Wednesday: Hili dialogue

April 8, 2020 • 7:00 am

It’s Hump Day: Wednesday, April 8, 2020, and National Empanada Day, a day of cultural appropriation. It’s also Holy Wednesday, leading up to Easter, International Romani Day, honoring Romani culture,  Zoo Lovers Day (nobody will be going to the zoo today), Dog Farting Awareness Day (true!), and Draw A Picture of a Bird Day.

Here’s mine; join me if you wish, email it to me, and if I get more than five drawings, I’ll post them.

News of the Day: Bad, as usual. There are few signs of the pandemic slowing in the U.S.: the death toll in the U.S. as of this writing is more than 12,000, doubling in five days, and over 400,000 people are infected. There are nearly 83,000 deaths over the world.  For no good reason, Trump fired the Pentagon’s inspector general, in charge of overseeing the trillions that the government has allotted to fighting the pandemic.

And, sadly, John Prine died yesterday of Covid-19 infection.

Today’s Google Doodle honors first responders. Clicking on it goes to links thanking coronavirus “helpers”:

Stuff that happened on April 8 includes:

This, perhaps the most famous of all Greek sculptures, resides in the Louvre, and was probably created between 130-100 BC. It’s now thought to have been sculpted by Alexandros of Antioch rather than Praxiteles:

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

This is one guess about how it originally looked:

By Unknown author – Paul Carus: The Venus of Milo: An Archaeological Study of the Goddess of Womanhood. The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago/London, 1916., Public Domain,

A photo exists of the poor woman (below), who died at only 55.  Wikipedia discusses the basis of her condition (she was apparently diagnosed from her behavior, not from brain sections):

She died on 8 April 1906. More than a century later, her case was re-examined with modern medical technologies, where a genetic cause was found for her disease by scientists from Gießen and Sydney. The results were published in the journal The Lancet Neurology. According to this paper, a mutation in the PSEN1 gene was found, which alters the function of gamma secretase, and is a known cause of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. However, the results could not be replicated in a more recent paper published in 2014 where “Auguste D’s DNA revealed no indication of a nonsynonymous hetero- or homozygous mutation in the exons of APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 genes comprising the already known familial AD mutations.”

  • 1911 – Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes discovers superconductivity.
  • 1913 – The 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution, requiring direct election of Senators, becomes law.
  • 1942 – World War II: Siege of Leningrad: Soviet forces open a much-needed railway link to Leningrad.
  • 1943 – Otto and Elise Hampel are executed in Berlin for their anti-Nazi activities.
  • 1974 – At Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, Hank Aaron hits his 715th career home run to surpass Babe Ruth’s 39-year-old record.
  • 1975 – Frank Robinson manages the Cleveland Indians in his first game as major league baseball’s first African American manager.
  • 1987 – Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis resigns amid controversy over racially charged remarks he had made while on Nightline.

These are the words that got Campanis in trouble, and led to his resignation. How could he have been so dumb to give voice to his racism? Here he suggests that black people didn’t have the leadership abilities to be baseball managers or football quarterback—and couldn’t be good swimmers because they didn’t have the “buoyancy”! Since then, of course, there have been many black managers and coaches, as well as quarterbacks. To his credit, Koppel went after Campanis strongly.

  • 1992 – Retired tennis great Arthur Ashe announces that he has AIDS, acquired from blood transfusions during one of his two heart surgeries.
  • 2013 – The Islamic State of Iraq enters the Syrian Civil War and begins by declaring a merger with the Al-Nusra Front under the name Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1869 – Harvey Cushing, American surgeon and academic (d. 1939)
  • 1892 – Mary Pickford, Canadian-American actress, producer, and screenwriter, co-founded United Artists (d. 1979)
  • 1896 – Yip Harburg, American composer (d. 1981)

Born Isidore Hochberg on New York’s lower East Side, and changing his name because of anti-Semitism, Harberg wrote many famous songs. They include “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” and perhaps the most renowned movie song of all (he wrote all the songs for this movie). Do watch this: even if the song has become a cliché, it’s beautiful. (Note that Toto was a GOOD DOG during the song.)

It’s curious to me that so many composers of great Broadway music were Jewish (Rodgers, Hammerstein, Hart, Harburg, Sondheim, Lerner, Loewe—the list goes on). I have no theory to explain this.

