The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 4.19.20

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The internet was our new normal this week: filled with everything COVID-19. Highlights: Our pandemic summer, Kanye, save the post office, fear, protests in Michigan, the rat war, hustling isn’t the same for everyone, Fiona Apple, Little Dragon, and Bob Dylan. 

1. The Atlantic: Our Pandemic Summer

This is one of the best and most comprehensive articles I have seen on how COVID-19 will affect the US throughout the summer and beyond. Here, Ed Yong covers everything from the current state of lockdown to possible strategies for reopening to testing and drugs and the seemingly infinite timeline of the pandemic. In reflecting upon a piece from 2018 on “whether the U.S. was ready for the next pandemic,” Yong wrote, “I noted that the country was trapped in a cycle of panic and neglect. It rises to meet each new disease, but then settles into complacency once the threat is over. With COVID-19, I fear that the U.S. might enter the neglect phase before the panic part is even finished.” Although people are already arguing that the US is overreacting, I hope that the “panic-neglect cycle” does not continue, and that our country critically examines and changes the oppressive structures that have put so many at risk. 

2. GQ: Inside Kanye West’s Vision for the Future

Firstly, I love profiles with amazing pictures and these are lowkey kinda beautiful. That being said, there is a lot to say about Kanye. I don’t have a set opinion on Kanye anymore, except that I think that he believes design is a governing force. I am skeptical of his politics, but interested in his understanding of the American “organization of celebrities” that are “accountable to people that are in control of your check. And you’re accountable for whatever they deem you to be the face of—for the people that they are controlling through you… Celebrities are scared! Celebrities don’t have the real voice.” Although the word utopia does not appear anywhere in this article, Kanye’s ideas draw upon the history of utopia. I am unsure of West Lake Ranch, Kanye’s new “Yeezy campus” in Cody, Montana, as “a paradigm shift for humanity” with desires to feature “a new kind of totally sustainable dome-shaped dwelling, complete with massive podlike rooms within the larger dome, the notable absence of corners and stairs, and an oculus open to the sky.” I don’t trust utopias. 

In the midst of the pandemic—when everything can and has to change—I must respect the need, vision, and desire to constantly create the world anew, even if I don’t agree with his proposals. 

I also love that he is wearing Birkenstocks in this photo. 

3. New York Times: What’s an Essential Service in a Pandemic? The Post Office

The Post Office is in trouble. USPS is predicting a $13 billion loss directly caused by the pandemic and “has lost $69 billion over the past 11 fiscal years — including $3.9 billion in fiscal year 2018.” Without help it could run out of funds by September. Although USPS is “organized as a self-sustaining quasi-governmental enterprise, run without taxpayer funding, it is not just another business. Even in an increasingly wired world, the agency’s mandate of ‘universal service’ provides a lifeline to remote areas. As this pandemic rages, its 600,000-plus employees are working to ensure that Americans receive their prescriptions and protective equipment and other essential items, no matter where they live.” Conservatives have been trying to privatize the postal service for years, and although legislators tried to throw in a $13 billion grant to the USPS in the coronavirus relief law, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin blocked it, “warn[ing] that it would derail negotiations. Mr. Trump had threatened to reject the bill if it included a postal bailout, according to reporting by The Washington Post.” While the service’s financial issues preceded the pandemic, it “will need to restructure its debt obligations, among other significant reforms in the long term.” Right now, “Congress must find a way to shore up the agency on behalf of millions of constituents who depend on it.”

4. The Walrus: How Fear Takes Hold of Our Bodies

For many people, myself included, the pandemic created uncertainty, creating an increase of fear and anxiety. But how exactly do we define fear and anxiety? And what happens when our bodies experience them? In her book Nerve, Eva Holland writes that “fear, generally speaking, is prompted by a clear and present threat: you sense danger and you feel afraid. Anxiety, on the other hand, is born from less tangible concerns: it can feel like fear but without a clear cause. Although Nerve was written before the pandemic, The Walrus published an excerpt “exploring what fear is and how it works in our minds and our bodies.” In the introduction, Holland explains that “We all know what it feels like to be afraid, but we don’t often stop and think about what that means physiologically. It has grounded me, a little, to understand so fully what is happening to me when I lie awake at night, sleepless with worry about my loved ones in cities far away, listening to my heart pound too loud and too fast in the dark,” in the hopes that this section might ground us too. 

One of my friends checks in with me almost every day by asking “how are you doing?” And almost every time I respond by synopsizing what I’m doing. Rarely will I ever delve into how I’m feeling. Usually I avoid thinking about how I feel—especially now—but tried to shift my answer the other day. Of course I’m afraid and anxious for how life will change—can I go back to school in the fall? Will I get to see my friends again? Will I have to stay with my parents forever? But I tried to get more specific with how I was feeling, in the same way this article interrogates fear. The best I could come up with was overflowing but simultaneously empty. 

