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Belle Waring

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!

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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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I Aten’t Ignoring You

by Belle Waring on February 2, 2015

I wasn’t paying attention to un-approved comments in the queue, so a bunch got stuck there. Why? Because I almost never do anything about them until a co-blogger is like, “hey Belle, remember how we have a moderation queue that ever requires you to do a thing ever?” I just went and approved them all, as is generally my inclination, even—I will have you know—the ones calling me a bad person who writes in a fundamentally unserious way about serious subjects, and who is personal friends with Brad DeLong even though he is an economic quisling and opinionatedly wrong about works of history about Eastern Europe which I (myself, Belle Waring) have not read. So, if it seemed as if you were in moderation hell, sorry about that.

You also really have to work at it to get me to ban you; please don’t. It’s tedious. I wouldn’t do it even if I personally disagreed with you about historiography of Eastern Europe, rather than at a trusted remove (at which remove I also won’t ban you obvi, since, here you are). Well, if I knew you were fabricating lies and hurling spurious claims of ‘anti-Semite’ everywhere I’d hassle you, but you’d have to be King Dick of it to get banned on my account. I did have some homophobia in the first thread from whoever it is who has been baiting MPAVictoria so incessantly. It was fake homophobia that he wasn’t even selling. I wasn’t buying a nickel bag of it. But pretending to be bigoted is almost worse. I seriously am too bored to look up his very-like-another-person’s name right now. You, thingface, knock it off, and MPAV for the love of all that is unholy just don’t rise snapping to that hand-tied-fly what has been cast onto the mottled surface of our limpen stream. And then…a male commenter said this to me:
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But Wait…There’s More!

by Belle Waring on January 30, 2015

Since the thread is long now and it’s hard to respond to everyone individually, I thought I would post instead.

Objection 1: Chait has real-world examples of PC madness—you don’t even address those!

Counterpoints: In the opening anecdote, a guy wrote a relatively mild, not funny at all anti-feminist satire for the more conservative college paper in which he laughed about majoring in womyn’s studies (LOL), laughed about trigger warnings, and laughed about intersectionality. As if that’s a thing, right!? In response, some college kids egged his door, and the other more left-leaning paper he also wrote for told him they didn’t need his submissions any longer. Also, a thing happened in 1992 with terrifying monster of anti-man towering evil MacKinnon involved tangentially! Look, I’m sorry Chait, nothing in your article should have happened in 1992. (Yes, analogies, I know.)

Then, some people paying $55,000 a year to attend a private college decided they didn’t want one of the architects of the Iraq war to pick up a $100K check to speak at their graduation. Students protested against Condoleeza Rice on these grounds, against the head of the IMF because of its importance as an means of imposing capitalist norms on weakened developing nations, against a man who was most prominently known among the students themselves for a physically brutal crackdown on Occupy protestors at UCBerkeley, and against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whom many regard as actively anti-Muslim, not just pro-religious-freedom in currently Muslim nations. They may have been neither entirely right nor entirely wrong in all these judgments, but preventing your school from paying money to rich, powerful people is not a form of stifling political correctness.
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By now you’ve probably heard that Jonathan Chait has written an article for New York magazine decrying modern liberalism for becoming little more than a series of Twitter-based convulsions of outrage. You may have heard that he has a point there. Or maybe you heard it was an argument against Political Correctness—a dragon from 1991 who has reared up wearing a crop top, ‘70s jeans and 14-hole Doc Marten’s, and is taking the pain of her infected belly-button piercing out on others in inappropriate ways—and the reign of terror this dread P.C. has engendered in liberal academia. Or maybe you heard that a previously moderately well-regarded author has gone to the #slatepitch side of the Force. Or, perhaps, that Jonathan Chait has a skin so thin that he cries when someone gets the butter knife out of the drawer anywhere within six blocks of his apartment, and is also so allergic to his own tears that he then needs to use his EpiPen and ARE YOU HAPPY NOW BLACK FEMINISTS1/1//! Unfortunately for Jonathan Chait, modern liberalism, the state of the publishing industry, feminism, concerns about racial equality, the extent to which previously marginalized voices can now pipe up and be heard in critical discourse, and all of us, it’s actually that last thing.

