From the category archives:

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John and Belle Used to Have a Blog

by Belle Waring on November 2, 2015

Remember? This post and comments are about meta songs that refer to themselves in the song, and I got a ton of great recommendations. Definitely enough for the themed mix I didn’t end up making and will do now. I noted that the genius Raspberries song “Overnight Sensation” has the lines “and if the program director don’t want it/he’s bound to get back a bullet,” which is ridiculous, as Eric Carmen is like the third least-hardcore person in the entire world, after Art Garfunkel and Usher. The plaintive would-be hit has a radio effect at 3:05 that I lovelovelove.

I thought the other day, you know, I wrote stuff almost daily for…7 or 8 years? But I never read it. Then someone linked to an old post and I was moved to go. It’s like I have a huge diary online, which I don’t look at.* It’s sort of weird. It does make me feel I should throw up posts more often on this here blog, just because there’s surely always one thing I have an opinion about each day. Such as, in Minecraft PE creative mode it seems as if you can use the monster spawn cages as industrial-style end tables, or cool window grilles. I’ve just tested them in a cave and gotten nothing; I haven’t built anything with them yet. But OTOH I’ve gotten actual monsters spawning out of the naturally occurring ones since the recent update (in which I got rain! I love Minecraft rain!). I like to spawn harmless monsters to give my smoothed, finished linked caverns some atmosphere, except not spiders because NO. Also ghasts make creepy noises you can hear from above-ground even after you brick them into a huge cave, mewling down there in their blockish-Lovecraftian fashion. But the girls loathe it when I make Endermen to walk around carrying the world away block by block to build the Enderlands. I wouldn’t want my realistic HDB window grilles to make my girls unhappy by generating Endermen inside at random. I bet you guys have lots of opinions about this. “Belle, don’t front. Endermen are straight creepy and you’re only acting brave because you never play Survival.” Or, “what the hell are you blogging about Minecraft for on this allegedly academic blog.” So many opinions. Tell me the stories of your people.

*Violet wants to explain that this is why, if you do a google image search for her name you…actually get a million baby pictures of her, personally. Also no one is named Holbo in the world except them and some other people originally from a single small farm in Norway.

Help Me Decide Which of These to Get For Rod Dreher

by Belle Waring on September 23, 2015

Hey, do you want a look at Vatican City’s hottest priests? Someone will totally sell a calendar to you. Right there next to the 10,000 other tackiest items for sale along the street that leads to St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s just black-and-white prints of photos taken on the streets in the Vatican during special days. Less appropriate sexy funtimes can be found in the Orthodox Church; the video is mildly unsafe for worth in that the camera ogles shirtless young men while they are laved from a font by a man wearing a chausuble, and that sort of thing, but the still photos are…wait, do you work in a cubicle? You don’t want to seem like this guy from the Key and Peele sketch as you’re surfing the Gaily Grind. I’ve gone tacky figurines and blessed amulets shopping there before, to buy things for Margaret, my granddad’s…maid, sort of? Housekeeper? She lived with him for more than 30 years. She was an adorable, tiny old Irish woman with a number of teeth fewer than is commonly seen, and would always fuss over how much you’d grown and make you (this was mandatory) “just a cup of tea and an English muffin with a bit of butter on it.” She planned to retire at 75. She didn’t actually know exactly how old she was, until my grandfather went to her hometown while in Ireland and looked her up in the parish church. She was older than she thought, a fact which pleases, as Agatha Christie notes, only those younger than 16 and over 80. Her three children put her in an old folk’s home as soon as she turned up. That was some King Lear shit. She called and pleaded with my grandfather to bust her out of this crummy place in New Jersey. And so she returned to her room next to the kitchen, with the old TV and the crucifixes, and the framed photos of Pope John Paul II, and performed increasingly light duties like making breakfast until she was in her late 80s or even early 90s and she needed nearby assisted living for real because she couldn’t manage the stairs. Mildly disjointly, I think the vast majority of the breakfasts my grandfather consumed during his life were brought to his bedroom on a tray and included fresh-squeezed orange juice. Sometimes he would go retrieve the prepared tray himself, but I count this the same. And WWII obviously dragged the numbers down a bit. This is a noble life goal to which we should all aspire.

Even then my grandfather would drive over to see her every Sunday. He would pick her up, take her to church, go to church himself which was shorter because he had the common sense to be an Episcopalian (though it seemed at times he actually believed, a thing likely to cause a furrowed brow among his friends) and then take her back. He didn’t even want to go to church in town! After she died he started to go to the closer Bridgehampton church he preferred, mostly IMO because they have a half-hour service at 8 a.m. without hymns, and one can get the whole thing over with and get a good tee time with leeway for a Bloody Mary, all quite early in the day. The hymns are the best part, though, so going to this service sucked. Also it was too early. Yet one felt obliged to go. But the priest there is a lovely person who married me and John and also baptized both our children. “But why, Belle, that seems like a lot of trouble to go through seeing as you’re not, in fact, a Christian?” Look, being Episcopalian is a social thing, like being a secular Jew, but with a bit more ritual effort required. Anyway it made my grandfather happy. That was the main point. Also, there’s this one awesome part where the priest anoints the kid with chrism and says “CHRIST CLAIMS YOU FOR HIS OWN.” One definitely gets the sense then that if the post-death regions exist and are not quite as one has imagined them, nonetheless one will be on firm ground. You should think of it as an excuse to throw a catered betting party with your friend-with-benefits Pascal.

