The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 2/7

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The internet was alright this week. Highlights: The mothers of iconic civil rights figures, Chloe x Halle, AOC, I May Destroy You was snubbed, decoloniality and queer studies, higher ed is very online, SOPHIE, what really happed at Bon Appétit, offloading online, and whiney rich people. 

1. LitHub: Remembering the Mothers of Three Iconic Civil Rights Figures

I often think of a sentence from Elaine Scarry’s On Beauty and Being Just. In the second section of the book, “On Beauty and Being Fair,” Scarry posits that perhaps “reverence is due not only to a beautiful god but to the god’s mother or to nearby angels; that it is not just the poet’s best poem that should be published but even the penultimate, nearly-as-beautiful draft, that the flawed political debate should be perpetuated for posterity as part of the large public record of great and lapsed moments of assembly.”

I think about this sentence in a lot of different ways, intuitively understanding what it means, but not particularly being able to give language to the feelings it engenders—ironically not being able to give language to language. 

In her book, which is excerpted here, Anna Malaika Tubbs pays reverence to “Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little, the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, and Malcolm X.” I hesitated to include Scarry’s quote, as Black women are rarely given their own space, and Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little are more than a “god’s mother,” to borrow Scarry’s language, or a “nearly-as-beautiful draft” but complete poems on their own. I think I included the line from Scarry as it speaks to lineages—of knowledge, beauty, and care. Of the three women, Tubbs writes:

“Although it seems that none of the three women cared deeply about formal recognition whether within their families or outside of their homes, each was intentional in passing on her views to her children. All three were aware of the need to share what they’d gained over the years. They did not write books or keep a close record of their own lives, but they cared more about passing on their lessons to their children and grandchildren directly. Even though Berdis never published her writing, she gifted her family members with letters filled with lessons on how to live. Louise was not presented with the same opportunity as her husband to speak in front of audiences, yet she held class in her kitchen for her children on a daily basis. Out of the three, Alberta had the most opportunity for public exposure, but she was still known as the ‘quiet one,’ who preferred to gift her knowledge through her closer connections with her children at home and her students.”

I wonder to whom these women paid reverence. 


2. For Harriet: How Chloe x Halle Won the Pandemic

I’ve gotten VERY into the singing duo Chloe x Halle over the course of the pandemic. I have enjoyed their music for the past few years but hadn’t sat down and listened to their EPs or albums all the way through until recently. I’ve also spent a lot more time over the past year watching videos by Kimberly Nicole Foster, who is incidentally the self-proclaimed president of the “Chloe x Halle Over 30 Fan Club.” 

A few weeks ago, Chloe x Halle got separate Instagram accounts after years of sharing on their joint account. Chloe’s account, in particular, has been widely discussed across the internet as she has begun to more openly share about womanhood and her sexuality (although this also started in June with the release of Chloe x Halle’s second studio album Ungodly Hour) via images and videos she has posted to her account. The photos she is posting aren’t different from what so many other people in their early 20s are posting. While most of this video is a fangirl PowerPoint, Foster address people’s opinions about Chloe towards the end of the video, but mostly she creates an argument I agree with as to why they are “the present and the future,” their cultural impact, and how they won the pandemic. 


3. Slate: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Sexual Assault Revelation Isn’t the Story

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez went on Instagram Live this week to recount her experience of January 6th’s insurrection at the Capitol. In her Live, after talking about the trauma of that day and fearing for her life, AOC disclosed that she is a survivor of sexual assault. She spent only a few minutes of the 90-minute Live addressing sexual assault and “was explicit that she was sharing this fact because she wanted to talk about the trauma of what had happened to her more recently, and she understands that trauma is cumulative.” 

Twitter, and much of the media, however, have fixated on AOC’s assault, and not the purpose of the video and what she spent most of it doing: providing a “play-by-play of the insurrection, to explain why she felt her life was threatened multiple times over the course of the day, and to articulate how her previous life experience informed her response to that event.” Susan Matthews theorizes on why that is, including that “this disproportionate focus [on sexual assault] reveals a tendency to define women, people of color, and particularly women of color by their personal experiences and particularly their personal traumas, rather than by their beliefs and opinions. That tendency begets another assumption—that their beliefs and their opinions are probably overly informed by these traumas, which makes them easier to dismiss as purveyors of pure emotion rather than informed thought.” As headlines continue to make the story about AOC, and the rightwing internet continues to claim that she is lying, Matthews reminds us that “Ocasio-Cortez’s admission about her experience of sexual assault is context for her story about the violence perpetrated by the GOP. It shouldn’t have been the headline.”


4. The Guardian: I’m a writer on Emily in Paris. I May Destroy You deserved a Golden Globe nomination

The Golden Globe nominations came out this week and unsurprisingly (and unfortunately) they are very white. The omission of I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel’s series that explores the aftermath of rape, is the most blatant example of this. Deborah Copaken, a writer on the nominated Emily in Paris, describes Coel’s series as “not only my favorite show of 2020. It’s my favorite show ever,” stating that “I May Destroy You did not get one Golden Globe nod is not only wrong, it’s what is wrong with everything.” She isn’t wrong. Emily in Paris is fine. In November, Kyle Chayka described it as “ambient television,” which “denotes something that you don’t have to pay attention to in order to enjoy but which is still seductive enough to be compelling if you choose to do so momentarily.” I May Destroy You, on the other hand, is brilliant.


5. Joseph M. Pierce: SPN612_Syllabus_Spring2021

Joseph M. Pierce, a Cherokee Nation citizen and Associate Professor at Stony Brook University, tweeted a thread about why he’s teaching a course called “Decoloniality and Queer Studies,” explaining how “the premise of gender and sexuality in the Americas, even at its most ‘performative,’ is predicated on colonial power structures that are left unexamined by most queer theory.” At the end of the thread, Pierce shared a link to the above syllabus, and I wish I could have taken a class like it! The course description expands on the thread, and “is about these embodied conflicts: of knowledge production, the desire and desirability of translating queerness, and the possibilities of decolonial refashionings grounded in Indigenous and Afrodiasporic knowledges, embodiments, and histories.”


