You guys, I had a panic attack so bad today I thought I would die. I can’t shake it. I got home okay, but only because a stranger helped me. I don’t even know how to talk about it.
It’s not just the panic attack, out of nowhere on an otherwise lovely day. It’s the way I feel like, for my own safety and the safety of other people, I have to stop doing things I enjoy.
It makes me so sad.
I watched The Veil last night on Netflix and it’s kind of terrible, but terrible in a way I really enjoy. Like, you go the whole movie not quite sure if it’s working, some not-good-storytelling stuff happens, and then some really fine story-telling stuff happens and you think, man, if they stick the ending, this movie is going to be amazing.
But, if you paused the movie, say to go to the bathroom right when you had that thought, while you were peeing, you might ponder “What would a stuck ending look like?” And when you realize you can’t come up with one that quite satisfies you, you realize it’s not a good enough movie for the movie makers to have come up with one either.
And, ultimately, than ends up being true.
So, I guess, spoiler alert from here on out.
The movie is basically Jim Morrison/Jim Jones meets The Wicker Man. Except The Veil starts from a position of disgusting you with its occultists and then moves you into a position of kind of sympathizing with them. Except… except I’m not sure everyone working on the movie got that. So, the ending trades a lot on the occultists really being evil instead of just really zealous. And that’s a shame. I think a more unsettling ending would have been if it had just stuck with more ambiguity.
Like maybe if the occultists did everything they did but, instead of killing the daughter of the FBI agent, they let her in on their immortality (and the fact that they killed all her friends to achieve this form of it), she’s then left to know the truth but not be able to do anything about it, because who would believe her?
Then her guilt would parallel her father’s–he came to the cult and it resulted in everyone’s deaths. She came to the compound and it resulted in everyone’s deaths.
I would have liked to have seen them restart their cult.
Killing her just seemed like a kind of weird cop-out and not nearly as horrifying as the revelation of why the occultists died.
Thomas Jane played the head occultist and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, he wrote most of his own lines, to make the character an occultist, not a fundamentalist preacher. Perhaps they should have also given him a go at writing the ending.
But, y’all, he is fantastic. Every time he’s on screen, you wish you were watching just the movie about him. His character, I thought, was a perfect mixture of creepy and really compelling. I mean, watching him on screen, I realized I would be very susceptible to a cult with a guy like that trying to do the things he was trying to do–especially if he was having the kinds of success he was having–at the head.
Which was interesting because I’ve never really understood how people get caught up in cults. I mean, I understand it intellectually, but I haven’t before had the understanding that comes from “Oh, yes, I see how I could get caught up in this.”
Anyway, I think it’s a not-great movie, but it’s totally worth watching for being partially great and Thomas Jane’s character being a revelation.
As you guys know, I am deeply in love with The Black Tapes podcast and its close cousin, Tanis. This week on TBT, Strand, the grouchy, brilliant skeptic whose whole purpose in life, it seems, is to poop on all of the supernatural fun of the show (but who keeps the mysterious, unexplained black tapes in the first place), has returned from some kind of manly breakdown, a scruffy mess in need of help from Alex, our plucky protagonist, in the search for his wife.
He begs her. “Please.”
He says that word, “Please,” in such a way that I’m swooning a little, like some Victorian in a too-tight corset, just thinking about it.
So, a lot of people, people who enjoy TBT, give it some shit for the not-stellar voice acting. I disagree in that I think it’s a deliberate style choice, which either does it for you or doesn’t. I don’t think it’s poor acting. I have lots of reasons for this belief and I’m right.
But my main reason is that there is something going on between Strand and Alex. Well, no, it’s over, whatever there was. That’s obvious both in the text of the show (in that he hangs up on her and then vanishes) and in the way he says that “please,” the way you beg an ex-lover for something, the way you use that quiet voice, that desperate voice, the one that says “Remember how vulnerable we were in private? I am that vulnerable now and I need you.”
But there was something going on between them. I think it started when they went on a trip together and we heard it in the way he asked her if she was going to leave the recorder running. And we’ve heard it in the way she calls him “Richard” when she’s annoyed with him, like she can’t believe their physical intimacy didn’t buy her a level of trust with him or make him take her more seriously.
i don’t think there’s anything in the context of the show–no words spoken–that confirms the affair. I’ve listened to the whole thing twice now.
The affair, to the extent it does or doesn’t exist, is a story being told in the ways those actors say ordinary words in what passes for mundane conversations.
That’s a remarkable piece of artistry.
- I see people already saying that they’re not going to read the issue of Apex I’m in because of their distaste for one of the other authors. So, that sucks for me.
