Progress

The bathroom is clean. The kitchen is clean. The short story is almost just right. The afghan is very close to having all its squares completed.  The dog is napping.

And it’s the solstice!

I Have Hopes

I hope the Butcher is spending the last day of his vacation doing some cleaning or I’m going to end up spending the first day of my vacation doing all the cleaning. That will not make me happy.

But, in related news, I’m about to have a week off.

In unrelated news, I ate too much for lunch and now I am full and happy.

I don’t quite like how my short story has shaped up, but at least it has a shape. It’s funny. This writing stuff never gets easier. Like, you never just spit out a story that is wholly perfect. Each one, at least in the first draft, fails in some new and spectacular way.

My writing lately even has me wondering if now might be the time when I go make my peace with Hemingway. My sentences have become so ungodly, just full of commas and parenthetical asides and dashes and, well, anyway, I could use some practice writing simple, straightforward sentences that pack a punch.

Performance Art has to Have an Aesthetic Component, Right? Here’s Mine

The best part of this afghan, even though it makes it practically unwashable, is the different yarns I’m using on it and the different ways they look. Not just in color, but in texture:

Here's a lot of little squares in a bag. I don't think that anything in the afghan is actually that bright a yellowish green, but the iPhone camera does what the iPhone camera wants.

Here’s a lot of little squares in a bag. I don’t think that anything in the afghan is actually that bright a yellowish green, but the iPhone camera does what the iPhone camera wants.

This is a Japanese wool yarn I really like (though it's hella expensive) because each square is slightly different than the next. I doubt it's really hand-spun (it's not that expensive), but it definitely has that feel to it. It's two-ply yarn, so the variation comes from the change in colors of each ply being staggered. You can see here that we're moving from a green to a kind of coppery gold.

This is a Japanese wool yarn I really like (though it’s hella expensive) because each square is slightly different than the next. I doubt it’s really hand-spun (it’s not that expensive), but it definitely has that feel to it. It’s two-ply yarn, so the variation comes from the change in colors of each ply being staggered. You can see here that we’re moving from a green to a kind of coppery gold. It’s very rough. And that looks like a dog hair stuck to it.

I ended up with a few balls of yarn like this--oneply, barely twisted. Almost more like a good roving or a top, though it's acrylic. I like how shiny it is and how it has almost a jewelry chain appearance in the stitches.

I ended up with a few balls of yarn like this–one-ply, barely twisted. Almost more like a good roving or a top, though it’s acrylic. I like how shiny it is and how it has almost a jewelry chain appearance in the stitches.

This picture does not begin to do justice to how beautiful this yarn is. Basically, imagine the gold of a Renaissance angel's halo and that would appear to be what this yarn is made of.  It's also just one ply, but it's got a pretty substantial twist. That twist makes the stitches stand out a lot more than the previous yarn.

This picture does not begin to do justice to how beautiful this yarn is. Basically, imagine the gold of a Renaissance angel’s halo and that would appear to be what this yarn is made of. It’s also just one ply, but it’s got a pretty substantial twist. That twist makes the stitches stand out a lot more than the previous yarn. This is my favorite yarn of the bunch, just because the color is so amazing. The white yarn that’s holding it together–my old Kool-aid dying yarn, remains one of my favorites for its awesome twists, which you can see here.

Every Damn Year

I feel so low right about now and every damn year I’m surprised by it. I can’t believe it’s only Thursday. This week has been so long. I’m having lunch with a friend of my mom’s tomorrow. I don’t know why. I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. She knew my mom in grade school.

But I guess she’s in town for some medical tests and who wants to come to a strange city alone for medial tests and have no one to have lunch with? I sure as fuck wouldn’t.

So, that’s why I said yes.

I just feel like this time of year is the time of year when the things we want from each other and the things we’re capable of actually doing for each other stand in stark contrast, bleak contrast, to each other and it makes me sad.

Oh Cold, So Cold

It’s almost hilariously cold in my office. I’m basically typing this in order to keep my fingers functioning.

The Butcher is on vacation this week. He wasn’t home when I got home from work last night and I’m not sure when he got home, except that I don’t think it was much before I got up.

The funniest part to me is that you’d think the dog would be in heaven, with his sweet man staying at home with him. But I swear he’s been being so sweet to me and so good on our walks that I suspect he’s a little tired of having people around all the time, because it’s cutting into his napping time.

I’ve been working on short stories because the Nashville book is depressing and I need to be doing some reading for it, but I’ve been not in that headspace.

