The Internet is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week

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The internet was just okay this week. Social media is turning #BlueforSudan, Art Basel and Andrea Bowers fucked up, the US Women’s Soccer team deserves to get PAID, the Democratic presidential candidates might best be understood in Parks and Rec GIFs, and “what in the Rachel Dolezal” was CNN thinking when they published ‘What it’s like to be a white woman named LaKiesha?’ I certainly don’t know.

Highlights: Losing the “it”-ness of master recordings, editing a diaristic life, the history of my wife as a meme and Borat, how we consume, praise, and critique millennial women through television, the weaponization of deepfakes against the companies who should be regulating them, the black market of collecting Kool-Aid, the unethical world of donating human bodies to science, a dead whale’s ears may help scientists understand the damage being done to our oceans, Drake composed new music for the NBA Finals, and Billy Porter’s performance that hijacked the Tonys.  

1. New York Times Magazine: The Day the Music Burned

I almost always listen to digital recordings of music. I’ve never really gotten into records or other analog methods of listening. My favorite way to listen to music is usually on YouTube. Although you can’t always listen to full albums, I like it because of the diversity of footage on the platform, and snippets of analogue recordings that are often uploaded off old songs. Spotify and other streaming services usually only have the flat studio master and maybe a live recorded album, but on YouTube there are countless videos and audio recordings of concerts, and various promotional appearances on different TV and radios shows—for example, my favorite version of Chance the Rapper’s Blessings (Reprise) is from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. I know digitized YouTube isn’t the same as listening to an original master, but it is my favorite alternative. 

In 2008 flames engulfed Building 6197 on a backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood. At the time it was reported that “in no case was the destroyed material the only copy of a work,” but that isn’t the case, and countless analog recordings going back to the 1940s were lost. The building “held multitrack recordings, the raw recorded materials — each part still isolated, the drums and keyboards and strings on separate but adjacent areas of tape — from which mixed or ‘flat’ analog masters are usually assembled. And it held session masters, recordings that were never commercially released.” Essentially “a master is the truest capture of a piece of recorded music,” and “simply put, the master of a recording is that recording; it is the thing itself.” The fire destroyed the work of countless artists (the article lists around 100 names but the true number is probably unknown), and the entire discographies of some smaller labels.

2. The Paris Review: The Anonymous Diary

Through a series of events, Kathryn Scanlan came into possession of the diary of a woman she didn’t know. The diary “had none of the posturing I’ve seen in other diaristic endeavors,” writes Scanlan. “None of the tortured self-evaluation. Instead, the diarist wrote about bodily dailiness: weather, meals, sleep, hobbies, housework. Fire whistle in night. Steady rain at 8. He brought us some mush to fry. She wrote about the people she knew: their comings and goings, their physical and emotional states, their deaths. Maude ate good breakfast, oatmeal, poached eggs, little sausage.” Scanlan “read about the people in her diary without knowing their histories, their relationships.” Intrigued by the diary, and unable to find information about its owner for years, Scanlan began to rework the diary as a way “to experiment with how an absence of information could create meaning.” It became “a formal challenge, a linguistic workbook” and “over a period of ten years, I crafted my own text from it, published last week as Aug 9—Fog.”

The upcoming publication of Aug 9–Fog lead Scanlan to research its writer once more, this time finding a distant relative, forcing her to reconcile two versions of the person she had come to know: “the private one I created and the real one with whom I am now confronted.”

I rarely research other artists to inform my practice. Instead, I read poems, and diaries, and collections of letters. I think about the famous writers of today—Claudia Rankine for example—and if their correspondences will be published posthumously. I think about how a designer might incorporate emails and text threads into a physical book, or letters sent via snail mail into a digital archive. I think about the editing of a life.

3. The New Yorker: Please, My Wife, She’s Very Online

I’ve seen and laughed at a fair share of “my wife” memes over the years, but never knew the history. Well it turns out it might have started with the 2006 film Borat—which I have never seen—which was subtitled Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the protagonist has a particular way of saying ‘my wife,’ which, after the film’s release, became an inescapable catchphrase.” The internet has evolved the idea of the wife over the year, with the increased use of familial terms non-literal and, of course, more and more memes.

“The figure of the wife has also become an important trope within a specific, baroque type of Internet-based humor, and this isn’t accidental. Like Borat, the online world is profane and disorderly and constantly agitated; the wife, on the other hand, is imagined as sacred, eternal, controlled. When these two things connect, the idea of the wife starts to glitch. It now takes just a minor breeze of Internet attention for a wife to catch fire as a meme.”

4. Another Gaze: The Making of a Millennial Woman

This article is so good I don’t even really know what to say about it. Basically, we are obsessed with TV, but perhaps more than that we are obsessed with how we consume TV and reviewing different shows. In the renaissance of the small screen where “mass cultural objects have become the glue of a certain form of public life,” shows that “revolve around an archetypical Young Millennial Woman – pretty, white, cisgender, and tortured enough to be interesting but not enough to be repulsive” are particularly successful. This kind of character is marketed “as ‘relatable,’ she is, in actuality, not” and “the term masks the uncomfortable truth that she is more beautiful, more intelligent, and more infuriatingly precocious than we are in real life. But her charm lies in how she is still self-hating enough to be attainable: she’s an aspirational identifier.”  The questions really shouldn’t be why shows featuring this archetypal white woman get praised, but “why the popular reception of them – even when positive – is so often bad.”

