We’re at Thanksgiving
CatSaturday: November 26, 2022: National Cake Day. My favorites in the genre are carrot cake with cream-cheese frosting and pineapple upside-down cake.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the November 26 Wikipedia page.
*The BBC reports that a letter by Charles Darwin, signed with his full signature, is going on auction at Sotheby’s, and is projected to go for at least a million British pounds (the previous record for a Darwin letter was £400,000). The high value is because the letter (a bit shown below) is in pristine condition, because it’s signed with Darwin’s full name, which is rare, and because it defends his theory of evolution. (h/t: Christopher)
Here it is, signed by “Charles Darwin” (he usually used “C. Darwin” or “Ch Darwin”):
From the BBC:
. . . The item is likely to fetch more than £1m – a world-record price for a Darwin manuscript.
He’d produced the document so it could be copied in what, in 1865, was a celebrity magazine.
Darwin didn’t make a habit of archiving his paperwork and so little original material survives.
. . .Prof John van Wyhe, who curates the scholarly collection known as Darwin Online, says it’s extra special because of what the great man had chosen to put on the page along with his signature.
“He includes a passage that appears in the third edition of On the Origin of Species,” the senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore explained.
“It’s a really favourite passage, because he’s trying to make the point that people might find his theory unbelievable and outlandish, but they said the same about Newton and gravity, and nobody doubted the existence of gravity anymore.
“The same, he says, would be true eventually with evolution and natural selection,” the prof told BBC News.
The document was produced for The Autographic Mirror.
Its publisher, Hermann Kindt, printed facsimiles of the handwriting or the autographs of famous people along with their biographies.
When he asked Darwin if he’d contribute, the scientist jumped at the chance. It was an opportunity to hit back at his doubters.
At the time, six years after the first-edition release of On the Origin of Species, it was a common criticism that he couldn’t explain the origin of life itself.
Darwin conceded this was the case but that it was irrelevant to his observations of how life on Earth evolved and diversified. As with gravity, its “essence” might not be understood but Newton’s equations certainly worked.
And here’s Darwin’s text, which dates from 1865 (The Origin was published in 1859):
I have now recapitulated the chief facts and considerations, which have thoroughly convinced me that species have been modified, during a long course of descent, by the preservation or the natural selection of many successive slight favourable variations. I cannot believe that a false theory would explain, as it seems to me that the theory of natural selection does explain, the several large classes of facts above specified. It is no valid objection that science as yet throws no light on the far higher problem of the essence or origin of life. Who can explain what is the essence of attraction of gravity? No one now objects to following out the results consequent on this unknown element of attraction; notwithstanding that Leibnitz formerly accused Newton of introducing “occult qualities & miracles into philosophy”. – Charles Darwin.
Compare this to the last paragraph of the origin of species, where Darwin makes an analogy to the laws of physics (gravity) with his ‘law” of evolution by natural selection:
Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object of which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
*Yesterday was Nellie Bowles’s news summary on Bari Weiss’s Substack: “TGIF: Thanksgiving Edition“. Here are a few items showing her patented snarky humor:
→ If you hate fun, go to Mastodon: Speaking of tsk-tskers, a wonderful thing has happened. Furious about Elon Musk’s acquisition of their favorite platform, a group of major pro-censorship Twitter personalities have decided they need to leave the place altogether. They’ve gone en masse to a new platform called Mastodon. And there they are (what else) yelling at each other. As the pollster Nate Silver put it: “Mastodon seems like a honeytrap for hall-monitor personality types. Honestly if Elon gets all the hall monitors to migrate to Mastodon that might be his greatest contribution toward the betterment of humanity.” Unfortunately it’s hard to imagine they’ll stay away for long. CBS got big applause after saying they’d be getting off Twitter, only to quickly return: “After pausing for much of the weekend to assess the security concerns, CBS News and Stations is resuming its activity on Twitter as we continue to monitor the situation.”
I’m not a big fan of Elon Musk, but I’m staying on Twitter for the time being. That’s where all the fun is—and cat pictures!
