Welcome to the weekend: it’s Friday, January 21, 2022: National New England Clam Chowder Day. This is, of course, the only palatable version of clam chowder, as it contains just claims, broth, butter, and cream, lacking the odious addition of tomato that characterizes (and spoils) “Manhattan” clam chowder. Do not accept any clam chowder that is red!! If you’re in Boston, I suggest trying it at the Union Oyster House, where you’ll get a recipe several hundred years old.
Look how thick it is, loaded with chunks of clam! (Those lumps on top are chowder crackers, which are optional.):
Do not order or accept a bowl of “clam chowder” that looks like this:
Here’s a young squirrel on my office windowshill to whom I’ve given his very first walnut. (I believe it has testicles.) It took him a long while to open the first one, but they learned quickly where to attack the nut to get at the toothsome nutmeat.
Wine of the Day: Initially I found this 2019 French chardonnay ($16) disappointing despite the very good review by Jeb Dunnuck, who gave it a massive score of 94. His take:
All Chardonnay brought up in used demi-muids, the 2019 La Colline Aux Fossiles sports a medium gold hue to go with terrific stone fruits, caramelized citrus, white flowers, and honeysuckle-like aroma and flavors as well as a beautiful sense of minerality that emerges with time in the glass. Medium to full-bodied and beautifully textured, with a layered mouthfeel and a great finish, it’s another knockout Chardonnay from the team of Eric Solomon and Jean-Marc Lafage.
But the problem was mine: I poured a glass right after the bottle that had been removed from the fridge. White wine that is too cold generally tastes much better after it warms up for a while, as the cold numbs the taste buds. The first glass was okay, but nothing I’d pay $16 for. The second glass I left aside after I finished dinner (black beans and rice with a dollop of sour cream), and in a half an hour it became a totally different wine, with notes of honey and pear, and less dry. It was now at $16 wine au minimum.
I should have learned my lesson by now: drink wines at the right temperature, and for whites that means “cool-to-cold but not refrigerator temperature.” That also goes for reds, which should never be drunk at American room temperature (70 F or 21C). I always wrap one of these “cooler sleeves” which you keep in the freezer) around a room-temperature bottle of red for 4-5 minutes, which cools it but doesn’t make it cold. Red wine drinkers without a cellar absolutely need one of these. It’s cheap, and will immensely improve your drinking experience.
News of the Day: Once again, it’s nearly all grim and depressing.
*As Putin and his thugs prepare to invade Ukraine, Biden and European leaders are showing some division about how they’ll respond—a division that’s undoubtedly heartening Putin. From the NYT:
In the current Ukraine crisis, the leaders of Germany’s new governing coalition have stopped short of a commitment to halt the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, a joint Russian-German project that U.S. officials fear will enrich Mr. Putin and give him further leverage over European energy supplies.
And on Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron of France surprised and irritated many European Union colleagues with an address to the E.U. Parliament in Strasbourg in which he called on Europeans to come up with their own proposal on European security. “We must build it between Europeans, then share it with our allies within the framework of NATO,” he said. “And then propose it for negotiation to Russia.”
French officials said Thursday that Mr. Macron was not seeking to undermine NATO’s unity. But the net effect of the words by Mr. Biden and Mr. Macron accentuated the frictions within the Western alliance, analysts said, a potential advantage for Russia.
I still think that Russia will invade Ukraine, and will do so before too long. I would be happy to be wrong.
*According to a new AP/NORC poll, Biden’s approval rating is really in the dumpster now:
More Americans disapprove than approve of how Biden is handling his job as president, 56% to 43%. As of now, just 28% of Americans say they want Biden to run for reelection in 2024, including only 48% of Democrats.
Asked on Wednesday at a wide-ranging news conference about his flagging popularity, Biden responded, “I don’t believe the polls.”
It’s a stark reversal from early in Biden’s presidency.
In July, 59% of Americans said they approved of Biden’s job performance in an AP-NORC poll. His approval rating dipped to 50% by late September in the aftermath of the chaotic and bloody U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and amid surging coronavirus infections and the administration’s fitful efforts to push economic, infrastructure and tax policies through Congress.
Granted, a lot of the dip isn’t Biden’s doing, but, as Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.” But—Biden “doesn’t believe the polls”? It’s not a matter of belief —it’s an empirical result That doesn’t mean the sample is accurate, but other polls support it. He’s sounding like Trump in this respect. He’s entitled to his opinion, but not to his own facts, especially because a. this is a reputable poll, and b. Other similar polls have given similar results.
*The legal news from Ken:
A Tennessee law designed to allow state-sponsored Christian-based adoption agencies to discriminate against gays is now being used to prevent Jewish couples from adopting.
