Sanctimonious coffee filters

If you care...

As I discovered about a year ago, this is the only brand of coffee filters available at the local Whole Fountainhead. I didn’t want to buy them because the manufacturer/brander/purveying-corporate-nexus clearly holds me and everyone else who buys them in contempt. Either the manufacturer doesn’t “care” but thinks I can be manipulated into buying these coffee filters to demonstrate that I “care,” or the manufacturer does “care,” and deeply, and thinks that those who don’t buy the product don’t “care” and thus deserve opprobrium.

bw’s summer 2014 mixtape

summer 2014 mixtape from _waterman on 8tracks Radio.


Here are my summer 2014 high-rotation tunes. If the new stuff’s not new to you, maybe the old will be, or vice versa. If you fast-forward track 8 I’m not sure if we can still be friends. Otherwise, talk it out in the comments section.

Download tracks here. (In the [...] box, select “Download as .zip”)

1. Today More Than Any Other Day – Ought – 2014
2. What Do I Get? – Buzzcocks – 1978
3. When I See You – Thompson Twins – 1981
4. Black and White – Parquet Courts – 2014
5. Personal Planes – Priests – 2012
6. Calculations – Household – 2013
7. Snag – Swearin’ – 2011

[Interlude] 8. March of the Siamese Children – The 20th-Century Fox Orchestra – 1956

9. In Conflict – Owen Pallett – 2014
10. Inspector Norse – Todd Terje – 2014
11. I Want More – Can – 1976
12. Summer in a Small Town – Cleaners From Venus – 1984
13. Lost Weekend – The So So Glos – 2013
14. Yellow Eyes – Eagulls – 2014
15. After Dark – The Flowers – 1979

[Interlude] 16. Première Pensée Rose Croix – Teodoro Anzellotti (Erik Satie comp.) – 1998/1892

17. Rose 4 U – TEEN – 2014
18. In the Sound – Freelove Fenner – 2013
19. O Mi Amore (Instrumental) – Television – 1978
20. The World Is Flat – Quilt – 2014
21. Primitive – Real Estate – 2014
22. Stars – The Clean – 2001
23. Kong – The Notwist – 2014
24. Bronx Cheer – Mercury Rev – 1993
25. Third Uncle – Brian Eno – 1974

[Exit Music] 26. High on a Rocky Ledge – Moondog – 1978

[Previously. And.]

You stomach contains a lot of very strong acid. It is an acidic environment.


Among the many reasons Whole Foods drives me crazy is their never-ending supply of snake oil.

The ugly, the not ugly, and the delectably ugly

Opera post: yay?

So after I went on about Gruberova having an ugly voice and at least one person found this not to be so, I thought I’d throw something on about ugly voices and beautiful voices. It is, of course, purely subjective, but I think there tends to be a loose consensus about it. So for example here’s Kathleen Battle, one person always spoken of as having a lovely voice, though her other claim to fame was being so unpleasantly nuts that she was essentially drummed out of the business. (Ok it’s actually a sad story, and it moves me to watch this now and remember how audiences loved her and think of things like the television interview where the interviewer asked her about her reputation for being “difficult” and she stood up, took off her microphone, and walked off the set. I heard her once in person, when I was 17.)

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It’s always a dead end to talk synaesthetically about voices, and I lost patience ages ago with queens who would describe some singer’s sound as “chocolatey” or “peachy pearls and cream”–actual example–and so on down that road, but anyone would describe Battle’s tone as sweet. Other descriptors that get heaved around a lot are golden, rich, round…these are actually all words I might lazily use to describe another paradigmatically beautiful voice, that of Montserrat Caballe. She’s a little different in that, because the sound is fuller, it’s closer to the cartoon opera voice lots of people find aversive. Here is perhaps her most famous filmed clip, singing Norma at the outdoor festival in Orange, while the Mistral whipped everyone’s veils around ethereally.

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She’s also famous for being an indifferent actor, making a record with Freddy Mercury, and having insane breath control that allowed her to sing extraordinarily long phrases. Also boring people make jokes about her weight.

