The dog and I had been walking by a garbage bag for weeks. Finally the vultures or the crows got into it.  This was the contents.

The dog and I had been walking by a garbage bag for weeks. Finally the vultures or the crows got into it. This was the contents. I thought it might be a coyote, but there’s no need to dump one in a bag. They’re never illegal to shoot. So, maybe it was a deer. Though why they wouldn’t go ahead and butcher it, I don’t know.

It Kinda Vanishes Away

I’m at the front end of a migraine–everything feels really intense and loud and trippy, but there’s no pain–so take everything I’m about to say with the grain of salt reserved for someone who is like “wow, man, everything is clear,” but I was listening to the radio this morning and I decided that there’s something really interesting about Jason Isbell’s “Alabama Pines.” I was trying to decide if it has a rhyme scheme and I finally decided, “no,” but there is something going on with sound in this song that’s a lot more thoughtful than you get in most songs.

It seems to me there are three crucial sounds to this song–“eye” “ooo” and “aye”–that repeat in every stanza–and then another set of sounds we’ll get to in a second.

So, I’m not going to bore you with doing the whole song, but let’s just take the first verse:

I moved into this room, if you could call it that, a week ago.
I never do what I‘m supposed to do.
I hardly even know my name anymore.
When no one calls it out, it kinda vanishes away.

I can’t get to sleep at night. The parking lot’s so loud and bright.
The a/c hasn’t worked in twenty years.
Probably never made a single person cold,
but I can’t say the same for me. I‘ve done it many times.

See how those sounds repeat? I feel like it tricks your ear into believing there’s a rhyme scheme, but it’s just these sounds coming round and round again.

But that’s not the most brilliant and beautiful part. It’s how you know where the emotional heart of the song is not just because of the words–which just read like we’ve finally gotten to the core of the matter–“I needed that damn woman like a dream needs gasoline”–but because it sounds so different than the rest of the song–so full of “eee”s: “needed,” “dream,” “needs,” “gasoline.”

But the “eee”s make an interesting backbone of the song–“week,” “sleep,” “weekend,” “speed,” “Springs,” “needed,” “dream,” “needs,” “gasoline,” “beauty,” and “liberty.” A lot of the “eee” words are things the singer identifies as necessary, but often only recognized as such by him.

It’s just incredibly well-done wordplay. And I like it.


Yesterday, someone at work was laughing about this.

Some things make me feel like I am wearing a disguise I forget I have on. People look at me and assume that we’re the kinds of people for whom that must be so foreign and weird.

It’s a strange feeling–not being the person the person who’s speaking to you assumes you are.

The Zilpha Story

Since the Butcher was out playing with a puppy last night, I had a chance to really dig into it and do a major rewrite. This involved reading the whole thing outloud to myself. This was kind of tedious, but I couldn’t figure out any other way to make sure that it sounded right. But since “sounding right” also involves a lot of trying a word, reading the sentence, deciding it doesn’t sound right, and then trying another, it was kind of ridiculous.

The thing is that I have an idea about what I want to say–and it does feel really political. I mean, I do have an agenda.–but I fret both that I’m not good enough to pull it off and that no one gets it. Or worse, that they get it but it’s not that profound.

The toughest voice nagging at me right now is the one that says there are already so many brilliant people writing that I should just go ahead and let them and I could turn to…. I don’t know… not finishing afghans or something.

But I think this is good. At least, it’s as good as I can do.

But what if what I want to do is out of fashion?

Ha ha ha, you know, writing is the perfect thing for me, because I both get to do something creative and fret over shit I can’t control.

Two Unrelated Things

1. That Hemingway story actually isn’t.

2. This is pretty dang insightful into the state of the TNDP.

3. Oh, hell, I’ll add a third. So, the other day we’re sitting here and a commercial for some new “I have super witchy powers, but I have to choose between being evil or being good” movie comes on which is supposed to be set in the South. The lead character opens her mouth to speak and, I shit you not, she has the Bill Compton accent. Now, I’ve always assumed that Bill talks like he does both because the actor who plays Bill doesn’t naturally have a Southern accent and because he’s trying to make him sound like a Southerner from 150 years ago. But I fear/hope that other people in Hollywood don’t get that. And now, the fake Hollywood generic Southern accent–which had been heavily Hee Haw–is changing into the Bill Compton. It’s both terrible and awesome.

