Once again, its Cat Sabbath (since sundown yesterday): it’s Saturday, October 2, 2021: National World Farm Animals Day. It also happens to be National Fried Scallops Day, World No Alcohol Day (fie!), and National Name Your Car Day (mine doesn’t have a name, but Diana MacPherson’s is named “Zoomie”). Put the name of your car, if it has one, in the comments.
News of the Day:
*The death toll from Covid-19 in the U.S. has passed 700,000 (see data below). I remember back when estimates of 200,000 were considered unthinkable. Now we’re 3.5 times as high as that, and rising.
*Congress is still a mess, with the Democratic party divided over Biden’s two budget packages in a way they haven’t been divided before. As yesterday’s NYT “morning report” notes, the House isn’t voting on the infrastructure bill:
Progressives are worried that if they pass the infrastructure bill, moderates will abandon the safety-net bill, which is a higher priority for many Democrats.
These are precisely the sort of disagreements that Democrats managed to surmount in recent years. During the debate over Obama’s health law, for example, moderates were worried about its size and ambition, while progressives were deeply disappointed about what it lacked (including an option for anybody to buy into Medicare). Yet nearly all congressional Democrats ultimately voted for the bill, seeing it as far preferable to failure.
But I’m writing this Friday evening, and things could change over the weekend. (Saturday a.m.: they haven’t changed.) I sure hope so. Biden’s promise of bipartisanship couldn’t be fulfilled, but who expected such a division among Democrats?
*John McWhorter’s new op-ed in the NYT, “How our discussion of race becomes distorted,” discusses the “semantic narrowing” of three terms used in discussions about race: “diversity”, “discrimination”, and “cultural appropriation.” I think he’s on the mark with the first two (I like his take on the fatuous nature of claims about “reverse discrimination”, but I take issue with his view of cultural appropriation. As he says:
It refers to appropriation by those on top from those below, especially where doing so involved profiting in a way that the latter was not able to.
I agree with that definition, but really, I’ve seen very few cases where “cultural appropriation” involves that kind of profiting. Rather, look at the definition at the link McWhorter gives:
The problem arises when somebody takes something from another less dominant culture in a way that members of that culture find undesirable and offensive. The point is that the more marginalised group doesn’t get a say, while their heritage is deployed by someone in a position of greater privilege – for fun or fashion, perhaps, and out of a place of ignorance rather than knowledge of that culture.
Even McWhorter should know the difference between profiting and becoming offended, especially now when there are groups of Professional Offense Takers. Kimono Wednesdays at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, one case of “cultural appropriation”, involved not a whit of expropriating profit. Indeed, it promoted a mutual understanding of cultures. Nevertheless, people got offended. And, though I try to understand it, I don’t see why anybody wearing cornrows is guilty of cultural appropriation. They have been worn throughout history. Offense, sure; profiting at someone else’s expense, no.
*Women’s chess has just acquired its biggest sponsor ever. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s a company specialized in enlarging breasts. (h/t: Matthew). The decision was apparently made by Fide, the governing body of chess, on pecuniary grounds rather than optics. As you can imagine, it’s raised some dust:
The new deal was announced earlier this week, with Fide announcing: “The agreement will continue through 2022, a year that has been designated as ‘The Year of Women in Chess’.”
However, several female players, speaking to the popular site Lichess, believe the move is blunder. “Shouldn’t chess – a game reliant on brains rather than breasts – be distancing itself from that kind of reductive and misogynistic line of thinking?” one anonymous female player said. Another was even blunter, calling the deal “gross”.
Indeed! Would Fide approve of the sponsorship of the men’s division by a firm making penis-enlargement devices?
*According to Space.com, NASA is going to keep the name of the James Webb Space Telescope, the new replacement of the Hubble Space Telescope. Some objected because of Webb’s past views (h/t Paul):
The moniker honors NASA’s second-ever administrator, who led the agency from 1961 to 1968 as it was working to land people on the moon. Critics of Webb claim that he was complicit in discrimination against gay and lesbian NASA employees during his tenure, pointing to incidents such as the 1963 “immoral conduct” firing of Clifford Norton.
Some of those critics created an online petition urging NASA to rename the nearly $10 billion telescope, which is scheduled to launch on Dec. 18. The petition lays out the case against Webb, which its creators say goes back to his pre-NASA days.
In a rare display of pushback, NASA decided to keep the name:
NASA had previously said it would look into the renaming request. That work is now done, and the agency is sticking with the name, NPR reported on Thursday.
“We have found no evidence at this time that warrants changing the name of the James Webb Space Telescope,” current NASA chief Bill Nelson told NPR.
The critics are incensed.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 700,429—an increase of 1,883 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,807,158, an increase of about 7,500 over yesterday’s total.
Not much stuff happened on October 2:
- 1789 – The United States Bill of Rights is sent to the various States for ratification.
Here’s an original copy of the 12 amendments, ten of which became law in 1791:
- 1928 – The “Prelature of the Holy Cross and the Work of God”, commonly known as Opus Dei, is founded. I once rented a house in Dorset for a week, and the only book in it was The Da Vinci Code. Being a person who has to read (I read cereal boxes as a kid), i read that dreadful tome, which of course deals with Opus Dei. Here are two of the instruments they use to “mortify” themselves. OY!
- 1967 – Thurgood Marshall is sworn in as the first African-American justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Here’s a newsreel clip of Marshall putting on those black robes:
- 1980 – Michael Myers becomes the first member of either chamber of Congress to be expelled since the Civil War.
This is a bad character (below). He was expelled from the House (and served three years for bribery and conspiracy in the Abscam affair), had an earlier conviction for burglary, and is even now under indictment for more charges: Wikipedia lists them as “conspiring to violate voting rights by fraudulently stuffing the ballot boxes for specific candidates in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primary elections, bribery of an election official, falsification of records, voting more than once in federal elections, and obstruction of justice.”
