a tempting and useful door; netizens baying for blood
Welcome to Digestable, your mouthful of things happening in the world.
Remember not too long ago, when big corporations avidly flew pride flags and decked window displays out in rainbow? Well, even though those corporations continued to donate to anti-LGBTQ politicians, virtue signaling was still in vogue.
But it seems times have changed, in the latest example of how the GOP and big business often proceed in lockstep. ExxonMobil, possibly the worst company ever, announced plans to ban the flying of the pride flag outside of its headquarters in June. Is this the first time Exxon has aligned its public statements with the truth of its business practices and political alignments? Perhaps. Calling the pride flag—and the Black Lives Matter flag—“external position flags,” the company showed its true colors (sorry).
On the other hand, Disney, under public pressure, came out (sorry) against Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill. Then, Governor Ron DeSantis, known for his razor-sharp ethics, revoked a special status Disney had, which happens to have allowed Disney to build basically whatever it wanted.
So Exxon’s finally being honest, and Disney’s losing free reign, both of which are some kind of good. But of course these things come against a backdrop of everything else bad afoot—would you like some backlash with your backlash, perhaps with a side of contradiction?
In lighter and brighter, here is a newt that had some much-needed assistance crossing the road.
The Second Look
Half-baked cultural criticism from Gabriel Coleman.
My desk is on the top floor of one of those sprawling 1970s university buildings. A big brutalist block with offices, classrooms, lecture halls, and two museums. Buildings like this are pretty universally reviled, everyone at my college talks about how my building was supposed to emulate the hanging gardens of Babylon, but the terraced floors weren’t built to support actual plantlife. But walking around the place you get the sense that a lot of love was put into this building’s design, only to have that intention masked by practical and security concerns.
For instance, these doors connect my building to the adjacent library, allowing folks to easily flow from work spaces to the collections and back, or out through the library’s main entrance.
I’ve walked past these doors countless times but it’s only been this past week that they’ve actually been open. Throughout covid, everyone was shuttled in and out of one entrance for each building and these little connecting corridors were closed. This seems to make more sense from a staffing shortage standpoint than for reducing contacts (the college hires someone to check student id cards at each entrance), but I still for some reason felt sad to see this tempting and useful door I couldn’t walk through.
Down the stairs and around the corner is a more permanent example of an unused door. Past a lecture hall and lounge area are some nice glass doors out to a beautifully landscaped garden, but because the garden is part of the Provost’s residence, the area is closed to the public. As you can see in the left image, when teaching isn’t happening the entire lounge is sealed off. Similarly, the far west stairwell spirals down outdoors below the building’s third floor, but because it lands in the same private garden it has been made into an emergency exit.
There are incredibly practical and important reasons for these entrances to be blocked. Alarmed exits are helpful in case of fire to alert everyone that they need to leave. My high school in Minnesota was built with several entrances and exits to create the idea of an open campus, but with school shootings happening more and more, in the end all students and staff ended up being herded through a single door. Airports are another instance of security changes to architecture. Newer airports designed after 9/11 do a good job of masking the layers of security you pass through on your way to the gate, but if you pass through an older airport like JFK’s Terminal 2, you can clearly see the netting and barricaded constructed across what was intended to be a much more interesting and open space.
So why do I feel this weird sadness whenever I come across a blocked off door or a part of a building I can’t access? It could be, as the architect of the murderous Vessel has argued, that I’m unable to experience the full vision of the architect, that security measures get in the way of the (poorly planned) vision of the building. But I don’t think it has anything to do with vision or architectural intention. For me, architecture is about play, about being able to climb to the tallest point and descend to the dankest sub-basement and explore all the funky storage closets and stairwells in between. I think that’s the reason people love rooftop spaces even if they don’t have a view or aren’t especially comfortable, there’s a sense of play in climbing to the top and looking down.
Keeping a building’s occupants safe from harm is the building’s primary duty. Keeping people and things secure is a little more wiggly as security means different things to different people in different situations. But sitting up on my perch on the top floor of the Arts Block, I wish I didn’t have to wait for some kind of emergency to go through all the doors of this weird and lovely building.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
Reader, I've missed you!
It's been a while since I've written for ~*Hot Goss*~ and in the couple of weeks I've been away, drama has struck the seemingly perfect relationship between Rihanna and A$AP Rocky. Let's dive in!
As you may know, Rihanna is currently pregnant with her first child. The singer and entrepreneur has not been shy about how much she loves pregnancy and for someone who's heavily pregnant, she's had a packed schedule these last couple of months. She's launching new products for her beauty line, redefining maternity fashion, doing photoshoots with Vogue in her third trimester -- Rihanna's been everywhere and doing everything but releasing the album! And through it all, A$AP Rocky has been by her side. This is really the first relationship we've seen where Rihanna is openly gushing about how much she adores her boyfriend. So of course the Internet was in shambles when rumors surfaced two weeks ago that A$AP Rocky had allegedly been caught cheating -- with a footwear designer currently working for Rihanna's Fenty brand!
On April 15, Twitter was abuzz with rumors that the couple had broken up due to infidelity on A$AP's part. The Internet is notoriously always and without question Team Rihanna, so as soon as the alarms started raging, netizens all over the world brought out their pitchforks and started baying for blood. There was speculation that Rihanna herself had caught A$AP cheating with Amina Muaddi and that there was footage of the crime. The accusations ran rampant for almost a whole day before TMZ published a story quoting a source close to Rihanna and A$AP Rocky who insisted that the rumors were false. The drama was further addressed by Amina herself, who published a strong denial on her Twitter account, as well as the person behind the account that allegedly started and spread the rumor.
All was calm again in Rihanna's world and the couple jetted off to Barbados for a quick getaway. They were there for nearly a week before flying back to Los Angeles last Wednesday. And upon arrival, A$AP Rocky was arrested and detained by law enforcement officials for his alleged role in a shooting last November. Rihanna was with him when the arrest happened. A$AP Rocky posted bail and was released soon after, and the pair was spotted having dinner and being affectionate together recently so they're holding strong through all of it but damn do I feel bad for Rihanna. Pregnancy, especially at this stage of the process, is stressful enough without drama upon drama entering one's life in such dramatic ways. She's due to give birth any day now too so I hope this last stretch goes well for her and that no more drama finds its way to the couple.