From the category archives:

Family Life

You Poor Bastards

by Belle Waring on April 16, 2014

OK, my mom texted me earlier that it was snowing in D.C. That is wrecked-up sideways, people. LAND’S SAKES IT IS THE MIDDLE OF APRIL?! In a way I should really post the Weezer song “My Name is Jonas,” because, do you know what else? Guess what I received in a text today—words of deep concern from my little brother. Building’s not going as he planned. The vortex means digging is banned. The dozer will not clear a path; the driver swears he learned his math! The workers are going home—I reckon, because the dirt’s frozen! How’s the man meant to get a cellar dug for his cool 1950s-plan cabin on the lower meadow of his proppity up in West Virginia if it starts snowing and the workers are going home? Now I imagine it’s all going to melt in a trice but this really has been retarding his plans, for real, and not just in a Weezer song (which is an excellent song, but not as good as “Say it Ain’t So,” The Best Weezer Song. Um. OK, no, I’m changing my plea to guilty claim to “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here“). Yep, they have had the stones and the timber and all that, sufficient to build a cabin, and all taken from the woods itself, but they haven’t been able to break ground till last week because they couldn’t break into the damn ground!

And now it’s snowing on all they poor heads, even that of Fatso, the chihuahua-pomeranian mix, who isn’t fat, and was chosen for his mighty endurance and ability to withstand the harsh winters by sitting in a dog bed made of a damn knitting basket or something right up next to the wood stove. I am told that despite being a pom-chi-chi (no, psych, it’s cause he’s 1/4 pom and the rest chi), Fatso has the soul of a black lab, and that I will love him and not think he is a wretched yappy creature whom humans brought into the world only in order to illuminate the First Noble Truth. We’ll see. E’erbody says so, though. Hmmm. OK Fatso, win my heart. He’ll get a chance this summer when I meet him for the first time.

Anyway, for the rest of y’all, here’s DJ Earworm’s Summermash 2013, with the “hey where’s all my ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Blurred Lines’” you were wondering about I was complaining about with regard to the 2013 mashup (which has grown on me). Watch, listen, and imagine. Summer is coming, sure as anything. If she is delayed in some way I feel certain that small felt and metal figures whose manipulable fingers become dark with smuts over the course of the film will be animated in stop-motion and narrated over by an avuncular zombie Burl Ives in such wise as to overcome any difficulties as may be posed by the Snow Miser or Jim DeMint or whoever.


Ha, just kidding! Sorry, sensei! It’s actually me, your friendly yet irreverent and over-enthusiastic Belle Waring. I read so much manga, dudes. So much. In Singapore, we use the metric system and everything, (which is way more rational, except for acres which are totes intuitive and based on a meaningful connenction to the land) so I know for certain I read a metric f$^Kton of manga. There are just piles around, and John is like “we’re reading Black Butler now?” Me: “Mmmmmaybe. Zoë said she was going to stop reading it at volume VIII. [For free, online at (since we only own I-V) which, OMG it’s gonna kill the print business! But no, because it bitens the ween.] There were about to be zombies (she’s scared of zombies). 1hr 15 minutes later she said the zombies weren’t as bad as she thought. Sebastian’s hot, so.”

The truth is that we never acquire great amounts of anything until a) John has already bought the full (iff sub 20, for he is an frugal Oregonian) run. Then, slowly, like a hopeful NYC resident of his new summer house in Bridgehampton feeding corn to deer, he coaxes us out by telling us that these are, in fact, excellent manga such as normal people read, and we all ignore him and say things like “you bought the hardback edition of Lois Lane: Superman’s Girlfriend, which is like a moving, 12-minute-long youtube-tribute-to-Paul Walker supercut of the Fast and Furious movies, except of superdickery—we don’t believe a word you say, man. Saying you wanted to read the entire thing to us aloud over a series of like 20 f&c*#ng nights ironically is not a valid objection.” And you shouldn’t feed the deer because they are adorable vermin and they eat every single thing you have every planted that is not actively poisonous to deer (don’t think this isn’t a bigass section at at the nursery). That’s why we haven’t read 20th Century Boys, despite owning the books. Or b) the other way we get stuff is I start to like it (this is the win scenario for my children). When I started reading Naruto, we had volumes 1-23. We now have volumes 1-66, roughly 8 weeks later. Why am I reading thousands of pages of comics about ninjas? Oh, golly, I thought you’d never ask!
[click to continue…]

