Good morning on cat shabbos: February 12, 2022: National Biscotti Day, a day of cultural appropriation, but I do love them so! The ones below are fancy ones, but for coffee-dunking I like the plain ones.
But, more important, it’s DARWIN DAY, for the great man (still not canceled) was born on this day in 1809: the same day Abe Lincoln was born (see below).
Charles Darwin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1839 at the age of just 29. This photo is from our archives, and was one of his favourite portraits. 'I like this photograph very much better than any other which have been taken of me.' #DarwinDay #HistoryOfScience pic.twitter.com/Wzk1aQGpaJ
— The Royal Society (@royalsociety) February 12, 2022
A grand portrait of the man (and birthday boy) himself – Charles Darwin – naturalist, geologist, humanist, & father of evolutionary biology. He was born #OnThisDay in 1809. Happy #DarwinDay, everyone. pic.twitter.com/sofJLt3a4S
— Humanists UK (@Humanists_UK) February 12, 2022
Here’s Davi Attenborough touting The Origin (he’s holding a first edition, about $400,000)! But he’s wrong about anybody being able to understand any page. Try reading the chapter on “Hybridism”!
In 1809 #OnThisDay, the great Charles Darwin was born. Here's Sir David Attenborough describing Darwin as "the founding father of scientific zoology and botany". See the full video here https://t.co/grMZ6Fz9Tu #TheOriginOfSpecies #DarwinDay pic.twitter.com/WSCyRv5c3Y
— The Royal Society (@royalsociety) February 12, 2022
It’s also National Plum Pudding Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, National Freedom to Marry Day, NAACP Day, Paul Bunyan Day (the day the giant lumberjack was supposedly born near Bangor, Maine in 1834, and Red Hand Day a UN holiday to call attention to the issue of child soldiers.
News of the Day:
*The Russians continue to mass troops along the border with Ukraine, America and several other countries have asked their citizens to leave, and the U.S. has sent several thousand additional troops to nearby Poland. Those troops won’t be used to extricate Americans from an invaded Ukraine: Biden learned that lesson from Afghanistan, and he adds that it would be very bad if American and Russian troops “started shooting at each other.”
In the meantime, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine “could begin at any time.” I suspect that means we know now that there are enough troops and weapons in place for a full-on invasion. Biden is talking to Putin this morning, and I hope (but don’t believe) this can cool the tensions.
*Oy, bad news about boosters! For many, roll up your sleeves and get ready for your fourth shot! As the NYT reports, the CDC now suggests that protection of boosters against not just infection, but against more serious disease, wanes after about fourth months. Oy!:
Covid booster shots lose much of their potency after about four months, raising the possibility that some Americans — specifically those at high risk of complications or death — may need a fourth dose, data published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest.
Preliminary research from Israel and Britain has hinted that protection from booster doses declines within a few months. The data released on Friday offer the first real-world evidence of the mRNA shots’ waning power against moderate to severe illness in the United States.
. . . “There may be the need for yet again another boost — in this case, a fourth-dose boost for an individual receiving the mRNA — that could be based on age, as well as underlying conditions,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top Covid adviser, told reporters on Wednesday.
. . . The effectiveness of boosters also waned. Protection against emergency department and urgent care visits dropped to 66 percent within four or five months, and to just 31 percent after five or more months of receiving the third shot, the researchers found.
The effectiveness of boosters also waned. Protection against emergency department and urgent care visits dropped to 66 percent within four or five months, and to just 31 percent after five or more months of receiving the third shot, the researchers found.
Well, I suppose those are not as bad as hospitalization and death. Stay tuned.
*Olympic officials have confirmed that 15-year-old Russian skating phenom Kamila Valieva’s did indeed test positive for a banned drug in December.
. . . the International Testing Agency (ITA) said she had tested positive for banned heart drug Trimetazidine in a urine sample collected by Russian authorities back on Dec. 25 – though confirmation of that only came this week.
Valieva is due to compete again on Tuesday in the women’s individual event. By then, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) should have ruled on her case from a closed boardroom on the second floor of a Beijing hotel.
Also, whether the Russian national team’s gold medal, which hasn’t formally been awarded, is also in doubt. People everywhere seem really ticked off at the adults around this, but have given the young Valieva a pass. Did they give her a drug that she didn’t know about?
“It is a shame, and the responsible adults should be banned from the sport forever!!!” said German figure-skating great Katarina Witt. “What they knowingly did to her, if true, cannot be surpassed in inhumanity and makes my athlete’s heart cry infinitely.”
*It is hard for me to believe this, but it seems to be true. Following a request to Dutch universities by a pro-Palestinian advocacy group, Rights Forum, over a dozen such universities are ordering their staff to disclose their interactions with Israeli and Jewish organizations. Whaaa???
The order followed a request sent last month by The Rights Forum, a pro-Palestinian advocacy group, to the offices of multiple universities. The universities are gathering the information because the group’s request was certified as what is known in the Netherlands as a WOB request, meaning a query certified by the country’s prosecution service under a 1991 freedom of information law and binding on public or state-funded organizations.
