Ugh, The Seance

I am really stoked about the Inanna part. There’s stripping and fucking and history and magic and my Grandma (people, yes, for a story about Nashville, it’s filling up with dead people who married Phillipses) and omni-gendered priests and Inanna dressed like the twilight sky. And the importance of trying to live with the truth about history and not the lies that make it easier.

And can we just acknowledge that, out of all of the Baxters I could find pictures of on the internet, poor Jere was not as fortunate in the looks department as Ed or their cousin Baxter Smith? I almost regret siccing The Thing on Baxter Smith. On second thought, could it just be that Jere looks like my Uncle M and so I’m immune to his relative charms? I’m just saying, if you want to make Jere Baxter your history boyfriend, I’ll only judge you a little.

But the seance. Ugh. I don’t know. Luckily, this is still the first draft, so other things will happen and that will firm up whether what needs to happen in the seance does. But we established that Metcalf is back, though something is very wrong with him, that the other Sue Perkins is freshly dead, and that the living Nancy Perkins is marrying Bobby Overton, thus paving the way for the return of Lee Overton, my bad guy, and his methed out homicidal son, who he has unleashed on the past, because he is a giant baby. Lee, not his son.

And you’ll be unsurprised to learn that Bobby Overton’s name is Robert Lee Overton. Because nothing says “We’ve accepted defeat” like naming your kid after General Lee. Makes you wonder what the fuck Robert Frost’s parents were thinking.

But the seance scene. Ugh. Writing it was just like pulling teeth. It felt too mechanical–this happened, and then this happened. But, like I said, no diagnosing it until the whole thing is done.

I’m also debating whether to leave the butt sex scenes in. I’d decided to cut them, but upon rereading them, I felt like they told you a lot about the characters and why they didn’t quite fit in polite society, so now I’m tempted to leave them. I mean, there’s already temple prostitutes and grown men kissing teenage war widows on the cooter. Why not just go whole hog?

See? So, next draft, I rewrite the seance as an orgy. Then it will be fine.

Our relationship with our own history makes us kin to Salome, as she’s using the soft, solid curve of her shifting hip to draw attention to the contrast between the loud, driving rhythm of the palace drums and the silent, gentle motion each of her seven veils makes as it floats toward the mosaic floor. Our blatant seductions–”We will say that our men were heroes,” “We will say that our grandfathers’ motivations were noble,” “We will love them without complications,” or more importantly, “We will let you love them without complications”–promise what we will give in exchange for the death of truth.

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Davy Jones Gone, I Suppose, to Davy Jones’s Locker

The amount of time I spent watching The Monkees as a kid… man, how many sick days were spent with me curled up either on the couch or in a Laz-y-boy watching The Monkees. Davy was my favorite, at first, though I later shifted to Peter.

They’re so young, now. You don’t see it when you’re a kid, but now that I’m older, they look like babies.

My cousin M. taught me to French kiss in my parents’ trailer when she showed me on a pillow she was pretending was Davy Jones. I didn’t really get what the fuss was, but I thought, if that’s the kind of thing The Monkees like, then I’ll learn, damn it.

I know they weren’t a “real” band, but I still liked them. Rest in peace, Davy.

This is my favorite song:

To Dine or Not to Dine

The Butcher is having dinner with a high school buddy, which means I am going to get a huge chunk of time this evening to write. I want to get two things done. One is that I have this idea that how we relate to history is like we’re dancing the dance of the seven veils, which is, itself, a religious rite turned strip-tease. We dance it thinking that we can seduce Herod and change reality to suit our whims. But we forget that it’s a ritual, designed to invoke Inanna’s holy strip tease into the underworld. Which items we’re willing to remove, how many gates we’re willing to go through–that all ties in with how square in the face we’re ready to look at our history. And the ancient lesson we’re all trying to pretend like we don’t know is that there is no escape from Ereshkigal’s land. We, too, join the heroes and the regular people in a kind of depressing place–which is, obviously, the past.

I don’t have it quite worked out. Plus, even though I know it like it’s a fact–that the Dance of the Seven Veils is an allusion to Inanna’s journey–I think I just made it up. I see no mention of it on the internet at all. It’s possible Barbara Walker made it up and it’s stuck with me? I don’t know. But I like it.

