Bottom o’ the week to you: it’s Friday, May 21, 2021: National Strawberries and Cream Days. But it’s only one day, not “days”! It’s also International Tea Day, Endangered Species Day (the photo shows a dinosaur skeleton!), National Bike to Work Day, National Waiters and Waitresses Day, National Pizza Party Day, Saint Helena Day (celebrating the discovery of Saint Helena in 1502), and World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
Posting will be light today as I have a dentist’s appointment AND we have a horrible situation in the duck pond with drake attacks and a shunned duckling. Please bear with me—and have pity on me.
News of the day:
There’s finally been a cease-fire in the fight between Gaza and Israel. It began at 7 pm yesterday Eastern US time (2 a.m. Israeli time). The peace was apparently brokered by Egypt, Qatar, and the U.N., with pressure from the U.S. But the old grievances remain, and now there’s internecine hatred between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. One errant Hamas rocket, and the fighting starts all over gain (also true for Israeli airstrikes, but I have more trust in Israeli restraint. But let’s just hope that, for the nonce, the fighting stops. One thing is for sure: it will resume again. I worry that all the aid to Palestine that will start flowing from the West will be used, as it has been before, to buy rockets.
Here’s HuffPost’s invidious headline, blaming the lack of a cease fire on Israel, when in fact both sides had to agree, and the cease-fire was brokered. This HuffPost rag is beneath contempt.
Over at the Washington Post, columnist Joe Waldman says that Biden isn’t really more radical than he has been: perhaps just a few ticks to the left:
Even now, Biden would argue that he’s basically sticking to this approach. The key difference is that as president he has the ability to push further on those same ideals. You can even make the case that he is not pushing much further than before but his movements are more visible because he can set the agenda.
After all, the truth is that the current agenda he’s setting isn’t all that radical. It’s a few steps to the left of where Obama was, and more ambitious than what Biden advocated for as a senator, but nothing in it expresses any different values from the ones Democrats have long held. He doesn’t want to seize the means of production and throw every billionaire into a reeducation camp; he just wants to beef up union protections and bump up the top tax rate by a few points.
The GOP claim that Biden is a secret leftist tells us only that Republicans, too, have the same basic ideals they’ve long had. They’ll surely be passionately opposed to the administration’s new plan to invigorate IRS enforcement, for instance, which could bring in hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue.
The BBC reports on “the unluckiest swan” that has now become lucky. It’s a swan in Cambridgeshire that was watched by Rob Adamson, a lovely guy who saw that its nest was about to be flooded. (The pair’s nesting attempts had failed for ten years.) He built a predator-proof floating platform, put the nest and its eggs on it and, mirabile dictu, all eight eggs hatched! A few photos are below (h/t Jez; photos by Rob Adamson and Jones boatyard).
The floating nest platform,
Adamson had previously hand-reared an abandoned cygnet named Sid:
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 588,153, an increase of about 650 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,446,039, an increase of about 13,100 over yesterday’s total.:
Stuff that happened on May 21 includes:
- 1703 – Daniel Defoe is imprisoned on charges of seditious libel.
- 1856 – Lawrence, Kansas is captured and burned by pro-slavery forces.
Darwin kvetched on this day (h/t Matthew)
It drives me mad and I know it does you too, that one has no time for reading anything beyond what must be read: my room is encumbered with unread books. #DarwinOnThisDay 21.5.1868 pic.twitter.com/SpwDgjW9Og
— Paige Madison (@FossilHistory) May 21, 2021
- 1881 – The American Red Cross is established by Clara Barton in Washington, D.C.
- 1924 – University of Chicago students Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks in a “thrill killing“.
The scandal of the decade, and at the U of C! Here are Leopold and Loeb’s mug shots (Leopold is at the top). Loeb was murdered in prison in 1936, while Leopold was released in 1958 and died in Puerto Rico in 1971.
- 1927 – Charles Lindbergh touches down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
You can still see Lindbergh’s plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis”, at the National Air and Space Museum in northern Virginia. I highly recommend a visit:
- 1936 – Sada Abe is arrested after wandering the streets of Tokyo for days with her dead lover’s severed genitals in her handbag. Her story soon becomes one of Japan’s most notorious scandals.
You can see this portrayed in the movie “In the Realm of the Senses.” Here’s a portrait of Abe:
- 1946 – Physicist Louis Slotin is fatally irradiated in a criticality incident during an experiment with the demon core at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Here’s a re-creation of that incident; the Wikipedia caption is this: “A re-creation of the Slotin incident. The inside hemisphere with the thumb-hole next to the demonstrator’s hand is beryllium (replacing the uranium tamper of the same size in a Fat Man bomb). There is an external larger metal sphere of aluminium under it (replacing the pusher sphere in this bomb’s design). The plutonium “demon core” was inside the spheres at the time of the accident and is not visible, but its dimensions are comparable with the two small half-spheres shown resting nearby.”
