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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 8/23

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The internet did its thing this week. I didn’t hate it, but it was not my favorite week. Highlights: Michelle Obama, USPS, COVID-19 long-haulers, a back-to-school rap, the details of Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson’s masterful duet, Megan Thee Stallion on Tory Lanez, Laurence Fishburne, The Killers and Bright Eyes release new music, and the mysteries of periwinkle. 

 

1. YouTube: Watch Michelle Obama's Full Speech At The 2020 DNC | NBC News

The Democratic National Convention was generally anticlimatic save AOC endorsing Bernie Sanders for President and everyone’s favorite, Michelle Obama’s speech on the first night of the convention.  

In her speech, Obama was unequivocal in her critique of Trump. “Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is,” she said. Her speech addressed the importance of voting and that to have the “basic requirements for a functioning society, we have to vote for Joe Biden in numbers that cannot be ignored.”

Her speech has been highly lauded, and Angela Rye did a great analysis of it on CNN, her only critique being that the speech was recorded before Kamala Harris was announced as the Vice President pick, and the historic nomination warranted a re-record. 

 

2. Esquire: Do We Really Want to Live Without the Post Office?

Trump and the GOP continue their attack on the Post Office. This week, Longform highlighted this 2013 story by Jesse Lichtenstein on how, “from the moment Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general in 1775, the purpose of the post office has always been to bind the nation together,” and why we don’t want to live without it. In 2013, “the postal service handle[d] almost half of the entire planet’s mail.” I learned so much about the Postal Service from reading this, including that “by law, only the postal service can put mail into a mailbox. It’s a monopoly that ensures every citizen, in every square mile of the country, has the ability to receive mail and that the government can reach every citizen. No branch of government serves us so consistently, so intimately—a federal employee literally touching every house in America every day but Sunday.”

Use USPS as much as you can! Buy some stamps! Better yet, check out the American Postal Workers Union’s Save the Post Office campaign and call your senator to demand funding for USPS. 

 

3. The Atlantic: Long-Haulers Are Redefining COVID-19

I was one of the people that naively thought COVID-19 wouldn’t be as big of a deal as it has become. As the pandemic has continued I’ve read and learned a lot, and have started to understand the many ways in which I was ignorantly wrong. As the pandemic roars on, “our understanding of COVID-19 has accreted around the idea that it kills a few and is ‘mild’ for the rest,” writes Ed Yong. “That caricature was sketched before the new coronavirus even had a name; instead of shifting in the light of fresh data, it calcified. It affected the questions scientists sought to ask, the stories journalists sought to tell, and the patients doctors sought to treat.” 

As a result, “tens of thousands of people, collectively known as ‘long-haulers,’” some of whom have never tested positive for COVID-19, have been experiencing symptoms for months. 

Many of these long-haulers have doctors who don’t believe them, prompting them to create their own forums of support. One group, The Body Politic, “has its own team of researchers, whose survey of 640 long-haulers remains the most illuminating study of the long COVID experience. More than any formally published study, it cataloged the full range of symptoms, and explored problems with stigma and testing.” For many of these people, it is not known if they will ever fully recover, and the lack of attention given to them highlights more systemic failures of our country. “The act of getting better is frequently framed as a battle between person and pathogen, ignoring everything else that sways the outcome of that conflict—the disregard from doctors and the sympathy from strangers, the choices of policy makers and the narratives of journalists. Nothing about COVID-19 exists in a social vacuum. If people are to recover, ‘you have to create the conditions in which they can recover,’ [Robert] Copeland, the sport psychologist from Sheffield Hallam, says.”

 

Georgia high school teachers and cheerleading coaches Callie Evans and Audri Williams remixed “What’s Poppin” by Jack Harlow into a hype song for the school year. Evans and Williams posted their verses to their respective Instagram accounts and the videos quickly went viral. At one point Evans raps, “You got options, but you better pass my class no floppin’/Gone log in, every day, every morning, I’m watchin’/Yeah we virtual, and you know what’s up, so we ’bout to take it up a notch,” and among other lines encourage social distancing, mask-wearing, and frequent hand-washing. This is the energy we all need this year. 

While Evans and Williams’ school district is online this fall, this video was posted just weeks after a student in Georgia was suspended for posting pictures of her school’s crowded hallways on Twitter, and “the state reported the highest rate of new cases in the country in the week ending Friday, with 216 cases per 100,000 people — about double the national average.”

 

The more I write these lists the more I am drawn to writing about music. Sometimes this writing is what one would traditionally think of as criticism, but often my favorite pieces are the ones that are personal essays through the lens of music. 

As part of Believer’s Hive, “a Longreads series about women and the music that has influenced them,” Carina del Valle Schorske reflects on a rare duet of Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson singing “Ooh Baby Baby” on Soul Train. The writer’s prose is as hauntingly beautiful as Franklin and Robinson’s duet, lingering on details—“bits of history that get skipped over or left unattended,” as scholar Alexandra Vazquez is quoted saying. Del Valle Schorske “wonder[s] why they didn’t finish out the song’s third verse. Maybe Aretha stopped singing because it was too painful to sustain a sweetness she somehow knew wouldn’t be reprised. For me, the two-minute Soul Train swoon is a love story, compressed: how long can this feeling last? How long can the conditions for it hold?”

