Monday: Hili dialogue

March 28, 2022 • 6:30 am

Where we are now: The ship’s real-time map shows that, as expected, we’re still moored at the dock in Puerto Natales. We had to stay here overnight because the people on the trip to Torres del Paine weren’t scheduled to return till after 10 pm, and we may have to pass through the White Narrows again, but only during “slack tide”. (See post from later today.) We’re scheduled to depart, still wending our way towards Valparaiso, around noon:

There are no photo of the area this morning because I’m keeping my curtains closed, on the ship’s advice, to fend off bird strikes. But here’s where we are anyway in a photo from yesterday:  the dock at Puerto Natales, taken as we were slowly approaching it. It’s one of the few panoramas I’ve taken that I actually like (do click to enlarge):

There will be a travel post later today; I’m lecturing at 1 p.m.

Welcome to Monday, March 28, 2022: National Black Forest Cake Day. which is best if one uses sour (pie) cherries rather than maraschino cherries. It’s bascially a chocolate cake with cherries and cherry liqueur; the latter (“Kirschwasser”) gives the cake its name since the liqueur is typical of the Black Forest region. You can find a good recipe here, and this is a photo:

If you want to help out with “this day in history”, go to the Wikipedia page for March 28 and give us your favorite notable events, births, and deaths.

Here’s the headlinea from today’s New York Times; click on the screenshota to read. The first was 45 minutes ago, before I went to breakfast; the second must have been put up during that time. For each I’ve given the NYt’s summary

And the NYT’s summary:

Russia appears to be shifting its focus to securing control of eastern Ukraine after efforts to take the capital, Kyiv, and other major cities stalled in the face of stiff resistance.

Ukrainian officials said that they are worried that Russia may try to split the country between regions it controls and those it does not, a division that recalled the fate of Germany and Korea after World War II.

Two notable events. First, the Russian shelling around the nuclear facility at Chernobyl has caused concern among Europeans, who fear that an accident could unleash radioactive material across a wide region. The deputy prime minister of Ukraine has “called on the U.N. to establish a mission to take immediate measures to demilitarize the exclusion zone around the plant.” Of course that would, like “closing the skies,” put the West in military conflict with Russia, and seems a non-starter. Further, Ukrainian President Zelensky gave a 90-minute Zoom video interview to Russian journalists. Did they air it in Russia? Not a chance!:

Hours later, the Kremlin responded. A government statement notified the Russian news media “of the necessity to refrain from publishing this interview.”

. . .After they finished the interview, the journalists posted about it on social media, promising that they would soon publish it. Several hours after that, the Russian telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor, released a statement directing Russian news outlets not to publish the interview, and warning that an inquiry had been launched against the reporters involved to “determine their responsibility.”

Even by the standards of contemporary Russia’s arbitrary law enforcement, the statement was remarkable, offering no legal pretext to justify the order not to publish the interview. But in the wake of the law signed by Mr. Putin early this month — potentially punishing news reporting on the Ukraine invasion that deviates from the Kremlin narrative with as much as 15 years in prison — the government directive had an impact.

None of the Russian interviewers, of course, published anything about the exchange with Zelensky, though several media companies based outside Russia put the interview on YouTube.

It is not in Russia’s interest to have Zelensky describe the carnage that Russians are inflicting on his country.  One could not have expected Putin to allow this interview to be aired.

As Russian attacks continued across Ukraine, diplomats from the two nations were scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Monday for talks, with President Volodymyr Zelensky saying his country was “ready” to discuss adopting neutral status, while the Kremlin offered little hope for an agreement that would end five weeks of fighting.

In an interview on Sunday with Russian journalists, Mr. Zelensky said that Ukraine was willing to discuss lifting restrictions on the Russian language and adopting a neutral geopolitical status. But he insisted that any deal would need to be validated by a referendum to be held after Russian troops withdraw, and that other countries would need to provide his nation with security guarantees.

The “neutral geopolitical status” would mean that Ukraine would promise not to join NATO, and perhaps not the EU. But a referendum wouldn’t win, and the insistence that Ukraine retain its sovereignty is a non-starter for Putin. It’s no wonder that a spokesman for the Kremlin said that diplomatic efforts so far had made “no significant progress.” My guess is that Putin won’t accept what Zelensky is offering.

*The death toll of Ukrainian civilians given by the UN is 1,119, including 99 children. The wounded number 1,790, among them 126 children.