This is unbelievable. What if the best parents available are gay couples or Jewish couples? This can be understood only as reflecting a fear of Christians that “Christian children,” whatever those may be, may lose their “Christian values” (which they don’t have yet) and–horrors–may grow up thnking it’s okay to be gay or Jewish.
*More depressing legal news: in an unsigned order, but with the three liberal justices dissenting, the Supreme Court extended the validity of Texas’s new antiabortion law indefinitely. From the WSJ:
The court’s order was unsigned and, as is typical, provided no explanation. The three liberal justices dissented, arguing that Thursday’s order undermined the court’s December decision permitting abortion providers to proceed in limited fashion with their lawsuit against the Texas law.
“This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
The Texas law, known as S.B. 8, bans nearly all abortions after about the sixth week of pregnancy, a restriction at odds with current Supreme Court precedent allowing women to obtain abortions prior to fetal viability, which occurs at about 24 weeks.
The Texas law is unconstitutional on its face and also makes no exception for rape or incest. We know what’s coming next. . .
*Two nights ago the statue of Theodore Roosevelt, a native American, and a black men were removed from in front of New York’s Museum of Natural History. The statue was deemed “problematic” because it showed TR sitting on a horse with the Native American and black man walking beside him. The WaPo gives its new home.
The Roosevelt statue will be on long-term loan to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library due to open in 2026, in North Dakota, where Roosevelt spent time in the Badlands. The presidential library was termed “a fitting new home” by New York City officials when the decision was made last year, noting it could be “appropriately contextualized” there.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 860,316 an increase of 2,029 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,594,955, an increase of about 9,500 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on January 21 includes:
- 1789 – The first American novel, The Power of Sympathy or the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth by William Hill Brown, is printed in Boston.
I can’t find a first edition on sale, so it must be pretty rare, but here’s the title page of the first edition:
- 1793 – After being found guilty of treason by the French National Convention, Louis XVI of France is executed by guillotine.
The Queen, Marie Antoinette, was also executed in October. A note from Wikipedia involving DNA:
While Louis’s blood dripped to the ground, several onlookers ran forward to dip their handkerchiefs in it. This account was proven true in 2012 after a DNA comparison linked blood thought to be from Louis XVI’s beheading to DNA taken from tissue samples originating from what was long thought to be the mummified head of his ancestor, Henry IV of France. The blood sample was taken from a squash gourd carved to commemorate the heroes of the French Revolution that had, according to legend, been used to house one of the handkerchiefs dipped in Louis’s blood.
- 1861 – American Civil War: Jefferson Davis resigns from the United States Senate.
- 1908 – New York City passes the Sullivan Ordinance, making it illegal for women to smoke in public, only to have the measure vetoed by the mayor.
In reality, it penalized the management of any premises on which women smoked; no woman was ever fined. But it was a stupid ordinance that wasn’t really enforced
- 1948 – The Flag of Quebec is adopted and flown for the first time over the National Assembly of Quebec. The day is marked annually as Québec Flag Day.
It’s a nice flag, too:
His was accused of spying, but since the statue of limitations for espionage had expired, he was tried an convicted for perjury. He served 3.5 years.
- 1954 – The first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, is launched in Groton, Connecticut by Mamie Eisenhower, the First Lady of the United States.
- 1981 – Production of the iconic DeLorean sports car begins in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.
I didn’t realize until recently that Jay Leno has one of the biggest collection of rare and expensive cars in the world. He shows off one per video and has a gazillion videos. He knows his onions, too! Here he highlights not a genuine DeLorean, but the replica used in the movie Back to the Future.
- 2009 – Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip, officially ending a three-week war it had with Hamas. However, intermittent fire by both sides continues in the weeks to follow.
- 2017 – Over 400 cities across America and 160+ countries worldwide participate in a large-scale women’s march, on Donald Trump’s first full day as President of the United States.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1738 – Ethan Allen, American general (d. 1789)
- 1801 – John Batman, Australian entrepreneur and explorer (d. 1839)
BATMAN! He helped found Melbourne:
- 1824 – Stonewall Jackson, American general (d. 1863)
- 1869 – Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic (d. 1916)
The Tsarina with Rasputin and her children, including Alexei, a hemophiliac who, thought the family, Rasputin could help. Would you let this man near your kids? Photo from 1908:
Is there a resemblance?
- 1905 – Christian Dior, French fashion designer, founded Christian Dior S.A. (d. 1957)
- 1922 – Telly Savalas, American actor (d. 1994)
- 1924 – Benny Hill, English actor, singer, and screenwriter (d. 1992)
- 1940 – Jack Nicklaus, American golfer and sportscaster
- 1941 – Richie Havens, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2013)
Here’s Havens’s famous version of “Freedom” played at Woodstock. He had no teeth in his upper gums, which you can see in the video:
Those who sang their swan song on January 21 include:
Lenin in 1920, four years before his death:
Two great writers:
A photo with members of the Bloomsbury group, including Strachey:
Left to right: Dora Carrington, Ralph Partridge, Lytton and Oliver Strachey, and Frances Partridge; snapshot by Ottoline Morrell, 1923. Carrington had a platonic but intense relationship with Lytton, and she shot herself after his death.
