The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 3/27

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More Than Pretty Leaves

This week the internet was a good mix of newly published pieces, reposted artifacts, and a lot of coverage of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings. Highlights: Tressie McMillan Cottom and Kiese Laymon, Hanif Abdurraqib, on remembering, Imani Perry on Our Native Daughters, Ketanji Brown Jackson, a seat at the table, Clarence and Ginni Thomas, Nicolas Cage, sprinkles, and GIFs. 


1. New York Times: Transcript: Tressie McMillan Cottom Interviews Kiese Laymon for ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

My mentor who introduced me to the work of both Tressie McMillan Cottom and Kiese Laymon sent me this transcript of a conversation between the two writers, published in November 2021, with the simple instructions: “listen to this. Mind blown.” She was correct. 

Filling in for Ezra Klein, Cottom, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and a New York Times Opinion writer, guests hosts and chose to interview Laymon. In her introduction, Cottom says, “I love talking to great artists who helped me make sense of the world, especially those who are wrestling with the same problems that vex all of us and who aren’t afraid to pour themselves onto the page in the process. Kiese Laymon is the most uncompromising artist I have had the pleasure of knowing.” 

This conversation, like the one above, is steeped in meditations on memory, accountability, and perhaps what Laymon is most known for, his ethic of revision. Of his ethic, Laymon observes how “it is really hard to look back yesterday at something that we did that we don’t want to look at — on a very elementary level. I think a lot of us don’t even want to assess what we have done if we have potentially done something that is harmful. So we can’t even talk about revision if you don’t talk about the vision.”

My favorite thing about this interview, as with anything these two authors touch, is how much love and care are on display—something fully demonstrated here. 


2. Longform Podcast: #481: Hanif Abdurraqib


My editor, who thoroughly knows my tastes by now, recommended I listen to this, assuming I’d already seen it, and while I do often listen to the Longform podcast, I didn’t know yet that Hanif Abdurraquib was featured this week! 

I listened to this right after listening to the podcast above, and they pair so beautifully with each other when writing that I had a hard time differentiating the conversations. While this whole conversation is beautiful, I was particularly struck by Abdurraqib’s explanation of memory as a privilege: “not just having a relationship with memory that is healthy, by that I mean that you can remember things well as you age, but also having a relationship with memory that is not wholly traumatic.” 

Abdurraqib goes on to discuss how this influences his writing and how he moves throughout the world, saying, “I get to be a little more honest about my failures and my complicity in how I failed others because I’m less indignant about my past, and I’m less beholden to this pursuit of nostalgia that doesn’t necessarily always represent the full self or the full experience that I have.”


3. Longreads: What We Remember: A Reading List on Archives

Both of the podcasts above discuss memory and remembering. Over the past few months, Longreads has compiled different topical reading lists. I couldn’t see this list on archiving and remembering as a coincidence.

The introduction by Hallel Yadin asks, “why do we keep what we keep? Who decides? And, how does what we keep affect what we collectively remember in practice? If what we collect determines what we remember, we have to be mindful about what we’re willing to lose.” I’d previously read some of the articles included here, but others were new to me. 

I came across this list after listening to the podcasts above. When reading through the summaries here, I couldn’t help but meditate on Hanif Abdurraqib’s ethic of memory as a privilege, but also that “memory is not infallible, and we have to do the best we can with the nature of our failing minds.”


4. Oxford American: For Daughters of Southern Sundays

The entirety of Oxford American’s 30th Anniversary edition is splendid, but this essay by Imani Perry is something else. I’ve started talking to a friend from high school more and we often talk about Perry. Neither my friend nor I grew up in the south, but both of our families have southern roots.

Quasheba “in Akan means born on a Sunday.” In the song “Quasheba, Quasheba” by the music group Our Native Daughters they sing of and for the “daughters of the African diaspora, [who] live with fragments of ancestral mothers whom we find ways to invoke and honor even if we cannot fully touch the details of their lives.” 

The group “is the brainchild of Rhiannon Giddens, who invited the three other Black women to work on an album informed by race and gender and shaped by the sonic histories of the Americas while paying particular attention to Black women’s lives.” Leyla McCalla, Amythyst Kiah, and Allison Russell, in addition to Giddens, “gold, russet, pecan brown, umber (can’t you just feel Nina Simone’s spirit tremble?)—work the strings of the African and European diasporas.” The song is named for Russell’s ancestor, an enslaved woman named Quasheba who was sold from Ghana; Russell “wept to learn her name.” 

A name is not isolated. “A name may be just a fragment of history. But it is also a mark of resilience against the odds of erasure. Quasheba survived.” 


