Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 24, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s December 24, 2020, with one shopping day left before Christmas and The First Day of Coynezaa. And oh, dear lord, it’s National Eggnog Day, the world’s most cloying and unappetizing of alcoholic beverages (note that West Point’s Eggnog Riot of 1826 took place on this day). It’s also Last-Minute Shoppers’ Day and, of course, Christmas Eve, with these national variants:

Here’s the traditional multi-dish Polish feast for Wigilia. I wish I were there (I would eschew the fish dishes, but let me at the borscht, pierogi, and desserts!):

News of the Day:

Crikey, what a mess! The President-Eject has just issued a new batch of 26 federal pardons, many to his pals like Charles Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law’s dad), as well as Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, Jr. It’s gonna get worse—I’m betting he’ll try to pardon himself before January 20.

But wait! There’s more! Trump tweeted this, threatening the stimulus-recovery bill (the temporary stopgap measure expires in two days).

But wait! There’s STILL more! Trump did veto a defense-spending bill on the grounds that it mandates the renaming of military bases named after Confederate generals. This, too, has thrown the Congress—and especially Republicans—into turmoil.  The bill did pass Congress with a veto-proof majority, but will Republicans now stand with Trump and refuse to override his veto? This is all good for Democrats, especially in the two Senate races in Georgia, but nixing the stimulus-recovery bill would be dreadful for Americans. There’s still some drama left in the next month.

Yesterday I saw on the news that Trump hasn’t been seen in public for ten days. Now this: the Sore Loser leaves town. Will he be back for the inauguration of Biden?

Despite warnings of all the experts to stay put during the Christmas holidays, nearly 85 million Americans are expected to drive or fly over the next two weeks. With the vaccine only beginning to find its way into our arms, you know what that means.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 326,413, a substantial increase of about 3,400 from yesterday’s figure and roughly 2.4 deaths a minute. The world death toll is 1,739,816, a big increase of about 13,700 over yesterday’s report and the equivalent of about 9.5 deaths per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 24 include:

  • 1737 – The Marathas defeat the combined forces of the Mughal Empire, Rajputs of Jaipur, Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab of Awadh and Nawab of Bengal in the Battle of Bhopal.
  • 1777 – Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, is discovered by James Cook.

This island, part of the nation of Kiribati, has the greatest land area of any coral atoll in the world (388 km² or 150 mi². At least one of our readers has been fishing there. Here’s an aerial view:

  • 1814 – Representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States sign the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.
  • 1818 – The first performance of “Silent Night” takes place in the church of St. Nikolaus in OberndorfAustria.

The music was by Franz Xaver Gruber, a local schoolteacher, with lyrics by Joseph Mohr, a priest

  • 1826 – The Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy begins that night, wrapping up the following morning.
  • 1865 – Jonathan Shank and Barry Ownby form The Ku Klux Klan.

Here’s the Anti-Defamation League’s list of currently active Klan chapters. They are a waning organization!

  • 1871 – The opera Aida premieres in Cairo, Egypt.
  • 1906 – Radio: Reginald Fessenden transmits the first radio broadcast; consisting of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
  • 1914 – World War I: The “Christmas truce” begins.

Yes, these did happen, with Brits and Germans fraternizing over the holidays; indeed, some of them even played soccer. Here’s a photo with the Wikipedia caption:

British and German troops meeting in no man’s land during the unofficial truce (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux–Rouge Banc Sector)
  • 1943 – World War II: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is named Supreme Allied Commander for the Invasion of Normandy.
  • 1968 – Apollo program: The crew of Apollo 8 enters into orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They performed ten lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures.
  • 1980 – Witnesses report the first of several sightings of unexplained lights near RAF Woodbridge, in Rendlesham ForestSuffolk, England, United Kingdom, an incident called “Britain’s Roswell“.

There are scientific explanations of these lights, involving stars, lighthouses, and falling stars, but we don’t know which are responsible (the lighthouse is a good candidate).

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1809 – Kit Carson, American general (d. 1868)
  • 1868 – Emanuel Lasker, German chess player, mathematician, and philosopher (d. 1941)

Lasker was World Chess Champion for 27 years. Here he is in Berlin in 1933, 12 years after he no longer reigned:

  • 1907 – I. F. Stone, American journalist and author (d. 1989)
  • 1922 – Ava Gardner, American actress (d. 1990)

Here’s the Gardner in the wonderful movie “Night of the Iguana” (1964), also starring Deborah Kerr (seen here) and Richard Burton. Gardner was 42 at the time.

George the Fourth wasn’t the real Patton (i.e., the WWII general George S. Patton, Jr.), but, like his dad he still became a major general in the U.S. Army. And by God, did he look like his dad!


Patton père:

Fauci turns 80 today!

  • 1962 – Kate Spade, American fashion designer (d. 2018)
  • 1960 – Carol Vorderman, English television host

I suspect that, as a stripling much taken by Vorderman’s brains and beauty, I wasn’t alone. I wonder if British adolescents shared my smitten-ness.  In 2014, Vorderman was named an ambassador to the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, and became an “honorary group captain”.

Those who expired on December 24 include:

  • 1524 – Vasco da Gama, Portuguese explorer and politician, Governor of Portuguese India (b. 1469)
  • 1873 – Johns Hopkins, American businessman and philanthropist (b. 1795)
  • 1914 – John Muir, Scottish-American geologist, botanist, and author, founded Sierra Club (b. 1838)
  • 1994 – John Boswell, American historian, author, and academic (b. 1947)

John, know to us as “Jeb”, lived across the dorm hall from me sophomore year at William and Mary, and was already, as one known to have big brains, destined for great things. He went on to become a Yale professor specializing in religion and homosexuality (he was gay), made a big mark in academia, and, tragically, died of AIDS at only 47 (here’s his obituary in the New York Times). A photo:

  • 1997 – Toshiro Mifune, Chinese-Japanese actor and producer (b. 1920)

Here’s a montage of some of Mifune’s roles:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili questions scripture:

Hili: Is it true that in the beginning was a word?
A: Probably not.
Hili: I doubt it too.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy to prawda, że na początku było słowo?
Ja: Raczej nie.
Hili: Też tak myślę.

And in nearby Wloclawek, young Mietek thinks the Christmas festivities and decorations are celebrating him. Well, he can’t help it, for he’s a cat.

Mietek: Oy, and all this is for me?

In Polish: Ojej, to wszystko dla mnie?!

Little Kulka, who was just neutered, finally had her anti-licking jacket removed yesterday. She hated it, but now is free and bouncing around with joy. Here’s Paulina with Kulka before the jacket was removed:

From Facebook. Does Sir Patrick really knit and wear Santa jammies?

Also from Facebook. The termites are everywhere! (Jen Silverman was amazed that her post got half a million likes.)

From Facebook, and I hope this is a real photo, because that’s an awful big foot!


A tweet from reader Barry, who replaces Titania McGrath today:

I didn’t know that “essential workers” include liquor store clerks and bankers! Yes, this is unfair.

I’ve known about this for a while, and always wondered if it was painful for the mother:

I retweeted a tweet from Matthew, and of course I was right about the calendar:

Tweets from Matthew. 3 pennies per sprout! That’s a bargain—if you like that vile vegetable.

We saw a video of this the other day:

I’d enlarge this so you can see the complex shape of the spermatophore, which emerges at the end (presumably a female picks it up):

And an early Merry Christmas to you!

75 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

      1. I even SLIGHTLY wonder whether it could have been meant sarcastically. I mean…could a person even operate a smartphone if they were truly that clueless?

        I know the answer to that question, unfortunately.

        1. I hope this is a case of ‘text first, think later.’ I.e. Ms. Roza would’ve realized why all the dairy cows had female names, had she stopped to think – she just didn’t.

    1. I think that Roza’s “misogyny” comment is satirical. One can’t know, of course, given all of the corollaries of Poe’s Law out there.

  1. The President-Eject has just issued a new batch of 26 federal pardons, many to his pals like Charles Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law’s dad), as well as Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, Jr.

    More evidence, if any were needed, that Trump sees himself as un caudillo — or “[f]or my friends everything, for my enemies the law,” as one of them put it.

    1. The congress could get their act together and override the vetoed military spending bill but the govt. will shut down on the 29th. The virus relief bill is another story as the Chito could just hold it and do a pocket veto. Congress would be out and done the day before. Hell, this criminal may have left the seen for the last time.

    2. Another interpretation maybe is: he is hoping to garner some (temporary?) friends when he finds himself with no connections in a few weeks.

    3. I suspect he will issue pardons to his family and loyalists in the cabinet, if they have committed any crimes. I suspect there are a number of crimes we don’t know about. Pardoning himself could be a problem for him. If he pardons himself and then the Supreme Court rules that it is unconstitutional he may find himself out on the street without a pardon. The Court may be a bit averse to allowing presidential self-pardons, because then Democratic presidents would also be able to do so, although committing crimes seems to be something done more often by republicon presidents. Any lawyers with thoughts on this?

      1. There seems to be a number of pardon types that ought to be disallowed. Self-pardoning is the obvious one but the ability to pardon people who work in the president’s own administration and/or family seems wrong. In short, any self-serving pardon should not be constitutional.

        I’m really against pardons of any kind for two reasons: 1. They put the pardoner outside the law. The power to pardon seems like a vestige from monarchy days. 2. If a situation requires a pardon in order to achieve justice, it reflects a failure of the judicial system. The pardon only fixes one instance of the problem and avoids addressing it generally. Failures in the judicial system would be better addressed by changing the law and providing for a robust mechanism in which old cases can be reviewed with respect to the new law.

      2. If Trump pardons himself, I think the feds almost have to indict him, to create a test case and to prevent a precedent from being established through inaction.

        The safer route for Trump would be to pardon himself, then resign and have Pence ratify the pardon. But I don’t see that happening, both because it makes Trump look weak and because there’s no upside in it for Pence.

          1. It’s never been a thing, since no president has ever tried a self-pardon. But there’s nothing in the constitution that would prevent Pence from re-issuing a pardon to Trump under his own name.

            Of course, Trump could simply resign and let Pence do the dirty deed all by himself. But I think Trump would want to have a pardon on paper before signing a letter of resignation. He wouldn’t trust Pence not to die or welch at the last minute.

            1. I see. I agree that Trump wouldn’t trust Pence enough for these schemes. Plus, resigning the presidency doesn’t seem to fit in well with Trump’s way of thinking. It sounds weak. And, once he’d resigned, he loses much of the hold he has over Pence. After all, Pence would be president, not Trump. Finally, the deal would have to be private or risk making Trump look bad even to his fans. Trump would have to make some non-pardon excuse for resigning. But this would allow Pence to “forget” to do the pardons.

      1. Cooking with chestnuts beyond simple roasting is often a difficult thing, to my palate, anyway, but I also think that this sounds great!

  2. … the wonderful movie “Night of the Iguana” (1964) …

    Directed by John Huston, with a script he adapted from the Tennessee Williams play.

    1. Hey, Ken! Continuing our conversation from yesterday: what’s your favorite modernized Shakespeare film? I recently purchased on ebay a copy of Richard Loncraine’s Richard III, which is my favorite. The cast — Ian McKellen, Maggie Smith, Robert Downey Jr., even a young Dominic West, and others — is excellent, but the idea of updating it to have Richard III ruling over a sort of Mussolini-esque fascist state with seeming visual allusions to Michael Radford’s 1984 makes it brilliant. I adore that one, but rarely see it discussed.

      1. I liked Kenneth Branagh’s Othello with Laurence Fishburne in the title role (and Branagh himself as Iago). And, not sure if you wanna qualify it as a “movie,” but I saw a simulcast of Macbeth from The National Theatre at the local arthouse a while back (Rufus Norris directing; Rory Kinnear in the title role) that was pretty damn good.

        And speaking of Richard III, I’ve long had a fond spot for Al Pacino’s deconstruction of it, Looking for Richard.

        1. I saw that NTLIve of Othello and am missing NT “bigly” these days. Did you ever catch the hilarious One Man, Two Guvnors, with James Corden. Saw it twice at the cinema and recently taped it from PBS. I like Corden better as a slapstick actor than tv host.

  3. “Notice how they named all the cows traditional girl names.”

    Hell, even a City Mouse like me knows better than to try milking a bull.

  4. I believe that photo accurately shows the size of the eagle talon. I have an indelible memory of a time when I walked out my front door and spotted a golden eagle perched on a maple tree in my front yard. It was December 1984, I believe, when the temperature in northern Illinois was in the 80s. That bird was a giant. It looked like a man hunched over on the branch, which bent low from its weight. I watched it silently for a good number of minutes, then the bird spied me and took off. Its wingspan must have been 7 feet. The crows in the neighborhood freaked out at the eagle’s flight. They cawed, darted back and forth, and followed their giant cousin at a respectful distance. All in all, a magnificent experience! Alas, it was in the ancient days before smartphones, or I would have taken a video.

    1. Except crows are not all that respectful- they are much more agile in the air than an eagle. I have seen a gang of them harass a bald eagle swooping and diving just out of reach.

      1. Agreed. I have seen similar. I think in this instance, the crows were not harassing the eagle because it was not threatening them or their broods.

        1. Just gently escorting it out of the territory.
          I surprised a bald eagle once. It had been perched at the edge of a cliff for more than an hour so I walked over to see what was going on. When I was about six feet away it suddenly became aware of me and rose up in the air right over my head. Enormous. Phwew. An experience not to forget.

            1. I tend to think crows do it for the hell of it. Any way to lose a little energy suits the basic agenda and have a little fun.

