Doesn’t this make you tear up?
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 20, 2021
We’re breezing through the week: it’s already Thursday, January 21, 2021: National New England Clam Chowder Day (the only acceptable style of this chowder). It’s also National Granola Bar Day, International Sweatpants Day (make that a whole year), National Hugging Day (only for those in your bubble) and National Squirrel Appreciation Day. I’ve started feeding the tree rats again, and here’s a photo of one to whom I gave a walnut a few years ago. He couldn’t believe his luck!
Reader Andrée sent a link to the history of National Squirrel Appreciation Day, which includes recommended activities (feed them!) and this note:
Here’s the thing about squirrels: some people hate them and say that they’re “invasive species.” But can those people leap across a space ten times the length of their body? Didn’t think so.
Quiz of the Day: Name a popular folk/rock song that came out between 1960 and 1970 that contains the word “verdant.” No prizes, but no Googling, either.
News of the Day:
The big news, of course, is that we have a new administration, and I was far more moved than I expected by the Inauguration. I turned it on just to check in, and wound up watching the whole schmear until Biden became President. It was touching and hopeful to see a woman taking the oath of office as Vice President, with Sonia Sotomayor administering the oath of office.
Although Biden’s speech wasn’t elegant, it was Biden: a straight-talking and decent man. Still, I fear for his “dream” of reconciliation given the polarization of the country and the deep disagreement on big issues, but it was just what he said: a vision. I wish him the best.
I’ve just listened to the first press briefing by Jen Psaki, and it was further refreshing to hear someone who wasn’t committed to putting a good spin on a dreadful administration like Trump’s. Biden has hit the ground running, overturning the Keystone Pipeline deal and Trump’s decision to allow oil and gas exploration in national wildlife monuments, reversing the U.S.’s withdrawal from WHO, putting a federal mask mandate in place, reversing the “Muslim ban,” and so on. You can see what he did—and his plans for the first 100 days in office—here.
You can guess who these women are. I like to think that the colorful clothes worn by many women were meant to symbolize a bright new era.
But out in Portland, a crowd in black attacked the Democratic National Headquarters, smashing windows and lighting fires. From the NYT:
In a city that has seen months of demonstrations over racial injustice, economic inequality, federal law enforcement and corporate power, protesters have vowed to continue their actions no matter who is president. Those who took to the streets on Wednesday said they were a mix of anarchists, antifa and racial justice protesters.
The group marched to the local Democratic headquarters, where some people broke windows and tipped over dumpsters, lighting the garbage inside one of them on fire.
A prediction, which is mine: wokeness won’t abate under Biden, but will actually increase. Wokeness wasn’t a reaction to Trump, I think, but simply the Zeitgeist, and Biden will not criticize it. And Portland is hopeless.
And Bernie wore a non-fancy coat and MITTENS to the Inauguration, giving rise to much merriment on Facebook and Twitter. (Matthew says, “The mittens are made of recycled wool, with a lining made from ground up plastic water bottles. He was given them on the campaign trail a couple of years ago.”)
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 406,180, a very large increase of about 4,400 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We have just surpassed the total number of Americans killed—combatants or others—in World War II, (405,399). It took four years of war to reach that figure, but less than a year of Covid-19. The world death toll now stands at 2,085,507, a big increase of about 18,000 deaths over yesterday’s total—about 12.5 deaths per minute (more than one every five seconds).
Stuff that happened on January 21 includes:
- 1789 – The first American novel, The Power of Sympathy or the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth by William Hill Brown, is printed in Boston.
Here’s the first edition; it must be rare, as I can’t find one for sale. Has anyone here read it?
- 1861 – American Civil War: Jefferson Davis resigns from the United States Senate.
- 1908 – New York City passes the Sullivan Ordinance, making it illegal for women to smoke in public, only to have the measure vetoed by the mayor.
- 1950 – American lawyer and government official Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury.
Hiss could not be convicted of spying for the Soviets as the statute of limitations had expired, but served 3 years and eight months for perjury. It’s still not clear whether Hiss, who admitted he was a Communist, actually spied. His trial and conviction are emblematic of the Red Scare era. Here’s Hiss in his mugshot at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary:
- 1954 – The first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, is launched in Groton, Connecticut by Mamie Eisenhower, the First Lady of the United States.