YOLO

by Belle Waring on April 18, 2014

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

Best Video Ever

by Belle Waring on April 8, 2014

This is really for Straightwood, because I know the deeply meaningful and fully explained nature of this video of 50 Cent dubbed over a Jehovah’s Witness exhorting deaf students to abstain from masturbation will appeal to your keenly honed and not in any way homosexual aesthetic.

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.

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.
[click to continue…]

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.

Reader, I Married Him

by Belle Waring on September 26, 2011


This conversation actually happened at our house just now. In truth, I was first lying in bed with the laptop and then addressing John from a somewhat lascivious position difficult to illustrate with stick figures. No, now you’re imagining something worse. Anyway, I think the xkcd couple should be able to afford a better desk and computer by now. Little thing that pulls out for your keyboard? What is it, 1996?
“I thought of the title! And I helped with Photoshop!”–John.

A number of people (including Matthew Yglesias) suggested that they didn’t really understand my arguments about the deficiencies of left neo-liberalism, because they were too abstract. I’ve spent the weekend reading an Advance Reading Copy of Suzanne Mettler’s “The Submerged State”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226521656/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=henryfarrell-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399373&creativeASIN=0226521656, which in addition to being a fantastic little book in its own right (and excellent value!), has a number of relevant – and quite concrete – points. Mettler wrote up a broad summary of her arguments “last month”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/julyaugust_2011/features/20000_leagues_under_the_state030498.php for the _Washington Monthly._ But in the book, she goes into much more detail about the sources of the pattern of policy making that she argues against – the provision of welfare state benefits through semi-invisible tax breaks and forms of private provision rather than directly. [click to continue…]

The Tobermory Effect

by Henry on November 29, 2010

My small addition to the piles of verbiage on the newest Wikileaks revelations is to suggest that Saki’s classic short story “Tobermory”:http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/l_tober.htm tells you most of what you need to know. Tobermory – the story of a cat that learns to talk, is really about how a small group of people deal with the collapse of the polite fictions through which they paper over individual self-interest and mutual dislike. No-one guards what they say in front of a cat, leading to consternation when Tobermory suddenly learns the English language.

“What do you think of human intelligence?” asked Mavis Pellington lamely.

“Of whose intelligence in particular?” asked Tobermory coldly.

“Oh, well, mine for instance,” said Mavis with a feeble laugh.

“You put me in an embarrassing position,” said Tobermory, whose tone and attitude certainly did not suggest a shred of embarrassment. “When your inclusion in this house-party was suggested Sir Wilfrid protested that you were the most brainless woman of his acquaintance, and that there was a wide distinction between hospitality and the care of the feeble-minded. Lady Blemley replied that your lack of brain-power was the precise quality which had earned you your invitation, as you were the only person she could think of who might be idiotic enough to buy their old car. You know, the one they call ‘The Envy of Sisyphus,’ because it goes quite nicely up-hill if you push it.”

Lady Blemley’s protestations would have had greater effect if she had not casually suggested to Mavis only that morning that the car in question would be just the thing for her down at her Devonshire home.

Diplomacy, even more than early twentieth century English house-parties, requires hypocrisy. Both diplomats and leaders pretend respect and even affection for regimes that they dislike and leaders whom they despise. When a source can definitively give the lie to these public remonstrations, it is obviously likely to lead to considerable friction (not necessarily because the target did not know he, she or it was detested – but because _public expression_ of this detestation becomes an insult that cannot easily be discounted or ignored. If a number of prominent states had been hit by these revelations, there might be sufficient collective incentive to sweep the embarrassing bits under the Axminster. But that’s not the case here. I imagine that there are some very interesting conversations happening in State (a few blocks from my regular office) right about now.

The crass jokes, they write themselves

by Henry on October 25, 2010

Benedict Anderson takes time out of his discussion of the Cuban Revolution in _Under Three Flags_ to tell us that:

bq. With the help of two Asturian anarchists, a young Cuban nationalist called Armando Andre hid a bomb in the roof of the ground-floor toilet of the Captain-General’s palace. The device was supposed to explode when Weyler sat down on the pot, bringing the whole second floor down on his head. The plotters were unaware, however, that Weyler suffered so severely from haemorrhoids that he almost never used the facility, preferring an earthenware field-potty when he had to relieve himself. The bomb went off, but no one was hurt, and Weyler decided to inform Madrid that the explosion had been caused by stoppages which prevented the latrine’s gases from escaping normally.

