Swept Away

Oh god, my fireplace and chimney need $2500 worth of work to make it safe to use. So, I guess I’m not going to sit in front of it in October. I’m going to spend the money to get it fixed, though, because I bought this house because it had a working fireplace and I would like a working fireplace.

We watch a lot of Adam Ruins Everything and last night he had one on real estate and he came down on the side of renting being a better option than buying for most people (though, in fairness, he also covered how the Airb&b business is making renting harder for people). And I think that’s not quite right. It’s just a different option. The price I pay a month has gone up in the couple of tax assessments we’ve had, but never by the amount a month my rent regularly increased. And there’s simply nowhere left in Nashville where I could have this amount of space for this amount of money a month.

You do also dump a lot of money into repairs. I’m going to dump a lot of money into the fireplace. I dumped a lot of money into plumbing. There’s always something big that needs to be done.

I guess it’s partially because I think a lot about the logistics of writing, but I feel like what we all want is a right way to do things, clear cut solutions to murky problems. Rent, don’t buy. Buy, don’t rent. Self-publish. Get an agent. Etc. Etc.

The way is never that clear. The right thing not always obvious. The world looks different to each of us depending on where we stand.

I read this terrific story over at Strange Horizons. And then I read this review of the story which was positive, but reads the story entirely differently than I do. Like, wow, that’s not how I read it.

If you want to discuss cocktapusses, please skip straight to the comments now. If you want to discuss the story, I’ll make my points below:

The witch cursed the dude because he’s an abusive ass. His abusive ass-ness therefore did not end when the curse was broken, because that’s just who he is–that monster. Loving him brings a different curse on the women who do it. Therefore, the way to break the curse, the current curse he’s causing, is to stop loving him. That’s what she comes to understand–he’s no longer cursed, she is. So the witch can’t lift her curse on him; she can only help the woman realize how to lift the curse on her.

The witch clearly used to be the monster’s lover. That’s the parallel with them both having a collection of knives. We’re supposed to link them together. And that’s her good reason for cursing him in the first place–he did her wrong, so she cursed him to show outwardly what he is inwardly.

The witch isn’t promising the woman a life of ex-lovers. She’s saying, “If you break this curse, you may be on your way to becoming like me, a witch.”

Luke Cage

We finished Luke Cage, which we both loved. Like all the Netflix Marvel stuff, I ended up feeling like it would have been better if it were ten episodes instead of twelve or thirteen or whatever it was.

I remain very tickled at the normalization of the mad scientist. I love that… oh wait… I guess SPOILERS

I love that the driving force behind the drama was that Luke Cage is a minister’s kid! Ha ha ha. That made me happy. I loved Shades and I was so relieved that he lived. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is about his character that I found so enjoyable, but I think it’s clearly that he’s a smart badass who is likes seeing women succeed. Like Luke Cage is all “I’m flirting with you by telling you you’re old” and Shades is all “I’m flirting with you by helping you cover up this murder and telling you you can achieve your goals and more.”

Like, seriously, who do you want to flirt with? Clearly, clearly it’s the guy who’s all “You are amazing” not the guy who’s all “you’re a little mature to be here, aren’t you?”

I can’t decide if the flashbacks went on too long or if they were just awkwardly done, but for me, they were the weak point of the series. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but only rarely did they tell me something that the subtext of the show didn’t already make quite clear and they seemed to drag on way too long.

But I was really glad to get to see Mabel in the flesh and I would have liked to have seen more of her. So, take that for what it’s worth.

And the music is amazing.

Sometimes You Don’t Know What You Need Until You Get It

I had a couple of good long discussions this weekend and a short, but important discussion, and I am feeling like a human being again. Just sometimes it means the world to hear from other people “That is fucked up and I don’t know what to do or make of it either.”

It’s nice sometimes to know that you’re not overlooking some obvious solution.

I watched Spy again last night and I laughed again. One thing that really struck me is that one of the reasons I find Jason Statham so delightful in it is that he’s being funny. Like somehow him being funny doesn’t negate his handsomeness.

But, and I say this as evidence as kind of my own internalized bullshit, Melissa McCarthy is just objectively stunning. Like, she is really beautiful. But, much like Lucille Ball, since she’s sending out “funny” not “cute” cues, I didn’t notice.

