Welcome to Issue 46.2 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
Today’s news, fermented:
I really miss people-watching. As a city kid, this activity was to me as I assume watching sports is to many other people. There are no leagues or brackets, but each place has its own character, and thus its own set of players.
In the spring of last year, the first kind of grief I was able to feel was about New York City’s empty streets—something I wasn’t even there to see. What is a city without its city life?
People are back in public spaces to a certain extent—there were the infamous days of Prospect Park overrun with millenials on blankets, ‘socially distant;’ vacationers at bars and traveling to states with light lockdown restrictions; those who believed their small town was exempt, and continued business as usual.
Amid this new kind of challenge to public life, some new ways of being in ‘public’ have emerged. Often, public institutions are taking steps to restore services—for example, the Somerville Library’s transformation of its outdoor plaza into a heated wifi hotspot. While I am rarely as satisfied by online interactions as I am by face-to-face ones, the internet has continued to become our primary site of exchange, our public commons.
To rise to that challenge, many communities have taken an active role in providing internet to their members, bridging a digital divide that too often leaves low-income urban dwellers without access to the public space that is being online. This can look like municipal broadband—in which the internet is treated and provided like any other public utility—or microgrids, like NYC Mesh. Solutions like these, as opposed to telecomms corporations ‘donating their services,’ take power out of the hands of big companies and puts people in charge of what is now a vital resource.
For many, the internet still doesn’t feel like something that is ours, and rather is a dominant looming force. But people make the internet—you can watch us do it live on this real-time dashboard of users editing Wikipedia, one of the top 15 most-used websites in the world.
And then there is the kind of public space that has been around longer, the ‘real world,’ as we call it. There are reimaginings here too—like the demand that the massive public gathering that is NYC’s Pride celebration be led by BIPOC queer and trans people, as it always should have been. And there are dangers—like the skyrocketing rates of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
As has always been its job, life in the public sphere, the commons—however it may look—illustrates both the beauty and deep challenge of our private spheres and the systems that shape them.
This tweet and the thread that follows is a very silly example of this otherwise serious truth:
As you’ll see if you read the whole thread, the literal translation of ‘penguin’ from Chinese is in fact ‘standing goose,’ which is still hilarious—but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to think of a penguin as anything other than a business goose.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
I have not been sleeping well lately.
It really all started when the floodgates on Armie Hammer broke in mid-January. Ever since then, there's been a steady stream of Armie Hammer updates that I just can't escape. And now, the story's spiralled completely out of control and my entire life's mission has become about finding out whether or not he is a serial killer.
Let me just back up for a moment here. Late last week, there was an announcement that Armie had been dropped by his agency and his personal publicist over the controversial claims that have been surrounding him since the start of the new year. This development came amid the revelation of even more disturbing messages from women he allegedly has had affairs with -- messages that included graphic descriptions of Armie's fantasies such as cannibalism (again). So it's a really big deal that Armie's people are all running for the hills. Even Johnny Depp is still represented by an agency right now, despite the damning trials he's been involved in this past year.
This has led a lot of folks to speculate that even more, perhaps worse shit is about to come out in the next couple of weeks. Rumor has it that the LA Times is working on an exposé that will ruin any shred of career Armie's got left. An Occam's Razor approach to all of this insanity would of course point to the fact that Armie Hammer is expendable in Hollywood, which made it easy for his agents and publicists to drop him when things got as bad as they did. Without tangible star power or box office draw, Armie isn't worth keeping around, especially with baggage of this size and magnitude. So he was cut. But the Internet has taken all of the most outlandish conspiracy theories about this man and run wild with them. So I've been waiting. But at the same time, I also don't want to know? I just really have no idea what the next level of this scandal can be and need to be able to have a good night's sleep again.