Good morning on Friday, January 29, 2021: National Corn Chip Day. I do like a titer of corn chips beside a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s also National Carnation Day, National Puzzle Day, and, in honor of your host, Freethinkers Day and Curmudgeons Day (designed to coincide with the birthday of W. C. Fields, one of the original curmudgeons). And, in Kansas, it’s Kansas Day (see below).
News of the Day:
A well know science-and-health reporter for the NYT, Donald McNeil, Jr., was disciplined by the paper for blatantly racist remarks, including the use of the n-word but also because “he did not believe in white privilege” McNeil denies the charges, and it’s unclear what “discipline” he got. But other Times staffers have been fired outright for much less, including op-ed editor James Bennett (he published Tom Cotton’s editorial) and Quinn Norton, who was accused of making racist tweets. The Times apparently retains those writers who are most useful, and fires the others. (h/t William)
I will not write about the GameStop fracas, as I find it far more boring than the news seems to. I doubt it will bring down Wall Street.
What got me more excited was the appearance on Wednesday of a snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) in Central Park, Manhattan—the first time the species has been seen there since 1890. Of course the local birders, alerted by their Internet sources, showed up in droves, but so did crows and hawks, harassing the predator, and even a drone trying to get an overhead shot. Disturbed, the owl stayed just a day and then buggered off. What’s going on there: first a Mandarin Duck in 2018-2019, and this year a Snowy Owl? Could it be climate change, or just the Zeitgeist? Here’s a photo:
You want real news? The Chicago Teachers Union is still at odds with the School District about opening schools to live instruction (teachers are wary of infection; the School Board says it’s safe). Classes were supposed to start on Wednesday but only a third of the teachers showed up. This is going to get nasty.
Oy gewalt! The BBC reports on the travails of one Bandit the Ferret from Leeds, who went through an entire 100-minute cycle of a washing machine and still survived. It was touch-and-go at first: the poor guy had bruises and a collapsed lung, and was given only a 1% of survival by the vet. But the intrepid mustelid soon took a few steps, and now he’s going to be fine.
Here’s poor Bandit resting at home; he looks knackered!
Reader Jez, who sent me the ferret story, had his own near-misses; as he recounts (with a photo):
Our foolish cat Tilly (sadly no longer with us) had a penchant for sitting in the washing machine (photo attached), but fortunately never went for a spin. And yes, she had a crazy moustache (and a goatee, too, although that isn’t very visible in the shot).
The lesson is to always check your washer and dryer for mammals before you insert the clothing.
The actress Cicely Tyson died; I was stunned to realize that she was 96. Perhaps you remember her great performances in the movie “Sounder” and the television film “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman“.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 433,174, a big increase of about 3,800 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We are likely to exceed half a million deaths in less than a month. The reported world death toll stands at 2,202,672, an increase of about 16,200 deaths over yesterday’s total, or about 11.2 deaths per minute.
Stuff that happened on January 29 includes:
- 1819 – Stamford Raffles lands on the island of Singapore.
- 1845 – “The Raven” is published in The Evening Mirror in New York, the first publication with the name of the author, Edgar Allan Poe
Here’s Gustave Doré’s engraving of the poem’s subject:
And here’s Poe, who died of unknown causes, but while delirious, at age 40:
- 1850 – Henry Clay introduces the Compromise of 1850 to the U.S. Congress.
- 1861 – Kansas is admitted as the 34th U.S. state.
- 1886 – Karl Benz patents the first successful gasoline-driven automobile.
- 1891 – Liliʻuokalani is proclaimed the last monarch and only queen regnant of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
The queen reigned for just two years. Here she is:
- 1907 – Charles Curtis of Kansas becomes the first Native American U.S. Senator.
- 1936 – The first inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame are announced.
Here they are: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner.
- 1980 – The Rubik’s Cube makes its international debut at the Ideal Toy Corp. in Earl’s Court, London.
Over 350 million Cubes have been sold, making it one of the best-selling toys of all time—and making Ernő Rubik a rich man. Here he is, still with us (born in 1944):
- 2002 – In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush describes “regimes that sponsor terror” as an Axis of evil, in which he includes Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
- 2009 – Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich is removed from office following his conviction of several corruption charges, including the alleged solicitation of personal benefit in exchange for an appointment to the United States Senate as a replacement for then-U.S. president-elect Barack Obama.
