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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 5/10

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Loss and Longing: Mother’s Day 2020

I was kinda really into the internet this week. Highlights: Little Simz, Kehlani, And Then We Grow Up, Lorraine Hansberry, the 2020 Pulitzer Prizes, for the love of pancakes, the double bind of Adele’s weight loss, Ahmaud Arbery, X Æ A-12, and Pam McCarthy leaves the New Yorker. 

1. Spotify: Drop 6 by Little Simz

This album, with a quick runtime of 12 minutes, is dense. Little Simz has always had a faster flow, and she packs a lot into a short amount of time. And as short as the album is, it rewards multiple listens. it probably wasn’t until my third time through that I felt the immensity of “you should call mum,” and Simz rapping the chorus.

If this 2020, there ain’t no hindsight
If you see death is the next chapter, can you die twice?
Guess life forced me to calm down, get my mind right
Livin’ day by day, sleepless night by night
Bored out of my mind
How many naps can I take?
How many songs can I write? 

This album, and in particular that chorus, capture the zeitgeist. 

 

2. Spotify: It Was Good Until It Wasn’t by Kehlani

I’ve only had time to listen to this once, and haven’t had time to fully gather my thoughts on it. But it strikes a nice balance between its straightforwardness and directness, both lyrically and socially, and is easy to listen to without it fading into the background. I’ll definitely listen more throughout the week, and will probably fall into a rabbit hole of reviews. 

 

3. Longreads: And Then We Grew Up

Sarah Menkedick’s review of Rachel Friedman’s And Then We Grow Up begins with discussing what it means to have a word, something to describe yourself with and hold on to. It is a notion that I easily attached to, as just last week I had a conversation with friends (most of us artists, and one person working in STEM) about what we called ourselves. No one had a word.

Menkedick has had the word writer for years, which “embodies not only who I am, but who I might become. This potential is crucial to its power” and provides the scaffolding on which to imagine a life and success—a way to reach “it.” Friedman had a path, but never reached “it,” and throughout the book talks about what it means to touch “‘it’ — it being greatness, external accolades, and achievement and recognition — and the glittery all-or-nothing ways we envision it,” writes Menkedick.

Friedman reflects on how “we talk a lot about growth and potential but far less about the very common experience of ‘touching it’ — whatever ‘it’ is at any given moment before it slips away or morphs into some new elusive goal — then losing it, then maybe if you’re lucky touching it again someday.” Sometimes our word has to shift, or evolve in meaning, just as language does. Sometimes we have “to acknowledge that it’s okay to be ordinary. That it’s okay to quit. That art doesn’t have to and in fact probably shouldn’t make you miserable. That creativity isn’t something that evaporates if you no longer or never hunker down under that one creative identifier — writer, painter, musician — but is ever-present as a way of living one’s life and moving through the world. That a lot of the ways we tend to envision art-making, and the actual practice of making art in pursuit of money, can suffocate creativity, not to mention joy.”

The most challenging thing for me about this review is that I attended the same prestigious arts camp [Friedman] attended as a child, when she was sure she’d become a professional viola player.” I also attended the summer camp and its affiliated boarding school in hopes of becoming a visual artist. The list of high-performing alumni is immense, and the pressure of that legacy is more than I know how to articulate. But the older I get and the further I am from the camp’s ideal of greatness, I’m learning the same thing Friedman has learned: There are “concrete counterpoints to the myths of creative greatness that have been tormenting her. Many of her friends [from the camp] have structured their lives around creativity as a practice and a way of being, while letting go of their own art as a career pursuit. Those who have continued to put their art at the center of their lives grapple with the phenomenon of, as Friedman describes it, touching it and then losing it and then touching it again.”

 

4. The New Yorker: Lorraine Hansberry’s Roving Global Vision

This piece by Vinson Cunningham is so beautifully written. And Lorraine Hansberry, who died at 34 in 1965, is such a complex and beautiful writer. Mostly known for her play A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry “walked a political-artistic tightrope” and “move[d] from helpless frustration to a contemplation of the earth’s magnificence in one mental stroke.” While Cunningham covers much of Hansberry’s work here, he focuses on her dystopian play What Use Are Flowers, in which a hermit of 20 years returns to find civilization in ruin, and a group of children are presumably the only people left in this “war of all against all.” While teaching the children, one asks “what ‘use’ flowers have—why beauty? The hermit’s struggle to answer feels like the whole agony of creation. The stakes seem absurdly high, but it’s a plausible diagnosis of the human problem, resolvable only by keeping one eye on surfaces and the other on the spirit: imagine or die.”

