Friday: Hili dialogue

March 4, 2022 • 6:30 am

I have to say that I do feel guilty for having an enjoyable lecture tour while war rages in Europe.  But there’s little I can do about it save express sympathy for the brave Ukrainian people. I guess all I can do is to provide a little distraction from the quotidian and depressing news.

For the time being, I’ll ask readers to supply interesting/important news items or, from Wikipedia, important events in history or notables who were born or died on this day.   If you Google the day of the year (but not the year itself), and go to the relevant Wikipedia page (for example, March 4, is here), you’ll find a list of important events, birth dates, and death dates. Perhaps you could mention, for other people’s benefit, one event you find intriguing or a birth or death of a notable you admire.

In other words, because I’m tied up, I am crowdsourcing part of Hili. Help if you can. noticed that people did this spontaneously yesterday, and it was a big help.

Where we are now: roughly halfway to the Antarctic Peninsula (The Amundsen is always circled in these maps.) The seas were very rough last night, but I slept well, which is good as I must lecture twice today. (As I write, the ship is heaving and pitching, and I bet attendance at breakfast is low this morning.) Later today we’ll have a daily report on our activities, but not much happened yesterday as the sea was too rough for our one scheduled activity: a landing on Cape Horn.

The sea from my balcony: roiling!  (It was also snowing.) At breakfast people were walking around like drunken sailors, and the waiters preferred to serve you at the table lest you fall over with your plate. We did not have the calm “Drake Lake” that seasick-prone passengers hoped for!

And the view from the ship’s webcam at 8:15 local time: GRAY, with sky and sea indistinguishable and rain all over the lens. Such is the Drake Passage.

Welcome to the first Friday in March: March 4, 2022, to be exact, and National Pound Cake Day.  Why is it called “pound cake”? One site says this:

Pound Cake History – The name (Pound Cake) comes from the fact that the original pound cakes contained one pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. No leaveners were used other than the air whipped into the batter.

One bit of news for today, which I was going to report the other day but there was no time for news. Famed soprano Anna Netrebko, a Russian national, was let go from future gigs at the Metropolitan Opera, as the NYT reports, “after failing to comply with the company’s demand that she distance herself from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as he wages war on Ukraine.” The Met has instituted a policy that “it will no longer hire artists who support Mr. Putin.” Reader Cesar sent his own take on the situation and the Met’s announcement:

I first saw her in 2020/2021 in Prokofiev’s War and Peace (based on Tolstoy, of course) at the Met.  Arguably, she may be the best, or among top 2 or 3, sopranos in the world.  The Met was instrumental in her rise, so this parting is very painful for all (audiences, too).

“Soprano Anna Netrebko has withdrawn from her upcoming Met performances of Puccini’s Turandot this April and May, as well as the run of Verdi’s Don Carlo next season, after not complying with the Met’s condition that she repudiate her public support for Putin while he wages war on Ukraine. “It is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb. “Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine, there was no way forward.”

Netrebko will be replaced in Turandot by Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska. A replacement for the role of Elisabeth de Valois in the 2022-23 performances of Don Carlo will be announced at a later date.”

We can’t watch YouTube here, but I’ll try inserting this link of one of her performances, and you tell me if it works.  Given the response to my boycott question the other day, I suspect most readers won’t be distressed by Netrebko’s firing, especially because she is a supporter of Putin.

Oh, and Russia is shutting down the remnants of its free press, intent on making everything pro-Putin propaganda.

On Thursday, the pillars of Russia’s independent broadcast media collapsed under pressure from the state. Echo of Moscow, the freewheeling radio station founded by Soviet dissidents in 1990 and that symbolized Russia’s new freedoms, was “liquidated” by its board. TV Rain, the youthful independent television station that calls itself “the optimistic channel” said it would suspend operations indefinitely.

And Dmitri A. Muratov, the journalist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said that his newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which survived the murders of six of its journalists, could be on the verge of shutting down as well.

“Everything that’s not propaganda is being eliminated,” Mr. Muratov said.


Athayde sent a copy of the cover of The Economist:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili had a vision, but a sacrilegious one:

A: What do you see over there?
Hili: Angels playing quidditch.
A: Luckily the priest doesn’t see it.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tam widzisz?
Hili: Anioły, które grają w quidditch.
Ja: Dobrze, że ksiądz tego nie widzi.
Today’s tweets will be devoted to Ukraine; we’ll resume semi-normal tweets tomorrow.

I found this one, clearly put up by a Brit.

Reader Terry posted this link elsewhere. I hadn’t realized that Putin was trying to use paratroopers in Ukraine, and that they’d failed miserably. The thread (only first tweet shown) explains why: to the Russians, paratroopers are glorified “riot” police and are useless against the resistant and militant population of Ukraine:

Tweets from Matthew. These Ukrainians are clever. Of course the Russian soldiers don’t believe this woman’s information (sound up to hear them laugh), but i bet that more than a few of them will be testing the prediction the next day!

Ponomarekno is a defense reporter for the Kyiv Daily Independent:

Another from him:

Kuleba is Ukraine’s defense minister, and is calling for the Allies to enforce a “no fly zone” over Ukraine to keep Russian planes out. But that might mean an intensified war with Russia attacking other countries:

Imagine what it feels like to be there. A country that seems likely to be destroyed in less than a month.

If only the second tweet were true!

Sound up! One thing is nearly certain: after the sanctions and the horrors he’s inflicted, Putin will come out of this looking worse to his own people.

Read the thread about the poor condition of many Russian military vehicles:


Matthew says: “Seriously, the end is a doozy.” And so it is.

Zelensky, an erstwhile comedian who’s become a hero, speaks to his people:

Walker is a Guardian correspondent for central and eastern Europe. The Aleppo option, of course, refers to what Putin did to that Syrian city: brutalizing it by regarding all civilians and their support systems as valid military targets (see here). Or, as Goebbels called it in 1943, “totaler Krieg” (“total warfare”).

From Goebbels’ famous “1943 Sportpalast speech. Note the banner above the stage: “Total war—shortest war.”

Although Ukraine may be lost, and thousands of civilians killed, I want to end on a note that shows the good in people. This tweet showing Germans going to the Berlin train station to offer fleeing Ukrainians their homes will do.

51 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. Those people in Berlin are great. How many of us would be down at the train station or the airport doing that?

  2. I know that you were disappointed in not being able to do yesterday’s planned activity. Hopefully the seas will calm or there will be enough calm on a lee-side of your next planned landing island for a safe launch of the landing crafts….both for detailed photos and some physical exercise on terra firma.

    1. No, what would REALLY disappoint me is if we didn’t have a landing to see the penguins! We missed a few landings last year because of ice, and that’s a bummer. Well, I saw most of the landing sites in 2019, so I wouldn’t be nearly as disappointed as the passengers who are. paying big money for this trip!

  3. My contribution to the news: Ukrainian government agency rues, “No need to declare captured Russian tanks, other equipment of invaders as income.”

    Speaking of Quidditch, my wife and I are on vacation, and went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando for the first time on Wednesday. Mid-morning she remarked that she’d forgotten that it was Ash Wednesay after seeing a man with ash on his forehead who had clearly gone to early Mass so that he could get to Harry Potter land as early as possible.

  4. “As I write, the ship is heaving and pitching, and I bet attendance at breakfast is low this morning” – that reminds me of a rough ferry journey across the Bay of Biscay with my daughter Ana when she was about four years old. She was totally unaffected and excitedly skipped around the cafeteria at breakfast saying “I feel as heavy as a rock! And now I’m as light as a feather!” as the deck repeatedly pressed up against her feet and then fell away again. Meanwhile, even the hardy few who had made it to breakfast looked seasick by comparison…

  5. [they] withdrew after not complying with the [–] condition that [they] repudiate [their] public support for X. (Not exact quote).

    An individual being compelled to make statements they do not want to make – is that what this is?

    1. “..withdrew after not complying..”

      Your “compelled” could be rephrased as “been given a choice”, which sounds almost the opposite. She has no absolute right to sing anywhere except maybe not too loudly in the course of taking her daily shower. In particular, she has no right to publicly soften what one hopes is very stern opposition to the 21st century’s so far biggest asshole, Mr. Putin.

      Tell us your opinion Ms. Netrebko: Then either sing at the Met or piss off back to your unfortunate country, depending on what that opinion is.

      As with vaccines against Covid, there is no compulsion other than to make a choice which, as much as possible, keeps innocent people safe from destructive people.

      1. “She has no absolute right to sing anywhere ..”

        What is being banned and judged here – the individual singer, or their sound?

        Is there a distinction with a difference between that and the thread the other day with this original quote [1 of 2] by Elsevier (which has been updated) :

        “You must know that it is a ban the manuscripts submitted from Russian institutions. You must know that it is a ban on Russian institutions and not a judgment on scientists.”

        Quote 2 of 2 by Anna Krylov :

        “This is a full-blown academic boycott — chemistry journals refusing to publish papers authored by Russian scientists.”

        Are we to evaluate everything on the basis that the individuals involved in the production might support evil but not disclose it?

        Publishing thread :

        1. Apologies – I made a typo in the quote – a missing “a” – I simply copy/paste the original here:

          ““Thank you for reviewing this manuscript. I have to inform you that the editors of the Journal of Molecular Structure made a decision to ban the manuscripts submitted from Russian institutions. You must know that it is a ban on Russian institutions and not a judgment on scientists. Therefore I cannot accept the manuscript.”

          1. … I apologize for the mess of the Elsevier quote that was made – I’m spun in circles now, and it derailed the interesting discussion. The “edit” function never materialized – this would have saved me – what a sin, to misquote. It was maybe a “on” missing… Sorry!

      2. More particularly, the management of the Met has every right to retain or dismiss a singer for any reason, or for no reason at all, as long as that reason doesn’t violate the Human Rights laws of New York State, whatever they might be. If Peter Gelb’s reason is that she won’t (or doesn’t dare) speak ill of Putin, well, that’s show biz. If the Met’s Board thinks that was a dumb thing to do, they can fire him.

        Famously, Mr. Gelb ended a petty dispute with Angela Gheorghiu, another prima donna soprano, over a costume wig that her character was supposed to wear but which Ms. Gheorghiu disapproved of. He told her, “That wig is going on stage. With you or without you.” It went on without her.

        I’m frosty to the idea that private-sector businesses should not be able to censor speech or opinions of their employees or contractors. It sounds great in principle, especially for places like universities, but an ordinary business owner must be free to disengage from people whose stated views harm the value of the enterprise. That Twitter mobs are evil things is not the fault of the employer. Practically, if political opinions join race, creed, disability, etc., on the list of protected grounds against dismissal, it will become practically impossible to fire anyone.

        “You’re fired because you called me an asshole in front of all the managers.”
        “I was only expressing my opinion.”

        So Ms. Netrebko gets the boot. Big whoop. Getting a gig at the Met is a great career break for her alternate. That’s showbiz, too.

        1. Well,
          I’m not thrilled the Met indulged in this variant of cancel culture against Netrebko. Freedom of speech does mean tolerating views one doesn’t like. And as far as I’m aware Netrebko and Gergiev haven’t made any statements in support of Putin’s imperialistic war — they have simply kept quiet. Russian creatives have had to suck up to Putin and his circle as transactional costs.

          Here’s a worthy classical disc/download I got last month : ‘Forgotten Treasures of the Ukrainian Soul’.

          The booklet pdf is available for free in the link above. Unlike the Met’s behaviour to its staff during the first covid lockdowns, the Swedish record company above actually increased its royalty advances to all its artists by 10% for 2020 to help them financially.

          1. “..views one doesn’t like..”

            Yes, it is just so hard for me to relinquish, or at least not act on, ‘disliking’ (perhaps an understatement Ramesh?)) the view that the human species should be content live in the shadow of single ones of its members having and exercising the ability to extort, and much worse, because of their ‘thermonuclear button power’ for utterly destroying civilization, if not destroying the species itself.

            In order to shut me up on this, by using the accusation of me thereby taking part in “cancel culture”, isn’t particularly clever nor original, to say the least. Perhaps thinking more seriously about the matter could be desirable for some.

            I lived with this shadow from the ages of about 10 to 50. From 50 to 75 or 80 it began to seem like humanity might overcome that insanity. Not so much any more. And till now, it hasn’t been only the Russians, as it now seems to be until Putin is eliminated for someone or something better.

        2. ” If Peter Gelb’s reason is that she won’t (or doesn’t dare) speak ill of Putin, well, that’s show biz. ”

          It can be. However, it does not mean it is not also compelled speech, in particular about matters one should be free-as-in-freedom to decide for themselves.

          She is – as I understand it – _not_ saying anything. She is abstaining from her right to free speech.

          It is not clear to me what it would mean if nobody should be free to keep their mouth shut where they work, be it a grocery store, plumbing job, or university.

          The consequences of one’s exercise of free speech should not be met with compelled speech, or I do not see how that comports with the project of free speech in the first place.

  6. This may be a morning at breakfast when you discover what people ate last night. Sorry, I had to throw that in.

    On this day in 1933, FDR was inaugurated and was also the last president to do so in March. The architect of getting us through the depression and the winning strategy in WWII. Roosevelt did not need a democrat to pull our feet out of the fire, he was that democrat. The third most important president in this country’s time.

  7. On this day:

    1837 – Chicago, Illinois, was incorporated as a city after its population increased in seven years from 200 to more than 4,000.

    1966 – In an interview in the London Evening Standard, The Beatles’ John Lennon declares that the band is “more popular than Jesus now”.

    2009 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC since its establishment in 2002. [Let’s hope he’s soon followed by Putin.]

    2015 – At least 34 miners die in a suspected gas explosion at the Zasyadko coal mine in the rebel-held Donetsk region of Ukraine. – [Today, the Ukrainians are claiming that several staff were killed and injured during the early hours of this morning when Russian troops attacked and occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe.]

  8. Yeats wrote “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen” during the Irish War of Independence. These are the second and fourth stanzas:

    We too had many pretty toys when young:
    A law indifferent to blame or praise,
    To bribe or threat; habits that made old wrong
    Melt down, as it were wax in the sun’s rays;
    Public opinion ripening for so long
    We thought it would outlive all future days.
    O what fine thought we had because we thought
    That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.

    Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare
    Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery
    Can leave the mother, murdered at her door,
    To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free;
    The night can sweat with terror as before
    We pieced our thoughts into philosophy,
    And planned to bring the world under a rule,
    Who are but weasels fighting in a hole.

  9. The Russian military has become so pathetic under Putin, killing unarmed people and bombing apartment buildings is all they are good for. The so-called paratroopers in the Russian army are not much better than the boy scouts or riot police. They are the opposite of what a paratrooper is in the U.S. military. Instead of a band of brothers they are a band of children.

    1. “..killing unarmed people and bombing apartment buildings is all they are good for..”

      Could one not add ‘creating a thermonuclear holocaust’ (this perhaps the only case where that 2nd word is not being minimized relative to Hitler) to their areas of competence? Actually competence here is likely highly desirable to avoid WW3 possibly coming about ‘accidentally’. And that competence has at least some evidence in view of USian astronauts needing them for hitching a ride to the space station for a decade or two.

      I fear that spending time decrying military incompetence of the Russians may be counterproductive in efforts to fix the present dreadful situation. There seems to be little appreciation by USians for the Russian military’s role in defeating Hitler, despite how awful their leader Stalin was. Possibly more such appreciation could have ultimately helped them along, starting in the 1990s, to a decent political system and no Putin. But perhaps I am just naive.

  10. Given the response to my boycott question the other day, I suspect most readers won’t be distressed by Netrebko’s firing, especially because she is a supporter of Putin.

    Is it weird that I am more bothered by the ‘loyalty test’ question than the firing?

    If this is a boycott of Russia, then boycott Russia. Period, end of story. Asking individual Russians whether they support Putin and then levying penalties on them depending on their answer makes it really personal. It seems to me that the way to “keep it geopolitical,” and avoid personal attacks is to just develop a consistent policy for dealing with Russian national businesses, owners, employees etc. and sticking with it. That might seem unfair to some Russians who fully support Ukraine, but I think it’s probably more fair to the Russian national population overseas in net, because it doesnt’ force them into the Hobson’s choice of job now vs. job at home later.

    1. You are correct. What difference does it make what an individual Russia in a foreign country thinks politically. Going after them is just chicken shit. Who do you think you are – Tail Gunner Joe

      1. I fully agree, to ‘cancel’ a singer for her political opinions is just wrong. She is a singer, not a politician or office holder.
        It is the anti-thesis of Voltaire’s “I detest what you are writing, but I will give my life for your continuing to be able to write.”
        [je déteste ce que vous écrivez, mais je donnerai ma vie pour que vous puissiez continuer à écrire].
        (Note, it is not certain Voltaire actually said that, but it is well within the scope of his philosophy, Apparently Eveline Beatrice Hall muddled the waters there in 1906).
        Note, she does not directly incite to violence or calls for extermination of Ukrainians. She just supports Putin, and that is bad enough (IMMO).

        1. “..she does not directly incite to violence or calls for extermination of Ukrainians. She just supports Putin, and that is bad enough (IMMO).”

          That ending makes it confusing to see what you’re trying to advocate overall.

          And I’d say the earlier part of the quote might be analogized as ‘she doesn’t say 4…she merely says 2+2’.

          There seems to be not enough appreciation in some for the strong effect a person of such great accomplishment in some discipline can have in other respects, effects here on maybe a small minority, but here a very influential minority I think. The audience for opera and similar consists of more than merely those who wish to be noticed there, perhaps even envied. Much musical art is very shallow, but not all—pardon me getting a bit preachy.

    1. Yep, I’ve seen that Ukraine is being tipped by FSB. Bravo! But I worry that revealing the source is very unwise. Unless FSB is actually also an enemy and the tips are coming from elsewhere.

    2. Zelenski is a typical example of someone rising to the occasion, realigning to the situation, growing in his job. From a comedian playing the piano (bad taste) with his dick to a great and courageous (but still humble) wartime leader. I think that is admirable.
      Maybe the US could do with a particular comedian with some bad taste jokes as their president in 2024? (Yeah, you all know who I’m thinking of).

  11. “For the time being, I’ll ask readers to supply interesting/important news items”

    Sad news just in: it is reported that former Australian cricketer Shane Warne has died of a suspected heart attack. He was 52. Warne has a very strong claim to being the greatest bowler ever (although the great Sri Lankan Muralitharan took more test wickets) and some might suggest the greatest cricketer ever, with 708 test wickets in total and many match-winning performances. He was a colourful character who contributed greatly to the sport. He was a great cricketer who was a key member of a great Australian side. He will be missed by cricket fans around the world.

    1. I just read about this. Shane Warne a great bowler. I also thought, from a purely cricket point of view, that he might have done a good job of captaining Australia. But he was never appointed captain for an extended period. Too bad.

        1. As spinner that ‘did not have a good googly’ (arguable), but still was the best spinner after Murali (arguably, some say he was even better), just makes him greater. He got wickets that appeared neigh impossible. Anil Kumble and Shane Warne were the experts at flippers (a relatively straight delivery with unpredictable hight,
          generally producing a wicket by disturbing the bails or LBW) indeed, but their bowling was much more than that. Warne had some really crooked deliveries, the art of leg spinning..
          Sad to hear he died so young. He was definitely one of cricket’s greatest, I don’t think that is disputed by anybody.
          [Probably a heart attack after a Covid jab? /s]

  12. An acquaintance of mine who is a Russian opera conductor has been suspended for making an anti-war statement from the podium last week. My narcissistic ex-boyfriend, who is British but works in an opera house in Moscow, has been profoundly silent on the topic.

  13. SCOTUS has reinstated the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. A panel of the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals had previously vacated Tsarnaev’s death penalty, finding that the trial court had taken insufficient steps to ensure that the penalty phase of his trial was conducted fairly. The SCOTUS vote was 6-3. You don’t need a program to figure out how the justices voted.

    1. Ah, but I may need to look at the details to see what large swath of law Thomas opined we didn’t need, and to see how Alito worked in a mention of religious liberty being super duper important.

      1. As opposed to merely defaulting to upholding the sentence meted out by the trial court, which heard all the original evidence, unless there was a compelling reason to vacate it? Or ought the Supreme Court to seize any excuse to strike down the death penalty in every case that comes before it, doing what Congress will not? (since this was a federal case). If that’s what you truly believe, why not just say so?, since you admit that you are making up your reasons why Justices Thomas and Alito voted to overturn the Appeal Court’s ruling.

        1. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any federal death warrants signed any time soon. Such warrants must be signed by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (a division of the Department of Justice) who answers to the attorney general, who, in turn, answers to the president. Joe Biden is opposed to the death penalty. (Prior to Donald Trump’s BoP going on a death penalty tear with 13 execution during the last few months of his term in office, there hadn’t been a federal execution since 2003, and only three total since the US Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in the1976 case Gregg v. Georgia.)

          It wouldn’t surprise me to see Biden commute all pending federal death sentences (there are currently 44 federal prisoners on death row) to life without parole before he leaves office — a power the United States constitution commends to his discretion.

          1. Well, then President Biden should do what he is constitutionally empowered to do, according to his discretion and his conscience.

  14. Well, this is one to file under “strange but true”:

    Roberto Carlos won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 – but it was a different story as he tasted defeat on his debut for a Shropshire pub team.

    It is hard to believe that the 48-year-old had ever witnessed a scene like the Hanwood village recreation ground, with the noise of primary school children playing just a few yards away wafting across the pitch.

    Yet that is where he found himself, having been won by Bull In The Barne FC after they bought a £5 ticket for a ‘dream transfer raffle’ on eBay, which was part of their Football Beyond Borders charity campaign.

    The prize was a one-off appearance by the man whose fantastic free-kick for Brazil against France in 1997 is recognised as one of the game’s most iconic goals.

    Bull In The Barne play in the Shrewsbury & District Sunday League, but the Brazilian’s appearance was finally arranged for a Friday friendly against Harlescott Rangers, with an 11:00 GMT kick-off – and despite him tucking away a penalty, they lost 4-3.

    1. Thanks. Lake Street Dive is excellent. “Hypotheticals” is getting a lot of air-play lately- another excellent song of theirs.

  15. On March 4, 1238, there occurred the Battle of the Sit River beween the Mongol Hordes of Batu Khan and the Rus’ under Grand Prince Yuri II of Vladimir-Suzdal. The Rus were annihilated, and according to Wiki: “The battle marked the end of unified resistance to the Mongols and inaugurated two centuries of the Mongol domination of modern day-Russia and Ukraine.” A return to this situation, at least in regard to Russia, wouldn’t be a bad idea.

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