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

Previous Story
Article Image

Outside at Current Space: Photo Essay

Next Story
Article Image

Art AND: Bill Schmidt

The internet was dramatic this week. Highlights: E. Alex Jung, Adele is back, Keisha Blain on Fannie Lou Hamer, Marie Calloway, the “Bad Art Friend” and its discourse, James Blake, baby sharks, Facebook crashed, and Dave Chappelle. 


1. Longform Podcast: #459: E. Alex Jung

Alex Jung, a senior writer at Vulture, is one of my favorite culture writers. I’m most familiar with Jung’s interviews and profiles, and every time I read his work I’m captivated. Most recently I read his profile on Jennifer Coolidge, and felt like I was in a game of Clue (without the murder), completely captivated by his profile of the actress and comedian. 

It is abundantly apparent that Jung’s pieces are well researched and filled with care for his subjects—most of his stories are ones he pitches himself, as “there needs to be something that they do that I think is good and that I think is interesting.” The thing I appreciate the most about Jung’s writing, however, is that it doesn’t fall into the starstruck cliches of most profiles: “I don’t want to do a better job of fangirling,” said Jung. 


2. Vogue UK: Adele, Reborn: The British Icon Gets Candid About Divorce, Body Image, Romance & Her “Self-Redemption” Record

Adele is back—“She is once again ready to play havoc with the emotional wellbeing of a billion music fans; to deliver the latest chapter in the sonic revelations of her heart,” writes Giles Hattersly. In addition to this profile, the British singer also tweeted during Facebook’s outage on Monday and released a new song. Adele, “the world’s most fleetingly glimpsed megastar,” hasn’t released new music since her 2015 album 25, and “no one has seen her, have they? Mysteries abound.”

Best described as sprawling, this profile—and the first time Adele has talked to a reporter since 2016—covers everything from her imminent fourth studio album, to divorce, and last year’s “Carnival-gate,” when “she posted a photograph of herself at an outdoor party wearing Bantu knots and a bikini top made out of Jamaican flags.” However, there was no mention of her “African Tourism” SNL sketch. 

I am very interested in what the next era of Adele will bring. (And right before cuffing season, no less.)


3. Democracy Now!: “Until I Am Free”: Keisha Blain on the Enduring Legacy of Voting Rights Pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer

The presence of Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer has seen a resurgence in mainstream media over the past few years. She is the subject of Keisha Blain’s new book, Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America. Hamer is known for organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and her 1964 Democratic National Convention speech, excerpted here, and her advocacy for reproductive rights—issues that continue to be relevant today. “Blain based the book’s title on a frequent saying of Fannie Lou Hamer’s: ‘Whether you are Black or white, you are not free until I am free.’”

I’ve seen a few reviews of Blain’s book this week, and I’m excited to read more of them.


4. BuzzFeed: Marie Calloway Was Reviled By The Internet. Then She Disappeared.

I started spending time online relatively late. I wasn’t on the internet much when I was in high school in the early 2010s. Near the end of my time in undergrad in the mid-2010s I spent more time online—after the time of Marie Calloway and the alt-lit discourse covered in this story. 

After a few brief years of recognition in the early to mid-2010s, Calloway disappeared. Characterized as “‘alt-lit,’ a designation once disparagingly and condescendingly described as ‘Asperger’s realism’ for its unemotional approach to fraught relationships and personal stories,” Calloway “was a unique lightning rod, and she wasn’t given much time — or room — to grow as a writer.”

​​Scaachi Koul tried to find Calloway, and in so doing, she also chronicled the internet of the early 2010s, and contextualizes contemporary culture and literary discourse—noting that “Calloway’s departure from public life is a shame on a few fronts, but that’s namely because she’s missed out on a unique moment of sex positivity, one that she helped create 10 years ago.”


5. The New York Times Magazine: Who Is the Bad Art Friend?

I cannot even count the number of times I saw this somewhere on the internet this week. There is so much juice baked into this one article that it might as well be a whole season of a soap opera. 

