Thursday: Hili dialogue

November 4, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to a chilly Chicago Thursday; it’s November 4, 2021: National Candy Day. I thought that was supposed to  be the day after Halloween!

It’s also Diwali in India, a festival of lights and, of course, many sweets. And it’s International Stout Day (as in Guinness), National Chicken Lady Day (celebrating “Dr. Marthenia ‘Tina’ Dupree, who is known as ‘The Chicken Lady’. For twelve years she worked at one of the largest chicken restaurants in the world as their Director of Community Relations and Training”); National Men Make Dinner Day, and National Skeptics Day.  

Here’s Dupree, the Chicken Lady:

There’s a gif-y Google Doodle today (click on screenshot) honoring Charles K. Kao, born on this day in 1933 (died 2018). As Wikipedia notes, Kao was

 a Chinese-born British-American electrical engineer and physicist who pioneered the development and use of fibre optics in telecommunications. In the 1960s, Kao created various methods to combine glass fibres with lasers in order to transmit digital data, which laid the groundwork for the evolution of the Internet.

News of the Day:

*First, the good news. As of yesterday evening (when I wrote most of this), New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy pulled it out of the fire, narrowly defeating Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli. But the margin at this time is thin, so it’s still alarming to Democrats (NJ is a blue state!). Here are the votes from NPR yesterday evening:

*Well, we learned yesterday that “progressive” Leftism isn’t a winning strategy, except perhaps in Massachusetts (where, however, local Elizabeth Warren didn’t carry the state in the 2020 primaries).

We learned that “defund the police” is not a winning slogan, that parents are really worried about whether their kids face a divisive racial atmosphere in school, regardless of what’s taught there, and that the racialization of everything is not #1 on the agenda of many centrists.

I still think my idea of putting James Carville in charge of the Democratic agenda is brilliant (see below), but I think we all know what should be done now: spend less time bashing Republicans and more time figuring out ways to build on what success the Democrats have had (this will be easier when the two spending bills pass), and taking more seriously and responding civilly to the concerns of those who voted for Youngkin in Virginia and Ciaturrelli in New Jersey. (Yes, some of you will say, “Why be civil to Democrats?” And that’s why we’re losing.)

Here’s who we need!:

*The two remaining conservative columnists at the NYT have decent editorials about the Democratic debacle yesterday. You should read them both, because we need to listen. First is Bret Stephens’s “Why the Democrats are in trouble.” A quote:

The tragedy of the Democratic Party may yet be its own loss of nerve against its in-house extremists. Whether it’s this week or next year, the political penalties are likely to be steep.

Ross Douthat’s take is “Republicans schooled the left in Virginia.” A quote from him:

So Democratic politicians may need to decide what they actually think about the ideas that have swept elite cultural institutions in the last few years. Maybe those ideas are worth defending. Maybe Kendi and DiAngelo are worth celebrating. Maybe school superintendents who recommend their work should be praised for doing so.

If so, Democrats should say so, and fight boldly on that line. But if not, then Democratic politicians in contested states, facing Republican attacks on education policy and looking at the unhappy example of Virginia, should strongly consider acknowledging what I suspect a lot of them (and a lot of liberal pundits) really think: That the immediate future of the Democratic Party depends on its leaders separating themselves, to some extent, from academic jargon and progressive zeal.

That’s what Carville said above!

*Two editorials in the NYT blame Youngkin’s victory on the racism of voters (click on screenshots below), while another takes a more inclusive approach. Click on screenshots to see the articles:


But working-class conservatives are hardly the only voters who prioritize issues other than their financial situation. The residents of the affluent towns I mentioned above — and I could have listed dozens more — also do. Which raises a different question: What’s the matter with Scarsdale?

The answer, of course, is nothing. Pocketbook issues aren’t the only reasonable ones to decide a person’s vote. Other subjects, like climate change, civil rights, religious rights, abortion, immigration, crime, education and Covid-19, are important, too.

*Rock songs are on the chopping block, as suggested in Jennifer Finley Boylan’s new NYT op-ed, “Should classic rock songs be toppled like Confederate statues?” This is a confusing editorial because she seems to take different stands throughout the piece. For example, she criticizes Don McLean, who wrote “Vincent” and, of course “America Pie,” because he pleaded guilty to spousal abuse. Here’s a hint that the song shouldn’t be played:

[McLean] denies having ever assaulted his wife, and his lawyer has said that he pleaded guilty “not because he was in fact guilty of anything but to provide closure for his family and keep the whole process as private as possible.” His iconic song still plays on the radio.

But shouldn’t it? Especially when Boylan says this:

Of course, there is no easy answer here. Even Ms. McLean doesn’t think “American Pie” should be banned from playlists, like some other pieces of classic rock produced by disgraced musicians.

. . . Instead, Ms. McLean told me, she feels we should reconsider how we elevate these artists. It’s the tarnished creators, she said, that we should not celebrate. In other words: The problem with “American Pie” isn’t the song. It’s the singer. “American Pie” remains a great song. In 2016 the Library of Congress selected the original recording for preservation in the National Recording Registry.

But who celebrates Don McLean? It’s the song we celebrate. Eric Clapton has turned out to be a wanker, but I can still love “Layla.” And rock artists who are truly revered as people, like Paul McCartney, aren’t usually complete jerks. Boylan goes on:

I want to live in a world where I can be moved by art and music and literature without having to come up with elaborate apologies for that work or for its creators.

But does such a world exist? It is hard to think of some of our greatest artists without also thinking of their messy, sometimes destructive lives. In so many cases, it’s the very chaos of those lives that has helped create the art. It’s easy to romanticize that chaos and to ignore the wreckage artists can leave in their wakes.

It was Don McLean, in “American Pie,” who asked if music can save our mortal souls. My guess is probably not. But it can help us to time travel, and not only to our adolescent past. Maybe reconsidering those songs, and their artists, can inspire us to think about the future and how to bring about a world that is more inclusive and more just.

Sometimes a song is just a song, and really, does Boylan spend a lot of time apologizing for Don McLean? I doubt it. She should stop sniffing around for impure artists and just enjoy the music, which, after all, isn’t usually designed to bring about a just and more inclusive world.

*Reader Chris found a big mistake by CNN, which has unwittingly revealed its transphobia. As he says, “An unintentional statement by a CNN headline that only women have a cervix: (Screenshot of CNN frontpage 4th November, 7.33am).”

I await their apology.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 750,077, an increase of 1,257 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,039,514, an increase of about 8,600 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 4 includes:

  • 1493 – Christopher Columbus reached Leeward Island and Puerto Rico.
  • 1783 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 is performed for the first time in Linz, Austria.
  • 1847 – Sir James Young Simpson, a Scottish physician, discovers the anaesthetic properties of chloroform.

Simpson was an odd-looking man with fluffy mutton chops (below), but his self-experimentation with various chemicals and doses is what led to this triumph. A quote from Wikipedia:

It was much by chance that Simpson survived the chloroform dosage he administered to himself. If he had inhaled too much and died, chloroform would have been seen as a dangerous substance, which in fact it is. Conversely, if Simpson had inhaled slightly less it would not have put him to sleep. It was his willingness to explore the possibilities of the substance that set him on the road to a career as a pioneer in the field of medicine. Subsequently organising supplies to Florence Nightingale and Queen Victoria, led to its use in obstetrics and for the military, and according to the British Medical Journal changed the face of medicine for a century.

Here is Carter inspecting Tut’s innermost coffin, the coffin, and a view of the tomb before it was explored. Go here to read more.

Harry Burton, Howard Carter with Innermost Coffin of Tutankhamun, 1922 (Tutankhamun Archive, Griffith Institute, University of Oxford)


BR6AK1 Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor in Egypt in November 1922. Image shot 1922. Exact date unknown.
  • 1956 – Soviet troops enter Hungary to end the Hungarian revolution against the Soviet Union that started on October 23. Thousands are killed, more are wounded, and nearly a quarter million leave the country.
  • 1960 – At the Kasakela Chimpanzee Community in Tanzania, Dr. Jane Goodall observes chimpanzees creating tools, the first-ever observation in non-human animals.

Here’s a Nat. Geo. video (a segment of “Jane”) discussing tool use:

  • 1970 – Salvador Allende takes office as President of Chile, the first Marxist to become president of a Latin American country through open elections.
  • 1979 – Iran hostage crisis: A group of Iranian college students overruns the U.S. embassy in Tehran and takes 90 hostages.

Here, from Wikipedia, is “A group photograph of the fifty-two hostages in a Wiesbaden hospital where they spent a few days after their release.”

  • 1980 – Ronald Reagan is elected the 40th President of The United States, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter.
  • 1995 – Israel-Palestinian conflict: Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by an extremist Israeli.
  • 2008 – Barack Obama becomes the first person of biracial or African-American descent to be elected President of the United States.

His victory speech was in Grant Park, downtown, and I still regret that I didn’t go.  But the laws of physics denied me that visit:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1879 – Will Rogers, American actor and screenwriter (d. 1935)
  • 1916 – Walter Cronkite, American journalist, voice actor, and producer (d. 2009)
  • 1918 – Art Carney, American actor (d. 2003)
  • 1932 – Tommy Makem, Irish singer-songwriter (d. 2007)
  • 1946 – Robert Mapplethorpe, American photographer (d. 1989)

Patti Smith cutting her hair, photo by Mapplethorpe:

Those whose soul flew the coop on November 4 include:

  • 1847 – Felix Mendelssohn, German pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1809)
  • 1918 – Wilfred Owen, English lieutenant and poet (b. 1893)

Owen, below, was killed only 7 days before the Armistice:

  • 1950 – Grover Cleveland Alexander, American baseball player and coach (b. 1887)
  • 1955 – Cy Young, American baseball player and manager (b. 1867)
  • 1995 – Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli general and politician, 5th Prime Minister of Israel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (b. 1922)
  • 2011 – Andy Rooney, American author, critic, journalist, and television personality (b. 1919)

Here’s Rooney, my older alter ego, ranting about purchased bottled water, which I also despise (but drink when in India for safety):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili sees affirmation of her status:

Hili: If there are three cats in the house, who is the most important?
A: You.
Hili: I’m just asking.
In Polish:
Hili: Jeśli w domu są trzy koty, to kto jest najważniejszy?
Ja: Ty.
Hili: Tak tylko pytam.

Paulia again photographed baby Kulka playing with her toy:

Best Halloween costumes ever!

The 2022 Social Justice Kitten Calendar is here! You can order it here and see all the pictures in advance here. Here’s one month’s photo:

From smipowell:

From Titania:

From Paul, an interesting notion to ponder:

From Barry: an ass gets its ass scratched, and loves it. Sound up.

From Simon, though I don’t understand what this means, unless there are a lot more people sick of Trump than I think:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who’s on his way to SPAIN! This isn’t Wally, but seems to be another errant walrus:


Clicking the arrow takes you to a Science article about how cats’ tongues help keep them clean. But I bet you can guess anyway:

Sound up on this one.  The woman is very lucky to be cuddling a duckling. When I slept with the orphans, who lay on my chest (under my hand) or in my armpit, they would often rapidly peck at me like this duckling, which I’m told is to assure the mother that “I”m still alive under here. Take care of me!”

53 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. First, the good news. As of yesterday evening (when I wrote most of this), New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy pulled it out of the fire, narrowly defeating Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.

    Yeah, well, I’m still sorely disappointed that George Soros, dead Hugo Chavez, Dominion Voting Systems, Smartmatic, and the vast international communist conspiracy couldn’t steal the Virginia gubernatorial race, as they did six swing states during the 2020 presidential election just a year ago — an article of faith in MAGA-world and among the upwards of two-thirds of people still willing to identify themselves as Republicans.

    I mean, you cats must really be slipping if you can’t purloin even one piddling little governor’s race this time around.

  2. “The tragedy of the Democratic Party may yet be its own loss of nerve against its in-house extremists. Whether it’s this week or next year, the political penalties are likely to be steep.”

    I agree with this completely.