And I think we have our Christmas plans settled. We’ll see.

Riddles as Cosmology

I think that the Old English love of riddles captures something of the way they approached life: life is a puzzle, but one to be encountered with joy and wit rather than despair. A lot of art is mimetic, but the relationship between riddles and reality is ironic, playful, tricky. Something similar can be said of the two modes of art, ‘realism’ (mimetic) and Fantasy (ironic).

The Anglo-Saxon world from which Tolkien took so much inspiration saw the universe as a riddle, and prized an ironic stance with respect to it. Not that courage and loyalty and strength were unimportant (of course, they were vitally important), but that a warrior hold his strength lightly, that he face death with a smile, that he fight more fiercely in the teeth of certain defeat. I am not talking about flippancy, or a more clumsy disrespectful. I am talking about accepting that there is a mismatch between our human abilities to understand and the brute fact of the cosmos.–Adam Roberts, via i09

Crows

On our walk, a hundred crows, or what looked like a hundred crows–I didn’t count them–passed over our heads all calling to each other. I stood there, just gape-mouthed at how many of them there were. Not as many as collect on Vanderbilt’s campus, but many more than I’ve ever seen in the neighborhood.

And then I realized, I was standing there with my mouth open while birds flew overhead.

Probably not my wisest moment.

Words I Like

DO NOT PRESS PLAY ON THIS VIDEO AT WORK.

But literally nothing makes me happier than the way she says “I guess that cunt’s getting eaten.” Sometimes you look at the way words work together and you just know something is perfect. This sentence is perfect–the repeating “uh”s in “guess” and “cunt;” all those “t”s, especially the way it sounds like she’s adding one by pronouncing it “get” “ten” and “eat” “ten.” And it’s cheeky. I like it.

Recently, I wrote this paragraph:

My favorite thing about Harwell is her ability to be both sly as a fox and something of a mother hen to all the wayward chicks of the state house. A fox with chicks for children is never short of dinner, though, and I have to imagine she’s already licking her lips at the prospect of dealing with her fourteen most recalcitrant representatives.

And I’m really pleased with “a fox with chicks for children.” That is perfect, too. You’ve got the repeating fs, the repeating chs and the repeating os and is. I also like it because it’s almost in iambs, except for that “ren” fucking things up.

Thoughts I Have Thunked

1. I’m kind of pissed that it has taken Constantine so long to get good. It’s frustrating to watch now knowing it’s probably going to be cancelled. I wish, wish, wish we switched to a model where they just up-front said “You get x episodes to tell your story. If your ratings are good, we’ll give you x more episodes to tell another complete story, either with these characters or a whole new show.” That way, you could commit to watching a show knowing you were going to get a self-contained story, even if you only got one story out of it.

2. The dog teased me yesterday. We were on our walk and I said, come here, let me put your leash on, and he came over and just as I was about to put his leash on, he bounded away, and turned back and smiled at me. I laughed and then he came over and leaned against my legs and let me put his leash on him.

3. The performance art afghan. It’s… I don’t even know how to explain it to you. It’s ridiculous. So, I think I’ve decided that it’s going to be 30 x 40 tiny two-inch squares. Thus necessitating 1200 squares. I’m doing them in bundles of twelve, because I had thought I was doing 36×48, but I realized too late after I’d started bundling them in groups of twelve, that this would result in way too huge an rectangly an afghan. So, I need 100 bundles. I have 70 but I’m out of yarn. The yarn is on order. So, I am, at the moment, tucking ends. Every end tuck I remind myself is one more end I will not have to tuck after all 1200 squares are done. My biggest concern is making sure that the squares are well-mixed in the end. No, my biggest concern is that I’m not going to live through having to tuck 1200 squares worth of ends. It’s my least favorite thing about crocheting. Why would I assign myself a task that’s basically just end-tucking?! But I think it’s going to be really neat. Unwashable which I have mixed feelings about (M. do not fuck or bleed or sweat on my afghan, please.) but neat.

4. It’s unwashable because I just bought yarn that caught my eye, so it’s a mix of acrylics and wool and wool blends. Nothing will shrink at the same rate and some shit will definitely felt.

5. It does crack me up to think that most of my afghans are safe for fucking, bleeding, or sweating on. I should make afghans for swashbucklers!

Pictures of the Sesquicentennial

There Was a Lot of Crochetting During the Civil War

That’s what I gathered from the Battle of Nashville stuff. All the women were crocheting. As you may remember, I’m on a quest to try to understand why Nashville doesn’t have a sheep-eating culture, even though we seem to happily eat anything else., since nm pointed it out to me.

