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Belle Waring

This Is Only a Test

by Belle Waring on January 9, 2014

BREAKING MUST CREDIT BELLE BREAKING

What if I linked to my favorite song by everybody’s favorite Australian punk band, and merely pointed out that Ross “I Would Do Anything For Love But I Won’t” Douthat is only 8 1/2 days away from misusing found alien technology, not to better the world, because he’s a selfish monster, but to better his own life by becoming infinity percent cooler?

Ross-Douthat1

And look, he put out some great music, in his defense, right?

saints2

But that’s not at all what Culture tech is for and I can tell you, without spoilering the 21st Century at all, that both I myself and way MOAR KNIFE MISSLES get involved, so, it all evens out.

Are you going to go on and on about The Saints like a bunch of little bitches, or what? Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Oh, wait, now I’ve like entangled myself in my own quantum wossnames, haven’t I? COMMENT IN THE NEW THREAD. If you’re going to go on and on about something do it in an interesting fashion. Don’t feed boring trolls poorly-prepared victuals. Make the trolls earn their meagre fare. Then, eventually, you may reward them with fun-size Milky Way or something. God.

UPDATE: I failed. Because I could have written the post in a comprehensible way. But I did not. OR WAS I FAILED?!
1. Look, people have been going on about whether the Jim Crow South was maybe, possibly, kinda racist for like 425 comments down there in John’s thread. IT WAS. Also, DON’T FEED LOW CALIBER-TROLLS. “But Belle, Mao Cheng Ji started it!” STFU bitch.
2. People were not enough with the loving Breakwater’s “Say You Love Me Girl,” from below. Let’s grant they just don’t like that kind of thing, which was why they didn’t like it. OK GRANTED. Why didn’t they love Shuggie Otis more? Was it…racism? Oh, no, actually. Probably it was just liking this one other kind of music that they do like. Which is fine an all but…
3. As inestimable non-trollish commenter Michael Sullivan pointed out, if this had been a male poster reminiscing about some post-punk stuff he might well have gotten 100 comments in an hour. So, was it—sexism? No, actually, people just don’t appreciate good music sometimes. So then I was listening to The Saints. And then I noticed, damn, Ross “I Would Do Anything For Love But I Won’t” Douthat looks just like that one dude in The Saints! So I suggested an humorous vignette in which Meatloaf (not “Mr. Meatloaf”; the New York Times regrets the error; like many Indonesians, Meatloaf only uses one name) was transported back in time using the technology of Iain M. Banks’ Culture. But would that have been satisfactory? No, so I had to specify that I subsequently hunted him down and killed him with knife missiles which, if you haven’t read the books, are EXACTLY WHAT THEY SAY ON THE TIN. Then people expressed variously, bafflement (here, sorry) and the objection that The Saints, being a seminal punk band, can hardly be post-punk can they, missy? (EXPECT KNIFE MISSILES.)
I don’t know why you people make everything so difficult.

Belle’s Record Collection, Um, II: The Reddingsing

by Belle Waring on January 8, 2014

I bought this album by The Reddings for .99. I could tell it was going to be amazing because of the Platonic solids—it’s Back to Basics! Also, that one dude doesn’t have any glass in his glasses=WIN.

The Reddings/Back to Basics

But then I couldn’t listen to it till now. So I didn’t know how awesome. OMG! It’s all the deep cuts I wanted! And two of the dudes are Otis Reddings’ sons. Not to be confused with Shuggie Otis (son of Johnny Otis) and his superlative Information Inspiration. Oh damn I have to play that now in case you don’t know this song. It contains the line “here’s a pencil pad/I’m gonna spread some information.” I don’t know why, but this fills me with a deep, deep feeling of satisficing the criteria of a good life. John totally agrees (N.B. may not actually agree.)


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99 1/2 Won’t Do

by Belle Waring on December 22, 2013

John gave me my Christmas present early. It was…our stereo. Yes. The stereo we had all along. That I had cut off my hair to buy! No, psych. But it had only been in our possession in its entirety since 2011, along with all our records, which I bravely rescued, all on my lonesome, from Colonial Storage on Abercorn Extension outside Savannah. I had to kill the biggest brown recluse spider I have ever seen in my life, from which my mover, who had served two terms in Iraq as a Marine “ran away like a little girl” in his words. It was on the back of a mirror he was moving and he was able to set it down without breaking it, on account of military training, before running off in the aforesaid manner, and I picked up a piece of a chair and killed it. It wasn’t like we could do anything useful just knowing it was in there somewhere, right? [I will spare you from the further explanations of why we could not set up our stereo in our old house.]

