Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s Saturday, September 2, 1017, and tomorrow, after an overnight flight, I’ll be in Poland. It’s National Grits for Breakfast Day; it’s been too long since I’ve had the archetypal Southern breakfast of fried eggs with grits, country ham with red-eye gravy, biscuits with homemade jam, and lots of strong coffee. On the other hand, it will soon be Cherry Pie for Breakfast Day for me—every day! Oddly enough, it’s also National Blueberry Popsicle Day, but we’ll ignore that quiescently frozen confection as it’s the Worst of All Possible Popsicles.

On this day in 1666, Great Fire of London began and, after three days, destroyed 10,000 buildings as well as St Paul’s Cathedral. On September 2, 1901, President Teddy Roosevelt came up with his most famous phrase, “Speak softly and carry a big stick“, uttered at, of all places, the Minnesota State Fair. The phrase referred to his combination of diplomacy and implicit military threat.  On this day in 1939, the day after the Nazis invaded Poland, they occupied the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk), where I’ll be on September 12 and 13. More war-related history: on this day in 1945, the Japanese formally surrendered to the Allies aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Finally, on this day in 1998, Swissair Flight 111 crashed near Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia (a place I visited); the cause was apparently a fire, and all 229 passengers and crew were killed.

Notables born on this day include Billy Preston (1946), Christa McAuliffe, the astronaut/teacher killed in the 1986 Challenger explosion (she was born in 1948), Keanu Reeves (1964), and Salma Hayek (1966). Those who died on this day include Henri Rousseau (1910), Alvin C. York (1964), Ho Chi Minh (1969), J. R. R. Tolkien (1973), and Bob Denver (2005).

Here’s a little known Rousseau: “Portrait of Pierre Loti,” painted in 1891. (The source is the fantastic website The Great Cat, featuring felids in art, literature, history, film, and all endeavors.) Once again this proves my theory (which is mine) that even great artists can’t even come close to accurately depicting a cat:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is remonstrating with her staff for not letting her in immediately after a night on the tiles. (But she’s cozy on her little woven sconce with a pad.)

Hili: You’ve finally waken up!
A: You could’ve come home in the evening.
Hili: I returned at dawn but nobody opened the door.
In Polish:
Hili: Obudziłeś się nareszcie!
Ja: Mogłaś wieczorem wrócić do domu.
Hili: Wróciłam nad ranem, ale nikt nie otwierał drzwi.

Here’s an optical illusion: believe it or not, the blue bars are straight and parallel. Use a ruler if you don’t believe me.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 6:39 am | Permalink


    it doesn’t go away, or flicker – you close in on the edge with a straightedge, and only then dies the illusion break, and not immediately at that….

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted September 2, 2017 at 6:40 am | Permalink

      Does not dies

    • Richard Jones
      Posted September 2, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Try looking with almost closed eyes.

      • Richard Bond
        Posted September 2, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        That is really interesting. Do you have an explanation?

  2. Bill Morrison
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    The apparent slanting goes away when I squint tightly and view the picture through the resulting narrow slit between my eyelids. A pinhole instead of a lens?

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    London, 1666. Another accident waiting to happen. As with Houston, natural disaster could be an opportunity to make changes for the better. Whether this is done is yet to be known for Houston. Working with mother nature is usually a better outcome.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Viewed from an extremely oblique angle, the illusion vanished, is all I can contribute.

    • Posted September 2, 2017 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

      And if you view it from sufficient distance.

  5. Posted September 2, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    What a disturbing illusion!!!!!!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 2, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      It’s quite the strongest and most disconcerting I’ve seen.


  6. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    “Once again this proves my theory (which is mine) that even great artists can’t even come close to accurately depicting a cat:”

    But Rousseau was not trying to accurately depict a cat. All his animals and plants were stylised geometric shapes.

    Such as this:


    • Posted September 4, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Yes, I would add that on the basis of the Portrait of Pierre Loti, he can’t even come close to accurately depicting a man, thought perhaps your comment applies to people as well as animals – I don’t know the artist’s work (or rather, what I’ve seen of it disinclines me to investigate further).

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        I don’t normally care for the ‘naive’ style of painting, but I do like Rousseau’s work. Mainly because of his geometric vegetation, and the fascinating patterns he creates. And it’s very well executed (unlike, IMO, most ‘naive’ art).


        • rickflick
          Posted September 4, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

          I agree. Rousseau was a very special ‘naive’ or ‘primitive’ painter.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

        And to answer your point, his people are all stylised too.


  7. DrBrydon
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I am not familiar with Rousseau’s work, but given his depiction of a person, it’s unclear whether his cat is a result of his style or his skill.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 2, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      Definitely his style. Type “Rousseau paintings” into Google Images and you’ll get a screenful of his highly distinctive and individual (and, IMO, entertaining) style.


  8. rickflick
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I was stopped when reading the Hili dialogue by the use of the words “waken up”.

    You’ve finally waken up!

    Usages like “to wake up” “yesterday she woke up”, sound natural.

    I’ve often been confused by the correct use of this verb. It sounds a bit awkward to my ear in this sentence. Simplified, it would read – you have waken up. I’d feel more comfortable with:
    You have awakened.

    Also, woken is often hard to use accurately. “You have woken up” seems slightly strained too. Do any grammar mavens have a definitive read on proper usage?

    • George
      Posted September 2, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Remember that Hili speaks Polish and that you are reading a translation. Hili said “Obudziłeś się nareszcie!”. I would translate that as “You finally woke up.” Malgorzata used the past perfect “have woken.” Either is fine –

  9. Steve Gerrard
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    When you can make out the little light and dark squares at each of the corners, our clever eyes include them in the shape of the big squares, making them look like rhombuses, which makes the horizontal bars seem slanted.

    At a distance, or side angle, or squinting, when you can’t make out the little squares, the big squares look square and the bars look normal.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 3, 2017 at 2:27 am | Permalink

      It’s mostly that, plus a contribution from the non-straight ‘horizontal’ line along the middle of the blue band. But the effect is extraordinary, probably the most powerful illusion I’ve seen.


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 3, 2017 at 3:02 am | Permalink

        Talking of optical illusions, here’s a perfectly natural one that struck me in a hostel in Sintra, Portugal.

        The holes in the middle of both rolls are exactly the same size (I checked)


        • Posted September 4, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

          You need to get out more 😉

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 4, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

            What, travelling from Vladivostok to Sintra doesn’t count as ‘getting out’? 😉

            But the natural illusion that the left-hand roll had a much bigger core than the right-hand one worked in real life too (which is why I noticed it). The illusion was strong, it worked from all angles, I actually had to match the holes up end to end to confirm that they were both the same size.

            Fortunately no-one was around to notice me dashing out of the toilet to fetch my camera…


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