The internet was a hot mess this week. Highlights: Dave Chappelle and Elon Musk, Twitter bans journalists, Megan Thee Stallion in court, Hood Rave LA, Video Vixens, Little Simz’s NO THANK YOU, studying catastrophe, contemporary manifestations of ugliness, the conundrum of Italian food, and the cutthroat tactics of the NY Christmas Tree trade.
LMFAOOOOOOOOO. Comedian Dave Chappelle brought Elon Musk on stage at a comedy show in San Francisco last Sunday. After the audience overcame their initial shock, “an avalanche of boos greeted Musk as he sauntered up to the stage.” the show quickly devolved into chaos, and the pair’s meager attempts at jokes—Chappelle noted that it sounded like the loudest boos were coming from the cheapest seats—didn’t assuage the crowd.
In addition to (maybe?) attempting a comedy career, Musk has been busy banning or suspending the accounts of journalists critical of him. Thus far, Musk has done this to “accounts of tech journalists at CNN, the Washington Post, Mashable and the New York Times.”
This came after all of the journalists “recently published articles about Musk’s suspension of a Twitter account that had shared publicly available data about the movements of his private jet. Each of these articles had highlighted the tension between Musk’s stated commitment to ‘free speech’ and his choice to ban an account that he personally disliked.” On top of all of this, Musk also apparently suspended the Mastodon account—a rival platform to Twitter—and individual Mastodon accounts. Furthermore, The New York Times has reported that Musk’s new financial strategy is to just stop paying bills.
The assault trial of rapper Tory Lanez began in Los Angeles this week. Lanez, who’s given name is Daystar Peterson, is accused of shooting rapper Megan Thee Stallion in the foot during the summer of 2020.
Megan and Lanez were involved at the time. His charges include “assault with a semiautomatic handgun, of carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle, and of discharging a firearm with gross negligence, all of which he has adamantly denied.” Lanez’s defense, thus far, has been deflection. Megan’s former close friend and assistant, Kelsey Harris, was also in the car, and Lanez is “inst[ing] Harris who fired five bullets at Megan after she exited an Escalade in the Hollywood Hills on July 12, 2020, after leaving a pool party at reality star Kylie Jenner‘s house. He said in his opening statement the women were jealous and fighting over Lanez, alleging Megan was upset about his interest in Jenner and that Jenner had asked Megan to leave her home.”
Harris had testified since this was published on Wednesday. In her testimony, Harris countered her original statement, and said that Lanez was not the shooter. Initially jurors were not allowed to hear her first statement, but the judge is now allowing them to listen to the whole 80-minute recording. Although Megan is only part of the trial as a witness, people are treating her as though she is the one facing charges and displaying massive amounts of misogynoir. I hope after this trial Megan can get some peace.
The whole trial is an absolute mess and, in general, is being covered poorly. I have, however, found Meghann Cuniff’s coverage, both at Law and Crime and on Twitter, really solid and is live tweeting the trial from the courtroom. Heran Mamo is also covering the trial for Billboard and has comprehensive live coverage on Twitter.
Started by Kumi James, aka BAE BAE, and DJ Kita Hood Rave is “an ephemeral architecture, a structure of feeling that emerges in the gaps of institutional space, after hours, in darkened space,” meant to serve Black femme and Black queer communities. A counter to hegemonic culture, Hood Rave “plays off certain physical structures and technologies, including the sound system, colored lights, warehouse architecture, and open outdoor space, and uses them to create something that actively pivots away from white patriarchal hegemony. It is a space for Black queer people and femmes to play.”
At the offset of this piece, James asserts that she doesn’t want to write a manifesto, even though this reads like one—something she concedes to at the end. In reading, however, it makes me think about how existing as a Bleck femme “in a world that wants us dead,” is a manifesto in and of itself.
Black Feminist YouTube is filled with critical analysis and praise of Video Vixens. Appearing in rap videos throughout the last 90s and early 2000s, video vixens appeared in the videos of rappers, and “became icons in their own right.”
