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Belle Waring

Relevant

by Belle Waring on June 2, 2016

Epic Rap Battles of History can be uneven but is, at times, amazing. My favorite is MLK vs. Gandhi with Key and Peele. Eastern philosophers vs. western philosophers is awesome—it deviates from the usual “who won, who’s next” close, ending instead with “what is winning?” Ten points to Ravenclaw. And “you don’t want to stand in the path of Laozi today; move, bitch, get out the way” is inspired. However, some effort should have been made to pronounce the Chinese philosophers’ names. Any effort, smdh. Finally, the philosophers on each side end up turning on one another, exactly as Schopenhauer would have it:

On the other hand, hardly has any system of philosophy come into the world when it has already begun to contemplate the destruction of all its brothers, like an Asiatic sultan when he ascends to the throne. For just as there can be only one queen in a beehive, so can only one philosophy be the order of the day. Thus systems are by nature as unsociable as spiders, each of which sits alone in its web and sees how many flies will allow themselves to be caught therein, but approaches another spider merely in order to fight with it. Thus whereas the works of poets pasture peacefully side by side, those of philosophy are born beasts of prey, and even in their destructive impulse are like scorpions, spiders, and the larvae of some insects and are turned primarily against their own species. They appear in the world like men clad in armour from the seed of the dragon’s teeth of Jason’s and til now have, like these, mutually exterminated each other. This struggle has already lasted for more than two thousand years; will there ever result from it a final victory and lasting peace?

Aaaaaanyway my actual plan was to post this Epic Rap Battle of History: Thomas Jefferson vs. Frederick Douglass.

No, But We Have a Word For That, Pt 2

by Belle Waring on May 31, 2016

Right, so, The NYT has an article on how DNA analysis is helping African-Americans learn about their family history. The author’s grasp on the English language seems to slip away from them at one point (originally two), though. Exhibit A:

Buried in DNA, the researchers found the marks of slavery’s cruelties, including further evidence that white slave owners routinely fathered children with women held as slaves.

MmmmmmOK. This one was changed in an update! Because it sucked before:

The researchers observed that the X chromosome of African-Americans has a greater African ancestry than other chromosomes. Dr. Gravel and his colleagues believe this variation is explained by European men and African women producing children — in other words, slave owners raping the women they held captive.

Thanks for explaining what happens when a rape victim and her rapist “produce children”! Because rape is totally the exact actual word we should use when someone coerces someone else into having sex with him against her will. That might be mebbe by, like, standing right over the person with an axe handle, or else could be something more like keeping your own children enslaved in America so that she couldn’t escape you in France (coughJeffersoncough).

Now, I do understand that people have a general unwillingness to say things like, “noted statesman and confirmed serial rapist Thomas Jefferson exercised extraordinary taste in designing his home.” It just…it just sounds real, real bad. But when talking about slaveowners generally, what is with the “fathered children” thing? Or, let’s grant that people are reluctant even to say that about such a huge number of white citizens often thought to be morally adequate in some vague way as a class (I’m not really seeing it, but, eh.). Nonetheless, even when it comes to the most universally loathed men in the world, like Josef Fritzl, I have noticed a strong inclination for writers to say that someone “fathered children with” their rape victim. At the time of the case, particularly, I found it disturbing to read these words so many times: “fathered children.”

John’s hypothesis was that, to some degree, the rapine part of slavery is baked into the enslavement, with the result that further rape doesn’t seem like the most salient thing? (He was not looking for weird justifications for this abuse of language, just speculating.) About abductors…mmm…same, sort of? Like, the kidnapping is the part where volition goes out the window, and then all further activities are assumed to be unwilling and there’s therefore no need to specifically say raped many times afterward? But I don’t hear it that way. Quite the opposite. Rather, it seems as if people think you can only be raped so many times before…something other than rape is taking place? Or, perhaps, the “was she kicking and screaming” element that is meant to pick out rape rape infects the way people discuss rapes that don’t involve physical violence every single time?

