The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 3/28

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I loved the internet this week. There were interesting stories and essays, and a lot of funny internet moments. In the news: More states are advancing anti-trans and anti-LGBT+ legislation, a man found shrimp tails in his Cinnamon Toast Crunch (then the story got darker), and Gabby gave the run of her life. Highlights: The history we overlook, anti-Asian racism, the problem of perception, “Disney’s Disembodied Black Characters,” operating on a polar bear, the greatest character actors today, the Suez Canal, the COVID-19 vaccines interviewing for a job, Annie’s mac and cheese, and Lil Nas X giving Satan a lapdance. 


1. The New Republic: The Eternal Fantasy of a Racially Virtuous America

I’ve read and posted a lot of articles and essays that explore the same motifs Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw explores here: “To begin to address this obscene disparity between those who marched to uphold the republic’s ideals and those who spilled blood to overthrow them, we must grapple with the fact that whiteness—not a simplistic racial categorization, but a deeply structured relationship to social coercion and group entitlement—remains a vibrant dimension of power in America.”

At times I feel like it is hard to continuously read and think about so much violence. I regularly question if I too frequently include articles on white supremacy on this list—if I’ve included too many articles on the same subject in a week. Although I have these thoughts regularly, I can’t think of a time I chose not to include an essay that somehow addresses that “partisans on all sides overlook the brutal legacies of white supremacy,” because they are necessary, and we’ve spent too much of history overlooking brutal legacies. 

I continue including these articles at this frequency because I’m constantly trying to unlearn the ways in which I’ve internalized white supremacy. I’m not always good at this, and I’ve surely held some violent beliefs in my life, but it is something that I’m working on, something that I’m trying to address. Including articles like these helps me build upon my framework for this unlearning, and I hope it helps some of my readers do the same. 


2. BuzzFeed: This Is Where 150 Years Of Ignoring Anti-Asian Racism Got Us

Over the past few weeks, the mainstream media has finally taken notice of the rise in anti-Asian racism and hate crimes since the onset of the pandemic. Venessa Wong provides nuance and specificity to this phenomenon by sharing many individual stories, including her own increased anxiety in the form of a “recurring nightmare that I am screaming in a panic — it’s not always clear why — but I can’t get any sound out, no matter how hard I strain or how wide I open my open mouth. And because no one sees how terrified I am, I am terrified alone.” 


3. Feminist Kill Joys: The Problem of Perception

A friend shared this essay from 2014 in a group chat this week and it has given me some new language to describe how “when you expose a problem you pose a problem… when exposing a problem is to become a problem then the problem you expose is not revealed.” 

I’ve been exposing a lot of problems at my school recently. Sometimes this is met with understanding, learning, and growth. Often times my perception is met with defensiveness and gaslighting—something that I’ve had enough experience with to recognize quickly, at this point—someone in authority trying to convenience me that “when you perceive a problem your perception becomes the problem,” and there is no problem other than me. 

I haven’t had enough time with this essay to fully sink into it, but I feel like part of the problem it is trying to articulate also has to do with accountability. Part of this concept of one’s perception being the problem is that those whose perceptions are being observed, questioned, or called into crisis become defensive because we, generally, are only taught about accountability in a punitive sense, and not that it can be restorative or even generative. This isn’t to say that restorative or generative accountability can’t be uncomfortable, but that it has different goals than a punitive approach. 


4. Los Angeles Review of Books: Disney’s Disembodied Black Characters

It has been known since the beginning of Disney that the company is racist—or at the very least racially biased. Hope Wabuke made a very simple rule for her son for watching TV shows or movies: that he could only watch a TV show if it had a main character who looked like him. And she quickly realized how few shows met that criteria. After her son got bored of Doc McStuffins, she expanded the scope to include shows with animals, of which there are many. But it made her wonder: “what does it say that it is so much easier for my son to find wonderfully crafted television shows and films featuring talking animals than it is to find shows about kids who look like him?” 

Throughout this essay, Wabuke explores that question, concentrating on the family entertainment giant Disney, and how there is no Disney film where the main character is Black, stays human and alive (and whose parents aren’t killed) for a whole movie with a happy ending. 


