On a lighter note…

My hair looks so cute today!

On normal days, my hair behaves: each curl laying gently next to its neighbor, flat and meek. I look like I have on a weird, thick wool hat. Not cute, but okay. On rainy days like today, the individual strands tend to rise up away from my head and swirl around me like misbehaving grade-schoolers who’ve dropped hands in the hallway.

But today, my hair has thick ropey curls that look like some fun amusement park ride.

Hurray!

Envy me, straight-haired people.

Christianity and the State

As you all know, I think that Christianity and our form of government make uneasy bedfellows, at best. And yet, the religious right has seized this presidency and been seized in return by Bill “Kitten Killer” Frist who hopes to ride God straight into the White House in ’08.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about Twyla, who I found through Peggasus, when I’m out walking the dog in the morning. Well, I haven’t been thinking about Twyla in particular, I’ve been thinking about something she wrote (I’m hemming and hawing about linking to it, as it seems kind of personal and I just want to take one part of out context. Here’s the whole blog. If you want to read carefully to get to it, more power to you). She says:

In a simple or organic church there ought not to be this dividing wall of pretension. I think a new believer is encouraged by the honest description of struggle. It helps them to not feel that such a chasm separates them from those who may have trod the path a bit longer. It removes the tendency to idolize or put a “leader” on a pedestal. In fact, I don’t even like to think of “leaders” in this way in a simple church. I like to think of the ground as being level, as each being able to learn from and be ministered to by the other.

I don’t know what an organic church is, but when I read this, it clarified for me a few things that have been pricking at the back of my mind. One is that Christians do themselves a huge disservice when they don’t read their own holy book and decide for themselves what it means. I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t listen to their pastors or to authors or other people. I’m saying, if you don’t read and feel comfortable with the knowledge you have of what you’re reading, you have no way to test out whether what you’re being told is true.

The other is that leadership can be corrupting. People who are given power tend to believe they deserve that power. This is especially damaging in a church, because of the current Christian dynamic of encouraging everyone in the church to be meek and mild and followers. If someone with power is abusing that power, it can be nearly impossible for the rest of the church to do anything about it because it doesn’t just feel like a rebellion against abusive leadership, it feels like a rebellion against God’s order.

That’s why it means a lot that Twyla insists that everyone should be accountable to each other and minister to each other. It’s the only way to guarantee that one person’s ego doesn’t take over.

It’s important because the Christian Church in America is in crisis. It doesn’t see it because it’s got some power, but it’s in serious trouble. The Church, in order to be effective, must be active. It must serve the community it’s in. For better or for worse, the most active people–cure the sick, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry type folks–are liberal and those people are leaving the Church in droves.

Even now, you can see the effects of that in the growing “angry Christian” face of the Church–folks like Dobson and his ilk who run around so pissed off that the whole country isn’t falling in line behind them quickly enough. What does that anger and self-righteousness have to offer non-Christians? Not much.

But, you say these churches these angry men lead are growing by leaps and bounds. True enough, but they’re mostly poaching from other denominations. That’s not really growth.

Also, these angry men are, at heart, anti-Christian. They can preach the word of their god with the best of them, but they can’t really hear the words of Jesus. Because, if Jesus was about anything, he was about transformation. If you’re rich, give your shit to the poor. If you’re sleeping around, stop it. If you’re organizing your life by the letter of the law, start living by the spirit. Give up the things you think you can’t do without and see what happens.

My dad has this sermon he sometimes gives, which I love, about the miracle of the loaves and fishes, where Jesus takes fives loaves of bread and two fish and feeds 5,000 people. He says that the most plausible explanation is the most miraculous, that when one person offered everything he had, other people, who had been carrying around a loaf of bread to snack on later or some grapes to keep the kids quiet or some olives they meant to bring home to their mothers, took our their food and shared it, too. The miracle wasn’t making so little enough for everyone; the miracle was getting a large group of strangers to treat each other like a community. Transformation. Give up the things you think you can’t do without and see what happens.

Do you see what I’m saying now? James Dobson, William Donohue, Gary Bauer, David Barton, and the rest of their ilk are anti-Christian because they will not give up the things they think they can’t do without. They don’t get that the transformation Jesus preached was not a one-shot deal–be born again and never worry again–but an ongoing process. Transformation.

Here they are, these angry men of god, hoarding whatever they can get their hands on–control of women, control of the government, control of public discourse, control of the definition of what Christianity is–and though they can quote you the Bible chapter and verse, they don’t dare give themselves over to transformation.

There wasn’t a thing that Jesus kept hold of. He gave up his family, his career, his religious rules, his society’s prejudices, his life, just to see what would happen.

It’s remarkable, and anyone who would choose to emulate that–to give yourself over to transformation, to let go of everything you think you can’t do without, just to see what would happen–ought to be commended. Even I, as a non-Christian, am madly in love with the real transformative example of Jesus.

But these guys can’t do it. They cling to their power and to their letter-of-the-law and to their same old crap they’ve been preaching for years. I almost can’t blame them. It’s a lot easier when things are clear-cut and someone’s obviously in charge and the rules are unbreakable. It’s easier, but it’s got nothing to do with Jesus.

No Sugar Tonight

I’ve been sleeping like shit lately, because I’ve been drinking coffee. It’s sad, because I like coffee, but I had to give it up in order to sleep, because I love sleep.