I don’t know. I have a lot of thoughts. It pains me to be honest about them. But it means a lot to me to see Melissa McCarthy out in the world being beautiful, making movies, even comedies, where a lot of people want to fuck her. I’m embarrassed at this age to need that, but I do.


We binge-watched Galavant on Netflix over the past week. It is delightful. I don’t know why I never searched it out when it was on live. I guess because I never heard anyone say, “Wow, this is weird and delightful.”

Timothy Omundson is wonderful in it. His character goes from sniveling baby to kind of dorky but regal and, even though he’s stunningly handsome and his eyes are so dreamy, I bought him every step of the way. For a silly show, they give him a ton of character development and he just sells the shit out of it. But we’ve loved him since Lassiter, so I guess it wasn’t that surprising.

I was surprised by Vinnie Jones, which, I admit, is silly of me. I can’t help it. I’m a sucker, just a sucker, for the “big bad guy with softer side.” Like, will you punch bad guys and snuggle this kitten? Okay, fine, I’m in. The guys were kind of appalled at his singing, but I adored it. I mean, everyone else in the cast has a perfectly passable (and often far better than passable) voice and Vinnie just sounds like an everyday dude singing and I think that takes real guts. To just be yourself, have your own voice, flaws and all, when you know everyone else has some level of professional training at it. Plus, also, screw them. He has a really lovely voice in the kind of way that you know, if you saw him tomorrow out singing to a little kid in that very voice, you would have to lay down on the ground and just wait for the smiley tears to stop. (And possibly, judging by his life, Vinnie might kick you while you were lying there, but that’s a chance you’d have to take.)

I mean, that’s the thing about beautiful things. We try to equate beauty with flawlessness and perfection, but, if you had to say whose singing was going to hit you right in the feels every time if you had to hear it for the rest of your life, it’d be Vinnie Jones’s above Joshua Sasse’s, with no offense to Sasse, who has a very lovely voice.

I guess what I mean is that there’s beauty in bravery and daring, not just in perfection, and I often prefer the beauty that’s brave over the beauty that’s perfect.

Look at Yourself

There’s been an interesting to me conversation going on in various quarters about the role of alcohol at genre conventions. The aspect of it I’m interested in is whether how we use alcohol hampers our efforts to be welcoming to a diverse crowd.

In other words, if you don’t drink–for religious or medical reasons–do you feel able to participate in the kinds of informal socializing that goes on at cons that can lead to friendships and publishing deals and opportunities of all sorts?

The point I kept trying to make is that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people sitting at the bar and chatting, but, if you know there are people who feel uncomfortable at the bar, are there also activities not centered around alcohol where this kind of socializing is also done?

I was, then, a little taken aback to see the number of people who insisted that bar culture at cons is fine, that you don’t have to drink there, that everybody feels comfortable there, that there isn’t a problem. Even in the face of people saying that hotel bars can be very hard for people with disabilities to navigate and people saying that the way drunk people can get aggressive made them avoid bars.

And I can’t help but marvel at this. Do people really think that when a man at a convention, say, slapped a woman on the ass, that he thought he was saying “You’re not welcome here? You’ll always just be something for me to fuck, not a real fan?”

I mean, duh, of course not. Most dudes thought they were saying “Whoa, hey, I noticed that you’re here and I’m really glad about it!” And then probably with wiggling insinuating eyebrows.

We’re still fighting about this, with ass-slappers still claiming it’s in good fun and ass-slappees still explaining that, even if meant in good fun, we don’t like it, it makes us feel unwelcome, and ass-slappers should stop.

So, why, then, would people on the side of “let’s expand the group to include all kinds of people” be so hostile to the idea that they could be doing things–well-meant things they think of as awesome kindnesses–that don’t come across that way to others?

Is this not an ongoing problem at cons? Do you think you’re immune from these problems just because you’re on the side of goodness?


So, I watched this movie on Saturday night and I got halfway through it and I felt like I was kind of cheating on traditional Monday movie night with the guys without meaning to. This movie, I knew the second a dude got his head chopped off, the guy who ordered the chopping off complained, and then the minions had to figure out how to do it again, was exactly the kind of movie we love to watch together.

But it was so good that we watched it last night anyway and I still laughed and enjoyed it. The best part the second time through was listening to the Butcher and the Red-Headed Kid laugh at it. At one point, one of the characters calls another character a cockapus, which then led to us trying to figure out how eight penises would work. I was thinking a kind of arrangement where seven would just tuck down out of the way until the one in use was exhausted and then another could rise up and take its place.

