Godless Dollars For Buskers

There’s a busker on the corner
With a beat-up old guitar
And he’s singing ‘bout some wise men
Who were following a star
And the night is getting chilly
And he’s missed a meal or two
Could be sadness; could be frostbite
But he’s looking rather blue
Stop and listen to his music,
And to really cheer him up,
You can drop some godless dollars in his cup

Walk a block or two up further
And you’ll hear a young quartet
With a sound that’s warm and cheerful
In the cold and dark and wet
On ahead, a hammered dulcimer
Plays carols in the night
And it almost feels Dickensian
The sound, the smells, the sight
It’s the warmth of shared humanity
That keeps the cold at bay
While you’re passing godless dollars on your way

And the local high school chorus
Dots the town in smaller groups
Going house-by-house and caroling
To neighbors from their stoops
And an actor reads a story
Of the Ghost of Christmas Past,
And it’s magic, for a moment,
Though of course, it cannot last
Christmas lasts, it seems, forever;
Scenes like this are much too short…
So you give them godless dollars for support.

With final exam season, I had forgotten all about last year’s project, de-godding dollar coins and using them to support the local musicians who are doing their best to make this season less of a chore for shoppers and businesspeople. I’d actually like to suggest that this could be “a thing”–that is, in the same way as bills stamped “gay money”, or 2-dollar bills for gun enthusiasts (for the 2nd amendment, geddit?), a noticeable but unobtrusive sign of atheist giving. It’s just as easy to drop a handful of coins into a guitar case as it is a handful of bills (and they won’t blow away!), plus you get to feel like Scrooge (or Scrooge McDuck), tossing coins at street urchins.

Just go to your bank and trade in some paper money for dollar coins, de-god them (an engraver, a Dremel tool, or a cold chisel would all work quite well), and give them out generously to the musicians and others you wish to support. (Yes, of course you can just take a sharpie to your bills, but they aren’t as noticeable–and it’s fun to see a musician who thinks you dropped in quarters realize that, nope, those were unanticipated dollars!

And if you are really lazy, just donate here, using the tip jar–I have pledged that all donations will be converted to de-godded coins (quarters stay in circulation longer, but dollars fit this plan better) and used to spread cephalopodmas cheer year-round.

Oh, yeah, buy my book(s), too–the perfect (war against) Christmas present. (links in the “Buy the book (etc.)! tab at the top of this page.)
Pile of de-godded dollar coins

Atheist Christmas Verses, Poems, Cards…

… and all proceeds going to charity.


So checking the site stats today, I note that it is the beginning of the season for searching google for “atheist christmas poem”, “atheist christmas cards”, “atheist xmas” and the like.

So I just thought I’d link again, to the only collection you need. Some 17 verses, 32 pages, and all proceeds going to charity (given that I won’t see the money for a couple of months after you buy, I am not naming a charity yet, but I will be transparent.)

And yes, if you didn’t see it, my second collection of verses is out–profits from this one are going to me. It, and all other options (including some free downloadable ones) may be found here.

Clearly, They Were Rehearsing For Cephalopodmas

Chris Clarke, over at Pharyngula, gives us the “real story” (that is, the lamestream media cover-up) of a massive Humboldt squid stranding near Santa Cruz. He shows his hand, though, in his choice of headline. As someone privy to the inner circle of cephalopodian machinations, I am offering you the *real* story. (I am stunned to realize that this was written five years ago, which is a lifetime in blog-years.) I am, of course, swearing you all to secrecy.

It was Cephalopodmas, and all through the blogs
Not a writer was stirring—all sleeping like logs.
Each blogosphere-dweller, from Orac to PZ
Was all bundled up and just taking it easy.
Their prone, sleeping forms, that might well have been granite
Slept through the most wonderful tale on the planet!
For all ‘cross the globe, from the oceans and seas,
All the cephalopods, just as nice as you please,
Took a break from their lurking in kelps and in corals
To visit the houses of people with morals.
(Ironic, you think? If they hadn’t been sleeping,
The bloggers would be so much happier peeping,
And witnessing all of this marvelous night.
Well, now that I write of it… next year, they might.)