So, yesterday, I talked to a Civil War reenactor who raises sheep for wool out in Wilson County and she has a theory I think may be the correct one. Almost all sheep in Middle Tennessee were, first and foremost, for wool. People out in the country who raise sheep, even wool sheep, do eat lamb at Easter. Even now. But it’s got to be a special occasion that you’d be willing to eat something that’s going to make you money for the rest of its life.

If you were eating the sheep from your herd regularly, it meant something had gone really wrong for you–that you were so desperate to eat that you couldn’t wait for wool to sell. So, she thinks that eating sheep, except at Easter, may have become associated with deprivation and hard times, here. And that may be why there’s not a lot of sheep eating here. It had for a long time, the connotation of hard times, and, even when it didn’t have those connotations anymore, we didn’t have the years of recipes and traditions about eating it.

I don’t know. But it seems plausible.

Christmas Ghosts

Grief is a son of a bitch. It just comes when it wants, makes itself at home, and then leaves without warning.

Last night, I dreamed that I had gotten the Butcher what was supposed to be the best video game out this season (you were a woman who collects a band of ne’er-do-wells to solve puzzles and conquer the world) and he and the Red-headed Kid were playing it. I was getting a drink of water at the kitchen sink and waiting for the rain to stop so that I could go to some book thing here in town, which I was late for and still not packed. I looked out in the yard and there was Sadie, just hanging out with the cats by the back door, waiting for someone to notice that she wasn’t in the house.

“You guys left the dog out,” I yelled at the guys.

“No we didn’t,” they insisted. But I saw her, right by the back door. I opened the kitchen door to let her in and she came walking in just like usual. I keep the door open to see if the cats wanted to come inside, since it was raining, and that was when I realized something wasn’t right, because I couldn’t focus on the orange cat. Everything around him was in focus, but he remained blurry and seemingly headless. I then realized I didn’t hear the dog in the house. I turned to look behind me and there was Sonnyboy, asleep.

And then I realized this was a dream. Which I found upsetting, so I woke up.

Talent

Yesterday, I was having this same conversation in three different iterations, basically about how someone who did something really detestable in the course  of his job, is now doing something else in the course of his job that seems like it needs to be engaged with and should we engage with it or not?

Like, imagine if Jame O’Keefe discovered some government corruption. Does anyone have any obligation to keep checking back in with O’Keefe to discover that this time he was right?

I say no.

But one thing that I find really striking and, I admit, very confusing is that part of the reason it seems like bad actors never go entirely away is this idea that there’s no one else to take their place. Like, it’s better to have a shitty, toxic writer who occasionally writes the things we want written than to not have him or no one will write the things we want written.

Even at lunch yesterday they were playing this interview with this guy who wrote a biography of Richard Pryor and, even though it was obvious that the biographer adored him, Pryor comes across like a nightmare jerk. And I get it–really. Because he was a genius. And his nightmare jerk-dom cost him some. He’s not in Blazing Saddles, for instance.

Eh, maybe Pryor’s a bad example because racism does keep the number of opportunities for black people limited.

But here’s the thing I have learned living in Nashville. Everybody has talent. A lot of talent. The best guitar player you ever heard is not even the best guitar player you might here that night. Being able to do the thing you want to do is just the bare minimum requirement. You need to be lucky and work hard and show up and be lucky some more. Because there are always ten other people who have as much talent as you–but maybe they’re sick today or hungover (or still drunk) or too scared to show up or don’t have the support they need or whatever.

I genuinely don’t get why the media doesn’t seem to get this. You don’t want to work with that Johnson guy because he seems too intense and loose with the facts? There must be fifty conservative young people who can write who would love his opportunities. I mean, I think I could find fifty and I have almost no connections to conservative young people.

I don’t like a world in which people get cut at the first sign of wrong-doing. But every conversation I had yesterday with this in the background, it seems like a lot of editors believe that there’s just not that much good writing out there–that no matter what the issues with person X are, no matter how big and prolific their fuck-ups, if person X is a known quantity, it’s better to work with person X than to not have anyone who can do it.

But there are other people who can do it. I don’t think I’m wrong about this. I see so many fucking talented writers in my life every day. There are at least five of you who comment here regularly whose books, which, as far as I know you’ve not written and maybe have no intention of writing, that I want to read and be able to fan-girl out about. But I believe, if you turned your attention to it, you could write a kick ass book, because I see your talent here.