The Butcher assumed the penises would be evenly distributed across your body, otherwise, how would you wear pants?

The Red-Headed Kid, though, began shouting in genuine distress for the cockapus–“No, man. No. It’s too many cocks. You’d break your arms trying to support all those women.”

I laughed so hard.

But in writing this, I remembered that dream I had about running around sticking penises on men–still a waste of magical power and evil villainry, I posit–and now I wonder if that was a prophetic dream?

No, I kid. Because I had another dream about a massive anxiety attack the other night and I sure as fuck don’t want that coming true.

Anyway, Deathgasm. It’s delightful and a terrible bloody mess. And it’s on Neflix. Share your thoughts about cockapusses below.

(Ha ha ha. I always hate when blog posts end with some direction for what you’re supposed to comment about. But I would forgive it if it were always “Share your thoughts about cockapusses below.”)

Thinking Last Night About Elvis

I overheard a conversation by some young Nashville music people–white–about how Elvis was racist. And it’s been bugging me.

I’ve been thinking how in Elvis’s time, white society looked at black culture and said “That’s trash. Don’t touch it.” and how Elvis was like, “Holy shit. I found some awesome stuff here in the trash. I’m going to wear it. I’m going to shake it. I’m going to sing it. Look, look, guys. Look what I found here! It’s fucking awesome.” And how a bunch of white kids were like “Wow, yep, that is awesome. Show us more, Elvis.”

When black people say, “Hey, that’s not trash, you racist fucks; that’s our culture,” they have an absolutely legitimate complaint. Elvis wasn’t rooting through trash and it is structural racism that made it seem so.

But the complicated thing about American culture is that Elvis could have been doing something racist at one level that was also anti-racist at another level. Because saying to white kids, “No, you’re wrong. This stuff has value. This stuff is awesome. The people who made it have some cool shit it’s worth it for you to check out.” was and, sadly, still remains revolutionary.

Okay, so I think that’s clear. The same act can be both racist and anti-racist because this is America.

But here’s what I’ve been thinking about, why it really bugs me when white progressives dismiss Elvis as racist: because white racists in Elvis’s time did not want kids listening to Elvis, because they didn’t want white kids finding value in black culture and they didn’t want black kids to see their culture being valued by white culture. Elvis was an intersection–an imperfect intersection, yes, god, yes, so imperfect–that white racists did not want kids to meet at.

So whose work is being done when white progressives discourage white kids from listening to Elvis?

Stranger Things

I talked the Butcher and the Red-Headed Kid into watching Stranger Things on Netflix and we are binging out way through it, even though it involves the Red-Headed Kid rearranging his schedule a little to be over here.

I’m trying not to be too distraught by the fact that the character that was clearly based on me in high school is stuck in a demon dimension.

Through the First Week in July

I just need to keep my head down and my work good and get through this busy mess.

The other day, there was a big brouhaha because some fans on Tumblr were pretending to be the folks from The Black Tapes podcast. The Black Tapes is really cool with fans participating in the world, but it seems like this wasn’t clear that it was being done by fans. There was no disclaimer to say that the accounts weren’t run by the show and seemed to encourage confusion. So, the Black Tapes people had to try to walk this complicated line where they encouraged people to do all kinds of fan things–except thoroughly impersonating the show to the point of confusion.

There is something weird about the ways in which we feel like liking something gives us a right to it, some level of ownership over it. Like it’s ours to devour and consume, literally.

I finished Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock last night and it left me uneasy. Lake Mungo is one of my favorite movies. There probably aren’t that many people in the world who are going to read Disappearance who have also seen Lake Mungo so I don’t know how many people will notice it, but it’s the same story. Disappearance is what happens when you set Lake Mungo in the U.S. and give it a villain. Major plot points, which are genuinely surprising and upsetting the first time you encounter them, are present in both stories. Tremblay’s a really good writer so the parallels don’t ruin the book if you have seen the movie. But the movie is a delicate thing and it works hard at establishing a great aura of uncertainty. If you read the book before you see the movie, part of the movie’s delicate uncertainty will be absent for you.

