It was HARD making time for the internet this week. But when I was on it, I loved it. Highlights: Blacking out on Rihanna, Tyler Perry’s moment, Black women of the art world, The Obamanauts, predictive writing software, the problem of sound, Bach’s patience, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, the Nobel Prize in Literature, and Jane Fonda was arrested.
1. Vogue: Rihanna Talks Fenty, That Long-Awaited Album, and President Trump
Rihanna profiles are my favorite profiles. They are filled with beautiful pictures and descriptions of “her famous scent—an intoxicating olfactory assault that, in the words of Lil Nas X, ‘literally smells like heaven,’” and they never fully exempt themselves from reading as fangirl blog posts about how “a regular person can effectively black out in Rihanna’s presence, so insanely disarming is her charisma.” I’m not saying that I wouldn’t black out on Rihanna, but I also would love to read a profile by a disinterested party.
2. New York Times Magazine: Black Theater Is Having a Moment. Thank Tyler Perry. (Seriously.)
Generally, I’m not the biggest fan of Tyler Perry’s plays and movies. Perry is the biggest Black playwright in America, and there is constant debate about him: “Is he good for black people? Is he good at all?” Wesley Morris dives in. “The Tyler Perry problem is really an ancient, larger worry about blackness and how to present it. How loud is too loud? How black is too black?”
Regardless of how anyone feels about Perry, he is someone to “revere, reckon with or resist,” as many young Black playwrights are doing. This multi-pronged reaction Perry engenders from critics, civilians, and playwrights is why, Morris argues, “black theater needs to be all over America, challenging, questioning, provoking, freaking people out, because these actually aren’t only black plays. They’re plays about race, and the experience of one race watching another, watching it not only suffer and struggle but also inspect itself.”
3. New York Times Magazine: ‘I Want to Explore the Wonder of What It Is to Be a Black American’
Black American art is having a moment. And, more specifically, Black women are having a moment in the art world. Here, Amy Sherald, Simone Leigh, and Lorna Simpson talk about this moment and “the expectations faced by black women in an art world obsessed with identity.”
4. Dissent: The Obamanauts
In this review of eight memoirs by members of Obama’s administration, author Corey Robin asks, what is Obama’s defining achievement? The Obamanauts have attempted to answer the question through their memoirs, but most of them don’t have the same “sense of time or place” that Obama did—“they’re bound by a perimeter that is not of their making.”
Unlike the people that are representing him, “Obama had an uncanny ability to make sense of his place in history, to narrate what it was that he was doing. His politics had its limits, but they were often, and often knowingly, self-imposed. No matter how circumscribed the view, Obama managed to conjure a sense of what lay beyond it.” Instead, the Obamanauts largely prescribe “what liberals and Democrats should be saying, and how they should be saying it, in the next election and beyond.” Based on these memoirs, Obama’s legacy “at least for now [is] the Obamanauts themselves.”
5. The New Yorker: The Next Word
Writing is a uniquely human enterprise. It is a process that requires “planning, composing, and revising” simultaneously. Spell-check has been around for ages, but now, with Smart Compose, Grammarly, and other word predicting programs, software “isn’t correcting words I’ve already formed in my head,” writes John Seabrook, “it’s coming up with them for me.” These programs use the “predictive power of deep learning, a subset of machine learning. Machine learning is the sophisticated method of computing probabilities in large data sets, and it underlies virtually all the extraordinary A.I. advances of recent years.”
The world is getting louder. Noise is one of the fastest-growing public health issues. While we may think we’ve tuned out the noisy world we live in, our bodies have not. Even when sleeping, writes Bianca Bosker, “you may think you’ve tuned out the grumble of trucks downshifting outside, but your body has not: Your adrenal glands are pumping stress hormones, your blood pressure and heart rate are rising, your digestion is slowing down.”
Sound pollution is an issue that people are not taking seriously, and it’s getting worse with the proliferation of digital culture, server farms, and their cooling units. When you are in a quiet space, “you think differently. You are more uniquely yourself. You are not echoing advertisements. You are not echoing billboards. You are not echoing modern songs. You’re echoing where you were.”
I grew up listening to classical music, and when I forget to listen to it, I get anxious and more easily aggravated. I don’t always realize this is happening, but then a friend will send me a recording of a piece they are working on, or I’ll put my music library on shuffle and something classical will play. It doesn’t matter what pieces or composers come up, but I need to listen to something.
The Open Ears Project is a daily podcast on WNYC that is “part mixtape, part love-letter,” where “people tell a story about a piece of classical music that means the most to them.” In this episode Dessa, a singer and rapper with the Doomtree crew, talks about her connection to “Chaconne” from J.S. Bach’s Partita for Violin in D Minor. She talks about the tension in music between “anger and beauty” and how “something could go wrong, or something is going wrong” in this piece, because “if everything were beautiful all the time we would probably bail by page four.” Classical music can require a different kind of listening, a slower kind of listening than other forms of music. “There’s a patience that it asks for, and a patience it imparts.”
8. Vulture: Let’s Talk About the Ending of Parasite
I’m going to be honest: I have not read this review of Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s latest film, Parasite. But that’s because this review has spoilers, and I want to see Parasite. I have read a couple of reviews that don’t have spoilers. It is blowing up the internet. It sold out in New York this weekend, and everyone is raving about the film. I usually like E. Alex Jung’s writing on things like this, and I’m taking heed of the warning: “practically every review of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite has assiduously — and rightfully — avoided spoilers. This is not that place. If you have not yet watched the film, turn around immediately: do not pass go, do not collect $200. This is your final warning.”
9. The New Republic: The Nobel Prize in Literature Is Just Trolling Now
The literary internet is rightfully pissed about the Nobel Prize in literature this year. After there was no award given last year due to a sexual abuse and financial scandal, the Nobel committee gave two awards this year and “promised that, after a period of intense self-reflection brought on by the scandal, everything would change,” and the typically Eurocentric committee “would broaden its purview to better include authors from the rest of the world.” Unsurprisingly, that didn’t happen, and the committee handed over the 2019 prize to Austrian writer Peter Handke, “one of the greatest novelists of his generation who is now most famous for having eulogized Slobodan Milošević, the Serbian military leader who died while being tried for war crimes at The Hague.”
The 2018 award, however, was given to Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk “whose ambitious, deeply political work has made her an enemy of nationalists in her country.” The pairing of the two seems likely “a concession to the Academy old guard,” as well as an attempt to represent the Nobel Committee’s new vision. The Nobel Prize in Literature, however, “is still bogged down in Europe.” As Alex Shephard argues, “perhaps the Nobel Committee’s main mission these days is not to diversify or evolve, but to troll.”
10. Washington Post: Jane Fonda is arrested leading environmental protest at the Capitol
Jane Fonda is moving to DC for a few months to lead a weekly environmental protest at the Capitol in conjunction with Code Pink. Friday was the first protest and “about 20 demonstrators, including Hollywood star Jane Fonda, were arrested Friday on the steps of the Capitol during a protest against the United States’ lack of action on reducing climate-changing greenhouse gases.”
People are obviously stanning.
*All images taken from reference articles*
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