 

5. The 2020 Pulitzer Prizes

The 2020 Pulitzer Prizes were announced this week. Most people seem pleased with the awards, as this year’s recipients are markedly more diverse than last year, with two gay Black men recognized: Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop won the drama prize and Jericho Brown’s The Tradition won for poetry. The Baltimore Sun was also recognized in its local reporting “for illuminating, impactful reporting on a lucrative, undisclosed financial relationship between the city’s mayor and the public hospital system she helped to oversee.”

 

6. SF Gate: Drew Magary: I’m on a pancake-only breakfast diet and I wish I started this sooner

I had to go make myself some pancakes after reading this. For the past four months, Drew Magary has eaten pancakes for breakfast because he loves them. The thing that makes pancakes so delicious is that they “consist of multiple layers of starch, all fried in fat, and then topped with a generous layer of pure maple sugar and a f—ing ice cream scoop of whipped butter. It’s a ticking carb bomb. If you offer Jessica Alba pancakes for breakfast, she files a lawsuit.” This new routine only came after years of dieting and eating “breakfast like a coward,” and being lethargic and irritable all day. Then last December, Magary thought “what if I actually eat a GOOD breakfast for once in my long, horrible life? I had wasted enough time fearing pancakes, and I was tired of being tired. I needed energy. You know what has energy? Calories. You know what has calories? PANCAKES.”

I don’t know if I could eat pancakes everyday for breakfast, but damn are they delicious. 

 

7. BuzzFeed: Adele’s Weight Loss Is A Double Bind

Adele posted a picture to her Instagram this week in celebration of her birthday in which she appeared to have lost weight. The photo has engendered different reactions, with some congratulating her on her weight loss and complimenting her new looks, and others using the moment to comment on beauty standards. Weight loss is also often seen as having some kind of moral value and “the discourse around Adele’s weight loss — without her really saying a single public word about it — is already kind of unsavory… Her weight loss, any way you cut it, pales in comparison to the other things she’s done in the first three decades of her life, yet it’s being framed like the most incredible thing she’s done in recent memory.” The issue for Adele is that “she can’t come out and talk about the weight loss, because that suggests there was something wrong with how she looked before. She also can’t ignore it, because that allows strangers to ascribe value and meaning to her body.”

 

8. The Guardian: Ahmaud Arbery killing reignites debate over sharing graphic viral videos

Ahmaud Arbery was killed by two armed white men in February while jogging in a neighborhood in Georgia. A graphic video of the murder made the rounds over the past week, which led to the public pressuring the prosecutor’s office to make arrests of the murderers on Thursday. While no one is doubting the tragedy of Arbery’s death, “activists have often debated balancing the pursuit of justice for the victim with preventing additional distress to the public, or undermining a victim’s dignity,” with many arguing that “when footage of a graphic killing goes viral, people can be exposed to it involuntarily as online users post commentary and news updates that pops up in timelines and news feeds.

I have not watched the video, I probably won’t. And as Damon Young writes, “I don’t quite know how to react to news like this anymore.”

 

9. People: Elon Musk and Grimes’ Newborn’s Name, X Æ A-12, Is Technically Legal but ‘Won’t Be Accepted’

Elon Musk and Grimes had a baby and named it X Æ A-12. Naturally, Twitter went wild to figure out how to say the name and what it means. Grimes broke down the meaning and spelling in a tweet, which Musk corrected. There have been a lot of memes about the name. I honestly feel bad for the baby, he didn’t pick his name.

 

10. The New Yorker: Pam McCarthy, Champion of Change

Pam McCarthy, Deputy Editor of the New Yorker, is leaving her position. She has held the position since 1995, and this issue is her last. McCarthy “has deep confidence in the power of facts, and she is wary of the cheap shot, the flash of hyperbole, the rickety insinuation,” and has “championed change while making sure that our editorial soul remained true” as the New Yorker expanded its digital footprint. 

While this change might not be exploding the internet, it provided an opportunity for major change at the New Yorker, which, regardless of how you feel about the publication, is hugely influential. 

 

All images taken from referenced articles. Have a suggestion for next week? Email afoehmke@bmoreart.com with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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