Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon Monologue)

October 6, 2021 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Hump Day: Wednesday, October 6, 2021: National Noodle Day. Noodles are good; how can you not like them?

It’s also Garlic Lovers Day, National Fruit at Work Day, National Badger Day, German-American Day, and the continuation of World Space Week (October 4–10).

Before you diss badgers, have a look at this armful of babies (I believe these are European badgers, Meles meles):

News of the Day:

*It’s been 258 days since Biden took office, and the promised First Cat has still not been adopted. I think that it’s time for us to give up hope that the White House will harbor a moggy during this term (did he forget?)

*Negotiations continue—between Biden on one hand and Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin III on the other—about how much slashing of Biden’s social safety-net bill will cause the two centrist Democrats to get with Biden’s program. An op-ed in the Washington Post accuses the two Senators of bad faith, with the progressives being the heroes, amply willing to compromise.  And an op-ed in the NYT by Michelle Goldberg, “What’s wrong with Kyrsten Sinema?” goes full-tilt against the Arizona Senator, claiming she doesn’t even articulate her goals.  According to Goldberg, Sinema’s driving principle is to keep people focused on her vacillations and silences. It doesn’t get much more accusatory than this:

It sometimes seems as if what Sinema wants is for people to sit around wondering what Sinema wants.

. . . Now that she’s part of a governing majority, Sinema is, ironically, recapitulating some of the pathologies she boasted about transcending. Rather than being part of a productive coalition, she’s once again operating as a defiantly contrary outsider. The bipartisanship that was once a source of liberation for her seems to have become a rigid identity.

“I think she’s just really invested in that self-image, personally, as someone who stands up to her party, and I think she has really lost track of what is actually politically prudent, even to put aside the impact on the lives of millions of people,” said Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona, a progressive group that worked to elect Sinema to the Senate. There’s a difference, it turns out, between being a maverick and being a narcissist.

That last word hits hard. What do I think of Sinema? I don’t know because she won’t talk. But even if she’s a narcissist without policy goals, she should at least be allowed to pee in peace.

*After 12 years as head of the National Institutes of health, Francis Collins has decided to step down as director. Appointed by Obama in 2009, he’s served longer in that position than any other director since the position became one filled by Presidential appointment (1971). Now, he thinks, it’s time for younger blood to run this most important position, but I have to say that despite my criticism of his evangelical Christianity, he’s done a terrific job at the NIH and I wish him well as he goes back to research—and his beloved motorcycle:

Tuesday’s statement said that Collins would continue to lead his research laboratory at the National Human Genome Research Institute, “which is pursuing genomics, epigenomics and single cell biology to understand the causes and means of prevention for type 2 diabetes. His lab also seeks to develop new genetic therapies for the most dramatic form of premature aging, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome.”

While he will still be at work in science, Collins told NPR, “Maybe I’ll ride my Harley a little bit more than I have for the last year.”

*The Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos trial continues, with the Wall Street Journal, which originally broke the story, having the best coverage, including a continuous live feed. The latest issue: her relationship with her high-level associate Sunny Balwani, her secret boyfriend for years. Holmes may mount a mental health defense that he psychologically, sexually, and emotionally abused her. (Balwani will be tried later for the same crimes as Holmes.) Years of text messages between the two document their secret romance, but also suggest that Holmes, accused of wire fraud and conspiracy, knew well that there were problems with her blood-testing device. A separate article in the WSJ reports:

Prosecutors have had some of the intimate text messages read aloud in court, potentially helping them prove their case that Ms. Holmes failed to take seriously numerous warnings about inaccurate blood-test results.

“You do have some kind of indication that she knew that not all was well with the company,” said Andrey Spektor, a former federal prosecutor with the Eastern District of New York who isn’t involved in the case but has read portions of the text messages. “Those messages by themselves are not going to get prosecutors to conviction but coupled with everything else, it’s a pretty powerful case.”

*John McWhorter turns 56 today (see below), and has a new NYT essay, “Up in arms over a pronoun.” The pronoun at issue is “they”, which McWhorter apparently says is fine in constructions like the one below:

Feedback on my newsletter about the embrace of “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun referring to a single person — Joel is wearing their green shirt today because it matches their pants — has been, well, pointed.

It seems that quite a few people have a major problem with this change in pronominal usage. I understand all of their objections but disagree with them.

Well, I disagree with McWhorter. The objections aren’t–at least in my case–based on a worry about pronouns and gender.  McWhorter doesn’t favor “they” in the sentence above because Joel is “genderfluid”.  Rather McWhorter thinks that it’s just as good as “he” or “his”. But, as a matter of simple comprehension, the sentence is confusing.

