Friday: Hili dialogue

July 3, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning at the end of the work week, a term that barely has meaning any more. It’s Friday, July 3, 2020, National Chocolate Wafer Day. It’s a holiday for most Americans, or at least a day off, because Independence Day, tomorrow, falls on a Saturday. It’s also National Eat Beans Day, National Fried Clam Day (yum!), Stay Out of the Sun Day (hard to do at Botany Pond), and, according to Wikipedia, “The start of the Dog Days according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac but not according to established meaning in most European cultures.” Why are there no Cat Days??

News of the day:  Things are, as Rodney Dangerfield said, “rough”. From David Brooks’s new column in the New York Times, which attributes America’s problems, quoting Damon Linker, to “a refusal on the part of lots of Americans to think in terms of the social whole — of what’s best for the community, of the common or public.” I concur.

From Brooks:

We Americans enter the July 4 weekend of 2020 humiliated as almost never before. We had one collective project this year and that was to crush Covid-19, and we failed.

On Wednesday, we had about 50,000 new positive tests, a record. Other nations are beating the disease while our infection lines shoot upward as sharply as they did in March.

This failure will lead to other failures. A third of Americans show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, according to the Census Bureau. Suspected drug overdose deaths surged by 42 percent in May. Small businesses, colleges and community hubs will close.

At least Americans are not in denial about the nation’s turmoil of the last three months. According to a Pew survey, 71 percent of Americans are angry about the state of the country right now and 66 percent are fearful. Only 17 percent are proud.

The data on clinical anxiety and depression, on top of all the coronavirus news, is also depressing.

And, as Brooks implies, the U.S. set another record with new coronavirus cases, passing the 50,000 mark per day to reach 55,000. This is the sixth time a record has been set in nine days.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 128,824,  an increase of 721 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 520,214—an increase of about 4100 from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on July 3 include:

  • 1767 – Pitcairn Island is discovered by Midshipman Robert Pitcairn on an expeditionary voyage commanded by Philip Carteret.
  • 1819 – The Bank for Savings in the City of New-York, the first savings bank in the United States, opens.
  • 1844 – The last pair of great auks is killed.

Here’s one specimen of a bird we’ll never see again (caption from Wikipedia: “Specimen No. 8 and replica egg in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow”.  The birds were 75-85 cm (30-33 inches) tall.

  • 1863 – American Civil War: The final day of the Battle of Gettysburg culminates with Pickett’s Charge.
  • 1884 – Dow Jones & Company publishes its first stock average.
  • 1886 – Karl Benz officially unveils the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the first purpose-built automobile.

Yes, here’s the first “purpose-built” car:

Here’s a photo and then a video of the “Great Reunion: with a bunch of old geezers. The clip appears to be from Ken Burns’s “Civil War” movie.

It is this ship, the SS United States, that my family and I took to England on our voyage to Greece in 1955.  Army officers traveled in style, then, but we also had to cart a household’s worth of goods.

  • 1996 – British Prime Minister John Major announced the Stone of Scone would be returned to Scotland.
  • 2013 – Egyptian coup d’état: President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi is overthrown by the military after four days of protests all over the country calling for Morsi’s resignation, to which he did not respond. President of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt Adly Mansour is declared acting president.

Notables born on this day include:

When I was a kid, every Fourth of July I used to watch the great movie, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” starring James Cagney as George M. Cohan. Here’s a 7-minute documentary about Cohan from the PBS Series “Broadway.”

  • 1883 – Franz Kafka, Czech-Austrian author (d. 1924)
  • 1908 – M. F. K. Fisher, American author (d. 1992)
  • 1937 – Tom Stoppard, Czech-English playwright and screenwriter

Solipsism: Here’s Tom Stoppard and I at the Hay Festival in England in 2010. We were on a panel together and then had a discussion about evolution while smoking Stoppard’s cigarettes. I had to borrow the jacket from a friend, geneticist Steve Jones, as I was pressed into service at the last minute.

  • 1962 – Tom Cruise, American actor and producer
  • 1971 – Julian Assange, Australian journalist, publisher, and activist, founded WikiLeaks
  • 1993 – Don Drysdale, American baseball player and sportscaster (b. 1936)

Those who started The Big Sleep on July 3 include:

  • 1904 – Theodor Herzl, Austrian journalist and playwright (b. 1860)
  • 1971 – Jim Morrison, American singer-songwriter (b. 1943)
  • 1986 – Rudy Vallée, American singer, saxophonist, and actor (b. 1901)
  • 1993 – Don Drysdale, American baseball player and sportscaster (b. 1936)
  • 2012 – Andy Griffith, American actor, singer, and producer (b. 1926)

Meawhile in Dobrzyn, Hili repeats, I’m told, “the words repeated by Centaur from the Harry Potter books.”

