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

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Litscope: Leo & Blackout

The internet was kinda weird, but also very interesting this week. Highlights: Snoop Dogg is an Olympic commentator, white people happily sharing that they don’t bathe, the history of written English, first languages, Jennifer Coolidge, Tressie McMillan Cottom on Sean Combs, living unhoused in LA, how the Segway flopped, and Andrew Cuomo. 

 

 

1. Wired: Even Snoop Can’t Save the Olympics

Snoop Dogg is continuing his tradition of doing anything and everything. “[D]uring a segment for his show Olympics Highlights With Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg, which is a real thing that exists on NBC’s streaming service Peacock, the two hosts watched a highlight reel of an equestrian competition at the Tokyo Games.” In a video that I saw circulating earlier this week, “Snoop exclaimed with wonder, ‘Oh the horse Crip Walking, cuz. You see that? On the set! … I gotta get this motherfucker in a video!’ Even Hart couldn’t stop laughing.”

The video is a much-appreciated follow-up to Snoop’s legendary nature documentary narration, and perhaps to most viral moment to come from the games. But even Snoop can’t solve the general uninterest in this year’s games “due to the time difference, the lack of immediacy; another factor is the uneasiness people feel about the 2020 Olympics and the fact that Japan’s citizens didn’t even want the Games to happen at all. There’s also a pandemic going on, and people have bigger things to care about. But there’s something else too: Audiences just don’t watch the Olympics the way they used to.”

 

 

2. Zora: The Hygiene Culture Wars That Started on Social Media

This piece is from 2019, but it feels very relevant as over the past few weeks, more and more white celebrities have opened up about their bathing habits—or lack thereof. In the past month or so, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, and Jake Gyllenhaal have all publicly addressed their hygiene habits. As Roxane Gay tweeted: “I am genuinely shocked by how rarely (some) white people bathe themselves and their children. And how comfortable they are discussing it. During a pandemic.

Gay and others, including writer Nicole Froio, are quick to differentiate those who have the means and ability to bathe but choose not to from those with “physical obstacles, like an inaccessible bathroom to mental illnesses that complicate the ability to do simple tasks like showering, hygiene can be tricky for many people.” In her piece on Zora, Froio provides race and class analysis (among others) on the politics of hygiene and that “the most marginalized people in society are stereotyped as dirty or smelly, but the privilege to wash once or twice a week, at most, is hardly afforded to those who live outside the margins.”

 

 

3. Aeon: Typos, tricks and misprints

I love reading about the English language. I’ve always struggled to understand English. I couldn’t read until sixth grade, and spelling has always been an issue. I often slip between the American and British spellings of words with no real reason or consistency. With some words, like analogue or labour, the British spelling just makes more sense to me. But with others, such as realize or realise, I’ll sometimes flip between the spellings for no real reason at all (some of my editors detest this). I’ve researched part of the history as to why American and British spellings differ, but I hadn’t looked into the history of how spoken English developed its written counterpart. 

Compared to other languages, English spelling is unpredictable and doesn’t have much of a system, if any at all. “Sew and new don’t rhyme. Kernel and colonel do. When you see an ough, you might need to read it out as ‘aw’ (thought), ‘ow’ (drought), ‘uff’ (tough), ‘off’ (cough), ‘oo’ (through), or ‘oh’ (though). The ea vowel is usually pronounced ‘ee’ (weak, please, seal, beam) but can also be ‘eh’ (bread, head, wealth, feather). Those two options cover most of it – except for a handful of cases, where it’s ‘ay’ (break, steak, great). Oh wait, one more… there’s earth. No wait, there’s also heart.” All of those differences are part of the reason it took me so long to figure out how to read and spell, and in this article, Sally Davies explores how “the answer to the weirdness of English has to do with the timing of technology. The rise of printing caught English at a moment when the norms linking spoken and written language were up for grabs, and so could be hijacked by diverse forces and imperatives that didn’t coordinate with each other, or cohere, or even have any distinct goals at all.”

I learned a lot from reading this piece, and especially enjoyed considering how current modes of digital technology have shaped and continue to shape languages. 

 

 

4. Nautilus: The Strange Persistence of First Languages

I found this article floating around in a few longform journalism spaces this week, although it is from 2015. I read it shortly after the piece above and found the connection between the two to be striking and lovely.

When reading about Julie Sedivy’s journey of learning her native tongue of Czech after her father died, I couldn’t help but think of Antonín Dvořák’s Songs My Mother Taught Me. For Sedivy, Czech was the only language I knew until the age of 2, when my family began a migration westward, from what was then Czechoslovakia through Austria, then Italy, settling eventually in Montreal, Canada.” Perhaps the connection to Dvořák was because he was also Czech, but I think it is also because of Sedivy’s description of how “when a childhood language decays, so does the ability to reach far back into your own private history.” I think it is because Songs My Mother Taught Me beautifully sets to music how the melodious measures bring tears that “flow from my memory’s treasure.”

“Language is memory’s receptacle,” writes Sedivy. “It has Proustian powers. Just as smells are known to trigger vivid memories of past experiences, language is so entangled with our experiences that inhabiting a specific language helps surface submerged events or interactions that are associated with it.”

