Welcome to Cat Sabbath: Saturday, December 18, 2021: National Suckling Pig Day (not kosher!). I’ve had it a few times, but I’m disturbed at the thought of killing piglets, even though I know that they’d have a rotten life even if they let them grow up.
Here’s a Jewish suckling pig joke:
An elderly rabbi, having just retired from his duties in the congregation, finally decides to fulfill his lifelong fantasy–to taste pork.
He goes to a hotel in the Catskills in the off season (not his usual hotel, mind you), enters the empty dining hall and sits down at a table far in the corner. The waiter arrives, and the rabbi orders roast suckling pig.
As the rabbi is waiting, struggling with his conscience, a family from his congregation walks in! They immediately see the rabbi and, since no one should eat alone, they join him.
Shocked, the rabbi begins to sweat. At last, the waiter arrives with a huge domed platter. He lifts the lid to reveal-what else?–roast suckling pig, complete with an apple in its mouth.
The family gasp in shock and disgust, they quickly turned to the rabbi for any type of explanation.
“This place is amazing!” cries the rabbi. “You order a baked apple, and look what you get!”
News of the Day:
*Abortion news from reader Ken, who wrote:
You see that the FDA has lifted the ban on the sale of mifepristone — the pill that allows women to terminate pregnancies at up to 10-weeks’ gestation — through the mail? (Nineteen red states already bar such so-called telemedicine sales of abortion medication, and others are expected to follow suit now that the FDA has acted.)
*The longest sentence yet has been handed out to a Capitol rioter for the January 6 insurrection. Robert Scott Palmer, who admitted throwing a fire extinguisher (twice), a wooden plank, and a pole at the Capitol police has been sentenced to 63 months in federal prison. That’s a stiff sentence, but I think appropriate as a guideline for others convicted in the insurrection and a deterrent for future violent morons.
Palmer was first publicly identified by online sleuths, who tracked him down through pictures and video of Palmer in an American flag jacket brawling outside the Capitol. According to his plea agreement, Palmer sprayed a fire extinguisher at a line of police and twice threw the empty canister. When he refused to back down, Palmer was shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet.
Well, he’s got five years to nurse his sore tummy.
A lot of the impetus for this action comes from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a Native American. And I have to say this is one renaming campaign I favor, at least for the names cited in the article, places like “Squaw Tits” (mountains), “Negro Mesa” and “Redskin Mountain.” Time for a change!
My only question is this: since “Negro” and “colored person” are clearly offensive, why haven’t they already changed the names of the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and The United Negro College Fund”?
*The NYT reports on an efficient new rat trap that uses, yes, Oreo cookies, which rats apparently love. And it’s very clever, though I don’t favor killing rats:
The Italian-made battery-operated device, which wouldn’t look out of place in the MoMA design store, is a new development in controlling New York’s four-legged foes. They’ve also caught the attention of Mayor-elect Eric Adams. In a radio interview this fall, he called the traps “amazing” and vowed to explore deploying them across the five boroughs once he is officially leading City Hall.
Besides its innovative design and noxious chemicals, the rat trap also has a secret weapon: Oreo cookies. “Peanut butter Oreos are the best,” said Jim Webster, Rat Trap Distribution’s director of operations, while installing the contraption outside of Casa La Femme.
The scent of the cookies, crumbled and placed in the top compartment of the two-part trap, along with sunflower seeds, acts as a lure. For a week or so, rodents will be free to crawl through the device’s holes and snack as much as they want.
Once the rats become regulars and “get comfortable,” Mr. Webster said, the device will be turned on, and a platform will drop them into the lower part of the contraption, which serves as a catch basin not unlike a dunking tank at a carnival booth.
There’s ethanol in the catch basin, which supposedly knocks the rats unconscious before they drown, but it seems cruel to me. I’ve never been able to trap and kill anything but cockroaches. And when they wanted to put glue traps in my lab to catch a few mice that were running about, I wouldn’t let them. Being stuck in glue and dying slowly is just cruel.
*Also at the NYT: a longish article on how Elizabeth Holmes has changed her clothes and her “look” to try to get the jury in her California trial to find her not guilty.
Instead there was … sartorial neutrality, in the form of a light gray pantsuit and light blue button-down shirt, worn untucked, with baby pink lipstick. She looked more like the college student trying on a grown-up interview look than the mastermind of a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.
By the time opening arguments began in September, the new look had been perfected: a no-name skirt suit (or dress and jacket or pantsuit) in a color so banal as to practically fade into the background. Her hair was set in loose waves around her face, like Christie Brinkley or a contestant on “The Bachelor.” Her face masks were light blue and green — the colors of nature. There was not a power heel or a power shoulder in sight. The only part of her outfit that was branded in any way was her diaper bag backpack (her son was born in July), which was from Freshly Picked and costs around $175.
