Finding Polaris – Embrace the North Star


Ah Polaris, commonly known as the North Star – humanities guide since the dawn of time. Located directly above the north celestial pole, northern hemisphere skies rotate around this near constant pole star. Knowing where to find Polaris means you’ll always know which direction to travel. Face Polaris, stretch your arms out sideways – the right hand points due east, the left due west. About face and you’re pointed south.

Very many bright concentric circles in sky around a bright irregular dot, trees in foreground.

Ken Christison captured these glorious star trails around Polaris, the North Star. He wrote, “For the most common and often the most spectacular star trails, you want to locate Polaris and compose the image so it is centered horizontally and hopefully you can have a bit of foreground for reference.”

To find Polaris locate the Big Dipper, focus on Dubhe and Merak, two stars forming the outermost edge of Big Dipper’s bowl. In your mind’s eye draw a straight line to the tip of Little Dipper’s handle – voila, that’s Polaris the North Star.

Think of northern hemisphere skies as a clock with Polaris at the centre, the line from Dubhe and Merak to Polaris as the hour hand. The Big Dipper rotates once around Polaris every 23 hours, 56 minutes. A few minutes short of a day, equivalent to 361 degrees in 24 hours. As such the North Star moves ever so slightly with each passing day. What never falters is the hour hand from the outermost bowl of Big Dipper to Polaris. Find the Big Dipper, you’ll locate the North Star. Do that and you’ll never be lost in the woods.

Diagram: White sky with four black Big Dippers in a circle around Polaris.

If you’re in the northern U.S., Canada or at a similar latitude, the Big Dipper is circumpolar for you, always above the horizon. Image via burro.astr.cwru.edu.

Maid of the Mist….


Tourist mecca Niagara Falls straddles the 49th parallel, Canadian province Ontario on one side, New York State on the other. No visit to Niagara Falls is complete without an excursion on Maid of the Mist, a sight seeing journey guaranteed to soak blue plastic raincoats regardless of which side of the border you shell out for the privilege.

Today, pandemic times courtesy Maid of the Mist serve as a stark reminder as to why COVID rages out of control in America while Canada flattens the curve. Ponder this image – see all the blue raincoats on upper deck of U.S. Maid of the Mist? Cast your gaze down to the Canadian boat, see any blue coats? I rest my case.

niagara-falls-covid-hornblower-maid-of-the-mist.JPG (620×349)

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/maid-of-the-mist-niagara-falls-hornblower-covid-1.5658620?cmp=rss

You Want A Confederate Monument?


confederateBody.jpg (615×820)

Yesterday Trump tweeted – “I will veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren (of all people) Amendment, which will lead to renaming (plus other bad things) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E Lee and many other military bases from which we won Two World Wars is in the Bill!”. Pocahontas of all people, other bad things? WTF! Appalling disregard for minorities, historical ignorance, calculated right wing campaign fodder – you decide, I’m speechless.

Last Sunday, editorial opinion by Caroline Randall Williams appeared in the New York Times. Amid Trumpish support for white nationalism, Trump outrage over NYC Mayor de Blasio planning to paint Black Lives Matter on 5th Avenue in front of Trump Tower (Trump tweeted – “de Blasio is going to paint a big, expensive, Black Lives Matter sign on Fifth Avenue, denigrating the luxury Avenue” ) and widespread initiatives to remove Confederate symbolism – Caroline Randall Williams penned perspective every American should read and take to heart. Quoted in part below, full article link after that.

“I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South.

If there are those who want to remember the legacy of the Confederacy, if they want monuments, well, then, my body is a monument. My skin is a monument.

Dead Confederates are honored all over this country — with cartoonish private statues, solemn public monuments and even in the names of United States Army bases. It fortifies and heartens me to witness the protests against this practice and the growing clamor from serious, nonpartisan public servants to redress it. But there are still those — like President Trump and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell — who cannot understand the difference between rewriting and reframing the past. I say it is not a matter of “airbrushing” history, but of adding a new perspective.

I am a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists. My very existence is a relic of slavery and Jim Crow.

According to the rule of hypodescent (the social and legal practice of assigning a genetically mixed-race person to the race with less social power) I am the daughter of two black people, the granddaughter of four black people, the great-granddaughter of eight black people. Go back one more generation and it gets less straightforward, and more sinister. As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.

It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children.

What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals?

You cannot dismiss me as someone who doesn’t understand. You cannot say it wasn’t my family members who fought and died. My blackness does not put me on the other side of anything. It puts me squarely at the heart of the debate. I don’t just come from the South. I come from Confederates. I’ve got rebel-gray blue blood coursing my veins. My great-grandfather Will was raised with the knowledge that Edmund Pettus was his father. Pettus, the storied Confederate general, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the man for whom Selma’s Bloody Sunday Bridge is named. So I am not an outsider who makes these demands. I am a great-great-granddaughter.” – Caroline Randall Williams

Confederate Monuments – Another Perspective

Beryl Dickinson-Dash


In 1949 Beryl Dickinson-Dash was a third year arts major attending McGill University in Montreal. At the time, only 150 of 8,500 McGill students were black. Most blacks were international students, Beryl Dickinson-Dash belonged to a handful of Canadian born black students, notedly a black Canadian woman who knew of no other black female Canadian students.

Beryl with her mother Maisy

Winter Carnival was a big deal at McGill, a mid-winter festival presided over by Carnival queen and four princesses. Keen beauties required 25 signatures from male students to secure nomination. Without her knowledge, the roommate of Beryl’s boyfriend (whom she later married) submitted a photo she’d given her boyfriend on his birthday along with 25 signatures from black male students. Beryl was shocked to find herself one of 26 official candidates.

Next came the ceremonial tea, an afternoon of polite white glove decorum and radio interviews. 26 were cut to 15, 15 became 5 finalists after a second round of interviews and struts. Beryl made the final cut. Each candidate was assigned a campaign manager.

Campaigns reached fever pitch, Beryl’s boyfriend, his brother, roommate and black students rallied behind her. Telegrams were sent to McGill posing as endorsement from prominent companies and organizations. Posters of Beryl appeared in every classroom. Voting booths with scrutineers proved seriousness of a fair vote. Results were leaked several days before official crowning. Beryl won by a landside, so much so final numbers wouldn’t be released as doing so might “injure the other girls”. Just past midnight, March 5, 1949 on her 21st birthday, Beryl Dickinson-Dash was crowned McGill Carnival Queen at the Montreal Forum in front of 8,000 spectators.

A newspaper clipping from March 5, 1949, announcing the pageant victory. (Submitted by Bradley Rapier)

Beryl doesn’t know why a predominantly white student body elected her Carnival queen. “Perhaps they were tired of how things were” she said. Regardless, she became a media sensation, front page news in papers and magazines. South of the border, Color magazine sponsored Dickinson-Dash (now Beryl Rapier) for a two week trip to West Virginia – her first negro college. A painting of Beryl standing in front of West Virginia state capital building by artist William Edouard Scott titled Spirit of Democracy was presented to McGill as a token of appreciation from people of America. I remind you – it was 1949!

Color magazine sponsored a two-week trip to West Virginia for Rapier. A press clipping from that trip features photographs of her at West Virginia State College. (Submitted by Bradley Rapier)

Sadly, few people in Canada know the story of Beryl Dickinson-Dash. But for stumbling upon her story last week courtesy CBC Radio Doc Project, I’d remain oblivious to a remarkable moment in Canadian history. More photos and history at the link below –

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/docproject/how-montrealer-beryl-dickinson-dash-made-history-as-mcgill-s-first-black-queen-of-carnival-1.5605944

Rumsfeld On Looting


In April 2003 following the U.S. invasion of Iraq,  then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said this of looting and lawlessness in Baghdad –

“While no one condones looting, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who have had members of their family killed by that regime. And I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom.” – https://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/04/11/sprj.irq.pentagon/

Another time, place, defense secretary and president in U.S. history. Words spoken by a man who orchestrated invasion of Iraq,  the man who authorized waterboarding, deprivation and torture of prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions. A man who said “stuff happens” when asked about unrest in Iraq. The same man who said he didn’t think anyone wouldn’t accept looting and lawlessness as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom.

Ponder Rumsfeld’s words in the context of what’s happening in America tonight.

See the source image

Liberty In America


This article by Shannon Gormley appears in the June 2020 issue of Maclean’s magazine. It begins –

“On a rainy day in late April, in a once-storied democracy now ruled by a certifiable madman who gives senior positions to his simpleton children because he wants to, who boasts of grabbing women by their private parts because he wants to, who uses the highest office in the land to enrich his gaudy hotels and let off his thuggish friends because he wants to, who threatens the press corps and Mexican people and his political opponents and his ex-wife because he wants to, who slathers gold paint on his MDF furniture and orange cover-up on his face because he wants to, who tells lie after lie after lie for no other reason than just because he wants to, during a global pandemic when the same madman’s dazed inaction has resulted in more people dying from the virus in his country than any other in the world – on that day, an armed militia drove up to the Michigan state government building, stormed the visitor’s gallery and stalked the balcony, assault guns brandished as legislators sat below.”

“Their demand: that they too be able to do what they want, no matter what others want. What they want is, they claim, liberty.”

“Liberty: In their view, it is the freedom to threaten others; in reality, it is they who threaten freedom. They want to do what they want to do and they want to do it whenever they want to do it, however they want to do it, and here is the key: It is not that they want to do what they want to do in spite of the fact others may get hurt, they want to do what they want to do because others may get hurt. That they are scaring people is no accident. It is the point. It is what they want. They imagine liberty is being taken from them and must instead be taken from others. To maintain their own parched little plot of freedom, they rain fear down upon everyone else.”

“And so, in and around the Michigan statehouse, some have waved rifles because they believe they have the God-given right to subject lawmakers to reasonable fear of getting their heads blown off; some have carried the Confederate flag because they believe they have the God-given right to subject Black people to the reasonable fear of being lynched.

Some have threatened to incarcerate a female legislator because they believe they have a God-given right to subject women to reasonable fear of all manner of retribution. And all have swarmed public spaces in a mass because they believe they have a God-given right to subject other people, their own societies, their own country and beyond, to a reasonable fear of a deadly virus.”

I’ve quoted snippets from a thought provoking read few Americans are likely to ponder. Gormley’s article deserves consideration. Full article linked below – what does liberty mean to you?

https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/what-liberty-really-means-to-gun-wielding-lockdown-protestors-in-america/ar-BB13W1sZ?ocid=spartanntp

a group of people standing in front of a building: An armed group entered the Michigan State Capitol building to protest the stay-at-home orders, on April 30, 2020 (Seth Herald/Reuters)

 

Next Please


It’s hard to remember when I stopped laughing at Trump antics. Once initial shock of president elect Trump wore off, exchanging guffaws with like minded people lent hope to a seemingly desperate situation. Now, on day 1,207 of America according to Trump, anyone still clucking disbelief needs to wake up. For whatever reason, this clip from today’s White House briefing punctuates Trump absurdity –

 

Panic Porn


Bill Maher nailed it with New Rule: Panic Porn. In a nutshell – if news media doesn’t tone down apocalyptic coverage of COVID-19 Trump will seize inevitable easing of restrictions as consequence of his great management during pandemic times. Take five minutes to ponder panic porn…..

Swamp Rabbit


I’m rather fond of rabbits. Not in a daily cabinet dusting of rabbit knick-knack way. Truth being, the only rabbit representation in my home is a watercolour painted by my mother decades ago. That said, rabbits are my animal, rabbit appears in my email address and a close friend calls me Ms. Rabbit. The eve of Easter weekend strikes me as an appropriate time to ponder Swamp Rabbits, in particular, the Jimmy Carter rabbit incident of 1979.

Swamp Rabbits, largest member of the cottontail genus weigh 3-6 pounds with overall length of 16-22 inches. Found along the Gulf Coast and south-central region of the United States, true to their moniker they favour swampy lowlands, floodplains and riverbanks. Peculiar to this cottontail is a waterproof fur coat and remarkable ability to swim. When threatened they take to water, eluding predators by diving under roots or hunkering down beneath overhangs.

On April 20, 1979 President Jimmy Carter was fishing alone near his home in Plains, Georgia. Carter said a rabbit being chased by hounds “jumped in the water and swam toward my boat. When he got almost there, I splashed some water with a paddle”. Despite this photograph taken by Carter’s onshore detail, White House staffers didn’t believe him, “rabbits can’t swim”. Ten days later AP correspondent Brooks Jackson’s account appeared in numerous publications, including front page of the Washington Post titled “Bunny Goes Bugs: Rabbit Attacks President”. A cartoon parody of Jaws, titled Paws appeared in the Post. All without the photo above which wasn’t made public until mid 80’s by the Reagan administration.

See the source image

Image from the Carter Library

A 1986 book by Jody Powell titled The Other Side of the Story included this account –

“Upon closer inspection, the animal turned out to be a rabbit. Not one of your cutesy, Easter-bunny-type rabbits, but one of those big splay-footed things that we called swamp rabbits when I was growing up.

The animal was clearly in distress, or perhaps berserk. The President confessed to having had limited experience with enraged rabbits. He was unable to reach a definite conclusion about its state of mind. What was obvious, however, was that this large, wet animal, making strange hissing noises and gnashing its teeth, was intent upon climbing into the Presidential boat”. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Carter_rabbit_incident

Happy Easter.