Yes, so we shipped our records and stereo to Singapore. That was economically very rational and I don’t want to hear anything about the sunk costs fallacy and the excellent new (to me) 70s Boston Acoustics speakers and 70s Marantz receiver I could have bought at the Adelphi Mall for the same money. Because I would never have gotten the records. Sure, in principle, I could have bought the same records again, but I wouldn’t have, because I don’t know what records I have. Ha! Refute that, Chicago economics guy! Now, the answer is supposed to be that if I don’t want to listen to it for ten years I don’t want it. Not so fast Professor Nerdlinger! I might want to be surprised! Like, hey, “Come Dance With Bump?” Released in Asia on the label Music Girl? Which I might very well think I had hallucinated if I could not hold it and look at its astoundingly great, yet deeply mysterious cover? Bump is apparently the nom de dance of a super-hot black chick with striped stockings, purple platform shoes, and a gold and yellow fringed hot-pants one-piece. But maybe she’s not? Maybe Bump is the DJ playing songs to which you are meant to do the bump and…something? OK, on a listen the latter. I guess I bought this here and couldn’t listen to it for ages. So it was a bad example. I only happened to notice it in alphabetizing. My daughter was willing to help until I told her it was 3 letters deep and she was like l8rs, Imma listen to Vocaloid, which I have convinced iTunes to accept in hirgana and katakana, although this has created alphabetizing issures of its own…
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Not from a parody account, it would appear:

libtweet

Idoru

by Belle Waring on December 15, 2013

Sooooo, the youngs. you may have heard they like Justin Beiber or Rhianna or something. They don’t. They like computer constructs, only one of which is human, and we hear her voice only, and anyway there is some debate about whether she’s canon. Vocaloids! The original technology was invented by Kenmochi Hideki at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain in 2000. Backed by the Yamaha Corporation, it developed the software into the commercial product “Vocaloid.” (ボーカロイド Bōkaroido). (This product exists separately from the Vocaloids I’m talking about and is used to generate back-up vocals and other things like that in ordinary pop songs). The most popular is naturally 01, Hatsune Miku. You can even see her perform live! (You should really watch this—it’s not clear quite how bizarre the scene is till partway through.) Her ‘voice’ is compressed into the upper range of human hearing, and beyond what any human could sing. But it’s not merely a person’s voice sped up; it’s constructed (though some samples were taken from a Japanese actress).
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Sorting Hat’s Gotta Sort

by Belle Waring on December 13, 2013

OK everyone, important moral questions here! Set your trifling trolley tracks and trickery to one side! IF you were set under the Sorting Hat in Hogwart’s Academy for Witchcraft and Wizardry, would you be a Hufflepuff, a Slytherin, a Ravenclaw, or a Gryffindor? Now, it’s important to remember that the books are all about a bunch of Gryffindors who save the world a British boarding school from evil. And that Ms. Rowling, though awesome in many many ways, suffers from world-building problems in others (she is free to tell me my 7-book series, which unites all the children of the world in the love of reading, is conceptually flawed as well.)

There are larger problems, such as the eensy-weensy “er, not to Godwin your whole series, and I know your evil wizard from the 30s backstory was going there, but, um, why aren’t wizards ruling the world, with Voldemort having a continental empire, full of Muggles whom he has shuffling off, of their own accord, under the imperius curse, quite horribly with no need for guards or jailers or even wizards to construct the camps…?” Naturally in a book for children one would put it more, “why aren’t wizards trying with a bit more of a ‘can-do spirit’ to take over the world, I wonder?” Setting that aside, within Hogwart’s itself: we get Cedric Diggory to remember, and he’s super-hot and everything in a pale, unhealthy way, but otherwise, Draco Malfoy’s initial pronouncement that he’d rather not be in the school at all than be a Hufflepuff is not really gainsaid, leaving you with the impression that they are a bunch of morons. Not so! The eventual TOTAL FAIL fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, while written in some wiki fashion by libertarians, or possibly by the character Randy in Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon (which some of you may have heard of from Stephenson-quoter-kun) has some very good features (I realize it does not sound at all plausible when I have laid it out like that but it really does have its moments). Fine, technically it’s written by the Less Wrong people. Waaaay different.
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Domestic Helpers

