The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 12/19

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Radically Simple, Unmistakably Betty Cooke

A lot happened on the internet this week. Highlights: Losing bell hooks, remembering Greg Tate, Fontella Bass, being single in America, speeding, offline and the wilderness, cheesy pasta, Aaliyah and The Weeknd, Britney Spears, and Nancy Reagan the Throat Goat. 


1. JSTOR: bell hooks

Acclaimed teacher, activist, and scholar bell hooks died at the age of 69 on Wednesday. Her impact on Black feminist thought is profound, and she guided a generation of Black feminist thinkers. Countless people have written about the impact she had on them personally, as well as about the need to not truncate hooks’ work into bite-sized quotes

In honoring her legacy, JSTOR has made some of hooks’ foundational work accessible. 

In addition to this, Catalyst Project also has a PDF of her essay “Love as the Practice of Freedom” available.


2. Literary Hub: Afrodisiac: A Textual Meditation on Greg Tate

Cultural critic Greg Tate died on December 7th at the age of 64. Tate’s death, followed a week later by bell hooks, “all feels so pointed,” as writer Saeed Jones tweeted on Wednesday. An established music critic, “Tate dissected mostly what he loved about pop culture, be it electric Miles, the films of Julie Dash or the comedy of Richard Pryor, and presented it to the world in a language that was playful and profound,” writes Michael A. Gonzalez, a friend and mentee of his. Tate “embodied a certain literary cool that he’d probably been honing since freshman year at Howard University where he majored in journalism and film.”


3. Oxford American: Can’t You See That I’m Lonely?

I frequently listen to songs on repeat—sometimes for months at a time. This fall, I mostly listened to Smokey Robinson’s “The Tracks of My Tears.” I’d listen to the original 1965 recording with The Miracles. I’d listen to live performances and covers. I like a lot of the performances from the past few decades, when Robinson slows the song down. And I’m fascinated by each audience’s excitement to hear such a tragic song.

David Ramsey listens to Fontella Bass’s “Rescue Me” on repeat. Wherever and whenever the song plays, people dance or sing along to the song, “because how could they not? Because everyone knows this song. Because it feels good to dance, feels good to sing with strangers. They all know the words, even the little boy, automatically, without even thinking: ‘Can’t you see that I’m lonely? Rescue me.’”

As soon as I saw this title, “Rescue Me” began playing in my head. I must admit, however, that as familiar as I was with the song, I’d never sat with its lyrics. Speaking about the lyrics in 2004, Bass described how “It’s the everyday living that I like about ‘Rescue Me’ because everybody needs to be rescued… Everybody needs to be loved.”

Here, Ramsey writes about the song, but does not write “a story about the first time I heard ‘Rescue Me’ because I don’t remember ever not knowing the song. It is snugly in the middle of the soundtrack of my life. Not tied to any particular memory or any particular time or any particular place or any particular person. But evocative of memory nevertheless.”


4. Vox: The escalating costs of being single in America

I’ve had numerous conversations with friends where one, both, or all of us have lamented that we wished we were seeing someone just to save money on rent. The number of single-income households has increased over the past few decades for many reasons, and “as of 2021, 28 percent of Americans live alone. Back in 1960, it was just 13 percent; by 1980, it was 23 percent. An additional 11 million households are headed by a single parent, a number that has tripled since 1965.

Overall, 31 percent of US adults identify today as single, defined as not married, living with a partner, or in a committed relationship.” But, as Anne Helen Peterson outlines in this article, “these numbers aren’t increasing because society has shifted to accommodate the single or solo-living. Quite the contrary; they are increasing even though the United States is still organized, in pretty much every way, to accommodate and facilitate the lives of partnered and cohabitating people, particularly married people.”

I’ve had this conversation with so many people and I’m so happy Peterson wrote this to give additional information to arguments my friends and I have made anecdotally for years. 


5. Slate: The American Addiction to Speeding

Although I’ve only been driving for just over a year, I’ve always had somewhat of a heavy foot. I also learned how to drive in Michigan where almost everyone speeds. It isn’t uncommon where I learned to dive for people to be going 10+ miles per hour over the 75mph speed limit. I won’t say that I drive that far over the speed limit, but I do have to watch myself. I am not alone in this, and “part of the reason is that Americans love driving fast and have confidence in their own abilities. About half admit to going more than 15 over the limit in the past month.” 

Speeding is “the nation’s most disobeyed law [which] is dysfunctional from top to bottom. The speed limit is alternately too low on interstate highways, giving police discretion to make stops at will, and too high on local roads, creating carnage on neighborhood streets. Enforcement is both inadequate and punitive.” Further, getting pulled over for a speeding ticket “is the No. 1 way Americans interact with police and serves as the start of 1 in 3 police shootings.”

I’d be lying if I said I will never speed again, but this article gave me a lot to consider. 