Time-recognition for having a baby by the ERC

by Ingrid Robeyns on April 5, 2014

In many European Countries (fn1), scholars applying for research grants with the National Research Councils can indicate that they had a child, and get additional ‘time recognition’. Many grants, especially the most prestigious and best-funded grants, work with a time-limit, e.g. you can only apply until Y years after getting your PhD degree, or between X and Y years after getting your PhD degree. If you had a baby, you can add a certain number of months to Y – which makes the timeframe more flexible for the applicant.

Now, as our friend of the blog Z rightly remarks in the comment following my previous post, the ERC has a quite remarkable policy on time-recognition for having a baby:

if you want to be shocked by something in the [ERC] report, you can have a look at their policy towards the deduction of parental leave from the qualifying period for a starting grant: 18 months per children for women, the actual amount of parental leave taken for men. Say what? What is the presupposition here that justifies such a differential treatment? What was wrong with “the actual amount of leave taken” (perhaps times a multiplier to be more family friendly) for both gender? I felt insulted both as a father of two children born in quite rapid succession at a critical period of my career and on behalf of my wife, who apparently is considered by the ERC to be not being devoted to her work for 18 months, even if she worked full-time the day her mandatory maternity leave ended.

[click to continue…]

Fine, So Fine

by Belle Waring on March 18, 2014

Today something wonderful happened to me. I was thinking yesterday, “Bruno Mars has got an incredible voice. There are so many pop stars that can’t sing for shit, and their voice isn’t just using Auto-Tune as a crutch, nnn hnnn no it is not, their voice isn’t even the sort of thing that has legs at all, most likely, and their manager probably just set it in an Auto-Tune wheelchair and got panicked and pushed throw pillows up all around. And then? Then it sings “Roar,” and may the Good Lord keep us [do not click on that link. I was morally obligated to provide it in the interests of completeness]. Bruno Mars can legit sing. And he’s a talented guitarist. And he’s pretty as hell—where are all the so, so many Bruno Mars songs that I love?” Now, “Locked Out of Heaven” is a really good song. It references the early 80s turn towards well-Policed reggae in a way I really like. Many pop bands did a reggae thing during that period that [here Belle draws shape of ‘square’ in air with forefinger of each hand] was often too rightthere on all ‘eff oh you are’ beats, ironically lacked any freedom to move, and was one of many musical equations asymptotically approaching the x-axis of the Sisters of Mercy. The drum machine in the Sisters of Mercy was named Doktor Avalanche, and he was an actually important person in the band.
[click to continue…]

IPPR on immigration: cup half full or half empty ?

by Chris Bertram on March 6, 2014

The UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research has just published a new report on immigration, “A fair deal on migration for the UK”. Given the recent toxicity of the British debate on migration, with politicians competing to pander to the xenophobic UKIP vote, it is in some ways refreshing to read a set of policy proposals that would be an improvement on the status quo. Having said that, the status quo is in big trouble, with the Coalition government having failed to reach its net migration target (the numbers are actually going the wrong way) and with open warfare breaking out between ministers. Given the current climate, however, this probably marks the limit of what is acceptable to the Labour Party front bench (who have notably failed to oppose the current Immigration Bill), so it represents a marker of sorts, albeit that it is a strange kind of thing to be masquerading as a progressive approach.

The report is structured around the need to respond to the current “crude restrictionist” approach to immigration and positions itself by rejecting other views which it characterizes as “failed responses” (pp. 9-10). Leaving aside the “super pragmatist” approach which is actually remarkably close to their own, these are the “super-rationalist” and the “migrants rights activist” approaches, the first of which consists of telling the public clearly what the current social scientific research says and the second sticking up for a vulnerable group on grounds of justice. Since both of these groups have strong grounds for doing what they are doing—telling the truth and fighting injustice, respectively—it seems rather tendentious and self-serving to represent them as being simply failed attempts to do what the IPPR is trying to do, namely, influence senior politicians.
[click to continue…]

Staff of Life

by Belle Waring on February 3, 2014

In comments below, godoggo suggested that no self-respecting Jew would give a damn about what was in plain white bread ever. This may be the wrongest thing ever said on the internet. (Probably not, though.) roy belmont also wishes us to note that there are two senses of trolling, that in which you…oh, read the postscript.

