Monday: Hili dialogue

December 20, 2021 • 7:00 am

Welcome to the beginning of the work week and a holiday week for nearly everyone: Monday, December 20, 2021. It’s National Sangria Day, which is not only inappropriate for the season, but a case of blatant cultural appropriation.  It’s also Go Caroling Day (I’ve done it exactly once in my life), Mudd Day (a curious holiday; click on the link), Cathode-Ray Tube Day, celebrating the patenting of that device by Vladimir Zworykin on this day in 1908, and International Human Solidarity Day. Tomorrow morning is the Winter Solstice: the official beginning of winter. 

It’s Blueberry Pie Day, but only for me. Here’s the penultimate piece of homemade blueberry pie baked for me by reader Cate Plys. On top: Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream melts on top of the warm pie, heated in a microwaver. It’s fantastic:

News of the Day:

*Well, the biggest news of the day is that Senator Joe Manchin has finally decided that he can’t vote for Biden’s $2 trillion “Build Back Better” bill. It’s curtains for that bill, and Biden and the other Democrats are naturally ticked off. Unless a couple of Republicans vote for the bill—and they won’t—we have a Democratic loss in the Senate:

The statement of opposition was the most forceful condemnation yet from the moderate Democratic holdout, who cited rising consumer prices, a growing federal debt and the arrival of a new coronavirus variant as reasons he could not supply his must-have vote.

Democrats across the Capitol quickly blasted Manchin, arguing that he had failed to negotiate in good faith, especially since Biden had painstakingly scaled back his original ambitions to win the senator’s support. Illustrating its fury, the White House publicly attacked Manchin in an unusually personal statement, alleging he had misled the president in their private talks.

The political collision ultimately amounted to a death knell for the long-stalled proposal, at least in its current form. It also threatened to carry immediate economic consequences, since lawmakers had hoped as part of the proposal to extend a soon-expiring federal program that provides payments to more than 35 million American families with children.

But there’s still some hope for something to pass:

In a separate statement, issued later Sunday, Manchin signaled that he still could continue negotiating with Biden and other top Democrats on a scaled-back version of the bill. But the senator otherwise said he could not “vote to move forward with this mammoth piece of legislation.” He said the effort would “dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face,” explaining that the country’s rising debt would complicate its ability to respond to “geopolitical uncertainty.”

And what about Kyrsten Sinema?

*The BBC reports that companies are starting to produce necklaces and children’s bracelets that are supposed to protect them from 5G Internet networks. The thing is that the arm- and neckwear are dangerous but 5G is not! (h/t: GInger K):

The Dutch authority for nuclear safety and radiation protection (ANVS) issued a warning about ten products it found gave off harmful ionising radiation.

It urged people not to use the products, which could cause harm with long-term wear.

There is no evidence that 5G networks are harmful to health.

The World Health Organization says 5G mobile networks are safe, and not fundamentally different from existing 3G and 4G signals.

Mobile networks use non-ionising radio waves that do not damage DNA.

Despite this, there have been attacks on transmitters by people who believe they are harmful.

*The COVID-19 news is bad, with the omicron variant raging around the world, schools, including Ivies like Harvard, are going virtual again, and two drugs previously used to treat the other variants are now seemingly useless. But here’s some news that I, at least, consider good. Over 12,000 members of the U.S. military have applied for a religious exemption to the vaccination mandate ordered for all troops. In theory it’s possible to get such an exemption, but no religion has dictates against jabs. How many exemptions have been granted by the mlitary so far?  NONE!

*Speaking of mandatory vaccinations, get a lot of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a well known U.S. anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist who has issued a lot of garbage about Covid-19 and the vaccines. The Daily Beast reports a bit of hypocrisy here, but RFK Jr., whose father would be horrified by his views, blames his wife:

An invitation for a holiday party at the home of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—one of America’s most notorious anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists—reportedly urged guests to get tested or vaccinated for coronavirus before they came inside his house. Politico reports Kennedy held a holiday gathering at his home in California last week, and virtual invites told attendees to take the same precautions that Kennedy has spent the pandemic attempting to undermine for enormous financial gain. When Politico asked him about the apparent hypocrisy at his shindig, Kennedy blamed his wife—Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines. “I guess I’m not always the boss at my own house,” Kennedy told Politico’s Daniel Lippman. He added that tests and vaccines statuses weren’t checked at the door. Kennedy’s anti-vaccine group, the Children’s Health Defense, more than doubled its revenue in 2020 to $6.8 million, according to an AP investigation.

