Question of the day: what is your definition of the word "boyfriend"? When is someone a boyfriend?

Comment below.

new mama

Congrats to Ms. Booty Homemaker! Way to go, Paige.


happy birthday betsy

Betsy and me at a party in Bell Buckle - Spring '05


This Fall marks 25 years since the first day of 7th grade for me. On that first day, I met my friend Betsy. We have been friends every since - best friends. In middle school and high school, we were inseparable. When we each went off to a different college, leaving Bets was one of the things I dreaded most.

Two decades later, Betsy still understands me very, very well -- along with my sister (also named Betsy) and my little brother, probably better than anyone else. She is the first person to call me out when I am being a drama queen or making no sense or heading off in an unwise direction. But even when she warns me against doing what I am doing, she never(okay, RARELY) says "I told you so."

She's an amazing person: hilarious, clever, warm, a great mama, the best drinking buddy, and the most fun to sing with (preferably old Loretta Lynn or Jackson 5 in the car, loud).

Happy birthday Bets :-)

(This is a picture of my daughter Jane with Betsy's daughter, Clare Frances from Spring '05)

stacey campfield

I got to do a sit-down interview with the controversial Rep. Stacey Campfield today. It was very interesting.

He's apparently going to be on The Daily Show and Tucker Carlson in the next few days.

horse shows


We are in the thick of horse show season around Casa Granju. Last weekend was the Fall show at our barn, which was a lot of fun, and this weekend is the first "A" rated show we have done in a few months. It's at River Glen Equestrian Park here in East Tennessee.

It's a big show, with 4 days of showing, two weekends in a row. It will be my 10 year old daughter's first time riding in a regular pony division at an A show, meaning her first opportunity to qualify for the USEF National Pony Finals. This is a very exciting thing for her. Qualifying for Pony Finals is her big goal.

She's going to be showing her friend Katie's pony, "Joe Cool" in the Small Hunter Pony division, and I think she's doing some equitation classes too. Jane has done really well in equitation this year. I think she's the youngest rider in the top ten in the ETHJA pony medal division at this point.

On Sunday afternoon, there is a $50,000 grand prix jumper event, and my employer has bought a patron's table, so a friend and I, and Jane will get to hang out in really good seats and eat some tasty food and watch some of the top jumper horses and riders in the country compete, which is basically my idea of an afternoon in heaven...

If you are looking for something to do this weekend or next, you should check out River Glen. It's a gorgeous, amazing setting along a river, with beautiful views and beautiful horses. The weather should be lovely, too.

Tryon '05


journalism (not)

You know, there is something wrong when a "reporter" assigned to cover a particular beat publishes an op-ed column in the same publication in which he expresses blatant disdain for/biases within said beat.

That's the case with this "reporter," Brian Mosely, and his published commentary on the very important development controversies currently facing my hometown of Bell Buckle.

How can he even attempt to write straight news coverage of Bell Buckle government and development issues when he's already laid out his personal, prejudicial views on the opinion page?

The Shelbyville Times Gazette now has an obligation to assign another reporter to cover Bell Buckle, someone who keeps his personal views to himself and out of what should be straight reportage.

brazilian girls t'night

This awesome Fall weather will make for a great  Autumn on the Square tonight in Market Square. A free concert with Brazilian Girls and leaves blowing around sounds great to me.


Today is the first really Fall-feeling day in East Tennessee and it makes me very happy. It's a bit overcast and chilly and breezy. Leaves are blowing around.

I always have good things happen to me in the Fall. For one thing, I seem to fall in love in the Autumn and so there are pleasant associations there. This weather makes me want to wrap up in a big sweater and walk around Downtown-somewhere holding somebody's hand.
When your children are really little, you worry about them pulling boiling water onto themselves or running out in front of a car. You worry about kidnapping and terrible childhood diseases. These are the secret concerns that haunt - primal fears that pop up in your dreams when you least expect them.

As they become teenagers, you start to worry about different things. It's a shift that happens without any conscious recognition -- your dreams just change. I have an eighth grade son now, and my dreams are changing.

Last night I had a terrible dream for hours in which my son -- who is, in actuality, a great kid who has good sense, nice friends and has never gotten into any trouble to speak of -- was arrested after being with a group of boys who accidentally killed another kid during a fistfight.

The dream was highly specific; I was hiring him a lawyer and dealing with the juvenile court system and watching my baby boy be led away from me in handcuffs to be locked up where I couldn't get near him. It was horrible and I am still really shaken up by it today.

P.S.: I have an essay about becoming the mother of a teenage son in this new book

my neighborhood

URBAN RENEWAL (from Metro Pulse today....Thanks Matt :-) - mention of my 'hood is near end of column, but the whole thing is very interesting )

Inner city ’hoods offer cheap, chic housing

by Matt Edens

Downsizing, it seems, is suddenly all the rage. Hummers are out; hybrids are in. And even in housing there are lots of folks trading their McMansion for something more manageable. Well-heeled empty nesters, for example, comprise a surprisingly strong segment of downtown housing markets across the country.

Just the other day I was reading about a West Coast couple who ditched their five-bedroom house on a Los Gatos, Cal., cul-de-sac and bought a place downtown for half as much. It’s the same dynamic that’s occurring on an increasingly common basis in downtown Knoxville, but with one big difference. Los Gatos is in Silicon Valley, so the numbers involved are shocking. The couple’s 2,300 square foot suburban home sold for a little shy of a million—$980,000. And they shelled out $545,000 for their downtown digs, which might seem like a bargain for the Bay Area but consider this: their charming Victorian dollhouse of a home in downtown Los Gatos was originally built as a chicken coop and measures a minuscule 544 square feet. Crunch the numbers and that comes out to approximately $1,000 per precious square foot.

Homes are cheap here, compared to the belly of the housing-bubble beast. The latest figures I could find cited the average cost of a home in the Knoxville MSA (based on a 2,400 sq. ft. new home) as $198,497—approximately $82 a square foot. Downtown prices, recently running in the $165 a square-foot range, essentially double that. Expensive? Maybe. But not at all out of line with other parts of town. Downtown’s price per square foot compares pretty closely with the non-boulevard or waterfront parts of Sequoyah Hills (Interestingly, downtown just happens to be zoned for Sequoyah Elementary). Fourth and Gill prices, pushing $100 a square foot, are on par with other, less blue-blooded West Knoxville ’burbs, while Old North Knoxville lags only a little behind.

It’s sort of a chicken or egg situation, as downtown, Fourth and Gill and Old North draw an increasing number of middle and upper-middle class homeowners who increasingly have to shell out middle and upper-middle class money in order to live there.

That has, inevitably, led to some grousing about gentrification. Although generally, the complaints I’ve heard are over people being priced out rather than pushed out. Buying in Fourth and Gill or tackling a building downtown used to be a bohemian thing, but not anymore.

“The process of spontaneous gentrification,” according to founding New Urbanist architect Andres Duany, “begins surreptitiously.” The first wave, according to Duany, constitutes “a social rather than an economic or physical gentrification,” consisting of people who may be poor, but are often of middle and upper-middle class origin: students, artists and gays. The second wave, he says, are “those who crave the bohemian lifestyle while actually being as securely employed as the conventional old bourgeoisie… They like the place to look rough and edgy, even as it becomes more expensive.” The final, more mainstream wave likes a little less edge. According to Duany, they “smarten up the buildings through…physical renovation, improved maintenance, and organized security. Their clientele has been characterized by Manhattanites as ‘dentists from New Jersey.’” Or, by Knoxvillians, as attorneys from Sequoyah Hills.