The sad irony here is that the protest was that they don’t like being in this stay-at-home order, and they may have just created a need to lengthen it, which is something we’re trying to avoid at all costs.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

5. The Washington Post: Chanting ‘lock her up,’ Michigan protesters waving Trump flags mass against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions

On Wednesday, Operation Gridlock took place at the capital in Michigan to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer “Stay Home Stay Safe” executive order. Overtaking the streets of downtown Lansing, protesters created a “cacophony of honking…blar[ing] patriotic songs from car radios, waving all sorts of flags from the windows—President Trump flags, American flags and the occasional Confederate flag.” While directed by organizers to remain in their vehicles, many protesters did not listen and exited their cars to protest on the capitol’s lawn. In a press conference Whitmer said “we know that this demonstration is going to come at a cost to people’s health… We know that when people gather that way without masks … that’s how covid-19 spreads. And so the sad irony here is that the protest was that they don’t like being in this stay-at-home order, and they may have just created a need to lengthen it, which is something we’re trying to avoid at all costs.” 

Michigan is not the only state to see demonstrations against stay-at-home orders; Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Utah have also seen protests in recent days. We are all in this together (and probably for a while), so please do your best to stay at home and social distance. 

6. NY Post: Starving rats are resorting to war and cannibalism to survive coronavirus lockdown

In full transparency, I have NOT read this article, as Twitter is advising against putting yourself through undue horror. However, for those of you who are curious, apparently “The rats who lived near each restaurants don’t have access to as much food now that they’re shut down. The rats are now on the move in gangs, fighting each other for food, and engaging in cannibalism and infanticide” as summarized by Twitter user @bookadoration. Proceed at your own risk.   


7. NPR: When The ‘Hustle’ Isn’t Enough

I always enjoy learning about the history of slang. This article traces the history of the word hustle “from the Dutch word ‘husselen,’ meaning ‘to shake or toss,’” and expanding to mean “‘to hurry’ and to obtain by begging” over time, to the 19th and 20th century understanding of it to mean “gumption” or “hard work,” and largely in association with Blackness or Black culture. After being popularized in the early 2000s by rappers, in the past few years, however, the word has been used to “describe an empowering, even lucrative project that someone—often a white person with means—takes on outside of their ‘day job.’” This newest iteration of the word “is an example of linguistic appropriation,” according to Maciej Widawski, an English linguistics professor at UKW University in Bydgoszcz, Poland, when the word in recent history “was used to describe the reality of what many poor black people had to do to make ends meet.”

In the midst of the pandemic this is a fascinating read as “personal finance pundits insist that now is the time to get a side hustle,” and many of the essential workers that have so long been overlooked are people of color. 

8. Spotify: Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters

I’ve been waiting for this album since reading Emily Nussbaum’s New Yorker profile of Fiona Apple last month. (Which I know isn’t long, compared to most of her fans.) I’ve only listened to this album once. My deadline for this column is always Friday at midnight, meaning that new music (often released on Fridays) is incredibly hard for me to say anything meaningful about. But my first impression is that this album has sublime rhythmic depth, and it is an immensely engaging listen all the way through. As Jenn Pelly describes it in her Pitchfork review, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters seems to almost completely turn the volume down on music history, while it cranks up raw, real life—handclaps, chants, and other makeshift percussion, in harmony with space, echoes, whispers, screams, breathing, jokes, so-called mistakes, and dog barks. (At least five dogs are credited: Mercy, Maddie, Leo, Little, and Alfie.)” I’m very excited to spend more time with this album. 

9. YouTube: Little Dragon - Another Lover | A COLORS SHOW

Somehow during the upheaval of the first few weeks of the pandemic I missed this COLORS SHOW of Little Dragon and THAT THEY RELEASED AN ENTIRE NEW ALBUM. I’ve followed Little Dragon and COLORS for years so the fact that I missed this is rather shocking to me, but I’m thrilled that I finally made the discovery. 

I was introduced to Little Dragon in high school when I helped a visiting artist install her exhibition, and they have been one of my favorite groups to listen to as I work ever since. This song and their new album, New Me, Same Us, is the perfect thing for my writer’s block. It has enough energy to get me to write, but not enough to cause a distraction. 

I greatly debated on whether I should post this video, the whole album, or Matthew Ismael Ruiz’s review on Pitchfork that describes the album as “a welcome departure from their somewhat staid studio sessions, finally infusing their own work with the creative energy of their collaborations.” I went with this performance of “Another Lover” because of the space it creates. It is light and fluid, testing how much it contests gravity, yet still grounded. 

10. NPR: Hear Bob Dylan’s New Song, ‘I Contain Multitudes’

Bob Dylan surprise-released another song on Friday—the second in three weeks. It is much shorter than the epic, 17-minute “A Murder Most Foul,” but filled with all of the lyrical masterism in all of Dylan’s work. The song takes its title from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” “a fitting conceit for an artist who, in this song, compares himself to Anne Frank and Indiana Jones, and who has made brilliant records as a political folksinger, an amphetamine fueled rocker, a born-again Christian, a country squire and a (croaky) crooner of standards. ‘What more can I tell you?’ he sings. ‘I sleep with life and death in the same bed.’”

With all of the recent releases, I’m starting to wonder if Dylan is gearing up to release a larger project. We’ll have to wait and see. 

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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