The internet was one big conspiracy theory this week. Highlights: Everyone should know Lizzo, we need to be more critical when we use the term woke, Nancy Pelosi owns shade, Asian-American history is much more complex than most of us are taught, 21 Savage is not a meme, Dan Mallory might not know who Dan Mallory is, James Brown’s life was a conspiracy theory, editors are a great gift to writers, sommeliers continue to codify taste, and porta-potties are big business.
1. The Cut: It’s Just a Matter of Time Till Everybody Loves Lizzo
Firstly, I thought everyone already loved Lizzo??? Secondly, although I have known about Lizzo and loved her for a while, this article made me realize that I didn’t actually know that much about her. All I knew was that I, too, frequently misplace my phone on my person during and after a night out.
Some of the things I learned from this profile include but are not limited to: Her name is Melissa Jefferson, she can play “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the flute while twerking, she is an AKA, she is “stubbornly upbeat,” and she is not into Geminis (valid). The only other thing I wish this profile included was Lizzo’s star chart.
2. The Believer: Word: Woke
Being “woke” has become ubiquitous with contemporary liberalism. As Kashana Cauley writes in this essay: “In 2016, MTV defined woke as ‘being aware, specifically in reference to current events and cultural issues,’ a definition broad enough to encompass everything from studying up on prison reform to remembering the last rap beef.” Apart from one’s “mainstream lefty positions,” the term doesn’t mean much anymore.
Woke was first used in a political context in 1942 by J. Saunders Redding in the Negro Digest in reference to unions. It was a word used to stay “informed about anti-blackness, and to fight it. It acknowledged that being black meant navigating the gaps between the accepted narrative of normality in America and our own lives.” Woke is seldom used in this context anymore, and often skirts addressing systematic and structural issues. It is time we use words more critically and give woke its power back.
3. Slate: Nancy Pelosi Has Gained Enough Power to Be Flattened Into a Meme
Idk if you watched the State of the Union address. I didn’t, but Nancy Pelosi’s clap and women wearing white and generally not giving any fucks seem to be the takeaways.
Pelosi’s clap was the major highlight of the evening, after sitting through “most of Trump’s 90-minute address with a look of unbothered neutrality on her face, standing and clapping for unobjectionable things… It was when Trump beseeched Congress to ‘reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good’ that Pelosi… got up, extended her arms toward his face, and clapped in his direction with a pointed smirk that said, ‘Take your own advice, loser—and delete your account while you’re at it.’” Naturally the moment has become a major meme, but now runs the risk of flattening Pelosi, and forgetting her history.
4. Harper’s Magazine: Orphan Bachelors
Asian-American history doesn’t seem to be taught much in American schools. Sure, you learn about Japanese internment camps, which are seen as a blight to US history but quickly glossed over. It wasn’t until college that I began learning a more accurate version of Asian-American history—although I still don’t know enough.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first piece of legislation to restrict immigration based on nationality. The bill wasn’t officially repealed until 1943, but Chinese immigrants were still subject to a quota. Some referred to the 1943 repeal as “the Little Exclusion, because only 105 Chinese were allowed entry per year. The quota wouldn’t be eradicated until the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.” Many early Chinese laborers in the US were men who couldn’t marry due to miscegenation laws, so they were the original orphan bachelors. The history of Chinese immigration and Chinese-Americans is long, and the law’s effects are still felt on a new generation of orphan bachelors.
I honestly don’t know if I have ever heard anything by 21 Savage. Before this week, all I knew about him was that he was a rapper. Last Sunday, 21 Savage was reportedly detained by ICE due to an expired visa. “ICE authorities allege that the artist came to the country on a visa in 2005, which he overstayed when it expired the following year,” however they did not note that he was a minor at the time, and have largely left out other important details.
Following the announcement of 21 Savage’s detainment, the internet was quick to make jokes and memes at his expense, ignoring the nuances of the situation and 21 Savage’s heritage. Many of “these quips relied on the dangerous logic of ICE’s statement: the implication that [21 Savage’s] newly revealed immigration status renders him a fraudulent cultural interloper. This, despite the rapper having spent his formative years in Georgia’s DeKalb and Fulton counties. The uncritical responses reflected an unfamiliarity with the agency’s wide-ranging tactics to discredit its detainees, and the broader systems that contribute to that targeting. Absent from many of the responses to the rapper’s detainment was a nuanced understanding of how dangerous the process of immigration can be, how mandatory assimilation can feel upon arrival in America, and how easily black humanity is revoked.”