I can easily imagine a lived complexity in which Sally Hemings had some power in her relationship with Thomas Jefferson, emotional power or even sexual power of a kind. But this is something for a novelist to talk about—a journalist or historian needs to say “raped” again even for the 200th instance of forced sexual relations. And “fathered” is just weird and messed-up sounding, redolent of horse-breeding. I do feel things have improved in the last five years. I notice it particularly in reading sites like the (nominally?) feminist Jezebel—commenters will always correct quoted articles of this kind to include the word rape, and I do feel people notice.

“Buried in DNA, the researchers found concrete evidence of slavery’s cruelties, including the fact that enslaved women often became pregnant as the result of being repeatedly raped by their white masters.” Is that even any harder to say, or is it just more unpleasant to read? Thoughts?

We Have a Word For That, Pt. 1

by Belle Waring on May 31, 2016

The NYT has an interesting article on how DNA analysis is helping African-Americans
(especially in the south) discover more about the carefully erased history of their families. Most people need to know at least the name of the white families who enslaved their forebears in order to make much progress, but as more information is digitized and collated this can become easier. I ran across this article about an informal genealogy research group in Savannah when I was searching for something else. The list of references includes the ‘Joseph Frederick Waring II papers,’ MS 1275:

Contains 35 items on African-American churches (not dated); 18 items on African-American members of the Republican Party of Georgia from 1867-1869; slave bills of sale from 1856-1859; a list of slaves from 1859, leases to African-Americans from 1865-1866, and a letter from 1851 which discusses a fugitive slave riot.

There’s also the less morally disturbing ‘Antonio J. Waring Collection, MS 1287,’ which contains “The Case of the Africans,” discussing the slave trade from 1817-1820. These two references, and an earlier note from the ‘Joseph Vallence Beven papers,’ MS 71, which, “[c]ontains correspondence dating from 1787 between George Mathews, Thomas Pinckney, and General James Jackson concerning armed fugitive slaves” brought two things home to me.

One, my brother’s friend Tom Pinckney, and a ton of Macintyre’s live along the stretch of the May River within a half-mile from my house. Pretty sure there’s even a Ravenel up in there closer to town. There are zero black families along that stretch of the river. This is obviously morally wrong. However did this inequity arise? At least I don’t go around explaining how I never benefited materially from chattel slavery because my family all emigrated from Ireland 12 minutes ago and were treated exactly like black slaves, except for not being owned outright or made legally sub-human or subject to the dreaded ‘one drop of Irish blood’ test, or even the ‘are you lighter than this piece of A4 typing paper on which I spattered some watered-down sepia ink from a toothbrush’ test. That’s a pretty low bar, though. It’s not exactly “take all thou hast, and give to the poor”-type stuff. More like, “I’m not an aggressive dickweasel! Yay me! Please give me some benne brittle!” Mmmm, tastes like exploitation of West Africa.

Two, the history of slavery in America is always taught as if there was little to no resistance from slaves. I have wondered about that plenty, thinking, when S.C. was 80% black, how in God’s name did white people keep from getting straight murdered all the time? I mean, “by using inhumanly savage violent repression,” obviously, but even so I thought there would be more “whoops, the plantation house caught on fire and nobody could get out mumble because people were standing outside in a circle armed with hoes and axes mumble.” But I’m starting to think that the slavers’ nightmare happened much more than I think, but the news of it was repressed as savagely as the small rebellions, so as to keep anybody from getting any ideas. OK, this wasn’t actually my initial point at all but it is worth considering, so I’ll just break this post up for easier commentatin’.

