Saturday: Hili dialogue

April 16, 2022 • 7:00 am

Welcme to Cat Sabbath: Saturday, April 16, 2022: it’s Passover, too, so all the cats get gefilte fish! It’s also National Eggs Benedict Day—a dish that Anthony Bourdain said never to order (he despised brunch) because it, and most of brunch, is made up of leftovers.

It’s also National Librarian Day, Save the Elephant Day, National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day, and World Semicolon Day, and World Voice Day

Stuff that happened on April 16 includes:

  • 73 – Masada, a Jewish fortress, falls to the Romans after several months of siege, ending the First Jewish–Roman War.

Below are the remains of Masada (a World Heritage site), and the legend goes that the siege ended because the remaining Jews all killed themselves. This is what I believed for years, but now I learn that it might not be true.

Quimby (below) was the first woman to get a pilot’s license in the U.S., and died in an airplane crash at 37. If this picture from Wikipedia shows her in her flying clothes, those are some pretty fancy duds!

  • 1919 – Mohandas Gandhi organizes a day of “prayer and fasting” in response to the killing of Indian protesters in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre by the British colonial troops three days earlier.

That massacre, a despicable and bloodthirsty attack of the British Army, is vividly depicted in the movie “Gandhi” (below). Estimates of the killings range between 379 to 1500 victims—or more. 120 dead were pulled out of the well you see.

As for General Dyer, he was removed from duty, but remained a hero to many Brits who hated Indians.

Gandhi in 1918:

  • 1943 – Albert Hofmann accidentally discovers the hallucinogenic effects of the research drug LSD. He intentionally takes the drug three days later on April 19.

He was a very strait-laced man to have discovered this drug, but so it goes:

  • 1945 – World War II: The Red Army begins the final assault on German forces around Berlin, with nearly one million troops fighting in the Battle of the Seelow Heights.
  • 1947 – Bernard Baruch first applies the term “Cold War” to describe the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • 1961 – In a nationally broadcast speech, Cuban leader Fidel Castro declares that he is a Marxist–Leninist and that Cuba is going to adopt Communism.
  • 1963 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pens his Letter from Birmingham Jail while incarcerated in Birmingham, Alabama for protesting against segregation.

You can read that famous letter here.

Here’s the last three minutes of Jordan’s last game. Sadly, he didn’t do that well and the Bulls lost, but what a career the man had. I’m sad that I never saw him play.

Breivick killed 77 people and got the maximum sentence: 21 years in jail. But it can be extended indefinitely in increments if the prisoner isn’t deemed safe to release, and I suspect that Breivik will be in for life. This is one reason:

Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people on July 22, 2011, in a bomb attack in Oslo and a mass shooting at a summer camp for children. (Lise Aaserud/AP)
  • 2012 – The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced, it was the first time since 1977 that no book won the Fiction Prize.

There was no prize given for International Reporting, either.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1844 – Anatole France, French journalist, novelist, and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1924)
  • 1867 – Wilbur Wright, American inventor (d. 1912)
  • 1918 – Spike Milligan, Irish actor, comedian, and writer (d. 2002)
  • 1939 – Dusty Springfield, English singer and record producer (d. 1999)

This is my favorite of her songs, though Dusty’s most popular release was “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me“, which reached #1 on the British Pop Charts.

  • 1971 – Selena, American singer-songwriter, actress, and fashion designer (d. 1995).

Here’s Selena Quintanilla Pérez , live in Houston and singing a disco medley. Wildly popular, she was shot at just 23.

Those who became extinct on April 16 include:

  • 1828 – Francisco Goya, Spanish-French painter and illustrator (b. 1746)
  • 1958 – Rosalind Franklin, English biophysicist and academic (b. 1920)

One of Franklin’s favorite hobbies was trekking; here she is on a hike in the Alps:

  • 1991 – David Lean, English director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1908)

What can you say about a man who directed The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Doctor Zhivago (1965), all of them epics and all of them terrific (Lawrence of Arabia isthe best)? I know the second two movies almost by heart. I looked at a number of clip from Zhivago (I’ve seen Lawrence too many times), and decided to put this one up. (The “wife” of Strelnekov turns out to be Lara, with whom Zhivago has an affair.) I think Strelnekov is modeled on Trotsky. The best of these movies is Lawrence, but they’re all good.

