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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 4/4

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I really liked the internet this week. Highlights: Art memes, Black Femme, people are still talking about Lil Nas X, Viola Davis and Regina King, Hanif Abdurraqib, crushing, pigeon breeding, why animals don’t get lost, the new pasta shape, and Beyoncé on Hot Ones. 

 

1. New York Times: 5 Art Accounts to Follow on Instagram Now

The only art theory I read is memes. (That isn’t totally true but I do spend significantly more time looking at memes than reading theory.) I don’t follow all of the accounts listed here, but I have seen memes from all of them, as who can find (and make) the best art memes in art graduate school is a sort of passive competition in which my cohort and I all partake. 

My favorite account listed here is @freeze_magazine, because, as Jillian Steinhauer writes, “it makes me laugh most consistently.”

 

2. 4Columns: Black Femme

I desperately want to see Black Femme: Sovereign of WAP and the Virtual Realm at Canada in New York, but sadly I know that won’t happen. The six-artist show, curated by Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle, “address[es] the intersection of Black femininity and digital technology, a conjunction alluded to by the ‘WAP’ of the title, a term that either means ‘wireless application protocol’ (something that makes sharing data over wireless networks possible) or ‘wet-ass pussy’ (something that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion celebrated in their recent, rollicking, and unapologetic anthem to female sexual empowerment).”

I’ve been seeing images of the show all over social media since it opened, partially because it has been gaining more and more critical attention, and partially because (disclaimer) I go to school with Qualeasha Wood, whose piece “fore the day you die, you gon’ touch the sky” (2021) is featured in the exhibition. I’ve always admired Q’s practice, and love seeing her work in this context—although I haven’t actually seen it in that context, in person.

 

3. BuzzFeed: Lil Nas X Did It Again

Last week I included Lil Nas X’s new video for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” and the internet is still talking about it and its implications this week. Largely, conservative Christians are concerned for the children, given that there is queer imagery in the video, and claiming that the artist is an industry plant trying to make people gay. 

Lil Nas X is a troll, and “the video is playful and deliberately provocative — that’s the point.” This piece and many others seem to align with what self-described “cult survivor” Ashley Easter tweeted: “When you traumatize a whole generation (and more) of kids with the concept of a literal hell (something Jesus never preached) don’t be surprised if they grow up, realize it was a control technique and then use the imagery to make a point in their art.” 

There is also space to have a conversation about how good the song is, divorced from the video, and the similarities it has to FKA Twigs’Cellophane.” But I think that, apart from Lil Nas X claiming his Black queerness, the main point of this video was to troll—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a specific move. 

 

4. W Magazine: Viola Davis and Family Star in “Black Americana,” a Photo Essay Directed by Regina King

This is AMAZING!!!!!!!! Beautiful pictures of Viola Davis and her family directed by Regina King and a beautiful profile of King by Brooke Marine. Shot in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles, the setting of these photos is “anywhere, U.S.A.…  It could be Los Angeles, Detroit, or New York. You can almost hear the sounds of DeBarge or Maze featuring Frankie Beverly—the quintessential track list for any Black family’s reunion, cookout, or lazy weekend afternoon.” In conceptualizing this shoot, King watched old interviews of her friend Davis, and was drawn to “the pain as well as the beauty in the bruises,” as she is quoted in this piece. King continued, “I don’t think any of us are particularly happy with the state of America, but we still embrace the fact that we are Black Americans, even with all of the things that have happened in history.”

 

5. Okayplayer: Hanif Abdurraqib’s Third Favorite A Tribe Called Quest Album Might Surprise You

I’ve been DEEP into Hanif Abdurraqib recently. I’m as interested in what he writes about as I am in how he constructs narratives. The cadence of his writing provides enough time for readers to process what he says, but it isn’t slow, and it continuously pulls you along. This is not to say that I don’t often find myself reading Abdurraqib’s work multiple times, but that he writes about complex ideas with nuance without entangling his readers with unnecessary verbiage. 

From its first sentence—“Black Americans have long been asked to perform hope to satisfy the white imagination”—this conversation between Abdurraqib and Okayplayer’s Jaelani Turner-Williams is delightful. Focusing on his new book, A Little Devil in America: In Praise of Black Performance, which came out this week, this discussion covers “how Josephine Baker inspired the book’s title, his deep immersion of music, being a ‘Nina Simone disciple’ and the deconstruction of grief in his writing.” But it centers itself around performance.