5. Rewire News Group: Boom! Lawyered: Ketanji Brown Jackson Hearing, Day One—The Stage Is Set

The confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, took place this week and they were expectedly BONKERS. Jessica Mason Pieklo and Imani Gandy live-tweeted the hearings for Rewire News Group, a nonprofit media group dedicated to covering reproductive justice, and provided more analysis on Boom! Lawyered. 

This episode covers the first day of the hearings, and there is one for each of the subsequent days. Pieklo and Gandy debunk the many fallacies presented by conservatives at the hearings, reference other great coverage, and break down SO MUCH MISOGYNOIR in their coverage.


6. Longreads: My Seat at the Table

Twitter has been full of discourse surrounding the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Earlier this week, Bernice L. McFadden tweeted “with all that’s going on with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, I think it’s high time and appropriate to repost my @longreads essay: My Seat at the Table.” 

There have been many pieces this week discussing what it would mean (or will mean) for Jackson to have a seat at the proverbial table of the Supreme Court. Published in August, before the hearings, McFadden’s “tale of racism” traces the history of the table and chair, “invented in Egypt around 2500 B.C.,” and tells of the many tables and chairs and racist conversations that Black people have endured at them. 


7. The Nation: The Corruption of Clarence and Ginni Thomas

And the fuckshit continues. 

While it has long been known that conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni have been into right-wing conspiracy theories, this week “texts between the justice’s wife and the Trump White House reveal the extent of her involvement in trying to subvert the election of Joe Biden.” In texts between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows, Trump’s former Chief of Staff, “we see the right-wing activist lauding Meadows for helping Trump fight the election results, imploring him to take ever-crazier steps to do so, and, finally, lamenting the failure of their efforts to block Biden’s presidency.”

Honestly, the wildest thing about this is that they were dumb enough to put all of this in writing. But at this point in time, this stupidity is expected.


8. GQ: Nicolas Cage Can Explain It All

As a concept, I love Nicolas Cage. A few students were roasting Cage in one of my classes in undergrad, and while I don’t remember what they said, I remember the instructor lamenting that we “never got to see the good Nicolas Cage. He was great in Adaptation!” At the time I mostly knew Cage from National Treasure and memes, and I wasn’t aware of his early career or personal life, and didn’t notice his “descent” into video-on-demand films. This was in the early 2010s, when “after falling millions of dollars into debt, and then working tirelessly to dig himself out, he has made many movies—too many movies—that only reinforced the idea that Cage was maybe a little insane. And yet, through the 12 years that followed the death of his beloved father, the turmoil of near-bankruptcy, and the big studios turning their backs on him, Cage has stayed committed to delivering flashes of his highly personal brilliance in smaller projects.”

This time period is often the one Cage gets the most flack for, but he wants to be clear: “When I was doing four movies a year, back to back to back, I still had to find something in them to be able to give it my all… They didn’t work, all of them. Some of them were terrific, like Mandy, but some of them didn’t work. But I never phoned it in. So if there was a misconception, it was that. That I was just doing it and not caring. I was caring.”


9. Taste: We’ve Underestimated Sprinkles

I don’t particularly enjoy sprinkles, but one of my go-to summer ice cream orders is soft-serve blue moon with rainbow sprinkles. As its name suggests, blue moon ice cream is a bright blue midwestern specialty that, if you ask me, is flavored blue (some people might also say it tastes like Froot Loop milk). In Michigan, where I grew up, children often favored the blue ice cream before graduating to more complex flavors such as chocolate or vanilla. 

I was born in the 1990s, during “the start of sprinkle mania in the United States.” Sprinkles, as we know them today, “were invented by [Just Born Quality Confections] sometime in the 1930s, thanks to an employee named James Bartholomew.” However, “many forms of sprinkles were available throughout 19th-century America, as they were in Europe and elsewhere.” While “American sprinkles make no pretense of resembling any food,” most people have “fond childhood memories punctuated with sprinkles. Got an A on your report card? Sprinkles. It’s your birthday? Sprinkles. Snuck a snack at a friend’s house that you weren’t allowed at home? Sprinkles may have been involved. Those kinds of memories bring warm and fuzzy feelings of safety, no matter what the heck the things contain.”

The ironic part, however, of my go-to ice cream order is that I didn’t start ordering it until I was an adult. In fact, I started ordering during visits to the midwest while I was living on the east coast. I guess I like nostalgic ice cream flavors. 


10. The Verge: Stephen Wilhite, creator of the GIF, has died

The Graphic Interchange Format, or GIF, is one of the most influential file formats, especially online. Last week one of its lead inventors, Stephen Wilhite, died. He was 74. “Although GIFs are synonymous with animated internet memes these days, that wasn’t the reason Wilhite created the format. CompuServe introduced them in the late 1980s as a way to distribute ‘high-quality, high-resolution graphics’ in color at a time when internet speeds were glacial compared to what they are today.” 


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