  • 1994 – Ralph Ellison, American novelist and critic (b. 1913)

Here’s a short documentary on Ellison, who wrote one good novel (“Invisible Man”), but it’s a doozy:

*There is no banner headline in the NYT today, but here’s the upper-left corner headline—the most important. And it’s not good news. Click on screenshot to read:

Here’s the NYT’s news summary:

A large explosion rocked Kyiv early Saturday, and the Ukrainians claimed to have shot down missiles aimed at Odesa in the south and Lviv in the west — a reminder that even as Russia prepares for a large-scale offensive in eastern Ukraine, it can still strike targets across the country.

The targeting of military-related facilities across Ukraine with precision munitions came as Russia continued to move equipment and forces into position for a renewed offensive. The moves appeared to be aimed at degrading the Ukrainians’ military capabilities in advance of the anticipated assault, which military analysts have warned could be both long and bloody.

I still think that the whole country, and not just the eastern bit, will be taken over by Russia. Putin is desperate and has tactical nukes, and is now threatening the U.S. if we keep giving weapons to Ukraine. My fingers are crossed. But in his latest Substack column, Andrew Sullivan proposes his own peace solution, which I don’t like:

How does this unwind itself without a more widespread catastrophe? The key, it seems to me, is to keep our focus on a feasible settlement: a pledge never to admit Ukraine to NATO, a referendum — conducted by international bodies — in the two eastern provinces to determine their future in Russia or Ukraine, and a guarantee of Ukraine’s neutrality. But we are fast walking backwards into something far larger: a Western attempt for regime change in Russia, with Ukraine as the lever. That could make the war truly existential for Russia. Which means, with a nuclear power, truly existential for the world as well.

Worried about a much wider war, Sullivan is urging Ukraine to promise not to join NATO and to hold elections that could (and would, given Russian perfidy) hand over much of eastern Ukraine to Russia.

*In other news, the U.S. is now convinced that the Russian cruiser Moskva was indeed sunk by Ukrainian missiles, and there is much rejoicing, which I share. But remember that people are starving in Mariupol and the body count of Ukrainians will be rising fast–and soon. There is really not much to celebrate. The governor of Donestsk pronounced that Mariupol “has been wiped off the face of the earth”.

*Elon Musk has been trying to effect a hostile takeover of Twitter, though I’m not sure what changes he proposes to make. At any rate, according to the Wall Street Journal, Twitter is fighting back:

The company on Friday adopted a so-called poison pill that makes it difficult for Mr. Musk to increase his stake beyond 15%. The billionaire founder of Tesla Inc. TSLA -3.66%  already owns a more-than 9% stake that he revealed earlier this month.

PayPal Chief Executive Peter Thiel, left, and founder Elon Musk, right, pose with the PayPal logo in 2000.PHOTO: PAUL SAKUMA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Poison pills, also called shareholder-rights plans, are legal maneuvers that make it hard for shareholders to build their stakes beyond a set point by triggering an option for others to buy more shares at a discount. They are often used by companies that receive hostile takeover bids to block an unwanted suitor or buy time to consider their options.

Twitter said in a statement that the rights plan doesn’t prevent the company from engaging with potential acquirers or accepting a takeover bid if the board determines it is in the best interest of shareholders. It earlier confirmed it received Mr. Musk’s offer and is rewriting it.

As long as Musk doesn’t ban cat tweets, I’m not overly concerned.

*Talk about the demonization of the godless! CNN reports that a Nigerian atheist pleaded guilty to blasphemy in the neighboring state of Kano, and was sentenced to 24 years in jail (both countries are majority Muslim).  (h/t Paul)

Charges against Mubarak Bala are linked to comments he posted on Facebook in April 2020 that were critical of Islam and which authorities in Kano considered blasphemous and an insult to the religion, his lawyer said.