*Many readers love quizzes, but I didn’t like this one, probably because I started failing and gave up. The NYT has pictures of 52 “notables” from 2021, and you have to type in the names. It starts out easy but quickly turns hard (at least for me). Give it a try, and let us know how many of the 52 you guessed correctly. I assume they give you a score at the end. Click on the screenshot to get started:

*Monkeys, like elephants, have a long memory. Get a load of this from the NY Post:

An excerpt:

In a small Indian village, a pack of murderous monkeys have started a war with the local canines.

Around 250 dogs have been dragged to the tops of buildings and trees and dropped by a crew of raging primates that are apparently furious with the pups after they killed one of their babies, local media reported.

Locals in Maharashtra’s Beed district, about 300 miles east of Mumbai, told News 18 the monkeys have been on a quest for revenge and in the nearby Lavool village, not a single dog has survived the purge.

Villagers told the outlet the killings started about a month ago when a few dogs killed an infant monkey and since then, the moment a dog is spotted, simians are apparently snatching up the pups and dragging them somewhere high to drop them to their deaths.

**Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 804,916, an increase of 1,296 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,372,358, an increase of about 4,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 20 includes:

Here’s the area of the purchase. Most of it wasn’t controlled by France but inhabited by Native Americans.  The cost? 3 cents per acre, the equivalent of 60 cents today:

  • 1860 – South Carolina becomes the first state to attempt to secede from the United States.
  • 1924 – Adolf Hitler is released from Landsberg Prison.

This is where Hitler wrote Mein Kampf or rather dictated it to Rudolf Hess.  Conditions there were pretty cushy: here’s a photo of Hitler (in Lederhosen!) and some of his cronies (caption from Wikipedia):

Adolf HitlerEmil MauriceHermann KriebelRudolf Hess, and Friedrich Weber at Landsberg Prison

As you might expect, first editions of Mein Kampf aren’t that expensive, going for about $20,000:

(No, I’m not a Nazi, but I read this book when I was a teenager and interested in Hitler, and no, I’m not a damn Nazi!) Note that it was published in 1925, and already laid out a plan for getting rid of the Jews.

The final scene; how many times have you seen this.  I once met Jimmy Stewart’s daughter, and you can really detect the resemblance (in physiognomy, not in speech):

  • 1955 – Cardiff is proclaimed the capital city of Wales, United Kingdom.
  • 1987 – In the worst peacetime sea disaster, the passenger ferry Doña Paz sinks after colliding with the oil tanker ‘MT Vector in the Tablas Strait of the Philippines, killing an estimated 4,000 people (1,749 official).
  • 1999 – Macau is handed over to China by Portugal.
  • 2007 – Elizabeth II becomes the oldest monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years and 243 days.

She’s 95 now, and, according to Reuters:

LONDON, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Britain’s 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth, who has reigned over her nation for almost seven decades, says she feels too young at heart be awarded the title “Oldie of the Year”, an aide has revealed.

Notables born on this day include:

Paintings by de Hooch and his fellow Dutch painters during this era give us a good idea of life in those days. Here’s his Cardplayers in a sunlit room, 1658. (de Hooch loved sidelight coming through open windows and doors, and in that way resembled Vermeer):

  • 1868 – Harvey Samuel Firestone, American businessman, founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (d. 1938)
  • 1946 – Uri Geller, Israeli-English magician and psychic

Here he is “bending spoons” in 1974. This is fakery, of course: you can learn how he creates the illusion here.

  • 1969 – Alain de Botton, Swiss-English philosopher and author

Those who found eternal “rest” on December 20 include:

  • 1812 – Sacagawea, American explorer (b. 1788)

She was a guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition, and her image is on the U.S. $1 coin (I have one).  She died at only 24 of an unknown disease:

  • 1820 – John Bell, American farmer (b. 1750)

He had periodic episodes of violent seizures and was said to be possessed by a witch or goblin. He probably had what is now known as Bell’s Palsy, named not after John Bell but after the Scottish doctor who discovered the syndrome

Here’s Steinbeck in Sweden, getting his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.  There was a lot of criticism at that time that his books were too slight and too pseudophilosophical to deserve the Prize. Wikipedia says this:

Fifty years later, in 2012, the Nobel Prize opened its archives and it was revealed that Steinbeck was a “compromise choice” among a shortlist consisting of Steinbeck, British authors Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell, French dramatist Jean Anouilh and Danish author Karen Blixen. The declassified documents showed that he was chosen as the best of a bad lot.

