies this using an illustration from a 16th century work by Justus Lipsius. However, it deliberately fails to mention that thirteen of Lipsius’ sixteen crucifixion illustrations – including the one he considered Jesus underwent – do indeed have the traditional cross shape.

  5. “An excellent tweet from Simon, showing the necessity of science, and the futility of faith, during this pandemic”

    My issue with this cartoon is that it is mostly false: a lot of believers, especially the fundamentalists of every religions, don’t care about science even if they should. They don’t ask scientists to hurry up, they pray their gods and engage in silly behaviors (e.g., drinking cow urine).

  6. “Tweets from Matthew. First, the director of the National Institutes of Health reacts to another Trumpism:”

    Anthony Fauci is the director of NIAID, Francis Collins is the NIH director.

    1. Nonetheless, i appreciate the tweet from matthew giving context to the picture i had seen of fauci with his face in his hand. An emotional rachel maddow last night, at the end of her program, suggested that dear leader’s news conferences should not be carried live by the networks, but if he were to say anything that be true, that thing(s) could be broadcast later from the tape.

      1. Also, (full disclosure: i am a retired fedeeal employee (NASA)). It would be good if rather than always referring to the federal government’s failures in addressing the pandemic issues, media would refer to the trump administration or administration as they have been largely responsible for busget cuts, restructuring, and firings leaving our federal infrastructure severely weakened. By continually conflating the federal infrastructure(including very competent scientists and leaders such as dr fauci) with the administration, critics are emboldened to continue in their dismantling of our civil service which includes much of the university science and engineering support funding.

        1. You’re absolutely correct. Career federal civil servants have a tough enough job made even worse by the idiocies of the Trump administration.

          As an aside, the FiveThirtyEight site’s aggregation of polls shows a slight uptick in Trump’s approval rating. Nothing seems to shake Trump’s support by his cult. This is a sad, sad country!

          1. Career federal civil servants have a tough enough job made even worse by the idiocies of the Trump administration.

            This was never made more clear than by the patriotic public servants from the State Department and National Security Council who responded to lawfully issued congressional subpoenas and testified before the House Intelligence committee during the impeachment inquiry.

            1. And, I’m they were well aware that testifying would be a career ending sacrifice thanks to the retributor-in-chief.

            2. Populism is, by its nature, a threat to the civil service. The war on the civil service is symptomatic of the populist hatred of experts(or ‘elites’ as they always say) and their desire to retake all the ground lost to liberalism over the last half-century in one fell swoop, by purging the largely moderate, rational, highly-educated people who tend to work in this sector.

              Full disclosure: my sister works as a civil servant in the Foreign Office. She worked her arse off as a kid, under extraordinarily difficult home-life situations, got ridiculous grades at her local bog-standard comprehensive, went to Cambridge, graduated with a degree in economics, worked for years in the private sector then decided to join the civil service and work on Brexit. She’s gradually moved her way up through unfussy excellence. She’s undemonstrative and dislikes conflict – she just Gets Things Done.

              Fuck Trump and fuck Dominic Cummings. They are bomb-throwers, nothing more. They have only the tiniest fraction of my sister’s talent and character.

              1. Hurray for your sister and all like her who make the wheels of civilization turn.

          2. Yes, Historian, I found that mind-numbing too, From 42.7% to 43.2%. I thought that after his obvious bungling, a shitshow, of the CoVID-19 he would have dropped under 37%.
            Yet, not so…

      2. I can’t sand hearing d’Rump’s voice so I’ve tuned out for a good while now. However since this virus thing reared its ugly head and Dr. Fauci emerged, I’ve been closely watching the good doctor’s face to catch his often fleeting reactions to d’Rump’s verbal diarrhea. I’ve seen him set his jaw when offended by the Agent Orange.

    1. Also…he’s fifty? That was a surprise to me. I think his behaviour is so adolescent that it unconsciously drags his age down by two decades.

  7. Ronaldinho was a wonderful player. If you watch the first segment of that video, the ‘panna’ section, you’ll see him do one of the most enjoyable, satisfying moves in football. In English we call it a nutmeg(I have no idea on earth why), and it’s where you tap the ball between the opponent’s legs.

    To someone who hasn’t played football before it can look unintentional…but it’s not. I remember the first time I saw someone do it on my school playground, before I started really getting into football – I couldn’t understand it. It just broke my brain.

    1. Yes, he is/was a master of the ‘shibobo’ (passing the ball between the defender’s legs) as we call it here in South Africa.
      It is considered a move humiliating the defender.

      1. On the whole I think Ronaldinho is somewhat underestimated. Would Barce have been so dominant for so long without him? He is/was definitely one of the greats.

        1. Yes, that’s right. It doesn’t really count unless you’re dribbling and you collect the ball on the other side of the unfortunate defender.

