Good morning on a wet Monday, April 12, 2021: National Grilled Cheese Day (the sandwich must be paired with tomato soup, as the combination for some reason is not only felicitous, but also imperative). It’s also National Licorice Day, Drop Everything and Read Day, and International Day of Human Space Flight, honoring the exploration begun on this day by Yuri Gagarin when he orbited the earth once in 1961. Since there were no provisions for a safe re-entry of his Vostok capsule, he parachuted out by himself at 8000 feet and landed safely.
This is the 60th anniversary of Gagarin’s orbit; here’s a very brief documentary:
Wine of the Day: Here’s an Italian red made from the Freisa grape, a varietal I haven’t had. The first link goes to where I bought it for about $20 and some tasting notes. I drank it with homemade turkey chili (I didn”t go meatless for a week as I’d planned). It was delicious, full of fruit and the taste of cherries; the only problem was that it was pretty tannic, a problem that may resolve after I let the remnants sit overnight. Also, it was the first alcohol I’ve had since I went to Texas.
News of the Day:
With talks underway in Vienna for the U.S. to resume its 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (as I’ve said, a “deal” will accomplish nothing to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons), a mysterious blackout hit the Nantanz nuclear facility, now being rebuilt. It looks as if Israel is sending a message to Iran, as it may have done with the mysterious fire that occurred there a year ago.
Empathy in the animal world: the Washington Post reviews a new book about animal behavior, “When Animals Rescue: Amazing True Stories about Heroic and Helpful Creatures,” by writer Belinda Recio. Her thesis is that animals are feel humanlike emotions, like altruism and kindness, far more often than we think. The reviewer, a journalist, says that the treatment is too anecdotal, and there may be other explanations for these behaviors, but concludes:
If it is anthropomorphic to say that animals genuinely care for one another, then why isn’t it also anthropomorphic to say that they are hungry or thirsty or sexually aroused? Yet those who hesitate to attribute “higher” ethical motives to other species rarely have a problem discerning in them the more “primitive” drives that humans are also subject to.
Wisely, Recio stays out of this contentious debate. She lets the stories speak for themselves. We cannot help but be delighted by them, if not transformed.
But the readers should be informed by Recio about possible alternative explanations for the behaviors. If these might not rest on a shared set of emotions with animals, then we can’t be “transformed.” It is not a particularly trenchant review. I’d recommend Frans de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (h/t: Barry)
Important squirrel news: the Washington Post has a piece about how an amateur wildlife photographer, Dani Connor, became famous overnight by taking the video (below) of a red squirrel emitting noises of pleasure as it eats seeds. The squirrel was one of an litter orphaned when its mother was killed by a car, and she cared for the four babies. Now she has a Patreon account and can make a living from her photography. Good for her!
When the pandemic began hitting the U.S. and Europe hard, I predicted that India, with a poor and crowded population and insufficient medical facilities, would be hit even harder. I was pleased that it wasn’t: there is even a New Yorker article by Sid Mukherjee about this anomaly. Now, however, the pandemic is beginning to hit my beloved India, with reported cases undergoing the biggest surge ever. As Reuters notes:
New cases in the world’s second-most populous country have totalled the most of anywhere in the world over the last two weeks. India’s overall tally of 13.21 million is the third-highest globally, just shy of Brazil and below the worst affected country, the United States.
The second surge in infections, which has spread much more rapidly than the first one that peaked in September, has forced many states to impose fresh curbs but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has refused to impose a national lockdown given the high economic costs.
Here’s a daily graph of daily new cases, which reached about 169,000 yesterday.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 561,527, an increase of just 294 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,950,823, an increase of about 10,200 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on April 12 includes:
- 1204 – The Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade breach the walls of Constantinople and enter the city, which they completely occupy the following day.
- 1861 – American Civil War: Battle of Fort Sumter. The war begins with Confederate forces firing on Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
This is considered the beginning of the Civil War, and happened soon after Lincoln took office in March. I can’t find a date for the formal declaration of war, but you can still visit the ruined fort in Charleston Harbor:
- 1928 – The Bremen, a German Junkers W 33 type aircraft, takes off for the first successful transatlantic aeroplane flight from east to west. This is a year after Lindbergh’s solo flight, and the Bremen had a three-man crew, ergo it’s not remembered so much. Here’s the plane that made it, landing in a peat bog in Newfoundland:
- 1945 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies in office; Vice President Harry S. Truman becomes President upon Roosevelt’s death.
If you’re in Georgia, as I was in 2013, I recommend visiting the house in Warm Springs where Roosevelt died. (He was with his mistress Lucy Mercer when stricken with a fatal cerebral hemorrhage, and Lucy was hustled out of the house before Eleanor arrived.) Here are a few photos of the cottage that I took.