Bala, who heads the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his home in the northern Kaduna state two years ago and was then moved to neighbouring Kano, a majority Muslim and conservative state.

*The Guardian reports that, due to the paucity of chemicals needed for lethal injections (drug companies won’t sell them to prisons), firing squads are making a comeback. (h/t Steve)

 On Thursday, South Carolina scheduled the execution of Richard Moore – convicted of murder in a 2001 convenience story robbery – for 29 April. Because state officials say they have not been able to secure lethal injection drugs, they will give him the choice between the electric chair and the firing squad.

Man, there’s no choice there: take the firing squad! Or better yet, have them shoot you in the back of the head with a single bullet. But of course all this is pilpul because I’m adamantly opposed to capital punishment.

Until now, Utah was the only state still using firing squads, and the last execution was in 2010.

This all comes from a recent Supreme Court decision that “if prisoners want to fight an execution method, they need to propose a ‘known and available’ alternative in court.”  They thus become complicit in their own death.

It is true that if you’re going to kill someone painlessly, either give them pure barbiturate, as they do with assisted suicide in Switzerland, or shoot them, which often kills them more quickly than does lethal injection. But no form of capital punishment is acceptable. (The reason people object to firing squads is that it’s messy) And if we’re going to have it, we should televise it. Let people see what they’re in favor of!

*Over at Freddie de Boer’s Substack, he argues that “Self-actualization is not the sole purpose of human existence.” He’s pushing back against “the notion that healthy, well-adjusted people are possessed of absolutely deranged self-confidence and pursue their desires with remorseless and violent ambition”; and sees this instantiated in some Disney films. He’s got a point, in that one must take others into account, but I think he goes a bit overboard.

*A snide characterization of some lousy news from reader Ken: “Turns out, a good guy with a gun is the only way to stop a nine-year-old girl from having her picture taken with the Easter Bunny at the mall.”

A Southern California shoe store owner opened fire at two shoplifters, police said, but mistakenly shot a 9-year-old girl about to get her picture with a mall Easter Bunny. The store owner fled the state and was arrested in Nevada, authorities said Wednesday.

Marqel Cockrell, 20, was chasing the shoplifters out of the store Tuesday evening at the Mall of Victor Valley in the small city of Victorville when he “fired multiple shots at the shoplifters,” Victorville police said in a statement.

“Cockrell’s shots missed the shoplifters and instead hit the 9-year-old female victim,” the statement said.

First of all, you don’t fire at shoplifters. Second, if you can’t fire properly, don’t use a gun. Third, the poor girl, who will live (she had three wounds), may have permanent nerve damage.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s been unsuccessful in her hunting:

Hili: I’m losing hope.
A: What for?
Hili: That something tasty will come to me.
In Polish:
Hili: Tracę nadzieję.
Ja: Na co?
Hili: Że coś smacznego samo do mnie przyjdzie.

Here’s Karolina grabbing Kulka:

And Szaron with book by Anjuli Pandavar that arrived in Dobrzyn yesterday–translation by Malgorzata. The title in Polish is Islam – faith and humanity. Malgorzata says, “The original title was Muslim’s inner struggle. It’s about how in every believer in Islam, a Muslim is fighting with a human. And humanity often loses.”

From Jesus of the Day::

From Facebook:

From Doc Bill:

From my magical Twitter feed: puppy imitates rabbit:

From Barry; this is new to him and to me, too. The cat is apparently feigning injury to get back in the house!

From Ginger K.:

From Simon, who says the guy probably just pissed off the ants:

Tweets from Matthew. Is the one on the left really a Ukrainian stamp?

A lovely arthropod that is not an insect:

It’s lunchtime for the eels:

This is proposed as a solution to the trolley problem, but I don’t think this is one choice. Translation: “How to save everyone in the ‘trolley problem’ How about such an answer?”

Matthew found this on the Auschwitz Memorial site:

47 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. I haven’t seen the word pilpul used in decades. Torah scholars use of this method every week is one of the reasons I determined that Judaism was not for me when I was a teenager (paleolithic era).

    As far as the guy using BBQ grill gas to get rid of ants – it was effective – no more ants.