The Politics of Hair

by Belle Waring on March 9, 2016

I recently learned something that I had been totally ignorant about: black and Creole women pre-Emancipation were required by law in many places to wear a headwrap in public. Obviously I’m familiar with the image of Aunt Jemima in her checkered kerchief. And my family has some etchings in S.C. of women hawking food on the street in Savannah, calling “swimpee, swimpee, nice and fresh” and the like. (The Gullah word starts with the voiceless alveolar /s/ and then has the rest said like we all say shrimp—according to the dictionary, but the mangled spelling of the etchings is actually a good approximation of how it sounds.) All the women depicted are wearing headscarves—and the women who sell sweetgrass baskets on the street in Charleston, wear them today. (People actually did hawk food on the street when my dad was a kid, which is kind of funny to think about.) Women in Louisiana were subject to the “tignon” law, which mandated a headwrap, starting in 1785. You will not be surprised to learn that the one-drop rule applied to the tignon law, so the many beautiful only-one-black-great-grandparent-having ladies in New Orleans also had to have them on. However, as this great, lavishly illustrated writeup details, it didn’t work out quite as planned,

In an effort to maintain class distinctions in his Spanish colony at the beginning of his term, Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró (1785 – 1791) decreed that women of color, slave or free, should cover their heads with a knotted headdress and refrain from “excessive attention to dress.” In 1786, while Louisiana was a Spanish colony, the governor forbade: “females of color … to wear plumes or jewelry”; this law specifically required “their hair bound in a kerchief.” But the women, who were targets of this decree, were inventive & imaginative with years of practice. They decorated their mandated tignons, made of the finest textiles, with jewels, ribbons, & feathers to once again outshine their white counterparts.

Nice try, dicks. Free blacks were almost 20% of the New Orleans at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, but both enslaved and free black women had to wear the tignon. And, thinking about it, lots of women in the Caribbean wore/wear this style. You should definitely go read this post which is very detailed and has some superlative turban/hat combos to admire.

Socrates as Mary Sue

by Belle Waring on February 9, 2016

The genuinely Platonic way to discuss The Just City would be to not talk about it at all after the introductory section of the post, and instead use it as the springboard for a discussion about something tangentially related. Additionally, we should go Unfogged style: the post should be short and all the action should take place in the comments, in which I will be kind of a dick to everyone (“how would this be different than the usual?” you ask!) and, more controversially, cut out the content of everyone’s replies and paste in slightly weaker arguments that suit my purposes better. But this doesn’t seem like a very good idea, even if it is a very Platonic idea.

John says, it’s proof that Republic is science fiction! Because what happens when your characters set out to build the city which that one part of Plato’s Republic describes, plausibly only for the purposes of drawing an analogy to the well-ordered soul? You get SF. And maybe you learn something about being a good person? Maybe not, though.

I’m interested in what makes a character a Mary Sue. It’s a useful term (though problematic as I will say below). Some characters really are Mary Sues to the point that the way they effortlessly overcome all obstacles becomes an obstacle to reading. I love Anne McCaffrey, but Dragonsinger, fails as a novel due to the improbably perfect, talented, totally in the right, musical genius Menolly who has NINE fire-lizards. The first book in the trilogy is excellent, making one even more annoyed. On the other hand, every fantasy novel involves wish-fulfilment at some level, or characters who overcome all odds. Harry Potter is a Mary Sue if we put things that way, and yet it’s not a helpful or interesting thing to say about the Harry Potter series. Can Socrates be thought of usefully as a Mary Sue? I would say yes. His many straw enemies make for a lot of unsatisfying triumphs. [click to continue…]

DJ Earworm 2015

by Belle Waring on February 5, 2016

The Plain People of Crooked Timber: Belle. What is your deal even. You said you would post trivial idle thoughts alla time and instead you just ghost. And you haven’t even posted your annoying end-of-the-year mix of all the sucky songs from the previous year!

