Good morning on Sunday, August 15, 2021: National Lemon Meringue Pie Day, a pie that can be ethereal if its made with lots of butter and lemon but not too much gelatin.
It’s also National Failures Day, Chant at the Moon Day, National Best Friends Day, God’s Preeminence Day, in which you’re supposed to contemplate the existence of the Posited Deity without Evidence, and National Relaxation Day, here demonstrated by Jango:
News of the Day: It’s all bad: pandemics surging, earthquakes, tropical storms, Islamists advancing on Kabul, and, of course global warming.
First, a week earlier than I predicted, the Taliban have reached Kabul and have surrounded it. The U.S. Embassy is being evacuated, and diplomats who were going to stay there have been moved to the Kabul airport. It’s the evacuation of Saigon all over again, except with planes instead of helicopters. Within a week there will be unspeakable horrors and many deaths.
First, Haiti can’t catch a break. In 2010 there was a terrible earthquake that killed thousands of people—perhaps hundreds of thousands. Then there are repeated tropical storms, and in July the country’s President was assassinated and things became chaotic. Now, yesterday morning, the country suffered a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that killed over 300 people, and probably many more. And to top it all off, Haiti is in the path of tropical storm Grace, which could compound the damage.
The New York Times, in a report on Afghanistan called “Afghanistan’s unraveling may strike another blow to U.S. credibility,” starts off by getting a slap in at Trump, though Biden continued, when he could have stopped, the drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan. (For the record, I think it was the right thing to do.) But here’s how it begins:
Afghanistan’s rapid unraveling is already raising grumblings about American credibility, compounding the wounds of the Trump years and reinforcing the idea that America’s backing for its allies is not unlimited.
Compounding the wounds of the Trump years? What does that have to do with Afghanistan? To my mind, it’s this kind of NYT-ian gratuitous slap at Trump that makes its news seem more like opinion. And I think Biden will go a long way toward restoring American credibility, especially with other Western nations. We can’t afford to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely: it’s already been America’s longest war, and we can’t “win” it, whatever that would mean.
Is an anti-Obama pushback beginning? If so, why? Later today we’ll have a vitriolic critique of Obama’s presidency by Matt Taibbi, but yesterday Maureen Dowd took the increasingly wealthy (and flaunting it) ex-President apart in a column called “Behold Barack Antoinette“. It’s about his lavish 60th birthday party held at his very fancy Martha’s Vineyard mansion, which he scaled back after being warned about hosting a superspreader event. A slice of Dowd’s trademarked snark, riffing on Jay Gatsby’s parties:
One difference is that Gatsby opened his house to the uninvited. Obama closed his house to many of the invited after getting flak for hosting “a celebrity mosh pit,” as Stephen Colbert called it, while officials were telling people to mask back up.
It’s hard to stop thinking about the over-the-top fete the former president held at his Martha’s Vineyard manse for his 60th birthday. It is such a perfect taxonomy of the Obama arc.
As president, he didn’t try hard enough on things we needed. He was a diffident debutante with a distaste for politics. Post-presidency, he is trying too hard on things we don’t need. The culture is already swimming in Netflix deals, celebrity worship, ostentatious displays of wealth, not to mention podcasts. Did the world really need “Renegades,” his duet with Bruce Springsteen?
We already knew Obama gravitated to stars but it was disillusioning to see it on such a grand scale last weekend.
“I think the nouveaux riches Obamas are seriously tone-deaf,” said the authority on opulence, André Leon Talley. “We all love Beyoncé. But people have so many things to worry about with Covid, voting rights, climate warming. People are afraid of being evicted from their homes. And the Obamas are in Marie-Antoinette, tacky, let-them-eat-cake mode. They need to remember their humble roots.”
Now of course Obama’s rich, and why shouldn’t he buy a mansion on Martha’s Vineyard. But wouldn’t you admire him more if he lived in a modest house like Jimmy Carter, and still hammered nails for Habitat for Humanity? Wouldn’t it be better if he weren’t charging $400,000 for a speech and trying to make money hand over fist? Well, read my post on Taibbi later today.
I thought Brown v. Board of Education had already settled that segregated education is illegal in public schools. But according to Atlanta station WSB-TV, by order of its principal Sharyn Briscoe, Mary Lin Elementary school put all its black students into two classes with black teachers, while the white students went into six classes with six white teachers. A parent found out when the principal wouldn’t place her black child in a class because it was a white class. The parent, thank Ceiling Cat, has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Thanks to the racialization of America, we’re returning to segregation!
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 621,051, an increase of 655 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,368,529, an increase of about 9,200 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on August 15 includes:
- 1057 – King Macbeth is killed at the Battle of Lumphanan by the forces of Máel Coluim mac Donnchada.
Yes, that Macbeth, though Shakespeare’s king is far from being historically accurate!
- 1096 – Starting date of the First Crusade as set by Pope Urban II.
- 1248 – The foundation stone of Cologne Cathedral, built to house the relics of the Three Wise Men, is laid. (Construction is eventually completed in 1880.)
- 1534 – Ignatius of Loyola and six classmates take initial vows, leading to the creation of the Society of Jesus in September 1540.
- 1843 – Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest still intact amusement parks in the world, opens in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Time Magazine rated Tivoli (below) one of the “World’s 100 greatest places” in 2018. I’ve never been to Tivoli, much less to Denmark, but I’d like to visit the country:
- 1935 – Will Rogers and Wiley Post are killed after their aircraft develops engine problems during takeoff in Barrow, Alaska.
So perished a great pilot and a great comedian, and we don’t know what caused the wreck. Here they are beforehand, and the wreck after:
One of the movie’s great scenes. What a world!
