Sometimes a person’s voice after death is like a mirror after it’s been shattered.–Amelia Garretson-Persans
So, Thursday I go to have that thing cut off. I’m hoping I won’t have to have stitches. Tom Petty is right–the waiting is the hardest part. When I thought the doctor was just going to lop it off two weeks ago, I was not at all nervous. But now I’ve had all this time to fret. Will I be able to drive home? Will I be able to sit? What if I can’t sit? Can a girl live either standing up or lying down? And how do I poop if I can’t sit?
HOW WILL I POOP?!!!!
See? It’s kind of getting ridiculous around here.
On Bridgett’s recommendation, I’ve just started Peter Boag’s Re-dressing America’s Frontier Past. I’m only through the chapter on women who dressed as men, but it’s blowing my mind. Boag’s trying to walk an unenviable line where he uses the term “cross-dressing” as the broadest category and then tries to drill down into as much material as he can find on each cross-dresser to try to understand how that person understood his or herself–and the understandings he finds are pretty fascinating. There were a lot of women who dressed as men in order to be able to travel freely. But he also has a lot of examples of people who were recognized by their society to be women who always felt that they were men. And there’s a lot of variety in between. I don’t envy Boag’s attempts to try to find contemporary words that easily map onto these people’s understandings of themselves, but I think Boag does a good job of reminding the reader that this mapping is problematic and obscures as well as illuminates.
I had known from how people maligned poor Uncle Walt, patron saint of this blog, that 19th century people certainly did have an understanding of “homosexuality” (I put it in quotes only to try to acknowledge again that there’s that mapping–me putting a contemporary word on a concept that doesn’t quite line up), even though we, as a culture, often pretend like gayness is something that was born in the ’20s in San Francisco. But I had no idea how much public discussion and acknowledgement there was of people who didn’t fit gender-presentation and sexual-orientation norms in the 19th century. Which is not to say that people were necessarily accepting, but that they knew people could be in these situations.
And that’s the other part that’s been blowing my mind–just story after story of people I had no idea existed. The women who dressed as men in order to become criminals. The women who dressed as men in order to marry wives. The people who were only discovered to be biologically female upon their deaths.
History books like this are great because you hear these stories. But I have this experience, too, of feeling like I had, until that moment, been robbed. These stories should have been available and were not, because they don’t fit some ideal of what it means to be American. So, they just got hidden away, kept from the kids.
Like I said, I’m not very far into it, so I don’t know if Boag gets into it or if it’s just something I have to hope someone writes about later, but it seems to me that there’s really fertile ground between the concept of (and anxiety about) “crossing” and “passing.” It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around, because I grew up in an era when we have arguments over these things like there are definitive answers. You have a set gender, sex, and race. We might fight over who gets to decide what evidence is recognizable when making those determinations–in other words, do we trust you when you say “I’m a white man?” Or do we decide certain biological standards carry more weight?–but we believe those things exist and are intimately and fundamentally embodied. For better or for worse, we’re committed to the idea that our bodies are evidence of who we are.
But this anxiety a hundred-some years ago about “crossing,” like the anxiety about passing, seems to suggest that those things were not linked for folks in the same way. They had a lot of anxiety because they seem willing to believe that you literally could become the type of person you were dressing to be.
In which case, it’s little wonder that there’s such heavy policing of the boundaries between blacks and whites and men and women–those boundaries could, if not heavily guarded, easily be traversed. And I’d like to hear some smart thoughts about that. So, I’m looking forward to the work that’s going to come out of this work, as well as looking forward to the rest of the book.
One thing that keeps striking us as we rewatch Buffy is just how much groundwork it laid for our more recently iconic vampires. Angel is Edward Cullen’s father, down to the hair. And then, last night, we watched an episode where Buffy had been infected by a demon and could hear everyone’s thoughts, except for Angel’s, which, of course, she found curious and a relief. Which, of course, is Sookie Stackhouse.
The other thing that’s been striking us is just how much is foreshadowed early on and how very sad the show always was.
–Sometimes, I feel like I am swimming in a lake, with my head barely above water. That’s my life. And then I talk to my brother and I feel like my feet are tangled in something and it means my swimming is pointless. And I can’t decide if that’s fair or not.