So, last night was the first good night’s sleep I got in some time: a dead, dreamless, warm blackness that smelled like dog (most likely because the girl was curled up next to me). At least, I assumed I wasn’t dreaming, yet I woke up twice in the night with the Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight” running through my head.

The subconscious is a strange place and it makes me happy that mine is, apparently, filled with good music.

As is usual, I’m listening to the blues, finishing up here at work, and thinking about the strange inner workings of the human mind.

According to this article, scientists have decided that everyone can “read” each other’s minds. This is very interesting. Apparently, we have neurons that fire not only when we do something, but when others do something, thus letting us not just imagine what they’re doing, but imagine it almost as if we were doing it.

There’s some thought that the absence or misfiring of these neurons may help explain autism.

Science has yet to explain why the Guess Who runs through my sleeping mind.

Here’s something else I threw into my subconscious to see what it would churn up: “[…] cool closely resembles the human spirit. It’s about completing the task of living with enough spontaneity to splurge some of it on bystanders, to share with others working through their own travails a little of your bonus life.”

Donnell Alexander wrote it; I like it.

I’m not “as-seen-on-MTV” cool, but I could happily be the “splurge some of it on bystanders” cool.

Things that have, in the last 24 hours, made me laugh so hard I almost peed

1. This morning all the radio stations in town were dogging on Katie Couric from the Today Show for wearing a cowboy hat while broadcasting from Nashville. Kathy Martindale on Oldies 96.3 even said out loud what anyone who reads Tiny Cat Pants already knows: in Nashville, only tourists wear cowboy hats.

2. “Citizens of the world! The old order is teetering on the brink of collapse. Kittens and puppies, whose vested interests have subjugated you all for centuries, are trembling in fear. (Trifles are trembling too, but that is perhaps less newsworthy, owing to their consistency).” My god, I’d marry Karl Yundt if he wasn’t already married to his revolution.

3. The Professor gave me this book full of photographs of cats doing strange things that I promptly went home and read. While I was reading, the small cat climbed up on the back of the couch and stared at me and the book, as if the book were a grave insult to cats everywhere.

4. Yesterday morning, it just so happened that while I was walking Mrs. Wigglebottom up Murphy Road, there were two other people walking their dogs ahead of us. Apparently, we looked like a parade, because people kept slowing down and waving.

5. For some reason, the dog has to do this weird thing every once in a while where she kind of scrunches down on her legs and scurries really quickly sideways back and forth (If there are other pitbull owners out there who can confirm that this behavior is ordinary, I’d appreciate it) while making these little snorty noises like a pig. She usually does it when she’s really, really happy, but it’s weird as fuck.

Well, yesterday, she was all caught up in doing this and she ran right over the orange cat. Startled him so much he just made this quiet “eep” sound before running off.

6. Then, later on in the evening, he planted himself on the footstool and was giving the dog the old stink-eye all night. Being a dog, she, of course, did not notice. Finally, the cat is so pissed that, when the dog walks by, the cat opens up his paw, extends his claws, and whaps the dog on the ass as hard as he can. The dog takes this as a sign that her prayers have finally been answered and now, after years of hoping, the cat finally wants to play with her.

She then sticks her nose right in the cat’s belly and snorts at him. He’s so startled (and pissed, too, I mean, for all he knew, she was blowing her nose on him) he bolts up and runs off with her in hot pursuit.

The Corporate Shill

The Corporate Shill is coming to visit me this weekend. Hopefully, not so that she can retaliate for the Birthday Inquisition, but one never knows. I tend to be anxious about having company–one of the reasons for my hermitism–and so, I admit, I’m a little anxious about having the Shill to visit.

I can’t wait to see her, but I was looking around the old cardboard box, er, apartment, last night, over the piles of the Butcher’s art and collections of afghans I crochet but never bother to tuck the loose ends in on (so that most of my afghans tend to look disheveled, like little old men who miss the tops of their heads with their hairbrushes) and listening to the passing trains and the sounds of the interstate and I thought, “Jesus Christ, no one must ever know we live this way.”

But this morning, as I was out walking the dog and saw the two trees I love that bow out towards the road on either side of this rickety gate and the wisteria bush just about done blooming and the lilacs just coming in, and thought about her running through these streets and seeing for herself this strange and lovely town, and I thought, “Well, it’s not like we’re going to sit in the house all weekend. . .”

I first met the Shill in college. She was in a history class with me–“Women, Work, and Leisure”–in which we learned one important thing, which I will now impart on you: If you are a high society charitable giver to the Hull House and you think it’s your business to go into the Eastern European ghettos in Chicago to teach the poor riff raff how to keep their houses properly cleaned and children properly fed, before you teach them how to cook eggs and dust, you might want to check if they can afford eggs or an apartment with more than one window or even just one window that doesn’t open onto a coal chimney.

The Shill and I had to do a group project together. The day of the project, she did not show up for class. So, I had to do my half of the presentation (superbly, I might add) and then do her half of the presentation thusly “Well, I’m sure if the Corporate Shill were here, she would tell you that . . .” It was pretty hilarious. I think we both ended up getting a pretty good grade on it.

It’s weird, but that made me like her, that she could not show up for something, but that people had enough good will towards her that her absence was met with concern for her welfare and laughter at my filling in for her.

Things I Have No Control Over

Your computer. I don’t know why it won’t start and making me come in and look at it won’t clarify matters.

The weather. Dog, I cannot stop the rain nor can I shrink time. Hiding under the bed and making weird snorty noises will not force me to make the sun rise any sooner.

