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

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I liked the internet this week. It made me laugh. Highlights: Ambiguity can be beautiful, we learned how to become artists, maybe I don’t like Lena Dunham because I’m like her, Amanda Bynes is back, Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel seriously deserves some kind of award, most people don’t know the original definition of emotional labor, Missy Elliot will always be Supa Dupa Fly, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants died and it was a tough day for millennials on the internet, black male writers are having a moment, and presidential legacies are complicated. 

1.  Culture Box: Nederlands Dans Theater 1: “The Statement” de Crystal Pite

I have been watching this for most of the week and still don’t exactly know what to say about it. Four dancers move around a boardroom table discussing some sort of corporate cover-up. An explicit subject is never revealed, only that whatever happened was tragic and profitable.

In contemporary art, ambiguity is often a topic of discussion. Sometimes pieces are too strict discouraging interpretation. Other times a piece is so open there is nothing to ground you. This perfectly uses ambiguity, providing a stage with just enough information for viewers to infinitely project different scenarios.

2. Vulture: How to Be an Artist

Often times, it is not what it is said, but how something is said that really matters. If you are an observant person, or someone the generally seeks advice, nothing presented in this article is particularly new, but it is said with so much love and compassion that it seems new. This list is interesting as Saltz categories it as lessons and not rules. The lessons are grouped into steps such as “You Are a Total Amateur,” “Learn How to Think Like an Artist,” and “Survive the Art World” with lessons including “Develop Forms of Practice,” “Find Your Own Voice,” “All Art Was Once Contemporary Art,” and his favorite, “Work, Work, Work.” But more than rules and lessons, Saltz’s list is “really are all you need to know to make a life for yourself in art.”

I was fortunate enough to meet Saltz in the courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum. He sat down at the table next to me, and upon glancing over and realizing who he was, I tentatively walked over and introduced myself. Saltz immediately invited me to join him as he ate his sandwich. He asked if I was an artist, to which I fumbled an answer about how I mostly write at the moment, but also have an esoteric Instagram account. A lover of social media, Saltz retorted that esoteric Instagram accounts are his favorite kind, and asked me if he should follow my account. After he followed me, he gave me a mini-critique before inviting me to his lecture later that evening at the Hirshhorn Museum.

Throughout our conversation and his lecture, Saltz referenced this article many times. During our conversation gave me advice generally, but also specified some of the ideas presented in this article for me based on the little information he had. His 34th rule, after all, is “always be nice, generous, and open with others and take good care of your teeth.”

In the past, I have occasionally been skeptical of Saltz’s seemingly endless adoration of art. But after meeting him, I understand that his love is genuine.

3. The Cut: ‘Yeah, I’m Not for Everyone.’ Lena Dunham comes to terms with herself.

LMFAO. I read the first part of this article, and apparently, Lena Dunham and I text the same way. When communicating with the author, Gillian Laub, Dunham, amongst other things, “sent texts to supplement conversations we’d already had in person, texts that answered questions she thought I’d probably ask in the next interview… She sent a screenshot of a motivational text conversation she’d had with her friend Lady Gaga, who is saved in her contacts as Lady Gaga, not as Stefani. There was a photo of a gift she’d gotten for her surgeon (a silver business-card case with ENDOKING engraved on it). There was a #RIPPariana (a reference to the breakup of Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande). Reassurances that she wasn’t on painkillers: ‘It’s all me, baby!’ There was video of a hairless black puppy she was thinking of adopting and naming Rosa…

“At first it felt overwhelming, but then I got used to the intimate snippets of her life.”

I felt READ when I saw that. I have a running joke with one of my friends that she has a personal Snapchat story of my life via iMessage because of all random pictures and texts I send her. Although she likes it, it is not uncommon for me to unknowingly help her procrastinate and/or generally distract her from her life. We have an agreement that if I am distracting her too much, she can block me and I won’t get butthurt. Like I’m 95% sure I am blocked right now but I still send her stuff because I have no shame.