by Belle Waring on December 10, 2013

The foreign workers in Singapore are divided by gender into two tasks and two entirely different ways of life. I talked below about the men, who do mainly construction, but also work on the oil refineries off the south coast. Women who are guest workers almost all work as domestic helpers, who live with the family for whom they work, and do a variety of tasks: cleaning house, cooking, taking care of children, taking care of elderly or disabled family members, washing cars, shopping at the wet market for fresh food like fish and tofu and eggs and fruit and vegetables, shopping at the grocery store for rice and noodles and frozen chapati and Marshmallow Fluff, etc. etc. Most are from the Philippines, but many are from Indonesia and some from Myanmar or Thailand—some must be from mainland China but I feel I never hear of them. Expats like me would hire them if they were from Beijing and spoke even rudimentary English, because then they could help our children better their Mandarin. Women from the Philippines are paid more, because they are likelier to speak better English and be better educated (not so uncommonly with a post high-school degree, like our first helper, who worked for us for nine years.) They are also paid more because the government of the Philippines has negotiated a minimum wage for them, as I understand it. Indonesian helpers are sometimes 18-year-old girls who have literally come straight from a village where they lived in a house with a packed earth floor, and then they are screamed at because they didn’t use the right setting on the washing machine. They go through training courses paid for by the maid agency, allegedly. I think this is more a spurious reason for the agency to make the fee paid by the workers higher (as in many places, the women often pay a multiple of their eventual monthly salary to the Indonesian agency that gets them a job in Singapore.) The government of Singapore requires employers of helpers to pay a levy of—mmm—$380? (One of those convenient internet banking things). Domestic helpers are now guaranteed one day off a week but only if contracts were signed in 2013; previously Filipina workers were guaranteed one day off a month—oooh, lavish innit—and workers from Indonesia and Myanmar…none.
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Riot In Singapore

by Belle Waring on December 9, 2013

There was a truly unprecedented riot in Singapore’s Little India neighborhood last night. (Video report from the BBC, Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera’s good report.) Our family just moved house, out to the wilds of Bukit Batok (a lovely apartment, actually, next to the Bukit Gombak MRT). Up till October, though, we were living right up the road from the spot where it took place, like 700m away; we would have been able to hear the yelling no question, and the bus exploding with what I imagine would have been rather startling ease. The riot started when a private bus, driven by a Singaporean, struck and killed an Indian worker while backing up. The bus driver was injured in the riot, and the bus itself destroyed completely. There is video of the windshield being smashed, and later footage of the bus completely aflame, suddenly punctuated by the gas tank bursting. Ambulances and, later, police cars (??! there aren’t enough interrobangs to express my feelings about typing this sentence) were also turned over and torched. A number of policemen were injured in the riot, as were some rioters, but the police never fired on the crowd, and got things under control within two hours, and happily no one else died. The cops were able to get there in a hurry because the Tanglin Police Post (bigger than a station, and more important) is about 500m away. They’ve had a big photo on one of their recruiting ads for ages, on a banner on the side of the building, that shows a bunch of ethnically diverse police officers armed with riot gear and huge plastic shields. I used to think, whenever I rode past in the taxi, so exhausted from work and in terrible pain, at the end of a thirty minute drive, with my head fallen to one side and my cheekbone pressed flat on the glass like skinless chicken breast against the cold plastic in the butcher’s section, “well, they ain’t never going to get the chance to do that.”
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Because I Love You

by Belle Waring on December 3, 2013

I think it’s possible—nay, probable—naw, it is a nigh-certainty that you have not seen one of the best music videos ever made, quite randomly for French electronica duo Justice (they aren’t even, they’re sort of a rock band. But not.) It stars a young Snake Plissken (presumably before he is inserted into, and subsequently [SPOILER ALERT] escapes from, New York, in the movie “Escape From New York.” I strongly encourage everyone to go on and click full screen and listen to the song and everything. Dudes this is so fucking awesome. C’mon. Did they actually program a computer from the 1980s to make some of the “high-definition” graphics?