Oh, Wonderful Creepiness

Somehow I missed out on all this stuff, but I’m up to speed now:

1. Her own major arcana.

2. A bit of fiction

3. The follow-up

(As a late Christmas present to myself, I bought those Tarot cards. Ridiculous, I know. But necessary. I mean, come on! Did you see the Naked Man?! It’s brilliant.)

Somehow all this cool shit I’m massively in love with has started happening here.

I don’t know how it happened. I woke up one day and lived in the city I’ve always wanted to live in.

Just-Right Harpe

For the story I’m working on, I invented a new Harpe, neither Big, nor Little, but Just-Right. There’s much to argue for him not being a Harpe–after all no one’s heard of Just-Right Harpe. On the other hand–his skull does end up on a stick on the side of the road as a warning, of sorts.

And, though I don’t really touch on it in the story, I like it because the person who sticks that skull on a stick is Zilpha Murrell, who, when she’s done with it, tosses it to the dog, but her son comes up with it instead. And then the skull, supposedly, whispers advice on how to be a good criminal to him.

Now I’m imagining an alternate history where bandits’ skulls get passed around like important oracles. A Harpe skull to John Murrell. And what did ever happen to John Murrell’s head? They never did find it. Maybe when Frank and Jesse James came to Nashville, one of them ended up with it.

Though, if I had to make a real guess–who would have enough clout and enough interest in the dead–to pull off stealing a dude’s skull, you know I’d be putting my money on Ben Allen.

Burning, Burning, Burning Out

I’m kind of jealous of the “Fuck You. Pay Me” people, because then it’s really easy to say no to things. No money? No work. But yesterday, I had to decline to help a friend with something because, honestly, I just don’t have it in me. It’s not just the commitment to Pith and Project X, it’s the ghost story I want to send to this literary mag that I’m feeling like shit about (the story, not the outlet), and the interview I need to do, and the ways I’m behind at work and on and on.

It’s good to be busy. But it feels weird to say, “sorry, no. I can’t.” It makes me think about how much we’re socialized to try to help, no matter what, especially if the only cost of it is our own time. And, especially if the only thing that would suffer is our own work.

I read someplace recently–maybe in that Carole Maso book–that being an artist is about being selfish in ways. And I kind of bristled at that notion. Not me. I’m not going to be selfish. Being selfish is bad and wrong and there has to be a way to make being creative work without being selfish.

Eh, now I’m not sure that’s really true. I don’t think you have to be completely selfish, but you do have to be honest with yourself about what you need to do the things you need to do and you have to be a hardass about protecting those things. Otherwise, they just get eaten up or pushed aside. They’re so easily lost.

Which I think is another reason that I’ve just been in a piss poor mood. The Butcher’s workload has lightened (which, in real life is a relief) and football is over. So, the long hours I had at night to write–when things were silent in the house–are becoming much rarer and I’m adjusting poorly.

In Which I Soften to Governor Baby

After my day in WTF? land–and can I just say that I felt so bad because I had coffee with one of my favorite people on the planet, someone it would have been completely inappropriate to tell about what had just happened, and I couldn’t pay a lick of attention to him. I was completely faking being interested while my brain echoed with, “My god! Why were you going to wipe that lump of earwax and plastic on my desk?! In front of me? Why god, why?!?!?!?!?!”s from earlier in the day. Not that god was going to do that, but… ugh… anyway.–I caught the end of Haslam’s State of the State.

Eh, it didn’t suck. His digs at the federal government are annoying and hilarious. But, in general, he said the things I would expect a non-evil Republican to say. And he seemed willing to put some skin in the game and ask the legislature for at least judicial reform to his liking (and against the liking of many of them). I think it’s going to be interesting to watch him position himself for the next election. Last night, he did some moving-to-the-center bits that made me laugh because it means that he thinks the Tea Party is over. Those folks aren’t a cohesive enough unit anymore to need his pandering.

The thing that’s got to be at the back of his mind–and watch for this because I bet it’s at the back of Beth Harwell’s as well–is that this state already has a large, disgruntled voting block with no state wide candidates that represent them. It’s not that hard to stand in front of the state and say, “Listen, you already know who I am. You already know all the ways my political beliefs differ from yours, so I am never going to unpleasantly surprise you. And look how I’ve managed to reign in the worst impulses of my party.” And it’s not that hard to believe that Democrats would respond to that.

Which, of course, then makes it more likely that Democrats will try to position themselves similarly–which is unfortunate–because you know they’ll think voters are responding positively to Haslam and Harwell’s positions and not to the promise of being who they claim to be and reigning in the far right. So, that’s going to suck and be hilarious.