Anyway, I’m usually Dunham hater—this profile includes a paragraph long incomplete list of things she has been asked to apologize for, including “apologizing but never learning”— but reading the first couple of paragraphs piqued my curiosity. Instead of immediately disregarding her, I spent time combing the article for similarities between us—there are quite a few. Apart from being avid serial texters and having divisive personalities, we both have a fascination with intimacy. Dunham sends “increasingly intimate details that she knows I’ll put in this article as if she were trying to be the director of her own candid, sympathy-generating magazine story” and most of my Instagram account is dedicated to screenshots of texting conversations. It is funny because I ran into Dunham’s godfather, Jerry Saltz, on Thursday and upon looking at my Instagram account, he immediately picked up on my interest in intimacy—something that I didn’t realize. He said my account is “making public private conversations we all have.”

Laub questions, “if Lena Dunham, the performance artist daring us to hate her, is the work.” I would never claim or invite such a critique of being art. Instead, as my friend would say I see everything through the lens of art, which at times can be deceptively close to being art.

4. Paper Magazine: Break the Internet: Amanda, Please

Amanda Bynes is back! To say that the internet is HERE FOR IT would be a supreme understatement.

Since her last film, Easy A, Bynes has all but fallen off the radar. After seeing the film, “I was convinced that I should never be on camera again” Bynes said. “I officially retired on Twitter, which was, you know, also stupid… If I was going to retire [the right way], I should’ve done it in a press statement — but I did it on Twitter. Real classy!” After overcoming a dependency on different types of pills, Bynes enrolled at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in 2014 and “is receiving her Associate’s of Art degree in Merchandise Product Development this month before embarking on a Bachelor’s degree immediately thereafter in January.”

But she also wants to get back into acting. Bynes “wants to re-enter the business ‘kind of the same way I did as a kid, which is with excitement and hope for the best.’ She says she wants to have the chance to ‘try it all’ and ‘doesn’t want to limit myself.’” As someone the grew up watching The Amanda Show, What a Girl Wants, and She’s the Man, this is more than exciting. Reading this article also gave me an epiphany and caused me to have a new dream in life: Amanda Bynes and Kate McKinnon as cast-mates on SNL.

5. BuzzFeed: Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen Chefs Are The Only YouTube Stars I Care About

I don’t really know when I became obsessed with Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel, only that it reached maturation during the Kavanaugh trial, and has continued at a steady pace since. Two weeks ago I bought a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom just to make Bon Appétit’s Food Director’s, Carla Lalli Music, naked apple tart for Thanksgiving.  

Like the author of this article, Louis Peitzman, I have never had an affinity for YouTube personalities, until Bon Appétit. I don’t know exactly what it is about the channel and its stars. Maybe it is that “The food itself is always secondary” or that “the Bon Appétit videos are my Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the crossovers” between series such as Gourmet Makes with Claire Saffitz and It’s Alive with Brad Leon “just whet my appetite for seeing the chefs shine in their individual projects.” Either way, something special is going on.

6. The Atlantic: The Concept Creep of ‘Emotional Labor’

Some days it is hard to read anything without emotional labor or self-care making an appearance. Sometimes the terms are used so much that I don’t even know if they are real anymore. Emotional labor and self-care have expanded in definition so much over the past few years that when I hear them I become immediately skeptical of the person that said them, and if they are being used as an excuse. Which then makes me skeptical of my skepticism. But I digress.

Emotional labor was “ first coined by the sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her 1983 book on the topic, The Managed Heart.” As Hochschild defined it “referred to the work of managing one’s own emotions that was required by certain professions. Flight attendants, who are expected to smile and be friendly even in stressful situations, are the canonical example.” As the term’s popularity has risen, emotional labor has often been conflated with mental work, which is important but doesn’t always force one to manage their emotions.

In this interview with Julie Beck is fascinating, and many contemporary notions of the concept are challenged, as presented below.

Beck: Is it emotional labor when you try to say your ideas in a meeting in a nonthreatening way?

Hochschild: Not unless it is experienced as anxiety-provoking or fear-evoking to you.

Beck: I’m going to dig into this one just slightly more. This is something that people talk about a lot. There’s a sort of internalized expectation for women in the workplace that they not be too assertive, not too threatening to men, or just play nicely with others. Is that internalized expectation, and the forming of yourself to fit that expectation, emotional labor?

