Monday: Hili dialogue

February 8, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the beginning of another frigid week, at least in Chicago:  it’s February 8, 2021. Today I’m officially two weeks past my second Pfizer jab, so I’ve reached the stage of the vaunted 95% immunity. I am planning a trip, but it will have to be within the U.S. given the rest of the world’s restrictions. Also, I can’t go to Massachusetts, where I wanted to go, as there is still a 10-day quarantine, even for one who’s vaccinated. So be it. But where should I go? Suggestions welcome.

Today’s is National Potato Lover’s Day, the apostrophe implying that only a single lover of spuds is being celebrated. Who is this person? Will he eat a “loaded” baked potato, risking an infarction? The only healthy thing about this dish is the smattering of greens sprinkled on top.

It’s also Oatmeal Monday, National Molasses Bar Day (recipe here), Clean Out Your Computer Day, National Poop Day (always observed the day after the Super Bowl), and International Epilepsy Day. In India it’s Propose Day, the day you’re suppose to become betrothed. Many, however, just give roses to their significant other.

News of the Day:

The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins tomorrow. The proceedings are estimated to take a week or two, Trump won’t appear, and of course he’ll be aquitted. So it goes.

The good news from Chicago, as announced by mayor Lori Lightfoot, is that the city and the Chicago Teachers Union have reached a tentative agreement to reopen schools for live instruction. This was a big deal here, as parents were going nuts wanting to send their kids back, teachers were vociferous in not going back to the classroom unless they were vaccinated, and the deadline that the mayor gave the teachers to return had lapsed. The kids will be returning, staged by grade, from this Thursday through March 1.  However, many teachers are objecting, and the deal isn’t done yet.  We have the third largest school district in the U.S.

Tom Brady, an old man for football (the quarterback is 43), won his seventh Superbowl yesterday, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeating the hapless Kansas City Chiefs 31-9. I didn’t watch the game, but it sounds like a rout. Here are the highlights:

Here’s a scary headline from the New York Times, “Why Chuck Schumer is cozying up to the A.O.C. wing of his party.”  Why? To protect his own power:

The January meeting was one in a series of steps Mr. Schumer has taken to win over leaders of the left in New York and Washington ahead of his campaign for re-election in 2022. Armed with a sweeping set of policy promises, he is courting the activists, organizers and next-generation elected officials in New York who would likely make up the backbone of an effort to dethrone him, should one ever arise.

His future opponents may include AOC herself, a possibility I don’t want to consider.

The Washington Post reports the decline of the sommelier with the pandemic: people who aren’t dining in don’t need wine recommendations. In fact, I don’t mourn their disappearance. Whenever possible in Chicago, I bring my own wine, as it’s grossly overpriced in restaurants, which often triple the retail price (which means they get about six times what they paid for it), I don’t mine paying corkage fees, even if they’re $15 a bottle or so, the sommeliers aren’t that knowledgable, and they have the annoying habit of topping up your glass, a habit they develop to sell more wine. That also interrupts the conversation and takes away my job, as host, to look after people’s wine. In this I agree with Christopher Hitchens, who wrote an important article in Slate called “Wine drinkers of the world, unite.”

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 463,336, an increase of about 1,300 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The number of new cases is now falling, but we’re still likely to exceed half a million deaths within the month. The reported world death toll stands 2,328,405, , an increase of about 6,700 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on February 8 includes:

It took three blows to sever her head, the first striking her not on the neck but on the back of her head. Other fun facts from Wikipedia:

 Afterwards, [the executioner] held her head aloft and declared, “God save the Queen.” At that moment, the auburn tresses in his hand turned out to be a wig and the head fell to the ground, revealing that Mary had very short, grey hair.

A year later it was granted a coat of arms, the only college in America to have one granted by the Crown. Here it is, and it appears on the gold ring I’ve worn since 1971:

  • 1865 – Delaware refuses to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Slavery was outlawed in the United States, including Delaware, when the Amendment was ratified by the requisite number of states on December 6, 1865. Delaware ratified the Thirteenth Amendment on February 12, 1901, which was the ninety-second anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.
  • 1915 – D. W. Griffith‘s controversial film The Birth of a Nation premieres in Los Angeles.

