The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 5/17

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The internet had a lot of different things going on this week. Highlights: Jill Scott and Erykah Badu battled, Little Richard died, Stevie Wonder turned 70, D. Watkins and Danny Hersl, Tabitha Brown, EU music videos, biblical mysteries, Mad Max’s oral history, the function and form of fairy tales, and Alison Roman. 


1. YouTube: Jill Scott and Erykah Badu’s Instagram Live Battle

For the past two weeks the Black internet has been going crazy with anticipation for Jill Scott and Erykah Badu’s Verzuz battle. Created by Swizz Beats and Timbaland, the battle series Verzuz features different artists (mostly rap, hip-hop, and R&B) who take to Instagram live on Saturday nights and DJ using their catalogues. The hype leading up to this particular epic showdown was not unwarranted, and the reactions from critics, Twitter, and Scott and Badu themselves that followed testify to that. 


2. Vice: Little Richard’s Traumatic Black, Queer Childhood Helped Mold Rock ‘N’ Roll

Little Richard died last week and just about every media outlet has published some sort of obituary. Among these, an abundance of older profiles, interviews, and essays about the late Architect of Rock n’ Roll re-circulated across social media platforms. 

One was this essay from 2017, in which Myles E. Johnson meditates on Little Richard’s queerness, which “is not to be conflated with a sexual preference, but a failure of hetero and cis normative ways of showing up in the world.” Little Richard was raised in Georgia by a religious father, a “toxic masculine force that attempted to beat the queerness out of him as a child.” Throughout his life, Little Richard was underappreciated for his creation of rock n’ roll, a transformative force in American culture, and “what we have left is a man that designed something bigger than religion, being tamed by religion.”


3. The Undefeated: As Stevie Wonder turns 70, a look at how he wrote the soundtrack for a fragile America

This week Stevie Wonder turned 70. In celebration of his landmark birthday, Justin Tinsley looks back at Wonder’s “peerless display of both musical excellence and social conscience” over a five-year period when he released “Music of My Mind and Talking Book in 1972, Innervisions in 1973, and climaxed with Fulfillingness’ First Finale in 1974 and Songs in the Key of Life in 1976.” Wonder, and particularly his music during that time, represented the “fullness of the black experience,” said Georgetown University professor Zandria Robinson. “Stevie is the black documentarian of the 1970s. He is the documentarian of black life. His work is a full mirror, and not a fun house mirror. Not a mirror that only showed part of us. A full mirror.”


4. HuffPost: Baltimore’s Most Hated Cop and Me

In this piece, which reads as one part personal essay and one part profile, D. Watkins braids together the history of Baltimore with his own biography and that of Daniel T. Hersl, a white cop previously on the disgraced Gun Trace Task Force who is now serving 18 years in federal prison for robbing citizens, racketeering, and numerous other charges. Watkins “was raised in the crack era,” he writes. “I learned to cook up, package and slang crack in and around a city that was occupied by a militarized police force that harassed everybody, even the non-crack slangers.”

It would be easy to assume that Watkins would have ended up in jail, and Hersl a police captain. As Watkins “continued to try to make sense of my own life through writing, I started looking at Hersl more closely. I didn’t think he was a victim—I wasn’t a victim either—but I did start to think more about the failed drug war and the reasons why we both played a game that cost him his freedom, and could’ve cost me mine. I’ve always said that people needed to understand my environment before judging my past as a dope dealer. Didn’t I owe the same thing to him?” Here’s what happened when, as Watkins writes, “Everything I had going against me, Hersl had going for him.”


5. New York Times: The Joy of Vegan Cooking, 60 Seconds at a Time

I love Tabitha Brown. The first video I saw of Brown, she was making carrot bacon. My sister sent it to me, and I was immediately taken by Brown’s “gentle, lilting Southern accent” and “warm smile, calm demeanor,” as writer Sandra E. Garcia puts it. At 41, Brown differs from most people who’ve found fame on TikTok, “a social medium whose most popular and most engaged users are in their teens and 20s.” But her comfort food and affirmations “urging her followers to go a little easier on themselves and to stop worrying so much about pleasing others,” is “her way of spreading joy and spending a moment with her followers,” providing a much needed bit of respite. She is “the auntie everybody loves.”


