The internet was pretty dope this week. Highlights: Opera contemplates blackness, SZA released a new video, celebrity stylists get shit done, Sinclair Broadcast Group is creepy, we are already living in virtual reality, it is harder for Native American women to speak out against sexual assault, Cambodia is floating, Johns Hopkins is second-guessing a private police force, and Donald Trump declared April national sexual assault awareness and prevention month.
Tenor Lawrence Brownlee, along with composer Tyshawn Sorey and poet Terrance Hayes, has created a new song cycle contemplating what it means to be a black in America. The idea came to Brownlee after he was pulled over by a cop in LA. Brownlee thought to himself, “I want to get home. I have two kids and a wife. I want to live to fight another day.” Not knowing that Brownlee has met “presidents of the United States, the vice president, Supreme Court justices, kings, and queens” the cop pulled him over only knowing that Brownlee is a black man.
The songs are filled with complex questions about what it means to be black in America, probably asked to a mostly white audience. “America, I hear you hiss and stare. Do you love the air in me as I love the air in you?” When listening to a clip of this song, I couldn’t help but think if the white people listing to this know that Brownlee is not only asking this question of America generally but also them specifically? I highly recommend listening to this article, as the audio recording is filled with clips from the songs.
If this weather isn’t making you excited for summer, this video defs will. You quickly forget the first image of a young woman in girl scout garb screaming “WAKE UP!” once you arrive at CAMP CTRL, a bucolic summer camp that sets the backdrop for SZA’s Broken Clocks. CAMP CTRL features just about every summer camp trope: jumping in lakes, late night cafeteria hookups, dusty sneakers, and campfire s’mores. The pre-chorus promise, “better day than yesterday,” feels fully realized. The end of the video abruptly exits the dreamy haze of summer and into a strip club. “WAKE UP!” is screamed by the same girl, followed by “pass me the fuckin’ tissue her nose is bleeding, pass me the fuckin’ tissue” as SZA wakes up on a bathroom floor from getting knocked out.
3. The Hollywood Reporter: First-Ever Stylists Roundtable: Image Makers to Mega-Stars Kristen Stewart, Alexander Skarsgard, Zendaya and More I am completely obsessed with celebrity culture. The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtables are some of the best interviews on the internet. They are smart, funny, insightful, and contextualize “the industry” within the larger world. Although my uniform (see last week’s post) would not suggest it, my obsession with celebrity culture has also lead to an interest in celebrity fashion, or how celebrities use fashion to brand themselves. The roundtable does not focus on celebrities themselves, but the people that dress them, creating the outfits and images we remember.
What’s a reason that a celebrity has blocked y’all on here? 🤔🤔🤔
— Dre Fredrico (@DregoDaGreat) March 31, 2018
Twitter user @DregoDaGreat started an epic thread with the simple question, “What’s a reason that a celebrity has blocked y’all on here?” The answers gloriously range from “I told Ashanti she needed to grow her sideburns back out so her music would be good again” to “I sent drake bell that video of the make a wish kid crying bc he wanted to meet drake but they gave him drake bell.” Set aside a few hours for this thread… and maybe a few more to do background research on the intricacies of celebrity feuds for context.
5. YouTube: Sinclair’s script for stations YouTube is a scary and beautiful place. Someone edited together a bunch of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s news stations saying the same script. The clips condemn fake news calling it “extremely dangerous for our democracy.” This is probably the creepiest thing I have seen on the internet all week…watch for ~CHILLS~.
6. The New Yorker: Are We Already Living in Virtual Reality? I love most aspects of digital culture, but virtual reality has always made me uneasy. From a philosophical standpoint, I have always found it fascinating, but it has never been something that I have actively wanted to experience. Thomas Metzinger and Michael Madary, two leading philosophers on the subject, have written a code of ethics on the subject, focusing on the embodiment, which they believe “makes V.R. fundamentally different from all other media. Embodied virtual experience… can change us profoundly. It can affect us in ways we barely understand, redefining the very relationship we have to our own minds.” I think that it is this shift that makes me the wariest. As Mel Slater, a V.R. research, points out, “embodied simulations seem to slip beneath the cognitive threshold, affecting the associative, unconscious parts of the mind” and the perspective shifts from “‘I know’ to ‘I am.’ ”
7. The Nation: Confronting the ‘Native Harvey Weinsteins’ Since the takedown of Harvey Weinstein, the #metoo movement has empowered many women to share their own stories of assault. A parallel conversation has also formed about the many women who, for whatever reason, have not felt comfortable or are not able to share their stories. For Native American women that want to come forward, especially those on reservations working in tribal government or business, this can be particularly difficult. In an effort increase tribal sovereignty, “Congress exempted tribes from Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, the provision that prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault, in the workplace.” For the majority of the 567 federally recognized tribes, there is no legal protection for women. Amber Kanazbah Crotty, an advocate for the rights of Native American women, explains that due to the lack of laws “nobody will come forward and so there’s no data… It’s a way to erase someone’s experience.”
8. The New York Times: A People in Limbo, Many Living Entirely on the Water The relationship between Cambodia and Vietnam has been contentious for decades, beginning when the “French imported Vietnamese workers for its rubber plantations and drew on Saigon’s educated elite as administrative clerks.” When Cambodia gained independence in 1953, new policies made it clear that ethnic Vietnamese had no place in the new country. “Human Rights Watch has described the traditional Cambodian hatred of the ethnic Vietnamese as ‘almost pathological.’”
9. The White House: President Donald J. Trump Proclaims April 2018 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month I thought it was an Onion headline, it is so ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I think having a month dedicated to sexuall assault awarness and prevention is great, but Trump saying “we must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable” and “I urge all Americans, families, law enforcement, healthcare providers, community and faith-based organizations, and private organizations to support survivors of sexual assault and work together to prevent these crimes in their communities” makes me uncomfortable, especially because he has not, and probably will not, acknowledge his role in the problem.
10. The Baltimore Sun: Baltimore lawmakers halt proposal to create Johns Hopkins police force Johns Hopkins University is no longer actively lobbying for a private police force! They realized (LOL) that they did not actually have enough research on what it would mean. Since releasing the proposal on March 5th, “The personal experiences, strongly held beliefs, and expert opinions we have heard significantly influenced our thinking on how best to move forward.”