- 1972 – Michelangelo‘s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is damaged by a vandal, the mentally disturbed Hungarian geologist Laszlo Toth.
Here’s the damage below. Toth was in a psychiatric hospital for two years and then was deported to Australia, where he died in 2012:
- 1991 – Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by a female suicide bomber near Madras.
- 1992 – After 30 seasons Johnny Carson hosted his penultimate episode and last featuring guests (Robin Williams and Bette Midler) of The Tonight Show.
Here’s Johnny Carson’s final farewell in his very last show (sans guests):
- 2011 – Radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted that the world would end on this date.
- 2017 – Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed their final show at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1799 – Mary Anning, English paleontologist (d. 1847)
Here’s Anning and her dog Tray, painted five years before her death:
- 1844 – Henri Rousseau, French painter (d. 1910)
A wonderful painting, “Cat“, by Rousseau:
- 1904 – Fats Waller, American singer-songwriter and pianist (d. 1943)
- 1936 – Günter Blobel, Polish-American biologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2018)
- 1951 – Al Franken, American actor, screenwriter, and politician
Those who were no more on May 21 include:
- 1771 – Christopher Smart, English actor, playwright, and poet (b. 1722)
Once again I urge you to read the best cat poem ever, “For I will consider my cat Jeoffry“, by Smart, written while he was incarcerated for lunacy. It’s part of a longer poem, “Jubilate Agno.”
- 1935 – Jane Addams, American activist and author, co-founded Hull House, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1860)
Addams in 1914; you can still visit her social-work “settlement house”, Hull House, in Chicago:
- 1935 – Hugo de Vries, Dutch botanist and geneticist (b. 1848)
- 1991 – Rajiv Gandhi, Indian politician, 6th Prime Minister of India (b. 1944)
- 2000 – John Gielgud, English actor (b. 1904)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili knows that Paulina often buys cat treats for Hili.
Paulina: What are you thinking about?Hili: About your yesterday’s shopping.(Photo: Paulina R.)
Paulina: O czym myślisz?Hili: O twoich wczorajszych zakupach.
Here’s little Kulka up in a tree:
A meme from Jesus of the Day:
And another from the same source:
From Simon: I haven’t read this paper yet, but here you go!
Preliminary results from a trial of more than 600 people are the first to show the benefits of combining different vaccines. https://t.co/wLtpDkzxxT
— nature (@Nature) May 20, 2021
Seriously? Flying a Nazi flag at the border of Israel? Don’t forget the mayhem caused by putting a cartoon of Muhammad on the cover of Charlie Hebdo!
For years, #Hamas has radicalized Palestinians and incited deep-rooted antisemitism. Hamas flew a #Nazi flag at the Israel-Gaza border to send one message. They have one goal, the #genocide of the Jewish people. As a Palestinian, I unequivocally condemn this hatred. #StopHamas pic.twitter.com/cdklMmeWED
— Bassem Eid (@eid_bassem) May 12, 2021
One more gem from London:
No. This isn’t Nazi Germany in 1948. Not Spain in 1492. It’s London 2021. But in all fairness, what’s an anti Israel protest without a hook nose, horned Jew to parade around? #london #israel #antisemitism pic.twitter.com/zXaCheTfji
— Shai DeLuca שי דלוקה 🇮🇱 (@ShaiDeLuca) May 15, 2021
From Ziya Tong; no translation needed!
Hens are such sweet birds https://t.co/9DupwIIh6q
— Earthling (@ziyatong) May 20, 2021
Tweets from Matthew: a NYT obituary of the accomplished and much-beloved biologist Dave Wake of Berkeley. See Greg’s obituary of Wake here.
David Wake, an evolutionary biologist who was one of the world's authorities on salamanders, raised an alarm in the 1980s and ’90s about the dying off of amphibians, especially frogs. He has died at 84. https://t.co/b2BtAr7FEY
— NYT Science (@NYTScience) May 20, 2021
I concur completely!
— Martin Doyle (@MartinDoyleIT) May 20, 2021
I’ve been to Wales only once, to see Dylan Thomas’s roost in Laugharne. I need to get there more often, especially to see stuff like this:
Visited Meirionnydd Oakwoods, a rare temperate rainforest habitat – part of the so-called Celtic Rainforest- in Wales recently. Blown away by its atmospheric beauty. pic.twitter.com/m0Db7dWzgX
— amanda bamford (@amandabamford) May 20, 2021
Has anybody read the “Duck Tales” bandit?
The criminal known as Dagobert became famous for raising the cops-and-robber game “to an intellectual level never before seen in German police history,” according to one Berlin newspaper. How did he do it? https://t.co/2agFOvjU7k
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) May 20, 2021
Yesterday was World Bee Day—a UN holiday! If you’re not a fan of bees, you should bee:
— Apimondia (@apimondia) May 20, 2021