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.


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


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…