Tuesday: Hili dialogue

October 12, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the cruelest day, Tuesday, October 12, 2021: National Pumpkin Pie Day (best warm with whipped cream, but always tasty).

It’s also National Gumbo Day, Pulled Pork Day, World Arthritis Day, Ada Lovelace Day (designed to inspire women to work in STEM fields), and Freethought Day.  As to the last celebration, October 12 marks the day taken to be the end of the Salem Witch Trials, when Massachusetts Governor William Phips wrote a letter to British monarchs William and Mary decrying the shoddy “spectral” evidence used in the trials. Witch trials continued for a bit, but Phips pardoned everyone and eventually stopped the trials.


Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot below) celebrates the life of Helena Modjeska (Oct. 12, 1840-April 8, 1909), an acclaimed Polish actress who specialized in Shakespearian roles and tragic plays (her photo is below the Doodle). She moved to California in 1876, intending to be a rancher, but unable to ranch, she returned to the theater for the rest of her life.

Here’s Modjeska as Ophelia in Hamlet (1867):

News of the Day:

*I can’t believe it, but it looks like Donald Trump is starting to stump for another Presidential run in 2024. At a speech at the Iowa State Fair (the first state that casts vote for President, Trump seemed to signal his intentions to go for it.  Among the many false statements he made in that speech (analyzed by the Daily Iowan and reported by Politico), Trump said he did not concede the last election, even though he did. He also once again asserted widespread voter fraud, even though audits have shown no such thing. And here is the sickest part:

Trump has received high marks among Iowa voters, especially Republicans. The most recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, reported Oct. 4, showed that 53 percent of Iowans have a favorable view of Trump, while 45 percent have an unfavorable view. The approval numbers are better than he had when president, The Register reported. The poll questioned 805 adults between Sept. 12-15. Its margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Among Republicans, 91 percent had a favorable view of Trump in the Iowa Poll survey. Another 7 percent viewed him unfavorably, while 2 percent didn’t know, the survey showed. The flipside showed 99 percent of Democrats in Iowa viewing Trump unfavorably, and only 1 percent viewing him favorably.

What is wrong with Iowa? Too many Republicans, for one thing! And seriously, how can anyone have a favorable view of narcissistic demagogues?  Yes, I have some understanding, but I also don’t want our Republic dissolved.

*Merck has now asked the FDA to approve an oral treatment for Covid-19: a pill called Molnupiravir that you take several times a day when you’ve caught the virus. It’s the only promising treatment that doesn’t involve needles:

Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutic said they specifically asked the agency to grant emergency use for adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at risk for severe disease or hospitalization. That is roughly the way COVID-19 infusion drugs are used.

“The value here is that it’s a pill so you don’t have to deal with the infusion centers and all the factors around that,” said Dr. Nicholas Kartsonis, a senior vice president with Merck’s infectious disease unit. “I think it’s a very powerful tool to add to the toolbox.”

The course of treatment for pills will cost about $700, and the U.S. government has bought enough to treat 1.7 million people. It’s not a substitute for vaccination, but appears to cut the rate of hospitalization and death in half for patients with at least one risk factor for the disease. It is not, of course, a substitute for vaccination. And I’m guessing that IT IS NOT IVERMECTIN!

*National Public Radio is kvetching that only rich or well connected people, like 90 year old William Shatner, are the only people who can experience space travel now:

Star Trek’s Captain Kirk is about to boldly go where hundreds of others have gone before, continuing a decades-long tradition of space flights for non-astronauts who are wealthy or famous or well-connected — or all of the above.

As for ordinary folks without deep pockets — well, the final frontier might be opening up a just a bit, but opportunities still basically come down to contests and luck.

Does NPR realize how much these flights cost? I don’t mourn my inability to be part of a 4-person space tour that lasts 11 minutes, any more than I mourn my inability to board my own yacht and tell it to sail to Bali. Is NPR going communist?

*Apparently the original parapet of the Westminster Bridge is for sale. It’s cheap: only £250,000 plus VAT. Why is it for sale? See below: (h/t: Dom)

LASSCO is delighted to offer for sale the original Victorian Westminster Bridge that was removed during this restoration – the first time that an historic London river crossing has been offered on the open market since John Rennie’s Portland stone London Bridge of 1831 was sold by The Corporation of London to Robert P. McCulloch in 1968 – at 10,000tons undoubtedly the largest single item of architectural salvage ever shipped to the USA (That he thought he was buying Tower Bridge is a myth unfortunately!).

