Sunday: Hili dialogue

Good morning; it’s Sunday (Ceiling Cat’s Day), October 15, 2017. Ceiling Cat’s day is a day of rest, of licking your butt, and of taking a lot of naps. Most of yesterday was a really bad thunderstorm—one of the worst I’ve seen in my 31 years in Chicago—and it’s still raining now. I was woken up in the middle of the night by my iPhone emitting warning sounds and issuing a flood warning; fortunately, there were no floods in my area, but my squirrels must be sodden.

It’s Red Wine Day, and that I can do, as I have a nice California cab to accompany dinner tonight.  And it’s Global Handwashing Day: remember to wash your hands as long as it takes to sing a verse of “Happy Birthday”—twice. Since I’ve become scrupulous (but not compulsive!) about hand-washing, I’ve had many fewer colds. Of course, that’s just a correlation.

On this day in 1764, Edward Gibbon saw a group of friars singing in the ruined Temple of Jupiter at Rome; that inspired him to get to work on The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, whose beginning passage includes this:

It was at Rome, on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind. But my original plan was circumscribed to the decay of the city rather than of the empire: and, though my reading and reflections began to point towards that object, some years elapsed, and several avocations intervened, before I was seriously engaged in the execution of that laborious work.

On October 15, 1783, the first hot-air balloon ascent was made in a Montgolfier brothers’ balloon, piloted by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier (it was tethered). Exactly ten years later, Marie Antoinette was tried and convicted in Paris, and execucted the next day. It was also on October 15, but in 1815, that Napoleon I began his long exile on Saint Helena, one of the most remote spots on Earth. Lots of French news today: on this day in 1894, Alfred Dreyfus was arrested for spying (he was later exonerated). On this day in 1951, the first episode of I Love Lucy aired on CBS.  On October 15, 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party. Newton was shot to death, but Seale is still with us. Finally, it was on this day in 1997 that the Cassini probe was launched on its Saturn mission. That lasted 19 years and 335 days, producing a wealth of scientific information until it was deliberately crashed into Saturn on September 15 of this year.

Here’s a strange clip that nevertheless contains Ricky Ricardo’s most famous words:

Notables born on this day include Lucretius (99 BC), P. G. Wodehouse (1881), C. P. Snow (1905),  Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1917), Mario Puzo (1920), Richard Carpenter (1946) and Sarah, Duchess of York (1959). Those who died on this day include Andreas Vesalius (1564), Mata Hari (1917; executed for spying), Hermann Göring (1946), Cole Porter (1964) and W. Eugene Smith (1978). Smith is one of my favorite photographers; here are three of his images (see a nice selection of his best ones here).

From the “Country Doctor” article in Life Magazine; the subject resting after a long night:

Frenchman weeping as he watches the Nazis march into Paris:


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is ratting on her mattress:
Hili: Sometimes I have a feeling that Cyrus is disturbing us in our work.
Cyrus: No comment.
In Polish:
Hili: Czasem mam wrażenie, że Cyrus lubi nam przeszkadzać w pracy.
Cyrus: Nie będę tego komentował.


And a tw**t from Matthew:


  1. Merilee
    Posted October 15, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    It must be a sign🙀 We lost our beloved 15 1/2 year old Currie-the-Pooch on Sept. 5 and have an appt. this morning to meet a possible new canine member of our household whom we’ve taken to calling Lucy ( we saw a really cute wiener dog named Lucy on our recent travels). This Lucy is a larger, houndish kind of dog, and I’ve been running the Lucy you’ve got some ‘splainin to do through my mind the last few days🐾🐾

  2. Historian
    Posted October 15, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    In the picture of the Frenchman crying when the Germans marched into Paris, the woman on his right appears to be applauding. The high degree of French collaboration with the Nazis after the defeat is something probably most French today. The Vichy government in unoccupied southern France is infamous for its collaboration. Wikipedia notes:

    “The Vichy government, headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain and Pierre Laval, actively collaborated in the extermination of the European Jews. It also participated in Porajmos, the extermination of Roma people, and in the extermination of other “undesirables.” Vichy opened up a series of concentration camps in France where it interned Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents, etc.”

