Tomatos

I’ll tell you one thing about this discussion. It made me listen to Lightning 100 differently on the way home from work. Do they ever play two women back to back? Does any radio station I listen to? I think that dude is a jerk, but I think he may have said out-loud something true a lot of radio programmers believe, across genre.

I’ve been long giving Lightning 100, a radio station I really love, a kind of side-eye because they play very few black artists, which means that both Adia Victoria and Valerie June don’t get played, even though their music–though very different from each other–is exactly the kind of music Lightning 100 plays.

But I keep thinking how studies show that people perceive that crowds look “right” or that women are participating half the time, when women are only a quarter of participants. That feels equal to people–men and women (unless you happen to be one of the women directly shut out because there’s only room for one woman in every four people). How can that kind of conditioned bias no affect what we hear?

I’m sure country music fans perceive that they hear from a lot of women artists. That doesn’t make it okay. It just further shows that, in 150 years, the progress we’ve made in popular culture is to go from almost no presence to 25% presence. Obviously, that’s a pretty big change, but we don’t have the same space in public imagination that we have in real life. Still. Yet.

Clowning Around

clown

Yesterday I went back up to Gallatin for the thing they were having out at Bledsoe’s Fort–a bunch of reinactors from the early days. It was all very interesting. I talked dolls with a woman for a long time, Native American tattoos with a couple of Indians who lectured me on how stupid they thought the term Native American was, and weaving with a guy who does the whole nine yards from flax to linen, which was really interesting. I always imagine with things like that, which require multiple steps, or, think about, say, cake making or any kind of baking really, when it’s more than just “Here’s a raw thing. Put it on heat until it’s cooked.” and I think of the people who first figured it out and I wonder a lot about them. All those steps. How long did it take you to figure out how to take them?

I also met this clown, who did not speak, but she blew my mind. She hand-made this outfit. The stitching, which she let me look at, was extraordinary. I tend to find clowns creepy, but I thought she was beautiful. And she was like if a contortionist and a dancer had a happy baby. That was her act, leaping and tumbling and juggling. It didn’t feel so far removed from something sacred.

One part of last week was hard. Not in a bad way hard. Last week was fucking awesome (and I’m fully expecting this week, when it runs in the paper, to be a lot less fun).

But here’s the thing. I think of myself as a blogger, first and foremost, and someone who aspires to write amazing ghost stories. I don’t really consider myself to be a straight up fantasy writer or a straight up horror writer. I just think of myself as writing ghost stories. All my stories are about a past that comes creeping up on you, no matter how buried. And I like it that way.

The non-fiction I write, I normally write because I have learned something interesting that I might want to use in my fiction later that I think other people also might find interesting. Sometimes I don’t end up using it. Sometimes I just find it really interesting and want to share it with other people because I think it helps me make better sense of where I live.

And I have this ghost story I really want to write.

But some of the responses to the Isaac Franklin piece make me wonder if I should go back to the Nashvillains book and let the ghost story sit. And I don’t know.

Right now would be the time to have a plan and goals, but I genuinely am not sure what I should be doing next.

We also went to see Age of Ultron yesterday and, though I thought it was good, I thought the clown was better and I’ve been thinking a lot about why. And I genuinely think it’s because she stood under a tree with a very few props and yet I felt like something transcendent was brushing right up next to me. I marveled at her (if I might be excused for using that word) and I didn’t at the movie. Also, I think I’m becoming some kind of strange old romantic softy in my own way as I get older, but I find “we can’t be together” storylines irritating not compelling.

Anyway, that’s where things are here. Which thing deserves my attention? How do I see myself?

I’m not sure.

Return to the Haunting of Hill House

As part of my on-going efforts to figure out how to construct a haunted house story that satisfies me, I’m rereading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I’m about halfway through it and I’m really struck by a couple of things. First is how much, this time, I was more sympathetic to Eleanor’s sister and husband. The first time I read it, I felt more sympathy for Eleanor being stuck taking care of her mother while her sister got to get married and have kids. But there’s less, this time, to suggest that her sister somehow stuck Eleanor in that position. The other is just how much making things up there is at the beginning, how often Eleanor is daydreaming or the four people in the house are telling tall tales about their origins.

