Things, Always Things

–This morning, a bicyclist who passed me on Lloyd was singing to himself. Sadly, I couldn’t tell what song he was singing, but it made my heart happy.

–The green with the purple of the baby blanket makes it look like some kind of old-school computer game. I’m almost done. I can’t wait to show you guys a picture.

–One thing I have my eye on in the Ferguson situation is just how many different types of people on social media are showing that picture of the unarmed kid with long hair facing a wall of armed cops with his hands up and saying “Look how the police respond to us in our own streets.” Not just black people, but a lot of white libertarian types (though probably not surprising) and a lot of young people who, I think, perceive themselves to be the same age as the kid in the picture.

It seems to me that one “problem” facing police forces these days is that non-black people of my generation and older, by and large, look at that picture and, even if we think what’s happening in that picture is outrageous, even if we think what happened to that poor dead kid is unacceptable, we think “Oh, how terrible what’s happening to them.”

That “them” sentiment allows cover for a lot of police bullshit. Because it means the people with the actual social power to make the police behave aren’t always paying attention to what the police are doing. Even if, if we were, we’d think it was wrong.

We’re trained to see police tactics as mostly right and mostly in our best interest and, when we become aware of their shortcomings, we see that as a failure in an otherwise working system.

But I just don’t think that’s a majority opinion among people younger than me. There’s been a paradigm shift. In a picture with a young black person facing off against a wall of white cops, young people, it seems, mostly see themselves in the position of the young person, not in the position of the police.

I think, even in my day, a lot more young white people would have identified with the cops.

As terrible as Michael Brown’s death is, I don’t think it will be enough to spur real change in how police forces engage


–Oh, fuck. The Butcher just called and the dog got out of the car on him and now he can’t find him.

Other, Scattered Thoughts

–I don’t blame Ramsey for trying to unseat the Supreme Court Justices. He had to know that the pendulum was somewhere near its far right apex (though exactly where was hard to judge) and so, this was either a moment too late to try for it or the last possible moment ousting them could be done. I think the only misstep he made was throwing his money into it. He should have realized that, if it was going to take hundreds of thousands of dollars to potentially unseat them, he’d missed his moment.

–I’m curious to see how this bodes for the anti-abortion amendment in the fall. I still think, in spite of everything, there’s a good chance it could pass. But Tennesseans pride themselves on being thoughtful, somewhat conservative, moderates. I’m not sure that’s how the group supporting this amendment has presented itself.

–I have longer thoughts on the danger of stripping our country’s traditional folk magic practices of all of the signifiers that make clear that it’s a.) magic and b.) potentially dangerous and repackaging it to sell it back to us as “wellness,” but I can’t quite organize them in my head yet.

–I slept like shit. Kind of a blank, restless sleep. No dreams. Just long nothingness.

A Couple of Things

1. I’ve decided to become a religious demagogue. Please join me in my first public display of religious self-aggrandizement.

2. I think this photo is a fake, but a fake from back in the day. I’ve seen other instances of this where the background image is one plate and then the people are another plate (or plates) and the photographer overlaps the plates to make a composite figure. Clue one, the people don’t seem to quite be sitting in the background the way you’d expect. Clue two, some of those guys repeat.

The Morning is Cool

My walk this morning was glorious. I’m feeling kind of anxious, partially because there’s a lot to do that can’t be done until other people get their part done and then par… oh, god, actually, that’s all my anxiety in life–waiting to see if people are going to do their parts.

I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking about Pink Lizzie and how sad it is that she’s fallen out of fashion.

And I have books to get at the library!

My parents aren’t spending any time down in Georgia. So, I’m wondering what’s going on with them. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

I Never Remember the Lesson

There are some mornings when I feel like I’d really rather be doing anything than going for a walk. And then I get to the hill and the exertion of trying to get up it seems to clear out all my cobwebs.

I want to be writing this Nashville book. But I’ve got to get some reading done first. Which means I have books I need to get from the library. I often stand in my own way.

The yarn from this last batch that I liked least when it was hanging on the hanger is turning out to be my favorite as it’s being worked into squares.


Little Things

–The Butcher listened to All Them Witches. He didn’t get it.

–I love the yarn for the Kool-aid afghan so much. It’s just exactly right.

–The enthusiasm with which the Red-Headed Kid was willing to sniff the square I gave him to see that it did, indeed, still smell like Kool-aid pleased m.

–Patrick’s down in Berry Hill now has the same pork sandwiches he had when he was in the purple house. Knowing that, how am I supposed to sit here and eat my paltry homemade lunch?

–My neighbor has a pop-up camper in his back yard. Ha ha ha. Dude, I would have given you ours for free if you’d asked.

–Toby is such a good barker. I’m going to be sad when the neighbor is done dogsitting.

–Oh, and I wrote this.

Things to Say that Can’t Be Said

A lot is going on here that isn’t really fit for public discussion. Nothing terrible or anything, but just a lot. I think I finally hit a wall at work. It’d just been so busy for so long and I’m having trouble shifting back down into “this is the normal amount of work.” I can’t stop worrying that I’m forgetting something terribly crucial. I need a couple of days off but I don’t think I can squeeze more than one out.

And I’m annoyed at people who I know are trying to be good to me, but I just feel surly and cross.

But the dog and I went for a walk today because the Butcher was asleep when I got up. And after he pooped (all behavior before pooping is squirrelly), he walked right by my side like a dream. When we got back to the yard, I took his leash off and he still never left my side.

My friend is getting married and my cousin is having a baby. I need to get back in a crocheting mood.

Things I’m Thinking About

1. The more I think about this movie, the more I agree about this take. At the very least, the movie should have ended with Superman being devastated by his failing to prevent that magnitude of loss of life. People without any direct connection to 9/11 still are fucked up over it. You’re going to tell me that Superman, who is present for his city’s 9/11, and in fact is involved unwillingly in some of the destruction, isn’t really affected? I just don’t buy it. I’m all for making our Superheros more “real” if it means more human, not if it just means more brutal.

2. Everything here. Exactly. How can you justify not telling people the truth “for their own good,” when the consequences of this “but just lose the weight” attitude have been so devastating. I have long been feeling like a lot of urging to lose weight, by people who know you can’t actually keep the weight off, are asking you to be willing to try to wear a disguise in order to be treated well. And, if you won’t struggle to put on the disguise, then you deserve the abuse I heap on you.

3. “I don’t really care anymore,” she continues. “I stopped reading people’s opinions about my band about two months ago. It’s the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. There was a really good chance that if I kept reading [Internet comments] other people were going to ruin this for me, and I wasn’t gonna let that happen.”–from here.

Up and Away, Kind of

On the one hand, mentally, I’m feeling a whole lot better. But physically, I’ve entered a new, unpleasant place where my eyes are watering continuously, my nose is stuffed up and, every time I sneeze, 147 tons of snot comes out with it. If we could use snot for energy, NES would be writing me a check this month instead of the usual way it goes.

But, in good news, I’ve started the thing, the process, I wanted to start. Keep your fingers crossed for me. And the Butcher made me cupcakes and they were delicious, but lord, that man cannot frost to save his life. I should have taken a picture. But it was like, well, if the frosting and the cupcake ended up in the same general vicinity, that counted as “frosted.”

And the dog was pretty well-behaved at the party, except that he kept throwing himself into the hip of the roller-derby gal who was there. And then he pooped and his behavior massively improved.

We also watched Red Lights which comes so close to being a good movie that I couldn’t help but feel sad for it that it had fallen short.

Nice Things

1. I saw some fonts for Project X. And one is amazing. It’s somehow both very ordinary looking and deliciously unsettling.

2. The maintenance guy here at work had to rescue me a while back because the elevator was broken and I couldn’t get up the stairs by myself. Yesterday, the elevator was also broken and so he was waiting around for me to get here so that he could take me up stairs. How nice is that?


They will Know Cervantes When they Find Him

I don’t really include a lot of descriptions of people in my writing. I trust that the reader can come up with someone who fits into the stories I tell. But, since my eye thing, I’m really fascinated by the ways that bodies end up being a map of your life.

So, you can imagine me mulling over with great interest this article on how they’re going to look for Cervantes and how they think they’ll know when they find him.

Things I’m Thinking About

–The botched execution in Oklahoma last night. The thing I don’t understand is that, in general, it’s very easy to lose your life. Lives slip away while people are sleeping. You’re driving down the road and a car crosses the center line and there you go. You get drunk at the lake and you pitch into the water and you don’t come back up. You pick up a gun you think is unloaded and try to demonstrate that fact to your buddy and, oops, he’s gone. So, why can’t Oklahoma cleanly kill a man? I mean, I’m opposed to the death penalty, simply because we don’t have a good way of keeping innocent people from being killed. But, even if I supported the death penalty, the problem of us not being able to quickly and humanely kill people is still a big one. And not just because we aren’t supposed to cruelly and unusually punish people, but because can you imagine being the people in that room last night? You have to live with that shit for the rest of your life.