  • 1902 – Andrew Irvine, English mountaineer and explorer (d. 1924)
  • 1912 – Sonja Henie, Norwegian-American figure skater and actress (d. 1969)
  • 1929 – Jacques Brel, Belgian singer-songwriter and actor (d. 1978)
  • 1946 – Catfish Hunter, American baseball player (d. 1999)
  • 1955 – Barbara Kingsolver, American novelist, essayist and poet
  • 1960 – Hugh Dominic “Dom” Stiles, librarian and polymath (see post later today)
  • 1963 – Julian Lennon, English singer-songwriter

Those who croaked on April 8 include:

  • 1973 – Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter and sculptor (b. 1881)
  • 1996 – Ben Johnson, American actor and stuntman (b. 1918)
  • 1997 – Laura Nyro, American singer-songwriter and pianist (b. 1947)
  • 2013 – Annette Funicello, American actress and singer (b. 1942)

Ben Johnson was an integral character in what I consider the best American movie of our time (and perhaps all time): “The Last Picture Show” (1971). Here, playing Sam the Lion, he gives one of the best soliloquies of all movies, recounting his life and a lost love to Sonny, played by Timothy Bottoms. (Johnson won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in this film.) Roger Ebert’s 4-star review of the movie begins by describing this scene:

The best scene in “The Last Picture Show” takes place outside town at the “tank,” an unlovely pond that briefly breaks the monotony of the flat Texas prairie. Sam the Lion has taken Sonny and the retarded boy Billy fishing there, even though, as Sonny observes, there ain’t nothing in the tank but turtles. That’s all right with Sam: He doesn’t like fish, doesn’t like to clean them, doesn’t like to smell them. He goes fishing for the scenery.”Try one?” he says, offering Sonny the makings of a hand-rolled cigarette. And then he begins an wistful monologue, about a time 20 years ago when he brought a girl out to the tank and they swam in it and rode their horses across it and were in love on its banks. The girl had life and fire, but she was already married, and Sam even then was no longer young. As he tells the story, we realize we are listening to the sustaining myth of Sam’s life, the vision of beauty that keeps him going in the dying town of Anarene, Texas.

The scene has a direct inspiration, I believe, for the writer-director, Peter Bogdanovich. I’m sure he was thinking of the monologue in “Citizen Kane” (1941) where old Mr. Bernstein remembers a girl with a parasol who he saw once, 50 years ago, and still cherishes in his memory as a beacon of what could have been.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is digging, apparently to no purpose.

Hili: Who knows what is hidden in the ground?
A: Try to find it.
Hili: That’s exactly what I’m doing.
In Polish:
Hili: Kto wie, co się kryje w ziemi?
Ja: Spróbuj to zbadać.
Hili: Właśnie to robię.

Out in the garden in his future home near Dobrzyn, kitten Mietek speaks with a query:

Mietek: What is buzzing here?

In Polish: Co tu tak brzęczy?

The other day I showed a “socially distanced baptism”, involving a priest squirting a baby with a squirtgun from a substantial distance. I asked then, “But what do you do about circumcisions?” Reader Avi then sent me the solution in this photo, which he said was being passed around Orthodox Jewish (online) circles last week:

Two virus memes from Bruce:

This is certainly true in Chicago!

From Titania:

From Gethyn. I retweeted it with the comment, “Maybe we should just let animals run the world for a while.” (But of course we’re animals.)

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. She says that this is an answer to the facemasks-made-of-bras videos on the Internet:

And of this one she says: “I watched it over and over again – they’re sooooo cute!”

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is ineffably cool: a fox steals a cellphone. Be sure to watch the video:

A dramatic death in freshwater. This happens millions of times a minute, but we never see it:

Matthew and I are both suffering from disturbed sleep. Being phlegmatic, he can’t find a definite cause, while I know mine is anxiety! But we both applaud the sunrise, which helps dissolve worries and fears.

Matthew says of McMillan: “He is a poet my age from Barnsley.”

A lovely little puffin riding the wind, a rare treat for this hard-flapping little bird:

61 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. John freakin’ Prine? That one hurts, man.

    I couldn’t bear to hear one of his sad songs right now, but here he is singing a duet with Iris DeMent that’s never failed to put a (legal) smile on my face:

      1. Loved the bit in the Q&A part where Prine was asked “Is there a role for protest music anymore?” to which he replied “I’d say there’s a full-time job!”

        Truer today, fifteen years on, than it was back in 2005, sadly.

  2. For no good reason, Trump fired the Pentagon’s inspector general, in charge of overseeing the trillions that the government has allotted to fighting the pandemic.

    The reason is Trump wants to hand-select as many of his people as he can to ensure personal loyalty above any loyalty to law or office. Glenn Fine is a career civil servant with 15 years’ experience serving in IG roles for both DoD and DoJ. That means (a) he’s not super ‘bend the law’ type loyal to the Republican party, and (b) he wouldn’t owe his continued career to Trump staying in office.

    Too independent, IOW.

    It’s curious to me that so many composers of great Broadway music were Jewish (Rodgers, Hammerstein, Hart, Harburg, Sondheim, Lerner, Loewe—the list goes on).

    Irving Berlin writing White Christmas is an ironic favorite of mine.