One thing I think is really brilliant is how Jackson tells you that the trick of the house is that none of the angles are right angles and the dis-ease the house causes is, at some level, because of your brain perceiving as straight, right angles, things that are crooked.

And then she plops you right into the point of view of someone whose corners also don’t meet square, so to speak. But she leaves that to you to decide whether you’re going to keep that fact at the front of your mind as you read.

Lord Huron

This morning the folks on the radio could not figure out how to say “Huron.” And it struck me so funny. They also used to have problems with the band “Augustana,” which they pronounced as if all the “a”s were the same. But I get how you grow up not knowing how to say Augustana. But “Huron”?! It’s a Great Lake. And they were trying to say it “Huh-ron.” and “Who-run.”

It reminded me of how that dude on Nightvale couldn’t figure out how to say “Michigan.”

I’m really excited about their upcoming album. I was trying to explain to the Butcher that I felt like their first album was somewhat spooky songs for middle aged women and this album is just full on for people who loved heavy metal but can’t stand the noise anymore.

I hope they wouldn’t find that insulting, because I love the fuck out of them.

To get a sense of what I’m talking about, listen to this song twice. First time, pay no attention to the lyrics. Just enjoy the peppy old-fashioned-ness of it. Second time, listen to the words. It’s a horror show wrapped in a Twinkie.

Suspect Zero or, Perhaps, Another Movie

Last night, while I was tucking tails, I thought I was rewatching Suspect Zero, which is a supernatural suspense movie starring Ben Kingsley, that chick from The Matrix, and that guy who looks better scruffy, but they never let him just all the time dress like a long-haired biker.

Now, it’s been some time since I thought I first saw this, so I was unsurprised to find that I didn’t quite remember some parts–like the whole deal with the mask. But other parts–like the creepy truck and the misdirect with the guy at the fair were just as fresh as they were, ostensibly, the first time I saw it.

So, kind of, spoiler alert for this next part (for reasons that will be clear in a minute).

At this point–the misdirect with the guy at the fair–I start watching really closely to see if I can tell this time that Ben Kingsley’s character is dead. Because I am certain that, in the version I saw, once Ben Kinglsey’s character’s visions narrow down and certain up to the point where hot-biker-dude-who-never-gets-to-play-a-biker is definitely going to find Suspect Zero, Kinglsey’s character offs himself and his ghost provides guidance to the hero and then we get the reveal at the end that he’s been dead this whole time. Kind of The Sixth Sense, but in a sadder way, because it suggests death isn’t the relief Ben Kingley’s character thought it would be.

Folks, that’s not remotely how the movie ends.

So, where the fuck did my alternate ending come from? Is there another movie out there like it and I just conflated the two? Am I from some alternate world where that’s how the movie goes and I fell into this realm because your Betsy is off making out with Ourselves in some third parallel universe? I don’t know. But it’s strange as fuck.

For what it’s worth, I did think this version was more logically consistent, but I was bummed to miss out on a ghost.

Lady of the Lake, Women in the River

Ugh, this song and Jewly’s writing about it.

I believe the way for things to change for women is for women to come together for each other, to check on each other, to find each other and tell each other our stories.

But I have to say, I keep thinking about how often Death is a woman, the rivers, lakes, and streams are women, sailors can be married to the ocean, and all those ancient earth goddesses. All the places you might put a woman where she’ll never be found, they’re all considered to be feminine spaces.

I don’t know. It makes me sad.

My Kardashian Dream

I’ve never watched an episode of any of the Kardashian shows, but that doesn’t prevent me from dreaming about them, apparently. I dreamed that I was taking a shower in their house (or one of their houses, I guess) and I got to use their shampoo and conditioner and it was amazing. My hair was so soft and luxurious and tangle-free.

I also kept having people open the curtain to talk to me or to get my opinion on whatever they were talking about, but it was totally worth it. Because of the bath products.

Friday?

I have no idea what days it is, really. I’m depressed about this state and what it means to be a woman in it. But I don’t see any easy fixes. The Democrats don’t really exist. There’s no legitimate opposition. No reason for them to temper their actions.

