The internet was a lot this week. Karl Marx turned 200 and I’m obsessed with Britney 2007 Kanye (sorry not sorry). Highlights: Vogue fangirled over Rihanna, Kanye said a lot more shit, Zora Neale Hurston told the story of America’s last slave, Michelle Wolf roasted everyone, Junot Diaz was accused of sexual assault, old people don’t understand the internet, Carly Rae Jepsen is a queer icon, and Iowa hates women.
1. Vogue: Rihanna on Body Image, Turning 30, and Staying Real—No Matter What
My favorite part about reading profiles on Rihanna is that they are basically just fangirl pieces where the authors say that they are trying not to fangirl. Half of this interview is just talking about Rihanna on dating apps. Apparently “hanging out with Rihanna is every bit as fun as her costars in the upcoming Ocean’s 8 movie make it sound: You know you’re in the presence of a superstar, but it’s like you’re chatting with an old friend.” The author also does dumb things like “try to imagine what Rihanna’s life will look like 25 years from now” before realizing “trying to anticipate the superstar’s next move is virtually impossible…” which is obvious considering Rihanna’s aesthetic is an anti-aesthetic. Again, to read my book on this please donate to BmoreArt.
Anyway, the best part of this piece is Rihanna shading Drake for his presentation of her Video Vanguard Music Award. For Rihanna, “The VMA’s is such a fan-focused awards show, so having that energy around me, and knowing the people who had received the award in the past, made it feel like a big deal… Waiting through that speech was probably the most uncomfortable part. I don’t like too many compliments; I don’t like to be put on blast.” When asked if she was still close with Drake Rihanna said, “We don’t have a friendship now, but we’re not enemies either. It is what it is.” Damn.
2. YouTube: kanye west / charlamagne interview
Kanye did a lot this week, and yes, I did watch this whole interview. I love listening to Kanye when he is calm. He actually makes some sense. He opened up a lot, especially about his 2016 breakdown. When recounting the time directly after, Kanye said, “I had lost my confidence… I never had the empathy for people that lacked confidence. I had so much of it I didn’t know what it was like to be without it.” Maybe the new Kanye is just trying to learn how to express empathy, something that is inline with his obsession with love.
3. TMZ: KANYE WEST The FULL Episode
Honestly, I would like to take a class from Kanye; he is a very engaging speaker and it would defs improve my critical thinking skills. Since Ye has been back on the internet everyone has been wanting to talk to him because they know he is going to say something provocative that will get them clicks.
TMZ invited Kanye to their newsroom for a live interview and he did not disappoint. Amongst his rants about freedom, love, and being brainwashed by the media—some of which are actually interesting—Kanye said that 400 years of slavery was a choice. Naturally, people went crazy when that soundbite came out, creating memes, and conspiracy theories—which are low key legit—about Kanye’s entire relationship the public being a Joseph Beuys-Inspired piece of performance art.
Friend: You coming to the plantation today?
— James Burge 💙 (@itsJAMESBURGE) May 2, 2018
In response to Kanye’s slavery comment, #IfSlaveryWasAChoice was born. Here is a collection of some of the best memes about the entire situation because there are a lot!
5. Vulture: The Last Slave
Zora Neale Hurston is most famous for two things: writing Their Eyes Were Watching God, and dying alone penniless, with much of her work being forgotten. Before Hurston was an author, she trained as a cultural anthropologist at Barnard. In her writing, Hurston used dialect to capture the voices of her characters. She did not change dialect to proper written Englighl, because her characters wouldn’t have spoken like that if they were real—and Hurston’s characters are real.
Hurston’s archives are housed at Howard University, and when her trust acquired new representation, the agents wondered if “any unpublished treasures been left in the vault?” Of course, there were, and agents found Barracoon which documents the story of Cudjo Lewis, born Kossula, the last survivor of the last slave ship to come to the US.
When Hurston went to speak with Cudjo, he had been waiting for someone to listen to his story. “Thankee Jesus!” he said. “Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe dey go in de Afficky soil some day and callee my name and somebody dere say, ‘Yeah, I know Kossula.’”