*The Essay That Didn’t Need To Be Written Department: The winner for the week is by writer Rod Buntzen, who gets the raspberries for trying to draw conclusions we already know from his own personal experience. It’s from his NYT essay, “This is what it’s like to witness a nuclear explosion.” Buntzen watched a test detonation of an H-bomb in 1958, and describes it graphically. But we already know about this, and the lesson that Buntzen draws after a long account of the damage from that bomb is this:

If nuclear weapons are used in Ukraine, the biggest worry is that the conflict could spin quickly out of control. In a strategic war with Russia, hundreds of detonations like the one I witnessed could blanket our countries.

Having witnessed one thermonuclear explosion, I hope that no humans ever have to witness another.

Does anybody?  And this was a full-fledged H-bomb. Should Putin go that route instead of using tactical nuclear weapons, he’s guaranteeing the destruction of his country. The whole editorial is an exercise in showing off and virtue flaunting.

*Here are the winners of last night’s Big Six Oscars (Joe Morgenstern, the Wall Street Journal‘s movie critic, published his predictions yesterday about who should win in the major categories and who will win.

Best Picture: CODA
Best Director: Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)
Best Actor: Will Smith (“King Richard”)
Best Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)
Best Supporting Actor: Trey Cotsa (“CODA”)

It looks as if my movie-loving nephew Steven guessed all of these all on the money, so he wins the book. He even bested Joe Morgenstern.

Gossip from the Oscars: The Guardian reports this:

So just a refresh for those coming in late or early wherever you are. The night’s biggest moment came from best actor winner Will Smith, who went viral after he appeared to slap Chris Rock for making an ill-advised joke about his wife Jada Pinkett’s alopecia. Rock joked that she was set to make GI Jane 2 next, which led Smith to rush up on stage and try to hit Rock. Smith then told him to get his wife’s name out of his mouth.

Here’s the actual video. Smith was rightly angered, but he shouldn’t have hit Chris Rock, especially on live television. They could have settled it in the alley afterwards:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is talking about “hell on Earth”. When I asked whether the cat was referring to Ukraine, Malgorzata replied, “It’s more general. There is not a day without hell present in many places on Earth. Some people live far away and they have a ‘normal’ life.”

Hili: What is normality?
A: Awareness that today hell is far away from us.
In Polish:
Hili: Co to jest normalność?
Ja: Świadomość, że dziś piekło jest daleko od nas.

And here’s a picture of Karolina, the girl from Kyiv, showing her love of Hili:

A groaner from Barry:

From reader David (it’s not his cartoon, so I’ll point out that the word “only” is misplaced):

. . and from reader Pliny the in Between’ssite The Far Corner Cafe (click to enlarge):

God screwed up, as he does so often. Well, he allowed Hawkins to screw up, preliminary toxicology reports indicate at least ten drugs found in his body.

Two tweets from Simon. Yes, the famous “ploughman’s lunch” in Britain is now harmful and offensive, and has received a new name. And the second tweet makes you guess (not hard!). (“Quorn” is a meat substitute mad from fungus.)

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Here’s how Trump would be handling the Ukraine/Russia conflict:

Tweets from Matthew: Ceiling Cat bless the Ukrainians: they don’t even forget the marsupials!

I’ve read a lot about Darwin, but this fact is new to me.  It appears to be his son William Erasmus Darwin (1839-1914).

I may have posted this before. If so, here it is again:

This is funny, and it is true that the bill has an axolotl on it! Click on the picture to see the adorable salamander.

32 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. Re the two menus. The contrast in political correctness over time was the item above the “mega burger” which you can’t see in this rendition (unfortunately – or not). The ever famous “Bender in a bun”

  2. And the second tweet makes you guess (not hard!). (“Quorn” is a meat substitute mad from fungus.)

    If anybody is puzzled about this image, you need to click through to see the whole picture. The Tweet is not about the Quorn item, but the one three above it: “Bender in a Bun with Cheese”. “Bender” is a derogatory term meaning “gay man” in British English, although I haven’t heard it for a while. In fact, when I first saw the menu item I thought “psychopath robot in a bun with cheese”.

    The traditional quintessentially English ploughman’s lunch was invented in the 1970’s as a way to deal with the pickled onion mountain.

