Monday: Hili dialogue

September 20, 2021 • 6:30 am

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!

It’s also National Pepperoni Pizza Day, National Fried Rice Day, and National String Cheese Day.

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 MichelleHere, 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:

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.

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”.

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:

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:

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, 1847; daguerreotype by Hermann Blow
  • 1957 – Jean Sibelius, Finnish violinist and composer (b. 1865)
  • 1973 – Jim Croce, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1943)

See above.

  • 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.
In Polish:
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:

The UN could issue condemnations of the Taliban’s behavior; after all, they do it to Israel all the time.

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.

From the Auschwitz Memorial. This man lived a bit more than a month after arrival:

From Ginger K., who thinks we should visit this bookstore. But unless it has a resident cat, it’s empty:

Two tweets from Matthew. Why are there cats in this ad?

This is a rare photo of a mantid in flight. The translation by Google is this: “Blog update (2021-09-18) Next-Shonan Musi Diary blog.livedoor.jp/photombo/archi Flying mantis. Next time …↑”

34 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. Merely reading the McCartney piece gives me a boost of neurotransmitters – that’s how strong a musician he, with his groups, is. Fats Waller too, by the way – the sounds of their voices – and especially McCartney’s melodic nature – simply exist in my mind as distinct, singular entities. They do not and cannot blend in with every other voice.

  2. “Why are there cats in this ad?” I’m going to weigh in here based on my experience at the Hem House in Key West with 40-50 cats every day for 11 years: cats love heat.

  3. “The truth is, a pill is not just a pill.” As anyone who is sensitive to some of the chemicals used as excipients or bulking agents will tell you, it’s important to read the ingredient list closely. I’m fortunate that I can take any of the various generic forms of my BP tablets, but my wife isn’t so lucky. She has a severe reaction to most artificial sweeteners, which are pretty much ubiquitous these days, and also to mannitol, a sugar alcohol that’s also used as a sweetener in some prescription medicines.

  4. The situation for women in Afghanistan reminds me of this from WKRP (Les Nessman): “General Wallace Nasami, head of the emerging nation of Nibia, denied his new government was a dictatorship and promised free elections as soon as each citizen of the small country learns to play a musical instrument.”

    I wonder if they would reopen schools to women if they all learned to plan an instrument?

    “I laugh because I must not cry” (attributed to Abraham Lincoln)

  5. I remember hearing about Croce’s death on a bus ride home from a high school basketball game. Boisterous after a win over a rival town, we were all silent the rest of the way. The release of the song “I’ve Got a Name” the next day, and the album that December, were reminders of the emerging growth of Croce as an artist. He was still developing and growing when he died.

    Many people probably only remember him from “You don’t mess around with Jim,” and “Bad, bad Leroy Brown.” Those were pretty much the same story and the same song. He had great depth, and listening to his albums rather than just his hits reveals him to be an artist cut down way too soon.

  6. “Rum Punch” day — a good day to celebrate Elmore Leonard’s novel of that name (later adapted to the screen, and reset from South Florida to LA, by Quentin Tarantino as Jackie Brown — Tarantino’s last film, you ask me, that held together from start to finish without sliding into self-indulgence).

      1. Tarantino’s films since have all had great scenes and great performances and great exhibitions of the art of filmmaking, but each has gone over the top into puerile self-indulgence, often through the use of gratuitous violence, IMO (and I’m someone with a pretty high tolerance for non-gratuitous violence in films).

          1. Do we have a non-goddy equivalent to “preaching to the choir”? Seems like there must be more sayings that assume a religious point of view, though none come to mind at the moment.

            1. I guess only the religious could agree 100% (unlike scientists).

              Although given the schisms they don’t – and they then kill each other, because that’s what the true deity/his true interpreters want. Ah well…

              1. I like “carry coals to Newcastle” too but it’s not quite equivalent as it doesn’t involve people. I think my favorite from that thread is “pushing at an open door” though it has the same problem. Perhaps the original is still the best. After all, one doesn’t have to be a believer to use it and understand it.

              2. Sadly, the “coals to Newcastle” saying – which seemed the epitome of stupidity when it was coined – was overtaken by events when it became cheaper to import South American coal into the UK than to mine it here. Decades on, the coal-mining areas of the UK are still suffering – and Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda has yet to have any effect, surprise, surprise.

              1. D’oh – no, it doesn’t. But then neither dies the opposite – “unconverted”. Truly it’s a miracle…

  7. I know many commenters have mentioned this, but if you really want to see and hear how good McCartney is, watch “McCartney 3,2,1” on Hulu. They isolate his singing and bass playing on many of his best performances.

  8. Nowadays, whenever I read the daily Covid death rate in the U.S., I can’t help but think, “there goes another 2,000 (or whatever the number is) Trumpists.” It just pops up in my brain; I’m a bad person.

    Greta Thunberg has also been diagnosed with Asperger’s, which I think can also account for her intensity. I’m glad she’s out there fighting against climate change, though at this point it seems like a Sisyphean endeavor.

    1. Concerning Covid, you are not the only one having these kinds of thoughts.

      Concerning Greta Thunberg, climate change, and space tourism, inspired by the fact that, although it is still winter where I live, tomorrow’s temperature will likely reach a seasonal and perhaps an all-time record of 100o F. Elon Musk and MS news media (CNN here) have been touting SpaceX and a supposed new age of space tourism for “common people”. The CO2 produced by SpaceX’s 50,000-gallon kerosene burn was [I calculate] roughly 500 tons of CO2, i.e., 125 tons per passenger. If space tourism becomes popular, Musk will have to sell a bundle of electric cars to correct the damage he’s causing. Put into perspective, per capita consumption of gasoline in the US is a little over a gallon a day. The 12,500 gallons (of kerosene) needed for each SpaceX passenger to get into orbit were used to power a car, it would be sufficient for half a lifetime of driving.

            1. Not necessarily, but we do need to make some sensible (and somewhat overdue) decisions. But they’ll be less painful if we make them now than if we defer them until later, of course.

              Unfortunately, some bizarre quirk of history has put the buffoon Boris Johnson in charge of COP 26, which seems like a joke inflicted on us by Douglas Adams but probably isn’t (unless Doug is having the last laugh from the Restaurant at the end of the Universe).

      1. Re: SpaceEx and climate:
        Sometimes I get unnecessarily proud and arrogant with all the climate change stuff as I’ve never owned (or hardly even driven) a car, I live in a high-rise in a dense city, I don’t buy crap, I fly very occasionally and most importantly I have never had children. Aren’t I golden?

        I like to think the above does some heavily lifting, morally, to counteract the rest of my shitty personality. 🙂
        D.A.

      1. Maybe if they believe that Breitbart stuff, the Trumpists who stayed away from this weekend’s DC rally in support of the 6/1 “martyrs” (“it’s all a federal government conspiracy, man!”) will now be lining up for the vaccine? Win-win!

  9. I am a huge McCartney fan, but there’s a lot in that sub stack piece that is over-the-top. Two examples:

    1. Comparing Paul to Cole Porter singing like Sinatra ignores a whole lot of notes McCartney sings out of tune, whereas I don’t remember any/much recording-studio Sinatra that is out of tune.

    2. A wide range of expression is not something that any excellent singer can’t achieve. OK, then McCartney is an excellent singer in terms of expression, but it’s not “superhuman.” And McCartney’s entrance on the middle 8 (B section?) of Hard Day’s Night has nothing in it that qualifies it as one of most exciting moments in twentieth-century music. Come on.

    The thing is, there’s *so* much you can say about McCarney as a songwriter, as a bassist, etc., that makes him an all-time great without going overboard.

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