Dawn Dorland, a white woman and a writer, donated her kidney in a non-directed donation. To chronicle her journey, Dorland created a private Facebook group with friends (or people she thought were her friends), which included the writer Sonya Larson. Sometime after donating her kidney, Dorland learned (over Facebook, and through a mutual friend) about a fictional short story Larson had written that ostensibly centered around a kidney donation: Chuntao, a character of Asian descent, receives a transplant from a white woman, Rose, who wants “to be a white savior” but Chuntao “won’t give it to her.” The story also includes a letter Rose wrote to Chuntao which closely mirrors the letter Dorland wrote to her recipient and then shared on her Facebook group. 

After learning about this short story, Dorland reached out to Larson, who claimed that her piece of fiction didn’t have much to do with Dorland’s own, and, as we come to find out, gaslighted her over her concerns. The tension between the two eventually digressed into Larson suing Dorland for actions that constituted “harassment, defamation per se and tortious interference with business and contractual relations.” Dorland countersued, “accusing Larson of violating the copyright of her letter and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

This conflict has been ongoing since 2015, and throughout that entire period, Larson has maintained that the story isn’t about a kidney transplant as much as it is about some white people’s blindness to their own savior complexes. It was inspired by Dorland’s letter, and Larson also maintains that writers and artists have the right to draw from life, writing to Dorland in 2015 that “I myself have seen references to my own life in others’ fiction, and it certainly felt weird at first. But I maintain that they have a right to write about what they want — as do I, and as do you.” Further, “arguing what [Larson] did is standard practice, Larson is asking a more provocative question: If you find her guilty of infringement, who’s next? Is any writer safe?”

For the most part, I agree with Larson’s overall argument, however, she didn’t have to gaslight Dorland—she could have just apologized when initially confronted. Dawn is painfully white, some observed, “because wow. Some white women have way too much free time.But Kimberly Nicole Foster summarized this story and its reception best: I love a good “y’all are both wrong af” story. Bad Art Friend is that.


6. ArtNews: Obsessed With the ‘Bad Art Friend’ Case? We Are, Too. Here’s How a Recent Art Copyright Decision Could Shape the Outcome

Fair use cases, like that of “Bad Art Friend,” are frequent topics within artistic discourses. Visual art and literature have somewhat different metrics of copyright infringement, but the “Bad Art Friend” case resembles “a recent ruling by New York’s Second Circuit [which] found that Warhol’s use of a photograph of Prince was a violation of copyright law. That decision could have sweeping ramifications for fair use—in the realm of literature as well as fine art.” Warhol’s series of silkscreens was based on a photograph by Lynn Goldsmith, who won the case in March. While the artwork in the case of Warhol predates the ubiquity of the internet, I think we are going to see a lot more fair use cases in the future. The internet is a space many artists explore implicitly and explicitly in their work. I know so many people, including myself, that use or reference something from the internet in their work. 

Creative Mapping asked artist Evan Roth about intellectual property in an interview in which he described his views as such: “I probably fall on the very left side of that debate. My views are very straightforward. I consume anything I want on the internet, and I sleep at night fine with that. I also share everything digital that I can so even though a lot of the physical pieces in the studio I’m not going to give away because I don’t have enough time or money to make more of them. But digital content, I believe that it wants to be free. Its nature wants to be free. I’ve heard the analogy of it being like water flowing down a mountain.”

The provocative element of the “Bad Art Friend” story is that the inspiration came from a post online. 


7. Spotify: James Blake – Friends That Break Your Heart

My favorite James Blake song is “I Never Learnt to Share.” From his 2011 debut eponymous album, the song repeats the same lyrics, “My brother and my sister don’t speak to me / But I don’t blame ’em / But I don’t blame ’em” over electronic whooshes and clicks until the beat drops and becomes lyrical itself. I was first drawn to the album because of how remorse infused itself into the album. Remorse is my favorite emotion. 

Blake’s earlier work was steadfast and certain of its experimentalism. Increasingly, Blake has opted for more lyrics and traditional song structures in his music and explored emotions other than remorse. As he’s done this, I’ve continued to enjoy his music, but I revel in that first album.

