“Don’t Eat My Family”

Here is Ikash, who was a teenager when he was the protagonist of my novel The Strange Land. Now he is a husband and father, and he is doing what husbands and fathers do … trying to protect his family from the scary things in the world. (Of course Hyuna could help with this too, but as you can see, she recently had a baby, so she needs him to do the heavy lifting.)

This exact scene does not happen in my third book (at least not yet!), but it does illustrate his basic stance throughout that novel.

The black and white drawing did not scan great … a lot of detail was lost … but I needed something to post.

Are you perhaps feeling like this right now?

Heartening Quote of the Week

Photo by Ray Bilcliff on Pexels.com

Because sometimes we have enough misanthropy.

“I live in a high and holy place,

but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly

and to revive the heart of the contrite.

I will not accuse forever,

nor will I always be angry,

for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me —

the breath of man that I have created.

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will guide him and restore comfort to him,

creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.

Peace, peace to those far and near,”

says the LORD. “And I will heal them.”

But the wicked are like the tossing sea,

which cannot rest,

whose waves cast up mire and mud.

“There is no peace,” says my God,

“for the wicked.”

Isaiah 57:15b – 16, 18 – 21

Neanderthal Woman versus the No-Electricity

This post is a tribute to Bookstooge’s post Lord Bookstooge versus the No-Internet, which is much funnier than this post is likely to get.

Well, hello, everyone! This weekend, while the world burned, the Neanderthal family in their remote location were going through something that was much less distressing and had fewer long-term implications, though it felt like a crisis at the time. It did result in Neanderthal woman having no access to her blog from Saturday through Tuesday.

On Saturday, Neanderthal woman spent a little time mixing fertilizer into her garden with a rudimentary digging stick. Then the Neanderthal family went on an arduous journey to a distant place. They returned right around the time of sunset. Rain clouds were ringed about their abode, but were only spitting a little and emitting bursts of wind which are not unusual in this particular Neanderthal family’s habitat.

However, at some point the winds became very strong and the woman was forced to close the windows, which she had opened in order to air out the cave. It wasn’t until the torches went out and the Neanderthals glanced into the front yard, that they realized the winds had been very strong and had in fact blown down a spruce tree, completely blocking their road.

Neanderthal woman texted her cave landlords to inform them of this development. They immediately arrived and, using mysteriously advanced technology, cleared the spruce tree from the road. This took them until about midnight.

Meanwhile, the Neanderthal kids were quite freaked out. The Neanderthal woman spent the night comforting them as they huddled together.

It later turned out that the winds (called a “microburst”) had knocked down power poles for about a mile to the West of the cave. It would take some time, even with advanced technology, to restore the fire of the gods.

It also turned out that cave’s well is accessed by an electric pump, which meant that until the fire was restored, the cave would have no water. The Neanderthal family was forced to go back to the ways of their ancestors, hauling buckets of water from a nearby stream in order to flush toilets and brushing their teeth using water they had reserved in 2-liter bottles. They ate cold food, being unwilling to fire up the wood-burning stove. Unwashed dishes piled up, but this was not too different from ordinary life so the Neanderthal family hardly noticed it.

The Neanderthal children missed their Netflix and their online games, but they had fun playing at a friend’s house. Meanwhile, the bearers of advanced technology were working their high, Cro-Magnon-style foreheads off and by Monday night, the fire of the gods was restored. The Neanderthal family eagerly dived back into their highly electricity-dependent life, resolving from now on to store more than six liters of water in the basement.

Betataki Cliff Dwelling, Nestled in Its Valley

Betataki 4
Here is the painting.

Betataki 2
Here is what it looks like on the wall. It is 12×24″.

Betataki Cliff Dwelling is located at what is now the Navajo National Monument. Rand McNally, who kindly alerted me to its presence, won’t allow me to post a copy of a page from their atlas. However, if you want to find this somewhat out-of-the-way place, head north from Phoenix on I-17. Continue north as the highway becomes 89, then get off at the turnoff for 160, signs for Tuba City. 160 cuts northeast across Navajo country. About 75 miles past Tuba City (and just before Kayenta), you’ll see signs for the Navajo National Monument. It’s on the north side of the road. Like every good national park, there is a small museum/gift shop/information center, where you can obtain maps for walking the various trails.

