Zombie Pyramids

In the past week or so, I've seen two zombie-related food pyramids. A new genre is emerging!
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Donald Harington

Arkansas lost a great writer earlier this month. Donald Harington died.

I'd never heard of him until I moved down here almost three years ago. Since then I'm continually amazed by his work. Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks. The Cockroaches of Stay More. With.

Harington was America's best-kept secret, the greatest under-read and under-reviewed magical realist we had. He was funny, imaginative, clever; his fictional town of Stay More was both small and big. Small because he used the same characters and po-dunk village in the Ozarks. Big because of his vision, his understanding of the human condition, and his incredible imagination.

In Harington's books, animals talk, people have telepathy, and one guy lives in a tree house. I'd love to write like him one day. I know it takes practice and wisdom. Time and hard work. He will be missed.
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Conway Twitties

There's nothing better than being in a crowd of sweaty strangers jumping up and down to sloppy rock played by inspired amateurs. It's the closest I get to transcendence.

I've been in bands since I was nineteen--the first one was called Acrylic Switch Plate. We lived together in Philly, we needed a switch plate, we went to the hardware store, checked out the packaging and there you go. I played drums--sort of. All I had was a snare set up on kitchen table. From there I moved to Austin and a full kit.

Next I played with the improv slop-rock outfit Thanatopsis Throne--our bass player was Jon Torn, Rip Torn's son. No shit. Then I moved to bass. Now I play guitar.

Others bands since then: Happy Birthday, War Baby; Blok Krang; Miss America--whose bass player hanged herself and ended the band; Bug Wonders; Horselover Fat; Ross Beach and the She Devils; Fingerhut; Instruktor; Imminent Victorians; HappyAss; Pussy Posse; 18%; and now the Conway Twitties! (I know I've missed a few--I can remember the song titles--Surfing with my Colostomy Bag comes to mind--but not the band names.)

Camille Paglia calls rock Dionysian and a force that changed "her" generation. But Paglia wasn't talking about women in rock--she's only concerned with men's work, lauding their painting and architecture while completely ignoring women's work: pottery, weaving, cooking, decoration.

But women wield guitars like looms! We sing in high-pitched voices...about toes! And worms. And blackberries. I'd rather hold a guitar than a cradle. Cuz my cradle does rock.
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That Writer's a Man?

Everyone in my composition class is doing the same topic for our final argument paper: Facebook and its effect on society. We did the research together, and they can only use the articles we found in class. This way I can control MLA and plagiarism (theoretically) and focus on teaching incorporation, not research methods. (That's next semester.)

For homework, they had to summarize two articles. And here's the thing. One article, written by Gregory Jones, begins like this:

"WITH ONE CHILD in college and two teenagers at home, I learned vicariously about "being friended" and "facebooking." My kids didn't want me to join Facebook, but relented when I told them that our seminary students were forming groups on Facebook and inviting me to participate. I entered a new universe."

No fewer than five students deduced from that opening that Gregory Jones is a woman. One even started out her summary with "A mother recently joined Facebook, even though her kids asked her not to." Two other students called her a "lady" and another said a "woman."

It's no surprise that my students didn't look at the author of the essay--even though an MLA citation was at the top of the page. That's extra reading! What is surprising is their certainty that the writer was a woman, simply because the essay mentioned children. The underlying assumption is obvious: A man would never discuss his kids in an essay!

I don't mean to say that my students are sexist. On the contrary, I have a great group of bright young adults this semester whom I thoroughly enjoy interacting with. But their shared mistake reveals a lot about how far we haven't come as a society: Women are parents. Men aren't.
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The South

Last month I went to a gala dinner at the governor's mansion in Little Rock. It was for the Porter Prize, which is a literary prize here in Arkansas. Donald Harington has won and so has Kevin Brockmeier, two of my favorite Arkansas writers--though Harington is one of my fave all-time writers.

This year the poet Miller Williams won. His daughter is Lucinda Williams--and she was there! looking totally cool and even kinda punk with multi-colored hair and a leather jacket. Everyone else was all formal and square. I wanted to talk to her, but chickened out.

Arkansas Gov Beebe was there too--and that man is funny. As everyone was milling around the tables, chatting and getting wine and not sitting down, Beebe went to the mic. "Let us pray," he said, his voice resonating like a preacher's.

We all looked at each other. This was a secular event! And my husband's Jewish! And Beebe's a democrat for goodness's sake! A hush descended over the crowd and everyone took their seats in a hurry.

"Just kidding," Beebe said into the silence. "A call to prayer is the quickest way I know to get a group of Southerners to be quiet."

I like him way more after that. Beebe's the man.
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Sans, come back!

This is a public plea to Sans le Nom AKA My Life in the Fast Lane. If you click on the link to the right in my blogroll , you'll notice it goes nowhere. Because Sans deleted her blog!

Why, Sans, why? Sure, blogging seems like spitting in the wind sometimes, especially if you don't have a lot of comments. And yes, it's incredibly solipsistic and ridiculous to think strangers want to hear your rantings and see pictures of you decorating a cake (see my post below!). But they do! And I do. I do! And who cares if anyone reads it anyway. It's all about process, man. Getting it down and getting it done. Letters and words and commas and thoughts and you are funny, dude, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Hell, I'm getting all choked up just thinking about it.

Come back, Sans. Come back.
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Monster Mash

The Conway Twitties perform Monster Mash on the couch in a ray of sun!

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Brains on sale now!

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