This week the internet was so dramatic! Georgia passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, The Washington Post apparently doesn’t know what a foreign language is, Ayesha Curry got into some hot water on Red Table Talk, Tyra Banks is the covergirl for Sport Illustrated’s swimsuit issue for the third time, Rihanna is creating a brand with LVMH, lesbian twitter is EXPLODING over the Tessa/Janelle/Brie/Lupita drama, the royal baby was born, and Kim and Kanye had a baby. WOW.
I thought I wasn’t really into the internet this week… then I wrote this and was generally a lot more interested in it than I originally thought. Highlights: it is okay to be the nosey neighbor, we are the things we carry, fairy tales exist because we don’t always know how to tell our own stories, Ramadan is a month to consider the small moments define who we are, Camp is complicated at The Met, Holland Cotter gets how fucked up museums are, we don’t have to like everything, AirPods are surprisingly controversial, and idk why people are still so confused about Facebook.
1. The Atlantic: Listening to My Neighbors Fight
Living in a city is a weird experience because, due to the close proximity, you bear witness to the private moments of other people’s lives. This is especially true living within the paper-thin walls of most apartments. In cities like New York with virtually no private space, even in your apartment, there is “an unspoken agreement: I will tolerate your moderately loud music, your late-night gatherings, your TV laughs and your sex noises and your errant farts, and you will tolerate my own.” These boundaries are important but sometimes hard to keep, because “sometimes the outside encroaches and our neighbors’ business becomes our own, whether we like it or not. Yes, voyeurism can be titillating, but what about unintentional voyeurism, when you’re happily minding your own business and a situation presents itself that you can’t ignore? Your neighbors’ yelling could be just a regular fight, or it could be something more dangerous; that distinction is hard to make when you’re hearing it through a wall.” Sometimes situations are best left ignored, but “sometimes the people around you are the only ones that matter.”
2. Curbed: The magic of estate sales
I visited a friend I met working at a summer camp last weekend. It was my first time being in a space that was hers apart from the meager quarters provided by the camp. We facetime so I knew she wasn’t one for collecting anything physical, but as I was looking around I was surprised to find things that I had mailed or given her last summer. At one point she excitedly brought out a small wooden box—her sentimental box—which she takes everywhere. I had seen at camp, and she rummaged through it to show me something. After discussing what she showed me, she slowly and carefully began to put things back in the box, lingering over some of the notes and cards, before making space for a gift I’d just given her.
We live in a time where the number of self-storage units is rapidly increasing, but we are also told to throw out anything that doesn’t spark joy. Most people exist somewhere between being hoarders and minimalists, “somehow with more stuff than we think we should have and also less than we find ourselves coveting.” What we accumulate is important, and “the physical things you collect as you move through your life—even those that don’t make your stomach flip with joy—add up to something more than their individual utility or aesthetic appeal or heirloom potential. They aren’t just things, they’re your things. And if you remove yourself from the picture, the stuff you surround yourself with tells a story about you. It is a physical autobiography you write by living.” Estate sales are an opportunity to walk through someone else’s life “and purchase a piece of this person’s story to bring into your own home, where it will become a part of the quiet narrative you are writing just by living.”
My friend has more things than fit into her small box, but whenever I think of her and her box she is always holding it to her chest—even though I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her doing this action. In the box is her history. Her estate. Relics of the people she loves and the people that love her. And, if she shows you her box, going through it feels just as vast as wandering around a mansion.
3. Lit Hub: The Archive of Alternate Endings
The forthcoming novel, The Archive of Alternate Endings, “tracks the evolution of Hansel and Gretel at seventy-five-year intervals that correspond with earth’s visits by Halley’s Comet, and explores how stories are disseminated and shared, edited and censored, voiced and left untold.” The narrator says she studies folktales “because I am interested in what is lost when stories passed on by voice are committed to paper. I study folktales because I am interested in sacrifice” and that “once upon a time, there was this and now, and I am ashamed to say: I don’t know how to tell this story.”
4. NPR: Tell Them, I am
Tell Them, I Am: OKPCC is a new podcast, airing a new episode each weekday through Ramadan. All of the guests are Muslim and the stories are “small moments that define who we are and who we are not.” They are funny, quirky, cringeworthy and everyone can find one they relate to. Of course the Deana Haggag episode is a favorite.
5. The New Republic: The Inevitable Emptiness of the 2019 Met Gala
I could have done without the Met Gala this year. Rihanna wasn’t there, and the exhibition as a theme didn’t really make sense. The Met Gala is already a campy event, and “by invoking camp as a political and aesthetic tradition, the party announced its own raison d’être,” and most of the celebrities and the garments fell flat.