- 1950 – George Orwell, British novelist, essayist, and critic (b. 1903)
Orwell broadcasting for the BBC. He died of TB at only 46; a great pity:
One of my favorite jazz videos: a young Peggy Lee singing with Benny Goodman’s band. Her understated version of “Why Don’t You Do Right” mixes perfectly with Goodman’s sweet licorice stick.
- 2020 – Terry Jones, Welsh actor, director, and screenwriter (b. 1942)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn:
A: Where have you been the whole night?Hili: I was watching what the forest looks like in the moonlight.
Ja: Gdzie ty chodziłaś przez całą noc?Hili: Patrzyłam jak wygląda las w świetle księżyca.
From Tom, who says, “The greatest cookie astrophysics meme ever conceived. Hawking would have been so proud!”:
A tweet from Titania. Yes, it’s true, and you can read about it here. I don’t think I’ve seen a case of performative wokeness more ridiculous than this one. Apparently it’s about equalizing the gender of the candies, not their race, since they have no race to begin with. And have women really felt excluded by M&Ms being largely “male” (were they?)?
The times are changing, and so are M&M’s well-known mascots.
In an effort to better align with today’s emphasis on inclusivity and belonging, the 80-year-old brand has given its cast of candy characters a modern makeover.
“We took a deep look at our characters, both inside and out, and have evolved their looks, personalities and backstories to be more representative of the dynamic and progressive world we live in,” Jane Hwang, global vp of M&M’s at parent company Mars, told Adweek.
Red, for instance, will be less bossy. Orange will acknowledge and embrace his anxiety. Green, who will come across as more confident, has traded in knee-high boots for casual sneakers, while Brown has transitioned from high stilettos to lower block heels and a fresh pair of glasses.
Hwang noted that Green and Brown will team up more as a “force supporting women, together throwing shine and not shade.”
At the same time, the company will stop attaching prefixes to the characters’ names to prompt people to focus more on their unique personalities rather than their gender.
And though the individual candies tend to possess similar dimensions per package, marketing efforts moving forward will present them in different shapes and sizes to promote diversity.
“M&M’s is on a mission right now to create a world where everyone feels they belong,” Hwang added.
Why don’t they just shut up and make candy. They’re not going to make the world any better with this insanity.
Martin Luther King had a dream that one day we would see greater diversity among anthropomorphised chocolate treats.
At last… that dream has come true. https://t.co/Yc07PZMpyk
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) January 20, 2022
From reader Sue: best practice from the CDC:
The CDC explains its new Covid guidelines pic.twitter.com/YRG9GuUGDo
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) January 5, 2022
From Malcolm: a gorgeous starling murmuration over Rome. Watch your heads, Romans!
Starlings over Rome – mesmerizing pic.twitter.com/JsirTQs1Ug
— Darius Arya (@DariusAryaDigs) January 18, 2022
From Simon: This is definitely on my bucket list:
— Jari Romppainen (@RomppainenJari) January 17, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. These are cool, but I was quite disappointed that there was no duck. Well, there’s a vessle that looks like a duck, but it chirps rather than quacks.
Ancient Inca musical instruments mimic animal sounds using only the flow of water. The shamanic tools called whistling vessels or huaco silbadors. Most of the original vessels are estimated to have been made around 500 BC – 1200 AD in Peru. Sound on! pic.twitter.com/ApESsj1kVn
— Channa Prakash (@AgBioWorld) January 20, 2022
More signs of global warming:
Global temperature variations over the last 2021 years.
Burning fossil fuels is warming the planet, making extreme heatwaves & heavy rainfall more intense & more frequent with severe consequences for people & ecosystems.
To stop the warming we need to stop burning fossil fuels. pic.twitter.com/vGKilq0Mtx
— Ed Hawkins (@ed_hawkins) January 20, 2022
Look at the trans-Arctic journey of this intrepid fox! I wish I could meet it:
3500 kms by feet from Spitsbergen to Ellesmere Island in 76 days.
Who did that ?
A one year old female Arctic fox. pic.twitter.com/5pH6igwisW
— Phil Garcia | PhilGarcia.eth (@explographe) January 17, 2022
I may have posted this before, but I really like it. Look at that nice diver trying to help an octopus find a proper home. The cup is not good at all because it’s both flimsy and transparent:
Diver helps octopus trade a plastic cup for a shell.. pic.twitter.com/VeDYWbGYHC
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden_) January 17, 2022