Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Sunday, July 14, 2019, and you know what that means?

It’s BASTILLE DAY! I left a space here for a Google Doodle, but didn’t see one. Then I found that there is a celebratory Doodle, but it’s visible only in France (click on screenshot to read about it):

In other news, it’s National Grand Marnier Day, which, as a U.S. holiday, constitutes cultural appropriation of a French cordial—unless, as you quaff it, you appreciate French history and culture and the oppression that many French experienced during the Revolution. It’s also Pandemonium Day. That’s not a chemical element named after a Szechuan mammal, but a celebration of all things chaotic. I don’t do well with chaos.

Finally, two more of Katie’s brood left last night, so we’re down to four offspring (ten born, one recently died from unknown causes, and five have fledged). Katie, who’s undergoing the usual empty-nester molt, will be here for a while.

Things that happened on July 14 include:

  • 1771 – Foundation of the Mission San Antonio de Padua in modern California by the Franciscan friar Junípero Serra.
  • 1789 – French Revolution: Citizens of Paris storm the Bastille.
  • 1791 – The Priestley Riots drive Joseph Priestley, a supporter of the French Revolution, out of Birmingham, England.
  • 1865 – First ascent of the Matterhorn by Edward Whymper and party, four of whom die on the descent.
  • 1874 – The Chicago Fire of 1874 burns down 47 acres of the city, destroying 812 buildings, killing 20, and resulting in the fire insurance industry demanding municipal reforms from Chicago’s city council.

This is after the “real” Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed roughly 300 people, destroyed about 3.3 square miles (9 km2) of the city, and left more than 100,000 people homeless.

  • 1881 – Billy the Kid is shot and killed by Pat Garrett outside Fort Sumner.
  • 1911 – Harry Atwood, an exhibition pilot for the Wright brothers, lands his airplane at the South Lawn of the White House. He is later awarded a Gold medal from U.S. President William Howard Taft for this feat.

It’s not clear whether Atwood had permission to do this, but if he didn’t he would be jailed today rather than feted.

  • 1933 – Gleichschaltung: In Germany, all political parties are outlawed except the Nazi Party.
  • 1933 – The Nazi eugenics begins with the proclamation of the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring that calls for the compulsory sterilization of any citizen who suffers from alleged genetic disorders.
  • 1960 – Jane Goodall arrives at the Gombe Stream Reserve in present-day Tanzania to begin her famous study of chimpanzees in the wild.

Here’s a nice anecdote about Goodall, referring to the cartoon below:

Wikipedia says this about that:

One of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons shows two chimpanzees grooming. One finds a blonde human hair on the other and inquires, “Conducting a little more ‘research’ with that Jane Goodall tramp?” Goodall herself was in Africa at the time, and the Jane Goodall Institute thought this was in bad taste, and had their lawyers draft a letter to Larson and his distribution syndicate, in which they described the cartoon as an “atrocity.” They were stymied by Goodall herself when she returned and saw the cartoon, as she stated that she found the cartoon amusing. Since then, all profits from sales of a shirt featuring this cartoon go to the Jane Goodall Institute. Goodall wrote a preface to The Far Side Gallery 5, detailing her version of the controversy, and the Institute’s letter was included next to the cartoon in the complete Far Side collection. She praised Larson’s creative ideas, which often compare and contrast the behaviour of humans and animals. In 1988, when Larson visited Gombe he was attacked by a chimpanzee named Frodo.

Nature got revenge on Larson. (I rue the day he stopped cartooning.)

Finally, we have these two July 14 incidents:

  • 1976 – Capital punishment is abolished in Canada.
  • 2016 – A terrorist vehicular attack in Nice, France kills 86 civilians and injures over 400 others.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1602 – Cardinal Mazarin, Italian-French cardinal and politician, 2nd Chief Minister of the French Monarch (d. 1661)
  • 1862 – Gustav Klimt, Austrian painter and illustrator (d. 1918)

I never fail to remind readers that Klimt, a very great artist, was also a cat lover. Here’s a picture of the artist with his cat, named Katze (“cat”) taken by Moriz Nehr at Klimt’s studio in Vienna in 1912. 

My theory, which is mine, is that if you made a list of great artists, more of them would own cats than dogs. Why? Because cats are art on the hoof, or, as I call them, “living sculptures.” They are beautiful in action and in repose, and you can’t say that about, well, that other animal.

