Welcome to the cruelest day, Tuesday, October 12, 2021: National Pumpkin Pie Day (best warm with whipped cream, but always tasty).
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
Southwest Airlines 3-4/1000
Delta Air Lines
Spirit Airlines 3-4/1000
United Airlines 3-4/1000
Jetblue Airways 4/1000
American Airlines 7/1000
Envoy Air 9/1000 (owned by American)
*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.
- 1892 – The Pledge of Allegiance is first recited by students in many US public schools.
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):
- 1917 – World War I: The First Battle of Passchendaele takes place resulting in the largest single-day loss of life in New Zealand history.
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.
- 1933 – The military Alcatraz Citadel becomes the civilian Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.
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.
- 2019 – Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya becomes the first person to run a marathon in less than two hours with a time of 1:59:40 in Vienna.
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.
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):
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. . .
I’ll be performing my live show in London’s West End on November 1st.
“Clever and blissfully funny” ★★★★★ – Daily Mail
“Raises a few smiles” ★ – Guardian
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) October 11, 2021
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:
"My goal has been to become the first female president of Afghanistan"
This Afghan woman has sent me this video. Listen her resilience. Afghan women have had to fight for the slightest liberty we take for granted in the West. Now, the West has abandoned them. pic.twitter.com/K6DvwO9dbG
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 5, 2021
From Barry. These are some sharp-sighted birds! Anyone know the species?
Training wild birds to eat peanuts 🥜 out of your hand is better than Twitter.
(My hand. On a hike near Mount Rainier.) pic.twitter.com/jqHeyTeORb
— Char Adams (@_charadams_) October 9, 2021
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. . . )
— Sandra Knapp (@SandyKnapp) October 11, 2021
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 fascinating thread/story about caves implicated as possible Covid origin sites: https://t.co/e7hHfkcJQl
— Roxanne Khamsi (@rkhamsi) October 11, 2021
A lovely Australian wood duck and her progeny:
Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata)🐦🦜🕊️🦆🎵🐤❤️🐤 pic.twitter.com/RKQ9PLG6M6
— World birds (@worldbirds32) October 9, 2021
A lesson in linguistics:
This was the most valuable information I learned at UCLA pic.twitter.com/i7d3q4TfCn
— 💜ｔｉａ⁷ 💜 (@matchatia) October 9, 2021
I award this Tweet of the Month:
— CAPYBARA MAN (@CAPYBARA_MAN) October 11, 2021