Well, gentle readers, I…I don’t have a great excuse because surely if I can play Candy Crush and lie awake at night looking at Pinterest for three solid hours I could post something. But I feel as if I should post something intelligent if I haven’t said anything in so long! I get similar email guilt; the feeling of shame at not having checked my email recently enough becomes a crippling barrier which prevents me from checking my email in a vicious cycle of anxiety. This is because contrived anxiety is actually more manageable than motivated anxiety. Our life is kind of sucking right now? One thing that’s awesome is that my mom, who got diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain over a year ago, is not merely alive and in charge of her faculties, but felt well enough to fly the 24 hours to Singapore and stay for a month. We went to Ubud in Bali also, to this villa that was just the schwaa. (The following is not, though it appears to be, the least helpful, most out of touch with reality advice because it is useful to our Antipodean readers/contributors who, it appears, must perforce go to Bali with some frequency because the entire population of Australia appears to be there at all times. Villa Bali is the best. It’s only economical if there are several of you, like four minimum, but then you have your own kitchen, can go to the grocery store and don’t need to pay for any restaurants so it can easily be cheaper than a mid-range hotel and is 50x more fun.) OTOH, Stage IV lung cancer sucks! It’s normally the stage when they tell you, “you’re about to die, bro.”


[click to continue…]

Hungry Blog

by Belle Waring on November 7, 2015

Woop, I turn around for one second, completely ignoring my past self who was all, “Belle, just put some words or music or something on your blog! It’s not brain surgery, and Ben Carson is a brain surgeon, so….” and the result is that our blog stagnates! Well, no more of that. I’m saying stuff. Stuff like, you should listen to this insanely good Breakwater song, “We’re Going to Work it Out”!

So mellow, with a Latin swing thing happening. Also, this rubby-dubby sound like someone was rubbing on a balloon; what is that even, well-informed commentariat?

In not-mellow-at-all-bummer news we have this article on Deadspin documenting a case in which NFL player Greg Hardy assaulted his girlfriend. It’s an excellent piece that pulls together evidence that seems to have been publicly available for some time. Hardy was both charged and convicted (unusual for DV cases, especially with a powerful man involved), but the case was overturned on appeal and then expunged. I wasn’t aware this could even happen except when the Innocence Project proves that a person was unjustly put on death row, but in principle it’s an intuitive mechanism. The criminal justice system needs to be able to say, not merely “not guilty” but affirmatively “innocent.” This could be useful—in other cases.

There are photos of the woman’s injuries, and it may be that, as in the Ray Rice situation, the visual imagery will make an impact where the conviction (howsoever temporary) did not. Wait, except Ray Rice got the charges against him exchanged for some anger management or something? Well, we can say his career was permanently injured.

Greg Hardy is a better player than Rice and more valuable to his team, so they are probably backing him up all the way (even when he gets in a fight with coaching staff! Special Teams, tho, the B-list coaches.) Part of Hardy’s defense involved the ludicrous claim that, given how much stronger and bigger he was than the victim, the woman should have been much injured more seriously. Like, if he had assaulted her, her mere beatdown couldn’t have happened. This makes less than zero sense (people can’t hold back?) and I believe it has the dubious distinction of being shared with Mike Tyson’s DV defense back in the 90s. From the Deadspin post.

When asked to explain Holder’s injuries during his bench trial, he and Curtis would testify that Holder had jumped into the bathtub, then thrown herself on the couch, and then went crazy trying to attack Hardy. Hardy’s lawyer, Chris Fialko, would assert that Holder must have caused the injuries to herself. If the 290-lb. pass rusher had really wanted to hurt a woman who weighed well less than half what he did, his argument went, the damage would have been a lot worse.

Riiiiiight. My eyes are oscillating like unhinged gyroscopes, back, back, ever back. I can only see darkness and brain now.

The following statement came after the fight with the special teams coach, but listen to the leadershippy leadership of the owner of the world’s most hated football franchise: “[Greg Hardy’s], of course, one of the real leaders on this team and he earns it and he earns it with respect from all of his teammates and that’s the kind of thing that inspires a football team,” [Cowboys owner Jerry] Jones said. Mmm, taste the respect of a dude who flips the coaches clipboard up in his face on the field.

Although Deadspin is mostly a snarky sports blog that tells you why your NFL team sucks, it is also at times serious investigative journalism. They broke the Te’o Manti catfishing thing too. (I can’t summarize it, really.) In cases like these the established sports media seem disinclined to look too carefully into anything.