    George Yardley, in a review of Ronald Rosbottom’s book on Paris during the occupation, notes:

    “The unhappy truth, about France generally and Paris specifically, is that there were more overt acts of collaboration than of resistance, though that began to change as German resources were challenged elsewhere from 1943 onward, leaving weak and vulnerable occupation forces in the city. The French have been eager to present themselves as far more important to the fight for freedom than they actually were, and the Resistance mythology has been essential to maintaining what is largely a fiction, if not a fantasy. As this fine book makes clear, there is little to celebrate in the story of Paris in the occupation and much to lament.”

    It seems that nations need myths to maintain national cohesion. Certainly, the United States has many of them. It is difficult to face the truth.

    • ploubere
      Posted October 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      It’s impossible to know for sure that the woman was applauding, neither she nor anyone else in the photo looks particularly happy. But you are correct about the collaboration, and anti-semitism was as rampant in France as in Germany.
      It should be noted that the French Resistance was also active, and many of its members acted heroically. As with any society, as with ours, there was a schism.

      • ploubere
        Posted October 15, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        Having spent time in France as a child and having attended school there, I’ll verify that in general the French do exaggerate their role in WWII, and downplay the collaboration. One of my teachers referred to it as “the war between the French and the Germans.”

        • Richard
          Posted October 16, 2017 at 4:25 am | Permalink

          During holidays in Austria and Italy, I was told by tour guides that each country had been occupied by the Germans in WWII.

          Er, no, it wasn’t like that: the Austrians welcomed the Germans with open arms, and Italy was one of the main Axis powers (before switching sides later on).

  3. DrBrydon
    Posted October 15, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I use hand-washing as an example of the way a benevolent god might have helped man. It’s been suggested, for example, that god could have revealed some useful scientific information to man, and objected by the god-botherers that man wasn’t in a position to understand or appreciate such information. But he could have just said ‘wash your hands’, ‘cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze’, ‘wash your vegetables.’ These are just the type of reasonless laws the bible foisted upon people, like don’t eat shellfish, or wear blended fabric. God’s ways are indeed inscrutable.

    • nicky
      Posted October 15, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      We have to thank the Viennese Dr Ignatz Semmelweiss for hand-washing as a means to prevent contamination, puerperal fever in particular.
      He was quite insistent that those obstreticians not doing it were murderers. He was lured into a lunatic asylum, a struggle resulted and he died there of his wounds two weeks later. A sad story of a man who saved thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of women’s lives. An unsung hero.
      Only 15 years after his death he was vindicated by the work of Louis Pasteur.

  4. Dale Franzwa
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I’m also a compulsive hand washer and haven’t had a cold in so many months I can’t remember when. Like you, I also live alone and don’t associate with snot-nosed kids or their parents. (That’s called “the good life”).

    I always wash my hands before every meal. But, unlike you, I don’t sing “Happy birthday.” Instead, I have a small, battery-powered clock on my bathroom sink and wash for at least 20 seconds. My doctor is amazed.

    • Merilee
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      And I am NOT a compulsive hand-washer ( except post-bathroom and pre-cooking), and I only get a cold once every ten years or so. My friend at the gym is always using that awful-smelling hand sanitizer and she gets colds all the time. I live with dogs, cats, and a man and see my little occasionally snotty-nosed granddaughters and their pets fairly frequently.

      • Dale Franzwa
        Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        My mother taught me to wash my hands. She was a nurse, way back in the 1920s before she met my dad.

        Opera season has begun. I’ve seen Bellini’s “Norma” and Mozart’s “Magic Flute”. Hope you’re getting your opera fix (or plan to) this season.

        • Merilee
          Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Dale, I’m really looking forward to those two. We’ve been on the road so will be catching the reruns. I happened by pure chance to catch act 1 of Norma on opening night while driving through Moab, Utah ( Sirius radio). Sondra’s Casta Diva was magnificent!! Heard her live in Toronto last year in a different production of Norma. Got two live performances in Toronto this week: L’Elisir d’Amore and Arabella. Life’s good!! ( You and I may be the only opera fanatics on WEIT:-)

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