Anyway, so there’s that–history as the eternal dance partner of the stripper.

And there’s the infamous Walpurgis Night seance at the Allens, which I’m totally making up. But doesn’t it seems like there should be an infamous Walpurgis Night seance at the Allens? I need to write that.

I’m just not sure if I have to include the dinner before the seance or not. I’m not sure what could happen at the dinner that would be necessary for the book, but it seems weird to jump right into the whole “Let’s talk to dead people” thing.

I may leave it out but with a note to myself that it may need to go in in the next draft.

But I’m hoping to get a draft of the meditation on strippers and the seance done tonight! I am nerdily excited about this.

Don’t Make Eye-Contact! We Don’t Want to Startle It!

Ha, just when I was all “Eh, nostalgia, what crap!” Jamie Hollin wrote a post on some happenings in the blogosphere yesterday.

I write a post on a subject I feel compelled to tell. JR Lind with the SouthComm family posts a link thereto on Post Politics. The hits driven by JR’s post make my site counter spiral upward. I don’t know, but perhaps Betsy found it there and offers up her own response. Then Trace over at Newscoma served up her aforementioned response to the Q & A provided by Betsy with another link back to my post. Then again, JR posts both Betsy’s and Trace’s posts. I know I’ve been getting traffic from all sources all day today. More of the traffic came from SouthComm’s Post Politics instead of SouthComm’s Pith in the Wind.

(Note: Hollin is in my feed reader. So, I probably found his post the same place JR did–on his site. But I know that Post Politics is indeed how most Tennesseans who want to find online political content do so.)

Remember when it was like this all the time? Back in the Nashville is Talking days? When people did have long multi-blog conversations? Yeah, that was nice. It was like this.

I wonder if this is an anomaly or if it’s possible to get back to those kinds of discussions? It takes a lot of faith in the good-will of all participants in order for these kinds of discussions to happen and, I’ll admit, that kind of good-will can often be hard to come by. These days, when things spread from blog to blog, it’s usually in anger, not in interest and curiosity.

But it’s nice to see that it can sometimes work in the good way.

And Now for Your Daily Moment of Terror

The VIDA numbers about who gets hired to write what about whom are out. It’s worth reading the quotes they include with the pie charts, but be warned, you will be queasy. Then head over to Catherine Lacey’s post, which ends with “So, yeah, it’s a vicious cycle, blah blah blah, but one thing you can do about it is be a woman and work hard and submit everywhere until you cannot be ignored.” which makes me feel like “Hell yeah!” and “But don’t these pie charts kind of show that it doesn’t matter how hard I work or where I submit, because I’ll still be ignored?”

And then I feel a little angsty.

Edited to add: Oh lord, I forgot to link to Lacey’s post. Here.

It is Against Policy to Blog About Work

So I am not blogging about how I saw the final pages for a project I’ve been working on for years, like half a decade kinds of years. And they are beautiful. So beautiful. Full of color images and beautifully laid out and just everything I hoped it would be.

The thing about this project that makes me wish it were more affordable for regular people is that it’s probably some of the most delightful porn you’ll ever see–people who look like they’ve having a good time and who like and enjoy each other. I didn’t really realize how much of our imagery, even the stuff that’s just supposed to be ‘sexy’ and not straight-up porn, relies on tropes that don’t really have to do with people looking happy. So, it’s really jarring, even though, in real life, the vast majority of my sexual experiences have been way more “hurray!” than “uhrungh” (or whatever the noise you’re supposed to make when your eyes are half shut and your mouth is hanging open like you are a zombie with a good make-up artist), to see a culture’s erotic imagery revolve around a lot of moments of “hurray!” is disconcerting.

Even if that’s what sex normally looks like to me, it’s not what “sexy” looks like to me. So, it’s cool and wonderful to see images of people who look familiar.

Or, you know, it would be, if I blogged about work.

