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

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The internet was interesting this week but not particularly engaging. Highlights: Tech bros are gentrifying bread, people are still surprised by how many lies are on the internet, butts are in, there is a queer generation gap, people always seem to fall in love with Nina Simone, what’s happening in Venezuela isn’t simple, California burned and we still aren’t paying enough attention to climate change, Alabama reigns over college football, an American was killed by an isolated tribe, and we really need to protect tribal sovereignty and land.

1. Eater: Do You Even Bake, Bro?

Yes, yes I do bake, Bro. I bake a lot actually, but I don’t bake like a tech bro, especially when it comes to bread. I’m not too concerned with getting the same loaf each time, and use flour to water to salt to yeast to starter ratios as general guidelines. My loaves are misshapen and ever-changing.

Like everything else, tech bros are gentrifying bread, something that has been around for 6,000 in almost every culture. Bakers are no longer “early risers peacefully toiling at their craft, their secrets trapped just beneath the crust of a fresh loaf whose sweet smells are wafting through the streets,” they aremillennials with sufficient disposable income and leisure time… Well-off, internet-raised 20- and 30-somethings have turned to baking bread to self-imposed a little offline time… to get closer to their mythical human roots, to go back to a time when everything took forever and nothing could be Seamlessed.”

Bro bread is not passed down from generation to generation, it is engineered. These new recipes read like formulas: “80% bread flour, 20% whole wheat, 80% hydration, 2% salt, Leaven was 100% hydration, whole wheat, young (4 hours), and comprised of 10% of total *dough* weight (60g for a 600g loaf). Hand mixed via Rubaud Method for 10 minutes. Bulk for 3.5 hours, low 80s F, with coil folds at 60 minutes and 120 minutes (around 40% rise in volume).”

As with a lot of people, I’m skeptical of most things tech — do we really need more solutions to problems that aren’t really problems until a tech company commodifies a solution?  “Aren’t the tech bros creating a parody of themselves in tinkering with bread — bread, for crying out loud! — in such an obsessive way?” Perhaps they are, but “Maybe we shouldn’t be thinking about the trend as some kind of threat to the purity of baking, but more about an opportunity to help technologists rehabilitate their humanity in the kitchen.”

2. Washington Post: ‘Nothing on this page is real’: How lies become truth in online America

I’m constantly fascinated by how other people are surprised by how fucked up and political social media is. Every week there is some “revolutionary” article that exposes something new about the relationship between politics and social media, when, mostly, they are further confirmations of previously understood phenomena.

Christopher Blair is the liberal political blogger behind America’s Last Line of Defense, a satirical website posting headlines such as “California School children forced to Sharia in Class,” that quickly became “one of the most popular on Facebook among Trump-supporting conservatives over 55” after he started it “during the 2016 presidential campaign as a practical joke among friends.” Many of his stories go viral, and while other liberals who are in on the joke send him messages of support, his conservative followers think the stories are true, despite the website’s numerous disclaimers that nothing on the page is real. Blair founded the website “to engage directly with people who spread false or extremist stories and prove those stories were wrong.” While Blair does take time out of his day to inform his conservative followers of their misconceptions, how many of the conservatives that follow Blair actually read his big reveals? And how many just share and move on to consume more fake news?

Blair scathes, “How could any thinking person believe this nonsense?”

Maybe this one issue: people are not thinking and only reacting. But Blair is part of the issue too. Despite his numerous disclaimers and attempts to reveal the fallacy of this stories, Blair’s point is not getting across. Is it moral, or even ethical for him to continue? Or his Blair simply feeding the beast? Is the responsibility on the consumer or creator of information?

The answer to all of these questions, of course, exists in the space between the polarities presented, but one thing is clear: America’s Last Line of Defense shouldn’t be a joke. It also might be in the running for the most entitled white boy joke ever.

3. The Guardian: Rear view: the big business of bottoms

I love watching people walk. I love trying to figure out people’s q-angels, and looking at the structure of their legs and how they move as people walk. I don’t know why I like doing this but I do. Consequently, my love for watching people walk means I also spend a lot of time looking at people’s bottoms.

I also have a supreme fascination with self-design, how people aestheticize themselves. This often leads me to watch makeover reality TV shows, and the bowels of plastic surgery Instagram.

Beauty standards are always changing, “from the lean boyish chests of flappers in the 1920s, signifying liberation from corsetry, through 30s bosoms and 40s legs, to the sexualized femininity of Marilyn Monroe’s hourglass figure, and on eventually to 80s muscles (Power! Strength!), and 90s, well, bones.” Over the past decade or so, they have shifted from being thin to being sexy. “Everyone wants to look like Kim Kardashian, not Kate Moss. Curves, not bones.” This might sound more positive at first, but as a group of 20 somethings pointed out “that it also requires a tiny waist. You can starve yourself bony, but ‘the sexy body is much more unattainable.’”