In other words, Holmes is trying to win the jury’s sympathy by trying to look like somebody they could relate to instead of what she is: a narcissistic power monger. Telling defendants what to wear is of course normal procedure for a criminal lawyer, even if it seems shady. But if Holmes is found innocent given the evidence against her, and her dress and attractiveness played a role in that verdict (we’ll never know), I’ll be angry.
From Nellie Bowles’s essay on Bari Weiss’s Substack site:
Reads to get mad about:
No Mai Tais for you. Do you want tens of thousands of words in the best newspapers in America about how tiki bars are racist? Oh, you don’t? Too bad. Tiki bars are colonialism, says Eater. They are cultural appropriation says The Los Angeles Times. The New York Times says their past is underexamined. And this week a Chicago blog offers the latest in a couple years of very long pieces about how tiki bars are very bad.
No shallots, either: Meanwhile, the New Yorker this week offers 8,000 words on the young chef Alison Roman, who was cancelled and lost her New York Times column for calling Chrissy Teigen a sellout a year and a half ago. Roman comes out on top–it turns out she’s a hustler who never went to college. The profile is full of dings like: “but she has little to say about the sustainability of tuna.” Follow @micsolana for more, since I’m cribbing from his funny riff on this.
*John McWhorter’s latest biweekly NYT column is about the eternal value of great books: “Aristotle, Kant and company are the foundation a college education is built on.” It’s a vigorous defense of reading the “Great Books” as a way of becoming a better person. What does he mean by that? Well, McWhorter asked his mom, a University teacher, exactly what college was for. Her (and his) answer:
She said that after four years of college, students have, or should have, a sense of the world’s complexity, that everything did not easily reduce to common-sense observations of the kind you preface with “Well, all I know is …”
Mom had that right, I think, and Great Books lend precisely this perspective. Having a sense of how to decide what your life is for amid all the possible choices before you; understanding that the ethics of how civilizations and power operate is complex rather than reducible to facile binaries and snap judgments; tasting the elusiveness of the single, irrefutable answer and thus truly appreciating the wit of Douglas Adams’s famous proposal that the answer to everything is “42.” One is, surely, a better person with this perspective under one’s belt.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 804,266, an increase of 1,294 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,363,546, an increase of about 7,800 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on December 18 includes:
- 1271 – Kublai Khan renames his empire “Yuan” (元 yuán), officially marking the start of the Yuan dynasty of Mongolia and China.
He lived from 1215-1294, and decreed a stately pleasure dome. Here’s a print that, says Wikipedia), makes him look younger than he was when he was older:
- 1777 – The United States celebrates its first Thanksgiving, marking the recent victory by the American rebels over British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga in October.
- 1865 – US Secretary of State William Seward proclaims the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment, prohibiting slavery throughout the USA.
- 1892 – Premiere performance of The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The great composer:
- 1916 – World War I: The Battle of Verdun ends when the second French offensive pushes the Germans back two or three kilometres, causing them to cease their attacks.
- 1917 – The resolution containing the language of the Eighteenth Amendment to enact Prohibition is passed by the United States Congress.
- 1932 – The Chicago Bears defeat the Portsmouth Spartans in the first NFL playoff game to win the NFL Championship.
The game was played under unusual circumstances; watch this 4-minute video to see why:
- 1972 – Vietnam War: President Richard Nixon announces that the United States will engage North Vietnam in Operation Linebacker II, a series of Christmas bombings, after peace talks collapsed with North Vietnam on the 13th.
- 1981 – First flight of the Russian heavy strategic bomber Tu-160, the world’s largest combat aircraft, largest supersonic aircraft and largest variable-sweep wing aircraft built.
Here’s a Tu-160 at a Russian air base:
- 2018 – List of bolides: A meteor exploded over the Bering Sea with a force over 10 times greater than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.
- 2019 – The United States House of Representatives impeaches Donald Trump for the first time.
Notables born on this day include:
Thompson (below) got the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the electron, the first detected subatomic particle. Here he is ca. 1920-1925:
- 1863 – Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (d. 1914)
The assassination of the Archduke and his wife is what set off World War I. Here’s the bloodstained uniform that he wore when assassinated in Sarajevo:
- 1878 – Joseph Stalin, Georgian-Russian marshal and politician, 4th Premier of the Soviet Union (d. 1953)
Stalin as a young man. He was responsible for the death of some 20 million people, including his own people, many of whom he let starve to death:
Here’s his final speech in 1952:
- 1879 – Paul Klee, Swiss-German painter and educator (d. 1940)
Klee: “Cat and Bird” (1928), depicts a thought—one that Hili often has:
Cobb was a nasty person and an aggressive (but fantastic) baseball player. The caption of the photo below (from Wikipedia): “Charles M. Conlon‘s famous picture of Cobb stealing third base during the 1909 season”. Cobb would often slide with his spiked feet towards the base, making opponents wary of tagging him.
- 1897 – Fletcher Henderson, American pianist and composer (d. 1952)
- 1913 – Willy Brandt, German politician, 4th Chancellor of Germany, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1992)
The prize was for his efforts to reconcile Eastern and Western Europe.
