I kinda liked the internet this week. Highlights: No crying on the yacht, the online beat, AI fiction, how we telegraph perception, debunking a false history of woodpeckers, fictional deaths, the (perhaps) decline of Marvel, the Respect for Marriage Act, nobody has ever wanted to work, and pink sauce.
Whenever I complain about something meaningless, my father always tells me, “there is no crying on the yacht!” I’ve never been on a yacht, but nevertheless, the sentiment stands.
There is a strict hierarchy in yachts, but “if it has a crew working aboard, it’s a yacht. If it’s more than ninety-eight feet, it’s a superyacht. After that, definitions are debated, but people generally agree that anything more than two hundred and thirty feet is a megayacht, and more than two hundred and ninety-five is a gigayacht.” Over the past few years, yacht sales have soared due to increased wealth inequities, and the vessels are symbolic of “the last vestige of what real wealth can do,” as one anonymous owner is alleged to have said. The massive boats are “the most expensive item that our species has figured out how to own,” and function almost as states floating in international waters. The kind of wealth and power present here is nearly, if not wholly, impossible to imagine.
As the mega boat reveals “the status anxieties of people who have everything,” I’m sure there is, in fact, a lot of crying that happens on yachts.
Karen Maniraho interviewed five journalists who write about the internet “in search of meaning, not viral trends.” Featuring some of the best on the beat—Ryan Broderick, Taylor Lorenz, Jason Parham, Rebecca Jennings, and Rusty Foster—Maniraho delves into “their points of access, their limitations, and how they view the world through the internet.” These writers, who “[focus] on creators, communities, and the algorithm-based platforms that drive trends… find ways to cut through the noise—and surface a deeper understanding of life, online and off.”
As artificial intelligence language programs, such as GPT-3, are getting more and more advanced, they are being developed for fiction writers. Some writers, such as Jennifer Lepp, embrace software like Sudowrite to help them write their novels. Another independent writer, Joanna Penn, “sees [AI] as an inevitable, impending change in what it means to be an author, something not all writers welcome.”
This is an interesting quandary Josh Dzieza writes about, filled with questions about authorship, ethics, and the future for many creative pursuits, not just writing. And reading this is all the more captivating with an interactive design by Kristen Radtke.
I’ve been obsessed with prepositions recently—the part of speech that governs the relationship between words in a clause. My use of prepositions isn’t particularly dexterous, but as there is more and more conversation about how people are in relation to everything—to each other, to animals, to land, to institutions—I am more and more interested in the seemingly innocuous.
In his two books, An Immense World and I Contain Multitudes, Ed Yong explores how “the world is richer and weirder and wider than we understand,” and how we are interdependent on things beyond ourselves. “The senses,” Yong says, “have this almost active role in shaping the world around us.” In this conversation with Alice Wong, a disabled activist and writer, Yong discusses how “writing about the senses [can be] ableist,” and how an atypical perception of the world can help us better understand some of the things we are in relation with.
Growing up, many are taught “that woodpecker skulls have adaptations, such as spongy bone in the front of their skulls, that absorb or dissipate the shocks from their pecks, protecting their squishy brains.” This presumptive fact was seemingly common knowledge amongst elementary school students, codified by teachers, “books, news articles, zoo displays, and scientific papers.” A new study, however, found that woodpeckers don’t absorb shock at all, and their heads have “a rigid structure that has evolved not to absorb shocks but to preserve them.”
I read this article by Ed Yong after reading the aforementioned conversation with Alice Wong and my brain was abuzz thinking about “similarly false ideas that persisted for years or decades before being corrected” in zoological literature.
Beginning in 431 B.C. with Medea, Slate looks at the 50 greatest fictional deaths. Across various genres and art forms of literature, TV, film, and more, this chronological list “spans nearly 2,500 years of human culture, from Athens to A24.” The list was created “during a pandemic, as real-life death has stalked us all, more tangible than ever. After all, one of the many things art can do is to help us navigate the pitfalls of life, and there’s no deeper pitfall than the final one.”
I watched Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the second Doctor Strange film, for the first time last week and I was underwhelmed. I used to be an avid fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but have fallen off since the pandemic—partially because I haven’t been back to a theater for the opulent escapism. I’ve also stopped watching because I can’t keep up with the content or the interlocking storylines. When watching the latest Doctor Strange, it was clear that the film was simultaneously over- and under-theorized without convincing production.
Marvel is facing increasing criticism over its visual effects and the treatment of VFX workers at the studios it outsources all of this work to. This has allegedly always been a problem for the studio, but it is becoming more acute in the fourth phase of the universe that “has already tallied six films and six live-action TV shows over the span of a year and a half.” This problem is growing too large for the studio to simply ignore as “the MCU is facing both a quality and a quantity problem, and without any real indication of where the franchise is heading as this phase comes to a close, it’s becoming less crucial—and more challenging—to keep up with everything that Marvel releases.”
I used to know a lot of people who kept up with the MCU, but that number has significantly dropped over the past few years.
This week the House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act, voting to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The RMA is being lauded for “[requiring] the federal government to recognize all marriages that are legal in the state where they were entered into (or, notably, were legal when entered into); and bans states from discriminating in marriage recognition on several bases, including ‘sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.’” While that is worth celebrating, the bill has shortcomings and it does not “require states to allow same-sex couples to marry, one of the key results of that 2015 decision, Obergefell v. Hodges.”
Chris Geidner breaks down the ins and outs of the bill and the history of DOMA in this edition of Law Dork.
Every day it seems like there is a new declaration about people “not wanting to work anymore.” The newer members of the workforce are often called lazy and selfish for not wanting to spend most of their lives working to enrich the ruling class. This is always presented as a novel crisis of the present, but as Paul Fairie, a researcher and instructor at the University of Calgary, notes in this comedic viral thread, the claim that “nobody wants to work anymore” is very old, dating back to at least 1894.
10. BuzzFeed: People Are Saying The TikTok Pink Sauce Is “Disgusting,” But The Way People Are Treating Its Creator Is Also Leaving A Bad Taste In My Mouth
Pink Sauce has fully taken over the internet this week and it is something that I don’t need in my life. Created by TikTok chef Carly Pii, the sauce was unveiled in June, but has since made its way to Twitter where people have been less than kind. Pii and her reportedly ranch-tasting sauce have been criticized for “misspelled ingredients, angel-numbered nutrition labels, refrigeration instructions, shipping practices, and food safety protocols, questioned the authenticity of her recipe, and so on. People are anticipating ‘fighting demons on the toilet’ from what seems to be ‘a clusterfuck of bad decisions.’”
Tbh, I don’t know if I would try the sauce.