Ugly

What I’m trying to get at is kind of two-fold. One is that “ugly” is obviously a boogey-man word like “fat” or “slut.” It doesn’t have to have anything to do with objective reality. You can be “ugly” and look like Edith Wharton. You can be “fat” and be a size four. You can be a “slut” and be a virgin. They’re just words that are supposed to connote that you have no value and that it’s your fault you have no value. (It’s important to understand that these words wouldn’t really work if there weren’t people who were “objectively” fat or ugly or slutty, too. It’s one reason that dismantling the alarm over women having sex is important for getting rid of slut-shaming and “slut”-shaming. If there’s no such thing as a slut, being a “slut” has no sting. Same with being fat. If genuinely being fat were just seen as a medical condition and not as a moral failure or a measure of the lack of one’s worth, being “fat” wouldn’t matter.)

And that’s part of what baffles me about the whole Franzen affair. He’s a writer for a living. Hell, some folks would argue that he’s our best living writer (I would not be among those folks, obviously). And he’s using a word for its boogey-man meaning? I mean, not just using the word, but putting such faith in its boogey-man meaning that he thinks he can use the boogey-man meaning to evaluate and understand Wharton’s work. In public! As if it’s real deep thinking and insight!

This leads me to wonder if Franzen does not know that “ugly” is a boogey-man term. I find this a pretty alarming possibility–that a student and master of the language like Franzen could so fundamentally not get how language works. Wasn’t he called a fag in school? Did he really think that showing kids he was straight would end that? Did he really think they were just mistaken? It’s not like boogey-men words apply only to women.

But the other thing I keep thinking about is that it’s possible that Franzen looks at Wharton and sees someone who is objectively ugly. Which means that, for Franzen, when he goes out into the world, there’s only a very narrow sliver of people who are “beautiful” and everyone else is “ugly.”

This is how he’s been trained up (or trained himself) to see the world–that someone like Wharton is “ugly.”

I mean, I think it’s obvious how believing yourself to be in the position of judging someone by her looks and assuming that your judgement of her is universal and extends even to her own self-undertanding is pretty vile and hilarious.

But I want to get at a slightly different thing. He believes himself to be an objective judge and yet cannot recognize how his seeming objectivity is affected by his skewed view of the world–one in which most people are hideously ugly.

It’s as if you’ve been told that it’s your job to sort cards into piles and you decided that the only two piles are red and green. And yet, a third of your cards are purple but you’ve just been lumping those in with the red, because you can’t wrap your mind around there being more than two piles. But still you would call your cards properly sorted and act all hurt when people point out that they’re not.

Is there ever a moment when a guy like Franzen asks “I wonder why I thought there were only two piles to begin with?” let alone “I wonder why anyone thought I should be a sorter?”

A Couple of Other Things on Franzen

The New York Daily News and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

I just want to say, too, that Edith Wharton is fine looking. Not because I think that it contributes directly to the discussion of her value as a writer, but because I think it illustrates just what bullshit this whole discussion is. If Edith Wharton is supposed to be so ugly that she devotes her whole career to writing books about it, that it drives her husband to madness, and that it ruins her sex life, then there are a lot of us who ought to consider paper bags over our heads so as to protect the mental health and sexual potency of our whole neighborhood.

I mean, the idea that a perfectly fine looking woman can be judged ugly by a guy who then hypothesizes how her ugliness must have crippled her in all facets of her life is just… I mean, at some level, if Franzen looks at Wharton and sees something hideous, that’s really telling. Not just about Franzen’s fucked up ideas of what motivates women, not just about Franzen’s fucked up ideas about how it’s his place to judge any woman, even a long-dead talented writer, by her fuckability, but just at the level of “you don’t know what you’re talking about, dude.” She’s not ugly.

And it’s weird that Franzen can only make sense of her by understanding her as ugly.

It’s like he has to find something about a talented woman to put her in her place–beneath him. Figuratively. Obviously.

I’m Not Dead

Though there were points this weekend when death seemed like it was sitting at the other end of the couch, not because it was my time, but because one never knows when a person might accidentally choke to death on her own snot.

My dad was like “Are you still sick? You’ve been sick for four weeks!” To which I had to explain that, no, I’m getting sick at the end of every month, not one continuous illness.

To which he replied, “Well, at least March is a long month. You’ll get some good non-sick weeks in there.”

More Strangeness

This is now the kind of book where my dead relatives show up to deal with people’s mean in-laws. It was almost the kind of book where dead Ulysses Grant shows up.

WTF?!

The revisions on this are going to be weird, that’s for sure.