    My offhand guess is that (i) the Entertainment industry was less racist than many other industries, so (ii) a lot of highly generally talented Jews (i.e. people who would probably be good at most of the things they tried) went into it. The rest is ‘practice makes perfect.’ But, that’s just an offhand guess.

  3. For no good reason, Trump fired the Pentagon’s inspector general, in charge of overseeing the trillions that the government has allotted to fighting the pandemic.

    Trump had a very good reason for firing him: he probably would have stopped Trump and his cronies from siphoning off money from the fund.

    “Good” is obviously a relative term in this instance.

    1. I was going to say but you beat me to it. The reason is corruption. With Trump it is the only reason you get out of bed in the morning. The really dumb thing is the congress giving out any money without specific and legal ways it is to be done. Without that, it is Trump’s money.

      1. Trump HATES the notion of “Inspectors General” — since their role is to act as non-partisan watchdogs, rather than Trump protectors. He’s looking to replace them all with Trump loyalists.

  4. I did not know that Richard Rodgers was Jewish. Perhaps the prevalence of Jews in American songwriting of the day is as simple as a strong cultural emphasis on music plus proximity to Broadway and Tin Pan Alley.

  5. I haven’t seen The Last Picture Show, but that is one seriously melancholy scene.

    Is it with age that one starts to find the beauty in that kind of melancholia? As I pass the midway point in my thirties I find scenes about regret and wistfulness much more interesting and affecting than I used to.

    This scene, from Call Me By Your Name springs to mind as a similarly melancholy, poignant scene about ageing and regret:

  6. But we both applaud the sunrise, which helps dissolve worries and fears.

    I have often observed that at 3am every headache is a stroke, every chest pain a heart attack. To that we must add: every throat tickle is the Corona.

    1. Some friends and I used to call that the “midnight brain tumor.” It is real. It does, mostly, go away in the morning.

    2. Larkin wrote an entire, extraordinary poem inspired by that existential night-time terror, ‘Aubade’.

      “Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
      In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
      Till then I see what’s really always there:
      Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
      Making all thought impossible but how
      And where and when I shall myself die.”

      “This is a special way of being afraid
      No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
      That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
      Created to pretend we never die,
      And specious stuff that says No rational being
      Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
      That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
      No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
      Nothing to love or link with,
      The anaesthetic from which none come round.”

  7. 1975 – Frank Robinson manages the Cleveland Indians in his first game as major league baseball’s first African American manager.

    I was at that opening day game. Robinson hit a homer, as did his fellow former Baltimore Oriole who’d also been traded to the Indians, Boog Powell. Tribe beat the Yankees, 5-3.

  8. Born Isidore Hochberg on New York’s lower East Side, and changing his name because of anti-Semitism …

    I don’t doubt for a second that anti-Semitism played a part in it. But in those days, there was pressure on anyone in show business, be it Hollywood or Tin-Pan Alley (and especially for those in front of the camera), to change any ethnic or odd-sounding name to some euphonious, WASP-y beau idéal like “Tab Hunter” or “Rock Hudson.”

  9. It’s curious to me that so many composers of great Broadway music were Jewish (Rodgers, Hammerstein, Hart, Harburg, Sondheim, Lerner, Loewe—the list goes on). I have no theory to explain this.

    I could pose a hypothesis as to why they made great lyricists, like Hammerstein, Hart, and Lerner — the premium put on Yiddish verbal dexterity in the shtetls and ghettos of Europe — but as to why they had a such knack for catchy melodies, I got nuthin’.

    1. The hypothesis would also account for why there have been so many great Jewish novelists, like Bellow and Roth and Malamud and IB Singer.

  10. My theory on jewish broadway composers. Their jewish moms forced them to learn music and play the violin and, being good jews, they found a way to make a living out of it. 🙂

            1. Only my trees and vines are budding, with a lone poplar the furthest on, with silvery dangly catkins. I should go check on the hellebores (Lenten rose) to see what the hell is up with them. I neglected to water everything in, to give them a good drink.

              1. My lilac trees and ruby-red chestnuts are budding, the bulbs are pushing, the forsythia are beginning to turn greenish-yellow and I’ve caught a few little purple numbers in the lawn, where Lucy Poochie hasn’t torn them up with her romping.

              2. Oh, that sounds so lovely, Merilee. I love the waft of lilac blossoms on the wind. We used to have different varieties of lilacs in our previous (huge) garden, thereby attracting many Swallowtails and other butterflies. But at this house with a much smaller yard, we planted a Boomerang lilac near a Katsura tree. In the Autumn, when the leaves are turning orange and yellow, there is a smell of cotton candy or burnt caramel emanating from the tree. It’s heavenly!

              3. Burnt caramel sounds great! Where are you in Ontario (?) again? I’m in Oakville. Just visited daughter and 4-yr-old granddaughter in Dundas (Sitting on lawn 6’ apart) and the daffodils all seem out there.

