Are we being who we think we should be or who we think other people want us to be? Hyun Kim, meditating on the matter of habits, posed this question two weeks ago. But maybe it's less a question of who we think we should be and who we think other people want us to be, and instead a question of who we are. So, who are you?
"The Musical Dangers of Globalization" by Hua Hsu
But there's a paradox at play: as technology enables us to access the far reaches of the planet, the illusion swells that the rest of the world is merely a frictionless swipe away. In aspiring to sound like everywhere at once, the album risks sounding like no place at all. Even though "Future Brown" was mostly recorded face to face, in a physical studio, there's little feeling of specificity. Some critics have accused the group of being overly strategic in seeking out collaborators, plucking rappers and singers from the streets and enlisting them in the service of a generically rendered worldwide struggle.
"Galaxies Inside His Head" by Stephen Burt
His work explores multiple identities and multiple forms of masculinity — how to be, or become, various kinds of men — but it is also an art of evasion: To become a full-time poet, Hayes had to leave a house of prison guards. Hayes works to escape not the African-American identity but the demand that he (or anyone) express that identity in the same way all the time. When Hayes read in South Carolina last month, "a young white girl pretty much accosted me and said, 'Why do you write so much about being black?' " he told me. It wasn't the first time he was asked. "Because I amblack. I'm black, I'm Southern, I'm male, I'm obsessive, I'm weird, I'm half-blind," he answered.
"Time Borrowed" by John Herrman
Years of free referral traffic from Facebook have posed the question: When will Facebook want to keep this traffic for itself? Supposing years of future success—and putting out of mind that another law of platforms is eventual death—partner journalism poses its own version of this question: If Facebook knows what works, why outsource it?
"The (Urban) Legend of Ernest Hemingway's Six-Word Story" by Josh Jones
Supposedly composed sometime in the '20s at The Algonquin (or perhaps Luchow's, depending on whom you ask), the six-word story, it's said, came from a ten-dollar bet Hemingway made at a lunch with some other writers that he could write a novel in six words. After penning the famous line on a napkin, he passed it around the table, and collected his winnings. That's the popular lore, anyway. But the truth is much less colorful.
"Scared Senseless: The Indie Horror Boom and What Frightens Us Now" by Mark Harris
To love horror movies as an adult is to resign yourself to the probability that you are not going to be scared very often unless what you fear most in the world is nostalgia.It Follows is a better-than-decent, less-than-great genre film whose most original quality is a sick-joke inversion of the premise of Friday the 13th and its '80s-horror ilk that the teenagers who have sex are always the ones who get slaughtered. Here, the death-dealing, cleverly shape-shifting entity — the "It" that follows its targets with the intention of killing them — can be shaken off only if the victim-to-be transmits it to somebody else via sexual contact; it's like an STD whose only cure is passing it along … except that, according to the movie's rules, that only postpones its near-inevitable reappearance because, you know, guilt and sin and Freud's return of the repressed. For good measure, every once in a while someone quotes from The Idiot.
"Is Kahlil Joseph Hip Hop's Most Important Video Director" by Emily Manning
Almost all histories in black cinema aren't really representations of us, I think most people who know black people on any level know that to be true. We've excelled as a community and as a people and as a culture in every other art form in a way that's just amazing. There are more black fine artists than there are filmmakers, which is crazy because the fine art world is one of the tightest knit out there. But I think this underrepresentation also an amazing opportunity for us. It's almost like Silicon Valley in the 80s and 90s: the black community is where all the great ideas are, it's where the next generation of filmmakers are going to come from, it's what's going to save movies. Once we start making movies in the same way that we make music, it'll be undeniable. Once we're able to represent ourselves—not even represent ourselves but to express ourselves—in the way that we feel and we think, then I don't even know what to say. I don't even know what that's gonna look like!
"SXSW Is Decadent and Depraved" by Ernest Baker
I've been down this road before. Not at this festival specifically, but at other gatherings like it, and it's all so much less validating this time around. What are any of us really doing here? What purpose does creating this content serve besides mitigating corporate impressions?
Maybe something you've written makes people laugh, or brings them closer to an experience for which they weren't present to witness themselves, but I generally think that people can survive without an endless stream of hot takes on [insert Soundcloud rapper]'s 27th showcase of the week. Don't get me wrong, from the moment I touch down in Austin, I'm having fun, but there's this lurking suspicion that SXSW is, ultimately, a futile affair.
"How Cool C and Sready B Robbed a Bank, Killed a Cop, and Lost Their Souls" by Michael A. Gonzales
All these years later, Philly folks still question what brought Cool C and Steady B to the point of armed robbery. Were they in debt to drug dealers? Were they stealing funds to advance their recording career? Were they simply desperate to maintain their Big Willie images? While it may feel difficult to get a regular nine-to-five after tasting hip-hop fame, many old school rappers have done it. Cool C and Steady B made a different choice.
[Image via Getty]