The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 7/18

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The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: A Photo Essay

The internet felt a bit disparate this week. People are protesting in Cuba, and Pop Smoke’s posthumous album Faith was released. Highlights: Robbing Native American graves, Sean Sherman, embracing quietness, we can’t be friends, browsing, trusting change, #photodump, Normani feat. Cardi B, Willow, and H.E.R. 



1. The Washington Post Magazine: The Endless Robbing of Native American Graves

An engineer by training, Don Miller was also an amateur archaeologist who plundered graves all over the world for decades. Miller was not unique, but he was more prolific than most so-called “pothunters” and amassed a collection of 42,000 stolen artifacts. Miller was mainly interested in Native American artifacts, and 80 percent of what he took came out of the ground in the United States. In 2014, the FBI raided Miller’s house, and “uncovered more than 2,000 bones, representing 500 human beings, and seized more than 7,000 items,” writes Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson. Much of what they found is still awaiting repatriation. 

The act of robbing Native Americans’ graves is older than this country—there is written evidence of this dating back to 1620. “The market for Native American objects here and abroad remains robust — which in turn continues to fuel grave robbing by pothunters.” Miller’s case is a window into the “centuries-long campaign of theft perpetrated in the resting places of Native Americans — a campaign that we are only now beginning to fully understand. We have taken Native lands and tried to eradicate Indigenous societies, yet it’s not only what we’ve done to the living that is so deplorable. It’s what we’ve done, and continue to do, to the dead.”



2. Meal Magazine: At This Table We Sing With Joy, With Sorrow

Sean Sherman, aka the Sioux Chef, wants to decolonize the food industry. Throughout this profile, Steve Marsh weaves in their walk through Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, a garden that has preserved native plants since 1907. Throughout the walk, Sherman points out edible wild garlic, cattails, and gooseberries. “It’s not just about understanding wild plants and foraging,” Sherman says. “That’s a very small portion of what this is about. It’s more about understanding how Indigenous peoples had a blueprint to live sustainably, utilizing the world around them.” Apart from learning about one’s relation to land, plants, foraging, and food, there are many other aspects of decolonizing the food industry. 

Sherman’s practice also focuses on food access and equity. In addition to his soon-to-open restaurant Owamni in downtown Minneapolis which will cater to the wealthy, Sherman also runs “the Indigenous Food Lab Kitchen, a think tank and training center intended to develop a new generation of Indigenous food creatives,” which he has used to help feed those who are food insecure. The two projects balance each other out: “the restaurant’s cash flow will support everything else the Sioux Chef is doing, and the Indigenous Food Lab will function as a commissary kitchen procuring, creating, and providing all the Indigenous specialty items—nixtamalized corn, dried squash, maple syrup, foraged wild rice, and boughs of cedar—needed to supply Owamni.”



3. Electric Literature: Black People Work So Hard to Speak Out That We Forget How to Embrace Quietness

It took me a while to know what I wanted to say about this. Nothing written here in Tomi Onabanjo’s review of Tope Folarin’s A Particular Kind of Black Man, is new to me, but the way it is articulated here resonated with me. Onabanjo’s prose emulates the way he describes Blackness: “Blackness is like holding water in cupped hands—it’s something fluid that will seep through your grasp.” I felt like I seamlessly flowed through this text. I also generally read more Black feminism, and it was refreshing to read something that focused on Black men. A Particular Kind of Black Man, and thus this review, explores and critiques the performance of “a constricting standard of Blackness: one defined by its palatability to white America.” In our culture, “men are already socialized to be aggressive in their voice, to never accept being silenced. Black masculinity is written with this grammar in mind, and when left unexamined, it reproduces itself in further acts of silencing.” Instead of reproducing this, what is asked here is, “what does it mean to be a Black man and quiet?”



4. Real Life: Why Can’t We Be Friends

If you know me at all, you know that I love talking about people and always have a crush (intellectual, artistic, or otherwise) on someone. If you know me casually, you’d probably guess that most of my crushes are on people that I don’t know, and thus are parasocial, “meaning almost social, or perversely social.” 

Parasocial relationships, and the use of the term itself, have grown in frequency since the rise of social media, where it is increasingly common for people to have what can feel like deep friendships with celebrities, influencers, content creators, or podcast hosts that they have never met. Today, writes Brendan Mackie, “parasocial media overcomes the tension between intimacy and scalability by blurring the boundary between content creator and content consumer.” 

These one-way relationships fill a need for belongingness that was once fulfilled by family or friends. “The history of modern friendship is how people have responded to disruptions of that family structure of belongingness by looking outside it, to sworn brothers, friends, TV hosts, and podcasters.” The challenge, however, is that “parasociality promises to satisfy a need that it can only make more acute.” It is both the problem and solution to itself. “Fans often want their one-sided relationship to be reciprocal, for the content creator to recognize them as an individual . . . But because of the scale of internet culture, to the creator, fans can never be in aggregate more than an anonymous mass of fluctuating metrics.” 

