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Belle Waring

NPCs: What Are They, Even?

by Belle Waring on August 28, 2015

If this is going to be a useful analogy for sexist behavior at all people need to know what NPCs (that is, non-player-characters in videogames) are! A number of people in the thread below noted that they did not. It’s pretty simple. Let’s say you play a FPS (first person shooter) or even a third-person shooter (you see the character you control as if he were the star of a movie). You generally roam around the game shooting alien monsters or zombies or Nazis or zombie Nazis or whatever. But there will be people on your side, or fellow members of the space marines, or bystander city-dwellers—people with whom you can interact but don’t need to/can’t shoot. These characters may have only one thing to say, or they can say one thing when first approached (or when you say a certain thing) and one or more other things later (or when you say that other thing). Alternately and more generally in all sorts of games an NPC can be someone you share endless experiences with, or are trained by, or you start a romantic relationship with, or you lose your shit over when they die (not tryna spoil the end of Final Fantasy VII here, just saying. Oh dag! Look, they’re making a new FFVII, and they may botch the ending to please a minority of fans (and in order kick up endless promotional rage-dust IMO), so forget I said that, and buy the latest game from “the franchise that doesn’t know the meaning of the word final”). Basically, in a single-player game, you’re the player, and the non-player characters—even if they look just like you—are merely generated by the game, just like the rendered terrain itself or the monsters or the weapons/spoils of war/scrolls, etc.

Our household is a Nintendo one, and in Zelda Windwaker HD you have crucial but limited interactions with others. It is a beautiful game that I have spent over 40 hours watching someone play while being a crucial assistant, looking through the ign.wiki walkthrough to see how the HELL Link can jump while holding a bomb [pro tip: he can’t, but he can step onto a platform]. You are prompted to press A to talk to NPCs and you are given at most two things to choose from to say either in greeting or reply. This is in line with the generally friendly tenor of Nintendo games, something that led them, after much thought, to
totally disable chat during online battles in their new FPS multi-player game Splatoon. FPS stands for FriendlyPersonSquidgun in this case—it has been succinctly described as “squidpeople play paintball” by “Matpat” on the YouTube channel Game Theory (which is very entertaining; I recommend it highly). Game designers could not think of any other way to prevent trash talk that would ruin the Nintendo experience, so you can only say one of two things to your squad-mates: “let’s go!” or “booyah!” This is despite the fact that it would be very helpful to talk for even 20 seconds before any given battle with your new squad-mates, who are chosen at random from available, physically-nearby players. Then you could set up a simple strategy for winning, which in this case means covering the most terrain possible with ink. “I’ll camp on their re-spawn point and snipe and you run around with that giant paint-roller, painting everything teal. Excelsior!”
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Best Sexism Analogy Ever

by Belle Waring on August 21, 2015

I’ve mentioned before that I was sexually harassed by a prof as an undergrad. (This isn’t even the point of this story, but whatever.) From the perspective of an older person I can see that my professor hadn’t actually been teaching female students for all that long, since Columbia was so late in going co-ed (Columbia was holding out in the hopes of a Harvard-Radcliffe-style full merger between it and its sister women’s college, Barnard, which never happened.) I think Barnard students were already able to take some Columbia classes prior to 1983, and it’s not like I think it’s an excuse, but there you are.

In any case, this caused my boyfriend at the time to question whether I really deserved my A+. Not supportive, dude. It made me a little anxious about the idea, but not so much, because I really was an excellent student in this class, and my GPA was above 4 already that term. In college I had a strategy of studying for exams that was fool-proof. I write quickly, and would take reams of notes for each class. Then when exam time rolled around I would re-write my notes in a condensed form (and re-read the main texts, because I also read fast.) Zoë is dyslexic and finds all this supremely irritating for obvious reasons, but is nonetheless interested. I once helped a friend who had been skipping class half the term pass the final for a Central and South American Art History class with only a single night to study. He was resigned to failure and thought he wouldn’t graduate on time. NOT ON MY WATCH, HOMES. [This is not to say I’m amazing or anything; being good at studying for college exams is a skill with limited utility, and not necessarily a predictor of whether someone can, just pulling an example at random, finish her f$%king PhD dissertation or anything. Further, I must allow I chemically enhanced these abilities in a way that is not recommended for extended periods.]