NOTE FROM KATIE: Here is the part about my wonderful neighborhood, which I love

But where does that leave the bohos and bobos? Seeking the next “edgy” neighborhood, naturally. Lucky for them, Knoxville offers lots of options. Loft buildings abound in Emory Place and are scattered along Broadway, Central and even Magnolia. And there are still plenty of inexpensive but cool old homes IN PLACES LIKE OAKWOOD-LINCOLN PARK and Mechanicsville to the north and west, Old Sevier to the south and Parkridge to the east.

So if you’re intrigued by the idea of buying downtown, but have been put off by the prices, why not check out one of these ’hoods? This Sunday, Oct. 2, from 1 to 6 p.m., Parkridge is hosting its third annual home tour (itself a sure sign that the ’hood is heading up). Starting from the new softball complex at Caswell Park, this glimpse inside 10 different bungalows and Victorians offers a unique opportunity to sample one of Knoxville’s oldest neighborhoods. And one of its most affordable: with sale prices hovering in the $50-$75 per square-foot range, a roost in Parkridge isn’t just cheap by Knoxville standards, it’s mere chicken feed compared to the going rate for Los Gatos henhouses.


knoxville brewer's jam

The line-up for this year's Knoxville Brewer's Jam has been finalized and it looks really great.

The headliner will be Scott Miller and the Commonwealth, and opening acts are Miller's former V-Roys bandmate Mic Harrison,  plus Senryu.

A friend and I recently hit the Chattanooga brewfest and it was fairly lame. The BoDeans (remember them?) were the headliners and the beer glasses were really small. So while Downtown Chattanooga gets a lot of glowing press, I think we Knoxvillians can outdo them on this brewjam thing.

The event will be October 15 at World's Fair Park.





My son Elliot's thoughts on dragons, complete with illustration.
Before I say anything else about it, let me be really clear that mostly I am just happy that the woman who was taken hostage a few months back by the courthouse shooter in Atlanta wasn't hurt or killed. Her story of talking the guy into surrendering is pretty amazing, no matter what.

But it does add an interesting twist to the tale to learn today, on the eve of her book's publication, that during the hostage ordeal, she gave the guy some meth from the stash she had in her apartment. It's interesting because her spin -- and that of the Christian right which has embraced her since then -- is that she prayed with the man and read to him from The Purpose Driven Life, and THAT is why he gave up and let her go.

I wonder how all the evangelicals who have been holding her up as a miraculous icon will react to this new detail.



A friend sent me this. It's a guy lamenting the fact that married women just don't like sex.

That's such a stupid sterotype.


Why do you think it is that some people are so into jazz and others are very anti? It seems like a real bright line kind of thing.

I used to work at a club where I heard a lot of what sounded like terrible, cheesy lounge music to me, but I was told it was really good jazz that I should enjoy and appreciate as high art.

I think it turned me off jazz altogether.

one nation, under wal mart...

Regular readers of my blog know that I have perhaps the merest hint of an obsession with ending Wal Mart's reign of cultural terror. That's why I am so excited about this new book: The United States of Wal Mart.


8,000 pounds of crystals

From a promotional e-mail from a Downtown Knoxville business:

"We are opening an underground world dj and live entertainment venue called World Grotto (300 capacity, opening on October 27 this year).

We've inserted 8,000 lbs of crystals and semi-precious stones into World Grotto's Moroccan-styled cavern walls, fog-covered fountains and glowing geode bar; we are now hiring staff who think that dressing in world-culture costumes when working sounds fun—in addition to the usual bartenders and servers, our staff includes a tarot reader, magician, dancers, drummers, chiropractor and massage therapist! World Grotto's concept encompasses retail sales, gallery displays, and health practitioners in addition to its live entertainment nightclub.

We're looking for world music artists, entertainers, and DJs to book, as well as cds and vinyl to spin. "

<End e-mail>

A glowing geode bar? I don't want to be around that kind of thing SOBER, much less after I've had a drink or two. I think it would make me woozy  and disoriented.

And good luck finding "staff who think that dressing in world-culture costumes when working sounds fun..."

What is a "world-culture costume" anyway?


I had a nice birthday weekend. I'm definitely taller now.



My interview with Senryu is live now. Be sure to come by their CD release party tonight.



My birthday resolutions for the coming year:

-Learn to play guitar
-Get better at throwing a football, with the spiral thing it's supposed to do
-Finish my novel and have my agent start shopping it around
-Do a better job keeping my house clean and organized
-Learn to knit socks on circular needles
-Volunteer more
-Jump on trampoline more
-Paint my bedroom and several wood floors in my house
-Plant more flowers in yard
-Plant more trees in yard
-Spend more time with my grandmother
-Make more money
-Hike up Sharp's Ridge more regularly
-See the Flaming Lips live

birthday bed

When my husband and I divided up a decade's worth of belongings -- basically everything either of us had owned since we met in college -- he took our bed. I really didn't want it.

And I've been sleeping on a mattress on the floor ever since.

But this weekend, for my birthday, my mother is bringing me my great grandmother's bed, and so for the first time in three years I will have a real, honest-to-goodness bed of my own, off the floor.

I'm psyched. It's about time.

things to fret about

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bill Gough - Allstate
Date: Sep 22, 2005 8:32 PM
Subject: Katie, Is Your Hobby Safe?
To: Katie Granju

We all have hobbies of some sort, from building models to
knitting to maintaining the home. EVERY hobby has inherent
risks-many that you may never think of. So, when you set out to
work on your hobby this Winter, be aware of a few of the things
that could cause you problems down the road like repetitive
motion, high force, awkward joint positions, direct pressure on
the joint, and prolonged and constrained posture.

Many hobbies require manual dexterity; be careful when using your
hands frequently, as overuse can aggravate existing arthritis,
cause carpel tunnel syndrome, or cause you to develop tendonitis.
Here are a few tips to help you prevent injury and allow you to
work longer:

-Take frequent breaks. Make sure you stop what you are
doing and rest for at least a few minutes a couple of times each

-Listen to you pain. If something starts to hurt, stop what
you're doing. Pain is your body's way of telling you something
is wrong.

-Stretch. Depending on your hobby, you should stretch
different muscles, but make sure the muscles you plan to use are
ready to be used-stretch them out before you start.

-Practice good posture and proper technique. Poor posture
and/or technique can lead to injuries down the road, so make sure
you are in the most relaxed and comfortable position possible
when you start.

Enjoy working on your favorite hobby this Winter, and put
yourself in a position to work on it for years to come-be safe
and smart and prevent injuries!


Bill Gough - Allstate
Bill Gough All American Agency

P.S.: Remember, proper insurance protection requires constant
vigilance. Did you know that 37% of unpaid claims result from
perilous GAPS in insurance coverage? Be sure to let us know
whenever changes arise in your life. Thanks.

being an idiom

Some parts of being a mother are easy enough - like giving birth -- others are more challenging -- like being told to dress your child as an idiom for a school event.

Dress him as an IDIOM?

We rejected "blue in the face," "spill the beans," and "in a pickle" and finally settled on "hold your horses," so he trooped off to school today in a horsey t-shirt, draped in strings of tiny plastic horses I'd taped to twine. I thought it worked out pretty well.

And I have to say that I think his teacher this year is pretty terrific. She really gets the kids engaged in what they are learning. So far this fall, in addition to the Amelia Bedelia author study that gave rise to the idiom thing, she's taken them on a field trip to the landfill and has Elliot very excited about spiders. She's a really good second grade teacher.



Originally uploaded by kgranju.
Last night Elliot and I were reading his favorite animal encyclopedia before bed and we stumbled on this animal, the Pangolin, which I had never even heard of. Apparently they are the only mammal with scales. We both thought they were pretty fascinating. Elliot used to be very into three-toed sloths.

the red state reader

Back when I wrote for Metro Pulse, one of my fave editors was one Jesse Fox Mayshark, who has since migrated to greener pastures at the New York Times.