My best friend from middle school and I once wrote a program like that which, by displaying a series of screens on which we had drawn the lines point to point, created the image of a rotating green wire cube on a black screen on her Apple II c. It took us like four hours or something. More? Her family’s cook made killer shrimp tempura, though, so that was sustaining. And then coffee milkshakes and chocolate cookies for afters. Actually she would ask you egg preferences the night before and bring us breakfast in bed every morning that I ever slept over, which was a billion. With fresh-squeezed OJ. With sugar in the coffee already how she knew you liked it. Mrs. Hong was the shit, but she was prone to get angry and would not let anyone go in the kitchen and make a peanut butter sandwich or anything. Or even a bowl of cereal. Eventually Sacha’s mom had to fire her when Mrs. Hong threw a huge-ass knife at her during an argument over menu planning and it stuck, quivering, embedded a good two inches in the plaster of sloping ceiling of the back stairs. Even then it was a struggle (internally, for her mom). Mrs. Hong claimed it was a “warning shot” and hadn’t gone that close to Sacha’s mom’s head, which was kind of true but kind of not super-relevant. Anyway, A ROTATING CUBE YOU GUYS RLY! We were siced. Just like how siced I am about this video right now.
ETA: sometimes the frame isn’t quite wide enough, so watch on YouTube if not.

In Addition to Being Racist, Everyone is Pro-Infanticide

by Belle Waring on November 19, 2013

What I am curious about in the Singer/infanticide/ending the life of the disabled vein is, what do those who are totally opposed to every form of infanticide think about anencephalic babies (and babies who have similarly non-survivable, severe birth defects)? I don’t think that, as a formerly pregnant person who has given birth to healthy children, my opinions on these questions have any extra merit, but I do think others not so situated may share my opinions without feeling so strongly about them, or in the same way. Perhaps the situation calls for some epistemic humility? The terrifying prospect to me, and to many mothers, of “late-term” abortion bans, is that pregnancies which are terminated after 20 weeks are almost all wanted pregnancies in which something horrible has occurred or been discovered. (And, in those cases where the baby is unwanted, there are almost certainly serious problems in the woman’s life that have led to the delay in getting an abortion sooner.) So, in a situation of supreme horror, the fetus might die, but the mother might be forced to carry the dead fetus inside her and have labor induced, to struggle in pain and blood to bring her dead baby into the world. She would feel the liquid inside her, and the lax ligaments, and all the other things she felt in pregnancy, but she would know the baby was dead. I have heard of mothers knowing right away. So close to you then, infinitely close, but infinitely far, and a rotting thing now, a poison for the rest of your body. So awful.

My first pregnancy was easy and wonderful. I felt and looked glowing, and although I was in labor for more than 40 hours (remind me not to do that again) I gave birth vaginally to a healthy girl who latched onto the breast just a few minutes after she was born, and fed well and naturally. In my second pregnancy I had unexplained bleeding starting at 19 weeks. Bright pink fresh blood in the toilet bowl. I thought my heart would stop. I thought her heart had stopped. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I was in terrible pain (I often am; but it seemed like she was tap-dancing on the worst bit of me.) I kept bleeding on and off. I knew how many movements she was supposed to make in an hour and I counted, and counted, and counted, hour after hour, so scared, and then another hour. The doctors were determined to deliver her surgically as soon as they felt she was cooked up right, so, 37 weeks. It turned out to be nothing serious, placenta previa (the organ grew over the cervical os, the opening to the birth canal, blocking the baby’s egress.) She was fine.

But sometimes when the doctors check, they find that the fetus, which has appeared to be developing fine, has no brain at all, that the blackness inside her skull on the scans is only water. This is not even a fetus, really—certainly not a future infant. It will never feel pleasure at a mother’s touch, or pain from being pinched by a crib mattress, or see anything, or hear anything. It is empty. Laws that would force a woman to stay pregnant and nourish and grow that wrongly-made creature inside her, and to suffer the agonies of childbirth, and to bring forth this…not-baby—laws like that are torture. I would go mad. I would try to abort the fetus myself. I would try to kill myself. I would want to be put to sleep then, there, in the doctor’s office, and wake up, not pregnant, and with a little coffin to bury my hope and love inside. With ashes inside, only, because I would want not to look, but I would look, and I would always wish I had not.

