Sometimes analogue life (aka life in the real world) is much better than the internet. This week was one of those weeks, but the internet was still fun.
Highlights: poetry is seductive, we can’t all have a room of our own, people actually go to Shen Yun, everyone wants to be Kylie Jenner, museums are done with the Sackler’s bullshit, the NYT is obsessed with Baltimore, America needs more trains, Flordia is really something else, Lizzo and Missy Elliott rule the world, and NFL players should be more selfish.
While I don’t agree with everything Ferlinghetti says, this draft of a long meta-poem about poetry is so romantic it’s hard not to fall in love with its intent. At times the poem romanticizes mental illness, defining the art form as “Van Gogh’s ear echoing with all the blood of the world,” but sometimes its definitions aren’t so sinister, where poetry is “a mediation between everyday reality and us,” offering the reader a space to breathe and imagine.
I’ve been in California for the past week visiting my sister, in graduate school for engineering. I have been spending most of my week with engineers and my sister’s other friends work in the STEM fields, and many of whom don’t seem to have a strong understanding of what it is actually like to be working in the arts. They don’t understand the funding, or lack thereof, for artists and arts institutions. Most of them seem interested in the arts, but have no clue what artists do. I find myself to be very militant around my sister and her friends because their understanding of lack of support and funding (most of them are in fully funded PhD programs, albeit with relatively low living stipends) is radically different than the lack of funding and support in the arts. We are told “just being a writer is called a ‘bad choice’; we’re told to give it up and learn to code. If we expect to be paid, it’s greedy. If we write without pay, it’s narcissistic.”
I read this article to be not just about writing, but all art forms. Writing, like any art, is largely based on observation and reflection. It “can also be a way to transpose a hostile society into a realm where you can safely observe it and comment on it without being dismissed, where your judgment is godlike and final.” It is a way to make a world where your voice is heard, but reflection and transposition take time and space. Virginia Woolf famously wrote, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Although times are different, and we have to take into account changing social structures, Woolf’s dictum is a dream that is not a possibility for many artists today. So what do you do if you are an artists or writer with no room or money? “Write wherever you are, write however you can.” (Image: Andy Warhol)
3. The New Yorker: Stepping Into the Uncanny, Unsettling World of Shen Yun
I have to say, I don’t think I know anyone that has seen Shen Yun—a Chinese dance company based in the US that is “reviving 5,000 years of civilization”— although everyone I know has seen an ad for it at the very least. Until reading this article, I honestly didn’t think anyone had really seen Shen Yun. I never paid attention to it because “why look up a figment of your own imagination?”
Shen Yun is eerie in that for most people, it exists as only ads that “brightly and aggressively broadcast nothing at all.” The ads make the perfect meme material, and “it’s so easy to imagine them popping up in Ebbing, Missouri, or in the extended Blade Runner universe, or on Mars.” For the dance company’s success, “the ads have to be both ubiquitous and devoid of content so that they can convince more than a million people to pay good money to watch what is, essentially, religious-political propaganda.”
For someone that doesn’t own makeup, I spend a lot of time following beauty trends. Personally, I don’t think of fillers as a millennial thing, but a Gen Z trend. This is probably because I associate it with Kylie Jenner, who is kinda queen of the Gen Z aesthetics (although she stole most of that from Kim K and we all know who she got her aesthetic from).
Fillers, Botox, and other forms of cosmetic dermatology are the perfect in-between for what contouring can’t fix and plastic surgery. Entwined with social media and influencers, the trend is “deeply of the moment: It plays better with the current crazes for ill-defined, buzzword-driven phenomena like wellness and empowerment than plastic surgery ever did.” The procedures of cosmetic dermatology and noninvasive plastic surgery produce “results that used to require spending tens of thousands of dollars on surgery (and risking its sometimes-grisly consequences)” to “anyone with half an hour and a couple thousand dollars to spare.”
As standards of beauty are trending to a kind of racial and ethnic ambiguity, it only makes sense that people’s desire to look like everyone else is growing.
