We’ve reached the end of the month already: it’s Monday, January 31, 2022, and National Hot Chocolate Day. Here’s the best way to have it (photographed in Madrid). The spoon is necessary, as the cocoa is almost as thick as chocolate pudding. But you must also dip the hot churros into the chocolate. There is no finer breakfast—save the Southern breakfast with biscuits and country ham at the Loveless Cafe outside Nashville. (See below if you want to use food as medicine.)
It’s also Eat Brussel Sprouts Day (not only is this a disgusting food item, (these morons can’t even spell it correctly!), Brandy Alexander Day, Scotch Tape Day (first marketed on January 31, 1930), Appreciate Your Social Security Check Day, and, in Austria, Street Children’s Day.
News of the Day:
*Already plotting his comeback, Tr*mp announced yesterday that if he is reelected in 2024, he will pardon all of the Capitol insurrectionists. They were charged with federal crimes, and thus subject to Presidential pardons. Here’s the announcement, a typical Trump statement:
“If I run and I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly,” he said Saturday near the end of a lengthy campaign rally in Conroe, a city about 40 miles north of Houston. “We will treat them fairly, and if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly.”
Does that make sense? Even his fellow Republicans are not down with Trump’s statement, which could potentially result in pardoning several hundred people:
Several prominent Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), pushed back against Trump’s comments Sunday, calling the suggestion of clemency for those accused in the Capitol riot “inappropriate.”
“I don’t want to reinforce that defiling the Capitol was okay,” Graham said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” The senator said he hopes those who stormed the building “go to jail and get the book thrown at them, because they deserve it.”
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), one of seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump on an impeachment charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, told ABC News’s “This Week” that the former president should not have “made that pledge to do pardons.”
“We should let the judicial process proceed,” Collins said, adding that she would be “very unlikely” to support Trump if he ran in 2024.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) also said those responsible for “the assault on the U.S. Capitol have to be held accountable.”
“Oh my goodness, no,” Sununu told CNN’s Dana Bash when asked whether the rioters should receive pardons.
I refuse to believe—and I know some readers will think I’m naive—that Trump has a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected in 2024.
*The Guardian reports on author Kate Clanchy, victim of a social-media pile-on, the cause of which was her highly-regarded memoir that detailed a career teaching marginalized children:
Last week, it was announced that she and her publisher, Pan Macmillan, had parted company “by mutual consent” and that it will “revert the rights” and cease distribution of all her work.
The book that prompted this is Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, her memoir of a 30-year teaching career. Rave reviews and an Orwell prize gave way to mixed reactions from readers: some adored it, others thought she usedracial and ableist stereotypes to describe her diverse students. Among the readers of colour I know, reactions were just as mixed: some found her descriptors offensive, others thought they were OK, especially in the context of her honesty about her own naivety and prejudices.
. . .It is true that Clanchy reacted badly to the criticism, denying the phrases in question were in her book. Defensiveness is a flawed but common response when being charged with something you abhor.But both she and Pan Macmillan issued apologies for the offence the book caused and her publisher announced she would rewrite it to address concerns. One might think that that would have drawn a line, enabling the industry to move on to issues about its lack of diversity, which Clanchy has done more than many of her critics to address.
It did not. Pan Macmillan was further berated for giving her the opportunity to make amends by rewriting. After her publisher, Picador imprint’s Philip Gwyn Jones, rightly reflected that he wished he had been clearer about its support for Clanchy and her rights, alongside condemning the online abuse and trolling by her critics, he issued an apology for causing further hurt that read like a hostage note: “I now understand I must use my privileged position as a white middle-class gatekeeper with more awareness.”
She’s a goner, and so is literature. When every word is scrutinized for possible offense (not real offense), then literature and art become what they became until Stalinism: a series of anodyne gestures toward the reigning ideology. I swear that I didn’t think I’d live to see this happening.
What has happened to Clanchy is a sad tale for our ages. No individual is to blame: it is the product of brittle and cowardly institutions, and the collective social media frenzy that prizes heads on a platter over change. But what I cannot understand is the lack of humanity at Pan Macmillan. One of its authors writes about feeling suicidal, as Clanchy has done recently, and, rather than offering her support, it walks away.
For all our differences of opinion, our eagerness to call out right and wrong, the one thing we must never let the digital age allow us to forget is the duty of care we owe each other as human beings.
And this was in the Guardian! When I was telling a friend that our department had removed every picture of past professors from the walls of our seminar room because the excess of white men was seen as “harmful”, my friend drew me up fast by saying, “not white men—people.” (And many of them extreme liberals!) That’s the crux. Empathy has been replaced by individuals consciously flaunting their virtue, no matter how many others they hurt or accuse of bigotry on no basis.