But what about his maybe having a point? The thing is, Chait has about 75% of perhaps two points, but the wheat/arsenic-laced chaff ratio is bad. Very bad. How so? The article is actually about how his feelings got hurt by people who say mean things on the internet—in the sense that this is the actual motive for writing it. ‘They claim to be too sensitive to take criticism or even hear discussion of sensitive topics, and that shuts down debate!’ whines sensitive man whose feelings have been hurt by criticism from the internet. ‘They are destroying our political project and they won’t even listen to my concern trolling crucial critique because I am…a white man!’ [Faints on couch.] How did New York Magazine tease this article? “Can a white, liberal man critique a culture of political correctness?” Spoiler alert: YES.
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My Fair Lady: A Series of Text Messages

by Belle Waring on January 25, 2015

Prof. Henry Higgins: I could totlly teach you to talk good lol.
Eliza Doolittle: no way! I talk too bad!
HH: you would even be hot then haha.
ED: but I have a smudge on my face.
HH: inorite?
ED: it’s small but it like hides my whole face. it is a magic smudge.
HH: if you didn’t have a magic smudge you could be hot. jk you will prolly never get that smudge off. you will never be hotlol.
ED: please teach me to talk good even though I suck and stuff plz!
HH: I guess, god whatever

ED: some dudes think I’m hot!
HH: as if. they are just saying whatever to get into your pants. they can tell u still talk stupid.
ED: OMG u r so mean I am seriously crying now for real!
HH: you are way too emoshe. that’s why I can’t even deal with chicks sometimes. this is all about a bet I made with my bro. a brotimes bet. brotimes.
ED: I hate you! I am running away!

HH: you ran away to my mom’s house because you love me.
ED: no one ever said I was hot before until you said I looked barely tolerable. will u PLEASE GO OUT WITH ME PLEADE!
HH: OK I am like 70 u know.
ED: and I am like 25 and no one ever said that they had gotten used to seeing my face among other objects they saw during the day, like cabs and umbrellas! u r the 1! you saw thru the magic smudge! IT WAS MAGIC!
HH: yeah I’m pretty amazing. OK fine.
ED: I love u so much!
HH: I love me too.

finis

UPDATE: If I had been making fun of Shaw it would have said “Pygmalion: a Series of Text Messages,” wouldn’t it? What am I likeliest to have seen recently? The original London production with Julie Andrews? Possibly, just conceivably, the Audrey Hepburn/Rex Harrison movie? Let your imaginations run wild. Secondly, it has been brought to my attention that Mallory Ortberg thought of this first, which is too bad insofar as she is way funnier than me, but good insofar as she is both way funnier than me and a more dedicated, prolific writer, and I get to read the things she writes on the internet. So, it’s win-win! The only thing for me to do is keep training harder, like that montage in Rocky IV when Rocky is training in Siberia while Ivan Drago is being put through his paces in a futuristic Soviet lab, so it turns out Rocky is training in a more authentically Russian way than Drago, because he is in the snow carrying wood and buckets. IRONIC! The music for this is awesome, although it annoys John when it comes up on shuffle in iTunes. “What the f%*k? Oh this is one of your montages isn’t it. You know, the Thundercats theme song came on while I was with Violet at drum lessons yesterday.” Forget the haters!

So, All The Cups Got Broke, You Guys.

by Belle Waring on December 7, 2014

DJ Earworm has come out with his 2014 year-end mix. For those who have not hear them before, he makes mashups at the end of the year with the top 25 songs. Since he started making ‘Summermash 13’ and ‘Summermash 14,’ the songs from earlier in the year don’t get as much love, which is sort of too bad if the good songs were earlier in the year, but OK since you can hear him use the same bit quite differently. Assuming you don’t know these songs (except three maybe, except none maybe) the lines of the song and even words of a line are all from different songs.

Lots of people online have been saying it’s not that great, not like back in the day. Partly because everyone must ritualistically claim that 2009 was the best, ever, forever. This is defensible but non-obvious. It blew everyone’s mind, and it is beautiful, but there is a lot of Blackeyed Peas and Miley Cyrus’s first solo album in there and you’re not telling me that’s right. What there is is good Lady Gaga songs. I want some of those. Partly people are saying it’s weaksauce because the songs (raw material) sucked. This is a fair and an unfair point. Fair, in that they mostly sucked, but by no means all, since Lorde’s Team is great, and I like Happy a lot (shut up h8ers) and…and…mmm, there was plenty of suckage. No, screw it, “Fancy” is idiotic but kind of fun, what do you want in a song. I mean, other than an Australian chick trying and failing to sound like…(considers YouTube history)…this totally random rapper Yolanda laying it down in front of egg-crate foam. Seriously, who is this? Not really anyone, and yet her flow is so much better than Iggy’s. Is this evidence that we live in a just world?

Unfair (the criticism of 2014’s mix) in that every year most of the songs are terrible. This year suffered in not having an EDM track to bring the EPIC. Last hear there was only one: “Don’t You Worry Child.” If you listen to last year’s mix you can hear that it made the chorus rousing (like starting at 1:11.) This year DJ Earworm relied on the crazy lead-in to the stupid chorus of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” for this purpose, and took 0 sung sections from the song, a WAY SOLID decision [not linking to this because if you want to see Katy Perry turn someone into a glass of wine because he gave her a massive basket of Spicy Cheetos carried by slaves that’s on y’all]. The thing he did that was inspirational was he made the ridiculous Charlie XCX “I’m so fancy/Everybody knows/In the fast lane/From LA to Tokyo” part of “Fancy” be the chorus and be all moving and sweet. Like the ending of last year’s mix made “Thrift Shop” and a Justin Timberlake song beautiful. How? Is he magic? He’s magic probably, is the answer. Belle, why do you even know all these shitty songs? Do your children like these shitty songs? No, they only like good music, actually. I, um, I ride in the taxi all the time and hear Singapore radio stations? I see the mashups and think “what the hell song was that?” Checks. “Oh god, it’s Maroon 5. If Adam Levine bleeds or gets blown up one more time in a video he will die of blood loss, and I will not mourn his passing.”

ANYWAY speaking of Magic, one of the not-good songs in the year-end mix was a meagre Canadian reggae song called “Rude,” which you must now go listen to the first 45 seconds of so you can fully appreciate the genius of this cover. No, go. No. Seriously, I’m not posting it until you—-OK, then. Now this you really want to watch. This is not you humoring me, this is straight awesome and not in some abstruse possibly ironic way where I double back and like Christina Aguilera (I don’t obvs.)

See! I am in love with this kid now! I feel, re-reading this, vaguely defensive and like I need to reassure you that I spend lots of time listening to Can and Ike and Tina Turner and Parliament/Funkadelic and Porter Wagoner and am a good person, but whatever. I’ma let my freak-flag of ‘hating things by knowing about them in intricate detail’ flag fly (please ask me if you’d like me to synopsize all the Twilight books. My daughters wanted to know where I even learned the name of the Vampire pureblood association that is all mad at Edward and Bella for their forbidden creation of a half-etc. child, and even granting that I read it on the internet why did I remember it? I have no defense.)

Love Come Down

by Belle Waring on November 21, 2014

I have all these songs cued up and stuff I wanted to say about The Dazz Band (it’s literally disco jazz! What is not to love?!), but then I listened to this track five times in a row today, and I thought, ‘Belle, old bean,’ I thought to myself, ‘why are you being so aintry with “Love Come Down” and bogarting this when you could be sharing it with everybody at Crooked Timber? Why?’ Readers, there is no good answer to this question, so here is Evelyn Champagne King. The first time I listened to this song about a month ago I thought I had a problem with the tinkling synth descent that opens the song and runs behind “ooh you make my love” in the chorus. Then I listened to it again. Then, I listened to it a few more times. Then I realized I loved those tinkling synth chords.

You might think I could be sharing this with one John Holbo, but there is a huge area of non-overlap in the Venn diagram of our musical tastes, and this falls right out there in the “Patrice Rushen, huh? Meh” area of John’s non-overlapping section. I can’t share it with my children because they don’t super go for this either, although, being young, they have frequently widening tastes. I introduced our older daughter to Sufjan Stevens the other day and she likes him a lot; our younger daughter objected after the first 30 seconds of listening to a purely instrumental section, “this is too sad.” I was like, “there’s a happy part here for a bit! Oh, God, no.” What is unquestionably one of the saddest songs ever recorded comes next. Violet: “is she dying? I told you it was sad! Turn it off!” OK, fine. The one verse in that song that truly pains me is “In the morning in the winter shade/ On the first of March, on the holiday/ I thought I saw you breathing.”

My brother and I were with my grandmother when she died, my father’s mother. He had finally gone upstairs to sleep, at two or three a.m., I convinced him. He had been up for so long, at the hospital, and then fighting to get her back home. My brother and I were just sitting in the room with her, with the TV on, talking, and I was holding her hand, and suddenly we fell silent and my brother said, “look.” It seemed as if she were dead, but the fan in the room was strong enough that her thin cotton nightgown was still fluttering on her chest, tiny sine waves I hoped were breaths. I had ordered ten of those nightgowns custom-sewn for her three years before she died. She only had a few she liked: all cotton, and opened all down the front and closed with snaps. But she had gotten so much thinner they gaped at the neck in too-deep a curve, and she was cold, and got chills that gave her back-spasms. I took one to a dress-maker in Savannah to have it reproduced and she sniffily told me to go to Sears, and I told her I had tried everywhere. I asked how much fabric she would need for each and I went and bought cotton by the yard, white with thin blue stripes, tiny pink polka dots, pale blue squares. And lace. The lady at the dress store didn’t even want to do it, she told me it’d cost more that $100 a gown for the work. I said my grandmother was a proud woman and this was all the clothes she was ever going to have for the rest of her life, and they should be just how she wanted, and they should take the damn money and make them. They weren’t done till after I left town and my dad was mad at me for spending too much money at my grandma’s (N.B. he was, separately, quite right, just not here); I found out later he was appalled by the cost also and had cut back on the nightgowns from ten to eight. I don’t know when I have been so mad in my life. So seeing the cotton tremble I told my brother he was wrong, and we sat in the stillness for a while longer before I really tried to check properly, because I wanted not to know just even for a few seconds more. Now Sufjan Stevens has probed a vein of sadness beneath the sheer pleasure of sharing “Love Comes Down” with all of you, but I invite you to enjoy it in a spirit of good cheer anyway. I think we would all be happy to die at 83, at home in our beds, taking liquid morphine, and with our family around us. Love does not, in fact, conquer all, but surely it snatches a kind of victory from the jaws of inevitable defeat.

Learning Japanese; I Really Think So

by Belle Waring on November 6, 2014

John and I have stayed in Singapore so long for a number of reasons—mainly he has tenure in Philosophy now and prior to that a good tenure-track job with excellent housing benefits, which is not the easiest thing to find ever. But also it is a really good place for children, even if it might be a boring place for…older children? People in their twenties? Pure physical safety is an underrated quality. I can remember once when I was walking back home the 750 metres to our house from the children’s hospital, where Violet, then four, was deathly ill with a norovirus (she was either vomiting or having diarrhea every 45 minutes for the first five days; she would have died if she weren’t on an IV drip, and we had to carefully clean her up and change the sheets each time. And again. She was so brave. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the mothers in third-world countries whose babies were dying in their arms right then for want of this same simple treatment.) I stayed with her in the hospital all seven days, sleeping with her in her single bed, but John was spelling me so I could shower at home. The walk involves a trip under a big highway overpass. It’s decently lit, but not to way back up under the eaves of the ground and the ceiling of the thudding road. First of all, it doesn’t even smell much like pee! (I know, right?) It smells a little like pee. A little. Usually it smells like wet dirt after rain, or like dried-out leaves, or coppery mud, or stale exhaust from an idling double-decker bus (they pull a vicious U-turn there; it’s sort of magnificent, like the hippos doing ballet in Fantasia.) Like smoke, if Sumatra has been improvidently, per usual, set on fire. Like the water in the canal that runs between the two directions of the lower road, either uniform turbid red and two metres deep after the rain, or here and there transparent with skrims of various weeds and slimes that blossom instantaneously, and tadpoles that the egrets stalk in the hand-span deep water at the slack.
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