Back to another damn week: it’s Monday, April 26, 2021 and National Pretzel Day. I’ll take the big soft ones with mustard, please. It’s also Audubon Day (he was born on this day in 1785, World Intellectual Property Day, National Help a Horse Day, and Hug an Australian Day (but only if you’re both vaccinated).
Posting will be light today as I have several things I must attend to, some of them duck related
Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) honors the British developmental biologist Anne McLaren, born on this day in 1927 (died 2007). Along with John Biggers, she was the first to successfully achieve in vitro fertilization in mice, which led, in the hands of later researchers. to using the same method in humans. It’s now a common way to deal with infertility.
The Barolo I reported opening and tasting yesterday, which turned out to be so-so, has improved markedly after a day in the bottle under vacuum. It’s actually quite tasty now, though not of course the equivalent of a $70 Barolo. Still, it’s one of the few reds I’ve had that has palpably improved a day after opening.
News of the Day:
Here is some remarkable video, taken from the Mars rover Perseverance, of the tiny helicopter Ingenuity’s third flight—another great success. According to NASA,
The helicopter took off at 4:31 a.m. EDT (1:31 a.m. PDT), or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time, rising 16 feet (5 meters) – the same altitude as its second flight. Then it zipped downrange 164 feet (50 meters), just over half the length of a football field, reaching a top speed of 6.6 feet per second (2 meters per second).
It then came back and settled happily where it started, as you see below:
More good news. Biden just finished his first 100 days in office and his report card—his approval rating—was pretty good, much better than Trump’s at the same time but still not as good as Obama’s. His overall rating is 54%, which CNN deems a bit below average for postwar Presidents, and yet I think Biden’s done a much better job at this point than, say, Obama.
The lower rating, I believe, reflects a greater division in the country, with Republicans determined to dislike Biden no matter what: the overall aprproval rating is 96% among Democrats and just 10% among Republicans. Take the average of those two figures, assuming a 50/50 party split in the US, and you get 53%—almost spot on. Among different areas, the ratings were highest for Biden’s handling of the pandemic (64% approval) and the economy (52% approval). The lowest ratings were for his handling of immigration (37% approval) and gun violence (42% approval).
Here are the Oscar winners in the “Big Six” categories with the NYT reviews:
Best Actor Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Sadly, the Indonesian military has found the wreckage of the submarine that went missing with a crew of 53. It’s resting 3,000 feet below the surface, and is in three pieces. Clearly, nobody survived.
But more news! The President of the European Commission just announced that fully vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to the EU this summer. Exact dates for entry haven’t been announced, and I won’t want to go in the summer, but come fall . . . well, I hope the restaurants in Paris are open. And there’s Poland, where my surrogate family and beloved Hili await, along with two cats I haven’t yet met.
India set yet another world record for Covid infections, with 349,691 new cases reported on Saturday, the fourth daily world record in a row. Reports of what’s going on there, with sick people being turned away from hospitals to die in the street, are heart-rending.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 571,573, an increase of 707 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,123,697, an increase of about 9,400 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on April 26 includes this:
- 1564 – Playwright William Shakespeare is baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England (date of actual birth is unknown).
Once again, here’s Shakespeare’s baptismal record, which I’ve outlined:
- 1803 – Thousands of meteor fragments fall from the skies of L’Aigle, France; the event convinces European scientists that meteors exist.
- 1865 – Union cavalry troopers corner and shoot dead John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, in Virginia.
Here’s Booth, who was cornered by the cavalry in a barn that was then lit on fire. He was shot through the spine in the barn, and died 3 hours later after uttering, “Tell my mother that I died for my country.” He was 26.
- 1933 – The Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, is established.
- 1937 – Spanish Civil War: Guernica, Spain, is bombed by German Luftwaffe.
The Picasso work painted the same year:
- 1956 – SS Ideal X, the world’s first successful container ship, leaves Port Newark, New Jersey, for Houston, Texas.
- 1970 – The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization enters into force.
- 1981 – Dr. Michael R. Harrison of the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center performs the world’s first human open fetal surgery.
“Open” fetal surgery, as opposed to other methods like endoscopic fetal surgery, involves opening the uterus and operating on the fetus directly. It’s amazing that this can be done, but it’s true. Wikipedia describes the first successful operation is described this way: “The fetus in question had a congenital hydronephrosis, a blockage in the urinary tract that caused the kidney to dangerously extend. To correct this a vesicostomy was performed by placing a catheter in the fetus to allow the urine to be released normally. The blockage itself was removed surgically after birth.”
- 1986 – The Chernobyl disaster occurs in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
- 1989 – The deadliest known tornado strikes Central Bangladesh, killing upwards of 1,300, injuring 12,000, and leaving as many as 80,000 homeless.
