The Internet is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week

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All hell broke loose on the internet this week. Melania Trump claimed to be the most bullied person in the world, Matthew Shepard will be interred at the National Cathedral, and hurricane Michael happened and no one seemed to notice. Highlights: Taylor Swift is trying to be relevant again, Kanye went on a rant in the Oval Office, Kanye has also been going on political rants since at least 2005, trap music is contemporary America, Cardi B is the perfect muse for Mickalene Thomas, people treat Alexa like their therapist, there was an opera on the High Line in New York, the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra is PISSED, the oil and gas industries are gaslighting us, and people called the cops on some whales.

1. BuzzFeed: Taylor Swift Is Still Catching Up To The Political Conversation

It feels like forever since I have shared my grievances on Taylor Swift. It is probably because I don’t spend much time thinking about her anymore. Her music peaked at Red and she had, until this week, largely become irrelevant to pop culture.

During the 2016 Presidential Election, Taylor Swift was conspicuously absent from politics. While many celebrities, such as Beyonce, were throwing their social capital behind politicians and political parties, Swift was absent. Since 2016, political conversations have centered on racism and misogyny and art and culture have become a main arena for the Morality Wars.  “As the political center shifted, Swift’s oblique relationship to politics was threatening to overtake her image.”

Last Sunday evening Swift announced, in an Instagram caption, that “due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently” about remaining politically silent. Swift continued “I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.”

The statement continued to discuss candidates from Tennessee, where Swift is registered to vote, before encouraging others to register and vote in the midterm elections as well. “It’s one thing to come out politically as a celebrity and a citizen, and quite a different thing to integrate that vision into a performance or an album. Will this be the beginning of a new political era for Swift as an artist, or just the end of nearly a decade of frantic speculation? That remains to be seen and heard.”

2. CNN: See Kanye and Trump’s full White House meeting

I don’t really know what to say about this, and no one else really does either. Kanye West’s most recent visit to the White House was filled with MAGA hats, pro-Trump rants, and hugs.

The whole thing was completely set up for spectacle. There were cameras everywhere, and Kanye spent a lot of time talking to them. Jimmy Kimmel described the meeting as “Trump was sitting across from his own Twitter account come to life.” Everyone seems to mostly be in disbelief, genuinely concerned about Kanye’s health, pissed at the Kardashians for not helping more, and taking bets on when Kimye will divorce. If you don’t want to watch his whole 10-minute monologue, here are some highlights.

3. The Atlantic: Kanye West’s Quixotic Quest

I have a friend that is convinced Kanye is going to kill himself as a performance. She has been saying this for at least a year. Her thinking is that Kanye is so obsessed with aesthetics and so obsequious to design that he believes killing himself is the only way to fully control his image and narrative. “He would do it because he wants to immortalize himself. Death would absolve him of his wrongs and leave him in the starlight.” My friend is amongst the myriad of people that think Kanye is mentally ill. But more than that, she believes he is calculated.

It is hard, if not impossible, to listen to Kanye’s music and dismiss his claims of genius. His work, as a musician, is brilliant and his impact on pop music, rap, and popular culture is profound. But just because he is musically and aesthetically brilliant, does not mean his genius is transferable to other disciplines. He has failed in trying to make this occur.

Perhaps Kanye has always been right that we simply don’t understand his genius. But, “perhaps the burden of foresight has corrupted the seer. Perhaps the venality and vanity West often agonized about in his music finally overwhelmed him. Perhaps two decades of his life have been conducted in a media crucible that can only produce warped and bent people. Perhaps he is in some way, less than well. Perhaps these are all true. But it is clear just how the country has changed in the past 13 years, and why West’s comments have been important bookends for an era. It was once difficult for a viewing public to accept an observation that the country had abandoned black communities. Now that’s just part of the plan. It’s a mundane observation. Kanye West does not do mundane.”

4. n + 1: Notes on Trap

Ever since reading Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp I have had a soft spot for notes on a lot of things. I don’t really listen to, or know anything about trap music, but the title enticed me. This list is technical, conceptual, historical and political in its notes, thus its definition, on trap. “Trap is the only music that sounds like what living in contemporary America feels like. It is the soundtrack of the dissocialized subject that neoliberalism made. It is the funeral music that the Reagan revolution deserves.”

Thirty-five notes have made me care about trap.