–To put it another way, I think I’m always already listening to him as if the news is going to be bad. Even before he starts to speak. And it so often is either bad news or news I can’t understand. But I feel like it does ugly things to me, even if some great percentage of the time I’m right, to answer the phone in anticipation of fucked up things from him. I am making myself into the shape of a person I don’t like over it. And yet, how do you not think “Oh, god, what this time?”
–I used to think that, if only I could know and understand things, I could feel some control over them–that understanding would come with catharsis which would allow me to change and my life to change. But that’s not how it works. At all. Knowing is, really, almost nothing. Sometimes, it’s worse.
–His girlfriend’s mom is younger than me.
–I went to the park this weekend and gardened and hid in my living room and it’s not alone enough. I don’t want to see people. I don’t want to do things with them. And yet, again, back to the truth of things–you have to go and do those things and see those people because, as weird as it is to just pretend like everything’s okay, if you don’t at least pretend, then it’s definitely not.
1. The Shining Girls. I liked it, not quite loved it. I wish I could read a story that was as if The Shining Girls and Gun Machine had a baby. Because I feel like there’s something really important about Gun Machine‘s idea that any city has any number of maps, of ways people understand it, and that, when someone is time-traveling, he is, indeed, making his own map on an axis most of us don’t get to experience. Anyway, it’s pretty good. I’m just not sure the author’s map of Chicago-land quite matches up with mine.
2. The new Superman movie. I loved it. LOVED it. There are two really alarming parts, though. One is when Pa Kent encourages people to hide from a tornado under an overpass. NOOOOO, Pa Kent, noooo! That’s an incredibly dangerous place to be in a tornado. The second is the part where Superman is talking to a priest and the camera frames him and Jesus in the same shot, you know, in case you didn’t get the parallels. People in our audience groaned. But other than that, I thought it was a really lovely meditation on parenting and finding your way in the universe and all that jazz. It had a lovely, big heart at its center, which I was a little afraid about. I mean, the best superhero movies lately have been about brooding or snarky superheros. So, I was worried about how a sincere, good guy might play. But I have to say, I think they did a really, really good job. I found myself really, deeply moved by the depictions of loving parents and a guy who would have been a good guy even if he weren’t Superman. I kind of didn’t know how hungry I was for a story like that again.
You know who I don’t believe? The guy who works at McAfee and says, “We do not share any type of personal information with our government agency partners.”
This is, again, one of those befuddling things about this story. Is dude bullshitting? Like just saying this stuff even though, obviously, the last person you’re going to believe is the person who works for a company that works so hard to trick consumers into installing shit on their computers that is then virtually impossible for consumers to feel confident that they can a.) remove and b.) that it will stay removed? There is no company I would look to sooner to be handing my data over to the feds than fucking McAfee. What other purpose does all that “You can’t really get rid of it” software serve?
Or what if this dude isn’t bullshitting? Here’s the heart of the matter for me. Does McAfee really think that it can operate that way–tricking people into putting difficult to remove shit on their computers–AND be taken seriously in the court of public opinion? It’s like finding out that fucking Walmart wants to be seen as a good corporate citizen.
The idea that McAfee seems to think that it has some trusted roll in society, some good will that can be burned is just… It’s just stunning to me. I have to carefully opt out of getting your shit. If I once get sloppy or tired or just hit enter too quickly on an update for something that seems completely unrelated to you, I get your fucking crap on my computer. And the last time I got your shit on my computer, it was a nightmare to get rid of it. Try as I might to uninstall it, every time I restarted, it’d be there. I had to fucking Google how to really, truly uninstall it, because you guys fucking suck. And I still don’t feel completely confident that you’re gone.
In fact, you seem like the kind of company that might just read this post and then fucking somehow scan my computer and say “Yep, still on there.”
McAfee, if you’re aiding the government in spying on its citizens, I would consider that to be the least surprising revelation of the year.
I think the other reason I’m a little blah about my writing is that it just feels like nothing, in general, is happening. Things are out for submission, things are at the copyeditor, things are being written. But I like the part where I say “Hurray, go read this!!!” and you all say “Whoa, we read it and it was fun and awesome.”
