The internet was kinda great this week! There was a lovely mix of drama and more sensitive long reads. Highlights: Solange might really be a sun angel, the Joans Brothers are back, A Tribe Called Quest is gone, the Oscars are grotesque, PR people are slimy, the Jordyn/Khloe/Tristan drama continues, Barbara Hammer is making a graceful exit, people post some batshit crazy stuff on Facebook, we use A LOT of concrete, and I can’t read everything on the internet each week.
First, let me start off by saying the only reason I chose this and not the film that goes with the album is that I don’t have Apple Music and my lazy ass will forget to cancel my free subscription after 3 months and I don’t feel like paying $9.99 a month for the rest of my life. If someone wants to pay for Apple Music for me. I take Venmo @alexandra-oehmke.
Anyway, after reviving BlackPlanet with a single tweet, Solange, released her new album, When I Get Home, on Friday at midnight. I have not been able to stop listening since it debuted, and like everything she does, it is a slow burn—although I’m not exactly sure that I’m feeling the burn yet. The tracks endlessly flow in and out of each other, and it is easy to lose your orientation in her sonic landscape. It’s a demanding album on the part of the listener, and for now, I’m enjoying my search for the secrets it might hold.
I was never that into the Jonas Brothers growing up, but I feel like my sister was…? Either way, they were everywhere. All the time. There was no escaping them. On Friday, the band released their first song, Sucker, since reuniting after their 2013 break up.
Sucker is presumably about their significant others and the video features Sophie Turner and Priyanka Chopra. With the clusterfuck of a world we are living in, Sucker offers a welcome (albeit surprising) reprieve.
3. The Paris Review: A Tribe Called Quest Is Gone, but Hip-Hop Isn’t
There is so much information in this short essay it is hard to unpack. It reaches back in the history of rap, and stands on the threshold of its future all in the same sentence. Music is always changing, and and each new generation receives resistance from older ones. In rap, this new predicament is mumble rap, where “rappers who eschew lyrical prowess in the name of drum-heavy trap beats and melodic choruses.” The form of rap was quick to spread online and over social media, and is often used as a scapegoat for the downfall of rap and hip-hop. The truth is the old guard can never stop rap from changing and mixing with other genres. Perhaps they should really spend time with mumble rap instead. After all, “it’s all gonna be pop music before too long, so you might as well enjoy your safe houses now while you’ve got ’em.”
4. BuzzFeed: I Can Never Unsee What I Saw At The Oscars
Most award shows and academies have never been the most accurate metrics for the best art. It is a fact that has become glaringly obvious over the past few years at The Oscars. With Green Book’s HIGHLY CONTROVERSIAL win, this year was no exception.
The Oscars, as a show, is a spectacle, and like all forms of spectacle, it is grotesque. Watching through the TV, the award show is enviable and filled with beautiful people in dazzling clothes, but we miss the dark side of the beast. If you go to the Oscars, you will see two separate performances, one on the stage and other in bars and bathrooms behind the scenes. We only see what the producers want us to see, and “if whatever was happening in the auditorium itself [is] intended to be like magic — hopeful and glamorous, with seams unseen to the naked eye — then the bar [is] a hideous dose of reality.” Outside of the splendor of the auditorium people “cynical and drunk and rude, a near-caricature of what everyone imagines movie industry types are like when no one is paying attention.”
5. Columbia Journalism Review: The Master of Spin
I’m not so low-key obsessed with PR, even with an obsession for self-design. I don’t think I could ever do it, but it also seems to be a seductive idea churning in the back of my mind.
People in PR, specifically those that specialize in crisis, are master manipulators, often walking the line of fake news. Michael Sitrick is one of the best in the game—and it is a game for him—charging a reported $1,100 per hour. One of Sitrick’s rules is to never lie, and his past clients include “Roy Disney during the ouster of Michael Eisner as CEO of the entertainment company; Food Lion, a grocery chain, during its fight against an ABC report about unsafe food-handling practices; Metabolife, accused of lying to the Food and Drug Administration about how ephedra can kill you; Patricia Dunn, during the Hewlett-Packard spying scandal; Lee Iacocca, during his life as Lee Iacocca; the Los Angeles Catholic archdiocese during the abuse cover-up scandal; American Apparel when it cut ties with creepy founder Dov Charney; R. Kelly, although not recently; and Harvey Weinstein.” He has defended all of them while still abiding by his rule, but that is dependent upon “your definition of a fact. And your definition of the truth. And the definition of a lie.”
Sitrick views his role as giving a voice to those that have will probably lose, or have already lost, in the court of public opinion; but he also seems to presume his clients “the wealthy and powerful, haven’t been controlling the story from the beginning. It’s a false equivalence of power.” The work of PR specialists is inextricably intertwined, and “it would be easy to call the PR work of Sitrick evil and journalists the prevailing warriors for truth. But it’s not so simple.”
