New at Rosetta Stones: We Have Successfully Delivered a Bouncing Baby Cinder Cone

The second (and for now, last) installment of the birth of Parícutin is now up at Rosetta Stones. I’d like to say something profound and deep about it, but it was an eventful delivery, and I’m tuckered. I shall rely upon you, my darlings, to say the appropriate words in comments if the spirit moves you. “Holy fucking shit, Batman!” is also acceptable. It’s not every day a volcano is born in a cornfield, after all.

If anyone knows the fancy code for enlarging the font size in captions, I’ll go back and do that. I’ve not been able to figure it out, and I know some in the audience would like to stop squinting, so hopefully one of you knows the secret.

 

Taken from the northeast. Parlcutin Volcano. Michoacan, Mexico. February 21, 1943. (Photo by S. Ceja) Published as plate 17-A in U. S. Geological Survey. Bulletin 965-D. 1956. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

The new cone, about 30 meters high, appears above the treetops. Taken from the northeast. Parlcutin Volcano. Michoacan, Mexico. February 21, 1943. (Photo by S. Ceja) Published as plate 17-A in U. S. Geological Survey. Bulletin 965-D. 1956. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Mystery Flora: Pretentions of Grapeness

Let’s do something seasonal, shall we? These flowers that seem to want to be grapes were blooming at Juanita Bay middle of last February. You’re probably going to tell me they’re some sort of horrid invasive thingy.

Mystery Flower I

Mystery Flower I

Just bizarre, aren’t they? Leaves look a bit like holly, sorta-kinda, and then you get these tight tentacles of odd green flowers, which for all I know aren’t proper flowers at all, because sometimes leaves or bracts evolve to imitate flowers, but aren’t, and this is one of the reasons why biology bothers me. It does odd things.

Mystery Flower II

Mystery Flower II

I don’t mean bothered in a bad way. I used to sneer at biology long ago, but now, when it’s not getting in the way of my rocks, I quite like it. Fascinating stuff. I used to be able to rattle off all sorts of facts about the evolution of trees and leaves and flowers, but it’s been a bit since I did that research and I’m rusty. Leaves. Those are fascinating things. Perhaps I’ll dig out the old research and do up a little dissertation on those someday – you’d like it. We could throw flowers in as well, although oddly enough, I don’t find those half as interesting as I do leaves. I love looking at flowers better, and they make amazing photographs. But leaves are where it’s at.

Mystery Flower III

Mystery Flower III

See? Leaves. Those leaves are saying something important. Damned if I can remember what it is. So, um, yeah, focus on the flowers. Forget the leaves for now. Unless, of course, you know why they evolved to look the way they do, in which case, say on! But don’t forget to tell us what the plant is. Bizarre leaves, odd flowers – it may not be flashy, but it’s definitely interesting.

Damn Sensible Advice

My stepmother posted this in her timeline, and it seems quite apropos.

Sage advice. Image courtesy Shut the Front Door.

Sage advice. Image courtesy Shut the Front Door.

Damn skippy I’m not. Never have been – I don’t have this diplomatic tendency to run about trying to make everyone all harmonize together. I don’t mind patiently talking to someone whose point of view differs from mine, as long as they aren’t actively malevolent or pushing my rage buttons. It’s nice to sometimes persuade people to change their minds, or to change my own when the situation warrants it. Even if we have to agree to leave a subject alone because we’re too many worlds apart, that’s okay – as long as they’re not calling someone else’s humanity or bodily autonomy into question.

But the haters? Yeah, fuck ‘em. There are some people swimming in the deep end of the cesspool, and I’m sorry, but I haven’t got the stomach to try fishing them out. Getting splashed with their sewage feels disgusting and the smell’s hard to wash out. The only time I want to talk to a hater is just when they’re considering that they might, just possibly, have been engaging in reprehensible behavior, and would like to ask my advice on how to clean up. (My advice, if anyone in the audience has just climbed out of a cesspit: hose the worst of it off yourself, apologize sincerely to those you’ve splashed filth all over, and then continue scrubbing. All will be well, though it might take more time and effort than you expected.)

