Yes, it is Hump Day: Wednesday, January 26, 2022, but not everyone likes the name (h/t Grant):
There a new Google Doodle today honoring the life and work of Katarzyna Kobro, born on this day (26 January 1898 – 22 February 1951).Wikipedia identifies her as
a Polish avant-garde sculptor and a prominent representative of the Constructivist movement in Poland. A pioneer of innovative multi-dimensional abstract sculpture, she rejected Aestheticism and advocated for the integration of spatial rhythm and scientific advancements into visual art.
One of her works (they’re like three-dimensional Mondrians):
News of the Day:
*I had forgotten about this but reader Ken caught it:
Yesterday, Joe Biden got caught on a hot mic (or “mike,” per your preference) calling Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy “a stupid son of a bitch.”
Within the hour, Biden called Doocy to apologize — as one does, if one hasn’t been raised by wolves.
*Two from the NYT. First, in an op-ed called “What does it mean to be ‘done with Covid’?“, columnist Michelle Goldberg criticizes her former colleague Bari Weiss for expressing that sentiment as pushback against the government’s health policies. (We discussed this the other day.) I disagreed with Weiss, and so does Goldberg:
The desperate desire to get back to normal is understandable. What’s odd is seeing the absence of normality as a political betrayal instead of an epidemiological curveball. The reason things aren’t normal isn’t that power-mad public health officials went back on their promises. It’s because a new coronavirus variant emerged that overwhelmed hospitals and threw schools and many industries into chaos, and because not everyone has the luxury of being insouciant about infection.
. . . Critics of how liberals have responded to the pandemic sometimes argue that we’ve overestimated our ability to control this virus. But those who think we can escape this excruciating period simply by changing our mind-set are also overestimating how much control we have. America won’t seem remotely normal until it’s a lot less sick.
*In his new NYT column, “Stay Woke. The right can be illiberal, too,” John McWhorter addresses the frequent comment (also made here) about censorship form the Right probably being a greater danger than is censorship from the Left.
I’m genuinely open to the idea that censorship from the right is more of a problem than I have acknowledged. The truth may be, as it so often is, in the middle, and a legal case from the past week has made me think about it.
The case? That of a Florida judge overturning the University of Florida’s prohibition of 6 of its professors testifying against the imposition of new voter-registration laws in the state, a case of the Right muzzling academic freedom. McWhorter then gives equal time to a kerfuffle at the University of North Texas about whether or not a Jewish figure in music theory might have been racist, with the critics being on the Left this time. (These fights get so tiresome.) At any rate, McWhorter just concludes that both sides are more or less equally culpable, which may be true, but who cares? It’s harder for a Leftist to effectively push back against Right-wing than against Left-wing censorship, though in both cases they can be called out. McWhorter:
On the right, even if you’re wary of critical race theory’s effect on the way many kids are taught, it is both backward and unnecessary to institutionalize the sense that discussing race at all is merely unwelcome pot stirring (and if that’s not what you mean, then you need to make it clear). On the left, illiberalism does not become insight just because some think they are speaking truth to power. Resistance to this kind of perspective is vital, no matter where it comes from on the political spectrum.
And don’t get on me for not criticizing the Right; I went after the University of Florida case the minute I heard about it!
The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board. “We’re not simply putting the current SAT on a digital platform — we’re taking full advantage of what delivering an assessment digitally makes possible. With input from educators and students, we are adapting to ensure we continue to meet their evolving needs.”The decision comes as the College Board has felt increasing pressure to change its stress-inducing test in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and questions around the test’s fairness and relevance.
The test has long been criticized for bias against those from poor households as well as Black and Hispanic students. The high-stakes nature of the test means that those with more resources can afford to take expensive test prep courses — or even, as the 2019 college admissions scam revealed, to cheat on the test.
Well, the above is from CNN, and the last paragraph is full of distortions. Repeated tests of whether questions are “biased” have shown that they aren’t, and any question with even a “hint” of being biased is tossed. As for SAT prep, it’s often free for poorer students, and what CNN doesn’t note is that test prep adds only very slightly (at best) to one’s score. The real reason the SATs are being dismantled is one we all know but can’t vocalize. Suffice it to say that the downgrading of these tests is part of ending the meritocracy in education. And it must follow, as the night the day, that as these students age, the meritocracy will be dismantled everywhere except (as in plane pilots or brain surgery) it cannot be dispensed with.
*Elizabeth Rata, one of the “Satanic Seven” professors at the University of Auckland who objected to giving indigenous ways of knowing equal time with modern science in the secondary-school and college classroom, has written an article in Newsroom (a NZ news site) reiterating her position. A quote:
. . . science is not euro-centric or western. It is universal. This is recognised in the International Science Council’s definition of science as “rationally explicable, tested against reality, logic, and the scrutiny of peers this is a special form of knowledge”. It includes the arts, humanities and social sciences as human endeavours which may, along with the physical and natural sciences, use such a formalised approach. The very children who need this knowledge the most, now receive less.
