Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday again: February 22, 2019, and less than a month to go until Spring, when I can start hoping that my ducks will return. It’s National Margarita Day (I prefer a daiquiri) as well as Eric Liddell Day,  a day celebrated by the U.S. Episcopal Church on the day after Liddell’s death (he died on February 21, 1945).

On this day in 1632, Galileo’s heretical Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was published. In 1819, by treaty, Spain sold Florida to the U.S. for a measly $5 million.  On this day in 1862, Jefferson Davis, provisional President of the Confederate States of America, was inaugurated for a six-year term as real President. He was not, of course, able to finish that term. After the war, he spent two years in jail and then was released in 1867, got a Presidential pardon.  On February 22, 1915, the German Navy began its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. That involved, of course, the sinking of the Lustiania without warning, killing 1,198 people.

On February 22, 1924, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge gave the first Presidential radio address from the White House. Since he was known as “Silent Cal” for his laconic persona, I’m surprised he said anything.  In 1943, three members of the White Rose Nazi-resistance organization, Sophie SchollHans Scholl, and Christoph Probst. were executed in Nazi Germany. More on this below.

On this day in 1980, in a huge upset, the U.S. hockey team beat the powerhouse Soviet Union team in the Olympics by a score of 4-3. This “Miracle on Ice”, which I watched live (it was in Lake Placid, New York), was a semifinal game, but the U.S. went on to win the gold medal.  Here’s the thrilling final minute:

On this day in 1997, British scientists announced the cloning of Dolly, an adult sheep. She lived six more years and then died of a disease unrelated to her cloning. She was the first adult mammal ever cloned from a somatic (body) cell. Finally, it was eight years ago on this day that a deadly earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 185 people. The city still has not completely recovered despite the healing presence of Jerry Coyne the Cat 1, who lives there.

Notables born on this day include George Washington (1732), Arthur Schopenhauer (1788), Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell and Heinrich Hertz (both 1857), Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892), Edward Gorey (1925), Ted Kennedy (1932), Robert Kardashian (1944), Julius Erving and  Miou-Miou (both 1950), Steve Irwin (1962), and Drew Barrymore (1975)

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) honors Steve Irwin’s birthday in a series of six successive drawings:

Edward Gorey was a diehard ailurophile. Here’s a picture contributed by reader Jon, who calls it “the best author photo ever.” I can’t say I disagree!

Those who took the Big Nap on February 22 include Amerigo Vespucci (1512), Charles Lyell (1875), Stefan Zweig (1942), Christof Probst, Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl (1943; executed White Rose members), Eric Liddell (1945), Felix Frankfurter (1975), Florence Ballard (1976), David Susskind and Andy Warhol (both 1987), Chuck Jones (2002), and Sonny James (2016).

I have read a lot about the White Rose group, as I admire their courage in opposing the Nazi regime, and the stoicism with which the Scholls went to their deaths. Here’s the entirety of the film, “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days“, made in 2005. The two really distressing scenes are the courtroom scene, around 1:23:00, when the White Rose trio appear before the notoriously vicious Nazi judge Roland Freisler, and then the execution scene of Sophie at the end. Both are, as far as I can see, extremely accurate (the trio was guillotined, but nothing gory is shown).

Freisler was, as I said, a nasty piece of work, the chief judge of Hitler’s Volksgericht, or People’s Court.  As Wikipedia notes:

Freisler chaired the First Senate of the People’s Court wearing a blood scarlet judicial robe, in a hearing chamber bedecked with scarlet swastika-draped banners and a large black sculpted bust of Adolf Hitler’s head upon a high pedestal behind his chair, opening each hearing session with the Nazi salute from the bench. [see this below]  He acted as prosecutor, judge and jury all in one, and his own recorder as well, thereby controlling the record of the written grounds for the sentences that he passed.