But let us say an unjust, oppressive, Christian regime forces me to endure, and to deliver this severely deformed baby. Does anyone think we should use artificial life support to keep the baby alive? Almost all fetuses of this type are stillborn, and those that are not usually die on the first day of ‘life.’ Even the Catholic Church has some hand-waving about letting God’s will take its course. That is, they are not insistent on providing hydration and nutrition—no one even considers artificial respiration. Reading on it, three children have lived a year or so. There are pictures of course, and now I wish I hadn’t looked at them, and I am so sorry, the poor little things, and so sorry for the parents. For the mothers! When I think of those oscillations inside you, feeling movements you didn’t make, the mysterious gliding of blood-wet surfaces over each other in the absolute black, the not-you inside you…what if you knew in the end there was nothing? Some kind of seasickness of death? At the last you would be holding a newly hatched chick, naked and grey and dead, grey and jerking with dying? But back to the matter at hand, we all think a form of infanticide is appropriate here, right? No one’s on team ‘drastic measures for resuscitation?’ Artificial respiration for 80 years, for something that can never feel you hold his hand? A rough golem on whose forehead no glyph has been inscribed? So isn’t there a small number of real-world, continuously-occurring cases in which we are all pro-infanticide?

UPDATE: so misinterpreted! Obviously my fault also. I didn’t jump in to give Singer crucial moral support. I’m not totally sure how I did…I guess I’m implying all his critics are disingenuous and have parked themselves at the top of a slippery slope with some dubious wedge. I apologize to sincere Singer-critics for insulting their position in this way. That wasn’t actually what I was trying to do at all. I was genuinely curious. There was a case maybe eight years ago now, but I can no longer find it in the welter of anti-abortion and pro-abortion articles, in which a woman’s 24 or even 26-week-old fetus died, and the laws of her state required a waiting period before you could get a late term abortion (Texas IIRC?). The removal of a dead fetus is done via dilation and curettage, i.e., via abortion. So she had to go talk to some doctor, and then go stay by herself in a motel with her dead baby inside her for two days. She wrote about her experience and I remember thinking, I don’t know if I could live through two days of that. A responsible, thoughtful doctor would have deemed the dead fetus a threat to her health and her ability to have future children and had it removed on those grounds, but in this particular case, it was a Catholic hospital and none of these things happened. So I did mean to say, I think there are a number of infants born each year whose lives everyone agrees cannot go on in any way. That doesn’t mean that—HAHA! now everyone is obliged to accept all Singer’s positions; I was honestly curious, not mock-curious, and I honestly don’t know what all Singer’s positions are. But I also meant to describe to people who haven’t been pregnant the terror of something going wrong, and how you hope you would be a good enough person to accept your baby any way she came, but you fear you’re not brave enough, not really, not truly brave enough. And that as long as she was inside maybe you could pretend it would be alright somehow? But even then there is only one feeling that is ever like this, of having something inside you that is alive, that isn’t you, that you are waiting for, and how would it be if you were waiting for nothing? That’s all. I really don’t know enough about Singer’s positions to arbitrate on any of these questions; I was just thinking, we need to hear from severely handicapped people who were written off as a total loss before we know whether he can be right. We might also be interested to hear from mothers. And I’m only the mother of perfectly healthy babies! That’s it. I’m not laying down my life for in-group sacrifice.

Lysander: Proceed, Bushwick Bill

by Belle Waring on November 19, 2013

Moonshine
All that I have to say, is, to tell you that the
lanthorn is the moon; I, the man in the moon; this
thorn-bush, my thorn-bush; and this dog, my dog.

‘Ah, so it’s come to this, I see! Ms. Waring wishes to share with us her love of Geto Boys. This is a bridge too far. Really, though. These are the Let a Ho be a Ho people here. Is this some sort of feint after which other marginally less implausible opinions will seem more plausible?’ (hint: ish.) Oh look everyone! It’s Unsung, a Behind-The-Music style show about black musicians, with a whole episode about Geto Boys!