Jesse has just unveiled a new online 'zine called the The Red State Reader that's really good. It's unabashedly lefty, with some fine writing from other Metro Pulse expats like Joe Tarr and Matthew Everett, as well as someone named R. Neal.

The focus this issue is on the South, with writing on such topics as gay bashing in Rhea County, as well as a Drive By Truckers review.

Check it out.

A peek inside Paris Hilton's day planner


My mom gets to go to a party for Bob Woodward this week. I'm jealous. I want to meet Bob Woodward.

a novel of sylvia plath

Started reading WINTERING again last night. It's written by my former editor at, Kate Moses, and I just love it. I first read it when it was released about 3 years ago, but I've had Ted and Sylvia on the brain lately...


You know, I wondered how Kate Moss lost that baby weight so quickly. Now I know.
My baby boy is on an AC/DC kick (last year, it was The Ramones). This morning when we were walking thru a store at 7am, rounding up last minute supplies for his sister's camping trip, he and she were marching along behind me and he suddenly asked, "Mom, do you think Angus Young ever followed his mother around like a baby duck?"



My second grader has suddenly started blinking all the time. Both eyes at once. So he went to the pediatrician the other day, who said it was probably a nervous tic but prescribed some eye drops and said to take him to the opthamologist if it doesn't improve.

And it isn't.

So I guess I'll make an appointment for him, but in the meantime, it is extremely hard not to mention it to him because it's so distracting, but the pediatrician says that if it's a nervous habit, mentioning it will only make it worse.

I think I remember my little brother going through a blinking phase. And when Henry was about 4 -- right around the time his little sister was born -- he spent an entire year clearing his throat incessantly which at the time, I thought might make me insane.

love letter

Not easy to state the change you made.
If I'm alive now, then I was dead,
Though, like a stone, unbothered by it,
Staying put according to habit.
You didn't just tow me an inch, no-
Nor leave me to set my small bald eye
Skyward again, without hope, of course,
Of apprehending blueness, or stars.

That wasn't it. I slept, say: a snake
Masked among black rocks as a black rock
In the white hiatus of winter-
Like my neighbors, taking no pleasure
In the million perfectly-chiseled
Cheeks alighting each moment to melt
My cheeks of basalt. They turned to tears,
Angels weeping over dull natures,

But didn't convince me. Those tears froze.
Each dead head had a visor of ice.
And I slept on like a bent finger.
The first thing I was was sheer air
And the locked drops rising in dew
Limpid as spirits. Many stones lay
Dense and expressionless round about.
I didn't know what to make of it.
I shone, mice-scaled, and unfolded
To pour myself out like a fluid
Among bird feet and the stems of plants.

I wasn't fooled. I knew you at once.
Tree and stone glittered, without shadows.
My finger-length grew lucent as glass.
I started to bud like a March twig:
An arm and a leg, and arm, a leg.
From stone to cloud, so I ascended.
Now I resemble a sort of god
Floating through the air in my soul-shift
Pure as a pane of ice. It's a gift.

--Sylvia Plath

friday night to-do list


it's raining men

I do love me some Men of the Web

I think I recognize several friends from high school...


The Katrina disaster profiteering has has now begun in earnest and -- what a shocker -- Halliburton is at the feeding trough.
I feel extremely happy and optimistic today. Joyful, even.


who reads this blog

My semi-regular CALL FOR ENTRIES


I had a very strange experience last night; a man I went out with three or four times last winter called me at 2am and told me he's in love with me.

You have to understand, I haven't seen or talked to this person in more than six months, and I don't think we even LIKED each other that much.

I think he was more than a little inebriated.

I'll bet he feels really stupid today, especially since in my completely asleep state, I think I laughed when he said this. Then I said he could call me today, but that I was going back to sleep.

Behold the nutria

Originally uploaded by kgranju.
Here is the nutria painting to which I referred earlier this week at a social gathering, for which I was ridiculed and doubted.

Told ya.



kag moodmeter 9/18/05 <--- bandwagonesque

Love the Teenage Fanclubbers

looters with good taste

Via AP:

The Wal-Mart store in uptown New Orleans, built within the last year, survived the storm but was destroyed by looters.

"They took everything -- all the electronics, the food, the bikes," said John Stonaker, a Wal-Mart security officer. "People left their old clothes on the floor when they took new ones. The only thing left are the country-and-western CDs. You can still get a Shania Twain album."


funny e-mail i got today to me:

Our latest email, "Katrina: What Happened When" contained an error.

We said an Amtrak train that left New Orleans prior to the hurricane had room for "thousands" of persons. We should have said "several hundred."

We regret the error. It is being corrected on our website.

--Brooks Jackson

This message was sent by:, 320 National Press Building, Washington, DC 20045

Manage your subscription:


You know you're going to have a fun evening when your biggest concern is how you will possibly manage to see all of the great bands playing Downtown on one single night.

That's my dilemma tonight.  And better yet, it's all for a great cause: Katrina relief.

See you downtown tonight. Come on over and say hi.


:-) :-) :-)

I was lucky enough to be in the studio, shooting pictures, when this story took place yesterday. It was one of the most awesome moments of my life. I highly encourage you to watch the entire video. You will be blown away.


baby ward's park - happysad

From my hometown newspaper today:

Progress continues on Bell Buckle park

Thursday, September 15, 2005
By Brian Mosely

Progress on the Bell Buckle Park is moving quickly with the town council accepting a landscaping contract and bids for a memorial playground. The contract from Greenspace Design was distributed to the mayor and all aldermen and city attorney Richard Dugger, who reviewed the contract and gave his approval.

The playground in memory of 2-year-old Ward Anderson has received $40,157 in donations. Anderson died earlier this summer after falling into Tims Ford Lake.

The park board is in the process of bidding for the equipment with the bid opening set for Tuesday. The basic design will cost $36,900 and with further donations they will be ordering a memorial boulder and possibly other equipment to be added to the playground.

The board is hoping to begin installation of the playground equipment on Oct. 21 with the dedication held on Friday, Oct. 28, which would have been Ward's 3rd birthday.

ac newman

An interview with AC Newman right here.

the u.s. needs disaster relief



morning rush - 9/14/05

tropical day 071
Originally uploaded by kgranju.

Originally uploaded by kgranju.

Originally uploaded by kgranju.

Jane puts the kibosh on any more pictures

Acid or neutral?

Acid or neutral?
Originally uploaded by kgranju.
Elliot conducts an experiment involving testing different liquids for relative acidity - 9/13/05


August 20, 2005 047
Originally uploaded by kgranju.
Henry has now reached a tipping point. He wears bigger shoes than I do. He's getting really big. He only weighed 6lbs 8 oz when he was born and was 19 inches long.


"There is an old military doctrine called the First Rule of Holes: If you find yourself stuck in one, stop digging.",

-- The late Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, U.S. Navy

mike luckovich from the atlanta journal constitution

Check it out: Ms. Paige, whose blog I like because I like her and she makes domestic bliss sound so, well, blissful, is havin' herself a baby today.

Congrats Paige!

currently on my knitting needles...

Making this hat, but not in this color...



Last year for Christmas my mother got me a signed copy of Jason Deparle's book on how the "ending welfare as we know it" Clinton policies impacted three young women and their kids during the 90s (my mother gets me a signed book or two every year -- my favorite last year being the one from UPI legend Helen Thomas...).

Anyway, I started reading it a while back and didn't finish, but last night I picked it up again and read it in the bathttub 'til like 3am, almost finishing it.