6. The New Yorker: A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions
I’m not even sure what this is, but it makes Dan Mallory seem like a liar. Like, wow. Mallory, who has a “lacrosse-player combination of strong chin and floppy hair,” (LMAO!) publishes under the pseudonym A.J. Finn, and is a publisher-turned-bestselling-author. He has been twisting his own life into a fantastical work of fiction since his undergraduate years at Duke. Mallory has pretended to be British, to have multiple PhDs, to have brain cancer and an inoperable tumor, and has made it seem like his mother died. “Mallory clearly has experienced mental distress. At Mallory’s request, his psychiatrist confirmed to me that Mallory was given a diagnosis of bipolar II… But a bipolar II diagnosis does not easily explain organized untruths, maintained over time.”
I’m not sure if we, or Mallory, will ever know the whole truth.
7. CNN: The Circus Singer and the Godfather of Soul
Apparently, most of James Brown’s life is a conspiracy theory come true, filled with violence and murders and shady deals. When circus singer Jacquelyn Hollander first contacted CNN reporter Thomas Lake, “she said she was not crazy, nor was she lying, and she hoped I would write her story, because it might save her life.” At times Hollander’s story was so complex with so many different characters that were hard to follow. “Her stories may ramble, one interrupting another and another after that, but she renders each scene with remarkable detail. They have the force of lived experience, of fear and sadness and hard-earned outrage.” When you hear it, “you think it might be an exaggeration. But this is what really scares you: It also might be true. Because if it is true, you might have to do something.”
After years of research, it seems like Hollander might be telling the truth, and CNN, with its hefty list of credits at the bottom of the page, seems to think so.
8. Lit Hub: Is Line Editing a Lost Art?
I write a lot, but I would never say I’m a good writer. I find a lot of my sentences clunky. I’m not always as concise as I should be. Writing has always taken a great deal of work for me.
I used to loathe seeing corrections on my papers when I was younger because I interpreted them as simply saying “bad.” Thankfully, I have grown out of that misinterpretation and love edits, although not from everyone. My sister is probably the person that edits most of my writing; this is partly because I can normally convince her to edit in a very short timeframe, but also because harsh words always seem more gentle from her, as she is older than me and has always found joy in yelling at me and explaining how I am wrong.
Having a good editor is invaluable to a writer. When a piece comes back from a good editor, “curved arrows sweep across the page. Double-strikethroughs delete extra words. Questions line the margins. Black blots seep two pages deep, with an explanation: ‘My pen broke!’ Blue-colored edits are no gentler: ‘don’t need’; ‘passive voice’; ‘where are we?’ A concluding end-note spans the back of two pages, opening with gentle praise, but then reaching the soul of the story.” Line editors interrogate every word and sentence of a piece—it is “the ultimate union of writer and editor; the line-edit means [writers] cede control, and the pen, to someone else.”
(Editor’s note: Thanks! I think? -CO)
9. The Washington Post: The Sommeliers of Everything
I have a lot of friends with dietary restrictions. Sometimes the restrictions are due to health reasons and others are general preferences for not eating meat, dairy, etc., and a lot of the time they are political. The restrictions have to do with environmentalism, or having a certain kind of value for what you put in your body. Whatever the case, each restriction comes with a moral stance and a vested specific interest in certain kinds of food. Sommeliers of literally everything are now a thing, and seem to be a natural extension of the politicization of food.
It can be easy to think “tea is just tea. Or olive oil is just olive oil. Or water is just water. Or a cigar is just a cigar. Or mustard is just mustard. If so, you’re likely skeptical of a honey sommelier, a tea sommelier, an olive oil sommelier, a water sommelier, a cigar sommelier or a mustard sommelier.” Recently, there seems to be an expert, with a certificate and all, for every gourmet endeavor. “Indeed, what the rise of specialized taste education, the cult of sensory analysis, and the wine-ification of everything means is that taste is becoming more and more codified all the time. There are good tastes and bad tastes; not only that, there’s a growing caste of gatekeepers in every field who are keeping score on what tastes great, middling and flawed. Maybe this is what morality or philosophy looks like in an increasingly post-religious, post-intellectual, materialistic United States.”
Personally, I’m not taking a class on a specific food to be considered an expert, and I don’t think many of my friends would either. I like objectively bad food sometimes just because it is connected to a happy memory, and I’m okay with that. Overall, I can’t be too judgemental considering that my favorite food is marshmallows.
10. New York Magazine: The Five Families of Feces
So this story is about porta-potties, and I love that the cover photo is of two people that look like they are in a marble bathroom and maybe just snorted too much coke. But, like, I’m really hoping that this is a fancy marble porta-potty.
Porta-potties are highly profitable, and “nationally, portable toilets are a $2 billion business… Daily rentals run about $225 each. Use a luxury restroom trailer with flushing toilets at an upstate wedding? It cost the bride’s parents a few thousand bucks just for the night.” The portable toilet industry is huge in New York, due to the city’s density and constant construction, which makes up for three-quarters of the market. With all that is at stake, there is a coup brewing in New York to anoint a new porta-potty king of the city.
*All images taken from reference articles*
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