The trail to Betataki is a short, easy hike: about an hour round trip to and from the overlook. You cannot approach the cliff dwelling itself, but there is a viewing platform that allows you to look across the canyon. When you do, this painting is roughly what you will see.

Navajo 4 Pueblo

Here is a crude, cell-phone-picture close-up of the cliff dwelling. As you can see, it’s under the large arch on the left side of the painting.

We were there on a grey, snowy day. I didn’t plan it this way, but I love the contrast the snow and the cold grey colors of sky and vegetation make with the red-rock desert.

For those keeping track, Kachina Bridge is about one day’s drive north of Betataki. It’s in Natural Bridges National Monument in southeastern Utah.  This is simply a huge culture area.

Gobekli Tepe, the World’s Oldest Temple?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

I wonder whether you’ve ever heard of Gobekli Tepe. I hadn’t until just a few years ago, which makes sense because it wasn’t rediscovered (and so, presumably, begun to be excavated) until the 1990s.

It’s called the world’s oldest temple because it dates back more than 10,000 years. In the article I will link to below, dates of 11,500 years ago and even 15,000 years ago are mentioned. This puts it in the Neolithic: the Stone Age. Like many other ancient complexes that have been given more recent dates, it is made of megaliths placed with geometrical precision.

The Dating of Gobekli Tepe

It sounds really to cool to say that a til-recently-unknown stone structure in Turkey with an exotic name is the “world’s oldest temple.” But as we sometimes mention on this blog, it’s very possible that some of the other megalithic structures found around the world are in fact older than conventional dating would have it. An argument has been made, for example, that the Sphinx and the pyramids at Giza are closer to 20,000 years old. Gobekli Tepe, then, is the oldest megalithic temple that has been able to convince mainstream archaeologists of its bona fides. At any rate, it clearly hails from a very ancient time when people all over the world were for some reason (and with some method???) building stuff with megaliths.

The ancientness of Gobekli Tepe creates a problem for its excavators when its obvious sophistication comes into a head-on collision with their beliefs about the abilities of Stone Age humans. That clash happens several times in the Jerusalem Post article Israeli researchers unveil architecture secrets of ‘world’s oldest temple.’

Two archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, PhD candidate Gil Haklay and his supervisor, Prof. Avi Gopher, have now unveiled new secrets of its sophisticated architecture, highlighting an intricate geometrical pattern that was conceived before humans had even discovered agriculture or pottery.

Ibid

… Um, are you sure they hadn’t discovered agriculture or pottery, Professors?

Göbekli Tepe features dozens of monolithic pillars four to five meters tall placed along at least 20 concentric rings, which archaeologists refer to as “enclosures.” The pillars are decorated with remarkable reliefs depicting animals including gazelles, jaguars, Asiatic wild donkeys and wild sheep. …

“We found that there is a center point in each enclosure, which we identified not only in the three in the main excavation area, but also in others located outside it,” Haklay explained. “We also found out that the center of these enclosures was always located between the two large central pillars aligned with the front side. These pillars also presented an anthropomorphic structure and they have a front side. In each enclosure based on the surrounding peripheral pillars was found an alignment with the narrow front side. This was our first observation: an abstract design rule.“We later noticed that the role of those center points extended beyond an individual enclosure, because the three center points of enclosures B, C and D form an almost perfect equilateral triangle,” he added.

Haklay highlighted that they went on to verify whether the geometric pattern was confirmed by further observations, for example the orientation of the central pillars. They found many other elements supporting it. Among others, the main access to the structure was located between the only two pillars carrying anthropomorphic as opposed to animal reliefs.

Ibid

But how was all this accomplished?

[I]t is not clear how long its construction took but it might have been centuries if not more, with different people initiating it and adding to it.

