In 1903, the Lexington, Ky., Blue-Grass Blade invited its readers to contribute to a feature titled “Why I Am an Atheist.” Twenty-three-year-old Minnie Parrish of Leonard, Texas, sent this response:
Why Am I an Atheist
Because it has dawned upon me that it is right to be so, and upon investigation I find no real evidence of the divine origin of the scriptures. And because I cannot, as a refined and respectable woman, take to my bosom as a daily guide a book of such low morals and degrading influences. Written by a lot of priests, I cannot accept a salvation that is based wholly upon the dreams of an ancient and superstitious people, with no proof save blind faith.
Everything that so many people think transpires from the supernatural, and many things that would really perplex the average mind, have a natural and material foundation in the workings of the human mind; that is, things that are not connected with our solar system.
It is ignorance of the scientific working of their own natures and mind that keep so much ‘mystery’ in the air; and as long as there is a mystery afloat the people will ascribe it to the supernatural.
I am an Atheist because I know the Bible will not do to depend upon. I have tried it, and found it wanting.
In fact, I found in the scriptures the origin of woman’s slayer, and that it was one of God’s main points to oppress women and keep them in the realms of ignorance.
I am in the ranks of Liberalism because of its elevating principles, its broad road to freedom of thought, speech, and investigation.
MINNIE O. PARRISH
She went on to become the first female doctor to practice in North Texas.
@chelsea and @lesley if you still use this reader (pretty sure you don't)
17th and H Street, NW
Thanks to Jess for sending:
“Just walked past this on 17th. Hard to get a good pic because of the window washing. Thought it was an interesting location – maybe someone knows why there.”
It’s the “six large-scale works from the Burning Man celebration” from “Streets in Renwick Gallery’s First-ever Outdoor Extension”!!
The six installations include activations of Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House and major corridors such as Connecticut Avenue. Jack Champion’s giant bronze crow sculptures will inhabit Murrow Park at Pennsylvania Avenue and 18th Street, NW, while Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson’s “Ursa Major,” a 14-foot-tall bear sculpture crafted from 170,000 shining pennies will reside at 19th and I Streets, NW. HYBYCOZO’s (Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu) perforated steel sculpture entitled “Golden Spike,” will light up Connecticut Avenue at K Street, NW, and Laura Kimpton’s 20-foot long steel “XOXO” installation, made together with Jeff Schomberg, will meet daily commuters at the Farragut West Metro station entrance at 18th and I Streets, NW. Mischell Riley’s five-ton cast cement bust, “Maya’s Mind,” pays homage to Maya Angelou and will be installed on 17th Street between H and I Streets, NW, and Kate Raudenbush’s luminous 23-foot tall laser cut steel sculpture, “Future’s Past,” will captivate passersby near Monroe Park, at Pennsylvania Avenue and 21st Street, NW.
On Sept. 14, 1964, a Kuwaiti freighter capsized, drowning its cargo of sheep and threatening to contaminate the drinking water of Kuwait City. To raise the ship quickly, Danish inventor Karl Krøyer proposed using a tube to fill it with buoyant bodies. Accordingly, 27 million plastic balls were airlifted from Berlin and pumped into the freighter’s hold, and on Dec. 31 the ship rose, saving the insurance company nearly $2 million.
Krøyer patented his technique in the United Kingdom and Germany, but (the story is told) the Dutch application was rejected because a Dutch examiner found the 1949 Donald Duck comic The Sunken Yacht, by Carl Barks, in which Donald and his nephews raise a yacht by filling it with ping-pong balls.
Ping-pong balls are buoyant, and the ducks used a tube to feed them into the yacht, so the Dutch office ruled that this destroys the novelty of Krøyer’s invention — it may be just a comic book, but it had made the essential idea public 15 years before Krøyer tried to claim it.
No one quite seems to know whether this story is true — Krøyer, his patent attorney, and the examiner have now passed away; the documentation was destroyed years ago; and the grounds for the Dutch rejection aren’t clear. But it still makes a vivid example for intellectual property lawyers.
This is in my notes with the words “ridiculous escape”: An 1889 article in Charles Dickens’ All the Year Round tells how Italian humanist Celio Secondo Curione outsmarted the Inquisition:
In my new prison I had been confined for a week, with huge pieces of wood chained to my feet, where I was favoured with a sudden inspiration from Heaven.