*In a grisly article, the NYT reports several instances of orcas (killer whales) ganging up on blue whales (the largest species ever known to have lived) and killing them. (h/t Paul) This was witnessed at least three times, and isn’t pretty:
In March 2019, scientists studying whales near Southwestern Australia stumbled upon a supersize spectacle that few had seen before — a pod of orcas viciously attacking a blue whale.
Over a dozen orcas surrounded the mighty animal. They had already bitten off its dorsal fin, and the animal was unable to evade the fast and agile predators. The water ran red with the blood of the massive creature, and chunks of its flesh were floating all around. The scientists observed one orca force its way into the blue whale’s mouth and feast on its tongue. It took an hour for the orcas to kill the blue whale, and once they did, about 50 other orcas showed up to devour the carcass.
It wasn’t previously suspected that orcas could kill a blue whale, but if you get enough of them, they can. (And remember, blue whales are not predators but filter feeders. They have little defense against a pod of carnivores.)
A pod of orcas taking down a blue whale is “the biggest predation event on Earth, maybe the biggest one since dinosaurs were here,” said Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University and an author of the paper.
*In the continuing crusade to turn food into medicine, with longevity the apogee of success, the NYT has contributed by giving us tips about what kinds of foods are good for our mental health. Surprise! It’s not ice cream or pizza, but leafy greens, nuts, fruits, seeds, and fish. I tell you what, I’d get really depressed if I were forced to subsist solely on such stuff. There’s only one saving grace:
People who regularly eat dark chocolate have a 70 percent reduced risk of depression symptoms, according to a large government survey of nearly 14,000 adults. The same effect was not seen in those who ate a lot of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is packed with flavonols, including epicatechin, but milk chocolate and popular candy bars are so processed they don’t have much epicatechin left in them.
Dark chocolate covered Brussels sprouts, anyone? To quote Dr. King in a famous speech right before he was killed:
“Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”
God’s will (if there was one) would be for us to enjoy life, and sure as hell Dr. King enjoyed chowing down on some greasy Southern cooking:
Martin, to his family and friends, Dr. King loved a few of the hallmark specialty recipes of the South with great reverence and grace. In no special order, he was known to enjoy as frequently as possible, a generous serving of fried chicken, stewed greens, sweet potatoes, and for dessert, a slice or two of pecan pie.
We live in a generation of Puritans.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 883,374, an increase of 2,524 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,683,128, an increase of about 5,900 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on January 31 include:
- 1606 – Gunpowder Plot: Four of the conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, are executed for treason by hanging, drawing and quartering, for plotting against Parliament and King James.
Drawing and quartering (read about it) is a horrible way to die. It was the punishment inflicted on William Wallace in “Braveheart”, though they don’t show the grisly bits:
- 1747 – The first venereal diseases clinic opens at London Lock Hospital.
- 1865 – American Civil War: The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery, and submits it to the states for ratification.
- 1865 – American Civil War: Confederate General Robert E. Lee becomes general-in-chief of all Confederate armies.
- 1915 – World War I: Germany is the first to make large-scale use of poison gas in warfare in the Battle of Bolimów against Russia.
A line of British soldiers blinded by mustard gas in WWI:
- 1943 – World War II: German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrenders to the Soviets at Stalingrad, followed two days later by the remainder of his Sixth Army, ending one of the war’s fiercest battles.
- 1945 – US Army private Eddie Slovik is executed for desertion, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War.
Here’s Slovik, the only soldier executed for purely military crimes (others were executed for other crimes, like rape or murder):
Here’s a scene from the movie “The Victors” (1963) showing the execution of a deserter, modeled on Slovik. The real execution included two volleys, as the first didn’t kill him. The scene, however, is haunting and well filmed. (Apologies for putting two execution scenes in one post; don’t watch them if you can’t bear such things.)
- 1950 – President Truman orders the development of thermonuclear weapons.
This refers to H-bombs, based on nuclear fusion rather than fission.
Some good news: Ham returned safely and then lived at the National Zoo in Washington with a group of other chimps, surviving 17 more years. Here’s Ham on his return:
- 1978 – The Crown of St. Stephen (also known as the Holy Crown of Hungary) goes on public display after being returned to Hungary from the United States, where it was held after World War II.
The crown dates to the 12th century. Some information from Wikipedia:
The enamels on the crown are mainly or entirely Byzantine work, presumed to have been made in Constantinople in the 1070s. The crown was presented by the Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Doukas to King Géza I of Hungary; both are depicted and named in Greek on enamel plaques in the lower crown. It is one of the two known Byzantine crowns to survive, the other being the slightly earlier Monomachus Crown, which is also in Budapest, in the Hungarian National Museum. However, the Monomachus Crown may have had another function, and the Holy Crown has probably been remodelled, and uses elements of different origins.