5. Hyperallergic: Guggenheim Museum “Does Not Plan to Accept Any Gifts” from the Sackler Family
The art world is always debating whether to accept gifts from people and companies with sketchy or sinister reputations. Over the past few years there has been more and more animosity towards the Sackler family, which made its fortune through Perdue Pharmaceuticals, the company that produces OxyContin. Already embroiled with numerous lawsuits over perdue Pharmaceuticals’ role in the opioid crisis, things came to a head in the art world when the National Portrait Gallery in London decided not to accept a donation of £1 million (~$1.3 million) from the family’s trust. The Tate followed by the Guggenheim also announced that they will not be accepting any gifts from the Sackler Family.
This saga is definatly not over. Let’s hope the fall of the Koch brothers is soon to follow.
6. New York Times: Why Baltimore Persists as a Cultural Beacon
The NYT has been really into Baltimore recently, with a stab and heal combo starting with last week’s The Tragedy of Baltimore feature by Alec McGillis. This week it’s a loving, feel-good profile of our eclectic artists.
Baltimore is such a strange city. I can never really explain the vibe of the city whenever I try. I live in DC now, and people always ask me to compare the two cities. There are pros and cons to each, and I usually say that I like living in DC but going out in Baltimore. There is a kind of honesty in Baltimore’s art and culture and nightlife that is absent in DC.
Baltimore and Baltimimoreans always show up for each other and themselves, which can’t be said for a lot of places. I’ve found people, especially artists, in Baltimore kind and generous with their time. “There’s an ability to fail here that there might not be in other cities,” said Stephanie Barber, a Baltimore-based filmmaker, before continuing “and I mean that in the most beautiful, radical way.” In Baltimore, you can experiment and fail, and always find support.
7. The New York Times: The Particular Sheen of America by Amtrak
Caity Weaver clearly does not spend too much of her time in the Facebook group New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens if she is going to start off her article by saying “tell your fellow Americans that you plan to cross the United States by train, and their reactions will range from amusement at your spellbinding eccentricity to naked horror that they, through some fatal social miscalculation, have become acquainted with a person who would plan to cross the United States by train.” NUMTOTs are alllllll about trains. I never learned to drive, and have thus become a NUMTOT by default. Over the past few years, the idea of a cross country train trip has become more and more seductive.
This article is absolutely hilarious as Weaver seems to have never been on a train before, or is writing for someone who has never been on a train before (which like yes, could be many Americans because this country has transit, but still. Idk.). Anyway, apparently “train people are content to stare out the window for hours, like indoor cats.”
— PACK MA’S (@PACKMAS2) March 21, 2019
The #floridaman challenge, which instructs people to google “Florida man” followed by their birthday then upload the results to social media, has been taking over the internet. Florida, being its natural Florida self, is delivering absolutely amazing results. While seemingly all of America loves giving Florida shit for various reasons, some of the state’s residents have come to its defense, explaining the states “Sunshine Law that gives the public *very* open access to public records.” IMHO, Florida is still WILD!
9. YouTube: Lizzo – Tempo (feat. Missy Elliott) [Official Audio]
Lizzo and Missy Elliott collaborated and all I can say is that I can’t wait for the music video. It’s going to be bomb. I will be SEVERELY disappointed if one does not get made.
I grew up in a Big Ten college town and I’ve never actively followed it, but football has always been part of my life. I find it interesting how dismissive people in the arts can be of sports, especially because in most instances those sports—particularly football and basketball in the US—garner way more viewers and star athletes have so much more social capital than art world rockstars.
Football is an incredibly violent and brutal sport, and “players are expected to sacrifice everything—from their body to their mental health—for the game and for their team.” It’s a system that historically left players without much autonomy and cast discrepancies in pay. One of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Antonio Brown, changed that narrative for himself, negotiating a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders. It is a trend that is picking up in professional sports, and Brown’s trade could open fires for other players.
*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.”