Your dogs. Your dogs run all over the neighborhood menacing cars and joggers and folks with dogs on leashes. When you see that your dogs have blocked the road and won’t let me and my dog pass, and so I call out and ask you to help, please call your dogs, don’t stare at me like I should just move your dogs my damn self.

The speed limit. The speed limit in alleys is 15 miles an hour. That means, if you are about to turn into the alley way down at the end of the block, I ought to be able to safely start out across it. I don’t care how late you are for whatever you’re late for, if you come up that alley at 40 miles an hour and almost hit me, I’m going to be angry.

Other people in general.

My First Meme

Peggasus knocks and I answer.

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Answer the question “If you could be —____ . Choose five titles from the list [below] and answer the question for each of them. Add a job title to the list when you are done, if you would like, but you can’t choose your own newly added job title.

Scientist – Farmer – Musician – Doctor – Painter – Gardener – Missionary – Chef – Architect – Linguist – Psychologist – Librarian – Athlete – Lawyer – Innkeeper – Professor – Writer – Llama rider – Failed actor gone political – Moonbat – Street Performer – Pro Bowler – Psychic

1. If I were a lawyer, I’d be an intellectual property lawyer. I think that “public domain” is one of the most amazing cultural resources that we have and it irritates me to see Congress continually bowing to pressure from entertainment conglomerates to extend copyright protection indefinitely. I’ve got no problem with people earning money from their creations, but I don’t think their creations should remain theirs forever.

So, I guess public domain is especially interesting to me because if, when, and how things enter the public domain says a lot about how we understand and balance the rights of the individual (and the corporate citizen) with the good of the community.

2. If I were a missionary, I’d be fired. I’ve got no problem with people doing good and, when asked why, telling the questioner that it’s because of their love of Jesus. But most people have their own religions that work for them and I find it really gross that people go into those communities and attempt to instill Christianity, especially because Christianity vilifies indigenous beliefs in order to justify such conversions.

3. If I were a linguist, I’d happily spend my days doing my own translations of the Voluspa and the Havamal and arguing with other nerds, er, linguists about whether Frigg and Freyja were ever the same goddess since Frigg is linked etymologically to the Indo-European root pri-meaning “to love,” and Freyja is linked to the Indo-European root per-meaning something like “to lead or to be at the forefront.”

Some days, I might argue that clearly they were always two separate goddesses, and on other days, I might say “per” “pri”: how much difference is there between those two sounds?

4. If I were an innkeeper, I’d be a cross between the innkeeper in The Castle of Crossed Destinies and Bob Newhart. In other words, I’d want to be the kind of innkeeper who organized strange mystical experiences for my guests, but I’d probably end up being the kind that had to continually explain the weird folks who worked for me, who would all surely be my family members. Luckily, the recalcitrant brother has done some plumbing as well as some cooking, so when he inevitably moved in, he’d be able to contribute.

5. If I were an architect, I’d be torn between wanting to design houses that seemed to exactly “fit” the landscape they are situated in (why, yes, Frank Lloyd Wright would be one of my influences) and building enormous, outlandish contemporary Victorian manors–full of turrets and stained glass and gingerbread.
*********
And I’m going to tap two people who link to me, but who I know nothing about–Pissed (just to put it out there for the universe, if I could find a smart, funny unmarried man who left his dismantled Harley all over the house, I would be in hog heaven [bad pun intended] ) and Astrid, who intrigues me because I love her name–the name of Sigrid Tostadottir’s daughter and the name my tiny cat’s sister was going to have when it seemed like she might come to live with us–Stella and Astrid.

So, it should go without saying that I have no idea if they’ll play along or stare distastefully at their screen like someone just sent them a chain letter portenting some kind of terrible doom and then promptly vow to never visit Tiny Cat Pants again.

Unsex me here

What Lady Macbeth had to invoke spirits to get done, Congress does for me, unbidden.

Here’s her invocation:

The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry ‘Hold, hold!’

Here’s Congress’s proposed definition of “Woman” (from Senate bill 51 and House bill 356):

“WOMAN- The term ‘woman’ means a female human being who is capable of becoming pregnant, whether or not she has reached the age of majority.”

It’s not as poetic as Shakespeare, but reading it fills me “from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty.” Oh, Lamar Alexander, how I cannot wait to vote against you. But, Elizabeth Dole, strange creature, certainly you are no longer capable of becoming pregnant. Do you mean to legislate yourself into a third gender?

Mushy Post about Mrs. Wigglebottom

Today I took the dog back to the park. We usually do our long walk on Saturday, as was the case this weekend, but it was so beautiful today that I couldn’t resist her when she tilted her head and pricked up her ears and looked at me like “What awesome thing are we doing next?”

That’s what does me in about Mrs. Wigglebottom. She’s always game for anything. If you want to sit on the couch and read things that make you cry, she’ll cuddle up next to you. If you want to surf the internet, she’ll sleep at your feet. If you want to go to the park, she’s on her way to the car.

She and I were playing in the tall grass and she’d put her front paws out in front of her, her butt in the air, and her tail would stick straight up, waving just a little bit as I looked over at her, a little bit more as I ran at her, and then, just as I got to her, she’d shoot off in a large looping circle around me, leaning in towards me as she slid by, then off to the end of her leash, turning just before it reached taut and coming back my way.

If you’ve never seen a dog running just for the hell of it, you’re missing out.