          Sometimes if a player is clean through on goal and has only the keeper to beat, and they pass the ball between the keeper’s legs to score, that counts as a nutmeg.

          Basically, as long as it was clearly intentional it’s a nutmeg.

  8. I like the last explanation best – that it’s a long-dead reference to unscrupulous nutmeg counterfeiters. That sounds plausible to me.

    The other proffered explanations sound more like the result of professional footballers just confidently chuntering away without knowing anything, like they tend to.

  9. Get new facts here everyday. Good to know the reason why all the toilet paper is gone.
    Intelligence agencies began warning about the virus in China, early in January. The CIA and director of national intelligence continued to warn, brief and report to all in the govt. including congress from this time forward. Our full up president ignored this until recently probably due to the shit coming out of his ears. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intel committee took action – he sold $1.7 million in stocks.

    1. How in the name of all things unholy is his ‘handling of the crisis’ rating at 53%? It is utterly bewildering to me. This is when that rating should be at the lowest possible point. Really, I can’t see that rating doing anything but climb from this point on. So that’s depressing.

      If a deadly virus can’t get rid of this guy…

      1. Hey, we just report the news. The people must figure out how to fix it if they can.

        George Washington renounced Jefferson as a duplicitous scoundrel but the people still to this day consider Jefferson one of the greatest.

        1. I don’t consider Jefferson one of the greatest for reasons that under penalty of chiding would take too long to explain. But, as you may guess, the reasons have to do with slavery.

          1. Agreed, however in the area of politics and back dealing he was also right up there with the worst of the day. I believe Abigail Adams was among the first to see Jefferson for what he was.

          2. Mr Jefferson, well this is a guess, was opposed to slavery in principle(?), but was party to the satisfaction of f..king slave girls. I doubt I would have been very different in that situation.

      2. Mainly because he’s out there talking to the public every day, even if it’s mostly horsehooey, and that gets him de facto points for leadership. Meanwhile Biden’s team is talking about maybe getting something set up so he can talk to the public by Monday. And Sanders is talking to the public daily in addition to doing disaster relief fundraising and his Senatorial duties, but nobody thinks he can win anymore, so we’re all just watching with despair as the guy the Dems wanted fails to step up and lets Trump dominate the messaging uncontested.

      3. How in the name of all things unholy is his ‘handling of the crisis’ rating at 53%?

        I attribute it to Trump, for the first time during his presidency, showing his face at daily press briefings, surrounded by members of his administration (a couple of whom are actually competent). It gives the American public the impression that he’s “at least doing something.”

        Also, Trump instinctively knows one big truth: the credulity and inattention of a significant swath of the American public renders it susceptible to being persuaded of almost anything that’s repeated often enough with enough seeming vehemence.

        Plus, Donald Trump has something had by no US president before him — the stalwart support of a 24/7 right-wing propaganda machine, with Fox News as its salient.

        1. One amusing/depressing detail in his press briefings is what he does when someone asks him an implicitly critical question about the shambolic handling of the outbreak: …he stops talking, gestures to one of his sentient props to step forward, and they have to deal with it.

          I’ve never seen a more talented weasel in political history. His instinct for avoiding responsibility is incredible, like some character in the Matrix whose body contorts in slow motion to avoid the bullets.

          1. You notice, too, that, when he’s standing by while someone else speaks, Trump seems disengaged unless the speaker is praising Dear Leader.

            Everyone around him appears to be hep to what it takes to stay in the Great Man’s good graces, though Dr. Fauci seems less willing to play that game than the others. (And already Fauci’s been a no show at some of the pressers; Trump can’t stand for anyone to get more and better press than he does.)

      4. His approval ratings may be high (seriously, WTF?) but in the polls that matter most, he is lagging far behind. I just read that the most recent polling shows him to be more than 10 points behind Biden with only 43% choosing him over the Democrat. This is lowest polling at this point in an election cycle of any incumbent since Truman and, unlike Truman, the poor support has been stable for weeks. It’s still WAY early, but that’s good news.

        Keep your eyes on the prize – November.

  10. Once in Catholic school, a nun passed around her copy of the True Cross ™. It consisted of two alleged pieces of wood about the thickness of a human hair, arranged into a cross.It was embedded in what appeared to be ember.