So, that sucks. On the other hand, you’re probably not going to stumble across an obscure Australian horror movie. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

I guess I’m left feeling, too, like I wish there’d been a clear wink and a nod in the book or in the publicity around the book to Lake Mungo, something to say “Here are this story’s roots, so, if you like this story, check out this movie.”

Genre stories–well, all stories, but I’m focusing on genre now–get retold all the time. So, I guess it’s not the retelling that bothers me, especially when the retelling is this well done. But doesn’t a fan of a work owe it to the work to make sure that the work is known? That the influence is acknowledged?

What do fans who are also creators owe their inspirations? I don’t have a good answer for that. I’m not sure that, if I’ve had answers along the way, they’re sufficient or satisfactory.

But I feel like you have to leave breadcrumbs. You have to show the path you’ve taken. Whether it’s saying “This is a fan site because I love this thing so much, but please don’t mistake it for the thing itself” or “This is an homage to the movie I love, so, hey, if you like the book, show some love to the movie.” Otherwise, it feels like it’s not love, but theft.

Also, in other things that upset me, for the first time since I’ve owned this dog, he’s sleeping away from me at such an angle with his legs crossed at such an angle that the black scars on the back of his one leg line up with the black scars on the front of the other leg and it’s clear that they are not scars, plural, but one scar. At some point, a wire wrapped his back legs together and cut in to him deep enough to scar.

I want to cry for a million years.

And yet, what else about him would ever tell you anything bad had ever happened to him? He still has an open, joyful heart. He likes everyone.

I wish that I could say the same.


The new venue is great. The weekend was long. I’m still feeling a little frazzled.

Our cats are kind of dog-like, having been raised around at least one dog. They’re friendly. They kind of go for walks. But at the end of the day, they’re cats. As dog-like as they can be, at some point, you can hit a wall where they’re like, “Yeah, that’s too far.”

Sometimes this weekend, I felt like a cat among dogs.

I was on Twitter when a guy came up to me, touched my hand to get my attention, and then told me to smile. Like a fucking asshole, I did. I’m so mad at myself. But some of the other authors were delighted when they went up to hug him and he gave them surprise kisses.

So, here’s the thing. If you’re cool with surprise kisses, congrats. This minor celebrity just laid one on you. But how does he know that everyone who approaches him would be open to a kiss? I include myself in this group, so I speak from self-knowledge–there are a lot of socially awkward people at conventions. It’s very likely that a hug might be all they’re game for. I can’t help but wonder if and how many women got kissed who didn’t want to be.

And why would you behave like that? That’s a rhetorical question.

I have been thinking a lot about why I froze and smiled instead of scowling and telling that dude to suck my butt and I have decided it’s because I refuse to believe, in this day and age, that guys don’t know that women don’t like it when you tell them to smile. They know. So, already when you’ve decided that your pleasure is more important than my comfort, we’re in a kind of hostile situation. I want the moment to end without the hostility levels rising. The cost of me acquiescing is only my pride, so I acquiesce and you leave me alone.

I don’t know. It’s not really a big thing. Just in a weekend where no one knew what panels they were on until the last minute and I had to do a lot of running around town as well as doing the convention and meeting a lot of strangers and being “on,” it just stands out as a “WTF?” moment. Like we’re all trying to do our best here, dude, except you.

When There’s Something Strange…

This morning, I stumbled across a story about the new Ghostbusters, because someone had retweeted someone else who was complaining that they didn’t hate it because of sexism, but because it’s going to be terrible.

Let me be upfront. I’m not planning on seeing the new Ghostbusters movie at the theater. I’ll catch it when it’s on cable or makes it to Netflix. Or maybe not. If you’re not planning to see the new Ghostbusters movie either, I truly don’t give a shit.

But man, do I not believe people who feel the need to announce to the world that they’re not seeing the new Ghostbusters, but not because of the all-female cast. Okay there, bucky, sure, sure. There has been no clearer signal since “it’s about ethics in gamer journalism” that a person does not have their shit together and in really tedious ways that could easily turn on anyone engaging with them.

Like, seriously, folks, if you’re not going to see a movie, but you’re spending a bunch of time trying to make the internet believe you that you’re not not going to see it because of the women in it, I have no choice but to believe that you’re lying. Possibly to yourself, even.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post Chuck Wendig wrote in the wake of Orlando, where he talks about the festering damaging stew we raise our boys in.