And what if it never happens again?!
That’s my big, secret fear–that “Frank” was it. And that I’m too stupid to know it.
Redrafting the Ben & Sue project with a different narrator has been lately hard as hell. It’s both that I know the story really well–so that doesn’t feel like a first-draft–and yet here I am writing all new stuff that I’m not sure works or even needs to be there, which is a perfectly fine place to be in a first draft, but a weird place to be in a 8th or 9th draft, whichever this is for some material.
Another hard thing is that I’m still not sure there’s any narrative urgency. I’ve been staring at some parts of this so long that I have no idea why anyone would want to continue reading it from one sentence to another. I have no idea why scenes follow each other.
I think this is, in part, just a kind of narrative delirium brought on by being stuck in this story that almost, but doesn’t quite work for so long.
Anyway, last night I hit that same old scary spot with this manuscript–the ending, which I am, yet again, rewriting.
I still feel adrift about this story. Still, it seems like someone pointing out things that were already well-known and having everyone act as if it’s new information. This isn’t a matter of the emperor wearing no clothes and just now someone admits it. This is years of people saying “the emperor has no clothes” and finally someone says “look, I fake making clothes for the emperor” and that’s all of a sudden big news.
Plus, I remain nervous about his disappearing to Hong Kong in order to release this news. I mean, I know Hong Kong isn’t exactly China. And I respect that he is in fear of his life. And China is more our frenemy than some kind of USSR 2.0. But I find it absurd that Snowden thinks that Hong Kong is some bastion of civil liberties. I just don’t believe that he actually thinks that. So, if he didn’t go to Hong Kong for the civil liberties protections, why did he go there? Until I feel assured it wasn’t to share what he’s found with China before sharing it with the American people, I’m wary of treating him like a hero, even if I don’t feel confident that he’s some great enemy of the state. I just have mixed, ambivalent feelings about him.
But most of all, I’m completely stunned that people think most Americans are going to give a shit about this. Go back and look at every fucking piece of pop culture since 2002. We enjoy the fantasy of a government that can get into everything and follow us around electronically. And, frankly, just like CSI convinced a generation of juries that you should be able to get DNA in a few minutes and use facial recognition software to get a match instantly, Hollywood has convinced us that our government should be capable–for better or for worse–of instantly knowing everything about us This isn’t a matter of right or wrong, because we’ve been shown it being “right” and we’ve been show it being “wrong.” But in both cases, pop culture has been making the argument that this is a capability a government has, or should have.
People in this country might not want that power turned on them, but they are not going to give a shit about–and in fact, I’d argue, would actively support–it being used against “those” people.
And the disconnect between the people trying to make hay about this and that fact just irritates me so much. Though it should be, this isn’t obviously wrong. And I wish people would do a better job of articulating just what’s wrong with it.
Holy shit! We watched that Hansel and Gretel movie with that dude in it last night and it was amazing. It made me wish I were a dual historian/women’s studies professor so that I could spend a week in all of my classes watching this movie, turning to fifteen to thirty people and saying “What the fuck? How is this possible in this day and age?”
I mean, I expected to feel uncomfortable as someone who enjoys a little woo in her life, watching witches as bad guys. But this is not an anti-witch movie so much as it’s just a–and I do not use this word in this instance lightly–misogynistic blow-out. You want to see women getting punched, shot, kicked, smashed, decapitated, tortured, burned alive, and threatened with being raped to death? Were you hungry to relive the days in which every powerful woman simply must be a creature of Satan? Perhaps, among all the violence against women, you wanted to see a light-hearted sequence where a teenage boy tries to touch the breasts of an injured and unconscious woman and it’s played for laughs?
And, even the violence against women aspect aside, the biggest problem with the movie is that it’s not some great think-piece, but by the end of it, it’s not clear that the witches are wrong about people and our best use maybe being as witch food. I mean, the witches are terrible, but they are terrible to everyone equally. The things the villagers do and allow to happen in the name of “justice” or “safety” are laughably vile. These are the shits we’re supposed to be in sympathy with?
