“Prehistoric” Swag

So, we’ve just come through a holiday season, and in the course of the last few months, I have acquired some items that would help me — or you — survive if we were suddenly plopped down in 10,000 BC. It is these that I will share with you today. And by “share with you,” I mean show you pictures. I will not actually give you my swag.

All of these items were gifts to me. (I now have my loved ones trained to give me cave man stuff.) I didn’t buy any of them myself, nor was I sent any of them in exchange for a promotion. Also, outofbabel not be held liable if you should find yourself in a prehistoric situation and these items fail to help you survive. It’s probably a “you” problem.

You Can Talk Good

First of all, your most pressing need will be to communicate. This game will help you learn to speak like a Neanderthal. The rules are: words of one syllable only. So, you can say “Angst,” “Eat,” and “Id,” but not “Ego,” “person,” “animal,” or “democracy.”

It comes with a cute little caveman boy who, if you speak a word of more than one syllable, will hit you with the No Stick.

You Can Wear Shoes

Minnetonka has been making wonderful moccasins for years now. They are modern mocs, suited to our need to be able to walk on pavement; they have rubber soles. Also, for the record, they are NOT as warm as boots on a snowy day!

Here is what they look like on.

You Can Visit Wyoming

This silver ring is supposed to represent the outline of the Tetons near Jackson, Wyoming, which, for the record, exists. It is by far the simplest looking of this gorgeous collection.

There is plenty of evidence that people have had pyrotechnology for many thousands of years.

You Can Drink UP!

Yes, that is exactly what it looks like.

It’s a drinking horn.

The packaging copy says, “GOAT STORY was inspired by the greatest discovery of all time — COFFEE! It was back in the 13th century when a flock of goats stumbled upon a bush of berries that made them go loco! Their obviously bored and adventure-seeking shepherd decided to brew the berries — and thank goats he did! Fast forward to the 21st century: that’s when we kick in. We decided to revolutionize coffee drinking and designed this one-of-a-kind coffee mug you’re holding now.”

I don’t know why we are randomly speaking Spanish (other than that it’s fun), and I’m not cool with the near blasphemy … but other than that, this copy was obviously written by a kindred spirit. I do love the “kick in” pun.

If you were to land unexpectedly in the very ancient world, you would be very very grateful to have with you one last, precious, cup of coffee. This item comes with a longer leather strap (not pictured) so that you can sling the hornful of life-giving liquid across your back and always be prepared lest you stumble upon a time portal.

Awesome Regional Artist Alert

Aaron Barrettt, Stone Bear, Rigby, Idaho.

Check out that carved antler! It is awesome! It reminds me of those amazing mammoth tusks that Chinese artists will spend decades carving into elaborate scenes.

Also, the artist … standing beside a life-sized grizzly that he carved … holding his baby son? I am getting serious The Strange Land vibes here. Oh, wait … most of you haven’t read it yet … soon, soon.

This art is so local that I might be able to visit it in person. If I do, I’ll give you a report.

In the Coming Dawn

At the dawn of this new year, I am about to get sentimental on you.

Or am I?

Yesterday, we had a bit of a downer post about the human condition. Today, same topic, but with hope.

The idea of a lost golden age is found in all sorts of cultures, sometimes in some very strange forms. Some cultures and/or religions also add the hope of a future golden age. Of course, you want to watch out for promises of utopia on earth. They usually go wrong quickly and badly. But, the fact that we cannot bring about this future golden age ourselves, does not make the longing for it an illegitimate pursuit. This longing is the universal human recognition that something is wrong with our present world, with our present selves. It expresses the wish for redemption.

So maybe it’s not sentimental to long for a future golden age in which all tears will be dried, even if the song below is a little bit sentimental its instrumentation, coming as it does out of the late 80s/early 90s, when I was a moony teenager. And (*whispers*) I find this song even more moving now than I did as a teen, perhaps because in the intervening years I have seen even more of this broken world.

Here we go.

A Song About the Incarnation

This semester in Sunday School, my kids have been memorizing John chapter 1. I don’t know if things were planned this way, but the way it has worked out, as we enter the Christmas season, they are memorizing verse 14:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

John just can’t get over the fact that they saw him.

Whenever I hear this verse, I think of the following song. By the way, all the background music is voices.

Oh, Absalom

Today I am posting a video of a song by the incomparable Jamie Soles.