We force them to understand that they are MEN. They are MASCULINE. They are aggressive, dominant, alpha. They must be or they are weak. Big dick. Big muscles. Hot girlfriend. Prove your manhood. Wear it as an emblem. Just in case, we can make sure it’s driven home in the toy aisle, too. Make sure they play with guns and weapons of war (while at the same time limiting a young girl’s social ability to do so). Do not let them be nurturers. No dolls for the men. Men are soldiers, generals, builders, leaders. Trucks and cars. Guns and swords. But they also learn by limitation — the girls have their own aisles. They have not only dolls, but stuffed animals. They have little toy shopping carts and hair salons. They cook. They clean. They are soft like the stuffed animals. Not hard like guns. No Black Widow toys for the girls or for the boys. Even if the world gives us Ghostbusters who are women, let’s make sure that the packaging shows boys — lest they be made to believe they aren’t special, they aren’t the best, they aren’t chosen.

Not to jump tracks too much but I remember feeling really pissed off when I was getting ready to graduate from college and I couldn’t figure out how to get a job and all the help my university implied they would give didn’t really mean shit.

You do shit because you’re told these are the things you need to do to get the life you want and you do them and the life you want isn’t there, damn straight you’re pissed.

That’s a really common feeling. And really fucking hard.

The joy of the internet is that it can bring you into contact with people who are also going through what you’re going through and who can give you the strength to pick up and move forward.

But it feels like the Big Suck of this situation is that these guys band together to validate their feelings (fine) and then coordinate their resentment (not fine) rather than helping each other find healthy ways forward.

And one of the resentments seems to be that they can’t just do this shit without us figuring out that it tells us something about them. They want to dislike Ghostbusters because it stars women now, but they don’t want anyone to notice.

But I have to notice in order to keep floundering, stuck, angry folks out of my life.

The Gap, Again

I think it’s because I was at a meeting earlier this week where industry people were openly talking about the grave downside of capitalism, at least as we practice it here in the United States–any business that sells something to consumers which increases profits by finding ways to keep workers’ wages low ends up killing itself, but it usually takes so long that only the people in the business near the death of the business realize the problem and then it’s too late.

In other words, if consumers and workers are the same people, you have to pay your workers enough to consume your product or you’re committing slow-motion suicide. If consumers and workers aren’t the same people, you’d better hope there are enough consumers out there making more than your workers to make your business model work or you’re committing slow-motion suicide. Note that, if every business is trying to keep workers’ pay as low as possible, all businesses face the problem of not having a large enough pool of well-paid consumers who need their shit.

I keep thinking that we’re seeing this gap replicated over all parts of our society. You have something–in the case of what I care about, stories–and there’s a huge industry that takes those stories and sells them to consumers.

But you have a growing group of consumers who can’t or won’t afford the stories. They start looking for free or cheaper stories. I mean, as expensive as video games can be, what’s they’re per-hour cost? I bought the Butcher one of the Borderlands for $50 when it first came out. I don’t know how much he’s played it, but I bet I pretty easily have only spent $1 an hour on his entertainment with that game at this point. It’s roughly $7.50 an hour to see a movie. Depending on how fast or slow you read…

It’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about with the rise of fictional podcasts. That can’t be a money-making proposition by any stretch.

I guess I don’t have a fully formed idea about this except that it seems like the rise of the online magazine and the podcast and such are, in ways, people making art for people who can’t or won’t afford to consume it through traditional channels.

If a very few people will ever be lucky enough to make a living making their art and if audiences prefer not to pay for art (or to pay much less for it), I just…

I don’t know, really. I just know that it seems like a real gap between The Industry, as such, and what producers and consumers who can’t get access to The Industry are doing and I wonder what that means.


The Butcher and I have been watching AMC’s Preacher and really enjoying it. But man, the actual business of being a preacher on that show is so weird. Like, I can accept a vampire, but accepting that a place that does full immersion baptisms has communion wine? I can’t do it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and the other day Coble had a Facebook post about how there’s basically no market for Christian fantasy & science fiction and why that is. The gist of it is basically that Christian authors want to write grown-up fiction with Christian themes, but readers of Christian fiction don’t want to read a lot of gore or sex or the kinds of things that mark a book as grown-up.

And it strikes me that Preacher suffers from the inverse of this problem. The show would be tremendously better if it had behind the scenes someone who treated Christianity like something other than another kind of fantasy trope. If it had a sincere, knowledgeable Christian overseeing the depiction of Christians.

