I was excited by the internet this week! Highlights: Terence Nance and Solange, Kelela, Jane Miller on life, learning from plants, saving pufflings, long live induction stoves, anti-trans legislation, Alice Walker, and Chris Rock.
This interview between Terence Nance and Solange is absolutely transcendent. In advance of Nance’s first solo-show, Swarm, which opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia on Friday, the artist and filmmaker met up with his friend, Solange “to shoot some film photography and talk spirituality, gentrification, and their Texas origins.”
The conversation starts with the two pondering if there lives would be different had the “Afrofuturist film by Barry Jenkins called Wonderland” that they were slated to star in years ago been made. The two would have “play[ed] a married couple shot back into the past by a time-travel machine powered exclusively by Stevie Wonder songs.” Nance’s “feeling is that we would have made the work we ended up making.” I need to get to Philly ASAPPP.
I love reading profiles that are filled with love, care, and admiration. Within the first few paragraphs, it is clear that Hannah Giorgis deeply cares for and respects the R&B artist Kelela and her music. Last month, the two homesick Ethiopian women spent the day together “in the cardamom-scented warmth of Benyam Cuisine, a small Ethiopian restaurant in Harlem.” Giorgis beautifully weaves intimate descriptions and analyses of Kelela’s music with reflections on the artist’s praxis and the history of Ethiopian immigration in the US.
My father retired last year and, for the life of us, my mother and I can’t figure out what he does with his time. We know that he goes swimming every afternoon and walks the dogs for an hour in the middle of the day. He reads the news in the morning and checks the stock market when it opens and closes. My mother and I know his routine, but we no longer know what he does, although whatever it is seems to make him happy.
Jane Miller has reached the “absurd age” of 90 and states she is “often bored and certainly [doesn’t] have enough to do.” She makes up routines and rules for herself, but also finds time to think about the meanings of life, happiness, and time — as she does in this essay.
Paco Calvo studies plants, “cognitive organisms endowed with memories, perceptions, and feelings, capable of learning from the past and anticipating the future, able to sense and experience the world.” In charge of the Minimal Intelligence Lab at the University of Murcia in Spain, Calvo’s research focuses on shifting our framework for cognition and intelligence. Initially trained as a philosopher, when he started “studying cognitive science in the 1990s, the dominant view was the brain was a kind of computer.” Calvo didn’t believe that human brains just recognized and manipulated signs and symbols. “To understand how human minds work, he was going to start with plants.”
His research now has implications far broader than plants, impacting artificial intelligence, observing that “what we can model with artificial systems is not genuine cognition. Biological systems are doing something entirely different.”
This is a beautiful, fascinating, and refreshing profile by Amanda Gefter.
I’ve been to Iceland twice and each time I’ve seen a puffin and gotten a puffin souvenir. I am by no means a birder, but I find puffins to be so incredibly endearing. Iceland’s volcanic island Heimaey is home to the largest colony of Atlantic puffins in the world. Sometimes, however, the baby puffins, or pufflings, get stranded.
While puffins spend most of their lives at sea, they are born in burrows around July, and “the pufflings emerge at night from their underground digs in late August and September.” The young birds follow the moon out to sea, but “on their first flight after leaving the burrow, some young birds get confused by the lights of the town and head inland instead of out to sea.” The bird’s heavy bones, which are helpful for swimming, can make it hard to take off from land. At sea, the water provides a runway; in the colonies, they can launch from cliffs and catch a breeze. When pufflings land on the streets, however, their new wings are too weak to get them aloft from the flat ground, leaving them vulnerable to cars, predators and starvation.
But the citizens of Vestmannaeyjabaer, a town on Heimaey, are there to help and “every year during the roughly monthlong fledging season, kids here get to stay up very late… they roam the town peeking under parked vehicles, behind stacks of bins at the fish-processing plants, inside equipment jumbled at the harbor. The stranded young birds tend to take cover in tight spots. Flushing them out and catching them is the perfect job for nimble young humans.”