I would have chosen Blixen or Durrell, probably the former. Out of Africa by itself deserves the Prize. I must read it again.

  • 1973 – Bobby Darin, American singer-songwriter and actor (b. 1936)

Darin was a great entertainer; here’s my favorite song of his, based on an earlier French composition, “La Mer,” by Charles Trenet (listen to it here):

  • 1982 – Arthur Rubinstein, Polish-American pianist and composer (b. 1887)
  • 1984 – Stanley Milgram, American psychologist and academic (b. 1933)
  • 1996 – Carl Sagan, American astronomer, astrophysicist, and cosmologist (b. 1934)

The Pale Blue Dot rhapsody. It’s wonderful!  The voice is unmistakable:

  • 1997 – Denise Levertov, English-American poet and translator (b. 1923)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: the craziness just keeps on coming. We’ll have a great example today or tomorrow:

Hili: I’m surprised.
A: About what?
Hili: That there is still anything that surprises me.
In Polish:
Hili: Dziwię się.
Ja: Czemu?
Hili: Że jeszcze się czemuś dziwię.

A cartoon found on Facebook:

Submitted for your approval by reader David:

And from Bruce:

From Titania. Who could have predicted that pronoun usage would be one of the biggest ideological issues of 2021?

One I found: a whole thread of SEX WEASELS started by Dr. Chelsea Nichols (there are many more):

A video from Barry, who says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated by any animal that engages in clever problem-solving. Clearly this dog is thinking, “Gee, how can I grab all four tires at once?” I’m impressed:”

From Ginger K.:

Tweets from Matthew. You won’t believe this, but every diagonal line in this drawing is parallel to every other diagonal line. Matthew and I squabbled about that yesterday, and finally I decided to settle it empirically. He was right: they’re parallel. Check for yourself. This shows the fallacy of knowledge through intuition;

After the evening murmuration, the rest for the night:

I didn’t know that the custom of putting up Christmas trees was so recent!

48 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. Villagers told the outlet the killings started about a month ago when a few dogs killed an infant monkey and since then, the moment a dog is spotted, simians are apparently snatching up the pups and dragging them somewhere high to drop them to their deaths.

    Our instincts for overwhelming violence in response to a threat are older than we are. ‘Course supposedly water buffalo have the same memory for revenge when it comes to lions, so it’s probably a very general instinct and we can’t really even say it’s a primate one.

    You won’t believe this, but every diagonal line in this drawing is parallel to every other diagonal line.

    I think what he means is that the white and black “candy cane stripe” lines are all parallel. If the checker pattern is consistent, then the individual black lines in the ‘candy stripe’ cannot be, as they alternate left and right connections.
    I think this is part of what gives the illusion it’s power; your eyes follow those individual black line segments and extrapolate to the whole across-the-board lines. Thus the striped lines where the black connects top-right to bottom-left look more ‘downward’ than the ones that connect top-left to bottom-right.

  2. I may be off base here, but my take on the last tweet is that it’s more about the age of the photograph than about the history of putting up Christmas trees.

    1. Famously, the idea of putting up Christmas trees came to the UK from Germany with Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha when he moved here as Queen Victoria’s consort. If this story is not apocryphal, the tradition here is quite recent.

      < Google >

      Ok, the story is not completely false: the Royal family had Christmas trees from about 1800 (they were German, of course) but it wasn’t popularised amongst the plebs until after Albert arrived.

  3. They mentioned the feud between the monkeys and street dogs on the BBC news the other day, adding something like “mob killings are sadly not uncommon in India, but this is the first known inter-species example”.

  4. That old goal miner from West byg*d Virginia has taken so much dark money he has joined the other party of crooks and is finally admitting it. What took you so long Joe? Climate change means nothing in West Virginia. It is funny and strange how some think this 2 Trillion dollar bill, mostly paid for with taxes, is so much money yet they sign off on a $750 billion dollar defense bill without even a thought. And that is just one year.

    1. West Virginia’s keen on the extraction industry. Maybe it’ll achieve full employment regarding Biden’s foot and Manchin’s ass.

