I’m Perversely Excited about the Next Legislative Session

Tom Humphrey has these two juicy quotes from Ramsey and Campfield about their competing guns in cars bills.

The proposal is founded on a belief that permit holders, by going through a criminal-background check and required training, have proved themselves responsible, Ramsey said. And many are already keeping guns in their cars, despite being in violation of the law, he said.

“Let’s be honest. It’s going on now. This is to make those people legal,” Ramsey said.


Campfield said he is open to compromise on some provisions of his proposal, but disagrees with Ramsey limiting the broader freedom for keeping a gun in a car to handgun permit holders.

Cars, he said, should be treated as homes insofar as gun possession is allowed under state law.

“I don’t see why we should have a lower standard for one group. Cars are the same as someone’s property,” he said.

Okay, now let’s count the ways I’m delighted by this.

1. Campfield is publicly disagreeing with Ramsey. It’s only December. Mark my words, this dumbass is going to have a huge blowout with Ramsey. Probably in public. I’m guessing by the end of February.

1.5 It’s an interesting thing to contemplate, isn’t it? With so few Democrats in the Senate, one or two more still wouldn’t affect the Republicans’ power structure at all. But even if no one could openly support a Republican primary challenger to an enemy, there are cases where it becomes politically expedient to not make efforts to thwart a Democratic challenger. I wonder what that point would be for Ramsey?  I imagine, after shooting his fingers like Yosemite Sam–pew pew pew–for a half an hour every morning, when he settles in for the day, he contemplates that.  And Campfield? I doubt it occurs to him. I think he’s pretty confident he’s unbeatable.

2. Oh boy, I’m looking forward to a broad application of the policy of just legalizing what everyone is already doing anyway. Colorado, watch out!

3. Even so, I find the idea of “responsible” and “breaking the law” being ongoing traits a person can possess at the same time to be an interesting one.

4. Even so, the fact that Ramsey would publicly express 2. after they treated legalizing medical marijuana as a joke last year, is both hilarious and cruel. For the record–keep your gun in your car, we need to find a way to make you legal. Come to our state from Mexico for a job? Smoking pot to ease the nausea of chemo? It’s a joke for you to ever find legal remedy.

5. Cars as homes. I’m sure the law enforcement community will love having that put in the statute.

6. I’m dying to see how this session plays out in the business community. I know they’ve long thought they were in charge, they just needed to throw the social conservatives a bone every now and then by letting them stick it to women and gay people. I’m VERY curious to see what happens now that they realize that the social conservatives think they’re the driving force of the party and that it’s time for the business community to sit back and be happy with the few bones thrown them.

Things that Make Me Happy

1. That The Last Lovecraft was better than it had any right to be.

2. That the main character’s name was Jeff Phillips, which is the name of one of my cousins.

3. That I saw Matt Pulle and Elizabeth Lewis randomly at Ugly Mugs this morning.

4. That my other cousin’s childhood friend was mentioned by Andrew Sullivan today. I don’t really know Mira, but god damn, I am rooting for her to set the world on fire.

5. The part where she goes “like crying, like crying, like cry-y-ing” and it descends down the song like rain or, I suppose, tears.

6. S. likes Project X. She thinks I’ve got something.

We Are Caught in a Trap of Our Own Making

I woke up this morning to learn that the shooter’s mother was not a kindergarten teacher, as had been reported all yesterday. Neither was his brother the one who killed all those children, contrary to what was reported for the first thee or four hours after the massacre. The gun that so many people are appalled is legal to own appears now, maybe, to have never made it in the building. Just sat in the car.

I’m with Lindsey in that that every ounce of my being wants to know when it is that we can start talking seriously about what we can do to stop this shit, or at least, make it more difficult.

But I’ve lost faith that we even know what this shit is. We don’t wait to even find out what is really happening. We name a killer based on rumor. We give a woman a job that makes narrative sense. We already have our stories of heroism. And let’s be honest, we know how that goes, because we saw how it went at Columbine. Even the stories of heroism are going to be wrong–either complicated or outright debunked–in the coming days.

Our eagerness to make this understandable works against our ability to understand it.

