Thursday: Hili dialogue

February 16, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Thursday, February 16, 2023, and National Almond Day (watch out for cyanide).

It’s also Tim Tam Day, celebrating the great Australian chocolate bar, Fat Thursday, Kyoto Protocol Day (it took effect on this day in 2005), Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in Alaska, celebrating the indigenous rights activist, and of course, in North Korea it’s Day of the Shining Star (Kim Jong-il’s Birthday).

The Shining Star liked movies (photo from BBC):

From BBC: Kim Jong-il in Pyonyang’s State Theatre, October 2009
Tam Jong-Il

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the February 16 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Obituaries first, and this is a sad one, for it not only evokes old times, but makes me realize how old I am. What happened is this: movie star and sexpot Raquel Welch died—and she was 82! From the NYT:

Raquel Welch, the voluptuous movie actress who became the 1960s’ first major American sex symbol and maintained that image in a show business career that lasted a half-century, died on Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 82.

Her death was confirmed by her son, Damon Welch. No cause was given.

Ms. Welch’s Hollywood success began as much with a poster as with the film it publicized. Starring in “One Million Years B.C.” (1966) as a Pleistocene-era cave woman, she posed in a rocky prehistoric landscape, wearing a tattered doeskin bikini, and grabbed the spotlight by the throat with her defiant, alert-to-everything, take-no-prisoners stance and dancer’s body. She was 26. It had been three years since Marilyn Monroe’s death, and the industry needed a goddess.

Camille Paglia, the feminist critic, described the poster photograph as “the indelible image of a woman as queen of nature.” Ms. Welch, she went on, was “a lioness — fierce, passionate and dangerously physical.”

Surely you remember this poster, which to our generation was what the Betty Grable poster was to our fathers:

Page Six has some pictures of her from a year ago. She was born Jo Raquel Tejada, married three times, but kept the last name of her first husband, James Welch.

*I’m no pundit, so I don’t know how much credibility to give this story, and I still don’t think that the major nuclear superpowers (the U.S., China, and Russia) would be willing to risk an all-out war. But, according to one guy quoted in the Washington Post, that’s what may happen if Russia gets a victory in Ukraine.

A Russian military victory in Ukraine will embolden Beijing and lead to war between the United States and China over Taiwan, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the exiled Russian tycoon and vocal critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime, warned in an interview ahead of remarks that he will deliver to global leaders at a major security and defense conference in Germany this weekend.

“A lost war in Ukraine is a steppingstone to war in the Asia Pacific,” Khodorkovsky said in the interview with The Washington Post in London, where he now lives. “You need to understand that when even a big guy is hit in the face, a number of other guys will start to doubt whether that guy is really that strong, and they will want to go for his teeth. … If the U.S. wants to go to war in Asia, then the most correct path to this is to show weakness in Ukraine as well.”

Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison in Russia before being pardoned by Putin in 2013, said stepping up Western military aid to Ukraine and securing its victory was the only way for the United States to avoid such a military conflict with China.

Them’s strong words, partner! I presume he knows more about this than i do, but is he an expert on China’s military strategy. Will they risk a nuclear war over Taiwan? Or will the U.S., which has promised to defend the island? All I know is that should help Ukraine because it’s the right thing to do, and we can’t let Putin, who increasingly resembles a James Bond villain, take whatever he wants.

*The Republicans and Democrats, including Biden, have been squabbling about raising the U.S. debt limit, which is going to be necessary if the country isn’t to shut down and the financial markets go to hell. The problem is that Biden & Co. want an unlimited ability to raise the limit without restrictions, while the Republicans want to counterbalance any raises with promises in spending cuts. Now it looks like a default is imminent if the two parties don’t reach agreement.

The U.S. could become unable to pay all of its bills on time sometime between July and September, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated, giving lawmakers several months to reach an agreement on lifting the debt limit and avoiding a default.

The Treasury Department ran up against the roughly $31.4 trillion debt limit in January. It is now deploying a series of special accounting maneuvers to keep paying the government’s obligations to bondholders, Social Security recipients and others.

In its estimate on Wednesday, the CBO said the so-called extraordinary measures could also run out before July if its expectations for tax revenue are off.

“The projected exhaustion date is uncertain because the timing and amount of revenue collections and outlays over the intervening months could differ from CBO’s projections,” the agency said.

. . .While lawmakers routinely spar over spending, the current debt-ceiling standoff has heightened fears among some market watchers and lawmakers over the possibility of a default. A failure by the U.S. to pay its bills on time could send financial markets into a tailspin and wreak broader havoc on the global economy.