The number of death sentences rose sharply under Freisler’s rule. Approximately 90% of all proceedings that came before him received sentences of death or life imprisonment, the sentences frequently having been determined before the trial. Between 1942 and 1945, more than 5,000 death sentences were decreed by him, 2,600 of these through the court’s First Senate, which Freisler controlled. He was responsible in his three years on the court for as many death sentences as all other senate sessions of the court combined in the court’s existence between 1934 and 1945.

Freisler became in this period notorious for berating in a personalized injudicial manner from the bench the steady stream of defendants passing before him on their way to their deaths, often shouting and occasionally yelling at them – particularly in cases of resistance to the authority of the Nazi state – in an enraged, glaringly clarion but dramatically controlled harsh voice, using a mastery of the art of professional legal courtroom performance artifice.

You can see this monster in action in the documentary below; note how much the actor above resembles him. You can also see Freisler berating those involved in the Stauffenberg assassination plot against Hitler, working himself up into a terrible lather.  And see the following for yourself at 3:55

At one point he yelled at Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, who was trying to hold his trousers up after being given old oversized and beltless clothing, “You dirty old man, why do you keep fiddling with your trousers?” Nearly all were sentenced to death by hanging, the sentences being carried out within two hours of the verdicts.

Freisler was killed in February of 1945 during a U.S. bombing attack on Berlin; a bomb hit the court building.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili tells Andrzej that it’s not all beer and skittles keeping up her nails:

Hili: Every day I have to do the hard work of sharpening my claws.
A: What for?
Jili: On principle.
In Polish:
Hili: Codziennie ciężka praca ostrzenia pazurków?
Ja: Po co?
Hili: Dla zasady.

Here’s another funny “meme” from Facebook:

Reader Beth has had her black Persian cat, Hillary Rotten Kitten, clipped. It now has Ugg boots and a big head:

An excellent cat “meme”:

A tweet from reader Nilou, showing Simon’s Cat having an encounter with a nasty-ass crow (well, all crows are nasty-ass):

From Heather Hastie via Ann German. I can never see enough murmurations. Note that this one swoops down near the water’s surface. Why?

From reader Barry, a discomfiting tweet. EVERY reptile and insect in Australia is dangerous!

From Grania. The first one shows a FRICKING SEA TURTLE PARADISE! A veritable buffet of gelatinous noms!

Be sure to watch the video embedded in the tweet below.

Two sarcastic comments about the Jussie Smollett affair (n.b. spelling in first one).

I found this one from the unsinkable Titania McGrath:

Tweets found by Matthew. The first one has twenty cats from different places, but it omits James Joyce’s Irish cat: “Mrgknao!”

These are among the world’s most beautiful insects:

I suspect Stephen Barnard would be particularly fond of this tweet:




  1. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Since [Coolidge] was known as “Silent Cal” for his laconic persona, I’m surprised he said anything.

    The president whose most famous quote while in office may have been “I do not choose to run” (regarding his decision not to seek reelection).

    • Posted February 22, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      A woman sitting next to Coolidge at a dinner party said “Mr. President, I bet a friend I could get more than two words out of you.” Coolidge replied “You lose.”

      Possible apocryphal.

      • JezGrove
        Posted February 22, 2019 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

        But sometimes apocryphal is too good to resist!

  2. Stephen Barnard
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Every year a large rainbow trout inhabits a prime lie along the bank in my back yard. I can’t be sure it’s always the same fish, but I suspect it may be. It won’t eat from my hand, but I don’t allow anyone to try to catch it.

  3. Posted February 22, 2019 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    I made a gravestone for a duck once…

    • JezGrove
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      But who did you send the bill to?

  4. Posted February 22, 2019 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Strange – even if I fill in my name & details, if I comment in Firefox it does not appear!

    • Posted February 22, 2019 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      Now it did above – after several minutes… even stranger… 😦

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 22, 2019 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        It’s doing exactly the same to me.


        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted February 22, 2019 at 8:53 am | Permalink

          Happened to me recently. Just server delay, I think.

          I always want to look at my comments immediately to see what stupid typos I’ve made. 🙂

          • Nobody Special
            Posted February 22, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

            Try refreshing after posting. It works for me.