  3. I’m guessing the “Ploughperson’s” is ironic. It is the UK after all, and we do like to take the p***.

  4. This is why I no longer read The Guardian, the NPR of print journalism…

    “after he appeared to slap Chris Rock for making an ill-advised joke about his wife Jada Pinkett’s alopecia

    What TG should have said…

    “after he slapped Chris Rock for making what some perceive as an ill-advised joke about his wife Jada Pinkett’s alopecia”

    1. Perhaps because it was a staged slap with a fanned open hand and finger tips only making contact. In my opinion, they were actors acting. Looking at the slow motion video convinces me it was nothing more than a stunt.

      1. Agree.

        What TG (and several other outlets even more shocked and outraged) should have said…

        “In an effort to play up and continue their longstanding ‘feud,’” professional actor Will Smith (who knows how to deliver a fake punch), strolled onstage to mock-attack fellow professional actor Chris Rock.’”

        But more distasteful was host Regina Hall’s skit about wanting to sexually assault good looking male actors under the guise of testing for COVID backstage. And she did a pat-down search of one of them onstage.

        Piers Morgan said this: ‘Interesting to see a female celebrity make lewd sexual jokes about male stars and physically grope them on stage,’ ‘Of course, if a man did that, he’d be immediately cancelled. The double standard is laughable.’ “

        1. I don’t think it was faked, though I do think Will pulled his slap. I at first thought it was a stunt, but only because here in the US they cut the scene. After I watched the entire seen online, I was convinced Will was extremely pissed and compulsive; his anger was obvious when he said twice: “Keep my wife’s name outta your fucking mouth” Either way, Will should not have resorted to violence, WTF? I’m glad Chris didn’t retaliate in any way, and he was clearly shaken up.

  5. I think making personal remarks about someone’s physical appearance, as opposed to their opinions, or words or how they dress (all fine topics to me), in a public venue when you do not know them, is just bloody rude. I have however not heard or seen the surely vacuous guff that is the ‘Oscars’ so perhaps I should refrain from comment as to whether his remarks were really valid!

    1. Comedy is hard to navigate. Especially in situations like the Oscars where it is a tradition to do quite a bit of roasting of the attendants, and there is no doubt pressure to make the event not boring since its ratings are slipping.

      1. Well, I have now seen it & Smith’s sort of apology. He obviously saw red & allowed his temper to get the better of him. I was most offended by Smith’s remarks about god when he collected his Oscar. Chris Rock was not being nasty – it was perhaps not best taste for such a (ridiculous) Hollywood occasion though.

        1. “Well, I have now seen it & Smith’s sort of apology. He obviously saw red & allowed his temper to get the better of him.”

          You’ll notice, however, that Smith took the joke well until he saw how badly Jada Pinkett took it. Take-home message: Black Wives Matter.

  6. Maybe Will Smith’s smacking Chris Rock was his way of saying he should’ve won the best actor Oscar two decades ago when nominated for playing the title role in Ali.

    But in that case, that right hand should’ve sent Rock to the canvas like George Forman in Zaire.

  7. Perhaps the parallel Russia should consider is not a divided Germany or Korea, but Ireland? I doubt an occupied, eastern Ukraine would be very quiet. Also, speaking of Ireland (and amusing considering Ukraine’s potential neutrality), a poll from Ireland says that 48% of Irish want to join NATO, a new high.

  8. I like the aardvark’s complaint. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who takes the Ark story literally, but it could be that some people don’t like admitting their beliefs. The religious people I know tend to stay away from the ridiculously literal interpretation of Genesis. Are there schools that teach it to kids? I have seen a Genesis picture book for smallish children at a birthday party for a one-year old kid. One of the guests saw it and said something like ‘We don’t believe this stuff do we?’ But no one seemed willing to discuss the matter any further. I was amused. There’s got to be a limit to this nonsense, surely. I hope they don’t teach it to kids in schools.

    I think I’ve seen

    I can’t believe it’s not BUDDHA!

    before — most probably here. Good to see it again!

    1. I definitely have seen it before because I’ve stolen it and used it. I think it might have been from here but I’m not going to search the archives to make sure. It wouldn’t be the first time something got posted more than once and I assume Jerry has even less time to check the archives than I do so I normally don’t mention it.

      The one time I did bring a repost up was when it happened on the day after the original. I think Jerry’s reply was along the lines of “it’s good enough to post twice”.

      1. Right. And I was definitely not complaining.

        Speaking of Buddha, existential comics are sometimes a bit ordinary for me, but good old Buddha burns his souffle and ‘solves’ a modem issue in the most vacuous of ways here.

        By the way, for a moment I thought you were admitting to stealing a child’s Genesis picture book. I figured it out quickly enough.

