Okay, Who Do We Know Who’s a Folklorist?!

I’m innocently watching NCIS, working on the baby blanket for my cousin, when all of a sudden they start singing a song about a goat.  And I about fall over.

Now, I’m looking through the archives and I see I have never told you about The Old Woman and the Pig.  Grandma Avis used to sing us this song when we were little. An old woman is sweeping her floor and she finds two gold coins and she decides, in her fortune, to go to the market and buy a pig, which she does.  She heads for home and she gets to the style and the pig won’t cross it.  No matter what she does.

So, she goes a little way and she finds a dog and she says (and this part you sing), “Dog, dog, bite that pig, pig won’t go.  And I see by the moonlight, it’s almost midnight, time pig and I were home an hour and a half ago.”  But the dog would not, so she went a little farther.

And so on.  Until the hammer begins to break the knife, which begins to cut the rope, which begins to hang the Butcher, who begins to kill the ox, who begins to drink the water, who begins to quench the fire, that beings to burn the stick, which begins to beat the dog, which finally bites the pig, which begins to go and the old woman gets home.

You can see a variation of it here.

I cannot stress enough how this is the foundational text of my young life. My mom even made my grandma a needlepoint thingy commemorating this song.

I also should mention that this is the side of the family who claims to have been secretly Jewish.

So, I ask you, America, can you even begin to guess how I about fell over while watching NCIS, then, when they began to discuss the song “Chad Gadya,” which is, coincidentally, a song about a guy who buys a goat with two coins and the goat gets bit by a dog, who gets hit by a stick, which gets burnt by a fire and so on. There’s even a butcher who kills an ox.

How can those not be two versions of the same song?

So, clearly, this begs two questions. 1.) Did my family learn this as an English folksong or is this proof of the secretly English Jews story? 2.) And holy shit! Is this not proof that we should teach our kids everything we want passed down for generations in the form of a catchy song?

I’m working on one right now–Give your Aunt Betsy chocolate cake; it’s easy to make, chocolate cake.  Give your Aunt Betsy apple pie and chocolate cake; it’s easy to make, chocolate cake.  Give your Aunt Betsy great big hugs and apple pie and chocolate cake; it’s easy to make, chocolate cake.” etc. etc.

People won’t know who the hell I was in 300 years, but they’ll remember that I liked chocolate cake. Maybe they’ll make chocolate cake for their aunts. Aunts around the world will cheer in memory of me, the woman who made chocolate cake and being an aunt synonymous.

Anyway, I am tickled.

Random Things That Caught My Eye

Roger Abramson is moderating a panel on drug legalization next week.  Looks like fun.

This column raises such a good point about calling liars “sluts.”

Preachers’ kids love the Devil? This explains why I have be unable to refrain from teasing my dad about my mad plumbing skills, which practically require me to chase girls and show the world my butt. What did I ever do before my dad got on Facebook?  I just don’t know.  It was the Devil, Dad, my love for the Devil makes me tease you about you turning me gay. Well, that and your homophobia.  But mostly the Devil.

–Reading Dooce has made me all worried that this rash is not poison ivy but shingles.  Don’t worry.  It’s not an itchy rash on my [expletive] but an itchy rash on my arm, which seems to be getting worse, not better, even though it’s been two weeks since I weeded. My [expletive] has its uses, but weeding my garden appears to not be one of them. I need to remember to have my doctor look at it next week when I’m in there.

Constitution Day

I know I’ve been a little remiss in not talking about how Constitution Day went.  It went fine. Casey kind of scared the shit out of me when about the second thing he said to me was, “Don’t worry. We have security on notice and I have a couple of big guys who can handle things sitting in the audience.”  And then I was very nervous about speaking and I felt like my voice shook the whole time.  And everyone was very sweet.

But here’s why I haven’t written about Constitution Day. I have spent much of my blogging career writing about how wrong Terry Frank is, about what an idiot she is, how stupid what she says is, and on and on. I don’t have to tell you if you’ve been reading along. And I fully expected, going over there, that I would come home and be all “Oh my god, Terry Frank said this…” and “Terry Frank said that…” and we would all be mildly shocked and horrified and have a good laugh.

This is an asshole attitude to have.

I felt excused in my asshole behavior because Frank’s got a radio show and a tv show and is friends with politicians and I’m “just a blogger.”

But, if there’s one thing my departed drinking buddy and his soon-t0-be departed friend have insisted week after week after week is that “I’m just a blogger” is an asshole excuse.

And here’s the thing.

I really liked Frank.  Not in the “Oh, gosh, I hope I can call her on the phone and talk about boys” way, but I was and still am struck by how much I liked her. She was calm and self-assured and gave a great talk that was well-researched and thoughtful and she was graceful and thoughtful herself.

Every question she answered, even when she disagreed with a person, I think that person felt listened to, considered, and engaged with.

I don’t say this mildly–it was really, really impressive.

And I felt like the proper response was to just be really impressed and to take some notes on how to steal those tactics for myself.

Did we disagree on stuff?  Yes, on most stuff. But there were only a few times when I felt like “Okay, what you think about things and what I think about things are so different that there just is no common ground.”  Mostly, when we disagreed, I felt like “Okay, we disagree, but we’re in the same ballpark. I see where you are and how you got there and I can see that you see where I am and how I got here and while we might not have a way to make some happy compromise on this issue, these are issues on which the world is big enough for us to work out our own ideas.”

And, frankly, I felt like coming back here and talking about how it went, in detail, with an audience I know mostly agrees with me, would have been opening up Frank for ridicule.

Because that’s the dynamic that I’ve set up here.

And I really felt like that would be cruel and really gross and contrary to the spirit of the day. It would have broken frith after the fact.


I don’t know.  One thing that’s weird about writing very intimately in a very public way is that people come to feel like they know you. And really, most of the time, this is so awesome. I have made great and dear friends from blogging.  But sometimes there’s this dynamic of “I know you, so you owe me.” And usually the things that people ask of you seem harmless enough, usually, they are harmless enough.

But sometimes it escalates into this realm that’s really, really distressing, where people want something from you and you feel like it shouldn’t be too much to ask to give it, but then they keep asking for more and more or you can’t figure out what, exactly, would satisfy them.

And eventually, you have to be like “Fuck it, I do what I do. If you don’t like it, suck my butt.”

Shoot, I am way off track here.

But what I’m trying to say is that the nature of the beast sets up these dynamics where, in order for you to continue to do what you do, you have to harden your heart to people.


I have been doing this five years tomorrow. And I am tired of that dynamic.

I don’t know if I’m tired of it forever or just for now or what.  But I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of reading something, writing something snarky and biting about it, having Kleinheider pick it up, and then his commenters going off about what an idiot I am.

I’m tired of the whole dynamic of “I will protect myself from things that scare me by ridiculing them.”

I’m not saying that ridicule isn’t an important tool.

It’s often my only tool.

I’d like to be a better writer than that.