Jordyn Woods stopped by Red Table Talk—hosted by her longtime family friend Jada Pinkett-Smith—to tell her side of the Jordy/Khloe/Tristen cheating scandal in which she was accused of sleeping with Tristan Thompson, Khloe’s baby daddy and then boyfriend. Jordyn was also BFFs with Khloe’s little sister, Kylie Jenner.
Honestly, this talk was kinda boring. IMHO, I think what actually happened sits somewhere between Jordyn’s story and the story the Thompson and the Kardashian’s are telling. I agree with Jordyn when she said, “I’m not the reason that Tristan and Khloé are not together. This situation may have made it harder for her to want to be with him, and I understand that. But I know I’m not the reason.” Khloe disagrees with Jordyn’s side of the story tweeting “Why are you lying @jordynwoods ?? If you’re going to try and save yourself by going public, INSTEAD OF CALLING ME PRIVATELY TO APOLOGIZE FIRST, at least be HONEST about your story. BTW, You ARE the reason my family broke up!” One thing is for sure, the friendships broken by this whole scandal may never be that same, and I feel bad for Kylie. Losing a best friend is hard.
7. The New Yorker: Barbara Hammer’s Exit Interview
My first introduction to Barbara Hammer was through her 2015 film about Elizabeth Bishop, Welcome to This House. It isn’t a film she is particularly well known for, but aligns with Hammer’s ever-present explorations of sexuality, lesbian histories, and political activism.
After fighting a 13 year-long battle with cancer, Hammer has exhausted all medical treatments. Barbara Hammer is dying, and soon. Hammer has “spoken publicly, repeatedly, about her impending death, both as an artist reflecting on her creative life and as an activist for allowing terminally ill patients to take charge of the dying process.” In this beautiful exit interview, Hammer gifts us the story of her life, and little joys to hold onto.
This is a hard read, and the trigger warnings for “serious mental health issues and racism” in addition to violence and sexual assault are very very real.
For every post on Facebook that is reported as violating the network’s community guidelines, someone has to view it. These posts can range from “legitimate (if uncomfortable) speech” to murder, amongst infinite other possibilities. Most of this work is done by contract employees “working around the clock, evaluating posts in more than 50 languages, at more than 20 sites around the world.” These content moderators, as they are called, are judged of efficiency and accuracy, sometimes making decisions on 400 posts a day.
Employees at one of the contractors, Cognizant, describe the place as “perpetually teetering on the brink of chaos. It is an environment where workers cope by telling dark jokes about committing suicide, then smoke weed during breaks to numb their emotions. It’s a place where employees can be fired for making just a few errors a week — and where those who remain live in fear of the former colleagues who return seeking vengeance.” Content Moderators are overworked, underpaid—with the average Cognizant employee making $28,800 annual “while the average Facebook employee has a total compensation of $240,000”— and many of them are developing PTSD.
9. The Guardian: Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth
I first heard the statistic that “after water, concrete is the most widely used substance on Earth” in an art class called Concrete Culture. It was a studio class and, as the title suggests, was about the history of concrete in our lived environment and art with an emphasis on how we, as artists, could add to and engage with said histories. We were going to have to spend a lot of money on materials, and a lot of effort making and moving sculptures. It was my junior year in undergrad and that just wasn’t something I was willing to accept. I dropped the class after the first day.
Concrete is a material with huge impact, and “If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world with up to 2.8bn tonnes, surpassed only by China and the US.” The material “serves as the foundation of modern life, holding time, nature, the elements and entropy at bay.” Some of its effects are known, like how it encourages flooding by preventing the soil underneath it from absorbing water, but others, like the effects of building with the dusty material has on air quality, is less known. The quantity at which we build with concrete is dangerous because it “destroys natural infrastructure without replacing the ecological functions that humanity depends on for fertilization, pollination, flood control, oxygen production and water purification.”
10. Lit Hub: Lit Hub Staff Picks: Our Favorite Stories This Month
As much as I try, I can’t read everything on the internet each week. There are always stories I read weeks, or months later and wish I’d included. Some make their way to my final The Internet is Exploding list of each year, which is a listicle of listicles, while others remain unread or unrecognized.
I frequently read Lit Hub and often include their posts in my list, but I somehow managed to miss everything on this list. Since Thursday, I have read many, but not all of the stories here. My favorite thus far is Tigers Don’t Eat Humans, So Why Did This One Kill Over 400 People? by Dane Huckelbridge— ”which tells of a near-mythic Royal Bengal tiger who developed an insatiable hunger for human flesh, stalking and devouring at least 426 people ‘with shocking impunity and an almost supernatural efficacy’ in the Himalayan foothills during the early years of the 20th century.”
*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.”