    2. The Ark story will not be taught as literal truth in US public schools, but certainly in some private schools and in home schooling. The Ark story as literal truth has a great following in the US.

      1. No clue. Google threw up AiG.

        I have never been to the Kentucky Ark museum, but I suppose these are questions people put to the museum guides. The guides are probably well trained in the priestly art of bluffing. Priests would bluff their their way into heaven if they got the chance.

  9. Hili is a lady of many moods. I love her philosophical side, and I love her sweet and soft side too. Also, Hili (like most cats) seems to have very good taste in the people she likes.

  10. On this day:
    193 – After assassinating the Roman Emperor Pertinax, his Praetorian Guards auction off the throne to Didius Julianus – Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, eh Vlad?

    1802 – Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus Olbers discovers 2 Pallas, the second asteroid ever to be discovered.

    1842 – First concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Otto Nicolai.

    1854 – Crimean War: France and Britain declare war on Russia.

    1910 – Henri Fabre becomes the first person to fly a seaplane, the Fabre Hydravion, after taking off from a water runway near in France.

    1933 – The Imperial Airways biplane City of Liverpool is believed to be the first airliner lost to sabotage when a passenger sets a fire on board.

    1959 – The State Council of the People’s Republic of China dissolves the government of Tibet.

    1969 – Greek poet and Nobel Prize laureate Giorgos Seferis makes a famous statement on the BBC World Service opposing the junta in Greece.

    1978 – The US Supreme Court hands down 5–3 decision in Stump v. Sparkman, a controversial case involving involuntary sterilization and judicial immunity.

    1979 – A coolant leak at the Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 nuclear reactor outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania leads to the core overheating and a partial meltdown.

    1638 – Frederik Ruysch, Dutch botanist and anatomist (d. 1731).

    1819 – Joseph Bazalgette, English architect and engineer (d. 1891) – designed London’s underground sewerage system.

    1868 – Maxim Gorky, Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright (d. 1936).

    1895 – Ángela Ruiz Robles, Spanish teacher, writer and inventor, pioneer of the electronic book (d. 1975).

    1902 – Flora Robson, English actress (d. 1984).

    1928 – Zbigniew Brzezinski, Polish-American political activist and analyst; 10th United States National Security Advisor (d. 2017) – Teacher and mentor to Madeleine Albright.

    1928 – Alexander Grothendieck, German-French mathematician and theorist (d. 2014) – considered by many to be the greatest mathematician of the 20th century. He was mentioned below the line yesterday, but Wikipedia lists him today.

    1936 – Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian writer, politician, journalist and essayist, Nobel Prize laureate.

    1942 – Daniel Dennett, American philosopher and academic.

    1948 – Dianne Wiest, American actress.

    1986 – Lady Gaga, American singer-songwriter and actress.

    2004 – Anna Shcherbakova, Russian figure skater – Gold medallist at this year’s Winter Olympics, beating her controversial teammate Kamila Valieva who was allowed to compete in the final despite a positive drugs test result (it all feels a l-o-n-g time ago now!)

    Those who succumbed to Philip Larkin’s “anaesthetic from which none come round”:
    1584 – Ivan the Terrible, Russian king (b. 1530) – no comment!

    1874 – Peter Andreas Hansen, Danish-German astronomer and mathematician (b. 1795).

    1941 – Virginia Woolf, English writer (b. 1882).

    1943 – Sergei Rachmaninoff, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1873).

    1953 – Jim Thorpe, American football player (b. 1887) – first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States.

    1958 – W. C. Handy, American trumpet player and composer (b. 1873) – self-proclaimed “Father of the Blues”.

    1987 – Maria von Trapp, Austrian-American singer (b. 1905) – problem solved…?

    2004 – Peter Ustinov, English-Swiss actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1921).

    2013 – Richard Griffiths, English actor (b. 1947).

  11. At first glance I thought the young lady smiling in a garden on a sunny day was the daily, very sad Auschwitz remembrance photo, but then noticed that the date is this month and year! Like the pictures of young people who were killed so senselessly at Auschwitz, the picture of the happy, innocent young budding mathematician, Yulia, drew great sadness from me. Thank you for putting a face to these continuing and unspeakable horrors.

    1. What a terrible, terrible waste of those beautiful young people. It makes me so sad thinking about how they were failed. I agree that it’s important to see their faces.

