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Belle Waring

Elizabeth Cotten had an unlikely musical career. As a left-handed young girl she taught herself to play her brother’s banjo. Then she bought a guitar from Sears Roebuck at 11 and proceeded to play it Jimi Hendrix-style, upside-down. After getting married at 17 she basically gave up playing guitar for 25 years, except for occasional church performances. Quite at random, she was hired as a maid by part of the Seeger family—working for Pete Seeger’s dad and the children of his second wife. She picked up the guitar again, and blew everybody’s mind. Mike Seeger (Pete’s half-brother) started recording her and the sessions were made into an album from Folkways Records—Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar. Her signature tune “Freight Train” became hugely popular among the folk musicians of the revival of the late 50s/early 60s, being covered by Joan Baez and Bob Dylan among many others.

She started to tour and perform with big names, released another influential record in 1967, Shake Sugaree, and kept touring and playing till the end of her life (January 5, 1895 – June 29, 1987). Her unusual picking style was greatly admired, because it’s totally awesome! People have worked out alternate ways to play the songs that don’t involve playing the guitar upside down and backwards. (John spent two weeks learning “Freight Train” when we were on Martha’s Vineyard last year, causing our children to, in extremis, institute a strict “no Freight Train” policy. Happily, though, now it reminds us of my aunt’s house and all being together with my siblings and cousins, and beach plums, and the creek with its perfect flat wet stones, and the cold Atlantic, so grey.) Her music is distinctive because of the bass lines—the strings sounding the lowest notes were at the bottom of the guitar and so she picks out distinctive tunes on them. The highest string being on top, she sometimes treats the guitar like a banjo—since that’s where the high-pitched drone string is. I just learned reading the wikipedia article that she wrote “Freight Train” at 11!

Her voice is wonderful, but many of her best songs are instrumental only:

I’m having trouble choosing here, “In The Sweet By and By” is beautiful…some songs are painfully short, like “Mama, There’s Nobody Here But The Baby” or “Ain’t Got No Honey Baby Now.” [Which I can’t find a working video of :/ ] 56 seconds? NO. Although Harry Taussig plays a killer version on steel guitar. I’ll close with the topical “Take Me Back to Baltimore.”

My dad is an incredible guitarist, and plays steel 12-string bottle-neck slide, though he removes the second string from the highest two strings, making it 10-string. He also picks in this style—and we are big fans of Ry Cooder who is a master at it. When I was a kid we always had music playing. My godfather played the fiddle and we had plenty of other random musicians at parties, which, in South Carolina through to the late 70s were always two- or three-day affairs. We had a whole crew of Hell’s Angels camped out in the back yard one time. My brother and I would sing, folk songs like “Froggy Went a-Courting.” That’s happiness for me, standing on the front porch catching lizards on the screen, listening to live music and the leathery sounds of the palmetto pushed by the wind, live oaks tossing their heads and their festoons of Spanish moss, my feet slowly blackening with the super-fine dust of mildew that settles inevitably on the grey floor of any screen porch, the sky and the hydrangeas planted around the base of the house and the screen porch ceiling all alike powder-blue, the smell of salt water and marsh and endless joints burning mingled into a perfect sweetness. High tide. Got to be high tide at 2 p.m. with a summer thunderstorm blowing up far across the river. Not low tide and with all hanging breathless and hot, and the mud flats on the sandbar across the river stinking in the sun. Eating cold boiled peanuts and watermelon and drinking sweet tea. Perfect. Except now I’m homesick!

Irritable Gestures

by Belle Waring on May 23, 2015

I have been a little loath to write this because Freddie deBoer already has a huge beef with our blog for some reason (I’m mean to Jonathan Chait?), but…

Freddie deBoer recently wrote a post denouncing the less-hinged supporters of the proposed TPP, one of whom saw fit to compare Obama’s critics on this issue to the lynchers of Emmet Till. This was obviously an awful thing for Dem politico Allen Brauer to say, and most readers here probably regard both this and the TPP with unified disgust, putting us in agreement with deBoer. [UPDATED NOTE: since many people have found this post unclear (which is obviously my fault), I’m merely noting here that I entirely agree with FDB’s actual political point (and in all likelihood most of you do as well), and quoting the post written the other day to explain how I perceive it with suspicion because of his past remarks. It would be irrelevant and unfair to attack Freddie deBoer on the sole basis of a five-year-old dustup.] Allen Brauer fired back at his critics by high-mindedly calling them “dude-bros and manarchists” and saying he was wrecked after a “tsunami of white tears.” DeBoer correctly calls this bullshit:

Allan Brauer, I would argue, is today’s progressive internet in its purest form. He’s someone who’s learned all of the lessons of how we do things too well…. Do we still have the capacity, as a political and intellectual movement, to argue in a way that’s not entirely based on associating with race or gender in a totally vague, unaccountable, and reductive way?

Solid enough. But—

The stakes are much lower in our cultural writing, but the problem is largely the same: tired, rote arguments and magic words, treated as cutting rebuttals no matter how lazy and uninspired. You use magic words in your work, and no matter how good or bad it is, you’ll get credit for it. And if people criticize you, you just use the magic words against them, too.

UPDATE [which interrupts the post but needs to be above the fold]: as I mention below, I’ve said a metric f#$k-ton of dumb things in internet comments, especially years ago. So I feel a bit uneasy basing my complaint on a comment. If Freddie deBoer would like to say, “I made that comment on Tiger Beatdown when I was irritated and stung, but would retract it if I could,” I’m happy to edit the post to reflect this.
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Blues Legend B.B. King Dies at 89

by Belle Waring on May 18, 2015

B.B. King died last Thursday. I feel he was one of the last great blues stars. But as talented as he was I have a terrible confession to make. He was so influential on white rockers such as Eric Clapton that a) they just copied him slavishly lick for lick, all the time, forever b) I have developed a back-formation feeling that unfairly prejudices me against the music of a true guitar hero.


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Listen to This Killer Song

by Belle Waring on May 7, 2015

This song is objectively awesome. I…have to go to the doctor in a bit, and I might need to study kanji* re-play Monument Valley, so I don’t have much to say except OMG THIS THIS EVERYTHING!

Lead-singer and guitarist Brittany Howard has an incredible voice, obviously. I thought she was a dude at first. (John professed bafflement that I ever thought this. [This was not a function of her incredibleness, but just plain I didn’t know who was singing and heard it as a dude.]). Alabama Shakes has a really wide range of song-styles. What is this like? I would say sort of reminiscent of the Doors in ways, but I actually kind of hate the Doors, so. The guitar able to go so clean when she wants it to, as all the other instruments cut out, like at 2:19, it’s a later Pink Floyd-ish thing? (Which, btw, I have been really feeling lately. Anybody want to join me for some Shine on You Crazy Diamond? It’s only 25 minutes long. IT’S WORTH IT.)

*I am just going to stop taking topamax. Screw this. My brains have turned to mush and I have horrible headaches anyway. Though to be scrupulously over-generous to myself, our tutor gives us the hardest test I can think of: Japanese sentences with blanks for the kanji and hiragana for the sound, and then we have to write the character. It’s easy to see each character and remember what it means. The sounds…more troublesome. I would do better by just flipping the paper over and writing all 15 characters down. I should probably do that Sunday, then cross them out as they go in, but I’m doing the class with Zoe and I am way slower than her already.

OK, I got y’all this far, now you get a video about outer space. It’s AWESOME.

P.S. I will take ALL THE GRAVY BOATS. Just send’em on over. (John waves hands like X in background mouthing “noooo!”)
P.P.S. I am aware the title is now inaccurate.

No Justice For Rekia Boyd, Either

by Belle Waring on April 28, 2015

I had been planning to write this post in part about the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore before rioting broke out there. My mom was in Baltimore on Monday, actually, at Johns Hopkins; I talked to her and my sister and aunt in the morning. Goddamn. Then I thought I would post about a number of killings of unarmed black citizens by police and this one case in particular was so messed up that my post got too long, so I’ll leave it here for the moment. On Monday the 20th, Chicago police officer Dante Servin was found not guilty of all charges in a directed verdict from a bench trial for the fatal shooting of 22-year old Rekia Boyd. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm, and reckless conduct after shooting two people, one fatally, on March 21 of 2012. Servin lives near a park where people often gather at night and hang out. He had called in a noise complaint to 911 and then went out in his car (passing by on his way from getting food in one account, though this wasn’t clear, since most other articles discuss him putting his trash out (which involves one’s car in Chicago?!). They were right behind his house, it seems, and it’s a pity that, as lead detective on the case Officer Ed Heerdt said, Servin did have cameras mounted on his home but “he told me the system was inoperable and I was satisfied with that.” [So you didn’t check, then, or anything? Ah.] He took with him an unregistered 9mm handgun, and drove by slowly telling people to keep it down.