Step 1: get Belle’s dad to make it for you, in lovely Bluffton, S.C. Fallback Plan:
Belle’s Dad’s White Bread
1. boil 1 peeled baking potato, cut into 1-inch cubes, in enough water to cover, until potato is soft
2. sprinkle 2 1/2 t instant yeast (from a jar) over 1 c cooled, scalded milk mixed with 2 T white sugar (welp, they allus say “scald” and that but it just means warm the milk up but not too hot or it’ll kill the yeasties. You can use a bowl in the microwave. If you could give it to a baby, it’s an OK temp—so, use the same test: put some on the crook of your inner arm. It should feel blood-warm but not too hot.)
3. cover yeast/milk mixture with cloth and sing to yeast [TOTES CRUCE]. You should improvise here. “Oh, so happy yeasties all the time, making bread, we love you, full of life…etc.” Peek under cloth after 5-15 minutes depending on where you live, and if it’s bubbly then it’s ready. (Hot, moist places it goes faster, obvs.) Everyone in my family genuinely sings the “oh, so happy little yeasties all the time, we love you little joys, beloved creatures…etc” song every time we make yeast bread.
4. Pour water off potato into measuring cup. Discard all but 3/4 c. Return to potato and mash along with 2 T unsalted butter (please spend extra and buy President. We likes it.) Just with a fork, it can have small lumps. If you care put it through a potato ricer or food mill.
5. Mix milk/yeast mixture with potato. ADD 1 t SALT OMG I FORGOT THIS AT FIRST I HOPE NOBODY MADE THIS ALREADY! Add 2 c flour and mix well with a wire whisk.
6. Continue to add flour 1 c at a time, switching to a wooden spoon, but no more than 6 total. If it’s wet, knead it with the dough hook on a stand mixer (but for the love of God don’t tell my dad I told you this.)
7. IRL you guessed right about how much potato and water, and it’s not wet, and you knead it by hand for 10-15 minutes (this sounds like a pain but it’s literally child’s play: make them do it.) If there are no children, you have a round thing, right? And you fold the bottom over and press it with the heel of your hand, away from you. And then you turn it a quarter turn. And then you do it again. Wait, you should read that even if there are childrem, though letting them stand on the counter and throw the dough at the counter, hard, a billion times, is a totally legit way to knead dough. But have a clean floor. And no dogs.
8. Grease your largest bowl with butter, put the dough in it, cover with clean dishcloth, let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour, or until doubled in size (draft free for real. Put it in the closet with the hot water heater if it’s winter, or a room with all the doors and windows closed if not.)
9. Punch the dough down and let everyone smell the special smell. Mmmm. Alcohol.
10. Knead it some more. Eh 6 minutes. Divide with dough scraper, flatten with your hands into rectangles, roll them up, pinching to seal, and put one in each of two buttered loaf pans.
11. Again with the dishcloths and the draft-free, but only 45 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
12. Just before you put the bread in, slash the tops three times diagonally with a razor.
13. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce to 375, then bake…eh? Like 45 mins more, till bread is nicely browned.
14. Take the pans out and put them on cooling racks briefly; then turn the loaves out. A properly cooked loaf will sound hollow when tapped with a knuckle on the bottom, sort of like a ripe watermelon should.

You must let them cool off a bit before slicing them. This will be difficult as everyone will be standing in front of the loaves (which traditionally rested atop the closed washing machine in my youth) and hopping from foot to foot going “now? Can we eat it now? Now?” Under ideal circumstances my dad will have made you whole figs preserved in syrup with paper-thin slices of lemon, or Concord grape jelly, but whatever.

P.S. roy, roy, roy, roy. Naturally there is a difference between attempting to catch something with scales for lunch and waiting under the bridge for the trippy tapp tap of the billy goats’ hooves. But unless you intend to travel back in time and prevent Skynet usenet from being invented then there is no reason to belabor the point now. And one can imagine humorous pastiches: perhaps sensei, oni-like in appearance to the uninitiate but resembling Tripitaka otherwise, is sitting below the bridge, fishing in the stream? He both demands payment and keeps an eye on the float down there, bobbling in a stiller pool? Fercryinoutloud.