The book is as readable as any narrative non-fiction without social policy implications. Deparle does a good job of drawing a parallel between northeastern/midwestern inner city welfare mothers of the 90s and the southern sharecropper culture their parents and grandparents left in the 60s and 70s. I also like the way he cuts back and forth between scenes of the policy wonks in DC talking about how welfare reform will play with certain voting blocs and the way those reforms play out in real households full of women and little kids.

Anyway, well worth a read...


listening to...

My friend RG made me a copy of this the other day and I'm liking it more with each listen, despite the goofy, doe-eyed photo of Rhett Miller on the CD cover...

on fundamentalism

With thanks to Chris, who works w/me, for pointing this out to me today:


9/11 And The Sport of God

Bill Moyers

September 09, 2005

This article is adapted from Bill Moyer's address this week at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where Judith and Bill Moyers received the seminary's highest award, the Union Medal, for their contributions to faith and reason in America. Bill Moyers is a broadcast journalist and former host the PBS program NOW With Bill Moyers. Moyers also serves as president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, which gives financial support to

At the Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, where I was baptized in the faith, we believed in a free church in a free state. I still do.

My spiritual forbears did not take kindly to living under theocrats who embraced religious liberty for themselves but denied it to others. "Forced worship stinks in God's nostrils," thundered the dissenter Roger Williams as he was banished from Massachusetts for denying Puritan authority over his conscience. Baptists there were a "pitiful negligible minority" but they were agitators for freedom and therefore denounced as "incendiaries of the commonwealth" for holding to their belief in that great democracy of faith-the priesthood of all believers. For refusing to pay tribute to the state religion they were fined, flogged, and exiled. In l651 the Baptist Obadiah Holmes was given 30 stripes with a three-corded whip after he violated the law and took forbidden communion with another Baptist in Lynn, Massachusetts. His friends offered to pay his fine for his release but he refused. They offered him strong drink to anesthetize the pain of the flogging. Again he refused. It is the love of liberty, he said, "that must free the soul."

Such revolutionary ideas made the new nation with its Constitution and Bill of Rights "a haven for the cause of conscience." No longer could magistrates order citizens to support churches they did not attend and recite creeds that they did not believe. No longer would "the loathsome combination of church and state"-as Thomas Jefferson described it-be the settled order. Unlike the Old World that had been wracked with religious wars and persecution, the government of America would take no sides in the religious free-for-all that liberty would make possible and politics would make inevitable. The First Amendment neither inculcates religion nor inoculates against it. Americans could be loyal to the Constitution without being hostile to God, or they could pay no heed to God without fear of being mugged by an official God Squad. It has been a remarkable arrangement that guaranteed "soul freedom."

It is at risk now, and the fourth observance of the terrorist attacks of 9/ll is an appropriate time to think about it.

Four years ago this week, the poet's prophetic metaphor became real again and "the great dark birds of history" plunged into our lives.

They came in the name of God. They came bent on murder and martyrdom. It was as if they rode to earth on the fierce breath of Allah himself, for the sacred scriptures that had nurtured these murderous young men are steeped in images of a violent and vengeful God who wills life for the faithful and horrific torment for unbelievers.

Yes, the Koran speaks of mercy and compassion and calls for ethical living. But such passages are no match for the ferocity of instruction found there for waging war for God's sake. The scholar Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer carefully traces this trail of holy violence in his important book, Is Religion Killing Us? [Trinity Press International, 2003]. He highlights many of the verses in the Koran that the Islamic terrorists could have had in their hearts and on their lips four years ago as they moved toward their gruesome rendezvous. As I read some of them, close your eyes and recall the scenes of that bright September morning which began in the bright sun under a blue sky:

"Those who believe Fight in the cause of Allah, and Those who reject Faith Fight in the cause of Evil."(4:76)

"So We sent against them A furious Wind through days of disaster, that

We might Give them a taste of a Penalty of humiliation In this Life; but

The Penalty of the Hereafter will be More Humiliating still: And they

Will find No help." (41:16)

"Then watch thou For the Day That the sky will Bring forth a kind Of smoke (or mist) Plainly visible, Enveloping the people: This will be a Penalty Grievous." (44:10-11)

"Did the people of the towns Feel Secure against the coming Of Our Wrath by night While they were asleep? Or else did they feel Secure against its coming in Broad daylight while they Played About (carefree)? Did they then feel secure Against the Plan of Allah?-But no one can feel Secure from the Plan of Allah, except those (Doomed) to ruin." (7:97-99)

So the holy warriors came-an airborne death cult, their sights on God's enemies: regular folks, starting the day's routine. One minute they're pulling off their jackets, shaking Sweet n' Low into their coffee, adjusting the height of their chair or a picture of a child or sweetheart or spouse in a frame on their desk, booting up their computer-and in the next, they are engulfed by a horrendous cataclysm. God's will. Poof!

But it is never only the number of dead by which terrorists measure their work. It is also the number of the living- the survivors-taken hostage to fear. Their mission was to invade our psyche; get inside our heads-deprive us of trust, faith, and peace of mind: keep us from ever again believing in a safe, just, and peaceful world, and from working to bring that world to pass. The writer Terry Tempest Williams has said "the human heart is the first home of democracy." Fill that heart with fear and people will give up the risks of democracy for the assurances of security; fill that heart with fear and you can shake the house to its foundations.

In the days leading up to 9/ll our daughter and husband adopted their first baby. On the morning of September 11th our son-in-law passed through the shadow of the World Trade Center toward his office a few blocks up the street. He arrived as the horrors erupted. He saw the flames, the falling bodies, the devastation. His building was evacuated and for long awful moments he couldn't reach his wife, our daughter, to say he was okay. Even after they connected it wasn't until the next morning that he was able to make it home. Throughout that fearful night our daughter was alone with their new baby. Later she told us that for weeks thereafter she would lie awake at night, wondering where and when it might happen again, going to the computer at three in the morning to check out what she could about bioterrorism, germ warfare, anthrax and the vulnerability of children. The terrorists had violated a mother's deepest space.

Who was not vulnerable? That morning Judith and I made it to our office at Channel Thirteen on West 33rd Street just after the second plane struck. Our building was evacuated although the two of us remained with other colleagues to do what we could to keep the station on the air. The next day it was evacuated again because of a bomb scare at the Empire State Building nearby. We had just ended a live broadcast for PBS when security officers swept through and ordered everyone out. This time we left. As we were making our way down the stairs I took Judith's arm and was struck by the thought: Is this the last time I'll touch her? Could what we had begun together a half century ago end here on this dim, bare staircase? I forced the thought from my mind, willed it away, but in the early hours of morning, as I sat at the window of our apartment looking out at the sky, the sinister intruder crept back.

Terrorists plant time bombs in our heads, hoping to turn each and every imagination into a private hell governed by our fear of them.

They win only if we let them, only if we become like them: vengeful, imperious, intolerant, paranoid. Having lost faith in all else, zealots have nothing left but a holy cause to please a warrior God. They win if we become holy warriors, too; if we kill the innocent as they do; strike first at those who had not struck us; allow our leaders to use the fear of terrorism to make us afraid of the truth; cease to think and reason together, allowing others to tell what's in God's mind. Yes, we are vulnerable to terrorists, but only a shaken faith in ourselves can do us in.

So over the past four years I have kept reminding myself of not only the horror but the humanity that was revealed that day four years ago, when through the smoke and fire we glimpsed the heroism, compassion, and sacrifice of people who did the best of things in the worst of times. I keep telling myself that this beauty in us is real, that it makes life worthwhile and democracy work and that no terrorist can take it from us.