A bystander, Antonio Cross, who was on the phone with his cousin, says that he thought Servin was trying to buy drugs and said “f$%k you.” The cousin confirms this. Then Servin, thinking the phone in Cross’s hand was a gun, pulled out his weapon and fired over his shoulder into a group of people, shooting Cross in the hand and Rekia Boyd in the head. By this description people mean, I take it, that Servin was sitting in the car with the window down, drew the gun and fired over his left shoulder, turning around in the seat. He claimed via lawyers to have felt something “touch the back of his head”—i.e. his contention is that Cross put the phone there pretending it was a gun, just to scare him. Maybe that’s his contention? He also claimed (via others) that Cross merely “waved” the phone in such a way as to make it look like a menacing gun. The defence also, separately and quite at cross-purposes, argued that Cross’s cousin thought he heard 8-12 shots, while Servin only shot five times—so they muttered darkly about an undiscovered gun. (I think it is otiose for me to say no gun other than Servin’s was ever recovered at the scene.) The thing is, there sort of would have been shells, too, and places that got hit by bullets, and stuff like that. And if there had in fact been a gun barrel touching Servin’s head and then the gun were fired the results would have been noticeable. Well, when I say the defence said this and the defence said that, they didn’t have to work too hard, because this was a directed verdict from a bench trial. The judge (no jury) just stopped it right there after the witnesses had testified, said not guilty, and sent Officer Servin (yeah, he’s been a cop this whole time) home a free man. Why wasn’t it a jury trial? Apparently the accused can choose a trial before a judge. And what a prince of a guy Judge Porter is, because this is a totally reasonable thing to say to a grieving family:
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Music Everywhere

by Belle Waring on April 24, 2015

Sister Rosetta Tharpe! I think I’ve already made a whole post telling you to listen to more Sister Rosetta Tharpe before, but that doesn’t matter! Because the defect of her recorded sessions is that the guitar is mixed down way low and you can’t hear her rock out on the guitar. But I found these live sessions that just…

You weren’t expecting that old lady to play that solo were you? She has a goddamn (sorry Sister) whammy bar on that thing!
What about this? And, goddamn, not sorry, did they not let any black people even come to this concert? That’s stone cold, fellow white people. Stone. Cold.

This is from when she was younger.

The version of this song I know says “when you see a man jump from church to church/you know the conversion don’t amount to much,” and I have uncharitably said this about Rod Dreher.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s frequent performance of all these songs in nightclubs were obviously ironic and different…
This short BBC documentary about her and her influence is interesting (just 15 minutes).
UPDATE: OK you can click through and there is a whole hour of BBC documentary. I haven’t watched it. Also, she didn’t sing straight gospel in nightclubs, she sang other songs, but she also had ironic versions of the gospel songs like “This Train”, in which she sang no whiskey-drinkers or cigar-smokers would make the cut while in The Cotton Club!

