This week's Thing

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Kat Schneider, Crying During Covid.   

This week
The internet has settled into a predictable rhythm for me.

Monday - I see a Thing on TikTok or in a text, maybe Twitter or Instagram.
Tuesday - The Thing is everywhere on social media.
Wednesday - The Thing explainer articles start to roll out.
Thursday - Now the reported features and essays. (What happened when I tried The Thing, the strange guy behind The Thing, how The Thing explains capitalism).
Friday - I link to one of those essays, or maybe reference The Thing with a gif.
Weekend - A brief respite between Things.

The Thing can be serious or silly, political or cultural, brand-new or just newly recognized. But it's always everywhere. Some recent examples: Zoom dick. Thanking Stacey Abrams. Four Seasons Total Landscaping. The coup. Sea shanties. Impeachment. Bernie's mittens. GameStop. "wow can you believe it's still January?"

I understand that I'm describing my own digital world, and the Things might be different in your corner of the internet. But I suspect I'm not the only one who feels like the pattern is too locked-in these days, that we are caught in a loop of collective interest that quickly turns to boredom. As a weekly-newsletter elder stateswoman, I can tell you that it didn't used to feel this way. There have always been popular memes and big news stories in a given week, and explainers and essays that followed them. (I can hear you saying, with a gentle eyeroll, "Thanks for 'splaining the internet, Ann.") But lately as I sit down to write the newsletter, I find myself thinking, "How do I want to acknowledge this week's Thing?" Or "I am so annoyed by this week's Thing, I refuse to mention it." That's new.

A theory: The familiar algorithmic nudges feel more intense and also more boring under the conditions of this pandemic. My life has shrunk to what happens in my home and on my screens. Within those screens, it is spun and distilled even further, to just a few focal points at a time. And I am craving the opposite: spontaneity, difference, expansion. A new pattern.

I'm reading
The vaccinated class, and the high-risk groups shut out of vaccination. The architecture of mass vaccine distribution. I miss my friendly acquaintances. "Pandejos," and what happens when municipalities lift restrictions too soon. Middling white patriarchy is back. The Michael Scott theory of social class. How armed militias became increasingly common in America. "None of us is who he used to be. We just have to try to keep moving in a good direction." NextDoor is replacing the small-town paper. When your phone says "Spam Risk" is calling, who's at the other end of the line? Protests are in full swing against the Polish abortion ban. The unfinished business of Flint's water crisis. An onslaught of anti-trans legislation is being introduced at the state level. The women who spoke out and brought down Burger Records. "Be passionate about your awakening, do not presume that Black people should share your passion at your realization." How Soul elides what soul means to Black culture. Cicely Tyson on living life to the fullest. Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on searching for connection in a world that refuses it. What it was really like to work at a women's websiteToday sucked. February is an opportunity.

Pie chart
What do we have in common with bratty monarchs on tv? 20% Incredible group of ladies-in-waiting, 25% Feasting to cope with the banality of our existence, 5% Deep sighs, 20% Considering ourselves a tastemaker, 15% Ahistorical soundtrack, 10% Mercurial temperament, 5% Excellent glassware
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I’m looking & listening
A virtual visit to Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos's joyous site-specific installation. Nima Nourizadeh's voyeuristic observation of people's lives from afar. Gymnast Nia Dennis's incredible floor exercise. The drag Golden Girls. And on CYG, Aminatou chats with writer Jedediah Jenkins.

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Narrowing to a focal point.

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"Ann, as usual, you bring so much wisdom into my inbox. Thank you for being you and sharing yourself with us!" -Katie. ::crying emoji:: and I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

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Ann Friedman

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© 2021

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