Friday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on May 19, 2017. The storms in Chicago never materialized yesterday, and it was warm and sunny with a high of 25° C.  It’s National Devil’s Food Cake Day, a lovely dessert, but I’m curious why such a toothsome comestible is named after Satan. In Vietnam, it’s Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday (see below), and in the U.S. it’s both Malcolm X Day (he was born on this day in 1925) and National Hepatitis Testing Day. I can assure you that I’m free of all three forms; I’ve been tested.

On this day in 1536, Anne Boleyn, accused and “convicted” of adultery, treason and incest (!), was beheaded on the orders of King Henry VIII. In 1919 Kemal Atatürk landed at Samsun on the Black Sea coast, beginning the Turkish War of Independence that deposed the Ottomans and began the modernization of Turkey, reforms being quickly reversed by Thug Erdogan. Finally (not much happened on this day), in 1962 Marilyn Monroe sang her famous version of “Happy Birthday (Mr. President)” at a birthday celebration for President John F. Kennedy (10 days early)  at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The incident has its own Wikipedia entry. Here Monroe is introduced by Peter Lawford (JFK’s brother in law) before crooning her ultra-sexy rendition:

By the way, there’s no conclusive evidence that Monroe had an affair with Kennedy, though many think this sultry song is evidence for that. It isn’t. They may have had a fling, but we don’t know for sure.

Notables born on this day include Johns Hopkins (1795), Ho Chi Minh (1890), Max Perutz (1914), Pol Pot and Malcolm X (both 1925), Nora Ephron (1941), and Pete Townshend (1945). Those who died on this day include José Martí (1895), my hero T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”; 1935; motorcycle crash), Charles Ives (1954) and Ogden Nash (1971).

Lawrence is one of my heroes because he was a man of thought and action as well as an excellent writer, though—or perhaps because—he was a tortured soul. When I took a week’s vacation in Dorset in 2006, I visited his cottage Clouds Hill, which he bought in 1923 and kept until his death in 1935 at the age of 46. It’s a spartan place, without electricity or windows in the front, but was near the RAF base where he had been stationed. Here’s the cottage; on the lintel Lawrence had inscribed the Greek phrase οὐ φροντὶς (“Why Worry”). No photos were allowed inside, but I snuck one.

Here’s his bathtub, with a plank to read on, also holding his shaving bowl:

After much searching along the road a few miles from Clouds Hill, I found the spot where Lawrence had his fatal motorcycle accident:

In Arabia:

On one of his beloved Brough Superior SS100 motorcycles. It was on one of these that he was killed:


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the beasts are scrutinizing the property, and there’s even a title. It’s a cute picture

Hili: We have to check everything thoroughly.
Cyrus: Yes, it’s very important.
In Polish:
Hili: Musimy dokładnie wszystko sprawdzić.
Cyrus: Tak, to bardzo ważne.

Here’s a Gus photo with a backstory, sent by Taskin, who’s half of his staff:

I made this sign for the door at the bottom of the stairs into our basement. The other half of Gus’s staff is a massage therapist who has his office in the basement. Gus sometimes scratches and meows at the massage room door, so we started shutting this other door to the waiting area to keep him from being a nuisance during massages. However, people coming in for their massage were then unsure whether they should go down the stairs when the door was shut. Hence, the sign. I love listening to people chuckle as they head down the stairs.

And here’s Ozzy the Weasel, a rescue weasel (DO NOT ADOPT WEASELS!):

Finally, Matthew Cobb sent a tw**t he found depicting a swell mirage, a “Fata Morgana”. Wikipedia has a detailed explanation of this phenomenon.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I remember your post on “Awrence” – couple of “Awrence” fans here…

  2. GBJames
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    “I’m curious why such a toothsome comestible is named after Satan.”

    Because Satan is a man of wealth and taste?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 19, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Good one. Woo woo!

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted May 19, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      I’ve always assumed it was by contrast with angel’s food cake: white for angels and black for Old Nick; but I’ve never spent the energy on actually checking whether this is so.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 19, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        You’re probably right, but I like my answer: in religion, anything pleasurable is sinful. The more pleasurable, the more sinful, especially in Protestantism. Devil’s food cake is the ultimate food pleasure so gets the ultimate evil name.

      • Posted May 19, 2017 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        At one time, devil’s food cake was red. That is how my grandmother used to make it, and I think that is how it got associated with the devil.

  3. nurnord
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Hovering boats and giant apples on the beach…just where is this ?!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 19, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      @nurnord Australia. So be careful – that innocent-looking giant apple will be something deadly in disguise! 🙂

  4. rickflick
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Different densities of air and water can create interesting distortions. While diving in the St. Lawrence River, we encountered a layer of salt water below freshwater (halocline). We were on a wreak of an old wooden sailing ship. The two densities produced some interesting effects. As I recall the size and position of the ships railing was greatly shifted when viewed from above.

  5. Nicholas K.
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Lawrence was one of my heroes too.

  6. darrelle
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    For a moment I thought that the picture of Lawrence in Arabia was a still of Peter O’Toole from the movie. The resemblance is pretty strong.

    I never knew that he died in a motorcycle accident. I’ve had a few but most were on tracks, which are typically well designed for crashing. I’ve had two on the street with only minor injuries. I wonder what happened in Lawrence’s accident. Safety gear wasn’t really a thing in 1935. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a head injury.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 19, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      @darrelle He died of head injuries six days after his head hit the road. One of the medicos who attended to him, Hugh Cairns, went on to push gradually [military despatch riders first] for compulsory crash helmets, which have prevented many deaths & scarring of minds. Interesting article here:

      • darrelle
        Posted May 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink


        Thanks for the information and the article link. Definitely an interesting article.

        In the US there is still strong resistance to mandatory helmet laws and many bikers that prefer to ride without one. Where I currently live it is not mandatory for adults.

        Regardless of what the law may require I’ve always thought it was foolish not to wear a helmet. Virtually anytime you wreck on a bike your head is going to hit something pretty hard. At even moderate speed the forces involved are too large for you to prevent it. I’ll go one further. I think it’s stupid to not wear a full-face helmet. Faces are delicate.

        Even the “freedom of riding with my hair blowing in the wind” arguments are completely unconvincing to me. Once you get past about 25 mph things begin to get unpleasant. Unless you are wearing sealed goggles your vision seriously degrades. Contrary to anti-helmet claims your hearing is significantly better with a full helmet on than without a helmet. Everything that hits you, sand, road debris, rocks, bugs, hits you at the speed you are going, at a minimum. In the face. You are able to be much more aware of your environment and thereby enjoy it more (and much more likely to survive any surprises), and be much more comfortable with a helmet than without.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted May 19, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          American football players are required to wear head protection [& I think neck protection/support is coming soon] & weirdly that may have made gridiron more dangerous due to the ‘heads up tackle’ style with 300lb monsters going head first aimed at the target like a missile. Perhaps helmets will be banned in NFL one day but a requirement on bikes. I expect the insurance companies will speak in the end…

        • Posted May 20, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

          I was once hit in the throat by a butterfly whole riding. Damn near choked to death. And, as I recall, rain hurts at sixty miles an hour.

  7. Marilyn
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I have been a TEL fan for years and try to keep up with books written about him. I just finished one that was excellent. You may want to check it out. It covers his life before the war; his bicycle trips through France, his walking tours in Arabia and the years at Carchemish. The title is “The Young T. E. Lawrence” by Anthony Sattin.

    • David Coxill
      Posted May 19, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Hi ,i read one called A Prince Of Our Disorder ,years ago .The bike that killed him is /was in the Tank Museum at Bovington ,he was a distant relative of General Orde Wingate ,and apart from him dying on Ho Chi Mihn’s Birthday they both attended the Versailles peace talks in 1919 .
      That’s about all i know about him.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    By the way, there’s no conclusive evidence that Monroe had an affair with Kennedy …

    That’d pretty much make MM the only woman in America Jack wasn’t bonein’.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted May 19, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      One of the obviously surreptitious Lincoln-Kennedy coincidences is that a year before his assassination Lincoln was visiting Monroe, Maryland. 🙂

  9. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Deviled eggs are also an etymological mystery. They are called that mainly in the USA.

    From YAHOO answers
    “So, while doing missionary work in Costa Rica, my wife and I decided to prepare them [deviled eggs] for church luncheon.

    Well, I didn’t know a word for deviled (mixed) eggs, so called them JUEVOS DE DIABLO. That is literally the devil’s eggs.

    When I told the name, people looked kinda weird when I held the plate up for them to eat. Only a couple people didn’t want to be rude and ate them–we took the rest home.

    At a different church we tried that again, only I called them JUEVOS DE GLORIA, meaning “heaven’s eggs.” “

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 19, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      The origins of the term “devilled” or “deviled” in cookery acc to Straight Dope:

      “Devilled” with reference to highly seasoned food seems to come from the notion of something being Hellishly hot. Perhaps “Devilled” with reference to stuffed food items, that aren’t necessarily hot, just grew out of the original meaning over time perhaps. It also discusses cake.

  10. Hempenstein
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Are any of his Broughs extant?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 19, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      The Wiki in the post up top says “yes” & gives auction examples. There’s also mention of a resurrected Brough manufactured in France with modern materials & new engine – sort of in the spirit of the original Brough monsters, but hopefully much lighter & with better handling

      • Hempenstein
        Posted May 19, 2017 at 11:00 pm | Permalink


  11. Posted May 19, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Cool: Your visit to Clouds Hill. We were very close by; and we drove past and glimpsed the cottage; but we chose (actually my 11-year old at the time son chose) to do the Tank Museum (just nearby) instead of the Aurence pilgrimage. The Tank Museum was very good.

  12. Posted May 19, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Not to steal the thunder from Lawrence, more a question: How come Sir Richard Francis Burton is seemingly little known, by comparison?

  13. Posted May 20, 2017 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Macabre. A picture of Ozzy the rescue weasel it says. Right over a picture of chopped meat. Save me from rescuing!!

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