The internet was kinda all over the place this week. The government is still shut down, Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency, people are cutting down Joshua Trees, Brazil disbanded its Ministry of Culture… a lot happened.
Highlights: Marie Kondo hates books, Virginia Woolf wrote a lot of diaries, we don’t really know why beauty exists, stealing eggs can be v difficult, baobabs are dying, nowhere is safe from sexual harassment, #bachelornation5ever, no one cares about whom, Angela Davis is GOAT, and a war is breaking out in conservative politics.
1. The Washington Post: Keep your tidy, spark-joy hands off my book piles, Marie Kondo
The first thing I do whenever I go to someone’s home or office for the first time is look through their books and I usually inquire about what they are reading at the moment. People often respond to this question in two ways: they tell me what they are reading for work and what they are reading for fun. I think knowing what someone is reading is the best way to understand them.
Marie Knodo, an “anti-clutter guru,” is back with the new Netflix series, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, sparking outrage amongst artists, writers, and bookworms across the internet. In an episode featuring a young couple, Kondo instructs them to “take every single book into your hands and see if it sparks joy for you.” If it does not, then she tells them to get rid of it. This is to be done without reading the book because it “clouds your judgment.” But people obsessed with books and reading aren’t always in it for joy, as Ron Charles, book critic and author of this article, points out — “we want to swim in wonder.”
I have a friend that hates having things. I am a consummate gift giver and attempts to give her anything are often futile. We are still young and move often, but her rooms are always deliberately sparsely decorated. She always has a box of family heirlooms, photos, notes, and cards given to her by people she cares about — small trinkets that she loves. I call it her sentimental box. The other thing she always has are books.
2. The New Republic: A Series of Selves
One of my favorite things to read is a collection of letters I have by Elizabeth Bishop. She was a consummate letter writer, even teaching a class on the subject at Harvard. Reading Bishop’s letters is the best way to learn about her thinking process; her letters are thoughtful, sometimes going through drafts and taking months to write.
Virginia Woolf was an avid diarist in the way Bishop wrote letters. In her diaries, Woolf wrote over 770,00 words. She”began writing in a diary in 1897, when she was just 14 years old; she would continue on and off again, for the rest of her life; she would write the final entry four days before her death in March 1941.” Barbara Lounsberry, a scholar on Woolf, describes them as “semiprivate diaries [that] serve as the interface between her unconscious and her public prose.” Woolf’s diaries are “a powerful and startling look into the inner life of a woman writer during a dramatic time.” But like all things private, or semiprivate at least, things that were once unknown are now knowable and “diaries can rip the masks from their creators.”
I often wonder what collections of diaries and correspondence of people living now will look like when they are published in the future. I wonder who will be notable enough to have their innermost thoughts published. I wonder how handwritten notes will interface with digital ones. I wonder if text messages will be published. I wonder if LiveJournals will be included. I wonder how digital archives of ourselves will be preserved if (when) companies like Facebook fail.
3. New York Times: How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution
Beauty is a fickle thing that never leaves the periphery of obsession. Over time it seems as though people have stopped trying to define beauty and started down the laborious path of questioning what it means and why it exists. Among the academic disciplines taking up this pursuit are biologists investigating what Charles Darwin called sexual selection, the process by which ornaments meant to attract mates develop separately from traits that help a species survive.
“Beauty, they say, does not have to be a proxy for health or advantageous genes. Sometimes beauty is the glorious but meaningless flowering of arbitrary preference. Animals simply find certain features — a blush of red, a feathered flourish — to be appealing. And that innate sense of beauty itself can become an engine of evolution, pushing animals toward aesthetic extremes.”
The truth is we will probably never be able to understand beauty, which is why it haunts us so. “What we call beauty is not simply one thing or another, neither wholly purposeful nor entirely random, neither merely a property nor a feeling…Beauty is the world’s answer to the audacity of a flower.”
4. Outside: The Egg Thief
I don’t really know why I like this story as much as I do?? But it is kind of like Mission Impossible except for illegal bird egg collecting. It was like Tom Cruise was in my head the whole time I was reading it.
Jeffrey Paul Lendrum is an egg thief, stealing from the nests of falcons across the world. There are 39 species of falcons across all continents except Antarctica. The birds of prey often nest on cliffs and stealing their eggs is a highly specialized skill. No one knows exactly why Lendrum did it, except that “it’s a high-adventure, high-adrenaline way of eking out a living.”
5. Topic: The Mysterious Life (and Death) of Africa’s Oldest Trees
I learned about baobab trees the way I think a lot of Westerners do, by reading Le Petit Prince. The first images I saw were small illustrations while reading the book in French class. I remember that everyone kind of assumed that the trees looked weird in the drawings because of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s style. It wasn’t until later that the trees came up again and my teacher projected a Google image search of the trees that we actually understood how strange they actually are.
The African trees, which can live 2,000 years, have trunks that are “thick and bulbous and fat… Baobabs can grow to 100 feet tall; their diameters can reach up to 40 feet. For the most part their leaves appear for just a few months during the wet season and look like the unnatural hair that emerges from a chia pet.” The trees don’t sway. “Their most dynamic motions are during the roughly five minutes at dusk when their night-blooming flowers open for the bats and moths who drink their pollen, and in death, when they topple suddenly and dramatically in just a few hours.”
Now Baobabs are dying and we don’t exactly know why, but it is most likely due to climate change and the lack of rain in the regions in which they grow. “The future of the trees may be dependent on the future of humanity.”
6. The Intercept: I Was Sexually Harassed on Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Campaign. I Will Not Be Weaponized or Dismissed.
Sexual harassment happens everywhere, in every industry, and in almost all (if not all) places. It is pervasive. It shouldn’t be, but this is the rule. And the more you look for exceptions, the fewer you will find. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign is not an exception.
Earlier this year, the New York Times published an article about sexual harassment during Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign. The claims, as most claims made by women, were quickly dismissed by people spanning the political spectrum with some liberals seeing the claims as a threat the the Senator. The accusations against the Sanders’s campaign are being politicized, but “accusations of sexual misconduct during a political campaign should not be weaponized to serve a political agenda. Nor should claims be ignored to protect a beloved candidate.”
7. Grace Barry: Power-Ranking This Season’s Limo Exits on the Bachelor
If you read my list every week because you support my random rants about my life, my friends, and what is happening on the internet (thank you!) then you will love this! Yes, I know it is about The Bachelor and you might be rolling your eyes, but trust me this list is sooo worth it. Don’t read the power-ranking because you watch the Bachelor, read it because Grace is so funny and relatable.
I personally love #BachelorNation, but do not usually watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. I follow Grace’s rankings to learn about contestants in preparation for the real star of ABC’s empire: Bachelor in Paradise. Although my favorite show of The Bachelor enterprise is the now-defunct Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise is a good runner-up where contestants from a different season of The Bachelor(ette) lounge on a beach in Mexico in the hope of finding love. Each week new contestants arrive, go on dates, and get voted out at rose ceremonies — which switch between the men and women hading out the roses. It is an amazing hot mess of a show.
Anyway, if you want to know why people are obsessed with The Bachelor(ette) without actually watching the show, read this list!
8. Quartz: “Whom” is disappearing and everyone needs to chill about it
I spend most of my days oscillating between reading highly edited theory and long mainstream media investigations, and tweets and text messages that couldn’t give less of a fuck about the English lexicon. The former way of writing is grounded in tradition, the latter in spontaneity, adapting the the needs of its time. Sometimes these two ends of the spectrum are written by the same person. Sometimes they are not. But the point is they are both meaningful ways of communication in their given contexts.
Language is not a fixed thing and it never has been. “We complain that modern English is terrible and that it should be more like Victorian English; the Victorians complained that Victorian English was terrible and that it should be more like Elizabethan English; the Elizabethans complained that Elizabethan English was terrible and so on and so forth.” There is an idea that every language has a Golden Age where “language was in a state of perfection. Every sound was correct and beautiful, every word and expression was proper, accurate, and appropriate” and it has been on the decline ever since.
As our language continues to change, whom, an objective pronoun, is now in danger of disappearing. It is hotly debated amongst lovers of the English language, editors across the country and world are in dismay about, and there are attempts to save the word (as I type this my autocorrect even tried the change “word” to “world”). But “there should be no argument over keeping “whom” because that is not up to us to decide. The word will run its course, as words always do, and the world will move on.”
There are times when things demanded rigorous criticism using the full force of a language. Other times the only meaningful response to a meme is “dead.” And sometimes I will walk into a museum, look at a painting or a sculpture, and exclaim with joy “Fuck! That’s sexy!” stare at it for a few more minutes then walk away. And that is enough of a critique.
Angela Davis is GOAT and a living legend. In September Davis was awarded the Fred S. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Davis was set to receive the award at a ceremony next month, however last Friday it was rescinded at the urging of Birmingham Holocaust Education Center due to her support of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) in Palestine. Davis, who grew up in Birmingham, has been a longtime supporter of BDS.
Although Davis was made aware of the rescinsion of the award before it became public, she only learned the reasoning after it was made public by an article published in Southern Jewish Life. When asked by reporter Amy Goodman if she would accept the award should it be re-offered Davis responded, “I think the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute not only owes me an apology personally, but should apologize to all people who stand on the side of justice, should apologize to all people who believe that justice is indivisible.”
Honestly, you should watch this whole thing.
10. Vox: Tucker Carlson has sparked the most interesting debate in conservative politics
So I don’t usually follow conservative politics. I do follow politics generally, so I know enough to be informed about current events. But I basically follow conservative politics enough to know why I don’t follow it.
This week, conservative politics is going crazy after one of its golden boys, Tucker Carlson, gave a populist monologue. Carlson stated that “any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society,” and “Republicans have considered it their duty to make the world safe for banking, while simultaneously prosecuting ever more foreign wars” amongst other anti-elitist sentiments. While Carlson is not a populist, he said: “Unless you want something really extreme to happen, you need to take this seriously and figure out how to protect average people from these remarkably powerful forces that have been unleashed.”
It has been established that Trump is not populist, although he “borrowed some of that approach for his 2016 campaign… in office has governed as a fairly orthodox economic conservative, thus demonstrating the demand for populism on the right without really providing the supply and creating conditions for further ferment.” Tucker urged his viewers to consider that “at some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone too. The country will remain. What kind of country will be it be then?”
*All images taken from reference articles*
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