What’s even more confusing is that he later says this:

I am not convinced that “they” could be all that powerful on even a language level. For example, if anyone were to call for all people to be referred to as “they” — which I am unaware of but is conceivable as an idea someone might propose — it would fall so far from common perception that it would be unlikely to catch on.

Am I missing something, or did he just say that using “they” for Joel isn’t “common perception”? There is indeed a place for “they” when referring to unspecified sexes or genders, but not in the case of Joel’s clothes.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 705,394, an increase of 1,808 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,833,157, an increase of about 8,600 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on October 6 includes:

  • 1600 – Euridice, the earliest surviving opera, receives its première performance, beginning the Baroque period.
  • 1927 – Opening of The Jazz Singer, the first prominent “talkie” movie.

This was the first movie to use synchronized dialogue. Al Jolson sang six songs; several were in blackface, so you won’t see this movie these days. Here’s a scene where he sings his first song without makeup:

  • 1973 – Egypt and Syria launch coordinated attacks against Israel, beginning the Yom Kippur War.
  • 1976 – Premier Hua Guofeng arrests the Gang of Four, ending the Cultural Revolution in China.

Here’s the Gang of Four, which included Jiang Qing, Mao’s first wife. They tried to take over the government after Mao died, but were arrested and tried for treason. Their fates, according to Wikipedia: “Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao received death sentences that were later commuted to life imprisonment, while Wang Hongwen and Yao Wenyuan were given life and twenty years in prison, respectively. All members of the Gang of Four have since died; Jiang Qing committed suicide in 1991, Wang Hongwen died in 1992, and Yao Wenyuan and Zhang Chunqiao died in 2005, having been released from prison in 1996 and 1998, respectively.

Here’s an account of the assassination with video of the attack:

  • 1995 – The first planet orbiting another sun, 51 Pegasi b, is discovered.
  • 2007 – Jason Lewis completes the first human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth.

It took him from 1994 to 2007 to complete the feat, using bicycles, kayaks, boats (with pedals), and rollerblades. Here’s an absorbing 17.5-minute  video of the feat, which was amazing. Wikipedia reports: “During his expedition, Lewis twice survived malaria, sepsis, a bout of mild schizophrenia, and a crocodile attack near Australia in 2005.” Imagine all the visas he needed!

  • 2010 – Instagram, a mainstream photo-sharing application, is founded.

Instagram has been shown to cause or exacerbate mental illness in teen girls (often by causing anorexia because of the slimness of “influencers”). I wonder why they didn’t stop looking at it.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1820 – Jenny Lind, Swedish soprano and actress (d. 1887)

Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale”, in 1850 (photo was retouched):

  • 1846 – George Westinghouse, American engineer and businessman, founded the Westinghouse Air Brake Company (d. 1914)
  • 1887 – Le Corbusier, Swiss-French architect and painter, designed the Philips Pavilion and Saint-Pierre, Firminy (d. 1965)
  • 1900 – Willy Merkl, German mountaineer (d. 1934)

Merkl, a great climber, died of starvation and cold trying to climb Nanga Parbat. Here he is along with the mountain.


Nanga Parbat (8126 meters):


Here’s Lombard in the movie that made her famous: “Twentieth Century” (John Barrymore is the other actor). She died in a plane crash at only 33, and was married at the time to Clark Gable.

  • 1914 – Thor Heyerdahl, Norwegian ethnographer and explorer (d. 2002)
  • 1948 – Gerry Adams, Irish republican politician
  • 1965 – John McWhorter, American academic and linguist

Those whose became kaput on October 6 include:

  • 1536 – William Tyndale, English Protestant Bible translator (b. c. 1494)
  • 1892 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson, English poet (b. 1809)
  • 1979 – Elizabeth Bishop, American poet and short-story writer (b. 1911)
  • 1981 – Anwar Sadat, Egyptian colonel and politician, 3rd President of Egypt, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)
  • 2019 – Ginger Baker, English drummer (b. 1939)

Here’s Baker doing an amazing drum solo (his Cream bandmate Clapton also plays).  I’m told that the 2012 movie about him, “Beware of Mr. Baker“, which shows how irascible he was, is quite good.

  • 2020 – Eddie Van Halen, Dutch-American guitarist, songwriter, and producer (b. 1955)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is laconic, but Malgorzata explains: “Hili is not any kind of lover of Rome (read: Vatican) so she is thankful that even if all roads lead to Rome, there are no roads in the wilderness.”