The science-ideology discussion matters for many reasons – the university’s future, the country’s reputation for science and education, and the quality of education in primary and secondary schools. But at its heart it is about democracy. Science can only thrive when democracy thrives.
Rata is the Director of the Knowledge in Education Research Unit in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. She’s got guts.
*Over at the NYT, columnist Paul Krugmen has a new column: “Attack of the right-wing thought police“. Krugman agrees with McWhorter about the censoriousness of the Right, but says nary a word about the censoriousness of the Left. Like McWhorter, he mentions the Florida professors whom the Right tried to prevent from testifying in favor of equitable voting laws, as well as the ludicrous state laws against the teaching of CRT. His words fall sweetly on the ear attuned to sounds from the Left:
What’s really striking, however, is the idea that schools should be prohibited from teaching anything that causes “discomfort” among students and their parents. If you imagine that the effects of applying this principle would be limited to teaching about race relations, you’re being utterly naïve.
For one thing, racism is far from being the only disturbing topic in American history. I’m sure that some students will find that the story of how we came to invade Iraq — or for that matter how we got involved in Vietnam — makes them uncomfortable. Ban those topics from the curriculum!
Then there’s the teaching of science. Most high schools do teach the theory of evolution, but leading Republican politicians are either evasive or actively deny the scientific consensus, presumably reflecting the G.O.P. base’s discomfort with the concept. Once the Florida standard takes hold, how long will teaching of evolution survive?
But every word in that first paragraph applies to both the Left and Right. Why does he write only about Right-wing censoriousness? I think it was Dr. Johnson who said that if a person’s bread and butter depends on their believing something, then believe they will.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 870,837, an increase of 2,362 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,636,137, an increase of about 11,400 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on January 26 include:
- 1564 – The Council of Trent establishes an official distinction between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
Do you know the distinction? And don’t say that one church is led by the Vatican and the other isn’t. There are doctrinal differences that you should read about at the link to the “Council of Trent.”
- 1788 – The British First Fleet, led by Arthur Phillip, sails into Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to establish Sydney, the first permanent European settlement on Australia. Commemorated as Australia Day.
- 1841 – James Bremer takes formal possession of Hong Kong Island at what is now Possession Point, establishing British Hong Kong.v
- 1885 – Troops loyal to The Mahdi conquer Khartoum, killing the Governor-General Charles George Gordon.
Gordon became famous for his military leadership in China, but then went to the Sudan, where he angered the local authorities. He was hacked to death in Khartoum. Below is an imagined depiction of his death:
- 1905 – The world’s largest diamond ever, the Cullinan, which weighs 3,106.75 carats (0.621350 kg), is found at the Premier Mine near Pretoria in South Africa.
Here’s the rough diamon—about 3,100 carats.
It was cut into nine smaller stones, the largest of which (Cullinan 1) weighd 530 carats. It was set into the British royal crown (see below). Pity that it’s not all that visible:
- 1926 – The first demonstration of the television by John Logie Baird.
Here’s Baird’s first moving t.v. image, with the caption from Wikipedia:
- 1942 – World War II: The first United States forces arrive in Europe, landing in Northern Ireland.
- 1945 – World War II: Audie Murphy displays valor and bravery in action for which he will later be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The son of a sharecropper, Murphy won every single military medal for valor that the Army had. He later became a well known actor, but was killed in a plane crash at 46. Here he is with all his decorations; the Medal of Honor is around his neck:
- 1949 – The Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory sees first light under the direction of Edwin Hubble, becoming the largest aperture optical telescope (until BTA-6 is built in 1976).
- 1998 – Lewinsky scandal: On American television, U.S. President Bill Clinton denies having had “sexual relations” with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Here’s a news report in which Clinton lied. In what world is fellatio not “sexual relations”?
It was via in vitro fertilization, of course. Oy–look at this high chair! (She was known as “Octomom”.)
Notables born on this day include:
- 1880 – Douglas MacArthur, American general, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1964)
- 1908 – Stéphane Grappelli, French violinist (d. 1997)
Here’s the great jazz violinist playing “I Got Rhythm” at 76:
- 1925 – Paul Newman, American actor, activist, director, race car driver, and businessman, co-founded Newman’s Own (d. 2008)
- 1944 – Angela Davis, American activist, academic, and author
This is how I remember her. She’s now a professor at UC Santa Cruz:
- 1944 – Jerry Sandusky, American football coach and criminal
- 1945 – Jacqueline du Pré, English cellist (d. 1987)
Here’s du Pré playing part of the first movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto. I believe that it’s Barenboim conducting (they were married). It’s a tragedy that she died of MS at only 43.
Her grave (you can see a late interview with her here. conducted when she was already ill). This is in Golders Green Cemetary, and I suppose she converted to Judaism given the writing (Barenboim was Jewish).