For instance, one of the witches starts a rumor that Hansel and Gretel’s mom is a witch (this is true because every adult female character in the movie with the exception of one is, but the villagers don’t know this). The villagers burn her alive and then hang to the death Hansel and Gretel’s father. Then, a bit later, Hansel gives a brief speech on revenge and you think, “Oh, great, he also got revenge on the village.” But no! Just killing the witch that started the rumor was revenge. The sick fucks who would actually kill a couple who have never harmed them, against whom they have no actual proof? Those guys I guess just need to be understood.
The whole thing was just bizarre. But I reiterate: if you’re looking for something to show people that illustrates how these kinds of historical slanders work, this is a great contemporary example.
Ugh, I forgot that I was going to blog about this and now I’m not going to be able to remember the exact wording. This morning, on NPR, dude said, “blah blah blah grow the economy.” And I keep hearing this use of “grow” that just sounds nails on chalkboard wrong to me, but I’m hearing it so often that I’m wondering if I’m just wrong.
Let’s take this sentence, which sounds wrong to me:
Obama will grow the economy through taxing the shit out of you. Ha ha ha, conservatives.”
Economists hope the additional jobs will help grow the economy.
I would write those sentences as “Obama will help the economy grow by taxing the shit out of you.” and “Economists hope the additional jobs will help to grow the economy.”
I think something like “The farmer will grow corn this summer” is fine. But “The farmer will grow his household income by adding corn to his crops” absolutely does not. I also would think that “The farmer fed his kids cheese in order to grow healthy bones” is fine but “The farmer will grow his kids by feeding them cheese” sounds wrong.
Weigh in here, people. Do you think this is just a regional variation in use of grow or are these fuckers misusing it?
It could be a regional thing. I mean, I think that you can go towards the door even by walking backwards and I can’t break myself of it, even though I know it’s more correct to go toward and backward. But man, it grates on me.
While watching this Jacob Jones video I was reminded that there’s not really any way to share what’s best about Nashville with tourists. I mean, unless we just assign everyone tourist-sitting duties like we do jury duty. You go to the airport, pick up your tourists, see what they have in mind for doing while they’re here, and then take them along with you to other shit.
I mean, I don’t like to leave my house and, in the past month, some dudes played a balalaika in my back yard, I got to hear an impromptu, stripped-down Anchor Thieves show, and I sat on NM’s porch after eating her delicious greens while a Cajun dude told me stories about his Grandpa and warned me off of eating nutria.
Imagine if a tourist got assigned to, say, Jacob Jones?
I don’t know. I just think that what makes Nashville special to me is not what there is to do here, but the awesome people who come to do it.
Aside from the usual stress of a full family visit, I’ve been weirdly sick. It’s either a really mild flu or some psychosomatic nonsense that won’t go away. The flu-like symptoms include joint aches and feeling kind of nauseous. The weird, but also kind of flu-like symptom is that I am both too hot and too cold. All the fucking time. I can only be mildly comfortable if I am sitting right under the air conditioning vent in a lot of clothes. Though, last night, I finally slept pretty well having a shit-ton of blankets draped over my legs and one arm. And I have a headache. And I feel like I’m constantly sweating but just on my back. And I’m tired. The hot-coldness of it feels, frankly, kind of like when you get a sunburn, but I’m not sunburnt.
I am mildly unhappy at this turn of events. However, it’s very mild. It just means I’m going to bed at nine like an old lady and would, if I could, sleep until eight. I still am walking the dog and doing family shit.
So, yesterday, I had lunch with my brother and the mother of his next child. She’s fine. Not just in the “the bar has been set so low” sense, but in the regular sense–I like her. She’s very young, but she seems to have a good head on her shoulders and, I don’t know, I kind of feel like she likes my brother, but isn’t expecting him to continue to come through, which may be the right attitude to have.
My mom and I were discussing my dad’s family and the kind of Godfather dynamic that sometimes gets brought into play–there has to be someone all-powerful who doles out advice and leads the family and gets the family’s adoration/fear. And it’s weird because this is one of the things I really like about my living Uncle B., that even though he obviously enjoys being a bigshot, he doesn’t take it too seriously, it doesn’t mean that much to him. Or I guess what I mean is that he knows it’s kind of a made-up thing, which not everyone is going to recognize. You can only be a bigshot if people know you’re a bigshot. And you can’t declare yourself kind of a big deal. Though others in my dad’s family have tried.
But I was glad she brought that up because I was, then, less gobsmacked at lunch with my brother, who is more heavily counting on there being money from potentially dead relatives than a person ought to. And I get that part of it is that he’s really, really broke. And that’s his lottery dream. But I tried to explain to him that, even if my Grandma has as much money as he thinks she does, right now, there’s no guarantee that she will just straight up and die, when the time comes (though I pray that’s how she goes) and lingering in the hospital can burn through a person’s savings quickly.
So, he says he told my sister-in-law that she should just think of the money my parents give her (don’t get me started) as “his” money coming from him (doubly don’t get me started) and she shouldn’t get used to it because, when I’m in charge (yes, that I is me, not him), he can tell me to cut her off and I will because I hate her. And I do. The only thing she has going for her, as far as I’m concerned, is that my nephew loves her and I hope he never realizes how terrible she is. Though, considering everyone had to have a talk with him about her impersonating him on Facebook in order to act like an asshole toward people who won’t friend her or have her blocked, I assume the seeds have been planted.
Anyway, what I cannot help but pick at, in that whole fucked up scenario, is this idea that there will come a day when I’m just the money faucet which my brother can just turn on and off at will. Never mind that there is no massive amount of money coming. Never mind that my mom’s mom is alive and 93, which means that we need to be prepared for my mom, at least, to motherfucking need her own money for the next thirty years.
I am never giving my brother money. Let alone my sister-in-law. If there is money from my parents, it will quickly be split three ways and everyone can waste it how they see fit. But hell no to this idea that I’m just going to inherit it all (and let me remind you, there is no “all”) and then be the free money fountain for the family, with there being some power in being in the position of telling me to whom to grant all my money.
What the fuck kind of fucked up dynamic is that? I mean, it’s bad enough that we’ve played out for generations this stupid patriarchy where the parents trickle down support to the kids for the parents’ whole lives, but this idea that our parents will die and I’ll just step up to be the mommy?
It doesn’t even make me mad. It utterly befuddles me. Why would anyone think that I would want to do that? If I wanted to be a mom, I would have had my own children. If I had the means and wanted to provide for family members, I’d sock money away to help with the nephews’ college (and I suppose now the niece’s). The idea that I would want to continue this fucked up fucked upness that my parents do?
Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
I want to learn how to crochet adorable baby dresses so that I can make one for Rose.
My oldest nephew is a giant. He’s just fifteen and he’s already six feet tall and as broad as a regular man. And yet, there’s something too long about his arms and legs that lets you know he’s got at least one more growth spurt in him.
He’s in the Junior ROTC, which I find alarming and hilarious, but I keep those opinions to myself.
He wants to be a Marine. I asked him to write me up a paragraph explaining all the ranks in the Marines and which one would require me, as a civilian, to start calling him ‘sir.’
And he says, “Aunt Betsy, I don’t mind if you start practicing right now.”
When he said he wanted to be a Marine, I asked him why and he said, “Because they’re the best.” I said, “I think every branch of the military thinks it’s the best.”
He said, “No, the Air Force thinks they’re the smartest.”
I don’t know. Maybe it’s not that funny in writing, but I was dying.
My brother and his girlfriend are going to have a girl–Rose Geneva.
I’m taking the fact that there’s an appropriate Muddy Waters song to be a good portent.
I’m going to learn to crochet a dress. That’s my next project. That’s just all there is to it.
Well, let me apologize if I have your email in my Yahoo account because you probably spent part of the afternoon getting spammed by me.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened. I mean, yes, my email password was Password1234, but I thought the capital P would be tricky. Ha ha ha. No, just kidding. My password wasn’t something simple to guess or associated with me in any obvious way. Yahoo lets you track where log-ins happen and from where (kind of), so I was able to ascertain that some dude from Poland got in using a Yahoo affiliated application. I’m not sure what applications Yahoo has other than Flickr, so that’s my guess for how he got in–through Flickr somehow.
I already had in place all the things Yahoo says to have in place to keep from getting hacked–strong password, fancy picture on the login page, etc. So, other than changing my password, I’m not sure what more I can do, but I’m hoping it’s over.
Unless it’s retaliation for my snarky attitude toward government snooping in our data. In which case, yes, you got a few emails from me, but the NSA just had to sift through hundreds. So, that’s kind of fair, right?
Again, I am sorry.
So, I made an interesting observation–there are no dead Isaac Phillipses in New York who died before 1870 in Find-a-Grave. Which doesn’t guarantee that there aren’t dead Isaac Phillipses in New York, just that their graves are lost. But it made me wonder–is there a dead Isaac Phillips in Michigan, like, say, if a man came with his son from New York to Michigan and then he died?
And, lo, and behold, there is an Isaac Phillips dead in Michigan. He has a wife, Phebe. I found him dead in the North Eagle Cemetery and I found him living in Eagle, Michigan. Here’s where my mind started to get blown. In 1860, his neighbors in Eagle were the Josiah Pennington family (Isaac’s daughter Loretta and her husband), the Briggs family (nobody I know), someone whose name I can’t read, an Eddy family (which is probably some relation to Phebe, who was an Eddy, or her and Isaac’s son, Perry, who married an Eddy, the McCrmmms (the census taker is not very legible, but both McCrmmm families are spelled McCrmmm), the Hills, and Chester Hildreth and his family.
Chester Hildreth is the uncle of my Great-Great-Grandma, Mary Hildreth, who married Oscar Phillips (who, remember, had a son named Frank, my Great Grandpa).
Here are Eagle, Michigan Isaac Phillips’s known children, according to Ancestry.com folks
Orin Phillips (couldn’t verify his existence), no birthday
Phoebe Phillips 1798
Electa Phillips 1812
Louisa Phillips 1819
Mary Phillips 1820
Joseph Phillips 1823
Perry Phillips 1826
Susan Phillips 1832
Loretta Phillips 1833
Joseph Phillips has a son named Frank. More interesting is this Orin. It shows up a couple of times as a middle name in Isaac’s grandchildren. Luke’s son Alfred named his kid Lewis Orin Phillips (and he, coincidentally, had a son named Frank).
And where is Eagle, Michigan? It’s right east of Portland, where Oscar and one of his brothers lived for a while. It’s just north of Chester, where so very many of my dead Phillipses are, and within spitting distance of where Ralph (another of Oscar’s sons) and his kids Van and Roy lived. Jay Phillips, whose son, also Frank, had the farm just down the road from Luke, and who I suspect is Luke’s brother (the Franks, both families have Roys, and the proximity of Jay’s Frank’s farm to Luke’s) was born in 1815. Isaac has a convenient hole in known children there.
Luke was born in 1808. Nice convenient hole there.
Sayles Phillips, if he is, indeed related in, was born in 1801, and there’s room for him there, too.
Now, let’s look at the 1810 census data of the New York Isaac I suspect of being Luke’s father. In 1810, there’s 2 males under ten, 1 male 26-44, 1 female under ten, 1 female 10-15, and one female 45 and older. That would fit Phoebe, Sayles, and Luke.
I don’t quite know how to knit this together from both ends, but it’s going to be much more feasible for me to get up to Michigan again to dig around about this Isaac than to go to New York any time soon, so I’m happy to have a lead.
I’m having a kind of weird reaction to this, because I feel like I’ve been living in some alternate history where everyone already knew this was happening. I mean, maybe that’s just because I read and converse with a lot of leftists and libertarians, but I’m completely befuddled that people are surprised and outraged by this, now.
It was surprising and outrageous ten years ago. People were outraged and upset about it then. And the whole nation was like “Blah blah blah. War on Terrorism. Who gives a shit?” and we were all “Well, me, and, when it bites you in the ass, you.”
And here we are. And it’s like all the people who were all “La la la, I can’t hear you” when folks tried to sound the alarm about this years ago, really did just not hear.
So, let’s just be clear: It’s not just Verizon. And the only real privacy you have from the government is in the fact that there’s just so much data that they’ve very unlikely to focus in on you. You are a proverbial needle in a data haystack.
And that’s been the truth for a decade. Welcome to the weirdness of it.