This from now on will be my response to those who want me to make nice with the champion assbags: “I’m not the Jerk Whisperer.” Go elsewhere if you’re wanting someone to crawl up and lick the hands of haters. I’m too busy for lost causes.

Answering an Aspiring Author: What I Loved

A friend o’ mine is about to embark upon a program of self-loathing and torture a bit of sci fi writing. He turned to me for advice. A few questions have been asked, and I figured answering in public may perhaps be useful in case anyone else in the cantina plans to embark upon the same soul-destroying madness career.

"This artist concept illustrates how a massive collision of objects perhaps as large as the planet Pluto smashed together to create the dust ring around the nearby star Vega." Alternatively, it describes the brain of a speculative fiction writer. Image and part of the caption courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“This artist concept illustrates how a massive collision of objects perhaps as large as the planet Pluto smashed together to create the dust ring around the nearby star Vega.” Alternatively, it describes the brain of a speculative fiction writer mid-novel. Image and part of the caption courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

One of the questions was this: “What kind of stuff do you like to write?”

Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say like. Love is a safe word. It’s the right word for the kind of tempestuous, tumultuous relationship a writer has with their fiction. Like is too mild, too constant a word for this passion we share, this rollercoaster of high and low and in between emotion. So. What do I love to write?

I don’t actually know.

"The planet GJ 1214b, shown here in an artist's conception with two hypothetical moons, orbits a "red dwarf" star 40 light-years from Earth.... Astronomers have confirmed that this alien world has a thick atmosphere, but can't yet determine whether the atmosphere is primarily hydrogen or a steamy soup of water vapor." Rather a bit like my fiction writing feels at the moment, that is.  Image and part of the caption courtesy CfA/David Aguilar (NASA)

“The planet GJ 1214b, shown here in an artist’s conception with two hypothetical moons, orbits a “red dwarf” star 40 light-years from Earth…. Astronomers have confirmed that this alien world has a thick atmosphere, but can’t yet determine whether the atmosphere is primarily hydrogen or a steamy soup of water vapor.” Rather a bit like my fiction writing feels at the moment, that is. Image and part of the caption courtesy CfA/David Aguilar (NASA)

We’ve been experiencing a separation of over a year now, fiction and I. I’m shacking up with non-fiction at the moment. It was a polyamorous relationship, but we got a bit exclusive and froze fiction out. I haven’t time to devote to both. And when that changes, and fiction once more returns for some smouldering nights of amore, it won’t quite be the same, as we’ve both changed.

So, to rephrase the question along the same lines, but this time answerable: “What kind of stuff did you love to write?”

Um… things… and stuff…

I loved to write things one might classify more as fantasy than science fiction, but although it contained things like special powers and beings like unicorns and dragons, I did try to ground some of it in science. (Hence the current freelance career as a science writer. Research rather took over there. Heh heh heh whoops.)

"Dear Moon" by Haflinger-Sama.

“Dear Moon” by Haflinger-Sama.

I loved to write about trying to save the universe. Well, don’t we all, right? Few things more exciting to write about than the universe in peril and the plucky people trying to save it.

I loved to write about good and evil and how you can’t tell them apart at a glance sometimes.

I loved to write about how things got to be the way they are. I loved delving the past of my story worlds, searching for the origins of civilizations and relationships, and conflicts and such.

I loved to write about people. Sometimes they weren’t human people, but they were people nonetheless. I loved to write about good people trying to do the right things, and bad people bad ones, and just when we thought we knew them and could figure out what they’d be up to next, I loved watching them do something unexpected and sometimes seemingly out of character. Because people and situations are complicated, and you can’t always predict them, and you haven’t always got them right.

Dragon Sphere. Image modified from Sneinton Dragon by N Harrison.

Dragon Sphere. Image modified from Sneinton Dragon by N Harrison.

I loved to explore relationships: between people, between civilizations, between enemies and friends, between folks and land, and folks and objects.

I loved finding out why things were the way they were, and people were, and worlds were.

