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Belle Waring

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.

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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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What Do You Tell Your Children About The Internet?

by Belle Waring on November 3, 2014

When Zoë was maybe 10 and old enough to start randomly looking at things on the internet without much supervision other than Google SafeSearch (well, such a thing was likely to occur; I’m not sure she was old enough per se) I had a little talk with her. And Violet, but Violet wasn’t paying attention. I re-had the talk with Violet later. It went like this: don’t ever go to 4chan, OK? OK. Also, there are weirdos on the internet who are grownups but want to have sex with children. Her: “Whaaaaa—??@? I thought people had sex so that—” Ya, I know. Just, roll with me. They pretend to be other kids so they can talk to kids. So don’t talk to weirdos who ask you a lot of personal questions, and don’t ever tell anyone on the internet where you live, and later when you have photos and an email and attachments don’t send them to anyone. But also if somehow something weird happens and you get scared of someone or feel like something is wrong you should always tell me, and I’ll never be mad at you even if you didn’t do 100% “the right thing,” and it’s never too late to say something is making you scared or feel weird, like, there’s not a crucial window that goes by and then if you miss it you can never speak up because it’s your fault now, because you didn’t say anything before. Also, don’t go to 4chan. Shit, don’t even go to reddit. I’m not saying this because it’s cool and fun, it’s just gross. [Dear CT reader who frequents a perfectly nice and informative knitting sub-reddit that isn’t even sexist at all: them’s the breaks.]

I oke-bray the ules-ray by getting Zoë an FB account for Xmas one year that—her age being the number after ten—was not one of the approved years. It was her top request on her list to Santa. (And free!) I made myself a page administrator, set the privacy settings myself, and said she couldn’t put pictures of herself up. I couldn’t issue a blanket “no anything-chan” rule because of course zerochan.net has all the best pictures in the world. For several years she has obsessively searched for and downloaded both official and (moreso) fan art, and then uploaded it again into massive albums on her FB page. There’s over 5K images on there!
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Ride a Painted Pony, Bounce, Skate, Rock, Roll

by Belle Waring on October 24, 2014

It’s important that you listen to these important songs now, because of their great import. I like the Shirley Bassey song because, when John and I were first married, it was the signature tune of one of our favorite DJs. He had a club night where he played goofy twinkly commercially popular 60s and 70s music, and this was the “get everybody out on the floor” song. The Vaughan Mason & Crew tune (Disco Remix) is a roller disco song thankyouverymuch. Not merely normal-disco. It is so good. SO GOOD. It sounds like some Derrick Carter-ness but it’s from 1979.

See? SEE??!?

So many, the sparkles. All the sparkles. And for years I couldn’t find this song somehow. Violet reminded me just now to search again and—duh there it was! The off-kilter horns make it. I’m glad I could make this significant contribution to our blog.

Sunday Photoblogging: On The Water

by Belle Waring on September 21, 2014

Motorboat!
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Sailboat and biplane!
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The Infinite Leisure Theory of Chattel Slavery

by Belle Waring on September 18, 2014

So, I was reading The Carolina Low-Country, published in 1931, which is a multi-author description of the physical beauty and lost culture of chivalric uh whatever of the Low Country, with a large section of Negro Spirituals in Gullah. (In practice this means they look as if they were written in old-timesy ‘let’s make fun of black people’s accents’ speak, but since no one knew the IPA and it is a real creole I’m inclined to let it slide.) Naturally its opening contribution is by a Ravenel, Charleston’s most prominent family. One of my father’s favorite stories is of the two drunk men walking along the river in Charleston: one sways and falls, clutching at the other, and they both go into the river, at which point one of them shouts “save me, for I am a Ravenel!” Since this is a True Tale of the Old South it’s almost certainly actually true; that’s just how these things work. If it included more, less probable elements it would be likelier. Like if he was bit by an alligator near Colleton or something. In any case, I came upon this gem (it has been previously established that “most important, and most purely African, is the negro’s highly developed sense of rhythm”):


To say that the spiritual is entirely or exclusively the work of the negro, or that it is “purely African in origin” is absurd. To its development, the negro brought certain highly essential qualities. Other factors necessary for the development of the spiritual he found on this side of the water. The blending and developing required infinite leisure. [emphasis mine] And this he had, for his many and varied tasks required of him in the main purely physical labor. He could, at all times, apply himself to singing while he worked.

I was ready to chuckle over the frontispiece and the second Ravenel and the two Pinckneys on the eleven-author list (one of my brothers best schoolfriends, and our next-but-three neighbor in S.C. is a Thomas Pinckney) when I looked a leeetle more closely and saw #5: Thomas R. Waring. Well, at least I’m not a white person who pretends I never personally benefited from slavery! Below, the salt-water marsh of the May River in Bluffton, which opens up to the sea behind Hilton Head Island. They never could grow anything on that. That’s just a place to hunt deer and ducks on the hammocks, and fish, and shrimp, and get oysters and crabs. I say “just” but it’s so beautiful back in there. One place across from us we call “the Lost World,” because the brackish water gets even less salt as it forms a lagoon next to black-water swamp, and the water is clear but dark like strong tea, and every bald cypress and palmetto and pine and little water oak has tattered festoons of spanish moss gray hanging down, and everything doubled in the still mirror of brown-black water. Cicadas are the only noise, making it alternately deafening and loudly silent. I saw the biggest water moccasin in the world back there one time, crazing the black mirror with S-curves. Leisurely, like. Not the rice-planting kind, the other kind.
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Scotland

by Belle Waring on September 13, 2014

I can remember back when I was just a wee sleekit lass that read the Economist… OK maybe I was also a bit daft, but I got better when I realized it was, in the words of a recent Gawker article, a news aggregator magazine for people who want to pretend their seat in Economy Plus is a chair by the roaring fire in a manor house. Anyway, they always used to talk about Scottish Devolution and I thought it couldn’t possibly ever amount to anything very serious. But now it seems as if maybe really power will devolve to its utmost, since there’s going to be a vote on independence and everything, and the polls are tight. Scottish readers, are ye voting aye or nay? Subjects of HRH* generally, are Scottish subjects going to keep on keeping on being subjects of HRH, or what? Might she have to give back that big castle she’s apparently so fond of? Who gets the, um, nukes? Enlighten me with an open thread about how Scots maun live in the future.

*Commenters In The Sky and ZM have pointed out that the Queen is HM and only lesser royals mere Highnesses.

Now that Francis Spufford has shown up to do the work of knowing things about the subject, which is what open threads are for (i.e. making the readers do the work) I am hoisting his discussion with SF author Ken McLeod against Scottish Independence up here so that you may watch it more easily. John and I only watched the very very beginning, in which it was explained that Francies Spufford has a very posh accent (which he has come by in an honest, middle-class fashion) and that Lanark is important in some way, which has led us to extrapolate that perhaps giant crabs will come up through cracks in the ground if the two nations are divided, an outcome we naturally deplore. When it is not 10:22 at night and roughly two hours after I took the meds that are supposed to be, welp, going to bed for sure now, so it won’t hurt to take these topamax is very…what now? I will listen more fully and contribute intelligently to the debate. Possibly. Though I have my second Japanese lesson tomorrow! I had to learn katakana and hiragana in a week, that was sort of my own fault though. My brain is oozing knowledge at night in a way peculiar to language-acquisition. Like when I was cold at night and thought I had to curl up in the pages of the big Liddell to stay warm (insufficient heating in SF + Greek MA exams.) Thanks Francis!

Not to Mention, I Respect You With My Art

by Belle Waring on September 5, 2014

September! When I made a monthly music-themed mix, September won. At this very moment I’m obsessively listening to this song, “Don’t Wait,” by Maipei. John finds the vocals too computer-processed, but it’s important to note that they are too computer-processed in an Air-song-from-1998 way, and not in a T-Pain-song-from-2008 way.

But obviously when September rolls around, this ticking, percussive guitar/synth/O HAI ITS THE HORNZ thing comes to mind. Firstly, are those, like, daishikis from outer space, or Chinese-inspired sequined outfits from outer space, what say ye? Secondly, John notes no one goes for the balding afro anymore. A man in that position nowadays would shave his head. Not Maurice White. He has the sexual self-confidence to rock this balding afro with pride.

Feel free to tell me “September” is some disco bullshit compared to “Evil” or “Shining Star.” I will ignore your reasonably well-supported claim because WAIIIAIIAIIIAIIsay do you rememberWAIIIAIII…
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Sunday Photoblogging: The Last Day of Summer

by Belle Waring on August 31, 2014

For some people, anyway. I don’t normally post photos with people, but this little girl was born right on this blog and look at her now! All grown up and going to Martha’s Vineyard. Everyone’s glad to be home in Singapore eating roti prata and murtabak, though. Well, no, I miss real summer like that. High dunes and cold water and fresh corn and berry cobbler and lobster rolls. But if you read my aunt Laura Wainwright’s book Home Bird you can hear that it gets wickedly cold in the wintertime.
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Later when I’m not tired I’ll make it be so you can click on a high-res version, this one is kinda lame but it busts the margins otherwise…

Mash Up For What?

by Belle Waring on June 6, 2014

So, a new DJ Earworm mashup. This one was getting a lot of bitching in comments, but I like it a lot. Partly it’s because many were complaining that the inclusion of “Happy” made it bad, and I really like the song “Happy.” Partly because it’s “only” five songs. This is funny to me because I have been listening to mashups/bootlegs for a long time, and for many years there were always only two songs, and that was often even the titling: Song A vs Song B, or Artist A vs Artist B. One of the best mashups ever is dsico’s “Love Will Freak Us” (Get Your Freak On vs Love Will Tear Us Apart) (Missy Eliot vs Joy Division obvs.).

Another early classic is Freelance Hellraiser’s “The Strokes vs Christina Aguilera ‘A Stroke of Genie-us.’” I am entirely certain that the popularity of this bootleg made Christina Aguilera’s people write/produce songs for her differently. Really, her music was no question influenced by how good this sounded. (Now you’re going to tell me that there’s still Christina Aguilera in there, so “good” in that previous sentence is not being employed properly but…OK. Don’t like it. It was ground-breaking, though. I think it came out in 2002.

I feel obliged to warn you that this video contains scenes of…well, unrelieved priapism? There is no reason that a man crashing through the successive stories of a normal Asian apartment building, and convincing his neighbors to join him in mimicry of unsatisfied sexual behavior should be more sexual or more salacious than girls shaking their almost-naked asses at you and performing sexual congress with the wall of Jason Derulo’s dressing room or whatever, but somehow it is. Zoë says it’s more disturbing “because they look like real people.” This is right; we expect impossible plastic beauties from around the world to shake their money-makers right into the camera. An ordinary Chinese dude in sweatpants dry-humping an old TV is…more sexual? This can’t be right, but it’s right? Anyway, NSFW in some illogical way that is fully clothed and has no one touching anyone. This combines with the ordinary people in the video for “Happy” in a humorous way.

Next time: is Iggy Azalea a drag queen? Is this a kind of reverse blackface where you take the rhymes you want from a woman MC from South Florida and then repackage them in a model-perfect white blonde?

Sunday Photoblogging: Cruiseship

by Belle Waring on June 1, 2014

Boat headed away from Singapore, to the East. It’s gloomy in the tropics more often than you may think. 50,000-foot-high thunderheads piling up don’t leave much room for light.smship5x7

Enjoy!

by Belle Waring on May 3, 2014

I like this song (“Tous les Mêmes” [corrected, thanks Ezster!]) and video by Belgian musician Stromae. I hope you will also.

I am distracted from his alternate blue-green-male/magenta-female personalities by the fabulous furniture in their apartment. Probably my job has gotten to me too much if my immediate thought is “I want that wall-mounted storage unit!” rather than “this reminds me of when I wondered where they got all those implausibly tall, thin dudes to dance on Soul Train, and whether it was just because cocaine is one helluva drug, or what—no, here’s Stromae!” (I grant there’s a hidden premise.) Tertiary May Day thought inspired by outdoor dance scene: I always read that students were throwing cobblestones, and then I ever saw any and thought, “that must have took a damn bit of effort to get up out the ground.” Also I stepped on Eszter’s post. Sorry!

Not Actually Sunday Anymore Sunday Photoblogging

by Belle Waring on April 28, 2014

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Stripes!

Southern Gothic

by Belle Waring on April 19, 2014

“Midnight in the Garden of Good an Evil” is not a great movie but an OK one; certainly if you want to see a lot of purty pictures of Savannah it’s a good one. Kevin Spacey portrays, according to my grandmother Henrietta, the main character extremely convincingly—even going so far as to both have his mannerisms and resemble him somewhat, which she thought incredible for a picture of a dead man. There must have been video of him, obviously. There are a number of very unconvincing things about the book, mainly the idea that this white journalist from New York (IIRC) could insinuate himself into both white high society (second tier—but still) and black society in so short a time as to be both privy to all kind of secrets and taken by an…I don’t know voodoo I guess…practitioner on a midnight rowboat ride up in a marsh somewhere. (First-tier Savannah society is so insular you could only gain that kind of access by marrying someone, even though it’s true everyone loves to gossip. But getting invited to parties?) I say “voodoo I guess” because despite the fact that people totally do this thing, or practice this religion, or whatever, we don’t even really call it anything, so much do we not talk about it. No, that’s an exaggeration, we call it voodoo; there’s an island near my dad’s place in Bluffton called either Voodoo Island or Devil’s Elbow Island (or more cheerfully Potato Island, but I think the Crams pushed that and it never happened.) You can read a short story about it here, if you like. I had been thinking for a while people might like to read it, it’s from 2004, so quite a while ago. Yeah, voodoo, but not like in Florida where people have actual Santeria churches and storefronts and stuff; more like everyone is a devout Christian—but everyone—but still there are women who will do voodoo for you. As I say in the story, white people hire black people to put curses on other white people. And I’m not entirely sure how they find them, except that everyone knows who to ask? Everyone knows everything about everyone, is the answer to that. Well, no, there are information asymmetries: the black community as a whole knows more because maids know everything about their employers but not vice versa, and so on for a lot of other things.

YOLO

by Belle Waring on April 18, 2014

Congratulations to Harry on his new US citizenship! Perhaps English people rock the whole YOLO thing a little more like this: