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

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Brexit finally happened, coronavirus is a global epidemic, apparently you don’t need witnesses (or evidence) in an impeachment trial, and I am highkey VERY concerned about PETA. The internet meandered this week. Highlights: Zsela is FINALLY releasing an EP (soon), an oral history of Prince’s Super Bowl halftime performance, the soul of Marfa, the “new people” of Greenwich Village, the lost social history of Uranus, negotiating technology as a parent, the whiteness of publishing, finding anchor art, Kobe Bryant’s death, and Demi Lovato’s return. 


1. W Magazine: Zsela Will Release the Debut EP She’s Been Teasing for Years—Sometime Soon

I first learned of Zsela through her sister Tessa Thompson’s Instagram account. Zsela released a video from Noise last May that Thompson posted in her story and I have been in love ever since. Her debut EP with songs “from a time, from a space, in this [fictional] world” is set to be released this spring which I could not be more excited for! Also, the photos here are beautiful.

2. The Ringer: Pure Magic: The Oral History of Prince’s Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show

The first Super Bowl halftime show I remember was in 2004 when Justin Timberlake ripped Janet Jackson’s costume, causing Nipplegate. I don’t really remember another halftime show until the Super Bowl happened at a Beyonce concert in 2013, and I honestly can’t remember one since. After 2004, the “the NFL turned to baby boomer-friendly acts Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones.” But in 2007 Prince performed on a rainy night in Florida and, unlike some of his predecessors such as the Rolling Stones, “refused to trot out a handful of his hits and call it a night. For the intermission, the icon designed a unique 12-minute set.” This is the story of that magical night. 

3. Texas Monthly: A Battle for the Soul of Marfa

Marfa, Texas strikes me as an odd place. I say this having never been there, but having friends who go there for art vacations and class trips, and because “Marfa’s annual per capita income is $19,064. Almost 20 percent of the population lives in poverty.” Tim Crowley moved to Marfa in 1997 and “is a successful trial lawyer, a global entrepreneur, and the biggest man in a small West Texas town of around 1,700 people,” and he controls most of the town. Some residents of Marfa aren’t happy about this and the commodification of their city and are currently embroiled in debate whether to host a Coachella-like festival. Everyone has their own idea of what Marfa is or should be, and “as one old-timer says, ‘It’s my hometown, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it anymore.’”

4. n + 1: Open House

Jeremiah Moss reflects on living in New York’s Greenwich Village for twenty-five years, from when the neighborhood “throbbed with its hundred years of counterculture, a dissident history going back to the early anarchists and feminists, up through the bohemians and Beats, the hippies and punks, the poets, queers, and transsexuals too.” Now his apartment building and life are filled with new people, “glossy and glowing, dressed in white, hard to tell apart in different shades of blond, floating by with identical Maison Goyard tote bags on their shoulders and white AirPods in their ears.” While I have never lived in New York City, I have lots of friends who do (and fit this description), and I have spent many weekends traipsing around the East Village visiting friends at NYU. This gave me a lot to think about.

5. The Paris Review: An Apartment on Uranus

I’ve never really thought about Uranus. I’ve never thought about what it is made of: “Made up of ice, methane, and ammonia, it is the coldest planet in the solar system, with winds that can exceed nine hundred kilometers per hour.” I’ve never thought about its history as a house of the gods, and that “in mythology, Uranus is the son that Gaia, the Earth, conceived alone, without insemination or coition.” I never knew that “German lawyer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs [came] up with the word Uranian [Urning] in 1864 to designate what he called relations of the ‘third sex,’” that Ulrichs declared himself a Uranian, that he was “the first European citizen to declare publicly that he wanted to have an apartment on Uranus. He was the first mentally ill person, the first sexual criminal to stand up and denounce the categories that labeled him as sexually and criminally diseased.” I never knew to think about the fraught, lost social history of a planet.

6. LitHub: “We Only Wanted Their Happiness”

I have a cousin who is eight, and I am always fascinated by the way she uses technology. This year, my parents got her her second iPad for Christmas. For reference, my parents didn’t get a cell phone—of any kind—until I was in middle school, and I didn’t get my first smartphone until I was 16, after many of my friends already had them. I’m only 24 and always grew up around technology, but I never had any until middle school. 