→ Black Hebrew Israelites hold a huge rally that goes ignored: Hundreds of black supremacists marched through Brooklyn this week chanting: “It’s time to wake up. I’ve got good news for you, we are the real Jews.” Videos here and here. They were marching to support basketball player Kyrie Irving who was briefly suspended after promoting a movie that argues the Holocaust is fake. Kanye West, meanwhile, was spotted in Miami with white nationalist Nick Fuentes, a proud antisemite. I hate to say it, but you should watch a Fuentes video to understand how extreme his beliefs are and how alarming this moment is. Here’s one. Here’s another.
→ The brave Iranian soccer team: At the World Cup, as their nation’s anthem played, the Iranian soccer team did not sing it. It’s another sign of how deep the rebellion is going in Iran. And it’s unbelievably brave, since there’s a good chance those young men join the tens of thousands imprisoned (or far worse) when they get home. Remember their courage next time the Biden administration insists we need to make a deal with their oppressors.
You go, Nellie! Biden is an invertebrate with respect to Iran.
*World Cup results: England tied the U.S. 0-0, an achievement:
The United States and England played to a scoreless tie at the World Cup on Friday, a result that the Americans could be proud of but which has left them with a simple and high-stakes task: They must beat Iran on Monday to avoid elimination from the tournament.
England heard boos from its fans after the final whistle but walked off with a valuable point: With four now, it leads the group, ahead of Iran (three), the United States (two) and Wales (one). The English are in the driver’s seat, needing only a tie in their final game against Wales, but after a performance that had them on their heels for long stretches they will see work ahead if they are to live up to their pretournament billing as a title contender.
Other scores: Iran beat Wales 2-0, Senegal beat the home team Qatar 3-1, and Ecuador outscored the Netherlands 3-1. What with several upsets, this is going to be an interesting World Cup. Would readers care to venture any guesses who the winner will be? That leads to. . .
A CONTEST! Pick the final two teams and the final score giving the winner of the World Cup. If you get the teams and the winner right but not the score, I’ll randomly pick a winner who will get an autographed copy of any of my books (except Speciation!) with the animal of your choice drawn in it
*The Washington Post published a paean to both the World Cup and soccer, which has become my favorite sport (pity I don’t have a way to watch the good games). The piece, by Henry Olsen, is called “Watch the World Cup—and experience something infinitely enthralling.” An excerpt:
The World Cup is not soccer at its best, but it might be soccer at its finest. With 32 national teams converging in one place, the sheer spectacle is unmatched by anything except the Olympics. It has the quality of an all-star game, as each team has its country’s finest players, who are brought together only for brief interludes each year. And the short-term competition makes for stunning upsets, just as college basketball’s March Madness does. Japan’s 2-1 upset over perennial power Germany this week is the global equivalent of a 16 seed knocking off a No. 1.
If that doesn’t whet your appetite, consider the winner plays, loser stays element. All 32 teams are currently in the group stage, where four teams play one another once each to determine which two advance. After that, it’s like the NFL playoffs. It doesn’t matter where you’re seeded in the FIFA rankings: You either win or go home. Each game has the intensity that makes college bowl games so exciting.
The final itself is an event that easily dwarfs the Super Bowl. It won’t have a halftime show, but it doesn’t need one. More than 1.1 billion people worldwide tuned in to part of the 2018 final — roughly 1 in 7 on the planet. The Super Bowl dominates American viewership but attracts little attention elsewhere, with a total global viewership of less than 200 million. Outside the United States, the exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappé, not Tom Brady, are on everyone’s lips.
And this paragraph links to three good videos:
This alone is reason to join the fun now. It takes time to pick up the game’s intricacies, but even novices can appreciate the sheer individual brilliance that can make or break a game. You might see something akin to Gareth Bale’s famous bicycle kick or Son Heung-min dribble the length of the pitch to score. Or perhaps you’ll watch a historically controversial play, such as Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal against England in 1986. It’s like watching the NBA’s greats put on a show — once you see jazz in sporting form, you’re hooked.
*Finally, Iran’s victory over Wales brought out rancor between protestors of the Iranian government’s actions and supporters of the regime. And the team actually sang the Iranian national anthem this time; they were probably given the word: “Sing like a canary of you’ll wind up in Evin.”
