Good morning on Boxing Day: Saturday, December 26, 2020. For our feline friends, this is the best day:
More important, It’s the second day of Coynezaa, as well as the first day of Kwanzaa, the latter celebrated until January 1.
Foodwise, it’s National Candy Cane Day. When I was a kid I used to like them, but not so much any more. If you want a truly good peppermint stick, King Leo Peppermint Sticks are the very best. They’re shorter and not curved, softer than the hard candy canes, and loaded with real peppermint flavor. And they come in the original-style can sporting a regal lion. They are much better than the traditional item; and are themselves a tradition in the South.
And if you don’t like your presents, it’s National Whiner’s Day.
Wine of the Day: A kindly reader sent me this 2013 Barbaresco for Coynezaa, and I drank half of it last night with my Christmas dinner of T-bone steak, biscuits, and green peppers (as a friend said, “That’s a real guy meal!” Even at just 7 years, the wine was old enough to drink, and, after 45 minutes of decanting, became smooth, juicy, and redolent of cherries. I’ll drink the other half tonight.
News of the Day:
If you’re into chess, and buy an expensive chess set, like that used in the World Championships, realize that almost all the money you’re spending is for the production of the knights, which must be carved by hand (all the other pieces can be tooled). From the NYT:
About 10 people specialize in carving knights for the World Chess sets. . . It takes about two weeks to produce 100 sets, with a set of knights requiring about six hours to carve. . .
And if you’re wondering when you might get your Covid-19 vaccination, how each state prioritizes the jabs, and how the distribution is going now, the Washington Post has a handy article that tells you state by state.
The NYT editorial section is becoming like HuffPo, with “here’s what you should know” stories, many of them not about news but about the kvetching of writers. One of the worst of this genre (pardon my rant) is today’s editorial “I will never bail on my friends again” by Maeve Higgins. The entire point of the op-ed is this:
I’m sick of us being lone bullfrogs on solitary lily pads. It is so much better when we are a big croaking chorus carousing around the city. I understand a little better now why it’s called “making” friends; it’s an effort and a choice and something that isn’t ever really finished. But really there is no silver lining or hidden meaning in this for me, I just really miss my friends.
Despite the frog simile, there’s nothing that can save this piece from being trite, and a complete waste of space. “I just really miss my friends.” Don’t we all, Ms. Higgins? RIBBIT!
On a much better note, David Brooks names (and links to) what he sees as the best pieces of nonpolitical writing of the year, on which he bestows his “Sidney Awards”. One, which I’ll highlight this week, is about cancel culture and free speech, and contains this:
This has not been a great period for free expression. The range of socially acceptable opinion has shrunk, as independent-minded journalists and experts have been eased out of their jobs at places ranging from New York magazine to Boeing and Civis Analytics for saying unorthodox things. The esteemed scholar James R. Flynn wrote a book called “In Defense of Free Speech” which was in turn canceled by his publisher for being too controversial.
Fortunately, a range of people from across the political spectrum have arisen to defend free inquiry, including Noam Chomsky, Cathy Young, the University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer, Caitlin Flanagan, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Jonathan Haidt, John McWhorter, Yascha Mounk, Jonathan Rauch and magazines like Quillette and Tablet.
That won’t sit well with the pack of NYT Staff Pecksniffs who are gutting the paper of columnists guilty of Wrongthink.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 330,366, an increase of about 1,100 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,758,984 an increase of about 7,800 over yesterday’s report.
Stuff that happened on December 26 includes:
- 1776 – American Revolutionary War: In the Battle of Trenton, the Continental Army attacks and successfully defeats a garrison of Hessian forces.
This was, of course, after he crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day.
- 1799 – Henry Lee III’s eulogy to George Washington in congress declares him as “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen”. (This is not to be confused with Washington’s funeral on December 18.)
- 1825 – Advocates of liberalism in Russia rise up against Czar Nicholas I but are suppressed in the Decembrist revolt in Saint Petersburg.
- 1862 – The largest mass-hanging in U.S. history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, where 38 Native Americans died.
This was a travesty since the Dakota warriors were convicted—often in a 5-minute trial, and without defense counsel—of “murder committed during warfare” (they had attacked settlements). 303 were sentenced to die, but after an extensive review President Lincoln pardoned all but 38 them. The rest were hung; here’s a depiction of the mass execution:
- 1871 – Thespis, the first Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration, debuts. It does modestly well, but the two would not collaborate again for four years and the score has been lost.
- 1898 – Marie and Pierre Curie announce the isolation of radium.
Pierre Curie died at 46 when a horse cart ran over his head after he slipped in Paris. But he would have died of radiation poisoning, anyway. As Wikipedia reports:
Both the Curies experienced radium burns, both accidentally and voluntarily, and were exposed to extensive doses of radiation while conducting their research. They experienced radiation sickness and Marie Curie died of aplastic anemia in 1934. Even now, all their papers from the 1890s, even her cookbooks, are too dangerous to touch. Their laboratory books are kept in special lead boxes and people who want to see them have to wear protective clothing. Most of these items can be found at Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Had Pierre Curie not been killed as he was, it is likely that he would have eventually died of the effects of radiation, as did his wife, their daughter Irène, and her husband Frédéric Joliot.