5. W Magazine: Cardi B Gets Candid: Hip-Hop’s Fiercest Female Rapper Speaks Out About Her Past, Her Career, and Being a New Mom

Let’s be real. This is a nice profile on Cardi B and all, but I’m only here for the photos. Mickalene Thomas photographed Cardi B for W Magazine’s The Art Issue and the photos are TO DIE FOR. Cardi is perfectly at home in Thomas’ extravagant sets. I wouldn’t image the rapper’s house looks any different. This series just makes too much sense.

6. The Atlantic: Alexa, Should We Trust You?

I have never really used a smartspeaker or personal assistant. I have never really used Siri, and I think it is weird when people do. I don’t have an Alexa, and have only interacted with one twice, years apart. I don’t have a desire to interact with them either, but I might not have a say in this for much longer. 

“By the end of last year, more than 40 million smart speakers had been installed worldwide, according to Canalys, a technology-research firm. Based on current sales, Canalys estimates that this figure will reach 100 million by the end of this year… By 2021, according to another research firm, Ovum, there will be almost as many voice-activated assistants on the planet as people.” 

Smart speakers are everywhere and they are getting better at listening. As technology improves, many developers are focusing on its ability to track our emotional states. “Today, Alexa is a humble servant. Very soon, she could be much more—a teacher, a therapist, a confidant, an informant.”

7. The New Republic: An Opera for the City, an Opera for the Self

I wish I had found this article sooner. And I wish I could have gone to see this. The Mile Long Opera: a Biography of 7 O’clock was a public art piece that spanned the length of the High Line in New York, and was “conceived by architects from the firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (which designed the High Line in collaboration with James Corner Field Operations and Piet Oudolf), and composed by David Lang, with libretto by the poets Anne Carson and Claudia Rankine.” The show, which took place from October 3–7th, was “a linear, interactive experience: You walk down the High Line, bracketed by singers from community choirs across New York.” Listeners could linger on a section they like, or move quickly past something they didn’t care for, all while navigating the cacophony of New York City.

Everyone had a different experience. And perhaps the opera highlighted one of the most magical and elusive aspects of art: “how art can mean nothing, depending on whether or not you’re listening.”

8. Facebook: Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra

This is everywhere on the classical music internet. The Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra is on strike due to the company “cutting the number of Orchestra musicians by eliminating five positions, cutting the pay of the remaining Orchestra musicians by 8%, cutting the number of Opera performances… cutting the number of working weeks for the Orchestra from 24 to 22, eliminating all of Lyric’s popular radio broadcasts.” This is all while the Chicago Lyric Opera’s operating budget has increased $20 million from 2012 to 2017, from $60.4 million to 84.5 million. The resolution of this strike, or lack thereof, is bound to resonate across the industry.

9. Common Dreams: What’s Not in the Latest Terrifying IPCC Report? The “Much, Much, Much More Terrifying” New Research on Climate Tipping Points

IPCC released a study on climate change on Wednesday and the whole world collectively flipped its shit. According to Nobel laureate Mario Molina, “the IPCC report demonstrates that it is still possible to keep the climate relatively safe, provided we muster an unprecedented level of cooperation, extraordinary speed and heroic scale of action. But even with its description of the increasing impacts that lie ahead, the IPCC understates a key risk: that self-reinforcing feedback loops could push the climate system into chaos before we have time to tame our energy system, and the other sources of climate pollution.” The report is much tamer than our reality.

I don’t remember a time when climate change wasn’t discussed, and it is easy to become desensitized or overwhelmed by the issue. But while many articles present climate change as a personal failing, that “we left the lights on too long, didn’t close the refrigerator door, and didn’t recycle our paper,” Mary Annaise Heglar and Vox are “here to tell you that is bullshit,” and that is very political. “If the light switch was connected to clean energy, who the hell cares if you left it on? The problem is not consumption — it’s the supply. And your scrap paper did not hasten the end of the world.

“Don’t give in to that shame. It’s not yours. The oil and gas industry is gaslighting you.”

10. The Root: A White Woman Called the Police on a Whale… A Whale, Y’all

Literally. A white family was in Puget Sound boating and called the cops on some whales. The woman that called was “really scared.” Naturally black twitter and The Root has too much fun with it because like really!?!? You are going to call the cops on whales in the ocean!?!

*All images taken from reference articles*

Have a suggestion for next week? Email with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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