Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Ask Amelia: Shut Up and Sing


AskAmelia3It’s Friday and it’s time for Amelia Hamilton to answer your most vexing questions about chatty teachers, unwanted guests, and good taste.

Dear Amelia,
I’m taking voice lessons, and my teacher spends the first 10-15 minutes of each hour talking about personal things. Her online dating fiascos (yes, the guy she has been speaking to on the phone is in prison for murder one), her son, being sick, etc. I don’t want to be rude to her, but we aren’t friends. I’m paying her for this time. How can I politely get her to stop using my time for her personal issues?
Shut up and Sing

Dear Singer,

I have three ideas, starting with the most passive. When you walk in, say a friendly hello and dive right into a question about what you’re working on, or say you can’t wait to show her how you’ve navigated a tricky passage. Hopefully, that will head her off at the pass. Maybe tell her that you have to be sure to leave on time for another appointment, so you have to start the lesson on time this week. That should be a fairly clear signal that you’ve noticed you’re not getting your money’s worth.

Alternatively, when the lesson is scheduled to be over, say that you’re happy to stay a few moments late as the lesson didn’t begin on time. If these don’t work, you’ll just have to tell her that you that you need to get what you’re paying for. If you’d like, you could avoid confrontation by choosing another teacher, but my guess is that you chose this one for a reason and aren’t ready to do that just yet.


Dear Amelia,

A friend came into town to visit and was going to stay with me for five days. On the day she was supposed to leave, she extended her trip for another 10 days. I love her dearly, but it’s just too much. I work from home, so this is incredibly disruptive. She has offered to leave so I can work, but wants my car and money because she ran out. I resent having to pay for quiet in my own home. How can I keep both my sanity and the friendship?

Unhappy Hostess

Dear Hostess,

I assume said guest didn’t run this past you, or at least didn’t fully disclose the details before extending her trip. You’re in a tough situation. If you want to maintain this friendship, there’s not much that you can do. Does she have other friends in town with whom you might suggest she stay for a few days so you can get some work done? I think all you can do at this point is ensure this doesn’t happen in the future by setting clear boundaries if she wants to visit again. She can come for the time allotted, and perhaps rent a car, or your guest room is inexplicably unavailable every time she wants to come to stay. In the meantime, I think you’ll have to hide yourself in your office and turn up the white noise.


Dear Amelia,

Is umami really a taste?

A Skeptic

Dear Skeptic,

It is indeed, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami comes from the Japanese which means “pleasant savory taste,” which should pretty much tell you what it tastes like. Foods rich in umami include fish, cured meats, mushrooms, cheese, and soy sauce. Are you hungry yet?


Agree? Disagree? Have anything to add? Leave a comment! To ask a question, tweet using #AskAmHam or email [email protected]


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  1. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Amelia Hamilton:Umami comes from the Japanese which means “pleasant savory taste,” which should pretty much tell you what it tastes like. Foods rich in umami include fish, cured meats, mushrooms, cheese, and soy sauce. Are you hungry yet?

    I’m reminded of the yakiimo man from my days in Japan.

    • #1
    • April 10, 2015, at 7:15 PM PDT
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  2. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Singer: When she launches into her convict romance, critique her voice. That should start a rip-roaring conversation on your terms, with plenty of hooks to return to *why* you’re having the argument. I guarantee that conversation will resolve one way or the other with you as not-the-bad-guy.

    • #2
    • April 10, 2015, at 10:30 PM PDT
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  3. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Hostess: Your friend sounds like she is now effectively homeless, but in denial at least at some level. This is more volatile than it sounds. Have that conversation.

    • #3
    • April 10, 2015, at 10:32 PM PDT
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  4. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Skeptic: I think that “umami” is a trendy orientalism which allows some westerners to feel superior to others. These conversations are typically conducted in the mistaken context that a few identified areas of taste reception are the atoms from which other tastes are built, like primary colors in the additive model. Therefore until we had this Japanese word, we were incomplete.

    What is this new and sophisticated taste, “umami”? Why don’t we have a word for it in English? My goodness, how lacking we must be! Like most criticisms of the anglosphere, it is based on an inadequate or flat-out hostile understanding of anglosphere culture. We have a word for pleasant savory taste, which is savory. The rest is syntactic sugar (if you’ll pardon the pun).

    Gemba. Gotta go to gemba. Gemmmmm-ba. Gen. Ba. There, management in a can. We’ve distilled the essence of management into a foreign word, because Westerners with our thick-headed English can only approximate the savory inherent goodness of our Japanese superiors. Really, the dhimmitude of most Americans in Japan is stomach-churning. I don’t need foreign words to know that when the poop hits the fan, the fan room’s going to need a clean-up.

    Umami. There’s probably a useful concept in there. The word itself is just a mechanical combination of the root for delicious and the signifier for taste. “Delicious” is less specific than “savory”. So why aren’t the Japanese using the word savory? Ah. Because the popularity of the word Umami comes from an attempt to identify Japanese cuisine, like Japanese snow, as superior to that of lesser races. Because Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan cheese don’t exist.

    It may be a taste. If it is, it’s called “savory”.

    • #4
    • April 10, 2015, at 10:58 PM PDT
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  5. Lash LaRoche Inactive


    • #5
    • April 10, 2015, at 11:04 PM PDT
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  6. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Mike LaRoche:Yatta!

    I can see you learned your Japanese from the ladies.

    • #6
    • April 10, 2015, at 11:41 PM PDT
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  7. profdlp Inactive

    Mike LaRoche:Yatta!


    • #7
    • April 11, 2015, at 12:40 AM PDT
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  8. Fricosis Guy Listener

    I’m not sure whether we have enough information about the voice teacher. Is she very effective when she teaches? Is the problem her teaching or her TMI?

    The reason I ask is that time and effort aren’t always correlated with effectiveness. If this teacher delivers results, I might be more inclined to put up with a few minutes of weirdness. Is she’s so-so, then I’d bolt.

    • #8
    • April 13, 2015, at 8:51 AM PDT
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