The Internet was batshit crazy this week. From the EPA potentially allowing products to be made with asbestos again, to Space Force, to prisoners in California getting paid $2 a day to fight fires … And I’m not going to even get into what is going on with the Kardashians and Kanye right now. However, I want to take a calmer tone.
Highlights: Beyoncé is a Hallmark™ card, queer teens are running the world, movies are trying to figure out what we do in the time we spend online, Spotify is a global playlist, shitposting meme pages might be saving Facebook, Kathleen Turner’s voice is timeless, Nicki Minaj reclaimed her throne with the release of Queen, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is fantastical escapism, dog cloning is a big thing, and being a boy isn’t an excuse.
1. Vogue: Beyoncé in Her Own Words: Her Life, Her Body, Her Heritage
If there is one thing Beyoncé knows how to do, it is say the right thing at the right time. Perhaps that is why I have such a distaste for her. Everything she does is too designed, too perfectly rendered for it to be interesting, and any idea that is untidy has been done away with.
Even all of her writing is edited into perfect pull quotes that read like sound bites. This reads like Beyoncé raided the Hallmark card section of her local Target, then arranged all of the text to write this piece. Beyoncé says everything she should say, in the way she should say it. At its core, this is perfect. And perfection is where Beyoncé always fails me.
I feel this article so hard. Over the past few years, there has been a meteoric rise in young queer celebrities, and many have come “into their fame while being openly queer already; instead of waiting around to see if they’re going to claim their queerness.” Their work is “brimming with explicit, unapologetic queer aesthetics in terms of both gender presentation and desire.” As the author of this article points out, “as recently as the mid-aughts, so many of us were still playing 1950. But to young people like [King Princess] life in the closet might already seem like the stuff of ancient history.”
I just spent the summer teaching at an arts camp that I attended from 2006–11 and went to the boarding school affiliated with it from 2011–2013. It has changed so much since my time as a student there! Walking around campus this summer I saw young queer couples being openly affectionate; there were multiple trans, genderqueer and gender non-binary students; there were queer girls.
When I was a student there, the queer culture mostly consisted of gay guys— who were out in disproportionately large numbers considering the school was mostly girls. There were always one or two queer girls that the whole student body knew about, but for many others, it was on a need to know basis. I can only remember one, maybe two students that were openly trans or non-binary. This is not to say that there were no trans, genderqueer, or gender non-binary students when I was there, but that there were a lot fewer, and many were not out at the time. It has only been in the past few years that more of my classmates have started to come out.
The first thing I did after reading this was text my friend that graduated in 2017 to ask if there were a lot of girls that were queer and out or in relationships when she was there. She responded with an enthusiastic “yes, lots!” also implicating the obviousness of her answer. The second thing I did was call a friend that graduated with me to see if I was remembering things wrong and my excitement for the change was misplaced. It was not. Lastly, I called a friend that graduated in 2000 to see if things were different when she was at school. She said her experience was similar to mine.
I was so happy, surprised, and excited to see so many teens openly queer and proud this summer. But also surprised at how quickly things had changed since my time as a student. To be clear, nothing about my time in high school was anything like what past generations had to overcome. I, and the author of this article “know that so many LGBT people from past generations weren’t nearly so privileged” to go to a high school that had any students that were out at all. And “so many queer people living today, in different parts of the country or at different intersections of marginalized identities, aren’t either. Queer history, and queer progress, isn’t neatly linear.”
My friends love giving me shit about my Instagram account, and my hashtag, #camerarollrole. My account mostly consists of screenshots of conversations and my camera roll with a few iPhone Pocket Drawings sprinkled about. Most of my close friends don’t live near me, and my account is a meditation on my life and relationships mediated through my phone.
When I’m in Baltimore, I spend almost all of my time on my phone or computer, and it does not bother me. Existing in digital space doesn’t feel much different than being in the analog world (I hesitate to use physical because, after all, both spaces are physical.)
I experience most of my life through a screen, including movies and TV shows I watch on my computer. In TV and movies “characters don’t spend nearly as much time on [computers] as we do in real life” and there is a new genre of film, Screenlife, that is aiming to change this. Screenlife films often put the audience “in the position of a hacker, invading someone’s privacy and spying on their digital life and all the personal information contained within” and in so doing allow us “to play a kind of semi-omniscient god, hovering above these characters and getting to see everything they do onscreen, being dared to cast judgment on them — and in doing so, on ourselves.”
Whenever I start a texting relationship with someone who knows about my Instagram account I inevitably get the question, “Does the other person know these conversations are being posted?” implicating the question they want to ask: will you post our conversations? The answer to the first question is yes, and the second, maybe. With some of my friends, there is an understanding that all of our conversations are fair game unless explicitly stated, and they can often tell which ones I will post before I have time to do it. There are some people I have to ask before I post anything and others where everything is always off limits.
One of my friends always tells me that she finds my Instagram account interesting, but can’t bring herself to read most of the conversations because she feels like she is invading my privacy. Another friend said my account was too profound to read, that it has too many layers.
I made fun of one of my friend’s accounts this summer because she is rarely with people, and usually isolates herself in the photos she posts. I don’t post photos of myself, and if I do, they are attachments in texting conversations or part of my camera roll. To understand me through my account you have to read the data I collect from my life, follow the ebbs and flows of relationships and amalgamations of abstracted photographs. For as much shit as I gave my friend, she is present in her life, and I am not in mine.
4. Fast Company: Spotify’s $30 billion playlist for global domination
I have never really liked Spotify. It has always scared me. I have an account, but I rarely use it… mostly just to embed music picks in these posts. This summer I asked a friend if she had ever listened to Solange’s A Seat at the Table. My friend said no, and I mentioned that I could burn a CD (yes… I still burn CDs for people!) for her. She quickly and sharply retorted that she could just look it up on Spotify, a thought that never crossed my mind. In a later conversation I mentioned to the same friend that I don’t listen to much music (I put on TV shows for background noise), and, again, she had a sharp witty retort that I don’t fully remember.