As soon as the young man who acted as my keeper entered my chamber, I begged and prayed of him to release one of my feet from its encumbrances. It would be sufficient security, I said, that I should still by the other foot be fastened to an enormous log. As he was a humane sort of fellow, he consented, and set one foot free. A day, two days passed, during which I applied myself to work. Taking off my shirt, and also the stocking from the leg which was at liberty, I made them up into a dummy resembling a leg, on which I put a shoe. I was in want of something, however, to give it consistency, and was anxiously looking about in all directions, when I caught sight of a cane-stick lying under a row of seats. Seizing it joyfully, I inserted it into the sham limb, and concealing the true one under my cloak, waited the result of my stratagem. When my young keeper made his appearance next morning, he asked me how I was. ‘I should do pretty well,’ I said, ‘if you would be good enough to put my fetters on the other leg, so that each may have a rest in turn.’ He assented; and, without perceiving it, attached the log to the dummy.
“At night, when their loud snores informed him that his gaolers were asleep, Curion threw aside the false leg, resumed his shirt and stocking, and opened noiselessly the prison door, which was fastened by a simple bolt. Afterwards, though not without difficulty, he scaled the wall, and got away without interruption.”
Because weather and daylight change continually, Claude Monet believed that any visual effect lasts for only seven minutes, much too brief to paint — he said he wanted to “render my impressions before the most fugitive effects.”
His solution was to work on multiple canvases at once, putting a new one on the easel every seven minutes or so to capture the effect he was after. Georges Clemenceau once found him in a poppy field juggling four different canvases: “He was going from one to the other, according to the position of the sun.” In 1885 Guy de Maupassant watched him stalking about Etretat; no longer a painter, “he was a hunter. He walked along, trailed by children carrying canvases, five or six canvases representing the same subject at various hours of the day and with varying effects. He would pick them up or drop them one by one according to how the sky changed.”
When Monet visited London in 1901 to capture the “unique atmosphere” of the city’s fog, John Singer Sargent found him surrounded by 90 canvases, “each one the record of a momentary effect of light over the Thames. When the effect was repeated and an opportunity occurred for finishing the picture, the effect had generally passed away before the particular canvas could be found.”
“I am chasing a dream,” Monet once said. “I want the impossible.”
Last week’s Helpful Twitter Thing involving Charlyne Yi and David Cross, wherein Yi recounted a fucked up story of her first meeting with Cross, followed by Cross and his fan’s responses, reminded me of an issue that, let’s call them, uh, people of power and privilege, especially in comedy, seem to have trouble grasping. That is, that, especially as comedy and culture become more diverse, the baseline assumptions about the fundamental goodness of white people (or men, or straight people, or whatever) aren’t necessarily valid.
The initial story and initial bobbled apology have been covered elsewhere, but essentially, the basic facts are that, last week, Charlyne Yi posted a Twitter about how, at their first meeting, David Cross joked about her appearance and then responded to her discomfort with, “what’s a matter? You don’t speak English?? Ching-chong-ching-chong.”
Cross made a couple responses, culminating with this one, which I’ve excerpted part of here.
Now, this is not to pick on David Cross particularly (though, honestly, some of his fans are… the fucking worst). But I wanted to highlight one of the fundamental disconnects that white comedians (and, again, others) frequently miss when crafting their comedy. That is, they assume that when they talk to us, we can all fundamentally agree that they are, come on, you know, good dudes.
Cause let’s take the above argument at face value. When David Cross defends saying “ching chong” at an Asian person by claiming it’s a character, the entire joke then rests on this premise: that the person saying these slurs must be a Bad Person Who Is Not Me, because, naturally, we all know I, a Good Person, would never say those things. That’s it. That’s the whole joke. Since we all agree that I wouldn’t say racist shit, when I do say racist shit, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA lol.
But what’s easy to forget when you’re in a position of power (with straight white guys at the apex of our current geo-political-historical org chart), is that we don’t all share the assumption that you’re a good person – even if you have a public history that places you on the “right” side of issues.
And that’s because people of color (and anyone vulnerable) don’t have the luxury of that assumption. On some level, conscious or not, we always have to be wary of people’s attacks, even unwitting, to our humanity, because we’ve all been disappointed or stabbed in the back enough times by people we like and trust (or want to like and trust) enough times that you’ll have to forgive us if we can’t always give you the benefit of the doubt. Sure, the dude yelling slurs might be joking, but the consequences for you and us differ greatly if he isn’t. And the fact that you don’t seem to know or care that that’s the case makes you immediately suspect.
