It’s Friday, it’s Friday! Which seat can you take? Welcome to April 16, 2021, the first day of the rest of your life. It’s also National Eggs Benedict Day, but note that Anthony Bourdain said several times that this is the one dish you should never order (he also said that you should avoid brunch in general, as it comprises leftover kitchen scraps). It’s also The Day of the Mushroom, National Orchid Day, National Librarian Day, Save the Elephant Day, Emancipation Day in some areas of the U.S. and several countries, and World Voice Day.
News of the Day:
This just in: It never ends—there’s been another mass shooting, this time at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, where a shooter killed eight people before turning the gun on himself. Here’s a tweet with a report from the Indianapolis police department.
IMPD says 8 people have died and multiple others were injured in the mass shooting at the FedEx facility in Indy. pic.twitter.com/CwVCqEhmyn
— WRTV Indianapolis (@wrtv) April 16, 2021
One quote from the NYT report: ““This made me stand up and actually look out the entrance door, and I saw a man with a submachine gun of some sort, an automatic rifle, and he was firing in the open.” As of this writing, there is no information about the shooter or possible motives. The subheading of the article could apply nearly all the time in America:
And we had a police shooting in Chicago: 13 year old Adam Toledo, carrying a handgun, was chased on foot by a Chicago cop. The cop ordered him to drop the gun and show his hands. The video I saw on the news appeared to show Toledo complying, but as he turned to face the cop, he was shot in the chest and killed. There was less than a second between the order and the shooting,.
If you got a Pfizer vaccine (or the Moderna one), you’ll probably need a booster shot to maintain immunity. The CEO of Pfizer announced that boosters are “likely” needed within a year after your second shot. We already know that immunity lasts six months, but so far we don’t have data beyond that. If a booster is needed, and I suspect one will be, getting it will probably be an annual event, like getting your flu shot.
Progressive Democrats have introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would expand the number of justices in the Supreme Court from nine (constant since 1869) to thirteen. According to ABC News,
The Judiciary Act of 2021 is co-sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, including House Judiciary Chairman Jerrod Nadler, D-N.Y., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Reps. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y.
The bill would “restore balance to the nation’s highest court after four years of norm-breaking actions by Republicans led to its current composition,” Nadler said in a statement.
“We are not packing the Supreme Court, we are unpacking it,” Nadler said at a news conference unveiling the bill in front of the Supreme Court Thursday.
I’m not sure whether “unpacking” means “get more liberal justices in there” or something related to postmodern jargon, but the bill will go nowhere. Nancy Pelosi says she “has no intention to bring it to the floor,” though she is in favor of Biden’s commission appointed to study reforms of the court. Biden himself opposes “court packing” (or unpacking), but what else would that commission be about? Despite the odious machinations of Senate Republicans around court appointments in the last several years, this sounds like a dubious idea to me, as when Republicans regain the Congress, which they will, they could simply add a couple more conservative justices. Why 13 justices? Well, with liberals Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, four more liberals would make a majority of 7 out of 13. This wouldn’t work with, say, 11 justices.
The New York Times (!) reports that J.Lo and A-Rod, engaged for two years, have called off their engagement. In case you don’t know the principals, they are the American equivalent of the British royalty: renowed singer and actor Jennifer Lopez 51, and former Yankees baseball superstar, Alex Rodriguez, 45.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 564,835, an increase of 909 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll has passed three million, and is not at 3,001,658, an increase of about 3,000 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on April 16 includes:
- AD 73 – Masada, a Jewish fortress, falls to the Romans after several months of siege, ending the First Jewish–Roman War.
According to legend, 960 Jewish rebels committed suicide lest they fall into the hands of the Romans (this is reported by Josephus). But historians aren’t sure this record is accurate. At any rate, here’s the fortress today, showing why it took several months for the Romans to overcome it. (The Dead Sea is in the background.)
- 1746 – The Battle of Culloden is fought between the French-supported Jacobites and the British Hanoverian forces commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, in Scotland. After the battle many highland traditions were banned and the Highlands of Scotland were cleared of inhabitants.
- 1881 – In Dodge City, Kansas, Bat Masterson fights his last gun battle.
Masterson didn’t die from a bullet; he became a journalist and sportswriter in New York City. But look at this photo of the “Dodge City Peace Commission” during Masterson’s gunfighting days. Wyatt Earp is in there, too:
Wikipedia caption: The “Dodge City Peace Commission” on June 10, 1883. From left to right, standing: William H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, William F. Petillon; seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Michael Francis “Frank” McLean and Cornelius “Neil” Brown.
Here’s the locomotive that pulled that fateful train; I photographed it in the Finland Station in St. Petersburg (“Petrograd”) in 2011:
- 1919 – Mohandas Gandhi organizes a day of “prayer and fasting” in response to the killing of Indian protesters in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre by the British colonial troops three days earlier.
- 1943 – Albert Hofmann accidentally discovers the hallucinogenic effects of the research drug LSD. He intentionally takes the drug three days later on April 19.
Here’s Hofmann, whom I once heard lecture to a class on economic botany at Harvard. He was very staid, and wore an immaculate white lab coat during his talk. But he was always an advocate of the therapeutic effects of LSD, now the subject of a recent book by Michael Pollan.