5. LitHub: Saving Nora: What It’s Like to Operate on a 500-Pound Polar Bear

I absolutely adore learning about animals. As a kid, I would only read a book if it had something to do with animals, and I used to binge-watch Animal Planet, much to my sister’s dismay. As I’ve gotten older I’ve switched from Animal Planet to Nature, anything narrated by David Attenborough, and reading Bruce Bagemihl’s Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity.

To say that I was invested in this piece would be an understatement. When Nora, a polar bear in Utah, fractured her humerus, a search started for a vet who could fix her. The search, which turned into a national endeavor, ended with Jeff Watkins who “pioneered the use of the intramedullary nail in young horses.” Watkins had never operated on a bear, and by the time he was contacted, “Nora’s leg had already been broken for several days at that point, and the longer it remained untreated, the harder it would be to repair. With every day that passed, Nora’s muscles stiffened more around the broken bone.” 

If you’ve ever wanted to know how “to operate on a very broken polar bear,” this adaptation from The Loneliest Polar Bear by Kale Williams will explain how. 


6. Vulture: The 32 Greatest Character Actors Working Today

This article put so many names to faces! In this article, fifteen critics name some of the best character actors currently working. Character actors are hard to define, and “the most obvious definition is that a character actor is not a lead. (Frequently they’re not even the fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-billed in the credits, either.) Except that sometimes, aging stars will do their best work in character roles, while other character actors turn out to be stars-in-waiting. A character actor is someone who is known for small parts, but with the abundance of cable and streaming projects, many of them now occasionally work as co-leads, albeit in little-discussed series.” 

There are some great actors on this list. 


7. New York Times: Why the Suez Canal Is So Important

The massive container ship Ever Given became stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal this week. The canal, which is 120 miles long, “took 10 years and 1.5 million laborers to build in the 19th century, and one day and one giant ship to clog it in 2021.” Connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, the artificial waterway is a major maritime passage, and currently more than 100 ships are waiting to traverse it. Depending on how long it is blocked, this could have major ramifications on the shipping industry as the canal “is believed to handle about 10 percent of global maritime commercial traffic.” While the exact reason the ship got stuck is unknown, “poor visibility and high winds, which made the Ever Given’s stacked containers act like sails, are believed to have pushed it off course and led to its grounding.”

While many efforts have been made to unbeach the vessel, they have been to no avail, something the internet seems to be reveling in. The quantity and quality of memes from this are incredible. 


8. @jeffrightnow: If the Covid-19 vaccines interviewed for a job

My roommate sent me this video and it is so funny and accurate! In this sketch, Instagram user @jeffrightnow pretends to be all of the different COVID-19 vaccines interviewing for approval, as the title suggests. I’ve been watching this all week. 

Please remember that even if you have been vaccinated to continuing wearing masks and social distancing.  


9. SF Gate: Annie’s Mac and Cheese is based in the Bay Area, but Annie is not. Here’s her story.

Everyone I know has a very specific way they make Annie’s Mac and Cheese. I have a few friends that always add a spoonful of pesto to the classic white cheddar and shells, others add frozen peas. Personally, I make my Annie’s with ¼ cup of 5% Fage plain greek yogurt instead of butter and milk, and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. 

I’ve never spent much time researching the brand, which was founded by Annie Withey, and which is only second to Kraft in the US in terms of popularity. “In 1984, when Withey was 21, she and her then-husband Andrew Martin came up with the product known as Smartfood in the kitchen of their Boston home. That’s correct: Annie, the Annie’s lady, is also the cheddar popcorn lady.” While Withey was recipe testing for popcorn using powdered cheese, she had the idea to add white cheddar onto pasta, so “she boiled elbow pasta from Kraft, measured an identical amount of white cheddar cheese as was in the Kraft packet, added butter and milk, and then… ‘Whoa!’ was the summation of her first bites.”

“Whoa!” is a good summation of the first time I tasted Annie’s, and I only added more exclamation marks when I switched to making it with yogurt. 


10. YouTube: Lil Nas X – MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) (Official Video)

This video! I am not a good enough student of culture to analyze this video in the way it requires… there is so much symbolism here—this is a maximalist fantasy. I mean, Lil Nas X slides down a pole to hell and gives Satan a lapdance. Even without fully analyzing the video, it is apparent that it is absolutely stunning: the shots, the set, the clothes, the makeup. As many of the YouTube comments read, Illuminati conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this. 


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