Saturday: Hili dialogue

October 2, 2021 • 6:30 am

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.

It’s also Gandhi‘s birthday-related observances (he was born on this day in 1869): Gandhi Jayanti (India) and International Day of Non-Violence

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, 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:

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!
The cilice (Spiked chain worn around the upper thigh and used for centuries in some religious communities as a form of “mortification” – Most Opus Dei members wear one two hours a day.) and discipline (Small whip which they use once a week to flagellate their back) used by members of Opus Dei, in Rome, Italy, in April 2006 – In both cases, the aim is not to injure oneself but to remember the Christ’s sufferings. (Photo by Eric VANDEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
  • 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:

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:

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:

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?

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:

Peter Medawar
  • 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.
In Polish:
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.

From Matthew:

Bad graphics posted by Doc Bill:

From Simon, a gorgeous jellyfish:

From the Auschwitz Memorial.  He lived three weeks after arrival.

Tweets from Matthew. Be sure to watch the video of the bats, too.

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.”   

Newts!  Note: the music may be annoying:

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.”

A jewel-like beetle. Translation: “Agenysa cf. peruviana Glittering brooch leaf beetles in Peru, South America is amazing because there are such things around.”

33 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. Our last car, a Ford Galaxy, was bigger and louder than the previous petrol -engined one and was nicknamed Beastie McDiesel. This predated the “Boaty McBoatface” saga – I’ve no clue where the idea of inserting “Mc” into these silly names comes from.

  2. My 2015 Dodge is known as “The Cramavan.” Also in the family is a Pontiac named Jean-Claude Grand-Am, and a GMC Safari called Halen.

  3. From the book review:

    The Predicament of Man is all the rage now that people have sufficient leisure and are sufficiently well fed to contemplate it, and many a tidy literary reputation has been built upon exploiting it;…

    It could explain a great deal.

  4. ” I always thought when we die, our possessions should weight less than we do.”

    Jeez, Jerry, you’re such a city person.

    My possessions that weigh more than I do that will be in my estate:

    Bobcat, with implements (bucket, snowplow, backhoe with two buckets, post-hole augur with two bits, forklift). Milk machine (motor, inflation assembly, buckets). Pickup. Pilot. Trailers (livestock trailer, dump wagon, flatbed). Various milkstands, grooming stand, piles of hand tools which individually weigh less than I do, but cumulatively weigh a LOT more. Horse. Donkey. And, the adult goats, which weigh between 150 and 275 lbs. each.


    1. I’m not moved by Duchamp’s Fountain, but it undeniably opened an interesting can of worms (or perhaps Campbell’s soup?) concerning the question of what art is.

      1. True.

        I remember listening to a radio program about an artwork consisting of an interconnected set of empty, white-walled rooms. I liked the idea. On a museum visit, I walked through an artwork, a room with wooden blocks strewn all over the floor. The density of distribution increased towards a corner of the room, against which was a pile of blocks. I was impressed, but I can’t think why 🙂

        An artwork that did not move me consisted of a small desk, a chair, and an open laptop parked on the desk. At first, I did not realize that it was an exhibit. But of course, I can understand someone else being moved by it.

  5. Car is a Honda Fit, car’s name is Kuzushi, a Japanese martial arts term for unbalancing your opponent to be able to throw him more easily.

  6. Our two American Ragdolls are named Buddy and Ebenezer (because he always has a slightly startled expression, like Alistair Sim in “Scrooge.” Their birthdays are today; they are two and one, respectively.

  7. Re: the possessions question. I would say that when we die, we no longer HAVE any possessions, but then again, we also no longer exist in any meaningful sense. So in that instant, as both numbers go to zero, we’re left with a ratio that is 0/0 which is undefined…but what does the limit of the ratio go to as both values approach zero? And would it be different in free-fall or in intergalactic space, or is it really mass we’re concerned with? If the latter, would it make a difference if we happened to be moving at relativistic speeds compared to our possessions, or they compared to us, thus accruing significant relativistic mass? While we’re at it, how does the Relativistic Mass go in the original Latin? What happens to the Eucharist as it approaches the speed of light, assuming arguendo that transubstantiation is real? If God existed, could It create enough kinetic energy to allow matter to REACH the speed of light, or is even It constrained by the limitations of the Special Theory of Relativity?

  8. On a more serious note, regarding the definition of cultural appropriation linked to by McWhorter, specifically, “The problem arises when somebody takes something from another less dominant culture in a way that members of that culture find undesirable and offensive.”

    Do ALL members of the culture have to find the “taking” undesirable and offensive? Is it enough if a majority of them do? How do we even find that out or decide it? What if SOME members of the culture are offended but others quite LIKE the sharing of their culture? Is there means to take a vote (preferably a confidential one, so one can vote honestly)? Or is it just cultural appropriation if enough noisy people complain, or even if just one does? And who appointed such people the official representatives of a given culture? And, if they can complain loudly, and be heard, and influence (and even intimidate) others, in what way could they possibly be considered powerless?

    Also, does anyone actually own a culture, even the one into which they are born? They certainly didn’t create it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be the culture into which they were born. It’s one thing if a person claims intellectual property rights over a particular work of art, or writing, or song, or what have you which they created…that can belong to them, and our legal system protects those rights. But once things are public domain–after the originator dies, certainly–no one else owns it, unless some special deals are made.

    The very notion of cultural appropriation is maddening, and is usually just vacuous as far as I can see, though I’m open to being convinced otherwise.

    1. To those that care about cultural appropriation, I think the answer is that they only need one person to be hurt by it. This is such a low bar, it can be dispensed with entirely. Cultural appropriation is now bad if one can imagine someone offended by it.

    2. I’m flashing back to when No Derek was criticized for wearing cornrows in 10 (1979) because it was appropriating something that rightfully belonged to black people. Nothing new under the sun, I guess.

  9. My 1934 MG is called Emmy, and my 1932 Austin seven single seat racer is called The Moose (as in mouse). Barbara’s Series III Land Rover is called Delilah (as in why, why, why, did we buy it).

  10. “Fountain”, as a work of art, is more about context than the object itself.

    The urinal therefore is not the artwork; instead, the artwork is the act of relocation, the installation outside an originally intended environment.

    Because the object serves a singular physical need, a transformation happens when Duchamp gives it a novel context: turning a physical purpose into an abstractive one.

    The fact that a urinal was chosen could be interpreted as simply pushing to a point of absurdity the relationships between design and function, physicality and the conceptual — in order to inspire enough of a mindful jolt that people still talk about it, and struggle to interpret it, a century later.

  11. Thought someone would have quoted Ozzie Myers’s famous, caught on surveillance camera, “Money talks, bullshit walks.”

  12. A couple of comments:
    • Michael Myers, good name! Michael Myers
    • Sadly remembering the murder of the Amish children reminds me of an interesting book, Forgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother’s Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace. Though we agnostics/atheists/antitheists would question the pretext of Amish forgiveness, this is nonetheless a worthy meditation on the value of forgiving.

  13. My current car does not have a name, unless “You $__&-(#$ piece of junk” qualifies. Previous cars were named Harvey Dumpy (by young son) and Big Yellow, after the Joni Mitchell song, for it was indeed a big yellow taxi.

  14. ”Indeed! Would Fide approve of the sponsorship of the men’s division by a firm making penis-enlargement devices?”

    Maybe someone heard “increase the size of women’s chess” as “increase the size of women’s chests”.

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