I’ve been around at the other place long enough now that people, finally, hunt me down to tell me things they think I should think about. Like my opinion matters. Or carries any weight. It’s weird, considering how futile it feels to try to get people to change their minds.
I don’t know. Mostly I just think it’s weird. Like, why now, after all this time, am I worth hunting down?
Maybe it’s just the problem with the media pool shrinking. Everyone still in the water stands out.
My Andrew Jackson thing is not coming together how I’d like.
But I wrote about hostage-taking for Pith. I fully expect, since Ramsey appears to be saying that he’s holding out on medicaid expansion because fuck hospitals, this will become a bigger story. It’s fucking evil. Genuine political disagreements I get. Holding hostages because your feelings are hurt? We’re a state, not the fucking mob.
I wrote a piece about Joe Carr.. You can tell I was thinking hard yesterday about conspiracy theories and how they work.
And in the actual paper, not on the blog, I wrote a story about Nashville’s first real Thanksgiving and what took us so long to get around to it.
And J.R. Lind’s story about spiced round has convinced me to serve it this Christmas to my family. Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha. I am trying to learn how one serves it, but that hardly matters. When reviving a dying tradition, ruin it! That’s what I always say. (Note: that is not what I always say. Obviously, what I always say is “When reviving a dying tradition, add the Devil and some fool who fucks him.” But that’s not how I want to spend Christmas with my family.)
In an unintended, but now hilarious to me, coincidence, my story, “Beyond, Behind, Below“–about what happens when you fuck with a dude’s ancient wreck of a cabin–is out the same day I argue we should tear down the United Methodist Publishing House building and not feel bad about it for even a second.
Anyway, check out the whole issue of Betwixt. There’s some really great stuff in there.
And then feel free to come back and tell me if you like the story.
I wrote about some of the nebulous hand-wringing I’ve seen when people are trying to figure out how the Vanderbilt football player rape could have happened.
I’m really disturbed to see that even Vanderbilt’s dean of students seems to believe in the accidental rapist. And fuck, even if you do believe in the existence of the accidental rapist, surely we can all agree that the accidental rapist doesn’t bring home a passed-out girl, stage a break-in, cover up the moving of her unconscious body, and let his friends take turns with her while he makes souvenir footage. None of that is a mistake. In fact, it shows repeated intention.
Like Sarcastro said on Twitter, the staging of the break-in and the covering of the camera indicate the kind of planning based on previous trial-and-error. I would bet at least one of these guys has previous victims.
Anyway, also be sure to check out the first comment, which may be the stupidest comment I’ve ever gotten at Pith. Which is a remarkable achievement.
I wrote this thing for Pith about the potential dead people under the proposed site of the new baseball stadium.
Allow me to say this–if my complaining about how thoroughly “religion” equals “Christian” at The Tennessean the two or three times I’ve brought it up on Pith are “countless complaints” then there’s no wonder why they think they’re writing a lot of stories about non-Christian religions.
Also, I’m delighted by “the likes of Betsy Phillips.” Like I have some reputation. And not a good one.
It’s not just that it’s obviously a lie that having sex with eight people makes you like a cup everyone in a classroom has spit in that angers me. It’s that, at this point, not a single sex-educator in this land can pretend like he or she doesn’t know how terrible this rhetoric is for victims of sexual abuse, because Elizabeth Smart has said so. So, as of right now, even if they weren’t smart enough to get that before, they now know. Which means that, when they spout this shit, it’s literally more important to scare kids out of having sex than it is to have compassion for abuse victims.
Never mind how gross I find it that a woman who is in charge of a place that convinces girls to give up their babies for adoption gets a platform in public schools to convince girls to give their babies up for adoption and no one seems bothered by her vested interest. Of course these women are opposed to abortion and birth control. They need desperate pregnant girls to supply babies for them.
It’s in their best interest for teenage girls to have no knowledge about how to keep from getting pregnant and no option but to carry the pregnancy to term if they become pregnant, because they want those babies.
And they still get framed as the good guys.
The most disturbing thing, to me, about the worst of the Pith commenters is not what they say, which I am pretty much weened off of reading. It’s when people who like me read something and contact me, alarmed by what they’re reading. I’m never quite sure what to say to them. I really, genuinely appreciate their concern. I also genuinely feel sure that anything they do is as effective as spitting into the wind and could lead to needless trouble for them.