- 1919 – Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox is sold to the New York Yankees by owner Harry Frazee, allegedly establishing the Curse of the Bambino superstition.
The “curse” was that the Red Sox didn’t win the World Series again until 2004. The Bambino was a great pitcher as well as a slugger; here he is with the Red Sox:
- 1941 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a bill establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day in the United States.
- 1944 – World War II: George S. Patton’s Third Army breaks the encirclement of surrounded U.S. forces at Bastogne, Belgium.
- 1963 – The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” are released in the United States, marking the beginning of Beatlemania on an international level.
- 1966 – The first Kwanzaa is celebrated by Maulana Karenga, the chair of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach.
Coynezaa is of course modeled after Kwanzaa: a confected holiday for an exclusive group of people (in the case of Coynezaa, me), and lasting several days (Kwanzaa is a day longer than Coynezaa). I believe that everyone should declare such a holiday for themselves once a year.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1791 – Charles Babbage, English mathematician and engineer, invented the Difference engine (d. 1871)
- 1863 – Charles Pathé, French record producer, co-founded Pathé Records (d. 1957)
- 1883 – Maurice Utrillo, French painter (d. 1955)
I did not know that Utrillo was actually the illegitimate son of Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938), who modeled for many famous painters (Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, etc.) and later became a painter herself. Since I couldn’t find a cat painting by Utrillo, here’s one from his mom, who did several nice cat paintings:
- 1891 – Henry Miller, American author and painter (d. 1980)
- 1893 – Mao Zedong, Chinese politician, Chairman of the Communist Party of China (d. 1976)
- 1939 – Phil Spector, American singer-songwriter and producer
Convicted of second-degree murder after a second trial (the first ended in a mistrial), Spector is in prison in California, eligible for parole in 2024. Here’s his mug shot in 2009:
Those who began pining for the fjords on December 26 include:
- 1530 – Babur, Mughal emperor (b. 1483)
- 1890 – Heinrich Schliemann, German-Italian archaeologist and author (b. 1822)
- 1909 – Frederic Remington, American painter and illustrator (b. 1861)
- 1968 – Weegee, Ukrainian-American photographer and journalist (b. 1898)
The ultimate voyeur, Weegee (real name Arthur Fellig) specialized in photographing the bizarre underbelly of New York City. Here’s one of his photos, showing people looking at a dead body: “Their First Murder, 1945”):
- 1974 – Jack Benny, American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, and violinist (b. 1894)
- 1999 – Curtis Mayfield, American singer-songwriter and producer (b. 1942)
- 2006 – Gerald Ford, American commander, lawyer, and politician, 38th President of the United States (b. 1913)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is snug inside (she doesn’t like going out much in the winter):
A: What are you doing?Hili: I’m watching the cold outside the window.
Ja: Co robisz?Hili: Oglądam zimno za oknem.
And little Kukla is out of her post-neutering restraint jacket!
Kulka: The jacket is off, we return to the heights.
From Jean, who found this on Facebook. A GIANT MALLARD HEN!
From Nicole: caught in the act!
From Jesus of the Day: Do you find these men appealing? Would they have been appealing in 1919?
Reader Ken sent this, saying that it’s “fucked up”. It is: Kirk Cameron and Tucker Carlson approving of flouting pandemic restrictions. But you could catch the “hope virus”!
“You might catch the hope virus” pic.twitter.com/aOXQpzarUp
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) December 24, 2020
This video (sound up) absolutely freaks me out. Listen to that poor koala wail!
Merry Christmas from Australia 🇦🇺 pic.twitter.com/uBwGpru6FM
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) December 25, 2020
From Simon, who says, “Chief Mouser working on sky rats.” I’m glad the sky rat got away, but was surprised that the overweight Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office is so agile!
— Luke Powell (@LukePowell88) December 24, 2020
Tweets from Matthew. This happened near us, in Wisconsin. As one commenter said, “I thought this was a new Canadian winter sport.”
Because you want to see a man saving a deer that is stuck on a frozen lake back to safety. pic.twitter.com/ihZSUJIwql
— Danny Deraney or The King of Jingling (@DannyDeraney) December 24, 2020
Click on the link to see all kinds of prize-winning optical illusions. The first one is a doozy (not shown below):
Les illusions d’optique les plus surprenantes de 2020 https://t.co/LldOjnn09r
— christine adamo (@cadamo3) December 25, 2020
Rocky Baubloa is right!
Irresistible baubles pic.twitter.com/qe4nMibT67
— Luli Velez (@lulivelez1) December 25, 2020
. . . and I bet he has an Acme rocket strapped to his back:
A hundred quid says there’s a coyote under there. pic.twitter.com/kJkSkyhHgA
— Dave Surman (@SurmanDave) December 24, 2020
Fauci turned 80 two days ago:
SURPRISE! Dr. Anthony Fauci is serenaded as he leaves work on his 80th birthday. pic.twitter.com/owAFUn60dW
— The Hill (@thehill) December 24, 2020