Then, she’d flop down in the grass, her tongue hanging out, and she looks up at me, with this big smile and then, rolls in a big pile of poop!

Gross for me, but heaven for her.

Ah, well. My dog makes me a better person–more active, more at ease, less stressed by a little poop here or there–but I don’t know if I’ve made her a better dog. I’d like to think so.

The Price of Gas

So, we’re watching Bill Maher last night and he trots out that tired big-city bullshit (here’s how to know you’re about to smell some big-city bullshit: they start out with “Well, in Europe…”). So, Bill’s big-city bullshit starts out, “Well, in Europe they pay [some exorbitant amount] for gas.”

Then he goes on to say how he thinks that the government ought to put a huge sin tax on gas, like they have on cigarettes, to discourage people from driving so much.

This pisses me off so much I almost can’t talk about it rationally. But before I’m reduced to angry cussing, let me make the following points:

1. Most of the country doesn’t have public transportation. If we can’t afford to drive to work, we cannot get to work.

2. Most of the country doesn’t make that much money. A lot of us are getting by paycheck to paycheck. The cost of fuel doesn’t just affect the price of filling up our cars. It affects the cost of everything we buy–food, clothing, etc.–because Walmart and Kroger’s have to pass the increased cost of their fuel to us.

3. Nope, that’s it. Two things before I start screaming “fuck you.”

Let’s go off on a tangent.

I’m starting to suspect that, when people talk about “liberal” bias in the media, depending on who’s talking, they’re actually talking about two different things. Politicians want to talk about the media’s “liberal bias” because they want to keep the media on the ropes, swinging wildly at straw men and not finding real stories–and to that end, they’ve succeeded wildly.

But when some folks talk about “liberal bias,” I wonder if they don’t mean something like what I also loathe, the feeling that the media views rural America as some scary backwards place that can’t truly be understood by anyone safe on the coasts.

For instance, think of how the media starts every story about us with “in the Heartland…” Jesus, how big is this heartland? Because I’ve seen and read stories that place it in Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, and New Mexico. It starts to feel like “heartland” is just some place that the media views as quaint.

Or how the media holds so fast to the first amendment but seems to view the second as a problem. Okay, I don’t own guns, because I’m afraid of them. But a lot of people in the U.S. own guns and they aren’t criminals or deviants. No, the NRA hasn’t done gun owners any favors with that laughable “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” nonsense, but the uncomfortable truth is that the Constitution gives people the right to bear arms. You might not like that. I might not like that. But that’s how it is. And just because it makes us uncomfortable doesn’t mean that people who own guns are bad or irresponsible or freaks.

By and large, people who own guns are not going to shoot you. But when the media covers a gun story, you get the feeling that everyone who owns a rifle is just one bad day away from shooting up his place of work.

But the thing that annoys me the most is how the media thinks that it “knows” our values without actually doing the work of trying to figure out what those values are. How long are we going to have to hear them talking about “Christian” values and the Republicans’ alignment with Christians, as if Christianity is one monolithic set of beliefs held by all of us out here in the wastelands.

For instance, I keep waiting for someone to ask one of our Catholic bishops if he’s uncomfortable with the alignment of the U.S. Catholic church with Evangelical Protestants, when most Evangelical Protestants believe that, at best, Catholics are really fucked up Christians, and, at worst, that they’re pagans whose style of worship is a kind of blasphemy against Christ. But either most reporters are cowards or they’re unaware of the deep history of anti-Catholic sentiment among Evangelical Protestants. I suspect that it’s the latter, that they’re unaware of it.

Which brings me to what really pisses me off, and what I suspect pisses a great many people out here off, the patronizing tone they take, as if they know what’s best for us, when they don’t really know us. They can’t get past their preconceived notions of what we are. So, Bill Maher can say asinine things about how the price of gas isn’t really a problem, because no matter what the price of gas is, he can afford to pay it, and he can’t imagine that folks can’t.

SheDaisy

Why does the ‘safe’ alternative to the Dixie Chicks suck so bad?

Seriously, isn’t it a well-known truth that if you have to stick “blah, blah, blah” in your song, your song needs drastic reworking? But, no, SheDaisy and their record label decide to release it as a single.

I’m dumb-founded.

A Brief, Frank Statement about Bill Clinton

Dear Young People who Voted Against Bush,

Bill Clinton was not the best president ever. He’s the best president we (young liberals) have ever seen because he was a bit of Democratic relief in a long stretch of Republican presidents during our lifetimes. “Only Democrat” to register on our collective conscious DOES NOT equal “Best President.”

But, let’s just say for a second that Bill Clinton was the best progressive president ever. This doesn’t mean–gods, let’s hope–that he’s the best the progressives have to offer.

If I hear from you one more time “Well, Bill Clinton did…” I’m going to beat you. Fair warning. He’s not our president any more and we’re in some serious trouble. We’ve got to stop looking to the past, for the good of the Left and the good of our country.

Love,
Aunt B.

Dear People who Voted for Bush,

I see a lot of you on the news channels and tooling around my park in your cars and I hear you, too. Every time some legitimate criticism of Bush comes up, one of you rushes to pull out your trump card, “Well, Clinton…”

Like just now, I’m watching MSNBC and they’re trying to talk about John Bolton and his treatment of his subordinates and the blonde chick they had on there said, “Well, isn’t this disingenuous of the Democrats. After all, we all know how Bill Clinton treated the women who worked for him…”

First, many of us were mortified at the President’s behavior. Granted, some of us were busy holding Satanic orgies and couldn’t be bothered to give a shit, but in general, no one was like “Woo hoo! Our president is a womanizing cad! I hope everyone in Washington is!”

