Welcome to Friday, November 3, 2023, and it’s National Sandwich Day. Here’s the biggest sandwich I know of (and it’s good): a large pastrami from Harold’s NY Deli in Edison, NJ. Everything there is huge, but also very good, and it’s right off the N/S Interstate. Look at this puppy (there’s a bread and pickle bar to thin things out!) Remember, you can take the leftovers home to make several days’ worth of sammies.
It’s also American Painters Day, Four Chaplains Memorial Day, (read the story here), Bubble Gum Day, International Golden Retrievers Day, National Carrot Cake Day, National Wear Red Day, The Day the Music Died (story here, song here), and Culture Day in Japan.
I will be going to Paris on Sunday for eight days, so posting will be light, though Matthew has promised to keep the Hili dialogues alive while I’m gone. Bear with me; we’ll resume on the 14th and I’ll do my best.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the November 3 Wikipedia page.
Today’s Google Doodle commemorates the life and work of Allan Houser (1914-1994), described by Wikipedia as “a Chiricahua Apache sculptor, painter and book illustrator born in Oklahoma. He was one of the most renowned Native American painters and Modernist sculptors of the 20th century. Click on the Doodle to see the links, and I’ve put one of his sculptures below:
Wine of the Day: Readers know I’m a big fan of Spanish white wines, especially Albariño and Rueda. They can be terrific and tasty, and are often great values. This is a high-class Albariño from 2022, so the grapes were harvested about a year ago. It was only $17 for a wine of extraordinary freshness and complexity, straw-colored with a nose of lime, fruit, and flowers (these wines are known for their perfume). I drank it with fettuccine Alfredo with some green peas, and it was a great pairing. In fact, I had to stop myself from drinking more than half a bottle.
A 92-point review from James Suckling:
A vibrant albariño with aromas of waxed lemons, thyme, fresh peaches, white pepper and grapefruit. Crunchy and zesty, with a medium body and delicious mineral undertones. Drink now.
This is a serious, luscious white that you’ll be proud to serve to your guests. Or to acquaint yourself with this rarely-drunk wine. If you can find it between $15 and $20, and want a white that will go well with food, this is your puppy:
*This morning’s war news from the NYT:
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken arrived in the Middle East on Friday on a complex diplomatic mission in which he will reaffirm the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip while pressing its leaders to take concrete steps to reduce the number of civilian casualties.
The U.S. stance on the war has shifted over the past three weeks. While President Biden continues to declare unambiguous support for Israel, saying the country has a right to defend itself, concern has been growing within his administration about the mounting Palestinian death toll and worsening humanitarian conditions due to Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 that killed 1,400.
The Gazan health ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government, says that more than 9,000 people have been killed in the territory, provoking outrage around the world. Gaza is also dangerously low on food, fuel and water after Israel cut off access to those necessities.
In meetings scheduled with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders in Tel Aviv on Friday, Mr. Blinken is expected to push what American officials call “humanitarian pauses” in military operations against Hamas in Gaza. Mr. Netanyahu paused the operations last month to enable the release of two American hostages held in the territory, Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter, Natalie Raanan, 17.
The death toll, of course, largely reflects the Palestinians using civilians as human shields, locating military forces, headquarters, and missile launches in heavily-populated areas, or under sensitive sites like hospitals. They’re also preventing Palestinians from moving south to zones that are supposed to be attack free, though I’m not sure if that’s true. I’m also not sure how Israel can achieve its mission of erasing Hamas without a high death toll of civilians, which I abhor. But what can be done. The “humanitarian pauses” work only when a few hostages are released (four so far out of about 250), and, if they turn into cease-fires, which many Americans are calling for, will end with Hamas persisting. The Biden administration has indeed changed its view, and it’s depressing to think about what is to come.
*Secretary of State Blinken is calling for “pauses” in the war, but these are apparently not “cease-fires”:
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will urge the Israeli government to agree to a series of brief cessations of military operations in Gaza to allow for hostages to be released safely and for humanitarian aid to be distributed, White House officials said on Thursday.
The message comes as President Biden revealed on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel had previously agreed to halt shelling briefly on Oct. 20 to allow for the release of two Americans, Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter, Natalie Raanan, 17.
The push for what American officials call “humanitarian pauses” is one of several subjects Mr. Blinken will raise with Mr. Netanyahu and other officials when he arrives in Israel on Friday for another round of diplomacy amid fierce fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas, the group that controls Gaza.
White House officials said the request for pauses was far different from an overall cease-fire, which the Biden administration believes would benefit Hamas by allowing it to recover from Israel’s intense bombardment.
Okay, so now we know: “pauses” are very short, and occur only during times when hostages are being released or humanitarian aid arrives. All parties remain in place, a hostage is released, and then hostilities resume. This apparently happened once before. But seriously, we have only four hostages released (and one rescued, with the IDF of course giving no details), and 220 more. Were I (Ceiling Cat forbid) a leader of Hamas, I’d draw out these pauses for negotiation so that my forces could regroup. And, finally, we can have pauses ONLY WHEN HAMAS HAS AGREED TO RELEASE HOSTAGES. So we can’t just say, “Okay, we’ll pause next Tuesday at 2 pm, and you, Hamas, will release hostages.” The negotiations have to be concluded in advance. As for humanitarian aid, it should really all be going to southern Gaza, as an inducement for civilians to get out of the way.
*Good Lord! The Wall Street Journal has shown a connection between Russia and Hezbollah: “Russia’s Wagner Group may provide air defense weapon to Hezbollah, U.S. intel says.”
Wagner Group, the Russian paramilitary organization, plans to provide an air-defense system to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, U.S. officials say, citing intelligence.
The Russian SA-22 system they plan to send uses antiaircraft missiles and air-defense guns to intercept aircraft.
One U.S. official said that Washington hasn’t confirmed that the system has been sent. But officials are monitoring discussions involving Wagner and Hezbollah and the potential delivery is a major concern to them.
In Syria, Wagner troops played an important role in shoring up the country’s leader, President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The intelligence comes amid broader concerns about Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia, opening up a northern front against Israel. The U.S. has positioned an aircraft carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean to try to deter Hezbollah and Iran.
Were I Hezbollah, what with two U.S. aircraft carriers (and their ancillary ships) sitting in the eastern Mediterranean, I wouldn’t try anything, I tell you what. I have little doubt that Biden meant what he said when he warned Lebanon to keep their missiles in their pants.
*In my life I’ve bought and sold two homes, and was always peeved at the 6% real estate commission you pay when you sell a house. Now, though, a federal jury has ruled this commission illegal because it involves illegal collusion. The realtor agency is going to have to dig deep to pay the fine:
The National Association of Realtors and several real estate companies were ordered to pay $1.8 billion in damages after a federal jury in Missouri on Tuesday ruled that they conspired to artificially inflate brokerage commissions.
Beyond the realtors’ association, defendants in the case include Keller Williams, Berkshire Hathaway’s HomeService of America and two of its subsidiaries. The verdict, which came after a two-week trial in federal court in Kansas City, is a potential game changer for how Americans buy homes. It also comes at a time when the U.S. real estate market is stalled, with mortgage rates nearing 8% and existing home sales down double digits from a year ago.
The case centers on the commissions home sellers make to a buyer’s realtor. Those payments are partially governed by NAR rules, which mandate that sellers include a fee offer to the buyer’s agent in listing property. The offer is known by real estate agents representing prospective buyers, but the latter are usually in the dark on those amounts. That can lead agents to steer buyers into deals to maximize their own commissions.
As I recall, the fee paid by the seller is 6% of the offered price, which can be substantial. There’s more:
Michael Ketchmark, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told CBS MoneyWatch he expects the jury award to be tripled under U.S. antitrust law to more than $5 billion.
. . . It cost two to three times as much to sell a house in the United States as it does in other industrialized countries,” said the attorney, citing the practices outlined during the trial that compels the seller to pay brokerage commissions of up to 6%.
It was 6% both times I sold a house.
*The Washington Post passes judgement on the newly released (and partly computer-generated) Beatles song I mentioned the other day: “The ‘new’ Beatles song is perfectly fine. That’s not good enough.”
One day in the late 1970s, John Lennon hit the record button on a boombox at his Upper West Side co-op and sang a new song he had been working on, accompanying himself on piano.
For decades, his Beatles songwriting partner Paul McCartney yearned to transform this raw solo demo into a studio-polished collaboration that could properly serve as the Fab Four’s final song. Finally, some 45 years later, the technology arrived that would free Lennon’s voice from its sonic trap of atmospheric hum and tinny piano so they could blend it seamlessly with his surviving bandmates’ fresh vocals and instruments.
. . . The song comes to us courtesy of the same miracle software program that director Peter Jackson deployed to astonishing effect in 2021’s “The Beatles: Get Back.” For that approximately 470-minute docuseries, Jackson’s engineering team managed to isolate the whispered conversations between John, Paul, George and Ringo from the din of their 1969 rehearsal sessions. But their software, known as MAL, can also create weird temptations.
. . . . And now I sit, a committed Beatles fan, listening to this “new” song for the 10th time on headphones in the dark at 4:13 a.m., willing myself to feel that special thing that would allow me to embrace it, to rave to you about its majestic beauty and poignant perfection.
But I can’t. “Now and Then” is just okay. And that’s not nearly good enough.