Condition has been cited as the reason for the replacement ironwork – but this seems unlikely. A persistent rumour has it that shrapnel from Victorian iron was deemed to represent a threat to the Palace of Westminster in the event of a terrorist bomb attack.

The bridge with its new parapet:

You can buy 350 meters (12 truckloads) of THIS. What a deal!

*I’ve lost checked luggage while flying only once in my life, which I guess is par for the course given that the average rate of loss is about one per 250 checked bags (I got my stuff back the next day). TravelPulse gives the rankings of the frequency of lost/damaged baggage that was checked, and I’ve put the rates next to the airlines when I could get them). Now that I have mastered the art of traveling for a long time with a single small carry-on bag (plus a daypack), I never check bags except in extraordinary circumstances.

From best (top) to worst (bottom)

Allegiant Air  1/650 checked bags lost or damaged
Hawaiian Airlines  1/500
Frontier Airlines
Endeavor Airlines
Southwest Airlines 3-4/1000
Delta Air Lines
Spirit Airlines 3-4/1000
United Airlines 3-4/1000
Skywest Airlines
Horizon Air
Jetblue Airways 4/1000
PSA Airlines
Republic Airways
Alaska Airlines
Mesa Airlines
American Airlines 7/1000
Envoy Air 9/1000 (owned  by American)

AVERAGE: 1/250

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 714,960, an increase of 1,853 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,874,689, an increase of about 6,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on October 12 includes:

  • 539 BC – The army of Cyrus the Great of Persia takes Babylon, ending the Babylonian empire. (Julian calendar)
  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus’s first expedition makes landfall in the Caribbean, specifically in The Bahamas.
  • 1692 – The Salem witch trials are ended by a letter from Province of Massachusetts Bay Governor William Phips. [see above]

Here’s a monument (it’s not a grave) to Bridge Bishop, the first woman executed in the Salem witch trials. Photographed by moi in June, 2019:

The hospital is Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg Virginia, a facility that’s still there but much larger. The original 1773 building burned down in 1885, but was rebuilt a century later, and I visited it several times while going to college nearby:

  • 1792 – The first celebration of Columbus Day is held in New York City.
  • 1810 – The citizens of Munich hold the first Oktoberfest.

I’m not sure I ever want to go to this crowded, drunken affair, but it is colorful. Here’s the “Hacker-Pschorr Brewery horse team, with stein-holding Mädchen.

The words “under God” were not added to the pledge until 1954, and of course, as a violation of the Constitution, they should be removed.

  • 1901 – President Theodore Roosevelt officially renames the “Executive Mansion” to the White House.
  • 1915 – World War I: British nurse Edith Cavell is executed by a German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium

Cavell, executed at 49 for treason (helping Allied soldiers escape Belgium):

The toll of Kiwis: 2,735, of whom 845 men were killed or mortally wounded. Here’s a photo the day after that first battle:

Wikipedia notes that “By 2014, there were only 10 people left with an iron lung,” but this may be an underestimate.

Here’s Al Capone’s cell at Alcatraz (top row, middle), where he spent 4½ years.

  • 1960 – Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev pounds his shoe on a desk at the United Nations to protest a Philippine assertion.

However, if you read Wikipedia‘s own entry on “Shoe-banging incident,” it’s not clear that Khrushchev banged his shoe or even brandished it, though in his memoirs he said he did, and there is no video of the incident. There are some photos, like the one below, that have been faked:

Wikipedia caption: “The often used fake image of Khrushchev waving a shoe (above), and the original photo taken at the United Nations General Assembly, 23 September 1960 [JAC: date is wrong], AP archives.” 

  • 1998 – Matthew Shepard, a gay student at University of Wyoming, dies five days after he was beaten outside of Laramie.

As several readers pointed out, it’s not at all clear whether Shepard was killed because he was gay, as the legend goes, so I’ll make no judgements here.