- 1946 – Gene Siskel, American journalist and film critic (d. 1999)
- 1955 – Eddie Van Halen, Dutch-American guitarist, songwriter, and producer (d. 2020)
- 1958 – Ellen DeGeneres, American comedian, actress, and talk show host
- 1961 – Wayne Gretzky, Canadian ice hockey player and coach
Those who perished on January 26 include:
He saved a gazillion lives by devising the small pox vaccine. Here’s “Jenner’s 1802 testimonial to the efficacy of vaccination, signed by 112 members of the Physical Society, London”
- 1885 – Charles George Gordon, English general and politician (b. 1833)
- 1893 – Abner Doubleday, American general (b. 1819)
- 1943 – Nikolai Vavilov, Russian botanist and geneticist (b. 1887)
- 1962 – Lucky Luciano, Italian-American mob boss (b. 1897)
He was lucky that he wasn’t murdered by fellow mobsters. Here’s an NYCPD mug shot from 1931:
- 1973 – Edward G. Robinson, Romanian-American actor (b. 1893)
- 2003 – Hugh Trevor-Roper, English historian and academic (b. 1917)
- 2020 – Kobe Bryant, American basketball player (b. 1978)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is replacing the late Henri the Existentialist cat, and is filled with ennui:
A: What are you thinking about?Hili: I’m wondering whether the charms of this world outweigh its futility.
Ja: Nad czym myślisz?Hili: Zastanawiam się, czy uroki tego świata przeważają jego marność.
A head shot of Kulka:
And a Mietek monologue:
Mietek: From the series: read for me mom
From Ducks in Public: “The fellowship of the wing”:
From Masih, who points out that the newly-chosen Rina Amiri, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, has put on a hijab when meeting the Taliban delegation. In Norway, where hijab are not required! Nor can you say that Amiri wears a hijab normally, for as you can see in the photo to the left or in all the photos here, she doesn’t. Below I’ve put a photo of her in the American delegation with an arrow showing her wearing the hijab.
Her hijab is reprehensible, a slap in the face of the very women she’s supposed to support, for when she has a choice in her normal life she doesn’t wear hijab. She is wearing one to cater to the religious misogyny of the Taliban. (Note that there are no women in the Taliban delegation.)
Rina Amiri the US envoy for Afghan women, wearing hijab in front of the Taliban delegation in Norway! This is called hypocrisy. Women are fighting for freedom against forced hijab on the streets of Afghanistan but Biden’s envoy resorts to appeasement. #LetUsTalk pic.twitter.com/fMZJ9pRFhu
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) January 25, 2022
From Simon: This staff person is very privileged!
this is what i have to deal with every day pic.twitter.com/vdRW45Nqhw
— 🙏🌧🌍 (@godblesstoby) January 25, 2022
From Barry. Sound up! And I’m not at all sure that this video is supposed to be funny (read the little words on the lower right).
Behind the scenes at the Anti-Vaxxer School of Medicine. pic.twitter.com/XCCTu73qm5
— Rich (@richienrg) January 24, 2022
From Ginger K.
Whoever told my 10 year-old daughter, who lost her mother 4 weeks ago, that she ‘needs to be strong’ should just keep their thoughts to themselves. No grieving child needs to do anything or be anything. Grief itself is heavy enough.
— Diego Bassani, PhD 🏠😷 💉 💉 💉 (@DGBassani) January 21, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. First, sexual dimorphism in blue-winged teal. Every duck species with such dimorphism does it in a different way, with different colors, patterns and behavior. A mystery for sexual selection to solve!
Translation: “Blue-winged teal the drake (male) has a white spot in the shape of a crescent between the eye and beak. The forewing is blue to. Underside is ocher yellow with closely spaced round black spots. The duckling (female) has a light blue front wing and a white belly.”
Blauwvleugeltaling de woerd (man) heeft een witte vlek in de vorm van een halvemaan tussen oog en snavel. De voorvleugel is blauw tot. Onderzijde is okergeel met dicht op elkaar staande ronde zwarte vlekjes. Het eendje (vrouw) heeft een lichtblauwe voorvleugel en een witte buik. pic.twitter.com/tM9YF97ZsT
— Natura Notitia (@Naturanotitia) January 11, 2022
The kakapo are having a banner year in New Zealand! Keep your fingers crossed; all of these flightless parrots are confined to a single island to keep predators away. They need to reproduce!
Even though she’s an old #kakapo, Nora found energy to mate with two males last night – including for 83 minutes with Guapo! She produced chicks in 1981, and is still going… #kakapo2022 #kakapo #conservation pic.twitter.com/Uurh17SjSW
— Dr Andrew Digby (@takapodigs) January 17, 2022
Do you know what this bird is? I don’t, but I bet at least one reader does.
— Earthling (@ziyatong) January 17, 2022
Very clever; I wonder what kind of book it’s from.
We do love a good index…. pic.twitter.com/g75wzo9qxv
— Hull Libraries (@hull_libraries) January 12, 2022