P.P.S. Mebbe he has even side-baited it with a big ole hunk of stale bread? (But it ain’t my dad’s I will tell you what. I don’t think in the last 30 years anybody’s done that. Made breadcrumbs or croutons, maybe, but fish bait? No sir they have not.)

P.P.P.S. When I was little and my parents were sort of um…anarcho-syndicalist punk hippies running a communal-ish farm? I wanted hair that looked like the Sunbeam Bread Girl. My mom was just like, nope, no, no missy. She did let me dye my hair with henna, though, that was cool.

What’s The Math Made of, Ding-Dong?

by Belle Waring on January 26, 2014

ETA 24h later: I told my girls that I was wrong and that everyone on the whole internet explained that they could perfectly well go on and win the Fields Medal if they were inclined to be mathematicians, and that being super-fast at mental arithmetic as a child isn’t the same as going on to make interesting discoveries in math as an adult, and that I was a jerk, and also wrong. Additionally, wrong. So if Zoë (12) wants to take time out from her current project of teaching herself Japanese, or Violet (9) wishes to take a break from her 150-page novel about the adventures of apprentice witch Skyla Cartwheel, then, in the hypothetical words of the Funky Four Plus One: “They could be the joint.” [Listen to this song because it’s the joint.]

“Y’all’s fakes!”

If you’re impatient you can skip ahead to 3:20 or so. Tl;dw: the overly scientific Princess Bubblegum, having snuck into Wizard City dressed in wizard gear along with Finn and Jake, is buying a spell from a head shop place that sells potions and spells and all that schwazaa. But she wants to know what the spell’s made of. “Magic?” Then she asks…read the post title. Then they get busted.

“So, kiddos,” I asked my kids in the elevator on the way down to the pools today, “are numbers real, or are they just something people made up?” Violet: “Real.” Zoë: “Real.” “That’s correct! Numbers are real! Like what if there were a sakura with its five petals, and it were pink, but no humans existed. Would it still be pink? Would it still have five petals?” [At approximately floor 14 I decided to bracket color problems.] “Yep.” “And things that are true about the number five, would they still be true too, like would five times five equal twenty-five and stuff?” “Totally.” “Could two plus two ever equal five, if there were no people around to check?” Zoë: “No, obviously not. Even now, people have lots of different languages, but if they have a word for five, then that word is about something that’s not two plus two, and it’s twenty-five if you multiply it by itself, and stuff like that. And people discovered zero two times.” “Correct! Math is real!” Zoë: “Also people discover important things about astrophysics with math, and then the same numbers keep turning up, and why would it be like that if there wasn’t really math?” “OK, so, we can keep discovering new things about math, right?” Girls: “Sure. Mathematicians can.” Me: “Maybe you! No, not you. I’m sorry.” Zoë: “I know.” Violet: “What?!” Me: “No, you’re both very intelligent children, you can learn calculus just as well as anyone, but if you were going to be an incredible math genius or something we’d kind of already know. Sorry.” [John was doing laps at this point. I’m not sure he approves of my negative pedagogical methods.] Zoë: “What’s set theory?” Me: “It’s just what it sounds like. There are sets of numbers, right, like all the prime numbers, all the way to infinity? Theories about that.” Violet: “I’m going swimming with daddy.” Me: “OK, there’s just more math out there, waiting to be discovered—but sometimes mathematicians come up with stuff that’s crazy. Like string theory. Which maybe isn’t a theory?” Zoë: “Why not?” Me: “I think they might not have any tests at all proposed by which to prove their hypotheses.” Zoë was very indignant: “That’s not a theory at all! What is that? Me: “Math that’s really fun and weird and entertaining if you understand it? John, can string theorists not propose any test whatsoever that would prove their hypotheses or is it rather the case that we lack the capacity to perform the tests that would figure it out?” John: “It’s an important distinction and I think it’s the latter. Like, was there an even or an odd number of hairs on Zoë’s head on March 23, 2006? There’s some true fact of the matter, but it’s indeterminable.” Me: “Well they can’t be demanding time travel, Jesus.” Violet: “We should have counted!” BEST. SUGGESTION. ERVER!1

