Good morning on a dreary Sunday, April 11, 2020: National Cheese Fondue Day. It’s also National Pet Day and Barbershop Quartet Day, celebrating the foundation of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. In Canada it’s National Poutine Day, but it should be an International Poutine Day given the deliciousness of this unhealthy dish. Finally, it’s International Louie Louie Day, celebrating the birthday of Richard Berry, who wrote the song in 1955. However, it wasn’t a big hit until the Kingsmen’s version in 1963.
Here’s a poutine I ate in 2016 at the famous “La Banquise” poutine joint in Montreal:
And a sampling of prizewinning barbershop quartets:
I wondered if there were any all-women barbershop quartets. A quick Googling showed what I should have known: of course. Here’s one!
News of the Day:
The NY Times editorial board has an Important Editorial urging us to resume the nuclear deal with Iran. They seem to think that this will put Iran’s acquisition of a bomb on permanent hold. To quote George Orwell on this matter, “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” Iran is going to get the bomb one way or another, and has been cheating like gangbusters since the deal was forged; see here for the grim story. Although the deal was nixed by Trump, our diplomacy should be conducted not with a view of stopping Iran from getting the bomb, but assuming that it will, and acting with that knowledge. Slowing down its program doesn’t seem to be that useful: how is it better for Iran to have a bomb in 2030 than in 2025?
If you haven’t seen Ken Burns’s and Lynn Novick’s wonderful three-part series on Ernest Hemingway, go to the link below (it may not work outside the U.S.) and watch as much as you can before they take down free access. I’ve read just about everything Hemingway ever wrote, and Carlos Baker’s biography, but there was a lot to learn—and to see—in this six-hour series. It is especially good on his writing, with extensive quotes and expert literary talking heads, and shows how much of a jerk the man could be, especially to his four wives. And it makes me want to go back and reread a lot of his work, the ultimate benefit of such a series.
The HuffPost Personal section was especially intriguing on Friday, especially the piece on RBG and the Satanic Temple.
Reuters reports that the “South African variant” of the coronavirus (“B.1.351”) can infect people doubly vaccinated with the Pfizer jab more easily than other variants. The prevalence of the variant was eight times higher in doubly injected people than in the general population. Not to worry yet, though, as the prevalence of the variant is low, the sample size of the study (400) small, and the research hasn’t yet been peer reviewed.
Speaking of the virus, the Wall Street Journal explores the safety of dining out now that restaurants are reopening everywhere. Your risk tolerance of course depends on your vaccination status, but if you’ve had your jabs, it’s reasonably safe to eat out with proper precautions. Even in Texas, which lifted mask mandates, every place I ate insisted on your wearing masks as you entered, and when you weren’t at table. It’s not as bad there as people think, and I felt safe.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 561,231, an increase of 700 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,940,679, an increase of about 9,600 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on April 11 includes:
Commemorated in my ring, which has the seal of America’s only college with a Royal Charter:
- 1727 – Premiere of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion BWV 244b at the St. Thomas Church, Leipzig
- 1945 – World War II: American forces liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Elie Wiesel was there; here’s a photo of the barracks on April 16, five days after liberation, with Wiesel circled:
- 1951 – Korean War: President Truman relieves Douglas MacArthur of the command of American forces in Korea and Japan.
- 1961 – The trial of Adolf Eichmann begins in Jerusalem.
Eichmann was convicted and hanged in Israel in 1962; here he is in prison. Even a man as odious as Eichmann should, I think, spend the rest of his life in jail rather than being executed.
- 1968 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.
- 1970 – Apollo 13 is launched.
- 1976 – The Apple I is created.
Sixty-three Apple 1s still exist, and six of them still work. Here’s one of them (as Wikipedia notes, “As of January 23, 2020, a functioning, registered Apple I is listed on eBay for US $1,750,000”).
Notables born on this day were few, and include:
- 1722 – Christopher Smart, English actor, playwright, and poet (d. 1771)
While confined in an insane asylum, Smart wrote a long religious poem, Jubilate Agno, part of which, a fragment called “For I will consider my cat Jeoffry,” is the best cat poem ever written. You can read it here.
- 1925 – Viola Liuzzo, American civil rights activist (d. 1965)
We remember Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, the three young civil rights activists killed by Southern bigots, but who remembers Liuzzo? She traveled from Detroit to Alabama to help with the civil rights protests, and was killed by the Klan:
- 1928 – Ethel Kennedy, American philanthropist
Those who took The Big Nap on April 11 include:
- 1890 – Joseph Merrick, English man with severe deformities (b. 1862)
Merrick was of course the “Elephant Man”, a gentle person with a tragic disease. It’s not clear what disease: it used to be thought that he had neurofibromatosis, but now some think he had Proteus syndrome. Here’s Merrick’s skeleton, which has been preserved.
Here’s the only surviving letter written by Merrick:
- 1926 – Luther Burbank, American botanist and academic (b. 1849)
- 1983 – Dolores del Río, Mexican actress (b. 1904)
Del Rio and Fred Astaire in Flying Down to Rio (1933):
- 1985 – Enver Hoxha, Albanian educator and politician, 21st Prime Minister of Albania (b. 1908)
- 1987 – Primo Levi, Italian chemist and author (b. 1919)
- 2007 – Kurt Vonnegut, American novelist, short story writer, and playwright (b. 1922)
Here’s a three-minute mini-biography of Vonnegut:
- 2013 – Jonathan Winters, American comedian, actor and screenwriter (b. 1925)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is doing her job as editor, which in this case is to impede writing:
Hili: I prepared the workplace for you.Małgorzata: Thank you.
Hili: Przygotowałam ci stanowisko pracy.Małgorzata: Dziękuję.
From Jesus of the Day:
Titania is the Nostradamus of our day:
On 19 February 2019, I warned that even babies could be racist.
On 9 March 2021, the Arizona Department of Education concurred. pic.twitter.com/hmtGkmP7yL
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) April 9, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. Here’s his old cat Ollie, the one who laid open my nose with a deft swipe of his paw:
Ollie proving at even at 14 years old he’s still a kitten cat. pic.twitter.com/1s4QZ6rQni
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) April 9, 2021
This moth mimics a wasp not just in appearance (dig those clear wings), but in behavior as well:
Here's that awesome sesiid moth mid-flight. I believe this is the western poplar clearwing moth (Paranthrene robiniae) but happy for other ID thoughts! Was tricky to get a flight shot as she only wanted to fly in short, jerky bursts like a wasp! pic.twitter.com/qFcDJM7m28
— Ian Wright (@ianmwright86) April 8, 2021
Carmen the duck and her 16 ducklings are getting moved to a permanent home tomorrow after a few days on a seventh-floor balcony. (I hope they fed the ducklings!)
A moment of rest for Carmen the #duck after their morning bath. This is their last day in Hotel Balcony before moving to the nearest pond tomorrow morning. #ihaveaduckonmybalcony @DickKingSmith @WildlifeTrusts pic.twitter.com/Xuf2mz5PGQ
— Johanna Kolerski-B. (@JohannaKoBe) April 10, 2021
A surfing seal catches a wave and rides it well.
Surfeando en Australia 🌊🏄♀️💙
🎥 Dylan deHaas | Instagram pic.twitter.com/NrfgPTlnx7
— Yo, Animal (@yoanimal_p) April 6, 2021
A lovely photo:
Seaweed in the waves pic.twitter.com/b6ripnHycL
— Diane Doniol-Valcroze (@ddoniolvalcroze) April 10, 2021
Finally, a rarity: a picture of Matthew when he was young (13 or 14 according to his caption). His key: “I am at top left. My brother is an artist, my sister was a teacher (physics), both now retired with grandchildren. My grandmother bottom right, my mother bottom left.”
FB reminds me of this, from 50 (maybe 49) years ago. My sister’s wedding. She made the hot pants suit herself. My brother is wearing a 1930s Cambridge cricketing blazer he found in a junk shop. My trousers were far too short (Mum ignored my complaints) but you can’t see them. pic.twitter.com/sWoJ7i9oUS
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) April 10, 2021