Welcome to Mittwoch, as they say in German—”Mittwoch” means “Wednesday” and “mid-week”—Wednesday, February 24, 2021: National Tortilla Chip Day. It’s also World Bartender Day and Flag Day (“Dia de la Bandera”) in Mexico. There’s some resemblance between the Mexican flag and the old American “don’t tread on me” flag:
Wine of the Day:
If you’re tired of the usual chardonnay and pinot grigio, do yourself a favor and start investigating chenin blancs and sauvignon blancs. This wine from the Loire Valley is 100% chenin blanc, and cost me about $15 a couple of years ago. It was a creditable example of the grape, dry (chenin blancs can be a tad sweet), but, unlike chardonnays and pinot grigios, is soft and floral, with notes of honey. It would go with anything save a big piece o’ beef; I had mine with a chicken breast and fresh tomatoes. It was a lovely accompaniment, and could age even more.
Drink more chenin blanc!
News of the Day:
The unthinkable happened: Lawrence Ferlenghetti, poet, mentor of Beats, and owner of the famous City Lights bookstore, finally expired yesterday. He was 101! He seemed immortal, but he’s the last of the genre now save Gary Snyder. Ferlenghetti was a fixture in San Francisco, was named the city’s first Poet Laureate, and was famous for publishing Ginsburg’s poem “Howl,” which survived a court test for obscenity. I visited City Lights a long time ago and there I saw another well known Beat, Gregory Corso.
The New York Times obituary piece includes a good 11-minute video on Ferlenghetti, including interviews with him.
Golf star Tiger Woods was badly injured yesterday in a car crash near Los Angeles, when his SUV went off the road and into the brush on the other side of the road, destroying the front of the vehicle and injuring both of Woods’ legs. The crash was at about 7 a.m., and, according to the cops, Woods was going too fast on a stretch of road that has seen many accidents. His life is not in danger, but I’m not so sure about his legs. Let’s hope he’ll recover enough to play golf some day; he’d just undergone back surgery. Here’s his car after the crash:
Now here’s a NYT op-ed that I read because the title was interesting: “Humans are animals. Now let’s get over it,” written by philosopher Crispin Sartwell, a tedious and un-novel disquisition on speciesism. I had no idea why the NYT would publish it, but then I saw this paragraph:
Further trouble is caused when the distinctions between humans and animals are then used to draw distinctions among human beings. Some humans, according to this line of thinking, are self-conscious, rational and free, and some are driven by beastly desires. Some of us transcend our environment: Reason alone moves us to action. But some of us are pushed around by physical circumstances, by our bodies. Some of us, in short, are animals — and some of us are better than that. This, it turns out, is a useful justification for colonialism, slavery and racism.
Instead of talking about evolution, Sartwell bangs on about social justice. And that’s why they published it.
Our governor, J. B. Pritzker, has signed a sweeping criminal reform bill inspired by protests against police injustice. According to the Chicago Tribune, some of the provisions are these:
The massive bill, praised by reform advocates and panned by many in law enforcement, will end cash bail beginning in 2023, require police officers statewide to wear body cameras by 2025, eliminate requirements for signing sworn affidavits when filing complaints against officers, and create a more robust statewide system for tracking police misconduct and decertifying officers who commit wrongdoing, among a host of other changes.
The ending of bail and mandating body cameras seems fine to me (the former does not mean that all prisoners go free while awaiting trial; only that judges decide who is a danger and who isn’t, and that freedom shouldn’t be contingent on ability to pay). I’m not sure how I feel about eliminating signed complaints, which was meant to allow citizens to complain about the police anonymously.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 502,419, an increase of about 2,300 deaths over yesterday’s figure The reported world death toll stands 2,498,315, a big increase of about 11,200 deaths over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 24 includes:
- 1607 – L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi, one of the first works recognized as an opera, receives its première performance.
- 1803 – In Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court of the United States establishes the principle of judicial review.
- 1854 – A Penny Red with perforations was the first perforated postage stamp to be officially issued for distribution.
Here’s a Penny Red with perforations. There are apparently only nine of these, and the last one sold (in poor condition) went for £550,000!
- 1868 – Andrew Johnson becomes the first President of the United States to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives. He is later acquitted in the Senate.
- 1917 – World War I: The U.S. ambassador Walter Hines Page to the United Kingdom is given the Zimmermann Telegram, in which Germany pledges to ensure the return of New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona to Mexico if Mexico declares war on the United States.
- 1920 – Nancy Astor becomes the first woman to speak in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom following her election as a Member of Parliament (MP) three months earlier.
- 1920 – The Nazi Party (NSDAP) was founded by Adolf Hitler in the Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich, Germany
- 1946 – Colonel Juan Perón, founder of the political movement that became known as Peronism, is elected to his first term as President of Argentina.