But I am not so sure. As a Christian realist I honor my inner skeptic. And as a journalist I always know the other side of the story. The historian Edward Gibbon once wrote of historians what could be said of journalists. He wrote: "The theologians may indulge the pleasing task of describing religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian [read: journalist] He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings."

The other side of the story:

Muslims have no monopoly on holy violence. As Jack Nelson-Pallmayer points out, God's violence in the sacred texts of both faiths reflect a deep and troubling pathology "so pervasive, vindictive, and destructive" that it contradicts and subverts the collective weight of other passages that exhort ethical behavior or testify to a loving God.

For days now we have watched those heart-breaking scenes on the Gulf Coast: the steaming, stinking, sweltering wreckage of cities and suburbs; the fleeing refugees; the floating corpses, hungry babies, and old people huddled together in death, the dogs gnawing at their feet; stranded children standing in water reeking of feces and garbage; families scattered; a mother holding her small child and an empty water jug, pleading for someone to fill it; a wife, pushing the body of her dead husband on a wooden plank down a flooded street; desperate people struggling desperately to survive.

Now transport those current scenes from our newspapers and television back to the first Book of the Bible-the Book of Genesis. They bring to life what we rarely imagine so graphically when we read of the great flood that devastated the known world. If you read the Bible as literally true, as fundamentalists do, this flood was ordered by God. "And God said to Noah, 'I have determined to make an end of all fleshŠ behold, I will destroy them with the earth." (6:5-l3). "I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die." (6:l7-l9) Noah and his family are the only humans spared-they were, after all, God's chosen. But for everyone else: "Š the waters prevailed so mightilyŠ that all the high mountainsŠ.were coveredŠ.And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beastsŠand every man; everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life, diedŠ." (7:17-23).

The flood is merely Act One. Read on: This God first "hardens the heart of Pharaoh" to make sure the Egyptian ruler will not be moved by the plea of Moses to let his people go. Then because Pharaoh's heart is hardened, God turns the Nile into blood so people cannot drink its water and will suffer from thirst. Not satisfied with the results, God sends swarms of locusts and flies to torture them; rains hail and fire and thunder on them destroys the trees and plants of the field until nothing green remains; orders every first-born child to be slaughtered, from the first-born of Pharaoh right on down to "the first-born of the maidservant behind the mill." An equal-murderous God, you might say. The massacre continues until "there is not a house where one was not dead." While the Egyptian families mourn their dead, God orders Moses to loot from their houses all their gold and silver and clothing. Finally, God's thirst for blood is satisfied, God pauses to rest-and boasts: "I have made sport of the Egyptians."

Violence: the sport of God. God, the progenitor of shock and awe.

And that's just Act II. As the story unfolds women and children are hacked to death on God's order; unborn infants are ripped from their mother's wombs; cities are leveled-their women killed if they have had sex, the virgins taken at God's command for the pleasure of his holy warriors. When his holy warriors spare the lives of 50,000 captives God is furious and sends Moses back to rebuke them and tell them to finish the job. One tribe after another falls to God-ordered genocide: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites-names so ancient they have disappeared into the mists as fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, infants in arms, shepherds, threshers, carpenters, merchants, housewives-living human beings, flesh and blood: "And when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to themŠ(and) your eyes shall not pity them."

So it is written-in the Holy Bible.

Yes, I know: the early church fathers, trying to cover up the blood-soaked trail of God's sport, decreed that anything that disagrees with Christian dogma about the perfection of God is to be interpreted spiritually. Yes, I know: Edward Gibbon himself acknowledged that the literal Biblical sense of God "is repugnant to every principle of faith as well as reason" and that we must therefore read the scriptures through a veil of allegory. Yes, I know: we can go through the Bible and construct a God more pleasing to the better angels of our nature (as I have done.) Yes, I know: Christians claim the Old Testament God of wrath was supplanted by the Gospel's God of love [See The God of Evil , Allan Hawkins, Exlibris.]

I know these things; all of us know these things. But we also know that the "violence-of-God" tradition remains embedded deep in the DNA of monotheistic faith. We also know that fundamentalists the world over and at home consider the "sacred texts" to be literally God's word on all matters. Inside that logic you cannot read part of the Bible allegorically and the rest of it literally; if you believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection, and the depiction of the Great Judgment at the end times you must also believe that God is sadistic, brutal, vengeful, callow, cruel and savage-that God slaughters.

Millions believe it.

Let's go back to 9/11 four years ago. The ruins were still smoldering when the reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell went on television to proclaim that the terrorist attacks were God's punishment of a corrupted America. They said the government had adopted the agenda "of the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians" not to mention the ACLU and People for the American Way (The God of the Bible apparently holds liberals in the same low esteem as Hittites and Gergushites and Jebusites and all the other pagans of holy writ.) Just as God had sent the Great Flood to wipe out a corrupted world, now-disgusted with a decadent America-"God almighty is lifting his protection from us." Critics said such comments were deranged. But millions of Christian fundamentalists and conservatives didn't think so. They thought Robertson and Falwell were being perfectly consistent with the logic of the Bible as they read it: God withdraws favor from sinful nations-the terrorists were meant to be God's wake-up call: better get right with God. Not many people at the time seemed to notice that Osama bin Laden had also been reading his sacred book closely and literally, and had called on Muslims to resist what he described as a "fierce Judeo-Christian campaign" against Islam, praying to Allah for guidance "to exalt the people who obey Him and humiliate those who disobey Him."

Suddenly we were immersed in the pathology of a "holy war" as defined by fundamentalists on both sides. You could see this pathology play out in General William Boykin. A professional soldier, General Boykin had taken up with a small group called the Faith Force Multiplier whose members apply military principles to evangelism with a manifesto summoning warriors "to the spiritual warfare for souls." After Boykin had led Americans in a battle against a Somalian warlord he announced: "I know my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his God was an idol." Now Boykin was going about evangelical revivals preaching that America was in a holy war as "a Christian nation" battling Satan and that America's Muslim adversaries will be defeated "only if we come against them in the name of Jesus." For such an hour, America surely needed a godly leader. So General Boykin explained how it was that the candidate who had lost the election in 2000 nonetheless wound up in the White House. President Bush, he said, "was not elected by a majority of the voters-he was appointed by God." Not surprising, instead of being reprimanded for evangelizing while in uniform, General Boykin is now the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. (Just as it isn't surprising that despite his public call for the assassination of a foreign head of state, Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing was one of the first groups to receive taxpayer funds from the President's Faith-Based Initiative for "relief work" on the Gulf Coast.)

We can't wiggle out of this, people. Alvin Hawkins states it frankly: "This is a problem we can't walk away from." We're talking about a powerful religious constituency that claims the right to tell us what's on God's mind and to decide the laws of the land according to their interpretation of biblical revelation and to enforce those laws on the nation as a whole. For the Bible is not just the foundational text of their faith; it has become the foundational text for a political movement.

True, people of faith have always tried to bring their interpretation of the Bible to bear on American laws and morals-this very seminary is part of that tradition; it's the American way, encouraged and protected by the First Amendment. But what is unique today is that the radical religious right has succeeded in taking over one of America's great political parties-the country is not yet a theocracy but the Republican Party is-and they are driving American politics, using God as a a battering ram on almost every issue: crime and punishment, foreign policy, health care, taxation, energy, regulation, social services and so on.