God, for instance, did not let this happen in order to punish America for taking prayer out of schools. (And my god, if He did? Now’s the time to break faith with that monster. Holy shit.)

Video games did not make this happen. Every generation there is something that is “ruining” kids today–video games, Marilyn Manson, rock & roll music, movies, crack, gin, comic books. But the truth is harder to accept. Some people are poised for cruelty. And they will psych themselves up with whatever they have at hand. Removing violent video games just means that they listen to violent music instead. Removing violent music just means that they read violent materials. Even if they had no contact with popular culture, how would you keep someone poised for cruelty, who is looking for a way to amp himself up, from finding it? Would he never be allowed to see road kill? Would you forbid all Americans from keeping cats that might catch mice or bugs in front of such a person?

More guns would not prevent this kind of thing. It’s time we just admit this to ourselves. It is VERY difficult to kill another person. That’s why they find lots of evidence that these folks work themselves up to it for weeks or months or years. That’s part of the “planning.” Acclimating yourself to kill another human being. The person who is prepared to kill is always at an advantage over the person who is not. The person who is already firing is at an advantage over the person who is not. Anyone at that school who stepped out into the hallway with his or her own gun would have been at a severe disadvantage the moment he or she paused to say “Oh, my god, it’s just a kid.”

The good a gun might do is in lowering the eventual body count. That’s all. Someone with a gun would have to recognize what was going on, realize it was on him or her to try to stop it, and try to get to a place where he or she had a clear kill shot. In that time and in the confusion, lives will be lost. We also have to acknowledge that we are dealing with someone who has walked into a place full of people and is actively shooting at those people–which means those people are all around him. Even if you’re certain you could kill a person on a murderous spree, would you risk accidentally shooting a child to get your best shot? Most people would not. Which means he might kill another two or three people before you kill him.

So, let’s just be honest. Very few gun owners would be mentally prepared, even if they were lucky enough to be in a position, to thwart this kind of attack. At best, they could be in a position to end it more quickly. Maybe. If we expect law-abiding gun owners to try to end these kinds of attacks, what we’re saying is that we expect gun owners to be willing to make collateral damage judgements the likes of which we expect from no other non-trained group of civilians.

If this is the case, if this is what we’re expecting of gun owners–that they carry at all times and be willing to shoot at people they’d think of as children or at least as very, very young adults–then we need to train them the way we train anyone else whose job it is to shoot people at a moment’s notice and we need to provide them with the mental health services people who have those jobs end up needing.

But is less legal gun ownership the answer? It’s very hard to legally own a gun in Chicago, say, and people go to a lot of gunshot victims’ funerals there. A lot. And yes, smaller clips. But are we also going to outlaw jackets with lots of pockets? No one who owns a gun can have a coat?

Plus, that overlooks an enormous silent part of the problem, which Lindsey gets at. There are a lot of guns in the United States. We could probably count the number of parents in this country right now on two hands who are worried their daughters are going to grow up to do something like this.

And I don’t think this is because girls are better than boys or boys are more prone to violence than girls. I suspect, in part, it’s because girls are allowed to be emotional messes and , if they get too messy, there’s an okay chance that someone will get us help. When boys fall apart, they’re told to suck it up, “be a man,” or they act out and end up in jail.

And yet, this doesn’t exactly satisfy me, because there are instances where parents or spouses knew something was wrong and tried to get help and still…

So, I don’t know. I just feel like the problem is so large and so multifaceted and that we want simple, silver-bullet solutions (to use a gross metaphor in this context) and those two things work against ever really coming up with something that will fix this.


This morning, they played Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time” on the radio and I was like, “Holy shit, that’s ‘The Distance’ by Cake” and yet, maybe they’re not that similar. I can’t decide.

My concern with this orange is that, next to the darkest blue, it might look too "Chicago Bears"ish, but I think it's working just fine.

My concern with this orange is that, next to the darkest blue, it might look too “Chicago Bears”ish, but I think it’s working just fine.

I think this square may be the most beautiful thing I've ever made. I can't stop looking at it. It just makes me feel like there's such beauty in ordinary things.

