Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s a quiet Sunday in Chicago: February 25, 2018, and National Chocolate-Covered Peanut Day. I’ll eschew these (as a friend of mine used to say when I rejected food with that phrase, “I’ll chew it, too!). It’s also Meher Baba’s birthday, who was born on this day in 1894. He died in 1969, and for the last 45 years of his life he didn’t speak a single word (he communicated with an alphabet board). I have this picture on a small card taped to the wall next to my desk. It’s always cheered me up in Black Dog times:

Here’s another showing his alphabet board (and Tallulah Bankhead!):

On February 25, 1836, Samuel Colt was given a patent in the US for his famous Colt revolver. And, in 1870,  Hiram Rhodes Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, was sworn into the United States Senate; he was the first black person ever to sit in the U.S. Congress. His election was to fill a seat that was vacated, and he was in Congress for just one year. Here he is:

On this day in 1932, Adolf Hitler, who was of course Austrian, became a naturalized German citizen, which allowed him to run for office in Deutschland.  On February 25, 1956, Khrushchev, in a speech called “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences,” began the dismantling of Stalin. Exactly thirty years later, Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines after a presidency of two decades, and Corazon Aquino became the nation’s first woman president. Finally, on this day in 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a right-wing Jewish extremist, slaughtered 29 Palestinian worshipers and wounded 125 others at the Cave of the Patriarchs in the city of Hebron. He was beaten to death by those who survived.

Notables born on February 25 include Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841), Enrico Caruso (1873), Meher Baba (1894; see above), Anthony Burgess (1917), Téa Leoni and Nancy O’Dell (both 1966), and Chelsea Handler (1975). Those who bought the farm on this day include Bugs Moran (1957), Mark Rothko (1970), Theodor Svedberg (1971, Nobel Laureate), Tennessee Williams (1983), and Glenn T. Seaborg (1999, another Nobel Laureate).

To honor Renoir’s birthday, here are two of his paintings:

“Young Girl with Cat” (1879):

“Julie Manet with Cat” (1887):

To see more of his cat paintings, and those of many other artists, please see the site The Great Cat, which covers cats in art, history and literature. It’s an excellent site, full of information about our feline friends.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili speaks, but her words require some exegesis from Malgorzata:

Hili is commenting both on current policy of Polish government (the dignity of Polish nation is more important than historical truth) and on an essay by Professor Richard Landes about a culture of honour and shame she was recently reading. She obviously can see the prevalence of such attitudes everywhere—they are ubiquitous.

I am told that Hili reads English, Polish, and Swedish, though her Russian is a bit spotty.

Hili: Truth is less important than dignity.
A: What made you say this?
Hili: Generally speaking.
In Polish:
Hili: Prawda jest mniej ważna niż godność.
Ja: W związku z czym to mówisz?
Hili: Tak ogólnie.

In nearby Wloclawek, the Dark Tabby is recumbent:

Leon: Because life is mainly about resting.  (In Polish: “Bo w życiu chodzi głównie o to,żeby odpocząć.”)


A few tweets from Grania. Here are the two moons of Mars in one video clip:

Dueling reviews of Pinker’s new book (I’m 125 pages in with 325 to to go; I like it but reviews have been mixed, as they always are for his books):

A Justin Trudeau meme (or rather, mime). I’m starting to think of this dude as being kind of a clown.

A cute goat (perhaps a Jewish one, if you listen to what the guy is saying):

Some tweets from Dr. Cobb:

Some prescient words (“get off my lawn!”) by Carl Sagan:

I think this cat is pretty okay:

I believe we’ve featured these cat backpacks before, though I haven’t yet seen one in person:

And a d*g does what it should do:


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 25, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Is there a way that Tw1773r links can show up *in subscription ermail*?

    I can see them plain on the webpage.

    For the record, I laughed at some Beavis and Butthead and Dumb and Dumber scenes.

    • Posted February 25, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Exactly what I was thinking. Carl Sagan obviously didn’t get low-brow humor. Oh well. No one’s perfect.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 25, 2018 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Sagan wrote that a decade before Idiocracy — and two before you-know-who was elected to be you-know-what.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 25, 2018 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      Yes but in the 90s we were well on the way into the predicted future that Sagan could see. The dumbing down was underway.

      • nicky
        Posted February 25, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Didn’t it become clear earlier, under Mr Reagan’s regime?

  3. mrclaw69
    Posted February 25, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Hi Jerry. Do you mean February instead of November?

  4. Christopher
    Posted February 25, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I’m 75 pages int Pinker’s book (and 45 into Kaku’s The Future of Humanity; going to hear him speak next week) and it is really good. I suppose one could argue with his style of writing, or his presentation of the information but if you are going to argue against his thesis, then you damn well bring a whole lot of data with you or your argument won’t have any legs. There’s no room for your “feelings” or what you “think”. So far as I can tell, his is a frog’s ass sort of argument: water-tight.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 25, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      I’m getting Deustch’s “The Beginning of Infinity” because of it – after having it way down on the list because the title sounded like … well, one of those overblown titles about everything…. what can I say, I judge books by their titles but only because I have other books in active service…

    • Robert Bray
      Posted February 25, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Nearly 300pp and I’m keenly disappointed. . . but only that I can’t support my eyeorish pessimism empirically. So it’s now my subjective problem entirely! If human progress is countable, Pinker counts it; and the results are undeniable, so much so that ‘I have to admit it’s getting better, getting better all the time.’