- 2018 – American comedian Bill Cosby is found guilty of sexual assault.
- 2019 – Marvel Studios‘ blockbuster film, Avengers: Endgame, is released, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing the previous box office record of Avatar.
Can this be true? Highest-grossing film of all time? Why not The Last Picture Show? (Don’t answer; I already know.) The gross: $2.8 billion!
Notables born on this day include:
This is described as a photo of Audubon by Matthew Brady. Below is his painting of mallards from The Birds of America
- 1798 – Eugène Delacroix, French painter and lithographer (d. 1863)
Now Delacroix could draw cats. Here’s his 1830-1831 picture “A Young Tiger Playing With Its Mother” (“Jeune tigre jouant avec sa mère”).
Here’s Ma Rainey and her band, which you can see depicted in the movie “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. I rated it “very good but not great.”
- 1889 – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian-English philosopher and academic (d. 1951)
- 1894 – Rudolf Hess, Egyptian-German politician (d. 1987)
- 1918 – Fanny Blankers-Koen, Dutch sprinter and long jumper (d. 2004)
Blankers-Koen won four track and field gold medals (one in a relay) in the 1948 Olympics in London; she was 30. Here are all four of her performances.
- 1933– Carol Burnett, American actress, singer, and producer
- 1970 – Melania Trump, Slovene-American model; 47th First Lady of the United States
Those who began their Dirt Nap on April 26 include:
- 1865 – John Wilkes Booth, American actor, assassin of Abraham Lincoln (b. 1838)
- 1951 – Arnold Sommerfeld, German physicist and academic (b. 1868)
- 1976 – Sidney Franklin, American bullfighter (b. 1903)
Franklin, praised by Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon, was not only an American bullfighter, but a Jewish bullfighter, perhaps the only one in history. Here’s a photo:
- 1984 – Count Basie, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (b. 1904)
The Duke and the Count: the two best jazz bandleaders of their time. Here’s the Count with “Basie Boogie”:
- 1989 – Lucille Ball, American model, actress, comedian, and producer (b. 1911)
- 1999 – Jill Dando, English journalist and television personality (b. 1961)
- 2013 – George Jones, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1931)
George Jones’s song “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was mentioned by most country greats interviewed by Ken Burns as the “most classic country song”. Here he is performing it live.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Malgorzata explains Hili’s thoughts: “Hili is looking at the world and marvels over human folly. She finds most of it in the mass media.”
Hili: A mountain of improbability.A: Where?Hili: Mainly in the media.
Hili: Góra nieprawdopodobieństwa.Ja: Gdzie?Hili: Głównie w mediach.
And it’s been a long time since we had a Leon monologue, but here’s a new one:
Leon: Are we going to sleep?
Here’s little Kulka in a formal pose:
A cartoon from Stash Krod:
Another animal conundrum (compare it to where a giraffe should wear its tie); from Mark:
From Cole & Marmalade:
Titania McGrath finds that Newton is getting canceled because he benefited from colonialism:
Tweets from Matthew. Alternatively, perhaps they think geese can read.
Who exactly is this sign for?
Do they think we’re bringing our own geese? pic.twitter.com/nXsod3bY1K
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@TheRealHoarse) April 24, 2021
A full minute of a chicken chasing a dog:
Best game of chase, ever 😆 pic.twitter.com/6YDsMXq08P
— Strictly (@StrictlyChristo) April 24, 2021
Some of these are very good; have a look at all the submissions. The second one below the first tweet is my favorite:
I’ve asked my 3rd year illustration students at @sva to come up with a post-pandemic New Yorker magazine cover. Here is what they sent in:
— Tomer Hanuka (@tropical_toxic) April 23, 2021
Jiaci Grace Qiu pic.twitter.com/egfFjR5ISU
— Tomer Hanuka (@tropical_toxic) April 23, 2021
No human could remain intact at this depth. Cephalopods are amazing:
Watch this Cirroteuthid octopus billow its arms like a circus tent🐙✨
Spotted at Baker Island in the Pacific & 'dancing' at a depth of around 1,600 meters, this elegant octopus measures an estimated 1.3m
— ipbes (@IPBES) April 24, 2021
A fortuitous photo of the Sun. Do you know what McCarthy captured?
A closer look to the active region/sunspost here reveals something unnatural, what is that ||+|| shape doing in my sun photo? pic.twitter.com/iCAB4PGAo7
— Andrew McCarthy (@AJamesMcCarthy) April 24, 2021
A good one:
Actors and their stunt double pic.twitter.com/jdJ7zwjsKy
— memory lane (@bitchiwas999) April 24, 2021