Extra-Judicial Arbitration

by Belle Waring on November 3, 2015

The NYT has been running a series of investigative reports on the spread of arbitration clauses that stipulate any conflict between an individual and the corporation or group be resolved outside court. Many times this means that instead of judges, plaintiffs have to plead their case to professional arbitrators who are hired to work repeatedly for the same companies. People often enter the agreements without knowing they have done so, because they may be hidden in something as banal as your purchase agreement for bamboo flooring. Many of the clauses seem to be notionally opt-in, but are in fact opt-out—it’s just that if you read through carefully and noticed you had a month to contest the terms and if it wasn’t the only job you could get to feed your family, you could, in theory, abstain from the agreement. It’s not just obvious conflicts of interest at work, though the Times does allude to how an arbitrator who awarded 1.7 million to a plaintiff was blacklisted. No, many of these clauses are religion-based, and you are forced to have civil disagreements judged in an explicitly religious “court,” in which Bible scripture can be quoted. In an extra FU move, a Christian school which lost in private arbitration decided they were Jesus-court in the streets, legal-system in the sheets, and tried to contest the ruling by filing a normal appeal. One poor sap is having his case against the Church of Scientology judged in…a Scientology-based religious court. Even though he’s on a list of “Suppressive Persons” and Scientologists are forbidden from having contact with him. Not sure how that’s going to work out. Someone must surely be willing to enter into an employment contract governed by a Muslim faith-based arbitrator, then suffer some harm, and then be forced to submit to religious arbitration of their case so that this BS can finally breathe life into the poorly-constructed scarecrow known as Sharia law? The law was enacted as a way to deter class-action lawsuits, and there are plenty of lawyers in the comments at the NYT defending the contracts that mandate arbitration on this basis. In what is a final indignity, this ruling (that such clauses in contracts) were constitutional came down under the tenure of Chief Justice Roberts, even though it seems as if he argued for the position in lower courts before joining the bench? Real labor and civil rights are being ceded to corporations, and judges have said “the first amendment made me do it” even in cases where they grant there has been serious injustice done.

ETA: I think this can best be summed up as companies thinking that if they cross their fingers behind them they can call “backsies” on all existing labor and product liability laws.

John and Belle Used to Have a Blog

by Belle Waring on November 2, 2015

Remember? This post and comments are about meta songs that refer to themselves in the song, and I got a ton of great recommendations. Definitely enough for the themed mix I didn’t end up making and will do now. I noted that the genius Raspberries song “Overnight Sensation” has the lines “and if the program director don’t want it/he’s bound to get back a bullet,” which is ridiculous, as Eric Carmen is like the third least-hardcore person in the entire world, after Art Garfunkel and Usher. The plaintive would-be hit has a radio effect at 3:05 that I lovelovelove.

I thought the other day, you know, I wrote stuff almost daily for…7 or 8 years? But I never read it. Then someone linked to an old post and I was moved to go. It’s like I have a huge diary online, which I don’t look at.* It’s sort of weird. It does make me feel I should throw up posts more often on this here blog, just because there’s surely always one thing I have an opinion about each day. Such as, in Minecraft PE creative mode it seems as if you can use the monster spawn cages as industrial-style end tables, or cool window grilles. I’ve just tested them in a cave and gotten nothing; I haven’t built anything with them yet. But OTOH I’ve gotten actual monsters spawning out of the naturally occurring ones since the recent update (in which I got rain! I love Minecraft rain!). I like to spawn harmless monsters to give my smoothed, finished linked caverns some atmosphere, except not spiders because NO. Also ghasts make creepy noises you can hear from above-ground even after you brick them into a huge cave, mewling down there in their blockish-Lovecraftian fashion. But the girls loathe it when I make Endermen to walk around carrying the world away block by block to build the Enderlands. I wouldn’t want my realistic HDB window grilles to make my girls unhappy by generating Endermen inside at random. I bet you guys have lots of opinions about this. “Belle, don’t front. Endermen are straight creepy and you’re only acting brave because you never play Survival.” Or, “what the hell are you blogging about Minecraft for on this allegedly academic blog.” So many opinions. Tell me the stories of your people.