- 1980 – The United States Olympic hockey team completes its Miracle on Ice by defeating Finland 4–2 to win the gold medal.
The famous game, of course, was the semifinal between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., but then the U.S. went on to beat Finland in the final. Here are the highlights:
- 1989 – United Airlines Flight 811, bound for New Zealand from Honolulu, rips open during flight, blowing nine passengers out of the business-class section.
- 2008 – Fidel Castro retires as the President of Cuba and the Council of Ministers after 32 years. He remains as head of the Communist Party for another three years.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1743 – Joseph Banks, English botanist and explorer (d. 1820)
- 1786 – Wilhelm Grimm, German anthropologist, author, and academic (d. 1859)
- 1836 – Winslow Homer, American painter and illustrator (d. 1910)
Homer, though a great American painter, apparently never depicted a cat (he did paint d*gs). Here’s one of his famous works, “The herring net”:
I was told by my father, who grew up near Pittsburgh, that Honus Wagner used to throw baseballs for target practice at my great-grandmother’s outhouse (Wagner grew up near Pittsburgh as well). I have no idea whether this is true.
- 1955 – Steve Jobs, American businessman, co-founded Apple Inc. and Pixar (d. 2011)
- 1956 – Judith Butler, American philosopher, theorist, obscurantist, and author
I added the “obscurantist,” for Butler is truly a terrible writer. So bad, in fact, that in 1998 she won the Bad Writing Contest run by the journal Philosophy and Literature (they no longer run the contest). Here’s her prize-winning sentence:
“The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”
Those who drew eights and aces on February 24 include:
- 1810 – Henry Cavendish, French-English physicist and chemist (b. 1731)
- 1990 – Malcolm Forbes, American sergeant and publisher (b. 1917)
- 1994 – Dinah Shore, American actress and singer (b. 1916)
- 1998 – Henny Youngman, English-American comedian and violinist (b. 1906)
Here’s classic Youngman: a sequence of one-liners.
- 2006 – Don Knotts, American actor and comedian (b. 1924)
- 2020 – Katherine Johnson, American physicist and mathematician (b. 1918)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s still mourning the winter:
Hili: Darkness and cold.A: Are you bothered by darkness?Hili: No, by cold.
Hili: Zimno i ciemno.Ja: Ciemno ci przeszkadza?Hili: Nie, zimno.
Paulina, Kulka’s major staff member, is studying at the University of Torun, an hour away, but classes are remote. Kulka helps Paulina study:
Caption: Kulka is keeping company at distant learning. (Photo by Paulina R.)
From Stash Krod:
A meme from Bruce (oy!), which reminds me of this poem:
. . . And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Tweets from Matthew. Sound up on the first one!!
I have recently become a “mum” to four baby red squirrels after their mum was unfortunately hit by a car. Over the past two weeks, they have gained my trust and recognise my voice. They remain in the wild and I visit them every day. ☺️ pic.twitter.com/2TsXNB8yTw
— Dani Connor Wild 🐿 (@DaniConnorWild) June 23, 2020
. . . and on these next two. Both cats are vociferous, and the second is angry:
Cooter meet Roscoe😏 pic.twitter.com/mNNX1ohDP3
— Burning Rabbit (@CannabizHealth) February 23, 2021
Maybe it’s because he wasn’t wearing a mask?
A new approach to keeping high streets vibrant & prosperouspic.twitter.com/btCcSh5aCq
— createstreets (@createstreets) February 22, 2021
It’s an unfulfilled dream of mine to see an orca in the wild. I’m hoping that if I get to Antarctica again. . .
A couple of minutes of our wonderful #Orca-filled afternoon here in #Shetland yesterday. Magical. @TheOrcaProject @whalesorg @SaversSea @kasmunro @Britnatureguide @kazcustard @SunnysidePri @VisitScotland @JudithRalston @NLFerries @mcsuk @whale_nerd @saana_is @OnTheKWTrail pic.twitter.com/R0zVLL0BZh
— Hugh Harrop Wildlife (@HughHarrop) February 23, 2021
This eight-legged spider has apparently lost one of his legs, but he still has one more than ants do, and the mimicry is absolutely stunning. Now why would a spider evolve to look like an ant? Homework: give at least three reasons.
An ant-mimicking Myrmecium spider from Brazil. pic.twitter.com/1GFF2zf5Nz
— Dr. Alex Wild (@Myrmecos) February 23, 2021
I didn’t know who Melville was, but Matthew explained: “French film maker. Army of Shadows (vv good).” I looked him up and discovered that his last name was adopted as a pseudonym, taken from Herman Melville, when Jean-Pierre was in the French Resistance during the war (his real name was Jean-Pierre Grumbach). And I’ll have to see “Army of Shadows.”
Jean-Pierre Melville and cats. pic.twitter.com/cV6aVL7q2s
— Paul Duane (@paulduanefilm) February 23, 2021