There are an almost  unlimited number of guitarists. You wouldn’t believe a band in Nashville who couldn’t find a guitarist. And being a guitarist has start-up costs–you have to get a guitar. To be a writer, you just have to write.  The number of writers out there is enormous, mind-bogglingly enormous. If even only a fraction of us are talented, that fraction still represents a sizable number of people.

It simply can’t be true that there’s no one else to do the work. But the assumption that there aren’t enough talented writers seems pretty wide-spread.

(I need to get in the shower, but I find this attitude especially frustrating when you stop to think about how grossly underrepresented women and minorities are in writing. It’s like, dudes, stop looking for writers in just this one place and you will find a ton of them.)

Either This is a Migraine, the Eyes, or I’m Dying

I have been slightly light-headed and dizzy all week. At first, I thought it was stress, since I didn’t feel that way over the weekend. Then I became convinced that it might have to do with the weirdness with my eye, like maybe my depth perception is off and it’s making me a little vertiginous (I think that’s the right word–feeling like I have vertigo). Then yesterday, I became convinced that I was having either a stroke or a heart attack.

But last night, I had this weird kind of crawly sensation around my head and I thought “Could this be a weird migraine?” Because I’ve had some weird migraines in the past. So, I took some migraine medicine and I slept like a baby.

I’m still feeling a little out of it this morning. But I don’t think I’m having a stroke. At least I hope not, because I have a lot to do.

My Thinker is not Thinking

You guys, I have been staring at this blank screen for like five minute. Just staring and thinking of nothing. It’s been quite refreshing.

I knew this was going to be a busy month. But I really had no idea.

This morning, on my way into work, they were playing Cheech and Chong’s Santa and His Old Lady bit. And wow, I hadn’t heard that since I was a kid and, when I heard it when I was a kid, I bet you a million dollars, I didn’t get it.

But, wow. It’s fantastic. It just a really well-written story. And listening to it, I felt this growing suspicion that I might be hearing something that, even if I had consciously forgotten about it, I hadn’t ever really forgotten about it. Because I think how I tell stories is pretty heavily indebted to this:

A Point of Racism

Slavery is its own thing, but, in order to really get your head around it, you have to, I think, compare it to other things. Slavery isn’t rape, though a lot of slaves were raped. But definitely watching how America deals with rape now can give you some clues as to what was going on with slavery. And watching how racism plays out now… well, same thing.

This morning, as I was thinking about it, I realized that racism plays a very important part in slavery beyond the justification for why slavery is “okay.” Racism is very important because it lets bystanders off the hook.

We’ve talked about this with rape–how there are relatively few rapists but they find cover in a society that seems geared to believe that any man, at any second, might be accused of being a rapist or, worse, might, through no fault of his own except having misunderstood his victim’s intentions, accidentally be a rapist.

So, back to slavery. We’ve talked, too, extensively about how it was impossible to really be a good slave owner. You could be good or you could be a slave owner, but you couldn’t be both, because, at some point, if you are a slave owner, you’re going to be buying rape victims from their rapists, torture victims from their torturers or selling people to people you have to know are going to rape and torture them. You are a part of the system that makes that rape and torture possible.

But it’s so important, if slavery is going to work, for the slave owners who don’t rape and torture (I’m drawing an uncomfortable distinction here between people who “just” physically coerced their captives and people who tortured them, but people, in general, were just more physically violent back then. People beat their kids and their spouses. They beat each other up for fun. They beat their slaves. And it’s not like we no longer do those things, but the scale and scope is just different now. So, I’m trying to draw a distinction, just for the sake of this point, between extraordinary violence–torture–and ordinary violence–everyone is getting knocked upside the head at some point–and not to excuse or downplay the latter.) to have a way to not see the rape and torture. And not just that, but to believe that the rapists and torturers aren’t getting a fair shake. That they need defending, because, at any moment, any slave owner might unfairly be accused of rape and torture.

This is where racism comes in. Black people are liars. Black people don’t feel pain the way white people do. Black people are lusty, practically animals in their “mating.” Black people are… oh and we hear the echoes of this right now in that case in L.A. where the school district is trying to argue that a girl with mental disabilities can’t really suffer from sexual abuse the same way a smart kid could… too stupid to really understand what’s happening to them. Black people are just looking for reasons to be upset, when really, they’re exaggerating the problem. Black leaders are just stirring them up. Etc. etc. etc.

America, by now, we all know this song well enough to sing along.