*Violet wants to explain that this is why, if you do a google image search for her name you…actually get a million baby pictures of her, personally. Also no one is named Holbo in the world except them and some other people originally from a single small farm in Norway.

I Died When He Proposed ‘Tapping Dat EZ-Link Card’

by Belle Waring on October 31, 2015

Would you like to watch a pro-natalist video from Singapore…and Mentos or something? The answer is sort of that you wouldn’t because it is the single most embarrassing thing in the world. It’s waaaaay more like the Lonely Island’s (awesome) song “I Just Had Sex” than it is like anything remotely appropriate as a domestic policy, er, proposal. But it is real. (Congratulations on the 50 years, Singapore!) I mean, you can see that it’s intended to be funny, yet…

“Aw yeah baby, I want to hang out in your void deck.” THIS WAS A REAL THING. There is a moment where you think, someone had to actively approve of this idea.

Lifted from YouTube comments (!) “Response by my London friends: ‘LOL That’s hilarious!’ Response by Singaporean viewers: ‘HAH? WHAT STROLLER? LIAK BO KIEW!’ It’s terrible when foreigners get the song more than locals. We have a terrible sense of humour.” This is not evidence of a lack of humour per se or anything other than being price-conscious IMO. Relatedly, I saw an ad for OCBC or something on Singapore Airlines: father and young son approach huge carousel and ticket booth manned by improbable moustachioed Irish fellow. “How much?” “One dollar and children under five are free.” “I’d like two tickets then.” Irish guy: “how old is your son?” “Six” Leaning in close, the Irish guy, “you know, you didn’t have to buy him a ticket. I never would have known.” “No,” says the dad looking down at his son’s gleaming, parted hair, “but he would.” I was kind of moved by this commitment to Asian values (I am a soft touch generally) until I realized the ad was ostensibly about a Singaporean refusing a free ticket. Just, no.

ETA: how exactly did they Iggy Azalea that accent up?

Trenchant Music Criticism

by Belle Waring on September 29, 2015

Did you used to love the least google-able band in the world, Fun.? Probably you will also like the guitarist’s new (-ish) band Bleachers. I love this song right now. 80s synth riffs ftw.

Conspiracy Theory

by Belle Waring on September 24, 2015

The recent news about VW has made me question some pretty fundamental things. I think cheating on this scale required, not just massive amounts of fraud, but a massive amount of complicity. No one at a lower level in the organization would take on the risk of freelancing a scheme of this nature. The benefits coming to you would be attenuated, and the danger would be great. This means that (minimally, some) people at the very top of the organization had to know about the software. Software powerful enough to determine when the car was being tested is complex and requires input from many sensors. This means (minimally, not a small number of) people had to know about the software. The person writing the proprietary code governing the steering wheel’s performance would have to be involved at least enough to have been told, “create an alert when the wheel hasn’t been moved in 2 minutes but the engine is running hard.” But it has always been my belief that, by and large, complex, dangerous conspiracies involving many people simply don’t happen. The more danger attaches to a criminal conspiracy—and here the danger seems in the worst case scenario actual dissolution of the company—the more the conspirators must be benefiting. Why would they do it otherwise? So, price-rigging among a small number of cartel members, for example, is easy to understand. But the larger the number of people involved in the conspiracy becomes, so, too does the benefit incline to decrease, but more obviously, the likelier it is that someone will screw up. If you are the director for a certain division of engines you might get a bonus that rises and falls with sales, or with the time and ease with which you meet projected goals. But it will have to be a pretty damn good bonus to risk being put in jail, right? And on the second point, each new person who knows about the conspiracy seems to exponentially increase the odds someone will blow the whistle. And yet here no one talked. They were only discovered by a pro-diesel group who wanted to tout the idea of getting more diesel cars on the road in the interests of cleaner energy expenditure! What the hell? And, do we think everyone else’s proprietary software is soft and rotten and fretted by maggots beneath a smooth and impenetrable DCMA surface? One can only imagine the EPA will be having a look…

Help Me Decide Which of These to Get For Rod Dreher

by Belle Waring on September 23, 2015

Hey, do you want a look at Vatican City’s hottest priests? Someone will totally sell a calendar to you. Right there next to the 10,000 other tackiest items for sale along the street that leads to St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s just black-and-white prints of photos taken on the streets in the Vatican during special days. Less appropriate sexy funtimes can be found in the Orthodox Church; the video is mildly unsafe for worth in that the camera ogles shirtless young men while they are laved from a font by a man wearing a chausuble, and that sort of thing, but the still photos are…wait, do you work in a cubicle? You don’t want to seem like this guy from the Key and Peele sketch as you’re surfing the Gaily Grind. I’ve gone tacky figurines and blessed amulets shopping there before, to buy things for Margaret, my granddad’s…maid, sort of? Housekeeper? She lived with him for more than 30 years. She was an adorable, tiny old Irish woman with a number of teeth fewer than is commonly seen, and would always fuss over how much you’d grown and make you (this was mandatory) “just a cup of tea and an English muffin with a bit of butter on it.” She planned to retire at 75. She didn’t actually know exactly how old she was, until my grandfather went to her hometown while in Ireland and looked her up in the parish church. She was older than she thought, a fact which pleases, as Agatha Christie notes, only those younger than 16 and over 80. Her three children put her in an old folk’s home as soon as she turned up. That was some King Lear shit. She called and pleaded with my grandfather to bust her out of this crummy place in New Jersey. And so she returned to her room next to the kitchen, with the old TV and the crucifixes, and the framed photos of Pope John Paul II, and performed increasingly light duties like making breakfast until she was in her late 80s or even early 90s and she needed nearby assisted living for real because she couldn’t manage the stairs. Mildly disjointly, I think the vast majority of the breakfasts my grandfather consumed during his life were brought to his bedroom on a tray and included fresh-squeezed orange juice. Sometimes he would go retrieve the prepared tray himself, but I count this the same. And WWII obviously dragged the numbers down a bit. This is a noble life goal to which we should all aspire.

Even then my grandfather would drive over to see her every Sunday. He would pick her up, take her to church, go to church himself which was shorter because he had the common sense to be an Episcopalian (though it seemed at times he actually believed, a thing likely to cause a furrowed brow among his friends) and then take her back. He didn’t even want to go to church in town! After she died he started to go to the closer Bridgehampton church he preferred, mostly IMO because they have a half-hour service at 8 a.m. without hymns, and one can get the whole thing over with and get a good tee time with leeway for a Bloody Mary, all quite early in the day. The hymns are the best part, though, so going to this service sucked. Also it was too early. Yet one felt obliged to go. But the priest there is a lovely person who married me and John and also baptized both our children. “But why, Belle, that seems like a lot of trouble to go through seeing as you’re not, in fact, a Christian?” Look, being Episcopalian is a social thing, like being a secular Jew, but with a bit more ritual effort required. Anyway it made my grandfather happy. That was the main point. Also, there’s this one awesome part where the priest anoints the kid with chrism and says “CHRIST CLAIMS YOU FOR HIS OWN.” One definitely gets the sense then that if the post-death regions exist and are not quite as one has imagined them, nonetheless one will be on firm ground. You should think of it as an excuse to throw a catered betting party with your friend-with-benefits Pascal.

Sometimes it seems as if Richard Dawkins is on a crusade to prove that atheists can be just as narrow-minded as religious people. He’s winning. He’s a hyuuuge, classy winner at this crusade. (Of crusades generally, the Children’s Crusade is at the bottom, because it was a loser crusade. For LOSERS! Barely any of those kids even made it back. Ask Donald Trump about whether POWs can be heroes. TIP: THEY CAN’T.)