This is where plastic surgery comes in. “In 2014, the focus turned to the bottom. Butt lift injections and buttock implants were the fastest-growing plastic surgery in the US, up 58% from 2012.” But as more women travel for cheaper surgery, the complications are also increasing and “in the US, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has tracked a 26% jump from 2016 to 2017, making Brazilian Butt Lifts the surgical procedure that has seen the second most significant increase in that period – 33 people in the US have died after the surgery in the past 5 years.”

Then there is the cultural component. In 2014 “American Vogue declared the big bum on trend… for white women: as soon as a trend goes mainstream, women of color are eliminated from the story. ‘So common is the process, it has its own Twitter hashtag,’ wrote Yomi Adegoke. ‘#Columbising – when, like Christopher Columbus, white people think they have discovered something that was already in existence.'”

4. Longreads: The Queer Generation Gap

Queerness is popping up everywhere, and as with most things, there is a generational gap, and it has grown quickly. I wrote in August about how when I was in high school, the queer culture there was closer to that than my friend that graduated nearly 15 years before me, than my friend that graduated in 2017, 4 years after me. The generation gap is real and complex. But what really got me about this article was its analysis of Ezra Miller.

I couldn’t figure out why I kept getting so annoyed with how Miller has recently been publicized. Miller, who stars in the Fantastic Beast series of the Potterverse, openly identifies as queer and with his “chest out, lips open, legs wide” while posing as a Playboy bunny “it’s hard to take him seriously. What was it Susan Sontag sai: it’s not camp if it’s trying to be camp? And for the past few months… this 26-year-old fashionisto has been trying his damndest, styling himself as a sort of latter day Ziggy Stardust — the monastic Moncler puffer cape, the glittering Givenchy feathers — minus the depth.” The internet loves championing white male fluidity while “female fluidity, particularly black female fluidity, [is] somehow unremarkable.”

For me, the timing of Miller’s expression with his queerness seems too perfect, leaving me skeptical of his motives. Janelle Monae infused her work with queerness for years before she formally came out, and even still it was “eclipsed by questions about what pansexual actually means.” Millers look has somewhat changed overnight. “Six months ago, Miller looked like every other guy on the red carpet and now, per his own request, models bunny ears, fishnets, and heels as a gender-fluid rabbit for a randy Playboy interview. Okay, I guess, but it reads disingenuous to someone who grew up surrounded by closets to see them plundered so flagrantly for publicity.”

5. Oxford America: Nina Simone is Everywhere I Go

Most people fall in love with Nina Simone at some point in their lives; it is hard not to. Her deep contralto voice is seductive. Her music oscillates between pain and defiant radical joy. And her mastery of piano is profound. Becoming entranced by Simone is nothing but expected. My love affair has settled into a typical appreciation for her music and legacy.

Every year or so I find a new cultural producer — artists, writers, and musicians mostly — of some sort to fall in love with. When this happens, I consume as much information about the person as possible: I read biographies, watch documentaries, listen to recordings, and if it all possible travel to see them or any of their work in person. These are my feeble attempts at trying to understand how great minds think. I have always found processes more interesting than products.

I’m conflicted by this article. I deeply connect to Tiana Clark’s obsession with Nina Simone, and need to travel to her childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina in an attempt to get closer to brilliance. I know it is true that “you always know when a Nina Simone song spills out of a speaker. The temperature changes, the mood and muscles relax, and everyone at the party seems to pause.” But as Clark weaves her narrative with that of Simone’s, she loses me. Some passages reek with didacticism, “as a Southern writer… I cannot look at or engage with the landscape of the South without seeing the trauma of the past—I will always see blood on the leaves” or “What does it mean for me, as a Black writer, to not have acute access to the source of my inspiration? I’ve never been to Africa, and yet, the handprints and rhythms of the continent saturate all of my poems.” At other times these parallels are more seductive “Things have changed, Miss Simone/ I have a scholarship. They want me here” Clark says to Simone in a poem where the two discuss graduate school. “They want my poems. They want—  / Do they want you, / she says, sucking / her ghost teeth, / or your Black pain? / What’s the difference? I say.”

6. The Nib: What Happened to Venezuela Isn’t So Simple

I usually don’t read graphic narratives, but this popped up on my Facebook feed from a friend — who is Venezuelan — that I went to summer camp with in elementary school. She always posts interesting articles, and this is no exception.

“Whenever Venezuela appears in American news outlets I am left stunned by the dramatic images of the devastation that Nicolas Maduro’s government has thrusted upon the Venezuelan people.” It is often portrayed as a failure of socialism in a binary relationship with capitalism, and a warning for global democracies. “Ominous 60 second segments inform me that Venezuela has collapsed. Yet I was just talking to my cousins a second ago on Whatsapp, and life is still somehow going on. People are still waking up, trying to make sense of what happened to them.” We always like to simplify things in America, and things are almost never that simple.