But look for some reaching out to Democratic voters’ concerns. Haslam and Harwell want those votes.

I’m not sure today could have been much weirder. At least, I hope not.


I love the word “cross.” Not the object, but the feeling. As in, “I’m feeling cross today.” Feeling cross implies that your brows are knit and that you, while not looking for a fight, will happily get in one if one should cross my… I mean your path.

I’m feeling cross today, mostly because I have a doctor’s appointment on Thursday and managed to lose my insurance card but BCBS’s website is down, so I can’t print out something to take with me. Even though I will be able to do so long before Thursday. It just set a tone for the day. Because it took twenty minutes to navigate the website and then the phone tree to finally get to someone who could help me. Ugh.

Also, I feel like I write the same story over and over again.

Which ugh.

Also, this morning I read some bullshit about how women just naturally love their children more than men do and it irks me. Not just because “naturally” is such a bullshit word, but because there are two things hidden in it.

One is the idea that if a man doesn’t show his love for his children exactly how a woman would, she then feels free to diagnose him as not having the same strong feelings for their children. No, actually, all we can tell is not that you love the kids more, but that you have this weird expectation that love and concern must look just like what you do in order to count.

The other is this idea that there’s always been mothers and children in one pile and men out in the world in a separate pile and men were just never a part of the household the same way women were, so there’s something more tragic–if necessary–about women’s lives changing so that we have to work outside the home and can’t be with our kids. But having the majority of men working outside the home is less than 150 years old. And even when men had careers that kept them away from home for long periods of time–like say fishing or whaling–they often brought a kid or two in order to teach them the trade.

I mean, my god, what the fuck do people think this ongoing nostalgia for rural life is rooted in? It’s not that the country is that great in reality–we all do drugs and get pregnant and cheat welfare and beat our kids and carry on like life is short, brutal, and stupid. But farming used to involve the whole family. Fathers spent a tremendous amount of time with their children because they all worked together to have enough to eat and to sell.

I mean, hell yes, being a mom is important. But it’s weird how often it gets framed as a matter of men just naturally not really being that into being parents.

Some assholes can always find a gal willing to put up with them, huh?

My Love for Will Pinkston Grows

Keeping in mind that I love Will Pinkston like you love a Burmese python slithering through the Everglades, munching on small deer and scaring the shit out of the tourists. I love him with a mixture of “Holy fuck? What the hell is he doing?! Why is he doing that?!” and “Please don’t make me get too close to that.”

The Tennessean today has a great and bizarre story about Pinkston getting in some bizarre fight with everyone at Megan Berry’s house.

Things escalated, with each man now blaming the other. Pinkston called the incident a “heated conversation where I cleared the air, and then Bill Freeman left.”

The gist of the conversation included personal insults and expletives. At one point Barry entered the fray to instill calm, and eventually Freeman and his wife decided to leave. At that point, an angry Pinkston turned his focus to outgoing party chairman Chip Forrester. After another few minutes of intense conversation, Forrester said he and his girlfriend also left the party.

Freeman said he didn’t recognize Pinkston when the 40-year-old school board member approached him about his son’s firing. Freeman said his son left the state Finance and Administration Office on his own accord and was not fired. Freeman said Pinkston crossed a line.

“I felt he was a bully,” said Freeman. “The fact is there’s really nothing he could bully me over.”

Pinkston said he approached Freeman for a frank, but polite, conversation about the rumors regarding his son’s former employment with the state.

“It was quite the holiday moment,” Pinkston said. “Freeman has been telling people from all over town that I had his son fired from state government.” Pinkston said he played no role in the matter.

Forrester said he and his girlfriend left the party after Pinkston seemed “out of control.” Several partygoers declined to comment, but acknowledged the incident created a scene.

And then! Then he admits, “he expressed his lingering frustration with Forrester and Freeman for the direction they’ve taken the state party.” Gosh, yes, if only they’d taken the party in the direction some mean hothead thought it should go! What bad things could come of that?! And this is the nice, improved Pinkston. This is Pinkston trying to get along with folks now that he’s on the school board. This is Mr. “It’s for me to find ways to work with people” Pinkston.

I mean, it makes you wonder if Bredesen just kept him in a cage and threw raw steaks at him before or what. Because if this is “trying to be nice,” his regular old self must just be all piss and vinegar.