Blag was pardoned by Trump. He’s an odious and slippery piece of work.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1688 – Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedish astronomer, philosopher, and theologian (d. 1772)
- 1843 – William McKinley, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 25th President of the United States (d. 1901)
- 1860 – Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright and short story writer (d. 1904)
- 1880 – W. C. Fields, American actor, comedian, and screenwriter (d. 1946) [see above]
- 1888 – Wellington Koo, Chinese statesman (d. 1985)
- 1923 – Paddy Chayefsky, American author and screenwriter (d. 1981)
- 1939 – Germaine Greer, Australian journalist and author
- 1954 – Oprah Winfrey, American talk show host, actress, and producer, founded Harpo Productions
Those who croaked on January 29 include:
Lear looked as you would have expected him to. Here’s a portrait taken a year before his death; his arm was supposedly bent because he was holding his cat, which “leapt away”:
- 1899 – Alfred Sisley, French-English painter (b. 1839)
This is claimed to be a drawing by Sisley, “The Cat” (1870):
- 1934 – Fritz Haber, Polish-German chemist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1868)
- 1956 – H. L. Mencken, American journalist and critic (b. 1880)
I haven’t been able to find a video of Mencken, one of my heroes for his writing abilities (but a horrible racist towards blacks and Jews); you can find an hourlong interview with him here.
- 1980 – Jimmy Durante, American entertainer (b. 1893)
- 2002 – Harold Russell, Canadian-American soldier and actor (b. 1914)
- 2015 – Rod McKuen, American singer-songwriter and poet (b. 1933)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is disdainful of Kulka’s romps in the snow:
Hili: She never gets enough of the snow.A: Do you want to go out as well?Hili: No, thank you.
Hili: Ona nigdy nie ma dość tego śniegu.Ja; Chcesz też iść na dwór?Hili: Nie, dziękuję.
From Donna, and I bet this is real because it’s too twisted to make up (plus the names are effaced):
From Facebook, a cartoon from Dan Piraro:
From Mark. It took me a while to figure this one out, but yes, it’s a real photo:
Titania goes after segregation:
Congratulations to @brentwoodschool for implementing these progressive racial policies.
Please can you also ensure that the same applies to your cafeteria, school buses and drinking fountains?
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) January 28, 2021
And some self-flagellation (the “confession” is real):
Beyond parody. https://t.co/PqHebdPx5o
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) January 21, 2021
From Jez (h/t his wife): A dog discovers the joys of a nose flute:
This is Leia. She turned a squeaker toy into a nose flute and would like to play a few notes for you. She’s still learning so please be nice. 14/10 pic.twitter.com/dUc493g6M3
— WeRateDogs® (@dog_rates) January 25, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. This seems more like a Fifties dinner party than a Seventies one. I’d totally nom it, though.
It creeps. It crawls. It eats you alive pic.twitter.com/ritgim7nvo
— 70s Dinner Party (@70s_party) January 21, 2021
As I said when I retweeted this, the article is very cool (Africans drank milk as adults before the spread of the lactose-tolerance gene), but I don’t think “explosive diarrhea” is the inevitable outcome of lactose intolerance!
It makes me so proud of our species than that we would continually endure explosive diahrrea to eat something delicious until evolution finally just threw in the towell. https://t.co/fiWs91ocCV
— Andrew Reeves (@AndrewSshi) January 28, 2021
I’ve posted about Hypno-Cat before, but it’s worth seeing again. Be sure to read the caption of the newspaper article, and if you want more information on The Amazing Puffy, go here.
This is happening a bit too often nowadays for my liking… pic.twitter.com/xh3pwkRsHH
— Pulp Librarian (@PulpLibrarian) January 27, 2021
I may have posted this recently, but you can’t see it too often:
in the 1980s i never pictured this is what the 2020s would be https://t.co/51jYMu11Ec
— Earthling (@ziyatong) January 26, 2021
Here’s a snippet of a longer video at the YouTube link. A must-see for spaceophiles:
The Splendor of Arid Seas – A Voyage Around The Moon
95 minutes of repaired, reprocessed & retimed Kaguya Orbiter footage from JAXA
— Seán Doran (@_TheSeaning) January 22, 2021