              1. Yes, but a crow attacking an eagle has to be risky. It is not like pecking some cat’s tail.

                Being cheeky has its downsides. I just watched a video in which a small monkey steals a banana right out of an orangutan’s mouth but gets caught. The video cuts off before we find out what punishment was meted out but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a death sentence.


              2. In the air crows have a definite advantage over an eagle with a six foot wingspan. They can tumble and turn somersaults , drop suddenly , shoot off sideways. A bald eagle is more like a 747- takes a bit of time to turn it. ( they are a bit more maneuverable than a plane or a large boat!) Even smaller hawks are nowhere near as athletic flyers as crows. I once watched a crow playing with a peregrine and the hawk getting more and more frustrated and angry- with a row of 6-7 crows acting as the fan club sitting on the power line nearby cheering on the whole thing. The hawk did not stand a chance and finally flew off into the trees, whistling.

      2. We sadly don’t get golden eagles in SE England; but we have just got back from a walk on the outskirts of town, where we watched a couple of crows chasing a buzzard off their patch. Same pattern of behaviour.

  5. I was intrigued when it was indicated that Toshiro Mifune was Chinese-Japanese. Actually he was born in China of Japanese parents who were Christian missionaries. GROG

  6. I expect both bills to eventually pass. The GOPers may do some horsetrading amongst themselves about who gets to vote against the bills (for the optics benefit), but I expect McConnell and McCarthy will both try their hardest to limit the number of ‘no’ votes so that both beat the veto.

    1. The defense bill veto may very well be overridden. The stimulus bill could be a different story. It is possible that Trump could kill this bill via a pocket veto, which would make it impossible for Congress to override it. This would put Congress and particularly the Republicans in a very tight spot. It would mean that Republicans would have to accede to Trump’s demand for a $2,000 stimulus check or do nothing; the latter option would result in millions of people suffering. Congress would then have to wait for the Biden administration and it’s anyone’s guess what would happen then.

      How the pocket veto works is explained here.

  7. Happy Wigilia! It warms my heart to see traditional Polish dishes honored on WEIT 🙂

    As Jerry says, it is traditional have a fish dish for Wigilia. Back in the olden days (People’s Republic of Poland in the 80s), people used to buy a live carp a few days before Wigilia, bring it home in a bucket, and keep it in the bathtub. The carp would then be killed, scaled, gutted, and de-boned at home (at my home, my great-grandma was the one who performed that unpleasant task). It was a ton of work for pretty bland, watery-tasting fish. Now that I live in the US, I buy delicious salmon fillet for Wigilia. I still eat traditional barszcz (beet soup), pierogi, and poppyseed cake, though.

    1. I was dubious about all the cold fish dishes when a Polish friend invited me over for the feast a few years ago, but I ended up loving them and pigged out on them even more when invited back the next year. I even got some of the recipes, but they are quite elaborate.

  8. Re: 1937 calendar. The telephone book from our old telephone company used to feature on the back cover a collection of calendars and told you which to use for what year. Wish I’d kept one.

  9. The stated reason for vetoing the Defense Bill is the failure to amend or repeal Section 230. I am sure the media has out its crystal balls to identify the racist or fascist hidden reasons, but, at this point, it’s clear the rapping on the table isn’t a sign from beyond. I hope he does veto the so-called Stimulus Bill. It’s the worst kind of pork bill. It shouldn’t contain anything but payments to individuals and assistance to small businesses. Of course, as someone pointed out, the best economic stimulus would be to end the ridiculous lock-downs.

  10. Looking at some clips from Night of the Iguana, I see some pretty poor acting. Burton looks like he’s in a high school play. I’m tempted to watch it though.

  11. Re. Kirimati/bati, my astonishing post-doctoral mentor, Hans Jörnvall, is a member of two Nobel Committees, one of which is [Physiology or Medicine] where the mandatory retirement age is 70. How, now @ 78 he managed that is another story, He is also relentless in pursuit of birds and his diligent lifetime records of his own flight times in the air, often in that pursuit, shows that he has spent over 1% of his life in the air(!) You name it, he’s probably been there.

    With that as background, I had dinner with him a year ago in late Sept, just after the votes on the Nobel prizewinners, and from there he was off to [Colombia, IIRC]. I didn’t hear from him again till mid- Dec, just after the Nobel ceremonies. In that time he had gotten a scratch while on that trip and that was developing into sepsis by the return to Stockholm, gone into organ failure, but rallied to recover, and was shortly off to Kirimati/bati for two wks. The report from there was that it was about the same temp day and night, always raining, and ~100% humidity. He returned just prior to COVID’s arrival to Sweden and has been in virtual quarantine since.