  5. When i was younger, i ploughed my way through a few of the Big Books that nobody ever really reads (the bible, War And Peace, Kapital…) but never got round Mein Kampf.
    These days, i’ve seen so much needy, whiny, lying self-justification on the internet that i don’t see the need to seek out another dose of it…

    1. I used to go to the local library every week as a kid. I remember at the age of about 12, having got very interested in the history of WW11 asking to get Mein Kampf from out of the closed stacks – it wasn’t on general release. The librarian, who looked very severe but was in fact quite kind, dissuaded me by telling me it was actually a very boring and stupid book. I took her assessment at face value, and haven’t bothered to seek it out since. I expect I would find it very disagreeable.

  6. Manchin’s announcement that he cannot vote for the Build Back Better legislation is a blow to Biden and the Democratic Party. Republicans are gleeful and it is a tragedy for the country. But, Democrats must be careful in expressing their disdain for Manchin. If he should decide to switch to the Republicans, it would be another disaster for the Democrats because the former would now regain the majority, meaning that Mitch McConnell would be in control again. If nothing else, McConnell would block all of Biden’s judicial nominations, including any Supreme Court nominations should one occur.

    It is possible that Manchin opposes Build Back Better out of principle, but certainly politics plays a big factor. He represents West Virginia, one of the reddest states in the country. He will not do anything to jeopardize his position in the state. Thus, he can no go back to his constituents and brag about how he fought against liberal big spending. He understands that his constituents would have been most helped by the bill, but he also understands that they are not aware of this or don’t care. For them, sticking it to the liberal elites is most important regardless of the fact that the bill would help them in so many ways.

    Manchin claims the he could support certain parts of the bill. I wouldn’t count on any of its component parts passing the Senate.

    1. I think the Democrats made a huge error in trying to create an omnibus bill that had everything they wanted in it, and then persisting in pushing it as one measure after it was clear that there wasn’t enough support. Biden probably could have had a number of minor legislative successes (not including, of course, the big ticket items or the transformational ones). That would have been better for him and the party than having one huge defeat. A trickle of wins would have made him look like a consistent leader who was getting things done.I also think that getting some of the big, progressive measures defeated would have quieted the fire from his left.

      1. That suggestion is not realistic at all unless you are eliminating the filibuster. Not of the stuff in this bill would make it in the Senate requiring more than 50 votes and you know it. One large bill was the only way. They just somehow thought Manchin was in play and I think he never was. He is a republican pretending otherwise. Apparently that is what works in Wes Virginia. The democrats were foolish to think otherwise. Manchin has no interest in climate change, he sells dirty coal.

        1. I never said all of the stuff. The Senate has passed over 50 bills this year, and, like raising the debt ceiling, not all of them were passed with the Vice-President casting tie-breakers. Clearly there are matters where politics still work, like Cruz’s horse-trading on ambassadors. Biden shot for the moon and got bupkis.

  7. … here’s my favorite song of [Bobby Darin’s], based on an earlier French composition, “La Mer,” by Charles Trenet …

    I’ve never been a fan of Julio Iglesias’s (though my mom was), but I gotta say his cover of “La Mer” was put to excellent use in the closing montage of the film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, in which scenes from the MI6 Christmas party are intercut with [Spoiler Alert} scenes of the traitorous moles getting their comeuppance and George Smiley’s ascending to the top of “the Circus”:

    1. I lament that I discovered Trenet just about the time of his death, and that it would have been possible to see him perform. He wrote a lot of good songs, and performed them himself. I would recommend his own rendition of “La Mer,” “Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours,” “Fleur Blue,” “La Romance de Paris,” and “Menilemontant.”

    1. I was going to go with Sir/Sir, but I’ve decided to go with I/Me. I looked forward to hearing a conversation about me.

      1. Why he/him? Why not he/his/him? Or isn’t he sufficient? Does anyone use he/her (not that I would be surprised)?

        I once suppressed the urge to specify my pronouns as the royal we.

    2. The pronouns thing – I don’t think there is a word that accurately expresses this fad .

      Should I be compelled to participate in the religious rite, I have some strategies :

      1. The Austin Powers approach :

      Pronouns : yes please! (In Austin Powers’ voice, of course – not that it makes sense).

      2. Pronouns : Suchlikes or Right Honourable only, except during thunderstorms, in which case “Pisces” or “Fricasseed” is to be used in an Australian accent (Bugs Bunny voice acceptable).

      3. Pronouns : choose your own [ list of >100 pronouns ]

      4. Pronoun : lifeform.

      … I’m sure it will go over well.