6. Slate: How a Dead Professor Is Teaching a University Art History Class

Being in higher ed right now is wild and I would absolutely not recommend it to anyone. (Okay, that is an exaggeration but school during the pandemic has been exponentially more exhausting and aggravating than my pre-pandemic experiences.) As schools switch to online or hybrid structures, instructors are recording videos and uploading them, along with other course content, to digital learning platforms “that could potentially outlive us, perhaps instructing students and captivating audiences after we die,” writes Tamara Kneese. 

François-Marc Gagnon, a now-deceased lecturer from Concordia University, recorded lectures before he died as part of the school’s digital catalog. Gagnon’s lectures now reportedly comprise the vast majority of a course at the university. While this case might be an extreme example, it points to “larger questions about copyright and control over faculty members’ online course materials and the various ways faculty labor within higher education is degraded and devalued.” If Kneese dies, she writes, she “would prefer that my recorded lectures and other artifacts related to my job go to my next of kin, not my employer. I have no desire to be a zombie instructor.”


7. The Atlantic: Pop Just Lost One of Its Most Exciting Architects

Pop and electronic musician Sophie died in an accident last weekend at the age of 34. Sophie, whose “publicist told The Atlantic that Sophie preferred not to use pronouns,” was “one of the most important electronic producers of the past decade, recording music that conveyed the wonder the artist had felt back in childhood.”  

I didn’t know Sophie’s music well before this week, but everything I’ve read about the musician is some of the most beautifully descriptive music writing I’ve read. The writing, as with Sophie’s music, is almost bodily. At moments, it feels like writers have grasped at the periphery of language to describe Sophie’s work, and they did because that is what the music requires. 

While I could have chosen many articles, I chose Spencer Kornhaber’s because of the last two sentences: “Fall under Sophie’s spell and you can mistake yourself for being anyone, anywhere, at any time. Then the song ends and you’re in the only world you’ve ever known, with the reminder that it’s everyone else’s world too.”

While very different, I also enjoyed this letter by Faris Badwan, who was friends with Sophie for 20 years. Badwan’s letter is more personal than much of the other writing, and while it addresses Sophie’s music, it is more about the artist as a person. 


8. Reply All: #172 The Test Kitchen, Chapter 1

THIS IS JUICY! In part one of a multipart podcast, Sruthi Pinnamaneni reports on how Bon Appétit’s reckoning from last summer as a “racist and toxic workplace” came to fruition. This story starts with the story of Adam Rapoport, “who in 2010 was tasked with bringing Bon Appétit, this very sleepy, irrelevant magazine owned by Condé Nast, into a more glamorous future.” This story is fucked, and I’m interested to hear more about how we got to last summer in future episodes. 


9. The Believer: Offloading Our Memories to the Internet

I used to be highly invested in being online and in internet theory. I fell out of that hole for various reasons, but didn’t begin to revisit my thinking on my relationship to being online until recently. I’m not sure if I have gotten more private over the past few years—perhaps more selective. Whatever the case, I’m not online as much as I used to be, or at the very least I’m not online in the same way and the internet doesn’t occupy my thoughts in the ways it used to. 

In Aaron Peck’s review of Maël Renouard’s Fragments of an Infinite Memory: My Life with the Internet, translated by Peter Behrman de Sinéty, he reflects, as does Renouard, on how being online and the ways we currently experience imagery affect, in opposite ways, our collective and personal memories. The internet might feel ethereal, but “Renouard identifies here one of the less acknowledged but obvious truths about the internet: while we conceptualize it via vaporous metaphors (‘the cloud,’ for example), there is, in fact, a network of physical objects holding our memory. Much like the paper on which a photograph is printed, the images on the internet are realized by the things we use to access the online world.” Peck quotes the end of Renouard’s book, highlighting how “the Internet has equipped us with a gigantic auxiliary memory capable of making up for just about every lapse in our recollection of external facts… it is rather our personal memory that suddenly, by this new contrast, seems afflicted with a disquieting imprecision… The borders of our own identity are becoming blurred while objects everywhere are gaining distinct, firmly established biographies, and we have fallen into the category of fragile beings in a kind of ontological backwater, like an old neighborhood in a vastly expanding city.” 


10. New York Times: The Downside to Life in a Supertall Tower: Leaks, Creaks, Breaks

This story is amazing! 432 Park Avenue, New York City’s tallest residential building and home to some of the world’s most-elite (“part-time home” might be more accurate as many residents don’t live there full-time), is having issues. Part of the luxury housing boom of the 2010s, “residents of the exclusive tower are now at odds with the developers, and each other, making clear that even multimillion-dollar price tags do not guarantee problem-free living. The claims include millions of dollars of water damage from plumbing and mechanical issues; frequent elevator malfunctions; and walls that creak like the galley of a ship — all of which may be connected to the building’s main selling point: its immense height.” The billionaires (and I’m assuming a lot of billionaires bought apartments, as “the 96th floor penthouse at the top of the building sold in 2016 for nearly $88 million,” and the lowest price listed in this article is $15.3 million) are pissed! 

Because of all of the issues, the building’s insurance has increased 300 percent in two years, and are at odds with each other about what to do. One resident is “refusing to cover the recent increase in common charges, she said she faces $82,000 in late fees and interest — more than twice the median household income in the Bronx.” And although she is “aware that the plight of billionaires won’t garner much sympathy, but says she is speaking out on principle.”



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