Crap at Vanderbilt. I honestly can’t understand what the fuck is going on in this case. But it feels to me like there’s what we know from the prosecution, what’s being insinuated by the defense, and then a third agenda that the defense is kind of hinting at and the prosecution is avoiding. I’d like to know more about that third part. Like, I don’t think that there were more people involved in the rape. But I do wonder how many people who helped cover it up are being deliberately left alone?

Fucking Haslam. You can almost bet that, in any instance, he’ll follow the lead of the person who appears to be the toughest. A million medical professionals, women’s advocates, and people who know there aren’t any rehab beds can all say “Wow, this is a bad idea” but the big tough guys want it so that’s what he’s going for. You can see why, with this dynamic in place, women have fared so well under Haslam, since it’s pretty hard for us to be the baddest badass in any given room. But what’s more embarrassing for Haslam is, Jesus Christ, man, have you not seen how Ramsey plays you using this very dynamic?

Still, it’s interesting. I think Jimmy was obviously the “bad ass” of the two and Bill has always been “the reasonable one,” who doesn’t act rashly and who collects information and who shows that what his brother wants, though it seems ridiculous, actually makes sense, or can be made to work. And here we are, decades into these men’s adult lives, watching them both flounder around trying to or failing to replicate that dynamic.

More Random Things

–I started a new story. Just something to fiddle with. It’s the first thing I’ve written this year that doesn’t already have some place it needs to be.

–I’m waiting to hear back from my beta reader on the story that does have a home. She’s busy so I’m trying not to pester her every 20 minutes, but I totally want to pester her every twenty minutes.

–I have been following this Bryan Singer thing more than necessary. But, regardless of the validity of this guy’s claims, of course there’s something sketchy about powerful Hollywood bigwigs wanting a bunch of 18-20 year olds around them all the time, especially when there’s a level of titillation about just how close to 18 you can pluck them up. That’s not just a desire for youth. It’s a desire to skirt right up to the line of what’s forbidden. And, I’m sorry, but I just do not believe that people who are sitting around calculating the moment you’re 18 and “safe,” when drunk or stoned, aren’t all “Woo, I care not for this line.”

–But it irritates me the amount of places that are like “So? What’s the big deal? This has been going on in Hollywood with young women and old men forever and no one cares.” WTF? Of course people care. Just not, apparently, people anyone listens to. But, yeah, folks speak out against that weirdness all the fucking time.

–I’m really surprised by how much I’m enjoying my new job. I mean, I thought it would be fine, but no, it’s really interesting.

Things I Like

1. Cuddling with the dog.

2. My new job. Yesterday, I was all “All I have to do today are these two spreadsheets” but then I had to solve a problem for the MTSU bookstore and figure out if we had enough books for a big order, which we did, but then we had to reprint and I got to weigh in on how many we should reprint. And so my whole day just filled right up. Today I’m hoping that a book hits the warehouse so I can do all the things I need to do when that happens. And I’m going to try to get a letter out.

3. I started the short story I need to start.

4. When the cats want to come inside, they knock on the window. It never fails to amuse me.

5. I had a dream that I took the orange cat to visit K. at the Blair School of Music and he used the bathroom. Like went into the men’s room and just peed in the toilet. And in my dream, I was all like “Of course, my cat pees in the toilet. He’s civilized.” But in real life I can’t believe dream me wasn’t shocked!

6. Walking right at dawn.

7. This piece from the Scene. It references my Think Progress piece, but is so much better.

8. Why shouldn’t a man who’s friends with men pretending to be rednecks pretend to be a Christian while he’s fucking another man’s wife? The best line:

“I know his beliefs. When he ran one of his commercials, he said ‘I need your prayers,’ and I asked, ‘When did you get religious?’ He said, ‘When I needed votes,'” Heath Peacock told CNN. “He broke out the religious card and he’s about the most non-religious person I know.”


So, my lunchtime experiment of listening to songs in 5/4 was pretty interesting. But actually the video nm posted was more helpful. On my walk this morning, I tried it out–moving like those dancers move–to see if I thought a marching band could be set off to a march in 5/4. It felt plausible to me. There’s a noise a band makes when it’s marching and, if you’ve been in one, you know what I mean–that quiet schup schup schup schup of people taking steps the same size at the same time. And walking in 5/4, in the manner of the dancers, gives you a sound more like schup schup schup schup pip, but it’s a noise you can get used to, a rhythm that’s easy enough to fall into.

Things Afoot

–I think Think Progress is acting up, since my awesome post from yesterday is missing and my post for today has not yet appeared.

–You all know I think Kelis is an underrated genius, right?

–Dave Rawlings Machine tickets go on sale on Friday. But I have no money, so that’s making me sad.