- 1945 – Jewel Voice Broadcast by the Emperor Showa following effective surrender of Japan in the World War II, Korea gains Independence from the Empire of Japan.
Here is the broadcast, most likely the first time in Japanese history that the Emperor had spoken to the “common people”. He didn’t speak directly on the radio, but they played a recording of his surrender announcement. His speech begins at 1:06:
- 1947 – India gains Independence from British rule after near 190 years of British company and crown rule, and joins the Commonwealth of Nations.
Freedom was declared at midnight on August 14, and Nehru gave a stirring speech (in English). Here’s the famous speech:
- 1961 – Border guard Conrad Schumann flees from East Germany while on duty guarding the construction of the Berlin Wall.
This was captured on film; here’s Schumann’s “jump to freedom”:
- 1963 – Execution of Henry John Burnett, the last man to be hanged in Scotland.
- 1965 – The Beatles play to nearly 60,000 fans at Shea Stadium in New York City, an event later regarded as the birth of stadium rock.
- 1969 – The Woodstock Music & Art Fair opens in upstate New York, featuring some of the top rock musicians of the era.
- 1998 – Northern Ireland: Omagh bombing takes place; 29 people (including a woman pregnant with twins) killed and some 220 others injured.
The bomb was sequestered in a car, which was photographed before the explosion. The Wikipedia caption: “This red Vauxhall Cavalier saloon contained the explosive during the Omagh bombing. This photo itself was taken shortly before the explosion and the camera was found afterwards in the rubble. The man and child in the photo both survived.”
- 2013 – The Smithsonian announces the discovery of the olinguito, the first new carnivorous species found in the Americas in 35 years. It was identified from DNA taken from specimens in Chicago’s Field Museum. A frugivorous member of the Procyonidae (relatives of the raccoon), it lives in the Andean cloud forest of Peru and Ecuador. Here’s a living one:
A video with footage of live ones:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1717 – Blind Jack, English engineer (d. 1810)
- 1769 – Napoleon Bonaparte, French general and emperor (d. 1821)
- 1771 – Walter Scott, Scottish novelist, playwright, and poet (d. 1832)
- 1912 – Julia Child, American chef and author (d. 2004)
Here’s Julia messing up when she’s flipping potatoes because she “lacked the courage”:
- 1925 – Oscar Peterson, Canadian pianist and composer (d. 2007)
Here’s the great Peterson in the Netherlands in 1965, playing with his trio: Ray Brown on bass (also a giant) and Ed Thigpen on drums:
- 1946 – Jimmy Webb, American singer-songwriter and pianist
- 1964 – Melinda Gates, American businesswoman and philanthropist, co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- 1972 – Ben Affleck, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
Those who ceased respiring on August 15 include:
- 1057 – Macbeth, King of Scotland
- 1935 – Wiley Post, American pilot (b. 1898) [see above]
- 1935 – Will Rogers, American actor, comedian, and screenwriter (b. 1879)
- 1967 – René Magritte, Belgian painter (b. 1898)
They could have added that he was a civil rights activist!
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron are being friendly, and today’s dialogue has a title:
COOPERATIONHili: Is something there?Szaron: Nothing.Hili: I thought so.
WSPÓŁPRACAHili: Jest tam coś?Szaron: Nie ma.Hili: Tak myślałam.
And a monologue from Mietek, who is all grown up—and traveling in the car.
Mietek: Is it far?
Another song inspired by cat yowls. This is a good one (h/t Stephen):
Matthew is on hols again, and he sent me this photo he took and labeled “A grumpy Haworth cat”. Everyone Yorkshire, including the beasts, is grumpy and kvetches. (See Monty Python sketch.)
From Masih, one of the women of Afghanistan. As the Taliban takes over, they could be raped, they could be made into sex slaves, they could be forced to marry a much older man, or they could be killed; but all of them will have their lives taken away
"We don't count because we're from Afghanistan. We'll die slowly in history"
Tears of a hopeless Afghan girl whose future is getting shattered as the Taliban advance in the country.
My heart breaks for women of Afghanistan. The world has failed them. History will write this. pic.twitter.com/i56trtmQtF
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) August 13, 2021
Tracy Ullman on a wokeness help group from the BBC:
When you so woke, you asleep. 😜 pic.twitter.com/USEgKWPExM
— BBC Comedy (@bbccomedy) June 22, 2018
Yes indeed, this is a real Arby’s ad, though in the chain it’s called “fish”.
ARBYS EXEC: So I hear u have a new sandwich idea?
ADVERTISING GUY: Yes, it's…*blanks on the word fish* It's uhh… pic.twitter.com/unBMnhBg8K
— pat tobin (@tastefactory) March 28, 2016
. . . and some snark:
Would you eat a burger made out of land meat? #OceanMeat
We all know its penguin. pic.twitter.com/fD08xa0R5s
— Michael Roecklein (@mikeroecklein) March 29, 2016
Two cat tweets from Ginger K. Nobody’s putting on those sandals till the kitten finishes its nap:
— Meow (@MeowingTv) July 25, 2021
The form leaves a little to be desired:
If Synchronized Napping were an Olympic category, this team would bring home the gold. pic.twitter.com/prmY68Dgqa
— Lorenzo The Cat (@LorenzoTheCat) July 25, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. This first one is fantastic.
Shadow of a Millipede walking.. pic.twitter.com/bcaqcHCZBp
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden_) August 12, 2021
A vivid comparison
The largest male New Zealand giraffe weevil is 30 times larger than the smallest male weevil. In human terms, this would be like having a friend who was the combined size of two adult giraffes. https://t.co/dX31TffEBs
— NYT Science (@NYTScience) August 14, 2021
Here’s a photo of a male from the NYT article. The males use their snouts to joust with each other, but there’s also another advantage to being a big male. Read the article to see what it is: