Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning; it’s October 12, 2017, and National Pumpkin Pie Day, showing we’re approaching Halloween and Thanksgiving. It’s also Freethought Dayour day, marking the date on which the Salem witch trials were ended in 1692 by decree of the Governor of Massachusetts—on the grounds of insubstantial evidence. Last night the Chicago Cubs lost to the Washington Nationals 0-5, forcing the division championship series into a decisive fifth game, which will be played today in Washington, D. C. Much of Chicago is excited since we won last year’s World Series after a drought of 108 years!

On this day in 1492, Christopher Columbus and his retinue landed in the Caribbean, but we’ll say no more about that. On October 12, 1773, America’s first mental hospital (then called an “insane asylum”) opened; it was Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia, just a few miles from where I went to college. After the hospital was moved, part of it was converted into freshman dormitories.

In 1823, Charles Macintosh of Scotland sold his first raincoat, and now you know where the name came from.  On this day in 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance was first recited in American public schools (without the word “God,” which was added in the 1950s); this was to mark the 400th anniversary of C*l*mb*s’s landing in the New World.  On this day in 1915, British nurse Edith Cavell was executed by a German firing squad for “treason”: helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium. This was a huge shock to England (and many civilized people), and she was given a funeral service at Westminster Abbey.  In 1945, a conscientious objector, Desmond Doss, became the first c.o. to be given the U.S. Medal of Honor.  Raised in poverty in Virginia, he was a Seventh Day Adventist and wouldn’t carry a gun, but enlisted and became a medic. (He was brutally harassed during basic training for not carrying a weapon.) But in a vicious battle on Okinawa, Doss saved 75 wounded soldiers, returning again and again to the battlefield to drag them to safety, even though he’d been wounded four times. His exploits are documented in the fine film “Hacksaw Ridge” (2016). Here he is; I’m a big admirer of both his principles (though not his religion) and his courage under fire and under bullying. You can read more about him here.

On this day in 1960, Nikita Khrushchev had a tantrum at the United Nations, banging his shoe on a desk in anger at the Philippines’s objection to the Soviet Union’s colonialism in Eastern Europe. Here’s a video; note that the spectators are laughing:

Finally, on this day in 1979 Douglas Adams’s first volume of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published. I still haven’t read it (the only copy in the University is in the Law School library!), but I certainly will.

Notables born on this day include Aleister Crowley (1875), Robert Fitzgerald (1910), Dick Gregory (1932, died this year), Luciano Pavarotti (1935) and Kirk “Banana Man” Cameron (1970). Those who died on this day include Hiroshige (1858), Confederate commander Robert E. L** (1870), Anatole France (1924), Tom Mix (1940), Joseph Stilwell (1946), Sonja Henie (1969), John Denver (1997), Wilt Chamberlain (1999), and Canadian  James Coyne (2012; no relation but I like the name he was Governor General of the Bank of Canada.)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the beasts object to Andrzej’s prying camera:

Hili: Watch it, he is taking pictures again!
Cyrus: A horrible habit.
​In Polish:
Hili: Uważaj, on znowu robi zdjęcia!
Cyrus: Okropny obyczaj.​


Out in Winnipeg, where outdoor cats must be kept leashed, our Gus has gotten himself in a common pickle. As his staff reports:

Gus is a little tied up . . .

And we have three tw**ts from Matthew:

An amazing example of mimicry; clearly those “fake fungal spots” improved the survivorship of this insect at least a tiny bit.

And who ever thought of taking animals around a zoo?


  1. Randy schenck
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Those SDA folks have the Desmond Doss story on CD and like to show it to all who pass by. I guess they think it works as a recruitment tool. He was an historical part of the Battle of Okinawa.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    After the [“insane asylum”} was moved, part of it was converted into freshman dormitories.

    Sounds like the premise for a schlock horror film.

    Did they give those freshmen trigger warnings about their dorm’s history? Kids and their ‘rents today would doubtless pitch a fit about the hot-house flowers being housed in such an accursed place.

    Personally, I’d be as willing to live in a dorm that had been an insane asylum as I would to wear a sweater that belonged to Charlie Manson.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted October 12, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I’m trying to figure out how, linguistically, “the hospital” can be simultaneously the thing that was moved and the thing that remained behind to be converted into dorms.

      (Note that I’m not criticizing Jerry’s phrasing, just marveling at the fact that such sentences occur naturally in speech and are easily understood despite their apparent self-contradiction.)

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        Interesting point.

        My favourite example is e.g. “My train is the 7:20 but it was late today”.

        Leaving aside that I don’t actually own a train (i.e. it’s not ‘mine’), it’s not even one particular physical train, but a random one of a fleet, and it’s only the “7:20” at one station on the line (elsewhere it’s the 7:28 or the 7:35 or so on…), even if it didn’t leave till 7:25, and when it reaches the terminus it turns round and becomes a different ‘train’.

        But we effortlessly interpret that to mean “the timetabled train service that I usually catch which is scheduled to depart from ‘my’ local station at 7:20…”


  3. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Never read Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? I’m shocked. 😉

    That’s a bit like not-reading the Bible or never-watching Star Trek or Doctor Who – there are just so many allusions to it and memes that have arisen from it, in circulation.

