Some of the great things I read between last time… and this time! Feel free to pop what you’ve been reading into the comments so I can catch up with your cool thing too – especially if you literally wrote them!
DOOM was a worldbuilder, and he was committed to that practice as much as anyone else in music. For me, Mm..Food? was the gateway to an entire universe. His flawless collaborative album with producer Madlib, 2004’s Madvillainy, is an endless array of non sequiturs, multilayered lyrics with hidden meanings, and more of the villain persona, all spat over jazz-inspired production. “Fancy Clown” is the embodiment of the DOOM experience: a narrative about DOOM stealing the girlfriend of a guy named Viktor Vaughn. The catch: He rhymes from Vaughn’s POV. DOOM even released two albums under the alias Viktor Vaughn, a more down-to-earth version of the comic supervillian’s character. (Dr. Doom’s real name was Victor Von Doom.)
This article is just… so good. I didn’t know that much about DOOM before he passed away and my life is poorer for it. DOOM seems to have been the sort of hip hop nerd that I would’ve done well to know as a kid. He was brilliant, skilled, and nerdy on main with a bit that did not quit. I loved this piece so so much because he was someone my older siblings probably grew up listening to and now I do feel like I can understand part of their own journeys through hip hop a bit better.
Something I’ve noticed repeatedly in my author appearances, conference panels, and lectures is that discussions about representation and diversity in the arts today focus on the importance of diverse characters and creators. As crucial as that is, diversity can and should also include different story forms and themes drawn from diverse traditions. Values are not universal across all cultures and thus what a satisfying story looks like is not limited to one model either.
A lot of people seem to think that sprinkling diverse characters around a show or book is enough to make the thing diverse. Case in point? The racebending we see in Hannibal and Bridgerton or Finn and Poe’s respectively unsatisfying arcs in The Force Awakens. On the surface, it’s great that you can see diverse faces… but that’s all you can see. No reckoning with race in Bridgerton – or the racism from that author’s mind and worldbuilding. No meaningful negotiation with race or racism in Hannibal – the racebent characters, due to the nature of the series’ focus on Hannibal and Will’s relationship, do not get much screentime to shine and have been alternatively ignored and vilified by the fandom. Real diversity should be in the text itself and updated to account for the racebending. It should go further than the surface and showcase these characters’ full selves.
Working non-stop for the past five years since DAY6 debuted in 2015 also distracted Jae. He never let himself take time to seek help or learn more about mental health. In fact, his panic attack brought to his attention for the first time that your mental health could physically impact your life. “I always assumed it was more like a mental block,” Jae shares.
Like writer’s block, Jae believed he could work through it — and he did time and time again and encouraged those around him experiencing anxiety to do the same. “You just force yourself to do it,” Jae adds matter-of-factly. “You might not do your best performance on stage, but you still do it and get through it. And then at the end of the day, you can say you did it.”
I can’t express how excited I was to see this piece and how brave Jae is for expressing his feelings and stresses for a wider audience. Brains are hard and frustrating and well… depressing even when you’re not a celebrity. But to have a celeb like Jae speak about what he’s been going through and how he initially basically talked himself down from what he was actually experiencing. I’m grateful to Jae for speaking so candidly about his experiences with anxiety and other mental health issues and I hope that he gets time to rest and heal.
Amid this willful ignorance, militias and white supremacists have flourished and flowered in the hothouse nourished by white privilege. Like other Muslim-Americans who have been rendered forever suspect by 9/11 and the wars that followed, I was aghast. America seemed perched on a precarious precipice, but Americans milled around as before, blindfolded to the possibility of a fatal fall.
I keep seeing news articles and tweets from (largely white) people going “how could this have happened” and “this has never happened before” about this sort of thing and… that’s not true. That’s really not true. And it’s privilege that keeps people from acknowledging and unpacking the shape of the US and how we’ve always been hurtling towards this because this is what this country was built to head towards.
Now, Wattpad wants to work with its authors to create an empire that expands beyond its webpages. Executives are turning their eyes to the burgeoning streaming industry, where platforms like Hulu and Netflix need a consistent flow of movies and TV shows to keep people watching. Teen romances, dramas, and comedies are in high demand, and Wattpad is sitting on a treasure trove of IP just waiting to be adapted. Young authors who start using Wattpad to experiment with their own writing could soon find themselves navigating the intricacies of Hollywood at a time of industry revolution.
The first time I saw a copy of Anna Whatshername‘s After in a Barnes and Noble, I lost my shit laughing. It’s not because I don’t believe that authors have the right to file the serial numbers off of the fic and turn it into cash (because I actually love that for everyone), but just at the absurdity of being able to turn your One Direction RPF self-insert series into a million-dollar cash grab. I just saw a Rey/Kylo story with the serial numbers poorly filed off and I have clocked a bunch of Teen Wolf and BTS RPF stories with the serial numbers filed all the way off. A lot of people turn their fic into original works and I’m not even remotely mad about it. It’s just… when I go to read the material… it’s not always good.
I was icily determined—more determined, really, than I then knew—never to make my peace with the ghetto but to die and go to Hell before I would let any white man spit on me, before I would accept my “place” in this republic. I did not intend to allow the white people of this country to tell me who I was, and limit me that way, and polish me off that way. And yet, of course, at the same time, I was being spat on and defined and described and limited, and could have been polished off with no effort whatever. Every Negro boy—in my situation during those years, at least—who reaches this point realizes, at once, profoundly, because he wants to live, that he stands in great peril and must find, with speed, a “thing,” a gimmick, to lift him out, to start him on his way. And it does not matter what the gimmick is. It was this last realization that terrified me and—since it revealed that the door opened on so many dangers—helped to hurl me into the church. And, by an unforeseeable paradox, it was my career in the church that turned out, precisely, to be my gimmick.
I just love James Baldwin. I was rewatching I Am Not Your Negro on February 1st and I was reminded of how integral his work is to my own work and my drive. “Letter from a Region in My Mind” is brilliant and sharp and absolutely relatable even though decades separate us. I think that y’all should read this and just look at the ongoing value his incisive cultural criticism has in 2021 and beyond.