Friday: Hili dialogue

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon cœur
D’une langueur


Good morning; we’ve reached Friday again in the U.S., and it’s the first of September, so that another month has gone by. Here in America it’s the beginning of Labor Day Weekend, a three-day holiday during which nobody labors; and it’s my last full day in the U.S. for several weeks. At the University of Chicago, though, where we’re on the quarter system, classes don’t start till the beginning of October. It’s National Gyro Day, celebrating that great spit-roasted meat sandwich that Americans shouldn’t eat because it’s cultural appropriation. It’s Random Acts of Kindness Day, too, but only in New Zealand (it’s celebrated in February 17 in the U.S.). So if you’re a Kiwi, put $10 NZ in an envelope and send it to yours truly, which will fund my next trip to New Zealand.

On September 1, 1715, Louis XIV of France died. He had reigned 72 years, the longest tenure of any European monarch (Queen Victoria reigned 63.5 years). On this day in 1878, Emma Nutt became the world’s first female telephone operator when she was recruited by Alexander Graham Bell for the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company. Before that, boys were used as operators. The criteria for women operators, according to Wikipedia, was this:

To be an operator, a woman had to be unmarried and between the ages of seventeen and twenty-six. She had to look prim and proper, and have arms long enough to reach the top of the tall telephone switchboard. Like many other American businesses at the turn of the century, telephone companies discriminated against people from certain ethnic groups and races. For instance, African-American and Jewish women were not allowed to become operators.

Martha my dear

On Sept. 1, 1914, St. Petersburg, Russia changed its name to Petrograd, but now it’s back to St. Petersburg. And on the very same day, the last known passenger pigeon, “Martha” died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo. Here she is alive; now her stuffed carcass resides at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.  And of course it was on this day in 1939 that Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II in Europe. On August 1, 1951, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand signed their pact of allyship, the ANZUS Treaty. BFFs forever! Finally, on this day in 1972 (do you remember?) American Bobby Fischer beat the Russian Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland, becoming the world chess champion. He made America great again! Nobody produces chess champions as good as we do!

Notables born on this day include Johann Pachelbel (1653; I like to call him “Taco Bell”), Engelbert Humperdinck  (1854), Edgar Rice Burroughs, (1875), Art Pepper (1925), Ann Richards and Conway Twitty (both 1933), Alan Dershowitz (1938), Archie “Lemme Put This Hamburger Down” Bell (1944), Barry Gibb (1946), Al Green (1947) and Gloria Estafan (1957; she’s 60 today). Pepper was an underrated jazz saxophonist who spent much of his life either addicted to drugs or in jail, but was capable of sublime music. This is my favorite of his songs; it’s a crie du coeur: the most plaintive jazz solo I know.

Those who died on September 1 include Siegfried Sassoon (1967, just as I was going off to college), Ethel Waters (1977), Albert Speer (1981) and Hal David (2012). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is complaining about her canine mattress:

Hili: Why does Cyrus feel obliged to pee in places somebody else has alreade peed?
A: So that his would come up tops.
In Polish:
Hili: Dlaczego Cyrus czuje się zobowiązany do obsikiwania czegoś, co kto inny już obsikał?
Ja: Żeby jego było na wierzchu.

I’ll soon see my Princess:

Matthew Cobb found us two illusion tw**ts produced by Akioyoshi Kitaoka:

In this illusion, all the motion is illusory, as you can see by covering up the borders or the central square:

Matthew’s “explanation”:

If you want to know why it wiggles, I guess it’s to do with the saccadic movements your eyes are making all the time, and some kind of interaction with the receptive fields of the higher processing bits of your visual sytem. I have no idea.

Here’s the square on top:

And how Kitaoka made it:


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    really good illusions – thank you for sifting through Twi##er for us!

  2. rickflick
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Pepper is sublime.
    Kitaoka is astonishing.
    Hili is droll.

  3. Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    “The long sobs of autumn violins wound my heart with a monotonous languor”

    The sadness for growing old and the signal to the French Resistance of the start of the D-Day operations.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      And how I feel if I see a leaf fall.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      It is reported that the Germans took these ‘personal messages’ to be some sort of code (rather than just a pre-arranged phrase) and put considerable effort into trying to decode them.


      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        What they get for making the allies crack the Enigma.

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Same holiday in Canada except we call it Labour Day because we were good colonists. 😛

    • Mike
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your

  5. Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    We did not start it.

    Yes you did, you invaded Poland.

    Fawlty Towers – The Germans

    • Randy schenck
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      And yet, less than two years later the Germans sealed their own fate with operation Barbarossa.

      • David Coxill
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        And six months later he declared war on America ,which put the cherry on the top .
        I read somewhere that after Stalingrad the Russians sent the Germans an offer for an Armistice ,but the Russians broke off talks in case the other allies found out .
        I think the war would have lasted longer if adolf had not declared war on the USA .

  6. Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Great illusions. Can’t add to the explanation but I love seeing them.

  7. Dave
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Minor chronological correction: Albert Speer died 1st September 1981, not 1971.

    • Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Fixed, thank you.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Giving him just enough time to complete work on Trump Tower?

  8. Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    And there was plenty of discrimination against Irish and Italians in the US as well.

    It’s not hard to find old ads reproduced on the internets:

    • Randy schenck
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      Although, I see more than 8 million Irish and Italians immigrated to America.

      • Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

        Sure, they did.

        Auslander Hass is nothing new in the US. We pretty well hated all newcomers when they came. Even the early Catholics got herded off to Maryland …

        My point with these, always, is that “your people” were hated in exactly the same way when they came. (My usual response to Drumpfys who express dislike of immigrants.)

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          Shit’s been goin’ on since the first Pilgrim down the gangway at Plymouth Rock turned around to the second, put his hands up, and said “not so fast furriner!”

          • David Coxill
            Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

            Hi ,i did hear that if all the Americans who claimed to be descended from the Pilgrims are correct ,the Mayflower would have to have been twice the size of the QE2.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        Cheap labor.

        • rickflick
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

          There was also a lot of sympathy for the poor, huddled masses when the European economy collapsed and the Irish had their potato famine. But, businesses loved the cheap labor. Railroad building and foundries needed an influx of workers as the US economy expanded.
          Now the decedents of those huddled masses hire Mexicans to pick crops and do landscape work.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      So, no colored Irish Germans then?

      I find it curious that Irish were rated below ‘coloreds’ in the domestic servant pecking order…

      (I take it most of the Irish immigrants were Catholics…)


      • Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Yes, this was mainly against Catholics; but also against those “southern Europeans” who were considered to be insufficiently “white”. Hitler would have been proud!

      • Posted September 1, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        A friend of mine recommends (though I have yet to read it) _How the Irish Became White_ or something like that.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      I worked on a documentary about the subject a few years ago. Yes, there was a lot of resentment against foreigners. In 1911 the report of the Dillingham Immigration Commission helped set the tone against some “races” and in favor of others. The language was pretty stark. Southern Italians were – a dark, long-headed race of undesirables compared to the Northern Italians who were lighter skinned and ambitious.
      Schuyler Colfax, a strong nativist, was the 17th Vice President of the United State under Grant. He gave speeches denouncing immigrants. He called the Irish drunks and lazy bums, living off the generosity of Americans. Lot’s of rather ugly history there. Not much political correctness. Very Trump-like.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        A lack of tolerance began as soon as the pilgrims got off the boat. As others soon arrived they were sent packing down the road if they did not look, act and pray like those before them. The myth is that the pilgrims came because of religious intolerance, however they were as intolerant as any.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        ” Southern Italians were – a dark, long-headed race of undesirables …”

        As Dennis Hopper explained to Christopher Walken in True Romance, that’s because the Moors invaded Sicily.

        • David Coxill
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

          I think nearly everyone round the Med has invaded Sicily ,even the Normans did .

        • rickflick
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          Yes, that explains it. Well, maybe. Actually, the people and social structure of north and south in Italy differ quite significantly from my understanding. I think it has something to do with the south’s organization around family and local village power hierarchy that did not exist in the north. While the north adopted modern central governments the south was reluctant to give up the old ways.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Lasted a while, too. My Italian, paternal grandfather changed his surname in the 20s because of it. Everyone thinks I am of English descent now, instead of Italian-Polish.

  9. Andy Lowry
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I remember the Fischer match well; chess was “hot” for a while afterwords. My high school started a chess club right around that time.

    Too bad about ol’ Bobby. His disintegration was heartbreaking to see.

    • Andy Lowry
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      I meant “afterwards,” sorry.

      • Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Nigel Short, former world chess championship finalist, is 99% convinced that he played Fischer anonymously at blitz online several years back during RF’s self-imposed retreat from chess. The score? Short 0-8 Fischer.

        It seems Fischer still had it, if Short’s view is correct.

  10. Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Hi Jerry, I don;t think old Engelbert is this old! 🙂

    “Engelbert Humperdinck (1854)”

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink


      The original Englebert Humperdinck the composer was indeed that old. The English singer Englebert ditto (who, btw, I am not a fan of) is pretty ancient (b. 1936) but not quite that geriatric. 1936? He’s older than Cliff Richard!

      I saw a contestant in a quiz show derailed by that.


      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        Humperdinck the Younger is a bargain shelf Tom Jones — he’s Julio Iglesias sans the funny accent. 🙂

  11. Merilee
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I actually have a (gorgeous red) linen tea towel with that Verlaine quote on it.

    • Posted September 1, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      That was the verse that the BBC (I believe) broadcast to let the French Resistance know that D-Day was about to happen.

  12. DrBrydon
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    “Wounds my heart with monotonous languor.”

  13. Kevin
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Kitaoka illusions are fantastic. I noted that my eyes respond the same way, statistically speaking to both illusions. I think this is something that my eyes do naturally.

    The shaking motion is about 2 Hz, but staggered or pulsed, such that the motion only occurs about 1 Hz or less.

    When I see it I think that this has something to do with how I feel like if I were to ever hunt or search for something, like prey or more likely today, for my kids at crowded park.

  14. nicky
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The first of September is officially the first day of spring here (in the RSA). I’m wont to explain that that should be the 21st of September, when the sun is in zenith at 12 o’ clock at the equator, or when day and night (sunset/sunrise) are exactly of same duration. But the people here think that is nerdy, drawing attention and pompous, or even preposterous. I’m contemplating to give up, so: Spring it is. Yippee! 🙂

    The visual illusions of Akiyoshi Kitaoka are stunning. They figure prominently in the best site for Visual Illusions I know:
    (I may have posted the link earlier, but it has all the visual illusions we know, Michael Bach is for visual illusions what Johann Sebastian was for Baroque music, or better: what Joseph Needham is for traditional Chinese technology.)

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    If Gyros is cultural appropriation, so is (at least) half of the English language.

    I had a Latin teacher in England in the 60s who complained about words that were part Latin and part Greek like “television” from Greek telos and Latin video.

    Now we can’t even borrow from one culture at at a time.

    • Posted September 1, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      This raises an interesting “use-mention” puzzle – is the word (sound, marks on paper)cultural appropriation or just the referent? Or the concept?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        By now, a large percentage of words in any language are probably appropriated from some other, to an extent that is sometimes useful.

        It’s quite amusing transliterating Russian Cyrillic signs into Latin letters, many of the words have recognisably been phonetically adapted from English or French. Such as лифт ( = LIFT, which is British English for ‘elevator’ ). Or сервис цертр ( = SERVIS TSENTR )

        It’s also possible to ‘fill in’ a patchy knowledge of French using the resemblance of many (usually longer) French words to similar-sounding English ones. Though one has to be careful of ‘faux amis’ – words that have diverged in meaning.


        • Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

          One of my favourite cognates is the Hittite ‘wa-a-tar’ (originally in cuneiform ideogram) from the 50,000 or so tablets from their capital, Hattusas, ca. 1,500 BCE.

          Say ‘wa-a-tar’: yes, it’s water. It’s an Indo-European language. What’s ‘ninda’? Bread. Possibly related to ‘nan’? ‘Nu’, I think, is ‘now’. Maybe I’m a geek, but I think that is amazing.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

            And in Russian water is ‘voda’ – I’m sure the similarity is more than accidental.

            (No, not ‘vodka’, though I wonder about that too 😉


  16. Hrafn
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Not quite “BFFs forever” — the NZ leg of ANZUS has been suspended since NZ banned nuclear-armed ships in the mid 1980s.

  17. marvol19
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    Wait, St Petersburg and Petrograd?
    Isn’t that just the Russian transliteration?

    Wasn’t it called Leningrad?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 2, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      It was changed from St Petersburg to Petrograd in 1914, Leningrad in 1924, back to St Petersburg in 1991.

      Currently Санкт-Петербург


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 2, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        Although part of the inner city is apparently still called Petrogradsky District
        (according to Google Maps)


  18. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    Nobody produces chess champions as good as we do!

    Admittedly Fischer tend to be ranked highest in many lists, especially the subjective ones, but the game progresses. Arguably by ratings and rating models it is now Norway that produced the historically/current best (Magnus Carlsen). [ ]

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