It’s the start of a new week in beautiful Cambridge: September 20, and the sun is already shining brightly at 7 a.m. local time. It’s 2021:National Rum Punch Day, coming hard on the heels of yesterday’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Aye, matey, it’s a good tipple!
News of the Day:
*An FDA advisory panel has recommended that all people inoculated for Covid who are either over 65 or at risk for severe illness get a booster shot 6 months after their first round of shots.
The vote is not binding, and Peter Marks, the FDA official overseeing coronavirus vaccines, indicated that the final decision could be slightly different, encompassing people who are at higher risk of infection because of their professions, such as health-care workers and front-line employees, including teachers. The advisory committee members were polled on whether they would agree with making boosters available to people who were at risk of infection because of workplace exposure, and they all said yes.
A decision by the FDA on boosters is expected this coming week. One thing they will not recommend now is booster shots for all Americans who have gotten their vaccinations.
*Farah Stockman, a member of the NYT editorial board, has issued a warning about generic drugs, which I suspect most of us have taken some time or another: “How much can you trust that generic drug you’re taking?” Her main concerns are shortages of drugs as the price falls too low to make them profitable, and especially the quality of generics which, she claims, can vary widely:
Quality control issues like the ones found at Mylan are a leading cause of drug shortages, both at American plants and overseas. Sometimes the F.D.A. shuts down a plant after discovering violations, dramatically reducing a medicine’s supply. Other times, companies with quality control issues simply opt to stop making a drug rather than invest in expensive upgrades to their aging facilities. The current system simply doesn’t reward investments in quality. If a pill is just a pill, it doesn’t matter if it’s made in a state-of-the-art plant or a rusty one. . .
. . . The truth is, a pill is not just a pill. A pill that was made in a top-notch factory with a spotless track record is better than one that was made in a plant that barely passed inspection. A pill that was stored in a cool dark place is better than one left baking on an airport tarmac for weeks.
*If you’re a fan of the Beatles, do read Ian Leslie’s Substack piece, “64 reasons to celebrate Paul McCartney“, which is fascinating—and recommended by a reader. Here’s just one:
13. Let’s start with the singing. It is among the most exciting moments in twentieth century music: Lennon tears through the opening verse of A Hard Day’s Night, then McCartney steps forward in the middle (“When I’m hooome…”). One of the crazy things about the Lennon-McCartney partnership was that they both had all-time great rock voices. If Lennon’s specialism was raw emotion, McCartney’s was a range of expression which verges on superhuman. Few can match him as a rock n’ roll screamer – listen to Long Tall Sally or Oh Darling. But few can match him as a balladeer either – see Michelle, Here, There and Everywhere, or Let It Be. On the White Album, he performs a controlled nervous breakdown for Helter Skelter – an absolute tour de force – and on I Will pours warm honey into our ears. On Lady Madonna he does Presley crossed with Fats Waller. In his singing, as in his lyrics, he inhabits characters. Across Abbey Roadhe employs a panoply of different vocal personalities; in You Never Give Me Your Money or Uncle Albert he does the same in one song. It’s hard to exaggerate how rare such versatility of expression is or how hard to pull off. It helps that he has exceptional technical command. Whatever he’s singing, he nearly always hits the middle of a note, with tremendous force in the upper range. He excels at thrilling leaps up at the end of a melody line, as on Got To Get You Into My Life (“I didn’t know what I would find there”) or Live and Let Die (“give the other fella hell”), and has a rare ability to glide through what classical singers call the passaggio – the transition between chest and head, which for most humans is a vocal speed-bump. Listen to Maybe I’m Amazed and marvel at that post-chorus glissando down from the heights.
* Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 673,929, an increase of 2,011 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,706,873, an increase of about 5,400 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on September 20 includes:
- 1498 – The Nankai tsunami washes away the building housing the Great Buddha at Kōtoku-in. It has been outside since then.
Here’s the giant bronze Buddha in Japan, which is 13.35 metres (43.8 ft) tall (including the base) and weighs approximately 103 tons.
And reader Stash Krod sent a photo of himself (in arms) and his dad in front of the Buddha, taken around 1954.
- 1519 – Ferdinand Magellan sets sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda with about 270 men on his expedition to circumnavigate the globe.
- 1857 – The Indian Rebellion of 1857 ends with the recapture of Delhi by troops loyal to the East India Company.
This is the subject of the fiction book I’m reading now, The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell. It won the Booker Prize in 1973, and again I’m on one of my kicks to read ALL Booker Prize winners. There are many, but I find them more reliably good than the Pulitzer winners for fiction.
- 1893 – Charles Duryea and his brother road-test the first American-made gasoline-powered automobile.
Here are the Duryea brothers in their car in 1894. Notice that the steering wheel is a stick.
- 1942 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: In the course of two days a German Einsatzgruppe murders at least 3,000 Jews in Letychiv.
The Holocaust was particularly horrible in Ukraine, where locals teamed up with the Nazis to kill off the Jews. Here’s a photo from Wikipedia labeled “Jews digging their own graves. Storow, 4 July 1941.”