Today, parents have to negotiate their children’s relationship with technology and media in a much more complicated way than my parents ever did. But what happens with the technology is implanted in them, when “all their homework [is] in the ether?” When school “district[s] would be completely implanted, the libraries of the world as near to our children’s brains as the backsides of their eyes?”

7. Gay Mag: Adventures in Publishing Outside the Gates

I read a lot of articles like this each week, about inequity in every industry that says “We want to do better!… another graph showing ‘diversity’ gets published. Another outcry happens. Nothing changes.” This article focuses on publishing, where “from the agents to the publishers’ offices to the editors to the CEOS, the publishing industry remains 84% white, and they will often make decisions as such.” 

Wendy Ortiz describes the differences of getting her memoir, Excavation, published by a small press in 2014, compared to a large publisher publishing a novel with “eerie story similarities” this March by a white woman who’s received a huge advance and lots of promo. “I still see the potential for my book to reach readers it has never been able to reach,” Ortiz writes, “but because I’ve been kept outside the gates, I don’t imagine that reach will ever happen.” 

Ortiz’s critique of the publishing industry (and many others) and the promotion of her book are strong, but her accusations about the similarities between Excavation and the new book, My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, are complicated in that Russell “has said that she’s been working on the book since she was 16 and that the project began as a memoir, with the character of Vanessa based on Russell herself.” 

With this controversy coming on the heels of American Dirt, it will be interesting to see how the discourse evolves, and if the publishing industry will actually become more equitable to authors of color. 

8. Washington City Paper: Washington Is a Storm, One Piece of Art Can Be Your Anchor

I spent a lot of time alone when I lived in DC last year. I freelanced for work and spent most of my days walking across the city to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s courtyard to spend the afternoon working. Sometimes there were no tables in the courtyard, or it was closed for an event, and I often found myself on the seat across from Theaster Gates’ Ground rules. Free throw in the east wing of the museum. When this happened, sometimes I would get my work done, but mostly my attention wandered to the piece. Made of reclaimed wooden floors of old gyms, I always wonder what to call it—is it a painting? It reads as a painting, but its materiality leaves me unconvinced. Last year Ground rules. Free throw was my anchor piece. A place I could go, for free, nearly every day of the year. And while I can look at images of the work online, I miss the enduring presence it had in my life. 

“Finding an [art] anchor in D.C. might seem like an assignment: Stroll past portraits of aristocrats in Elizabethan collars until one reaches out to grab you. Which sounds dismal!” but “museums in D.C. make it easier to find an anchor, because they’re humane (i.e., largely free). Making the most of the city’s museums means, to me, shorter trips and longer looking.” Art can be difficult, and hard to get into, but start by “thinking inward: How do I respond to these colors, to this shape? Where does my eye want to go in this painting? Pulling apart all the decisions in a piece helps: the grain of a photo, the texture of a statue, the shape of a brushstroke. Lingering on each detail in isolation helps.” Find a piece that anchors you, that you can always return to, because “no place rewards you for being alone like the galleries. And being alone in a place designed to let you be alone is underrated. Looking happens in that interior space between the senses and the mind and the heart… Art is a reminder that no one is alone, even in times of darkness.”

9. Facebook: Aly Wane on Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant died last Sunday in a helicopter crash, along with his daughter and seven other people. I’m not a professional basketball fan and was never a fan of Bryant, but many people are mourning this icon’s death. The mourning of Bryant’s death is also very triggering for many survivors of sexual assault as he was accused of rape in 2003. In this Facebook post, Aly Wane encapsulates that “Kobe Bryant meant a lot to many of us Black folks, for complicated reasons” but that he also thinks “[Bryant] got away with rape.” Many of my feelings and conflicts about Bryant’s death are beautifully expressed here. 

10. YouTube: Demi Lovato – Anyone (Live From The 62nd GRAMMYs ® / 2020)

The Grammy’s happened on Sunday—I didn’t watch. But everyone on Twitter was talking about Demi Lovato’s return and new song “Anyone,” the first song she has released since her almost fatal overdose in 2018

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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Overall, I did not vibe with the internet this week.