Strangenesses

1. I lost my voice. I was in the middle of a sentence and it just stopped working. No pain or anything. Just there was noise and then there wasn’t. It’s back now but it’s all weirdly squeaky. Again, no pain or anything. Just not quite right.

2. You remember my complains about the hypnotism book? Ugh. I had to stop reading it because he took a moment to address all the things I wanted him to address–He believes Mesmer was celibate and shockingly naive about the women orgasming, for instance–but then he posits that we can tell what kind of psychological issues Mesmer had by the shape of his body.

I repeat: A man who believes that one of Mesmer’s failings is that, toward the end of his life, he began to believe in paranormal phenomena, also believes we can derive insight into Mesmer’s personality through the exacting science of looking at his body shape. No, not even his body shape but the body shape artists gave him when they drew or painted him. But Mesmer’s the silly one?

Plus, it’s supposed to be a history of hypnotism, but actually it’s only a history of hypnotism in Europe.

3. Now I’m trying to read Bobby Lovett’s The African-American History of Nashville, Tennessee, 1780-1930. There’s some great stuff in there. He says that our friend, Jack Macon, was never freed, that he was working in Nashville and sending buttloads of money back to Maury County. The sentence is footnoted, but the footnote seems to be the wrong source. So, I’m not sure how he knows that. But it seems to me that it might be right.

I’m more disturbed (not at him, just in general) by his claims that Nickajack Cave (and thus the dam and lake) was originally Nigger Jack Cave. Wikipedia doesn’t really clarify. I mean I don’t know how you get from “Ani-Kusati-yi” to “Nickajack.” Help, someone.

He also claims that Sherrod Bryant’s slaves were his extended family and that there were, in fact, many black people in Nashville and the surrounding area who owned slaves, because they owned their family members (apparently, depending on the decade, it could be more or less easy to get everyone freed, so just living together owned by the one free member of the family was the best of a bad situation).

This article says that Bryant owned 21 slaves in 1850. He also had a huge family. Holy cow. Anyway, the slave census is thus:

All Slaves Owned:

Age Gender
50 Male
44 Male
25 Male
14 Male
14 Male
12 Male
8 Male
8 Male
9 Male
8 Male
7 Male
5 Male
1 Male
35 Female
30 Female
26 Female
15 Female
9 Female
5 Female
3 Female
3 Female
1 Female

His family in 1850 is thus:

Sherrod Bryant 68
Henrietta Bryant 44
Robt Bryant 23
Sarah Bryant 13
Ailsie Bryant 11
Jno Bryant 16
Zoneye Bryant 9
Laura F Bryant 7
Mary A Bryant 5
Geo M Bryant 0
Milia A Bryant 18

Now if one were me, one might indeed look at the ages of those folks and just how many children Bryant held as slaves and start to wonder if we’re not looking at a couple of his brothers, their wives, and children.

Here’s how Lovett claims Bryant came to be free. He’d been an indentured servant to a white woman in Virginia, earned his freedom, had a kid with her, came to Nashville, and had a huge family with a different woman and owned a bunch of people. In Nashville. According to Lovett, the white woman and her kid move to Murfreesboro and it’s Henderson Bryant, the son of Sherrod and this white woman, who founds Bryant’s Grove.

This is obviously much different than Fagan’s story, which reads–

Such was the case with Bryant, who was born into slavery in Granville County, N.C., in 1781 where his master actually provided him schooling within the household.

He relocated to the Tennessee frontier near the settlement of Old Jefferson on the Stones River and immediately began buying land, a guaranteed mark of wealth and power at that time.

The 1850 U.S. Census shows Bryant owning $15,000 worth of real estate and an additional $10,900 of property including slaves, farm implements and livestock.

He came to operate two large farming operations, one in present-day Donelson in Davidson County and another in northern Rutherford County, which was later deeded to his four sons.

Bryant owned 21 male and female slaves ranging from infancy to 44 years old by the time the U.S. Slave Census enumerator came knocking on Sept. 26, 1850.

So, either Bryant’s Grove was founded by this mysterious Henderson Bryant (who I did find in Mufreesboro in the 1860 census) or it was the Murfreesboro farm of Sherrod.