Two things made me feel incredibly old this week. One is Kim Kardashian, in that I see everyone having opinions on her in her various states of nakedness and I thought she looked cute and like she was having fun. You know when you feel like a grandma? It’s when you see a shiny, naked lady being all sexy and your first thought is, “Oh, she looks so cute.”

And the other is that I listened to the new Azalea Banks album and I liked it. I found it a little strange sounding and I couldn’t quite understand half of what she was saying, but my feet tapped. I don’t know exactly how to explain it. But it was the first piece of music I heard that was obviously marketed to adults which I found just felt weird about listening to because she sounds so young.

I still listened to it a bunch. But it was weird. I mean, I’m glad there’s youth culture and I’m also really glad I don’t have to keep up with it. I can just be interested in what I’m interested in and ignore the rest.

Horns

So, I wanted to say a little bit more about it, because we ended up talking again last night about how much we enjoyed it. I just wanted to expound on how visually funny it is. I know Joe Hill only wrote the story, but there were so many sight-gags that it kind of made me wonder if they weren’t also paying a little homage to his comic book background.

The diner is “Eve’s.” The guy who gets horns has a brother who plays the horn. One of the characters gets two of his fingers blown off so his hand is permanently giving devil horns. Ig is turning into a demon at the same time he drives a gremlin.

I mean, they’re cheesy, but they’re cheesy visual puns in a really fun way.

Daniel Radcliffe’s accent is hilarious. I mean, it’s definitely an “American” accent, but I don’t know where in the United States someone has an accent like that. And this movie contains more peeing than most movies. Also Ig spends a great deal of time with his pants undone. It’s really interesting just because he has a body on-screen in a way men normally aren’t embodied.

Anyway, I liked it. But I was confused how Heather Graham has ended up doing bit parts.

The Best Way Out is Always Through

I have been thinking to myself a lot “the way out is through,” and I got to wondering who said it originally. And there, in a pile of inspirational quotes, was “The best way out is always through” attributed to motherfucking Robert Frost.

If you know Robert Frost, you know why I say “motherfucking Robert Frost.”

Robert Frost is like king of the pithy quotes that, when taken out of context, seem, yes, inspirational and wise. You know Robert Frost only two lines at a time, you think Robert Frost is some sweet old New England farmer handing out gentle wisdom while leaning on his hoe, overlooking his lovingly tended garden.

“Oh, Mr. Frost, I seem to be tangled up in your blackberries, which also may be a metaphor for my life!”

“I see that, girl. But just keep coming toward the sound of my voice. ‘The best way out is always through.'”

“I’m free! Oh, thank you, thank you, Mr. Frost.”

“I don’t have time for gratitude. I have to help this person trying to make a big life decision decide which path in a metaphorical woods he should take.”

That’s never how a Robert Frost poem goes in real life, though. They’re always sad, someone is always missing a connection with another person or about to.

And thus it is with “A Servant to Servants.”

I’m still going to think of that phrase, but it feels maybe a lot more honest and a little less inspirational to know that the speaker of the poem feels rather ambiguous about it. As you do, when you’re thinking about your crazy uncle locked in a cage in the barn.

I Make No Promises

But I feel like a book that describes itself like this is going to be awesome:

You know all about Son House and Muddy Waters, but have you ever heard of Eraserhead Morgan? Lester “Proudfoot” Jackson? Hootin’ Jack Wilson? Probably not, because technically they never existed. The fact that they’re imaginary does not mean that their stories aren’t worth sharing. Obscure Early Bluesmen (Who Never Existed) helps to fill in the gaps left by music historians who refuse to acknowledge the important role played by fictional performers. Inside this book, you’ll find accounts of seventeen entertainers who, had they existed, may very well have had some impact on modern music.

Lake Mungo

So, they have it on HBO right now and the description calls it a mockumentary, which meant that I spent the first twenty minutes waiting for it to be funny. Happily, it was weird and creepy, so even though it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, I kept watching. And wow. I don’t say this lightly. I think this is one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever seen/read. At least among the most satisfying. It’s not a typical horror movie. There’s no brutal murders (on-screen or off). There’s no inexplicable malevolent forces of evil. There’s not even anything that jumps out at you. It’s just a whole movie’s worth of dread and horror.