- 2001 – In the Netherlands, a Scottish court convicts Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and acquits another Libyan citizen for their part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.
- 2020 – The United Kingdom’s membership within the European Union ceases in accordance with Article 50, after 47 years of being a member state.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1797 – Franz Schubert, Austrian pianist and composer (d. 1828)
- 1881 – Irving Langmuir, American chemist and physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1957)
- 1902 – Tallulah Bankhead, American actress (d. 1968)
Here’s part of her performance in Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” for which she won a New York Film Critics Circle Award:
- 1902 – Alva Myrdal, Swedish sociologist and politician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1986)
- 1919 – Jackie Robinson, American baseball player and sportscaster (d. 1972)
- 1923 – Norman Mailer, American journalist and author (d. 2007)
- 1937 – Philip Glass, American composer
- 1937 – Suzanne Pleshette, American actress (d. 2008)
Here’s the famous finale of “Newhart”, a show in which he was married to the blonde Mary Frann and played an innkeeper in Vermont. After five seasons of that show, its last episode showed him waking up next to Suzanne Pleshette (his wife in the better known “Bob Newhart Show”, which had previously run for five seasons). In other words, the whole second “Newhart” show was revealed as a dream. It was a fantastic ending.
- 1947 – Nolan Ryan, American baseball player
- 1970 – Minnie Driver, English singer-songwriter and actress
Harvard student Minnie Driver (“Sklyler”) meets Matt Damon (“Will”) in the 1997 movie “Good Will Hunting“. I haven’t seen that movie for years, liked it a lot at the time, and would like to see it again to find out if it holds up. Robin Williams gave a terrific performance as a therapist, for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The prize: he gets her phone number.
- 1981 – Justin Timberlake, American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actor
Those who died on January 31 include:
- 1606 – Guy Fawkes, English conspirator, leader of the Gunpowder Plot (b. 1570)
- 1956 – A. A. Milne, English author, poet, and playwright, created Winnie-the-Pooh (b. 1882)
- 1969 – Meher Baba, Indian spiritual master (b. 1894)
Here are two cards I’ve had on my office wall since 1986. R. Crumb at top and a solace-producing Meher Baba at the bottom. “Don’t worry—be happy. I will help you.” How soothing is that?
- 2007 – Molly Ivins, American journalist and author (b. 1944)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has made a refuge in the bed:
Ja: Co ty tu robisz?Hili: Medytuję w komforcie.
Just before this picture we have the one below:
Caption: “And a moment earlier this meditation looked like this”:
From Science Daily. I wonder if this is real . . .
From Cesar. I guess the Economist thought it was making a virtuous statement, but it was also a historically ignorant and fatuous statement, and the magazine got slammed:
Explain this thn👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/NFrIDpmf1B
— Duanwang Lowangcha☭☭ (@DLowangcha) January 28, 2022
Oy! It’s sort of funny, though, and the thread goes on and on. . .
From Greg, who says, “An amusing tweet thread by a Maine public health official on what it would look like if blizzards and meteorologists were treated like pandemics and infectious disease specialists.”
2/I studied poignant, analytical memes from leading thinkers in finance, technology, and art sales.
To my surprise, their insights actually CONFIRMED all of my pre-conceived notions about this storm.
Thanks for the research help @twitter!
— Nirav D. Shah (@nirav_mainecdc) January 29, 2022
4/First of all, @CDCgov says blizzards are no big deal so long as you're financially stable, don't have to leave your house for work, have food, can afford heating and internet, and don't have to worry about power outages.
Those apply to me. So why should I care about others?
— Nirav D. Shah (@nirav_mainecdc) January 29, 2022
That thread, too, goes on and on. . .
From Simon: Two dudes discussing Tom Brady in a blizzard. Yes, this is as Boston as you can get.
This is the most Boston interview to ever appear on local TV pic.twitter.com/xgBCPL7t2d
— Katie McInerney (@k8tmac) January 29, 2022
From Ginger K. Is this a sound system or an archeological display?
When you’ve got a sound system this incredible, you’re goddamn right you encase it in glass. pic.twitter.com/IW73yAeB9r
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 15, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. You MUST have the sound up on this first one!
Eggy nom noms pic.twitter.com/VE3JxAXxTw
— Otter Braun (@otteritarian) January 30, 2022
Maybe if they thaw this, they’ll find tardigrades!
There's a huge crater on Mars permanently filled with frozen water and it's nearly 2 km / 1 mile deep
📷Taken from orbit by ESA’s Mars Express
(c) ESA/DLR/FU Berlin pic.twitter.com/qROCKCrEQb
— Dr. James O'Donoghue (@physicsJ) January 30, 2022