    1. PCC(E) used it once here and it stuck in my mind – what an expressive word, when “minutiae” and “trivia” just don’t cut it.

      How that happens I can’t explain – hear a word once, know it forever. If only I could USE that for ANYTHING…

  2. ” …referendum — conducted by international bodies — in the two eastern provinces to determine their future in Russia or Ukraine,…”

    This is extreme naivety from Sullivan. Russia would never collaborate in a fair referendum, they simply cleanse out people they do not like. The ship of such referendum sailed away like a decade ago. Seriously, if Sullivan thinks this is a realistic scenario now, I have to wonder if he lives in a paralel reality.

    1. I think the cleansing out is already happening in the regions where Russia is in control.

      Personally, I don’t see how the West can concede anything without Putin claiming it as a victory and encouragement to go on further rampages across Eastern Europe. I also don’t see why we should unless Ukraine asks us to. Not to mention that any agreement we come to is not worth the paper it is written on, at least not while Putin still runsRussia.

      Also, Putin’s threats against the USA and its allies are risible. The BBC news reader today couldn’t keep a straight face when he reported Russia has banned our prime minister and several senior ministers from going to Russia.

      As for the nuclear option, there are two possible outcomes. The worst case scenario is Russia becomes a nuclear wasteland, along with some proportion of the West. But another possibility (that has probably occurred to Putin given the poor performance of his armed forces so far) is that he presses the button and makes it immediately obvious that Russia is no longer a nuclear power.

      Think how it would change the balance of power if it was demonstrated that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is completely unserviceable.

      1. The worst case scenario is Russia becomes a nuclear wasteland, along with some proportion of the West.

        So you’re not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed?

        As for a “referendum — conducted by international bodies — in the two eastern provinces to determine their future in Russia or Ukraine,” I say swell — as long as it’s conducted in conjunction with an fair, open, transparent election (overseen by international monitors) to determine Putin’s fate in Russia. (Putin’s current term expires in 2024, and he’s widely expected to have himself declared “president for life” in his next “election,” so-called.)

        Make that rotten prick Putin stand for at least one honest election in his life.

  3. John Zorn has a group called Masada that has recorded an enormous volume of material. Label Tzadik, I believe.

    I have only listened to a fraction of it – including Joey Baron drumming, and … can’t recall the bass player. He gets great, and unusual musicians to play – including Mike Patton, if anyone knows his tale. Zorn plays saxophones – maybe exclusively alto – and composes everything, modulo improvisation.

    Why “Masada”? Why not. I love the language and titles too.

    Here’s a link – no guarantees :

    1. Spillane! One of my faves, as well as “Naked City”. Have you ever heard his album “Book of Heads”…it’s a set of 35 etudes for solo guitar. Some of the strangest guitar sounds you’ll ever hear. Marc Ribot is the guitarist.

      I’ll have to get some of his Masada work…sounds excellent!

      1. I’ll check it out

        The Masada I have has a sax melody that is just so memorable, as it is repetitive but says something – but I bet you know, Zorn ain’t for everyone.

        If you can find it, there’s a captivating live show on YouTube with Mike Patton, Mark Ribot, John Medeski, and many more – the high point was a gorgeous bossa or something with a female singer….

      2. No no

        22:32 La Flor Del Barrio

        THAT is gorgeous.

        Also bass is Trey Spruance.

        Sorry for the numerous comments

  4. But no form of capital punishment is acceptable. .. And if we’re going to have it, we should televise it. Let people see what they’re in favor of!

    That would not go well. Ratings would soar, and next thing you know we’ll have the Hunger Games.

      1. That’s certainly true historically, Robert. But I still say the American public has a right to see what’s being done in its name (especially when capital punishment proponents continue to claim deterrence as a primary justification).

        And I wonder how many modern Americans would still be able to stomach the death penalty after watching a botched electrocution or lethal injection on live tv.

        1. I definitely get what you’re saying, and hiding from the truth doesn’t seem like a long-term beneficial thing. But I honestly have no faith in any squeamishness of the human race as a whole. Many people watching a botched electrocution or lethal injection would consider it “just desserts”, I’m confident. And these would be the people who would tune in to watch.