(The thing that’s most hilarious about this is that the Republicans have redistricted us into a party whose most reliable districts are urban and black. And the white guys all bemoan how the party needs to spend more attention on “outside of Nashville.” Where they hate Democrats. It’s important to realize that these dustups are happening–and more publicly–not because either of these groups of warring white guys has a good idea for what direction to take the party, but because the era of the white dude Democratic party is over. Our parade doesn’t look that way anymore. But at this second, there’s not someone who looks more like the people who actually vote Democratic–black people, women, gay people, young people who live in cities, etc.–who can get the support of the Executive Committee and step up to be Grand Marshall of said parade. So, we have these two factions fighting over who gets to lead a bunch of people who aren’t going to concede parade leadership to them.

My bet is that what happens is this–the TNDP continues  to flounder. They continue to have amusing public shows of ass to the state. And Democratic politicians start to just bypass them as much as possible to get done what can be done with a smaller apparatus.

To switch metaphors, maybe it’s more like two drunks fighting over who gets to drive you home. It’s not unreasonable to shrug your shoulders and hitch a ride with someone sober. Look for Democratic politicians to just get their own rides.)

A City of Idiots

So, I say to the Butcher, “Be careful on your way to work. You know we become a city of idiots when it rains and the ice is just going to make it worse. ‘A city of idiots.’ Possibly that should be the title to my next book.”

And the Butcher looks outside at the icy conditions and says, in a dreamy voice, “They thought they heard a strange noise, but they didn’t notice that they’d left the window open and so could hear more ambient sound. When the curtain billowed in the breeze, they closed the door to that room and vowed to never enter it again. They left it to the ghost, which wasn’t a ghost at all.”

Now I’m sitting here stunned, because that’s the most wistful, funny, wonderful bit of flash fiction. And it just blurted out of my brother’s mouth like no big deal.

And then he shrugs and says, “Well, I better get going if the roads are going to be shitty. Have a nice day, Betsy.” Exit the Butcher.

The wrong person in my family may be writing.

Oh Blake Shelton

If you ever wonder what it’s like to live in Nashville and work in the music industry, you can either read Ashley’s hilarious recaps of Nashville, or you can read this article about Blake Shelton and just imagine a million douchy meetings where people sit around and say this same thing repeatedly, you’ll pretty much have it.

It’s not that this–

If I am “Male Vocalist of the Year” that must mean that I’m one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward and if it moves on. Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, “My God, that ain’t country!” Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.

–doesn’t have a certain kind of truth to it. But as the dude writing the article points out, it’s a very small kind of truth. After all, Mumford & Sons and the Avett Bros. and just about anyone on the Americana state wouldn’t be making a living if people didn’t want to listen to their grandpa’s music. Or the music of someone’s grandpa, anyway.

And then, if you think about it for longer than five seconds and start to think how much country music sounds like rock music in the 70s, you know that people who listen to Blake Shelton are, indeed, listening to their grandpa’s music. Just that their grandpa didn’t listen to country.

And then, to second Saving Country Music’s point, dude, come on! The only people who still regularly and consistently buy music anymore are us oldsters.

I don’t really care if country music doesn’t sound like country music, because lord knows that they’ve been complaining that country music doesn’t sound like country music for as long as I know of.  Fuck, I’m convinced people were all “Oh, John Carson! That doesn’t even sound like old-timey fiddlin’!” The fight about what real country music is resides in the bones of the genre.

I do care that a musician has no sense of his own history. If Blake Shelton isn’t listening to the good music in his own genre because it’s grandpa music, it’s his loss as an artist. It shows a failure of imagination on his part, that he can’t love it, not a failure on the music’s part to be relevant.

Random Thoughts

1. Here’s the problem Rocketown has: these are their defenders in the comments. This is now the problem all people who aren’t comfortable around gay people have: you can either get more comfortable, decide that being uncomfortable isn’t worth fighting over, or these are your allies. It becomes a double-problem when your reason for being uncomfortable around homosexuality is that you’re Christian. Because, surely, if you are Christian and you find yourself on the side of the most hateful people in an argument, the ones wanting any excuse to keep hurting people, it must give you great pause. Even when Jesus admonished sinners, he never took a stance that would have left them publicly more vulnerable to harm. That the “Christian” stance is “leave those gay folks out in the cold” is a problem and its the kind of problem that Christians are going to have to wrestle with for themselves. Because, right now, a lot of people–many of whom are also Christian–are protecting people from Christians. Protecting from. If that doesn’t bother you as a Christian, I don’t even know what to say to you.