What’s that? You say that it is, possible worlds and all, conceivable that I might have found something you were less likely to watch/listen to, but I would have had need to strive hard? Look, you goobers listen to podcasts about Alan Greenspan’s tragic and shamefully-lauded legacy in US monetary policy. Multiple podcasts of such wise. You listen to podcasts with Dan Drezner in them! (Sorry Dan, but you’ve never laid down beats like this.) It would hurt you real bad to hear about a concrete way in which racism in American society is applied to obscenity and threats of violence, would it? And hear some killer tracks? Scroll on, then, one wouldn’t want you to dirty your hands. SIKE! No, motherf%*#kers! Just open a tab and listen; it ain’t like it’s going to kill you. Though you will be missing interesting and humorous visual effects. “But Belle, I hate all rap music!” OK, this is nonetheless rather historically interesting, you may find, about the spasm of violence in the late ‘80s and mid ‘90s in the US that seemed like it would never end, and the real fear that hip-hop induced in white listeners. This white dude who was covering the hip-hop beat at Source magazine at the time is probably the single whitest person who has ever lived, including Immanuel Kant. His last name is Soren! When he tells you, “people were scared of this music!” you think, “you wet your pants when Paul Anka came on the oldies station!” Nah, but, in fact he’s extraordinarily well-informed etc. “But Belle, I only care about the history of Neolithic Northern Africa!” Oh really! How fascinating! Well, you’re off the hook then, but you should be getting about your business, I must say. This is rather a lot of slacking already. Oh hey five minute version!
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So, during our latest enjoyable discussion fracas mêlée, John alluded to the fact that what I have is something more like a reading illness than a love of literature per se. I usually either walked to school or took the (very crowded) bus when I lived in New York. So I never developed the special skill, honed to perfection by my uncle, of folding the New York Times first, in half upper to lower; then, in halves again but along the central line; finally, in half again along the midline, and reading 1/8 of a page at a time. This sounds easy. But you really need to picture my uncle, a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, taking the subway to work down on Wall Street from the upper East side, whence he was bound to get a seat—I must note he was being rather frugal (which will seem to be belied by what follows, but having a smaller number of really well-made suits is cheaper in the long run). There he is: sitting, in a beautiful bespoke suit (I thought he would die when during a brief fever of dot.com bubbliness the firm introduced “casual Fridays,” which policy was happily discarded in 2000, as I assured him it would be), and horn-rimmed glasses, on the express, hemmed in by people, none of whom he is inconveniencing in any way by his NYT reading, because of his special, lifetime-New-Yorker ability to pick up each section, shake it into sudden crisp folds against its own grain, and repeat, as needed, until all is read and the crossword finished by 7:45 a.m. when he gets to work. (As I say, it sounds easy, but think of what happens when you must get from an article folded into the top left 1/8 of one page into the middle 1/8 of the lower part of the next page, and you may not extend it beyond your knees or your elbows beyond your shoulders.) He is a very meticulous and wonderful person, my uncle.
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There Are Men Eating Menstrual Pads

by Belle Waring on September 26, 2013

Oh, Belle. Belle, Belle, Belle. First, you told us some authors were such a bunch of sexist dillweeds that you didn’t really like their novels all that much. In a throwaway sentence! A sentence that made it clear that you in fact didn’t read such books at all, but merely checked the covers for sexist content and then threw the books away in the trash. In. The. Trash. And then John said you could read fast. Biased much LOL! Yeah, well, so fast that you stopped reading books completely after you reached a sexist sentence! Because that’s manifestly what ‘reading fast’ means. Yes, and then you had an actual man testify again on your behalf that you finished books even if you didn’t super-love them. Like—probably the only chick in the world, seriously! How was any of us to know that “reads books fast” means “reads books”? What is this, some kind of crazy advanced logic class, or a blog?

So then you explained at length, that you were only talking about this one group of male authors who wrote more or less from the ‘50s on, and that you didn’t like their novels because you thought they weren’t good novels. When since is that a reason not to like a novel, I would like to know, Missy? Any anyway, Belle, your problem is that you’re reading the wrong thing. Nobody cares about these books anymore! Or, as a commenter suggested: “No. It seems your definition of ‘important’ is skewing your choice of reading, so not surprising that your results are skewed. I’d suggest that you drop everything else for a while until you’ve finished reading all of Pratchett and Banks.” [Here I must note that for whatever odd reason this rubbed me the wrong way. I have already read all of Pratchett and Banks (except maybe one Tiffany Aching one?). The knowledge that there will be no new Iain M. Banks novels dismays me. He’s one of my all-time favorite writers full-stop. WHY AFTER 500 COMMENTS WOULD SOMEONE NOT ASK IF I HAD READ THEM ALL FIRST BECAUSE YOU KNOW, I VERY WELL MIGHT HAVE? Unnamed commenter: I don’t hate on you; it was almost bad luck that you…naw, you still shouldn’t have been so patronizing. But, like, talk to me, dude, what were you thinking?]