6. YouTube: Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner Speech (Full) | NBC News
Oh boy! I don’t even think I can begin to summarize Michelle Wolf’s speech…but she went after everyone. Her speech blew up mostly because people said that she criticized Sarah Huckabee Sanders appearance, which she did not do. Wolf said, “I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
As Jen Chaney writes for Vulture, “It’s the jabs that Wolf threw at Sanders and other Trump staffers that are getting criticized today, not just because some of them were funny but because they legitimately stung. To acknowledge what actually made the smoky eye line funny meant that some of the people in that ballroom had to reflect on the fact that they either lie, enable liars, or act nicely to liars because that’s what they sometimes have to do to get the information the public deserves to know.”
As a grad student, I invited Junot Diaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature. I was an unknown wide-eyed 26 yo, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I’m far from the only one he’s done this 2, I refuse to be silent anymore.
— zinziclemmons (@zinziclemmons) May 4, 2018
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz was accused of sexual assault. The first accusation was made through a tweet by Zinzi Clemmons, with others quickly sharing their stories. This accusation comes just weeks after the New Yorker published an essay written by Diaz about being sexually assaulted and raped as a child, and how it has impacted his life.
The accusations have already caused Diaz to withdraw from speaking engagements. In a statement provided to the New York Times by Diaz’s agent, Nicole Aragi, he said “I take responsibility for my past,” and cited it as an impetus for writing his autobiographical essay in the New Yorker. While being abused as a child does not excuse abusing or insulting someone else, it contextualizes why he might have done it. For me, the most interesting thing about the accusations against Diaz is how they are bringing the cycle of abuse into the #metoo conversation.
8. The Outline: Old people can’t open new tabs and it’s fueling our descent into hell
I remember having a conversation with a friend, who was in her mid-60s at the time, about apps. She was complaining about how many of them don’t come with directions, and if they do they are confusing and can be hard to read with aging eyes. I made a cavalier comment about how the design is meant to be intuitive, so directions are not needed. My friend politely informed me that they are only intuitive if you understand the gestures that navigate the app, and as someone that did not grow-up on the internet or using touchscreen devices, they don’t always make sense. Apps, smartphones, and the internet, which are meant for everyone, do not have user interface design for my friend to easily access.
As the war on fake news and alternative facts continues, it is important that our elders cultivate digital literacy, and tech companies understand its importance. “Outside of maybe the executive level, there are very few grandparents working at tech companies. Because of this, there’s rarely anyone in the room who’s truly able to understand what it must have been like to be a 78-year old logging onto Facebook for the first time in 2016, in a world where internet memes go 9000 levels deep and the web is an information battleground where governments and corporations unscrupulously compete for our attention.”
9. Electric Lit: Carly Rae Jepsen’s Queer Renaissance
I never really considered Carly Rae Jepsen until one of my friends sent me this article. My only vague memory of her is my sister’s obsession with the 2012 US Olympic Swimming Team’s Call Me Maybe video.
This article was striking because its analysis of Jepsen’s music highlights, something that I rant about all the time: “Pop culture revolves around romantic endpoints… and there is little room for longings that will never be fulfilled.” We are often taught that the most important kind of relationship we can cultivate is a romantic one, “but lots of queer people cannot come out, much less find someone to partner with.” But as Jepsen’s music articulates “wanting without having is not tragic,” and maybe we should time value and cultivate other types of relationships.
10. De Moines Register: The nation’s strictest abortion ban is now law. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill
Effective July 1st, physicians in Iowa will not be able to perform abortions on women after a heartbeat is found, often around 6 weeks into a pregnancy. When the bill goes into effect, Iowa will have the strictest abortion laws in the country. Most women do not know they are pregnant at 6 weeks, and even if they know before then might not be able to get an appointment for an abortion in time—if that is what they choose. In effect, this law prohibits abortion in the state of Iowa. Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are planning to sue.
I was talking to a friend about this, who is an OB-GYN resident, and how it is an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. In recent years, the “Supreme Court has declined to hear similar cases… but as states continue to pass legislation restricting abortions, and President Donald Trump appoints more conservative federal judges, abortion opponents are increasingly optimistic.” Gross.