What's also unique is the intensity, organization, and anger they have brought to the public square. Listen to their preachers, evangelists, and homegrown ayatollahs: Their viral intolerance-their loathing of other people's beliefs, of America's secular and liberal values, of an independent press, of the courts, of reason, science and the search for objective knowledge-has become an unprecedented sectarian crusade for state power. They use the language of faith to demonize political opponents, mislead and misinform voters, censor writers and artists, ostracize dissenters, and marginalize the poor. These are the foot soldiers in a political holy war financed by wealthy economic interests and guided by savvy partisan operatives who know that couching political ambition in religious rhetoric can ignite the passion of followers as ferociously as when Constantine painted the Sign of Christ (the "Christograph") on the shields of his soldiers and on the banners of his legions and routed his rivals in Rome. Never mind that the Emperor himself was never baptized into the faith; it served him well enough to make the God worshipped by Christians his most important ally and turn the Sign of Christ into the one imperial symbol most widely recognized and feared from east to west.

Let's take a brief detour to Ohio and I'll show you what I am talking about. In recent weeks a movement called the Ohio Restoration Project has been launched to identify and train thousands of "Patriot Pastors" to get out the conservative religious vote next year. According to press reports, the leader of the movement- the senior pastor of a large church in suburban Columbus-casts the 2006 elections as an apocalyptic clash between "the forces of righteousness and the hordes of hell." The fear and loathing in his message is palpable: He denounces public schools that won't teach creationism, require teachers to read the Bible in class, or allow children to pray. He rails against the "secular jihadists" who have "hijacked" America and prevent school kids from learning that Hitler was "an avid evolutionist." He links abortion to children who murder their parents. He blasts the "pagan left" for trying to redefine marriage. He declares that "homosexual rights" will bring "a flood of demonic oppression." On his church website you read that "Reclaiming the teaching of our Christian heritage among America's youth is paramount to a sense of national destiny that God has invested into this nation."

One of the prominent allies of the Ohio Restoration Project is a popular televangelist in Columbus who heads a $40 million-a-year ministry that is accessible worldwide via l, 400 TV stations and cable affiliates. Although he describes himself as neither Republican nor Democrat but a "Christocrat"-a gladiator for God marching against "the very hordes of hell in our society"-he nonetheless has been spotted with so many Republican politicians in Washington and elsewhere that he has been publicly described as a"spiritual advisor" to the party. The journalist Marley Greiner has been following his ministry for the organization, FreePress. She writes that because he considers the separation of church and state to be "a lie perpetrated on Americans-especially believers in Jesus Christ"-he identifies himself as a "wall builder" and "wall buster." As a wall builder he will "restore Godly presence in government and culture; as a wall buster he will tear down the church-state wall." He sees the Christian church as a sleeping giant that has the ability and the anointing from God to transform America. The giant is stirring. At a rally in July he proclaimed to a packed house: "Let the Revolution begin!" And the congregation roared back: "Let the Revolution begin!"

(The Revolution's first goal, by the way, is to elect as governor next year the current Republican secretary of state who oversaw the election process in 2004 year when a surge in Christian voters narrowly carried George Bush to victory. As General Boykin suggested of President Bush's anointment, this fellow has acknowledged that "God wanted him as secretary of state during 2004" because it was such a critical election. Now he is criss-crossing Ohio meeting with Patriot Pastors and their congregations proclaiming that "America is at its best when God is at its center.") [For the complete stories from which this information has been extracted, see: "An evening with Rod Parsley, by Marley Greiner, FreePress, July 20, 2005; Patriot Pastors," Marilyn Warfield, Cleveland Jewish News, July 29, 2005; "Ohio televangelist has plenty of influence, but he wants more", Ted Wendling, Religion News Service, Chicago Tribune, July 1, 2005; "Shaping Politics from the pulpits," Susan Page, USA Today , Aug. 3, 2005; "Religion and Politics Should Be Mixed Says Ohio Secretary of State," WTOL-TV Toledo, October 29, 2004].

The Ohio Restoration Project is spreading. In one month alone last year in the president's home state of Texas, a single Baptist preacher added 2000 "Patriot Pastors" to the rolls. On his website he now encourages pastors to "speak out on the great moral issues of our dayŠto restore and reclaim America for Christ."

Alas, these "great moral issues" do not include building a moral economy. The Christian Right trumpets charity (as in Faith Based Initiatives) but is silent on social and economic justice. Inequality in America has reached scandalous proportions: a few weeks ago the government acknowledged that while incomes are growing smartly for the first time in years, the primary winners are the top earners-people who receive stocks, bonuses, and other income in addition to wages. The nearly 80 percent of Americans who rely mostly on hourly wages barely maintained their purchasing power. Even as Hurricane Katrina was hitting the Gulf Coast, giving us a stark reminder of how poverty can shove poor people into the abyss, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that last year one million people were added to 36 million already living in poverty. And since l999 the income of the poorest one fifth of Americans has dropped almost nine percent.

None of these harsh realities of ordinary life seem to bother the radical religious right. To the contrary, in the pursuit of political power they have cut a deal with America's richest class and their partisan allies in a law-of-the-jungle strategy to "starve" the government of resources needed for vital social services that benefit everyone while championing more and more spending rich corporations and larger tax cuts for the rich.

How else to explain the vacuum in their "great moral issues" of the plight of millions of Americans without adequate health care? Of the gross corruption of politics by campaign contributions that skew government policies toward the wealthy at the expense of ordinary taxpayers? (On the very day that oil and gas prices reached a record high the president signed off on huge taxpayer subsidies for energy conglomerates already bloated with windfall profits plucked from the pockets of average Americans filling up at gas tanks across the country; yet the next Sunday you could pass a hundred church signboards with no mention of a sermon on crony capitalism.)

This silence on economic and political morality is deafening but revealing. The radicals on the Christian right are now the dominant force in America's governing party. Without them the government would not be in the hands of people who don't believe in government. They are culpable in upholding a system of class and race in which, as we saw last week, the rich escape and the poor are left behind. And they are on they are crusading for a government "of, by, and for the people" in favor of one based on Biblical authority.

This is the crux of the matter: To these fundamentalist radicals there is only one legitimate religion and only one particular brand of that religion that is right; all others who call on God are immoral or wrong. They believe the Bible to be literally true and that they alone know what it means. Behind their malicious attacks on the courts ("vermin in black robes," as one of their talk show allies recently put it,) is a fierce longing to hold judges accountable for interpreting the Constitution according to standards of biblical revelation as fundamentalists define it. To get those judges they needed a party beholden to them. So the Grand Old Party-the GOP-has become God's Own Party, its ranks made up of God's Own People "marching as to war."

Go now to the website of an organization called America 2l ( ). There, on a red, white, and blue home page, you find praise for President Bush's agenda-including his effort to phase out Social Security and protect corporations from law suits by aggrieved citizens. On the same home page is a reminder that "There are 7,177 hours until our next National ElectionŠ.ENLIST NOW." Now click again and you will read a summons calling Christian pastors "to lead God's people in the turning that can save America from our enemies." Under the headline "Remember-Repent-Return" language reminiscent of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell reminds you that "one of the unmistakable lessons [of 9/11] is that America has lost the full measure of God's hedge of protection. When we ask ourselves why, the scriptures remind us that ancient Israel was invaded by its foreign enemy, Babylon, in 586 B.C. Š.(and) Jerusalem was destroyed by another invading foreign power in 70 A.D. Š. Psalm l06:37 says that these judgments of God Šwere because of Israel's idolatry. Israel, the apple of God's eye, was destroyed Š because the people failedŠ to repent." If America is to avoid a similar fate, the warning continues, we must "remember the legacy of our heritage under God and our covenant with Him and, in the words of II Chronicles 7:14: 'Turn from our wicked ways.'"

Just what does this have to do with the president's political agenda praised on the home page? Well, squint and look at the fine print at the bottom of the site. It reads: America2l is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to educate, engage and mobilize Christians to influence national policy at every level. Founded in l989 by a multi-denominational group of pastors and businessmen, it is dedicated to being a catalyst for revival and reform of the culture and the government ." (emphasis added).

