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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 10/31

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The internet wasn’t my vibe this week, but I did find some gems and lots of music! Highlights: Katie Couric, Tracee Ellis Ross, Brené Brown, playing forever, Dune, Hollywood’s most famous grave, Megan Thee Stallion, Neffy, Tori Amos, and Kelsey Lu. 

 

1. The Cut: Katie Couric is Not for Everyone

Katie Couric has been everywhere on the internet the past few weeks in anticipation of the release of her memoir, Going There, which came out this week. The memoir “is a lot of things: a very juicy autobiography, full of sex and gossip and bizarre celebrity encounters and familial revelation, as well as an account of the rampant misogyny within the industry in which Couric rose,” writes Rebecca Traister. “Like Couric herself, it is surprisingly spiky and weird and seemingly committed to absolute chaos. It is the work of someone who, if not ready to fully analyze her place in often-abusive hierarchies, is curious enough about those hierarchies to lay out her experiences in ways that are not flattering, either to the news business or to herself.” This dedication to chaos has garnered generally positive reviews of the book, as Couric is interested in learning from her past as opposed to vehemently defending herself. 

Of course, the reviews have not all been positive, and “what’s a little galling about the criticism that has rained down on Couric in the run-up to her book’s publication — criticism that is to some degree deserved — is that she is being pilloried for doing the heavy, ugly lifting of investigating nasty power dynamics and her own participation in them, while her male peers, many of whom have bombed out in their own spectacular ways, aren’t sitting around asking themselves hard questions.”

At the height of her broadcasting career, “Along with a handful of other women — Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Connie Chung, Oprah Winfrey — Couric was one of the people who determined how American television audiences understood the world.” Couric’s memoir essentially functions as “a startling and capacious historic document. Because while the problems of an exceptionally wealthy white woman may not amount to a hill of beans in 2021, the problems that do matter can be understood better via examination of the monstrously influential systems with which Couric is intimately familiar — the institutions that constrained this chipper embodiment of white femininity, while rewarding her with the ability to shape American perspectives on politics, race, gender, war, fame, culture, and money.”

 

2. Harper’s Bazaar: Tracee Ellis Ross Will Set You Free

Tracee Ellis Ross really is “that auntie.” And if you spend any time on the internet, “Ross’s persona online is that elusive attitude: unbothered. It’s an aspirational stance that, in the adjective’s usage in certain sections of Black culture, is specifically gendered. ‘Unbothered’ is a distinctly feminine attribute,” writes Kaitlyn Greenidge. Some might mistake Ross’s unbothered-ness as a performance, but she insists, “I don’t manipulate things for the internet. I’ve always been this person. I used to drive my sister nuts because I was always doing my little photo shoots.” Somehow, through her unbothered-ness, “Ross is in the sweet spot of celebrity where she is a ubiquitous presence but never wears out her welcome.”

 

3. The New Yorker: Brené Brown’s Empire of Emotion

Before reading this, I didn’t know anything about Brené Brown’s work except that a lot of people like it. The bits that I have seen have struck me as unrelatable or out-of-touch for me. Perhaps this is because I saw one of Brown’s most well-known books, Dare to Lead, on my mother’s nightstand, and when she started explaining to me why she was having her whole department read the bestseller, I completely zoned out. 

After reading this, I understand why the professional-managerial class, to which my mother belongs, is obsessed with Brown. Fundamentally, Brown, who has a PhD in social work, is interested in “how vulnerability was key to courageous leadership,” and she “want[s] to start a global conversation about vulnerability and shame.”

I’m glad I have more context for Brown’s work, but this profile made me realize that my disinterest in her work wasn’t only because it was something my mother liked, but also because it felt like a corporate branding of vulnerability for the managers and “C-level” executives. While it is great that leaders are open to receiving this training, I’m not convinced that trickle-down vulnerability will make it to the working class of some of the major companies with which Brown engages. 

 

4. Sports Illustrated: How Long Can We Play?

My mother works in the health and wellness industry, was trained in kinesiology, and is an elite athlete. Over the years, my family has had countless conversations on how “today’s sports heroes play longer and better than ever before,” as Chris Ballard puts it. “They benefit not only from the inherent genetic advantage of all great athletes, but also from decades of elite training, cutting-edge treatments and the time and money to enact them.”