    It does raise a question for me, though: Why is it that the same is never said for Republicans? Republicans savage anyone who criticizes THEIR extremists, to the point, sometimes, of death threats. Many of them have BECOME those extremists, after watching the reaction to those in their midst who do offer even the mildest of criticism.

    Along the same line, have we ever heard anyone in the Republican camp talk about bipartisanship? What about “giving the minority a voice”? When they are in control, there is no acknowledgement whatsoever of those who might disagree with them.

    Why is that?

    L (aka NOTAREALAMERICAN – or so I’ve been told, over and over)

    1. Bipartisanship?

      Exhibit A; Neil Gorsuch nomination
      Exhibit B: Amy Barrett nomination

      The GOP is all about power, at any cost, including, apparently, hundreds of thousands of US deaths due to COVID-19, the US Constitution, and all of our democratic civic norms.

  3. My first thought when I read “National Chicken Lady Day” was: “I can’t believe there’s a celebration of the character in the skits by The Kids In Hall”….

  4. … unless there are a lot more people sick of Trump than I think:

    Trump is not an asset to the Republicans. He appeals to the hard core, yes, but a lot of moderate centrists voted Republican despite Trump, not because of him.

    Both parties need to find a way of nominating candidates who appeal to the center ground.

    1. Good luck with that.

      Grassley just embraced the Trumpers fully and completely at his announcement to run for reelection.

      Trump has overwhelming support among Republicans. He may not appeal to the wider electorate, but nobody will get past his followers in primaries.


    2. The Republicans care about power, full stop.

      If Voldemort gets them that power, they are all for it. And this include that vast majority of “moderate” republicans. The 2020 election was a squeaker — much too close for my comfort. I am fully convinced that, absent Voldemort’s utter fumbling and lying on the COVID-19 response, we’d currently be suffering through the first year of a second Voldemort term.

      1. We continue to allow ourselves to be conned.

        Youngkin stated that he didn’t want to talk about abortion during the campalgn, that he would deal with it forcefully once he was in office. Nobody followed up on that. So, now he’s in, what’s next?

        The reason that the Republicans don’t talk about their agenda is that there isn’t much support for it. People still want Social Security and Medicare. People still want access to birth control. People still want kids to be fed. People still want good access to good broadband. The Republicans are against all of that, but they can’t be honest about it, so they speak in platitudes and dog whistles.

        And the electorate falls for it, time and again, aided and abetted by the press.

        We are getting the government we deserve.


  5. Funny thing about chloroform was that it was introduced after ether, didn’t have many advantages (it was less likely to cause explosions!) and was far more toxic, and ether continued to be used long after chloroform was gone. When I worked in a ‘remote place’ (we’ll save their blushes, but this was in a rich western nation) in 1985, I was horrified to discover the other, rather ancient, physician routinely etherizing every labouring woman, applying high forceps and delivering her baby in a hell of a rush just so he could go back to bed. A price was paid in terms of cerebral palsy and infant mortality. I had, till then, rather liked the smell of ether, which I associated with the small diesel engines of model aircraft that ran on ether and castor oil.

    1. “small diesel engines of model aircraft that ran on ether and castor oil”

      If you are remembering the old Cox glow plug engines and the like, they primarily ran on methanol, with castor oil for lubrication, and a dash of nitromethane for kick.

      I remember the smell of ether from Compound W (Dimethyl ether) and from starting fluid (I’m that old) Diethyl ether, the same stuff that knocks one out.

      1. Clip the battery lead to the glow plug on top of the engine, slip the end of the spring over one of the prop blades, twist it up and then let ‘er rip. Loved that smell.

        Starter fluid is still around. My teenage son, who makes money buying old dirt bikes, 3-wheeler and 4- wheelers, fixing them up and then reselling them, always has a can on hand.

      2. No, not glow-plugs, although I had them too. Little diesels, specifically the Mills 1.3cc and the DC Merlins that were 0.75cc. Still have them somewhere. Had decompression levers instead of glow-plugs, and they ran on ether and castor oil.

  6. I guess Jennifer Finley Boylan agrees with some friends of ours who stopped listening to the group Indigo Girls after they found out that the two musicians are Lesbians.