Time for an ugly voice, then? Don’t mind if I do! I’m skipping Callas, who plenty of people think of as having made the most of an ugly voice, because I think I’ve blathered about her plenty, and opera people collectively have certainly used up every possible word on her. But there really is maybe a phenomenon where singers with rougher, less pure-sounding voices make up for it by giving more interesting performances. So like here’s Leonie Rysanek, who sang rather out of tune and had sort of a throaty sound with a flickery vibrato, but was also an object of great devotion because she used the sawblade edge of her voice to make her characters really intense.

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What you hear at the end is people applauding after Ortrud’s curse, which is not a place people applaud because Wagner doesn’t have built-in applause breaks, but there was no other choice. Oh, you won’t want to watch more than twelve seconds of this next one but here is the curtain call at her farewell, the last time Met audiences clapped and screamed and shouted until management just turned the house lights off or something. Such ovations do not happen anymore. I don’t quite know why. Her little speech in the middle is kind of devastating if you’re an opera queen, even though it’s impossible to hear most of what she’s saying.

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It’s probably no coincidence the voices I’m calling ugly are going to be in German clips. The music is put together differently in a way that doesn’t require soft edges and a certain nimble refinement. In fact I think I’m about to post Modl singing Wagner, and it’s harder to hear why I’d call it an ugly voice, but if I put a clip of her singing Verdi, instead, it’d be clearer. Um, but this is a better clip. Modl started as a soprano, sang big roles uncautiously for years, and then sang character mezzo roles, old crones and stuff, with what was left of her voice for literally a thousand years. Some people now call them “Modlrollen” (Modl roles.)

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I actually had no idea that clip existed until I started writing this, so that’s exciting. This is getting long but I feel I ought to throw in a gentleman singer so here’s Jon Vickers. Same story: the voice is big and blowsy and sometimes unruly, so I think one might call it ugly, but usefully so, and anyway he was a genius of sorts. Here’s a kind of trippy video of him singing the big incesty come-on in Die Walkuere.

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For dessert, here is the best of truly ugly singing, Madame Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy lady who made a career for herself despite having, let us delicately say, a modest vocal endowment and a unique musicality.

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All I can really say about Madame Foster Jenkins is that the sheer awfulness of her singing somehow flips over into wonderfulness and her legacy is treasured.

“I felt …”: Thoughts on Richard Serra and #SerraQatar


Photos by Molly Waterman

If you follow me on Instagram you already got an eyefull of our trip to Doha a couple weeks ago. We were there, basically, to see a whole lot of Richard Serra, which we did over three days. I wrote a piece about it for Hyperallergic, which they posted last week. I wanted to get to the bottom of the Qatar Museums Authority’s social media campaign surrounding the work — some of which, including the two pieces featured in photos above, are permanent installations. The QMA’s website for the Serra shows encourages viewers to register their feelings on encountering the art. At first I thought that was a strange request for a conceptual artist:

The emphasis here on affect responds directly to the QMA’s public relations and social media campaigns surrounding these works, which ask viewers to tweet about the work using the phrase “I felt” and the hashtag #serraqatar. Or you can log in to the QMA website and record your feelings there, where they will be incorporated into a constantly updated visualization of the feelings of all respondents.

On one hand, the QMA’s approach is a brilliant piece of marketing, prescribing for its public the desired response to a Serra piece: an examination of one’s emotional reception of the work. The injunction to feel — and to feel as others feel — aims to disarm the knee-jerk response of those whose unfamiliarity with the work or hostility to modernist sculpture might cause them to reject it outright. The leading question “How will you feel?” functions as an invitation to visit the shows and experience them in person, as does the social media impulse not to miss out on what others are doing. But the turn to affect or emotion also seems to forestall the intellectual work provoked by conceptual art. To say you feel small or powerful or lost seems to be a lesser-order response than to talk about how a work reshapes the spatial or temporal dimensions of an environment or calls into question the tradition of monumental public art itself.

Ultimately, though, I come around to the idea that gauging your feelings is a perfectly appropriate thing to do in response to Serra’s work. To get there I take a detour through the controversy surrounding Serra’s Tilted Arc, installed in lower Manhattan’s courthouse district for most of the 1980s before being removed to appease people who hated it. Read the rest over there, but feel free to come back here and let me know what you think. What was your first encounter with Serra? How does his work make you feel? Make you feel like visiting Doha maybe? I, for one, can’t wait to go back, and only wish I’d made it to Manhattan in time to see this beauty: