Friday: Hili dialogue

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Good morning at the end of the work week, a term that barely has meaning any more. It’s Friday, July 3, 2020, National Chocolate Wafer Day. It’s a holiday for most Americans, or at least a day off, because Independence Day, tomorrow, falls on a Saturday. It’s also National Eat Beans Day, National Fried Clam Day (yum!), Stay Out of the Sun Day (hard to do at Botany Pond), and, according to Wikipedia, “The start of the Dog Days according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac but not according to established meaning in most European cultures.” Why are there no Cat Days??

News of the day:  Things are, as Rodney Dangerfield said, “rough”. From David Brooks’s new column in the New York Times, which attributes America’s problems, quoting Damon Linker, to “a refusal on the part of lots of Americans to think in terms of the social whole — of what’s best for the community, of the common or public.” I concur.

From Brooks:

We Americans enter the July 4 weekend of 2020 humiliated as almost never before. We had one collective project this year and that was to crush Covid-19, and we failed.

On Wednesday, we had about 50,000 new positive tests, a record. Other nations are beating the disease while our infection lines shoot upward as sharply as they did in March.

This failure will lead to other failures. A third of Americans show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, according to the Census Bureau. Suspected drug overdose deaths surged by 42 percent in May. Small businesses, colleges and community hubs will close.

At least Americans are not in denial about the nation’s turmoil of the last three months. According to a Pew survey, 71 percent of Americans are angry about the state of the country right now and 66 percent are fearful. Only 17 percent are proud.

The data on clinical anxiety and depression, on top of all the coronavirus news, is also depressing.

And, as Brooks implies, the U.S. set another record with new coronavirus cases, passing the 50,000 mark per day to reach 55,000. This is the sixth time a record has been set in nine days.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 128,824,  an increase of 721 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 520,214—an increase of about 4100 from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on July 3 include:

  • 1767 – Pitcairn Island is discovered by Midshipman Robert Pitcairn on an expeditionary voyage commanded by Philip Carteret.
  • 1819 – The Bank for Savings in the City of New-York, the first savings bank in the United States, opens.
  • 1844 – The last pair of great auks is killed.

Here’s one specimen of a bird we’ll never see again (caption from Wikipedia: “Specimen No. 8 and replica egg in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow”.  The birds were 75-85 cm (30-33 inches) tall.

  • 1863 – American Civil War: The final day of the Battle of Gettysburg culminates with Pickett’s Charge.
  • 1884 – Dow Jones & Company publishes its first stock average.
  • 1886 – Karl Benz officially unveils the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the first purpose-built automobile.

Yes, here’s the first “purpose-built” car:

  • 1913 – Confederate veterans at the Great Reunion of 1913 reenact Pickett’s Charge; upon reaching the high-water mark of the Confederacy they are met by the outstretched hands of friendship from Union survivors.

Here’s a photo and then a video of the “Great Reunion: with a bunch of old geezers. The clip appears to be from Ken Burns’s “Civil War” movie.

  • 1952 – The SS United States sets sail on her maiden voyage to Southampton. During the voyage, the ship takes the Blue Riband away from the RMS Queen Mary.

It is this ship, the SS United States, that my family and I took to England on our voyage to Greece in 1955.  Army officers traveled in style, then, but we also had to cart a household’s worth of goods.

  • 1996 – British Prime Minister John Major announced the Stone of Scone would be returned to Scotland.
  • 2013 – Egyptian coup d’état: President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi is overthrown by the military after four days of protests all over the country calling for Morsi’s resignation, to which he did not respond. President of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt Adly Mansour is declared acting president.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1878 – George M. Cohan, American songwriter, actor, singer, and dancer (d. 1942)

When I was a kid, every Fourth of July I used to watch the great movie, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” starring James Cagney as George M. Cohan. Here’s a 7-minute documentary about Cohan from the PBS Series “Broadway.”

  • 1883 – Franz Kafka, Czech-Austrian author (d. 1924)
  • 1908 – M. F. K. Fisher, American author (d. 1992)
  • 1937 – Tom Stoppard, Czech-English playwright and screenwriter

Solipsism: Here’s Tom Stoppard and I at the Hay Festival in England in 2010. We were on a panel together and then had a discussion about evolution while smoking Stoppard’s cigarettes. I had to borrow the jacket from a friend, geneticist Steve Jones, as I was pressed into service at the last minute.

  • 1962 – Tom Cruise, American actor and producer
  • 1971 – Julian Assange, Australian journalist, publisher, and activist, founded WikiLeaks
  • 1993 – Don Drysdale, American baseball player and sportscaster (b. 1936)

Those who started The Big Sleep on July 3 include:

  • 1904 – Theodor Herzl, Austrian journalist and playwright (b. 1860)
  • 1971 – Jim Morrison, American singer-songwriter (b. 1943)
  • 1986 – Rudy Vallée, American singer, saxophonist, and actor (b. 1901)
  • 1993 – Don Drysdale, American baseball player and sportscaster (b. 1936)
  • 2012 – Andy Griffith, American actor, singer, and producer (b. 1926)

Meawhile in Dobrzyn, Hili repeats, I’m told, “the words repeated by Centaur from the Harry Potter books.”

Hili: Mars is exceptionally bright today.
A: You have been reading Harry Potter again.
In Polish:
Hili: Mars jest dziś niezwykle jasny.
Ja: Znowu czytałaś Harrego Pottera.

And, in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek and Leon are going to visit the site of their future home, but once again the reconstruction of that wooden house has been delayed, perhaps indefinitely.

Caption: “Everybody travels as they wish.”

In Polish: Każdy podróżuje tak, jak lubi.

A meme from reader Blue:

Two cartoons from reader Charles; the first is by Mike Luckovich:

Titania speaks for the woke:

Tweets from Matthew. The first one shows a bird I love, but also one I’ve never seen:

You can find this stowaway cat at the Bangor Humane Society:

A completely unknown organism. Do you have any idea what it is? Perhaps it’s a member of a new phylum.

Matthew adds re the following tweet: “This could have made Kent State look like kindergarten.” Indeed. Crowd control with BAYONETS?

As expected from physics, but still striking:

I saw stuff like this in Antarctica, and I want to go back SO BADLY!

Another one of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions:


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