The notes I made for Roman History were so good that people learned about them [?]. (I did give them to two friends, with whom I actually studied.) Thus a frat bro whom I didn’t know from Adam approached me one day and asked if he could have a copy. What? What?! Who does this? I declined, obviously, but with insufficient scorn, simply because I was so baffled and astonished. Zoë’s response to this is the best: “did he think you were an NPC?!” I think this is exactly right. Dudes like this think lesser beings are actually non-player characters in the video game of life. Like Minecraft villagers with boobs or something.

Harry Potter Moe

by Belle Waring on August 17, 2015

What if the people who made super-popular, insanely adorbs anime K-On made an anime of Harry Potter? In which they skip around from era to era so that everyone can be a student (and this is very much what they would do, if you think about it)? Then, it would look like the following video, which you must promise me you will watch to when you burst out laughing at the face of Severus Snape—himself as astonished as you are—after which you will find it mere child’s play to continue to the end to get a glimpse of Helga Hufflepuff in a miniature top hat. The Weasley twins are perfect. They could be like the twins in Ouran High Host Club! (The girls and I, hearing the premise of that anime—HS students run gigolo-type host club as one of the school clubs, and blackmail an androgynous girl into participating, in drag—thought it would be awful. But last summer we were bored at my mom’s and succumbed to the magic of Netflix, only to find it’s hilarious. It sends up shojo manga tropes a lot.)

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Orientalism at the Font

by Belle Waring on July 7, 2015

I have a few observations about Asia, and living here and also traveling to nations other than Singapore. I have been mulling them over on this trip alone as I have no one to talk to (except everyone I meet, and it’ll astonish you to know I am a friendly, chatty person. Well, the friendly might surprise you if you think of me as a harpy swooping to scourge my foes with a whip of venom. In truth I smile at strangers, and it took me some little time living in NYC before I could repress the drive to meet with my gaze every person I pass, a practice that actually impedes walking in Savannah, as one frequently knows the person and cannot, under any circumstance, walk past them without speaking briefly. My children think I am “scary,” a not unadulterated good character reference. By this they mean I have a mean glare on me, but that’s part of a mother’s job. If you can’t get somebody to stop fooling around just by looking at them sideways, you have failed to cultivate your maternal powers.) I have been loath to commit them—these ideas you forgot I was talking about just now—to pixels because I feel they are disorganized and perhaps it is not even possible to unwind the tangled skein. However, you are always kind in accepting my scattered thoughts as continuous writing and thus encouraged I will proceed.
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Radio Silence

by Belle Waring on July 5, 2015

I realize our blog was curiously silent when we were all thinking, “gay marriage—in your FACE bitches!” And, “isn’t it a good thing that not quite enough Supreme Court justices were swayed by a ludicrously weak argument first tendered in the spirit of ‘0bummercare’ on IIRC the Volokh Conspiracy; at the same time, wasn’t that scary? Still, in your FACES hypocritical Jesuitical bastards!” And, “oh Lord why in the church why? How did he steel himself to it after they welcomed him and he did bible study for an hour. An hour! What kind of mordant acid of racism could etch a stain so black on the filth-splattered escutcheon of Dixie?” And, “I love the president of the United States of America. I am crying watching YouTube. There is snot on my face.” And, “holy shit, people are giving a crap about the confederate flag?! Are you serious? No, really, what?” I’ll be honest as a girl born in Savannah “home of the official platinum-level flag of bigotry” GA; a girl whose step-father was Edmund Kirby-Smith (the fourth and only)—-this last one has me reeling. Also, has me realizing that I wasn’t cool in the 90s when I used a metal Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox as a purse for like 3 years. I was a dick. Well, truth be told I was going to post about the evil of Tom Bombadil, but then I felt like I needed to explain myself, so I’ll just wait a short while (and don’t you steal my thunder!).

The thing was, we flew to my in-laws in Eugene, OR (via HK and SF) and then I found out I had to do something in Indonesia so I flew back another 24 hours maybe six days later, to Singapore and then Bali, and now I’ma sort this out, fly back to Singapore, fly HK to SF to Eugene, and then the next day fly from Eugene to SF to Newark New Jersey to Savannah, and then 6 days later to Dulles, then National, then Martha’s Vineyard? No, I must have to fly to Boston. Whyyywwyyyy? OK, some people have real problems that don’t involve them flying around the world to beautiful places, so I’ll stop moping and let’s join in a carefully composed round of huzzahs and somber reflection and sore winner uncharitable triumph, shall we? In short, America: F@#k Yeah.

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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