Good morning: it’s Saturday, February 18, 2017. Spring, it seems, has arrived in Chicago, at least temporarily. We had record high temperatures yesterday of 62°F (17° C), which broke a 134-year old record by 2° F. The students at my university were basking in the sun wearing teeshirts and shorts, exposing acres of milk-white winter skin. And temperatures will be high like that for the entire weekend. It’s also National “Drink Wine” Day, a day I can get behind—but why the scare quotes?
On this day in 1861, Jefferson Davis became President of the Confederate States of America, and, in 1885, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published. Hemingway famously praised this book in his own novel The Green Hills of Africa, saying, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” (Hemingway’s meaning has been questioned.)
On Febraury 18, 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto from studying astronomical photographs. Is it a planet? You be the judge. On this day in 1943, Joseph Goebbels delivered his “Sportpalast speech” in Berlin, calling for totaler Krieg (“total war”)—a tacit admission that the Nazi Reich was in danger. You can hear part of the speech at the link. Goebbels, of course, died in the Führer bunker, shooting his wife Magda (who had just poisoned all of their six young children) and then himself (you can see these two scenes from the movie “Downfall” here and here). In 1954, the first Church of Scientology started operations in Los Angeles. On this day in 1970, the “Chicago Seven” were found not guilty of conspiracy to cause riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. I remember that raucous trial well; how many of the Chicago Seven can you name? I could remember only five. On this day in 1972, the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty to be illegal since it constituted “cruel and unusual punishment”—a decision that, along with a Supreme Court ruling later that year, stopped executions throughout the US, but only for a time. Finally, it was on this day in 2001 that NASCAR hero Dale Earnhardt died in an accident at the Daytona 500 race.
Notables born on this day include Ernst Mach (1838), Hans Asperger (1906), Toni Morrison (1931), Cybill Shepherd (1950), John Travolta (1954), Vanna White (1957), and Molly Ringwald (1968). Those who died on this day include Martin Luther (1546), Michelangelo (1564), J. Robert Oppenheimer (1967), and Harry Caray (1998; Holy cow!). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is watching the birds eat and wanting to eat the birds:
BirdwatchingHili: Two titmice and a sparrow.A: Well? So?Hili: They are eating.
Hili: Dwie sikorki i wróbelek.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Nic, jedzą.
Yesterday it was World Cat Day in Poland and much of Europe (I forgot to note it). Leon is aware of this, but thinks that a single day is insufficient. Two of his friends apparently agree.
Leon: Have you heard? Apparently, it’s a Cat’s Day today! I don’t know any other days.