Hili: All roads lead to Rome.
A: Allegedly.
Hili: Thank God for wilderness.
In Polish:
Hili: Wszystkie drogi prowadzą do Rzymu.
A.: Podobno.
Hili: Dzięki Bogu, są bezdroża.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon, sitting on Elzbieta’s shoulder, mourns the onset of winter:

Leon: Well, where has the sun gone?

In Polish: No i gdzie się podziało słońce?

From Stash Krod. Cat butts seem to be a recurring theme lately:

A baby llama from Beautiful Life on Planet Earth:

From the Purr-fect Feline Page:

A tweet from Titania:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who lived exactly two months after arrival at the camp:

A tweet from Matthew, and replies:

Do enlarge the video: several mites are taking that ride:

An albino capybara! I can’t see whether its eyes are pink; if they aren’t, it’s not a true albino.

It’s about time this pub reopened, as I liked it a lot (though not as much as I like the Turf Tavern, also in Oxford).

I don’t know how the painter did this, but it works!

39 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon Monologue)

  1. It’s also Garlic Lovers Day, National Fruit at Work Day,…

    Just as long as you don’t get the two confused and celebrate Garlic at Work Day. Though loving fruit is fine.

    Re: Sinema, I thought her position was reasonably well understood. Like Manchin, what she wants is a lower overall budget. They differ in that Manchin wants to set a lower top dollar value and is fine letting other people work out the details. Sinema works the other way around; she wants to discuss reducing the money going to different ‘buckets’ (defense, etc.) and if that’s done to her satisfaction, she’ll be less concerned about where the top dollar figure ends up.

    This is (IMO) normal negotiation and posturing. Though with McConnell refusing to have any GOPer vote for it, if the Dems want to avoid a(nother) CR or reconciliation, they’re going to have to work it out with these two.

    1. It’s nice to encounter someone actually trying legitimately to tease apart the motivations and positions of someone with whom that person might or might not agree, in a non-judgmental fashion, rather than spewing invective and self-righteous moralizing–making sarcastic references to possible childhood accidents, regional stereotypes, or dealing in amateur psychiatric/psychological diagnoses and writing headlines of editorials that assume a conclusion, e.g. “What’s wrong with…?” …let alone hounding someone during a trip to the restroom.

      How can we expect our politicians to behave like adults when we don’t respond to or criticize them like adults, even in what are nominally our most respected publications? How can we expect them to learn anything from criticism or discussion when it’s not actually criticism or discussion they receive but merely abuse? Teasing and name-calling can be a perverse sort of fun, and demonizing those with whom one doesn’t agree or with whom one is frustrated probably gives a nice, reassuring surge in the serotonin/dopamine/endorphin responsive regions of the brain, but it doesn’t help solve any problems.

      So, thank you!

      1. Well, the trip to the bathroom received wall to wall media coverage, so the protest was extremely successful. Of course, the GOP relies on the art of faux outrage to blow everything up, and called for the protestors to be deported.

  2. What is wrong with Sinema – who knows? Perhaps she was dropped on her head too often as a child.
    So then, what is Manchin’s excuse? He is from West Virginia and that is all you need to know. Still looking for that clean coal.

  3. Seems to me that when one doesn’t know the gender of the person referenced, “the” is less confusing than “they”. Or just leave it out. At least in the sentence under consideration about Joel…

    “Joel is wearing a green shirt today because it matches the pants.” Much better, IMO, than “their” and “they”.

    1. Independently of any gender stuff, the construction using the definite article rather than possessive has long been standard in German, e.g. Klaus hat einen Hut auf dem Kopf, Klaus has a hat on the head, not Klaus hat einen Hut auf seinem Kopf, Klaus has a hat on his head. The same with a pronoun, e.g. Er hat einen Hut auf dem Kopf.

      1. Finnish also lacks a gendered pronoun, and people seem to survive without it. I’m ambivalent. I don’t mind ‘they’ and I don’t mind ‘him/her’. I’ll use ‘they’ when I don’t want to specifically give clues away about who someone is if I’m describing something vaguely as well.

  4. If you look closely at the “ageing” painting, you can clearly see vertical lines across the entire picture from around 0:11 onwards, so I’m guessing that this is an example of a technique called lenticular printing. It’s been around for at least half a century. When Britain changed from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency back in 1971, I had a little credit-card sized conversion table that switched between “old money” and “new money” as you tilted the card back and forth. To an eight-year-old kid, it seemed like magic. But it’s actually just applied physics.

      1. The way things are going, you might need to brush up on your bartering skills. Rods, poles, perches, ells, shillings and groats are going to lòok simple compared to the christmas turkey/gallon of petrol/six-pack of toilet paper exchange system!