I agree with pop-culture editor Geoff Edgers when he says this:
“Now and Then” is not terrible. It starts slow and picks up a little as the rhythm section kicks in. There is a minor-key melancholy in Lennon’s composition. But ultimately, it’s kind of mundane.
No, it’s not terrible, but listen for yourself below. In my book it’s not even in the top 100 Beatles songs. It’s a tedious disappointment:
“Now and Then” comes from the same batch of unreleased demos written by Lennon in the 1970s, which were given to his former bandmates by Yoko Ono. They used the tape to construct the songs “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love,” released in the mid-1990s. But there were technical limitations to finishing “Now and Then.”
On Wednesday, a short film titled “The Beatles — Now And Then — The Last Beatles Song” was released, detailing the creation of the track. On the original tape, Lennon’s voice was hidden; the piano was “hard to hear,” as Paul McCartney describes it. “And in those days, of course, we didn’t have the technology to do the separation.”
Here’s that a 12-minute video about how the song was made, including nice video of the Beatles when they were all alive. To be fair, Paul says below that he helped do this because he was sure that John would want the song released:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is wet, on the windowsill, and indecisive:
Hili: It’s raining.A: Come inside then.Hili: And what am I going to do there?
Hili: Pada deszcz.Ja: To chodź do domu.Hili: I co mam tam robić?
This statement appears to be true, but it was in 2008, not now:
From Thomas, a Dave Blazek cartoon:
From Masih; the Google translation is this:
The person who sent this video wrote: “This woman who caused trouble due to wearing a veil on her head, and brave girls and women met her with unity and standing up. After the fight, the subway officers threw everyone out of the subway and delayed us for an hour until the next subway came. Please publish it so that everyone understands that the era of these ration-eating, sandwich-eating, ration-eating fossils is over, who sing in the subway and on the streets to disturb the girls and women of the Iranian nation because of hijab and any other issue.”
Apparently too many women were showing their hair. But “sandwich eating”? Sound up.
فردی که این ویدو را فرستاده نوشته است:
«این زنی که چادر سرشه ایجاد مزاحمت بخاطر بدحجابی کرد و دختران و زنان شجاع با اتحاد و ایستادگی حسابش رو رسیدند. بعد از درگیری مامورای مترو همه رو از مترو انداختن بیرون و یکساعت ما رو معطل کردن تا مترو بعدی بیاد. لطفا منتشر کنید تا همه بفهمند… pic.twitter.com/wQNCspvCMw
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 30, 2023
From Titania. She’s doomed!
Simon also sent this, and added, “Given that they are beheading people for being gay in Palestine (I think it was the West Bank yesterday) I fail to see where the alphabet people think they have common cause with and fundamentalist group.”
I have decided to solve the Middle East crisis with a tour of my intersectional LGBTQ+ slam poetry.
If you know of any popular queer venues in Gaza, Iran or Saudi Arabia, DM me.
🇵🇸 🏳️⚧️ 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/fIcSYZU0Sh
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) November 1, 2023
From Simon. Read the long note, too (click on “show more”):
To those raising the Palestinian flag,
Where were you when ISIS was launched and beheaded tens of thousands of Arabs in Iraq, Libya, and Syria in the name of Islam? Why didn’t you take to the streets and raise their flags? Why didn’t you condemn the terror and call for a… pic.twitter.com/wGj56cHxjz
— Luai Ahmed (@JustLuai) November 1, 2023
From Barry, a long-term work of art. Be sure to see the artist (click on the photo):
Fifteen years in the making … artist in background pic.twitter.com/08jGsIKyXf
— NotQuiteEdelweiss (@NotEdelweiss) October 20, 2023
From Malcolm. I don’t think the black cat likes this!
"What.. are.. you.. doing bro?"
🎥 Tiktok francake10 pic.twitter.com/8EltsHGXU0
— Cats – Gorgeous & Funny (@Six_Stinky_Cats) October 29, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial: an anniversary I reposted:
18,000 Jews murdered in one day (note the European date style: November 3, 1943). That is 12.5 murders a minute. https://t.co/qxg9Yabhcf
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) November 3, 2023
TWO weets from Dr. Cobb, who’s back in gear! First, he loves Stegosaurus, but apparently people didn’t like it so much in the old days:
— Out of Context Dinosaurs (@OOCMesozoicLife) October 30, 2023
GREAT fly photos. Look at that head!
Diptera, unknown species. Due to the size of a fruit fly, I photographed this fly at a scale of 10:1. But since the head was a bit too big and I wanted to include the proboscis in the picture, I needed two picture sections on top of each other. Stack and stitch as they say. Both… pic.twitter.com/mGFh5KC7yA
— Thorben Danke (@sagaOptics) October 30, 2023