Notice that women and children are digging, too.
- 1962 – James Meredith, an African American, is temporarily barred from entering the University of Mississippi.
- 1973 – Billie Jean King beats Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes tennis match at the Houston Astrodome.
- 1973 – Singer Jim Croce, songwriter and musician Maury Muehleisen and four others die when their light aircraft crashes on takeoff at Natchitoches Regional Airport in Louisiana.
Here’s Croche, accompanied by Muehleisen on guitar, singing one of my favorite songs, “Operator” (Croce’s composition) on the Midnight Special show. This was on June 15, 1973, only about three months before he died.
- 2001 – In an address to a joint session of Congress and the American people, U.S. President George W. Bush declares a “War on Terror“.
What he meant was a war on “terrorISM”.
- 2011 – The United States military ends its “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, allowing gay men and women to serve openly for the first time.
- 2019 – Roughly 4 million people, mostly students, demonstrate across the world to address climate change. Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden leads the demonstration in New York City.
Greta sometimes seems a bit overly intense, but that’s because she’s passionate about her cause, and we need young people to sound the alarm:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1878 – Upton Sinclair, American novelist, critic, and essayist (d. 1968)
Sinclair, photographed as a young man below, wrote the famous book The Jungle (1908), which, though fictional, was an accurate exposé of the horrible conditions of the meatpacking industry in Chicago. It’s said that sales of meat fell by half after his book came out. It’s well worth reading.
- 1929 – Anne Meara, American actress and playwright (d. 2015)
- 1934 – Sophia Loren, Italian actress
- 1962 – Jim Al-Khalili, Iraqi-English physicist, author, and academic
Those who “passed” on September 20 include:
- 1586 – Chidiock Tichborne, English conspirator and poet (b. 1558)
Tichborne wrote the ineffably sad poem “My prime of youth is but a frost of cares” (also called “Elegy”), enclosed in a letter to his wife the night before his gruesome execution for treason. He was 24, and here’s the moving last verse:
I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.
- 1863 – Jacob Grimm, German philologist and mythologist (b. 1785)
Here are both of the Brothers Grimm:
- 1957 – Jean Sibelius, Finnish violinist and composer (b. 1865)
- 1973 – Jim Croce, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1943)
- 1996 – Paul Erdős, Hungarian-Polish mathematician and academic (b. 1913)
Erdős, a great mathematician shown below, was also a peripatetic eccentric; read the Wikipedia section on his personality.
- 2005 – Simon Wiesenthal, Austrian human rights activist, Holocaust survivor (b. 1908)
- 2006 – Sven Nykvist, Swedish director, producer, and cinematographer (b. 1922)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, HIli has one of her two big concerns (the other, of course, is noms):
Hili: I’m fully conscious.A: What of?Hili: That it’s time for a nap.
Hili: Jestem w pełni świadoma.Ja: Czego?Hili: Że pora się przespać.
Little Kulka naps on the windowsill: a photo by Paulina:
From Meanwhile in Canada:
From a FB site I joined, Quackers about Ducks. They speak the TRUTH! But I don’t even have to call; I just show up.
From Jesus of the Day:
An apposite tweet from Simon. Sound up:
Hanging out with the hospital pharmacist part 2 pic.twitter.com/RMyWrUJMJ8
— Dr. Glaucomflecken (@DGlaucomflecken) September 19, 2021
The UN could issue condemnations of the Taliban’s behavior; after all, they do it to Israel all the time.
Fearless women in Kabul protest in front of the new headquarters of the Taliban's morality police.
Their signs read: "Elimination of women = elimination of human beings."
Why is the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is now in session, not supporting these courageous women? https://t.co/tctm5P6GuQ
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) September 19, 2021
A paired tweet from Barrie. Sound up, and listen for the neigh. The Western Capercallie, in the grouse family, lives in Europe and northern Asia, and males are twice the size of the females. The sexes barely resemble each other, and the fight in the first video below shows that sexual selection is intense.
The buffish, cryptically colored female. She is about half the size of the male western capercaillie. Chicks look more like her upon hatching.
— Char Adams, PhD MPH MA (@_cdadams_) September 16, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial. This man lived a bit more than a month after arrival:
20 September 1915 | A Polish Jew, Symcha Hercberg, was born in Kurzelów. A tailor.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) September 19, 2021
From Ginger K., who thinks we should visit this bookstore. But unless it has a resident cat, it’s empty:
Pillow-Cat Books, an animal-focused bookshop (used, new & antique), opened a few days ago at 328 E. 9th St. in the East Village. Books must all have an animal or animal character. Open 11-7 Tuesday through Sunday. pic.twitter.com/hWgbtlxIK0
— evgrieve (@evgrieve) September 18, 2021
Two tweets from Matthew. Why are there cats in this ad?
Today’s Vintage Ad With Unexpected Cats.
What I really want to see are the ads for explosive stoves. pic.twitter.com/LSlMIDcyCV
— Undine (@HorribleSanity) September 19, 2021
— 尾園 暁 (@PhotomboOzono) September 18, 2021