But I did laugh at this idea that I’m supposed to be insulted or hurt at being called fat and ugly. Yes, folks, I am. Been fat and ugly my whole life. Even when I wasn’t objectively fat or objectively ugly, there was always some asshole who was happy to tell me that I was fat and ugly. If fat and ugly is supposed to keep you out of the public square, I would have had to stay in my house and never leave starting about five.
I guess it’s supposed to be different, now that I’m grown, and I am actually fat and ugly. Except that now I’m fat and ugly and old, which means that I’ve been around long enough that I know fat and ugly is bullshit, a standard that has no meaning, except that the person trying to hold me to it hates me.
And I’m not sure at all why I’m supposed to care that someone I don’t know hates me.
A depressing Pith post for you about what it would take to train teachers to protect against school shootings.
“You managed to ignore the point like it’s your superpower. I’m pretty sure when MLK talked about not seeing color he didn’t mean for everything to be white.”–W. takes a Pith commenter to the woodshed.
Mrs. W. was kind of limping last night, so when she went to bed before I did, I didn’t make her get up and go to the bathroom before I went to bed. Which meant that she had to go to the bathroom at four this morning. Which also included all her nightly lollygagging. So, when my alarm went off at 6:15, I admit, I decided, “fuck it, I’m going to sleep in” instead of getting up to walk with her.
Which means I’m going to be grouchy all day and that there’s a good chance she will poop in the house, since she’ll be all off schedule. Plus, since she didn’t walk and stretch that knee out a little, it’s going to be stiff on her all day.
So, you know, not a victory of any sorts.
I also wrote a story this weekend which I hate. The weird thing is that I don’t hate it because it’s bad. I think it might actually be fine. I hate it because I find it so fucking unsettling. And I can’t really put my finger on where the unsettlement comes from. I mean, you might read it and like it or hate it just fine, you know? It might not be universally unsettling, just unsettling to me.
But it’s making revisions or even thinking about revisions impossible because I want to rush through reading it, just to get it over with. It’s like I read it the same way you rush past the creepy house on the way home from school.
I think it’s in part the protagonist. On the one hand, the story is about identifying with him and his grief pretty completely and compellingly. And then a thing is done–a sensible thing given the circumstances–and he takes devastating revenge and I deeply dislike it. I guess because I deeply dislike circumstances in which there either is no right thing to do or where the thing that looks like the right thing still costs.
And I wrote this post at Pith, which may be the most bitter thing I have ever written.
And here’s Jewly Hight’s take on the Patsy Cline exhibit. I notice she also fixates on the salt and pepper shakers. But it is because they are the means by which you can suddenly imagine Patsy Cline is your grandma or a gal you know.
Ugh, yesterday was a terrible migraine day. Today the pain is gone, but I’m feeling all sluggish and unclear. But I was busy writing this for Pith.
And I’m happy to report that East Side Story needs more copies of A City of Ghosts and that the Butcher agree with me that last night’s episode of True Blood was terrible and just a retread of last week.
You know that moment when you’re in a meeting or at some kind of public function where the dudes all get sucked into a dick measuring contest? You know what I mean? Some middle or lower status guy will say something kind of insightful and interesting–”I think we should all move into the shade, where it will be cooler.”–and for some reason that triggers not a compliance with his action, but a huge hullabaloo where all the guys who are higher in status than him or want to be higher in status than him have to go on for twenty minutes about how either it’s stupid to move into the shade and here are the eighteen reasons why, which suggester would have known if he’d only been as awesome as dude now speaking, or how they had the idea to move into the shade five hours ago, when, in fact, the shade was over here, because they’re just that cool. Everyone measures their dicks, rearranges social status based on dick size, and eventually they either move into the shade or the meeting mercifully ends.
If you don’t have a dick to wave, this aspect of male socialization is either hilarious or frustrating, depending on how much of the meeting time it’s eating into or how much you wish you’d brought a huge, but otherwise lifelike dildo to slam on the table in order to be permitted to talk and to get your idea in the mix.
My whole life, up until yesterday, I have always been one of the people without a metaphorical dick to swing.