5. The Outline: More Deepfakes Please

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This week a deepfake, a video that “fairly seamless constitutions of available photographs plus passable audio that appear to be the real person saying and doing things,” of Mark Zuckerberg started circulating on the internet where he states “whoever controls the data controls the future.” Platforms have not taken a hard stance on deepfake videos and “rather than try to shut down blatantly fabricated content like the recently viral video of Nancy Pelosi delivering a speech while drunk, Facebook tried desperately to pile on “context” and “fact checks” in hopes of taking the wind out of the video’s sails. By most accounts, this did not work.” It is clear that the god-like tech giants only care about themselves and their bottom lines which is why “the notion of making deepfakes of the people who allow them to exist — putting fictionalized thoughts in their mouths — is so brilliant.”

6. The Takeout: Inside the black (cherry) market of vintage Kool-Aid packet collectors

Growing up, whenever I was with my grandmother we always drank Kool-Aid. Well, saying we drank it might actually be incorrect. My grandmother loves ice and always froze her Kool-Aid, so we would hack at cups of the bright red frozen beverage for hours on end. She always made it from packets and always added too much sugar, but too much sugar is always the perfect amount to a 5-year-old.

If you do a quick search on eBay for Kool-Aid you might be surprised to find packets of the drink—which usually retail somewhere around 25ȼ—selling for up to $400. The company has always made “unconventional flavors for short-run production or creating obscure exclusives for promotional tie-ins,” and there is a thriving community of people collecting them. “The Kool-Aid market is hilarious. I couldn’t define it as either a buyers’ market or a sellers’ market,” one collector, Matt, says. “If you have something rare, you might be the only one who does, but you’d be playing to an audience of only a few people who’d actually want it and that assumes they’d even know you had it for sale. There are no set values, and no rhyme or reason to the prices.” The vintage Kool-Aid market is unregulated and prices are mostly determined by personal taste.

I bet if I looked around my grandmother’s house I could find some unopened packets squirreled away in the back of her pantry.

7. High Country News: ‘None of this happened the way you think it did’

While most—if not all—of my friends that are in medical school are organ donors, they are all against donating their bodies to science. They all cite the same reason: people and companies don’t treat the bodies with respect and you don’t know what will happen to your body. “Body brokering” as it is known, is a largely unregulated field and “almost no laws control what happens to non-transplant tissue once it is donated; a cadaver can theoretically be sold or leased many times. Brokers, especially those working without proper consent, take advantage of the resulting gaps. The money is often enough to justify their behavior — a complete body usually sells for between $3,000 and $5,000, but prices can peak much higher.”

Colorado is the only state that doesn’t license funeral homes. Megan Hess former owner of the now shut down Sunset Mesa, “allegedly sold bodies that were meant for cremation without proper consent” offering “discounted or free cremation services in exchange for a donated organ” taking advantage of the gaps in the system. It was only after Hess was investigated in 2018 that “Colorado lawmakers made it illegal for anyone who owns more than a 10 percent interest in a mortuary or crematory to have interest in a non-transplant tissue bank.” Unfortunately, brokering scandals are not uncommon.

8. Boston University Research: A Dead Humpback, A Team of Scientists, A Race for Answers

There are constant headlines of whales found dead from consuming the human waste the litters the ocean. Usually, whales sink to the bottom of the ocean when they die becoming food for other animals, so when Vector, and long documented humpback whale was found dead, it “was a rare opportunity to not only understand the life of a singular humpback, but to explore how we are harming our oceans and the magnificent creatures that live in them.”

One of the things scientists needed most from her body were her ears. “Little is known about how this human cacophony is impacting these whales” and for researcher Darlene Ketten there are two major concerns “Will humpbacks be disturbed by noise pollution that could disrupt their feeding, mating, and other critical behaviors? And will they be exposed to frequent, extremely loud sounds that impair their hearing?” Vector’s ears might hold the answers to those questions.

9. Wikipedia: 2019 NBA Finals

So the NBA finals happened. The Golden State Worriers lost to the Toronto Raptors in game 6. I don’t really follow professional basketball but it is a thing that a lot of celebrities like. Well apparently Drake, who is Canadian, was a VERY involved spectator throughout the whole finals, made two songs about it, and didn’t go to game 6 due to “security concerns.” Like the whole experience of the NBA Finals from the periphery of Twitter was kinda wild and too much for me, but A LOT of people were VERY VERY into it.

10. YouTube: Tonys Bonus – Billy Porter Crushes Broadway Karaoke

The Tonys also happened. I also didn’t watch them, but I HAVE watched this video multiple times. During the commercial breaks host, James Corden—who’s most known segment of his Late Late Show is Carpool Karaoke—convinced the stars of Broadway to perform karaoke. Well, because this all happened during commercial breaks, none of the performances aired, BUT Billy Porter was Billy Porter and stole the show—both with his outfit (per usual) and impromptu performance (again, per usual).

Here, James Corden’s team edited together footage from the few cameras shooting during the commercial break and cell phone videos posted on social media so the rest of us can experience Billy Porter in all his glory.

*All images taken from reference articles*

Have a suggestion for next week? Email with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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