The internet was hella weird this week. Highlights: Ta-Nehisi Coates weighs in on Kanye, Childish Gambino splits the internet, Rihanna became the Pope, Toni Morrison is a living legend, we learned how to eat like Émile Zola, Jeffery Tambor spoke about #metoo, Juuls are both a problem and a solution, humans brand everything, and OrchKids turned 10.
1. The Atlantic: I’m not Black, I’m Kanye
I have had a hard time figuring out what to say about this. I like Kanye, but he fucked up. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote this piece with so much love, and anger, and understanding. Coates compared Kanye to Michael Jackson, a black man’s God. A “God [that] was destroyed, and we could not stop him, though we did love him, we could not stop him, because who can really stop a black god dying to be white?” Maybe Kanye’s new message isn’t right. Maybe love isn’t enough. Maybe it never has been.
2. YouTube: This is America
Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, premiered a new single, This is America, on SNL last weekend. I thought a lot about posting this last Sunday but decided against it because I wanted to wait for responses to be published.
I have never really liked Glover. Something about him has never felt quite right, and his homophobic comedy is off-putting. This video, like his comedy, is provocative, and at times seems to function largely for shock value. It is also no coincidence that it was released in the midst of a public break down/fuck up by Kanye after Glover poked fun at the singer in an SNL skit. One of my worries about this is so quickly championing Glover in the image of Kanye.
3. Keep It: Is This Your America?
I don’t really like podcasts, but I enjoyed its discussion of This is America (skip to 14:00). It is incredibly critical of the music video and of people’s responses to it. One of the things it highlights is how quickly people are calling the video genius, even though it has only been out for a week, and we do not know if it will have any lasting cultural impact. Reviews from Daily Beast and The New Yorker are brought up, and the fact that there really isn’t a consensus on what Childish Gambino is trying to communicate in the video.
Also, their description of the Met Gala as “celebrities reauditioning to be celebrities” is hilarious. And the commercials in this are so funny! No fucks are given, except that they have to be given because funding.
4. Vogue: Met Gala 2018
The Met Gala happened on Monday and its theme was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Rihanna dressed as the Pope and a lot of people accused her, and the theme generally, of cultural appropriation. Many people called bullshit on cultural appropriation claims, seeing as the Vatican endorsed the exhibition, loaning garments from its collection, something it has not done in the past, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was in attendance and reportedly had a good time.
5. Literary Hub: The First Reviews of Every Toni Morrison Novel
Toni Morrison is a living legend. By the time I was born, Morrison’s legacy was well cemented. She was already a Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner. I never knew her as anything other than greatness. This list of reviews is fascinating because it gives some insight as to how Morrison, and us, her readers, created the icon we know today. It must be interesting the exist as a myth while you are still alive.
6. The Paris Review: Cooking with Émile Zola
I have posted about this series before, and it remains one of my favorites because of its honesty. In this article, Valerie Stivers prepares food from Émile Zola’s The Belly of Paris. I particularly like iteration because of the food pairs so well with this time of year. I have never followed Stivers lead and cooked one of her meals. Maybe I will start with this one.
7. The Hollywood Reporter: “Lines Got Blurred”: Jeffrey Tambor and an Up-Close Look at Harassment Claims on ‘Transparent’
This is basically a 101 on how not to profile someone who has sexually harassed people and was taken down by the #metoo movement. This piece is filled with strange and unnecessary descriptions of women assaulted by Tambor. The article describes as Trace Lysette, one of the women who spoke out about her experience with Tambor, as “a striking brunette with fair skin and aquamarine eyes, Lysette, who prefers not to disclose her age, grew up in Dayton, Ohio — she choreographed a dance routine for her high school cheerleading squad — then moved to New York City, where she began transitioning to female. She later found work at a Manhattan strip club, where she never let on to the clientele that she was transgender. After a bad breakup led to a suicide attempt — she slit her wrists on a side street walking home from the strip club one night — Lysette was admitted to Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward.” NONE of this has anything to do with Tambor’s actions and should not be in the piece. Tambor is also treated like a victim and not at all held accountable for his actions.
As more profiles are published of perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment, especially those involved in #metoo, it is necessary that the profiles don’t endorse rape culture.
8. The New Yorker: The Promise of Vaping and the Rise of Juul
A Juuling friend of mine sent me this article that seamlessly put words to something I had been thinking about for a while, but never taken the time to articulate. I have never smoked or used an E-Cig, thus cannot speak to the difference. Here is what my friend had to say:
Since the invention of e-cigarettes in 2003, most of the public thought of them as techie, unfashionable alternatives to the cigarette. “Traditional cigarettes pair nicotine—which, contrary to common belief, does not cause cancer—with an arsenal of carcinogenic substances.” People smoke for the nicotine, but it’s the tar that kills. E-cigarettes promised a healthier way to deliver the fix, burning nicotine at lower temperatures without any of the carcinogenic additives. But the technology that was meant to help grownups already addicted to cigarettes has instead propagated a generation of high schoolers and college students addicted to Juuls. Its sleek aesthetic, notoriously resemblant of a flash drive, made a formerly bulky accessory suddenly quite cool. The Juul is so ubiquitous now that the brand has become a verb. Though it may help solve one problem, it’s created a host of new ones that the FDA, parents, and teachers are now frantically trying to address. I started Juuling once I realized that my smoking habit had become a problem, and I can now doubtless say that my addiction to nicotine is a lot worse. Better than inhaling carcinogens, though? Certainly more expensive.
9.Vulture: The Culture Gabfest “[Laugh Track]” Edition
I have to be honest, I picked this piece because of its discussion of Amanda Hess’ article What Happens When People and Companies Are Both Just ‘Brands’ in the New York Times. One of the things that struck me about the article, and how the podcast discusses it, is the absence of the word design when branding is a fundamental aspect of the field. The article also does not fully address just how visual our culture has become.
While I don’t often talk about personal branding, it is hard for me to get through a conversation without talking about self-design and design as a metaphysical phenomenon (sorry!!!! I know it is bad!). In the way that this article and podcast speak about personal brands, it functions very differently than self-design. Self-design is largely used as a psychological coping mechanism, and defined by Boris Groys as the “the ultimate problem of design” because it “concerns not how I design the world outside, but how I design myself—or, rather, how I deal with the way in which the world designs me.” Image, appearance, and design can function in a spiritual way, and the more we aestheticize ourselves, the closer we become to functioning as divinity. Hess links branding the capitalism, but there’s also an inherent metaphysical consequence to self-design: as we consciously and inadvertently design ourselves, our “being” becomes its own art form.
10. The New York Times: An Orchestra Adopts a City, One Kid at a Time
I almost didn’t add this article because it does not say anything interesting about Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program and/or Baltimore City Public Schools.
The article mentions that “the first school to house OrchKids was shut down after a year” but does not address why. I am very happy that the program is getting national attention, but I feel like this was a missed opportunity to talk about how most schools are physically falling apart and severely underfunded. There is every reason to celebrate the success of OrchKids, but not at the expense of shadowing the work that needs to get done. We need to provide the funding and resources for schools to integrate their own music and arts education into the curriculum, instead of relying on nonprofits to do that work.
*All images taken from reference articles*
Have a suggestion for next week? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”