Greetings on Sunday: July 11, 2021: National Blueberry Muffin Day. Be aware that these pastries are packed with calories: a regular-sized one has 537 calories, about a quarter of your daily recommended intake! And remember that many muffins these days are the size of a baby’s head—even more fat inducing.
It’s also National Rainier Cherries Day, National Mojito Day, Barn Day (celebrating barns!), Bowdler’s Day (celebrating the infamous censor Thomas Bowdler, born on this day in 1754; see below) and World Population Day.
Wine of the Day: Americans seem to be afraid of German Rieslings, probably because the labels, like the one below, seem daunting. But they’re easy to learn: top line is the producer, next lines give the region and vineyard, the last line gives the vintage and degree of grape ripeness at harvest, generally positively correlated with the wine’s sweetness (in order: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, and You Can’t Afford it [i.e., Trockenbeerenauselese]). And, even though prices have risen a bit since I started drinking these around 1980, you can still get terrific German Rieslings at bargain prices.
I was worried that this Spätlese may have been over the hill, as I cracked it last night at the age of 12. But often Rieslings age surprisingly well, and this one did as well. Medium golden in color, and quite sweet, it exuded an aroma of honey with a touch of orange. It was splendid, and went well with a simple dinner of black beans and rice with sauteed onions. I think it was about at its peak, and would oxidize within another several years. I can’t remember when I bought it or what I paid for it, nor can I find any decent review of this vintage (2011 prices were around $11). But it was spectacular, and I had the second glass for dessert. It would go well with spicy Asian food. I get the second half bottle tonight.
News of the Day:
For some reason everybody talks about the weather, but now there’s a good reason to: heat waves in many places are harbingers of global warming. Right now the western U.S. has a horrible series of blasts. Furnace Creek in Death Valley, where I spent several months (in Spring!) working on fruit flies, hit 130°F (54.4°C) Friday, tying a mark from August of last year. It’s not yet a record as there’s a disputed recording of 134°F from that site in 1913. But if the earlier record proves untrustworthy, then we have a new record for the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth. (The standard measurement is taken 1.5 meters above the ground, with the recording device shielded from direct sunlight. Temperatures might even reach 132°F today.
But of course the entire West Coast is broiling, with 200 people having already died from heat in Oregon and Washington State, and California experiencing rolling power blackouts and water restricctions. We’re doomed.
Better news: yesterday Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter celebrated 75 years of marriage (their anniversary was on July 7) with a ceremony and party in Plains, Georgia. The AP reports the Carters’ remarks:
“I want to express particular gratitude for being the right woman that I chose for my wife,” Carter said at a 75th wedding anniversary celebration in his hometown of Plains, Georgia. About 300 friends and family members attended the event at Plains High School, a portion of which was livestreamed.
Rosalynn Carter, sitting by his side, recounted how she didn’t care for young men while growing up and never thought she’d get married.
“I didn’t know how to talk to them, I didn’t want to go out with them,” she said. She added that she used to urge her mother to tell suiters calling for her on the phone that she wasn’t around.
“And then, along came Jimmy Carter and my life has been an adventure ever since,” she said.
Now which word did the AP misspell in that report? It’s a sad day when the Associated Press puts out reports with misspellings.
But according to Snopes, the Carters are indeed “the longest-married couple in presidential history, with 75 years under their belt.”
“. . . . Their record beat even that of George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, who were married for 73 years. At 96 years old, Jimmy Carter is also the longest-living president in American history.” You go, Jimmy and Rosalynn!
The Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz (Mädchenorchester von Auschwitz; lit. “Girls’ Orchestra of Auschwitz”) was formed by order of the SS in 1943, during the Holocaust, in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp in German-occupied Poland. Active for 19 months—from April 1943 until October 1944—the orchestra consisted of mostly young female Jewish and Slavic prisoners, of varying nationalities, who would rehearse for up to ten hours a day to play music regarded as helpful in the daily running of the camp. They also held a concert every Sunday for the SS.