The corporate, political and religious right converge here, led by a president who, in his own disdain for science, reason and knowledge, is the most powerful fundamentalist in American history.

What are the stakes? In his last book, the late Marvin Harris, a prominent anthropologist of the time, wrote that "the attack against reason and objectivity is fast reaching the proportions of a crusade." To save the American Dream, "we desperately need to reaffirm the principle that it is possible to carry out an analysis of social life which rational human beings will recognize as being true, regardless of whether they happen to be women or men, whites or black, straights or gays, employers or employees, Jews or born-again Christians. The alternative is to stand by helplessly as special interest groups tear the United States apart in the name of their "separate realities' or to wait until one of them grows strong enough to force its irrational and subjective brand of reality on all the rest."

That was written 25 years ago, just as the radical Christian right was setting out on their long march to political supremacy. The forces he warned against have gained strength ever since and now control much of the United States government and are on the verge of having it all.

It has to be said that their success has come in no small part because of our acquiescence and timidity. Our democratic values are imperiled because too many people of reason are willing to appease irrational people just because they are pious. Republican moderates tried appeasement and survive today only in gulags set aside for them by the Karl Roves, Bill Frists and Tom DeLays. Democrats are divided and paralyzed, afraid that if they take on the organized radical right they will lose what little power they have. Trying to learn to talk about God as Republicans do, they're talking gobbledygook, compromising the strongest thing going for them-the case for a moral economy and the moral argument for the secular checks and balances that have made America "a safe haven for the cause of conscience."

As I look back on the conflicts and clamor of our boisterous past, one lesson about democracy stands above all others: Bullies-political bullies, economic bullies and religious bullies-cannot be appeased; they have to be opposed with a stubbornness to match their own. This is never easy; these guys don't fight fair; "Robert's Rules of Order" is not one of their holy texts. But freedom on any front-and especially freedom of conscience-never comes to those who rock and wait, hoping someone else will do the heavy lifting. Christian realism requires us to see the world as it is, without illusions, and then take it on. Christian realism also requires love. But not a sentimental, dreamy love. Reinhold Niebuhr, who taught at Union Theological Seminary and wrestled constantly with applying Christian ethics to political life, put it this way: "When we talk about love we have to become mature or we will become sentimental. Basically love meansŠbeing responsible, responsibility to our family, toward our civilization, and now by the pressures of history, toward the universe of humankind."

Christian realists aren't afraid to love. But just as the Irishman who came upon a brawl in the street and asked, "Is this a private fight or can anyone get in it?" we have to take that love where the action is. Or the world will remain a theatre of war between fundamentalists.

knox craigslist

Knoxville is finally on craigslist, and as one expat Knoxvillian friend of mine now living in NYC put it at, he is so happy that he can now be painfully reminded whenever he wants via craigslist that he could buy a really nice house near downtown Knox for almost nothing...



I spent the last day in Chattanooga, and am now at my office Sunday evening knocking some work out. Newsrooms are much quieter on a Sunday evening than they are the rest of the time, making it a good time to plow thru stuff it's hard to get accomplished during a normal workday...

But anyway... have you ever been to Rock City? I hadn't since grade school but dropped in today. The friend with whom I went promised me I'd see some gnomes there. Gnomes have always sort of creeped me out ever since I saw this movie as a child, but I was curious.

So we walked and walked around Rock City and saw nary a gnome, when all of a sudden we came on this sign over a cave reading (I kid you not):


Inside "fairyland" were all the gnomes: plaster of paris and a few animatronic gnomes of all different shapes and sizes in all sorts of bizarro tableaux, many painted with flourescent paint and set up under black lighting that made them glow.

There is really no way for me to convey the weirdness of this large, real cave near Chattanooga filled with...fake gnomes.

It was very strange. And I am very, very tired.


todd steed and mic harrison

As usual these days, this Friday night in Knoxville offers a variety of good music for your listening fun.

Mic Harrison, one of Knoxville's musical treasures and a very nice guy to boot, will be opening for Shawn Mullins at Blue Cats in the Old City. Mic's last album, Pallbearer's Shoes, has been in my CD player a lot the past few months. I also saw him play at Bonnaroo this summer. If you don't know his solo stuff, you might know him from the V-Roys or Superdrag. He's been playing out of town a lot lately, but here is a chance to see him right here in K-town.

And I just heard that Todd Steed and the Sons of Phere will be playing a FREE show tonight at 8:30 p.m. at the Disc Exchange South. As regular readers know, I'm a longtime Steed fan and you can't just beat  Todd Steed for free...



OK, which of my hilarious pals just had a John Bean-soundalike call me in the newsroom with a rather unique suggestion as to how the military should deal with hurricanes in the future?

The person was spot-on, except he blew it by asking for me specifically and pronouncing my last name correctly (a dead giveaway that someone actually KNOWS me).

C'mon, fess up....

gay parents

Check out this very encouraging essay Kate Kendell has written about the legal strides gay parents have made toward full recognition under the law.

I think the legal changes are important, but it's the more nuanced, organic changes that will make things truly better/different for gay families a generation from now.

Example: last weekend I took my middle school son and two of his classmates to pick up a fourth classmate, a girl, for a concert. The fourth classmate is a different-race (from her mothers) adopted child of lesbian moms.

To the three boys who were with me - my son and his friends -- this is no biggie. That's just who this family is, and just who their classmate is. They like her two moms very much. And this is in uber-conservative Knoxville, TN. Plus, the other two boys who were with us come from very Republican, right-wing sorts of families. Their parents may have a problem with a gay family, but their children don't.

Politics and legal recognition haven't created these kids' acceptance of this as just one more kind of family; knowing this family personally has created that acceptance.

thanks, mom

I've been listening to this band the last day or two. My mom had all their records when I was a child and I loved them then and love them even more now that Rhino has released their stuff on CD.


watch wal-mart

Click here to get info on seeing the new anti-wal-mart documentary.

bruce wheeler's new book

Can't wait to read this brand new edition of UT Prof Bruce Wheeler's classic book on Knoxville and her history. I got the chance to interview Dr. Wheeler pretty extensively last year when I was working on a TV series on Knoxville history and he's a funny, fascinating guy. Loved his Cas Walker anecdotes.

He'll be signing copies of the new book at Carpe Librum bookstore in Bearden at 6:30 p.m. on September 25 (my birthday, so I'll probably buy a copy as my gift to myself).


I got a phone call from my 8th grade son's teacher today telling me that he's okay, but that his finger is very sore after he stuck it into a phone jack in the wall during English class. It became stuck and the teacher and another adult eventually had to dismantle the whole thing and take it out of the wall to get his finger out.

He called me a few minutes later to ask if I was mad. I said no but asked him why in the world he did that, and he really had no answer. I reminded him that when he was 4 he also got a bean stuck up his nose that required a trip to the emergency room.

PS: My mother e-mails to remind me that she once had to come get me at school because I had a pencil stuck in my arm, and that one time I got my finger stuck in a hole in the bathroom at a horse show and a kind stranger had to help me get it loose. And then a friend from high school e-mailed to remind me of my habit of becoming so engrossed in a book whilst gnawing on a pen that the pen would burst in my mouth, spewing ink all over my face. This happens, she informs me, more than one time.

what do you think?

Does this qualify as a threat against the President? Should this guy be prosecuted?



Lenore Kinder, the marketing guru behind Blue Cats, has put together this terrific benefit on very short notice.

Not on the poster but also playing that night are two of my very favorite local bands at my fave Knoxville venue: Carl Snow Band will be opening for the Tim Lee Band at The Corner Lounge that night.