Ibid

But yet later, we get this:

This discovery also overcame a previous theory common among researchers that the enclosures were conceived and built in unrelated stages.

Ibid

Huh? So it was built over hundreds of years, added to a little at a time, but yet planned by one or a few masterminds?

“We are talking about hunter-gatherers, but at the same time we see signs of a very complex social structure,” Haklay said …

But how could such a complex design be envisioned by people who did not even know how to create a simple pottery vessel?

Ibid

Oh, stop. Just … stop.

Gobekli Tepe in Fiction

There is one novel that I know of which focuses squarely on Gobekli Tepe: The Genesis Secret, 2009, by Tom Knox. See my review of it here. Interestingly, though Knox is not a believer in the Judeo-Christian God (quite the opposite, in fact), he takes seriously the accounts of giants walking the earth in Genesis 6 and, in fact, his novel ends up revealing that Gobekli Tepe was built at the initiation of a violent, giant race who left large, misshapen skulls behind them.

In film, within the last year I saw on a Netflix a Turkish show called The Gift. In it, a young artist who lives in Istanbul finds that a symbol she has spontaneously drawn all her life has recently been uncovered at the ancient site of Gobekli Tepe. I enjoyed this show, but be warned it has some entirely gratuitous sex scenes.

And Now, for a Really Wild Speculation …

People who take Genesis seriously as history have speculated about the location of the original Garden of Eden. Genesis mentions four rivers as arising from the Garden (or running into it; the linguistics are ambiguous). Two of these are the Tigris and Euphrates. The other two (the Gihon and the Pishon) have been lost to time.

Of course, to try and locate the original Garden is probably impossible. If you suspect, as I do, that the Flood was a result of continental-drift like changes in the Earth’s geography, then nothing anymore is located where it was in Adam’s day, including rivers. On this view, the modern-day Tigris and Euphrates are probably just named after some much more ancient rivers, which could have been in a completely different location.

But if we assume that the continents look more or less the same now as they did in Adam’s day, we can try to guess the region where Eden once stood. One likely candidate is northeastern Africa, or even what is now the floor of the Red Sea (sea levels having risen).

Another candidate is the mountainous region of eastern Turkey, near the headwaters of the modern-day Tigris and Euphrates, along with several other rivers.

And also not too far from Gobekli Tepe.

Just sayin’.

The Most Unkindest Cut of All

“Maybe you’re right,” [said the main character]. “Sometimes I feel like I’m living out some demented writer’s attempt to package his pet philosophy in an outrageous sci-fi novel filled with contrived, unrealistic events, bad dialogue, and flat characters who use far too many vocabulary words. Have you ever felt that suspicion?”

The Author’s face twitched a little. He seemed a bit put off by the comment.

The Resolve of Immortal Flesh, by Rich Colburn, p. 52

Amazing Grace, the Movie

Do you want to see Benedict Cumberbatch join with a heroic group of people in order to fight a great evil, eventually, after much sacrifice, defeating it and saving countless lives in the process … all without the use of magic?

Then you need to see him play William Pitt in the movie Amazing Grace.

I am reviewing this movie now because I recently showed it to my kids while we studied this period of history. (By the way, one cool thing about the movie is how the fashions change during the twenty years that it covers. The characters start out wearing 18th-century ponytails, and end up with the short, tousled Napoleon style hair cuts by the early 1800s.)

Seeing Amazing Grace in the Theater

… Anyway, I was going to say that I saw this movie in the theater when it came out in 2006, and that watching it “live” with a bunch of other people was a really neat communal experience. We lived in Dallas at the time. Many of the other moviegoers were black, and since the movie was promoted through churches, the majority of the moviegoers in the theater that day were Christians. Near the end, when Wilberforce finally makes some legal headway against the slave trade, you could hear people calling out, “Amen! Thank you Jesus!”

Summary

William Wilberforce, a young up-and-coming politician, really wants to leave politics and embark on the contemplative life. He is convinced to stay in politics, so as to outlaw the slave trade, by his friend William Pitt, who has his eye on becoming Prime Minister, as well as by an assortment of abolitionists. Some of them, like former slave Olaudah Equiano, are singularly focused on abolition. Others, like eccentric Jacobite Thomas Clarkson, have in mind the total overthrow of society.