- I have pieced together my first big square in the Grateful Dead afghan to see how it looks, so that I feel motivated to continue to make so many little squares. It’s awesome.
- I think you could probably tell something about how my writing is going by how my crocheting is going, but I did have a breakthrough on the Napier piece and I think I have a good draft.
- I’d like to have a great draft, but I can’t get the person who could give me access to the Napier papers to call or email me back.
- I have a fear, which I hope is unjustified, but I don’t know, that the reason this person isn’t letting me see the Napier papers is because she can’t find them. I’m going to continue to believe that, even if that’s true, they’re still there, just lost and not gone lost.
- I guess the thing about 1. that makes me feel most icky is that I think it’s absolutely right that, if you don’t like someone because of their atrocious behavior, you’re not obligated to read their stories or support their art or to support the places that would give them an outlet. I think the readers are doing the right thing. I also think that I don’t want editors making decisions about stories based on authors’ reputations. I want them to publish the stories they like (though, obviously, personal feelings do shape what we like), regardless of who writes them, because I don’t want editors to turn into the police of whether we all have the right kinds of politics. So, I guess that what’s happening is exactly right. But man, you know, I didn’t get to choose what issue my story was going in. I didn’t have any say in who else was going to be in the issue. And I worked really hard on that story. I want it to rise or fall based on whether people like the story, whether I have succeeded or failed. And that’s not going to happen and it bums me out.
I’m really struggling with this Napier piece, in part because I hadn’t really realized before I got started how much of J.C. Napier’s personal philosophy was driven by the whole “it’s not race, it’s class” with an underlying “so, let me be upper class with you, ritzy white people, so that I can rightfully be better than low class whites and blacks.”
It’s also, though, still obvious that Napier did a lot of good and important things for the city and the nation.
I’m just having a hard time balancing my personal distaste for the family’s snobbiness with my belief that the city should know and remember them in the same way we know the Brileys and other political families.
My story comes out in print on the 16th, but you can listen to it right now! I think it’s a good one, but I’m anxious to hear if you like it.
As I’ve been thinking about Elias Napier, I’ve had a really hard time with the fact that he kept his grandchildren enslaved. I don’t know why, out of everything I’ve read, that’s just the place I can’t get to, but that’s the place I can’t get to. Your own grandchildren.
I thought a lot about that this weekend.
I think one of the things that makes it hard to understand slavery is that we start from a position of slavery being evil and then the humps we have to overcome are things like “How could these people who I love do this evil thing?” and then we get stuck with these untrue but heartfelt beliefs that it wasn’t really that bad or that our slave-owning ancestors were the good ones or that they just didn’t know better. And all of those things are, sadly, demonstrably untrue.
Here’s the truth, though: slavery was awesome for the enslavers. That’s why it persisted, even flourished. That’s why men who didn’t own slaves fought for the right to own slaves.
Once we admit that owning people was awesome, we can start being honest about all the corrupting ways it was. All the labor around the house you didn’t have to do. All the labor on the farm you didn’t have to do. All the “sex” (what we would call rape) you could have or watch others having.
I mean, just think about all the darker impulses we have. Say you have a fourteen year old at your house who refuses to do the dishes. You may feel an impulse to beat the shit out of her, but you do not, because it’s wrong. But let’s be honest, in the moment, it would feel good to smack her around. Later, yes, you might feel terrible. But in the moment?
Now think of all the people who watch sports and, when the athletes express displeasure, complain because “They knew what they were getting into” or “look at how much money they make” as if there’s some level of recompense that makes watching someone’s bodily destruction your right.
Is the pleasure of the slaver really that foreign to us?
Your enslaved child will never grow up and move away. No matter how old he or she gets, they have to follow your guidance. Your enslaved grandchildren can never be too busy for you. Your enslaved family has to love you (or fake it so well you can ignore that it’s fake) in ways your free family doesn’t.
We’re supposed to understand Elias as generous or good for freeing his family at his death, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the value they had for him was so private, so personal, that he could not believe they retained that value after his death. Setting them free in a way kept them his and his alone. No one else could have them like he did.
I am LOVING this. I hope it comes together as well as it looks right now.
- It smells so bad outside, but the dog and I went for our walk anyway and at the far end of our walk was a young dead skunk who’d been hit by a car. I have nothing against skunks, so it was a little bit of a bummer to see one dead. But I was super impressed with the radius of stink left in its wake.
