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

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The entirety of this week could have easily been dedicated to coronavirus. Honestly, I have spent most of this week avoiding the internet, going online just enough to stay abreast of COVID-19 developments. 

Highlights: Some good places on the internet, the end is coming, when feelings don’t matter anymore, Alejandra Pizarnik’s critical writing, the US sucks at public transit, CRISPY food, the last giraffes, millennial aesthetic, sleeping and dreaming, and Zsela’s “For Now.”

1. The Outline: Here are some happy websites to go to if you’re sick of reading articles about coronavirus

This whole article has been my mood all week. If you want to be on the internet this week because you’re stuck at home but need a break from coronavirus content, this list is for you. 

2. The Point: The End is Coming

I’m still wrapping my head around coronavirus and what is happening, as many people are. The pandemic is highlighting many issues we have known for a while: healthcare costs, the slow response to climate change, the economy, and growing inequity on countless other political fronts. If there is one thing we are learning from coronavirus it is that “we may not have arrived at the end, but we have certainly arrived at the thought of it.” At some point science will inevitably fail us, and humanity as we know it will end.

For philosopher Agnes Callard, in a time like this it is imperative to consider and understand the ethical and moral situation of the last (as in final) generation. “For a long time, philosophy and the other humanistic disciplines have been concerned with how to achieve advances that might mirror those of the sciences,” Callard writes, “but it will not be through science that we come to reconcile ourselves to the fact that unlimited scientific progress is impossible.” Humanists are not responsible for making progress, but are expected “to acquire and transmit a grasp of the intrinsic value of the human experience; this is a job whose difficulty and importance rises in proportion to the awareness that all of it will be lost” and to “become the specialists of finitude, the experts in loss, the scientists of tragedy.”

It might not be today, or with this pandemic, but the last generation is coming, and “scientists and politicians must work to delay their arrival as long as possible; humanists, by contrast, must help prepare us for them.”

3. Longreads: What Do We Do With Feelings Now That They Don’t Matter Anymore?

This article is quite fascinating in relation to Agnes Callard’s “The End is Coming” listed above. Where Callard, a philosopher, looks at what it means to live today and contend with the end of humanity from a broad societal and humanist philosophical perspective, here Sarah Miller does the same thing from a personal one, wrestling with the fact that “there is nothing to achieve right now except to insist that the only achievement is caring for others, and not caring specially for family or friends, but in caring for every person as our family or friend.”

4. The Paris Review: Little Fires for the One Who Was Lost

A friend who is a poet and playwright once gave me the advice when I was struggling on a piece of visual art to write a poem about what I wanted the piece to be. Here, in an excerpt from A Tradition in Rapture, translated by Cole Heinowitz, Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik reflects on how “sometimes, when I delete a word, I imagine another one in its place, but without even knowing its name. Then, while I’m waiting for the one I want, I make a drawing in the empty space that alludes to it. And this drawing is like a summoning ritual.”

This excerpt is one of the most amazing pieces of writing I have read in years—conceptually, syntactically, structurally. 

5. Vice: Why the US Sucks at Building Public Transit

I’ve never gotten a driver’s license, much to the dismay of my parents. Part of the reason for this, at least in the beginning, was that I didn’t live at home for the years when most people learn to drive. Now, I don’t really know why I don’t drive. I tell myself that it is a political stance in support of creating more public transit and it is more environmentally friendly, but it is at least partly because I am stubborn. I could still get a license and just not drive.  

The problem with US transit, Aaron Gordon writes, is simple: “America sucks at building public transportation.” Creating public transit is highly political; just think of Baltimore’s failed Red Line, which Gov. Larry Hogan killed almost as soon as he took office in 2015. And our country has a “political system uninterested in reform, a system unconcerned with fixing what’s broken. If we can understand how politics failed American transportation systems, perhaps we can make the solution part of broader reform that must occur if American government is to start addressing the needs of the people in all aspects of life, from health care to criminal justice to housing to employment law to digital privacy to climate change.”

6. Bon Appetit: There’s an Entire Industry Dedicated to Making Foods Crispy, and It Is WILD

I recently learned that one of my friends used to work at a company that developed food for other companies. One aspect of her job was to develop the texture of foods. We talk a lot about food. She strives to make dishes that are balanced in flavor, acidity, and texture. 

There is one word used more than any other word in the US to describe food texture: Crispy. Alina Szczesniak was the first person to pay attention to texture and described it with a colleague as a “stimulant to active eating… it appears to hold a particular place in the basic psychology of appetite and hunger satiation, spurring one to continue eating.” 

One of my favorite crispy snacks are kettle chips, and I organize them in order of crispness, eating the crispiest one with the most folds last. Apparently they are in the “hard-bite” category of crispy snacks which “women really seem to like.”

While I don’t love the tone of this article—I find it trying too hard to be humorous—this is a WILD read on what makes the snack aisle so enticing. 

7. The Atlantic: The Last Giraffes on Earth 

Today, it is estimated that there are four times the number of elephants in the world than there are giraffes. The animals are “so beloved and familiar that it’s tempting to think their numbers are solid and their future secure. Neither is true.” Unlike other endangered large mammals in Africa, such as elephants and rhinos, their “decline is not one of villainous poachers and murdered animals.” Local people kill them for meat, and their once vast habitat has shrunk due to urban growth and agricultural demands. The story of giraffes “is a story of two species dealing with the same crowded, rapidly changing world.”

8. The Cut: The Tyranny of Terrazzo: Will the millennial aesthetic ever end?

This article is fascinating because while it has an interesting analysis of the “millennial aesthetic,” it is also published on The Cut, which I generally read as having the very aesthetic that this article critiques. The millennial aesthetic “aims its appeal at everyone. Propagated by brands and advertisements, it is a fundamentally commercial aesthetic.” It is inclusive and performative, crystalizing “most clearly in realms associated with femininity (style, beauty, wellness, domesticity), it has diffused outward to goods and businesses of all sorts. The design is soft in its colors and in its lines, curved and unthreatening.”

After reading the first few paragraphs of this, I knew exactly the kind of person it was describing. I knew what their life looked like (because they Instagram it) and I figured that they would read this. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this article is how many millennials are already aware of the aesthetic tropes this article investigates, and have already critiqued them. And by the end of this, I understood what was being discussed, but I wasn’t exactly sure who it was written for. 

9. The Paris Review: Sleep and the Dream

My relationship to sleep has changed dramatically this year. I’m in grad school, and most days I can fall asleep within 5 to 10 minutes of getting into bed. I don’t listen to music, or a TV show or a podcast to fall asleep. Once I get in bed the process starts almost instantaneously. 

My changing relationship to sleep means that I also spend less time alone than I did before. I don’t spend hours with myself listening to external media or just the thoughts in my head. The only time when I get that now is if I awake in the middle of the night and struggle to fall back asleep. I miss the “state of half slumber, what I experience while falling asleep, when I am no longer capable of speaking or saying anything, or of carrying out any of my wishes, but I am still awake enough to perceive what is happening with me and within me.” I miss feeling the day leech from my body and remember how it feels to be embodied, that “within me there is a kind of cosmic distance. And yet it is hidden within my innermost being; it is concealed there. It is a part of my own identity, I know nothing about it, but it will never leave me.” 

I don’t dream as much as I used to either. Or at least I don’t remember my dreams. The dreams I do remember are much different than they used to be and seem to be more directly related to my everyday life. Perhaps this is because “the true enigma that must be faced during sleep is not the army of monsters, not even the omnipotence or, conversely, the limitations of the mind, but the inner unknown creating an impression of infinity and all the while doing nothing but delimiting man and forcing him to confront his own boundaries.”

10. YouTube: Zsela - “For Now”

Admittedly, this is not my favorite song by Zsela. But Zsela is one of my favorite musicians and performers right now, and with only singles to listen to, any new music from her is much appreciated. I eagerly await an EP.

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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