This week, a white man opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand; 50 people have died, and at least 50 more were wounded in the attack. On Friday, curator Okwui Enwezor died at age 55 after a yearslong battle with cancer. Artist Barbara Hammer died of ovarian cancer on Saturday.
This week’s internet highlights: Fame is getting weirder, white people have to cheat to be mediocre, owning books can stave off death, Baltimore is a tragedy, we should thank rats, chasing paint can be hard AF, Frida Kahlo is a commodified myth, someone needs to make a Fresh Prince of Bel Air reboot, Pete Buttigieg’s facepalm is everything, and having children is more complicated than ever before.
1. BuzzFeed: Even Lil Pump Can’t Have It All
Scaachi Koul is one of my favorite BuzzFeed writers, and she outdid herself with this funny, dark piece about rapper Lil Pump. Koul lures you into her subject with cheeky descriptions like “rappers like 18-year-old Lil Pump are, seemingly, produced in a lab with the sole purpose of horrifying your mother,” but as her piece continues, it becomes apparent “that there’s a disconnect between Pump as a person — a child whose understanding of fame is still undeveloped and largely focused on strippers — and the version of himself he puts online in videos which show him peeing on money and spanking women.”
Social media plays a huge role throughout the piece—Pump found fame on Instagram—and Koul writes that he had been “hours late for our interview, hiding on the second floor, and when I check his Instagram I find he’s broadcasting live from the bathroom while our photographers and I wait for him to come back downstairs.”
After reading this I felt a sense of guilt and responsibility for Pump and the cultivation of his fame.
— Natayiu (@natayiu) March 12, 2019
If you somehow missed the #collegecheatingscandal, idk where you have been this week. For those that missed it: Rich (white) people, including Felicity Huffman and Aunt Becky, bribed and cheated their children into elite schools. The details of the case are wild—kids’ faces being photoshopped onto athletes’ bodies, bribes being tax-deductible, and Huffman literally writing “ruh ro!” in an email about it.
The best coverage of the whole scheme is, of course, coming from Twitter. There are memes, jokes, and critical analyses of how race and class play into the whole scandal.
3. Popula: On Owning Many Books
I love buying books, I love sharing books I love with people I love, and I love it when they share books with me. Reading the books I own feels fundamentally different from reading books I borrow from people or the library. Owning books, writes Mik Awake, “represents a transaction, an exchange that conferred private ownership… Perhaps the trouble is in that space, between reading and owning, between the personal and the private.” I have owned some of my books since childhood, and though they are clunky and hard to move, “a full purge would kill off older parts of me, or keep my future self from discovery; owning books feels like a way of staving off death.”
4. New York Times Magazine: The Tragedy of Baltimore
I always have such a hard time explaining Baltimore to people. I only lived in the city for five years, and most of that time I was in school, but I love the city. I know that I couldn’t say there forever, but I understand why people do.
I was in my sophomore year of undergrad when the 2015 uprising happened, and I still didn’t know much about the history of this city. In a very short period of time I had to learn a lot about Baltimore’s history, and how race, class, mass incarceration, and a slew of other injustices operate here. I’m not going to pretend like I understand enough of the intricacies of local politics and history to give my own analysis of this article—it presents a lot of information that was previously unknown to me. It is well worth the read.
5. National Geographic: How Rats Became an Inescapable Part of City Living
You can find traces of rats everywhere in cities, from flickers of changing light as they move through the shadows, to their flattened corpses on streets and sidewalks. We often say we don’t like rats because they are dirty, but Emma Marris writes, “their filth is really our own: In most places rats are thriving on our trash and our carelessly tossed leftovers.”
As humans have moved across the world to colonize new lands, so have rats. Sometimes rats were brought intentionally—Polynesian colonizers used them for food—and other times the animals were stowaways on ships and wagons. Regardless of how rats got to their current locations, there seems to be a global effort to eradicate them. In Asia, “rats and other rodents eat enough rice each year to feed 200 million people,” “on Easter Island they’re suspected of having wiped out palm trees by eating all the nuts,” and “on other islands they threaten seabirds by eating eggs and chicks.” Their environmental impact is profound, but does that really mean they should get such a bad rep? In the end, “rats help keep us from wallowing in our own filth.”
6. The New Yorker: The Luxury Paint Company Creating a New Kind of Decorating Anxiety
Because I studied art, people always assume that I am good at interior decorating. But my apartments are usually just filled with old projects or artwork that I have traded with other people.
Choosing a color to paint the walls of a room is one of the most important aspects of defining a space; after all, “one is not choosing a color so much as determining the environment in which one must live.” Farrow & Ball, a luxury English paint brand, is known for deep, saturated shades, which are “ideal for renovated spaces: they sit comfortably alongside aged stone and weeping brickwork.” The company has a limited palette compared to that of its competitors, and sells refinement maybe more than it sells paint. Their product retails for about twice as much as competitors’ paint, and when websites question if it is actually worth the extra cost, the answer is “no. But if you don’t spend the extra money, you won’t get that warm glow of knowing you’ve, um, spent the extra money.” It isn’t so much about the paint as it is about that fact that you can buy the paint, and probably have enough money to redecorate every six years.
7. The New Republic: The Branding of Frida Kahlo
The commodification of Frida Kahlo is real. It seems like everywhere I look someone is wearing something with her face on it. Kahlo has essentially become a pop cultural myth, so much that if you ask someone wearing something with her face on it what their favorite painting of hers is, they may not be able to give you an answer. “Her image now travels free of context,” writes Rachel Syme. “The result can be that the more we know about the artist, the less we understand about her art.” In the new blockbuster exhibition Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, some of Kahlo’s personal items are displayed with her work, and the show suggests “that self-creation too, is a work worth admiring.”
I was born in 1995 and thus too young to watch the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when it aired from 1990 to 1996, but I did watch reruns growing up. This usually meant that I watched the episodes out of order, so it took me a while to understand the narrative arc of the show, but I remember always finding it enjoyable. I REALLY want this to be made into a show or movie!
I’ve been following Pete Buttigieg for a while now, and I have to say I’m very interested in him as a presidential candidate. He hasn’t really come out with specific platforms on issues, but I’m constantly on the lookout for them. This video of Buttigieg facepalming when asked if he thought Pence would be a better or worse president than Trump before addressing the differences between himself and Pence and then responding, “How could he allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn star presidency? Is it because he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?” perfectly captures why I’m so fascinated by him.
10. The Cut: The Embryo in the Hallway
There have been many nuanced conversations recently on the various ways that people can have children. There has also been a lot of discussion about what it means to have children in an unstable world, and how to use genetic testing to screen embryos for chronic illnesses. In some ways, with genetic screening, it seems we are approaching the age of Gattaca.
Every pregnancy of course is a personal process. In this article, Jen Gann—who is currently pregnant and due in June—tells the story of how she and her husband conceived a second child through IVF and extensive genetic testing after learning their firstborn son has cystic fibrosis, a disease that drastically lowers life expectancy. Gann and her husband didn’t want to have another child who had cystic fibrosis, and for her, “if this embryo’s results were discovered to be inaccurate later on, I knew I’d terminate.” But she wondered if there were an “element of cruelty to knowingly having one healthy child, one not.” It is a difficult question whose answer could be different for every woman, every couple. “Every pregnant woman who terminates after a certain test result, who knowingly gives birth to a child who will be sick, who continues a pregnancy only under certain conditions: Every one of us exerts a profound influence on the future. It’s not hard to understand why some people take such issue with us being able exercise the most complex and significant power there is.”
*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.”