The Butcher and I were talking about this, though, because Sherrod is often held up as the “See! Black people owned slaves, too!!!!” example. But the moral room between “I can sell my children and my brothers and sisters and I do because I own them” (a position held by white slave owners about their non-white relatives) and “I own my brothers and sisters and their children so that no one can sell them” is huge.

So, I’d love to know Lovett’s source for the claim that those were Sherrod’s family members. I’d love to even know how to judge whether that was true.

It’s Worse than Being Uninteresting

I think I’m getting sick again. This weather has just been brutal on my ability to stay well. Seriously, I think I’ve had a “Spring cold” once a month since December.

And yet, we encourage old people to move south. Do they not get spring colds then all throughout the winter?

I got some work done on Sue last night. Good work? Eh, I don’t know. It’s a long digression on different occult traditions in the United States and the practicalities–in any of those traditions–of one lone person being able to conjure up a spirit and boss it around. We compare Bible translations (the gist being that behavior that’s clearly forbidden by the NIV is not clearly forbidden by the King James). We talk some about race and how it feeds into those different magical traditions. And then, right now, I’m at the point where I address the incredibly stupid shit people do with magic.

Not in the “This had repercussions I couldn’t have known” way, but in the “my powers outstrip my ambition.” Take Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard who conjured up Babalon, the Mother of Abominations. Weeks they spent performing the ritual that would bring her into our plane. Not to put the world back together after a world war with them on top. Not to get themselves a secret moon base. Not to get untold wealth. But to fuck her.

See what I mean? Like they were going to be so good at it–these mortal men–that she’d bend to their will in order to continue to get their sweet dicks? It doesn’t even seem like that. It seems like, really, all they could imagine doing with the being they brought forth was fucking it. Full stop.

That’s kind of like my bad guy–who has the power of time travel and who could have been spending the 20 years he spent in our time learning enough about the future of the past that he could go back in time and make himself a millionaire or more historically important than he actually was or whatever. And instead, all he wants is revenge on the girl who wouldn’t fuck him. A failure of imagination.

Later, Hubbard denied practicing magic, claiming instead that he’d been sent in to break up Parsons’ group by Robert Heinlein (?!) and end the powers of black magic over Pasadena. And my god, you can see why he’d rather have that story out there than “Yeah, I called forth this ancient evil during a time of great global flux and the most I could imagine myself doing with it is sticking my dick in it.”

But, I think that’s probably the honest truth of the matter. Most of us, if we had great powers, still wouldn’t be superheros. We’d just be ourselves, with all our shortcomings, but with that one power, which we would use for stupid ends.

And Heinlein?! I don’t know much about him, but I’m having trouble reconciling what I do know with a guy who’d be concerned about stopping a dude trying to get another dude to help him fuck the Mother of Abominations.

But I’m open to arguments as to why I’m wrong…

Yes, Another Collection of Links

I’m just not feeling incredibly interesting today, I guess.

1. The Carolina Chocolate Drops. I am completely stoked about their new album, which comes out next week. That link is a great article into the history of playing the bones.

2. I was sure this was a joke, then I wasn’t sure, then I was sure again. There are some problematic moments, and y’all know my feelings about “He’s just secretly gay!!!!” but as far as the incredibly problematic, “he’s secretly gay!” genre goes, this must be the best of it. I laughed so hard at the 26% of straight guys are named Doug statistic.

3. A good article on the future of the book. Note the mention of Franzen’s belly-aching.

4. Because, holy shit, Jonathan Franzen, professional belly-acher and weird-shit-sayer-abouter-of-David-Foster-Wallace-in-a-way-that-makes-us-all-wonder-about-his-inappropriate-feelings-for-Wallace’s-widow is belly-aching and saying weird shit about Edith Wharton. Luckily, Meg Foster wrote a great guest-post over at The Rejectionist about it, which you can read instead of reading Franzen’s original crap.

5. My cousin A.’s friend Mira has grown up to be an amazing writer. It’s weird that people you remember being the little friends of your little cousin grow up and become immensely talented writers, but there you go! It does happen. It’s as if time moves forward. Anyway, Mira wrote this great thing you can read at The Rumpus about being on vacation with the guy you married after dating for three months because you found out you were pregnant only to lose the baby but you still stayed married, to this guy who’s… you know… the guy you dated for three months.

