Wednesday: Hili dialogue

February 24, 2021 • 6:30 am

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:

Here’s that papal bull. (Why is it called a “bull”? Wikipedia says this: “It is named after the leaden seal (bulla) that was traditionally appended to the end in order to authenticate it.”)

  • 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”:

  • 1874 – Honus Wagner, American baseball player, coach, and manager (d. 1955)

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.
In Polish:
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.)

In Polish: Kulka towarzyszy nauce zdalnej. (Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)

From Stephen:

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!!

. . . and on these next two. Both cats are vociferous, and the second is angry:

Maybe it’s because he wasn’t wearing a mask?

It’s an unfulfilled dream of mine to see an orca in the wild. I’m hoping that if I get to Antarctica again. . .

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.

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.”

27 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. 1998 – Henny Youngman, English-American comedian and violinist (b. 1906)

    Youngman had a cameo playing himself in Goodfellas doing his routine at The Copa. It’s an interesting choice by Scorsese (and his longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker) to keep the soundtrack of Youngman’s one-liners going over the following opening shot of the mobsters’ Air France heist at JFK (then Idlewild) airport, before segueing into the Chantel’s doo-wop tune “Look in My Eyes”:

    1. Henny Youngman was listed in the NYC phone book. You could call him up and he’d answer the phone Wish I’d known before he died because I’d have called him. I did find Morton Sobell’s number in the SF phone book, dialed it, and he answered! He invited me to meet him at the SF Courthouse, where he hung out but (apparently, he’d become a trial watching geek). I wanted to learn about his time in Alcatraz. An ex-con acquaintance told me that he knew Sobell from Alcatraz. Alas, I never made it.

  2. Some great stuff in today’s Hili, but our host’s “Maybe it’s because he wasn’t wearing a mask?” was the killer for me.

  3. One of the cats we owned when I was in HS used to carry on conversations. She didn’t mimic back our words like Cooter does, but she had figured out cadence enough so that she knew when it was ‘her turn’ to speak, even in a multiple person conversation. (We had another cat at the same time who rarely interacted with us vocally at all, so in contrast her abilities were pretty impressive.)

    IIRC there was a study a while back showing domestic cats use a very wide variety of meows around humans, so the interesting thing here (at least IMO) is the interaction, how they handle that back and forth; not necessarily that the cats can make lots of different sounds.

  4. Possible reasons for spider mimicry: 1. Birds and other predators may avoid them, as ants have chemical defenses and some can sting. 2. Ants may also not prey on them, since ants regard ant-looking things as ants. 3. This one is more obscure, but sometimes ant mimicry is done by a predator in order to sneak up on other ants and eat them.

    1. Those all make sense to me. Avoiding predators seems most likely.

      Question. If a spider can evolve its morphology to look like an insect, why not lose those giveaway extra legs too? Possible answer: Spider predators can’t count.

    2. 4. Because ants are cool, and it’s cool to look like one, and after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 🙂

      I think you past the test, me, not so much.

    1. I’ll show my sons this from the Old English. It may help them answer the question I always pose to them, viz., “How many syllables are in ‘Wednesday’?”

  5. Chenin blanc is wonderful. The classic example is Vouvray. Vouvray can be sweet-ish and alos can be pétillant (semi-sparkling) or mousseux (fully sparkling).

    Most of the wine produced (in the past I must say) in the USA under the names Chenin blanc and Vouvray have been dreck.

    A good name in Vouvray is Champalou: You can’t go wrong with this maker.

    Your Anjou is probably very similar to Vouvray. The village of Vouvray is in the nearby département: Indre-et-Loire, further upriver.

  6. Adjunct fact to Nancy Astor being the first woman to speak in Westminster as an MP, she wasn’t in fact the first woman to be elected. That distinction goes to Countess Constance Markevitch (she had married a Polish count hence the name/title), an Irish revolutionary with Sinn Féin, who, in keeping with the tradition that party cleaves to still in Northern Ireland, refused to take her seat in the Parliament of the oppressor.

  7. The amount of air time devoted to Tiger Woods’ accident yesterday was extraordinary. It seemed every news show devoted a quarter of their time to it, showing scenes of his past golf victories and asking other golf stars whether Tiger could come back from it. Thank god for DVR and FF!

    1. Yes, I don’t think the Pope or Biden would get that much coverage from a car wreck. All the stuff they did on CNN you would have thought he died as well.

      Looking at the photos of the wreck I would guess that car did a lot more than a few rollovers. He apparently hit a tree before going across the road and down the bank on the other side. There may have been some end over end as well. The back end of the car is smashed up as well as the front.

      1. I know that spot well. Hawthorne Blvd comes down from the Palos Verdes hills in a fast but twisty downhill segment that ends where it crosses Palos Verdes Drive North. It’s kind of fun to go fast there if there’s not too much traffic.

      1. Unbelievably, they included even more coverage of the accident in last night’s news. And this morning’s LA Times has an article telling how the city is going to take action to make that downhill run of Hawthorne Blvd. safer. They say there have been a lot of accidents there but I doubt whether they would be looking at this if, say, I had crashed there instead of Tiger Woods.

  8. Years ago I asked the sales woman in a Boston store for a good white wine. She said she was fond of some old Anjou that was a bit over the hill but still nice. There it was in piles on the discount table. It was something like $3. I took two. They were very interesting. Very nutty and buttery. I went back and got a case.

  9. The weekdays in German are named after the old germanic deities, as it is the case of their English names (through the Saxons). Most other names could sneak by because they also sounded like innocuous words to the early Church elders. For instance, Tyr‘s Day sounds like “Duty-Day” (Dienstag), Donar’s Day also sounded like “Thunder-Day” (Donnerstag) or Frigg’s Day like “Free-Day” (Freitag) — except Wotan was apparently known to them, and was changed. The origins are hidden well enough that many aren‘t aware that the days are still mostly named after germanic deities.

    As a side note the names also give a good idea how language shifts as you travel northwards. The origin is apparently somewhere in southern Germany, where oldest traces of the pantheon were fond, so speak out loud, approximately: Wotan—Wodan—Woden—Uuoden—Odin

  10. You can see orcas in Puget Sound. I used to commute on the Washington ferries and we would regularly see them during the winter. There are also whale watching tours available from the Seattle waterfront.

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