In general, I was not into the internet this week. Highlights: a journey through grief, the things we carry from our parents, white supremacy is America’s original pyramid scheme, the Academy failed ‘Lionheart,’ Solange, the myth and magic of new ideas, TIME’s 100 next, Amazon in the middle of Montana, Super Mario’s Toad sings Chandelier, and counting squirrels.
1. New York Times Magazine: A Mother Journeys Through Grief Across Finland’s Many Islands
This piece is a beautifully written story of, as the title states, a mother’s “journeys through grief across Finland’s many islands.” It is a trip Yiyun Li made after losing her teenage son to suicide two summers ago, and being next to her “father when the doctors took him off life support” two seasons ago. On the trip, Li asks herself, “What does contentment mean when life is full of the unexpected and the unwanted?”
Throughout her life Li writes that “I have experienced joy and darkness, I have learned suffering and willfulness, but I have never known discontentment or contentment.” Like the journey itself, the article travels through different notions of contentment, and the author learns that, “Perhaps contentment has nothing to do with what kind of life one has: harsh or easy, painful or joyful, profound or superficial. Perhaps true contentment — to hold oneself together, to hold everything in — is simply an agreement to be in life, to be in it all the time.”
2. N + 1: Holding Patterns
Alice Abraham reflects on her relationship with her mother who has cancer and explores the changing relationship we all have with our parents as we grow older. There are moments when “We all hate our parents for not acting as we would,” she writes. “My hatred in this moment is particularly intense,” Abraham continues, during an instance when her mother is acting particularly childlike, because “when she plays the victim, I end up playing the parent, and I am boxed into the role of keeping up appearances.” As in life, and especially dealing with an illness like cancer, “the line between denial and acceptance is porous.”
3. Electric Literature: White Supremacy Is America’s Original Pyramid Scheme
This interview with Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race, is fascinating. Here, she talks about how white supremacy is upheld, and that “Slavery and the American system of race were created as a function to justify capitalism by getting as much free labor as possible out of Black people to justify the brutality required from it.” The conversation also addresses the myth of the “model minority,” and other races and ethnicities in this country relation to white supremacy.
4. Indie Wire: The Academy Yanks Nigeria’s Oscar Submission, and Proves That Hollywood Still Can’t Take African Cinema Seriously
I’ve been thinking a lot about raciolinguistic hierarchies—based on how society values certain languages and vernacular over others. The disqualification of Genevieve Nnaji’s Nigerian film Lionheart from the Oscar’s is just one of many examples of these hierarchies. Lionheart was disqualified from the Best International Feature category “because it’s an English-language production.” This decision does not consider that “The script’s proverbs and similes belong to an African vernacular tradition that has little to do with what is typically spoken in Hollywood cinema.
Lionheart, which is steeped in Nigeria’s Igbo culture, suggests not the assimilation of Nigerian media into Hollywood’s own idiom but rather the absorption of the English language by an African culture that gives it a new (or old) ‘grammar of values.’” While the Academy purposes to be striving for “diversity” and “inclusivity,” “weaponizing the word ‘English’ in order to ward off the efforts of an African cinema to break cultural barriers sets a dangerous, ahistorical, and altogether ignorant precedent.”
This is a very interesting conversation happening right now across a lot of different discourses.
5. The Root: The Solange-Curated Bridge-s at the Getty Center Is a Hypnotizing and Ethereal Viewpoint on Transition
TBH, this article is kinda boring, BUT I am very excited for Bridge-s, a “series of performances, films, and artist talks programmed and curated by GRAMMY-Award winning musician and visual artist Solange Knowles,” at the Getty in LA. This is clearly not a review, but a piece meant simply to build hype about the “kinetic, interactive, orgasmic, ethereal, monochromatic, hypnotizing, architectural and gorgeous” series. If Bridge-s lives up to its hype, I’m excited to read all of the critical reviews it will inspire.
6. New Yorker: The Myth and Magic of Generating New Ideas
I have been surrounded by math and mathematicians my entire life. Both of my dad’s parents were mathematicians. My father is an econometrician. My sister is an engineer who’s research is largely based on deriving equations. My very first friend—we met when we were babies—now studies theoretical mathematics. It often surprises people when I say this, but naturally, I am much better with numbers and at math than I am writing—math has always been in my life, while I’ve only been writing for a few years.
According to this article, mental math or doing calculations isn’t really what makes a mathematician, it is “coming up with ideas,” and to discover a “new twist on these things.” Many fields require finding a new twist, and “all problem solvers and problem inventors have had the experience of thinking, and then overthinking, themselves into a dead end. The question we’ve all encountered—and, inevitably, will encounter again—is how to get things moving and keep them moving. That is, how to get unstuck.” This process is different for everyone, but often “the key to solving a problem is to take a break from worrying, to move the problem to the back burner, to let the unwatched pot boil.”
I am in grad school right now, and very stuck—as one should be when pursuing an MFA… I really hope my pot is boiling.
Time released its 100 Next list, a list of people projected to be influential and change-makers in the near future. It is a very interesting list of people, and some have already cemented themselves—such as Lil Nas X who is the first openly gay artist to win a Country Music Award—while others haven’t. To me, it is curious why some of the names are on this list, and not TIME 100. Anyway, there are a lot of new people I want to research.
8. The Verge: The Everything Town in the Middle of Nowhere
Every time I learn something new about Amazon I get more confused. Although technically there is no Amazon presence in the small town of Roundup, Montana, it has become a hub of the e-commerce site. Roundup is part of a “growing industry of prep centers, businesses that specialize in packing goods to meet the demanding requirements of Amazon’s highly automated warehouses.” Kristal Graham started the prepping warehouse in Roundup after using Amazon to sell her deceased brother’s books. Now centers are popping up all over the town of Roundup.
I’m not sure how I made it through listening to the Super Mario character Toad sing the entirety of Chandelier. But after making it through the first video I watched 5 more. Although the video came out over a year ago, it has recently found fame on the internet, and “a full three and a half minutes of Toad going for Sia’s high notes stretches the imagination completely, especially when he hits the whistle tone on the chorus that sound like a dialup modem having sex with another dialup modem.” Listen at your own risk.
10. Catapult: How Do You Count All the Squirrels in Central Park?
When I travel to different places I always take notice of the squirrels. I compare how comfortable they are with people from city to city. I think the squirrels I’ve seen that are most used to people are the ones that live in DC’s National Mall. I grew up in Michigan, where black squirrels are common, and I search for them wherever I go but don’t often find them—although sometimes I see albino ones.
There are 2373 squirrels in Central Park according to data from “a citizen science and storytelling project” just released. Once food and pets for the wealthy, squirrels were intentionally introduced to central park in 1877. In the beginning, it was “just a handful that quickly multiplied into 1,500 within a few years. They brought in more visitors, many of whom enjoyed feeding them so much that fat squirrels began to fall from trees.” Now, squirrels are an integral part of Central Park, New York City, and many places across the country.
*All images taken from reference articles*
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