It is filmed like a documentary, which means that there’s a lot of reminiscing about what happened, and a lot of pretending like these events would have been so well-known to you, but here’s the real story. This leads to this wonderful moment about a third of the way into the film, when a handful of really creep things have happened and you’ve convinced yourself that it’s okay, because they’ve–in real life–just done it with mirrors and trick camera work, when they “reveal” in the movie that they’ve just done it with mirrors and trick camera work. I can’t tell you how delicious this moment is, when you feel like you’ve drifted off into a “not real, but close to real” realm so there’s some distance, some ability to sit back and just enjoy, and the film makers reground you hard in the real world.

I was telling the Butcher, too, that it’s a little like watching a Penn & Teller act as a horror movie. They show you how they did everything. I still found the last frame of the film to be fucking terrifying.

I don’t know how this didn’t make a bigger splash when it was released. I mean, yes, it’s a low-budget Australian ghost story, but it’s so well-done. I was really hoping I could talk the Butcher into rewatching it last night, but he didn’t seem that game. But he eventually conceded I had been right about Trollhunters, so I think I can get him on-board with this eventually.

Edited to add: I ran across this, by the guy responsible for making it look the way it does. It makes me want to watch it again.

It’s a Big Pine Forest, With Room for Lots of Sleeping People

You guys, I spent a lot of last night listening to different versions of “In the Pines/Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” and I feel a little like my mind is blown. This is the best thing. Not best song. But I am completely enamored by the song’s ability to completely transform meanings just based on what gets left out or added. In some versions, the singer is a man whose woman is being unfaithful in the pines and he’s heartbroken and calling her on it. In other versions, she appears to be a woman who has to prostitute herself because her husband has died in a train accident and the singer is just someone observing her plight. But in other versions, it’s the woman who loses her head in the train accident and her body has never been found and it is her loved one who is desperately asking her to reveal the location of her body.

I want to write a story like that. I’m not sure how or what it will look like, but, oh, damn, that’s some good shit.

Today is Good

Some days, mere minutes after wishing you’d ever heard the version of “In the Pines” where a dude gets decapitated, you learn that the most recent prominent version is that version:

You Got Something I Need

I heard these back to back on accident yesterday and decided they followed each other pretty well. I think it’s something about the rhythm that fits together nicely. I’ll also say that my opinion of Kings of Leon is not that great. But this song is so good! And I was so disappointed to learn that they’d done it, since now I’m going to have to think at least a little fondly of them for this.

Also, that first song… not until yesterday did I realize “brand new pair of roller skates” was a euphemism for her vagina. And I think we sung that song in elementary school! Was there no one to say “he has a key! A brand new key! Don’t let the children near it!!!!”?

Also on my endless drive home yesterday, I realized you can always tell a Metallica song, even if you come in during an instrumental part, because those guys love random, nonsensical key-changes.

Brave

Today my hair is totally doing… I don’t even know what. It’s huge and curly and has, so far, been caught in the seatbelt, caught in the door, and had some leafy bits caught in it.

Thus leading me to wonder how the little girl in Brave manages to run around with loose hair on horseback and not have a brambly mess.

Everything Takes a Really Long Time

That’s what they try to tell you about writing. I wrote a story. My first one after turning 40. I think it’s good. It needs some polishing, but it amuses me. I’m mulling over what’s next. I have this thing niggling at the back of my brain, a Midwestern thing. A story with a big sky and bugs thick on your windshield. But I’m not sure yet.

I need, also, to figure out what I’m doing for October. And I need to try to run into a bunch of people to see if I can keep all the various things that are supposed to be in the works moving forward.

Yesterday, there was a blind item on the internet about a back-in-the-day A list country singer and his tv star wife who throw the most spectacular swingers parties in Nashville. This morning, on our way to work, the Butcher and I decided that, if Clint Black made no comment, but “leaked” a cover of him doing John Anderson’s “Swingin’,” he could have all our money.

Game of WTF?

I don’t watch “Game of Thrones,” but I just want to say this. If you run a show and you say something like “the scene wasn’t rape, because by the end of the sex, she wanted it,” you, sir, are a dumbass. The idea that you can fuck your way into a yes is really, really disturbing. And probably something you should think long and hard about.