Others born on this day include:

  • 1903 – Irving Stone, American author and educator (d. 1989)
  • 1913 – Gerald Ford, American commander, lawyer, and politician, 38th President of the United States (d. 2006)
  • 1926 – Harry Dean Stanton, American actor, musician, and singer (d. 2017)
  • 1938 – Jerry Rubin, American activist, author, and businessman (d. 1994)

Those who bought it on July 14 include:

  • 1817 – Germaine de Staël, French philosopher and author (b. 1766)
  • 1827 – Augustin-Jean Fresnel, French physicist and engineer, reviver of wave theory of light, inventor of catadioptric lighthouse lens (b. 1788)
  • 1881 – Billy the Kid, American criminal (b. 1859)
  • 1939 – Alphonse Mucha, Czech painter and illustrator (b. 1860)

Mucha was a wonderful Art Nouveau artist, famous for his posters and advertisements. Here’s a train-travel poster from 1897:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s dialogue is enigmatic. Malgorzata explains:

It’s a word play on a Polish saying. When somebody has really big problems in life (terminal illness, death of a loved one) there is a saying in Polish: “he is carrying the holy cross” – meaning he is suffering like Christ on Via Dolorosa. Hili sees an ant carrying something very heavy and she remembers this saying. For her it’s an epitome of the greatest physical burden imaginable, so she applies it to the ant.
The dialogue:
A: What did you see there?
Hili: An ant is carrying a holy cross.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tam zobaczyłaś?
Hili: Mrówka dźwiga krzyż pański.

A cat meme sent by reader Merilee:


From Sarah. I’m not sure what’s up with this, given that it’s in both Chinese and English. My best guess is that someone took a small Chinese police-dog vest and put it on a cat. (Readers of Chinese: does it really say “police dog”?)

I’ve found more tweets from Grania, but will dole them out one by one. Here’s a bunch of cool chemistry “experiments”:


A tweet sent by reader Barry, who avers, “There’s something relaxing about watching other animals eat, even if it’s a sloppy hippopotamus.”  This hippo makes short work of a watermelon. Imagine downing a melon in one bite!

Ancient lacewing wings show “eyespot” patterns similar to some modern butterflies. But, as Matthew asks, “Whose eyes are they mimicking?” Remember this is the Jurassic, and there weren’t many of mammals.

More tweets from Matthew. Sound up on these two, as you’ll be chuffed to hear porcupine noises:

OMG; if I could just see these birds in the feathers just once! Is that too much to ask?

God has nearly 6 million followers, and his Twitter feed is wickedly funny. But here he tells us he doesn’t exist (or maybe that he’s a deistic god):

You couldn’t make this one up! But maybe you can make up a story about why they had this stuff. . .



  1. W.T. Effingham
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    When asked why he pulled the snake transporting, bourbon swilling, stolen-car driving folks over, the arresting officer said they weren’t uptight or unattractive,but a suspicious aura told him…

    • loren russell
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      ?Wasn’t this a scene in Repo Man?

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    The Chicago Fire of 1874 — Don’t tell me it was Mrs. O’Leary’s cow again?

  3. rickflick
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    The insects of the Jurassic must have been prayed upon by reptiles. The eyespot would certainly cause a lizard to wonder a second before biting thinking it might be another lizard.

  4. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    That hippo looks quite happy. The world has so much shit in it and the hippo can ignore it all – that’s a sweet, unexamined life right there.
    There’s no discernible stress on its face, no buzzing anxiety in its head, no worries. Just people who care for you at the zoo you live in(rent-free), lobbing watermelons into your mouth every day.
    And people are impressed just by the simple act of you eating stuff. Kids ooh and aah and their parents stare in awe. People aren’t impressed when I eat a watermelon, and if I tried to eat it like that hippo they’d be disgusted, which seems frankly unfair.
    And people are actually impressed by the statistics about hippo size and weight. Grown ups tell their children ‘it weighs almost a ton!’, and the child stares in awe and wonder. No-one gathers around to laugh and point at the hippo, or shame it into anorexia. Being a giant wobbly blob is outright admired.

    What a sweet life, second only to an elephant seal perhaps, or a rich elderly lesbian’s cat.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      “There’s no discernible stress on its face, ”

      How could you tell? 😉


      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        I have a PHD in hippos. Reading their body language is one of my skills.

        Unfortunately it was a very expensive degree, and has turned out to be a bit useless, since I live in the UK and have never seen a hippo, and am afraid of the water. And hippos.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 16, 2019 at 6:59 pm | Permalink



  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    1960 – Jane Goodall arrives at the Gombe Stream Reserve in present-day Tanzania to begin her famous study of chimpanzees in the wild.

    There was a documentary released a couple years ago entitled simply Jane. It featured footage shot by Hugo van Lawick, the late National Geographic photographer who went to do a story about Ms. Goodall, fell in love, got married, and lived with her in the reserve for years.