  12. Surely the CDC has reasons other than heartlessness and arrogance for their vaccine priority list. I would guess that, being epidemiologists, they are trying to reduce contagion and spread of the pandemic rather than save each individual life of Our Seniors. I do not see that as unfair, Ms. Gabbard’s sentimental invocation of grandparents notwithstanding.

    1. No, the CDC’s data show that prioritizing “essential workers” over the elderly will in fact lead to an increase in overall number of deaths between 0.5% and 6%, which can be a substantial number. The reason they did it was because the elderly are too white compared to essential workers. In other words, they chose to accept a higher death rate so they could make a performative gesture towards people of color. They said this explicitly, as Yascha Mounk pointed out in a new post. I’ll write about it later today or in a few days. You underestimate the hold that race has on people’s minds these days.

      Since the deaths of all people are supposed to count as equally bad, making a decision that leads to more total deaths, regardless of the color of the dead, is unethical. And the kicker is that, as Mounck claims, the difference in the percentage of people of color among the elderly versus among essential workers is not large at all, but since elderly die at a higher rate than younger workers, this could also lead to an increase of a higher number of deaths among people of color than if they simply prioritized the elderly, period.

      I was struck by this decision, which applies here in Illinois as well.

      1. I think this jumping the line is becoming epidemic. Every two bit politician seems to be getting vaccinated regardless of age or anything else.

          1. HAHAHA. Hmmm. Indeeed. It wouldn’t surprise me if a bunch of sports stars and celebrities “do their bit” by jumping the line “to provide an example that it is safe”.
            Bless ’em. Where’d we be without them?

            I wonder what a-holes like Jenny McCarthy, that Kennedy fool and Jim Carrey, dangerous idiots that they are will be doing. I’ll gladly take their place in line.


      2. Yes, I was pretty shocked when I read the report and saw how the formula was calculated. I was shocked at how blatant it was. At its core, the idea was that the more “people of color” there were in a given group, the higher the group’s value. Or, to put it another way: the whiter the group, the less valuable their lives were. Their recommendation was to have more deaths by not giving the vaccine to the people at much greater risk of dying from the disease because those people were just too damn white.

      3. At least here in Oregon, “essential workers” are broken down into subgroups:
        The plan breaks up Phase 1a into four groups. Examples include but are not limited to:

        Group 1: Hospitals; urgent care; skilled nursing and memory care facility health care providers and residents; tribal health programs; emergency medical services providers and other first responders.
        Group 2: Other long-term care facilities and congregate care sites, including health care providers and residents; hospice programs; mobile crisis care and related services; individuals working in a correctional setting; personnel of group homes for children or adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
        Group 3: Outpatient settings serving specific high-risk groups; in home care; day treatment services; non-emergency medical transportation.
        Group 4: Health care personnel working in other outpatient and public health settings.

        I appreciate that in-home caregivers are ahead of regular doctor offices.

        Also, liquor stores are “essential businesses”, but they are not “essential workers”

      4. I would have thought it best to target areas where the outbreak is worst.

        Also, surely essential workers are going to come into contact with a larger number of people & are more likely to spread the virus than someone’s isolating granny? That way you immediately reduce the spread. But the U S is big enough to try two different approaches in different states & measure the outcomes in a trial perhaps.

  13. The Kurosawa-Mifune partnership is perhaps the greatest director-actor team in history. Herzog-Kinski is up there, but that’s in large part because Herzog was basically the only director who could get a good performance out of Kinski.

    I know many will consider this heresy, but I think High and Low is Kurosawa’s best film, and it’s not even a close contest.

    1. I’d put Bergman-von Sydow up there, too.

      As for American films, you’ve got Scorsese-De Niro (and, now, Scorsese-DiCaprio) and — what the hell, why not? — Tarantino-Sam Jackson. A muse is a muse, after all. (You could also include John Ford-John Wayne, but I’m not gonna).

      1. Aaaahhhhh! How did I not think of Scorsese-De Niro? Stupid me.

        I’d never even heard of Pacino’s Looking for Richard, but I see it’s available for rent on Amazon, so I’ll check it out.

        Hey, Rashomon is great and all, but it’s nowhere near as well-directed as High and Low, and the pacing in the latter is so much better. High and Low is just better in every way and you could tell Kurosawa had a much surer directorial voice by then. But that’s just, like, my opinion…man.

        Merry Christmas!

  14. I am loath to agree with Trump, but any bill that is 5000 freaking pages long is, by its very existence, a disgrace.

    1. Not necessarily. I strongly suspect that vast numbers of pages are pro forma and much else are per-written over months or years and gone over by many staff before it stapled together. That’s not to say it’s an optimal method of passing laws.

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