Welcome to Issue 60.1 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of real things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
Today’s news, fermented:
Hello! I ~forgot~ I was on vacation this week, but here we are. I won’t publish on Wednesday, but we’ll be back on Friday!
Here’s a smart friend from space.
The Second Look
Half-baked cultural criticism from Gabriel Coleman.
It’s a summer of good-natured friendly competition between nations: the Eurovision Song Contest took place last week and the Tokyo Olympics are due to start in a couple months. These events always come with a call to “put politics aside” in the name of global unity as if that were possible. Notable this time around are the International Olympic Committee’s ban on kneeling or any other political protest by athletes, Belarus’s Eurovision song submission - disqualified due to its mocking of protests against the country’s authoritarian regime (the same regime that just grounded a plane carrying a reporter it didn’t like), and Israel’s upsettingly ironic Eurovision entry, entitled Set Me Free.
Here’s how Eurovision politics played out this year: Israel came in 17th out of 25 and wasn’t sanctioned in the Eurovision voting like I speculated, but the UK was awarded zero points by both the jury and public because Brexit. I also have some suspicions about queer entries to the contest: Germany, Spain, and The Netherlands, whose entries were by queer artists, all received zero points in the public vote. The other openly queer entries from Australia, Ireland, and North Macedonia did not qualify for the final. Måneskin, the winners from Italy, have a bisexual bassist and a member of the crowd-favorite entry from Iceland waved a pansexual flag from their green room, so not a complete pan of LGBT entries. Queer artists have won Eurovision multiple times and, in fairness, North Macedonia’s entry was absolute trash … but I’m SUSPICIOUS.
ANYWAY all these flags have me thinking about nations and national identity and what a flag really means. Biden keeps gesturing at this “America” he seems to be familiar with, talking about how “America is back” and how Americans are known around the world for “greeting others with a smile -- with a smile.” Like, ew Joe, what are you talking about? Biden wants to conceive of the nation as an eternal and unified state but that’s never been the reality for any country. So if you’re feeling especially stable in your nationhood, here are a few misc. tidbits to destabilize your national identity:
Cyprus: Though their flag portrays a unified island, there’s a demilitarized zone through the middle of the island separating the Greek Cypriot south from the Turkish Cypriot north. Though the Republic of Cyprus has legal sovereignty over the whole island, the north part is run by Turkey.
Ireland: The Republic and Northern Ireland have been in the international spotlight again due to the show Derry Girls and rising violence in Belfast from Brexit complications. Talks over unification of the island are perennial but a recent poll showed that a majority of people from the North and the Republic would want a new flag and anthem for a hypothetically unified country.
Vichy: When Germany invaded France in WWII the government said bye to Paris and set up shop in the vacation town of Vichy and aided the Nazis in their genocidal mission. Post-war France for a long time had said “oh no, those Vichy people, that wasn’t us, it was a puppet government or something!” Only recently has France begun to gesture at acknowledging its crimes while it was not-France.
Six Flags over ???: I had to add some theme park trivia of course! The name of the Six Flags parks originally referred to the six nations that laid claim to Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States of America, and the Confederacy. The same was true of their Georgia park (Spain, France, Great Britain, USA, Confederacy, and the state of Georgia.) Both parks originally had areas themed to each flag and YES this included a Confederate area complete with racist rides. Neither park or the company has ever acknowledged Indigenous sovereignty over so-called Georgia or Texas.
Germany: We know this one, right? There were the Prussians and then the Weimars, then the Nazis and then the Wall and now we have Angela Merkel! All Germany but all… different Germanys.
My point is that what we think to be a collection of stable unified nations is a lot less so. The process of state-collapse is traumatic and often violent, but countries that recognize this unstable nature are better for it as it opens the state up for continuous reinvention. If United States leaders were able to shake off this stupor of eternal unchanging sovereignty, it may help address problems within and beyond our borders. Maybe Biden would be able to think beyond the right of the Israeli State to defend itself and acknowledge what the actual people living between the Mediterranean and Jordan need to survive. Events like Eurovision and the Olympics believe in a globalist vision - but their maps are not our territory and their globe is not our planet.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
Good morning and happy Monday -- I hope we've all had as great a weekend as it seems Taika Waititi, Rita Ora, and Tessa Thompson had!
One of the more head-scratchingly baffling pairings that emerged in the last month is Taika Waititi and Rita Ora, who quietly started dating in March. Taika has been in Australia filming his latest movie while Rita is currently in Sydney judging The Voice Australia. The couple have been photographed together all over Sydney and Taika has even made a couple of appearances on Rita's Instagram a few times now. People have been talking about how messy Taika's life seems to be since he separated from his wife in late 2018 and you know, dating Rita Ora doesn't exactly help with the narrative.
Taika doesn't seem to mind though. In fact, he's living his best life and enjoying the attention not just from Rita Ora, but also Tessa Thompson! The couple's been publicly packing on the PDA with Tessa, following an all-night party at Taika's house over the weekend. And they all look super into each other. So you just have to wonder what was going on at that party...
Anyway, it doesn't see like Taika and Rita are concerned with keeping things on the down low while they get to know each other. I honestly think they're just having a fun time while conveniently being in the same country and that whenever one leaves or wraps up their project, it'll be curtains for this fling. And truly, good for them! This is some hot ~*hot goss*~ to write about and follow so I'm not complaining.