I think this square may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made. I can’t stop looking at it. It just makes me feel like there’s such beauty in ordinary things.

Bah Humbug

I do think most of this is hormonal and will clear up Sunday, but I’m also just going to say that, in my adult life, Christmas has become a really difficult holiday for me. It makes me acutely aware of the people who are gone, the things we don’t do together anymore, the distances between us. I miss my family like crazy and I regret so much that living here and choosing this life–while it’s been so amazing–means that I’m not closer to my cousins, some of whom have become adults without me really knowing them.

It is what it is, but it still sucks.

Project X: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I think I’m just a couple thousand words away from completing my rough draft. The trick will be not to hurry though it so that I can be done. But I think it’s good. And I think the ending is going to be very satisfying.

I’ve tossed the everything but the kitchen sink into this project, bits and pieces from everything I’ve been working on and loved up until now, reconsidered and reworked into something that I hope just fucking crackles when you read it. And I want this last story to be all full of electricity, drawing connections between everything you read before but in new ways.

I want to be as good a writer as this material calls for.

That’s all I want.

Publishing Is Awesome

This is a real thing in the world.

I agree with Chris that, if it is a joke, the joke’s on them, because this is exactly their reputation. No one will know they’re only kidding, if they are, which they totally aren’t.

–Since the weepies continue, today I cried over this article about Bram Stoker and Walt Whitman that Bridgett sent me. It’s very sweet. Though it must suck to have someone go “I totally didn’t get your poems until I read the unedited versions. So, why can’t I just edit your poems so that decent people won’t be scandalized by them?” to you, no matter how well-meaning.

–Bram Stoker is kind of hot.

Things I Realize on the Way Into Work

This is U2’s version of a Doors’ song. I do think “Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome” is my favorite U2 lyric, though. But seriously, when Bono starts talking, you could totally just substitute the whole talking part of “The End.” Outside it’s America. Outside it’s America. And he walked on down the hall!!!

In slightly related news, having already typed “youtube” I am having great trouble typing U2.


The Weepies Continue

Lord almighty, some months you’re just like “Oh, hey, uterus. Nice to hear from you. Hope you’re doing well.” And other months you’re like “Oh, boo hoo hoo, that’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard, that’s the cutest puppy–cry, cry, cry–I’ve ever seen (even though it looks weirdly like my old neighbor, which even the Butcher agreed with me about),” “waaaaaa, that is the sweetest Christmas story I have ever heard!” “Oh, look, the Butcher got milk. Sob, sob, sob.”

Which reminds me, my dad told me that he thinks his grandmother, his Grandma Phillips, was a professional mourner. She went to people’s funerals and got paid to be sad they were dead.

I have to tell you that I find this to be–true or not–something that makes me feel weirdly close to Ina Mae. After all, what is a ghost story but a chance to mourn?

And also, holy shit, if this weepiness is inheritable, I bet she was, 1/4 of the time, pretty amazing at it. A natural talent.

I’m just saying, people, I could cry over the death of Montgomery Bell at this point. That’s how ridiculous it is.

A librarian in the Nashville Room would be hard-pressed to pass up the chance to make sweet love to Famous Nashvillians of History, even if they all were secretly the Devil and she were being hunted by a werewolf, right?

Local Werewolves

So, this morning I had a lovely chat with the guy who wrote a couple of stories about the werewolf that supposedly lives out at, aptly named, Werewolf Spring, in Montgomery Bell State Park. It appears that this is a campfire story told by a lot of Boy Scout leaders and then passed along by teenagers eager to have a reason their dates should cuddle up next to them in the dark out in the creepy woods.

The way the story is mostly told now is that there was a circus train derailment right after the Civil War and the Werewolf of Borneo escaped into the surrounding woods. Dude was able to debunk this because the suspect train tracks weren’t there then (too young). I was like “And there aren’t wolves in Borneo, so how could there be werewolves,” but he had a good explanation, because one of his readers sent him a letter telling him that people in the area used to use “x of Borneo” to just mean any “exotic” non-white cultural thingy. Or presumably non-white. Anything people wanted to other, they made an “x of Borneo.” In other words, had Lovecraft lived in Dickson County, every story of his would be about how the something of Borneo ruined it for everyone with their Elder Gods worship.