Things that Delight Me

1. President Obama being urged by BB King to sing “Sweet Home Chicago.”

2. The back of the paperback edition of Meeting Jimmie Rodgers has a quote from the Scene, “If you write about music, you should read this book. If you are a fan of American music, you should read this book.” That’s me! I wrote that! Someone at Oxford thought my words would influence you to buy that book. That is hilarious and awesome. If I do have the power to influence you to buy things, I’m going to start talking a lot more about baked goods here at Tiny Cat Pants.

3. A story about the Blue Fugates! I’m sad that they’ve had to endure jokes about in-breeding. Really, anyone whose family has been here prior to about 1880 is probably “kin to themselves” so maybe we should stop being assholes about it.

4. I wholly approve of efforts to make the Tennessee Purple Coneflower one of our state wildflowers.

Oh, Right, Ben

Ha, I got so excited about how awesome the Lodge was that I forgot to tell you what handy things I learned about Ben Allen.

1. He was handsome in his younger years. I can see why Sue threw her lot in with him.

2. He was not sick for a long time before he died. He was very active with the Masons and apparently died suddenly and unexpectedly.

3. He was taller than I thought. I’m going to guess about my height, which seems pretty reasonable for a man born in the 1850s.

4. Calling him a hobbyist at jewelry making really seems now to be inaccurate. I mean, it was his hobby, but only because he didn’t need the money. He was incredibly gifted and skilled at it.

It’s Not a Mistake

Rihanna and Chris Brown have both released a remix today featuring the other on it. This is, I would guess, their public acknowledgment that they’re back together–a situation I find depressing and scary.

It’s depressing because it’s so predictable. People return to their abusers all the time. And some of the reasons “I can’t live without her” or “If I can just learn how to communicate better with him” will break your heart in one way. The other reasons–“He can’t live without me,” “I’m really the only person who understands him.” “She won’t do it again.” “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”–will break your heart in another way.

What’s scary to me is that, in the police report, Rihanna says that Chris Brown repeatedly said he would kill her. I believe him. I believe him because, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that people always tell you the truth about themselves, eventually. Often without realizing it. Even the people who you think and who themselves think are so mysterious and inscrutable, they tell you the truth about themselves. The guy who tells you that he will kill you?

He’s probably not lying.

The thing about abuse is that, though the “excuse” for it is that you’ve brought it on yourself by being unreasonable or jealous or nosy or provoking, there’s really nothing you can do to deserve it. It’s not a matter of “deserve.” No one deserves to be abused. But accepting a dynamic of “it takes two to tango” or “he wouldn’t have done that to her if she hadn’t…” tells us that we all kind of think that there’s some better way of living that the abused person could take up that would end the abuse.

Tie this in with the “but she loves me! I know it!” notion–the idea that an abuser can value you enough that he or she will eventually understand that he or she is making you unhappy and making you feel unloved and therefore the abuser will change… Let’s just stop a moment to consider this, because it sucks. Here’s the thing. Abusers can love you very much. And they will still abuse you. In non-abusive people “love” has a huge “I want to keep you from harm” component. For abusive people, that connection is not there. How they abuse you has nothing to do with whether they love you.

This is why, though love is great, it sucks. We want it to be powerful enough to motivate people who harm us to stop. It just doesn’t work that way. We put a lot of faith in the idea that, if we can make a person feel loved, she will stop hurting us and, in return, love us. But again, those just aren’t the same thing.

People do change. But the idea that you can make of yourself a perfect negative of the love you wish to receive–that you can shape yourself into a form–that will cause the person you love to change her shape into a person who doesn’t hurt you in order to fill it is, at best, magical thinking.

It’s a superstition designed to make you feel like you have some control over a situation with an out of control person.

People are who they are. For better or worse. They can change, but you can’t make them.

Anyway, the situation sucks.  And I hope for Rihanna’s sake that Chris Brown is a liar. I just doubt it, you know? I think once you’ve crossed a line where you can do that and say that to someone you love, there’s only very rarely a coming back from that. And it’s not a chance I’d wish for my friends to take.

Everyone

I read this post over at Feministe and I want to say that I agree with her that it’s not clear that more men are being raped in this country than women. I also agree that that number is a lot closer than anyone thought, though.