Hili: Mars is exceptionally bright today.
A: You have been reading Harry Potter again.
In Polish:
Hili: Mars jest dziś niezwykle jasny.
Ja: Znowu czytałaś Harrego Pottera.

And, in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek and Leon are going to visit the site of their future home, but once again the reconstruction of that wooden house has been delayed, perhaps indefinitely.

Caption: “Everybody travels as they wish.”

In Polish: Każdy podróżuje tak, jak lubi.

A meme from reader Blue:

Two cartoons from reader Charles; the first is by Mike Luckovich:

Titania speaks for the woke:

Tweets from Matthew. The first one shows a bird I love, but also one I’ve never seen:

You can find this stowaway cat at the Bangor Humane Society:

A completely unknown organism. Do you have any idea what it is? Perhaps it’s a member of a new phylum.

Matthew adds re the following tweet: “This could have made Kent State look like kindergarten.” Indeed. Crowd control with BAYONETS?

As expected from physics, but still striking:

I saw stuff like this in Antarctica, and I want to go back SO BADLY!

Another one of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions:


44 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. National Fried Clam Day (yum!)

    The ones with the bellies, the kind you can get at roadside stands near the coast in New England, not those scrawny things they used to sell (maybe still do?) at HoJos (although I’d gladly scarf down a plate of even those were one plopped down in front of me right now).

  2. “Why are there no Cat Days??” – every day is a Cat Day (well, according to cats any way…)

  3. There are no “cat days”, but there are cat nights. From Old Farmers’ Almanac:

    August 17: Cat Nights Begin

    Cat Nights begin on August 17. This term harks back to the days when people believed in witches. A rather obscure old Irish legend said that a witch could turn herself into a cat eight times, but on the ninth time (August 17), she couldn’t regain her human form. This bit of folklore also gives us the saying, “A cat has nine lives.” Because August is a yowly time for cats, this may have prompted the speculation about witches on the prowl in the first place. Also, nights continue to get longer. Cats, crepuscular creatures, are nocturnal hunters. Their superior night vision means that the nights belong to them.

    I find it interesting that David Brooks lays the blame for our defeat by the virus at the feet of “Americans”, without mentioning that Republicans have a significantly higher involvement in that failure. Typical David Brooks.


    1. But don’t you think that collectively the people are responsible for the government they get.

      1. Up to a point, yes.

        But, collectively? What is the level of your responsibility when you voted on the losing side, and you continue to work for change, but you are confronted with Mitch McConnell, et. al.?

        I’m one person. I don’t have the money to buy a legislator. If the people around me have the power that I don’t, and they are making decisions that affect me and others adversely, I can speak out, I can act according to my beliefs, and I can be involved in the political process to the limits of my available time and energy, but I’m still in the minority.

        This is the problem that I see with boycotts. I am so tempted to say that the country should economically boycott places like Kentucky (that produce what? Coal, racehorses, liquor), but there are still decent people who live there, and they get hurt, too. Don’t spend your tourism dollars there, but that really isn’t going to get their attention very well.


      2. “But don’t you think that collectively the people are responsible for the government they get.”

        I would say so given that, in the US, the one with the most votes wins. If a person who didn’t get the most votes could take office, and things went horrorshow, that would shift things.

        Oh, wait….

        1. But yet again, who’s to blame for that result. We are all the government as it is. It does not belong to any single group. You act as if we should blame some one for the outcome that allows the guy we got. Always, some one is to blame, surely no me.

          1. “collectively”, if you recall, The People voted by a sizeable majority for Hillary Clinton.

            Who is to blame for thwarting The Peoples’ will?

            1. Yes, that is the question – Who. The who is us. How the rules are played is us. If we do not like them, they can be changed. That was also included in the document. Amend the document or re-write it. Please don’t ask who is the government.

      3. Yes. This brings to mind the comments I read about mask-wearing on There are the expected pro and con comments but many are of the “can’t we all get along” variety. They often claim that they wear a mask themselves but that it is a personal decision and there’s no reason to argue with those who choose not to wear one. Yes there is! These people are “nice” but clueless as to how this all works. IMHO, those are the ones giving us the government “we” deserve.