    Incidentally, should the one (presumably overworked) Law School copy be out on loan, it’s been so widely published you can pick up a used paperback copy for a few dollars.


    • Posted October 12, 2017 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      It’s only the first volume, which is why I haven’t made the long schlep across the Midway to get it. I know I’m morally deficient for not having read it!

      • BJ
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        It’s in the law school library because it deals with space law.

        • Posted October 12, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          I think DA himself would have been amused at that classification.

          Logic books are always fun to find – at McGill, where I did my ugrad, they might be in:
          – a humanities and social sciences library because they’re philosophy
          – a physical science and engineering library because they are computing
          – a physical science and engineering library because they are math
          – a math library because they are math
          – a management library because they are MIS (stuff on deductive databases?)
          – the Polish library because they are titled _Polish Logic 1920 to 1939_ or the like.
          – (and if I recall) in one of the teaching hospital libraries just because …

          • JohnnieCanuck
            Posted October 14, 2017 at 5:47 am | Permalink

            Where then do they put books on Reverse Polish Notation? I associate it with early Hewlett Packard calculators.

      • Cate Plys
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        PCCE, you’re not morally deficient but you’re really missing out! Douglas Adams should have gotten the Nobel Prize for literature.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        If it helps, Abebooks have the collected 5-book trilogy in one paperback volume, from $3.89 post free (used).

        I must admit, I avoided reading HHGG for quite a while because I’d heard it was a best-seller and I have a perverse aversion to anything ‘trendy’. Also I thought, from the title, it was a popularisation of astronomy, I never knew it was sci-fi till I started reading.


        • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          I thought it was *the actual guide* (but still SF) at first. (Sort of like DA’s later work, _The Meaning of Liff_)

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        Reading the book is the wrong way to do it. It was designed (beware low-flying deadines!) as a set of radio scripts, and the books (and TV and film script) were retrofitted to the radio script to cash in. The definitive version is the radio version – where the writing is better than the book, the sets are better than the TV version, and everything is better than the film.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 12, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

          I would disagree, there is no “wrong” way to do it. (Hey, he hasn’t read it yet, don’t put him off! 😉


    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted October 12, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Prepare to be even more shocked. I read half of it before putting it down as silly and boring. That style of humor wears thin very quickly for me, and once that happened there was nothing of substance to keep me reading.

      I did see the film version with Martin Freeman, and for the most part enjoyed it. But I found the Stephen Fry voiceovers — the part that hewed closest to the tone of the books — annoying and unfunny.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        It’s humour. Very much a matter of personal taste. I predict that PCC will find it either fascinatingly quirky, or unreadable, one or the other.


        • John Frum
          Posted October 12, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

          The humour is exactly my type.
          Some favourite quotes –
          The Vogon ships hung in the air in exactly the same way that bricks don’t.
          When Ford tells Arthur they are safe and then says they are on an alien ship, Arthur says this is obviously some strange usage of the word safe he wasn’t previously aware of.

          For me, Adams is to sci-fi the same way that Pratchett is to fantasy.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 12, 2017 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

            Oh, agreed, and particularly the comparison to Pratchett. Not just that they both bring humour to their genres, and a genius for clever phrasing and paradox, but sometimes the two universes (HHGG and the Discworld) almost seem to overlap, blurring the line between sci-fi and fantasy (not that it was ever a very well-defined line anyway).


          • Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

            I’ve always wondered why the UK produced *two* successful (and originally, really good) sci fi comedies. (The other being Red Dwarf.)

      • eric
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        IIRC, it was written as a half-hour radio show, and Adams often procrastinated to the point of having to write a page, run down to the announcer in time for him to read it, then run back and write the next page.

        The craziness of the book makes a lot more sense from that perspective; he had the plot design and knew (eventually) where he wanted the story to go, but getting there was an exercise in chaos.

        It also makes the book a lot more amusing to read when you think of Adams furiously writing away while the time for the next page delivery is ticking down….

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

        Glad I’m not the only one…

    • nicky
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      It really is a ‘classic’ and quite an enjoyable read. From Vogons to the Restaurant ad the End of the Universe to 42, indeed dozens of colloquiali

      • nicky
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        Oops, pressed the post button accidentally. …colloquialisms are derived from it. It is a hefty volume (in fact 3) but don’t panic!
        The film is also excellent, but much more limited. See the film before you read the book (a good advice in general).

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    FWIW, Tom Mix died when he wrecked his ’37 Cord phaeton and an aluminum suitcase hit him in the head, breaking his neck. The Cord is extant.

    • Posted October 12, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      According to the article, the suitcase is still extant too.

  5. Posted October 12, 2017 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    On the 12th of October, 1518, in Augsburg, the three-day interrogation of Martin Luther by the papal ambassador, Cardinal Thomas Cajetan, requests Luther to revoke his 95 theses on indulgences, since he regarded them as heretical. The Pope was infallible.

    But Luther refused to withdraw. He escaped the imminent arrest by escaping from Augsburg.

  6. Michiel
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I love the picture of the elephant watching the sea lion! He/she looks so happy and excited.