OK, so, I’m a Platonist about math. Like lots of mathematicians I knew in grad school, actually, but not by any means all. In fact, some were a little embarrassed about their Platonism. My algebraic topologist friend was of the ‘numbers are the product of human intelligence’ school (N.B. while I understood vaguely what my HS friend who was also at Berkeley did set theory was writing is his diss on, in a kind of babified ‘along these lines’ way, I genuinely could not understand at all what my algebraic topology friend was doing. What, even?) This reminds me of an idiotic discussion I had in a Classics seminar with me vs. an entire group of people (including my dissertation adviser). They all maintained that there were no structures absent human recognition/simultaneous creation of the structures. As in, absent the evolution of humans on the earth, there would be no regular geometric structures. I was just like:?! Crystals that are even now locked in the earth inside geodes, where they will never be seen? Beehives? Wait, are these all imperfect and gently irregular, and thus unsatisfactory? They shouldn’t be because many of the crystals are perfectly regular. Anyway OH HAI ITS BENZENE? I…was neither presented with any compelling counter-arguments nor was I winning the argument. It was very irritating. Then I brought up my own objection—this is steel-manning, I guess: benzene was created/isolated by humans? Like Faraday even? Fine, NOBLE GASES! NOBLE GAS MATRIXES! I can draw argon on the board! Look at how this shell is so full of electrons mmmmm this probably doesn’t want to react with anything cuz it’s so lazy amirite guys (but we can make it (but also in the Crab Nebula it’s happening naturally!) but that’s irrelevant))! I still…did not win the argument. We were forcibly moved on to another topic.

I know people wanted to discuss the external reality/human-created nature of numbers and math in the earlier thread, but we got trolled by someone who was ‘just askin’ questions’ and said I ‘had to check with each and every commenter about exactly what he/she intended’ before taking offense ever at something, say, sexist that someone said. (HhHHmmmyoursuggestionfascina—NO.) Now’s your chance!
N.B. Long-time CT commenter Z alone is permitted to use humorous quotes from recalled Barbie and Malibu Stacey dolls in his discussion with me. If anyone else does I will smite you. With smiting.

Love Is Gonna Let Me Down. Not Reggae, Though

by Belle Waring on January 10, 2014

One time I made a mix that was Belle’s Saddest Mix Ever. This was to go with my brother Ben’s Saddest Mix Ever. The were not disjunct. This song by Toots and the Maytals was on both:

Everytime I see your face
Something moves within my heart
And it thrills me to my soul
And tells me that
Love is gonna let me down…

[click to continue…]

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.)

[click to continue…]

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…
[click to continue…]

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.
[click to continue…]

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.”
[click to continue…]

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.

And They Played Angola Prison Spirituals as the Recessional

by Belle Waring on September 24, 2012

So, some celebrities got married: Blake Lively, who was in the TV show Gossip Girl, and Ryan Reynolds, who was in the Green Lantern and is one of those dudes who is stipulated to be handsome but his eyes are too close together so he just looks moronic. Like a younger…thingface. Whoever. Lively herself is an off-brand Gwyneth Paltrow so it’s suitable.

They had the wedding, which was all perfect and arranged by actual Martha Stewart with color-coördinated jordan almonds (OK I made that detail up, but almost certainly yes), at Boone Hall Plantation, outside of Charleston in South Carolina. Boone Hall almost alone of the pre-Civil War plantations has its slave quarters intact. I think this is actually awesome about Boone Hall. At all the other plantations, you go, and some nice white volunteer shows you around, and you have to just use your imagination. The main house is now surrounded by vast lawns, and live oaks and azaleas, wisteria and breath of spring, tea olive, daphne odora, gardenias, and mounds of Lady Banksia roses. Mmmm, up in Charleston that Lady Banksia will get up to one-and-a-half stories high. I’m not sure why it doesn’t grow so well in Savannah. Pretty little yellow roses on a climbing vine, heaping up on itself, all up around old fenceposts. But no hovels! No wood fires, no chickens, no foundries! No crying babies, no foremen, no one making grits, no one getting beat the hell up, no black people!
[click to continue…]

I must make a Public Statement about Women Who Breastfeed While Teaching. Because I am a woman who used to teach, and I breastfed, and though I never breastfed my kid during class I did on occasion bring him while I was teaching. And I think I may have breastfed him during at least one faculty meeting.

[click to continue…]