Sunday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on Sunday, September 20, 2020: National Rum Punch Day, which I suppose is a good followup to Talk Like a Pirate Day. Until this evening it will be Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in which we blow the shofar. It’s also National Fried Rice Day, National Pepperoni Pizza Day, National String Cheese Day, and National Gibberish Day. (If u cn rd ths u cn gt a gd jb w hi pa!).

News of the Day: If you want to know the ins and outs about how Mitch “Hypocrite” McConnell can get Trump’s nominee confirmed quickly, the New York Times has a handy guide. Protips: a filibuster by Dems won’t work, and, although four Republicans could defect and derail the process, if the nomination is voted on after Election Day, the vulnerable GOP senators won’t have much to worry about. Take-home lesson: we’re royally screwed.

Late yesterday Trump announced, in some kind of perverted sop, that he’ll nominate a woman to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“It will be a woman — a very talented, very brilliant woman,” Trump said at an evening campaign rally in North Carolina. “We haven’t chosen yet, but we have numerous women on the list.”

And of course that woman will have to agree to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Where do Republican Senators stand? Here’s the Washington Post’s tally:

The “shouldn’t vote” is of course Susan Collins of Maine, the two “recently opposed” are Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.  If they hold, the Democrats will still need one more defector to block a Trump nomination. Do you think there’s one more Republican Senator with integrity? See the link for the other names and whether or not they’re in a close race.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 199,148, an increase of about 700 deaths over yesterday’s report. We’ll pass 200,000 in one or two days. The world death toll now stands at 956,580, an increase of about 5,200 deaths from yesterday. And we’re approaching a million deaths worldwide., which is likely to happen in about eight days.

Stuff that happened on September 20 includes:

  • 1519 – Ferdinand Magellan sets sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda with about 270 men on his expedition to circumnavigate the globe.
  • 1863 – American Civil War: The Battle of Chickamauga, in northwestern Georgia, ends in a Confederate victory.
  • 1881 – U.S. President Chester A. Arthur is sworn in, the morning after becoming president upon James A. Garfield’s death.
  • 1893 – Charles Duryea and his brother road-test the first American-made gasoline-powered automobile.

Here are the Duryea brothers in that first car, which was simply a horse-drawn buggy into which they’d put a 4 horsepower single-cylinder engine:

  • 1942 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: In the course of two days a German Einsatzgruppe murders at least 3,000 Jews in Letychiv.
  • 1962 – James Meredith, an African American, is temporarily barred from entering the University of Mississippi.
  • 1973 – Billie Jean King beats Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes tennis match at the Houston Astrodome.

Here’s a two-minute video of that battle, and I remember well watching it on television.

  • 1973 – Singer Jim Croce, songwiter and musician Maury Muehleisen and four others die when their light aircraft crashes on takeoff at Natchitoches Regional Airport in Louisiana.

Croce was only 30 when he died. Here’s my favorite song of his (Croce wrote it), performed with Maury Muehleisen, his bandmate who died in the crash. I can still remember the first time I heard that song, and being blown away.

  • 2001 – In an address to a joint session of Congress and the American people, U.S. President George W. Bush declares a “War on Terror”.
  • 2011 – The United States military ends its “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, allowing gay men and women to serve openly for the first time.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1878 – Upton Sinclair, American novelist, critic, and essayist (d. 1968)
  • 1884 – Maxwell Perkins, American editor (d. 1947)

Perkins was perhaps the greatest editor of our time, having discovered and published (and improved) the works of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Ring Lardner, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Erskine Caldwell, and James Jones. One of the best books I’ve read about publishing (and life) is Editor to Author: The Letters of Maxwell E. PerkinsIt’s a masterpiece of the epistolary art as a ferociously percipient editor gives advice to his authors.

  • 1899 – Leo Strauss, German-American political scientist, philosopher, and academic (d. 1973)
  • 1902 – Stevie Smith, English author and poet (d. 1971)
  • 1934 – Sophia Loren, Italian actress

Here’s my dad (second from left) with Sophia Loren (she was about 21) around 1955, visiting the Parthenon in Athens, where we lived. I’ve told this story before and so will only put the photo here:


Those who conked out on September 20 include:

Tichborne was executed gruesomely (drawn and quartered) for a conspiracy to murder Queen Elizabeth I. His most famous poem, presaging his death, is “Elegy,” which you can read here.

  • 1933 – Annie Besant, English theosophist and activist (b. 1847)
  • 1947 – Fiorello H. La Guardia, American lawyer and politician, 99th Mayor of New York City (b. 1882)
  • 1973 – Jim Croce, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1943)
  • 1984 – Steve Goodman, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1948)

Speaking of another great musician who died before his time, here’s Steve Goodman singing my favorite song of his, though he didn’t write it (the author was Michael Peter Smith).  This is an ineffably beautiful song, accompanied here by Jethro Burns on mandolin. You can hear Goodman’s slower recorded version, which is better but not live, here.)

I heard Goodman perform live once, at Passim’s Cafe (now defunct) in Harvard Square. He was terrific.