I loved exploring worlds, and showing their wonders, and why they might just be worth dying for. I loved speculating about what different worlds would look like, and what relationship people might have to their universe when their sky had two (or more) suns, multiple moons, a different hue.

"This artist’s impression shows a sunset seen from the super-Earth Gliese 667 Cc. The brightest star in the sky is the red dwarf Gliese 667 C, which is part of a triple star system. The other two more distant stars, Gliese 667 A and B appear in the sky also to the right. Astronomers have estimated that there are tens of billions of such rocky worlds orbiting faint red dwarf stars in the Milky Way alone." Many worlds - many civilizations? Image and part of caption courtesy ESO/L. Calçada.

“This artist’s impression shows a sunset seen from the super-Earth Gliese 667 Cc. The brightest star in the sky is the red dwarf Gliese 667 C, which is part of a triple star system. The other two more distant stars, Gliese 667 A and B appear in the sky also to the right. Astronomers have estimated that there are tens of billions of such rocky worlds orbiting faint red dwarf stars in the Milky Way alone.” Many worlds – many civilizations? Image and part of caption courtesy ESO/L. Calçada.

I loved asking hard questions, like what is good, and what is evil; what’s right and wrong, real and unreal, and all sorts of other things that may seem black and white and simple, but turn out to be grayscale and fiendishly complicated.

I loved writing about art and literature and wine and wonderful things that make life full and rich and amazing.

I loved writing about things I didn’t know about, because learning them was a majority of the fun.

I loved writing about myths, and things influenced by myths, and putting a twist in the myth.

And all of these things, I’m sure, I’ll love writing still. But I’ll certainly love writing about science more. And some of the things I assumed, I’ll have to question, because my perspective on a great many things has changed.

But above all, I’ll love the speculation, the what-if and could-be and not-utterly-impossible-but-very-improbable; and I’ll love the fantastic characters; and I’ll love the raw power of writing worlds into being. Which is rather what SF is all about.

The pulsar planets PSR B1257+12 b, c, and d are all that remains of a dead solar system. They are constantly beamed with intense radiation. (Artist's concept) Image and caption courtesy NASA.

The pulsar planets PSR B1257+12 b, c, and d are all that remains of a dead solar system. They are constantly beamed with intense radiation. (Artist’s concept) Image and caption courtesy NASA.

 

Being Visible

Agents of change make status quo folks rather squirmy. Folks who were previously absent or invisible either join up or speak up, and next thing you know, colored people want to drink out of lily-white fountains, and red people want their land back and treaties honored, and homosexuals want to get married, and women want to be treated as more than sex objects…. It’s hard. It’s very hard for those who’d been used to the Way Things Were. There the world was, ticking over nicely in their estimation, and suddenly a horde of uppity upstarts are there harshing their mellow.

Jackie Robinson, who did a hell of a lot more than play good baseball. He broke color barriers all over the place: in various sports, in television, and in business. Image courtesy Maurice Terrell, LOOK magazine, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jackie Robinson, who did a hell of a lot more than play good baseball. He broke color barriers all over the place: in various sports, in television, and in business. Image courtesy Maurice Terrell, LOOK magazine, via Wikimedia Commons.

And what they’d dearly love is for us to shut up and go away.

I do understand. I’ve been Status Quo, you see. I grew up in a conservative household, and the conservative sentiment is “America – love it or leave it!” and there were many times when I wished those noisy liberals would just shut up and move to Canada if they hated this country so much. Learning the liberals were right was a long, at times painful, process. And there were issues with white privilege, and cis privilege, and middle-class privilege, that had me howling “shut up and go away!” until the people who refused to shut up and go away got through the fingers I had stuffed deeply in my ears. Now I’m glad they didn’t do what I wanted.

And that’s not a patch on the discomfort caused by feminists, who had a job o’ work convincing me to reexamine certain of my assumptions and admit that yes, even in America, feminism is desperately needed.