  5. [ reads the whole HD ]

    That was a particularly good Hili Dialogue for the day – the pic of Franklin is especially remarkable .. the Alps .. a refreshing tribute to her. Never saw that before.

  6. I believe I saw that Macron has declined to call the murders in Ukraine genocidal, because he feels that such language will make it harder to come to an agreement with Putin. I think that’s right. Not only does calling Putin genocidal get his back up, but ultimately could make any peace deal seem incomplete, if one of the terms isn’t Putin goes on trial. He’s hardly likely to accept that. It’s implicitly a call for regime change, and for that to happen he would need to be defeated in Russia, not just Ukraine.

    The Federalist is a good conservative site, but this week they had a swing and a miss with a “article” called Jesus Christ’s Resurrection Is Probably The Best-Documented Historical Event Ever. Spoiler: It’s not, and the evidence the author uses, including Old Testament prophecies, only shows how bad the evidence actually is. Unfortunately, there were no open comments.

    Disney was making a big thing out of opposing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, but they were notable as the only Hollywood player to do so (and the objections came from Hollywood, not Lake Buena Vista). This week Warner Brothers showed it was perfectly will to not say gay for China. They removed two references to Dumbledore being gay in the new Fantastic Beasts movie for the China market. Another example of Progressive double-standards for the US and the rest of the world.

    Finally, regarding Bernard Baruch, he was well-known for his globe-trotting travels. While in Shanghai, he wanted to go to temple, and Shanghai had then a Synagogue with a Chinese Rabbi and congregation. When he got there, the congregation was arriving, and the Rabbi was greeting them at the door. When Baruch came up, the Rabbi asked if he could help him. Baruch said, Yes, I’m hear for the service. The Rabbi looked at him and said, Strange, you don’t look Jewish.

    1. The evidence that Alexander the Great existed is comparable with the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection — is that what he is saying?

      If people believed that Alexander died, sprung back to life, and hied to heaven, I would be mildly skeptical. I might even be persuaded to call the idea unsound.

      The resurrection must be very important to these fine people.

      1. The evidence that Alexander the Great existed is comparable with the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection …

        If accurate, people are probably wasting their time if they’re directing intercessory prayer to Alexander the Great, too.

  7. “Elon Musk has been trying to effect a hostile takeover of Twitter, though I’m not sure what changes he proposes to make.”

    One idea for Twitter that Musk has floated is open sourcing its content moderation algorithms. I think this is at least the kernel of a good idea. It would do a lot to counter the public distrust of those algorithms as people could analyze them and decide for themselves whether they are fair. I suspect that the outcome would be a better understanding of the enormity of the problem.

    This would also represent a move towards public ownership of content moderation, allowing it to be adopted across the social media landscape. I believe social media companies do not want the content moderation burden but are forced to deal with it on their own. They also can’t unilaterally do what needs to be done because they are in competition and beholden to their shareholders to always work towards making more money. Musk’s idea would alleviate them of this burden, or at least start to reduce it. We obviously don’t want the government to have direct control over content moderation (censorship) but they have a role to play in creating a level playing field that benefits the public.

    1. Good point

      Just a spontaneous thought : I wonder if that could lead to setting up a subscription thing – offering a “premium” service, or other such things.

      1. I think Musk had some complaints and ideas along those lines. He mentioned that some people had blue checks next to their name but hardly ever tweeted, which he didn’t think was right. I believe he also joins the rest of us in thinking that something has to be done about all the fake accounts and the ease with which the platform can be used to manipulate people.

        1. Interesting … hey, did you all read Jonathan Haidt’s EXCELLENT piece in The Atlantic?

          Dawkins – ironically – tw336ed it, saying to “pause” and “reflect” on Haidt’s essay – and that is precisely what I did.

          1. I’ve just skimmed it. It’s a subject with which I am very familiar. I think Haidt gets it right though I’m more interested in the proposed solution rather than the historical analysis. The one sentence that stood out to me:

            “But the main problem with social media is not that some people post fake or toxic stuff; it’s that fake and outrage-inducing content can now attain a level of reach and influence that was not possible before 2009.”