William struggles for fifteen years to get the British slave trade outlawed. He fails, his health breaks down, and he withdraws from public life, completely broken. The movie recaps this struggle and goes on to show what happened when he decided to try again.

Quotes from Amazing Grace

Here are some great moments from the movie.

Barbara Spooner, trying to make William Wilberforce realize what an impact his anti-slavery campaign had on her as a teenager: “My father was beside himself when I stopped taking sugar in my tea. I told my friends there was actual slave’s blood in every lump.”

Thomas Clarkson to William Wilberforce: “First France, next England. The streets of London will run with blood!”

William: “Thomas, you must never speak of revolution in my presence again.”

John Newton: “I wish I could remember their names. They all had names. Beautiful African names. We called them with grunts and gestures. We were apes. They were heroes.”

I definitely recommend this film to anyone who wants to learn more about this period in history. Before it came out, I didn’t even know who William Wilberforce was.

Quote: Nothing to Worry About

Heather … approached the water’s edge. She looked at Johnny.

“You may hear a strange sound like a transcendent being uttering terrifying speech in a foreign tongue that unravels the fabric of the universe,” she said. “But I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”

The Resolve of Immortal Flesh, by Rich Colburn, p. 375

What My Favorite Characters Would Be Doing in Quarantine

Up till now I’ve tried to make posts that don’t mention you know what, because I figure that readers come to Out of Babel for fun and weirdness, not for more mentions of you know what. But, I saw this super fun tag over in the book nook of The Orangutan Librarian. I hope by trying it I’m not letting you down. As you can see, I’ve spun it a little, imagining how the characters would handle coronavirus in their own worlds.

Rules

  • Take 5 or more of your favorite book characters and imagine what they would be doing if they were quarantined with us in the real world.
  • You can have them be in their own squad if you want, or working on their own.
  • Tag 5 friends.
  • Link back to this post and credit Reader Voracious.

Narnia Quarantine

Wardrobe

The Pevensie kids, of course, would not even be here …

For some reason I imagine Edmund and Lucy quarantining with their cousin Eustace and his parents rather than being with their parents (who got stuck in Greece) or with Peter and Susan (who got stuck at their respective universities). Eustace, though less of a know-it-all since his first trip to Narnia, is still extremely well-informed about epidemiology, government policy, and all the latest economic and medical updates. His mother, Alberta, insists that everyone wear masks and gloves even inside the house.

Middle Earth Quarantine

two bare trees beside each other during sunset
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Gandalf the Grey would have caught the coronavirus early (because he travels a lot), come down with complications (because it hits old people the hardest), died, and been resurrected.

Sam Gamgee, humble, hardworking, and patient, would be the perfect person to quarantine with. He’s also a very resourceful cook.

Faramir and Eowyn would be climbing the walls, holed up in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith.

Tom Bombadil and the River Daughter are immune to human ills and they also take a long view of the death of much of the rest of the world.

Gimli would rather risk death than give up smoking.

 

Tony Hillerman Quarantine

Sacred Clowns book

Sadly, in real life, the coronavirus has hit the Navajo nation really hard. Tony Hillerman’s Navajo cop characters, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, would be reacting very differently. Leaphorn, who is older and more of a homebody, would be happily hanging out with his wife Emma at his home in Window Rock. Chee, who is young and restless, would be running around the reservation trying to help everyone he could. He would go to be with an older relative who is dying of the virus, making sure that the person is moved outside as per tradition and that they have someone with them. Though young and healthy, he would unexpectedly develop a bad case himself and would be found recovering in the hospital at the very end of the book, being visited by his girlfriend Janet or Bernie, depending upon where we are in the series.

