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Gone Daddy Gone

I'm on a Violent Femmes kick. Swell music to dance in the kitchen to while the tea is boiling, yeah? Yeah. Which is what I'm finally able to do, have happy dance fun walkey times. I've been sick for a week and a half. Some kinda throat thing with a head thing that made me feel like there was an Isengard of snot pressing against my brain. Awesome.

But now I AM AN ATOMIC FIREBALL! of energy with a slightly stuffy nose who is ready to get back to frikkin writing.

Can I hear an amen?


Yes, I did call and response myself.

Somebody's got to.


Second day udon noodles are AWESOME.
:: nibbles whilst typying ::

This is what happens when I don't blog for over a week. I write even more randomly than normal.


I finished reading the book Texas Tough by Robert Perkinson.

OI! what a GD terrifying doorstopper. A fourth of it's weight is from the notes section and it took ten years of research to write. Perkinson outlines the two beginnings of the American prison system:  reformation and retribution - and retribution has out-paced its rival from the beginning. It's always been cheaper to a cage a person than to teach them.

Perkinson focuses on the Texas prison system because it's the nation's largest and it set the tone of penitentiaries from the Emancipation Proclamation onward. Why teach a prisoner when you could work 'em fifteen or more hours of the day and make some money? Why let those criminals sit on their haunches staring at a wall when they could be out in a field picking cotton? There was, after all, a shortage of field workers after the Civil War.

"If a profit of several thousand dollars can be made on the labor of twenty slaves," posited the Telegraph and Texas Register, "why may not a similar profit be made on the labor of twenty convicts?" (pg 74)

"Their aim...was to adopt a coercive system of labor to replace slavery. Their instrument would be a new body of civil and criminal laws known as the 'Black Codes.'" (pg 88)

Yep, there were laws that only African Americans could break. Some were as simple as vagrancy. If a person was found to be "idle" in public they could be arrested, then fined. If you couldn't pay the fine, you were "leased" for labor until the nebulous fine was paid.

Prisoners were routinely worked so hard in Texas fields that, finally, in the 1930s they started to rebel. Rather than have to work a harvest field for twenty hours a day, some would cut their Achilles tendons so they couldn't work.

"Self mutilation is prevalent throughout the state prison system," admitted one board member." "It's no surprise to find convicts injecting kerosene or gasoline into their legs and arms..." (pg 214)

Others cut off toes, arms or legs in attempts to get out of the fields...and that was knowing that the prison hospital was near useless. There were some that even sliced their skin open and packed the wounds with lye so that they would create festering sores. Prisoners committed "...violence against the self to spotlight the violence of the state." (pg217) Some wardens made them try to work the fields with their newly acquired stumps.

Towards the end of the book, Perkinson's partisan bias becomes increasingly apparent. I found his thesis thin as he reached for a connection between the Texas prison system and military actions at Guantanamo Bay. But he did have thoughtful commentary on other modern day prison issues, up until this point. There are deep discussions of race, the culture of the South, civil rights and the War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs...now there's a waste.

Can I just say one thing? Hell, I'm gonna say more than one thing, but one MAIN thing...

The War on Drugs doesn't work. It's racist. Legalize. Tax it. Get us the hell out of debt. This is coming from a straight edge woman who hasn't even had a drink in six years. Current drug laws don't work. "Combining law enforcement, courts, and prisons, the U.S. criminal justice system consumes $212 billion a year and employs 2.4 million people, more than Wal-Mart and McDonald's combined, the nation's two largest private employers." (pg 2) And we build this prison industrial complex because we need at least a quarter of these beds for (largely) non-violent drug offenders. Repeat offenders are rampant because you can't just jail a junky and expect them to get better on their own.

I am not saying there aren't any rehabilitation programs out there, I'm just saying there need to be more.

* * * * *

Totally different subject:

Check out Marc da Cunha Lopes:

I read Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington. It was about Pentecostal snake handling in the early '90s. A journalist goes down South to cover the trial of preacher who was accused of attempted murder on his wife with the church snakes. He, of course, says that the only reason that his wife got bit by the snakes was because she was trying to kill him with them. Dude got 99 years and Dennis Covington, said journalist, became so intrigued with snake handling, that he started attending services and eventually takes up snakes himself. All of this being rooted in a literal interpretation of the Bible... "And these signs shall follow them that believe in my name, they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." - Mark 16:17-18

Hella interesting book, though the end turned somewhat small town gossipy.


I'm making one of these:


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2012 10:28 am (UTC)
You're cracking me up, Templeton. Between Isengard and your call and response! Plague masks! AAAUUGGH! I have do DO THAT. I keep forgetting. Please keep reminding me. When's our due date?
Jan. 15th, 2012 11:34 am (UTC)
You have until Valentine's Day, my lady. I have just begun my sketching. I'm trying to determine what style I want. Do I want a monstrous plague mask or an elegant one...
Jan. 15th, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
Texas Tough sounds fascinating, though, yeah, I think you're right in terms of linking the Texas state prison system with Guantanamo - not that I don't think there are links you can draw (particularly parallels between the equally ill-defined War on [some classes of people who use] Drugs and the War on [some classes of people who may or, hell, may not but you can never be to careful, right?] Terror), but drawing those links effectively would have to be the total focus of the work and would still be almost too broad to link in any meaningful way.

Also, right with you on the War on [some classes of people who use] Drugs, if the nomenclature wasn't clear on that account already.

Someday, I need to write about serpent handlers. Not necessarily the Christian ones (though, frankly, of all denominations of Christianity, there is a primal part of me that respects them the most, though, intellectually, it seems wrongheaded and dangerous and theologically, well, me and my two tunics can shut the hell up, but I suspect they have a comparable wardrobe). Narratively, the things I like most about Christianity is the magic and mysticism, though.
Jan. 16th, 2012 07:59 pm (UTC)
I adore your use of brackets and parenthesis.
Jan. 15th, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
I'd like to take a look at that prison book....
Jan. 16th, 2012 07:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I just saw your entry on prison volunteering. How did you find a program to work with?
Jan. 16th, 2012 08:04 pm (UTC)
It was the weirdest thing (and the way much of my life seems to work): I'd been meaning to try to find a program, but hadn't actually begun a real search, when my son's girlfriend happened to mention that she'd been doing interning in a local prison. I jumped up all excited, and so she gave me a contact phone number, and the rest is history. Very slow history. I first got the information from her in July; I didn't have my first volunteering session until January.

Then, coincidentally, I found out that someone on my friends list works for, if I recall correctly, some national-level organization involved in correctional institutions (I forget whether in an oversight capacity or a research capacity or something else). She said that if it didn't work out at that one place, she might be able to help me find something else (but so far, so good...)
Jan. 16th, 2012 12:15 pm (UTC)
"i held her in my arms" by itself makes violent femmes an awesome band.

i saw them play summerfest (where i learned that they were from milwaukee, which is weird by itself) and saw some accountants get into a fight with some old bikers. it was a weird weird show.
Jan. 16th, 2012 08:01 pm (UTC)
Apparently Amanda Palmer has some kind of Violent Femmes supergroup happening. Of course, in GD Tasmania. Who the hell can up and buy a ticket to Tasmania?

Jan. 16th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
how totally weird. though without gordon's confused, repressed, somewhat homosexual religious background....its just not the same
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


Patty Templeton

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