In 2011, Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. of its triple-A credit rating for the first time after the Treasury came within days of being unable to pay certain benefits.

It’s even worse because estimates of spending are higher than predicted:

The United States is on track to add nearly $19 trillion to its national debt over the next decade, $3 trillion more than previously forecast, as a result of rising costs for interest payments, veterans’ health care, retiree benefits and the military, the Congressional Budget Office said on Wednesday.

The new forecasts, released Wednesday afternoon, project a $1.4 trillion gap this year between what the government spends and what it takes in from tax revenues. Over the next decade, deficits will average $2 trillion annually, as tax receipts fail to keep pace with the rising costs of Social Security and Medicare benefits for retiring baby boomers.

This will be an interesting standoff, and a test of Biden’s promise to “reach across the aisle”—into the pockets of Republicans.

*This was big news to reader Kurt, who is a professor of religious studies. And it is a fine book, too: the oldest nearly compete Hebrew Bible in existence, and it’s up for auction. It may turn out to be the most expensive book ever sold:

One day, about 1,100 years ago, a scribe in present-day Israel or Syria sat down to begin work on a book. Copied out on roughly 400 large parchment sheets, it contained the complete text of the Hebrew Bible, written in square letters similar to those of the Torah scrolls in any synagogue today.

After changing hands a few times, it ended up in a synagogue in northeast Syria, which was destroyed around the 13th or 14th century. Then it disappeared for nearly 600 years.

Since resurfacing in 1929, the Bible has been in private collections. But one afternoon last week, there it was sitting in a cradle at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, where Sharon Liberman Mintz, the auction house’s senior Judaica consultant, was turning its rippled pages with a mixture of familiarity and awe.

She pointed out the two versions of the Ten Commandments, a beautifully calligraphic rendering of the Song of Deborah and, more prosaically, places where small tears had been stitched together with thread or sinew.

“It’s electrifying,” Mintz said. “This represents the first time the text appears in the form where we can really read and understand it.”

Have a look at this puppy!

(from NYT): The Codex Sassoon, headed for auction in May, is considered the oldest nearly complete Hebrew Bible.Credit…Eric Helgas for The New York Times

The Codex Sassoon, as it’s known, is being billed by Sotheby’s as the earliest example of a nearly complete codex containing all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible. (It is missing about five leaves, including the first 10 chapters of Genesis.) Set to be auctioned in May, the book carries an estimate of $30 million to $50 million, which could make it the most expensive book or historical document ever sold.

“When Sharon came to us, she said, ‘I just saw the oldest complete Hebrew Bible,’ and I kept waiting for her to say ‘in private hands’ or ‘in the last 50 years,’” Richard Austin, Sotheby’s global head of books and manuscripts, said. “But that was it, full stop.”

The book, which measures about 12 by 14 inches and weighs 26 pounds, is housed in an unprepossessing early 20th-century brown leather binding. Embossed on the spine is the number 1053 — its catalog number in the collection of David Solomon Sassoon, the British collector and scholar who purchased it in 1929, after it resurfaced. (The current owner is the Swiss financier and collector Jacqui Safra.)

The calligraphy is gorgeous, even if it is a book of fiction:

(from the NYT): The codex reflects the work of scholar-scribes known as the Masoretes, who created a system of detailed marginal notes to explain exactly how the text should be written.Credit…Eric Helgas for The New York Times

And the price? Austin said a committee began discussing it two years ago, considering the old record for the most expensive book ever sold: the Codex Leicester, a Leonardo da Vinci manuscript bought by Bill Gates in 1994 for $30.8 million. Then in November 2021 came a new benchmark: the $43.2 million paid by the investor Ken Griffin for a first printing of the U.S. Constitution.

The codex was also an expensive object in its time, Mintz said, requiring the skins of easily more than 100 animals. The biblical text, with its calligraphic flourishes, was written by a single scribe. “It’s a masterpiece of scribal art,” Mintz said.

The book of my people—a millennium old. You can bet that nobody around then is still alive.

*Want something else to make you feel old? How about this AP article headlined “Jane Fonda to attend Vienna Opera Ball with 90-year-old date“? The bold part is mine:

American actor Jane Fonda said Wednesday she accepted an Austrian building tycoon’s invitation to attend the Vienna Opera Ball because he offered to “pay me quite a bit of money.”