In the request, Gerard Jonkman, director of The Rights Forum, wrote that under the WOB request, he is seeking documents or information on “Institutional ties with Israel universities, institutions and businesses and with organizations that propagate support for the State of Israel.”
Besides organizations like “Elbit, the Israeli weapons and defense systems producer, Christians for Israel, and a right-wing, pro-Israel Dutch-Jewish association,” universities must also disclose your ties to these innocuous groups:
. . . the Anti-Defamation League, the Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, B’nai B’rith and even the office of the Dutch government’s own National Coordinator for Fighting Antisemitism, which is headed by Edo Verdonner, who is Jewish.
This smacks not of concern about ties to defense, but of pure anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments; it’s a McCarthylike inquisition, and I’m surprised that any Dutch universities have complied. It’s disheartening. The only caveat is this:
It is unclear whether the universities will complete the full request by passing on the information to The Rights Forum.
If they do, I want to know which Universities are involved in this inquisition. Dutch readers, please report!
*David Brooks’s new op-ed piece in the NYT, “What the Beatles tell us about fame“, of course drew an instant click. What do they tell us? Brooks pronounces that they had immense talent, of course, but that wasn’t enough, and the Boys were on the verge of failure until they got early advocates in the form of Brian Epstein, two EMI record employees, and of course a lot of fanatic Liverpudlians. That sparked a wave of enthusiasm that drove the Beatles to the top.
In other words, Brooks’s message seems to be “talent isn’t enough–get noticed EARLY.” He then cites a recent paper from Harvard law prof Cass Sunstein supporting that notion:
In his paper, Sunstein cites a study done by Matthew J. Salganik and others that illustrates the immense power of social influence. The researchers recruited about 14,000 people to a website where they could listen to and download 48 songs. Some of the people were divided into subgroups where they could see how often other people in their subgroup downloaded each song. Sunstein summarizes the results: “Almost any song could end up popular or not, depending on whether or not the first visitors liked it.” If people saw the early champions downloading a song, they were more likely to download it, too.
And Brooks reaches this rather anodyne conclusion:
Artists are not the only creative ones here. The early champions, who play such a powerful role in sculpting the cultural landscape, are playing a profoundly creative role. They are architects of desire, shaping what people want to listen to and experience.
That sounds good, but I reject it as being near the truth. The group did get famous early, but its eternal renown rests on the ability of the Beatles to continue sustaining and innovating over years. They produced a kind of music that nobody ever heard before, and were good at every form of it.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 917,040, an increase of 2,474 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,822,576, an increase of about 11,600 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 12 include:
- 1404 – The Italian professor Galeazzo di Santa Sophie performed the first post-mortem autopsy for the purposes of teaching and demonstration at the Heiligen–Geist Spital in Vienna.
Rembrandt’s “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp” (1632):.
- 1502 – Isabella I issues an edict outlawing Islam in the Crown of Castile, forcing virtually all her Muslim subjects to convert to Christianity.
- 1502 – Vasco da Gama with 15 ships and 800 men sets sail from Lisbon, Portugal on his second voyage to India.
- 1733 – Georgia Day: Englishman James Oglethorpe founds Georgia, the 13th colony of the Thirteen Colonies, by settling at Savannah.
- 1818 – Bernardo O’Higgins formally approves the Chilean Declaration of Independence near Concepción, Chile.
The name O’Higgins is everywhere in Chile, and I always wondered about it. It turns out he was of mixed Chilean and Irish ancestry. Here’s a painting:
On Darwin’s birthday! Two sort-of selfies from my visit in 2010:
- 1909 – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.
- 1915 – In Washington, D.C., the first stone of the Lincoln Memorial is put into place.
Here’s the dedication 7 years later; caption from Wikipedia (two U.S. Presidents and one of Lincoln’s sons:
- 1924 – George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue received its premiere in a concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music”, in Aeolian Hall, New York, by Paul Whiteman and his band, with Gershwin playing the piano.
- 1946 – African American United States Army veteran Isaac Woodard is severely beaten by a South Carolina police officer to the point where he loses his vision in both eyes. The incident later galvanizes the civil rights movement and partially inspires Orson Welles‘ film Touch of Evil.
He was sort of the George Floyd of his time, except that he didn’t die and the cops who beat him were all acquitted. Here’s Woodard in 1946 after he was beaten. His crime? Asking to use the restroom at a rest stop while traveling on a bus.
- 1947 – Christian Dior unveils a “New Look“, helping Paris regain its position as the capital of the fashion world.
Here’s one example of the haute couture considered the “New Look”:
Speaking of “haute”, here’s a joke I invented. You have to pronounce it (properly); it’s not funny when read:
Q: What do French horses eat?
A: Haute cuisine.
I’ll be here all year, folks.
I’ve never seen it through I was born there—well before it began. Designed by Saarinen, it’s the tallest arch in the world (190 m or 623 ft):
- 1974 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970, is exiled from the Soviet Union.