    Much of the footage seemed to have been shot during what cinematographers call “magic hour,” the period shortly before sunset. The Tanzanian veldt looks golden and glowing and gorgeous. Jane looks golden and glowing and gorgeous, too.

    Here’s the trailer.

    • merilee
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Saw it a year or two ago at TIFF. WONDERFUL!

  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    That uranium yellow powder in a tin sounds like yellowcake which is pretty well radiologically harmless. I wonder if it was sold to the couple as something more than it is – masterminds of mischief that pair of buffoons…

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Well, hell, they’re drinking cheap blended whiskey in Kentucky of all goddamn places, home of the world’s best bonded bourbon, so how bright can they be?

      Someone probably sold them a plastic jug of Kentucky Deluxe and told them it was bourbon, and a tin of yellowcake and told them it was fissile material.

      Maybe they were out scouting the countryside for centrifuges to convert the two.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        Top marks. 🙂

        I can see an incompetent murder plot unravelling here – a grandma relative with a nice house being encouraged to leave this mortal coil. ‘Milk’ the rattler & go from there.

      • Posted July 14, 2019 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        Write your own joke, starting with: “a rattlesnake, radioactive uranium, and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe walked *out* of a bar….”

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:51 am | Permalink

          “A rattlesnake, radioactive uranium and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe”

          Sounds like what Keith Richards puts in his smoothie-maker every morning.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 15, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

            Whatever he’s doing seems to be working. If a nuclear doomsday machine ever gets detonated, I’m betting on Keith and cockroaches as the lone survivors.

  7. DrBrydon
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Atwood would be shot down if he tried to approach the White House today. The Secret Service have anti-aircraft missles. It used to be a different world.

  8. Karen Welsh
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    My mother’s step grandfather told her of his escape from the 1871 Chicago fire as a boy with his family. They just got out in time in a cart with only their clothes on their backs, oh, and the family pet, a bird in its cage. As they fled they saw the city burn behind them. So my mother knew someone who was an eyewitness.

  9. Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    It feels weird to see the 14 of July called “Bastille day” by Americans. If you mention “Bastille day” to a French person who has never lived in the US, they will have no idea what you are talking about. In France, the 14 of July is the “Fête nationale” which means “national holiday”. I guess in most countries, there is one national holiday, like there is one national flag and one national anthem. When I came to the US, I thought the US national holiday was the 4th of July, but then I discovered that Americans use the expression “national holiday” for more than one holiday, and that July 4 is just one of them. This is really weird for an outside observer, it’s like you discover that a country has more than one national anthem or more than one national flag.

    • BJ
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Does France really only have one “national holiday,” in the sense that we use the term in the US? Of the countries I know well — Canada, UK, etc. — they all have multiple “national holidays,” which, at least in the US, are just defined as days declared by the national government to be holidays and during which workplaces and government are closed. For example, “bank day” would be a national holiday.

      Looking up the term now, I see that you’re using the first definition in the following link, while we in the US use the second:

      • Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        In France, what you would call national holidays in the US are called “jours fériés” which means non-working days. The French government decides each year which days will be non-working:
        But the expression “fête nationale” (literally national holiday) refers to a single day (July 14 in France), and it is assumed that each country has a single such national holiday, which defines the country in the same way as the national flag and the national anthem.

        • BJ
          Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

          Interesting. July 4th would definitely be our “fête nationale.”

      • Derek Freyberg
        Posted July 14, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        M-W definition 2, example: “there are no annual legal national holidays in the United States”. Technically I believe they are called Federal holidays, and even then may vary in observance between the states – for example, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was not observed in Arizona for several years after its proclamation as a Federal holiday. And the US Patent & Trademark Office closes on each “Federal holiday in the District of Columbia”, despite it being located in Alexandria, Virginia.

        • BJ
          Posted July 14, 2019 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

          Hahaha I didn’t even see that (obviously). But I think, for the purposes of what I was trying to convey to someone not from here and who doesn’t understand how we use the term, we do have what we all colloquially call “national holidays.” I don’t know whether or not Literary Digest was correct in making that statement, but we do have many “national holidays” as the term is commonly used here.

  10. BJ
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    No mention of Halep’s big win yesterday? Not a tennis fan, huh?

  11. Mobius
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you might want to repost Sunday’s Bizarro cartoon, which IMHO says wonderful things about adopting pets.

  12. Derek Freyberg
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Yes, the cat’s vest does really say “Police dog” in Chinese.

    • Kate Vincent
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink


  13. Steve Gerrard
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    The Goodall-Larson anecdote is an excellent counter to the offense culture we now endure daily. We need more of that!

  14. Mehul Shah
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Your statement about animals eating reminded me of this,

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