      2. I remember my little brothers having to do long division with pounds/shillings/pence at their English boys’ school. I went to the American School in London😬

  5. So much attention to Manchin and Sinema, so little of what is in the $3.5 TRILLION bill, and whether it is actually a good idea. It seems to me that the Democratic Congressional leadership got the strategy wrong. They thought that they could bundle the good and the bad together and ram it through. They could have had bi-partisanship with smaller bills, as the infrastructure bill showed.

    1. As is normal you fail to actually follow the marbles on this. The reason for this one big deal bill is the Republicans and the filibuster. They would have easily broken it up into smaller pieces but they only got. one chance with this filibuster business. The real question is why don’t they get rid of the filibuster.

          1. Yeah, he regularly posts head-scratching comments and when others ask to clarify, he never obliges. Sort of a troll imo.

  6. Re: North by Northwest: at least Cary Grant’s suit gets sent out for a cleaning & pressing while he’s holed-up in Eva Marie Saint’s Chicago hotel room. Can’t say the same for his yellow boxers.

    I’ve heard North by Northwest described as a film about the trials and tribulations Alfred Hitchcock puts Cary Grant’s natty blue-gray suit through for two and a quarter hours.

    1. Remember, too, that scene in the Mt. Rushmore cafeteria when a second or two before the (spoiler alert) gunshot, a small boy is seen sticking his fingers in his ears to block out the noise!

  7. I notice that the tips of the carrion beetle’s antennae look very much like the mites it carries. Perhaps they are advertising “climb aboard” to any mites that need a ride.

  8. “Eddie Cantor sang six songs.”

    No doubt someone else will point this out, but you mean Al Jolson, not Eddie Cantor. Cantor was a flash in the pan; Jolson, along with the likes of Judy Garland and Michael Jackson, is one of the great entertainers of all time.

      1. Jolson’s style derives in great part from early New Orleans jazz a la Jelly Roll Morton et al. Like Morton, however, Jolson integrated many genres, including ragtime and blues, which, I’ll grant you, most people don’t think of as jazz. For example, Jelly Roll’s version of “Buddy Bolden Blues” has a definite Jolson feel to it, especially the little vocal asides.

          1. Good memory, Ken. Yes, I wrote a biopic about Morton that, like all but one of my other 10 screenplays, never got produced. “Screenplays” is a bit of a misnomer in my case

  9. “ I wonder why they didn’t stop looking at it.”
    That’s like asking why don’t anorexic girls eat more, or why don’t alcoholics stop drinking.

    1. I suspect it’s even worse as these websites are centers of peer interaction. Asking them to give them up is like asking them to stop (or at least slow down) communicating with their friends.

  10. I learned today that over a period of 47yrs, Geo Westinghouse had well over 300 patents (I’ve forgotten the exact number), for an average of one patent granted every 7wks in that period.

  11. Those badgers are enchanting, so lovely and huggable, though I know they can be very vicious. Seeing them always takes me back to being a kid (in English countryside) and watching them emerge from their setts near dusk. They would run around like crazy for about 30 mins, but disappear about 10 minutes before darkness. They came back out afterwards, but of course we couldn’t see them.

    1. I too remember watching the badger setts in Fox Woods on the edge of the village of Chiseldon in Wiltshire. What enormous holes they dug, with old bedding scattered outside as they are very houseproud. In later years I have had a different relationship with badgers, being obsessed with straight razor (ie “cut-throat”) shaving, which is best performed with good homemade shaving soap and a badger brush. Farmers have always trapped badgers, but made little difference to the population until the vile calumny that they spread bovine tuberculosis became current, and now they have suffered their own cyanide-mediated holocaust. Traditional shaving brush makers, like Simpson’s of Somerset (when family-owned and based in the west country) and Rooney’s of London selected various grades of hair from the pelts they acquired and produced different grades of brushes – silvertip, best and pure. The silvertip hair from a mature boar badger that had experienced many cold winters was the best, with thick stiff shafts and fine soft creamy white tips. You can’t buy that grade of hair any more, and nearly all badger hair sold today comes from unspeakably cruel badger farms in China, where young badgers are skinned alive (I’m sad to say there are videos on the internet). Such hair, often sold still as ‘silvertip’ or ‘super’ grade is markedly inferior. That has resulted in the return of boar (hog) bristle and even synthetic brushes. I will use my wonderful old brushes (even old and well-used they are now re-selling for ludicrous prices of up to $500USD) but I won’t buy any new ones given the cruel way the badgers are exploited.

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