This research is spreading from the world of elite athletes and “the anti-aging industry and the athletic performance industry intertwined, with weird results … science and salesmanship can be hard to separate; outcomes are murky—enhancing performance doesn’t necessarily mean extending longevity—and those people with time, money and privilege have a huge head start on the rest.”

Importantly, as much as this article focuses on what one’s body must physically be capable of to continue to play, he spends equal time discussing exercise in relation to mental health, and he consistently emphasizes that “sometimes even the best information, access and care can’t overcome the complexities of the aging body.” Everyone is different, so, “most of all, know your body.” 

 

5. 4Columns: Dune

Whoa boy! Denis Villeneuve’s Dune was released last week and the internet has been talking about it ever since. I haven’t seen David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s beefy 1965 novel, so watching Villeneuve’s Dune was my first experience with any of the content—I’d never even skimmed the Wikipedia page. The movie was essentially two and a half hours of exposition for a sequel, and has been summarized by Roxane Gay as “Whispers in the Dark.” I found the film to be beautiful but boring. (This was also my first time seeing any film with Timothee Chalamet and I do not understand the hype.)

Herbert’s novel “derives its motifs from Islamic culture to construct the fictional Fremen and their beliefs, and the film offers lots of well-composed images of unabashed Orientalism to make sure these parallels stick: light streaming through geometric grilles, fortresses rising like ziggurats, long lines of dusty, robe-swathed masses, fragments of swirling calligraphic script.” This conversation, in addition to the racialization of the book’s characters, has long surrounded Dune, and the science fiction/fantasy genre as a whole. 

I liked the Dune enough, but the conversations it engenders are more interesting to me than the film itself—which might be the point. 

 

6. Vulture: A Date With the Grave

Mountain View Cemetery in Pasadena is home to one of Hollywood’s most “criminally undercredited” character actors: a grave. In her search for the grave, Jamie Loftus might represent “the first recorded instance of someone getting into an unmarked white van hoping to meet a grave,” after the cemetery’s operations manager found her lost on the grounds searching for the esteemed actor. With a career over 30 years old, appearing in such productions as Seinfeld, Six Feet Under, CSI, and an Ozzy Osbourne music video, “the Grave’s good looks and steel reinforcements have made her one of the most underrated character actors of our time.”

 

7. Spotify: Something for Thee Hotties, Megan Thee Stallion

Without much notice, Megan Thee Stallion released her most recent album, Something for Thee Hotties, on Friday. The album is full of “freestyles y’all been asking for plus a few unreleased songs from my archives to hold y’all over for the rest of the year,” she shared on social media. Megan got us listening to club anthems at 10 in the morning,” wrote one fan.

 

8. YouTube: Neffy, 2021 Tiny Desk Contest Winner: Tiny Desk Concert

In the first in-office Tiny Desk Concert in almost 600 days, 2021 Tiny Desk Concert winner Neffy performs for the series’ crew of five. Neffy won with her song ​​“Wait Up” in which she sings “about living in New York, most recently during the COVID-19 outbreak, but yearning for home” in Arlington, VA, where she grew up.  

I love Tiny Desk and it was so wonderful watching them return to their office—even if it is only for one concert. 

 

9. Spotify: Ocean to Ocean, Tori Amos

Every few years I’ll find myself falling into a Tori Amos hole. I don’t actively follow her, so I happened to stumble upon Amos’ latest album, Ocean to Ocean, released Friday. Amos’ musical toolkit is vast, and I didn’t know what to expect. Ocean to Ocean is a response to events over the past year, notably the January insurrection, and sonically links to her 1992 album Little Earthquakes. 

Ocean to Ocean equivocates more than some of Amos’ other albums, but is captivating in that it feels like the beginning of something—like taking the necessary early steps in a new artistic process, exploring a yet-to-be fully rendered idea.

 

10. YouTube: Kelsey Lu – Due West (Official Video)

I know this song came out a few years ago, but I have been listening to it on repeat this week. I’m in the process of moving and was talking to a friend about how I found the process stressful. My friend moved recently and sent me a link to this song saying that she listened to it a lot when she moved. Maybe it is Lu’s near-constant description of motion “Due west, I’m headed on this road / Due west, just cruise as far as I can go to,” yet laid-back incantations are why my friend and I are both drawn to the song. I can’t, however, escape the irony that I am moving east. 

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