You may want to scroll through this entire 3-hour movie, found on YouTube. It’s of course offensive in many ways, including its positive portrayal of the Klan, its vicious denigration of African-Americans, many of whom were played by white actors in blackface, and the explicit theme of white superiority that permeates the film. Judging by the views on YouTube, hardly anybody watches it. In fact, I’m surprised it’s still up. But it is a historical document showing what many people believed at the time; it was the first movie shown at the White House.

  • 1922 – United States President Warren G. Harding introduces the first radio set in the White House.
  • 1924 – Capital punishment: The first state execution in the United States by gas chamber takes place in Nevada.
  • 1945 – World War II: Mikhail Devyataev escapes with nine other Soviet inmates from a Nazi concentration camp in Peenemünde on the island of Usedom by hijacking the camp commandant’s Heinkel He 111.

Sadly, when the escapees arrived back in the USSR, the Russians didn’t believe that they could have escaped, and suspected them of being spies. (This is despite the escapees providing valuable information about the Nazi rocket program at Peenemünde.) Seven were sent to a penal military unit, with five dying in action, and three others, including Devyataev, were imprisoned.

  • 1960 – Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom issues an Order-in-Council, stating that she and her family would be known as the House of Windsor, and that her descendants will take the name Mountbatten-Windsor.
  • 1968 – American civil rights movement: The Orangeburg massacre: An attack on black students from South Carolina State University who are protesting racial segregation at the town’s only bowling alley, leaves three or four dead in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

The bowling alley sign is still up.  The police were indicted, but of course all were acquitted after they claimed that the students had fired first. But there was no evidence that any student had fired a gun. Here’s the sign:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1577 – Robert Burton, English priest, physician, and scholar (d. 1640)
  • 1700 – Daniel Bernoulli, Dutch-Swiss mathematician and physicist (d. 1782)
  • 1819 – John Ruskin, English author, critic, and academic (d. 1900)
  • 1828 – Jules Verne, French author, poet, and playwright (d. 1905)
  • 1925 – Jack Lemmon, American actor (d. 2001)
  • 1926 – Neal Cassady, American author and poet (d. 1968)
  • 1931 – James Dean, American actor (d. 1955)

Two rebels were born on this day, five years apart. Both died young; one from drugs and the other in a car crash.  Neal Cassady had five children; three of them keep a family website with photos and information. Here’s a rare photo of Neal holding down a real job on a railroad. I’ve read a lot about Cassady but hadn’t seen this photo before:

Dean and the remains of his Porsche Spyder ; he died instantly after a high-speed crash with another car. The other driver survived. He was 24.


  • 1941 – Nick Nolte, American actor and producer
  • 1949 – Brooke Adams, American actress, producer, and screenwriter

Adams was one of the stars, along with Sam Shepard and Richard Gere, in what may be the most beautifully photographed of all American movies, Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978). See it! Here’s the trailer.

  • 1953 – Mary Steenburgen, American actress

Those who passed their sell-by date on February 8 include:

  • 1587 – Mary, Queen of Scots (b. 1542) [see above]
  • 1725 – Peter the Great, Russian emperor (b. 1672)
  • 1957 – John von Neumann, Hungarian-American mathematician and physicist (b. 1903)
  • 1999 – Iris Murdoch, Irish-born British novelist and philosopher (b. 1919)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Hlli dialogue is quite arcane and intellectual.

Hili: Does Realism have a chance?
A: Probably not in art.
Hili: And in life?
A: Ask artificial intelligence.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy realizm ma szansę?
Ja: W sztuce raczej nie.
Hili: A w życiu?
Ja: Zapytaj o to sztuczną inteligencję.

From Facebook:

From Bruce:

From Mark:

This was sent by both Dom and Matthew. Sound up. Remember, half of Americans are below the median level of intelligence.

Tweets from Matthew. I love this one. My own subtitle: “Rodents are a girl’s best friend.”

Matthew asked a question and I answered it, though I lacked expertise:

A real bat person answers:

Matthew said some fruit bats do have weird noses. Here’s one from the bat expert:

But if males use this schnoz to honk at females, why do the females have the weird nose, too? Why no sexual dimorphism? Either the girl bats honk back or something else is going on.

Next tweet: listen for the big sentence at the end. I still think French is more mellifluous than German. Compare “Je t’aime” to “Ich liebe dich”!

Two tweets from down under. This is truly the land of nature red in tooth and claw!

Finally, a great case of mimicry:

31 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. Two rebels were born on this day, five years apart. Both died young; one from drugs and the other in a car crash.