    By the way, a recommendation for prof. Ceiling Cat:
    Yesterday went to one of my local arthouse cinema’s to see a lovely documentary about street cats and their human servants in Istanbul. Apparently thousands of street cats have been a permanent feature of the city for a long time. Very moving and funny. It’s called Kedi (of which I have to wonder if it’s a localised form of the English “kitty”. Apparently Turks say this in the same way as you would say “here kitty kitty” to an unknown cat).

    • Posted October 12, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’ve seen that film and posted my very favorable review, which is here.

      It is a wonderful movie, and all cat lovers (or even those who are indifferent) should see it.

      • Michiel
        Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        Great to hear. I must have missed your review before but I’ll give it a read now 🙂

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 12, 2017 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      I loved the elephant shot, too! What an expression!

  7. Monika
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Taking animals out of their enclosures isn’t that rare in modern zoos. It can be done with well trained/trainable animals like some camelids and elephants, I’ve seen penguins go for a walk too.
    It’s fun for the visitors and it’s part of behavioral and environmental enrichment programs. Boredom is a huge problem and this helps.

  8. Posted October 12, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Edith Cavell had a prominent mountain in Jasper National Park (Canada) named after her.

  9. Jenny Haniver
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    If only Edward Lear were around, he’d have material for a new poem about the elephant and the sea lion.

    Priceless photo.

  10. Simon Hayward
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    As well as the absence of god, the original pledge (which actually scans) made no reference to the USA either, “ I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands ….” I’d vote to return to that form

  11. Posted October 12, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    That’s an interesting idea about the zoo – one of the complaints (justified) about zoos is that the animals often lead unstimulating and repetitive lives. This might help!

  12. Draken
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Finally, on this day in 1979 Douglas Adams’s first volume of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published. I still haven’t read it (the only copy in the University is in the Law School library!)

    All the others are stolen, go figure!

  13. Posted October 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    ….that little inpatience monkey, where was Khrushchev when you needed him!

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    “Hacksaw Ridge” was directed by Mel Gibson, and in strong contrast to his earlier directorial works “Braveheart” and “Apocalypto”, it’s actually fairly historically accurate with only a few liberties taken with chronology and backstory.

    Braveheart is wildly offbase in almost all details- and Apocalypto’s portrayal of the Mayans is problematic. Whether you think Jesus existed or not, a major howler in Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” is having the Roman soldiers in Israel speaking Latin amongst themselves. They would have been speaking Greek.

    Oddly, Hacksaw Ridge is the only film being discussed in my comment that I have not seen, but I have heard it is superb.

  15. Neil Faulkner
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    The best way to experience HHGTTG is to listen to the original radio series.

    FWIG, it was through listening to Hitch-Hikers that Richard Dawkins was inspired to write a fan letter to Douglas Adams, and they subsequently met. Adams at the time was also script editor for Dr Who, the Doctor then being played by Tom Baker who had recently married his on-screen Tardis companion Lalla Ward. Who then went on to become Mrs Richard Dawkins.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 12, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      “The best way to experience HHGTTG is to listen to the original radio series.”

      Not necessarily.

      That is to say, each of the incarnations of the HHGG (stage play, radio series, the books, TV series, and movie) is a separate and distinctively different work. Large sections of plot in some are absent or completely different in others.

      This reflects the fact that what “works” in one medium doesn’t work so well (or is impossible) in another.


      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        Fair comments.
        But H2G2 does work best as the radio series. I may be biased by having listened to the first presentation, but I still think so.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 12, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

          Having never heard the radio version, I can’t judge that.

          I’m biassed towards the books, probably because I read them first. I think they work fine as a book.

          I would readily concede that some sound-based humour is not readily translatable to any other medium – the Goons being a case in point. That’s why I made a point about teh different versions being different ‘works’.


      • John Frum
        Posted October 12, 2017 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        The tv series was great but the movie was awful shite.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 12, 2017 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

          If what you were expecting from the movie was ‘the TV series but with better FX’ then you were doomed to disappointment.

          If you completely forgot about previous incarnations of HHGG and regarded the movie as an all-new story then, IMO, it was quite watchable.


  16. eric
    Posted October 12, 2017 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Finally, on this day in 1979 Douglas Adams’s first volume of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published. I still haven’t read it

    But have you read Last Chance to See? Based on your fondness of nonfiction, I think that’s much more up your alley, and it still contains Adams’ distinctive writing humor.

  17. nicky
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    In the southern part of Brussels (Ukkel/Uccle) there is a hospital called Edith Cavell. It is pronounced there the French way, with the stresses on the last syllables.
    As a child I got my vermiform appendix removed there. You got your appendix in a small pot with formalin, nice attention.
    I knew she was a nurse, but did not know that (and why) she was executed. Thanks for that info.

  18. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Salem trials were stopped

    on the grounds of insubstantial evidence.

    Surely “insufficient evidence”?

    Or maybe not so surely – it is the law we’re talking about. I seem to remember that the evidence of ghosts was been permitted in witchcraft trials in the 17th century, so the reporting of “insubstantial” evidence from a ghost is not utterly incredible.

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