But I woke up, bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night, after pondering how even my post on Timothy Demonbreun could have descended into “you’re not doing it right” in the comments (which, yes, I am failing to not read), realizing that posting at Pith is invoking a dick measuring dynamic for some folks. Since I’m not shutting up and deferring to their superior knowledge (which would be impossible, since I’m the poster. I literally couldn’t bring that dynamic into play unless I didn’t post but somehow made it apparent that I wasn’t posting because what they had to say was more important.), I’m not signaling “proper female.” And so I provoke the dick measuring.
The thing is that I always tend to tune out the dick measuring in real life, since I can’t participate in it. So, I don’t know if I won. I think I did. I mean, when someone is reduced to “what you’re saying is right, it’s just that I don’t like your tone” that’s winning, right?
Do I burp loudly now or what? Is there a prize?
Yes, I know, the true prize would be the piece of mind that comes from not reading the comments. I am trying to break myself.
I’m in the grouchy stage of not-writing. Ha ha ha. I know. What’s different? But I’d like to have some good chunks of writing time to start really getting into the book and I just don’t have it. And it’s making me grouchy.
The weather has a cool edge to it this morning, which is disconcerting. It’s almost like fall is in the air, though I suppose it’s probably just the spring that has been muted under our early summer.
Goofus continues not to leaf. It also continues to have buds that seem to have green on them. I just don’t fucking know.
I wrote a post for Pith the comments under which have already grown so stupid that I’m not going to read any more of them. Once you see someone being all “I’m going to insist you’re saying all this stuff that’s the opposite of what you’re saying, just so that I can argue with a position I’m more comfortable opposing,” all hope is lost. At least for me.
I mean, seriously, if saying that pictures accompanying stories about obesity should reflect the bodies of the people you’re actually talking about and show faces, like how real people are photographed, means I’m saying they shouldn’t run photos… well, then, what’s there to argue?
I got into it a little in that post, but I think there’s a reason they don’t show obese people, but always show the asses of morbidly obese people. It’s not just what I said there but it’s also that “fat” is both a physical characteristic and a moral judgement.
I’m obese. Like the death fats. And I have people telling me, still, all the time that I’m not really fat. And I’m never quite sure how they mean that. That I’m fat but I’m not really fat, like those huge people? Or that I’m fat, but I’m not gross like those fat people who don’t dress well or don’t bathe very often or what? Or weirder (and I do sometimes get this impression) that I am literally not fat, no matter what my actual body looks like, because to be fat is to be gross and they don’t find me gross.
I get bullshit for being fat. I have heard enough that no one will ever love me because I’m fat to last a lifetime.
But it’s weirder that I have a kind of thin privilege, too, not because I’m not fat, but because I don’t read as poor or uneducated or dirty or a minority. It’s like if we’re standing at the intersection of weight, gender, race, and class, because I’m an educated white woman who meets some basic level of conventionally not ugly, I can sometimes use the “not fat” road, even though I actually am. Yes, I often get kicked off it, but as often as I get kicked off it, I get people trying to pull me back onto it.
Believe me, I don’t want people running around calling me Fatty-Boombalatty or anything, and so it’s not like, if you say, “Oh, but you’re not really fat” that I’m going to put you under my boob and smother you with it or something. I’m happy to hide in plain sight, even if that makes me a coward.
But it’s creepy to not be seen for who you really are.
And it’s especially creepy when it shows you that “fat” in our society is more a judgment of a person’s worth than a neutral descriptor of the type of body they have.
That, especially, is why I think you don’t see an average obese person’s photo next to stories about the obesity epidemic. They need to show you a person “everyone” agrees is disgusting in order to motivate you to see the obesity epidemic as a problem. Seeing what obesity actually looks like for most people–in other words, a neutral photo of the actual issue under discussion–would not kick up the same levels of revulsion. Hell, I even think showing a morbidly obese person–her whole body and face–wouldn’t do it.
Those photos are designed to make it as easy as possible for you to make a moral judgment about the value of that person. If they give you other cues–that she’s conventionally not ugly, that she’s well-groomed, that she’s got a lively sparkle in her eye, that she’s confident–you won’t shove her down the “something to be ashamed of and hidden” road.
(I don’t have all morning so I’m glossing over the whole issue of using a woman’s fat ass, usually clad in affordable clothing, to illustrate a problem that has leveled off among poor and middle class women, but is rising in rich men, but it’s there.)
All my exciting stuff is over at SouthComm.