When cooking, I strongly prefer gas stoves—I simply find them more satisfying to cook on. In January, however, the internet was set ablaze when Richard Trumka Jr., a Consumer Product Safety Commission member, warned that “that the humble gas stove—a central feature of some 40% of US kitchens—poses a serious health risk, especially to children, and might therefore be a candidate for government regulation.”
While there is a growing body of scientific evidence to support this, the statement immediately became political. Shortly after Turmka’s statment was published, “Republican Representative Ronny Jackson of Texas dared someone to pry his stove from his ‘cold dead hands,’ while fellow Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio found traction with the pithier ‘God. Guns. Gas stoves.’”
While the internet and politicians fight over gas or traditional electric coils, many are forgetting (or don’t know about) about induction—a technology Americans might yet fall in love with. Although they are only in 5% of the US market, “unlike conventional electric, induction burners, known as ‘hobs,’ don’t actually generate heat. Instead, they create a magnetic field, exciting the ferrous molecules in the bottom of a pot or pan on the glass cooktop. Induction stoves are fast, convenient, precise, safe and sleek.”
I’ve used induction a few times before. “Fast, convenient, precise, [and] safe” are accurate descriptions. But they also aren’t as much fun.
Over the past few years, there has been a slew of anti-transgender legislation across the country. While some of the bills have not passed in their respective states, this trend is gaining increasing traction. This movement first started gaining ground in 2019 when South Dakota Republican state Rep. Fred Deutsch proposed the Vulnerable Child Protection Act which “would make it a felony for doctors to give transgender children under 16 gender-affirming medical care.” The bill “was killed in the Senate after doctors showed up at the South Dakota statehouse to argue they should not be sent to prison for following the medical consensus,” but last month “Gov. Kristi Noem signed an updated version of his bill.”
Before the bill was introduced, however, Deutsch emailed a draft to a network of anti-trans activists, doctors, and lawyers. The emails are extensive, showing “the degree to which these activists shaped Deutsch’s repressive legislation, a version of which was signed into law in February, and the tactics, alliances, and goals of a movement that has sought to foist their agenda on a national scale.”
While the above article heavily cites and quotes “a trove of emails obtained by Mother Jones between Deutsch and representatives of a network of activists and organizations at the forefront of the anti-trans movement,” the messages are not made available in full. Maia Arson Crimew has published “the complete source of email threads for the 2023-03-08 Mother Jones story “Inside the Secret Working Group That Helped Push Anti-Trans Laws Across the Country.” The emails are comprised of communications spanning 2019-2021, principally regarding an attempt to pass a trans youth transition treatment ban in South Dakota in 2019,” showing “there are extensive discussions between Deutsch and notorious anti-gay and anti-trans “experts” associated with known hate groups targeting transgender healthcare in the United States.”
Alice Walker has been hugely influential to Black feminism and womanism. But she also holds some deeply transphobic and antisemitic beliefs. This has been known and documented for years, however, this week these beliefs were brought back up when Walker made a blog post on her website defending JK Rowling, who is WIDELY known to be “a racist, antisemitic, and transphobic YT billionaire.” Walker did this “despite the intimately shared history of racism and transphobia,” and invoked her “elder” status “to villainize trans people and spread misinformation.”
Alyssa Shotwell explains the history of Walker’s transphobia and antisemitism, how they are both tools of white supremacy, and why her beliefs are so dangerous in this comprehensive explainer.
Last weekend, Chris Rock finally addressed Will Smith’s slap in ‘Selective Outrage’, a live-streamed comedy special (the first in the platform’s history). The show “was part of a $40 million deal he made with Netflix; it called for two separate stand-up specials,” and, according to what I’ve seen on social media, Rock made “colorism jokes, repeatedly call[ed] Black people out of their name (especially Black women), and [said] that liberals have gone too far when it comes to fighting for equality and inclusion.”
Rock did all of this while saying “that the reason he didn’t hit Smith back after he joked about Jada Pinkett-Smith is because he was raised to not fight in front of white people. But as many people pointed out on social media, he deems it acceptable to humiliate Black women in front of white people.” I’ve yet to watch the special because nothing has convinced me that it is worth my time.