 

6. The Believer: Crush

I’m a person who is prone to crushes. I’m a person who is prone to overwhelming feelings—my friends often comment on how I miss people overwhelmingly, chronically, paralytically. 

I almost always have a crush. It could be an intellectual crush, a professional crush, an artistic crush, or a crush in the traditional sense—a crush on someone for some inexplicable reason that “is distinct from friendship or love by dint of its intensity and sudden onset,” as defined by Larissa Pham, from whose forthcoming book Pop Song this essay is excerpted. Crushes are “marked by passionate feeling, by constant daydreaming: a crush exists in the dreamy space between fantasy and regular life.” Desire is an important element in crushes.

I’ve never spent much time theorizing on crushes. Instead, I usually give in to “a desire so strong it feels annihilating” and let myself float away. It has also been a while since I’ve felt this read by an essay. 

 

 

7. The Believer: Inexplicably Surviving

I honestly don’t know why I find the idea of fancy pigeon shows as absurd as I do, given the fact that I watch dog shows and my parents have a purebred dog. Anyway, fancy pigeon shows are a thing, and while “The breeders and judges here at the [South African National Pigeon Association] show are not sultans, … a disproportionate number of them are recent divorcees.” One of the birds described in great detail here is “a Black-laced Blondinette variety of an Oriental Frill” who were first bred by Ottoman Sultans of the Manisa palace. The bird has been bred to the extent that it can’t “feed its own squabs, but we’ve also ensured that its beak is so truncated that it even peck the earth for food. It must eat from a special cup, designed by the breeders who designed the bird itself. Indeed, we’ve made its beak so useless that the baby frills can’t even peck their way out of their eggs.”

Reading this reminds me of a previous column that included an article on camels getting botox. 

 

8. The New Yorker: Why Animals Don’t Get Lost

Generally, I would say I’m better at orienting myself compared to a lot of people my age. I usually don’t have too much trouble reading maps or following directions, and when I do get lost I can backtrack to where I last knew my location. I, however, am by no means a skilled navigator who knows where to go without the help of some technological assistance. 

Many animals, particularly birds, can travel thousands of miles to places they might not have been before, or haven’t been since their youth, without getting lost. “Some impressive examples of this ability are widely known,” writes Kathryn Schulz. “Salmon that leave their natal stream just months after hatching can return after years in the ocean, sometimes traversing nine hundred miles and gaining seven thousand feet in elevation to do so. Homing pigeons can return to their lofts from more than a thousand miles away, a navigational prowess that has been admired for ages; five millennia ago, the Egyptians used them, like owls at Hogwarts, as a kind of early airmail.” 

People, however, used to be much better navigators before the onset of urbanization. “Early Polynesians, who, about five thousand years ago, began paddling their canoes around a vast area of the Pacific Ocean now known as the Polynesian Triangle: ten million square miles of water, bounded by New Zealand, Hawaii, and Rapa Nui, with perhaps a thousand other islands scattered throughout.” Other cultures over time also had similar navigational skills, but these have atrophied as they haven’t been exercised, and things like light pollution have interfered. 

As humans continue to appropriate more and more land, and become louder and louder, the navigational senses of animals can be less effective. Learning more about how animals navigate the world can not only help in conservation efforts—knowing which land is most vital to protect—but, perhaps, “the chief insight to be gleaned from how other animals make their way around the world is not about their behavior but about our own: the way-finding we must learn to do now is not geographic but moral.”

 

9. Esquire: He Spent Three Years Inventing a Pasta Shape. It Puts Spaghetti to Shame.

If you haven’t heard, there is a totally new pasta shape! Cascatelli was invented by Dan Pashman after years of obsession. The shape has a large “sauce trough” which “is an apt description of how cascatelli seems to suck in that sacred oily sludge, giving you fat bursts of flavor when you bite through it. It’s not a pretty image, but that’s kind of Pashman’s whole thing.” 

Cascatelli is sold out everywhere, but damn do I want to try it! 

 

10. YouTube: Hot Ones with Beyoncé – SNL

I went through a phase of watching Hot Ones, “the show with hot questions and even hotter wings,” hosted by Sean Evans over winter break. As described, Hot Ones has a very simple premise: celebrities eat very-hot hot wings while answering questions. 

This SNL skit featuring Maya Rudolph as Beyoncé and Mikey Day as Sean Evans is so funny, largely because, as noted in the skit, Beyoncé would never do a show like Hot Ones. 

 

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