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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 11/22

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My internet was mostly musical this week. Highlights: The Last Child of Down Syndrome, a “liaison with other human beings,” the sublimity of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, playlists of the musical south, Jazmine Sullivan’s still in an indoor forest, Megan Thee Stallion’s debut album, Tayla Parx’s sophomore album, Félix González-Torres, CNN’s election week, and new data of women mentoring women in STEM. 

1. The Atlantic: The Last Child of Down Syndrome 

As prenatal genetic testing becomes increasingly common, more and more parents are choosing to abort fetuses with genetic conditions, which has some complex implications. “Down syndrome is frequently called the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for selective reproduction,” writes Sarah Zhang. “It was one of the first genetic conditions to be routinely screened for in utero, and it remains the most morally troubling because it is among the least severe. It is very much compatible with life—even a long, happy life.” Denmark began offering pregnant women prenatal screening for Down syndrome in 2004, and “[n]early all expecting mothers choose to take the test; of those who get a Down syndrome diagnosis, more than 95 percent choose to abort.” Denmark was one of the first countries to offer such screening and only 18 people with Down syndrome were born in the country last year. 

This subject matter, prenatal genetic testing to screen for disabilities, is a contentious topic and hard to write about. I learned a lot, especially about Denmark, through this article by Zhang, but one primary critique I and others have of this article is the lack of perspectives from actual people with Down syndrome or other genetic conditions. Writer Emily Ladau, who is genetically disabled, has an informative Twitter thread presenting this argument, emphasizing “if an entire feature article was written about the prospect of genetically testing people like me out of existence, I’d want my stake (and that of others with my disability) in that conversation not just recognized, but centralized.”

 

2. Lit Hub: Bill T. Jones on the Uneasy Liaison Between Storytellers and Listeners

I’m in my second year of a two-year master of fine arts program and reading this was everything I’ve needed to hear recently, and nearly the antithesis of everything I have been told recently. I have needed to lean into the personal, the subjective—the “feely” side of things, as I often say. I’ve needed someone to tell me that “Whenever we invite others to witness our inner lives, we are establishing a sort of contract, an uneasy liaison with other human beings.”

As I’ve been bogged down by the esoteric intellectualism of academia (which is at times necessary), I’ve needed my instructors to question the language that they use in the same way Bill T. Jones’s nephew, LTB, forces him to consider how he feels as though he is “betraying [LTB] when I correct his use of words.” LTB, Jones writes, has “a limited vocabulary. Or should I say, it’s a vocabulary that is made more complex by a personalized black speech peppered with an often brutal, often humorous, gay street-speech?” I’ve needed the curiosity and generosity that Jones has for his nephew. I don’t think I will get that, at least not to the extent that it is present between Jones and LTB, from my school, but it is nice to know that it exists in the world. 

 

3. Oxford American: The Godmother of Soul

I’ve really been into southern writers recently. I’ve never spent much time in the south, although my mother’s family is from Mississippi. I think I’ve been interested in southern writers because of the way many of them weave narratives and lean into subjectivity and their personal histories and relationships with the subject at hand. 

Rosanne Cash does all of these things when writing about her relationship to the Godmother of Soul, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Cash writes of how Tharpe was her father’s favorite, and how the singer “traveled the world and left it scorched with her fearlessness and musical originality, inspired fierce devotion from an audience who thrilled to her enormous gifts and her personal excesses, and shook the celestial rafters with the force of her artistic character.” When paying reverence to someone, the form it takes is just as important. By weaving her personal narrative into this piece, Cash contextualizes her reverence for Tharpe and the impact the singer and guitarist has had on her life as at Tharpe’s acme, “she is a vehicle of musical ecstasy.”

 

4. Oxford American: Greatest Hits Music Issue: Playlists

I have not listened to all of these playlists yet because I learned of so much good music on the internet this week! These curated playlists by Brittany Howard, Kiese Laymon, Taylor Crumpton, Kelsey Waldon, Silas House and Jason Kyle Howard, Rosanne Cash, Cynthia Shearer, Clarissa Brooks, Smithsonian Folkways, and Adia Victoria all explore relationships to the South through music, and span genres including rap, hip-hop, blues, gospel, country and more. Accompanying each playlist is also a statement written by its curator, contextualizing it in the narratives of their lives and southern musical discourse. 

If you don’t know what to listen to or have been searching for new music, any of these playlists would be a great place to start. 