As you assuredly know, a young man in Texas was recently arrested for a “bomb hoax.” Some people think it’s hoaxes all the way down. Dawkins and his compadres are making extraordinary claims, which require…well, any evidence at all, one feels. Let us imagine Ahmed Mohamed’s family has engineered a stunt. Ahmed makes (for some value of make which includes tinkering with maker modules or disassembling and reassembling old electronics. I mean, if you call that making. Which, tbh, I do.) Wait, that wasn’t a sentence. Anyway, he makes a ‘looks-like-a-bomb-on-purpose-but-is-a-clock.’ This thing, note, is in fact: a clock. Although the young man claims deep insight into the nature of time, he is obviously just aping Heidegger in a juvenile fashion, but so be it—so long as it be noted that I have noted he didn’t provide the police a fully satisfactory answer about what the passage of time really entails, I mean, what does the clock tell you when it tells you that another minute has passed and that now, it is now. My rigorous honesty compels me to denigrate his “clock,” simply because I am devoted to The Truth. It’s like this asshole some guy says:

Because, is it possible, that maybe, just maybe, this was actually a hoax bomb? A silly prank that was taken the wrong way? That the media then ran with, and everyone else got carried away? Maybe there wasn’t even any racial or religious bias on the parts of the teachers and police.

I don’t know any of these things. But I’m intellectually mature enough to admit I don’t know, and to also be OK with that. I don’t feel a need to take the first exit to conclusionville. But I do like to find facts where I can, and prefer to let them lead me to conclusions, rather than a knee jerk judgement based on a headline or sound bite.

Wow. Much openminded. So scientific. OK, sorry, I keep getting off-track for some reason. Right, this hoax is designed to get Ahmed Mohamed reprimanded at school, then arrested, and then become an internet cause celébrè, and then get invited to the White House. First of all, Ahmed and his family have to have judged the over/under for “young brown man thought armed with deadly weapon getting shot by the police” vs. “grievance-mongerer fêted by liberal elitists” a safe bet. I, like, would not take those odds at all. Secondly, for this plan to work, the teachers and police officers have to act like morons all up and down the line. There’s no other way. Really, it has to be a Confederacy of Dunces down there. Do these Clock Truthers realize their grim vision of Texan society is far, far more cynical than mine? Dawkins’ zealotry has obviously clouded his judgment, something which often befalls fundamentalists. To be undeservedly fair, Dawkins has perhaps been walking this back but, you know how it is. You’re a well-respected biologist—but ONE pig. It happens to, like everyone. It’s an experimental phase!

OK for real this is maybe the best thing in a newspaper ever: “David Cameron will not ‘dignify’ allegations that he once ‘inserted a private part of his anatomy’ into a dead pig’s mouth with a response, Downing Street has said.”

Also, this is why I could never be elected to higher office. If I had a wang I would so totally have stuck it in a roast suckling pig by now.

Two Songs Enter!

by Belle Waring on September 9, 2015

It’s hard to believe, but there was a time in area woman Belle Waring’s life when she thought she didn’t like Stevie Wonder. Yeah, I know. In graduate school (!) I learned just how wrong I was. I was wronger than like 30 goddamn Dick Cheneys. I remember my conversion experience quite distinctly: I was in the back seat of an acquaintance’s car, driving from Berkeley to Da Club (I mean, da club in general, not a club called “Da Club”) in San Francisco, not even near the Bay bridge yet. We had just gotten off the surface streets. I was sitting alone in the back seat while this random…Linguistics?…no, English Literature grad student and my boyfriend talked—it is a peculiarity of highway driving that although you can hear the people conversing in the front seats fine, they can’t hear you for shit. Then, “Maybe Your Baby” came on his car stereo and I was like “hold up, hold up, who is this?” When I got told it was Stevie Wonder I made some shocked comment like, “but…Ebony and Ivory though.” Then he turned around from the front seat and shot a withering glance at me that said “think for ten seconds and recall, at least, the existence of ‘Uptight’ or ‘Signed, Sealed Delivered!’” He was right! Also, the withering was more my reaction than a real thing that he did.
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