I hope the start of the work week finds you well: It’s Monday, December 13, 2021: National Popcorn String Day, a way to decorate your tree with edibles.
For Violin Day, I have a picture of the famous biologist Mark Ptashne playing his violin to one of his two Abyssinian cats, McCoy. (See more on this incident here.) Mark also told me this about his violin and sent a photo of it:
As I wrote on my post about Mark and his cats:
I asked Mark whether his own violin was a Strad, and he responded:
And a picture of the Plowden:
News of the Day:
*A NYT investigation relying on 4 former U.S. intelligence officials revealed that American bomb strikes against ISIS in Syria regularly killed large numbers of civilians.
A single top secret American strike cell launched tens of thousands of bombs and missiles against the Islamic State in Syria, but in the process of hammering a vicious enemy, the shadowy force sidestepped safeguards and repeatedly killed civilians, according to multiple current and former military and intelligence officials.
The unit was called Talon Anvil, and it worked in three shifts around the clock between 2014 and 2019, pinpointing targets for the United States’ formidable air power to hit: convoys, car bombs, command centers and squads of enemy fighters.
But people who worked with the strike cell say in the rush to destroy enemies, it circumvented rules imposed to protect noncombatants, and alarmed its partners in the military and the C.I.A. by killing people who had no role in the conflict: farmers trying to harvest, children in the street, families fleeing fighting, and villagers sheltering in buildings.
The Army billed the 112,000 bomb and missile strikes as “precise”, but that wasn’t the case. “Defensive” strikes were ordered willy-nilly, resulting in a civilian casualty rate ten times higher than the rate in Afghanistan. Here’s one “defensive” strike ordered on virtually no evidence:
As the smoke cleared, the former officer said, his team stared at their screens in dismay. The infrared cameras showed women and children staggering out of the partly collapsed building, some missing limbs, some dragging the dead.
A photo of a big strike:
*According to the Associated Press, Iran, still engaging in “disarmament” talks with Europe and the U.S., is preparing to launch a satellite (they’ve tried before, but have failed each time). This supposedly reflects Irans Iran’s desire to play hardball:
Conducting a launch amid the Vienna talks fits the hard-line posture struck by Tehran’s negotiators, who already described six previous rounds of diplomacy as a “draft,” exasperating Western nations. Germany’s new foreign minister has gone as far as to warn that “time is running out for us at this point.” about the nuclear talks,
I am still baffled as to what these talks are supposed to accomplish. They’re not going to stop Iran producing nuclear material and warheads; everyone admits that. It may slow Iran down some, but not much. Iran will get its nuclear weapons no matter what happens in the talks, so what is the point of negotiation? Many on the Left seem to feel that, well, the talks will bring peace, but they’re fooling themselves. Sooner or later, Israel, facing an existential threat, will take matters into its own hands, with or without the cooperation of the U.S. I support sanctions, not giving lots of dosh to Iran while it secretly fabricates nuclear weapons.
*One of Mexico’s most popular singers, Vincente Fernández, died on Sunday at age 81 after being hospitalized for several months. He was famous for “ranchera” music (traditional Mexican music, often played by mariachi bands), and he performed as a “charro”:
Emblematic of the macho Mexico of romantic legend, in his concert performances Mr. Fernández typically wore the traditional charro outfit of a Mexican rodeo cowboy consisting of a silk tie, vest jacket, tight pants with silver clasps, and a wide brimmed hat, all embroidered with gold and silver thread.
Wikipedia reports his honors:
Fernández’s work earned him three Grammy Awards, eight Latin Grammy Awards, fourteen Lo Nuestro Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He sold over 50 million copies worldwide, making him one of the best-selling regional Mexican artists of all time. In 2016, Fernández retired from performing live, although he continued to record and publish music.