Which is not to say that I think Christians are in any way being disrespected by the show. I mean, that’s one of the nice things about it. It does take people’s faith and their doubts seriously. But it doesn’t seem to understand the kinds of fundamental church things that would make churched people recognize themselves in that story.

I guess it’s tough. I wouldn’t like Preacher–which, let me reiterate, I like a great deal–if it were trying to sell me on returning to the fold. So, maybe it wouldn’t be that interesting for a Christian creator to work on it if he or she couldn’t proselytize through it.

But if Hollywood struggles to reach a Christian audience with the products centered around Christianity, one of the main reasons has to be that the Hollywood projects that treat Christianity as something other than just another flavor of fantasy–oh, cool, you have fairies and trolls, I have angels and demons–are pretty rare.

Which is a shame because I think Preacher could only benefit from getting those details right.


We have a new radio station in town that’s the renegades from Vanderbilt’s old community station–WXNA (that’s the new station, not Vandy’s old station). And I’m loving it, so far. It’s like listening to interesting people’s cool record collections.

It makes me really happy to hear people doing interesting, creative things.

But I have to tell you that I think we’re seeing more and more a real split between people who can make a living doing the creative thing they love and creative people who have to find some way to subsidize the cool thing they love. The quality of people stuck in the “I do this for free” is exploding and it’s getting harder and harder to make a living doing what you love.

But it can’t go on, I don’t think. If society stratifies like this, then a lot of us will be happy with the entertainment provided by the people we know, which leaves the upper tier entertainment without the audience they want.



I went to bed with a headache that wasn’t bad enough for me to take anything for it. It seemed like the kind of minor headache that you sleep off. But then I woke up with this piercing pain that ran from my eye to my temple.

I took some medicine, but it hurt so much that I was like “There’s no way anything over the counter could touch this,” but I guess that’s just years of migraine suffering talking? Because literally twenty minutes later, the headache was gone.

I’m weirded out. What is this beastly magic that fixes what it’s supposed to fix on the first go?

Ha ha ha, it also makes me realize what bears migraines are. I’ve certainly had migraines that hurt less than this headache, but they were much, much more persistent.

We watched the first episode of Preacher last night. I liked it okay, though it felt kind of hollow at the core for me. Like, I just didn’t believe the main character was very familiar with church. He’s a preacher now, but the conceit is that he’s also a minister’s kid. I didn’t recognize him as one of the family, I guess.

But the Butcher thought the church scenes were pretty accurate, so it may be just a matter of perception.

The chick from Shield is acting up a storm, though. It’s almost disconcerting to watch how good she is.


Fortunately, I don’t normally get a lot of trouble on Twitter. But yesterday, one of my friends was talking about how People has this new initiative to get women to share their dress size so that we can all see that beauty comes in every size or some such nonsense.

The thing that struck me about it, though, is that, because it’s about beauty, the women whose pictures are included, by and large, are striking “beautiful” poses while dressed in “attractive” ways while holding up the number that represents their size (because I guess they all have access to more consistent sizing than the rest of America?)

I rolled my eyes, because, of course, we can’t just have “You’re fine at whatever size you are,” because what’s that sell? We have to establish what a “beautiful” body at that size looks like, so even if you make peace with being a size 16, now you can feel anxious that you’re not the right kind of size 16 because you don’t compare to the chicks People has deemed properly representative. And buy the products necessary to relieve your anxiety. That’s the point.

Pit women against each other, set us up to compare ourselves to each other, and then sell shit based on the anxiety that unwinnable competition produces.

But it also struck me that there can’t be any eating disorder specialist who would endorse putting pictures of women up with some number attached so that other women can see how they stack up or if they need to try harder to get to the “right” number or be extra cautious about not “letting” yourself get to that undesirable number.

So, I tweeted at People something to that effect.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. A dude I don’t know @-ed me and some other dude I don’t know. No message. Just drawing other dude’s attention to the fact that I exist and then other dude began hurling insults (though most insultingly, really stupid insults) at me.

A dude sent another dude after me. The first dude, I assume, was monitoring the replies in the People twitter feed to see who had “wrong” opinions and needed to be dealt with.

Can you imagine?

I don’t want to downplay how creepy this is and I do feel a little weird now having come to the attention of a person like this.