    After it made its way back to the nun. I raised my hand. When called upon, I commented “I’ll bet that if you had all of the pieces of the True Cross ™, you’d have enough wood for a lumber yard”. My friends chuckled. The beatdown began a few seconds later

  11. I saw something by Newsweek that said Jackass Jim Bakker interviewed conservative radio host Thomas Horn this week, apparently the Coronavirus will bring about the end of days and the the Antichrist because, if I understood correctly, the elites are using DARPA to create an implantable bio marker chip thing that they can scan to see if you need to be quarantined, which will be “the mark” that will allow you to buy or sell anything and somehow this ties into antichrist prophecy? I can’t follow their “logic” but the end of the world is near so we don’t need science. But I’m betting the true believers will still need to buy Bakker’s prepper buckets, his magic colloidal silver virus cure, or Horn’s Christian conspiracy books. Somehow faith alone is never enough; or to misquote Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs character Yogurt, “Merchandising , merchandising, where the real money from the religion is made!”

    1. It’s a disgusting form of fraud, isn’t it. I think you can draw a dotted line between what Bakker does and what tRump is up to. Snake oil. It’s all merchandising, and, sadly, there are millions of takers.

  12. The story about the true cross reminds me of the veneration of saints in the Catholic Church.

    If you were to collect and assemble the parts of a beloved saint, it would be a person with three skulls, 95 vertebrae, 10 limbs and an estimated 900 bones together. Truly a divine miracle. 🙂

    1. That would make life totally miserable in those areas where none count/structure was a requirement. One I can remember was my nursing instructions. And what would it do to Them Bones, Them Bones.

  13. … the director of the National Institutes of Health reacts to another Trumpism …

    Anthony Fauci is an echt New Yorker. As such, he knows exactly what he’s dealing with, with Trump.

    From the time he arrived on the local public scene in the late 1970s through his reality-tv run on “The Apprentice” three decades later, Donald Trump had the reputation for being the biggest phony in Manhattan — which, perforce, put him in the running for being biggest phony worldwide.

    1. He is the world’s biggest phony and that is perhaps the nicest thing you can say about him. Yet, he still controls his cult with an iron hand. In fact, his popularity rating seems to have risen a little since the pandemic reached the public mind. What this says about almost half of the masses is totally dispiriting. Consequently, the fates of public health, the economy, and democracy are greatly imperiled. Baby boomers may be the last to say that they lived the bulk of their lives in a world that was never better, at least in the United States.

      1. I always felt the level of stupidity we see in tRump’s supporters was something historical (no offense intended). Mussolini, a clever clown, was successful only because way back then people were just so poorly informed they could be easily manipulated. If I have learned anything from the tRump presidency it is that history has nothing to do with it. It is our own time and our own people who are this stupid. It is the nature of mankind and we are doomed to repeat all the mistakes of the past. What a revolting discovery. Let’s hope this time around we can reverse the process before it gets too far out of hand.

  14. Let’s talk about the cats. The idiot is wasting too much of our energy.
    When you said the melanistic leopard was caught, was it meant photographically or actually caught?
    18 years is a reasonable life for a cat.
    I suspect Hili will permit Szaron on the porch before long. She’s already allowing him space nearby in which she can see him.
    Baker could use a seriously disabling event that curtailed his speech, charisma and any other “come with me” event.

  15. The River Merchant’s Wife is a lifetime poem for me. I read it first when I was young and have not lost my love for it over the years. Pound’s Li Po translations are a foundation of modern poetry.

    You are correct – Pound could not read Chinese but composed this poem based on an English translation.

  16. So 1925 was the year the Butler Act was passed. You wrote, “Had Scopes simply taught evolution without mentioning humans, it’s doubtful that the trial would have taken place (Scopes volunteered himself as a test case).”

    It’s not certain that John Scopes taught evolution at all.

    Check your public library and see if it has “Center of the Storm” by John T. Scopes and James Presley. I was working in a wonderful bookstore back in 1967 and I bought the book and I’m glad I did. It’s a pleasure to read.

    The ACLU had put an ad in the papers offering to pay the expenses of anyone who would be willing to test the constitutionality of the Butler Act.

    John Scopes was NOT the biology teacher. The biology teacher had been sick and Scopes had substituted. On page 60 he repeats a dialog:

    “Well, you taught biology then. Didn’t you cover evolution?”

    “We reviewed for final exams, as best as I remember.” To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure I had taught evolution.

    The biology teacher was a married man with children. He was unwilling to volunteer to be the defendant. Scopes, OTOH, was a bachelor and had less to lose. It’s not certain at all that he said anything about evolution, but he considered it important that the law be tested.

    The whole thing was a set-up and an interesting piece of history. I’m glad Mr. Scopes wrote his memoir of that lively time.

    1. I believe contrived “testing” of cases is a standard tactic of those attempting to draw attention to an injustice. I think I’ve heard it used in a number of situations, but none more dramatic as this one.

  17. Sorry to hear about Kenny Rogers.

    It’s times like these that make one want to just drop in to see what condition one’s condition is in.

    1. Inextricably tied to the Coen Brothers for people of my generation. That dream sequence is one of the best in cinema history.

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