Thursday: Hili dialogue

Well, we’ve reached the last day of August, as it’s Thursday, August 31, 2017, and yesterday Honey was back for lunchtime (but not breakfast)—skittish as usual. It’s National Trail Mix Day, in case you’re going hiking. It’s also the Day of Solidarity and Freedom in Poland honoring the Gdańsk Agreement on August 31, 1980 which allowed some democratic reforms, including independent trade unions, in a Communist-run state. This followed the Solidarity movement led by Lech Wałęsa, later the country’s President.. I’ll be in Gdansk giving a talk on Sept. 12; I believe it’s in an auditorium in a pub so stay tuned for further intriguing details.

On this day in 1864, Union troops led by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who burned his way across the South, began their assault on Atlanta during the Civil War.  On August 31, 1897, Thomas Edison patented the first movie projector, the Kinetoscope.  On this day in 1920, the Detroit radio station 8MK (now WWJ) broadcast the first news program on radio—ever.  And you may remember that the German invasion of Poland, the formal beginning of World War II, began on September 1, 1939. Well on the day before that (78 years ago), the Nazis conducted a fake attack on a radio station in Gleiwitz, near the border (they even killed prisoners and dressed them in Polish uniforms), giving Germany a bogus excuse to invade Poland. Finally, and you’ll know this well if you’ve been listening to the news, it was exactly 20 years ago today that Princess Diana, as well as her beau Dodi Fayed and their driver Henri Paul, died in a car crash in Paris, presumably avoiding paparazzi.

Notables born on this day include the Roman emperor Caligula (AD 12, probably a different calendar), Arthur Godfrey (1903), Alan Jay Lerner (1918), and Van Morrison (1945). Here’s Van doing my favorite of his songs (I had no idea he played the sax until I saw this video). I ignore the religious bits where his love is directed toward God:

Those who died on this day include the man who painted my favorite of all paintings (The Isenheim Altarpiece, which I’ve never seen): Mathis Grünewald (1528), John Bunyan (1688), Charles Baudelaire (1867), John Ford (1973), Henry Moore (1986), Princess Diana et al. (1997; see above), and David Frost 2013).

Here’s the world’s greatest painting (do I need to add that this is my subjective judgment?); it’s a two-way tripyich designed to be in an ancient hospital where people could contemplate their fates as they suffered from plague or skin disease (note that Jesus has skin disease). I can’t ignore the religious iconography but I find this, even as an atheist, a deeply moving and freaky work of art:

Feel free to name your favorite painting below!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is dissing the staff while using them as mattresses:

Hili: He has already read this book.
Cyrus: Humans have a short memory.
In Polish:
Hili: On już kiedyś tę książkę czytał.
Cyrus: Ludzie mają krótką pamięć.

My old college friend Moto sent a Facebook video containing a black cat with a bizarrely deep meow. Click on the screenshot to go to the video:

Matthew, who’s finally admitted to me that he’s addicted to Twi**er, nevertheless produces fruits of his addition, and today they include a nice find.This one’s a fly mimicking a spider:

And lovely picture of A CAT ON A CAT, sussed out by reader rjc:


  1. Mike
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    The Girl with a Pearl Earring ,Johannes Vermeer , her face that looks out from the 17th Century is so modern, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be,but it’s that that strikes me, I love all his Paintings, also Pieter Bruegel ,the Elder and Younger, there always something new to find each time you look.

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      That is the one that sprang to mind first for me as well; and I love it. But I think it’s just recent familiarity (book and movie of the same name; both excellent).

    • Larry Smith
      Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      I saw this painting when it was on loan to LA many years ago. Exquisite.

  2. Posted August 31, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    The Isenheim altar painting is on permanent display at an old monestary, now museum, at Colmar, Alsace. It is not far from my home. Jerry, you are welcome to have a look.

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      Yes, some time I MUST see it. It’s on my bucket list. (The wines of Alsace are also favorites of mine.)

      • Ruthann
        Posted August 31, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        I saw the Isenheimer altar many years ago, but was “turned off” by the religiosity–and that was when I was still somewhat religious (but not Catholic). It also seemed more gory than can be conveyed in photos.

  3. Frank Bath
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    ‘Spring’ by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, for his customary detail and colour. It’s in The Getty

  4. GBJames
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Atlanta burned, but not until after it fell and Sherman’s army began its march to the sea. The circumstances are not entirely clear. And while the army lived off the land (aka “foraging”) instead of maintaining supply lines thereafter, it isn’t quite right to say Sherman “burned his way across the south”.

    OK. I’m finished with my Civil War pedantry.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      You would have a hard time with that story in Georgia but then the concept of total war was just invented. I believe the phrase from Sherman in a letter to Grant was – to make the south howl.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        I would have a hard time all over the South. But that’s better explained by post war mythology than actual historic events.

        He did say his goal was to make Georgia howl. His intent was to deny southern armies their breadbasket. His troops ate the southern food stock and purposefully left few resources behind as they moved. But “burning his way”, to me, means literally torching things. Which is my only pedantic point.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

          However, the facts do show that his troops burned Atlanta. Do you recall the term Sherman neckties? It takes heat to do that as well.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:59 am | Permalink

            War is hell.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 31, 2017 at 8:00 am | Permalink

            Sherman neckties were a way to make sure that destroyed rail lines stayed destroyed. Rail line destruction (and rebuilding) was a general practice during the war.

            In my original comment I mentioned the burning of Atlanta. Atlanta ≠ “the south”.

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink


      May I ask: What are your favorite books on the US Civil War?

      I’ve read James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, David Donald’s Lincoln, The Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers by Richard Moe and James MacGregor; and I really enjoyed them all.

      (I’ve also read Shaara’s Killer Angels, also excellent.)

      I am currently reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which I am enjoying.

      I tried to read Foote’s history and bogged down in all the detail …

      • GBJames
        Posted August 31, 2017 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        I’ve read quite a lot over the past decades and don’t remember them all. I haven’t read Killer Angels, though.

        My favorite book is a favorite for kind-of-personal reasons. Steve Raymond’s In the Very Thickest of the Fight is a regimental history of the Illinois 78th. Several ancestors of mine were in that regiment so there’s a personal connection that hooked me in. From October 2010 to November 2013 there was a blog that ran weekly posts taken from two newspapers in Macomb, Illinois, during the war. One was Republican, the other Democrat. I really enjoyed it because it exposed the “home” view of that regiment.

        If memory serves, I began my interest with Shelby Foote’s volumes twenty-five years ago or so. More recently, reading Grant’s and Sherman’s memoirs proved interesting.

        • Historian
          Posted August 31, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

          In mid-nineteenth century America, most towns of even moderate size had two weekly newspapers, one Democratic and one Republican (before the establishment of the party, Whig), each being extremely partisan. Many of their articles were reprints from the big city papers. Back then, there was little separation from editorial comment and straight news reporting. The papers attacked their political enemies with a zeal that makes today’s partisan political commentary seem like a tea party. Of course, the political events leading up to the Civil gave them plenty to discuss. Also striking about these papers is that they went into great depth discussing the issues of the day, much more than you would see from today’s press. Undoubtedly nineteenth century people had a much great attention span than those day, probably because the written word was the primary means for them to gain information. When people had the opportunity to hear speakers through lectures, speeches or debates, they jumped at it. The Lincoln-Douglas debates perfectly illustrate this. Speakers often went on for hours on the topic at hand and it appears that the listeners were not bored. Once again, such a situation is unthinkable today. I can conclude only that people today, despite access to countless news sources, are woefully ignorant of political matters compared to nineteenth century folk. Today, if a sound bite goes on for more than 30 seconds, people zone out. Perhaps this is why twitter is so popular.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 31, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            Indeed, to all that.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 31, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

            I’ll add… one of the things that struck me when reading a few years of back-and-forth between the Macomb Eagle and the Macomb Daily Journal during the civil war is how familiar it was. It is a bit depressing to think we haven’t gotten further in America and have failed so badly at getting beyond the issues that divided the country during the Civil War.

        • Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

          Thank you!

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        I do not concentrate on the civil war as much as earlier periods but I would mention a few. Team of Rivals was very good. For Cause and Comrades, why men fought in the civil war, James McPherson. The Rise of American Democracy, Jefferson to Lincoln, Sean Wilentz. The Fiery Trial, Eric Foner. One Man Great Enough, John Waugh and maybe for something a little different, The Hour of Peril, Daniel Stashower, this one is about the plot to kill Lincoln Before he got to Washington.

  5. John Dentinger
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I think Grunewald’s triptych is indeed both great & freaky–but I prefer to look at all the weirdness in Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. Or any Bosch, frankly–the guy was obviously an insane genius. As for the world’s greatest, well, the Sistine Chapel comes to mind.

  6. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Ah, so that’s why the exploitative deluge of Diana-themed ‘documentaries’ (note my quote marks!) on TV. I knew there must be some reason for it.

    Can’t let her rest in peace if there’s a buck to be made from digging her up.


  7. George
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Malgorzata’s birthday was overlooked yesterday. At least her birthday as reported on Facebook. Sto lat, Malgorzata! Does anyone ever call you Malgosia?

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      I wished her a happy birthday privately. Neither she nor Andrzej like to make a big deal of birthdays, so I didn’t mention it here.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted August 31, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Thanks, George (i.e. dziękuję). As Jerry says, birthday is not a big deal: one year more, a certain amount of strength less. And nobody calls me “Malgosia” except my friend, an Indian from Alaska who is teaching Spanish literature in South Africa, but had some contact with Polish language through his Russian studies (!!!)

      • George
        Posted August 31, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        I am the opposite – no one ever calls me Jerzy. It has always been Jurek – even my Irish mother.

        • Posted August 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

          Jerzy and Jurek – both really cool names! 🙂

      • George
        Posted August 31, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        This is my standard birthday greeting –
        Congratulations on surviving another orbit of an ordinary rocky planet around a yellow dwarf star located in an ordinary spiral galaxy in an ordinary group of galaxies in an ordinary galaxy cluster …… Just want to make sure you feel special today. Happy Birthday!

        • Malgorzata
          Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          It’s wonderful! Exactly right. Thanks, I may steal it.

        • Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

          I definitely am stealing (er, borrowing) it! 🙂

          • claudia baker
            Posted August 31, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

            So stealing this too!

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Guernica. Saw it at MoMA in 1980, as part of the huge Picasso exhibition that toured the US that year.

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      I remember that show! I saw it at the Minneapolis Institute or Art (MIA), here in the Twin Cities. I was young and impressionable — and it did impress.

      My favorite piece (Guernica was great, of course) was his baboon & young sculpture.

  9. Richard Jones
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Lucien Freud’s Benefits Adviser Sleeping. A mountain of real flesh. Did anyone paint real nakedness before Freud?

    Of course there are many other favourites, some of which I have seen, way back in the past. Any Rembrandt self portrait or all of them tracing his life from prosperous and successful young man to disillusioned old age.

  10. Posted August 31, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    So many paintings have moved me through my life! I’ve been lucky enough to visit many great museums full of wonderful paintings.

    To pick a single favorite though! Impossible!

    Hmmm, since I’m forced to commit …

    I’d have to choose The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte.

    (The Madonna of the Chair by Raphael (her face!) and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli are close seconds. I also love Girl With a Pearl Earring by Vemeer)

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      The Floor Scrapers was on exhibit here in Chicago, where I first saw it–and it is fantastic–but I think it’s back in the Musee d’Orsay.

      • Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        I saw it at the Orsay. I remember being stunned and wondering: Why was I never shown this before (in art class or wherever)?!

  11. Stephen Barnard
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    The cave paintings of Lascaux.

  12. Doug
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Two of my favorites:

    Allegory of St. Ignatius of Loyola by Andrea Pozzo. This is the 17th-century version of IMAX.

    Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio, created out of different (naturally) colored pieces of wood.

  13. Alan Clark
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    The Fighting Temeraire, by JMW Turner. A pity that the moon is an odd shape, and with a strange streak of light below it!

    • Alan Clark
      Posted August 31, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Yes, glorious! I like the story it portrays — very well.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 12:26 am | Permalink

      That’ll do for my choice too. (I suppose, as a railway enthusiast, I should go for Rain, Steam and Speed, but I think Temeraire is a better composition).

      But I find it hard to choose just one, or one artist. Monet, or Sisley also come to mind. I also have a liking for Dali’s surrealist and carefully delineated shapes and his smooth textures, executed with careful precision (the exact opposite of the Impressionists I guess). e.g. Temptation of St Anthony.

      And M C Escher and his carefully crafted geometrical paradoxes come to mind. e.g. Relativity.

      Oh, and Canaletto, for his marvellous treatment of light.

      (You may notice that in my list there are no portraits of people – boring – or religious art – poisoned by religion).


  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I don’t have a single favorite painting, but will make the comment that most religious art seems to be at the edges of the bell curve of quality- it’s always either extremely good or extremely bad.

    In the medium of film, the only really good religious ones seem to be films about Joan of Arc, and “Man for all Seasons”

    Favorite lesser-known Van Gogh:
    Wheatfield with Cypresses

    Favorite lesser-known Klimt:
    Lady with Fan

    Favorite DaVinci:


    You can always say Caligula was born on this date.

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      A Man for All Seasons, indeed, wonderful. I recently saw it again.

  15. Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Christ of Saint John of the Cross, Salvador Dali.

  16. Larry Smith
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Ditto on Van Morrison! I was listening to “Get the Healing Done” yesterday. I take what I want to and leave the rest. But that voice: he could sing the phone book and I would listen to it!

  17. Hempenstein
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The RH panel of the opened-up triptych ought to be titled, “Here I Come to Save the Day (Which Means that Mighty Christ is on the Way.)” (Ref if needed).

    • Hempenstein
      Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Embed retry.

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      I sing this to my son (in what I like to think is the correct tone and cadence) and tell him how he missed the really good (Saturday morning!) cartoons!

      He just rolls his eyes. 🙂

  18. nicky
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    difficult, this favoured painting. I’ll go for ‘The Garden of Dreams’ by Hieronymus Bosch. The original Dutch title was “The Garden of Lusts” btw, and the ‘-ch’ at the end of ‘Bosch’ is silent (btw too).
    As a child I would contemplate it for hours on end. Especially the left panel, but the others too. The tryptich’s(?) left panel depicts Hell.
    There arealso some less well known litho’s by Dali that would be near my top.
    Of course, paintings improved by cats are even better:

  19. Kurt Lewis Helf
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    On our visit to Paris last November we visited the Louvre. While we did not have time to linger and ponder the painting I found most moving was “Le Jeune Martyre” by Paul Delaroche.

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