You know what's weird?

I didn't see a single counter-protest. There may have been the odd shitlord with a sign, but I didn't see even that, much less anything organized.

This is a state that observes Robert E. Lee's birthday. The stars 'n' bars of sedition fly everywhere. I expected white hoods. But I didn't see a damn one of them.

Mugs Me

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I programmed my work Slack awhile back to post a random pic of my dog if I type the words "Mugs me". I am using it a lot today, like a healing balm or a high-quality lubricant

Poignant piano covers of "Where Is My Mind" in TV shows, ranked

  1. The Leftovers: Used to decent effect as a motif, dovetails almost seamlessly with the show's main musical theme, supplemented with the original recording for contrast
  2. Mr. Robot: Obvious hat tip to Fight Club from a show that owes a giant debt to Fight Club, was a nice wink and a nod
  3. Crazyhead: Used as a brief backdrop to a mental health scene and quickly dropped, uses the lyrics, which makes it a bit on-the-nose-y

This trend, like overwrought covers of "Hallelujah", is a kinda-hack thing that I still kinda like because I'm a sap.

But the best non-standard cover is still THePETEBOX.

End of an Era

I awoke this morning and put on an old mechanical watch I hadn't worn in days. It had run down, so I needed to reset the calendar. That was how I realized that today was January 19th, 2017. The last day.

It felt like the last day, too, though I fought that. Today my professional life was filled with people discovering broken things that nobody knew how to fix. And I resisted it, I tried not to lapse into lazy cynicism and confirmation bias, but I could not help but think it a metaphor for what is to come.

The man who is to come is quite a piece of work. He is loud and brutish and vindictive. He is possessed of that particularly deadly strain of ignorance and intellectual laziness that is convinced of its own brilliance. He seems eager to sow conflict, a foie gras goose gavaged with hot takes and contempt, then pointed at the country and squeezed like a bagpipe. It is good that he does not drink, because he is the clearest, most shining example of alcoholic psychology run amok that I have ever witnessed. I am, in short, afraid of him.

The man who is leaving, he is also a piece of work. He is studied and careful. He listens. He is is a scholar, but he is not content to cloister himself off with books. He made a life out of helping, and it appears he's just getting started.

Don't get me wrong, he's pissed me off plenty. He is not everything I could want in a leader. He has broken my heart a time or two.

But he did the job well. He did it with dignity and class and grace. He continued to reach across the aisle no matter how many times the Party of No slapped his hand away, no matter how many of us counseled him to stop what proved to be a mostly futile gesture. Futile, maybe, but he left the country better than he found it, and it is by their fruits that you shall know them.

People have tried to dismiss my current slurry of dread and sorrow as a loser's sour grapes. These people do not grasp that I am a Southern Liberal. Losing elections is common and familiar to me. It is practically my god damned raison d'être. So, no. This is different.

So I'm hammering this out before I end a very long day. I am pondering a very long four years in which a lot of people I love are going to get hurt while forty percent of my country cheers. This leaves me sad and angry a lot of the time.

I am told that that's a glimmer of what it's like to be black or gay or trans or Muslim in this country, but I don't dare believe it. I lose nothing tomorrow.

I am tempted to put a rather shiny bow of optimism on this, end with something hopeful about following the example of the one who is leaving. But I know that tomorrow I will likely not muster more than grim determination. I may snap at my coworkers or family. I will waste at least an hour's worth of minutes wondering what the first international incident will be (I'm not counting the two he's already managed).

But the children have school. I have work. I am needed. There are things to be done that I can control, in some small measure.

One of those things: I am pointing to the loud ones and asking my children, do you hear them? Do you hear God in that racket? Do you hear love? And they tell me no, and they appear to mean it. There's at least something to that.

This weekend we march.

Christmas 2016

Dear Everyone,

We got a dog this year. Most of you know we got a dog this year, and half of you are expecting me to say "we got a dog", so guess what, I don't want to disappoint: We got a dog.

