The Sunday Post for August 19, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.

KEXP pays tribute to Aretha Franklin

There’s been plenty of great writing about Aretha Franklin published in the last few days, but my pick this week is John Richards and DJ Riz’s tribute to the Queen of Soul. When I turned on KEXP on Thursday morning, I knew immediately what the top headline was — and it felt right to hear it from them first. They created an essay from her songs, telling you what they thought and loved about her work, teaching you things you didn't know about her. You can stream it right here, if you aren't already (why aren't you?).

Fuck You, Death: Thoughts on Finishing My Friend's Last Book

This short piece by Anders Nilsen is punctuated by gorgeous illustrations — not by him, though; by his friend, the artist Geneviève Castrée. After Castrée‘s death, Nilsen took on the project of completing the book she’d been making while she was ill. Most of the work was small; a line here, a patch of color there. But Castrée had left one of the book’s most significant elements undone, and Nilsen had to negotiate a truce between their styles to finish it. His writing about the process is filled with humility, grief, and admiration.

I started working, intending to simply mimic her style as closely as I possibly could.

I couldn't. I tried painting them in gouache, I tried colored pencil, I tried drawing digitally in photoshop. It felt as though I was drifting further from the goal with every attempt. They at once failed to blend in with her own line and color, and also seemed to loom clumsily over it like a drunk uncle.

I draw things badly in my own comics all the time, and it feels extremely uncomfortable. Getting Geneviève's bubbles wrong in this particular book felt worse than criminal.

Fatal Naming Rituals

Poet Billy-Ray Bellcourt on how not to write about Indigenous writing, a tutorial on and a warning against description. The language of this is completely immersive, entangling, as aural as it is visual. Give it your time.

Say forgiveness. With a maw full of smoke, say the aftermath of history. Hold our books in your slippery hands with the ever-loudening fact of their eschewal of the violence of a reading practice that makes a feast out of "a choreography of mangled bodies." Mouth the word "enemy," but do not enunciate it, for it is not a subject position worth keeping in the world. Living as we do in the charred remnants of a time during which the voices of Indigenous peoples were siphoned out of the theatres of culture and into the wastelands of law and order, you, a white and settler you, are beholden to a project of lessening the trauma of description.

Facebook! So multitalented. While the massive social media company was quietly helping Donald Trump into power, they were also providing a platform for hate speech to incite violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. A new report by Reuters explores the mechanisms by which Facebook failed to uphold its own standards for allowable “content,” despite full awareness of the extent and impact of the problem. Here, “impact” is a stand-in for “genocide,” and “mechanisms” is a stand-in for “unwilling to invest despite having every ability to do so.”

Keep in mind, we’re not talking about Facebook as we know it in America. We’re talking about a Facebook that has a specific goal of bringing the Internet to developing countries, not as a social good, but because doing so offers them a unique kind of dominance. As the report says, in Myanmar, Facebook “is the Internet.”

I know the Internet is really outrage-y right now, and I’m not encouraging you to feel outrage over this. I am encouraging you to feel deep anger, to ask what might be unforgiveable, and then to keep making decisions about the platforms you use that reflect the world you want to live in.

Many of the millions of items flagged globally each week – including violent diatribes and lurid sexual imagery – are detected by automated systems, Facebook says. But a company official acknowledged to Reuters that its systems have difficulty interpreting Burmese script because of the way the fonts are often rendered on computer screens, making it difficult to identify racial slurs and other hate speech.

Facebook's troubles are evident in a new feature that allows users to translate Burmese content into English. Consider a post Reuters found from August of last year.

In Burmese, the post says: "Kill all the kalars that you see in Myanmar; none of them should be left alive."

Facebook's translation into English: "I shouldn't have a rainbow in Myanmar."

(By the way — while “honey badger” might seem like a great name for a secretive operation to mop up hate speech — referencing an animal that relentlessly hunts down out prey living invisibly underground — does anyone believe staff at Facebook didn’t think of the old meme and chuckle to themselves? They truly don’t give a shit.)