But how can a creature that’s mainly pelagic
Accomplish all this? Is it hoax? Is it magic?
Of course, I could never achieve it alone
I had oceans of help—why, in every time zone
There were octopi, cuttlefish, nautilus too
And squid by the thousands who knew what do do.
From the deepest of depths, from the shallowest shoals,
From around the equator and close to the poles,
From every far corner of all seven seas
Came crawlers and swimmers, as quick as you please,
From cuttlefish cubby or octopus den,
To each lend a hand, or perhaps eight or ten.
The skies and the seas were both darker than soot;
No safe place for tentacle, feeler, or foot—
Was it safe for the journey? I had to think twice,
But a wise old molluscan proposed this advice:
“You know, you should hitch up some firefly squid”
So, not being stupid, that’s just what I did—
(In the darkest of depths, when I could not find any,
I used the much larger Taningia danae).
With a glow that left headlights in sad obsolescence
We lit our own way with our bioluminescence.
(And once (but just once) when we plain lost our bearings
We got back on track with the help of some herrings.
On Cephalopodmas, good nature prevails—
Even giant squid know they can trust the sperm whales—
And whether you’re predator, whether you’re prey,
You can take the day off. Hey, it’s only one day.)
And with luminous squidlings providing the light,
The Onycotuthidae took us to flight!
(It’s a myth that a reindeer can fly, as you know
But true that some squid can, as others can glow!)
So we flew, over trees, over hills, over mountains,
(Keeping moist by, sometimes, flying low over fountains)
We flew over deserts, with sagebrush and cactus;
Some day we’ll invade, so it’s really good practice.
And each place we flew, and the others we crawled,
We left little gifts, that surprised and enthralled
All the good boys and girls, and their parents and pets
(Why should some folks miss out on what other folks gets?)
An octopus, crawling up pipes from the sewers,
Might leave a small gift, say, a bottle of Dewars.
For those who do not have a liking for whiskey,
Perhaps lingerie (although nothing too risky);
If the oysters cooperate, maybe some pearls
For the fancy tongue-piercings of good boys and girls.
If we think we’ve been spotted, then quick as a wink,
We are gone—what remains is a black cloud of ink,
(But when it’s so dark you can’t see where you’re going
Then ink is no good—so a cloud that is glowing–
A trick taught by Heteroteuthis dispar)
So it shows where you were, when you no longer are,
And predators, peepers, or unwilling hosts
See nothing—or see what might well have been ghosts.
They know they’ve seen something, but what? They won’t swear.
By that time, of course, we are long gone from there.
You can see from the picture that, once, we were caught
By some kittehs, who said “U R not who we thot.”
But we gave the poor kittehs a soft little pat,
‘Cos we knew we were safe—who’d believe a dumb cat?
Then back to the oceans, for seafood and beer,
Saying Merry Cephalopodmas, and Happy New Year!

Gift-Giving, And Much More.

Ok, first a couple of things to get out of the way. One–got an announcement from the EvolveFish people that their stuff is on sale. I get no money from them at all, but I must say I am biased toward a couple of things on their site. Two–I wouldn’t say this at all, cuttlefish that I am, except that I noticed a commenter discovering just today that there is, in fact a volume of Cuttlefish verse available in both dead-tree and e-versions of some sort. And there are also cool things to wear and drink from. Not the same things, but… Anyway, those are found in the Cuttlestuff link.

But that’s not the purpose of this post.

There are many things I would give if I could… but can’t. There are actually very few things I want or need. Cuttlefamily is healthy (well, have chronic diseases that are well controlled by modern medicine), not in debt (not quite, anyway), happy (that one has no disclaimer), and far more fortunate than we have any right to be (chronic disease and all). Mind you, extended Cuttlefamily is not doing so well, which is a mixed thing–you see, many of them have lived long enough to be dying of cancer, which means a pretty good run at life so far (each life has some tragedies, but this is not the time for that).

I would give health. But I cannot. I would give travel, but I cannot afford that, and travel is a luxury. I would give things that no one can give… And for that, I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate. For my people, I don’t need to give food (but I will, some, but not because these items are needed, but because they are wanted–this makes all the difference in the world). I don’t need to give rent money, or an only pair of shoes without holes, or warmth. I can’t give a pancreas, or I would.

What do I want? Damn, isn’t that a fine question? I don’t have to ask “what do I need?. I want time. No one can give me that–especially in my size or style. I want hugs, and I’ll get them. That’s pretty much it. I begin to understand Dumbledore’s fondness for wool socks.