2. The Roy Herron thing. I think it just basically means that the troubles continue for the Democratic Party. Folks are rightly worried by a guy aligned too closely to Chip. But that the viable response you have to that is a guy too closely aligned to the bad old “Let’s just pretend we’re Republicans Lite” days is also not good. I mean, what does Roy Herron think a Democrat is? On the third hand, it may be that the Democratic Party does end up running some Republican Lites, because they figure out that they can’t win on their primary ballots, but have a shot at winning in the general. (I don’t think this is going to be true for a few more years, though. Republicans need to get a bit more codified.)

3. $900,000 for nothing? Lord almighty. As much as it pains me, you can’t say that voters were wrong to toss Democrats out on their ears. The level of lazy, genial corruption is just staggering.

4. But that kind of lazy, genial corruption is human nature. And a problem Republicans are going to have is keeping their members from indulging in it. If Tennessee threw Democrats out solely because it’s become a more conservative state, then Republican corruption won’t matter. But if Tennessee at any level threw Republicans out because they thought they were going to get more moral people, then Republicans succumbing to the temptations of office is a huge problem for them. And one they should not forget.

Scandenavia, Why Must You Delight Me So?

Shall we count the ways? Excluding my favorite gods, we have

1. Trollhunter.

2. Jagannath.

3. First-aid Kit, especially their song about a werewolf.

and now 4. The Great Norway Goat Cheese Fire of ’13.

Let us count the ways this is fucking wonderful!

  1. Who knew cheese could catch on fire?
  2. It burned hot enough to destroy a tunnel.
  3. 2/3 of the men in that story are named Viggo.
  4. “Kjell Bjoern Vinje, of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, said it was the first time he could remember cheese catching fire on Norwegian roads.”

So, yes, I’m a little bummed that none of the Skaarsgards showed up to glower at me in a sexy manner, but Norway, your goat cheese fire just about makes up for it. In your honor, I have just now added a Scandenavia category to the blog, in case the awesomeness continues.

It’s a Little Weird Around Here in the Morning

My mechanic doesn’t take appointments, so, if you want them to look at your car, you best be in there before seven in the morning. The only thing nice about driving into Nashville at 6:45 is just how beautiful it looks in the early dawn light. Blah. So, they then dropped me off here at work at 7:20.

The kids who go to school in the suite next to us (long story short, they’re high schoolers with developmental issues who go to school and work in the area) were standing in the hallway, and one of the kids was over in the corner, his back turned to me.

“I… have…. a… secret….” he mumbled. I pressed the button for the elevator, because, if I have learned on thing in my life, it’s that people who are doing creepy voices to themselves in a corner are never about to say something you want to hear.

“I… killed…” And now I am freaking right the fuck out. Should I get on the elevator? Should I wait and see who he killed so that I can tell the police? Am I standing next to a murderer or what?



“[mumble mumble] Simba!”

Oh, okay, The Lion King. Carry on.

My Last Think Progress Thing

I didn’t intend for them all to end up fantasy and horror, but they did. Here’s an interview with Jason Sizemore.

In case you’re counting, that means that, on Monday, I did whatever crap I tried to pass off as worthwhile here, my actual job, two posts for Think Progress even after I said to the Butcher, “I should take some time this weekend and write ahead some on Think Progress so that I don’t break my brain,” but did not follow my own advice, a post for Pith, and a post for Flyover Feminism that runs tomorrow.

I now can’t function I should make some squares, but I’m going to play video games and fret about my car and go to bed instead.

The Check Engine Light

Stupidity continues. My Check Engine light came on on my way to work. I can’t get it into the mechanic’s until tomorrow, though. My dad blithely announced that he’s going in for a CT scan on his head this afternoon, which will be fine, but when we’re playing “attack of the anxious funk,” it’s not helping.


“Attack of the Anxious Funk” should totally be the title of my autobiography.

To the Big Tree

I think because it’s so cold the dog has refused to walk in the morning. Today we at least went to the big tree next to the AT&T building, but no farther. Things are happening. Project X is where it’s supposed to be at this point. I’ve got a blog post submitted one place (fingers crossed), a blog post ready for Think Progress, an interview conducted for another post, I’m caught up on Pith. Rachel’s squares are finally chugging along. All the big squares are tucked and I’m on to the medium ones.

I’m feeling a little frazzled, though. And sad. I think it’s just the weather, so I’m trying to just play through, you know?

Just sometimes I’m really aware that the world is changing and I’m not sure that my markers for what is successful matter much anymore. So, I need some new markers. But I don’t know what they are.

I mean, I think this is successful. I think this is everything I could have hoped for.

I’d like that to sink in to my stupid brain.