Vixens were “the subject of lust and envy. They were unquestionably sexy. More than that, however, video vixens possessed this quality of chicness that couldn’t be found in the pages of Vogue…they were ‘ghetto with a runway quality.’” The impact on visual culture is undeliable, but as Y2K nostalgia floods social media timelines and is embraced by Gen Z, they are often overshadowed by “people dressing like Megan Fox or Hilary Duff’s Lizzie McGuire character. There’s the crimped hair and the gauchos and the butterfly clips.” But we need to spend more time talking about their lasting impact.
Little Simz’s fifth studio album, NO THANK YOU, was released on Monday. I’m constantly amazed at Simz’s ability to sound so fresh but so familiar. Simz never stops, and forever pushes herself and her music. A brilliant technician, Simz lyrics are gut-punches, interior, reflecting on the reality of being a Black femme existing in the world rapping that “it shouldn’t be a norm to live your life as a tragedy/To live your life in a state of confusion and agony,” in “Broken.” Simz is looser, more relaxed, in this album—steadfast, confident, and sure—every song offering a different vantage point on what it means to be her.
Bedour Alagraa’s research centers on “mapping a conceptual history of ‘catastrophe’.” This piece is a transcript of a talk Alagraa gave in 2021 at the Women’s and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. In introduction to this work, Alagraa looks at how “‘catastrophe’ is an aporia. Its use as an anchor for understanding our earth’s ecology has yet to account for what Kamau Brathwaite has given us as a prompt—the manner in which the catastrophic is ongoing, yet still tied to an ‘original’ detonation of sorts,” and “argue(s) that catastrophe is a structural condition, and a way of life imposed as a form of political and social domination, beginning with the New World colonial encounter(s).” The talk presents the framework for Alagraa’s upcoming book, The Interminable Catastrophe, based on her 2019 dissertation of the same name.
As a practitioner of visual culture, I have to say that a lot of stuff being produced right now looks like ass. Of course there are amazing, beautiful, transcendent, and engaging things being made that are engendering critical dialogues about visual culture, but a lot of things are simply ugly and boring.
Using the Situationists’s notion of the dérive—”an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, in which participants drop their everyday relations and ‘let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there’”—The N+1 Editors trace the contemporary state of ugliness through time and across disciplines. The Editors argue that ugliness is endemic to contemporary American society and “unites flat-pack furniture and home electronics, municipal infrastructure and commercial graphic design: an ocean of stuff so homogenous and underthought that the world it has inundated can feel like a digital rendering — of a slightly duller, worse world.”
Italy is known to have some of the best food in the world. While it is beloved, Italian food is also known for its hyperlocal specialties that “are encouraged by local cooperatives, protected by local designations, elevated by local chefs and celebrated in local festivals, all lucrative outcomes for their local, often small-scale producers,” and form local identities. Italian food “is at once prized the world over and insular in the extreme.” But much of the food that we think of as uniquely Italian doesn’t have its origins in Italy.
Staples often associated with Italy–like tomatoes–are from the Americas. Arab durum wheat has been “the only legal grain for the production of pasta in Italy” since 1967. Despite this history, “Italians can be surprisingly dogmatic about simple combinations. Despite a lengthy history of adopting foreign ingredients as their own, as the Italian gastronomer Simone Cinotto writes: ‘The Italian culinary model seems to resist almost completely the influence of immigrant cuisines.’” As immigration increases in the country, and climate change shifts what food the country can produce, “Will Italians stay bound to invented traditions, or will they embrace their mercurial past?”
My family hasn’t gotten a Christmas tree in years. Sometime before I was in grade school my sister and I complained about cutting a tree down each year—we didn’t think it was fair. The next Christmas my parents got us both small Norfolk pines. We’ve been using those pines ever since—and they are quite large now.
In New York City the Christmas tree Trade is cutthroat and deeply territorial. Prices can fluctuate greatly based on the borough or neighborhood—”the same Christmas tree can sell for four times as much in Soho as in Staten Island.” Owen Long has sold Christmas trees in Brooklyn for three years now. In this entertaining profile of the industry, Long looks at the history of Christmas trees in America and the city, exploring the multimillion dollar industry shrouded in lore.