Least Trumps

by Belle Waring on April 21, 2015

I mentioned a little while ago that I had an excellent plan for a project. I have always wanted to make my own Tarot deck, since I was a young teenager. Well, I say this, but probably since I was nine or ten. At the time I imagined that I would have to successfully pull a wood-block print for all the backs, and paint each one, perfectly, all 78, and then if a drop of water got on them later? I would die. So I imagined having them laminated, but then I considered the state of much-used laminated papers such as those employed in classes, and I thought it unwise to entrust to the process anything about which I cared greatly. Yellowing, bubbling, peeling; these are all terrible. Now many things exist which can facilitate my devising of a deck of cards, such as the use of photoshop to create perfectly symmetrical arabesques for the reverses based on only one properly-inked section. But of course the infinitely more pleasing prospect is that of getting my designs printed on card stock, and the edges trimmed, and then all shared with others! I had only ever intended my own version of the designs in the Waite-Smith deck,* but then I remembered that I had had another idea, which was to make a set of cards based on Great-Aunt Nora Cloud’s deck in John Crowley’s Little, Big. Truly it’s Violet’s deck, but we see it used by Nora Cloud in the course of the book. (Violet is my younger daughter’s name; mine can be her deck also.) Those who have read the book will know that the deck, its reading, and physical disposition figure greatly in the work, and those of you who have not SHOULD GO READ IT NOW DEAR GOD READ LITTLE, BIG FOR THE FIRST TIME I ENVY YOU! Really, it’s maybe my single favourite book.

UPDATED below
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The Pace Picante Sauce Defense

by Belle Waring on April 16, 2015

Oh God, I don’t even think this is funny enough to have a vaguely humorous headline. Let’s just say it’s black humour goddammmit mordant. You may have lost track of which black man got gunned down by which police just lately, but historically famed home of racial harmony Tulsa, OK, has seen one of the worst shootings in a while. (I say this and then I don’t even know because there are so many that are so bad. This is bad in a special way, though.). 73-year-old reserve Deputy Robert C. Bates shot and killed Eric Harris during an undercover, illegal gun-buy sting operation.

Well, more like Eric Harris ran from the for-real county deputies when they tried to arrest him, then two of them got on top of him while he was face-down on the ground, then Barney Fife shouts “taser, taser!” and shoots the man. “Oh! I shot him, I’m sorry!” he says. He’s apologising to the other cops, you understand. Not the guy he just shot. To be over-generously fair, he owes them an apology too because his dumb ass might have shot them as easy as anything, but it hardly seems like the main problem. (You can watch the video here. I can’t handle these usually, but there’s a description too if you don’t want to watch an actual human be mortally wounded and then treated worse than an injured dog.) The Tulsa County Sheriff’s spokesman has explained that the two deputies “did not hear” the shot. [Um. I have uh… Guns are loud, is what I’m saying.] They did hear Eric Harris say he had been shot, because they heard him say “he shot me” eight times before saying “I’m losing my breath,” to which the cop replies, “fuck your breath.” They were kneeling on the man’s head and his lung was filling up with blood and that was the last he ever heard from another human being. My daughter and I have asthma and that makes this particularly vivid and awful to imagine, just like with Eric Garner, struggling just to get one good intake of breath. They didn’t try to render first aid to him. When the EMTs/firemen came they had to uncuff him and set him upright to try to help him but it was too late. What? Even if you thought you were justified in shooting someone, why would you be indifferent as to whether he lived or died? And if there were any question in your mind…wouldn’t you want the person to live?
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Whosoever Diggeth a Pit Shall Fall in It

by Belle Waring on April 15, 2015

People often complain that they can never listen to Bob Marley because the over-popularity of the compilation “Legend,” and its subsequent over-play in every randos college dorm room, every frat party, and every back-packer hostel, everywhere in the world. It is incongruous to sit on a big bamboo platform in Cambodia and listen to “Buffalo Soldier.” I’m sure this is no longer true and today’s college kids can have a happy experience in which they just find the song “No Woman, No Cry” all on their own. I hope. I am somewhat permanently inoculated because I listened to those songs when I was a kid. And for god’s sake, “No Woman, No Cry” is a beautiful song. But anyway, if all this bothers you for some reason, you don’t have to say “lively up your own self, Bob Marley. I’m listening to Desmond Dekker!” Just listen to different, other Bob Marley songs. I actually had this first one cued up for a post about how to not comment like a sexist dillweed, but I’m sure I’ll find something else. Small Axe, baby, coming to cut you down!

Mr. Brown!

Mr. Brown is some kind of ghost/duppy/magic user creepo getting chauffered around in a three-wheeled coffin, with crows that can talk. The sampling style is all spooky to reflect that it’s a ghost story.