- 1945 – World War II: The Red Army begins the final assault on German forces around Berlin, with nearly one million troops fighting in the Battle of the Seelow Heights.
- 1947 – Bernard Baruch first applies the term “Cold War” to describe the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union.
- 1963 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pens his Letter from Birmingham Jail while incarcerated in Birmingham, Alabama for protesting against segregation.
You can read this famous letter, a call for peaceful civil disobedience and a rebuke to those who said the struggle for civil rights was moving too fast, at this link.
Kevorkian served eight years for his activities, and died three years after his release from prison. Here he is with his “suicide machine”, which, he said, helped end the lives of 130 people. He was a pioneer in the movement for assisted suicide. His smile is a bit unseemly!
- 2012 – The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced, it was the first time since 1977 that no book won the Fiction Prize.
Notables born on this day include two great comedians:
- 1889 – Charlie Chaplin, English actor, director, producer, screenwriter, and composer (d. 1977)
- 1918 – Spike Milligan, Irish actor, comedian, and writer (d. 2002)
Here’s Milligan’s acceptance speech for lifetime achievement at the British Comedy Awards in 1994:
- 1919 – Merce Cunningham, American dancer and choreographer (d. 2009)
- 1922 – Kingsley Amis, English novelist, poet, and critic (d. 1995)
- 1939 – Dusty Springfield, English singer and record producer (d. 1999)
There’s a recent (and positive) article about Dusty Springfield in the New Yorker, which you can read here. Her most famous song is surely “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” which is great, but I like this one better:
- 1947 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, American basketball player and coach
- 1971 – Selena, American singer-songwriter, actress, and fashion designer (d. 1995)
And I have to show a Selena song; here’s Bidi Bidi Bom Bom, performed at the Astrodome. She was, of course, shot by the President of her fan club and manager of a line of Selena boutiques, and died at only 23.
Those who cashed in their chips on April 16 include:
Here is “Cats Fighting” by Goya (1786; you can see it in the Prado):
- 1879 – Bernadette Soubirous, French nun and saint (b. 1844)
Here’s Soubirous (“St. Bernadette” whose reported visions founded the healing mecca at Lourdes). She died of tuberculosis at 35:
- 1947 – Rudolf Höss, German SS officer (b. 1900)
- 1958 – Rosalind Franklin, English biophysicist and academic (b. 1920)
- 1991 – David Lean, English director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1908)
- 1994 – Ralph Ellison, American novelist and critic (b. 1913)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is birdwatching:
Hili: I wonder whether this bird can be an inspiration?A: Inspiration to what?Hili: To examine it closer.(Photo: Paulina R.)
Hili: Ciekawe czy ten ptak może być inspiracją?Ja: Do czego?Hili: Żeby przyjrzeć mu się bliżej.(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)
A cartoon from Mark, who asks readers to spot the error:
From Not Another Science Cat:
From Nicole: I’m afraid my bed is a bit like this:
Here’s a nice lecture by The Pinkah on love and sex, part of his Harvard course on Psychological Science. On top of everything else, he gives a great class!
— Steven Pinker (@sapinker) April 14, 2021
Barry calls this “a beautiful tweet”, and it is. Look at the excitement of that chimp!
This baby chimp was born with broken ribs, had pneumonia, and was abandoned by his own mother.
A human couple raised him and showed him love.
Today — this is how he reacts whenever he sees them.
— Goodable (@Goodable) April 14, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. He sent me this one of Hook the Duckling to cheer me up:
— caenhillcc (@caenhillcc) April 15, 2021
The neko Coco-chan saved a man, but they had to dress the moggie up in clothes for his award? How humiliating! SAYS News gives more information:
It alerted its owner about the fallen man, and ultimately saved his life.
In honour of its bravery, Koko-chan was appointed as police chief for one day on 13 April, reported Japanese news outlet NHK.
In a solemn ceremony, Koko-chan was handed a certificate that officiates its one-day police role.
Coco-chan, who alerted authorities to an elderly man who had fallen in a ditch and aided in his rescue, received an honorary award from police today in Toyama.
Coco-chan: I will never save another human ever
— Spoon & Tamago (@Johnny_suputama) April 14, 2021
Those are some teeth! I thought that the marine iguana was the world’s only herbivorous lizard, but it turns out that several species of iguanas, chuckwallas, and other lizards are plant eaters as well.
🦎 Marine iguana teeth look like tiny hands 🙌
🦎 These are called tricuspid teeth and they help iguanas graze algae off rocks
🦎 They are easier to see once the gums have peeled back, hence the desiccated skulls pic.twitter.com/2e0Si8nTyC
— Emma Hollen ⚫ (@Emma_Hollen) April 15, 2021
Here is an odd kitty:
“He hasn't let go of it for MONTHS 🤔” https://t.co/FrSAIutxfB
— The Dodo (@dodo) April 14, 2021
I had to guess why this video is particularly British, and I’m still not convinced by Matthew’s explanation. YOU guess, and only if you’re a Brit!
Everything about this video is perfect pic.twitter.com/NIozhoUK42
— Alan White (@aljwhite) April 13, 2021
It took me a while to get this one because I’m thick:
— Moose Allain Ꙭ (@MooseAllain) December 21, 2014