I am sure that Anderson’s discussion on the same page of how the Captain-General was “partly relieved” at this outcome, and of the “diehard colons” of the Revolution, have _absolutely nothing to do_ with the subject matter of this footnote.

Markets without hierarchy

by Henry on August 25, 2010

Over the last few days I’ve observed that an increasing number of our spam comments for dubious commercial opportunities in pharmacological products etc have links leading to hijacked pages at “http://www.mises.org”:http://www.mises.org. Seems quite appropriate. If you want to visit our von Misean friends by the way, be sure to check out this “front page piece”:http://mises.org/daily/4633 on how playing _Caesar III_ demonstrates the futility of Marxism and central planning. In its own way, it is quite perfect: the conclusion’s finding that:

bq. As far as it went, Caesar III was an experiment in refutation. If a graduate from the Mises University has trouble planning a make-believe Roman colony, what hope is there that anyone could plan the real thing?

says it all, really.

“Steven Laniel”:http://stevereads.com/weblog/2010/06/22/barack-obama-for-state-senate/

Back when I was in college (Carnegie Mellon class of 2000), a friend who was attending the University of Chicago gave me a placard that was posted hither and thither on Chicago’s South Side: a dorky-faced guy with a ridiculously toothy grin smiling out at us. It read

“Barack Obama

for state senate”

My buddy Josh and I thought this was hilarious. Over the years, we turned the guy on the placard into a superhero. We’d be studying for one hard exam or another and would say to one another, “You know who could ace the piss out of this test right now?” The other would respond, “Barack Obama!” to which the first would respond, inevitably, “…for state senate!” Or we’d be at the gym: “Man, these weights are tough! … Know who could lift them without breaking a sweat?” “Barack Obama!” “…for state senate!

The years go by. It’s 2004. There’s a dude up on the stage at the Democratic National Convention who’s making everyone ask, “Why do I have to vote for Kerry? Why can’t I vote for this guy?” Josh and I called one another: “Uh … dude, do you see who’s on stage right now?” It was surreal.

It’s still surreal. Every few months it occurs to me afresh that Josh and I were making this obscure local politician the punchline of a joke probably a decade before he became president of the United States. Bizarre.

Political Correctness Gone Mad

by Henry on December 28, 2009

Perhaps the recent “terrorist outrage in the skies”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/27/us/27terror.html?hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1261890636-QVFR8dRHo8PyDIMOJsWiaA will bring the delusional opponents of group profiling to their senses. But I fear not. It should be a cut and dried case. A “member of a group”:http://www.google.com/search?q=Abdulmutallab+engineering&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a that is “notoriously”:https://crookedtimber.org/2007/11/10/engineers-of-jihad/ “associated with terrorist violence and fundamentalist political beliefs”:http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/users/gambetta/Engineers%20of%20Jihad.pdf tries to set off a bomb in a plane and only fails because of sheer luck. The nabobs of political correctness will try to convince us yet again that there are many strains of thought among these people, that most of them are non-violent, that compulsory cavity searches will alienate them and so on, and on, and on. But the PC mafia will be ignoring these people’s plans to “build temples that dominate our major cities”:http://web.mit.edu/facilities/construction/completed/completed.html, and “actions taken deliberately to flout our common norms”:http://hacks.mit.edu/. A strong country has a strong culture that it is willing to defend against the enemy – and a willingness to ignore the natterers of multiculturalism when its citizens’ lives are in danger. We were lucky this time. We may not be so lucky the next.

Siegfried Sassoon eat yer heart out

by Henry on December 11, 2009

Charles Rowley “laments the cowardice”:http://charlesrowley.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/the-dog-that-does-not-bark/ of his erstwhile band of brothers. In verse, no less (or, if you insist, ‘verse’).

Where are all the real business cycle theorists who once argued that business cycles reflect Pareto-optimality? Where are all the monetarists who used to worry about the inflationary implications of massive increases in the money supply? Where are all the financial economists who used to thrust the efficient capital market hypothesis down the throats of Wall Street brokers? Where are all the law-and-economics scholars who used to boast of the efficiency of the common law? Where are all the New Classical rational expectations scholars who used to explain why systematic fiscal and monetary policies cannot influence macroeconomic activity? Where are all those Friedmanians who used to argue so effectively in support of capitalism and freedom?

Where? Where indeed?

Where have all the free market soldiers gone?
Why, they have run for cover, almost every one!
Their models have failed, their math is undone.
They need new statistics and that is no fun.
They dig into trenches to evade the socialist gun.
Their escape routes are cut off, nowhere else to run.
They hide in the darkness and avoid the free market sun.
Come out, come out, counter-attack and be done!