Wednesday: Hili dialogue

December 2, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the weekly Hump Day: Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Remember that Coynezaa, your proprietor’s personal holiday, begins in only 23 days, and lasts until December 30.

It’s National Fritters Day, and there are few appetizers or side dishes better than a nice corn fritter, especially with syrup. There are other kinds of fritters, but corn is the king:

It’s also Business of Popping Corn Day, Choose Women Wednesday (Biden did!), Safety Razor Day, International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, and Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Day (watch for owls!).

News of the Day:

Good news for Britain! Yesterday the government gave emergency authorization for distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, and Brits could begin getting vaccinated (healthcare workers first, of course) as early as next week. They beat the U.S., but this is a race in which nobody loses, and I urge my friends across the pond to get their jabs as soon as they can. In the U.S., a September Pew poll showed that only 51% of all American adults would “definitely” or “probably” take the Covid-19 shot. I think that’s a foolish decision given that the vaccination will be FDA approved. (Of course, we don’t know the very long-term consequences of the shot, but I, for one, would be glad to risk them.)

More trouble for the Trump administration, potentially involving the Orange Man himself:  the Justice Department is investigating a pay-for-pardons sceme in which undisclosed person may have funneled money to the White House “or related political committees” in return for pardons. Of course pardons can come only from the President. Stay tuned.

Speaking of the Justice Department, its head—attorney general William Barr—severely undercut his close buddy, President-Eject Trump, by affirming that his department found no evidence of voter fraud that would have changed the election results. And Mitch “666” McConnell tacitly admitted that Trump lost:

“After the first of the year, there is likely to be a discussion about some additional package of some size next year, depending upon what the new administration wants to pursue,” Mr. McConnell said at a news conference.

According to the NYT and witnesses who were on the spot, four men appeared to remove the famous and enigmatic metal monolith in the Utah deserts. We still don’t know who they are, nor whether they had anything to do with the monolith’s erection. Nobody is being charged with a crime. Here’s two NYT photos of the removal:

Photos by Michael James Newlands

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 270,627, a big increase of about 2,600 from yesterday’s figure, representing about 1.8 people dying per minute.  The world death toll is 1,488,734, another big increase of about 13,000 over yesterday’s report—about nine deaths per minute. 

Stuff that happened on December 2 includes:

  • 1697 – St Paul’s Cathedral is consecrated in London.
  • 1763 – Dedication of the Touro Synagogue, in Newport, Rhode Island, the first synagogue in what will become the United States.

The synagogue still stands—the oldest in North America. Here are the exterior and interior.

As depicted by Jacques-Louis David:

Joséphine kneels before Napoléon during his coronation at Notre Dame. Behind him sits pope Pius VII.
  • 1823 – Monroe Doctrine: In a State of the Union message, U.S. President James Monroe proclaims American neutrality in future European conflicts, and warns European powers not to interfere in the Americas.
  • 1859 – Militant abolitionist leader John Brown is hanged for his October 16 raid on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
  • 1865 – Alabama ratifies 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, followed by North Carolina then Georgia, and U.S. slaves were legally free within two weeks
  • 1867 – At Tremont Temple in Boston, British author Charles Dickens gives his first public reading in the United States.

Here’s Dickens in New York on that American tour:

  • 1908 – Puyi becomes Emperor of China at the age of two.

Here he is as a young Emperor; his exploits were depicted in Bertolucci’s film, “The Last Emperor”. Puyi, after being imprisoned for ten years, was freed and died in 1967:

  • 1942 – World War II: During the Manhattan Project, a team led by Enrico Fermi initiates the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
  • 1956 – The Granma reaches the shores of Cuba’s Oriente Province. Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and 80 other members of the 26th of July Movement disembark to initiate the Cuban Revolution.
  • 1961 – In a nationally broadcast speech, Cuban leader Fidel Castro declares that he is a Marxist–Leninist and that Cuba is going to adopt Communism.
  • 1970 – The United States Environmental Protection Agency begins operations.
  • 1976 – Fidel Castro becomes President of Cuba, replacing Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado.
  • 1988 – Benazir Bhutto is sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman to head the government of an Islam-dominated state.
  • 1993 – Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar is shot and killed in Medellín.