Here’s a short video of Kipchoge breaking that barrier in Vienna:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1875 – Aleister Crowley, English magician and author (d. 1947)
  • 1891 – Edith Stein, Polish nun and martyr; later canonized (d. 1942)
  • 1932 – Dick Gregory, American comedian, actor, and author (d. 2017)
  • 1935 – Luciano Pavarotti, Italian tenor and actor (d. 2007)
  • 1968 – Hugh Jackman, Australian actor, singer, and producer
  • 1970 – Kirk Cameron, American actor, screenwriter, and Christian evangelical/anti-evolution activist

Remember the “banana episode” with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron? It’s hilarious. Bananas are a product of intelligent design by humans, not god: they’re domesticated triploids, so they lack seeds:

Here’s the banana’s wild ancestor:

Those who no longer trod this Earth on October 12 include:

  • 1492 – Piero della Francesca, Italian mathematician and painter (b. 1415)
  • 1858 – Hiroshige, Japanese painter (b. 1797)

Here’s Hiroshige’s “Cat Crossing to Eat” (1830-1844). I have NO idea what this is about, but it has three cats (there are a fair number of cat prints by Hiroshige). If you know what’s going on here, please weigh in below.


  • 1915 – Edith Cavell, English nurse (b. 1865)  [See above].
  • 1940 – Tom Mix, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1880)

Mix, one of the earliest cowboy movie stars, died in a car accident at 60. Here he is in the movie “Mr. Logan, USA” (1919), and below that a pair of his personal cowboy boots:

  • 1946 – Joseph Stilwell, American general (b. 1883)
  • 1969 – Sonja Henie, Norwegian figure skater and actress (b. 1912)
  • 1978 – Nancy Spungen, American figure of the 1970s punk rock scene (b. 1958)

Spungen was of course stabbed to death by her boyfriend, Sid Vicious. Here’s a photograph of Spungen by Mary Ellen Mark:

  • 1997 – John Denver, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (b. 1943)
  • 1998 – Matthew Shepard, American murder victim (b. 1976)
  • 1999 – Wilt Chamberlain, American basketball player and coach (b. 1936)
  • 2012 – James Coyne, Canadian lawyer and banker, 2nd Governor of the Bank of Canada (b. 1910)

I don’t think James Coyne is related, though “Coynes” lived in Ireland in the 18th century. He does have the big schnoz of my late father:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej is trying the cat equivalent of “say cheese” for a photo of Hili:

A: Smile.
Hili: But I am smiling.
In Polish:
Ja: Uśmiechnij się.
Hili: Przecież się uśmiecham.

From Jean.  Some biological inaccuracy in this Larson cartoon, but I sympathize with the odd duck (or gull):

From David:

I posted this meme five years ago:

Titania has a new live show in London, “I am Womxn”, and this tweet gives a bit of a preview.  I’m not sure it’ll be a hit. . .

Masih tweeted a video of an Afghan girl describing the death of her ambitions. It implies that the Taliban still isn’t letting women work or go to school:

From Barry. These are some sharp-sighted birds! Anyone know the species?

A tweet from Dom. We have these posters in Chicago, too, implying that the government is disguising surveillance drones as birds. This theory is insane, but it seems clearly a joke, as you can guess from the website (they also sell stuff. . . )

Tweets from Matthew. First, a new theory about the origin of Covid-19. The thread tells the tale, and it’s plausible, but we don’t have the smoking gun.

A lovely Australian wood duck and her progeny:

A lesson in linguistics:

I award this Tweet of the Month:

54 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Along with the oral antiviral pill Molnupiravir, there are 2 others being trialed. You would need a cocktail of multiple antivirals so that the virus does not select for a variant that evades a single drug. This is what happened with HIV and AZT.

    1. Another thing to watch is Astra-Zeneca’s pair of cloned antibodies derived from convalescent humans that have some tweaks that make them long-lasting. A-Z has filed for Emergency Use Authorization review. Follow that story by their name, AZD7442 (my mnemonic, AZ for Astra Zeneca, D for something, lucky 7, Olds 442).

      Said to afford protection for a year(!), this promises to be a great development for the immunocompromised, like a friend who under-produces one of the immunoglobulin chains. The preparation is apparently administered by a single shot in the butt cheek, just like the gamma globulin I once got.

  2. “Ada Lovelace Day (designed to inspire women to work in STEM fields)” – Appropriately enough, the head of the academy that awards the Nobel Prizes in science has bemoaned the lack of women in some fields, whilst also ruling out the introduction of gender or ethnicity quotas.