The 85-year-old Academy Award and Golden Globe winner said at a news conference with her date, 90-year-old Richard Lugner, that she needed the money to pay her bills and to support her grandchildren.

“I support a lot of people,” Fonda said.

The opera ball is one of the highlights of the social calendar in Austria and known for a guest list that includes many celebrities. This year’s event is on Thursday.

Lugner is known for paying undisclosed sums of money to famous women to accompany him to the ball. His past guests include Pamela Anderson, Kim Kardashian and model Elle MacPherson.

Fonda said her commitment would not include dancing at the ball because she has a “fake shoulder, two fake hips, two fake knees.”

“I’m old and I may fall apart,” quipped the actor, whose recent roles have included the TV series ”Grace and Frankie” and the film “80 for Brady.”

Here’s a photo of Fonda and Lugner on their expensive date:

From the AP: Actress Jane Fonda, left, and her host, businessman Richard Lugner, right, arrive for a news conference on the Vienna Opera Ball in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Heinz-Peter Bader)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is being a typical cat (I think we need an evolutionary psychology explanation for why cats hate vacuum cleaners):

Hili: Are there silent vacuum cleaners?
A: Why do you ask?
Hili: Cats’ lives would be easier.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy są już bezgłośne odkurzacze?
Ja: Dlaczego pytasz?
Hili: Życie kotów byłoby łatwiejsze.


From Merilee, a Dan Piraro cartoon:

From Terry, a Leigh Rubin cartoon:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Masih.  I have endless admiration for these brave young Iranian women. Sound up.

From Gregory, who calls this “the best response to a mass shooting I’ve seen”. I agree:

Ricky Gervais enjoying the day with his tabby Pickle:

From Barry: The Terminator at breakfast (sound up):

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boy gassed on arrival at eight years old:

Tweets from Matthew. Go look at the new page; I’ve put a what I think is a new photo below the tweet:

1861 Apr. 11 Half-length right profile photograph (6×4.5cm) by William Erasmus Darwin.

Have a look at the new and cool paper that Matthew coauthored: a sequence-based analysis of olfactory receptor (OR) genes, giving us an idea what our ancient relatives could smell.

Here’s a lovely thing to do:

43 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1923 – Howard Carter unseals the burial chamber of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

    1936 – The Popular Front wins the 1936 Spanish general election.

    1945 – The Alaska Equal Rights Act of 1945, the first anti-discrimination law in the United States, was signed into law.

    1959 – Fidel Castro becomes Premier of Cuba after dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown on January 1.

    1960 – The U.S. Navy submarine USS Triton begins Operation Sandblast, setting sail from New London, Connecticut, to begin the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe.

    2005 – The Kyoto Protocol comes into force, following its ratification by Russia.

    2006 – The last Mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) is decommissioned by the United States Army.

    1822 – Francis Galton, English biologist and statistician (d. 1911).

    1905 – Henrietta Barnett, British Women’s Royal Air Force officer (d. 1985).

    1926 – John Schlesinger, English actor and director (d. 2003). [Best known for Midnight Cowboy – and there’s my earworm of the day…]

    1927 – June Brown, English actress (d. 2022). [My dad appeared with her in the 1959 world debut of The Rough and Ready Lot by Alun Owen, who later wrote the screenplay for A Hard Day’s Night.]

    1935 – Sonny Bono, American actor, singer, and politician (d. 1998).

    1941 – Kim Jong-il, North Korean commander and politician, 2nd Supreme Leader of North Korea (d. 2011).

    1954 – Iain Banks, Scottish author and playwright (d. 2013).

    Danced their last dance:
    1992 – Angela Carter, English novelist, short story writer (b. 1940).

    1996 – Brownie McGhee, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1915).

    2001 – William Masters, American gynecologist and sexologist (b. 1915).

    2016 – Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Egyptian politician and diplomat, 6th Secretary-General of the United Nations (b. 1922).

  2. Cool olfactory paper – five authors on one paper – I mean, George Martin was the fifth Beatle – so if that tells us anything about collaboration, then the work was probably like being in a rock band!

  3. Raquel Welch, the voluptuous movie actress who became the 1960s’ first major American sex symbol …

    I recall that in 1969 Ms. Welch starred in the western 100 Rifles opposite retired football great Jim Brown. The movie featured a love scene between cast members of different races, a rarity in those days, one that assured it would not be shown in many theaters across the South.

    And a year later she starred as the female half of the Myra/Myron Breckinridge character in the film adaptation of Gore Vidal’s controversial sex-change novel.

