Welcome to The Cruelest Day, Tuesday February 8, 2022: National Potato Lover’s Day. But who is the single spudophile being fêted here? (If it was a day for all those who love potatoes, and who doesn’t?, it would be “National Potato Lovers’ Day” or “National Potato Lovers Day.” But not just the grocer’s apostrophe! Here: have what’s known in the U.S. as a loaded baked potato. This comes with a side of stents.
It’s also National Molasses Bar Day, Opera Day, Boy Scouts Day (founded in the U.S. on this day in 1909), Safer Internet Day, National Kite Flying Day, and Propose Day, mostly celebrated in India. It’s the day you’re supposed to pop the question.
News of the Day:
*America’s Internal Revenue Service (‘the tax people”) had been using facial recognition software (run by the the third party service “ID.me”) on the websites of taxpayers who wished to access their accounts online. People didn’t like their biometric data bandied about, especially in the hands of third parties. It’s too much like China (though that’s how my iPhone identifies me!). And it didn’t work well.
The I.R.S. was already coping with a daunting tax season, faced with backlogs of old tax returns, staffing shortages and the additional complexity of paying stimulus and child tax credits. Now the agency must also change how it verifies the identity of taxpayers.
The I.R.S. said on Monday that it would “transition away” from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating online accounts. The transition will occur over the coming weeks to prevent additional disruptions to the tax filing season, which ends April 18.
The tax agency came under criticism after the Treasury Department awarded ID.me, an identity verification company, an $86 million contract last year to make taxpayer accounts more secure from data leaks, a growing concern. But the service, which requires taxpayers to take video selfies as part of the verification process, frustrated taxpayers and raised concerns about the collection of sensitive biometric data.
“The I.R.S. takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” said Charles P. Rettig, the agency commissioner. “Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition.”
What’s next? Will we start accumulating social credits?
*Over at Bari Weiss’s Substack site, there’s a piece by Michael Shellenberger “Slow-motion suicide in San Francisco.” (It also has an intro by Nellie Bowles.) I hadn’t realized how dire things had gotten in the city, which I decided was, along with Cambridge, MA, would be one of the two American cities where I’d like to live. After reading about the profusion of addicts and street people that has already driven so many people from The City by the Bay, I’ll narrow my list to Cambridge alone. Excerpts:
Something very different is happening in San Francisco. The city is carrying out a bizarre medical experiment whereby addicts are given everything they need to maintain their addiction—cash, hot meals, shelter—in exchange for . . . almost nothing. Voters have found themselves in the strange position of paying for fentanyl, meth and crack use on public property.
You can go and witness all of this if you simply walk down Market Street and peek your head over a newly erected fence in the southwest corner of United Nations Plaza. You will see that the city is permitting people to openly use and even deal drugs in a cordoned-off area of the public square.
. . .In obeisance to woke ideology, the official position of the Department of Public Health and progressives on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is that police should not be involved except perhaps to revive people with Narcan after they overdose. Many on the Board of Supervisors and the District Attorney believe that drug dealers—who the latter refers to as victims—should not be prosecuted.
The result is that the city is spending roughly $100,000 per year per homeless person, or over $1 billion annually, to maintain a large, unemployed, and very sick addict population in San Francisco’s public squares at the cost of human life and the loss of peace, walkability and livability—the very qualities that have long attracted so many to San Francisco.
The mayor has promised to “clean up” the city and find housing and jobs for the homeless (little has been done). Shellenberger describes how some cities have dealt with similar problems more successfully, but nothing seems to be happening in S.F. except the city is getting harder to inhabit. I haven’t been to SF for years; it really as bad there as he describes?
*The NYT has an interview with that most enigmatic and inimitable actor, Christopher Walken. I had no idea he started off as a dancer. Here’s a bit relevant to that, but you’ll have to read yourself about Walken’s hero being Elvis Presley and what he’d say to Elvis if the two of them met.
This is another question about acting: There are actors who transform and then there are performers, like yourself, who are pretty much always themselves. Can you explain what that distinction means for how you play a role?I’d have to emphasize that when I talk about that, I’m talking strictly about me, that having come to being an actor sort of accidentally through being a dancer, my approach has to do with what I did as a dancer: rhythm, hearing the beat, responding physically — probably different than most actors come at it. I didn’t go to acting class until I was already working as an actor. SoI think of myself as a performer. It’s important to entertain. People buy a ticket, and they sit there and they watch you. I hope that it’s interesting, that it’s entertaining, that it’s fun. That word “fun” is banged around, but it’s a rather serious word. It’s important to have fun.
How do you have fun? Working. Most of the time.The car ride home from the set at the end of the day: You get in the car to go back to the hotel, and the best thing is to think,I was good today. A terrible feeling is to sit in the car and think, I could have done that much better. For me, it boils down to things like that: How do you feel when you go home in the car?
*NOOOOO!!!! The WaPo reports that England’s oldest pub, possibly dating back 1,229 years (the Guinness people put its founding at AD793!), is closing because of the pandemic. “Ye Olde Fighting Cocks” in St. Albans, England, burdened with financial problems, is shutting its doors.
They are trying to find new management, and I just refuse to believe that Brits would let their oldest pub close for good. They just wouldn’t. I had previously had a couple of pints at what used to be touted as the UK’s oldest pub—Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham, but that was established in 1189. (It’s also hollowed out of a cliff, so you’re drinking in windowless rock chamgers.) Please, British readers, do something about this!
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 904,144, an increase of 2,598 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,771,030, an increase of about 11,000 over yesterday’s total.
Look at that curve falling! But will it shoot back up again?