      As for John Gray’s ‘review,’ well, I read it and found it utterly wanting in any detailed understanding of Pinker’s argument. For Gray it’s ‘the Enlightenment wasn’t so great,’ and ‘religion is far more complex than Pinker, indeed all those devotees of atheism and scientism think.’

      Perhaps I should know who John Gray is, but I don’t; nor am I familiar with ‘The New Statesman’ except by title. Perhaps a reader might, shall we say, enlighten me.

      • Zach
        Posted February 26, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        Gray has a long history of misunderstanding Pinker’s arguments and making himself look foolish in trying to rebut them. That review above is simply a regurgitated version of the one he wrote criticizing The Better Angels of Our Nature, in which he trots out the same tropes: religion is more “sophisticated” than anyone truly understands, the Enlightenment inspired the communists and eugenicists of the 20th century, “scientism” is as intellectually restricted as any other ideology, etc.

        When you get down to it, Gray doesn’t really have any positive arguments of his own. He just likes to smear modernity.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted February 26, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, Zach, for the primer on Gray. I do wonder how such a resentment-fueled writer could become book editor of a publication like ‘The New Statesman.’ Gray’s dripping bile reminded me of A. N. Wilson’s treatment of Darwin, which as I’m sure you recall set off an energetic response on this site a few months back. But all both writers succeed in doing is making poisonous stalagmites/stalactites: hanging in, rising from the floors of the caves of their imaginations. No enLIGHTenment.

          • Zach
            Posted February 27, 2018 at 1:29 am | Permalink

            Gray’s dripping bile reminded me of A. N. Wilson’s treatment of Darwin, which as I’m sure you recall set off an energetic response on this site a few months back.

            Yes, I do recall. And I think you’re onto something in linking them together.

            There is a certain type of personality—and this personality spans the spectrum of intellectual capacities—which really, really> doesn’t like the theory of evolution by natural selection. (Why, I’m not quite sure. I think it has something to do with human mortality.) Both Gray and Wilson exhibit this personality type, albeit at the more literate ends of said spectrum. Hence, they’re capable of dressing up their existential angst in pseudo-historical homilies. At the end of the day though, all they’re doing is throwing their intellectual feces at those whose worldview revolts them.

            In a way, it’s kind of sad.

  5. Posted February 25, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    For those who were curious enough to read John Gray’s Pinker-essay Brian Cox tweeted about:

    Gray raises some legitimate points. But why does he have to speak about Spencer, Darwin and “survival of the fittest”? He doesn’t seem to know that Spencer published the expression seven years before The Origin of Species.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted February 25, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      This is par for the course for Gray. He is a social pessimist, who seems to have talked himself into the view that not only is progress not inevitable (fair enough), but that is not possible. He cites Taleb’s intemperate criticism of Pinker’s stats as if it was beyond criticism itself. He doesn’t like the Enlightenment, that’s for sure.

    • Posted February 25, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Although the basic concept was firmly laid out in Spencer’s Social Statics (1851) and he defended it in his correspondence years before Darwin’s magnum opus, I may have stated too bluntly that he “published the expression seven years before”.

      I won’t bother to comb through the pompous and boring early works of Spencer. Maybe the actual words “survival of the fittest” weren’t published before 1864, between hard covers anyway.

  6. Avis James
    Posted February 25, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I think you should elevate goats on you list- between cats and squirrels!

  7. Posted February 25, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I haven’t yet read Pinker’s new book but I generally side with his brand of optimism. I look forward to reading it and these two reviews after.

    John Gray appears to be an interesting fellow. According to Wikipedia,

    “Gray has written several influential books, including False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998), which argues that free market globalization is an unstable Enlightenment project currently in the process of disintegration.”

    Based on this, it isn’t surprising that he doesn’t like Pinker’s book.

  8. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 25, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Love the Sagan quote. Currently, there are at least as many dangers from pseudo-history as from pseudo-science.
    Much of the former is broadcast on the improperly called “History Channel” with relatively challenge.
    As Wikipedia notes, “The network is criticized by many scientists, historians, and skeptics for broadcasting pseudodocumentaries and unsubstantiated and sensational investigative programming,”

  9. revelator60
    Posted February 25, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    No surprise that the negative review of Pinker was by the odious John Gray. Or that the review was paint-by-numbers and repeated his usual tactics: brushing aside all statistics, screaming about “scientism,” and character-assassinating the Enlightenment (“The more hostile the Enlightenment has been to monotheism, the more illiberal it has been”–notice how few examples he gives of this!).

    But what’s truly frightening is the very end of the review, where we learn Gray’s upcoming book is called “Seven Types of Atheism.” God help us all.
    Undoubtedly it will arrive with fawning reviews and be used as a handy stick to beat non-believers with.

  10. Posted February 26, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Re: Cat backpack:

  11. Diane G.
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 1:18 am | Permalink


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