- It looks like I’m writing a piece about the Napiers for the Scene for Black History Month. The black Nashville Napiers are descended from a white guy who was one of many Napiers who owned a furnace and was in the metal smelting business. He never married–the white guy. As far as the census shows, he was usually the only white guy even living on his plantation. Sometimes there was a young white guy, too, possibly a nephew, I’d guess. But otherwise, just him, like a king surrounded by serfs all tied to him and his land.
- So, Napier was, on the surface, a bachelor. Montgomery Bell was, too, I think. He came to mind because of the furnace connection. And Isaac Franklin nearly was. Nowadays, if someone’s a bachelor, the possibility that he’s gay suggests itself. But in those days, it seems like a lot of gay guys just went ahead and got married. Marrying for love wasn’t the only reason people got married. You didn’t have to like your spouse. Family pressure and all that. Getting married was the easiest path. So, I feel like staying single was some other marker back then. It meant something else, but I’m not sure what. Other than that you probably were fucking your slaves. But you could do that and be married.
The main problem with ever writing a comprehensive (or hell just an adequate) history of early Nashville is that there’s so much information you need that you don’t know you need until you stumble across it.
Like, for instance, we know that De Charleville was an earlier French fur trapper and that Demonbreun kind of inherited his spot. But scholars of fur trading and Native American history know that De Charleville was embedded in with the Shawnee.
So…the Shawnee had to have some settlement here.
(Speaking of settlements, as I was looking at the Brown narrative more closely, I noticed that he said that when he was kidnapped, Running Water Town had only existed for two years–that’s why the cane was still so thick in the area. Running Water Town is considered a major and important Chickamauga village. If Brown’s right, considering that he was captured in 1788 and then guided the Nickajack expedition that wiped Running Water Town off the face of the planet in 1794, that town existed for less than a decade. But no one questions whether Running Water Town was a permanent settlement. So, is it just that we don’t know the names of what camps might have been here? Is that why we don’t count them? What would have made a camp less permanent than Running Water Town? During the winter, folks moved out of Running Water Town and lived in Crow Town. I guess I just don’t understand how we’re differentiating between a camp and a town. A camp would seem less permanent but we know people returned to the same camps year after year. So… I don’t know. I still suspect this is a smoke screen behind which we claim no Native Americans lived here.)
Or take the fact that Ramsey (who provides the framework for Brown’s account) says that Brown’s mom was freed with help from the Durant woman whose husband was a French trader, who helped Brown’s mom get in McGillivray, the head Creek dude.
I had been thinking that this must be Elizabeth Durard (nee either Bennett or Hensley) because who the fuck else could it be?
Oh, well, again, historians of the fur trade and Native American life know this. It’s Sophia Durant–McGilliray’s sister. Her husband was a French trader–some say from South Carolina, but the kinds of financial settlements he got from the U.S. government show that he was 1/2 Creek, so, not an Irishman who came in through Charleston.
But let that sink in. There were French fur traders embedded with the Creek.
Some sources do say that Joseph Durard was a “half-breed.” I had discounted them. I’m now moving that back into “hmm” territory. I still think it’s much more likely that Joseph Durard is Joseph Deraque, who was in Indiana with Demonbreun. But I can’t discount the fact that Joseph was able to easily travel through Creek territory with Richard Finnelson. Did he have family there?
I wrote about fur trading over at Pith. I might write some more about that Brown kid this evening. We’ll see.
I knew what was coming. I still cried when we got there. Simply amazing.
So, I found my septic tank. It was the one grassy spot in an otherwise snow-covered landscape. This morning, the dog and I tried to go for a walk (we’ve been desperate), but it was not really possible, due to the snow and the brittle layer of crunchier snow atop it. Every step was like, “I’m on top of the snow! Crunch. I’ve sunk to my shins in the snow!”
But I also noticed that the snow around the shed was already melted as was a line from the shed to the driveway. So, now I’m wondering if the plumbing in the shed is still hooked up. Neither the Butcher nor I ever remember trying the sink in the shed to see if it still works. We just assumed it was hooked up to the old well and would not.
My next afghan is for a friend who likes going to concerts and being a hippie and shit. Well, and shitting. I mean, not shit. Let’s not talk about shit. She like’s stuff that has to do with The Grateful Dead. So, I thought I’d make her an afghan that reminded me of the Grateful Dead. We shall see how it goes. It’s still Lion Brand Amazing Yarn, in the Strawberry Fields, Arcadia, and Wildflowers colorways. I’m hoping this square, which contains a swirl, will have a kind of organic, quasi-tie-dyed feel.
Here’s what a “square” looks like:
And the they’re supposed to be fit together, four small “squares” into a larger more square “square.”
I have my doubts, but we shall see. Also, please ignore all the dog hair. It’s been a long, strange weekend. Sometimes the light’s all shining on me. Other times I can barely see, you know, for all the dog hair.
