The Declaration of Independence as Self Help

“…all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

Woah, TJ. Heavy.


“Let them eat cake”

I thought it was best to put this rant in one convenient place to be linked in the future. You’re welcome!

Marie Antoinette was many things and not always blameless, but she never said, “Let them eat cake” (“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”). I can. not. abide when people say that she did.

The saying originated (in print) with Jean Jacques Rousseau in Les Confessions [handy Google books link to the page here] as something once said by a “great Princess.” Some think he was quoting Marie Thérèse (queen to Louis XIV), but my gut tells me that that’s as much a myth as attributing it to Marie Antoinette.

Marie Antoinette and her dresses and pearls were not to blame for France’s ills – you can thank decades of nonstop war waged by Louises XIV and XV for that – but Antoinette was a woman and a foreigner, hated by the French, and all that made her an easy target.

Go home, Tennessee history, you’re drunk

From John Sevier’s (Tennessee’s first governor) Wikipedia entry:

“Following his inauguration, [John] Sevier encountered [Andrew] Jackson in Knoxville, and an argument ensued in which Sevier accused Jackson of adultery for his marriage to Rachel Donelson. An enraged Jackson challenged Sevier to a duel, which Sevier accepted. The duel was to take place at Southwest Point, but Sevier’s wagon stalled at Campbell’s Station en route to the duel. As Jackson returned to Knoxville, he encounted Sevier’s entourage. The two loudly exchanged insults, and Sevier’s horse ran away, carrying his pistols. Jackson pointed his pistol at Sevier, who hid behind a tree. Sevier’s son pointed his pistol at Jackson, and Jackson’s second pointed his pistol at Sevier’s son. Members of both parties managed to resolve the incident before bloodshed took place.”

It will never not be hilarious how many of this country’s founding fathers either killed each other or tried to in duels. Some of them were a little more competent than this, though.

Early 90s Encounters Between the Ignorant Freshman Equine Studies Major and Famous People

So I met Kurt Vonnegut once years and years ago while a freshman at a small college in the ruralest of rural Kentucky, and I had no idea who he was. At the time, if it was not about a horse, I didn’t care. But there he was in the campus cafeteria either before or after some benefit that he was attending for the school, and he was as charming as you might imagine. Meanwhile, there I was, standing in a circle with him, a professor, another student. I just laughed and chatted along like he was anyone else. I had turned 18 only weeks before and knew absolutely nothing about the world at all. Then I went on, and it was years before I learned who he really was or understood what I’d had the serendipitous, momentary fortune to experience.

A couple of years later I had the similar idiot’s fortune to meet Octavia Butler at a lunch in that same cafeteria organized by my English teacher. I knew who she was. Sort of. I knew who she was insofar as I’d seen her name on the covers of science fiction books at Waldenbooks that I hadn’t read yet. When I saw the regal black woman in her prim blue dress, I assumed she was just a nontraditional student until the conversation began. I think I was probably wearing a manure-stained t-shirt and flip-flops at the time. I do not think she cared for me much. She cannot be blamed.

It was a strange little all-women’s college in the central Kentucky bluegrass, and I was so angry at the time over the frustrations of chasing an impossible dream that I know there was much more like this that I must have missed. Never doubt the power and mystery of the unranked liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere. I do wonder what it might have been like to go there as a normal college student without an all-consuming ambition. I would have undoubtedly gotten more out of it. Success is overrated.


The holidays are here, and I am an unrepentant fan. Here in North America the days are short, the nights are long, and everything is in lights. Of course, things are always in lights here in New Orleans. They just change colors with the seasons.

Love the holidays though I do, I can. not. stand. most holiday music for one reason: overexposure. Sure, it was fine as a kid. It was great when “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” would creep up between whatever songs by Richard Marx and Debbie Gibson were popular that year. Then came the advent of the 24-7 Christmas music station from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Then came the store and restaurant muzak stations. The fun, occasional tunes from days of yore became inescapable. Now, all I need to fly into hysterics is to hear the words, “So this is Christmas…”

(To be fair, I hated that song as a kid, too. Sorry, John Lennon.)

But I never stopped loving the idea of holiday music, so I’ve developed a cache of tunes over the years that I’m unlikely to hear anyplace else. If you feel the same, I’m here to share a few tunes with you.

My Morning Jacket’s 2001 WFPK Live Performance

In 2001, My Morning Jacket played a beautiful, live holiday set in the Louisville, KY, studio of WFPK, and it’s preserved for you to download from the Internet Archive. Do it. If this is your type of music at all, this is something really special.

New Orleans Christmas Bounce!

On the complete opposite end of the rainbow is this pot of NOLA Bounce gold. It used to be a free download on SoundCloud, but all those links seem dead. It doesn’t seem available for purchase anywhere, but some of the tracks can be found by creative Googling and YouTube searching if you want a taste of the joy that was. For all your holiday twerking needs, try Christmas Tree and This Christmas.

May your days be merry and bright, etc., etc.



But it’s never really Armistice, is it? One war ends for a moment while another war goes on someplace else, and eventually the old war picks up again. So we call it Veteran’s Day instead.




from the Bayeux War Cemetery, Bayeux, France, 2005

In the two World Wars, they came from everywhere, high- and low-born, as it were.




from Coleville-sur-Mer cemetery, Basse Normandie, France, 2005

There wasn’t enough left of some to be buried at all, and so the place where they died stands as their only monument. For some, we will never know their names.


from Point du Hoc, Basse Normandie, France, 2005.
Those are craters from the bombs.)


Omaha Beach, Basse Normandie, France, 2005 


Rue de la Huchette, Paris, France, 2005

Some fell on the wrong side of history and are forgotten by their countrymen.


Melaten Cemetery, Cologne, Germany, 2005

It’s hard to make sense of it all. I think of Pvt. Ranson often, especially on days like today, and I worry what became of his parents after he was gone.

The SomeDaily – 2013-08-15

For all the time I’ve spent in Bristol, I’ve wondered how the King (Clothing) Manufacturing Co. stayed in business. The New York Times tells us how. It’s crazy! And it’s the happiest story I’ve read all day.

Chambre 666: Wim Wenders asked a few directors the question, “Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?” and filmed their responses in a Cannes hotel room in 1982. Starring Jean-Luc Godard and his cigarette, barefoot Werner Herzog, and a tree outside the Paris airport.

“We all know that money is short. This is 1982.”

Here’s some Erik Satie. Now go to bed.