While I do have some parasocial relationships, somehow I often end up meeting—even developing relationships with—the people I have crushes on. And the people that know me well know this about me. Perhaps I’ll never become actual friends with those with whom I have a parasocial relationship, but at least I can try.



5. The Walrus: Life in the Stacks: A Love Letter to Browsing

The first poem I read by my favorite poet was in a book I randomly picked up wandering around the stacks of the library in undergrad. I don’t remember if I was in the library for any particular purpose, but I remember being drawn to the vibrant blue and yellow jacket on the boxed set of Elizabeth Bishop’s Poems/Prose

During the pandemic, my world has increasingly been dominated by screens, scrolling, and algorithms. I don’t remember the last time I browsed books in an actual bookstore. I don’t even remember the last time I walked down the street and stopped in a store simply because the storefront interested me. While I could still browse the internet and buy anything I might have found at those stores online, in-person “browsing forced you to reckon with physical media, to wander among aisles and stacks that didn’t presume to know your preferences and weren’t so insidiously jostling for your attention.” In-person browsing is less relentless than the personalized algorithms of the internet; “the real-world tiles didn’t proactively rearrange themselves in anticipation of your unique wants.” 

I think the thing I used to browse most often (and the thing I miss the most) was museums. I lived in DC for a year before graduate school, and would wander into a free museum a couple of times a week. Sometimes I would only stay for a few minutes, and other times I would stare at the same artwork or artifact for hours. 



6. Elle: A Big Long Time

This piece gained my attention through the title and subtitle, and the writer Melissa Febos held it through her beautiful prose. The cadence of the writing was never stagnant, and somehow felt calming and serene. 

I’ve never had relationships like the ones Febos describes here, but I immediately understand what she means when she writes, “When I tell people that Donika and I said I love you to each other 36 hours after we met, they inevitably get the wrong idea.” I understood that sometimes “I love you [is] simply a statement of feeling; it [comes] with no promise of commitment.” All of this was explained in the first paragraph, and I continued because I wanted to know how Febos and Donika understood the first paragraph. I wanted to read about how Febos trusts her relationship because her and Donika’s “ability to change is predictable, which means that the future never is.”



7. Input: Everyone you love is doing it: How the ‘photo dump’ took over Instagram

I used to post on Instagram often: nearly every day for the first year that I had my account. Now I hardly post at all. I’ve never done a photo dump on my main account (only on my dog’s), but I do see them somewhat frequently in my feed. During 2020, “as a result of the pandemic, which fueled a year of loss, grief, and overall melancholy, curating an Instagram feed has become a practice of the past. During quarantine — when no one had any Instagram-worthy events to attend or dress up for — photo dumps became especially popular.” Photo dumps are ostensibly a collection of uncurated, unrelated photos that are all shared together in one post that create a “vibe” and simply seem to ask “What’s the worst that can happen? Probably nothing. Why care?”

This article primarily points to the pandemic as the reason for an increase in photo dumps, but I think part of the reason people are also doing these more is because curating an Instagram account isn’t as high-stakes as it used to seem. Aesthetic sensibilities are changing, and the app is no longer the dominant or primary social media platform for many of its users. TikTok has become increasingly popular, especially amongst Gen Z—something Instagram has taken notice of and is trying to replicate—and what one does or posts on Instagram doesn’t hold the same weight as it used to. 



8. YouTube: Normani – Wild Side (Official Video) ft. Cardi B

On Friday, Normani released her first song (and music video) in more than a year, in anticipation of her debut album for which a release date has yet to be announced. The song is “Wild Side,” and it features Cardi B and samples Aaliyah. The video for this is GOOD and many viewers have also complimented the choreography; one Twitter user declared “THIS AINT NO TIKTOK SHIT.” I’m excited for the album!



9. Spotify: Willow – lately I feel EVERYTHING

I know nothing about punk, but I enjoyed Willow Smith’s new punk album, lately I feel EVERYTHING a lot, and other people seem to enjoy it too. The album is short, with a run time of 26 minutes spread over 11 tracks, with features including Travis Barker and Avril Lavigne. Honestly, I might start listening to more punk after listening to this.  



10. YouTube: H.E.R. – Come Through (Live Performance) | Vevo

I’ve been listening to H.E.R.’s Back of My Mind almost on repeat since it was released last month, and I loved listening to this live performance throughout the week. (I also enjoyed that it was sans Chris Brown.) The vibe of this video feels very emblematic of the COLORS YouTube channel given the nearly solid slate-colored background, but the performance seems more relaxed than many of those videos—plus there is a full band. Whatever the vibe is, I liked it.



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