Of course part of the “daily running of the camp” meant playing music during the “selection” for the gas chamber, as well as when work details entered and left the camp. What a gruesome job! The orchestra had about 40 members. A snippet from the BBC piece:
[Bejarano] recalled the Auschwitz Women’s Orchestra having to play to new arrivals.
“You knew they were going to be gassed, and all you could do was stand there and play,” she told Deutsche Welle in 2014.
She was eventually transferred to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women, where she managed to escape.
“Esther Bejarano survived Auschwitz because she played accordion in the camp’s orchestra. She dedicated her life to music and to the fight against racism and anti-Semitism,” Meron Mendel, head of the Anne Frank Education Centre said on Twitter.
After the end of the World War Two, she lived in Israel and became a singer before returning to Germany in 1960.
She dedicated the rest of her life to educating people about the Holocaust and fighting xenophobia.
Here’s Bejarano, whose photo is also in the Wikipedia article. She was Jewish, and played the accordion.
After CNN sued for access to the video, the Justice Department finally released a disturbing clip of a Washington, D.C. police officer being attacked, kicked, and punched by a crowed at the Capitol on January 6—all while trying to save a pro-Trump rioter who had overdosed on drugs (the rioter died). Click on the screenshot below to read the CNN article and see the video—but be aware that it contains violence. The cop survived, but got a concussion. (h/t Stephen)
Below: the heartwarming tale of Alfie, a mute swan in New Jersey deemed too aggressive to live (I suspect it’s because he was repeatedly provoked by cruel jet skiers). The story reveals that he was set to be euthanized on Friday, but a twist of fate saved him, and he now has a forever home. Click on the screenshot below to read.
What’s it all about, Alfie?
Iona Italia has now made her complete podcast interview of Richard Dawkins free of charge, you can access it here. Previously only the first bit (24 min) was available, and stopped right before Richard revealed his favorite books.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 606,289 an increase of 225 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,043,981, an increase of about 7,600 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on July 11 includes:
- 1405 – Ming admiral Zheng He sets sail to explore the world for the first time.
- 1576 – While exploring the North Atlantic Ocean in an attempt to find the Northwest Passage, Martin Frobisher sights Greenland, mistaking it for the hypothesized (but non-existent) island of “Frisland”.
- 1804 – A duel occurs in which the Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr mortally wounds former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
- 1893 – The first cultured pearl is obtained by Kōkichi Mikimoto.
Here’s Mikimoto in traditional Japanese dress:
- 1906 – Murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gillette in the United States, inspiration for Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.
Brown (photo below) told Gillette she was pregnant, whereupon he went rowing with her, hit her on the head with an oar, and she drowned. Gillette was tried and executed. The plot of Dreiser’s book is similar.
- 1914 – Babe Ruth makes his debut in Major League Baseball.
- 1921 – Former president of the United States William Howard Taft is sworn in as 10th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the only person ever to hold both offices.
- 1924 – Eric Liddell won the gold medal in 400m at the 1924 Paris Olympics, after refusing to run in the heats for 100m, his favoured distance, on the Sunday.
You might remember this episode from the movie Chariots of Fire. Liddell became a missionary in China and died in Japanese custody in 1945. Here he is winning the 400 m race in the 1924 Olympics. Click “Watch on YouTube”.
- 1940 – World War II: Vichy France regime is formally established. Philippe Pétain becomes Chief of the French State.
- 1947 – The Exodus 1947 heads to Palestine from France.
The British wouldn’t let the passengers, many of whom were Jewish Holocaust survivors, disembark in Haifa. They were all sent to—get this—camps in Germany! Granted, the camps weren’t exactly Auschwitz, but the irony is thick here.
A first edition and first printing of this book (the first printing was 5,000 copies) will run you around $17,000, though the book has been dissed as Unwoke.
- 1972 – The first game of the World Chess Championship 1972 between challenger Bobby Fischer and defending champion Boris Spassky starts.
- 2015 – Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán escapes from the maximum security prison in Altiplano, in Mexico. It’s his second escape.