But overall, I find this so ludicrous it’s almost delightful. If society is going to have arbiters of what is and isn’t okay to talk about and who can and can’t participate in those conversations, shouldn’t those arbiters be super awesome? Shouldn’t they show great discernment and judgment?

But no! There’s some dude whose set himself up as arbiter and he monitors the People twitter feed.

I will listen to wisdom from my betters, but the dude who monitors the People twitter feed, as evidenced by the fact that he monitors the People twitter feed, is not better than me.

The Black Tapes!

It comes back today. I packed my lunch so I can huddle around my phone over lunch and listen to it. I’ve also been enjoying the shit out of this season of Tanis.

But I want to know what Strand has been up to.

A Touch of Home

I stumbled across the Small Town Horror podcast this weekend and there’s not yet a lot to it but it seems pretty fine based on what there is. I’m going to give it a chance anyway.

The thing I love about it, though, is that, even though it’s set in Minnesota, the dude’s accent is a dead ringer for my Uncle M.’s Southside accent.

The Emptiness of a Song

There’s a certain kind of emptiness you can hear in some songs. I was thinking about that on my walk with the dog this morning. It’s one of the things that I viscerally dislike about the Velvet Underground.

It’s one of the aesthetic things that’s hard to talk about. But there’s something about the sound of the room I don’t like. It’s empty in a way I can’t stand. There’s a kind of hollowness in it. A kind of sharp hollowness.

I associate it with New York, but that may be unfair. Except you can hear that same kind of hollowness in this song.

So, I’m not alone, I don’t think, in associating that kind of space in the song with New York.

Last night, I had to talk myself out of buying the Chess Records box set, but as I was listening to the previews of the songs, I realized, interestingly enough a lot of those old Chicago blues also have a kind of hollowness to them, but one that I experience as warm and pleasant.

And it made me wonder if it might indeed be a known quality of either the recording studios they were using or how they set the band up in them or even how the track was mixed.

I’m not sure if this even makes sense and I certainly don’t hear it in all songs, but sometimes there’s a kind of sharpness to the space around the music that I really dislike and sometimes there’s a warmth in that space that I do like. But I’m not sure what it is that I’m experiencing or where in the mix it’s located.

But it does make me wonder one thing. Is this why I’m all in for The Doors? Yes, I intellectually get why they’re terrible. I don’t care. I love them. Every ponderous, belabored over-poetic, too full of their own genius part of them.

All their songs have that warm room feel.



I’ve got my afghan yarn back in so I’m making these wheels again. I need fifty-six. I have twenty six. So, it feels like it’s going well. I just really hope I’m not secretly fucking up these wheels, too, but I keep counting to make sure I have sixteen spokes, and there are, so that’s what it should be.

I remain a big fan of this yarn for its soft, squishiness and its weirdness.

I woke up early to purchase “Lemonade” so I can listen to it at work and marvel to be living in a time of geniuses.

I read the credits on the song she did with Jack White. It samples Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” so they get writing credit on the song. I noticed that Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe did not. It makes me wonder if this is one of the songs that Zeppelin ripped off and never had to make right on. I know Willie Dixon eventually got them to own up to what they’d done–and by that, I mean, get some money out of them for the use of his intellectual property, but I don’t know if other folks were able to.

The fact that Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe don’t get writer’s credits on the Beyonce song does worry me about that.

But I love the “gal I love, stole her from a friend, joker got lucky, stole her back again” aspect of Beyonce getting Jack White’s help to steal a song that Led Zeppelin stole.

But I do keep thinking of Willie Dixon, whose influence is so heavy on rock music, and who I think is utterly forgotten except by music nerds. Is justice come in the fact that most people who listen to Beyonce’s album aren’t going to know who the fuck Led Zeppelin was? My kind of music nerdery can’t accept that. I want people who love Beyonce to get the thrill of hearing Zeppelin for the first time and then getting the thrill of hearing Dixon or Minnie or Robert Johnson.

I want them to have that lightning shaped epiphany of seeing how art travels through time.

In Which I Say an Unkind Thing

I know “better” is subjective, but all day yesterday, I kept seeing people refer to some exchange where someone asks Eric Clapton what it’s like to be the world’s best guitarist and Clapton supposedly answers that he doesn’t know, why don’t people ask Prince?