    Goran Hansson, head of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said they want people to win “because they made the most important discovery”. […] “It’s sad that there are so few women Nobel laureates and it reflects the unfair conditions in society, particularly in years past, but still existing. And there’s so much more to do,” Mr Hansson told the AFP news agency. […] “Keep in mind that only about 10% of the professors in natural sciences in western Europe or North America are women, and even lower if you go to East Asia,” he said.

    However, the scientist said they would “make sure that we have an increasing portion of women scientists being invited to nominate, and we will continue to make sure we have women on our committees – but we need help, and society needs to help here”.


    1. Where is the problem? Some of the inequity might be due to discrimination, but quotas, especially at the level of high-profile prizes, are extremely contraproductive. Extremely.

      A bit of research into Ada Lovelace shows that she is probably not a good STEM role model, unless you believe (and I suppose that it is true in some contexts) that an exaggerated evaluation of women in STEM is a good thing.


      1. Absolutely, it’s great that the Nobel science committee is sticking to its guns and not setting quotas.

        Interesting about Ava’s overblown contribution, too.

  3. The birds migrating to Antarctica are terns, not gulls or ducks. The crossing of the wings over the tail in the speaking tern is a nice touch, though the tail should be longer to be an Arctic Tern, and they should all have black head caps.


    1. The scientific name is Perisoreus canadensis. The official English name, as decided by the American Ornithological Society, has been changed (or, I think, changed BACK) to Canada Jay. I don’t quite remember why. I think it’s because Canada decided to make this species its national bird. It’s not that “Gray” is someone who needed to be cancelled :-). It was simply a reference to the bird’s predominant colour.

    2. “Canada jay” please! Also what the person in the video is doing is not training. Those birds are already well trained to eat from the hand. I did the same think a week ago: saw a Canada jay in the woods, and stuck my empty hand flat palm up in the air. Had a bird in about three seconds. They have lovely ticklish talons.

      1. If they are feeding the birds inside the boundaries of Mount Rainier National Park, they are breaking the law. Peanuts might be harmful to the birds, but I don’t know if that is the case.

  4. Usually both the female and male Australian wood duck share raising the brood. Recently I saw a pair of them in the Adelaide Botanic Garden with no less than 10 half grown ducklings. They had done a great job of raising their young.

  5. Now that I have mastered the art of traveling for a long time with a single small carry-on bag (plus a daypack), I never check bags except in extraordinary circumstances.

    If it were up to me, everybody would have to check their luggage in and only one small bag per passenger would be allowed in the cabin (plus anything they bought airside). It would make the process of embarking and disembarking much smoother and faster and there would be fewer arguments when the last person gets on the plane but there’s no room to stow their huge suitcase because of everybody else’s huge suitcases filling the overhead bins.

    1. I somewhat agree, but it doesn’t have to be that extreme. Just ban anything with rollers or hard sides from inside the cabin. I use a soft bag for carry-on, and it can squeeze into spaces that roller bags can’t. If everyone had soft bags, we wouldn’t have problems with the overhead bins.

    2. Airlines (at least the ones in my country) have cabin luggage size and weight specifications: the problem is that the luggage rules are not enforced at check-in or boarding time. Even if one tries to board early, but happens to be the last passenger taking up one’s seat in a particular row, the rest of the row have already stuffed all their belongings including the kitchen sink into the overhead bins. That’s when I vow never to fly again… 🙁

    3. Here is my story about carry-ons. I used to travel a whole lot, and I have always very carefully followed the rules for baggage.
      Houston to Dubai was the first leg of a much longer trip. In Houston, when I got to the end of the jetway, they told me I would have to gate check my carry on. It would be returned to me as soon as the plane landed.
      I agreed, because I am the sort of person who follows rules and instructions.
      Of course, when we landed in Dubai, the bag was not there. It had documents and equipment needed for my job, so I had to put the rest of my travel on hold, and check into a hotel. The airline proved useless, so my Dad started calling people.
      Over two weeks later, he called a KLM manager in Amsterdam, who had my bag in his office. The next day I got my bag, and continued my trip. I did not even enjoy my two weeks in Dubai, because I was too stressed out about my stuff.
      No, the flight did not go through Amsterdam. Yes, my information was prominent both on the outside of the bag, and on all of the gear inside. But nobody called the numbers on the labels.

      The crux of it is that people who travel with expensive equipment face a dilemma. There is a reasonable limit to what can be carried in the cabin, but checked baggage is very much subject to abuse, loss or pilfering. The airlines could make checked baggage safe and secure, but they do not see that as a priority.