–“The Ghost River section of the Wolf River received its name from the loss of river current as the water ‘flows’ through open marshes and bald cypress-water tupelo swamps.” Words cannot express how much I love this.

How to treat werewolves.

Things to Read

1. I laughed so hard when I came up with this headline and then I couldn’t actually think of anything else to say about it. It just sums the whole problem up.

2. Stonehenge really rocks? I mean, like musically?

3. Rep. Rick Womick pulled a gun out during a meeting at the state capitol. See, this is the thing. He thinks he’s a responsible gun owner. When he’s legislating about where guns go, he is, in fact, thinking, “People like me will be carrying guns,” not realizing how fucking terrifying his behavior is.

On My Plate

I read Diddy Wah Diddy by Corey Mesler this weekend and it was really good. It’s kind of a dreamlike mythologizing of Beale Street. Lots of sex and singing and just rolling around in language like a pig in mud. If you’re a fan of Memphis, you’ll have feelings about this book. You’ll either love it or hate it.

But the thing that I’m lingering over, just from a technical standpoint, is how he nails the ending–which is, of course, as it must be in a book like this, about Elvis. And I think Mesler gets it exactly right–that feeling of Elvis being so excited about what he was hearing, about him stealing it, about people feeling like him stealing it at least meant that it was going to get heard, and about Elvis being too young to know just what his role was.

Let me put it this way. If Diddy Wah Diddy is a mythology in the old sense of the word (and Mesler goes to great lengths to assure you that it is) and Beale Street an Olympus of sorts, then Elvis is an unwitting Prometheus.

But all that is more about plot. I kind of mean something different when I say he nails it. What I mean is that how he handles that plot point technically, as in how he writes it, is satisfying. The ending doesn’t go on too long, but it hits the right sweet and sad notes that the story is over. I haven’t put the book on the shelf yet, because, as a writer–and one who’s not very confident in her endings lately–I want to understand the mechanics of what he’s pulled off. The physics of it.

Speaking of endings. I finished my short story. I’m not quite satisfied with the ending. See above. But I sent it to my beta reader anyway, because, if there’s a flaw with the ending, its roots are going to be earlier in the story. And, earlier in the story, the parts that I am most unsure of are whether it fits the mythology (in the newer sense of the word) that the guys who created this world have made up. So, I need a sense of whether all that is working.

You know I struggled with how to tell that story. It took me a while to settle on the narrator. I probably wrote close to 14,000 words of what is now about an 8,000 word story. All the same scenes and characters just told in different ways until one clicked for me. The most important thing I cut was a whole discussion of my current narrator’s parents, who had her when they were teenagers and are not doing a great job of co-parenting her now.

That is still the case. But other than the clues that they appear to all be living in her grandfather’s house and that he was a hobo until the 80s and that the narrator is clearly older than 13 or 14 and she mentions a step-dad, I cut all that out. It’s just a thing about her, not some central trauma to her life.

Still, I’m pleased with it. Even if I end up tinkering with it a little more.

And I think that means all I have on my plate for my spare time this month is to make an afghan I don’t have enough yarn for yet and to put together something for the Demonbreun Society about Joseph Deraque (Deratte?) I can feel proud of sharing with them. I just have to remember to bring the John Sevier’s story about Joseph meeting the Welsh Indians, even though I think it’s complete bullshit. Still, who doesn’t want to hear a weird, cool complete bullshit story about their ancestor?

Once that’s out of the way, I’m going back to Allendale. I’ve been having some thoughts and I’d just like to get that into a form I feel satisfied with. Maybe we’ll revisit it in October.


I now dare you to try not to think about what a weird word “caboose” is. The OED says it’s a Dutch word, and they make a compelling argument, but that “oose” sound always reminds me of the places my brother’s lived–“Tallapoosa” “Chattanooga” etc.–which are all Indian words.


Various Things That Probably Deserve a Whole Post

1. I was really glad to read this, because, again, it hits on a lot of my concerns. I know ‘honor’ is a loaded term, but I still want a social justice movement that prioritizes acting honorably–not nice, exactly, but not making yourself a weapon and then pretending like being a weapon carries no personal cost. This part, especially–“We must, by all means, judge and use that judgement to decide what needs to be changed and how; we must, then, put our shoulders behind it, stand tall and speak truth to power. But few of us are equipped to punish justly, and too many of us are all too eager to try.”