 

6. Grazia: The Reaction To Megan Thee Stallion Being Shot Is Proof Black Women Are The Least Protected In All Of Society

More than a month after being shot in the foot, Megan Thee Stallion took to Instagram Live to give details about the incident, claiming that Tory Lanez shot her. Initially, Megan did not tell the police what happened in an attempt to protect Lanez, who, as explained in a clip from the Live, has since gotten his “publicist and [his] people going to these blogs and lyin’ and shit.” Megan specifically addresses Lanez, describing “how I tried to keep the situation off the internet, but you draggin’ it.” Megan also addressed her fear of having the police on the scene, as “the police was literally killing Black people for no motherfuckin’ reason,” adding that “you think I’m about to tell police that we… Black people, got a gun in the car? You want me to tell the law that we got a gun in the car so that they can shoot all of us up?”

Since the incident, there have been many rumors of Megan having provoked Lanez, indicative of a long history where “Black women have been considered less than human and less than woman thus undeserving of empathy or tenderness,” writes Kelechi Okafor. “So when a Black woman speaks of her pain and her trauma, society is quick to dismiss it or poke holes in the narrative as a way to justify the violence Black women have endured.”

In another clip, Megan desperately urges people to stop questioning her and to “ask [Lanez] why he not sayin’ nothin’! What the fuck he gone get on here and say?! ‘Yeah I shot her’… Why? Tell them why you shot me!? ‘No reason.’” Throughout the Live, Megan is clearly pained “as she relived the traumatic events of that night just so she could hopefully get people to feel some empathy towards her. Unfortunately as a Black woman in this world, it feels like too much of an ask.” We must do better by her, and “there has to be more mainstream conversations around the commodification and appropriation of Black femininity for mainstream consumption and how it is detrimental to Black womxn, but until then this is a reminder that Black women will no longer be society’s mule.”

 

7. Vulture: In Conversation: Laurence Fishburne

I clicked on this article because of my mother. She loves Laurence Fishburne, and whenever he comes up anywhere she always yells, “that’s my guy!” and stops whatever she is doing. Fishburne is in enough stuff that I’ve seen some of his work throughout my life, but I’ve never sought it out. Before reading this, almost everything I knew about him was from my mother’s ramblings that I tried to ignore. 

  1. Alex Jung is a fantastic interviewer and I learned so much about Fishburne from this interview. I didn’t know that he has been acting since he was 10, or that he is good at voice impersonations (although I probably should have been able to guess that), that he likes “2 percent-fat yogurt,” and has “not been invited” to be in The Matrix 4. 

This interview provided a lot of context for my mother’s obsession.

 

8. Spotify: Imploding the Mirage by The Killers

The Killers released a new album and I feel like I am back in middle school! I’ve never particularly followed the band, but I often find myself reciting every line of “Mr. Brightside” for no apparent reason. Honestly, I can’t tell if I like the album because it is good, or if it is hitting me in my nostalgic, angsty, pubescent feels.

 

9. Spotify: Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was by Bright Eyes

Along with the aforementioned The Killers, Bright Eyes also released an album this week. Although Bright Eyes was a bit before my time, their music is also an angsty nostalgic blast from the past. Down in the Weeds is the first album the band has made in 9 years, and founder Conor Oberst’s “apocalyptic visions are global, environmental, at times with a teenage glee about our impending doom.” The feelings this album evokes are overwhelming at times, and the experience of listening to it can be perfectly summarized by Hanif Abdurraqib’s tweet:

me: am I sad because I listen to sad songs or do I listen to sad songs because I’m sad

(after feeling perfectly fine, plays a song that reminds me very specifically of every emotional devastation of the past decade) 

me, underneath 5 blankets: i guess we’ll never know

 

10. The Paris Review: Periwinkle, the Color of Poison, Modernism, and Dusk

My first year of undergrad, I went to a conversation between Michael Fried and Joseph Marioni. Marioni is a monochromist painter, and much debate that evening was about “pigment suspended in medium” (paint), light, and a question I still think about all the time: when is a color a color? That evening, this question was asked in reference to green as Marioni argued that green should be a primary color as it is distinctly different from blue and yellow (unlike how orange isn’t distinctly different from red and yellow, or violet from blue and red), and constantly interrogated the point at which a color becomes the color that it is and not another color. How much yellow can you add to blue before it becomes green?

Periwinkle is a color whose exact shade is constantly subject to debate: “A subset of violet, which is a subset of purple, periwinkle denotes a precise shade that appears somewhat brighter than lavender, bluer than lilac, clearer than mauve, and dimmer than amethyst. But it’s hard to say with precision, because the purples are strange ones, polarizing, and violets are even more so.”

While purples have been around since before the common era, “periwinkle’s first known appearance in English as a color-word was in the 1920s, but it has been in the painter’s toolbox for far longer, nestled under the violet umbrella. Periwinkle is a Modernist word for a Modernist color. It’s a word that has several meanings—in addition to being a flowering plant, a periwinkle is also a type of snail, though not, confusingly, one that secretes purple liquid. It’s a nature word for a color most often found in nature. A dreamy word for a color that exists at the edges of the night.”

I wonder if Marioni would make the same argument for periwinkle as he did for green. 

 

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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