 

 

5. Vulture: The Other Woman

I can’t remember ever watching a movie specifically because Jennifer Coolidge is in it, but I’m always excited when I see her appear on the screen. Most recently I’ve ravenously watched Coolidge in HBO’s The White Lotus, “an ensemble comedy of vacation manners [director Mike] White created about guests and the staff who serve them at a luxury resort in Hawaii.”

I don’t know how I imagined Coolidge to be off-screen before reading this, but this profile feels pulled directly from my imagination. The header image sets the whole tone, which can also be summarized by writer E. Alex Jung’s description of a short exchange:

“‘Welcome to the mausoleum,’ [Coolidge] announces as she emerges holding a candlestick with a clinking crystal skirt, a long black taper set inside it. She leads me into a darkened room with heavy drawn curtains and the smell of lilies in the air.

‘Are you going to kill me?’ I whisper.

‘Yes,’ she whispers. ‘I am.’”

 

 

6. Vanity Fair: “I Got a Second Chance”: From Puff Daddy to Diddy to Love

I’ve been thinking about it, and I don’t know if I would have read this piece if someone other than Tressie McMillan Cottom had written it. Thought is probably somewhat fallacious, as there are other writers whose profiles of Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy aka Diddy I would likely read. The point is that I’m not interested in Combs enough to read a profile on him without a person I’m also interested in having written the piece.

I felt like I was floating—levitating even—while reading this. Cottom’s descriptions are lush, airy, and immersive, just like her descriptions of his home: “first level is almost entirely glass on two sides; you can see the Pacific from every corner.” This profile of “the man who turned hip-hop culture into a global lifestyle brand in the go-go 1990s” is more tender than I expected, but that is seemingly a reflection of Combs’s own description of himself as “the happiest I’ve ever been in life, I laugh the most, I smile the most, I breathe the most,” and because “Combs has love on his mind.”

 

 

7. Curbed: Theo Henderson’s Podcast Influences L.A. City Policy. For 7 Years, He’s Lived Mostly in the Park.

Theo Henderson, host of the podcast We the Unhoused, has been living unhoused in LA for seven years. “To be homeless in L.A. is a full-time job, says Henderson, as he actively works to avoid encounters with what he calls the ‘unholy trinity’: LAPD officers, elected leaders including BID [business improvement district] officials, and NIMBY neighbors, all of whom collude to criminalize his daily life.”

With “60,000 unhoused people in L.A. County [and] as many as 40,000 of whom are considered, like [Henderson], to be ‘unsheltered,’ living outside the shelter system in tents, informal communities, and camps,” LA has the largest population of unhoused people in the country. Through his podcast, Henderson is “Introducing more housed people to the injustices of L.A.’s broken system.”

 

 

8. Magnetic Magazine: Album Review: Nas – King’s Disease II

This week, Nas released King’s Disease II, a follow-up to his 2020 LP with Hit-Boy King’s Disease. This album was so easy to listen to, as “Hit-Boy lays down luxurious beats that allow Nas to celebrate life and appreciate his status and wealth. The album looks forward, but also reminisces on the past with songs like ‘Moments,’ looking back on the good times he has had.” The album has many features, most notably Ms. Lauryn Hill on “Nobody,” which has been described on Twitter as “EXACTLY as good as you thought it would be.

 

 

9. Slate: “This Is Going to Change the World”

I’ve never ridden a Segway scooter, and part of me wonders what riding one is like and the other part of me does not care at all. I’m too young to remember much of the hype around Segway’s debut, but I do remember that there was hype. 

In 2001, the hype around the mysterious, yet-to-be-unveiled Segway was all the rage, and the transportation device was described to be “as significant as the personal computer” by Steve Jobs (LOL). It was kept a secret from nearly everyone, including the literary agent who brokered a $250,000 book deal with a Harvard press about the unidentified invention. When Segway inventor Dean Kamen’s invention was finally unveiled on Good Morning America, it was met with confusion and disappointment: “‘That’s it?’ Diane Sawyer asked. ‘That can’t be it.’” 

As we now know, “the Segway did not change the world. It was not bigger than the PC. It ended up a joke, the province of mall cops and G.O.B. Bluth on Arrested Development. The Segway flopped so badly that one of its first boosters still keeps his in the garage, ‘to remind me,’ he said, ‘of my own fallibility.’”

For writer Dan Kois, the Segway is a reminder of his fallibility too, “because in 2001, I was a young literary agent—and Dean Kamen’s book was my first-ever big deal.” For 20 years, Kois has wondered, “Did I kill the Segway?”

 

 

10. NPR: N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo Sexually Harassed Multiple Women, State Investigation Finds

Following an almost five-month-long investigation, a report announced on Tuesday by New York’s attorney general “found that [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo’s administration was a ‘hostile work environment’ and was ‘rife with fear and intimidation.’ The probe, conducted by two outside lawyers, involved interviews with 179 people including Cuomo’s accusers, current and former administration employees and the governor himself.” The report has reignited “calls for the Democrat’s resignation or impeachment,” and “turn[ed] up the pressure on the 63-year-old governor, who just a year ago was widely hailed for his steady leadership during the darkest days of the COVID-19 crisis, even writing a book about it.” 

Cuomo “has repeatedly argued that he did not intend to harass anyone. His office has said he took the state’s mandated sexual harassment training, but has not provided any documentation proving he did.” New York state laws say that sexual harassment has nothing to do with intent: it’s “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature — from unwanted flirtation to sexual jokes — that creates an offensive work environment.”

 

 

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