Florence Bascom, the first woman to receive a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, where she had to sit behind a screen so as not to discomfit the delicate menfolks. She went on to become the first female geologist in the USGS and the first woman elected to the GSA. She mentored three other women who became part of the USGS. So it would seem, in some situations, that being visible behind a screen can get the change ball rolling. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Florence Bascom, the first woman to receive a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, where she had to sit behind a screen so as not to discomfit the delicate menfolks. She went on to become the first female geologist in the USGS and the first woman elected to the GSA. She mentored three other women who became part of the USGS. So it would seem, in some situations, that being visible behind a screen can get the change ball rolling. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Did you notice? None of those folks went quietly away.

They remained visible and vocal. Sometimes, they were out there very vocally explaining the injustices they’d suffered, demanding commitments be honored and rights be extended. Sometimes, they were giving me a glimpse into what it meant to live as a minority among the majority, or disadvantaged among the advantaged. Sometimes they were just there, being visible doing things “conventional wisdom” said they weren’t supposed to do, thus proving conventional wisdom full of shit.

So there it is, this thing you can do if you’re not a firebrand or an activist, if you’re not able to devote yourself to constant activity in campaigns for equality. Not all of us have to be leaders or marchers. Those activists need you, too, being visible. Being in a non-traditional career, or a non-traditional relationship, or a non-traditional body. Being an atheist, matter-of-factly. Adding some color to a sea of white. Because the more visible the formerly-invisible people become, the harder it is to ignore and dismiss and other them, and the more other formerly-invisible people are encouraged to become visible. And momentum is gained. You know how inertia and momentum work. You know it gets easier to keep the ball rolling in the direction you want it to once you’ve got it up to a good speed.

Mathieu Chantelois and Marcelo Gomez getting married in Toronto, July 2003. They were among the first to tie the knot when same-sex marriage became legal in Ontario. The rest of Canada followed suit within a couple of years. Someday, I will be trying to explain why couples like Chantelois and Gomez were pioneers simply for loving each other and insisting on getting married, and those kids won't understand, because the pioneers will have made it all perfectly normal, just as it should be. Image courtesy Mm.Toronto via Wikimedia Commons.

Mathieu Chantelois and Marcelo Gomez getting married in Toronto, July 2003. They were among the first to tie the knot when same-sex marriage became legal in Ontario. The rest of Canada followed suit within a couple of years. Someday, I will be trying to explain why couples like Chantelois and Gomez were pioneers simply for loving each other and insisting on getting married, and those kids won’t understand, because the pioneers will have made it all perfectly normal, just as it should be. Image courtesy Mm.Toronto via Wikimedia Commons.

How can you impart a little extra momentum, even if you’re not in a position to give it a good shove? Do the little things. Sign petitions. Phone, write or email politicians and organizations and companies to let them know what you’d like them to start, stop or keep doing. When you can, correct mistaken assumptions and let the people around you know when something they’re doing or saying is a problem. You don’t have to make a huge fuss, just let them know there’s an alternative to what they just did or said that won’t hurt you. Support the people around you who are doing that work. People sometimes won’t understand they’re doing or saying bothersome things until multiple people have advised them it’s a problem.

You can think of more, I’m sure. And it won’t seem like much. It won’t ever seem like enough. Friction will sometimes steal some of the momentum, and it’s discouraging and horrible when that happens. You’ll sometimes feel like giving up in despair, because how can you’re little bit change anything?

But the point is to keep being visible. As much as you can. Because it’s very, very hard to ignore the people in plain sight, even if all they’re doing is quietly going about living a life prejudice said shouldn’t be possible.

Do your thing, and you will help revolutionize the world.

Aya Kamikawa, the first transgender person in Japan to hold an elected office (and won re-election rather handily). The government told her she'd be considered male; she told them she'd work as a woman. Image courtesy Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA via Wikimedia Commons.

Aya Kamikawa, the first transgender person in Japan to hold an elected office (and won re-election rather handily). The government told her she’d be considered a man; she told them she’d work as a woman. Image courtesy Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA via Wikimedia Commons.

 

(None of this is new. We already know it. But it sometimes bears repeating.)