    Cassady had eaten a fistful of reds at a wedding party he attended before going out for a stroll along some railroad tracks in the Mexican desert, but I think the official cause of death usually given is “exposure.”

  2. That screaming child on the scooter – hilarious!

    The bat noses – sexual dimorphism in mammals, isn’t that much less than in other creatures? Size, yes, horns/antlers, what else? I would say it still could be sexually selected but still be a feature found in females because it might not be linked to sex… ?

    Typo in the cork section – mine = mind

  3. Dang, I never knew Nick Nolte and Neal Cassady shared a birthday. Nolte played a character inspired by Cassady, “Ray Hicks,” in the movie Who’ll Stop the Rain, adapted from the National Book Award winning novel Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone (who had been a fellow Stegner fellow with Kesey at Stanford and had been “on the bus” for a bit with Cassady and the Pranksters, though he didn’t make the trip all the way to the ’64 New York World’s Fair. Later in life, Stone wrote a memoir about those days, Prime Green.)

    In both the novel and film, as an homage of sorts to Cassady, the Hicks character dies while walking along railroad tracks in the desert.

  4. “1960 – Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom issues an Order-in-Council, stating that she and her family would be known as the House of Windsor, and that her descendants will take the name Mountbatten-Windsor.”

    The British royal family changed its name to Windsor in 1917. Previously, they were the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, but anti-German sentiment during World War One prompted them to adopt a more English name. It didn’t help that the Kaiser’s air force was bombing London from Gotha bombers, so the name had a very negative association.

    Mountbatten is the anglicised family name of the Duke of Edinburgh, who were originally Battenbergs.

  5. If you have never been to Asheville NC that might be a wonderful trip…especially if you stay at The Grove Park Inn. Many famous people have stayed there including President Obama.

    1. The Grove Park ain’t cheap, though. The Scott Fitzgerald suite? I imagine a tender night there is for high rollers only.
      Save your money and head to the Deep South. Except for the occasional February ice storm — no, make that the occasional February tornado — the Mississippi Delta would be a nice break from Chicago’s wretched cold. Just don’t talk about religion, race, or Hillary.

    2. I’d like to think that the Grove Park Inn stands on its own merits, regardless of whoever stayed there. It has a great lobby and giant fireplace, and a great view of the mountains around Asheville.

      It has more than one restaurant. Some years ago it had a great Sunday brunch buffet. But not from my visit last fall. Certainly not for the price. (Perhaps due to investor return maximization cost-cutting by its current corporate owner.) I had the misfortune of eating there with three foodies, who relentlessly complained. Their complaints were reasonably-enough justified, I suppose, but I started to feel “like a mule out in a [logorrheic] hailstorm” (as LBJ described being President – “you just have to stand there and take it.”). Finally, I started complaining about their complaining. I got accused of judging them. Fine, I’ll keep my mouth shut to keep the peace, even if you folks can’t be similarly bothered. But I don’t have “Masochistic Sounding Board,” or “Culinary Misery Loves Company” tattooed on my forehead.

      I’d say there are not a few high-quality eateries in Asheville. We went to one a couple days later, but its name escapes me. Nowadays I’m afraid I’m not much motivated to remember restaurant names (with the exceptions of Durgin Park and Abruzzi’s in Boston, Christie’s in Newport, RI, and Jay’s Oyster House in Portland, ME, memorable aspects of trips I took in my late teens-early twenties).

      1. Yeah, don’t come to Florida…although PCC(E)’s presence would noticeably increase the mean IQ of out state…but stupidity may be contagious, so it’s probably best avoided.

    1. Well, the South is one of the few places in the U.S. where there aren’t many restrictions…no quarantine down there. And being vaccinated, shouldn’t be a problem while mingling with all the maskless wonders.

  6. Just got back to the house this morning from getting my first shot (pfizer). My wife got her first Moderna last friday. Because my second shot is at 21 days and hers is at 28 days, i am leapfrogging her by a couple of days for full immunity. As far as trips are concerned, two weeks after my second shot, i intend to make a first trip to the barber. Still gun-shy even thinking about about real traveling as my mental muscle memory has been well trained over almost a year now not to travel. The asheville recommendation from john above sounds good. Will put it into the hopper.

    1. I got my first Pfizer dose a week ago so I expect to enter March with 95% immunity. The trips I’m looking forward to are at-will visits to groceries and other stores and, like you, to the barber. I’m tired of cutting my own hair. And curbside pickup has worn thin after a year.