High Tide or Low Tide is my favorite Bob Marley song. At my dad’s the difference between high tide and low tide is almost eight feet. So the high twice a day and low twice a day is vividly present as part of the day. Day by day it cycles one hour later, with cool high tide covering all but the tips of the marsh grass at 3pm sometimes, and then, not so many days later, the smell of vegetable rot and death-still calm of low tide at the hottest of the day. The leaves of the palmetto hang down against one another, creaking leatherly but not moving, and a great wide greasy stain of unmoving water shows at the center of the river and centipede-like sending legs up every marsh. When I was young my god-father’s black labs were named high tide and low tide. This is also the song my brother put on a mix for me when I was really bummed out, so it reminds me that he loves me.

Take that, frat-boys!

Migraines…and Music?

by Belle Waring on March 31, 2015

MIGRAINES ARE THE WORST. Well, no, I mean, obviously having your children be sick and not having money for the doctor is the worst.* Our domestic helper here in Singapore is prone to really bad migraines and yesterday she was totally felled, lying down in the dark and vomiting so much I had a hard time bringing her water—since you can’t drink water just after you’ve thrown up. We have O.R.S. but she hates them, and she was so miserable I didn’t want to force them down her. It is so hard to make her rest when she’s ill that if she ever listens or lies down of her own accord we know she is feeling truly awful. John half-hoped some common unknown environmental factor was the culprit and that she and I would both get better when we moved out of our old, colonial-era house. Sadly, no. I have also been having terrible migraines for the last 18 consecutive days, and unfortunately they are remodeling in the flat upstairs. This has been a source of unhappiness. THEY HAVE BEEN DRILLING.

I have also cut my pain pills down slowly over the last six months, which was clever and virtuous of me, but now I don’t have enough pain medicine and I’m like “I forgot quite entirely how horrible this was! Pain! It’s your body’s way of saying, ‘hey something is probably sort of broken or something.’” Also topamax, medicine which I take for migraines, and which I am taking more of, makes you stupid. It’s called “dope-a-max” for a reason. The combination of all these factors has made it difficult for me to learn my Japanese characters (kanji), I’ll tell you what. This is some Harrison Bergeron shit on the 24th floor. I got all 15 right on the practice quiz Zoë made for me and then I blanked on a full five when I took the real quiz half-an-hour later on Sunday evening. Years of caring about academics make it very painful for me to do badly on quizzes. Really, it is like a knife in the guts. If she would just give us a list of the English meanings it would be OK. But our tutor gives us an actual sentence with any other, as-yet-unknown-to-us kanji spelled out (in Japanese they can write the pronunciation in hiragana or katakana on top of them, small and light; they would do this for very rare words, I think, in an adults’ book, and they do for commoner ones in a book for children or learners), and then the hiragana or katakana for the kanji we are meant to have learned underlined, and we have to write the kanji below that. So we need to read the sentence correctly as well as remember that, for example, ‘ka’ can mean ‘borrow’ as well as like five other things (I say this, and we have learned only about 50 kanji so far.) Violet continues to enjoy mocking me (in the most friendly, cheerful way imaginable!) about my troubles, criticizing my disinclination to use the large full squares in my notebook (I have small, very neat handwriting, and the big boxes don’t appeal), and writing Chinese characters in the margins that are similar but a million times harder, just to put things in perspective for me.

Now, a person can listen to music in this situation, but sometimes that’s just like turning the whole thing into a rock concert. It’s better than drilling, though, usually. I don’t like to listen to podcasts, but John does and he listened to one about a year ago that was an interview with Brian Eno. In it, the interviewer was saying how much he loved Here Come The Warm Jets and Eno said that he hadn’t actually listened to it in over twenty years?!? This was flabbergasting and wrong and bad, since we should all be listening to it, be we Brian Eno or no which, on balance, we are unlikely to be. I feel awkward about your experience of this song, because on the LP, the harsh intro of the next song, “Blank Frank” starts really soon after the last note of this—sooner than the start of a hypothetical next measure. I thought of linking to within a youtube clip of the whole album but am not certain it would come off. It’s distinctive and crucial, though, so I recommend you listen to the whole of Here Come The Warm Jets on principle.

