Good morning on Monday, August 30, 2021: National Toasted Marshmallow Day. I must admit that I like mine burnt to a crisp—ignited over a fire until the outside is black. It’s also National Holistic Pet Day, International Whale Shark Day, Frankenstein Day (Mary Shelly’s birthday), and the International Day of the Disappeared.
News of the Day:
Biden continues on his desire to get revenge for the suicide bombing that killed 13 American military personnel and 140 Afghans. Another U.S. drone strike yesterday took out a vehicle near the airport reported to be carrying explosives. Afghans of unknown provenance say that civilians were killed, including children, but one must assess the morality of this strike against the toll that would have occurred had the vehicle exploded. Five rockets were fired at the airport today, but all were shot down by U.S. anti-missile systems. And the U.S. said it was unlikely to keep diplomats in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of troops.
Who’s to blame for the horrible mess at the Kabul Airport? I am not a pundit and don’t want to lay blame on this one, but the New York Times has dueling editorials blaming Biden on one hand and Trump on the other.
Speaking of the NYT, it was a mistake for them to have enlisted Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest, as a regular contributor along the lines of John McWhorter. Her last column was lame—a firm osculation on the rump of faith—but her latest, “Why poetry is so crucial right now,” is even worse. What she should have done was inserted “to me” after “crucial”, and then it would be particular rather than general. But nothing can save her tired and anodyne sentiments:
This past year in particular was marked by vitriol and divisiveness. I am exhausted by the rancor.
In this weary and vulnerable place, poetry whispers of truths that cannot be confined to mere rationality or experience. In a seemingly wrecked world, I’m drawn to Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Autumn” and recall that “there is One who holds this falling/Infinitely softly in His hands.” When the scriptures feel stale, James Weldon Johnson preaches through “The Prodigal Son” and I hear the old parable anew. On tired Sundays, I collapse into Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poems and find rest.
. . . Indeed, in our age of social media, words are often used as weapons. Poetry instead treats words with care. They are slowly fashioned into lanterns — things that can illuminate and guide. Debate certainly matters. Arguments matter. But when the urgent controversies of the day seem like all there is to say about life and death or love or God, poetry reminds me of those mysterious truths that can’t be reduced solely to linear thought.
There’s that “other way of knowing” she was hired to purvey! What are those “mysterious truths” that can be conveyed only in verse? In fact, it’s not true that poetry is more important right now than, say, a year ago, just as novels or music aren’t more important right now than a year ago, save as balm for the soul needed during the pandemic. But that’s not what the Lachrymose Osculator means; she means that poetry gives us truths that mere cogitation can’t. When will the paper turn off her fountain of meaningless verbiage? (I needn’t add that I love good poetry, but not because it conveys “truth” unreachable by other means. It is music in words.)
The Washington Post emphasizes that now that Covid vaccinations are fully approved by the FDA, and can be mandated, the costs of being unvaccinated will rise. If you get fired for refusing vaccination when your employer requires it, you won’t qualify for unemployment benefits. Or the cost of your health insurance could rise substantially. I have no issues with these penalties.
Surprise! North Korea has restarted a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. If you think the DPRK can be negotiated out of making deliverable bombs, you probably think the same about Iran, too. Yes, we can denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but Koreans aren’t stupid, and know about U.S. nuclear submarines lying in wait nearby.
Ed Asner, the man who will forever be remembered for playing the curmudgeonly editor Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore show, has died at 91.
Stuff that happened on August 30 includes:
Here’s one of the weirder species. Do you recognize it? If not, go here.
- 1916 – Ernest Shackleton completes the rescue of all of his men stranded on Elephant Island in Antarctica.
Here’s Point Wild on Elephant Island, where Shackleton’s 22 men camped for four and a half months, subsisting on penguin meat. I photographed this in December, 2019. The bust, on the spot where the men camped, is of Pilot Luis Pardo Villalón, commander of the Chilean Navy cutter Yelcho that rescued the men. It’s a grim place!
- 1918 – Fanni Kaplan shoots and seriously injures Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, which along with the assassination of Bolshevik senior official Moisei Uritsky days earlier, prompts the decree for Red Terror.
Kaplan (photo below), a Russian Jewish revolutionary, was executed by the Cheka on September 3. Lenin never fully recovered from the attack, and died in 1924 of a stroke.
I sailed on two of its successors; the S. S. United States, which set a later record, and the Queen Mary II. Here’s the original, moored at Long Beach, California:
Here’s the bridge of the newer Queen Mary II, photographed by moi in 2006 (I was lecturing aboard):
- 1967 – Thurgood Marshall is confirmed as the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
- 1984 – STS-41-D: The Space Shuttle Discovery takes off on its maiden voyage.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1720 – Samuel Whitbread, English brewer and politician, founded Whitbread (d. 1796)
- 1871 – Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand-English physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1937)
Here’s Rutherford at McGill in 1905. Though he won the Prize for the discovery of radioactive decay and half lives of elements, his most famous work, which came later, was the demonstration that atoms had a nucleus. This was based on rare scattering of alpha particles used to bombard gold foil, showing that while most of an atom is empty space, there are small islands of high-density particles that can deflect helium nuclei.