Of course you’ll want to see him if you haven’t before, so here’s the man known as “Chente” or “El Charro de Huentitán”:
*Sadly, I still haven’t seen Peter Jackson’s documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back,” featuring previously unseen video of the group having to produce 14 new songs in 14 days. I’ve seen a bunch of clips on YouTube, though, and it’s frankly amazing how their creativity worked. Starting from just a few chords, a fantastic song would appear within a few minutes. The NYT has an analysis of the magic in an op-ed by Jere Hester: “‘Improvise it, man.’ How to make magic like the Beatles.” From the eight-hour documentary Hester draws eight “creativity lessons.” Here’s one and an accompanying video:
New Blood Can Freshen Things Up
The arrival of the master keyboardist Billy Preston improves the vibe, the playing and the behavior of the Beatles as a unit. The creative spirit revived by Mr. Preston radiates beyond the band — to Yoko Ono’s impromptu vocalizing and Linda Eastman’s capturing the sessions in photos, each offering their own brand of inspiration. Ringo Starr goes from behind the drums to the piano to write “Octopus’s Garden.”
The guest appearance is so successful that Mr. Lennon suggests that Mr. Preston be made a Beatle, and Mr. Harrison calls for adding Bob Dylan. Mr. McCartney chooses humor over exasperation in his response: “It’s bad enough with four.”
*OY! A cream cheese shortage in New York City! That’s like a herbivore shortage in the Serengeti! It’s a result of the supply-chain shortage (or perhaps a nefarious anti-Semitic plot), and only the NYT would print such a long article about it, for a bagel without cream cheese is virtually useless.
Mr. Pugliese of Tompkins Square Bagels said he had pondered eliminating less popular cream cheese flavors like espresso for a few weeks. Others said they had turned to lower-quality suppliers.
“It sounds kind of silly, talking about this like it’s some kind of huge crisis,” Mr. Pugliese said.
But, he noted, a bagel with cream cheese is a New York institution and a “big deal” to many of his customers.
“Sunday bagels are sacred,” Mr. Pugliese said. “I hate feeling like I’ve let people down.”
Anybody who puts espresso-flavored cream cheese on a bagel deserves to run out of product! (h/t Stash Krod).
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 795,922, an increase of 1,298 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,324,322, an increase of about 4,500 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on December 13 includes:
- 1545 – The Council of Trent begins as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation.
- 1577 – Sir Francis Drake sets sail from Plymouth, England, on his round-the-world voyage.
He returned to Plymouth three years later, on September 28, 1580 with Spanish treasure (Drake was somewhat of a privateer) and spices. The queen got half, and Drake was knighted. Heres a map of his voyage with a caption by Wikipedia:
- 1623 – The Plymouth colonist established the system of trial by 12-men jury in the American colonies.
- 1642 – Abel Tasman is the first recorded European to sight New Zealand.
Here’s Abel, painted by Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, ca. 1637. It was thus probably painted from life: the only way we know what these people looked like:
- 1960 – While Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia visits Brazil, his Imperial Bodyguard seizes the capital and proclaims him deposed and his son, Crown Prince Asfa Wossen, Emperor.
The God Incarnate (1970) with his full set of decorations:
- 1972 – Apollo program: Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt begin the third and final extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or “Moonwalk” of Apollo 17. To date they are the last humans to set foot on the Moon.
Here’s one of their EVAs in which they collect Moon rocks:
- 2001 – Sansad Bhavan, the building housing the Indian Parliament, is attacked by terrorists. Twelve people are killed, including the terrorists.
I used to visit this majestic building on the Rajpath every time I went to New Delhi, but since the attack you can’t even get close to it:
- 2003 – Iraq War: Operation Red Dawn: Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit.
Hussein right after capture:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1797 – Heinrich Heine, German journalist, poet, and critic (d. 1856)
Heine, bed-bound for eight years before his death, was determined from hair samples to have died from chronic lead poisoning.