    3. I don’t want any pronouns. I want people to use my name whenever they mention me. Using pronouns seems too familiar.

  8. I’ve never thought the overrated It’s a Wonderful Life was Frank Capra’s best movie. When it comes to Christmas movies, give me its fun-house mirror opposite, Harold Ramis’s black-comedy film noir The Ice Harvest, with John Cusack as the crooked lawyer, Billy Bob as his double-crossing partner, Oliver Platt as his ex-wife’s current husband, Randy Quaid as the Big Bad, and Connie Nielson as the femme fatale. Or maybe I just have that flick my mind because I saw it again a few days ago in the middle of the night while scrolling around Prime during a bout of insomnia:

    1. I watched It’s a Wonderful Life about twenty time in High School (PBS would play it three or four times Christmas week back then), and I can’t really watch it now. We just watched the original Miracle on 34th Street, which I had not seen in years, and that’s shot way up on my list. I also particularly like The Lion in Winter, the quintessential story of the dysfunctional family at Christmas: “After all, what family doesn’t have its ups and downs?” Also worth a viewing is We’re No Angels, a comedy with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Also Ray as three convicts who escape from Devil’s Island just in time to save a family’s Christmas.

  9. I guessed who Mudd Day was named for, but am struck that it’s not clear what the day is specifically supposed to commemorate. There could be a number of things: his aid to John Wilkes Booth, his unjust conviction, his aid to his fellow prisoners during a Yellow Fever outbreak, or his pardon.

    1. I’ve never seen ‘Casablanca’. Doesn’t sound very tempting really; a film about some bloke who sits in a bar and misses his flight.

      Although apparently there’s a scene where they decide to increase the volume of a standard serving of tea. The command goes out to “round-up the Usual Cup specs”.


    2. Even if you’re no cinephile, mate, it’s worth seeing those films simply as a matter of maintaining your cultural literacy as to matters Yank.

      Plus, Shawshank is worth the price of admission just for the scene in which Tim Robbins locks himself in the warden’s office and puts the duet from “The Marriage of Figaro” on the prison’s PA system:

      1. I don’t know. If I saw those films, I wouldn’t be able to wind people up anymore by saying I haven’t seen those films.

        I haven’t seen Mamma Mia either, or The Greatest Showman or Parasite…

        … actually I really must see Parasite.

      2. The Shawshank Redemption is one if the best ever. An absolute classic about the triumph of brains over, well brawn is putting it too mildly.
        And the narrator, ‘Red’, could not have been chosen better.
        I saw it 2 decades sgo and again recently. Despite the slightly glurgy end, i liked it the second time just as much as the first. Brilliant.

    3. I have never seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”. I saw “ET” at a free test screening before it was released. Crappy, manipulative, syrupy dreck. “Shawshank” is OK if you suspend your disbelief. Especially Andy’s escape.

  10. Re: It’s a Wonderful Life: A checker’s name tag at my local pet food store read “Zuzu,” Naturally, I had to ask her if she was named after the movie, and she said, “Yes, it’s my parents’ favorite movie!” She was a good sport about it!

  11. I scored 25 out of 52 on that NYT quiz. Missed most of the celebrities and athletes. Surprisingly my score was in the top 40% – many readers scored much lower.

    The comments are funny. Many readers (and presumably subscribers) who got low scores complained about all the obscure entertainers du jour in the quiz. Some folks admitted they were probably too old to recognize all these GenZ rappers and designers.

    Seems consistent with other observations that the NYT readership skews a lot older than the creatives and the editors at the NYT would probably like.

    1. I missed all the actors and rappers and sports people, except for Aaron Rodgers, and I only knew him because he was a guest host on Jeopardy and Simone Biles, because I love watching gymnastics. I have noticed that Jeopardy does not have sports categories as much as they used to, so it might be a good time to take the Jeopardy contestant test again.

    1. Thanks, Mike, very interesting.
      That reminds me of Murdock, who decades ago found a clear correlation between the moralisticity of religions and the size of societies (think from dozens to thousands, and even more) and a slightly looser correlation between society size and monogamy.
      That appeared to point to the keeping of peace among not very closely related males as one of the prime functions of religion.
      That, of course has to do with intra-species warfare and has possibly little (but not nothing) to do with the war these monkeys appear to have declared on dogs.

  12. Reading Mein Kampf would no more mean one is a Nazi than reading the Bible would mean one is a Christian. While I have not read Mein Kampf, I can understand why a non-Nazi would. As the saying goes, “Know your enemy.” Reading it would help one understand the depraved mindset of the Nazis.

  13. The US should give back greater Louisiana to the French. Much of the US political problems would evaporate 😉

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