The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 8/15

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I liked the internet more than I thought I would this week. Highlights: Ed Yong on the end of the pandemic, grief, conspiracy, how to talk to your kid about the end of the world, Alabama rush week TikTok, Beyoncé, Lizzo’s rumors, Jeopardy’s fumble, Britney Spears, and Prince Andrew. 



1. The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Now Ends

Generally, I get most news about the pandemic from Twitter. I enjoy reading threads from different doctors, public health experts, journalists, and lawyers on their perspectives on what is happening. The threads cover different angles and intersections of race, class, housing statutes, etc., and many of them also clearly cite their sources. Sometimes when big events happen, like a pandemic, it can be hard to find an article that covers it as well as some places on Twitter do. 

I’ve always enjoyed Ed Yong’s coverage of science, but I’ve found his coverage of the pandemic particularly spectacular. This latest article felt like a condensed version of everything else that I’ve read about the Delta variant over the past week. Explaining the science behind the vaccines, talking to public health experts and epidemiologists, Yong outlines “the current pandemic dilemma: Vaccines remain the best way for individuals to protect themselves, but societies cannot treat vaccines as their only defense.”



2. The Believer: Ghosts

Reading this piece by Vauhini Vara immediately reminded me of Jason Fagone’s article The Jessica Simulation: Love and loss in the age of A.I. in the SF Chronicle last month, which I included in this column. Both pieces explore how people used the artificial intelligence program GPT-3 to work through the loss of a loved one. Fagone profiled Joshua Barbeau grieving the loss of his fiancee Jessica, and Vara here writes about the loss of her sister. 

When Vara didn’t know how to write about her sister’s death, she “had AI do it for me.” This series of vignettes are collaborations between the text Vara wrote and gave to GPT-3 and what the software generated. As the stories progress, they include more and more of the bolded text written by Vara, and the AI reflects her own writing process. “At first, in my reticence, I offered GPT-3 only one brief, somewhat rote sentence about it. The AI matched my canned language; clichés abounded. But as I tried to write more honestly, the AI seemed to be doing the same. It made sense, given that GPT-3 generates its own text based on the language it has been fed: Candor, apparently, begat candor.”



3. The Atlantic: What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind

I remember September 11, 2001, but just barely. I was five, almost six, at that time, and I  remember all of the adults around me being very concerned. I remember not being allowed to watch TV for a while. I remember lots of small details, but I didn’t know what was going on. I’m old enough to somewhat remember the day of September 11, 2001, and young enough to have taken a class on it in undergrad. 

In undergrad, one of the things my class focused on was the visual culture of 9/11—how it was streamed around the world and watched by billions. “September 11 may be one of the most-documented calamities in history, but for all the spools of disaster footage we’ve watched, we still know practically nothing about the last moments of the individual dead. It’s strange, when you think about it, that an event so public could still be such a punishing mystery. Yet it is, and it is awful—the living are left to perseverate, to let their imaginations run amok in their midnight corrals.” This is the story of Bobby McIlvaine and what he left behind. 



4. The New Republic: How to Tell Your Child About the End of the World

I recently reread Agne Callard’s “The End is Coming.” In that essay, Callard explains in the inevitable case of the “last generation”—the end of humanity—that “scientists and politicians must work to delay their arrival as long as possible; humanists, by contrast, must help prepare us for them.”  

Every day the climate catastrophe is becoming more and more apparent. In the first paragraph of this piece, Aaron Regunberg marvels at his four-month-old baby, how “it has just started feeling like his smiles really mean something.” In the second paragraph, he reflects on “the Moment when he will discover something that I wish with all my heart he never had to know: that his mother and I brought him into existence on a world that is dying.” 

Regunberg continues: “We’re all taught as children not to stare into the sun. The reality of climate change felt similarly blinding—something to glance at out of the corners of your eyes.” We can no longer do that. Now, during the hottest year on record, we are forced to stare at the sun. We are all forced to become humanists. This isn’t to say that there is no hope, and we are now tasked with cultivating that hope. Regunberg searches for hope—for him and his son—in this essay, proposing that it is found in “a solemn, tragic, loving pact that, whatever is coming, we will face it together.”



5. Reckon South: Alabama Rush TikTok is a window into the promise, problems and pearls of Gen Z sorority life

I’m not even on TikTok but videos posted to the platform by Alabama Rush Week have infiltrated every social media platform I’ve been on this week. Over the past week, Potential New Members have been rushing sororities and fraternities at the University of Alabama which “has consistently had the largest sorority recruitment year after year, with this year surpassing 2,500 rushees.” Videos (and parodies) of PNM have gone viral on TikTok, and migrated to other social media platforms, “highlighting pristinely curated outfits touting fast fashion brands such as Shein and Zara mingling among small-town boutique finds and $800 pre-distressed sneakers. The videos’ audiences seem to straddle the algorithm’s line between aspirational teenage influencer and jaded millennials balking at the Southern hyper-feminine earnesty.” 

Viewers across TikTok have gotten invested in this process for no apparent reason. In The Cut, Mia Mercado covers some of the most viral videos, explaining them as “a mini-reality show we get to experience in real time. Will Hanna Lynn get the bid for Kappa Delta? Will MyKenna Lee get Chi Omega? The suspense is palpable!



6. Harper’s Bazaar: Beyoncé’s Evolution

Whenever Beyoncé does any press, it is always anti-climatic. While the introduction to this interview by Kaitlyn Greenidge is beautiful, engaging, and gestures at a profile I would want to read, the interview itself is boring. The singer’s answers (expectedly) feel highly edited and curated. Beyoncé doesn’t give interviews—and that is okay! It is okay for her to be “intentional about setting boundaries between my stage persona and my personal life.” Just say this is a “photographic profile” or something and call it a day! 



7. YouTube: Lizzo – Rumors feat. Cardi B [Official Video]

On Friday, Lizzo released a new song, “Rumors,” featuring Cardi B. I’ve been obsessed with a photo I saw on Instagram of a man wearing a shirt with text on the back reading “if you heard anything bad about me believe all that shit and leave me the fuck alone” in all caps. This song very much so gave me those vibes without much of the comedy. I’m not sure that I love the song on its own, but I loved the references to the animated Hercules’ muses in the video. 



8. The Cut: Is This Really the Best Jeopardy! Can Do?

Well damn. The new hosts for Jeopardy were announced this week and to say they are a disappointment would be an understatement. On Wednesday, it was announced that the show’s executive producer Mike Richards will become Jeopardy’s new host next month, and actress/neuroscientist Mayim Bialik will take over “prime-time specials and spinoffs.” 

Both Richards and Bialik are receiving backlash as they’ve both come under criticism in the past. During Richards’ time as a producer on The Price is Right, “multiple women sued the show for harassment and pregnancy discrimination.” Bialik has expressed anti-vax sentiments, and in 2017 she wrote an op-ed “which at the time was widely seen as blaming Harvey Weinstein’s victims. Bialik apologized shortly after the opinion piece came out, and a representative said on Thursday that she is not an anti-vaxxer and that her family already received the COVID-19 vaccine.” Further, Bialik has described herself as a Zionist in the past.

They really could have just picked LeVar Burton.  



9. Variety: Britney Spears’ Father Jamie Spears Agrees to Step Down From Conservatorship

After a 13-year-long conservatorship, Britney Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, has agreed to resign from her conservatorship. “He said he would cooperate with the court on a transition, but did not give a timetable for his resignation.” And though this does not mean she is fully released from her conservatorship, her attorney stated “this is a major victory for Britney Spears and another step toward justice.”



10. The Guardian: Of course Prince Andrew isn’t sweating over this lawsuit – he can’t

Prince Andrew is being sued in New York by Virginia Giuffre “a teenage victim of Andrew’s former close friend, the late underage sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Giuffre alleges that the Queen’s second son sexually abused her when she was a minor on three occasions – in London, in New York, and in the US Virgin Islands.” 

In a photo of Prince Andrew in London, “his hand [is] resting on the bare hip of Giuffre in an upstairs room of Ghislaine Maxwell’s home. Maxwell herself is smirking in the background of the picture, allegedly taken after a visit by her, the prince, and Epstein to Tramp nightclub.” While the photo has been debated, “let’s just focus on what we can see, and ask ourselves a basic question. Namely: what are three big-hitters in their 40s doing hanging round late at night with a 17-year-old runaway? Is this the behaviour of non-weirdos? Not really.” 

The prince has denied these allegations in the past, although has yet to comment on this case. Further, as of last summer, Andrew had not cooperated with the federal investigation into Epstein or Maxwell. As one Twitter user wrote,either the establishment will sacrifice Prince Andrew to save itself, or it’ll stand behind him til the establishment collapses under the weight of these allegations.



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