- 1916 – Betty Grable, American actress, singer, and dancer (d. 1973)
Every GI had this picture of Grable on his locker in WWII; it’s about as iconic as a pinup can get. What people don’t know is that she posed with her back to the camera, and a come-hither look, because she was visibly pregnant:
Grable was called “The girl with the million dollar legs” because she starred in this 1939 film:
- 1922 – Esther Lederberg, American microbiologist (d. 2006)
- 1939 – Harold E. Varmus, American biologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
Varmus (right) interviewing reader and origami master Robert Lang at Kent Presents, August, 2018. He interviewed me, too, but I don’t have a photo. Varmus was a great guy, and showed me photos of his cats. His Prize was for discovering where retroviral oncogenes came from.
- 1943 – Keith Richards, English musician
- 1946 – Steve Biko, South African activist, founded the Black Consciousness Movement (d. 1977)
- 1946 – Steven Spielberg, American director, producer, and screenwriter, co-founded DreamWorks
- 1963 – Brad Pitt, American actor and producer
- 2001 – Billie Eilish, American singer
Those who kicked the bucket on December 18 include:
- 1829 – Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, French soldier, biologist, and academic (b. 1744)
Yes, the infamous Lamarck, who nevertheless did good biology, especially in botany.
- 1892 – Richard Owen, English biologist, anatomist, and paleontologist (b. 1804)
He was also a critic of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Photo below (he looks mean):
- 1971 – Bobby Jones, American golfer and lawyer (b. 1902)
- 1997 – Chris Farley, American comedian and actor (b. 1964)
Farley and Beushi were the two great Comics of Size from SNL, and both died very young. Here’s Farley in a classic “Matt Foley” scheme. It’s hilarious, or so I think:
He was the real “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame. Photo:
- 2011 – Václav Havel, Czech poet, playwright, and politician, 1st President of the Czech Republic (b. 1936)
- 2014 – Mandy Rice-Davies, English model and actress (b. 1944)
Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler helped bring down John Profumo, British Secretary of State for War:
- 2016 – Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hungarian-American actress and socialite (b. 1917)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili and Szaron are being cats:
Hili: Why are all the doors closed?A: And where do you want to go?Hili: Everywhere.
Hili: Dlaczego wszystkie drzwi są zamknięte?Ja: A gdzie chcecie wejść?Hili: Wszędzie.
From Simon: Our new vaccination card:
From Science Humor: Well, I hope the “by chance” is also sarcastic, because real evolution isn’t “all about chance”.
From Ginger K: a really cool astronomy photo:
Impressive depth here:
— Meteor is a few 10s of kms away
— Comet Leonard is a few 10s of *millions* kms away
— Globular cluster is a few 100s of *millions of billions* kms away https://t.co/bnn7JoHcfu
— Vivien Parmentier (@V_Parmentier) December 9, 2021
From Cesar, who asked, “Do snakes really do this?” Yes, some of them do. One of my Drosophila colleagues, collecting flies in Africa, was chased by a wickedly fast (and deadly) black mamba. He got into his car, whereupon the snake reared up and tried to climb in through the driver’s side window! (My friend survived.)
Holy. Shit. pic.twitter.com/Il5x8vOlqK
— Steve Stewart-Williams (@SteveStuWill) January 17, 2020
From Simon. I’m assuming that the head is “work”.
Work-life balance pic.twitter.com/3iE8H4eD9r
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) December 13, 2021
Tweets from Matthew, who was a bit hung over today. I disapprove of disturbing hibernating beetles this way, as it makes them use energy they need to conserve. Still, a cool video; sound up.
In the Spanish Pyrenees two days ago, came across this huge 'battalion' of bombardier beetles in hibernation. Touching them lightly makes them go 'poof!' Watch the smoke and listen to the mini butt-explosions. pic.twitter.com/G3jl9xlRlZ
— Menno Schilthuizen (@schilthuizen) December 17, 2021
A Beatles-loving cat!
I’ve had Strawberry Fields stuck in my head all morning so I taught my cat how to sing it. pic.twitter.com/7n65MoqvLb
— Jen 📷🦉🐝🐍 (@7StellarJays) December 17, 2021
From Ziya Tong: a cockatoo on a Mission from God:
I love this bird. https://t.co/N2PSFmY1Bl
— Earthling (@ziyatong) December 17, 2021
The question is, of course, “WHY did the buffalo do this?” They aren’t kin, or even of the same species, and there’s no possibility of reciprocal altruism!
this video I saw of a buffalo helpin a turtle bro out might be the best thing i've ever seen pic.twitter.com/EWnRyO81U9
— 🌱kinter🍃 (@kinterdeer) December 16, 2021
TikTok, guns, and schools; what could go wrong?
Just got an alert from the District Superintendent that the Dustrict will be on high alert tomorrow because the 17th is trending with National shoot up your school day on TikTok. What a fucked up country this is.
— Michael Davis (@miklextic) December 16, 2021