7. New Yorker: How Extreme Weather is Shrinking the Planet

If you have been keeping up with climate change — even marginally — nothing in this article is that surprising. The most interesting part of this article is Bill Mckibben, the author, and his relationship to reporting climate change. “Thirty years ago, this magazine published ‘The End of Nature,’ a long article about what we then called the greenhouse effect. I was in my twenties when I wrote it, and out on an intellectual limb: climate science was still young. But the data were persuasive, and freighted with sadness. We were spewing so much carbon into the atmosphere that nature was no longer a force beyond our influence—and humanity, with its capacity for industry and heedlessness, had come to affect every cubic metre of the planet’s air, every inch of its surface, every drop of its water. Scientists underlined this notion a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene, the world made by man.” We didn’t head early warnings, and continued to pump carbon into the atmosphere at alarming rates. Now “the earth, for humans, has begun to shrink, under our feet and in our minds.

8. The Atlantic: In the New College Football, Alabama Is Still Out Front

I’m not a football fan, but I grew up on a Big 10 campus, and the sport has always been a part of my life. I grew up going to tailgates, but I never liked watching the game. It always found it too slow with too make breaks. But I always loved the spectacle, watching people cover themselves in paraphernalia cheering for something I don’t understand.  

Even if you only marginally follow college football, it is widely known Alabama is one of the game’s biggest powerhouses. This season, “Alabama has dominated to a degree that’s rare even in its own gilded history. The team has won each of its games by at least 22 points, and on five separate occasions it has scored at least three touchdowns in the first quarter alone.”

Since 2007, Nick Saban has led the Crimson Tide to four national championships. Usually a traditionalist, Saban tended to stick to running the ball using a strong defense, but “college football is moving in a way where you can’t just win exclusively on defense anymore,” something that was demonstrated when “Clemson University’s Deshaun Watson threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns (and ran for another) to beat Alabama 35–31 in the 2017 title game.”

When Tua Tagovailoa stepped into relief starter  Jalen Hurts last January it might have been a saving grace for Saban, although he probably didn’t know it. Tagovailoa “who is widely seen as the best quarterback in college football and is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, throwing for more than 2,800 yards and 31 touchdowns against just two interceptions.” The team has adapted to suit his playing style. “Saban was once the sport’s daunting constant, testing and dismissing whatever newfangled strategies were employed against his prized defense, but the still-nascent Tagovailoa era has revealed in the 67-year-old a willingness to adapt.” But one thing has always been clear: Saban has always been “perfectly content with winning… however winning looks that particular week.”

9. CNN: Sentinelese tribe thought to have killed American ‘world’s most isolated’
Anyway, an American, John Allen Chau, has been killed by the protected Sentinelese tribe, an isolated group of people living on an island in the Bay of Bengal. The tribe has a history of vehemently defending itself against outsiders. “It’s believed the Sentinelese killed Chau after he asked a local friend to find a boat and several fishermen to help him get closer to the prohibited island.” Chau wanted to go to the island to “share the Gospel and perhaps translate the Bible.”

Authorities do not know if retrieval of his body as possible, and anthropologist and experts are advising against it. More outsiders visiting the island are not only endangering themselves and pose a cultural threat, the Sentinelese as do not have immunity to many modern illnesses. “The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected.” Leave his body there! And stop going to places you have not business going to! Damn.

10. Huffington Post: This Thanksgiving, The Trump Administration Is Taking Land From The Tribe That Welcomed The Pilgrims
Thanksgiving was on Thursday, and most of us still have a very reductive, whitewashed knowledge of the holiday and founding of our country. “About 400 years ago, a man named Tisquantum was kidnapped by an English explorer and taken to Spain as a slave. Miraculously, Tisquantum escaped and returned to the ‘New World’ and to the coastal village where he once lived. In the years he was gone, his entire family died of disease.

“A short time later, struggling, desperate English settlers arrived on the shores where his tribe, the Wampanoag, still lived. Tisquantum was key to their survival. Because of his time in Europe, he could speak English. He helped the settlers plant corn and survive winter, and he brokered a peace agreement, without which their colony ― and, by extension, the United States ― would have never existed. The first treaty and the first land grant to the white settlers in North America were translated by this man.”

Since 2016 the Wampanoag and Mashpee reservation have been fighting to protect themselves after “casino developer Neil Bluhm wanted to open a casino in a part of Massachusetts set aside for tribal gaming only. He financially backed a small group of residents from the city of Taunton, where the tribe planned to open a casino, to sue the Department of Interior, demanding the agency revoke the reservation’s trust status” and Taunton residents won. Now the Trump administration is arguing that the Wampanoag are no longer Indian enough to be federally recognized, threatening their reservation. “And on this Thanksgiving, the United States government is in the process of terminating the reservation of the tribe that welcomed the Pilgrims.”

*All images taken from reference articles*

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