  5. Frank Bath
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Do I see a duck behind Edward Gorey’s head?

  6. Jenny Haniver
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Titania McGrath has more astute comments on the Jusse Smollet case, among them she observes that Smollet found employment for two unemployed black actors, which, she notes, is more than most casting directors do. She also notes that it has inspired Godfrey Elfwick, to conduct an audition to “hire two people to publicly subject [him?] to a harrowing experience, possibly involving some kind of scuffle and a certain amount of problematic brouhaha.”

  7. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    That was the second Christchurch earthquake. The first one (now known as the Darfield earthquake) was 5 months earlier, a 7.1, centred under the small town of Darfield 25 miles inland, on a previously unknown fault (probably unknown because – my guess – the Canterbury Plains are a thick alluvial fan so faults are buried).

    That earthquake caused massive property damage in some Christchurch suburbs which were built on sandy soils, liquefaction meant ‘sand volcanoes’ appeared everywhere, thousands of houses were slightly damaged by uneven settlement of the ground under them, but only IIRC one death, a man was unlucky enough to be hit by a falling brick wall. The reason for this curious circumstance is that most suburban NZ houses are timber-framed, they will deform but not collapse. In fact the worst death toll on that day was a skydiving plane crash on the West Coast.

    Roads subsided, floods of water appeared out of the ground, sewer pipes floated to the surface. Most houses remained habitable, though damaged; probably fortunate, as people continued living in them for up to several years.

    The second earthquake was ‘only’ a 6.1, but extremely shallow in the Port Hills right on the edge of the city. Extremely high ground accelerations caused the collapse of buildings in the city centre (hence the deaths), and more liquefaction in the suburbs.

    I would say the city has substantially recovered but it has been significantly changed. Large areas by the river are ‘red zone’, unsuitable for housing, the houses have been removed but trees and shrubs left so it now looks like a giant park. Meanwhile extensive new building has taken place in new subdivisions on, hopefully, better ground.

    There’s a fascinating animated map that shows how these quakes come in swarms at
    – you can call up animations showing the timeline around the big quakes.


  8. rickflick
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I also watched the USA win over the CCCP in 1980. The US team celebrating victory on the ice is certainly memorable. Such young faces! The excitement was starkly set off by the faces of the red team looking on in disbelief. See 1:29.

  9. Jenny Haniver
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    An unanswerable question that vexes me at the moment: Why is it that when I refresh this particular page, when it’s done refreshing, almost invariably it lands on the video of the snake (even if I move down to the comments and then refresh). Kinda like the Wheel of Fortune is stuck. Why????? Why??? That’s the last thing I want to see right now, in the morning before coffee, before Titania McGrath! That is the weirdest, most unsettling video I’ve seen in a long time; but it’s fascinating, too. I just want to be able to control when I see the image. At least it doesn’t start playing on its own.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      It’s been like that for a long time
      Something wrong with the page setup I expect
      Bloody annoying

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted February 22, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        I thought it was just my computer, nice to know that I’m not the only one with the problem, which happens all the time.

        But, lordy, that snake. It would have been even more interesting to see how it snuck up on the bird and grabbed it. It looked limp (already dead) as the snake drew it up and began to coil around it, so I wonder if the initial bite to the head killed it.

        • merilee
          Posted February 22, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          Mine’s been getting stuck in various places, too, but thankfully not at that “snike”🙀

        • David Coxill
          Posted February 22, 2019 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

          More to the point ,did it manage to swallow the bird ?

    • rickflick
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      There are scrolling issues for me too. Whenever I click from email to a comment I land somewhere in the middle of the main post. Downright disheartening.

  10. drew
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    regarding the trout tombstone I feel I must post this Monty Python gem.

    • drew
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      BLAST! I tried using the hashes for that but it didn’t work.