The Nautilus served until 1980, when it was retired; it now resides at a sea museum in Groton, Connecticut. Here she be:
- 1971 – The current Emley Moor transmitting station, the tallest free-standing structure in the United Kingdom, begins transmitting UHF broadcasts.
It’s still working, but is also a historical monument, and remains the tallest free-standing structure in the UK: 330.4 meters (1,084 feet)
- 1976 – Commercial service of Concorde begins with the London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio routes.
- 1981 – Production of the iconic DeLorean sports car begins in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.
This novel stainless-steel car with its famous gull-wing doors hasn’t aged well: you can pick up specimens in pretty good condition for about $40,000. It was made for only two years.
- 1997 – The U.S. House of Representatives votes 395–28 to reprimand Newt Gingrich for ethics violations, making him the first Speaker of the House to be so disciplined.
- 1999 – War on Drugs: In one of the largest drug busts in American history, the United States Coast Guard intercepts a ship with over 4,300 kilograms (9,500 lb) of cocaine on board.
- 2009 – Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip, officially ending a three-week war it had with Hamas. However, intermittent fire by both sides continues in the weeks to follow.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1738 – Ethan Allen, American general (d. 1789)
- 1741 – Chaim of Volozhin, Orthodox rabbi (d. 1821)
- 1824 – Stonewall Jackson, American general (d. 1863)
- 1869 – Grigori Rasputin, Russian Mystic (d. 1916)
Here’s Rasputin with his kids:
- 1905 – Karl Wallenda, German-American acrobat and tightrope walker, founded The Flying Wallendas (d. 1978)
Wallenda fell to his death, plunging ten stories to the street (no net or safety wire) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. You can see a video of the news report and of his fall here.
- 1912 – Konrad Emil Bloch, German-American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2000)
- 1940 – Jack Nicklaus, American golfer and sportscaster
- 1941 – Richie Havens, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2013)
Those who succumbed on January 21 include:
If you haven’t read Strachey’s two famous books, Eminent Victorians and Queen Victoria, do so. He pioneered a new style of biography—psychological biography. The ending of Queen Victoria, imagining what went through her mind as she was dying, is justly famous.
Strachey was gay, but had a long platonic relationship with artist and writer Dora Carrington. They lived together in the country (Wiltshire) until Strachey died of stomach cancer at 51. Carrington committed suicide six weeks later.
Here’s a well known painting of Strachey by Carrington. The 1995 movie about their relationship, with Emma Thompson as Carrington, is well worth watching.
- 1950 – George Orwell, British novelist, essayist, and critic (b. 1903)
- 1959 – Cecil B. DeMille, American director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1881)
- 1984 – Jackie Wilson, American singer (b. 1934)
- 1985 – James Beard, American chef and author (b. 1903)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has gone offline:
A: Are you hiding in the wardrobe again?Hili: Yes, there is no social media here.
Ja: znowu schowałaś się w szafie?Hili: Tak, tu nie ma mediów społecznościowych.
Little Kulka is out gamboling in the snow:
From United Humanists (I believe Archie Bunker once used this malapropism; he also once said that the Pope was “inflammable”):
From Jesus of the Day:
And an extra meme from Marie, because we now have a new President:
I tweeted this, and a wag responded:
He does not inhale LOL
— Mr_Spock (@Mr_Spock) January 20, 2021
I found this one, too: Don’t let the door hit you on the tuches!
Trump leaves the White House pic.twitter.com/fed7XB4I99
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 20, 2021
From Luana. Apparently “privilege” isn’t even used for white folks, just the Jews. You can check for yourself (I haven’t).
“Jews are the only group in California’s proposed curriculum for whom the term “privilege” is used.” https://t.co/JryeExDRcC
— David Wolpe (@RabbiWolpe) January 20, 2021
From Ginger K., who considers this apple beautiful. I agree, but I’d like to taste it. You can read more about this rare breed here; its color is due to high exposure to UV light. It’s also expensive: one apple is said to cost about 50 yuan, which is close to eight U.S. dollars.
This is the black diamond apple. Grown in the mountains of Tibet. pic.twitter.com/mW7umNfnDJ
— Nature is Amazing ❤️ (@amazing_nature0) January 20, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. First, physicist Sean Carroll’s weird cat:
— Sean Carroll (@seanmcarroll) January 18, 2021
This is a longish thread (part of which is below) about all the dumb stuff Trump did as President. Go here to see it all.