  • 2005 – Simon Wiesenthal, Austrian human rights activist, Holocaust survivor (b. 1908)
  • 2006 – Sven Nykvist, Swedish director, producer, and cinematographer (b. 1922)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is not just needy, but demanding. She must be reading about college students.

Hili: Don’t you think you should pet me instead of reading?
A: But I do stroke you from time to time.
Hili: Half-heartedly.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy nie sądzisz, że powinieneś mnie głaskać zamiast czytać?
Ja: Przecież cię głaszczę od czasu do czasu.
Hili: Bez przekonania.

Here are some pictures of Kulka the Kitten, who’s becoming a teenager:

A sad cartoon by Mike Lukovich, sent by Charles:

A cat meme from Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day:

I retweeted a tweet Matthew sent me. The original picture had just the butt of a male masked duck (Nomonyx dominicus), but I added the female, the only sex that’s masked:

From Simon. Apparently Rechavi works on Caenorhabditis worms:

From Luana: an ex football player and current broadcaster about to be demonized (but not cancelled, as he’s on Fox):

Tweets from Matthew. In the second tweet, we learn that Trump’s minions have GOOD GENES!

There’s a whole thread of Sir David as various insects. See more at the site:

The poor s.o.b.s who wrote this paper!




  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Seems that first auto did not get a lot of play. Getting data on it is not easy either. The steering seems a bit mysterious. The brakes – internal expanding mechanical working on a counter shaft. Top speed 16mph. A one cylinder engine (5hp) a 2 gal gas tank and 3 gal tank of water. So, water cooled?

    • Posted September 20, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Looks like the tiller simply rotates the whole front axle. No Ackermann steering yet.

    • ritaprangle
      Posted September 20, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Garages for these early autos had to have a turntable built into the floor in order to get the vehicle facing in the right direction to drive out of the garage, since the auto didn’t have a reverse gear. I’m sure that’s a big part of the reason why these vehicles weren’t too popular.

  2. jezgrove
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    The “David Attenborough as an insect” website is a work of genius!

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted September 20, 2020 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Maybe not genius, but superbly funny.

  3. Posted September 20, 2020 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    …in which we blow the shofar.

    What’s a shofar, some kind of rabbi?

  4. jezgrove
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    It’s also the birthday of guitarist Nuno Bettencourt (born 1966):

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    The picture of Sophia Loren and your father is great. Of all the stupid things to notice I see the guy on the far left with both hands in his pockets. In the military in those days, that was a no no.

  6. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, I think that to avoid motivating Democrats to vote, these weasels will put off the SCOTUS selection until after 11/3/2020. They have always been better at politics than Democrats.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 20, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      I think you confuse politics with skulduggery.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 20, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        Skulduggery is a fun word. However, I don’t think it quite captures the essence of GOP politics. Here are some synonyms. They all seem to me to be potentially too light:

        >> artifice, chicane, chicanery, gamesmanship, hanky-panky, jiggery-pokery, jugglery, legerdemain, subterfuge, trickery, wile.

        There is something very cynical and destructive in much of the GOP – especially the leadership (McConnell, etc). Their approach to government goes under the flag of smaller government, but what that really means is to destroy the federal government and undercut the spirit of the constitution until we have a solid oligarchy. Many would also impose a theocracy and many would want a return to a full, racial segregation. There is an element of seeking power for it’s own sake. Words like hanky-panky don’t quite capture the kind of corruption we face.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted September 20, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

          My top eight of reprehensibles (that is deplorables, only much worse) in US politics are in order of reprehensibility:
          Mr Barr
          Mr McConnell
          Mr Trump
          Mr Collins
          Mr Nunes
          Mr Graham
          Mr Jordan
          Mr Cruz
          Of course one could make a longer list, including Mr Hastert, Mr Sensenbrenner, Mr Pombo, the list is endless it seems. These eight should do.

          • GBJames
            Posted September 20, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

            Allow me to add some Other Wisconsinites… Mr. Johnson, Mr. Walker, and America’s second dumbest congressman, Mr. Grothmann. (America’s dumbest congressman, a Texan, deserves mention, too, Mr. Gohmert.)

            • Nicolaas Stempels
              Posted September 20, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

              Yep, the list is looooong.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted September 20, 2020 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

              When is that fossilized corn cob Chuck Grassley gonna retire?

          • rickflick
            Posted September 20, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            All these clowns could be subject to the Hitchens send off: If you gave them an enema they could be buried in a matchbox.

          • merilee
            Posted September 20, 2020 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            Isn’t Jim Jordan awful???

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted September 20, 2020 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

              Jordan looks like the guy who wouldn’t shower after wrestling practice, just get dressed and spray himself down with Right Guard™.

              • merilee
                Posted September 20, 2020 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

                Or Axe😖

              • merilee
                Posted September 20, 2020 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

                Some of my younger high school students (boys) sprayed the bejeezus out of themselves with Axe outside their lockers. I’m not sure they took to heart my warnings that the girls weren’t gonna come within a mile of them.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 20, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        Al Franken interviews Howard Fineman.