Escobar grinning in a 1976 mugshot. He was worth $30 billion at his death (a lot more in today’s dollars). He kept hippos at his estate outside Medellín, and 40 of their descendants live in nearby rivers.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1859 – Georges Seurat, French painter (d. 1891)
  • 1923 – Maria Callas, American-Greek soprano and actress (d. 1977)

Here’s La Callas singing my favorite (and many people’s favorite) opera aria, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro“. This is in Paris—I believe in 1965.  I still think Dame Kiri’s version is better (especially the recorded one).

  • 1930 – Gary Becker, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2014)
  • 1931 – Edwin Meese, American colonel, lawyer, and politician, 75th United States Attorney General
  • 1946 – Gianni Versace, Italian fashion designer, founded Versace (d. 1997)
  • 1981 – Britney Spears, American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actress

Those who became kaput on December 2 include:

  • 1547 – Hernán Cortés, Spanish general and explorer (b. 1485)
  • 1594 – Gerardus Mercator, Flemish mathematician, cartographer, and philosopher (b. 1512)
  • 1859 – John Brown, American abolitionist (b. 1800)
  • 1985 – Philip Larkin, English poet, author, and librarian (b. 1922)
  • 1986 – Desi Arnaz, Cuban-American actor, singer, businessman, and television producer (b. 1917)

Educational note: Ricky Ricardo never said, “Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do!”

  • 1990 – Aaron Copland, American composer and conductor (b. 1900)
  • 1999 – Charlie Byrd, American guitarist (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili gets her picture taken:

Hili: Did you fall?
A: No, I’ve lain down on the floor to take your picture.
In Polish:
Hili: Upadłeś?
Ja: Nie, położyłem się na podłodze, żeby ci zrobić zdjęcie.
And a new photo of Szaron:

From Jesus of the Day:

A cartoon from Jean:From Nicole:

From Titania, a guy who says he “has a little list”. I couldn’t find this on his Twitter feed, so maybe he deleted the 15-tweet list, because I bet John McWhorter would have been on it.

From reader Barry. Now here’s a bear that really enjoys his noms!

Tweets from Matthew. I like this first one—not fake news!

There’s never any end to the new and exciting stuff that happens in evolutionary biology.

One of Matthew’s beloved illusions:

A new genre of Christian rock! (It started with “Angels are coming from Africa right now. . . .”)  Sound must be on to hear a guitar-accompanied Copeland expelling the coronavirus:

Table tennis is much improved!

. . . and an ostrich cat:


29 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. From Titania, a guy who says he “has a little list”. I couldn’t find this on his Twitter feed, so maybe he deleted the 15-tweet list, because I bet John McWhorter would have been on it.

    John McWhorter is on it – last but one.

    1. Interesting use of the word “skeptical”. I look at Williams, Loury, Hughes, and McWhorter regularly (I’ll have to look at the Reillys), and I would say they reject claims of systemic racism, rather than being skeptical of them. I believe Kmele Foster could be added to that list. And now to go listen to John Reed singing “As someday it may happen that a victim must be found…”.

  2. “Ten years ago if you asked a scientist how insects got their wings, they’d say “I dunno maybe centipedes can tell us?” Bullshit: for the last 25 years insects have been regarded as derived from some sort of crustacean (thanks to molecular biology), and derivation of the insect wing from some part of the crustacean leg was standard certainly 20 years ago, and been talked about for much longer.

  3. I can’t say freely what is going on until I get my pardon from the white house but this bribery/pardon scheme might be the new trend in campaign finance. Just throwing the money out there and waiting for favors is taking too long.

  4. I took my mother to see that synagogue when she visited New England last autumn. We’re secular Jews, but it was still a moving experience. George Washington wrote a letter to the Jews of Newport in 1790:

    “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island
    [Newport, R.I., 18 August 1790]Gentlemen.
    While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address1 replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport,2 from all classes of Citizens.

    The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and a happy people.

