I liked the internet this week! We got to see the first images of a black hole, Baltimore fashion designer Bishme Cromartie triumphed in streetwear on Project Runway, Mayor Pete gained serious traction in his presidential campaign… and some other shit happened.
Highlights: David Attenborough is disappointed in us, West Virginia carries complex pain, tragically unthinkable things can happen and it’s important to consider the possibility, memory and belief are merging, Kim K wants to be a lawyer, Dwyane Wade retired, we are still fascinated by paint by numbers, there are different ways to consume the news and always has been, Coco Fusco was denied entry to Cuba (and is a BADASS), and Brad Leone and Samin Nosrat made focaccia!
I’ve been thinking about Our Planet all week. Usually, it is easy for me to binge watch anything narrated by David Attenborough, but this was so hard. As Netflix’s response to BBC’s nature documentary series Planet Earth, Our Planet differs in a very telling way: it directly discusses the effect climate change has on all the natural phenomena it engages with. While it is true that we are ruining the earth, Our Planet has a supremely propagandistic feel to it, especially considering Attenborough’s previous work.
As the title of this article states, the most disturbing—and perhaps with the most drastic link the show makes to climate change—scene in the series comes at the end of the second episode when “in the autumn of 2017, about 250 walruses in Russia, having climbed up to rocky slopes overlooking a beach, just walked over the edge.” It is becoming more common to see walruses on land in huge numbers as their normal refuge, sea ice, becomes increasingly scarce. The animals climb cliffs, in this instance at high as 260 feet, to escape the crowded beaches below. Attenborough narrates that the animals do this “out of desperation, not out of choice.” Some scientists are not convinced this behavior is directly due to climate change, as it has been recorded as early as 1994. But the crew of Our Planet and Anatoly Kochnev, the scientist that lead their tour, “argue that the incident captured in Our Planet is exceptional in both the height of the cliffs and the number of walruses that plummeted and died—hundreds as opposed to dozens” as in earlier incidents.
I think I had such a hard time watching Our Planet because the entire time I felt like I disappointed a trusted grandparent and then they spent 7 hours detailing all of the ways I let them down. It was like getting yelled at by Mr. Rogers.
2. Guernica: Life and Death in West Virginia
I’ve never been to West Virginia, but it is a state that I’m always curious about. It always seems to have the most tragic statistics on opioid deaths, lack of healthcare, environmental and economic issues tied to coal and fracking, and it is “the only state in the country with negative growth.”
Christa Parravani moved from California to West Virginia for a tenure-track teaching job and has learned that the coastal stereotypes of “banjo music, and Trump country, and sad miners and blown-apart mountains” aren’t necessarily true. “There are progressive activists, and live-off-the-land farmers, and a vibrant community of artists. There are people living high off old money from coal, and people living even higher off new money from fracking” But her new home is “a place with a long history of taking,” where “the people and the earth carry that pain.”
3. Vulture: ‘The Unthinkable Has Happened’
In this excerpt from his forthcoming memoirs, Once More We Saw Stars, Jayson Greene reflects on the tragic death of his two-year-old daughter, Greta. A “brick fell from an eighth-story windowsill on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,” hitting Greta in the head as she sat on a bench with her grandmother. This isn’t an article that can really be summarized and analyzed, and the whole read is simply unthinkable.
4. The Paris Review: On Believing
“I am finding the distance between memory and belief to grow shorter by the year. I am constantly using memory to convince myself that I’ve lived and experienced something. That my belief in the world has been shaped by some magic I’ve been a part of, even if I can’t go back to all of the places that magic sprung from.”
This article is beautiful, painful, nostalgic, and filled with a bit of magic.
If you follow my lists at all, you know what I have read A LOT about Kim. I tend to separate Kim into two eras: pre Kanye, Kanye. This feels like the dawning of a third. While Kim is still aesthetically based on Kanye, she seems to be coming into her own.
The big controversy with this profile is that Kim is studying to be a lawyer. (If anyone thinks Kim is dumb, forever hold your peace. You can’t have the career she has had and be dumb.) California is one of four states where you don’t have to go to law school to sit for the bar and you can do a four-year-long law apprenticeship program instead. Kim began her apprenticeship last summer with the hopes of sitting for the bar in 2022. After her work helping to free Alice Marie Johnson, Kim recounts that The White House called her to advise on prison reform “and I’m sitting in the Roosevelt Room with, like, a judge who had sentenced criminals and a lot of really powerful people and I just sat there, like, Oh, shit. I need to know more,” she said. “I’ve always known my role, but I just felt like I wanted to be able to fight for people who have paid their dues to society. I just felt like the system could be so different, and I wanted to fight to fix it, and if I knew more, I could do more.”