- 1818 – Mary Todd Lincoln, 16th First Lady of the United States (d. 1882)
Here she is photographed sometime during the CivilWar:
- 1887 – Alvin C. York, American colonel, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1964)
- 1925 – Dick Van Dyke, American actor, singer, and dancer
Remember the opening of the Dick Van Dyke show? He’s 96 today!
- 1929 – Christopher Plummer, Canadian actor and producer (d. 2021)
- 1989 – Taylor Swift, American singer-songwriter, record producer and actress
Those who bit the big one on December 13 include:
My Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin used to quote Maimonides upon occasion. The rabbi’s house in Fez, Morocco, still stands. Here it is:
- 1944 – Wassily Kandinsky, Russian-French painter and theorist (b. 1866)
Kandinsky is one of my favorite painters, and I believe was the first well known painter to produce a fully abstract work. This one is on the way to abstraction:
She was a nasty piece of work, sometimes called “the bitch of Belsen” [the camp]. She was one of the few women camp guards who were hanged. The caption below is from WIkipedia:
- 1947 – Henry James, American lawyer and author (b. 1879)
- 1961 – Grandma Moses, American painter (b. 1860)
One of her well known paintings (several on the theme of making maple syrup), “Sugaring Off”:
- 2002 – Zal Yanovsky, Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist who founded The Lovin’ Spoonful (b. 1944)
Here’s my favorite song from the group, “You didn’t have to be so nice“. Yanovsky is playing lead guitar in front, with John Sebastian on autoharp.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili touts the “cat way of knowing”:
A: Earth, seen from cosmos, is a blue dot.Hili: From my point of view it looks different.
Ja: Ziemia widziana z kosmosu jest błękitną kropką.Hili: Z mojego punktu widzenia to wygląda inaczej.
Szaron looking out at the snow. “Nope”, he’s thinking:
A great photo by Paulina of Kulka in action:
Matthew Cobb, picking up one of his daughters at Cambridge Uni. yesterday:
From Nicole, a seasonal highway sign:
Titania is tweeting again:
An important statement from my good friend Keyshawn X. Obiakolam. pic.twitter.com/d6OC4fX3n9
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) December 11, 2021
From Ginger K., who says that John Scalzi is one of her favorite authors:
Apparently I have reached the level of social media notability where people brag about being blocked by me. Folks, it's not *that* hard to earn my block. All you have to do is be a pathetic yet irredeemable shitweasel. If that's you, congratulations! Brag away. You've earned it.
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) December 10, 2021
From Luana; J. K. Rowling keeps the outrage going. If you read the linked article, though, this does seem absurd:
Police have been criticised for saying they will record rapes by offenders with male genitalia as being committed by a woman if the attacker “identifies as a female”.
Police Scotland said that they would log rapes as being carried out by a woman if the accused person insists, even if they have not legally changed gender.
War is Peace.
Freedom is Slavery.
Ignorance is Strength.
The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.https://t.co/SyxFnnboM1
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 12, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial: Death from starvation in the ghetto
Exploiting the tragedy of Jews who were humiliated, marked with a yellow star, isolated, starved, dehumanized, and murdered in ghettos during the Holocaust in a debate about vaccination that saves human lives during pandemic is shameful. It's a sad symptom of moral decay. pic.twitter.com/xcEzz6i1AL
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 12, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. Poor kitty!
Uh oh, I'm out of here..🐈🦅📺😂😂 pic.twitter.com/E7x6Jb0AkB
— 𝕐o̴g̴ (@Yoda4ever) December 11, 2021
These are especially horrifying for reasons I don’t understand:
— christian merritt (@christi4356) December 12, 2021
It’s that time of year again:A
Cats crashing Nativity Scenes pic.twitter.com/ZGDgaMXtmT
— Diane Doniol-Valcroze (@ddoniolvalcroze) December 11, 2021
A great place for scouting prey. The Polish translation is roughly, “Oh fuck, what action this is!”
O kuźwa jaka akcja 😅 pic.twitter.com/nkohRVkK5o
— Exen 🇵🇱 (@Exen) December 9, 2021