Here’s his mugshot; he now resides in America’s most secure (and cruelest) prison, ADX Florence in Colorado. He’ll not escape again.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1274 – Robert the Bruce, Scottish king (d. 1329)
- 1754 – Thomas Bowdler, English physician and philanthropist (d. 1825)
- 1767 – John Quincy Adams, American lawyer and politician, 6th President of the United States (d. 1848)
- 1897 – Bull Connor, American police officer (d. 1973)
I well remember Connor, one of the biggest racists in America. As Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham, Alabama, he did everything he could to enforce segregation, including promoting both state and individual violence against blacks. Here he is, and all Americans know what “states’ rights” means (it means states have the right to enforce segregation):
- 1899 – E. B. White, American essayist and journalist (d. 1985)
- 1903 – Sidney Franklin, American bullfighter (d. 1976)
Franklin was not only the first American matador to gain great renown in Spain (he was much admired by Hemingway) but also a Jewish matador and a gay Jewish matador. His nickname was “El Torero de la Torah”. Here he is:
- 1920 – Yul Brynner, Russian actor and dancer (d. 1985)
- 1967 – Jhumpa Lahiri, Indian American novelist and short story writer.
I’m much taken with Lahiri and her writing; her very first collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. For several years she lived in Italy where she learned fluent Italian and wrote in that language. She’s now a professor of creative writing at Princeton. Here’s a 6½-minute introduction to Lahiri
Those who cashed in their chips on July 11 were few, and include:
- 1937 – George Gershwin, American pianist, songwriter, and composer (b. 1898)
- 1974 – Pär Lagerkvist, Swedish novelist, playwright, and poet Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1891)
- 2007 – Lady Bird Johnson, American beautification activist; 43rd First Lady of the United States (b. 1912)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, there have been terrific gale, storms, tornadoes and flash floods, so that Malgorzata and Andrzej lost their power and their landline, but have cobbled together some sporadic internet. Ergo, we get the Hili dialogue for yesterday and a new one for today:
Hili: Should I sleep or be awake?
Andrzej: Difficult question.
Hili: Spać, czy być rozbudzoną?
Ja: Trudne pytanie.
Andrzej: What are you thinking about?
Hili: Identity politics.
Ja: O czym myślisz?
Hili: O polityce tożsamości.
A meme from Stephen Barnard. That cat has been asleep a long time!
A Gary Larson cartoon from Facebook:
From Barry: a successful rescue of a Great White shark!
People rescuing a Great White Shark that beached itself chasing a seagull. Filmed on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. pic.twitter.com/KWda1d0dZS
— Science is Amazing (@AMAZlNGSClENCE) July 10, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. This is a fantastic catch, especially given her tossing the ball back in bounds and catching it again. It deserves to go down in history.
ICYMI – Here is THE GREATEST CATCH EVER.
You can watch it again and the rest of the highlights of todays game on BBC iPlayer from 22:00
— Test Match Special (@bbctms) July 9, 2021
What a wuss!
if they’re not hungry, centipedes are terrified of everything pic.twitter.com/t5KbNwxYsx
— invertebrate (@crevicedwelling) July 9, 2021
But they do love their mango juice (?):
this is completely untrue. how about this lady drinking her mango juice pic.twitter.com/98FIajs3Bq
— invertebrate (@crevicedwelling) July 9, 2021
Now here’s a photo I bet you haven’t seen before:
Mugshot of Cher at Age 13, Arrested for borrowing a friend's car and driving it without a license pic.twitter.com/d6MEwQKsoa
— Diane Doniol-Valcroze (@ddoniolvalcroze) July 10, 2021
Note that the tongue is out:
— Cloud Puncher ☁✈☁ (@KeikoGoblyn) July 9, 2021
A lovely bit from an old movie.
Charley Chase playing his brother James Parrott's reflection in Sittin' Pretty (1924), nine years before another set of brothers did a similar routine in Duck Soup pic.twitter.com/eQ3xgl6Nie
— Silent Movie GIFs (@silentmoviegifs) July 8, 2021