2. And I miss Lauren being more present on the internet for things like this thoughtful post–“But leaving the online feminist community, and the heaviness of that loss, weighed on me for some years. I guess it’s like grieving a toxic family. Eventually all the positive things you’re getting out of the relationship are over-shadowed by the emotional beat downs every Thanksgiving.” Deciding to do work that sustains you, even when it’s difficult, is something that I wrestle with. I’m glad to have never been a big, important feminist blogger, for that reason. But I wonder, a lot, if the ways I’m spending my time online sustain me. This place does. Twitter kind of does and doesn’t. I’m trimming the list of who I follow, even if it means unfollowing people whose work I really admire, just because I can’t have a stream of constant outrage running that close to me. Even though I believe the correct response to the world is a stream of constant outrage. I just can’t be open to it and be healthy. Which, yeah, raises questions about other online work. I don’t know. I’m not making decisions yet.

3. I really love these portraits of Polish witches.

4. You should read this about the name of Washington’s team.

5. And then this about why the Republicans involved matter.

Just Talking to Talk

I remain nervous, though not as stressed. I’ve got to find a little money to pull together for the Proto Pulp show, though I guess it can wait a few weeks. I have to bring my own tent. I don’t have a tent. But that’ll work out, too, I suppose.

The baby blanket I’m working on is coming together slowly.

The Butcher found a xbox version of Civilization, so I have to play that in my off-time until I have burnt myself out on it. It’s just the way it is.

I’m just fried. I’d like to sleep for a million years, now that my dreams are not so upsetting.

The World Keeps Turning

–I’d hoped to get a new computer this month, but the car and the plumbing killed that dream. And now my “r” isn’t quit working. Oh, wait, now it is working again. I shall take to complaining about everything on the internet!

I wrote a thing I like for Pith.

–I got to talk to the Professor last night. One thing about friends that’s hard to articulate is now nice it is to know that you can say all your worst things to them, articulate all your biggest doubts and ways you just can’t be the kind of person you wish you were, and to know that they will judge you fairly and tell you when you do need to pull your shit together and when you need to cut yourself some slack.

–Last night I dreamed that I was at a Gillian Welch concert and all these old country stars kept joining her onstage to sing hymns they didn’t know. In some cases, it seemed like they’d just forgotten portions of the hymns, but in other cases, it seems like they weren’t at all familiar with them but were just trying to fake it.

–After our last hilarious toilet paper disaster–in which the Butcher bought a huge thing of toilet paper, but each roll seemed to only have like ten sheets on it–he has gone the extreme other direction. The rolls are so big they barely fit on our holder. You can put one on, but you can’t then get any toilet paper off it, because it can’t spin. I laughed so hard last night, trying to imagine what actual use these rolls would be. I guess only for papering particularly tall trees.

–My level of stress has decreased considerably. But I still have days to wait before the situation is settled and then decisions to make based on how it gets settled.

Many Things

I didn’t have my pre-Christmas bout of the blues, but I think I’m having them now, just over lunch. Am I doing the right thing? I don’t know. About anything. I just don’t know.

I’ve got to get to the TSLA and get that off my plate.

We got the dog one of those nose leads. He hates it, but it cures every problem I have walking him, so we’re sticking with it. He’s such a sweetheart. The cats still hate him, though. A couple of the Butcher’s friends came over with their kid. She’s gone from speaking on or two words that only her parents can really understand to speaking whole clear sentences overnight it seems. And she told the new kitty, “You can jump into my arms and I’ll catch you.” The new kitty didn’t believe her, but I was impressed.

My mom and I went Christmas shopping for my dad. One of the things I hate about Christmas is that my dad won’t tell anyone what he wants and then he acts all hurt–and I think is genuinely hurt–when he doesn’t get anything he wants. So, at Christmas, my mom had a million presents to open and the rest of us had like one or two. And it hurt my dad’s feelings that she didn’t have a million presents for him. Which I felt bad about, but, really, it’s his own damn fault for not telling anyone what he might like.

He also repeatedly tried to talk me into writing “real” stories about “real” things. And I laughed him off, because it’s ridiculous. But everyone wants to be the boss of everyone. Never doubt that.

Anyway, my mom. We’re shopping for my dad and she’s talking about how people have run him down to her before and how she hates that and has decided those people have small, boring lives. “I get to have Brent Phillips,” she said. “My life is never dull.”

My reader finished up this draft of Ben & Sue and I think she has figured out what’s not working with the last 1/4. I’m really excited. It’s like, duh, finally, I feel like I have some idea of what to do to make it work for me.

Big changes are afoot, things I don’t feel comfortable talking about here. But I’m trying to handle them gracefully. I’m just scared. I have to make some decisions. And other people have to make some decisions. And I have to hope our decisions all line up.