Weekend

Required Reading

This week, the man that helped launch black modernism in the US, considering Nobuyoshi Araki, crowdfunding as a political weapon, a reading list for mental health month, the Laurel/Yanny divide, and more.

People are raving about the June 2018 National Geographic cover illustrated by Jorge Gamboa. It captures the issue very powerfully. (via NatGeo)

He found his own way to stay afloat in the world of the black élite. Pliny had wanted his son to be a race man, and now Alain was lecturing widely and contributing articles to Du Bois’s Crisis, which was attached to the N.A.A.C.P., and Charles Johnson’s Opportunity, the house organ of the National Urban League. But he stood aloof from the strenuous heroism of Negro uplift, and what he thought of as its flat-footed insistence on “political” art. Locke was a voluptuary: he worried that Du Bois and the younger, further-left members of the movement—notably Hughes and McKay—had debased Negro expression, jamming it into the crate of politics. The titles of Locke’s essays on aesthetics (“Beauty Instead of Ashes,” “Art or Propaganda?,” “Propaganda—or Poetry?”) made deflating little incisions in his contemporaries’ political hopes. Black art, in Locke’s view, was mutable and vast.

Not unlike blackness itself. In 1916, Locke delivered a series of lectures called “Race Contacts and Interracial Relations,” in which he painstakingly disproved the narrowly “biological” understanding of race while insisting on the power of culture to distinguish, but not sunder, black from white. Armed with his pragmatist training, he hacked a path to a new philosophical vista: “cultural pluralism.”

  • Ian Buruma writes about Nobuyoshi Araki for the New York Review of Books, and the artist’s relationship to obscenity:

But to criticize Araki’s photos — naked women pissing into umbrellas at a live sex show, women with flowers stuck into their vaginas, women in schoolgirl uniforms suspended in bondage, and so on — for being pornographic, vulgar, or obscene, is rather to miss the point. When the filmmaker Nagisa Oshima was prosecuted in the 1970s for obscenity after stills from his erotic masterpiece, In the Realm of the Senses, were published, his defense was: “So, what’s wrong with obscenity?”

Last year, GoFundMe came under fire for a perceived loophole in its terms. Several campaigns aimed to raise money for former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at US college campuses. When questioned about the site’s terms—Yiannopoulos has made offensive comments about feminists, Black Lives Matter, and Muslims—a campaign organizer said the page didn’t violate them, because the money wouldn’t be used to pay Yiannopoulos, the Stranger reported. Rather, it would go toward security for the event. Altogether, the campaigns raised approximately $14,000 (US)—and this was prior to GoFundMe’s erasure of its platform fee, meaning the site took a cut. “We don’t agree with or support Mr. Yiannopoulos,” a GoFundMe spokesperson told Fast Company at the time, adding, “Campaigns created by students to cover specific costs, like security, for an event do not violate our terms.”

The other day, I found myself looking at a blinking cursor in a blank address bar in a new tab of my web browser. I was bored. I didn’t really feel like doing work, but I felt some distant compulsion to sit at my computer in a kind of work-simulacrum, so that at least at the end of the day I would feel gross and tired in the manner of someone who had worked. What I really wanted to do was waste some time.

But … I didn’t know how. I did not know what to type into the address bar of my browser. I stared at the cursor. Eventually, I typed “nytimes.com” and hit enter. Like a freaking dad. The entire world of the internet, one that used to boast so many ways to waste time, and here I was, reading the news. It was even worse than working.

RELATED? Facebook closed 583m fake accounts in first three months of 2018

  • This might make you feel better (emphasis mine):

Very Few Voters Actually Read Trump’s Tweets

… Twenty million people isn’t nothing. Neither is 10 million. It’s more people than read FiveThirtyEight most days or watch any of the network news programs. But it’s nowhere close to the 52 million followers Twitter says he has. And it’s a small share of the roughly 325 million people who live in the U.S. or even the more than 137 million people who voted in the 2016 presidential election.

Of course, the Gallup number is just one poll, but it makes for a more realistic estimate of Trump’s Twitter audience than his official follower count. Twitter estimates that it has more than 69 million total users in the U.S., but we know that many Twitter accounts, particularly those who follow celebrities like Trump, are bots or otherwise fake. Also, remember that people of all ages and people outside of the U.S. can use Twitter. So Trump’s 52 million followers surely include some American teenagers, as well as, say, Brazilian or Japanese citizens who care about his decisions. Third, Gallup’s estimate that 26 percent of American adults have Twitter accounts is fairly close to the results of a 2016 Pew Research Center poll that found 21 percent of U.S. adults were Twitter users.

In any case, here’s why this data matters: If Trump is really speaking to 10 or 20 million American adults with his tweets, then they’re not really a means of directly reaching the American electorate at large. (Gallup estimates that just 15 percent of Republicans follow Trump on Twitter, so he’s not even directly reaching much of his base.) This data argues for treating Trump’s tweets more like presidential statements to elites, the press and other fairly politically engaged people.

The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham
Sixteen years ago, Joan Wickersham’s father shot himself in the head. The father she loved would never have killed himself, and yet he had. His death made a mystery of his entire life. Using an index—that most formal and orderly of structures—Wickersham explores this chaotic and incomprehensible reality. Every bit of family history—marriage, parents, business failures—and every encounter with friends, doctors, and other survivors exposes another facet of elusive truth. Dark, funny, sad, and gripping, at once a philosophical and deeply personal exploration, The Suicide Index is, finally, a daughter’s anguished, loving elegy to her father.

  • And this happened:

Hasbro just trademarked the smell of Play-Doh

RELATED: The White House has chimed in, and the New York Times asked experts to explain the phenomenon.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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