Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s the weekend: Saturday, March 24, 2018, and it’s National Cake Pop Day, an overpriced treat beloved by yuppies in fancy restaurants. It’s also WHO’s World Tuberculosis Day (see below for the date 1882).

Some sad news from France:

Beltrame, the French gendarme who swapped places with a woman hostage taken by the Islamist killer in Trèbes, and then was shot, has died.  Yes, the word “hero” is overused, applied to, say, fencers who wear hijabs, but this man is a genuine hero: he gave his life for another. Beltrame leaves behind a wife but no children.

Arnaud Beltrame

On this day in 1721, Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated six concertos to Malgrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt, now known as the Brandenburg Concertos. One of my favorite pieces of classical music is the last (allegro) movement of of Concerto Number 6 in B flat major. Lovely! And here it is:

On March 24, 1837, Canada gave black men (not women) the right to vote. In 1882, Robert Koch announced that the agent responsible for tuberculosis was the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. On this day in 1944, 76 Allied prisoners of war escaped the German camp Stalag Luft III through a tunnel they’d dug secretly (this was dramatized in the movie “The Great Escape”). Of the 76, only 3 made it to freedom, and of the 73 recaptured, 50 were executed.  On March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army.  31 years later, the ship Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound in Alaska, spilling 240,000 barrels of crude oil.  Finally, exactly ten years ago, Bhutan officially became a democracy, having its very first election.

Matthew sent this tweet about the execution of Poles who saved Jews, at risk to their lives, during the Nazi era. There are 13 tweets in the series, and they’re well worth a look, helping restore one’s faith in humanity. Unfortunately, the family was turned in by other Poles, and merely mentioning any complicity of Poles in the Holocaust is now against the law in Poland.

Notables born on this day include Harry Houdini (1874), Nobel laureate physicist Peter Debye (1884), photographer Edward Weston (1886), George Sisler (1893), Wilhelm Reich (1897), Clyde Barrow (1909; shot to death in 1934), Nobel laureate biochemist John Kendrew (1917), Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919; still alive at 99!), Steve McQueen (1930, curiously, he was a star of “The Great Escape”), paleontologist Robert T. Bakker (1945), Peyton Manning (1976) and Jessica Chastain (1977). Edward Weston loved cats, and her he is with some of his beloved felids (photo by Imogen Cunningham):

Deaths were few on March 24; they include Pieter de Hooch (1684), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1882), Garry Shandling (2016), and the famous soccer player Johan Cruyff (2016). Curiously Cruyff, who died of lung cancer, was one of the sport’s all-time greats despite being a lifelong heavy smoker. He’s famous for a dribbling trick:

The Cruyff Turn (also spelled Cruijff Turn in the Netherlands) is an evasive football move that was named after Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff.  To do this move, Cruyff would look to pass or cross the ball. Instead of kicking it, he would drag the ball behind his planted foot with the inside of his crossing foot, turn through 180 degrees, and accelerate away from the defender. This feint was executed by Cruyff in the 1974 FIFA World Cup, first being seen in the Netherlands’ match against Sweden where he outwitted Swedish defender Jan Olsson.  The move was soon widely copied by other players around the world. It remains one of the most commonly used dribbling tricks in the modern game.

Here it is:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is sad about the news, which includes a bad abortion bill in Poland (fetuses cannot be aborted when they have grave illnesses or deformities) and more UN resolutions against Israel (Hili is a Zionist cat):

Hili: Czytałam rano wiadomości ze świata.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Moje królestwo nie jest z tego świata.

Reader Frank reminds us the Philomena will return in a BBC2 series on Britain, which, sadly, I’ll be unable to see. Readers in the UK—please report.

From Grania, a cat who doesn’t like things that aren’t in their proper place:

Well, here’s someone who doesn’t understand either evolution or scientific writing (“Abstract” is a short, one-paragraph summary that appears at the beginning or end of every biology paper.)

From Matthew, who says pay attention to the dates of these tweets!

A giant cat:

And the death of a subspecies:

As well as the death of a beloved Tower raven:

Finally, a cool trick with a top and a paper clip:


  1. Historian
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Typo: Steve McQueen was born on this date in 1930. He died on November 7, 1980.

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    I’m astonished by what Beltrame did. I wonder if it was against the rules.