Friends That Break Your Heart is Blake’s fifth studio album, and as its titular track suggests, explores grieving friendships. The first word in the album’s first track, “Famous Last Words,” is “and,” a conjunction quoting a past that has yet to be revealed. Friends That Break Your Heart is warmer than Blake’s earlier work and, while reflective, isn’t full of remorse. Blake continues his trajectory of relying on lyrics to propel the narrative of the album. The lyrics feel unsure—less resolved—like we are in the middle of him figuring out a new methodology to his process. 

New music by Blake is always a treat, but I found myself wanting to listen to his next album, to an album that is more resolved in its experimentalism. 


8. Hakai Magazine: Raising Baby Sharks from the Dead

I’ve always found shark reproduction fascinating. As a kid, I was often confused about how some sharks lay eggs, while others give live birth through eggs that hatched internally. 

Many shark species have declining numbers “primarily due to overfishing—both intentional fishing and unintentional capture by nets and hooks meant for others.” Researchers are now collecting eggs from sharks caught as “by-catch” and hatching them. Overseen by Greg Nowell, “Sharklab-Malta is one of at least three groups around the Mediterranean taking on the unlikely role of nursemaid to several species of sharks and their close relatives, skates.” 

It is unlikely that the saved eggs will dramatically increase shark populations, but Sharklab-Malta and similar projects see the potential for the educational aspects of their work to create “the biggest impact. Even if the sharks they raise never manage to make a dent in the population, the researchers involved all hope that the public—adults and kids alike—see the ocean and its creatures anew, through the eyes of its babies.”


9. Verge: Facebook is back online after a massive outage that also took down Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Oculus

Facebook crashed for nearly six hours on Monday. According to Facebook, “the company’s backbone connection between data centers shut down during routine maintenance, which caused the DNS servers to go offline.” The outage also affected Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and internal communications within Facebook.  

Subsequently, everyone was on Twitter Monday, and they had jokes


10. NPR: For Dave Chappelle, punchlines are dares. His new special, ‘The Closer,’ goes too far

Dave Chappelle released a new Netflix special, The Closer. I haven’t watched the special, but I know that it features homophobic and transphobic jokes. On its own, the Netflix special doesn’t interest me much as it is par for the course with Chappelle—those are long-standing criticisms against the comedian. However, Jaclyn Moor, a writer and showrunner for Dear White People (also produced by Netflix) who is trans and white, “announced on Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday night that she would no longer work with Netflix after she watched Chappelle’s latest standup special.Twitter has a lot of feelings about this response from a racialized white person writing a show about the college experience of Black students.

For me, though, what is interesting about this conversation sits at the intersection of who gets to decide what is homophobic and/or transphobic (queer and trans people) and who gets to decide what is racist, and in this instance anti-Black (racialized Black people). Of course, those identities often overlap, but, at times, what I see online is a disregard for nuanced conversations that include an understanding of one’s positionality. This critique is especially true of Chappelle, who tends to “assume that the struggle over oppression is a zero-sum game — that because some gay people have access to white privilege in America, all their concerns about stereotyping and marginalization are hollow and subordinate to what Black people face,” writes Eric Deggans. “It ignores the fact that there are plenty of nonwhite gay people who face oppression for both their sexual orientation and their race.” 


Related Stories
André Leon Talley, Drakeo the Ruler, Zora Neale Hurston, Tonga, Wordle, Joss Whedon, important Zillow finds, and more


Gentrification of consciousness, climate change and insects, Michaela Jae Rodriguez, the Bronx Fire, port-a-potties, and more

The internet was sad, and funny, and beautiful this week.

Country music, Whitney Houston, grief and hoodies, remembering Betty White and Sidney Poitier, the Teletubbies, and more

So much has happened on the internet in the past two weeks, and I’m still catching up on year-end highlights and things from December.

An interview with artist, writer, and professor Mark Alice Durant about small press Saint Lucy Books

Saint Lucy evolved from a blog covering photography and contemporary art into a small press that produces stylish, unique books exploring the liminal possibilities and hidden histories of photography.