And here’s the thing–those people eventually come home, most of them.  And we already do a shitty job of helping  rape victims reintegrate into society, usually demanding of them some admission of what they did wrong to deserve being raped. It’s impossible not to see similar attitudes in our society toward prisoners. Rape is basically seen as the inevitable outcome of going to prison.

I also read this article about how birth control is basically one of the biggest changes in human history and how it’s going to take a century or two for people to really work out what it means. I do sometimes thing that some guys feel like they were promised a world in which they’d be allowed to do whatever they want and some gals feel like they were promised that, if they were good, they’d be protected from the guys who are allowed to do really bad things to, you know, people who deserve it. And I think that some people are pissed that they’re being told “no” and I think some people feel like they’re being left unprotected. But turning on the rest of us isn’t going to get you what you were promised. It was always already a lie.

Ha ha ha. Score one for me for using “always already” in a way that doesn’t feel clunky. I won’t attempt a “problematize,” since there’s simply no way to make that word actually mean something more profound than “makes me have conflicted thoughts I haven’t organized.”

It Worked.

A City of Ghosts is $2.99 on Kindle and free for Amazon Prime members to borrow, however it is that you do that. It’s still $14.99 at Amazon for the book, but the price change has already taken effect at CreateSpace–just $12.99.

And The Witch’s Friend is $1.99. If you buy it, please let me know if the table of contents works.

If you’ve already bought A City of Ghosts and now it’s two bucks cheaper, I am sorry about that. I promise to be two dollars’ more grateful to you than I am to anyone who buys it from here on out.

I Get to Live Here

You can’t tell it in this picture, but this morning was another morning when the frost on the plants on our walk was sparkling like tiny jewels. Like natural Christmas tree lights.

I still can’t believe this is a place I get to live, that this view is right out my back door and I get to gaze on it whenever I walk my dog. That this is a place in the world and that I get to live in it is still a miracle to me.

My new secret fantasy is not to move into town. But to build a replica of Ben and Sue Allen’s house on my lot. I could fix some drainage problems while I’m messing with the yard and have me some big tall windows. I could see this hill from my second-floor bedroom window…

I could have seances and invite the Masons.

Ha ha ha ha.

Argh, Toby Keith!!!!!

Yes, the song is rock-stupid. Yes, the video features a dude drinking another dude’s pee. Yes, it is filled with smug people, including Toby Keith, doing smug shit.

But here’s what drives me crazy about this song. This is a novelty song. It is literally a piece of shit song you poop out when you have a little studio time and the musicians booked and nothing important is ready to record. This is the musical equivalent of Cheetos. And, like Cheetos, I expect to not have to think about it too hard.

But I will be damned if Keith’s voice doesn’t sound simply beautiful here.  It’s such a dumb song. A literal time-burner and his voice is clear and lovely and just perfect.

It’s like he’s just flaunting it. “I can even make a shitty song better than you can, Nashville.”

I roll my eyes and admire it at the same time.

Busy Sunday

I reviewed my park. I saved an asshole’s unleashed dog from Mrs. Wigglebottom. I wrote a post on the apparent death of 287(g). I revised a piece on the Masonic Lodge. I lowered the price of the Kindle Version of A City of Ghosts to $2.99. I lowered the price of thebook book to $12.99. I struggled but finally got The Witch’s Friend formatted and uploaded to Kindle. It’s off the web, so I hope you guys already read your fill of it. Otherwise, it’s going to cost you $1.99. I wrote a thank you note to the Masons. And I ate a bunch of cookie dough.

The only thing left on my to-do list is dishes. Not that saving asshole’s dogs or eating cookie dough were on my to-do list, but you have to have a little flexibility when the day calls for it.

So, yes, formatting your own book for Kindle. You know all that stuff that Microsoft tries to make Word do automatically for you that any reasonable person tries to immediately shut off? Formatting your own stuff for Kindle is basically an exercise in giving yourself over to all that nonsense–style sheets, automatic tables of contents, etc.–then saving it as HTML, uploading it, trying to guess, based on the preview, whether any of those things have actually taken, reworking things, uploading, and previewing again.