6. Twitter: music video talent coming out of the EU

These days I mostly spend my time watching YouTube videos while simultaneously reading Twitter, then rewinding said videos because I missed something while reading Twitter. The cycle can happen numerous times in the course of a short clip. I’m always searching for new algorithmic rabbit holes to fall into, and this Twitter thread is a great one. While I was familiar with a few artists on this thread, there were a lot that I needed to look up. I’ll be in this hole for a while. 


7. The Atlantic: A Biblical Mystery at Oxford

Reading this story is like reading a Dan Brown novel: It is filled with old things, religion, scholars, inaccuracy, and conspiracy. The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, “were known to have hired” Oxford professor Dirk Obbink to consult on their “Museum of the Bible, a soaring $500 million showplace.” When Obbink allegedly dated verses from the Gospel of Mark found on a piece of papyrus from the first century, people were excited for what it could mean for the field of biblical studies. But scholars became increasingly skeptical, especially as the provenance of the fragments were kept secretive, and Obbink seemingly pulled them, and other rare texts, from thin air. 


8. The New York Times: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic

I’ve never seen any Mad Max movie, and I don’t know if that is better or worse preparation for reading this. What I have gleaned from the trailers is that some wild-ass shit happens in the desert. George Miller, the film franchise’s creator, said he got the idea to make the fourth installment of the series, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), when he wondered “What if there was a ‘Mad Max’ movie that was one long chase, and the MacGuffin was human?” The whole time I was reading this I was intrigued by this “stuntman’s dream” as it was described by one of the film’s stunt people, Ben Smith-Petersen. The stunts were real, and producer Colin Gibson’s “rationale was to make it as real as possible so that as much as possible was at stake.”

I really want to watch it now, but I’m also kind of scared. 


9. The Paris Review: Fuck the Bread. The Bread Is Over.

I’ve been thinking about this article all week, and I still don’t know how to write about it. In this installment of her column Happily, which “focuses on fairy tales and motherhood,” Sabrina Orah Mark relates how our world is currently changing to fairy tales, where “form is your function and function is your form. If you don’t spin the straw into gold or inherit the kingdom or devour all the oxen or find the flour or get the professorship, you drop out of the fairy tale, and fall over its edge into an endless, blank forest where there is no other function for you, no alternative career.” Where tasks are given and if you “perform each of those tasks perfectly, they will be rewarded with more.” She questions, “What does it mean to be worth something? Or worth enough? Or worthless? What does it mean to earn a living? What does it mean to be hired? What does it mean to be let go?” And what does it mean to “disappear into [your] own form”?


10. The New Consumer: What Alison Roman wants

I’m not going to lie, I’ve made one of Alison Roman recipes before and enjoyed it (the cookies), but I’ve never followed her or read any of her other recipes. “One of the most interesting and visible people in the food media world,” Roman has developed a cult-like following from her social media presence, cookbook Nothing Fancy, and recipes in Bon Appétit and the New York Times. 

Since the publication of this interview last week, there has been a huge fallout surrounding Roman, mostly because she presents herself as having “pure Karen energy,” as described by one Twitter user. Roman comes off as extremely white and entitled after discussing how she wants to further monetize her social media presence, but then criticizing Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo for doing the same—which had many readers suspect that Roman is scared of competition. Further, it has long been discussed that Roman has a distinct predilection for appropriating food from other cultures, such as a renowned stew recipe that is really a curry, as Roxana Hadadi writes in an essay on Roman’s colonization of food in Pajiba. A lot of drama has gone down on the food internet in the past week. 


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

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