A poignant message on the wall from FDR’s cook:
The room in which he was sitting when stricken by the hemorrhage:
The bed in the next room where he died:
- 1955 – The polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, is declared safe and effective.
- 1961 – Cold War: Space Race: The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to travel into outer space and perform the first manned orbital flight, Vostok 1.
- 1983 – Harold Washington is elected as the first black mayor of Chicago.
Washington was a good mayor, and I especially liked him because he was fond of the monk parrots who nested in a tree across from his apartment, which was in Hyde Park. He died the year after I moved to Chicago.
- 1999 – United States President Bill Clinton is cited for contempt of court for giving “intentionally false statements” in a civil lawsuit; he is later fined and disbarred.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1777 – Henry Clay, American lawyer and politician, 9th United States Secretary of State (d. 1852)
- 1883 – Imogen Cunningham, American photographer and educator (d. 1976)
An underappreciated photographer, Cunningham was one of the first women to photograph nudes, which was considered scandalous. Here’s one of her famous pictures, “Three Dancers, Mills College. 1929.” © The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012.
And I can’t resist adding this photograph by Judy Dater showing an aged Cunningham (she was 90) with her camera and a nude, “Imogen Cunningham and Twinka Thiebaud at Yosemite
1974.” (It has its own Wikipedia entry.) Wikipedia notes, “The photo was the first adult full frontal nude photograph published in Life magazine.”
- 1916 – Benjamin Libet, American neuropsychologist and academic (d. 2007)
- 1923 – Ann Miller, American actress, singer, and dancer (d. 2004)
Here’s Miller, a great dancer now forgotten, paired with Fred Astaire in “Easter Parade.” Judy Garland gives them the stinkeye:
- 1932 – Tiny Tim, American singer and ukulele player (d. 1996)
- 1947 – David Letterman, American comedian and talk show host
- 1981 – Tulsi Gabbard, American politician
Those who kicked the bucket on April 12 include:
- 1912 – Clara Barton, American nurse and humanitarian, founded the American Red Cross (b. 1821)
- 1945 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, American lawyer and politician, 32nd President of the United States (b. 1882)
- 1981 – Joe Louis, American boxer and wrestler (b. 1914)
- 1988 – Alan Paton, South African historian and author (b. 1903)
- 1989 – Abbie Hoffman, American activist, co-founded Youth International Party (b. 1936)
Here’s the famous Yippie the year he died (he committed suicide with an overdose of phenobarbital):
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a plea:
Hili: Education is important.A: That’s true.Hili: How to teach Kulka that my bowls are sacrosanct and untouchable?A: It’s not possible.
Hili: Edukacja jest ważna.Ja: To prawda.Hili: Jak nauczyć Kulkę, że moje miseczki są święte i nietykalne?Ja: To nie jest możliwe.
Paulina photographed Szaron and Kulka out on the tiles:
Caption: Night, cats, and Paulina with her camera. (In Polish: Noc, koty i Paulina z jej aparatem.)
This is what’s called a “burn.” Apple Martin, Gwynnie’s daughter, isn’t keen on her mother’s “morning routine”, though Apple has one too. See more here.
And I found this, too, which is one reason I dislike Gwynnie. She actually had a video made about getting ready for the Met Gala and posted it on Twitter!
— Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) May 22, 2019
From Barry. Whipped cream sounds are to d*gs as opening tuna cans are to cats.
Second tweet: what is that cat drinking??
— louxeure (@Louxeur) April 10, 2021
Tweets from Matthew, who says to notice the little nose nudge at the end to get things just right. But I’m disturbed by the bear’s personal pronoun, “they”. Is this a genderfluid bear?
Grizzly bear casually fixing a fallen safety cone as they walk down the road pic.twitter.com/iqPGP0O6mF
— The Feel Good Page ❤️ (@FeelGoodPage11) April 9, 2021
I could tell you what this is, but that would deprive you of the joy of discovery. Check out the thread itself.
I do not know what kind of creature this is but I identify with it very strongly pic.twitter.com/hAijg6p6nm
— Liam Stack (@liamstack) April 10, 2021
If this swarm can really move faster than a single caterpillar, I don’t understand why. Is this true?
A group of caterpillars, moving in a formation known as a rolling swarm. This rolling swarm of caterpillars moves faster than any single caterpillar. 🐛 pic.twitter.com/sn3J3CDYmE
— Theo Shantonas (@TheoShantonas) April 9, 2021
Coincidence—or corporate collusion?
Well that doesn't happen very often… pic.twitter.com/30GFYJ4PaP
— Oliver Morton (@Eaterofsun) April 10, 2021