            I agree with this entirely. There are many possible fragments of solutions that do not involve restricting free speech. The real problem is that social media has made it possible for too many people to yell “fire!” in a crowded theater. The internet has allowed everyone to have a voice but most shouldn’t have such a loud voice. There needs to be curation, review, and gates between those with something to say and their audience. Ironically, the Woke’s deplatforming efforts are a good example of how not to do this.

    2. I am no fan of Twitter, other than the little excerpts that our host puts in his postings on this website, but Elon Musk (started by typing Mush, clearly my fingers know something) buying it would just turn Twitter into Sh*tter, allowing His Muskiness to post all his random rantings sans control – except for that imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
      I would like to hear no more of, and especially no more from, His Muskiness.

      1. Partly I get why people are down on Twitter but I think they miss the wonderful things that happen on the platform. Just to name one example, I follow the commercial space industry of which Musk and SpaceX are a huge part. When a launch happens, we get instant comment and analysis from the players in this field. One can also throw in one’s own observations and comments. There is no other platform that really allows this. And this is just one example of many.

        Twitter does force one to filter out and ignore all the stupidity. I don’t find this too difficult really though I would welcome changes that would make it easier or unnecessary. Some people just find it hard to ignore the trolling and find it discouraging, which it most definitely is. As with any medium, one needs to learn how to navigate it and finds out where it works and where it does not.

        I was really hoping that Musk would upset the Twitter apple cart so that it might turn into an even better platform. I doubt all of Musk’s ideas would work but he has no problem abandoning bad ideas. He’s a big proponent of creative destruction. He already has caused people to start talking about what changes Twitter should consider.

  8. “Here’s Selena Quintanilla Pérez , live in Houston and singing a disco medley. Wildly popular, she was shot at just 23” – and by the woman who was the former president of her fan club and manager of her boutiques, too..

  9. Well, Jeez, I think Mr. Lean’s Bridge On the River Kwai deserves a clip, too. And, although there are many great ones, I can’t think of better one off the bat than the opening scene in which the plucky British POWs march into their new camp, lead by Sir Alec Guiness and whistling “The Colonel Bogy March,” to the consternation of their new Japanese captors and American prisoner William Holden:

    1. “led”

      BTW, who’s a fella gotta sleep with around here to get his edit function restored anyway? 🙂

      1. For me the edit function is highly stochastic. My first comment usually goes in immediately, with editing enabled. But later comments only appear after several minutes, and with no editing available.

        1. But later comments only appear after several minutes, and with no editing available.

          And sometimes, even though a comment appears a few minutes later with no edit button, refreshing the page brings it up. — didn’t happen this morning, but it does occasionally.

  10. Sadly, he didn’t do that well and the Bulls lost

    The Bulls may have lost that night, but Jordan was playing for the Washington Wizards.

  11. Harriet Quimby was a nice looking woman. And as you say Professor, stylish. She must have been quite a celebrity in her day?

  12. Although I oppose the death penalty, the best ‘humane’ way to kill is the ‘soft hanging’, basically strangulation. It is said to give an orgasm before dying, Not a negligible benefit, I’d say.

  13. I don’t think Russia will end up occupying all of Ukraine, The Ukrainians are way to determined to let that happen.
    I agree though that the battle in the South East will be more difficult than in the North. The more open fields there are advantaging the Russians.
    I just hope Ukraine will be up to it.
    I’ve been wrong so often in this war though (eg. I didn’t think Putin would actually invade, I thought the Russians would take Kyiv quite easily, etc,), that I ‘m wary of predicting anything. I think that Putin won’t use nuclear weapons, and I hope that one isn’t wrong.

  14. About Harriot Quimby- Her trademark flying suit was made of purple satin. She died dramatically as well, falling 1000 feet after flying out out of her Blériot XI monoplane.
    She wrote screenplays for Biograph, with five of her short films directed by D.W. Griffith. She also acted with Mary Pickford in “Lines of White on a Sullen Sea” a fuzzy copy of which is found here-

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