This is a terrific opportunity to see more good music than you can shake a stick at for a very good cause, all in Downtown Knoxville.


let them eat cake

Barbara Bush says the Katrina refugees have it pretty darn good.


We had a very busy holiday weekend at Casa Granju. On Saturday, my daughter had a horse show and I'll take a minute to brag on the fact that she rode a friend's new small pony, "Joe Cool," to champion of the pony division at the show, beating several VERY nice large ponies ridden by teenagers (Jane is ten years old).

She also rode her own pony in the division, but he was very silly and didn't do that well.

But winning champion of the division the first time she ever got on this pony was pretty neat. She also got stung by a bunch of yellowjackets about an hour before she showed, so I was proud of her for getting on and doing it.

On Saturday night we had a gaggle of boychildren spend the night, with lacrosse played in our backyard until 4am at which point I told the boys they had to come in and go to sleep.

On Sunday, we had our Labor Day party at our house. It was very fun, with a good crowd, quite diverse, and good food. There were actually a couple of people there whom I did not know and have no idea how they ended up there, but they were quite nice and we were happy to have them. Things wrapped up pretty late and I had to drag myself out of bed on Monday, which the children and I all had off.

On Monday afternoon we were invited to a friend's house to swim and eat a very tasty supper. Had a great time, except I think I ripped a muscle in my shoulder the one time I tried their zipline thing that runs across their backyard. So I'm in some pain this morning...


i am apparently old and dorky

Tonight I drove my 8th grader and three of his friends (two boys, one girl) to the Jack Johnson concert at a park downtown. (Gonna pick them up in a little while)

This is the first time I've let him go to something big like this without an adult, so on the way there I was sort of lecturing all 4 of them on 'the rules,' and one of the things I said was, "...and people around you will probably be smoking dope but that doesn't mean....", at which point they interrupted me when they all simultaneously burst out laughing.

I asked what was so funny and one of the boys jovially informed me that "NO ONE says 'dope' except really old hippies!"

I am not THAT old and am definitely not a hippie, but apparently I am old enough and fairly dorky.

I then finished my admonitions, using the geekiest, most old school language I could conjure, and dropped them off.


on katrina response, newt sez...

"I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

offer room in your house to katrina refugees

I found some good info on how to match up housing you might have available with refugees who need it.

the federal response to katrina

What if really good bombers had simultaneously dismantled NOLA's levee system and pump system, and the water had rushed in? Or what if there had been some other major terrorist attack on NOLA that had caused widescale devastation?

My point being this: would we really have been this unprepared in the event of a big terrorist attack? I guess the answer is yes.

I mean, four years after 9/11 and with Bush touting his Homeland Security success, THIS is the best response we can muster when a major American city is hit really hard with something catastrophic?

We simply don't seem prepared to respond to a catastrophic event on a major American city, even one where we had up to a week's notice.

Why did we not have 10,000 troops waiting on the outer edges of the storm region and ready to move in for search/rescue/law enforcement when the weather passed (Martial law doesn't make much sense when there are no personnel to enforce it)? Why not huge trucks of water ready to come directly into the storm regions? Floating military
hospitals offshore ready to be moved in and converted to temporary civilian use?

I actually think this and the gas crisis may hit Bush's approval rating (and the Republicans) harder than the war has. People actually seem emotionally engaged with this, as opposed to the bizarro, "anything goes" detachment the American public has with Iraq.

I am sick over it. The whole thing. We sent tens of thousands of poor black people to the Superdome and Convention Center and then left them there for 4 days with no food or water. Why can we not at least drop ready-to-eat meals and water like we do in Iraq?

parents' night

Last night was the first parents' night of the year at my children's school.

My observations:



fountains of wayne

If you need something to lift your spirits during this grim time, or if the only FOW song you've ever heard is "Stacy's Mom" (which is a very good song, but not their best), you should hop on out and pick up Fountains of Wayne's new record, "Out of State Plates."

First of all, it's a bargain. You get 28 songs (okay, two are funny interview snippets), and who doesn't love a bargain?

But this is a terrific 2-CD set with more quirky guitar jangle and two minute servings of pop bliss than a sackful of Marshall Crenshaw.

These are all technically outtakes, but you certainly wouldn't guess it because these songs are just as good as anything they've released in their decade's worth of CDs.

My favorites are "Baby, I've Changed" (Liner notes from band: "Our recording contract requires us to have at least four songs per album that includethe word 'baby'.") and "I'll Do the Driving" (Liner notes from Chris Collingwood: "I don't know what I was thinking. This song pissed off my wife so much that I wish I'd never done it. And I recorded it at home, so she had to endure it all day. I should note that I just wrote a song called 'All Women Are Crazy'. That's probably not going to sit so well either."

They also have the best cover ever of Britney's "Hit Me Baby One More Time" on the CD, and other covers of stuff by of ELO, Gene Pitney, Jackson Browne, Bacharach/David and Aztec Camera.

This is cheery, tight powerpop with really fun, funny lyrics.

Check it out.

blissed out

Ironically, Katrina has blown the most gorgeous, perfect, early Fall weather into East Tennessee. This afternoon was breezy and about 85 degrees -- cooler in the shade -- with impossibly blue skies and fluffy clouds and that subtle change in the light that comes as Autumn creeps in.

We are deep into Fall activity season now, and this afternoon had me shuttling chillens to riding lessons and lacrosse practice.

I got to watch most of Jane's lesson and it's really amazing to me to see how much more sophisticated her riding has become just in the last 4 months. Her trainer has her doing leg yields and turns on the forehand and also jumping much trickier and higher courses, and she does it all with incredible grace and boundless enthusiasm. She works very hard.

Then it was over to Farragut High School for Henry's LAX practice. I had never been to the fields behind FHS, but they are waaaaay up on a hill, at the highest point in that area of town, and today was so beautiful and clear that I could see miles and miles, all the way to the mountains.

So I sat up there on that hill and watched my shaggy haired teenager on the field below run drills and tenaciously struggle a bit with learning spins and cradles, while my fuzzy headed seven year old, who has natural athletic ability oozing out his ears, ran circles around a lot of the middle school lacrosse players who agreed to toss the ball around with him. Elliot is blessed with incredible speed and coordination. Both Jane and Elliot also have a really sharp focus they can switch on when they are competing at sports.

Sometimes being a single mother of three kids is really, really hard. But today, as I was watching my three healthy, beautiful, athletic children jump and spin and laugh and play in the sunshine, I just felt so grateful.

How I ended up with these three great children is beyond me. They are nice, kind, funny, smart, empathetic, clever, innovative and most of the time, pretty darn easy compared to what a lot of my friends who are parents have to deal with.

Lucky, lucky me.

Help Horses

Shelter and Vet Services Needed for Hurricane Katrina's Equine Refugees

Place Your Facility on the USEF Hurricane Equine Relief List

(Lexington, KY) - As Americans view the newscasts of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina it is clear that both humans and animals require immediate emergency relief from not only official agencies but from the generosity of individuals.

If you have a facility or pasture which you can offer to house refugee horses and ponies, victims of Hurricane Katrina, please email your name, address, phone number and email address to , or at 859-225-6993, (please email if at all possible as we expect a heavy load of calls.) If you can volunteer veterinary services please submit your contact information. The USEF is posting a listing by state of these facilities and services for horses and ponies on our website. The list will be accessed by going to, on the right side of the homepage click on Hurricane Katrina Equine Relief. It is expected to be operational by tonight, August 31st.

We urge the participation of anyone who has the space, licensed veterinary expertise and tenderness of heart to help these equine refugees.