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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 1/16

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Snow Day: Baltimore Winter Wonderland

The internet was sad, and funny, and beautiful this week. Highlights: Whales, Mitski, Michaela Jae Rodriguez, Maya Angelou, gentrification of consciousness, Steph Curry, the Bronx fire, Cheer, climate change and insects, and port-a-potties.

1. Granta: On Mistaking Whales

I’ve been thinking about my last list of 2021, a round-up of “best ofs” from the year, and how I forgot to add Wyatt Williams’ “Eating the Whale.” I keep thinking about the tactility of the essay, of a whale being “bloody, like fresh beef, but it tast[ing] oceanic, rich with the salt and funk of the sea.”

Bathsheba Demuth writes this essay as a largo—slow, steady, deliberate—forming a world of nuance where “whales have been homes. A practical space, shelter and host to meals and births and deaths. Host to the least abstract kinds of love. Familial, romantic, parental. Here whales have made those intimacies, by giving people the capacity to live.”

 

 

2. Vulture: Mitski in 9 Acts

It is January, but I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorite profiles of the year. I love E. Alex Jung’s profiles in general. I also love profiles and essays that are organized as a structured list, such as the nine acts articulated here. And I love Mitski because every time I listen to her she reminds me of two of my friends whom I also love. 

I don’t often listen to Mitski, but this is because I’m not in a place to hear the songs as they are. “A Mitski song lasts about as long as it takes to poach an egg,” writes Jung. “They are small and will knock you out, like pearls slipped inside the left ventricle of your heart.” The singer’s sixth album, Laurel Hell, is set to be released at the beginning of next month. I like to listen to new albums as soon as they come out, but with this album I’ll wait until I’m ready to be “ushered into a private opera house of melodrama.” 

 

 

3. Out: Watch Mj Rodriguez’s Emotional Speech After Historic Golden Globes Win

Michaela Jae Rodriguez made history as the first trans person to win a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Blanca Evangelista in Pose. In a thank-you speech via Instagram live, Rodriguez thanked the Golden Globes and emphasized that her win “is for the LGBTQAI, Black, Latina, Asian … the many multi-beautiful colors of the rainbow around the world. This is not just for me, this is for y’all. This is the door that opens up for y’all. Not me, for y’all. There’s going to be so many young individuals—young, talented, thriving individuals—that are going to be able to trail in, storm in the door. This is for y’all.”

 

 

4. Twitter: Renée Graham on Maya Angelou

On Monday, the US Mint announced that an image of poet Maya Angelou would be featured on the back of select quarters. Ms. Angelou is the first Black woman to be featured on the US quarter. While yes, people love Ms. Angelou, the above tweet summarizes my reaction and the reaction of most Black femmes I’ve seen online. 

 

5. Alta: The Gentrification of Consciousness

As the legalization of certain drugs takes place across the county, more and more (white) people are looking to capitalize on the movement, often at the expense of people who are non-white. This has already taken place with weed, and “the coming psychedelic-industrial complex threatens to strip hallucinogenic drugs of their historical and religious significance.” The ancient medicine is being gentrified and packaged as a new technology. “What for centuries has been a largely taboo or prohibited experience is on the verge of becoming fully legal in majority-minority California and other states,” writes Roberto Lovato. “The growing and largely white business of blowing minds adds to the economic distress of poor, non-white communities while denying them access to the powerful mind-altering substances that might help them.”

 

 

6. GQ: The Second Coming of Stephen Curry

Personally, I prefer college basketball over the NBA. The only consistent updates I get about professional basketball are from Hanif Abdurraqib, as I follow him on social media. Abdurraqib turns any subject he writes about into a magical journey of discovery for his reader—his lyricism is the most generous of teachers. 

Stephen Curry is one of the most famous players in the NBA, so of course I know who he is, but, apart from his skill as a 3-point specialist, I know very little about him as an athlete. For Abdurraqib, Curry’s “shots themselves, the miracle heaves over a forest of arms, or the wide-open effortless flicks that look good even while still ascending” take on a life of their own.