Sunday Song: Under Ice

Dunno about where you’re at, but Seattle’s pushing spring already. We never did get a proper winter. Still, there are days when the wind blows sharp and cold, and one is reminded that spring ain’t properly here yet. Which is good, because I have six billion winter songs and about a trillion pretty pictures of frost and ice to show you. We’d best get to it before the end o’ winter, then, eh?

I find this Kate Bush song interesting: slightly harsh, yet beautiful, rather like winter itself can be.

Speaking of under ice, there was that one stretch of very cold days we had where everything ended up under ice crystals.  The leaves, particularly. I love seeing leaves dusted with white crystals.

Under Ice I

Under Ice I

The thing about frost is, it’s delicate and vanishes quickly in the sun. The thing about several days of freezing cold is, it creates frost that the sun has a harder time melting.

 

Under Ice II

Under Ice II

There’s all sorts of different types of frost, and I’m sure this stuff has a name, but I’m not sure what it is. I’d say hoar frost, but I’m not sure. This stuff formed over a few bitter cold, clear, calm days and freezing night fogs. Perhaps some of you are expert enough to give us a wee dissertation on it.

Under Ice III

Under Ice III

Any bits with liquid water froze solid. I have a whole post’s worth of water droplets frozen at the ends of drip tips. Extraordinary. For a few days, we were living in a bit of an ice age.

I like the way frost picks out plants. It outlines and enhances, and makes a jumble of dead, dying, and low-lying leaves look lovely.

Under Ice IV

Under Ice IV

There are a few times a year when blackberry brambles look beautiful. This is one.

Under Ice V

Under Ice V

And they draped paths so coated in frost they looked like snowy tracks.

Under Ice VI

Under Ice VI

During my searches for songs to go with ye olde lovely winter photos, I came upon about ten thousand versions of “Winter Song.” Here is one quite gentle and lovely one.

Strikes the right note, that, a touch melancholy, just like the long winter. One thing I like about Seattle winters, though, is that no matter how long the Gray stays or how endless it seems, there’s always signs it will end. New life pops up year-round. You can see it here, with the pale brilliant green new leaves.

Under Ice VII

Under Ice VII

Banks of ivy can get rather monotonous, but the frost gives them undeniable charm.

Under Ice VIII

Under Ice VIII

And there’s this absolutely delightful combo of a plant with small red berries and the ivy, which looks like something which should be on a greeting card.

Under Ice IX

Under Ice IX

And what else can we do but follow up a photo like that with a song that suits that holiday season, eh?

Some of the plants round here put on quite the show.

Under Ice X

Under Ice X

I’m sure they’d look even more holiday-cardy against snow, but we didn’t get any to speak of this year. Ah, well. The ice on the berries is pretty enough.

Under Ice XI

Under Ice XI

And a burst of color, dusted with white, is quite welcome in a cold gray season.

Under Ice XII

Under Ice XII

I find myself torn. Part of me wants summer, with its warmth and flowers and adventures. Part of me wishes to cling to winter a while longer, not least because ’tis the season when the cat’s cold enough to cuddle. There are compensations for the cold and dark. What do you find your favorite bits to be?

Sublime Saturday: “Flowing Rock”

Little bit o’ volcanic beauty for your Saturday, my darlings. I’ve been spelunking the intertoobz for suitable illustrations for a coming post, and stumbled across Paul Bica on Flickr. I think you’ll like him. He’s got your hawt rawks right here.

“Flowing rock.” Kilauea volcano. Image courtesy Paul Bica.

There are few things more amazing in this world than seeing the interior of the earth spill out, rock flowing like thick red water. This is an island growing, right here in front of us, as the interior of the Earth spills into the sea. Make sure you go view the whole scene – incredible.

The is the Earth as art – new land from an old Earth. And sometimes it doesn’t even look like it’s from this world.

I’ve heard that when photography was first invented, some sneering snobs said it couldn’t ever qualify as art. They lacked imagination and vision, and moreover, had never considered what might happen if you take an element of a scene and make it the whole of the frame. I think if we plucked those naysayers out of their time and plunked them down in a gallery full of photos now, they’d have to admit that yes, ’tis art. The camera sees the world in ways that weren’t possible before.