He is small, bearded, not-un-Morgan-Freemanish in appearance, if not demeanor. He does not have the bearing of a person who might narrate a jailbreak or try to keep Brad Pitt from opening a box. He prefers a bouncier insouciance and general love of eating poop, two things Morgan Freeman is not known for.

Mugsy has upended things in the best way possible. He forces me out for exercise at least once daily. He demands that we take time to play, that we remember to lay hands on each other as much as we can. And he's a walking object lesson in the fragility of our circumstances.

Let me explain. Yesterday, my son asked me if I thought he would make a difference in the world. "Sure", I said. "Any time you touch a life, you make a difference in the world." I knew what he meant, but I wanted to make him push toward his real question, which was this: Will I be important?

That's an echoing hallway of a question. So I pointed to Mugsy, and I told my son a story he already knew, the story of a bearded baby pup who wandered a graveyard looking for food. Covered in bug bites, gut full of parasites. Someone saw him there, a woman saw him. A woman who cared.

That woman took him home and cleaned him up and fed him and took pictures of him with a ball and a sombrero. She put those pictures on a rescue website. I found those pictures. I texted them to my wife with a photoshopped speech bubble that said "i love u jennifer" in tiny letters, knowing that this was the most reprehensible kind of manipulation. And only because all of those things happened, because that manipulation worked, we brought him home.

"That dog", I said to my son, "lives better than half the people in the world now. Because somebody cared." Then, because everyone loves dad lectures, I pushed on.

I reminded him of Mr. MIchael, his Cubmaster. Mr. Michael got into an argument with a friend on Facebook over Syrian refugees, an argument that led him to get on a plane and fly to Greece. There he met children who had seen their parents beheaded. He raised money to build them a school. Now he's trying to get their camp better sanitation.

People stand on the sidelines and lob lazy criticisms at him for doing this. They want him to stop, but he keeps at it. Because he cares.

That, I said to my son. That is what making a difference means. You pull a puppy out of a culvert. You feed a kid. You touch a life, and you change a life. You change a life, and you hope that that change will be fruitful and multiply. No one will erect a statue of you for this. But many will bear witness to you.

I've tried to tell my children that Important is a pretty coat and Useful is what we reach for when we need to be warm, but I know how well I would have listened to that at their age. Why should they listen to me? I barely do. So I touch their lives, and I hope. Sometimes we parents cling to that.

And then there's that dog. The bug bites are gone, the gut situation mostly rectified. He's gotten comfortable with leaving exuberant chaos in his wake like so many crayon-studded dog flops, as if his own usefulness is to remind us that the current moment is all we have in this world. That the only question worth worrying over is this: What can I do today?

We joke about how lucky that stupid dog is, how well he landed. I've called him Little Arfin' Annie. But I'll tell you a thing: that little dude pulled a third-act Grinch on our respective heart sizes, so he's earned his place. He's a living reminder that there are plenty of others out there, others on four legs and two who haven't had a kind lady happen across whatever cemetery they're foraging in. We can't give them all sombreros, but we can keep our eyes open for opportunities.

We can ask: What can I do today? When we find out, the answer transforms us.

There's a song I can't let my kids hear until they're a bit older. It's full of cussin', which I enjoy. I listen to it at least once a week, and it ends like this:

There is no chosen one
No destiny
No fate
There's no such thing as magic
There is no light at the end of this tunnel
So it's a good thing we brought matches

We got a lot of matches around our place. More than we need. If you need a few, or even just a word, I'll repeat what I told you last year.

We are here.

Tomb to Table

Holiday recipes from the dead. Includes a recipe for my wife's grandmother's chocolate pie and a meditation on the tradition of learning through failure:

I wish I could say I learned how to make chocolate pie at my mom's side, but the truth is I learned the same way she did — by screwing it up the first time I tried to make it, calling her from my in-laws' house on my first married Thanksgiving so she could talk me through what I'd done wrong. (My problem: I always forget to add the butter and vanilla at the end. After hearing me dog-cuss myself at his parents' house for five straight Thanksgivings, my husband started leaving Post-Its on the piecrusts while I wasn't looking. "Add the $%#@ing vanilla," he'd stick on one crust, "And the $&#!ing butter, too" on the second. It's our own little holiday tradition now.)

