Strange particles

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Ann Friedman Weekly
view looking into a replica of the artist's empty apartment in New York made from thin wires and colored mesh in pink, red, blue, and yellow
Do Ho Suh, 348 West 22nd Street (detail)   

This week

My shot is scheduled for next week, and I can feel a wild laugh rising in my throat just telling you all that. I know some people have complicated feelings about the idea of returning to even a semblance of the world as it was pre-pandemic. But I am not one of those people. I am experiencing a very uncomplicated joy at the very prospect. And so, in the spirit of Claire Zulkey's post-COVID vaccine schedule and Valeria Luiselli's elegy for the before-times, I would love to know what you have missed and are looking forward to doing once you are fully vaccinated. Or, if you are already vaxxed, what did you rush to do first? What has brought you unexpected joy? Tell me about it. I know this thing is not over yet, but I'm ready to collectively revel.

I'm reading
On meltdown and freakout in the post-pandemic age. What if the pain never ends? "Perhaps some people still see moving home as a regression... but it gave me stability during an unprecedented trauma." On anticipatory grief and bonding over foodTransgender childhood is nothing new. Thandiwe Newton on her career, motherhood, colorism, and claiming her name. "Mispronouncing someone's name, accidentally or on purpose, at the very least demonstrates a selective laziness." The mob that attacked the US capitol was a race riot. What happened when a newspaper decided not to run op-eds on national news, only local. How a secure, affordable roof over one's head became the stuff of fantasy. Gossip has become like Yelp reviews for celebrities. Tracing Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's content empire. Designer Grace Wales Bonner in conversation with novelist Marlon James. Can we fall in love completely without completely losing ourselves? The rise of face filters on social media. How NFTs rapidly went from a way to protect artists to yet another commercial exploit. "Of all the racist, sexist, classist things children are exposed to, decades-old children's books seem pretty low on the list." Su Min, a retiree from Henan Province in central China, is on a six-month roadtrip to find herself. Applause for the activist group that removed a confederate monument and used it as a toilet.

Pie chart
What do we have in common with muons? 15% often found in white spaces, 5% far heavier than an electron, 30% unclear role in the overall pattern of the universe, 15% extremely wobbly, 20% sensitive to things that are not in our best theory, 15% can't hide forever

The Particle Célèbre Pie


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I’m looking & listening
Dane Nakama's TikTok-length lectures on art. A comic about entwined sexism and racism toward Asians. Street style videos that are making me excited to get dressed again.

a young male gymnast flips through the air and sticks the landing on a blue mat, then pulls his vaccine card out of his shirt and flashes it while smiling
Gymnast Evan Manivong sticks that vaccinated landing.

Climate-Culture: Unfamiliar Truths

This is the first in a series of micro-essays on the meeting of culture and climate by Shanti Escalante-De Mattei. Shanti is one of two inaugural AF WKLY writing fellows, who will each be sharing a short piece of work in this newsletter once a month. One thing I love about Shanti's work is the way she makes connections between topics that might appear, at first glance, to be unrelated. This short piece is a perfect example, and I'm thrilled to publish it today. -Ann

By Shanti Escalante De-Mattei

When I was dissociating a lot, back in the day, there was something I treasured about going into that space. Life took on a compelling quality: pregnant with potential and bristling with clarity, even as things could take a turn for the disturbing. Russian literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky urged artists to weave this type of dissociative attention into their work through a literary technique he called "defamiliarization." Shklovsky would say that we perceive life on auto-pilot, and this sense of dull familiarity eats away at our ability to respond and fully experience the personal and well as the political. But by describing the world in unfamiliar terms, we might gain a truer sense of it. 


A lot of eco-fiction bothers me, bores me, makes me feel childishly resistant. I can tell the author intends to educate me, and so I turn away. I am one who has to be tricked into eating my vegetables. For this reason, some of the best environmental fiction I’ve come across has been sci-fi, a genre built on exposing the mechanics of society by renaming and redressing them—a perspective shift adjacent to defamiliarization. While Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin produce excellent social commentary on climate change, it is Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy that really gets to the heart of the dissociative technique. Through his work I was better able to grasp an aspect of nature that I don’t often come across but undergirds life itself: the sublime, the terrifying, the almost sentient power of evolution, the way nature manipulates matter across time.

When I’m in nature now I take a moment to consider that annihilating perspective, biology sped up and moving through me, far past my time on this Earth. It’s humbling. It realigns me with my values. It wakes me up a bit. But it’s too hard to live life that way, spinning out in a supermarket aisle because the banana in your hand means too much. So I stop paying attention. Until the right book comes along...

Find more of Shanti's work here, and follow her on Twitter.

The Classifieds

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Bring your fiery mystical sexual self to Spiritual Transformation & Sexual Power: Ceremony 2021. Intersectional feminist gathering. Join us.

The Study: A bimonthly bookish newsletter for lifelong learners and wanderers alike. Consider it your private space to discover new interesting reads.

When we reference fear of loss in relation to anti-Blackness, we tend to think about grief experienced by those oppressed by White Supremacy. But this webinar by Breeshia Wade encourages those who aren't Black to consider how their own unexplored fear of loss amplifies the suffering of Black people.

"Just updated my payment info for @annfriedman's weekly newsletter & discovered I’ve been supporting her for five years! That's five years of Friday evenings spent reading her links with a glass of wine. While I was in there, I bumped up my annual contribution to $30USD. Worth it!" -Roseanne. Extra worth it this year, because paying members now help me compensate the new writing fellows for their work!

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Forward it to someone who always sticks the landing.

Ann Friedman

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© 2021

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