Saturday: Hili dialogue

February 12, 2022 • 7:30 am

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).

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”!

It’s also National Plum Pudding DayLincoln’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?

Many fans and fellow athletes were furious at how Valieva came to have a prohibited drug in her system, blaming coaches, medics and authorities rather than her.

“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.[3]
  • 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:

Chief Justice Taft, President Harding and Robert Todd Lincoln at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922

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:

** FILE ** In this Feb. 12, 2004 file photo, Phyllis Lyon, left, 79, and Del Martin, 82, right, both of San Francisco and a couple for 51 years, hold up their marriage certificate outside City Hall after they were married in a civil ceremony in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2004. AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

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)

See above.

His punishment: trial at Nuremberg and hanging (below):

A copy of Streicher’s vile anti-Semitic newspaper. Caption from Wikipedia:

Photo of front page of Der Stürmer, dated May 1934, which is on permanent display at the Jewish Museum, Berlin. Subject matter is the Blood libel against Jews.
  • 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:

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.
In Polish:
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.

From Simon. This is pretty much what Gilda Radner would have said if they put her in the same position.

From Ginger K.: An important life lesson from cats:


Tweets from Matthew. First, if you want to be closer to Jesus, stack more chairs!

This is too sad. . . .

An RIP from Matthew. Has anybody seen “Silent Running”?

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

And we can all use this for sure:

39 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. “They produced a kind of music that nobody ever heard before, and were good at every form of it.”

    Precisely – why people get confused about bureaucracy being necessary – but insufficient – for The Beatles,… I dunno. Of course, George Martin is integral too but… pffff….

    1. Like – as if anyone could have written that – as if it sounds like anything else – as if it doesn’t matter THAT much..

  2. “What the Beatles tell us about fame“

    Nothing. It was David Bowie.

    Ha ha. Just kidding. John Lennon cowrote the song and played and sang backing vocals on the recording.

    An RIP from Matthew. Has anybody seen “Silent Running”?

    Yes, of course. It’s miles better than 2001 IMO.

    1. Holy… Silent Running…. I didn’t even notice… I thought I was the only one who thought that was a cool movie… its a tad weird, but …

      Also Bruce Dern – he’s like a shape shifter actor, forgot he was in it…

  3. In the Netherlnds, information under the Freedom of Information Act (WOB) has to be answered (inprinciple -with bureaucratic delay). I see that The Rights Forum seems to have asked the universities of Leiden Groningen and Amsterdam about their connections with Israel, going on their logos at the head of the article in the Nieuw Israelitisch Weekblad (New Israelitic Weekly, NIW). What I can find in Dutch in a short search all goes back to the NIW article. The Jerusamel post article cited here gives more info than the NIW.

  4. Robert Todd Lincoln… I just read a book about the Greely polar expedition (1881-1884) in which he (RTL) comes off very poorly. He didn’t really believe in such expeditions so when they were in trouble he looked the other way. An excellent book, though (Labyrinth of Ice by Buddy Levy).

        1. But of course that’s how civilizations evolve. Newcomers (in this case the English) ask the people they are driving off (in this case the French) what do you call this place? and then adapt it to their own requirements. Fort Pitt, later Pittsburgh, was an obvious linguistic improvement over Fort Duquesne.

  5. The screw-you to the land-fish reminded me of “Under the Sea” from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, sung by the late Samuel Wright.

    The seaweed is always greener
    In somebody else’s lake
    You dream about going up there
    But that is a big mistake
    Just look at the world around you
    Right here on the ocean floor
    Such wonderful things surround you
    What more is you lookin’ for?

  6. At the time the picture was taken in 1922 of the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, William Howard Taft (on the left) was and remains the only person to be president and serve on the Supreme Court (he was chief justice). He was nominated by Harding on June 30, 2021. Wikipedia notes: “The Senate confirmed Taft the same day, 61–4, without any committee hearings and after a brief debate in executive session.” Confirmed on the same day as appointment? My, how things have changed.

  7. “If they do, I want to know which Universities are involved in this inquisition. Dutch readers, please report!” – I’m doing some work next week for an academic based in the Netherlands whose research has involved long periods in Jerusalem and liaising with Jewish organisations. I’ll see if she knows anything about the WOB data requests.

  8. Silent Running is superb. Bruce Dern as a semi-deranged environmentalist, trying single-handedly to save the only surviving natural environments from earth. Three adorable little robots. Score by Peter “PDQ Bach” Schickele, sung by Joan Baez. Filmed on a decommissioned aircraft carrier. Great special effects. All taking place in the orbit of Saturn.

  9. Many commentators agree that Biden is doing the right thing by revealing publicly what Russia is up to with Ukraine. For example, telling everyone that Putin is planning a false flag operation may make it less likely. I understand that the false flag operation may itself be false but it’s reasonable speculation regardless. Everyone knows that Putin would likely start any war with Ukraine under false pretenses. Biden is simply pointing that out ahead of time.

    Similarly, Biden hinting that Russia invading Ukraine would cause Putin to lose his precious Nord Stream 2 pipeline may give Putin pause. Sure, it may be bullshit but Putin can’t be sure and may not want to bet on it. Let’s hope so.

    1. Yes, I think it is unlikely that Russia will launch a full invasion of Ukraine for the reasons you mentioned, and the determination of Ukranians not to let that go. But then, ‘predicting is difficult, especially the future’ (a quote ascribed to at least a dozen).
      If they do, it it should be done with a simultaneous invasion of Taiwan by China. (from a Russian pov that is).

  10. “Silent Running” is a must see for readers of this site for the biology angle. The space ship on which all the action takes place is a giant greenhouse (or set of them) meant to preserve the greenery of Earth from global devastation and eventually returned to reforest the planet.

  11. If America wants to deny a sovereign ally the use of a pipeline, they ought to restrict that action to pipelines that actually have shut-off valves where they cross U.S. territory. Not that I don’t enjoy Germany’s having to contemplate the consequences of earlier foolish choices on energy policy. I just don’t think the long arm of American foreign policy extends that far. The Germans would have to rebuff American arm-twisting here if they don’t want to freeze in the dark. How does the U.S. climb down from that one?

  12. “[The Beatles’] eternal renown rests on their ability 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.”

    Besides being original and innovative over many years, they were endlessly playful, which is similar but not exactly the same thing. I’m thinking of songs like”Rocky Raccoon,” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” etc., which may not be among their greatest work but which reveal an abiding refusal to take themselves too seriously, which is a sine qua non of playfulness and not exactly a hallmark of rock groups.

    1. If I took a wild stab at it :

      The Beatles expressed a number of things, vocally – that is, lyrics and tone of voice – to say nothing of the melodies. Yes, they were the “good” boys to the Stones “bad” boys. Fair enough.

      Modern pop music is in sharp contrast to that, I think, in that most of what I’ve heard, is generally expressing one thing clearly : “fu*k you”.

      To be clear:
      “F you” is all fine and good, and we need it. But it strikes me that the taking of oneself too seriously is associated with the “F you”. Perhaps it is a freedom being expressed at the same time – finding oneself.

      Note that I’m not judging or saying whats good or bad here.. just defining the expressions, and what that means.

  13. That woke woman about meat eating is so wrong, Don’t black Africans eat meat (and bushmeat at that)? Are Africans white supremacists now?
    Is eating a burger sexist?
    I note that for many domestic animals the meat is provided by males. the females are kept for other purposes such as milk, eggs and reproduction. I bet one could safely contend that 90+ % of our live stock is female, the males are burgers.

    1. What struck me is – there’s a lot of reasonable argumentation that could be advanced to show the meat/animal industry resource efficiency, given the modern state of products – basically, economics. Perhaps the speaker covered those details, which would be hard work because it is difficult to do all the math, and cover all the factors, to say the least.

      And that is not even to draw a conclusion. The speaker appears to have concluded everything already, and is presenting the conclusions only.

  14. Growing up in central IL, I remember “tear a hote”, not a terrible rendering. The St. Louis area is full of French derived names, Creve Coeur and Gravois among the most abused (be sure to pronounce that “s”). My favorite, from George Stewart’s wonderful book, Names on the Land”, is Picketwire, a location in CO. A wire strung between posts to hitch horses comes to mind, but no, it is a translation of the fur trappers’ Purgatoire.

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