- 1993 – Two-year-old James Bulger is abducted from New Strand Shopping Centre by two ten-year-old boys, who later torture and murder him.
- 1999 – United States President Bill Clinton is acquitted by the United States Senate in his impeachment trial.
- 2004 – The city of San Francisco begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in response to a directive from Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Here are Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, the first gay couple to get a license. They were married the same day:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1663 – Cotton Mather, English-American minister and author (d. 1728)
- 1809 – Charles Darwin, English geologist and theorist (d. 1882)
- 1809 – Abraham Lincoln, American lawyer and statesman, 16th President of the United States (d. 1865)
- 1881 – Anna Pavlova, Russian-English ballerina and actress (d. 1931). Here she is in the Fokine/Saint-Saëns The Dying Swan, Saint Petersburg, 1905
His punishment: trial at Nuremberg and hanging (below):
A copy of Streicher’s vile anti-Semitic newspaper. Caption from Wikipedia:
- 1884 – Max Beckmann, German painter and sculptor (d. 1950)
Here’s one of my favorite Beckmanns, and probably his most famous worth: “Farewell”:
- 1914 – Tex Beneke, American singer, saxophonist, and bandleader (d. 2000)
Here’s Beneke in the 1940 movie, “Sun Valley Serenade”, singing “Chattanooga Choo Choo” with the Modernaires. The orchestra is Glenn Miller’s (he’s on the trombone). Beneke was corny but I still love him. And he could sing, play sax, and whistle. I love these old style Forties harmonies, too. (Do you recognize the comedian by the window?)
- 1965 – Brett Kavanaugh, American lawyer and jurist, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
- 1980 – Christina Ricci, American actress and producer
Those who went home feet first on February 12 include:
- 1554 – Lady Jane Grey, de facto monarch of England and Ireland for nine days (b. 1537; executed)
- 1804 – Immanuel Kant, German anthropologist, philosopher, and academic (b. 1724)
- 1942 – Grant Wood, American painter and academic (b. 1891)
If you can come to Chicago, you can see his most famous painting “American Gothic” (1930) in our Art Institute. Here’s the original and the models:
- 1976 – Sal Mineo, American actor (b. 1939)
- 1983 – Eubie Blake, American pianist and composer (b. 1887)
- 2014 – Sid Caesar, American actor and comedian (b. 1922)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the cats long for warmer weather:
Szaron: Do you think it’s the end of winter?Hili: Not yet, I’m afraid.
Szaron: Czy sądzisz, że to już koniec zimy?Hili: Obawiam się, że jeszcze nie.
And baby Kulka, who I guess is no longer a baby!
All Darwin-related memes today!
The first batch from Athayde. I want this shirt!
An old ad for “gargling oil” (mouthwash?):
. . . and sexual selection:
From Nicole (I may have posted this before):
From Titania: why eating meat is oppressive, misogynistic and white supremacy. This is pure insanity.
I have been saying for years that eating meat is an act of patriarchal white supremacy.
This womxn is a genius…pic.twitter.com/yXWEzUBhd1
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) February 11, 2022
From Simon. This is pretty much what Gilda Radner would have said if they put her in the same position.
A couple put a mic on their 4-year-old while snowboarding, and dressed him up in a dinosaur outfit.
In case you could use a smile today…pic.twitter.com/dr31N1lTJ3
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) February 10, 2022
From Ginger K.: An important life lesson from cats:
— Cilla the Outwoods Cat (@OutwoodsCat) January 14, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. First, if you want to be closer to Jesus, stack more chairs!
Church notices just outdid themselves. pic.twitter.com/oB3LJ47BPo
— Richard Baxter (@NotThatRBaxter) February 10, 2022
This is too sad. . . .
Have you seen Art Spiegelman's illustration of his family tree before the Holocaust and after? pic.twitter.com/3wcqH5P6vc
— Hugh Sansom (@hughsansom) February 9, 2022
An RIP from Matthew. Has anybody seen “Silent Running”?
RIP to an actual visionary, Doug Trumbull, SFX genius behind the effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture & Blade Runner. Also he directed a childhood favourite of mine, the sci fi gem Silent Running. Watch it tonight. pic.twitter.com/ocS62Kh9i0
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) February 8, 2022
A Cambridge Union debate on free will. It’s 85 minutes long, and I haven’t seen it all yet!
But the House denies that free will exists–narrowly! (Aye = no existence)
Debate’s Results: Ayes: 116 | Noes: 109| Abstentions: 100
This is philosophical gold.
Never have I seen such an eminent debating lineup.https://t.co/cg3lN7apRb
— Scott McFarnell (@SMcfarnell) February 11, 2022
And we can all use this for sure:
If you've had the kind of day that could be improved by some bear cubs with a hammock, here's some bear cubs with a hammock. pic.twitter.com/Tg7zFf5ZbV
— Paul Bronks for Lovina Animal Welfare (@slender_sherbet) February 10, 2022