A couple of warnings: I recommend you just listen to the audio. Don’t look at the screen, because the words pulse in a way that is likely to give you a seizure. I apologize; this was the only YouTube version of the song I could find.

Secondly: This song will make you bawl, particularly if you are a parent.

The back story goes as follows. The relationship between King David and his adult son Absalom had deteriorated badly. The story of that is also tragic, but too long to tell here. It’s in 2 Samuel 13 – 14. Eventually Absalom, having lost all respect for David, stages a coup (2 Sam. 15). David actually has to flee Jerusalem. Eventually, his men fight Absalom’s in a bloody battle in the forest. 20,000 men die (2 Sam. 18). Absalom, as he rides his mule through the woods, gets his head (possibly his long, luxuriant hair?) caught in the branches of an oak tree. His mule runs off and Absalom is left dangling there. David’s bloodthirsty general, Joab, finds him, stabs him in the heart with three javelins, and buries him unceremoniously in a pit. (2 Sam. 18:6 – 17) This even though David, who at first had wanted to go out himself into the battle, had instructed his generals, “Deal gently with the young man Absalom for my sake.”

Word comes to David that Absalom is dead before his victorious army returns to the city. When they come back, they can hear David in the small room over the city gate (the “judgment seat”), weeply loudly and saying over and over again, “Oh, Absalom, my son, my son, if only I had died instead of you!” The army sneaks into the city in shame, like defeated men.

Joab goes up into the room and berates David for not honoring his soldiers. “You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that … you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead.” (2 Sam. 19:6)

This is not true, of course. No way this situation could have gone would have made David happy. But Joab just doesn’t get it.

I kind of hate that this story is in the Bible, because I wish the whole thing had never happened. It’s one of those slo-mo tragedies where, just when you think that every single thing has already gone wrong, the situation unspools some dismaying new tentacle of horror.

On the other hand, given that it did happen, I am glad this story is in the Bible. Clearly, this is not some slappy-happy, naive, “everything-will-be-great-if-we-all-just-believe-in-our-hearts” kind of document. This document was written by and for people who live in the actual world, where each of us, by the time we are adults, has witnessed or experienced this very kind of thing: complicated, tragic, stupid, seems like it could have been prevented at any point along the way. God is aware of these situations and of how stupid and futile and tragic they are. He is a God for people who find themselves in those situations.

Ahem. OK, sermon over. I guess I got carried away. Here’s the song.

I Am in Love with this Masculine Sea Chantey

Listen to those Irish tenors! *swoons*

Now, the mystery deepens. I first learned about this song, this month, not from a Irishman nor from a sailor, but from a biography of Harriet Tubman.

When you look at the following page, keep in mind that although Harriet was short and slight, she had a surprising deep, resonant voice as a result of a “lung fever” (pneumonia?) that she got as a child.

“The Underground Abuductor,” p. 85

Bibliography

Hale, Nathan, artist, The Underground Abductor. Amulet Books, 2015.

Lawton, Wendy, Courage to Run: A story based on the life of Harriet Tubman. Moody, 2009. Lung fever and lower voice described in Chapter 6, pp. 59 – 68.

Warning Labels

Some books need warning labels. Especially history books. Heck, history needs a warning label! Heck, this entire world needs one! It should read something like: Fallen World. Danger, Difficulty, Death.

For all these reasons, the brilliant graphic artist Nathan Hale puts warning labels on the the brilliant historical books he produces for children. The labels are tailored to each individual story. For example:

This is from the back of Big Bad Ironclad.

Note the delightfully specific terrors promised, such as “underwater toilets” and “Swedish swearing.” (And yes, the book delivers those very things. It makes sense in context. So does the bomb on a stick.)

This is from the back of The Underground Abductor, about the life of Harriet Tubman.

Besides the horrors and heroics that we all know her life contained, we get “supernatural visions” (Harriet’s and, before her, Nat Turner’s); “massacre” (led by Nat Turner); “muskrat trapping” (more of a hardship than it sounds); and, of course the “drugged babies” are so that the escapees would not be caught.

Now, I write fiction, and it’s pretty dramatic and everything, but nothing I or anyone else will write can compare to the drama and poignancy of Harriet Tubman’s life.

With that disclaimer, here — and you can tell that I worked really hard on this — is a warning label of my own, done in the style of graphic artist Nathan Hale, applied to my book The Long Guest.

In the comments, please post a goofy warning label of your own about your own book or a favorite book.