Second, try that shit with your spouse. I dare you. “Honey, I just kissed her. …and her …and her. But Bill Clinton fucked other women.”

Or, if you’re too young to cat around on your significant other, go to your mom and see how that works. “Yeah, mom, I stole $50 from your purse, but Bill Clinton and Whitewater…”

The behavior of one person does not excuse the behavior of another.

Love,
Aunt B.

Listen, America, we have big problems. We are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It costs me $30 to fill up my car. People who need affordable healthcare can’t get it. Discussions about morality are being had, not in people’s homes, but in the Legislature. We haven’t found Osama bin Ladin. We ought to do something about Social Security. Tax cuts don’t seem to have spurred the economy the way we’d hoped and the dollar is very weak. Etc. Etc.

These are big, scary problems. I don’t know what to do about them and it seems like most people don’t. But rather than having intelligent discussions about them, we keep dragging out Bill Clinton like some kind of fetish–just shake him around and he’ll diffuse all difficult thought and clarify all moral positions.

How long is this going to go on? Seriously. Our problems spread out before us like some patchwork quilt pieced together by mortal enemies. It’s ugly to look at and difficult to know how to begin to fix. But we all have an obligation to each other and to the future to make some effort.

You can’t get much sewing done when you turn your back on the piece and hand your needle and thread to Clinton.

How long is this going to go on? Seriously. The pundits and politicians have taken up our grown-up problems and proceeded to act like it’s junior high–focusing more on petty jealousies, homophobia, who’s playing grab-ass and how we can get in on it, and taking every opportunity to shift the blame.

How long is this going to go on? Seriously. In a country with no public transportation infrastructure, gas is $2.40 a gallon and we’re worried about keeping gay people from getting married? In a country where we’ve asked our soldiers to fight two wars in the past five years, we let the government cut VA spending and we’re worried about what the Terri Shiavo incident says about our moral state? In a country held hostage by the Religious right, some judges are insisting on their right to follow a law other than the one they’ve pledges to uphold and we’re all busy asking “What would Bill Clinton Do?”

America, if we cannot get our heads out of our asses, we are in serious trouble, more serious trouble than any outside terrorist or foreign country could ever put us in.

So, just stop it with this Bill Clinton shit.

I Gush About Sweet Acidophilus Milk

Y’all, we have this thing down here–Sweet Acidophilus milk–that makes me so happy I just about can’t stand it. Purity makes it and it is good (and, supposedly, cures cold sores). Purity also drives around town in these cute black and white cow colored trucks, which I also love, because I am a dork.

So, anyway, sweet acidophilus milk. Before I moved down here, I had never heard of it. I drank 2% like the rest of fat America and was happy. I found 1% and skim to be watery and tasteless and a cruel trick our mom played on us when she didn’t have time to get to the store and made us drink “her” milk.

But sweet acidophilus. . . it’s not sweet. I don’t know what acidophilus is, maybe it’s rendered baby fat; I don’t care. The thing is that it tastes good. I can’t remember the last time I had a glass of milk just because, but last night, I did and thought, damn, I’m glad I moved down here and learned about this shit.

Dog Advice

So, maybe all these stories about what a kick-ass dog Mrs. Wigglebottom is have got you thinking about getting an AmStaff of your own. You’ve weighed the issues and decided that you want a dog vilified by the general public and capable of leaping all but the tallest backyard fences. You’re prepared to spend the first year of its life keeping it from eating all your furniture and looking forward to the day when you will be able to walk around the neighborhood with your dog by your side, not barking and lunging at other dogs and all squirrels.

Here’s one more thing you should consider: the dog to bathroom size ratio. How big is your bathroom? How big is your dog? What will you do on a day like today when there’s thunder and lightning and hard rain and you need to take a shower and get to work but the dog needs more to be on the bath mat, which, unbeknownst to you, has magical protective powers and must not be strayed from in bad weather? If the bath mat with the 60 pound pit bull on it takes up all the room between the toilet and the wall, and the dog looks at you like you’re crazy when you try to get her to move, are you prepared to climb up on the toilet and to step onto the wall of the tub?

No, you say, you’ll just shut the bathroom door and keep her outside.

Good luck with that, because the cats have taught her how to stick her paw under the door and pop it open.

Thanks, cats.

The Shill Answers!

Coming in just under the wire, the Shill has emailed me her answers. Here the are:

Apologies for the length of this post! [No apologies necessary. We love long posts.–Aunt B.]

1. Is Britney Spears self-aware?

I so wanted to write a groundbreaking essay wherein I argued that despite abundant evidence to the contrary, she was actually self-aware. But then I revisited Go Fug Yourself, the Salon article on “the most glorious downward spiral in years” and how Britney’s issues are mostly about class and classic quote after classic quote (let’s just listen to the President and follow our leaders y’all) and then– she married, and is now having a baby with, Kevin Federline. K-Fed y’all! So, I couldn’t do it. She had good handlers there for a bit but “adulthood” has destroyed the charade once and for all. Not a single fucking clue. She thinks she does. But she’d be wrong. [Ooo. Good answer.–B.]

2. Would you rather be in Us or Entertainment Weekly?

Entertainment Weekly, and I may specify, I’d like to be included in The Must List issue.