    1. But lesbianism is a key feature of the Indigo Girls. Perhaps it is a case similar to those who were unaware that Liberace was gay, where that was really obvious to others. Not just obvious, but a prime part of his identity.

      I assume they are planning on going after Skynyrd. That is unacceptable to me.

  7. <blockquote And rock artists who are truly revered as people, like Paul McCartney ..

    I dunno, I think Maca has a touch of the wanker about him, too. Some of us even wondered how does he sleep at night. Never stopped me from appreciating his great gift for melody or great voice, though.

  8. From Simon, though I don’t understand what this means, unless there are a lot more people sick of Trump than I think …

    Over half of Americans loathe Donald Trump. In two runs for the US presidency he’s failed to get so much as 47% of the popular vote in either try. If Trump is the GOP nominee again in 2024, it is all but unfathomable that he would receive a majority of the vote, regardless who the Democratic candidate may be

    Having a candidate that unpopular at the top of the ticket creates problems for down-ballot Republicans — although a cross word from Trump is still enough to get a wayward Republican tossed out of the Party, and Trump holds great sway with GOP primary voters, sufficient to oust almost any incumbent Republican seeking reelection to national office. That’s why more-mainstream Republicans live in perpetual fear of Trump and his hardcore base.

    1. Voldemort is the natural extension of GOP politics since at least 1994 and Gingrich: Scorched earth. With the little tin-pot dictator wanna-be or out on your ass.

  9. The discussion around Boylan’s article brings to mind the long-standing debate in the classical music world about the performance of Richard Wagner’s music. As most of you probably know, Wagner, one of the biggest Arschlöcher in history, was a rabid anti-Semite who was admired by the Nazis. For a long time, his music was forbidden in Israel, and outside of Israel others also refused to play or listen to his music. Daniel Barenboim, a Jew, caused a big stir when he performed Wagner in Israel.
    I have wondered why Frederic Chopin, also an anti-Semite, has not suffered similar opprobrium. Anyway, both Wagner and Chopin wrote glorious music that enriches our lives, and we rightly separate the music from the person. Still, it’s fascinating to ponder how severely flawed and even despicable human beings can create surpassing works of art.

    1. Chopin was not an antisemite. The accusation is based on a set of letters which a woman named Paulina Czarnicka presented to Polish authorities 1939. She claimed that they were Chopin’s letters to Countess Delfina Potocka. These letters turned out to be a forgery. Chopin admired Jewish musicians (both Polish and French) and was a friend of some of them.

      1. Dziękuję, Malgorzata. I’ll have to do more research on this. I’m basing my claim on what I’ve been reading in Alan Walker’s recent biography, “Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times.” I’ve just cracked the spine of this book, will get back to you after I’ve finished it.

          1. Since my Polish is not that good, I’ll read this with the help of Google translator. Dzięki!

  10. “An unintentional statement by a CNN headline that only women have a cervix:

    Not necessarily! The % is likely accurate for both women (by sex) and women (by gender), since the latter category will both add and subtract cases, and the difference between the percent for sex vs. gender is (my SWAG here) is probably too small to change the whole number percent reported. We’re talking roughly 0.5% of the population, after all. So 87% adding in trans men and subtracting out trans women, rounding the rate to the nearest percent, will almost certainly be…87%.

    1. Trans men are men and don’t count as women. So a trans activist would read the statement above as including women (- trans men) + trans women, who can’t get cervical cancer as they’re biological men. So the percentage of “women” getting cervical cancer is, as you say, a little smaller than it would be otherwise. But the POINT is that transactivists would say that some women CANNOT get cervical cancer.

    1. James Brown is just as likely to be toppled as McLean, since he was also a spousal abuser. Perhaps we can extend purist mania into the other arts and start burning everything by Caravaggio and Cellini, since they were murderers. And Bernini paid to have his ex’s face slashed, so all of his statues and buildings must come down. Victory to the philistines!

      1. No, James Brown is the Godfather of Soul, and it takes high moral character to be a Godfather.

        Further, I think the Governor of South Carolina pardoned him.

