Wednesday: Hili dialogue

Good morning; it’s Wednesday, August 23, 2017, at least in the U.S. It’s National Spongecake Day, a pretty useless cake unless one mitigates its dryness by drenching it with things like fresh strawberries and cream. Does anybody eat plain spongecake?

I see from the news that Trump once again embarrassed himself last night at a rally in Arizona, reprising and defending at length his Charlottesville remarks but leaving out the “all sides are to blame” argument, something that CNN called a “77-minute presidential therapy session in front of thousands of supporters.” This is pathological: if he’s criticized, Trump later wastes a lot of time doing exegesis of what he said in inappropriate venues, trying desperately to show people that he was right. He also threatened to shut down the government in the autumn if Congress refused to appropriate funds for building his Big Mexican Wall, and intimated that he’d pardon the odious and bigoted Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio:

“Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” [Trump] said to cheers.
“So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked, publicly testing the response to a pardon. “You know what, I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine, OK? But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe should feel good.”
Never in my life have I thought that America would elect someone this unhinged and narcissistic. “It can’t happen here” my tuchas!
On this day in 634, Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s father-in-law, died in Medina, and was succeeded by Umar I, the second caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate. The Sunnis accept Bakr as Muhammad’s legitimate heir, while Shiites reject him. Because of this schism, millions of people have killed each other. (Oh, but it’s just Western colonialism!) On August 23, 1305, William Wallace (FREEEDOM!) was executed for high treason; and by “executed” I mean hanged until he was nearly dead, emasculated, disemboweled with his intestines burned in front of him while he was still alive, and then decapitated. People were cruel in those days. On this day in 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the famous Molotov-Ribbontrop nonaggression pact, pledging not to attack each other (at the same time, but secretly, they divided the Baltic states, Finland, Romania, and Poland between them). The pact lasted until June 22, 1941, when Germany attacked Russia. On August 23, 1966, the Lunar Orbiter 1 took the first picture of Earth from its orbit around the Moon. Here’s that photo:

On this day in 1973, a botched bank robbery in Stockholm led to a hostage crisis in which, during the next five days, the hostages began to feel compassion for their captors, giving rise to the famous term “Stockholm syndrome“. In 1990, it was on this day that East and West Germany announced that they’d unite on the following October 3, and on this day in the next year, the World Wide Web became accessible to the public. Finally, on this day the skeletons of the last undiscovered members of Russia’s last royal family, Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich (a hemophiliac treated by Rasputin) and his sister the Grand Duchess Anastasia were found near Yekaterinburg, Russia, where the family and their retainers were shot by the Bolsheviks. The remains of the family were interred in 1998 in Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg; here’s a photo I took of their tombs on a 2012 visit to the Cathedral, perhaps you can transliterate the Russian: Anastasia, for instance, is on the front wall, extreme right. The Tsar and Tsarina are in the middle.


Notables born on this day include Georges Cuvier (1769), Edgar Lee Masters (1868), Gene Kelly (1912), Kenneth Arrow (1921), Barbara Eden (1931), Galen Rowell (1940), Keith Moon (1946), Shelley Long (1949) and Kobe Bryant (1978).

Kelly was a superb dancer, second only to Fred Astaire, I think, as a male dancer in modern popular movies (and it’s a close second). Kelly could even tap dance in roller skates, as he shows here in a scene from the movie It’s Always Fair Weather (1955). What a performance!

Those who died on this day include Abu Bakr (see above), William Wallace (ditto), Increase Mather (1723; love those New England names!), Rudolph Valentino (1926, age 31), anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (executed 1927), Oscar Hammerstein II (1960) and Alfred Eisenstaedt (1995).

Eisenstaedt took many memorable photos, his most famous being a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square on V-J Day in 1945, but I like (if “like” is the right word) the photo below of Josef Goebbels glaring at the photographer. Time Magazine gives the background:

The unsettling image of the Third Reich’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, glaring at photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt during a League of Nations conference in 1933 remains, 80 years later, one of the signature—and certainly one of the most unflattering—portraits ever made of any high-ranking Nazi figure. In the photo, Goebbels’s bony hands grip the arms of his chair. His tense posture transmits an almost palpable enmity. Hunched, wary, Goebbels resembles a seething homunculus.

If any picture from the pre-World War II era captured the sheer malevolence animating the Reich’s ideology and actions, it was Eisenstaedt’s photo of Goebbels at the Carlton Hotel in Geneva.

Go here to see 21 other memorable photographs by Eisenstaedt.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a funny:

Hili: Hopless.
A: What about?
Hili: About hunting. Let’s go home – bowls there don’t try to hide from me.
In Polish:
Hili: Beznadzieja.
Ja: Z czym?
Hili: Z tym polowaniem. Wracamy do domu, tam miseczki nie próbują się przede mną chować.
 And in Winnipeg, Gus inspects a blue jay feather:

Finally, some lagniappe:


  1. Randy schenck
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Hili knows the bowl has no legs.

    When we think how pathetic a president we have, also know this – The secret service has spent more than $70,000 on golf cart rental at Trump properties.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      Money that goes into Trump’s coffers. Who saw that coming…

      … oh, just about everybody.

  2. Simon Hayward
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Is Hili making beer? 🙂

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I watched Trump’s speech last night. It was rank demagoguery the likes of which I thought I’d never see in this nation — at least not from a US president.

    He told us, if elected, he’d be “so presidential you won’t believe it.” We still don’t.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Can he shut down the government? If he can, it strikes me as a rather large hole in the US constitution.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        Congress has to pass a funding bill by Sept. 30th to keep the government running. If Trump doesn’t like the bill congress passes (because, for instance, it doesn’t provide dollars for his wall), he can veto it. Overriding that veto would take a two-thirds vote in both houses of congress.

        Former Speaker of the House New Gingrich pulled a similar government-shutdown stunt back during the Clinton administration in ’95 (to his everlasting chagrin).

        Hey, it’s almost as though Trump has never, you know, studied history to learn from it.

  4. Posted August 23, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Kelly was a superb dancer, second only to Fred Astaire, I think, as a male dancer in modern popular movies (and it’s a close second).

    I wish you had forgotten the gender qualifier because I wanted to use the quote

    “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels”

    which I think is great.

  5. prinzler
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    My favorite Gene Kelly routine is the one with the newspaper – very creative.

  6. busterggi
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it cute to watch a four year old who’s trying to act clever?

    Isn’t it pathetic to watch a 71 year old man act the same way?

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I recall an interview with Gene Kelly where he said his real goal in life was to play short-stop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I imagine with his exceptional coordination and athleticism, watching Gene Kelly turn a double-play would’ve been a real Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance work of art. Too bad he couldn’t hit the curve ball.

    • busterggi
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      I’ll bet he could have if he’d been allowed to hang onto a lamp post while batting.

  8. George
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I believe Hili said hopeless – not hopless. Hopless is beer without hops – water.

  9. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    While Astaire choreographed for the stage, Gene Kelly choreographed for a moving camera. Kelly was also much more of an everyman rather than the usually tuxedoed Astaire.

    (Though I like FA’s choreography a bit more.
    Astaire did play more of an everyman in his last film “Finnian’s Rainbow” in which he does one dance number in a barn.)


    Upton Sinclair’s novel uses the phrase “It Can’t Happen Here” ironically. Of course, the point of the novel is that it CAN.

  10. Frank Bath
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I rate Kelly far above Astaire. He was a man dancing, Fred was a stick. There, I said it.

  11. Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    “Does anybody eat plain spongecake?”

    Is angel-food cake a sort of sponge cake? If so, I did, when my one of my grandmothers served it.

  12. Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    While I think Gene Kelly was a very talented dancer and choreographer, his dancing lacked the grace and elegance of Astaire. His was a more athletic style and had a touch of arrogance thrown in, as if he’s saying to the camera, “Look how good I am.” He even says it in the roller skating clip, “She loves me, so do I.” I don’t like what he did in Singin’ in the Rain as the whole “Gotta Dance” routine had no place in the picture other than for Kelly to show off. He practically caused a breakdown in Debbie Reynolds in the way he treated her. (If it weren’t for Fred Astaire, she might not have quit the movie and her career would have been over before it started.) I think Donald O’Conner was a better dancer than Kelly was.

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