alt text

Surprise me View in browser
Black woman who lost her race for governor because of voter suppression rooted in centuries of racism and then devoted herself to systemic change bumps elbows with the first Black senator from Georgia, who will flip the balance of the US Senate and make even greater change possible. He wears a cream-colored cable-knit sweater and she wears a collarless black jacket They both wear black face masks that say VOTE, so it's hard to discern their expressions. But he is looking at her. And she is looking directly at us.
 Melina Mara/The Washington Post / via Stacey Abrams' instagram   

This week
For several months now, I've been making an effort to include alt text for images in this newsletter. Alt text is a written description of what an image depicts. It's often highlighted as one way of making digital content more accessible to people who are visually impaired—and that was my motivation. But a funny thing happened when I started being mindful of alt text: It changed how I consume the many images that come across my screens every hour.

Case in point: The past few days have been dominated by photos of gleeful bigots strutting through the US Capitol with impunity, an act of Trump-sanctioned violence that was designed to terrorize certain Americans and recruit others. Many people described these images as shocking. I certainly didn't wake up Wednesday morning expecting to see them. But then I thought about the most widely circulated photos in terms of their alt text:

White man [a state legislator, a real estate broker, an associate general counsel, etc.] poses with his feet propped on a heavy wood desk / standing behind a podium / waving the banner of bigotry after easily entering the U.S. Capitol. He does not wear a mask even though a highly contagious virus is killing thousands of people a day. He is smiling.

The alt text version is not so shocking. "This is America," Roxane Gay writes. "This has always been America. If this were not America, this coup attempt would not have happened. It’s time we face this ugly truth, let it sink into the marrow of our bones, let it move us to action."

Here's the alt text for a very different image, one that I want to elevate above those photos of the people in red hats at the Capitol:

Black woman who lost her race for governor because of voter suppression then devoted herself to systemic change bumps elbows with the first Black senator from Georgia, who will flip the balance of the US Senate and make even greater change possible. They both wear face masks that say VOTE, so it's hard to discern their expressions. But he is looking at her. And she is looking directly at us.

I'm reading
What happened to a Black family—and their town—in the months after a white woman was captured on camera calling the cops on them. How a Sri Lankan coup quickly turned from farce to tragedy. What Trump has in common with African dictators. How the Chicago PD protects its most violent cops and retaliates against those who tell the truth. China built its vast network of detention camps to do more than simply keep people behind bars. Voices from the front lines of America's food supply chain, and inside the farmworker rebellion. The fight against fracking that threatens drinking water on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. At last, an entire institute for queer ecologyACT UP’s legacy and the epidemic dead, and our choice to remember or forget in year 2 of the pandemicAll the dirt on American Dirt. How MF DOOM questioned the relationship between identity and image in hip-hop. The godfather of rollerdisco. Why are credit-card points worth anything at all? A fascinating explainer on the meaning of artistic works in the public domain.The humbling power of dogs. The case for cold-water swimming. On liminal spaces.

Pie chart
What are we fumbling while looking haggard? 30% 2021 resolutions we did not want to call "resolutions," 18% Emails we snoozed on Dec 22, 7% dry January, 25% Several weeks' worth of dirty sweatpants, 20% every track on the Spotify-generated "peaceful meditation" playlist
The Ben Affleck Pie
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I’m looking & listening
How adaptations for people with disabilities end up benefiting everyone. An interview with the families of  George Floyd, Jacob Blake and Eric Garner. Literal Renaissance women.

a murmuration of starlings
How do starlings move in a murmuration? "Each bird pays attention to just seven other birds and moves in relationship to those."

I endorse
Rituals for a new year, especially the advice from Sabrina Hersi Issa about how to come home to yourself.

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"Thank you for giving me something to look forward to at the end of every week. Looking forward to another year in the Ann Club." -Molly. We are the least exclusive club ever and I really like it that way.

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Forward it to ::insert the alt text for a person you like::

Ann Friedman

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PO Box 26932 | Los Angeles, CA 90026
© 2021

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