    The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

    It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

    Go: Washington”

    Obviously “all” doesn’t mean ALL (at least to a modern reader), but it’s still a very nice letter to a much-persecuted religious minority.

    1. Roger Williams bought Rhode Island from the Indians and established the religious refuse where religious freedom pretty much started in America. Washington knew a good idea when he saw it.

    2. I hadn’t come across that before, but it strikes me as Washington’s best writing this side of the Farewell Address, when he made like Cincinnatus and rode off into the sunset after two terms in office.

      1. Often Hamilton wrote much of Washington’s stuff and sometime Madison as well. However, don’t know about this one.

    3. I noticed the lack of inclusion with the “all” as well and then went back and forth on mentioning it. 🙂

    4. I’ve always been struck by the lyric from 1776 when Abigail Adams sends John Saltpetre:

      Compliments of the Concord Ladies’ coffee club
      And the Sisterhood of the Truro Synagogue
      And the Friday evening Baptist sewing circle
      And the Holy Christian Sisters of St. Claire

      No idea what the truth might be behind that vignette. Suffice it to say that it took all kinds to make a revolution.

  5. Prior to the Civil War, Harpers Ferry, where John Brown did his raid and was hanged, was actually part of Virginia. The western part of Virginia broke away from the state and was admitted to the Union as the state of West Virginia on June 20, 1863.

  6. Clearly the men removing the monolith (“lith” bothers me because it’s metal but that’s just me) must be The Agents of Shield. I don’t expect to be vaccinated until around this time next year. Canada has made deals with something like 7 companies, and both Moderna and Pfizer are among them but still those countries need to begin to vaccinate their population before distributing abroad and when it gets to Canada I will most likely be one of the last populations vaccinated but that just means I get to avoid everyone for a longer time which is a bonus.

  7. RE: Origin of insect wings:
    “There’s never any end to the new and exciting stuff that happens in evolutionary biology.” This is really a case of publishing things already known. Need those publications for tenure!
    The same diagram (minus the colors and with more detail and more exact labeling) from Vol.1 of Insects of Australia- 1998.

  8. Renée Fleming does a mean Babbo, too🎶
    True story: maybe 20 years ago bf and I were staying in a cheap motel in tiny Torrey, Utah, while hiking in Capitol Reef NP. Around dinner time a whole bunch of middle-aged bikers comes strolling into the motel looking for rooms. The young girl at the front desk had messed up one couple’s reservation and it was their anniversary and she wanted to make it up to them. I had come into the “lobby” to get better wifi for my iPad and doesn’t front desk girl tell the couple to sit down, because she had a surprise for them. (Other bikers milling around in the background.). Next FDG launches into O Mio Babbino Caro, belting it out, and not too bad a rendition, either🙀Bikers thinking wtf, me enjoying it immensely.

  9. “. . . Britain! Yesterday the government gave emergency authorization for distribution of the Pfizer vaccine . . . beat the U.S., but this is a race in which nobody loses . . . .”

    Heartily concur. However, early this morning in the NY Times online, it seems that someone at the Times was miffed about the U.S. being a “loser,” in that there was a smaller headline to-the-effect about the “specter” of the U.K. being the first to approve, even though a major U.S. company partnered in the vaccine.

    Looking a few hours later, “specter” was not to be found.

    To what mindsets at the NY Times is it a “specter” that the U.K., and not the U.S., was the first to approve, as compared to the Covid specter of death haunting the world for about a year due to lack of a vaccine? The Times apparently shares this mindset with Trump, in that he called in drug regulators demanding to know why the U.S. has yet to approve the Pfizer vaccine. Ah, politics and business, and Being Number One.

    1. Yes, I’d take a shot approved by the NHS or CDC or other reliable organisation, just not a shot approved by Mr Trump. My nether parts are still burning from that UV light I shoved up there.

  10. I agree the KiriTe Kawana’s version is better than the Callas one, but the lousy sound quality in the latter’s tape makes a fair comparison difficult.
    My favoured version is the Willighagen one, because so unexpected, moved me to tears. She is a babbina herself. And for the final she sang ‘Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot, of all things!
    Still moves me to tears.

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