I’m sure it looks like crap, but it’s up. And will be available at Amazon as soon as they do all their processing.

Weirdly, I’ve been selling about a book a week on average in 2012. So, that’s nice.

Thank you, whoever is buying. I hope you’re enjoying it.

My Day with Micajah Harpe’s Various Resting Places

I will say that, while there have been times when I have been embarrassed that my hobby is driving around looking at things, today is not that day. The dog and I drove up to Kentucky to look at the place where they stuck Big Harpe’s head and then the place where they threw his body, after cutting off the head in order to remove it to the place where they stuck it.

We went to look at Big Harpe’s head’s final resting place (well, final if you discount the stories of a witch grinding it up and feeding it to her nephew, which was the inspiration for “Sarah Clark.”) first because it was the farthest north, about five miles north of Dixon, Kentucky on 41A. The landscape is very hilly, but that is an old main thoroughfare (and the sign, which you can’t read because all the gold lettering is worn off says it used to be a crossroads. I couldn’t see anything in the landscape now that gave evidence to that.) so you can understand why, if they wanted to scare the shit out of other bad guys, they would have stuck the head there.

Where they threw his body isn’t too far away–about 35 miles, I’d say. Neither spot is especially far from Madisonville. But holy shit! To see it, you kind of understood exactly what was going on. The posse chasing the Harpes at that time is made up mostly of men from Kentucky and Tennessee. Speculation is that the Harpes were trying to escape to their hideout in Southern Illinois. So, where they were in Muhlenberg County, there’s this huge open flatland and then, to the east of this flatland there’s the hills–one of which is about to become famous as Harpe’s Hill. And north of the flat land is an enormous swamp. I mean, enormous. Like I can’t even tell you how big. It’s like, if you were crossing the Ohio just above river level, but it was only wetlands; the river never happened. So, like the Ohio and all the Ohio’s flood plain wide.

So, if the story is true, when the Harpes split up, Big Harpe headed toward the hills. So his brother and their “wives” had to have headed into the swamp. No other place for them to go.

And don’t get me wrong. The Harpes are some sick fucks. Big Harpe especially. But you have to appreciate how he must have judged the men who were following them. Who wants to chase into a swamp? You give the men something they can almost catch (or, sadly for him, catch) that’s headed for high ground, of course they’re going to chase it.

I read that Muhlenberg County has often been the biggest coal producing county in the world. I guess I thought that Kentucky Coal Country was farther east and more mountainous. But when I saw those swamps! Man it made sense that there’d be coal there. I mean, I know swamps today are no indication there were swamps there millions of years ago. Intellectually I know that. But my heart said “Oh!”

My Morning with the Masons

I can barely describe it to you. It was so awesome. Everyone was kind and smart and helpful. They not only knew who Ben Allen was, but they had a ton of his stuff. And they let me see it! His ring he got when he made the thirty-third degree, a sword he made his friend, a picture of him when he was young and it’s easy to see why Sue would have fallen for him. And the Buddha. I didn’t immediately recognize its provenance, but I am betting one of you will look at it and say “Oh, that’s a Thai Buddha” or whatever.

I’m guessing the Professor will know.

My camera is so crappy. I could not get it to focus on the sword. But I think some of the pictures are at least good enough that you can get a feel for what a talented jeweler he was.

It was nice to know that, at least among Masons, Ben Allen is not forgotten. It also made seeing the sword on the top of his grave more meaningful in retrospect.

And the Masonic temple… People I don’t even know what to tell you. It was both a hair weird (just because I don’t really know anything about the Masons, other than that they rule the world behind the scenes, which turns out is not true!) and breath-takingly awesome at every turn.

I wanted to take a million pictures, but I felt like they were being so generous in allowing me there in the first place that I didn’t want to impose.

Plus, they showed me this little video that explained what “Free & Accepted Masons” meant and about how they’d ruled the world behind the scenes. Ha, no, not really. But kind of, in that a ton of important historical figures were Masons and the Masons believe that their Masonic values of equality and freedom shaped those historical figures’ political values.

So, it was cool. I swung by the Scene‘s offices so I could pick up the Halloween issue so that I can send it to them. Man, I am stoked. I feel like I got to peek into one of the most mysterious places in town, only to find it full of really cool people.