As it turns out, “camp cannot be administered from on high, it turns out, because authority drains all the subversion out of the joke… Nobody, not even Anna Wintour, can anoint themselves camp’s mistress.”
6. New York Times: ‘Camp’ at the Met, as Rich as It Is Frustrating
I’ve been very into reviews as conversations recently because that is often how I, and many people, actually critique culture—through talking with someone else about it. I love this conversation between Roberta Smith and Vanessa Friedman where we can see critics working through the ideas that give them so much authority.
From everything I have been reading about Camp at the Met people still seemed to be a bit confused, both by the gala and the exhibition. In some sections of the exhibition, the question of “what happened to the connections between the garments and the world — whether of art or culture — in which they were created” goes unanswered” for Friedman, and for Smith it is “the most idea-driven, Conceptual, intellectual exhibition theme the Costume Institute has ever used. In the end I felt I was looking mostly at fashion one-liners.”
7. New York Times: Money, Ethics, Art: Can Museums Police Themselves?
This article is almost every discussion I’ve had with anyone about why the art world is so fucked in one article.
Historically, museums have been seen “as alternatives to crass everyday life. Like libraries, they were for learning; like churches, for reflection. You went to them for a hit of Beauty and a lesson in “eternal values,” embodied in relics of the past donated by civic-minded angels,” but most museums’ collections are built on stolen goods and artifacts. In the span of my lifetime in the art world, this has always been discussed, but the conversation seems to be accelerating, and “in the space of barely a year, the very foundations of museums — the money that sustains them, the art that fills them, the decision makers that run them — have been called into question. And there’s no end to questioning in sight.”
8. The Baffler: Don’t Let People Enjoy Things
Lmao. My mom says she can’t trust my opinion because I don’t like anything. I always say it’s not that I don’t like anything, but that I’m critical of everything. She usually scoffs and walks away. (Happy Mother’s Day, Maman!)
This phrase, like many others, has been turned into a meme, but the issue with the “let people enjoy things” approach to a consumerist culture is that it escapist franchise, such as Game of Thrones and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as discussed here, “are multi-billion-dollar corporate entities engineered to entertain in the same way Doritos are made so that you can’t eat just one. These are some of the most profitable media empires in history, and they will plainly not be harmed by a Twitter user posting about why they personally don’t like them.” Further, it highlights four major issues discussed in this article: “1) ‘I do not want to feel judged for my consumption choices’; 2) ‘I want to silence people who disagree with me about this particular piece of media by making them feel like they are cheerless or judgmental’; 3) ‘I recognize an aspect of this piece of media that is worthy of criticism, and I am defensive of this;’ and (4) ‘I do not want to think critically about the things I consume, and if I absorb any criticism about the things I consume it will magically ruin my enjoyment of them.’”
The thing is, “people are just as allowed to dislike things as they are permitted to enjoy them.” And instead of letting people like things, we should be trying to get to where it is understood that it is okay to “like some things about a piece of media and dislike things about that same piece of media all at once.”
9. BuzzFeed: Take Your AirPods Off
I read this article a few weeks ago and wasn’t going to post it until I read another article this week also condemning AirPods. I like this article more than the one I read this week, but it generally seems like people are starting to have more and more critical negative opinions of AirPods, and not just in memes.
AirPods are “the ultimate symbol of 21st-century conspicuous consumption. They represent the growing global sameness of the upper classes; you’ll find wearers among people of means in every country.” In cities, they can show an economic shift in a neighboorhood leading to gentrification. But it is not just AirPods, “headphones represent the transient nature of so many of these folks moving into these cities… Put your headphones on, and it’s easier to pretend you didn’t hear that person in front of the subway station asking you for money.” They say “I can afford not to hear the same sounds you do.”
10. New York Times: It’s Time to Break Up Facebook
I spend a lot of time on Facebook—mostly finding articles for this column—and loosely follow all of the policy and political drama surrounding the company but usually find most of the analyses, especially at this point, rather obvious. This is a perfect example. This is also the reason that I am wary of Silicon Valley and the STEM disciplines for ~generally~ not considering the cultural impacts of what they are doing.
Chris Hughes co-founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg while they were at Harvard, but has not worked at the company in a decade. After spending the first couple of paragraphs talking about how “Mark is a good, kind person,” Hughes seems to finally admit to some capability stating “I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders.”
Like you are now just seriously considering this??!? And only after the shitshow of 2017? Okay. Boy, I do not feel sorry for you!
*All images taken from reference articles*
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