I’m a sucker for the conceit of the person trapped alone for such a long period of time that they start to go mad. One of the things I love, too, about that conceit is when it’s really only been like four hours. Ha ha, four hours. How bad can it be?
I sent the Butcher up to his girlfriend’s before the storm, figuring he would have more fun being trapped with her and I would use my time to read and write, which are my fun things.
I have done no reading or writing. Today I woke up with no sense of what time it was or what day it might be. I had a dream a bunch of Nazis had taken over a shopping mall/airport I was at (as a part of some larger invasion) and here we were at the end of the siege where they were finally getting around to killing the people who had been compliant the whole time. I was among them. I kept finding open doors and leaving the mall, but for reasons I can’t explain, I kept going back into the mall to see if it really was as bad as I remembered it being. It always was. I couldn’t find any of the people I had come with. I didn’t know if that meant they’d been killed already or if my dalliances at escaping were why I’d lost track of them.
I woke up feeling unsettled, like something true about myself that I don’t want to know had bubbled to the surface.
I’m still snowed in. It’s only been a day.
I’ve had a very nice week, except that I had to miss burrito Thursday due to an ill-timed meeting. I’m only twenty squares away from being done with this afghan. I think it’ll be nice. I can’t decide how I feel about the smaller squares, though. I’ll have to see it all put together, I think.
So, as you know, because you read Tiny Cat Pants, obviously, this weekend, I went and found Shackle Island. “Found” in the sense of “I didn’t know where it was and now I do” not in “this treasure had been lost and Betsy recovered it.” I wrote about my investigation for Pith. The editor of the Scene wrote to tell me that it had 75,000 readers from Facebook alone.
I don’t know how many people look at Pith a day without coming through Facebook, but I do know that a bunch of people also shared it on Twitter.
I don’t really know how to feel about this. I mean, I feel good about it, obviously. But the kind of writer I aspire to be is a fiction writer. I want to make up and write awesome stories that people love. That, for me, is what success looks like–people regard me as someone who makes up stories they love.
But I don’t want to be a dumbass who is looking for success in one corner and doesn’t see it sitting in plain sight in the other. After all, nothing fictional I write is going to ever have 75,000 readers, most likely.
So, realistically, I should feel like this week is some great milestone in my writing career, some pinnacle I may never achieve again. But I don’t. I feel like today is Wednesday. I feel a little proud. I wonder if I should write more history stuff for Pith. But I don’t feel like today is unique in some way.
It’s nice, though, don’t get me wrong. And I don’t want to take it for granted.
But I also am going to laugh a little because, Shackle Island, really? That’s what the world was waiting to hear from me about?
We were talking about this over on Facebook, but I wanted to talk some about it here, too. I like trigger warnings. I loathe the demand for trigger warnings.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying, “Brace yourselves!” in any situation in which you can reasonably guess someone might like to know he or she should brace themselves. We don’t pick on people for needing handrails to climb steps or make fun of places that put out signs warning you when the floor is wet.
I just can’t and will never see anything wrong with giving people a head’s up about what the content of something is. I mean, no one laughs at people who look at a movie poster and say “Ugh, yuck, I can’t handle horror.” We see that it’s good to know what kind of movie it is so that they can avoid it, so why is it so funny and annoying if professors put content notes on their syllabi? I don’t and will never get it. It seems like a nice courtesy.
But I’ve been around on the internet a long time and I’ve seen the ugly fights that feminists have among themselves. I’ve seen the same old provocateurs reappear over and over. My friend lost her job to an internet shit-storm that could not be stopped, even after the original shitter realized he had shit in the wrong direction. I have seen the ways that people work themselves up into a righteous belief that the asshole thing they’re doing is justified, is deserved.
And that aspect of trigger warnings pisses me off.
Every internet shit storm I have ever seen stir up goes like this: Someone does something or says something. Someone else says, “How dare you? That was so stupid because…” (At this point, though it’s a fight, everything’s fine. But the atmospheric conditions are ripe.) Then someone (maybe the someone else, maybe one of the someone else’s backers) says, “You should have known that was stupid.” And then a group comes to think that, since you knew it was stupid and you did it anyway, you were the aggressor and, as the aggressor, you must be dealt with. (Even now there’s still the potential for it to be okay.) Then the crowd becomes convinced that you should have known they would find it offensive. And then the shit-storm is on.
The fuel of the shit-storm is when the crowd becomes outraged that you did not anticipate its reaction.