Tensions ran high at Iran’s second match at the World Cup on Friday as fans supporting the Iranian government harassed those protesting against it and stadium security seized flags, T-shirts and other items expressing support for the protest movement that has gripped the Islamic Republic.
Some fans were stopped by security guards from bringing in Persian pre-revolutionary flags to the match against Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Others carrying such flags had them ripped from their hands by pro-government Iran fans, who also shouted insults at fans wearing T-shirts with the slogan of the protest movement gripping the country, “Woman, Life, Freedom.”
Unlike in their first match against England, the Iran players sang along to their national anthem before the match as some fans in the stadium wept, whistled and booed.
The national team has come under close scrutiny for any statements or gestures about the nationwide protests that have wracked [sic] Iran for weeks.
Shouting matches erupted in lines outside the stadium between fans screaming “Women, Life, Freedom” and others shouting back “The Islamic Republic!”
Mobs of men surrounded three different women giving interviews about the protests to foreign media outside the stadium, disrupting broadcasts as they angrily chanted, “The Islamic Republic of Iran!” Many female fans appeared shaken as Iranian government supporters shouted at them in Farsi and filmed them up close on their phones.
Here’s an AP photo of a protestor holding up the name of the woman beaten to death by Iranian authorities simply because she didn’t wear her hijab in the proper way. Amini’s death was the fuse that ignited the present explosion of protest against the theocratic regime.
Here’s Shappi Khorsandi, Vice-President of the Humanists UK and a stand-up comedian, on the situation in Iran. (To see Shappi in full comedy action, go here. I’m a big fan.)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, it’s bedtime:
Ja: Koniec zabawy, idziemy spać.Hili: Ja już śpię.
From Nicole, a useful hint for the holidays. (You’ll have to go inside to put and get the presents):
From Merilee, a Dave Coverly cartoon:
From Simon, who found this on Twitter:
God’s still writing bad poetry at Mastodon, so let’s have two tweets from Masih. The regime’s Men in Black are beating up civilian dissidents:
This scene looks like straight from a horror movie. Islamist regime’s security forces are beating up Balouch protesters from #Zahedan on a rooftop and piling up their injured bodies on the corner.
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) November 25, 2022
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) November 24, 2022
A tweet from Luana. Note that baby emus are striped, just like baby tapirs!
Baby emu has best reaction to meeting dog for the first time pic.twitter.com/AWD7ILxDxY
— B&S (@_B___S) November 25, 2022
A smart cat, and one that likes its comforts, from Malcolm:
Bed time.. 😅 pic.twitter.com/nGDI0v1bNc
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) November 23, 2022
A salacious but sarcastic tweet from Ken, who notes, “Looks like there’s no doubt about what Twitter has become under the SpaceX Oddity (apologies to David Bowie); there is only haggling over the price.”
I don’t think Trump is gonna give in here. . . .
And lead us not into temptation … pic.twitter.com/8qNOXzwXS9
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 21, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial: a dapper Dutch lad, killed at age 16 in Auschwitz:
26 November 1925 | Dutch Jewish boy Benjamin Cauveren was born in Amsterdam.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 26, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. This one was so good that I retweeted it with my own caption. Watch the whole thing: it’s 2 minutes and 20 seconds of mesmerizing group flight. (Matthew and I share a love of murmurations, and we’re still not sure why birds do this: here they swoop about for more than two minutes.
One of the best murmurations ever. https://t.co/0BU80JoWrY
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) November 25, 2022
There’s music if you want to turn the sound up. I wonder if people walk around this section of the floor:
When a tiler is also an artist..👏🏼◻️▪️ pic.twitter.com/2iezjypZtI
— H0W_THlNGS_W0RK (@HowThingsWork_) November 25, 2022
Even adults like to play in the snow. I’m sure your Spanish is good enough to understand the caption.
Un panda jugando con la nieve. pic.twitter.com/UlpuIrPsKp
— Somos Cosmos (@InformaCosmos) November 24, 2022