6. Real Life: The Great Offline

I took a seminar on the Anthropocene this summer, and I deeply wish I could have a conversation about this text by Lauren Collee with that group of people. Much of that seminar was spent exploring human technology’s physical effects on nature.

Here, Collee explores how the concepts of wilderness and offline “are deeply enmeshed” in relation to Christian doctrine and colonization. The wilderness and offline “both offer mythologies of ahistoricity and unaccountability, an escape clause from the dilemmas of a globalized world. They cloak themselves in the language of embodiment (the wind in your hair, the sand under your feet), while offering up the fantasy of moving through the world without a digital or ecological footprint, as a little wisp of pure soul.” 

Further, they “function as vessels into which we pour our frustrations with contemporary life: They are defined by what they don’t contain, rather than what they do. It is entirely possible to abandon the fantasy of ‘the offline’ as the seat of the real, while remaining critical about the ways contemporary technologies — and the socioeconomic systems within which they are embedded — are shaping our relations and identities.”


7. Literary Hub: A Brief History of Cheesy Pasta

I love thedry the wetspasta meme. When I first saw the meme, which explains how making pasta is a series of wetting the drys and drying the wets, I read through each of the six panels confirming its inevitable conclusion. 

I don’t know the history of that meme, but I did read this brief history of cheesy pasta, which mentions “texts on dietetics, which for millennia have recommended ‘tempering’ the qualities of foods, by balancing and adjusting the opposites on the two fundamental axes of hot/cold and dry/moist, the qualities that ancient Greek science had indicated as the constitutive elements of the universe and all things in it.”

Opposites were used to balance each other and “this was the scientific basis—confirmed by experience—that fostered the habit of cooking pasta in water, or in broth, or milk, to rehydrate a dehydrated product.” Continuing to follow this logic, once the pasta was wet, cheese could be added to the pasta to dry the wets. The success of this combination, especially with “dry” aged cheeses, led to innovations in cattle breeding and cheese production, and thus “the history of pasta is tied with a double knot to the history of cheese.”

While this history of cheesy pasta was much more in-depth than the meme, they follow the same logic. 


8. Pitchfork: Listen to Aaliyah and the Weeknd’s New Song “Poison”

I listened to part of Aaliyah’s posthumously released song “Poison” featuring the Weeknd and I don’t feel good about it. Additionally, “Unstoppable, a posthumous album from the singer, is coming in 2022, too, via Blackground Records 2.0 and Empire,” which will include further features by other artists.

Admittedly, I did not listen to enough of the song to have thoughts on the music itself, but the whole project just seems weird to me. I would have very different feelings if they released the song(s) as they had been recorded with no changes, but to produce it and add people she never even knew existed seems like such a transparent cash grab. I’ll keep an eye out for Unstoppable but I am SKEPTICAL.  


9. Twitter: Britney Spears

In a since-removed Instagram post, Britney Spears criticized Diane Sawyer, telling her to kiss her “white ass.” The meandering post (something Spears is known for) covers many topics, most notably a 2003 interview her previous conservatorship forced her to do with Sawyer. In the now-infamous interview, Sawyer pried into Spears’s sex life and her breakup with Justin Timberlake. Sawyer slut-shamed her and made her cry. According to Spears’ post, if that interview were to take place now, she would inform Sawyer that she is “a Catholic slut !!!”

People on Twitter were quick to support Spears in addition to pointing out that “Diane Sawyer is deadass a POS. Her interviews reporting on absolute lies about Rihanna after Chris Brown’s assault, how she did Whitney Houston, the Janet Jackson interview especially after the Super Bowl incident. She’s despicable.”


10. Vice: Why Are People Tweeting That Nancy Reagan Was the ‘Throat Goat?’

Nancy Reagan trended on Twitter last weekend after Abigail Shapiro, sister of the right-wing doofus commentator Ben Shapiro, tweeted a comparison between “a photo of Madonna reclining on a bed with one boob out, and the Reagan family gathered for a wholesome photo where Nancy stands in the middle dressed like a Where’s Waldo’s grandma cosplay.” Shapiro captioned the two images: “This is Madonna at 63. This is Nancy Reagan at 64. Trashy living vs. Classic living. Which version of yourself do you want to be?” 

People immediately took an opportunity to dig up “a very juicy tidbit about Nancy’s personal life, pre-White House, in response to this tweet from hell. As spotted in June by the Washington Babylon, an unauthorized biography of Nancy published in 1992 noted that Nancy ‘was renowned in Hollywood for performing oral sex… not only in the evening but in offices. That was one of the reasons that she was very popular on the MGM lot.’” While Reagan’s status as MGM’s “Throat Goat” has not been verified, the anecdotes have been printed in multiple places, and “set off an entire weekend of memes, videos, jokes, tweets, etc, about Nancy Reagan allegedly being very good at giving blowjobs.”


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