The end of that story is as bittersweet as the pie.

My wife's pretty goddamn great.

Fuck Tweetstorms

I am holed up in my office with a migraine and this seems like a perfect time to discuss the most obnoxious and reader-hostile form of self-publishing ever devised, with examples from its patron saint.

The increasing devolution of my timeline into people shouting THREAD and unhelpfully linking the first tweet in the storm is a big part of what finally made me realize that Twitter wasn't doing much for my brain.

(What made this post an even better shitshow was that Google tried to force me to use an Amp link instead of the actual post, because Google, as we all know, is all about openness.)

Love and peace to you

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It has been a hard and ugly month at the end of a very hard and ugly year. I know some of you are worried. I know others are scared.

For whatever it's worth, know that my family is worrying and afraid for you too. After all, all we have is each other.

We hope that you may, from time to time and however briefly, find a small place in the sun.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Cashing in my serenity

Let's start here.

We voted for him, white America.

The Klan is on the march. People are tagging buildings with swastikas. Nonwhite children are being bullied. Churches are being desecrated.

It's been four days.

Those people count you as allies. Are you? Are we?

Those of us who elected him spoke of Christ when they did so, but that America does not know Christ. It knows power. It is supporting centuries of hate to preserve what it believes it has a divine right to.

That America declared its hatred for my non-white friends, my women friends, my gay friends and bi friends and trans friends. It mocked my disabled friends. It pointed guns at my black friends and Muslim friends. Some of it pointed guns at our own children, and the rest shuffled their feet around a bit and looked down at their shoes and shrugged.

That America turned Christ's name into a bumper sticker. It turned the implement of his torture and murder into a rallying symbol for more torture and murder. It turned a savior into an inspiration-porn mascot for its Sunday stage shows.

It sacralized emotional moments wrought by painstakingly-orchestrated "worship experiences" and ignored the cries of the doomed. It stood on the backs of the disenfranchised and sang songs of praise for how it had been blessed.

In short, it built a nation and a church on white cishet supremacy and misogyny. Those things are in its DNA. I knew it was there and I knew it was bad, but I didn't comprehend its full scale and enormity until this year.

This is not of Christ. He warned us about power and refused it for himself. He told us to take up our crosses and follow him. We invented theological and ideological purity tests instead.

I am talking to you now, white America. Not to those we've hurt with our push-button vengeance-at-a-distance. If they are reading this, undoubtedly they feel like I've wandered into a funeral wearing Poirot cosplay and announcing that zhere is a DEAD person een zees room.

I'm talking to you because you need to hear it from someone who looks and sounds like you, because we are dogshit at listening to them. I include myself in that shame.

So I figure the least I can do to make it up to them is to join them in their suffering and fear, and try to figure out how to lend my advantages to them. I hope you will too.

The Serenity Prayer is inaccurately named. It is also a prayer for the wisdom to know when to set your serenity aside so that you may help bear others' burdens. A plea for the courage to respond to that call.

I haven't done enough. And I'm not sure what I'm going to do now, but I'm starting by plugging in where I can. I'm cashing in my serenity. Because this year was a master class in demonstrating how little of it people have who do not look like me.

The America that raised me told me that it was blue oxen and baseball. The other America told me of firehoses and money and murder. I was scared of their stories, but I am tired of my delusions.

I do not know what to do with this America. Pledge allegiance? Hardly.

But I do know this: My despair is becoming resentment, and that resentment will become fuel, and if my brothers and sisters do not live in the America I was told about, then I will try to help them build it.

With or without you, I and my wife and children will help them build it. If they will have us.

I hope we do it with you, white America. Your country needs you. Come help me figure out how to help.

If you live in central Arkansas and are afraid, @ me on Twitter and I'll send you my contact information. I'll do what I can.