Then we talked a little about whether some folklorist should get out there right now and study this moment (I say “yes!”) because it appears that the Werewolf kind of occupies the same mythic ecological niche as the White Screamer of White Bluff (and in fact, the werewolf is sometimes described as having light hair) and as the White Screamer stories become less prevalent, the werewolf stories are becoming more so.

But most interesting is that he said he found some tentative evidence that the werewolf legends went back as far as Montgomery Bell and were somewhat associated with him. He didn’t know if people thought Bell was a werewolf or if he might have mistreated someone he owned who came back to haunt the land as a werewolf or what.

But that’s really, really cool.

Anyway, it made me happy until Josh Ritter ruined it. Ha, ha, ha. Lord, this day.

I’ve Listened to this Song a Million Times

But today it hit me right in the heart and I cried into my lunch.

I’m Poor in Spirit

Oh, y’all, yesterday I got some lovely financial news. Not completely unexpected, but sooner than expected. And I was so happy yesterday evening and proud of myself because I immediately acted on this financial news not by spending what came in–not even a little, not even as a treat to myself, but by funneling some toward debt and some toward savings. As one does when one is a grown-up.

And I spent the evening being all woo-hoo. I am getting my affairs in order. Finally.

And then I had nightmares all night that I had fucked something up or that I had to pay cash for some huge operation or that basically everything was a lie and all the numbers were just made up and just when it looks like I’m going to be on okay financial footing–in a position to actually put a little away and get some of the big projects around here done–it’s all going to slip from my grasp.

I woke up feeling kind of like shit about it.

It’s funny because this whole ceiling thing taught me so much about goodness and how small acts by folks can have an enormous impact on a person. It was wonderful. And nothing shitty happened, you know? No one was like “Oh, wait, I just noticed what a jerk you are. I want my money back.” and no one has shown up with a saw to cut out their portion of the ceiling in either room. People can plan a nice thing, have it work out, and nothing bad has to come of it.

If I didn’t quite believe that before, I believe it now.

And yet, I have to tell you, I can’t quite believe that’s true of myself toward myself. I have been doing a series of tiny things, very tiny because I had so little money not tied up in bullshit, to get myself untied from bullshit or, if not untied, then to put myself in a position to untie myself at a later date.

And here it is, one of those later dates, where the tiny thing I started to do seven years ago has just become a pretty big thing I can do to fix a situation that’s been vexing me since my twenties. But I can’t trust that it will come to pass. I can’t believe that a plan I put in motion might work and not backfire on me in some painful way.

To me, this is the way growing up poor most shaped me–that I know in my core that all my hopes and plans are fucked. Even if it doesn’t appear so, something will come along and fuck them.

The thing is that I feel like I am so very close, just a few years, away from having a small safety net against this kind of fuckery.

And I am so afraid something is going to screw it up.

This isn’t something that’s easy to explain–that kind of terror. And how it motivates you to act in all kinds of fucked up ways.

But whenever I hear someone talking about poor people, about why don’t they just…? And I think, man, how nice it must be to feel certain that there’s some “just” you could do that would obviously improve your life.

That’s just not a certainty a lot of folks have. For most of us, no matter what you do, something comes along to fuck it up.

So, anyway, if you see me and you notice all the fingers on all my hands are crossed, it is because I just so want to stay lucky, just for a bit more.

Project X: The Benefits of Reproduction

Brendan Koerner has a post today about the people of New Ireland who are debating whether they want their historical masks back–some aren’t sure they’d be able to preserve them–or if they’d like exact replicas. This is especially interesting to me because I’m at the point in Project X where a person with the horrible affliction’s daughter is like “Oh my god! Why was there only one of these books? Why did no one make a copy or seven?” Even if the one book were the only one with the magical powers, while it was missing, her family could have benefited from the copies.

