It took a lot of energy for me to get into the internet this week. Highlights: The court of public opinion is intense, suicide can be addictive, Sylvia Plath wrote with multiple shades of depression, Mitski is the fact of our ideas, Nancy Wilson died, we all have weird personal experiences, regional grocery stores are GOAT, the IRS is broke, Kevin Hart fucked up, and Congress is v confused about the internet.
1. New York Times: He Helped Build an Artists’ Utopia. Now He Faces Trial for 36 Deaths There.
Not gonna lie, I didn’t read this whole article. I just couldn’t. It is the most sympathetic bullshit I have ever read.
Max Harris helped to create the Ghost Ship warehouse that burned down in Oakland, California last year, killing 36 and setting off a string of closures of similar artist-run work-live spaces around the country.
Now, my bullshit comment above has nothing to do with the victims of the Ghost Ship, lack of funding for the Oakland fire department and other politics around the fire — that is absolutely tragic— but I do not need to read about how Harris named his pet “spider Norbit, and when Norbit’s eggs hatched he named the babies Hexbit, Drillbit, Babybit and so on.” I know this information is supposed to make me empathize with him, but it just annoys me. I completely believe that the fire was an accident and that Harris feels an awful responsibility for it, but highlighting how gentle and compassionate he is because he is vegan and “he studies Zen Buddhism. He keeps the Jewish Sabbath. He prays to his Christian God” just makes this read like a big ploy for public sympathy before his trial.
2. Huffington Post: I’m Still Here
This is one of the most beautifully written pieces I have read in a long time. It is also dangerous in how seductive it makes death seem. But that is probably the point.
Clancy Martin lives a “normal, productive life as a philosophy professor, father and writer” but has also attempted suicide multiple times. “I never wanted to hurt myself,” said Martin “I don’t like pain: If I could have killed myself painlessly, I would have been dead back in elementary school. I’ve always suspected that if we all had a switch on our hip we could casually flip, to turn off life like you turn off the light, none of us would make it to legal drinking age.”
This story is mesmerizing and not mine to tell.
3. Literary Hub: On Sylvia Plath and the Many Shades of Depression
I have never read The Bell Jar and I don’t normally read Sylvia Plath. This has always surprised, disappointed, and confused me. I don’t really like novels, so not reading The Bell Jar makes sense. But my favorite poet is Elizabeth Bishop so I don’t really know why I never got into Plath. They are both extremely visual poets, wrote about themes of loss and sadness and are of a similar group of Boston poets.
Death and depression are ever present in Plath’s work. Her most famous book afterall is the semi-autobiographic novel is a “is a book of death” following the down fall of Esther Greenwood’s life and subsequent suicide attempt. “But Esther’s suicide attempt is merely one of [the deaths]. Depression—that bell jar that seems inescapable when it descends over you, or when it possesses you like a soul-sucking spirit—is the novel’s great killer.”
Depression is often mistaken for sadness, but “sadness has many shades. A smoky, deepening sadness, the indigo before twilight unboxes her stars. A thinner sorrow, like the rags of old banana trees, the fluttering garments of sea-ghosts. There is even a soft, slow melancholy that intersects with happiness, a sad happiness, drifting like a jellyfish, distant-yet-there as an ambient soundscape by Brian Eno.
“But none of these approach depression. Depression only looks like sadness on the surface because some of its symptoms appear similar; in reality, depression is a failure, even of sadness.”
I’ve always wanted to love Plath in the way I love Bishop but never have. Maybe I’ll finally read The Bell Jar.
4. The New Yorker: The Misreading of Mitski
It seems like Mitski has been popping up all over my life. I first heard her last year when my friend would play her while we would drive around town. This year my friends invited me to her concert in Philly. Then a couple of days later a different friend posted a video at Mitski’s concert somewhere near New Haven, Connecticut. About a month later, another friend saw her in Brooklyn. In November I juried a writing competition and one of the entries was about the Mitski concert in Philly.
I had never actively listened to Mitski until reading that review of her concert. Halfway through my first read, I started listening to Be The Cowboy, her most recent album, and almost regretted not going to the concert in Philly with my friends. Then I wondered if I would change the way I felt about the review. I loved the review so much that I decided that it was okay I didn’t go to the concert because the writer transported me there.
See, the thing about Mitski is “people seem to love the idea of Mitski as much as the fact of her.” It is easy to impose meaning onto her songs because Mitski is the “careful architect of the music her fans fall in love with.” She creates music to be lived in with songs that can “come off like pure sound, so aesthetically coherent that you can’t tell the words apart from the melody at all.”
5. NPR: Remembering Nancy Wilson: The Best Of ‘Jazz Profiles’
I learned about Nancy Wilson very late. As in the first time I listened to one of her recordings was Friday, when it was announced that she had died. News of her death spread across social like wildfire with every platform I went to making some mention of her death.
Wilson was an award-winning jazz vocalist, and later hosted Jazz Profiles, which “remains the most comprehensive history of jazz ever recorded.” Wilson “was the soul of Jazz Profiles. With an engaging, listenable, silky-smooth delivery, combined with a manner that evoked credibility and authority because she lived jazz and personally knew many of the artists featured,” who included Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Betty Carter, and Nat King Cole.
Obituaries aren’t always written by people that knew their subject, but this was written by someone that lived Nancy Wilson, just as she lived the history of a music that is quintessentially American. I didn’t know Wilson before Friday, but I know her now.
6. The Outline: Experience: I am in love with this personal essay series
I love finding a new series to become obsessed with. It doesn’t matter if it is a TV show, or a series of articles or essays, as long as it is episodic. I had never read anything from The Guardian’s Experience series before reading this article, but I quickly fell down the rabbit hole.
The stories recounted in this series are vast and varied. One person “dropped two nuclear bombs,” another “won a pub on TV,” while someone else was “swallowed by a hippo.” “The Guardian Experience column serenely transcends the baffling rush of the 24-hour news cycle; unlike op-ed writing, it forces no hot takes on us — in fact, the Guardian Experience column hardly aspires to make any judgments about its subject matter at all.” Reading this series is like binging reality TV in written form.
7. Eater: H-E-B Forever
I find regional grocery stores fascinating. The main one where I grew up was Meijer. You can always tell if someone grew up in Michigan because they will pronounce it correctly — Meijer as in Meyer — but also make it a possessive, Meijer’s, in an ode to the chain’s previous name, Meijer’s Thrifty Acers. Meijer is not the best chain, but they are by far my favorite. Grocery stores are “prism[s] for identity, refracting and focusing it; Whole Foods famously does this for an entire group of people held together by little more than social class and a vague sense of taste.”
In Texas, H-E-Bs reigns supreme. Texas has a reputation that might be bigger than the state itself, which is saying a lot. As Manny Fernandez wrote in the New York Times, “you don’t just move to Texas. It moves into you … We tattoo Texas on our arms, buy Texas-built trucks and climb fire escapes with Texas dirt in our pockets. Place, we are unsubtly suggesting, matters.” At H-E-Bs you can find anything in the shape of Texas. “Have you ever wanted a cast-iron skillet in the shape of the Lone Star state? Party tray? Burger-shaper? Cutting board? Pecan cake? Cheese?” I have never wanted any of these in the shape of a hand, but I don’t think any place is as obsessed with its shape as Texas. In the end, H-E-B’s “customers are ultimately loyal to H-E-B in so far as they are loyal to Texas.”
8. ProPublica: How the IRS Was Gutted
The budget of the IRS has slowly been cut over time. Employees have retired and not been replaced. “As of last year, the IRS had 9,510 auditors. That’s down a third from 2010. The last time the IRS had fewer than 10,000 revenue agents was 1953, when the economy was a seventh of its current size.” The lack of auditors means fewer people are being investigated for not filing or filing but not paying their taxes. It is estimated that “the total shortfall since 2011 has been about $95 billion.”
While it may seem like a good time for tax evasion, that is only true if you are rich. “Under continued pressure from Republicans, the IRS has long made a priority of auditing people who receive [tax credits], and as the IRS has shrunk, those audits have consumed even more resources, accounting for 36 percent of audits last year. The credit’s recipients — whose annual income is typically less than $20,000 — are now examined at rates similar to those who make $500,000 to $1 million a year. Only people with incomes above $1 million are examined much more frequently.”
The American tax system is fucked.
9. The Guardian: Kevin Hart fueled a dangerous trope: the unenlightened black homophobe
If you have not been following awards season drama, last week it was announced that Kevin Hart would host the 2019 Oscars. Then, last Thursday Hart resigned as host after refusing to apologize for old homophobic tweets. A lot of LGBTQ+ celebrities and public figures were not as upset with Hart’s comments as with his refusal to apologize and, as Steven Thrasher explains, evoked the trope of “unenlightened black homophobe who must be corrected by wiser white liberals.”
A new host has yet to be announced, but the saga will continue.
LMAO. If you don’t know about this, idk where you have been. But Congress doesn’t understand how the internet works, and Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, had to explain why pictures of Donald Trump come up in Google image searches for “idiot” and that “it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we’re going to show the user,” as congresswoman Zoe Lofgren suggested.
*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.”