This song somewhat resembles the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” in that the sad, sweet vocals only enter after what seems an unexpectedly-long music-only intro, and that it is shorter than you want it to be, such that you want have to re-play it.
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You Feel No Pain

by Belle Waring on March 5, 2015

That’s one good thing about music—when it hits, you feel no pain. I recently had an out-of-the-blue need to hear this Cure song, partly thinking that Zoë would like it, which she does, a lot. It’s a very happy feeling to introduce someone to music that they love. I remember the first time I listened to this song vividly, because I had two friends sleeping over, one of whom had brought the tape. My step-father had an (admittedly solid) “free cheap red wine for sleepovers” policy. I was thinking it started in middle school, but on reflection I realize it must have been ninth grade. In middle school it was sort of unofficial. This encouraged a make-out during sleepovers policy also unofficially endorsed by my stepfather but WHATever, awesome parenting skillz. My step-dad had his bad side but he really knew how to throw a fun party. Let it never be said he was not fun at a party. I mean, stuff went wrong eventually, sometimes, with either drywall, glass tables, or his hand getting broken (or all three!), or firearms being discharged indoors, or my mom magnificently sweeping down the stairs in a silk 1930s gown and putting a stop to all further shenanigans by hacking a big piece out of the entryway to the living room with a machete. That last was really memorable and for whatever reason put a stop to what had been a many-year run of weekly two and three-day parties.


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Noted With Surprisingly Little Comment

by Belle Waring on February 27, 2015

From an article by Stephen Totilo on a recent talk given at NYU by Feminist Frequency commentator and noted target of #gamerhate Anita Sarkeesian:

Sarkeesian never acknowledged the security [metal detectors, an overall “heightened” NYU Security presence], and she only briefly mentioned the online harassment she’s received for her work. She fielded one audience question from a guy who said a female Gamergate supporter had been at the talk, had shaken her head at much of what Sarkeesian had said, had left early and, this questioner wanted to know, what Sarkeesian would say to this woman.

At press time the man, now approaching what one might—charitably—call the late-middle-age of his youth, was also reported to have a girlfriend in Toronto. “Megumi” particularly enjoys playing the new Bayonetta 2, because of the way it makes full use of the capabilities of the Wii U gaming system.

Male Nerds and Feminism

by Belle Waring on February 15, 2015

First I want to thank all of you for an implausibly thoughtful and interesting thread. I think I am going to close comments on it soon so that it can retain its purity. Thanks especially to commenters who shared difficult events in their lives.

One thing I thought of saying at the start was, “feminism sucks and is harmful” is not an unpopular view but rather a really popular one, and so a bit beside the point, but there wasn’t much of that, so, no worries. One thing that several male commenters did talk about was the problems created for shy, nerdy guys when they hear the message from feminism “you suck and are a sexual aggressor in a bad way.” Several people pointed to the Scott Aaronson affair: an MIT professor wrote a confessional of sorts in a blog comment about how feminism made him so terrified of his own feelings of heterosexual desire that he spent period of time genuinely to be medically castrated. Amanda Marcotte was among a number of people who thought this was bullshit. Now, here let me say, my first impulse, if I had chosen to write about it on my own, would have been to be a total dick. BUT. In the spirit of not being a dick to everyone all the time, I thought I would actually address this…issue? Cluster of related issues, more like. Because more than one of our commenters felt it was a live issue in their lives, even if only in the past.

Now, part of me doesn’t even understand what’s being complained about here. Here is my best effort to break it down, based on what Aaronson and his supporters, and detractors, and more-or-less middle of the road commentators have said, and also based on some things men have said in the thread below. And by this I don’t intend to call anyone out or imply what anyone said was beyond the pale or anything, but let me know if you are bothered in any way and I’m happy to adjust this.
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UPDATE: REDOUBLE YOUR EFFORTS AT MAOIST SELF-CRITICISM, COMRADES; DO NOT BE GULLED BY MY MOPING. TELL US YOU BELIEVE SOMETHING CRAZY. IT IS A NEAR-CERTAINTY!