      1. Yes, i think the the words “at-will” are the operative point here. Going to the market at-will rather than fortnightly to have fresh seafood “at-will” rather than just on the night of a market visit. Also intend to visit local bookstore, where i will, at-will, sit at a four-top with a drink, read, and have impromptu conversations with friends and acquaintances who happen by. And hopefully nobody will criticize me for whining about first-world problems.

  7. “But where should I go? Suggestions welcome.”
    I suggest Coconino County!

    What I do not like in the French language is the low association between pronunciation and spelling (but English is worse).

    1. I was going to make a similar point. English has lots of confusing homophones such as to, too and two as well as words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently such as lead (the verb) and lead (the noun), not to mention the confusions associated with all the different pronunciations of ough!

  8. Good news; some people still know how to use the apostrophe. Just bought a copy of “One Hundred Years’ Progress”. Oops, it was printed in 1875; not exactly a current usage. At least I know that it was written “By Eminent Literary Men”. [Actually, I bought it for the engraved title page by the American Bank Note Company.]

  9. Re pineapple on pizza: the story is that it was invented in Chatham, Ontario in 1962. I found it odd when I was in Singapore once that the pizza with pineapple is called “Canadian” until I learned the history.

    1. Interesting connection, it was called “Hawaiian” pizza where I grew up. But the protein was Canadian bacon, so there’s that connection too. I’ve also had a pineapple and shrimp pizza that was outstanding.

  10. Check out Door county in Wisconsin. It’s the little peninsula that juts up into Lake Michigan. The scenery on both the Bay side and the Lake side is magnificent. Massive sand -dunes and sheer rugged cliffs on the lake side. Check out especially what’s called, “Cave Point”. There’s places where you can crawl down into little discrete enclaves, even in winter, and take in the smashing power of Lake Michigan waves. Took my first acid trip there in 1979.

  11. Regarding magpies: yes, they can be scary, but only males swoop, and only a small proportion of them (15% IIRC), and only during nesting season. It is said that they can remember individuals, so they may target people who have previously offended them. We have a family who frequent our front garden feeding on worms from the lawn. Never have any of them swooped us, but we enjoy their beautiful songs.

  12. On “Birth of a Nation”…
    I bought the BFI Blu-Ray of the film (based on Kevin Brownlow’s restoration) a couple years ago, to see it for myself and judge how evil it was. I was anticipating a 3 hour slog but afterward understood why the film was such a massive hit in 1915, why it put feature films on the map. Even today its pace and an epic scale are engrossing. It builds to a climax whose editing and sense of movement remain, on a formal level, thrilling.

    And on a moral level utterly loathsome. The first half of BOAN, detailing the Civil War and ending with Lincoln’s assassination, is relatively benign (and often moving); had only that half survived, there wouldn’t be much outcry. But the second half, showing Reconstruction, is a paean to the KKK, filled with every “Lost Cause” and white supremacist cliché: vampiric carpetbaggers, subhuman blacks lusting after white women, a Thaddeus Stevens stand-in under the thumb of his mulatto mistress, newly elected African American congressmen depicted as oafs, the KKK riding to the rescue of white womanhood, etc.

    After the police killings last year, Amazon removed listings for Birth of a Nation (one has crept back in), a classic example of useless corporate overreaction. The film is no longer capable of doing damage; its racism is so overt and over the top that no one today defends it. It has no documented influence on todays trigger-happy racists, who are unlikely to sit through 3 hour films from 1915. BOAN has become a historical object, one of those wretched paradoxes that are happily few in number: a great film but an evil one.

  13. Well THAT’S the last time I get my education about the solar system from morning fashion shows of horrible frocks!

    On your intended trip – COME TO NEW YORK CITY — the wine and dinner are on me (its been so long since I had decent human communication!) You can even meet my d*g, to wit:

    – you’ll be sold on them after that. You’ll have to institute Dogerday as well as Caturday!


  14. Aaah Australia – land of my childhood. Yes huntsman spiders are the arachnophobe’s WORST nightmare and they DO turn up inside cars sometimes. THAT’LL get your attention, running along the INSIDE the windows.

    Magpies are brutal – one victimized my cat so much she wouldn’t go out to the middle of the yard, she snuck by under the eaves. It harassed my Dad as well.

    Grand country, Oz: you can get bitten, savaged, eaten, poisoned or pronged all before your lunchtime Vegemite sandwich!


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