    I never thought Welch was all that talented an actress, but mad props to her for having the brass ovaries to take on those roles.

    1. Don’t forget her role in the Three Musketeers, for which she won a golden globe. I fell in love with her when I first viewed Fantastic Voyage in the theater.

      1. I saw it in the theatre as an eleven year-old. Several years later going on sixteen and recovering in the hospital from knee cartilage surgery, she shore took mah mind off mah pain, substituting perhaps a more intense (and unrequited) pain.

    2. The (also mentioned) Jane Fonda was also a mean sex idol in her youth, although probably not as much as Raquel Welch.

      1. The one and only Barbarella, directed by her then-husband, French filmmaker Roger Vadim, also the former spouse of Brigitte Bardot and the boyfriend of Catherine Deneuve. Some guys have all the fun.

        When I was a Catholic schoolboy, Barbarella was on the CONDEMNED list maintained by The Church’s Legion of Decency. I vowed to see it first chance I got.

          1. It’s a godawful film; still, it’s a pleasure defying the Legion of Decency’s CONDEMNED list any chance I get.

  4. Them’s strong words, partner! I presume he knows more about this than i [sic] do, but is he an expert on China’s military strategy. Will they risk a nuclear war over Taiwan? Or will the U.S., which has promised to defend the island?

    It’s like the final table at the World Series of Poker, man; it’s all about managing risk. Who’s bluffing? Who’s slow-playing a strong hand? And who’s holding “the immortal nuts”?

    Of course, “going bust” in this context has a whole nother meaning, where an exchange of nukes hangs in the balance.

  5. Even though he’s feeding livestock from his breakfast table, the thing I find most odd about the Arnold video is that he’s wearing a shirt with a picture of himself on it. It would be better if the T-shirt Arnold was himself wearing a shirt with a picture of Arnold ad infinitum.

  6. American actor Jane Fonda said Wednesday she accepted an Austrian building tycoon’s invitation to attend the Vienna Opera Ball because he offered to “pay me quite a bit of money.”

    IIRC, this would be Ms. Fonda’s first role as an escort since her Oscar-winning turn in Klute.

    1. Ms Fonda’s star turn for North Vietnam’s propaganda came one year after Klute. Strictly it may not count in the tally as I am prepared to believe she did it for love, not for money. But on the other hand she wasn’t acting.

      1. At least Jane had the common decency to apologize. Henry Kissinger, OTOH, has never been made to answer for his multifarious war crimes in Southeast Asia — and keep in mind that the Hitch presented these well-founded charges even before HR Haldeman’s “smoking gun” notes regarding Nixon’s and Kissinger’s subversion of LBJ’s 1968 peace negotiations were made public.

        In this regard, you may also want to give a listen to the tapes of President Lydon Johnson’s telephone conversation with Nixon himself (who blatantly lies by denying that he has had contact with the government of South Vietnam through his intermediary Madame Anna Chennault) and with US senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen, the conservative conscience of the senate (in which Dirksen agrees that what Nixon and Kissinger are accused of doing it tantamount to treason).

    2. I actually attended the Vienna Opera Ball at age 16 (my escort “paid” me with a corsage)🎶🎶 Those were the days!

        1. I’d say something much more risque – holding hands and his catching an occasional glimpse of her ankle. 😉 At that age that would have been enought to cause my heart to pound in my chest and ears. (Wouldn’t mind that experience again, if I thought I could survive it.)

        2. Unfortunately not🤓 My escort that night was not my regular bf. But speaking of balconies, when we young ladies (?) did the opening waltz, one of the girls’ shoes went flying up and almost hit the Austrian Prez in his special box. We had to refrain from giggling. And another funny monent: when my date took me home at 3 AM I roasted a marshmallow for him on our gas stove. Poor guy had never heard of marshmallows. Unfortunately there were no geaham crackers handy as I could’ve really blown his mind with ‘smores😹

  7. I’m not convinced the United States has in fact pledged to defend Taiwan. His statement in an interview in September where he said, “Yes”, to a question about using American forces is thought to have been a gaffe. Official spokesmen said that the long-standing U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the China-Taiwan question had not changed. Taiwan, unlike Ukraine, is not recognized by the United States or the rest of the international community as a sovereign nation. To defend Taiwan would be to take sides in a civil war. The British built warships for the Confederacy but at least they had the sense not to man them with British sailors to challenge the Union blockade of Southern ports.