In the thread to one of my string of unfailingly well-intentioned, generous—not to put too fine a point on it, let’s just say, kind posts on Political Correctness, some of us discussed what it would be like if I were actually kind we had a “safe” thread in which we could discuss feminism without worrying we would ban ourselves from polite society by saying The Wrong Thing. Now, I cannot actually bring it about that other commenters will not remember what you said in this thread and be a dick to you about in some future thread. I can fight the tendency by asking everyone who participates to do so in a spirit of truthfulness and generosity; by banning unpleasant arguments in this thread; and by ruthlessly deleting future comments of this sort when they are made to one of my own posts. If the comment is not made to my own post I can still upbraid the person for violating what is meant to be a minor experiment in honesty and, yes, kindness. However, if you feel what you have to say is truly incendiary you can always just make a burner pseud for the occasion. The tradition followed at unfogged is that regular commenters donning a pseudonym of convenience choose some past political leader. I think it would be nice if we took up floral banners for the day and became Lady Clematis or some such, but I leave the details to you.

Now, I must tell you my own “I have the possibly wrong” opinion on a feminist issue, but it won’t make sense without context. This may seem like a silly tic of mine, this constant introduction of my actual life, blobs and swirls of ink floating on water and ox-gall, and slashed at, just so, with a fork, yielding marbled paper on which the posts are hard to read at times when compared with the black on white clarity of some of my co-bloggers. But this is the secret: the personal really is the political.

When I got raped at college I knew a lot about some things and nothing about others, but being a teenager I pretended to know mostly everything. I wasn’t a college student, even; the National Cathedral’s School for Girls sent two girls every year to study at New College, Oxford during the summer between junior and senior year, with a bunch of college students from Ohio. These programs are just money-farms for Oxford and the professors do not take them very seriously at all. When I got the reading list, I was 16, so I took it completely seriously. I read everything. All the books on the list. I didn’t understand that you’re not really supposed to. I read Ulysses. I did not understand it hardly at all and I just read that damn thing anyway, on my spring break, in the hammock on the sleeping porch at my dad’s in South Carolina, one leg pumping idly against the white uprights between which the screens are stretched, birdsong and cicada up there enough to be loud. So loud! The experience of forcing myself through hundreds of pages of something that I don’t understand is unique to my adolescence. Three Shakespeare plays. Secondary literature I had to get at the big library downtown in D.C.
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Temporarily stranded in the last warehouse of my closed business, itself scoured almost clean save a few odds and ends and the massive teak bed I lusted after for so long, since 2002, bought in 2010, enjoyed…well, I don’t know that I enjoyed it quite, as I spent too many uninterrupted months in 2012 laying there looking at the mountainous terrain of sheets, and the violent tropical foliage visible above my half-shuttered windows, and the pink Christmas tree with its tin-winged angel, left up too long, and the local 1960s vanity with the mirrors all découpaged with photos from abandoned HDB flats and pictures from old HK movie magazines—filled to overflowing as always with unguents and near identical shades of fuchsia YSL lipsticks, and jewelry, and my grandmother’s monogrammed silver-topped powder container in cut crystal, from her girlhood in sober 30s font with the initials of Miss Henrietta Drewry Callaway. But the bed was lovely, minimalist with tapered uprights, with a rail for a mosquito net, and it was mildly unfortunate that when we moved from a big house to a condo that it would not fit. I am going to sell it at Expat Auction. In any case, I was sitting on the screed floor of the double-height space, one wall of windows shining, and so I wrote this blog post long-hand with my new favorite pencil the Palomino Blackwing 602. “Half the pressure, twice the speed!” It says that on the side. It may simply be a 3B with an, replaceable eraser. It will take longer to see. We only got them last week. John thinks I should scan it and post the scan, which has a certain justness, as I do have excellent handwriting, but I think it would be precious.

So, I promised you a response to Freddie deBoer’s response to Jonathan Chait’s anti-P.C. cry in the wilderness of having an extraordinary platform to write whatever you want. Why did I not do this immediately? Both my children have been ill since then, and I had Japanese homework, and I have a new art project which I will tell you about later [I am making my own tarot deck as I have dreamed of since childhood, but with Great-Aunt Nora Cloud’s (well, Violet Bramble’s, I suppose, really) Least Trumps from Little, Big.] And I am very sick and you should all feel super-guilty. No, OK really, also I am bone-lazy and a fundamentally unserious person as has been established.
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