Mind you, if Nikon or Montblanc wanted me to write reviews of cameras, lenses, and fountain pens, in iambic pentameter, I could write you a list that would make your head spin. But just saying that… noting that such incredible luxury is what I think of, instead of fixing this car (the “new” one is 12+ years old, but it’s in good shape), or that furnace (new burner in 2 years ago, so we’re good) or that window (replaced 4 years ago)… Damn. I am the luckiest Cuttlefish on the planet.

So… comment thread…. what do you want to give, that you cannot? What do you want, that cannot be given? Do you consider yourself fortunate? (and no, I will not ask anyone if they have been naughty or nice. None of any of our damn business.)

Sepia Friday

That is, not quite Black Friday (or CyberMonday) yet. But I’ve been tweaking the store just a little bit, so consider this a soft opening. Let me know if there are any problems.

There are the regular Cuttlefish With Quill t-shirts and such, the best mug in the world (and matching glassware, if you like), a few other tweaks on the design (including, for those who read this blog before it was FtB, stuff with the original Cuttlefish). I’ve added in some more of Mike McRae’s wonderful illustrations on other drinkware–sadly, they are too small to be good shirts. For you artists out there–yes, he’ll be getting his half of any profits. Shh, it’s a secret–don’t tell him. So you can collect all the cephalopod shot glasses, for instance (I have not yet been able to find a way to have them packaged as a single set–sorry!), or treat the world to the wonderful sight of a toddler with a blasphemy sippy cup. Myself, I’ve got my eye on a different sort of sippy cup.

Anyway, take a look. (And like I said, please let me know if there are any problems!) I’ll have it linked up top soon, and maybe a widget somewhere. But I want the bugs out of it (if there are any) by next week when people start thinking about Cephalopodmas!

It was Cephalopodmas…

It was Cephalopodmas, and all through the blogs
Not a writer was stirring—all sleeping like logs.
Each blogosphere-dweller, from Orac to PZ
Was all bundled up and just taking it easy.
Their prone, sleeping forms, that might well have been granite
Slept through the most wonderful tale on the planet!
For all ‘cross the globe, from the oceans and seas,
All the cephalopods, just as nice as you please,
Took a break from their lurking in kelps and in corals
To visit the houses of people with morals.
(Ironic, you think? If they hadn’t been sleeping,
The bloggers would be so much happier peeping,
And witnessing all of this marvelous night.
Well, now that I write of it… next year, they might.)

But how can a creature that’s mainly pelagic
Accomplish all this? Is it hoax? Is it magic?
Of course, I could never achieve it alone
I had oceans of help—why, in every time zone
There were octopi, cuttlefish, nautilus too
And squid by the thousands who knew what do do.
From the deepest of depths, from the shallowest shoals,
From around the equator and close to the poles,
From every far corner of all seven seas
Came crawlers and swimmers, as quick as you please,
From cuttlefish cubby or octopus den,
To each lend a hand, or perhaps eight or ten.
The skies and the seas were both darker than soot;
No safe place for tentacle, feeler, or foot—
Was it safe for the journey? I had to think twice,
But a wise old molluscan proposed this advice:
“You know, you should hitch up some firefly squid”
So, not being stupid, that’s just what I did—
(In the darkest of depths, when I could not find any,
I used the much larger Taningia danae).
With a glow that left headlights in sad obsolescence
We lit our own way with our bioluminescence.
(And once (but just once) when we plain lost our bearings
We got back on track with the help of some herrings.
On Cephalopodmas, good nature prevails—
Even giant squid know they can trust the sperm whales—
And whether you’re predator, whether you’re prey,
You can take the day off. Hey, it’s only one day.)
And with luminous squidlings providing the light,
The Onycotuthidae took us to flight!
(It’s a myth that a reindeer can fly, as you know
But true that some squid can, as others can glow!)
So we flew, over trees, over hills, over mountains,
(Keeping moist by, sometimes, flying low over fountains)
We flew over deserts, with sagebrush and cactus;
Some day we’ll invade, so it’s really good practice.
And each place we flew, and the others we crawled,
We left little gifts, that surprised and enthralled
All the good boys and girls, and their parents and pets
(Why should some folks miss out on what other folks gets?)
An octopus, crawling up pipes from the sewers,
Might leave a small gift, say, a bottle of Dewars.
For those who do not have a liking for whiskey,
Perhaps lingerie (although nothing too risky);
If the oysters cooperate, maybe some pearls
For the fancy tongue-piercings of good boys and girls.
If we think we’ve been spotted, then quick as a wink,
We are gone—what remains is a black cloud of ink,
(But when it’s so dark you can’t see where you’re going
Then ink is no good—so a cloud that is glowing–
A trick taught by Heteroteuthis dispar)
So it shows where you were, when you no longer are,
And predators, peepers, or unwilling hosts
See nothing—or see what might well have been ghosts.
They know they’ve seen something, but what? They won’t swear.
By that time, of course, we are long gone from there.
You can see from the picture that, once, we were caught
By some kittehs, who said “U R not who we thot.”
But we gave the poor kittehs a soft little pat,
‘Cos we knew we were safe—who’d believe a dumb cat?
Then back to the oceans, for seafood and beer,
Saying Merry Cephalopodmas, and Happy New Year!