3. If you had become a movie critic, would it have pleased you more to give out consistently negative reviews that made you a media darling or consistently positive reviews that were often used in promotional materials?

Consistently negative reviews.

4. For some reason (I can’t think of a good one), you are forced to give your first-born a “trendy” name. You can choose between Clementine, Payton, and Jasmine, if it’s a girl, and Ashton, Brooklyn, and Reagan, if it’s a boy. Which do you choose?

Clementine. Living in Chicagoland I couldn’t stomach the “Sweetness” nicknames that would come with Payton and any image of Peyton Manning makes me nauseous. Ew. Not an attractive man. And Jasmine? It’s a Tiffany for the new millennium. I do run the risk of someone belting out “oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine” but when compared to Payton and Jasmine? I’ll take that
risk. She just can’t marry into the Clemson family.

As for boys — I first thought I’d opt for Brooklyn (although Bronx would be way better — LE could teach him how to become an expert at the Bronx cheer!) but LE would insist on Reagan, “greatest president of the modern age.” That’s a direct LE quote everybody. And I married him anyway. [Well, at least he hasn’t joined in on the movement to beatify Nixon. Look on that bright side.–B.]

5. Hypothetically, would you be more or less likely to fuck Ted Nugent if he were the president of the NRA?

Hypothetically, I would say the likelihood would not change.

6. Would you be more or less likely to join the NRA if Ted Nugent were president of that organization?

More likely. I’m the only person I know who watched an entire episode of his reality show. NUUUUUUGE! [Is it wrong that I totally would too? I mean, I know he’s insane and is probably a danger to himself and others, and I’m afraid of guns and cried inconsolably the one time I shot one, because the brick I’d aimed at broke into pieces–we’d both be the exact wrong fit for the NRA–but I’d still join if he were in charge. Quite possibly, this makes us bad people.–B.]

7. Say that Kenny Chesney is about to release a song about a brief affair the two of you had right after college. Do you tell your loved ones that it’s about you or do you just hope that, since they and their friends don’t listen to country music, they never hear it from someone else?

My knowledge of country music is limited. As such, I don’t really know if Kenny Chesney is cool or not. Therefore, I must answer based on the only thing I know about him: that when the Dixie Chicks hang out at their local bar and play those damn trivia games, their team name is “Kenny Chesney Stuffs his Pants with a Pimento Cheese Sandwich” and as such, I would tell my friends it was about me.

True story: http://www.clubnashville.com/rr012703.htm

8. If you had to change your first name to anything other than what it is now, what would it be and why?

This question is much tougher than I thought it would be. I’ll throw this one out to the masses.

9. If you could switch places with anyone you know for one day, who would it be and why?

This one is also really tough! Loyal TCP readers can vote from:
a. Jon Stewart and host an episode of the Daily Show.
b. Host of Saturday Night Live (what week hardly matters).
c. If I was able to also inherit their athletic ability, I would switch with a female Olympic skier, win a gold medal and then make out with Bode Miller (how else would I even get close?). Sorry LE!
d. George W. — maybe arrange for bad things to befall him the day after we had switched?

10. For what reason would you ever move to Kansas City?

None that I can think of. But if someone were to say, you could have Bill Gates’ fortune, you just have to move to Kansas City. I would do it.

The Birthday Inquisition–The Corporate Shill Edition

The Corporate Shill’s birthday is April 21st. In honor of this momentous event and in order to keep Tiny Cat Pants full of things that could, at any moment, go horribly awry, I’m enacting the first ever Birthday Inquisition.

Here’s the deal. I come up with ten questions aimed at the birthday person. The birthday person has until the date of his or her birthday to answer the questions. If any questions remain unanswered on the person’s birthday, I’ll open it up to everyone else.

Then–and this is the crucial part–we all agree to accept the made-up answers as the truth.

So, say I ask, “Who would you rather find in your bathtub–Bill Clinton or Tipper Gore–and why?” and the birthday person is like, “Fuck if I know. I’m skipping that one,” then, say, the Butcher answers “Birthday person would rather have Tipper Gore, because Tipper knows filth when she sees it,” then we all pinky-swear that we will, from here on out, believe that this is the answer the birthday person would have answered.

Any resulting fights will be an added source of merriment.

Okay, here goes nothing.

**********************

Corporate Shill,

1. Is Britney Spears self-aware?

2. Would you rather be in US or Entertainment Weekly?

3. If you had become a movie critic, would it have pleased you more to give out consistently negative reviews that made you a media darling or consistently positive reviews that were often used in promotional materials?

4. For some reason (I can’t think of a good one), you are forced to give your first-born a “trendy” name. You can choose between Clementine, Payton, and Jasmine, if it’s a girl, and Ashton, Brooklyn, and Reagan, if it’s a boy. Which do you choose?

5. Hypothetically, would you be more or less likely to fuck Ted Nugent if he were the president of the NRA?

6. Would you be more or less likely to join the NRA if Ted Nugent were president of that organization?

7. Say that Kenny Chesney is about to release a song about a brief affair the two of you had right after college. Do you tell your loved ones that it’s about you or do you just hope that, since they and their friends don’t listen to country music, they never hear it from someone else?