Hochschild: I love attention to this, but we need to be precise about it. If in the course of asserting yourself you find that you are having to brace yourself against imagined criticisms, or people are looking disapproving and you realize your job may be in jeopardy, all of that bracing and anticipation and experience of anxiety I would count as yes, emotional labor. But it’s not welded into the task itself.

7. The New Yorker: Missy Elliott’s“Supa Dupa Fly”

I love getting lessons in hip-hop’s history. It is like this weird history that I vaguely remember but was too young to understand. Plus hip-hop’s peak in the 90s was the precursor to the beautiful dumpster fire that was 2000s pop culture, the stuff I grew up on. 

I have never known how to comprehend Missy Elliot. Her work is fast, colorful and reads as completely spontaneous, although it is most certainly thought out. In Supa Dupa Fly, Elliott’s solo debut, her brilliance is on full, unadulterated display. “Elliott mixed the high and the low, the earthly and the extraterrestrial, the soulful and the cool, made her a genius.” She has a genius with a tremendous ripple effect that permeates pop culture to this day.

Reading this article was not only a history lesson but also one of the most engaging and interactive formats I have ever seen from a major publication. It is filled with gifs, videos, and audio recordings embedded in the text the same way one would see and use hyperlinks. It was by far my favorite way to read music criticism, like all the aspects of an audio NPR article only written. 

8. Slate: The Essential SpongeBob SquarePants Episodes, as Chosen by Millennials Who Grew Up on Them

Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, died this week, and it is hitting millennials hard. I was talking to my mom about it on the metro in DC on Tuesday when the millennial sitting in front of us turned around and showed me his phone. He was looking a SpongeBob memes. We spent a brief moment discussing the differences between early and late SpongeBob before going back to our respective commutes.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what article to use this week. Most of them felt too formulaic for such a radical show, and, quite honestly, it felt wrong to only share one voice when Hillenburg’s SpongeBob impacted so many. This article is so perfect because it is all anecdotal, filled with many perspectives of the generation that Hillenburg and SpongeBob influenced the most. It is deeply personal and steeped in nostalgia.

9. New York Times: Black Male Writers of Our Time

Admittedly, I do not follow many black male writers. I actually don’t follow very many literary writers at all. I sent this to a friend that is into literature, specifically black literature and she loved it.

Apart from being a fairly comprehensive list, it is diverse in almost every other way. Some of the writers are queer, some are poets while others are playwrights or novelists; they all write about a variety of themes and have different perspectives on blackness. Here, black males are not monolithic. “Contemporary African-American literature is formally sophisticated, irreducibly nuanced and highly individualized,” after all.  “The writers in these pages may be a cohort of sorts, yet their work is distinguished by a great variety of voices and aesthetics.

Perhaps what I found most interesting about this article is how it was framed by black women. The author, Ayana Mathis, is a black woman, and the speakers in the voiceover for the video are Lorraine Hansberry, Audre Lord, and  Maya Angelou saying this like “we have to work very carefully not to be pawns, and act out poor imitations of ourselves as written by someone else.”

10. The New York Times: George Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94

If you read almost any obituary of George HW Bush it will ostensibly say that he was the last Republican that people didn’t hate, he was dignified and honorable, he ended the cold war, and “he was the last of the World War II generation to occupy the Oval Office.” To many, Bush was an exemplary public servant.

For some, his legacy is much more tumultuous. Over the past few years, he had been accused of sexual harassment, which he “most sincerely” apologized for and this article does address. Not to mention, this article does not his role in the AIDS epidemic at all. As Eric Sawyer states in Out “by the end of Bush’s presidency, there was only $135 million being spent for HIV efforts globally by US AID. Nobody was getting treatment for opportunistic infections — it was primarily being used for condom distribution. Not only did Bush allow the epidemic to rage to over 110,000 people here in the United States on his watch, but globally, there were over 1.5 million cases.” This was especially highlighted as World AIDS was yesterday, the day after Bush’s death. It is easy to gloss over someone’s failures and focus on the heroics, especially after they die.

*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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