        You think Mitch McConnell’s maneuvers on #SCOTUS make him a sick, cynical, ugly monster? Well, he’s much, much worse than that!!!

        • jezgrove
          Posted September 20, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, rickflick that was an interesting (if shocking) listen, not least about the miners.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted September 20, 2020 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          Al Franken, what a good POTUS he would make.

    • W.Benson
      Posted September 20, 2020 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      In November the special Senate election in Arizona will likely be won by Democrat Mike Kelly. The Republican McSally will immediately step down and Kelly assume the Senate seat. That is one more vote against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee if voting is delayed beyond Nov. 3.

  7. GBJames
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    September 20 was the second day of the Battle of Chickamauga, a three day battle. I had a GGGrandfather who was in the final day on Horseshoe Ridge, serving under George Thomas who saved the Union bacon from total disaster on the 21st. A very interesting battlefield park. There are countless monuments at the site, and in the surrounding area. I hope they are immune from cancellation since they mark battlefield positions and (mostly at least) aren’t part of the Jim Crow era glorification of the Confederacy.

  8. Posted September 20, 2020 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Croce was only 30!? Jesus, I’m a decade older than him and he looks like he could be my dad.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    … maybe he could call it the Trump Youth?

    Or maybe even the Trump-Jugend.

    As for the “good genes” of the people of Minnesota, Trump seems enamored of Nordic ancestry. (Know who else had a thing for Nordicism?) His negotiations with congress over immigration reform broke down when Trump went on a rant about why the US was letting in immigrants from “shithole” countries instead of from Norway.

    And during WWII, Fred Trump (who avoided military service, as his son did during the Vietnam-war era), passed the family off of as being of Swedish rather than German ancestry. At some point even earlier, the family surname was changed from the more Germanic Drumpf.

  10. merilee
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink


  11. Posted September 20, 2020 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Lisa Murkowski just said “No.”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 20, 2020 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Where’s Mitt?

      I should think that someone who has said Trump is unfit for office and who voted to remove him through the impeachment process would be opposed to Trump’s nominating RBG’s replacement under these hypocritical and unprecedented circumstances.

      • Posted September 20, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        Romney represents a strongly anti-abortion state. I wouldn’t count on him.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 20, 2020 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, also I don’t think Mitt has yet forsaken his dream of one day being president, especially with two alter kockers even older than he running in the race this year.

          It’s one thing to stake himself out as the non-Trump for whatever succeeds the Trumpist Republican Party; it’s another to have denied SCOTUS the vote certain to have overruled Roe v. Wade.

          Plus, since Mitt wasn’t in the senate in 2016, he needn’t bear the same stench of hypocrisy as his fellow Republican caucus members.

  12. Blue
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Likely I have not heard nor seen them all,
    but OF the very many tributes that I,
    devastated and broken – brained, have … …
    T H U S from Ms Nina Totenberg … … ranks
    with me as THE .l o v e l i e s t.


  13. Mark R.
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Maxwell Perkins has a remarkable resemblance to Bill Maher. I think it’s the nose.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Perkins was perhaps the greatest editor of our time, having discovered and published (and improved) the works of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Ring Lardner, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Erskine Caldwell, and James Jones.

    There are two things I’d’ve liked to ask Maxwell Perkins about, had I ever had the chance: Fitzgerald’s use of the strange word “orgastic” in the famous closing passage of Gatsby; and, in Hemingway’s “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” — a short story stripped to the bone of almost everything, including character names, location (other than in a café, presumably in Spain), and most dialogue attribution — regarding the apparent misattribution of a line (and its subsequent controversial and temporary emendation) seemingly spoken by the old waiter but placed where the young waiter would be expected to speak.

    As far as the “greatest editor of our time,” I think the only competition Perkins might have would come from Gordon Lish (who seems to have been as responsible for the minimalist “dirty realism” style of Raymond Carver’s stories as Carver himself).

  15. rickflick
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Trump Says Supreme Court Nominee Will Be Woman, Person, Camera, or TV.

    — Andy Borowitz

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 20, 2020 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      He makes me laugh — no mean feat for a satirist in the almost un-satirizable age of Trump.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 20, 2020 at 8:02 pm | Permalink


  16. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    “The Dutchman” is indeed a great and lovely song about dementia. Equals the rougher, more direct “The Windmills of Your Mind” (different versions)
    I must admit I have a stake in there since Alzheimer’s runs in my family.
    I really loved the post of the demented man playing absolutely brilliant improvised piano in a recent post. Heartbreaking and a great feeling of victory at the same time.

  17. Claudia Heilke
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    While I love Steve Goodman and everything he ever sang, I have to say that my favorite version of “The Dutchman” is Michael Smith’s version. We unluckily lost him about 2 months ago.

  18. Posted September 21, 2020 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Interesting to see Goodman playing a Selmer Maccaferri style guitar/

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