  4. Only twice during the civil war did the confederacy invade the north to fight in this war and both times they were beaten and returned to the south. Gettysburg was the second, Antietam at Sharpburg, Maryland was the first. In this one day battle there were approx. 23,000 casualties.

  5. From the AP story linked to in the tweet by James LaPorta sent by Matthew:

    The bayonet news broke at the same time the AP first reported that President Donald Trump ordered military aircraft to fly above demonstrators in a “show of force.”

    What a tough guy.

    Cadet Bone Spurs wouldn’t know that shit didn’t work even on Cambodian villagers.

  6. David Brooks looks often at events through a cultural lens as opposed to strictly economic or political ones. That is, we both believe that people behave out of cultural motives, even though they may not necessarily result in economic advantage. However, it is not infrequent that my analysis of culture diverges from his.

    In the column cited in the post, Brooks discusses what will not change after Trump leaves office:

    “On the day Trump leaves office, we’ll still have a younger generation with worse life prospects than their parents had faced. We’ll still have a cultural elite that knows little about people in red America and daily sends the message that they are illegitimate. We’ll still have yawning inequalities, residential segregation, crumbling social capital, a crisis in family formation.”

    I agree with the first and third sentences of the paragraph, but not the one dealing with the cultural elites. The assertion befuddles me. His use of the word “illegitimate” seems bizarre. I’m not sure what he means. Moreover, the culture war between red and blue America is about values, and the contempt of blue America for red America is returned in kind. Brooks neglects to mention this. Blue America can’t abide red America’s attempt to foist upon it right-wing religion (including its offshoot, the move to ban abortion), unrestricted gun rights, and the hatred of people of color. Red Americans believe that they are the “true” Americans, upholding their conception of family values (which doesn’t include gays having any rights), the real patriots, as they resist mightily the attempt to take down Confederate statues. They believe that blue Americans are attempting to destroy the cultural values that made America great, best exemplified by their fantasy world of the 1950s.

    So, yes, the culture wars will continue after Trump is gone. America is not united on fundamental cultural values. As such, few people will be thinking about the “social whole.” Brooks whines, but offers no solutions, perhaps because there aren’t any. Just as the slavery issue was intractable prior to the Civil War, so are today’s cultural issues. I just hope it doesn’t take a real war to resolve them.

    1. +1. In fact, +100.

      I suppose I am a “cultural elite”; I have an advanced degree, am somewhat left-leaning, and believe that we all have a right to be here and be treated equally and fairly. And I LIVE in red America. I feel their disdain every day. I have had two customers give me grief for wearing a mask in our dining room. What’s that about, anyway? They actually believe that wearing a mask is political commentary and not public health safety. Wow.

      I’m glad I live in a blue state, but I definitely live in a red county. At least our state government is taking the whole thing seriously. Our numbers have gone up, but not explosively, and here in our area we’ve only had seven cases, six of which were one household.


    2. “They believe that blue Americans are attempting to destroy the cultural values that made America great, best exemplified by their fantasy world of the 1950s.”

      For many, I’m afraid, it is best exemplified by their fantasy world of the 1850’s.

  7. Perhaps it’s just me, but when I hear the name Theodor Herzl I don’t automatically think “Austrian journalist and playwright”. (I’ve posted a comment on the relevant Wikipedia talk page.)

  8. It appears Hili has taken it upon herself to protect the cherries from the starlings by climbing the cherry tree. She’s going to be really busy.

  9. “a refusal on the part of lots of Americans to think in terms of the social whole…”

    The problem, I think, stems from the USian emphasis on individualism, self reliance, Horatio Alger and John Wayne as archetypal heroes. Anything that suggests a complex web of dependence, and of the social contract, is condemned as socialism or communism. That’s the same reason the US is the only advanced country without a national medical program. There’s no excuse for freeloaders, don’t ya know.

  10. I’m a bit frustrated by such memes as the “I wear a mask because I want to live until November 3rd” one because they show and perpetuate a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of masks. Wearing masks is not primarily to protect YOU from the virus, it’s to protect OTHER PEOPLE from YOU in case you might have it. Thus, not wearing a mask is worse than simply accepting the risk of contracting the virus (which, if it were not THEN contagious might at least be ethically tenable), but shows that you are willing to endanger those around you for your own convenience, based purely on stubbornness. This is, as I’ve said before, like proudly proclaiming your right to drive drunk or to fire a gun randomly in public.