Here we have more vehicles becoming part of the geologic record – I know you like that sort o’ thing.

There. It’s not Parícutin, but it’s something, right?

Friday Freethought: “The Dubious Blessings of Christianity”

Sunday is the Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers, which you can find out more about at their Facebook page and on this guest post at Greta’s. And Naima Washington reminds us that the atheist movement at large is still doing a terrible job at diversity. It’s not just women who get shut out.

Image filched from Greta Christina's Blog.

Image filched from Greta Christina’s Blog.

It bothers me that movement atheism is still so damned oblivious, not to mention often actively hostile, to so many people. There are more faces that aren’t older white male than there used to be, and that’s good, but there’s still a dreadful monotony. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. My reading has been rather pale. I’m working to rectify that. This is what I can do: seek out freethinkers of color, shut up, and read. Very much like with women.

Time to look, time to listen. I like to go back to the past for our Friday Freethought, not the least because the past is public domain, but because the past informs the present. It’s harder to find works from freethinkers of centuries past who weren’t white and male, but it can be done, and their voices should never be lost. They spoke to issues we still struggle with now. They can teach us things we desperately need to learn.

Hubert Harrision is one of those who should never be forgotten. He came to New York from a working-class family in St. Croix back at the turn of the last century, came to agnosticism by way of Thomas Paine, and spent a lifetime educating himself. He was an unapologetic radical, a man who worked for a variety of causes, who wrote with a passion and eloquence I’ve seldom seen matched. I’ll have more to say about him, once I’ve had a chance to read more of his work. This won’t be the last time we meet him here.

In this excerpt, he explores the conservatism he noted in many black people, and the dearth of black freethinkers. He concluded that lack of education was a major factor (and we still haven’t solved that issue – you can do your bit here Education, of course, isn’t the only issue today – chilly reception, neglecting concerns, and too often completely ignoring the presence of POC all contribute to the paleness of modern freethought). He also knew that oppression can so damage the oppressed that they can’t fight their oppression, sometimes don’t even see it for what it is.

Hubert Henry Harrison. Image courtesy African Americans for Humanism.

Hubert Henry Harrison. Image courtesy African Americans for Humanism.

On a Certain Conservatism in Negroes

from The Negro and the Nation

 

It would be a difficult task to name one line of intellectual endeavor among white men in America, in which the American Negro has not taken his part. Yet it is a striking fact that the racial attitude has been dominantly conservative. Radicalism does not yet register to any noticeable extent the contributions of our race in this country. In theological criticism, religious dissent, social and political heresies such as Single Tax, Socialism, Anarchism – in most of the movements arising from the reconstruction made necessary by the great body of that new knowledge which the last two centuries gave us – the Negro in America has taken no part. And today our sociologists and economists still restrict themselves to the compilation of tables of statistics in proof of Negro progress. Our scholars are still expressing the intellectual viewpoints of the eighteenth century. The glimmer of a change is perceptible only in some of the younger men like Locke of Howard University and James C. Waters. It is easy to account for this. Christian America created the color line; and all the great currents of critical opinion, from the eighteenth century to our time, have found the great barrier impassible and well-nigh impervious. Behind the color line one has to think perpetually of the color line, and most of those who grow up behind it can think of nothing else. Even when one essays to think of other things, that thinking is tinged with the shades of the surrounding atmosphere.

Besides, when we consider what Negro education is to-day, when we remember that in certain southern counties the munificent sum of 58 cents is spent for the annual education of a Negro child; that the “great leader” of his race decries “higher” education for them; that Negro boys who get as far as “college” must first surmount tremendous special obstacles – we will cease to wonder at the dearth of thinkers who are radical on other than racial matters.

Yet, it should seem that Negroes, of all Americans, would be found in the Freethought fold, since they have suffered more than any other class of Americans from the dubious blessings of Christianity. It has been well said that the two great instruments for the propagation of race prejudice in America are the Associated Press and the Christian Church. This is quite true. Historically, it was the name of religion that cloaked the beginnings of slavery on the soil of America, and buttressed its continuance. The church saw to it that the religion taught to slaves should stress the servile virtues of subservience and content, and these things have bitten deeply into the souls of black folk. True, the treasured music of these darker millions preserves, here and there, the note of stifled rebellion; but this was in spite of religion – not because of it. Besides, such of their “sorrow-songs” as have this note in them were brutally banned by their masters, and driven to the purlieus of the plantation, there to be sung in secret.

And all through the dark days of slavery, it was the Bible that constituted the divine sanction of this “peculiar institution.” “Cursed be Canaan,” “Servants obey your masters” and similar texts were the best that the slaveholders’” Bible could give of consolation to the brothers in black, while, for the rest, teaching them to read was made a crime so that whatever of social dynamite there might be in certain parts of the book, might not come near their minds.

Lowell, in his “Biglow Papers,” has given a caustic but correct summary of the Christian slaveholders’ theology in regard to the slavery of black working-people:

“All things wuz gin to man for’s use, his sarvice an’ delight;
An’ don’t the Greek an’ Hebrew words that mean a man mean white?
Ain’t it belittlin’ the good book in all its proudes’ features
To think ‘t wuz wrote for black an’ brown an’ ‘lasses-colored creatures,
Thet couldn’ read it ef they would – nor ain’t by lor allowed to,
But ought to take wut we think suits their naturs, an’ be proud to?

* * * *

Where’d their soles go ter, I’d like to know, ef we should let ‘em ketch
Freeknowledgism an’ Fourierism an’ Speritoolism an’ sech?”

When the fight for the abolition of slavery was on, the Christian church, not content with quoting scripture, gagged the mouths of such of their adherents as dared to protest against the thing, penalized their open advocacy of abolition, and opposed all the men like Garrison, Lovejoy, Phillips and John Brown, who fought on behalf of the Negro slave. The detailed instances and proofs are given in the last chapter of “A Short History of the Inquisition,” wherein the work shows the relation of the church and slavery.

Yet the church among the Negroes today exerts a more powerful influence than anything else in the sphere of ideas. Nietzsche’s contention that the ethics of Christianity are the slave’s ethics would seem to be justified in this instance. Show me a population that is deeply religious, and I will show you a servile population, content with whips and chains, contumely and the gibbet, content to eat the bread of sorrow and drink the waters of affliction.

The present condition of the Negroes of America is a touching bit of testimony to the truth of this assertion. Here in America the spirit of the Negro has been transformed by three centuries of subjection, physical and mental, so that they have even glorified the fact of subjection and subservience. How many Negro speakers have I not heard vaunting the fact that when in the dark days of the South the Northern armies had the Southern aristocracy by the throat, there was no Negro uprising to make their masters pay for the systematic raping of Negro women and the inhuman cruelties perpetrated on Negro men. And yet the sole reason for this “forbearance” is to be found in the fact that their spirits had been completely crushed by the system of slavery. And to accomplish this, Christianity – the Christianity of their masters – was the most effective instrument.

A recent writer, Mr. E. B. Putnam-Weale, in his book, “The Conflict of Color,” has quite naively disclosed the fact that white people are well aware of this aspect of Christianity and use it for their own ends. Mr. Putnam-Weale makes no pretense of believing in the Christian myth himself, but he wants it taught to the Negroes; and comparing it with Islam, he finds it a more efficient instrument of racial subjugation. The Mohammedan, he finds, preaches the equality of all true believers – and lives up to it. The white Christian preaches the brotherhood of man, but wants “niggers” to sit in the rear pews, to ride in “Jim Crow” cars, and generally to “keep in their place.” He presents this aspect of the case under the caption of “The Black Samson and the White Delilah,” and, with less fear than an angel, frankly advises the white Lords of Empire not so much to civilize as to christianize Africa, so that Deliah’s work may be well done.

Here in America her work has been well done; and I fear that many years must pass before the leaders of thought among my people in this country contribute many representatives to the cause of Freethought. Just now, there are a few Negro Agnostics in New York and Boston, but these are generally found to be West Indians from the French, Spanish, and English islands. The Cuban and Porto Rican cigar-makers are notorious Infidels, due to their acquaintance with the bigotry, ignorance and immorality of the Catholic priesthood in their native islands. Here and there one finds a Negro-American who is reputed to have Agnostic tendencies; but these are seldom, if ever, openly avowed. I can hardly find it in my heart to blame them, for I know the tremendous weight of the social proscription which it is possible to bring to bear upon those who dare defy the idols of our tribe. For those who live by the people must needs be careful of the people’s gods; and

“An up-to-date statesmen has to be on his guard,
If he must have beliefs not to b’lieve ‘em too hard.”

Myself, I am inclined to believe that freedom of thought must come from freedom of circumstance; and so long as our “leaders” are dependent on the favor of our masses for their livelihood, just so long will they express the thought of the masses, which of itself may be a good thing or a bad according to the circumstances of the particular case. Still, there is a terrible truth in Kipling’s modern version of Job’s sarcastic bit of criticism:

“No doubt but ye are the people – your throne is above the King’s,
Whoso speaks in your presence must say acceptable things;
Bowing the head in worship, bending the knee in fear –
Bringing the word well-smoothen- such as a King should hear.”

And until this rising generation of Negroes can shake off the trammels of such time-serving leaders as Mr. Washington, and attain the level of that “higher education” against which he solidly sets his face; until they, too, shall have entered into the intellectual heritage of the last two hundred years, there can be little hope of a change in this respect.

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Nest Medley

You know something about winter I never gave a shit about before I met you lot? Leaves off trees. Used to hate that. Depressing little bare skeletal things scratching at the sky, dead season, awful. Then you came round with your bird-identifying ways, and turns out you like nests, and so now I have a reason to go skipping down the street with a camera and my head craned back. I prefer to do it on non-drippy days, which rather limits my ability to shoot nests. But with our recent wee break in the weather, I got you lots and lots of nests to be going on with.

Our first joy is a rather large one wedged in the crotch of a tall tree.

UFN I

UFN I

Very tall. Very large.

UFN II

UFN II

Am I right in thinking this is too orderly to be a crow? Not that I would know. I know how to tell a barn swallow’s nest, and I can sometimes spot a raptor’s nest if it’s very large and has a raptor sitting in it. This one is large, but it hasn’t got a raptor sitting in it, so I dunno.

UFN III

UFN III

One can get a bit dizzy staring up the trunk of a tall tree snapping a nest, but for you, I will do nearly anything, even that.

 

UFN IV

UFN IV

Thing’s wedged in there very well. Amazing what these dinosaur descendants can do with a few sticks and a clever beak.

UFN V

UFN V

Other birds use quite a lot of different materials. I’m not sure of all I’m seeing, because this seems rather old and some things are decayed.

UFN VI

UFN VI

But I’d swear I can see plastic in there. And some dangly thing artistically draped. Some of the birds round here seem positive artists.

UFN VII

UFN VII

This one quite intrigued me. It’s quite old – one can tell from the thick moss growing upon it.

UFN VIII

UFN VIII

Dunno if it’s still in use or not. Probably not. But the thing certainly looks built to last.

UFN IX

UFN IX

So this is a sort of almost wetland area down at the bottom of a hill, with a little stream running along the base (I showed you it a few days ago). There are thickets of these skinny trees, which form an effective screen in the summer time and a rather less effective one in the winter.

UFN X

UFN X

And these little nests are all over the place. I found at least three, and there were probably more I didn’t spot.

UFN XI

UFN XI

And they all looked quite ancient, moss-covered and droopy. Of course, they could be created by birds with a keen sense of the antique.

UFN XII

UFN XII

And some of them seem to like situating their abodes in places with nice arched blackberry canes, very picturesque.

UFN XIII

UFN XIII

So much for the first half of the journey. I cut in to the wetlands after that, expecting to find more, and discovered that while birds round here seem to like street views, not many are impressed with trailside property. No idea why. But there are a few more, and we shall have them next time.