- 1884 – Theodor Svedberg, Swedish chemist and physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1971)
- 1893 – Huey Long, American lawyer and politician, 40th Governor of Louisiana (d. 1935)
Long could be considered as the Donald Trump of Louisiana, though he was smarter. Here he is giving one of his populist speeches. Every man a king! He was assassinated by the son-in-law of a judge whom he, Long, removed.
- 1901 – Roy Wilkins, American journalist and activist (d. 1981)
- 1930 – Warren Buffett, American businessman and philanthropist
Still with us at 91!
- 1943 – Robert Crumb, American illustrator
I love Crumb, and have a stack of his original comics. I see that they’ve risen in price. Here’s one of my favorite covers:
- 1944 – Molly Ivins, American journalist and author (d. 2007)
- 1982 – Andy Roddick, American tennis player
Those who took leave of existence on August 30 were few, and include:
- 1928 – Wilhelm Wien, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1864)
- 1970 – Abraham Zapruder, American clothing manufacturer, witness to the assassination of John F. Kennedy
Here’s the part of the famous Zapruder film showing JFK getting hit by two bullets. Warning: grisly!
- 2013 – Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1939)
- 2015 – Oliver Sacks, English-American neurologist, author, and academic (b. 1933)
Though Sacks was deeply eccentric, he was a great storyteller; and many of us, including me, used to read his books religiously. Here he is, and, if you want to see his NYT piece that he wrote after learning he had terminal cancer, go here.
- 2019 – Valerie Harper, American actress and writer (b. 1939)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili pulls the old “in or out” stunt.
Hili: Could you let me in?A: But you went out a moment ago.Hili: Yes, but I forgot what for.
Hili: Czy możesz mnie wpuścić do domu?Ja: Przecież przed chwilą wyszłaś.Hili: Tak, ale zapomniałam po co.
Mietek mourns the passing of summer:
Mietek: How come it’s the end of summer holidays?
From Science Humor:
And a nice cartoon:
From Masih. Do you still think that the Taliban 2.0 is going to be “nicer”? I doubt it, but they sure suck at public relations!
This is surreal. Taliban militants are posing behind this visibly petrified TV host with guns and making him to say that people of #Afghanistan shouldn’t be scared of the Islamic Emirate. Taliban itself is synonymous with fear in the minds of millions. This is just another proof. pic.twitter.com/3lIAdhWC4Q
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) August 29, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
30 August 1899 | A German Jewish woman, Bella Spanier, was born in Aschaffenburg. An actress.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 30, 2021
From Dom. Henry Gee, an editor of Nature, is correct in his assertion, but he has a way of being arrogantly, annoyingly and unpleasantly right. As for the “missing link”, that isn’t even mentioned by the Natural History Museum.
No, @NHM_London, the pigeon is NOT a descendant of T. rex. To say so represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution works. Detention for you. Write 500 times ‘there is no such thing as a missing link’. https://t.co/fWUyYQFMt3
— Henry Gee (@EndOfThePier) August 28, 2021
From Barry, who adds “This has to be the craziest thing you’ll ever see or hear from any believer. I don’t know how this can be topped.” I’m with him!
I dont know who Steve Shultz is, but Holy shit, that man is the master of managing a straight face when listening to a constant Jetstream of crazy bullshit https://t.co/EcB0dEPegC
— Rev N. Fidel (@RevNFidel) August 27, 2021
From Ginger K.: Man, that was one fraught relationship! Didn’t work out, but it sure produced some great music.
A Fleetwood Mac biopic is inevitable someday, but they'll NEVER be able to match the drama of Stevie Nicks, 20 years post-breakup, turning to sing "I'll follow you down 'til the sound of my voice will haunt you" directly at Lindsey Buckingham's soul pic.twitter.com/q4lXXzU8q3
— K8 | rom-communist (@blessmycircuits) August 20, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. A Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) from eastern Asia raids a nest. I presume the feathers protect it from stings, but what about its eyes?
Sweet honey 🍯🐝🦅 pic.twitter.com/f9gnxwEE6F
— Shamshad Sheikh (@ShamaSh01738059) August 25, 2021
Cats will be cats!
i’m dying pic.twitter.com/yl6Bpvzbqe
— Mary Ellen (@alissacaliente) August 27, 2021
This looks like a ctenophore ingesting another ctenophore:
— Lemonpeel🍋🍋🍋 (@ntwkurage9) February 13, 2021