  12. “It appears to be his son William Erasmus Darwin (1839-1914)” – does having a trans son get Darwin uncancelled? (Yes, I know about upper/middle class Victorian boys really…)

  13. Two bits of good news, sort of.

    1). The UN gives Ukrainian civilian death toll at 1119. I had feared it might be 2 orders of magnitude greater by now given Russia‘s heavy bombardment of Ukraine’s major cities. (How long did it take RAF/RCAF Bomber Command to kill 100,000 German civilians in the Ruhr Valley in 1943-45?) This shows another thing the Ukrainians are good at: civil defence. Yes I know civilian evacuation has played a large role and the goodwill of Europe has been, literally, life-saving. But for Ukraine’s struggle against the Russians, civilian deaths at this scale need not force Pres. Zelenskyy to make concessions that will be bad for Ukraine in the longer term. And although the material destruction and human displacement west and now east are both unconscionable, neither need precipitate hasty action by NATO against those guns and missile batteries, many located in Russia, to prevent massacre. It may come to that, but not yet. The stalemate (which for the Russians is an abject, humiliating defeat) can continue while Putin’s domestic position weakens….and he runs out of ammunition. (Notice that he has not persisted in his desultory effort to interdict re-supply of Ukraine from Poland.)

    2). Regarding tactical nuclear weapons. Jerry’s right that it was misleading for Buntzen to draw parallels to the 1958 test of what would have been a metropolis-killing weapon. And here’s the thing. The military utility of tactical nukes is limited to destroying dense concentrations of armour pouring through a geographical constriction like the Fulda Gap, which threatens to overwhelm your in-place defences. This was the World-War Iii scenario where the nuclear NATO countries would use go nuclear first, and hope the Sovs would not retaliate. And why wouldn’t they retaliate? Because NATO would not have similar concentrations of armour—that was never NATO battle doctrine—to offer a response-in-kind target. To start nuking NATO airfields near cities behind the front would be an escalation that the USSR could not win. I want to stress that NATO doctrine throughout the Cold War was that it would use nukes first, on the battlefield, to forestall defeat. The credibility of this threat rested on the calculation that the USSR would not escalate to Armageddon. Those big 1958 H-bombs would never have been used, even when NATO struck first.

    Back to today, Ukraine also does not offer the kind of concentrated-force target that Russian tactical nukes could threaten. Their genius has been hard-hitting mobile attacks with light highly lethal weapons from prepared ground against an incompetent enemy. Rather, it’s Russia who is vulnerable to tactical nukes. The famous stalled convoy is but one example. The huge if substantially depleted tank and logistics parks where the troops massed before entering Ukraine are others, better because less risk to Ukrainian civilians. If Russia spitefully casts the first nuclear stone at some militarily insignificant target in Ukraine, like a city, those logistics hubs die and the Russian army starves. Bluffing when the enemy can see your cards is not a winning strategy.

    Every day that Putin doesn’t do something even more barbaric tells me he is running out of options. Maybe that’s what the Z’s painted on his tanks mean: Plan B has run grimly down to the end of the alphabet. Ukraine may never be a perfect country. But it is going to be a better country. It is going to win.

    1. Thank you, lots of that cold-war time information was new to me.
      Regarding the “moderate” (Yulia…oh dear) death toll in Ukraine, one of the differences to WW II area bombing in Germany is that apparently, as yet, Russia has not used phosphor bombs which were devastating in wood-nuilt medieval German inner cities. The firestorm was the main killer, the direct destruction from bombs was secondary. Russia also seems to have left electricity intact. Except for poor Mariupol, they seem to have made some effort to spare civilians.

      1. Good point, Ruth. Incendiaries were part of the bomb load of almost every Lancaster and Halifax that went over Germany at night. Typically a 4000-lb high-explosive “cookie” to generate kindling, then three tons of thermite or phosphorus incendiaries scattered over it. Even when a true firestorm was not created, loss of life in this “de-housing” campaign against “morale” was deliberately high. It caused disquiet in British public opinion even during the war. The head of Bomber Command, Sir Arthur Harris, was the only senior British commander not to be given a life peerage after the war. It shows if you believe your cause is just, you will do just about anything.

        Losses in Canadian squadrons were 6% per sortie, British only a fraction lower, making it unusual to survive a 30-mission tour. (A mission over less-heavily defended France counted only for a half.) Perhaps they got their just desserts. But there wasn’t much else the Allies could yet do offensively to keep Stalin from throwing in the towel in the east, where his losses of soldiers were immensely higher than our losses of airmen.

  14. One evacuating kangaroo says to the other: “Mate, do you remember Sydney being THIS cold?”

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