    My attempt to grab a snippet of the sheet music for the Bach failed :,_BWV_1051_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian)

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Ok I listened- that’s a nice one…. never thought of a tempo like that as “allegro”… it has a triplet feel

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Arnaud Beltrame was the definition.

    Another step in control today…

  4. Art
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    …death of a beloved Tower raven…

    Odin will be sad. I hope Huginn is well.

  5. nicky
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Bach is indeed unsurpassed. In my operating theatre there is only baroque music in the mornings, and 85% of it Bach. He must have been a ‘natural mathematician’, everything fits so perfectly (for more details read Hofstadter’s “Godel, Esher, Bach”). Only in the afternoon we listen to other music, from jazz to “World Music”, and even ‘Pop’ or ‘Kwaito’.
    Bach is the composer who most often moves me to tears, no competition there.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      “Bach is indeed unsurpassed”


      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        Bach is unsurpassed in _______?

        And if anyone can tell me what Hofstadter’s point was, I’d be glad to hear it, because while his book was a sprawling, enchanting, exciting adventure through connections between disparate subjects, I still have to wonder “so what?”

        • nicky
          Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

          Unsurpassed as a composer. The fugue is like a kind of canon, but -contrary to a canon, where the theme is played twice at different intervals- the theme can be reversed or played at different speeds or tones. It is excessively difficult to make it fit. Bach was a master at that. It is said he could improvise fugues in three ‘voices’.
          He is also unsurpassed -as I mentioned- to bring me to tears.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

            “Unsurpassed as a composer”

            I love Bach’s music, I think his compositions were unprecedented, innovative, transformative, deeply expressive, mysterious and fascinating…

            I love Mozart’s music, I think his compositions were unprecedented, innovative, transformative, deeply expressive, mysterious and fascinating…

            But I can’t bring myself to claim either is unsurpassed as a composer. I don’t even understand what that means.

            As for the notion that they were “improvisers”, it is difficult to be surprised when I hear this. I have never heard of a modern, living or recorded musician who can improvise at a level such as you describe – improvising fugues, with on-the-fly melodies and development, counterpoint and all that – if you can name one, I’d love to hear it. Absolutely no jazz musician fits this description – a savant-like ability to invent music on-the-spot – though being true improvisers. Until I get a reference, I attribute claims that Bach and Mozart were savant-like improvisers to pure idolatry. They worked at their craft, it is seen in their hand-written music notation. And that’s not meant to disparage you. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven – what can you say? They have been elevated to idol status, and why not – I love it.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted March 30, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

            I give a demonstration of improvisation in the classical style, by Alma Deutscher :

            I am ashamed not to have recalled this, as I knew of it a long time ago. It’s delightful but she acknowledges that the hard work of composing is to develop the melodies, akin to what we know from Bach, Mozart, etc. where clearly the music is not just improvised on the spot, but sculpted and reduced into written notes, then performed as written, etc.

            However, I am still intrigued that I cannot find more, or any, really, recorded performances of truly improvised music *that is not what we typically call jazz*

            So, more performers that are like an improvising Bach or Mozart.

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted March 30, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

              Oh I forgot the damn YouTube thing sorry

  6. nicky
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    World TB day. Here is an area where SA is, sadly, top of the table. We have the highest TB-HIV co-infection incidence in the world. Moreover 10 to 15 % of our TB is MDRTB (multi drug resistant TB) or XDRTB (extremely drug resistant TB). It is a great killer, and a huge health care problem here.
    For those who want a nice trivial fact, you can safely drink from the same glass a still infective TB patient has been drinking from. It is the aerosol, the tiny droplets released on coughing, that cause the infection when inspired.

  7. nicky
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    And yes, I agree 100%, the word “Hero” is not misplaced for Arnaud Beltrame.
    Who of us would have dared to do the same? A Genuine Hero indeed.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919; still alive at 99!)

    The City Lights Bookstore Ferlinghetti founded in North Beach is still goin’ strong, too (at least as of my last trip to San Francisco).