        Besides, we aren’t going to cancel rap music even though every other word is N___ this and N____ that, and plenty of lyrics approvingly speaking of the abuse of women.

  11. Thank you so much for the remembrance of Andy Rooney. I always looked forward to his “rants” and still miss him.
    And congratulations to Paulina on obtaining her degree! May I ask what subject it is in? Now that is out of the way, she can get back to the really important things like photographing Kulka and her pals.

    1. I’m sorry that I can’t answer precisely. All I know is that it’s someting in the fields of administration, governance, politics and economy. And, yes, she has more time now (though she already works full time in a nearby town) but she has time to take these wonderful pictures of all three cats.

  12. At some point during the 80’s (I think, and well before the internet and digital videography) I got the idea to write Andy Rooney and ask if he had actually read all the books on the bookshelves behind him in his segments. To my great surprise he responded (typewritten on cheap yellow paper). While he didn’t answer my question directly, he did say that many of the backdrops for filmed interviews that appeared to be books on bookshelves in someone’s library were actually book spines glued to sheets of plywood on a set. I saved the letter, but it’s lost in a box somewhere in the basement. Probably should retrieve it some day and have it framed. But I suppose that would be controversial. Can’t imagine that he didn’t say something along the way that would get him canceled.

  13. I can explain the Nate Silver tweet. He’s saying that the lesson GOPers learned from their VA win is that ignoring Trump’s endorsements can help GOP politicians win in 2022. This is because swing voters don’t like Trump but are still willing to vote GOP as long as they don’t perceive a strong Trump connection. At the same time, Trump will win the nomination in 2024 as no one in the GOP can challenge him but he’ll lose even worse than in 2020 and may well drag down ballot GOPers with him.

  14. I suspect that self-grooming in cats, by wetting the fur, also serves to immobilize fleas that afterwards can be easily nipped with the small front incisors. When I got my cat Milly as an abandoned kitten about 8 years ago, I gave her a warm bath and, using tweezers, easily removed 100+ fleas firmly trapped in her wet fur. Cats, when tracking fleas, wet down the fur by licking before biting down on the target. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cat’s tongue is also sensitive enough to locate fleas by touch. It would be interesting to know if larger felid species are attacked by fleas and if they have similar behaviors.

    1. It’s an interesting question. I’ve always imagined that cats bite down on parts of their fur in order to dislodge persistent bits of stuff rather than to kill fleas. Of course, perhaps it does both. The key is whether the biting down is at all effective in reducing flea infestation. My guess is that it isn’t.

      1. Your comment prompted me to do some looking around on the internet where I found a relevant. study, although the sample size is small (link to pdf at end of this comment). In the 2000 report Eckstein and Hart found that putting Elizabethan collars on cats (n=9) in a flea-infested house doubled the number of fleas on their bodies compared to control cats (n=9) that could self-groom freely (18 vs. 9 fleas per cat). The same study found that cats living in a flea-free house self-groomed only half as much as those in a house having fleas. Conclusion: cat self-grooming reduces fleas in about half. Thanks for the prod.

  15. There is an interesting side note to Murphy’s win in New Jersey. He is the first Democratic Governor to be reelected since Brendan Byrne did it in1977. That is the good news. The fact that he should have won with an overwhelming majority of the vote is the bad.

  16. I was wondering when woke would be coming for music. Here’s a couple more pieces which should be on the cancellation block:

    “Amazing Grace” — written by a man who was deeply involved in the slave trade. Sure, he repented and eventually got out of the trade, but that doesn’t mean anything to the cancellers, does it?

    “O Canada” — the national anthem of Canada, written by a man who spent several years as a bandmaster in a minstrel troupe which travelled around the US in the years before the Civil War.

  17. I enjoyed Pat Barker’s characterization of Wilfred Owen in her “Regeneration Trilogy”. I enjoyed her endearing portrayal of his relationship with the anti-war poet Siegfried Sassoon. And as the fictional Billy Prior died, he saw Owen fall as well…the ending left me with tear-streaked cheeks. Thanks again for recommending the trilogy…it will stay with me until my end…and I’m sure I’ll reread it before then. 🙂

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