Emberverse Quarantine

Corvallis

Junie and Mike of the Emberverse have already been through a society-destroying event that resulted in most people dying. Junie heads up a neo-pagan community near Corvallis, Oregon, and Mike runs a more specialized, military one just northwest of Salem. Since the Change destroyed all modern technology, the inhabitants of the Emberverse would probably barely notice the coronavirus. Fewer people develop the diseases of civilization (heart disease, diabetes) in their medieval-style world, living conditions are less crowded, and there are no nursing homes or hospitals. Probably all they would notice was a particularly bad seasonal flu endangering the few remaining old people. They’d be grateful that this sickness, unlike many, was not threatening little children. Junie would be using her herbology and caretaking skills to help as many of her subjects as possible. Because Junie and Mike both grew up in the modern world, before “the Change” happened, they are aware of germ theory and this would help them enforce hygiene on their people.

Agatha Christie Quarantine

photo of teacup on top of books
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Miss Marple has lived through two world wars. She would gamely go along with whatever deprivations and regulations the quarantine brought. She’s been through worse. If anyone complained, she would smile sweetly while silently judging you and simply say, “So many things are difficult.”

Hercule Poirot is already a bit of a germophobe. He would take enthusiastically to masks and hand sanitizer, but would become peevish when unable to procure the foods that he’s used to.  Whenever Hastings began to panic about the many unknowns, Hercule Poirot would calm his fears through the use of the Little Grey Cells.

P.G. Wodehouse Quarantine

alcohol bar blur celebration
Photo by Terje Sollie on Pexels.com

Airheaded bachelor Bertie could not stand not going to his club. He would beg Jeeves to come up with a way that Bertie could skirt the rules to get out and about. Jeeves would do so, knowing that within hours, Bertie would be back home with a horrible hangover that he would need to sleep off and then drink one of Jeeves’s miraculous restoratives. Jeeves knows that the coronavirus mostly endangers older people, so even if Bertie should become a carrier, there is little danger that he would infect anyone because even in normal circumstances he cannot be induced to visit his Aunt Agatha.

And … I can’t resist … Quarantine with my own characters!

architecture buildings city cityscape
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Nirri is, essentially, already in quarantine all the time. He broke his spine in a fall from the Tower of Babel, becoming paraplegic, and is now being reluctantly cared for by people with whom he does not share a language. He is the nightmare person to be quarantined with: arrogant, demanding, unable to communicate or be reasoned with. Though 130 years old, he is healthy as a horse and there is no way he is dying from this.  On the bright side, he is an accomplished musician. Give him a lute and he will entertain you all evening, even if you don’t understand the words to his songs.

Zillah is a born caretaker and the tribe’s resident medical expert. It was she who insisted they rescue Nirri. Though young and even middle-aged people don’t usually show symptoms of the virus, in a tribe their size there might be one or two who do. Zillah would spend herself caring for them, and then get sick herself (she is the tribe’s second oldest person, after Nirri). She would survive, cared for by her daughter Ninna, and the weeks when she was sick would be the loneliest of Nirri’s life.

You Sure You Wanna Do This?

If you do, I tag …

  • Jyvurentropy, who has been posting so much that I can’t keep up with her
  • Bookstooge, for his sarcasm
  • Colin, because I want to hear his thoughts
  • The hilarious Christopher Waldrop, even though I’m unable to comment on his posts
  • … and the always insightful Eustacia, if she has time to do this tag

Raised by the Dictionary

[Five-year-old] Thomas sat on the dusty brown carpet between his two brothers with a well-worn dictionary in his lap. He kept it with him when he watched TV in case he came across a new word.

“What is it Mom and Dad do with these people?” he asked.

[Thomas’s brother] Henry stared at the TV and pushed the buttons on the remote. “Exorcisms,” he said.

“Exorcisms,” Thomas thought out loud as he flipped through his dictionary. “How do you spell that?”

Henry smiled derisively. “X-O-R-S-I-S-U-M-S.”

Thomas raised a skeptical eyebrow and flipped to the “E” section.

The next half hour passed quickly as he read about existence, existentialism, exit permits, exorcism, exoskeletons, and exotic dancers.

–The Resolve of Immortal Flesh, by Rich Colburn, p. 13