  9. nicky
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    That Polish law is as unconscionable as it can get.
    I was named after a great-uncle who was executed in the early 40’s – at age 33- for setting up a network to help Dutch Jews escape to Spain via Belgium. My late father visited several of the surviving escapees in the 70’s in Israel. That was very moving.
    So I can’t be really impartial in this. All my feelings for the Ulma family. Sad there were so few, and not many more of them. However, in the light of the dire consequences, one cannot really blame. The fact they were so few -for good reasons- somehow increases the Ulma’s heroism.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Steve McQueen (1930, curiously, he was a star of “The Great Escape”)

    Somewhere, he’s back in the cooler again with his ball glove, bouncing a baseball off the wall.

  11. BJ
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I did not expect a recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B Flat Major to begin with a picture of Kirk and Spock, but it did, and I’m happy.

    I was really, really hoping Arnaud Beltrame wouldn’t die. I’m usually pretty good about staying rationally detached from the deaths and misfortunes of people I’ve never known and never will, but, on occasion, someone does something that forces my brain to think about them and be disappointed when their circumstances don’t result in the best outcome. I was really rooting for Arnaud Beltrame.

    A group of someones I am decidedly not rooting for is Loyola’s basketball team. Someone had ABC’s World News Tonight playing in the background last night, and the program ended with yet another story about Sister Jean and the prayers she has provided. The ABC newscaster said of her prayer, “it worked,” and remarked that Loyola has won games because of “divine intervention.” There was no equivocation; there was no question: Loyola is winning because God is helping them win. I wish they would just fucking lose already. This is likely the most I’ve ever cared about basketball.

  12. glen1davidson
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Yeah, Scott True, notice that spherical earth science articles also start with “Abstract.”

    Makes falling off the earth a lot scarier prospect, doesn’t it?

    Glen Davidson

  13. Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Sorry to hear of the passing of Munin, the Tower raven but glad that his privacy was respected with “age-related illness”.

  14. Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    My eyes welled up again with tears for Monsieur Beltrame and his widow and the other victims.

  15. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Alright, you Hofstadter/Bach fans, I dug out my book and am listening to the Musical Offering – thank you!

    … how’d I miss The Musical Offering?! This stuff is GREAT! I got my fill of Bach a while back, moved to Telemann – if you get tired of Bach, as strange as that sounds, OR if you want more but can’t find any, try Telemann – somehow, I got it in my head I heard everything by Bach, but thanks to this here Hili Dialogue, and specifically because the Hofstadter fans spoke up, I’m diving back into Bach through the Musical Offering.

    Another WEIT Miracle!

    • nicky
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      In 2008 my daughter gave me the complete works of Bach in a box: 155 CD’s!
      And yes, about 15% of the baroque music in my theatre is not Bach: Telemann, Handel, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Boccherini, Albinioni, Charpentier, Soler, Crous and many more.

      • nicky
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        Ah, and I forgot one of the most popular ones with my staff: Pergolesi.

        • nicky
          Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          And I still have to meet anyone not moved by Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

            In person, I take it.

            … not a fan. It’s sort of played too much, too.

      • Posted March 26, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Wow, that’s a lot of CDs. A 1 terabyte disk should be enough to hold that too. 🙂

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      And what’s this? Shepard tone/scale in the back of Hofstadter’s book – how cool

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    The softer word than “hero” is “heroic” which describes actions rather than people. Lots of people do heroic things- relatively few people are heroes. (Although it should still be acceptable for a child to say to a parent “You’re my hero”.)


    The complicity of Poles in the Holocaust plays a significant role in a 2013 film “Ida” about a woman raised as an orphan in a convent who then decides to become a nun, but then discovers she is Jewish.

    Although the film is a Danish-French co-production, it was distributed in Poland by Solopan Polska, and has a Polish director.

    Is such a movie against the law now in Poland???

  17. Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    No one’s wondering how that last trick was done? I’m thinking the top was magnetized.

    • Mark Ayling
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 4:59 am | Permalink


  18. Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    Polish ladies could come to Bulgaria to abort. My gynecologist’s first question about a newly discovered pregnancy is whether it is wanted.

  19. Posted March 26, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Poor white rhinos. How are the black ones doing?

    (Aside: There’s an astonishingly graphic episode of _MacGyver_ about them, complete with PSA by RDA.)

  20. rtarbinar
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    That is SOOOO cool that you like Brandenburg 6 3rd mvt. too! It’s also one of my favorite classical pieces — and as a Bach lover, it’s hard to choose! I loved it so much, in fact, that I chose to analyze it for music theory class!

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      Could you share your analysis – in a nutshell?

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