1. I advise Tennessee’s public school students to supplement their own educations, because… whoa doggie…
2. My interview with Sara Harvey is up. They edited the part where I said that you need to use self-promotion to promote yourself. I assume because the awesomeness of that phrase, the almost holy koan-like nature of its wisdom was lost on them. It’s going to be hard for me to get people to see the Red-Headed kid as a prophet at this rate. Anyway, I think it turned out well.
Yesterday was the second day in a row I walked out of the house without important things that I needed. But I think that my meeting with local author Sara Harvey went better because I had to be all “Um, and then I was going to ask you something about… um… something” which left her a lot of room to tell me things I would have never known to ask about. We met at Crema, which is right in the shadow of Ed Baxter’s house, which I felt was a sign of good fortune.
Anyway, she was awesome and I muddled through my questions and then we got to talking about Nashville and life in general and I’ll have something up at Country Life about it soon enough. I really love listening to writers talk about their writing.
Then, hopped up on coffee, I came home and wrote up this big thing about ebooks.
And I talked to my ridiculous uncle who is all hurt and pissed off that his son and his son’s family didn’t come over for Easter. This is honestly the most difficult part of a difficult family for me to navigate. At any given moment, some Phillips has done something that makes it completely reasonable for some other Phillips to be like “fuck you, buddy.” Whatever is going on between my uncle and my cousin, I am completely sure that my uncle is at fault.
And yet, listening to him being so angry and heartbroken on the phone? Ugh, people, it was all I could do to not call my cousin up and be all “Why can’t you be nicer to your dad?”
Yes! I know! Me, who knows a million times better than that nonsense. I still wanted, more than anything, for Uncle B to not have to suffer, even if it means my cousin has to suck it up and suffer some. Or a lot.
Even though, I can tell you that, without a doubt, my cousin probably has good reasons. I don’t even need to know them and I can still state with utter confidence that my uncle is in the wrong here.
This is the part of an abusive family dynamic that really has its hooks in me. I get that you should not treat me bad. I get that I should not tolerate it. But boy oh boy do I want you to tolerate it. You know, just for the sake of the family, because that’s just how your dad is, because he’s really upset.
My god. You see what I mean? The only reason I am not an enabler is that I am too lazy to immediately bug someone which gives the humane part of me time to talk the asshole part of me out of it.
But that asshole part of me is deeply embedded and well-trained. And I guess I hadn’t really realized the extent to which that was there. But I noticed it because, in part, my dad had this weird fight with the Butcher over Easter in which my dad was all hurt that my brother was yelling at him and blaming him for everything that was wrong in his life, which I thought was weird, because I thought they were mowing the lawn. It’s not that easy to have a fight in which you yell at your dad and blame him for everything that is wrong in your life while one of you is on a loud riding mower, you know? Let alone when there’s nothing wrong with your life. I mean, the Butcher’s got it pretty good and he’s pretty damn happy.
But I felt bad because my dad was upset so I went to talk to the Butcher (Yes, I know! I know) to see if I could smooth things over and the Butcher had no idea what I was talking about. None. He, apparently, thought they were mowing the lawn, not having some referendum on my dad’s parenting.
And I apologized for sticking my nose into it and let it drop. Because I guess the asshole part of me is happy to say “your dad did something wrong, but you should make things right with him” if I’m sure your dad did something wrong, but it is a bridge too far for me to help your dad blow up some off-handed comment into Hurt Feelings: The War.
What I need to learn is to step on the impulse to get in there and fix things the second I feel it.
This is absolutely one of my favorite songs sung in the shape note fashion. But I think it’s because it almost sounds like calliope music. If you’re not familiar with shape note singing, what you’re going to hear at first is them going through the song singing the names of the notes–Doe, Ray, Me, Fah, So, La, Tee, Doe–as they get the tune worked out. It sounds like there’s four parts–the women, the lead singer, and then maybe a couple of basses and a tenor. Then they’ll start to sing the words.
It’s a really incredible example of shape-note singing, but what I really enjoy about it is the way the melody flits between the lead singer and the women, with the other men sometimes reaching in to further it along.
I think because it sounds so strange to our ears, shape-note singing is often described as primitive, but honestly, if you just listen to everything that’s going on in that song–which, yes, sounds strange–that’s a sophisticated arrangement.
Anyway, I like it. It’s such a catchy tune, too, that I was hoping to hear what different gospel singers had done with it. But I can’t find any other version of it but this one on YouTube. Maybe it has another name?