- 2002 – The Beltway sniper attacks begin in Washington, D.C., extending over three weeks and killing 10 people.
- 2006 – Five Amish girls are murdered in a shooting at a school in Pennsylvania, United States.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1452 – Richard III of England (d. 1485)
As you know, the King was found buried under a Leicester car park. Here’s his skeleton as found:
- 1800 – Nat Turner, American slave and uprising leader (d. 1831)
- 1869 – Mahatma Gandhi, Indian freedom fighter, activist and philosopher (d. 1948)
Here are all the possessions Gandhi had when he died. Sadly, they’ve been auctioned off (for big bucks); they used to be in a museum in Delhi. I always thought when we die, our possessions should weigh less than we do. That was true in Gandhi’s case.
- 1879 – Wallace Stevens, American poet (d. 1955)
- 1890 – Groucho Marx, American comedian and actor (d. 1977)
- 1917 – Christian de Duve, Belgian cytologist and biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2013)
- 1933 – John Gurdon, English biologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
- 1937 – Johnnie Cochran, American lawyer (d. 2005)
- 1945 – Don McLean, American singer-songwriter
McLean, most famous for his song “American Pie,” also wrote this one. I didn’t like it originally, but since I read Van Gogh’s biography I like it more:
- 1949 – Annie Leibovitz, American photographer
- 1951 – Sting, English singer-songwriter and actor
- 1970 – Maribel Verdú, Spanish actress
I’ve been smitten by Verdú since I saw the wonderful 1999 Mexican movie Y tu mamá también, in which she starred. See it! (One still from the movie below):
Those who evinced their mortality on October 2 include:
- 1803 – Samuel Adams, American politician, Governor of Massachusetts (b. 1722)
- 1927 – Svante Arrhenius, Swedish physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1859)
- 1968 – Marcel Duchamp, French painter and sculptor (b. 1887)
Here is good Duchamp:
Here is bad Duchamp, much admired by those who say that “anything can be art”. Are you moved or stimulated by this signed urinal?
- 1973 – Paavo Nurmi, Finnish runner (b. 1897)
Here’s a 4.5-minute video of Nurmi in the Olympics in the 1920s. You’ll be amazed at how stalwart the man was, winning a total of 9 gold medals in two Olympic games in only six days!
- 1985 – Rock Hudson, American actor (b. 1925)
- 1987 – Peter Medawar, Brazilian-English biologist and zoologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1915)
Medawar’s 1961 review of Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man is one of the great eviscerating book reviews of all time. I couldn’t find it free on the Internet, but judicious inquiry will yield a copy. He won the Nobel Prize with Frank Burnet for his work on immunology, vital in transplantation. Two opponents of each other nevertheless agreed with JMS below on Medawar’s cleverness; Wikipedia says, “Famous zoologists such as Richard Dawkins referred to him as “the wittiest of all scientific writers”, and Stephen Jay Gould as “the cleverest man I have ever known”.
Here’s evolutionist John Maynard Smith (“JMS”), who knew Medawar, discussing the man. Because JMS notes how handsome Medawar was, I’ve put the man’s picture below:
- 1998 – Gene Autry, American actor, singer, and guitarist (b. 1907)
- 2016 – Neville Marriner, British conductor (b. 1924)
- 2018 – Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi journalist (b. 1958)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili’s hogging Andrzej’s chair:
A: Go away from my chair, I have to post articles.Hili: Give me five minutes for my morning toilet.
Ja: Uciekaj z mojego fotela, bo muszę opublikować artykuły.Hili: Daj mi pięć minut na poranną toaletę.
And here’s baby Kulka asleep on Malgorzata’s chair in the kitchen:
From Merilee; you have 25 seconds to find the answer before it’s revealed.
Bad graphics posted by Doc Bill:
From Simon, a gorgeous jellyfish:
A spectacular sight 1225m (4019 ft) beneath the waves off Baja California as EVNautilus encounter the amazing Halitrephes maasi jelly.
— Wonder of Science (@wonderofscience) September 29, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial. He lived three weeks after arrival.
2 October 1900 | A Czech, Franz Barton, was born in Brno.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) October 2, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. Be sure to watch the video of the bats, too.
— Give Bats A Break (@GiveBatsABreak) October 1, 2021
Amazing photo. Translation (I left out the emoticons): “Spotted jellyfish in Kagoshima took. Really cute, peach cans to the touch It was like a peach.”
— 高橋怜子_Reiko takahashi@水中写真 (@reiko_ocean) October 1, 2021
Newts! Note: the music may be annoying:
Your daily dose of aqua grooving to make you smile pic.twitter.com/VOyw4cd3Qz
— urbanponds (@urbanponds_101) October 1, 2021
How much will this baby go for? It’s huge: one comment says “Smartphone photos don’t give it justice. Its skull is 2 meters wide. 2 meters. You can lie on its frill transversally and still have space above and below you.”
You're having a midnight stroll in Paris, you admire the buildings and the city, and at the corner of a road you have a heart attack because a whole ass TRICERATOPS just spawned#FossilFriday
This is Big John, the biggest Trike ever, and it's going on auction on the 21st 🙁 pic.twitter.com/jgRcUtoiHb
— 🦖Djigr🔬 (@ScientistDjigr) October 1, 2021
A jewel-like beetle. Translation: “Agenysa cf. peruviana Glittering brooch leaf beetles in Peru, South America is amazing because there are such things around.”
Agenysa cf. peruviana
— わらび餅 (@warabimochi_ic) September 30, 2021