FTR I think Kim would be a great lawyer, lest we forget her father, Robert Kardashian, was part of O.J.’s defense team. I’m all for Kim using her social capital to try to get some shit done.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) April 9, 2019
I knew Dwyane Wade was good a basketball but I didn’t know he was that good. Like no clue he is considered to have one of the best careers in NBA history. I mostly started paying attention to him after he and Gabrielle Union became a couple. On Wednesday, Wade played his last game before retiring from the NBA, and it was a bittersweet moment for professional basketball fans. Shout out to No. 3! (Literally learned that was his number after he just retired.)
7. Hyperallergic: The Legacy of Dan Robbins, the Man Who Taught Us to Paint by Numbers
I never thought about paint by numbers as a thing until I watched Mona Lisa Smile. To me, it has always just existed and made sense.
Paint by numbers was invented in the 1940s as a way to sell more paint for his company, Palmer Paint Co. “At its peak, in 1955, the Palmer Paint Co. sold some 20 million paint-by-number kits — which included a pre-printed canvas and numbered paint sets, enabling users to apply their own touches to images featuring landscapes, horses, and kittens, among other popular subjects.” If you asked Robbins if it was art, his response was an unequivocal, “No, it’s only the experience of picking up a brush.” But since an exhibition in 2001 at Smithsonian National Museum of American History, there has been a “shifting critical conception of the painting fad from déclassé kitsch to a legitimately interesting and eminently collectible form of popular Americana.”
8. The New Yorker: The Urgent Quest for Slower, Better News
This is the weirdest article and it seems to have been written by a disgruntled baby boomer. Basically, it argues that we need better news, and longer stories that are fact-checked. Yes, we all agree with this.
But Michael Luo, the author and the editor for New Yorker also, somewhat annoyingly, does the whole “although I’m reading more than ever before, it often feels like I’m understanding less” thing right after saying “I skim e-mail newsletters in my in-box, scroll through my Twitter feed, and peruse the news apps on my phone; later, in the office, I tap through my notifications and monitor more than a dozen news-related apps, including Facebook and Twitter, while juggling other tasks.”
I’ve been spending more time on Twitter lately, which is where I found this article posted by another writer, Anne Helen Peterson. And the thing that interested me was not actually the article itself, but the thread on the post. Peterson, who studies the gossip industry, points out ahistoricisms in the piece because “the way we consume lots of general, surface-level information about a lot of topics…..is how millions of people consumed the news, whether through traditional tabloids, radio broadcasts, or television, for DECADES,” continuing “we have this fetishized ideal of the old school news consumer who read 4 papers cover to cover every day + read every worthwhile magazine in total; that guy (and yes, it was a guy) is so rare and genteel and projected fantasy of what we’d like our pre-internet selves to be.”
Not everything on Twitter is true. But a lot of very smart and thoughtful writers and academics use Twitter in particular, but also other social media platforms, to share their research and thoughts on current events on other’s work, and culture at large. Sometimes threads on twitter are the best things I read all week, providing rigorous analysis and debate on their given subject.
I get Luo’s impulse, but I’m with Peterson on this one.
9. ArtNews: Coco Fusco Denied Entry Into Cuba as Campaign Against Decree 349 Continues
Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco was denied entry to Cuba on Wednesday. She was set to arrive ahead of the official state-run Havana Biennial, which opened on Friday. Fusco believes she was refused because she “has publicly supported the artist-led campaign against the government’s new Decree 349 and the criminalization of independent cultural activity in Cuba.”
Fusco said “it strikes me as tragic that a government would find it legitimate to harass and threaten its artists and to silence critical debate about its culture in order to impress visitors by creating the false impression that the only art in Cuba is what the state wants to show… I find it disturbing that it takes beheadings, stoning, and long prison sentences to get most people in the art world to protest censorship and repression of artists. Violence is not reducible to physical aggression. Creativity, imagination, and hope die slow deaths in a country where any expression of dissent is criminalized.” In a Facebook statement, she wrote “I am not the first or the last intellectual with close ties to Cuba who has been punished in this way for expressing my views and advocating for greater freedom of expression in Cuba. It has become a sad routine.”
LMAO! I showed this video to my dad and he wasn’t nearly as entertained as I was.
Anyway, Samin Norsat of Salt, Fact, Acid, Heat acclaim stopped by Bon Appétit’s test kitchen to teach Brad how to make focaccia on It’s Alive. If you take any part in social media/internet food culture this is very exciting and very very funny.
This episode is a hot mess! Samin can’t talk. Brad doesn’t know anything. Carla Lalli Music makes an appearance and Samin freaks out. It is great. And you learn how to make focaccia!
*All images taken from reference articles*
Have a suggestion for next week? Email [email protected] with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”