Reveal That Metazoan! Frenchman Coulee Fuzzy Critter Edition

Let me tear you away from the slopes and Silver Lakes of Mount St. Helens for just a moment here, and take you back in time to the previous trip, when B and I headed to the dry side. We saw some pretty super-awesome things on that journey. One of them was barely visible. I’d never have noticed it, but B’s brain is really good with the something’s-not-like-the-others game. Let’s see if you can spot it.

Image shows a rocky slope, a few sage bushes, and a barely-visible animal that is probably in the Sciuridae family.

Mystery Metazoan I

C wut evolution did thar? No? Okay, I’ll give you some hints: [Read more…]

Bad News for Hollywood

So, you know those disaster movies where volcanoes explode like St. Helens but also spew fountains of really runny lava like Kilauea on laxatives?

I have really bad news for them, courtesy of Edward Wolfe and Thomas Pierson in Volcanic-Hazard Zonation for Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1995.

Lava flows are destructive but generally not life-threatening because they normally advance so slowly that people can walk or run away from them.

Drat.

Of course, it’s never about realism anyway, which is why I avoid any disaster movie with a volcano in it – I know I’d end up ruining everyone’s movie experience by howling, “That doesn’t happen!” every ten seconds or so. (And no, I sure as shit am not going to see San Andreas – that looks even worse than the volcano flicks, and I’m not interested in dying from apoplexy at my tender age. I will probably eventually watch Pompeii because some of you asked me to years ago, and I can now watch it here at home, where I can scream into a pillow so as not to disturb the neighbors.) I’m not a fan, is what I’m trying to say. Some people enjoy disaster films despite (or because of) the absurdity. I have a lot more fun with reality. I mean, this is the greatest shit ever!

Did you hear that crackling?! Did you see the little pieces of volcanic glass popping up like popcorn kernels in a hot pan? Did you seem them cook burritos and marshmallows on a bloody pahoehoe flow? And hear the squeals of pure science-geek joy? Oh, yes. That’s my kinda flick! You can see the whole video here.

So yeah, those of you who like your volcano disaster flicks can enjoy the ridiculously-funny lava and the volcanic bombs that set off huge gasoline explosions wherever they land and stuff. I’m just gonna enjoy watching geologists amble around the edges of active lava fields.

Image shows a steaming black lava flow oozing onto a grassy field. It appears to have eaten a fence.. A geologist in a red shirt and a backpack skirts close to the edge.

A USGS geologist maps the margin of the active lava flow in an open field west of the town of Pāhoa on Oct. 26, 2014. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

I mean, that is so ridiculously epically awesome – except for the people of Pāhoa: I’m so sorry Kilauea ate your town.

And now Ima go watch my favorite lava lake video of all time.

Maddow’s Mount St. Helens Metaphor for the Iraq War

A lot of you pointed me toward Rachel Maddow’s segment wherein she compares the aftermath of the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens with the aftermath of the Iraq War. Even if you hate politics and are sick to death of all mention of the war, watch the beginning. She did a marvelous job narrating the eruption. I tend to avoid talking heads on teevee, but Maddow is an artist as well as a kick-ass-take-names-and-pwn-them-all pundit, so she’s more than a bit of all right.

I love the way she begins the piece:

It started as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake, and a large earthquake is almost never a good thing. But when it happens one mile beneath a huge, active volcano, it can be the start of something that feels a little bit like the end of the world.

And really, it did. All of us who watched that ash cloud consume the sky and swallow the day, whether in person or on our television screens, felt that. There are few things more ominous than an eruption cloud.

Now, some of you speculated that she was getting her facts from my posts, but I can assure you she didn’t. [Read more…]

How a Cult Programs You to Stay in the Trap: Escape Chapter 1 (Part Two)

In our last installment of Escape by Carolyn Jessop, we got a taste of the depression, despair, and abuse Carolyn lived with in her FLDS community. Today, we’ll see how her childhood conditioned her to fear the outside world, and accept her lot as an abused wife pumping out endless babies in a loveless plural marriage.

Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT are communities where children literally run screaming away from strangers. It isn’t because of stranger-danger or regular, if exaggerated, fears. Carolyn tells us she and the other kids [Read more…]

The Little Lost Umbrella

Once upon a time, there was a natty black umbrella. It was born in a factory with thousands of others much like it, assembled by sweatshop workers who were desperate to feed their families. Practical hands packaged it, stuffed it in a box with dozens of its siblings, and then it went on a long ride in trucks and ships and possibly on railways until it reached a department store. It lived in the shelves for a while, where children used it as a sword. It felt this gave it character. It loved its swash-buckling days.

It watched a few of its siblings be sold. Their places were taken by close cousins. They all speculated after store closing, wondering what sort of hands they would end up in, and what the rain and wet were they were made to protect people from. [Read more…]

I Shall Now MALL NINJA!! Your Sunday

This is one of the most epic trolls I’ve ever read. It says something about our unhinged gun culture that I wasn’t sure it was a troll at first, rather than a man with a very rich fantasy life. Content note for the usual kind of sexism, fat-shaming, toxic masculinity and so forth you’d expect to find in forums full of gun-obsessed people.

Before we get to the excerpt proper, let our host ‘splain what a Mall Ninja is: [Read more…]

Happy National Science Day, Everybody!

Guess what day it is in India. That’s right, it’s National Science Day! You can check out their Facebook page to see some of the events going on, and Wikipedia has a brief explanation here. Did you know it not only showcases current science, but honors Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman’s discovery of the Raman effect? To which I, as an ordained minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, can only say, “R’amen!” Of course. Happy National Science Day, India!

[Read more…]

Terrifying Thoughts About the Power of Bad Christian Books to Change Culture

My leisure reading lately has been reviews of Christianist crap, much along the lines of Das Mervin and Jenny Trout’s sporkings of Fifty Shades of Grey Abusive Bullshit. What I do for Christianist textbooks, sites like Heathen Critique do for Christianist films and books. It’s a nice way to unwind, if you’re an odd sort like myself. But sometimes, it gets bloody terrifying, and reminds me there’s a serious reason to push back against really awful religious propaganda.

Take, for instance, the Left Behind series, which Fred Clark reads so we mercifully don’t have to. You may be tempted to dismiss them as nothing more than hack writing, lazy dime store thrillers that are nothing more than empty entertainment. But there are people who really truly believe the shit LaHaye and Jenkins are writing is prophesied to come true, and will happen any time now. Fred, being an evangelical Christian himself, is able to get deep into their worldview and show not just how fucked up it is, but how it informs their attitude towards things like taking care of the environment (why bother when you’re gonna be raptured?), world peace (anyone advocating for it is aiding and abetting the Antichrist), and war (bring on those end times!!!). These books both showcase and reinforce the fucked-up worldviews of people who believe they are living in the End Times, are Real True Christians who will be raptured, and love to smirk at those of us who will be left behind to suffer plagues, famine, war and death by their asshole of a god.

Sometimes, it gives me chills, especially when I realize how these folks are trying to make their prophecies self-fulfilling. [Read more…]

Mystery Flora: Starry Lavender-Blue Delights

Sometimes, rest areas are fruitful avenues of exploration. Take this little rest stop along the I5 near Douglas, Oregon. Lockwood and I stopped there during our May 2013 trip, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t expect to spend so much time out in the weeds. But what wonderful weeds they were! There was a little forest meadowy area filled with delights. These were among the most spectacular: [Read more…]

Dear Fellow White People: Could We Maybe Stop Letting Cops Get Away With Murder?

I haven’t said anything about Mike Brown and Eric Garner because I’ve been too angry to talk about it. And a lot of other FtBers have said or linked to the needful things. I hope you’ve read them, and shared them.

There’s nothing for me to say that hasn’t been said by someone else, probably better, but staying silent isn’t an option. Especially not when so many of my fellow white people are just fine with two grand juries deciding not to indict cops who murder black men. You can get them to indict a ham sandwich, but not a pig who’s killed a person of color. And you can get white people to scream about injustice if they get treated impolitely by a traffic cop, but apparently summary execution for the crime of existing while black is fine by them. They’re happy to dig up any petty excuse to justify murder, then. Dude was big and scary. He broke a minor law once. He shouldn’t have resisted the officer who was intent on killing him. [Read more…]