Once that dynamic is in play, the monster is loose. You are in trouble because you couldn’t guess ahead of time what some strangers wanted from you. And you will continue to be in trouble because there’s no way to guess what they want from you, what would appease them.
Like I said on Facebook, this is the thought-process of an abuser, the idea that everyone around you should be anticipating your needs and meeting them. And, in that regard, it’s the thought-process of an abused person to believe that you are to blame for the shit-storm in some way because you didn’t.
And I have seen trigger warnings used as a measure of whether the content creator (what a terrible term) has properly anticipated the needs of strangers. I have seen the absence of trigger warnings or a missed trigger warning used as a reason to bring down the shit-storm (like, if a story says, “Trigger warning: rape, incest, child abuse” someone angry because it doesn’t also say “child rape” as if you couldn’t have discerned that from the other trigger warnings).
I will never be okay with this use of trigger warnings. I don’t think anyone is obliged to provide them. I don’t think it’s wrong not to provide them.
I think a lot of people in our culture feel best (safest, most secure) when they are in control of others. I think they go to great lengths to put themselves (or to try to) in control of others because it’s soothing to them–either being in control or punishing others for not letting themselves be controlled.
I find that dynamic really troubling. I don’t think trigger warnings are to blame for it, of course, but I think the rise of the internet shit-storm is a result of it, for sure.
I was struck by the idea in the article about Florida that, if we can just hang on, someone will fix this problem in a few decades. In a state where they’re not even allowed to use the term “climate change,” they’re assuming someone will still study the unspoken problem, find a solution to it, and implement it in a place that doesn’t even want to admit what’s happening.
We will leave people to lose everything, possibly drown, rather than be honest about the scope of the problem.
I don’t know. Obviously, I’m not a science person. But it’s hard for me to imagine how an engineer could design a solution to a problem when some part of the problem is unknowable. “Design a levee that will hold water back.” “How much water?” “We won’t tell you.” “How much needs to be protected?” “Not that much (but really, a lot, but not an a lot we’re willing to admit).” “Where should it go?” “On the coast.” “Okay, then, where is the coast? Is it where firm ground is? Is it the first bit of land beyond high tide?” “The coast is where the map says the coast is.” “But that’s under water.” “Yeah, we want that back.” “With a levee?” “Oh, good, we’re all on the same page.”
We just can’t get done what we need to get done if we can’t be honest about what we need.
I mean, I was looking at that map of Louisiana and laughing ruefully at how much the Butcher and I love speculating about what would happen if the Mississippi changed its main channel and flowed down the Atchafalaya. But that is water already. If the river won’t go down to the Gulf that way, the Gulf will come up to the river.
Anyway, I wish I lived on a hill.
I had a weird, but really interesting morning yesterday. I spent it with a guy who told me about how he’d changed his life after a DMT trip.
Apparently, taking this trip made him realize that he hated himself and that a lot of the destructive or unproductive things he was doing with himself were because of this self-hatred and he realized that this self-hatred was stupid because we are just a small part of a large and mysterious universe. A tiny speck.
So, he got his shit together. He went to counseling. He started a vigorous and interesting religious study that’s now very meaningful to him. He’s made peace with himself.
It’s not the kind of conversation you think you’re going to have with a stranger on an ordinary day, but I feel really honored to have had it.
I told him how I always experience Two Boots as a weird, mystical place. Not in a grand “woo woo” way, but just in a mundane, but nicely strange way–people dancing or singing along to the music, interesting conversations being held, that kind of thing. So, we went there for lunch and a woman at another table was eating her pizza and wearing a huge gold crown.
“See?” I asked. “I told you so.”
This morning, the dog and I were coming back across the back yards when we heard a dog bark, a dog bark I didn’t recognize, but I certainly don’t know all the dogs farther north. But the dog barked a couple of times and then there was silence and then we heard this: a long howl, “Aw0000000,” and over the long howl, a sound like this “Ah woo, Ah woo” pause, “Ah woo, ah woo.”
And I felt this electricity go through my body because I couldn’t quite tell what was making the noise–though I think it must have been coyotes because it made the dog and the cat nervous–but I recognized the “Ah woo, ah woo” part.
But how? I don’t know coyote songs. I certainly don’t have knowledge of some canon of greatest hits of coyote songs.
But it was the same sounds Sid Hemphill makes at the beginning of “Devil’s Dream.” And it made me wonder if Sid Hemphill heard coyotes out in the fields in the early morning, too. Had coyotes made their way into Mississippi by then? I mean, I know he’s playing an actual song and I know a hand-hewn flute only sounds like itself. I know it’s just a coincidence.
But it’s the kind of coincidence that makes me so lucky to experience it.