8. If you had to change your first name to anything other than what it is now, what would it be and why?

9. If you could switch places with anyone you know for one day, who would it be and why?

10. For what reason would you ever move to Kansas City?

Psst…

Y’all I should be working, but I’m totally listening to the blues on KDHX out of St. Louis, which is home of our very own Steve Pick. I’m typing emails to folks who are really working and pretending to read. But anyone who looked too carefully would notice that I’m typing in time to the music.

In honor of it being Thursday, I think we should all shut our office doors and listen to the blues out of St. Louis.

If only I had a cold beer, too. . .

I Give Props to Those Who Deserve It–The All Girls Edition

Red kicks ass and takes names. I often don’t agree with her (for I am a hippy dippy liberal and she’s no softy), but, if there’s ever a feminist tag-team rasslin’ cage match, I want her in my corner.

Peggasus could totally be our manager, wearing these kick-ass shoes.

Astrid is up to something over here. Go check her out. Extra points if you corrupt her or cause her to choose English as a major (those may be the same things).

And, last but not least, there’s some other blogger here in Nashville and she’s funny and snarky. What the fuck?! Did people not get the memo? I am the funny, snarky Nashville blogger. Sure, I don’t have the recognition of the Nashville Scene or the legitimacy that comes from leaving the house every once in a while, but whatever. Saucy Librarian. Pbthbhth.

Speaking of wrestling, maybe I could wrestling the Saucy Librarian for the title of “Funny, Snarky Nashville Blogger.” I’d have the upper hand, based on my brief, incredibly lame affair with an amateur professional wrestler.

Yes, when I first moved to Nashville, I dated an amateur professional wrester. “Why?” you ask? America, I did it for you. There are just some things that a girl’s got to do when the opportunity presents itself. Letting a professional wrestler too short to crack the big leagues buy you some meals and teach you how to take a chair shot is one of them.

Here’s the two things he taught me about wrestling. One, use the front side of the folding chair. Two, cut your forehead open before your match and then seal the wound shut with Vasoline. That way, you don’t have to get hit too hard with said chair in order to bleed dramatically.

Here’s the one thing he taught me about life: If they never want to go to their house, they have a spouse. Hmm. It’s a truism in a rhyming couplet.

The funniest thing he ever said to me, upon discovering that I would not want to continue seeing him once I discovered said wife: “But I talked to my pastor about this! Jesus has forgiven me. Why can’t you?”

The Nashville Film Festival

So, I left work early, scared the shit out of the Professor by honking at her as I sped away from the office, and headed out to watch documentaries all evening.

I saw two: Lomax: The Songhunter and Cowboy Jack’s Home Movies.

The Lomax movie was really weird. On the one hand, I didn’t like it because it was this glowing paean to a guy whose legacy isn’t as unambiguous as this movie portrays. And there’s a lot of bullshit about how record companies have ruined “untainted” folk music by commodifying our cultural productions and selling it back to us.

(I don’t believe in a clear separation of high culture from low culture, so if some guy in Spain wants to sing the songs his grandpa taught him with an operatic style borrowed from Italy, more power to him. And so I don’t believe that record companies, try as they might, can dictate the music that people will love for all time.)

On the other hand, I don’t really care for Lomax, but the movie made me feel really bad for him, spending the last years of his life fried from strokes and stuck having people read his own articles back to him and making him listen to work he did 50 years before.

I don’t know. Maybe he enjoyed that.

There were some hints that he was kind of a crude asshole and some suggestion that he was a bad dad and a hard man to be married to. Still, you got that he was vital, energetic, committed to filling his days capturing every last bit of music he was convinced was going to be lost.

So, seeing him weak and unable to communicate and forced to listen helplessly as he was reminded of his past exploits seemed a little like the movie would have been better titled “Alan Lomax in Hell.”

Cowboy Jack’s Home Movies on the other hand was marvelous. I don’t know what to say about it except that you will cry over the Johnny Cash stuff, marvel at how sensual Waylon Jennings was and wonder how you never noticed that before, and you will want to move to Jack’s house.

He loves Shakespeare and he recites the “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy and he takes Will’s words and sets them to music.

It’s funny and weird and you will love it.

Living Your Religion

The thing that frustrates me most about my parents is also the thing I most admire: their commitment to their faith. As I’ve alluded to, my dad set aside his dream (which was, oddly enough, to be a YMCA director) to become a minister; and, though my mom is a teacher, which is what she wanted to be, I deeply doubt she thought she’d be changing schools every three or four years.

Still, though this might not be the life they would have wanted, this is the life they are committed to.

I, on the other hand, can’t be so generous. I could write a long essay on why I’m done with the United Methodist Church, but I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice to say, I’m done with small midwestern towns; I’m done with sanctimonious bullshit, backstabbing, and judgmental hypocrites. I’m done with people who pull me aside to outline all the shortcomings my dad has–both pastoral and parental and I’m done with an organization that doesn’t respect its ministers.

This, as you can imagine, is one of the greatest sources of strife between my parents and me. Their whole life is infused with religious belief and given meaning by their relationship to their god. The recalcitrant brother goes to church, the Butcher works on Sundays, but I, who could attend church regularly with no problem, refuse to go. That hurts them.

You’d think it’d be the hopeful, but agnostic, polytheism that came between us, but, no, it’s the not going to church thing. As far as they’re concerned, all of my woes can be traced back to my not going to church. Money, men, love, and happiness would all be mine if I could but bring myself to sit through services down at the West End United Methodist Church once a week.

Of course, their lives are full of woe and they are always at the church.

They don’t understand. What can you count on if you can’t count on God?