 

5. YouTube: Jazmine Sullivan - Pick Up Your Feelings (Official Acoustic Live Video)

Jazmine keeps dropping GEMS for us. I could spend the rest of my life watching videos of Sullivan singing in indoor forests and be perfectly content. 

Seemingly shot in the same session as August’s “Lost One,” “Pick Up Your Feelings” is less remorseful than its predecessor, brimming with confidence and condemning her past lover for his adulterous actions. Sullivan need not hear his explanation, singing, “Oh I’m tryna find a fuck to give for ya / You ran outta chances of forgivin’ ya / Yeah listen I ain’t listening,” and the chores explaining her unequivocal position: “Don’t forget to come and pick your feelings / Don’t leave no pieces.”

I hope more songs were recorded in this session. 

 

6. Spotify: Good News by Megan Thee Stallion

Megan Thee Stallion released her much anticipated debut album Friday night. The Houston rapper also released the video for the song “Body” from the album this week to much acclaim. Most notably the first song from the album, “Shots Fired,” is a diss track aimed at Tory Lanez, who has been charged with assault for allegedly shooting Megan in July

I’ve listened to the album once, and while I like it, I can’t say it is something I would listen to often. Megan has a fast, energetic flow, and as a high-energy person, listening to 50 minutes of an energetic album is too much for me. There are many songs—like “Savage Remix” and “Girls in the Hood”—that I will gladly include in playlists.

7. Spotify: Coping Mechanisms by Tayla Parx

I lowkey love Tayla Parx. The singer-songwriter’s music, whether it is written for someone else or performed by her, is fun without feeling like fluff. This album is no exception. Easy to listen to, Coping Mechanisms functions as a series of statements one says to oneself as indicated by both the titles of the songs and their lyrics. Maybe you “don’t want to dance alone,” or you’re also a “Fixerupper” trying to work on yourself. We all have our own coping mechanisms. 

 

 

8. The Paris Review: To Be an Infiltrator

I often think about how one of my art history mentors had dinner with Félix González-Torres, and have complete fangirl moments to her about the occasion. I first learned of the Cuban-born, American artist in high school, and although I didn’t have the language for it at the time, I always reveled in the work’s profound devotion to intimacy—interpersonally, emotionally, physically, conceptually, historically. 

This excerpt from González-Torres’ Photostats, with text by Mónica de la Torre, delves into the artist’s series of the same name. Each piece “appear[s] as coded messages awaiting decipherment” in the book, “but they’re equally apt on gallery walls as reminders that no matter how open or walled-off any space may be, it escapes neither interconnectedness nor time’s inexorable march.” The white words against a black background “act as constellations, as celestial alphabet.” In the book and in this excerpt, de la Torre “took apart dates and historical events and remembered or discovered what occurred then that might have had a bearing on him.”

 

 

9. Esquire: The Oral History of CNN’s Election Week

I got most of my election news from Twitter or a Google search of “election.” The only part of CNN’s coverage I saw was what made it to Twitter, and much of that turned into some of my favorite memes from that week. Apparently, based on this oral history, many of those memes were not off. During election week there were lots of office naps, coffee consumed, nightmares, TikTok, and more. Anchor and chief national correspondent John King’s explicit disclosure that he does in fact bathe tells us a lot about the state of CNN during election week: “The American people should know that I bathe every day. I promise. I took a shower every day and changed my suit every day.”

I greatly enjoyed this—it was like reading one long meme. 

 

10. Nature Communications: The association between early career informal mentorship in academic collaborations and junior author performance

I don’t spend much time on science Twitter, but it is where my sister lives. Nature published a study this week which found “that increasing the proportion of female mentors is associated not only with a reduction in post-mentorship impact of female protégés, but also a reduction in the gain of female mentors. While current diversity policies encourage same-gender mentorships to retain women in academia, our findings raise the possibility that opposite-gender mentorship may actually increase the impact of women who pursue a scientific career.” Twitter is up in flames over this finding, as many find the reduction of mentoring to a publication/citation metric,” as Dr. John Purpura tweeted, is problematic. In another tweet, Dr. Elizabeth Wayne said “Nature Communications is the Fox News of scientific journals,” following up that statement with “Perhaps I should add that Nat Comm is ‘currently behaving like’ the Fox News of scientific journals?” 

Nature Communications is “aware of the concerns raised regarding the publication of this paper… We thank those who’ve contacted us about this issue & we’re looking into it as a matter of priority. @NatureComms strongly believes in & supports equality and diversity in research,” the journal tweeted. 

 

 

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