And I do think it’s an interesting problem, especially once supernatural forces are in play. Is there some benefit to the original that wouldn’t be there in the copy? And sometimes, maybe, yes. Something is lost when you can’t have the thing your ancestor put together and put her own self into. But it’s hard for me to believe that if preservation and dissemination are important to a people now, that their ancestors wouldn’t also appreciate efforts at preservation and dissemination and find a way to be present, even in the fakes.

It’s interesting, anyway.

Maybe I Have Misunderstood Capitalism All These Years

There’s this new initiative being floated in some states that different college majors should cost different amounts, so the “useful” degrees–like the sciences–would be cheaper than the “useless” degrees–like the liberal arts–to encourage more people go to into the sciences, where we need them.

Forget that this seems to assume that the country is losing perfectly good scientists to the love of poetry, which has to just not be the case. And set aside the bizarre idea that what one majors in in college is always completely correlated to what one does in life. Or the idea that you can predict at 18 what will be useful when someone is, say, 25. Forget all the practical concerns.

Just explain to me how this is not the opposite of capitalism? If you were really going to run a school this way, but using actual capitalistic principles, wouldn’t, say, a BFA in poetry be the least expensive major? Or, okay, if not by which major will bring you the least amount of money if you go into a job with a direct correlation, then by which majors have the fewest people in them? So, it would seem that being an astro-physics major should be hella cheap.

Okay, I have to make a confession here. I got up in the middle of this rant to eat breakfast and let the dog out and feed the cats and I cannot, for the life of me, remember what my big culminating point was going to be.

But shouldn’t “worthless” degrees or degrees no one’s interested in be the cheap ones? Isn’t that how capitalism is supposed to go? We have a big supply of seats in these areas and little demand for them? They’re the cheapest?

Oh, lord, imagine if this really worked! A class, say, has room for 30 students. The first ten people to sign up pay the least. The next ten pay more. The last ten pay most. And the people on the waiting list… whoa. So, this brings up an interesting problem. Say I bought my seat in “Contemporary Poetry” back when it was $10 and then word gets out that every Friday in class there’s a burlesque show with poetry and now everyone who’s looking to fill an English requirement wants to take the class. The university is happy because it has its ten $10 students and its ten $20 students and its ten $30 students. And I’ve paid for my seat.

So, is it cool if I sell my seat to someone on the waiting list for $50?

Or would the university put in some kind of dynamic pricing so that, like the stock market, the cost of the class would reflect demand for it right at that moment?

Anyway, I’m not a huge fan of unmitigated capitalism or anything, but the idea of instituting some kind of anti-capitalism into higher ed–by Republicans, who are supposed to be the most gung ho for capitalism–by making the classes the State prefers the least expensive ones is hilarious to me.

The trouble with any ideologue is that you quickly become indistinguishable from your ideological foes. I keep hoping this isn’t true, of course, because I would like to be an untempered ideologue. But at some point, you go round the bend and meet up with the people you are opposed to.

And so here we are, the political party that is still afraid of Communists wants the State’s preferences for what you take in college to have as much, if not more, influence over what you take than what you want.

Making Squares

This weekend has an element of dud-ness to it. I did get the bestiary finished and I am only two squares away from being done with all the medium squares for Rachel’s afghan, but my brain is just not cooperating with me getting as much writing done as I would like. It’s undermining me like undermining me is its favorite hobby. And I really need this front to come through, because it’s giving me a headache.


middle squares for rachel

Project X: The Bestiary

It’s done. Things I learned while writing it: Montgomery Bell could have given Ebenezer Scrooge a run for his money and there’s simply no way to make Adelicia Acklen not creepy as fuck. I mean, I get the whole “all rich white Southerners were doing it” thing, but her husbands excelled at it. And we have her to thank for Huddy Ledbetter, in a round about way, since she owned and sold the plantations Angola prison now sits on.

One thing I do appreciate about her is that she had her husband, Mr. Franklin, who died down in Louisiana, preserved in whiskey to be brought back here for burial. That is hard-core and awesome.

And now I need to start drafting the final story. I feel good about that. I was telling the Professor last night that I just want to build in some time where I can be away from it for a second, come at it again with fresh eyes.