Stuff that happened on February 8 include:
- 1587 – Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed on suspicion of having been involved in the Babington Plot to murder her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
- 1693 – The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, America, is granted a charter by King William III and Queen Mary II.
My diploma! We are the only college in America with a royal seal.
- 1865 – Delaware refuses to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Slavery was outlawed in the United States, including Delaware, when the Amendment was ratified by the requisite number of states on December 6, 1865. Delaware ratified the Thirteenth Amendment on February 12, 1901, which was the ninety-second anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.
Took them long enough, didn’t it?
The movie is infamous for lauding the Klan and denigrating black people. Here’s one scene showing “The Birth of the Klan” (see also this scene of the Klan riding to save Southern womanhood).
- 1924 – Capital punishment: The first state execution in the United States by gas chamber takes place in Nevada.
Here’s the gas chamber at New Mexico State Penitentiary. It was used only once. It’s a horrible way to kill and a horrible way to die:
- 1946 – The first portion of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the first serious challenge to the popularity of the Authorized King James Version, is published.
- 1960 – Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom issues an Order-in-Council, stating that she and her family would be known as the House of Windsor, and that her descendants will take the name Mountbatten-Windsor.
Wikipedia gives this introduction to Prince Charles:
Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles Philip Arthur George; born 14 November 1948)
Where’s the “Mountbatten-Windsor part?
- 1993 – General Motors sues NBC after Dateline NBC allegedly rigs two crashes intended to demonstrate that some GM pickups can easily catch fire if hit in certain places. NBC settles the lawsuit the next day.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1577 – Robert Burton, English priest, physician, and scholar (d. 1640)
- 1819 – John Ruskin, English author, critic, and academic (d. 1900)
- 1828 – Jules Verne, French author, poet, and playwright (d. 1905)
They photographed the author on his deathbed! Here’s the photo from Wikipedia:
- 1834 – Dmitri Mendeleev, Russian chemist and academic (d. 1907)
Here’s the great chemist, looking like a graying Rasputin:
- 1878 – Martin Buber, Austrian-Israeli philosopher and academic (d. 1965)
- 1911 – Elizabeth Bishop, American poet and author (d. 1979)
- 1925 – Jack Lemmon, American actor (d. 2001)
- 1926 – Neal Cassady, American author and poet (d. 1968)
Here’s a long rap by Neal as he drove Ken Kesey’s “FURTHUR” bus across the country. He always drove, and talked constantly:
At the wheel:
- 1931 – James Dean, American actor (d. 1955)
James Dean at the wheel (where he died):
- 1949 – Brooke Adams, American actress, producer, and screenwriter
Brooke Adams was one star of one of my favorite movies, Terrence Malick’s 1978 Days of Heaven (also starring Richard Gere and Sam Shepard). While the story isn’t substantial, the photography is the most beautiful I know of in any American film
- 1953 – Mary Steenburgen, American actress
Those who Bought the Farm on February 8 include:
Here’s the execution scene, drawn by an eyewitness (Robert Beale.)
A report from Wikipedia:
Mary was not beheaded with a single strike. The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head. The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew, which the executioner cut through using the axe. Afterwards, he held her head aloft and declared “God save the Queen.” At that moment, the auburn tresses in his hand turned out to be a wig and the head fell to the ground, revealing that Mary had very short, grey hair.
Here’s a picture of the tomb of Peter the Great in the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg (Peters everywhere!); photographed by me in July, 2011. I can read “Peter I” in Cyrillic, but not the second word. (
- 1957 – Walther Bothe, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1891)
- 1957 – John von Neumann, Hungarian-American mathematician and physicist (b. 1903)
- 1990 – Del Shannon, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1934)
- 2021 – Mary Wilson, American singer (b. 1944)
One of the original Supremes with Diana Ross and Flo Ballard. Here they are singing “You can’t hurry love” on the Ed Sullivan show:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is once again frustrated by the weather:
Hili: Snow again.A: It’s still February
Hili: Znowu śnieg.Ja: To nadal jest luty.
Szaron is also getting antsy waiting for Spring:
A lovely meme from Barry. I bet the d*g got a good case of indigestion!
From Jesus of the Day— for Dr. Who fans:
Here’s my favorite species of wild felid showing how smart it is:
Titania appears to be having fits of rage:
Simon sends us tweets from Oded Rechavi quite often; Oded likes to take give an academic twist to funny Twitter photos. But he also specializes in “graphical abstracts” (cartoons that summarize the paper) in scientific publications. Here’s one from a paper on which Rechavi was senior author.
Article in this issue of Dev Cell: Transgenerational inheritance of sexual attractiveness via small RNAs enhances evolvability in C. elegans – https://t.co/bDsKjfT4k5
— Developmental Cell (@Dev_Cell) February 7, 2022
They quickly understood the assignment..🐈🖐️😂😂 pic.twitter.com/Inj8xnBBOi
— 𝕐o̴g̴ (@Yoda4ever) February 5, 2022
From Ginger K. Go here to read about Kate DiCamillo.
Book people: This is what it’s all about. pic.twitter.com/jWRguVIrEM
— Steve Edwards (@The_Big_Quiet) January 19, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. First, a blue-nosed squirrel is busted. Why, and what did he do? Read the article.
Busted 😂 https://t.co/BB70OcQciR
— The Dodo (@dodo) February 7, 2022
A photographic hint:
A tweet that Matthew made. Remember this Chinese man?
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) February 6, 2022
Fear and loathing. Remember Carter as a drug guide on SNL? What a great piece by Dan Ackroyd?
Let Jimmy Carter talk you down.😹 pic.twitter.com/sZ1Cr8Hwpb
— Sanho Tree (@SanhoTree) February 7, 2022