    Of course, one definition of a gaffe is to have spoken an inconvenient truth.

    1. Apologies for omitting the antecedent for the pronoun beginning the second sentence. “He” refers, of course, to President Biden, not to some masculine personification of the United States.

  8. Since the end of his probably deserved jail term, Khodorkovsky, gave the impression he wants to become the US-backed Russian president when the Putin regime has fallen, so he is not without self interest in this. One might just as easily argue that the aim of defeating Russia (in the sense of throwing it out of pre-2014 Ukraine territory completely) itself entails a high risk of nuclear escalation, and/or that China will feel emboldened to take Taiwan when it knows NATO is knee-deep in the war against Russia und might not dare risk a WWIII against the Chinese-Russian alliance that would then become probable.
    There is no safe course here, all waters are dangerous and cannot be crossed without sacrifices.

    1. I think a Ukrainian defeat would embolden China. A Russian defeat in Ukraine will give the Chinese Peoples Republic some pause for thought, second thoughts.
      I cannot fathom why some Americans are not strong supporters of Ukraine; the military help is about 5% of the US military budget, less than 1 % of GDP, and you may get a probable comprehensive defeat of your long-standing foe threatening democracy and your very existence (which has been eating a much greater part of your budget over the decades). A real bargain, the greatest bargain in a century, talk about getting bang for your bucks.
      As Zelenskiy famously said before Congress: ” Your money is not charity, but an investment in global security and democracy”. Could that have been stated any better?
      Now what could possibly motivate the Boeberts and the Gaetzes to have a basically pro-Russian stand in US Congress?

      1. An investment in global security, requiring no expenditure, would have been for the U.S. not to have pressed for NATO eastward expansion over the last couple of decades or so.

  9. I note that the person handling the millennium-old Hebrew Bible is thumbing through it with her bare hands. Is that the right way to handle such an artifact? Just wondering.

    And yes, I read that about Jane Fonda yesterday. She looks beautiful in the picture, but given what she tells us, she’s afraid to move for fear of falling into pieces. Come to think of it, she looks a bit stilted in the picture, as if she really is afraid to move!

    And regarding Raquel, my favorite movie as a child—the first I ever saw without my parents around—was Fantastic Voyage. No prepubescent boy should miss it!

    1. I was stunned and horrified. “Sharon Liberman Mintz, the auction house’s senior Judaica consultant, was turning its rippled pages” WITHOUT GLOVES!! The most shocking thing I’ve seen all week on the interwebs.

    2. Let this librarian weigh in to say that Kurt is correct. Gloves were causing pages of rare books to be damaged. The procedure now is to wash, rinse, and dry hands before handling a rare book—or any book, if you ask me.🤓

  10. I must respond the the cat-vacuum part. Many years ago, my aunt and grandmother were given a small gray kitten, Molly Milau. There were dogs in the house, and when she was brought inside, she hid. (sensible, eh?) Three days later, she actually came out and sat in front of Grandmother, who noticed the kitten’s fur was rippling. She’d never seen such a thing and picked her up and immediately called my aunt to bring the vacuum. One held the little gray thing while the other vacuumed her. When all was done, Molly was the prettiest white kitten ever. And every time thereafter, when the vacuum was turned on, she would run to get vacuumed. She equated that devil machine with getting rid of fleas. She knew it only ate fleas, not cats.

    1. My dog pretends to be scared of the vacuum. What he wants me to do, however, is chase him with it, and try to count coup on him with the nozzle.

  11. From a skit on the old Dean Martin Show in which Martin is being arrested:

    Cop: “Anything you say may be held against you in a court of law.”

    Dino: “Raquel Welch.”

    1. I remember a similar skit with Dino in which his punchline (to the last of the four Miranda warnings — no relation, I assume, Gary 🙂 ) was “Gina Lollobrigida.”

      I thought of that last month when La Lollobrigida passed away.

    2. Raquel Welch appeared with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in the excellent 1967 comedy Bedazzled. Her male co-stars wanted to change the title to Raquel Welch, so that the theater marquees would read “Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in Raquel Welch.”

  12. We don’t know what Darwin smelt, but he looks like a Denisovan, at least in some of the ‘reconstructions’.

  13. Imagine the bidding war on the bible that would result if someone started a rumour that a rich atheist was intending to buy it and burn it.

  14. “This represents the first time the text appears in the form where we can really read and understand it.”

    Huh? Scrolls weren’t readable and understandable?

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