I count on them.

I don’t know if there is a god or many gods or what their relationship to me is. I’ve had some stuff happen to me that made me think, “Wow, the world is a mysterious and wondrous place.” But the mind does funny things to a person and human beings love to ascribe meaning to everything. Me more than most. So I can’t say for certain if there is a god.

I can tell you for certain that my family exists. For better or worse, for all their fucked-up-ed-ness, for all their crazy, tender hearts, my family is here for me and I am here for them. If that can extend beyond the grave, then it does. If my Grandma A. can be here, she is here. And not just her, but all my aunts and uncles and great aunts and cousins twice removed and folks who died alone in camps in Alaska or in trailers outside of Chicago, or folks who died with other folks curled up next to them in nursing homes in Marshall, Michigan.

If there is an afterlife, my family has filled it with the same loud, argumentative meddling nonsense they filled here with.

I count on that.

My dad used to say to us all the time when we were growing up: OFST–Our Family Sticks Together. This was our motto, our way of dealing with yet another move, yet another set of goodbyes to friends and schools and brief lives we’d lived.

I used to think it was an order–we must stick together–but now I see it as just a truth. We meddle. We piss and moan and bitch and fight. We say things we shouldn’t and are too proud to apologize. We keep score on things we shouldn’t–who came to see who last, who Mom loves best, who’s gotten the most money from whom and who still hasn’t paid it back. We don’t get help when when we need it. We let things go on too long.

But, if something were to happen to me, right now, if I were struck by lightning before I could finish this sentence, when I woke up at the hospital, my family would either be there or be on its way.

I don’t have to have faith in that; I know it.

Cupcakes for Everyone!

The CDC almost admits that their war on “obesity” is based more on aesthetic preference and less on true health concerns!

  • “Being overweight is nowhere near as big a killer as the government thought, ranking No. 7 instead of No. 2 among the nation’s leading preventable causes of death, according to a startling new calculation from the CDC.”
  • “But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight.”
  • “CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said because of the uncertainty in calculating the health effects of being overweight, the CDC is not going to use the brand-new figure of 25,814 in its public awareness campaigns and is not going to scale back its fight against obesity.”

Yes, we are going to continue to make fat teenagers (and others) feel like shit about themselves based on false numbers, because it never bothers teens to find out that people in positions of authority have lied to them!

Here, fat teenagers, are some true things you can count on: Masturbation is fun and, since it raises your heart rate, it’s like exercise, but it doesn’t suck! Sex is also fun and raises your heart rate and, if you can get five or six people involved, it’s almost like a team sport. Just be sure to use condoms and other forms of birth control. Also, don’t invite clean-cut kids who listen to death metal to your orgies; they will only break your heart.

My point, fat teenagers, is that, while PE is lame and sports suck, there are plenty of exciting things you can do with your body that raise your heart rate and keep your heart pumping hard for prolonged periods of time. Love yourself as much as you can and each other when you can and eat what you want.

I Miss the Dixie Chicks

I was thinking that it seems like I’m seeing more Dixie Chicks videos lately than I have in a while. I don’t hear them on the radio, but that seems to be because there’s no room for anything but “Drugs or Jesus.”

Still, I don’t guess country music has forgiven them yet, and, if I were them, I wouldn’t have forgiven country music any time soon.

I miss them, though.

Adventures with the Gout-Ridden Reverend

My poor dad has one leg that goes straight down from his calf into a huge, puffy foot that ends in five swollen toes that each seem to be straining away from each other. They look like they might pop right off.

This doesn’t slow him down, much, though. He’s just hobbling around and ordering anyone within hearing distance to meet his needs.

We drove down to Decatur, Alabama to give the smallest nephew to his dad, who he’s not seen in half a year. The smallest nephew was thrilled to see his dad. He locked himself in his dad’s car, he was so anxious to go home with him. He wants to see his brother and all his brother’s family.

Earlier, the littlest nephew went right up to the biggest, scariest biker you’ve ever seen and said, “Is that your motorcycle?” and this big grizzly guy broke into a big grin. “You wear a helmet?” the littlest nephew asked and the guy said yes and stood there and answered his questions, as best as he could make them out. Then, he got on his motorcycle, revved it loudly, and, when the littlest nephew cheered, he waved and drove off.

He’s a little heathen–not in the religious sense, but in the social sense–but he’s not my kid, so I find it impossible not to be charmed by behavior that probably would drive me insane if he were my kid. He’s ordering the waiter to bring us our bill. He’s yelling, “Bring it on” and running at you to play fight, in the middle of the store. He’s always talking to everyone.

And he says stuff that about breaks me in two, like “Are the cops coming? Are they going to shoot me? Are they going to take you to jail? Are they going to kill some babies?”

“No, no,” I say, “Cops don’t shoot little boys. They help little boys. If you have a problem, if something scary happens, you can count on the police to help you.”

The Reverend is playing cribbage with the Butcher and the Redheaded Kid, so the most common noise from my childhood–sixteen two, sixteen four, sixteen three and two are eight–is filling my house. It makes me happy.

My dad is asking me to tell you guys that the more money y’all give to Methodist ministers, the more your personal income will increase. But it must go to the ministers, not to the church, and it doesn’t matter if you’re Methodist.

I’m not sure this is the ideal way to raise money for his retirement, but it beats whatever the Methodist church has conned him into participating in.

Ha. Don’t tell him I said that.