  6. I should be able to tell you what is wrong with Iowa since I lived there a number of years. However, like many places it has changed and not for the better. It stacks up similar to many other rural states in this country, mostly republican, so mostly Trump. It is very white, very small town and that is the way they like it. While Trump was president he flooded the farm country with money to offset low farm prices. You could call it republican socialism but then they don’t do that, do they. Expectations are low and they like that too.

      1. I saw that guy once at the Iowa State fair. He was walking around among the people in a farm animal building. Some state – where Steve King kept getting elected in Western Iowa.

  7. I always check my bags when flying. I prefer to be unencumbered in the airport and boarding. I hate the boarding routine as people struggle to fit massive bags into overhead bins. It is never inconvenient unless you are in a rush to get somewhere out of the airport. I fly a lot and I’ve had my bags lost on two occasions, once in the 1980’s while flying back from Italy. Another time in the early 2000’s when there was a nationwide terrorist alert (when liquids became verboten in carry-ons). Got my bags withing 24 hours each time.

    1. I once lost a bag on a flight and also got it back within 24 hours, during which time I read the small print on my ticket. It said something like “99% of baggage arrives correctly at the destination”; I guess that is not too bad but put differently – “we misplace a couple of bags per flight” – and it doesn’t sound so good. Anyway, here’s my chance to tell one of my favorite jokes: a man checks in at an airport and says “I’m flying to Boston but I would like to arrange for this bag to be sent to New York”. “I’m afraid we can’t do that,” says the airline assistant. “Why not?” says the man.”You’ve done it for the last two years!”

      1. A friend and I both lost our rucksacks (with camping gear) flying from Heathrow to Pakistan with EqyptAir back in the late ’80s. Turned out that they went on to Nigeria when we had to change flights in Cairo – so the wrong continent! It took over a week to get the problem sorted, during which we wasted a lot of time fruitlessly meeting flights at Karachi airport at ung*dly hours of the morning… In the end, we bought new underwear and clothing and other essentials and went on with our trip anyway – PIA finally forwarded the luggage to Gilgit (IIRC), where we were finally reunited with it.

  8. Spungen was of course stabbed to death by her boyfriend, Sid Vicious.

    Chloe Webb gave a damn fine performance as Spungen in the 1986 flick Sid and Nancy opposite Gary Oldman’s El Sid. That was the first thing I ever saw Oldman in. What a career he’s had — from Sid Vicious to Lee Harvey Oswald to George Smiley to Winston Churchill to Mank to everything in between. If that ain’t primo acting range, I dunno what is.

    1. Yes, Gary Oldman’s range is incredible. He’s currently filming an adaptation of Mick Herron’s Slow Horses, in which he’ll play the memorable character Jackson Lamb – could be interesting!

      Fun fact, Gary Oldman is younger than Gary Numan…

  9. I am very concerned that the Republic will come apart with the 2024 election. I think we are in a place similar to 1860, where one party would not accept the elected candidate of another. It seems now that neither party is going to be prepared to accept a victory by the other. If we are concerned about this, the single most important thing is to make sure that we have election laws in each state that are accepted by both parties as being fair and secure. Unfortunately, the differences between the parties on substantive issues seem to be as far apart as they were in 1860. There is also the shared feeling that a win by the other would mean the end of freedom as we know it. Neither Trump or Biden is the person to narrow that gap.

    1. Let’s be clear as to what happened in 1860. Four parties, not two, had candidates running for president. There were the Republicans (Lincoln), the Northern Democrats (Stephen A. Douglas), Southern Democrats (John C. Breckinridge), and the Constitutional Unionists (John Bell). All candidates accepted the election in the sense that nobody disputed that Lincoln won by the rules of the game. It was the action of the seceding states that resulted in the Civil War, not the action of political parties. In the North, almost all those who opposed Lincoln in the election supported his efforts to suppress the rebellion.

      1. If you notice I said “one party”. I did not imply only two parties. And yes, secession caused the Civil War, but the South seceded because of Lincoln’s election.

    2. It seems now that neither party is going to be prepared to accept a victory by the other.

      Whence comes this both parties bs?

      There’s but one presidential candidate who’s refusing to accept his legitimate defeat and just one party that’s too chickenshit to take him to task for it.

      1. The rough talk from the Left is that electing Trump is unacceptable as it would usher in fascism. That hardly sounds like they are going to accept his re-election.