Now, if it sounds like I’m singling out straight white dudes, in many ways that’s because I am. This behavior, this idea that “everyone agrees I’m a good person” comes directly from being the protagonists of our culture for so very long. Of course, it’s not unique to these guys, but, there’s an unquestionable concentration of this bullshit in that cohort.
So, anyway, white comedians (and people), that’s my short explanation of why you need to up your game with your “ironic racism.” It only works in places where everyone shares your assumptions, and, guess what, because of so many fucked up racist (and other) experiences in your diverse audience’s lives, we always agree that it’s fair to assume that the person saying some racist bullshit is “kidding.”
In 1993, reseachers Suzanna Rose and Irene Hanson Frieze asked 135 undergraduates to describe what had happened on their most recent first date:
Groomed and dressed
Picked up date
(Man:) Picked up date
Introduced to parents, etc.
Picked up friends
(Man:) Courtly behavior (open doors)
Talked, joked, laughed
Went to movies, show, party
Got to know & evaluate date
Talked, joked, laughed
Initiated sexual contact
Went to movies, show, party
Took date home
Asked for another date
Talked to friends
Had something go wrong
(Man:) Took date home
(Man:) Asked for another date
(Man:) Told date will call her
(Man:) Kissed date goodnight
Of the 20 actions reported by women, 6 were initiated by the man. Of the 15 actions reported by men, none were initiated by the woman.
Thirty-three respondents reported something going wrong. “[O]ne young man had car trouble after picking up his date and was mortified by having to take her back home. Another’s date abandoned her at a party and began to cruise other women, leaving the woman to fend for herself. Embarrassing events were also common. One participant reported having made a fool of herself by throwing the ball backward while bowling; another woman got extremely upset when her date insisted it was ‘love at first sight.'”
“A third type of interruption … was related to perceived violations of gender roles, such as ‘He lost points for not opening my car door’ and ‘We went out to eat later at Pizza Hut and she was a pig.'”
In the 19th century, photographic subjects had to hold still during an exposure of 30 seconds or more. That’s hard enough for an adult, but it’s practically impossible for an infant. So mothers would sometimes hide in the scene, impersonating a chair or a pair of curtains, in order to hold the baby still while the photographer did his work:
In order that life should be a story or romance to us, it is necessary that a great part of it, at any rate, should be settled for us without our permission. … A man has control over many things in his life; he has control over enough things to be the hero of a novel. But if he had control over everything, there would be so much hero that there would be no novel.
Church signs, collected by Steve and Pam Paulson for Church Signs Across America, 2006:
BE AS GOOD A PERSON AS YOUR PET BELIEVES YOU ARE
THE EASTER BUNNY DIDN’T RISE FROM THE DEAD
BE YOURSELF, EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN
DON’T GIVE UP! MOSES WAS ONCE A BASKET CASE
CH CH: WHAT’S MISSING? U R
LIFE IS CHANGE, GROWTH IS OPTIONAL
ETERNITY: SMOKING OR NONSMOKING
GIVE YOUR TROUBLES TO GOD HE’S UP ALL NIGHT ANYWAY
WORRY IS THE DARK ROOM WHERE NEGATIVES DEVELOP
LOOKING FOR A LIFEGUARD? OURS WALKS ON WATER
FIRE PROTECTION POLICY AVAILABLE INSIDE
DON’T WAIT FOR SIX STRONG MEN TO TAKE YOU TO CHURCH!
PRAY UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS
WHEN THE LAST TRUMPET SOUNDS WE’RE OUTTA HERE
During the Jim Crow era, it was difficult and dangerous for African-Americans to travel — they were routinely refused even basic amenities such as food and lodging. Civil rights leader (and now Georgia congressman) John Lewis remembered a family trip in 1951:
There would be no restaurant for us to stop at until we were well out of the South, so we took our restaurant right in the car with us. … Stopping for gas and to use the bathroom took careful planning. Uncle Otis had made this trip before, and he knew which places along the way offered ‘colored’ bathrooms and which were better just to pass on by. Our map was marked and our route was planned that way, by the distances between service stations where it would be safe for us to stop.
Accordingly New York mail carrier Victor H. Green began to publish The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” Green paid his readers to contribute reports of road conditions, sites of interest, and information about their travel experiences. Julian Bond later recalled:
You think about the things that most travelers take for granted, or most people today take for granted. If I go to New York City and want a hair cut, it’s pretty easy for me to find a place where that can happen, but it wasn’t easy then. White barbers would not cut black peoples’ hair. White beauty parlors would not take black women as customers — hotels and so on, down the line. You needed the Green Book to tell you where you can go without having doors slammed in your face.