    1. Just like religion, you could claim the white lie is justified because it makes people better off generally. It’s good for society if they believe the mask is helping them – even if it’s an exaggeration.

    2. I have a friend who caught Covid (bad) in April and recovered. He says he wishes he could wear something to tell people he’s immune (if that’s even true…we don’t know for sure). But he doesn’t wear a mask because he thinks he’s immune and not contagious, but he gets a lot of angry stares in public.

      When I see someone not wearing a mask, I don’t immediately get ruffled because maybe they already caught it and recovered. At the same time, if I caught it and recovered, I’d still wear a mask in public just to alleviate others’ fear.

      1. My wife always wears a mask, even though she has already had Covid. I sort of avoid situations where a mask is required, although I will wear one to make others feel more secure.
        But in both our cases, it is theatrics, and about as effective towards Covid spread as wearing a colored ribbon to support Covid awareness might be.
        But at this point, there are a great many people who have recovered from the disease. I had sort of expected that those folks might be put into positions where they interact with the public or particularly at-risk individuals. It might be going on, but I have not heard about it.

        1. I haven’t heard about allowing those who have recovered to have more freedom either, but it seems like a sound strategy. At the same time, there’s no proof that once you’re infected, you’re immune. But since our immune systems have a very good “memory”; I imagine if you didn’t die the first time, the 2nd time would be less severe. Still much to learn.

          1. There is a general consensus that immunity is developed upon recovery. For most of us, recovery did not involve medical intervention, and the credit belongs to our immune systems.
            An interesting part for us is that I contracted Sars-Covid 1 in 2003 in Singapore, and was very, very sick. This time around, while my wife was moderately sick, I might not have noticed my own symptoms except that we were hyper aware and had access to better diagnostic equipment than most people.

            I believe pretty strongly that even after 17 years, my recovery from the first contributed to my quick recovery and mild symptoms for the second. But that is just me belief. I did consult an expert on the issue, who we know socially, but the data to confirm or refute that belief does not yet exist.

            But the latest consensus for Covid 2 is that “reinfection cases are not an established phenomenon”.

            1. Thanks for the added information Max. I like to fill in the blanks, and anecdotal or not, it’s all we really have right now. I have faith in evolution and the immune response we all (to some extent or another) possess. I remember a comment a couple months ago about your wife. You didn’t know at the time if it was Covid-19, but interesting to find out it was. Glad you both recovered, and you having a Sars Covid-1 is most intriguing. We humans will plug away.

              BTW, I hope your dog launching “toy” is making headway.

  11. My family sailed to Southhampton on the America in 1960 and possibly took the United States back in ‘62. Sailed the Independence to Genoa, I believe. Wonderful times. Nothing like today’s cruise ships.

  12. We have something in common. I took the United States with my family from Southampton to New York sometime in the 60s. It was not our first trip to America but the return voyage on a vacation back to our homeland.

    “a refusal on the part of lots of Americans to think in terms of the social whole — of what’s best for the community, of the common or public.”

    I also concur. I think this is actually part of the GOP’s platform. It’s behind all those idiots claiming that their fathers fought WWII for their right not to wear a mask now. They are the Selfish Party. I’m not saying one can’t be a selfish Democrat. We do have that right after all.

  13. I always get intense sadness when confronted with the taxidermied remains of an extinct species. Especially ones destroyed at the hands of humans. I don’t get this sense of loss when looking at dinosaur skeletons or other fossils.

  14. In the “Who ordered the apple?” cartoon I can discern Adam and Eve and the serpent, Bill Gates, Cinderella and the Wicked Witch, William Tell and his son, and Isaac Newton. Who are the other two, and what is their connection to apples?
    It looks like Alan Turing wasn’t invited.

    1. Good question – I nearly asked it myself but had already posted several comments. I think they might be Paris and Helen of Troy, provided the crossbow belongs to the guy with the quiver full of arrows?

  15. Tom Stoppard is one of my favorite playwrights. I have seen a few of his plays and had copies of some I had not seen. I still have a 1969 edition of his only novel, Lord Malquist & Mr Moon. I am a little jealous that you met him.

    1. Just bought his newest play, Leopoldstadt. National Theatre was supposed to stream it last week from London but it was cancelled. Not sure if it was actually performed or not??

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