Well, dear readers, someone does care about these authors. Someone cares very, very much, and that man is University of Toronto Professor David Gilmour. In a recent interview with Random House Canada’s Emily Keeler, he explained his teaching philosophy:

I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth….
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This Is The New Most Racist Field Trip of All Time

by Belle Waring on September 24, 2013

So, somewhere, someone proposed this idea, and other people said, “yes, that sounds like an excellent and educational idea.” Children from the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (which seems to be a magnet school in a majority minority public school district, but I’m not 100% sure) went for a 3 day field trip last year to a place called “Nature’s Classroom” in Charlton, MA. The students were notified about an “optional” Underground Railroad Skit 30 minutes before it occurred, on the last night. There, according to testimony from a father filing suit on behalf of his 12-year-old daughter under the Civil Rights act (along with some more ordinary “damages” suits against the school board), this happened (her re-telling, via the father):

Before we went into the dark room, we were lined up outside and asked to imagine running with our families in Africa. The slave master finds us and beats, stabs, and kills my father in front of me. I went into a dark room where I had to sit on my bottom with my knees touching; my legs fell asleep and were hurting….the instructor told us,”we don’t need any sick slaves; if you get sick we will throw you overboard.” I was told that sharks were following us and could smell our blood.

So far so good, right? But here’s where a teachable moment—turned into a terrible catastrophe. No, jk obviously, this is the most insane horrible thing I’ve ever heard of! But it does get worse.
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Is it really the case that pretty much all the Important Male Novelists of the mid to late 20th-century are such sexist dillweeds that it is actually impossible to enjoy the books, for many intelligent people? That would be a bummer, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Best suggestion for contemporary author of well-rounded female characters, from Tom: Kim Stanley Robinson. I LOL’ed. Shall we consider together?

John Updike, Norman Mailer: self-explanatory. If I get pushback on this I just…I don’t know. All right, The Naked and The Dead is an OK novel but after he turned into the Baron Harkonnen of Important Male Authors his literary credits were retroactively revoked. I read that novel about Egypt twice, don’t y’all make me go there! (Why? Because it was there. No, really. It was at my house. It’s why I’ve read The Tommyknockers twice also. It was at my house and then it was at a backpacker place in Melaka I stayed in when I had wicked jet lag for a day.) Philip Roth: sorry dudes, it just be’s like that sometimes. Saul Bellow: I am not qualified to say! Readers, please advise. Gaddis: aw, aw…goddamn. Did you—couldn’t you just have left out—? There has never been a book I enjoyed so much, that I threw against the wall so hard and hated so utterly as JR. It was devastatingly clear in the first hundred or so pages how unhappy I would be. And yet so skilfully gulled! Don DeLillo: Here quite a decent case can be made that he just hates everyone. And yet—yet—he hates some people more equally than others. Just set him side by side with J.G. Ballard, who truly hates everyone, and you will see what I mean.

Jonathan Franzen: he’s by no means the worst of the lot! He’s just young enough to know better. Some objected below that none of his characters are real, but rather all represent ideas in the fashion of… Look, I yield to no man in my love of Mann. I am a woman who, when packing to go to the beach in Thailand, decided to re-read Buddenbrooks. I know my Mynheeren Peeperkorn, Mr. Franzen, and you have not written a Mynheer Peeperkorn. Also, it is precisely Franzen’s desire to be an Important Male Novelist of the 20th Century that is so grating; he is a squirrel in the “random reward” group of a Skinner-box experiment that investigates how frequently the squirrel will press the lever that dispenses cocaine. D.F. Wallace: a good writer who is not such a sexist dillweed that it prevents one from enjoying his work, and is nonetheless an officially canonized Important Novelist. How satisfactory! He also needed an editor, though. Does no one have an editor? Do they rely on the firm rock of the horrible-looking PC OS to keep them real?
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