  11. merilee
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    That is one big-ass nasty-ass crow with Simon’s cat. Love the tickling the tootsies bit😻

  12. DrBrydon
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Not for me. Margaritas are my favorite drink (rocks, salt). Too bad there are none in the offing today.

    • JezGrove
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      It’s never too early for one on the rocks!

  13. Posted February 22, 2019 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I just want to mention a sad passing yesterday of the multi-talented Peter Tork. Yes. One of the Monkees, but not a talentless fraud as many still believe. Here he is playing Bach. Skip to 1:40:

    • Liz
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink


    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I heard late last night that Mr. Tork caught The Last Train to Clarksville.

      • JezGrove
        Posted February 22, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        At least “I’m a Believer” covered every base, so in the extremely unlikely event that there is a g*d he’s safe anyway. My bet’s on Hinduism and Monkee gods, for what it’s worth…!

  14. Posted February 22, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    The “meow” translations is interesting, because it shows great diversity even with languages very close to each other (e.g., Russian and Ukrainian).

  15. BJ
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    The Miracle on Ice is one of the greatest moments in sports history, but the US did not in any way deserve to win that game. If you watch it (it’s available on Youtube), the Soviets outplayed them for every second of the game and made the Americans look like amateurs (which, to be fair, they were). Unfortunately for the Soviets, their star goaltender had been suffering a crisis of confidence for the previous two weeks, and let up two weak goals in the first period. Meanwhile, Jim Craig played the game of a lifetime and saved the US team somehow.

    So, I guess the Americans did deserve to win, as a single player won the game for them. But I still feel bad for the Soviets.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      They were good enough to beat Finland for the gold, which was notable after such an emotional victory against the USSR. They also beat the highly regarded Czechoslovakian team 7-2. I think you’re selling them short.

      • Anonymous
        Posted February 22, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        That’s true, although the Czech team did not deserve the regard they received at the time. Really, things just fell perfectly into place for the US to get gold. But my ultimate point was that, if you watch the Miracle on Ice game, you see just how completely outclassed the US was. The Soviets out-shot the US 39 to 16, and it should have been a lot worse than that considering the zone time (the US spent barely any time in the Soviets’ zone). The Soviet skaters ran circles around them.

        And you saw just how good the Soviets and their system were when they started coming over to the NHL, especially when the Russian Five played for the Red Wings. They were incredible and even changed the game.

        • JezGrove
          Posted February 22, 2019 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

          Cool – you got round the ban by registering your user name as ‘Anonymous’! Er… probably not.

      • BJ
        Posted February 22, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        That’s true, although the Czech team did not deserve the regard they received at the time. Really, things just fell perfectly into place for the US to get gold. But my ultimate point was that, if you watch the Miracle on Ice game, you see just how completely outclassed the US was. The Soviets out-shot the US 39 to 16, and it should have been a lot worse than that considering the zone time (the US spent barely any time in the Soviets’ zone). The Soviet skaters ran circles around them.

        And you saw just how good the Soviets and their system were when they started coming over to the NHL, especially when the Russian Five played for the Red Wings. They were incredible and even changed the game.

    • Posted February 22, 2019 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      This is why I dislike competitive sport: it is zero-sum.

      • BJ
        Posted February 22, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        That’s an interesting reason not to like it and one I’ve never heard. I’d be interested in you elaborating on that, if you’d like to.

        I love it because (1) I love playing hockey and tennis, (2) because I marvel at the physical skill and mental strength of the competitors, and (3) because I love the strategy. If you watch hockey or tennis (especially today) and have a deep understanding of the systems (in hockey) or strategies (in tennis), it’s a joy to behold.

        • Posted February 23, 2019 at 12:46 am | Permalink

          Every time when a sport game or competition is over and the winner celebrates, I think of the loser and feel sorry for him.

    • Lurker111
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Not too long after the Soviet loss here, a political cartoon appeared (I can’t recall where) that showed two prisoners in a gulag camp. The one says to the other, “No kidding, comrade–you won a bronze medal in the 1980 Olympics?”

      • BJ
        Posted February 22, 2019 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        I’ve always wondered how those players were treated once they got home. What happened? Many of the best went on to have careers in the NHL, though most of those were after the fall of the USSR (as far as I know, only Fetisov and Kasatonov made the move to the NHL before).

        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted February 22, 2019 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

          In fact, the Soviets won the Silver in 1980, having beaten Sweden, whom the USA had tied 2-2. I imagine the celebration in the locker room was subdued.

          • BJ
            Posted February 22, 2019 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

            I know, but the shame of losing to the amateur USA team must have been horrifying when they got home. I would like to know what happened after that. The silver medal meant nothing after the defeat at the hands of the US.

            Then again Tikhonov remained coach of the team after that, so…I don’t know…

  16. Posted February 22, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for honoring the White Rose heroes.

    • BJ
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Yes, they were remarkable.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      They had guts alright. They deserve a war memorial.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 22, 2019 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        I know there’s an asteroid named in honour of the movement. I was told years ago that one of their leaflets was smuggled out around ’43 & was dropped all over Germany during bombing raids – could be a myth. I can’t check cos I’m on a phone device I don’t understand.

        • rickflick
          Posted February 22, 2019 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          In web limbo, eh?

  17. Deodand
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    What I find most disturbing about Freisler is the number of American universities that find his style of ‘justice’ where one person investigates, prosecutes and convicts is perfectly acceptable, even preferred, as it provides ‘justice’ to the victim/survivor (accuser) and gives the perpetrator (accused) the process they are due.

  18. JezGrove
    Posted February 22, 2019 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Re “the best author photo ever”, I fully recognize the method, but how does anything get done? (I’ve been trying it for more than two decades without success, so all advice very welcome!) Still, I can’t complain about my stress levels…

  19. Dale
    Posted February 23, 2019 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    The most frightening scene in the movie about Sophie Scholl is the scene where she is interrogated. It is just another nameless bureaucrat going about his work without questioning what he is being asked to do. the interrogation was transcribed in full at the time.

  20. Hempenstein
    Posted February 23, 2019 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Freisler’s finale from the bombing raid could certainly be seen as cosmic justice, but then of course why didn’t it come sooner? But the reality is interesting. The raid was led by Robert Rosenthal, whose plane was in flames from a direct hit but who kept bombing until his payload was expended. He then parachuted to safety @1000ft after the rest of the crew had already bailed out, and just before it exploded. He was rescued by the Soviet Army and returned to service. Just after the war he asisted the US Prosecutor in the Nuremburg Trials and helped to interrogate Hermann Göring. He lived to see his induction into the Jewish-American Hall of Fame in 2006.

    I just learned last night that among those many condemned by Freisler was Erwin Planck, Max Planck’s son(!) (This from his chapter in Conscience in Revolt (Annedore Leber), a collection of 64 short biographies of members of the German resistance). Executed 23 Jan 1945.

    Most famously saved by the raid, though, was Fabian von Schlabrendorff, one of the July 20 conspirators whose case was before Freisler that day but had not yet been heard. By one account, he had von Schlabrendorff’s file in his clutch of death, and he was returned to prison / concentration camp. In contrast to so many in that situation who were executed or gunned down anyway in the final weeks of the war, von Schlabrendorff and some 140 others were actually liberated by the German regular army led by Wichard von Alvensleben during transfer from Dachau to Tyrol. His troops outnumbered the SS guards, who fled. After the war, von Schlabrendorff became a judge in the (West) German courts and von Alvensleben followed agricultural pursuits.

    Also from the Leber book, above, Rüdiger Schleicher was one of those condemned by Freisler, just a day before the bombing raid (and was ultimately shot by the SS along with a dozen other notables just a week before Hitler’s suicide). On the day of the bombing raid, Schleicher’s brother Rolf, an MD, was en route to the court with a petition for mercy for his brother, when was forced to take shelter. Afterward, he was summoned to see about Freisler, who was dead by the time he arrived. He was asked to certify the death, which he refused to do.

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