Since its beginnings, Spotify has been an industry leader. As far as streaming service go, some of the largest numbers of listeners, and paid subscribers. Despite its size and user Base, Spotify is in a precarious position with “a lifetime operating loss of $1.7 billion, and its deficits have only accelerated as revenue has grown.” Unlike its competitors, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music Unlimited, and YouTube via Google, that don’t have to worry about profits, Spotify does.
The platform broke away from with the inclusion of playlist. But the playlists that make Spotify standout are they very same playlists Apple CEO Tim Cook is worried “about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft.”
5. Mashable: The only good thing left on Facebook is private meme groups
For some reason, weird meme groups have been getting a lot of airtime on the internet this week. First, this article was published, then the New York Times put out a piece. IMHO, the Times piece is trying way too hard to be relevant.
My first foray into meme groups was just over a year ago to T H E O R Y is my “”praxis”” and New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens shortly thereafter. One of my friends introduced me to the groups. These groups, plus combing my feed for articles to use for these posts, are the only things that have saved Facebook for me.
Many of these hyper-specific groups are mostly filled with shitposting. For example, “Post Aesthetics, a massive group that helped lay the foundation for groups like NUMTOT and WIPBTM. At its height, it had 40,000 members sharing a constant stream of original memes, screenshots, and funny anecdotes… The group, whose membership consisted of mostly college students, was a hotbed for discourse as memes toed the very fine line between edgy absurdism and offensive humor.”
If you want to join one of these groups, I highly suggest it, but they are not for the faint of heart.
6. Vulture: In Conversation: Kathleen Turner
This has been bouncing all over the internet this week, and I was very pleased that I could read this whole conversation in Kathleen Turner’s voice. I’m not really sure where I first learned of Turner, but I remember her, as do most people, because of her sultry, scratchy voice. When asked if she gets recognized because of it Turner responded, “More often than by my looks. I’ll be on the subway and I keep my mouth shut, because if I’m silent, I’m just another person. If I speak, heads turn in my direction.”
Turner talks about a lot of things in this interview, but what struck me the most is how much responsibility she takes for herself. It is something that doesn’t seem to come across in a lot of celebrity interviews.
7. Spotify: Queen by Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj released her long-awaited fourth studio album, Queen. The release of this album way delayed multiple times for almost all the reasons you could imagine. Queen is kinda super good. By and large, it is being positively reviewed and, as Variety puts it, Nicki “is doubling down on both her toughness and her regal status” which was threatened by Cardi B.
But after dropping Queen Friday Nicki was not finished. Last night she also released “Sorry” featuring Nas. It is suspected that Sorry was not released with the rest of the album due to licensing issues with Tracey Chapman, whom the song samples. Either way, it is out now.
8. Vulture: As the Financial World Crashed, the Marvel Cinematic Universe Took Shape
One of my friends and I love going to see Marvel movies together. At this point, they require enough knowledge of past films to keep you thinking, but have enough action to keep that thinking to a minimum. For me, the movies are very much so about escapism, but I never pushed myself to explore the idea more. Mostly because that would ruin the fantasy the films create.
The first film of MCU, Iron Man, came out in May 2008, and “the Great Recession was technically in its sixth month, but outright collapse didn’t seem to be on the menu and the average moviegoer couldn’t be bothered to notice the swaying Jenga tower that was the global economy.” The MCU is the largest, most daring, and successful movie franchise in history. One of the reasons for its success is that it is “what those in the biz refer to as a ‘four-quadrant’ franchise, in that it’s one that snatches up all age and gender combinations. But more important, it transcends socio-political boundaries.” Its allure is that, at least while in the theatre, it makes views fell like they are part of “unified society again.”
9. Vanity Fair: Inside the Very Big, Very Controversial Business of Dog Cloning
I first heard about cloning dogs on a train ride in NY during art week. I was with my boss and a curator late one night and the curator mentioned that she had some friends considering cloning their dog. I don’t remember if the dog had died or was just very old, but either way it was a rescue and a mutt to the nth degree. The couple considered cloning because they could never get a dog that, in breed makeup, was close to the one they had.
One of the pioneering forces in the field of is Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea. The lab is headed by Hwang Woo-suk, a once disgraced doctor. While the puppies Hwang creates are genetically identical, they are not exact replicas due how the are raised and the environment they grow up in. As Tom Rubython, a cloner puts it “ It’s 85 percent, against 100 percent.” That is because, as Hwang says, “cloned puppies are like identical twins born at a later date… A twin out of time.”
Needless to say, the practice is highly controversial with many unanswered ethical questions. “When a dog was first cloned, in 2005—a scientific achievement that Time hailed as one of the breakthrough inventions of the year—it took more than 100 borrowed wombs, and more than 1,000 embryos.” Now, roughly two out of three clones do not make it, and it begs the questions “are they delivered deformed or stillborn? Are they born in pain?” and what happens to their bodies. For bioethicists Hank Greely cloning dogs is unethical “when it causes more suffering than natural reproduction.”
10. The Sun: Boy
I didn’t know if I should add this week because I am not really sure what to say about it. I sent the story to my friend that convinced me to add it. The story follows the author’s lifelong journey to cope with the horrors of her brother. Growing up, people would call her mother to say “a cat was missing. The silver was missing. There was a dead dog in the alley. A girl had been molested.” When the police came to their apartment her “mother stood at the door with her hands on her hips.”
This is one of those stories that speaks best for itself.
*All images taken from reference articles*
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