It just helps put up this screen. White people who are racist don’t have to feel the great discomfort that might spur them into bucking or dismantling the system. Racism is the mechanism by which white people learn to be just fine with horrendous evil. Not just racial inequality, should we ever get to the point when that’s the mountain we have to deal with. But the utter… I want to say “disregard” for black lives, but I feel, too, like that’s refusing to look our history and our society now straight in the face. Our society runs on the destruction of non-white bodies. Even our classism, and we’re a deeply classist society, too, is, like our homophobia is built on men being afraid of being treated by other men how they treat women, our classim has an element of treating poor white bodies like the trash (poor white trash) we treat non-white bodies like.

Racism isn’t the cause of slavery. As people will point out, there have been slaves throughout history. But racism, in our society, gathers like a thick fog to both justify slavery and to obscure from view everything that would make it seem unjustified. Racism is the mechanism by which white evildoers are shielded from justice.

I am So Tired

I did one thing on Saturday and one thing on Sunday and I could have slept like the dog. I just need to make it through these two weeks and I’ll have some semblance of a vacation around Christmas.

My parents are concocting some plan for us all to go down to my brother’s house for Christmas so that his girlfriend can cook Christmas dinner for us. We’ll have to talk more about it this week, but I’m of the opinion that this simply is not going to happen. They can’t afford those kinds of groceries and it seems really grossly unfair to expect someone–again who is not related to us or legally tied to us–to make us dinner, especially without asking.

I will say, though, that I find it more interesting to watch at 40 than to live through at her age. They really, truly, do expect that some woman is just going to fucking do all the shit and that the person who has to do all the shit is a woman and is the woman least capable of telling them to go pound sand.

I felt like that when I was going through it, but I didn’t have the perspective to know if it was true.

But man, I’ll make Christmas dinner, at my house, where people who have a small child can watch that child and relax and not work any harder than they have to. And by “they” I mean “she” because that’s the truth of it.

I don’t know, I mean, I guess we’re all bags of dicks in our own ways, but my parents want something from my brother’s girlfriend (which I find irritating and uncool) which will then make them feel like they’re getting something from my brother (again, uncool, but poignant) which they are never going to get. I mean, even if she were up for it (and it’s impossible to be up for. It’s soul-crushing.), getting your emotional needs met by one person doesn’t make you feel whole with the other person.

What they want from my brother, he can’t give them.

Lady of the Lake, Women in the River

Ugh, this song and Jewly’s writing about it.

I believe the way for things to change for women is for women to come together for each other, to check on each other, to find each other and tell each other our stories.

But I have to say, I keep thinking about how often Death is a woman, the rivers, lakes, and streams are women, sailors can be married to the ocean, and all those ancient earth goddesses. All the places you might put a woman where she’ll never be found, they’re all considered to be feminine spaces.

I don’t know. It makes me sad.

I’m Going to Tell You a Secret

I’m having more and more trouble seeing to drive at night. If it’s raining, I can’t drive. For at least a year, I’ve been avoiding socializing with people on rainy evenings because I don’t feel safe driving home.

It’s finally bad enough–meaning I’m starting not to feel safe after dark period–that I’m seeing the doctor. Here in a minute.

I wonder if I can put a chauffeur on my insurance. I wonder if I could get Diggle… Hmm… A driver who can do the salmon ladder.

Feel Like I’m Winning when I’m Losing Again

Ugh, this week. It’s been long. Some things have been going incredibly well. Other things have just been terrible.

I’m having a huge problem with an entity. Ha ha ha. That makes them sound like some kind of supernatural evil, when I’m just trying to be vague.

But in dealing with this entity, I have a bunch of really complicated feelings. This entity opened up the world for me when I was a young person. It made every bit of information in the world, seemingly, available to me and that felt life-saving in ways that made me feel very loyal to them. And I have friends whose lives have been profoundly changed by this entity’s ability to deliver information to an electronic device you can use even when your hands don’t want to work, allowing you to make the font as big as you need, no matter how shitty your eyesight is.

And, even though people have been complaining about this entity for years, I was mostly in the camp that people who can’t keep up with rapid change are, of course, going to complain about innovators. And even when this entity took on another giant entity this summer, I thought I saw both sides of the situation. I was more sympathetic to the other entity, but I felt like I could see and understand the point of view of the people who sided with this entity.

After nine months on this job, I feel like a total chump.

Everything bad you’ve heard about this entity is just the tip of the iceberg.

I find it really stunning.