              4. Waterloo. Damn windy here. But I can’t complain as we have all the amenities yet we are spread out, and so it’s easy to maintain physical distancing. Well, except at Costco, where the ‘herders’ must control the people who flock there.

              5. Pretty windy here, too, but at least it didn’t rain today and at least we’ve had some lovely sunny, warm days to remind us that Spring is on its way. I don’t intend to go anywhere near Costco for the time being. “Providentially” stocked up (tp, meats, etc.) about a month ago.

              6. Where in Oakville? I’m in Glen Abbey. We should meet up some time (when this craziness is over).

              7. I’ve just been corrected – he’s in Burlington. It’s a small bungalow they downsized to since his wife had bad knees (now she’s had them replaced). We’ve been pretty much stuck at home for several years, since my husband is very ill.

              8. I’m sorry to hear about your husband. Keep him safe during this crazy time. I have a very athletic (female) friend who has had 5 of the 6 things you can get replaced (knees, shoulder, hips – can’t remember which part is still original). She’s only 73 and she’s waiting to play tennis again. I think she has stopped her ski racing…Good luck at Costco!

              9. I’ve stocked up too (enough canned stuff to last maybe half a year) but there are a couple of things my daughter wants me to get at Costco, so I’ll gird my loins (or rather, my face!) and venture forth during the seniors-allotted time.

              10. Meant to add that I’d love to meet up, if my life EVER gets back to normal. I drive only a few kilometres’ distance, since I’m the primary care-giver here at home and am on call 24/7. I’ve pretty much banned visitors to our home. Even before the stealth ‘corvid’ came, my husband’s siblings had restricted access, as they are world travellers (and are loud and somewhat narcissistic).

  11. Years ago I read the book Women’s Work: the first 20,000 years by Elizabeth Weyland Barber. In it, she speculates that Venus de Milo was spinning thread, and gives a pretty good argument to that end. Of course, we’ll never know for sure. But it makes sense.

  12. The Last Picture Show was filmed in Archer City, just a bit south of where I live in Wichita Falls – close enough to pass through regularly on my way to other places, but far enough to make it just a bit too far to go there on a whim.

    There are a few highlights of the town. First is the bookstore, All Booked Up ( ). Larry McMurtry is from Archer City, and this is his bookstore. It used to comprise four buildings in town, but I think they’ve consolidated down to one. They’ve got a huge collection of used books, many of them unique and interesting. If you happen to be passing through Archer City, it’s worth a stop.

    There’s also the theater, now featuring mostly live entertainment (musicals, plays, etc.). I went to a wedding there a few years ago. Interesting building. ( )

    Other than that… I hear Murn’s Cafe is supposed to be pretty good. I’ve made plenty of stops at Allsup’s and Oodles Deli to buy coffee/breakfast on my way to Olney. But there’s not really much to it. It’s a small Texas town without much to do.

    One last literary plug – my wife used to work with someone from Archer City, whose husband, Jim Black, is a writer (not nearly as famous as McMurtry). He wrote his own book about growing up in Archer City that’s worth a read. I read the original, There’s a River Down in Texas, but it seems he updated it slightly when it got professionally published under the title, River Season. According to his website, it seems he has a few more books out:

    1. I visited Archer City in 1972, and went to the bookstore, where I bought my copy of McMurtry’s book. The theater (the one used in the movie) was closed, and I don’t remember the cafe. So the town is still alive?

      1. McMurtry was a coeval of Ken Kesey’s (and Ken Babbs and others) in the Wallace Stegner fellowship at Stanford in the early Sixties.

        McMurtry is a political conservative, but he and Kesey remained friends, and in regular contact, over the years that followed.

    2. This is good to know. Will have to visit Archer City if things ever get back to normal. We usually stop for the night in Wichita Falls when we go to visit the grandkids in Louisiana. I love good bookstores.

  13. The Venus reconstruction is a bit of a shock to me because I’ve always assumed she was in mid discus throw.

  14. ” Venus de Milo was noted for her charms,
    But strictly between us,
    You are cuter than Venus,
    And what’s more you’ve got arms!”

    ……..Johnny Mercer

  15. My brother and I went to the 1970 MGM auction. I can remember two things: my brother [a newspaper reporter/photographer] was the underbidder on a printing press that came around the Horn to California in the gold rush era [IIRC, it went for about $4,000- about $50,000, adjusted for inflation] and that blue dress that Judy Garland wore in the Wizard. It was incredible – the pattern matched perfectly at every seam, every stitch was exactly even, a masterpiece. No Kansas farm girl ever had such a dress!

    1. OK, I remember one other thing. Those big paintings – the kind that hung in mansions and castles in the movies – were mostly crap. Good enough to fool a 1930’s camera, but real junk up close in person.

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