And I get that people are floundering for some way to pay Prince a compliment and we don’t have good ways of talking about people who are extremely talented at whatever instrument they put their minds to. In terms of that kind of ability, there’s Prince and Barbara Mandrell and…um…yeah. That’s all I can think of.

But come on! Who are these people calling Eric Clapton the best guitarist in the world in the first place? It’s not like it’s 1. Prince, 2. Eric Clapton. And not that Eric Clapton sucks. He doesn’t suck. He’s quite good. But let’s be reasonable.

If you think Eric Clapton is the best there is, you’ve not listened around enough.

Not Everything is a Metaphor

It’s long bugged me that the Wikipedia entry on “Black Betty” claims the song is about everything but what it is at face value. It’s a gun! It’s a hearse! It’s a whip! It’s a liquor bottle.

Here’s my guess, though. I think “Hammer Ring” was a well-known work song.

And then I think something happened, a real thing, to a woman named Betty and, when the men wanted to sing about it, they adapted and adopted “Hammer Ring” to serve their needs. Whatever those guys told the Lomaxes about it, that’s on the Lomaxes for believing it. The subversive, transgressive truth, I think, is in the lyrics.

Let’s go with James “Iron Head” Baker’s version:


And let’s give the lyrics a try:

Oh, Black Betty, Bam-a-lam

Oh Black Betty, Bam-a-lam

Black Betty, where you come from? Bam-a-lam

Black Betty, where’d you come from? Bam-a-lam

Well, I come [unintelligable, maybe cross the channel?] Bam-a-lam

Well, I’m going to Texarkana. Bam-a-lam

Black Betty, what’s your number? Bam-a-lam

Black Betty, what’s your number? Bam-a-lam

Well, one hundred and fifty, Bam-a-lam

Damn hundred and fifty, Bam-a-lam

Oh lord, Black Betty, Bam-a-lam

Lordy, Black Betty, Bam-a-lam

Black Betty had a baby, Bam-a-lam

Black Betty had a baby, Bam-a-lam

And the damn thing’s crazy, Bam-a-lam

Damn thing’s crazy, Bam-a-lam

Now she put his head in gravy [?] Bam-a-lam

Now she put his head in gravy Bam-a-lam

Oh lord, Black Betty, Bam-a-lam

Lordy, Black Betty, Bam-a-lam

Black Betty, where’d you come from? Bam-a-lam

Black Betty, where’d you come from? Bam-a-lam

Black Betty, where’d you come from? Bam-a-lam

Black Betty, where’d you come from? Bam-a-lam

Oh lord, Black Betty, Bam-a-lam

Lordy, Black Betty, Bam-a-lam

Now the baby had blue eyes, Bam-a-lam

Now the baby had blue eyes, Bam-a-lam

Well, it must have been the Captain’s, Bam-a-lam

Well, it must have been the Captain’s, Bam-a-lam

Oh lord, Black Betty, Bam-a-lam

Lordy, Black Betty, Bam-a-lam


There are some weird things. Like when she dips the kid’s head in gravy? Is that a way of saying she put some kind of poultice on him or maybe a plaster?

But I think the important thing here is that this is obviously not symbolic. The prisoners who sang this work song were singing about a white guard who had a child with a black woman, quite possibly through rape. If her number being 150 is supposed to tell us she’s a prisoner, then it’s a flat-out rape.

Now, obviously, black prisoners couldn’t tell white people that they were teasing their white guards about wanting to fuck black women. But shame on musicologists for striving to find any explanation other than the obvious.














Less is More

There’s this moment, if you’ve ever had the unhappy opportunity to sit through Taking Lives, when Angelina Jolie is wearing a robe and it slips open to reveal her upper thigh. I could probably find fifty pictures of Angelina Jolie wearing less than that on the internet in the time it’s taken you to read this paragraph.

But it’s still a moment I find really charged and erotic in ways it’s hard for me to completely understand.

I was reminded of that when we were watching Spy and there’s this moment at the end when Jason Statham takes his arm out from under a sheet and again, it’s just his arm and it’s not like you don’t see his arm in every movie. But *pow*.

I’d like to understand more about what’s going on there. It seems probably like more a poet’s concern than a story-writer’s concern, but it’s still fascinating to me. Are there certain things–a flash of thigh a well-crafted shoulder–certain words, even–though I don’t know what those would be–that short-cut straight to the brain and set off an “Oh, my, wow” response without needing more than just those fleeting glimpses?