 

 

7. Democracy Now: As Officials Blame Tenants After 17 Die in Bronx Fire, Activists Say Greed & Neglect Are to Blame

Last Sunday, an apartment building fire in the Bronx killed 17 people, including eight children. The fire, caused by a space heater, turned the 19-story building into a chimney after safety doors failed to automatically shut. Prior to the fire, there had been numerous complaints filed against the building—which receives state funding to subsidize affordable apartments—including the lack of proper heating and failure of doors to automatically close. Tenants of the building are “asking for accountability, not just from the state and city agencies but first and foremost from their landlord and the building owners.”

 

8. BuzzFeed: The Second Season Of Netflix’s “Cheer” Is Uncomfortable To Watch

As with the first season, I binged the second season of Cheer, released Wednesday. The Netflix docuseries delves into the world of collegiate cheerleading. In the first season, the series follows the cheerleaders of Navarro Junior College in Corsicana, Texas, coached by Monica Aldama. Filmed between 2020 and 2021, the second season “is evenly split between the Navarro College cheerleaders and their rivals, the underdogs at Trinity Valley College, who reside about 45 minutes down the road in Athens, Texas, and are coached by Javontae Johnson.” Further, this season addresses allegations of sexual assault against Jerry Harris, a break-out star of the first season and a former Navarro team member. 

This season was harder to watch than the first, but I also found it more interesting as the series “veered into precarious myths of toxic positivity, with its emphasis on young people sacrificing their bodies for the sake of the team.” Further, “throughout this season, it feels like Cheer is trying to toe the line between telling hard, uncomfortable truths about the sport of competitive cheerleading while also being inspirational television.”

 

 

9. The Guardian: How the speed of climate change is unbalancing the insect world 

It is impossible for me to imagine all of the ways climate change is going to change the earth. This is, of course, because it will change everything. Noticing more mosquitos in the summer, it has only been recently that I’ve paid attention to how climate change is affecting insects. “Insects are so interlaced with the environment that they acutely feel any jolt to the regular rhythms of life. Spring is being pushed earlier and earlier in the year, unsettling the established life cycle of insects,” writes Oliver Milman. This shift could also have detrimental effects to plant populations as “[insects’] earlier appearances means they are targeting plants that are younger and more vulnerable.” 

Additionally, climate change “appears to be altering the scent of plants. Pollinators searching for food will note the colour and number of flowers as well as the plant’s scent, with bees able to recall a fragrance and associate it with certain plants and their nectar content.” At times “climate breakdown can often feel like a drawn-out, almost imperceptible rearrangement that far-off generations will have to deal with, [but] it is also punctuated with lacerating reminders that it’s already well under way.”

 

 

10. ESPN: The secret MVP of sports? The port-a-potty

The cleanest port-a-potty I’ve ever seen was at MIT. A few years ago, I went to MIT’s spring commencement ceremony, and the only bathrooms they had were port-a-potties. The ceremony was outside, and to the side of the seating area were rows and rows of sparkling portable bathrooms. The thing that set these port-a-potties apart from all others I’d seen before, or have seen since, however, is that they were cleaned between every person. Never in my life—in any environment, in private or public—have I experienced restrooms that are professionally cleaned between each use. 

For a long time I, like many others, thought of port-a-potties as a necessary evil to be avoided at all costs, but “from college football cathedrals on Saturdays to raucous NFL stadiums on Sundays, with thousands of kids’ soccer fields in between, the port-a-potty is an unsung hero for most outdoor sporting events in the U.S. If you trace the rise of big-time sports in America and the boom of the port-a-potty business over the past 50 years, it’s like the two things are dancing together.”

As a person with a small bladder who has to map out bathrooms for any excursion, I’m fascinated by anything that has to do with restrooms. This history of mobile restrooms is no exception. 

 

 

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