        1. “[U]nacceptable” as in they would turn out en masse to vote against Trump — not that they would refuse to accept the results of an election based on bogus claims of voter fraud.

          All reasonable Americans should find Trump unacceptable, not least of all because he broke this nation’s 224 year string of peaceful transitions of power from one president to the next, and because he did his damnedest to enlist the US Justice Department, Republican state election officials, and his own vice-president in pulling off a coup.

    3. I have to guess that we live on different planets politically but the issues you are now concerned with are all about the Trump party. You can call it republican if you want but it is the Trump party. And this party is quickly changing the laws and election officials in all the Trump states so that it does not matter what the vote is. He will be elected. It is nothing more than the continuation of what took place on resurrection day back in Jan. So to talk about these issues as if there were actually two parties is not funny and not true. I now doubt the democrats are smart enough to stop this mess but we will see.

  10. I could be mistaken because it was a long time ago, but I think I remember seeing Khrushchhev’s shoe-pounding act at the UN on television. He pounded the sole of his stout brogue on the desk. He would have been holding the toe of the shoe and pounding the heel–nothing like the way he is holding what seems to be a light loafer in the fake photo.

    1. I have the same recollection; I think I saw it on Huntley-Brinkley. Could be some kind of false memory, I suppose, but it sure seems vivid.

  11. He [James Coyne] does have the big schnoz of my late father.

    A prominent proboscis, please.

    My dad had one, too, although his was as straight as a Roman statue’s. Matter of fact, when he drove a cab for a while after getting discharged from the service after The War, one of his fares — Hollywood Tarzan Lex Barker — told him he had a great profile, should have some 8 x 10 glossies taken, send them to the studios, and ask for a screen test. The old man never tired of telling my siblings and me that story. For all I know, Barker probably said the same damn thing to every cabbie who ever gave him a ride.

  12. I have a serious problem. I can’t see things like “here’s the banana’s wild ancestor” without thinking, “Wait, that can’t be the ancestor of the modern banana. That’s a color photo of a wild banana…but bananas were bred to their modern type(s) well before color photography, weren’t they?” I know it’s not important, and I understand what’s actually meant, but it honestly causes an itchy feeling inside my head. Probably some form of OCD…it bothers me at least as much as it bothers anyone else. I’m sorry.

  13. Tom Mix didn’t die in the wreckage of just any car, it was an enormously cool supercharged 1937 Cord Phaeton, (when a suitcase in the back hit him in the head, after braking for a road closure). The Cord wasn’t banged up that badly and has been restored. Just search Tom Mix Cord for plenty on that.

  14. Surely it’s un-fuckin-beLIEvable, not unbe-fuckin-LIEvable. Or have I been making a bad grammatical error all my life?!

  15. While I have no idea why the cat is crossing the pillars of katsuobushi. That is what those three pieces are. Katsuobushi is dried and fermented skipjack tuna and it is an important part of Japanese cuisine. It’s shaved into thin flakes to boil into soup stock or to scatter across various dishes (including bowls of rice for cats).

  16. The cat crossing the pillars of katsuo-bushi is a parody of an acrobatic feat that was popular at the time. I have a class this morning, and must leave now, but will try to give some more detail later. There is something written on the fan held by the cat on the left that hints at the parody.

      1. The print, Neko no katsuo-bushi watari (‘Cat crossing dried bonito,’ Utagawa Hiroshige, 1842), is a parody of prints made of a contemporary troupe of three street performers famous for their shows at temple/shrine venues and the like in Edo (the old name for Tokyo). Part of their show was a balancing trick called rangui-watari (‘Crossing uneven stakes’), when one of them, wearing geta wooden clogs, stepped from one stake to another, across a series of stakes set at uneven heights. That the cat print is a parody is clear from what is written on the fan of the cat on the left: nyangui-watari. Ran (‘uneven’) has been replaced by nyan, an abbreviation of nyanko, baby-talk for ‘cat,’ and close to the way cats meow in Japanese (nyaa); kui (‘stake, post, pile’) has been replaced by a homophone meaning ‘eat’; and watari remains the same (‘crossing’), to give ‘Cat crossing to eat’ or ‘Cat crossing as it eats.’ There are several prints of the rangui-watari balancing act, including one by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. The explanation of katsuo-bushi above (19, by Tom Johnson) is a good one.

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