Tip to either Pharyngula or Pharyngula.

Much more here

A Squidmas Carol

Now… I am not, technically, a fan of Squidmas; I have always preferred the more inclusive Cephalopodmas, myself. But some shiftless bum who goes by the name “shiftlessbum” asked nicely, on Pharyngula, if I could “pen a Squidmas carol”. So here is the first.

First thing–it is not a poem, it is a song; if you expect the meter to be precise, you will be disappointed. I assure you, though, that it is quite singable (and would work with either a guitar or a banjo accompaniment, or perhaps a jug band). I had listened to Roy Zimmerman’s Christmas album “Peacenick” earlier today (don’t wait–click the link, go listen to the samples and buy some of his music!), so there may be a bit of that influence there… but the song that really came to mind as a model was Alex Bevan’s “Have another laugh on Cleveland blues” (from the days when Dennis Kucinich was known as the young Mayor of Cleveland). So this is not a terribly traditional Squidmas song, but more of a rollicking fun bit of honkytonk. Oh… and in case you didn’t know, a “radula” is the rasp-like tongue-equivalent that most mollusks use to kinda sorta grind their food to pieces. Just… don’t tell Freud. Anyway, although it is tongue-like, you could not (or rather, a cephalopod could not–I rather doubt that you are a cephalopod) use it to sing “fa-la-la”.

Edit: Ok, not honkytonk. The tune has been brainworming me all day, and it is most decidedly a New Orleans Jazz arrangement… think Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The lineup with the tuba, not the string bass. And a bit slower than I had first envisioned it. But damn, it is good! If any jazz bands happen to read this blog, have your people call my people.

A Squidmas Carol

It was late December, down in the bathysphere,
And the holiday spirit was anywhere but here.
Half a mile down it’s as black as ink
No room to move, but there’s time to think
How I miss, how I miss that topside squidmas cheer!

You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my darling
You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my dear.
And that star so bright—
It made you flip your lid?
It’s the photophoric action of the firefly squid
It’s the way we know that squidmastime is here!

Every night down here is a silent, silent night
And I’m glad the doors and windows are closed real tight
There’s a noise on the roof, but I know the truth is
It’s the long, long arms of the architeuthis
No sled, no reindeer, no reason for delight…

You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my darling
You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my dear.
And that star so bright—
It made you flip your lid?
It’s the photophoric action of the firefly squid
It’s the way we know that squidmastime is here!

But then, out the window, a shape catches my eye
It’s jeweled squid—histioteuthis—swimming by
And I think to my self “well, ain’t this grand,
It’ll never ever ever be seen on land.”
And I know for a fact, I’m a lucky, lucky guy!

You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my darling
You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my dear.
And that star so bright—
It made you flip your lid?
It’s the photophoric action of the firefly squid
It’s the way we know that squidmastime is here!

As I gaze out through three inches of fused quartz glass
At the strange and beautiful creatures as they pass
I know, half a mile down in the deep blue sea
Is the only place in the world for me
And that fat old bearded elf can kiss my ass!

You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my darling
You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my dear.
And that star so bright—
It made you flip your lid?
It’s the photophoric action of the firefly squid
It’s the way we know that squidmastime is here!

You can keep your sled and your eight tiny reindeer
It’s squidmastime in my tiny bathysphere
You can envy me in your world above
‘Cos I’m spending squidmas in the place I love
Merry Squidmas, and a wonderful New Year!

You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my darling
You can’t “Fa-la-la” with a rad-u-la, my dear.
And that star so bright—
It made you flip your lid?
It’s the photophoric action of the firefly squid
It’s the way we know that squidmastime is here!