Carcinization and Its Discontents

Tortured tabs department: the anthology.

Taylor Swift’s music is not really my jam1 so I don’t know if her new album is any good. In the interest of journalistic integrity I tried to listen to it but got bored three songs in so my review is: it sounds like Taylor Swift. In The New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich wrote that Tortured Poets Departmentsuffers from being too long… and too familiar” which I think is New Yorker for “it sounds like Taylor Swift.” Us Magazine aggregated a bunch of other reviews which all amount to some version of “it’s fine, I guess?”

While I’m not interested in Swift’s music, I am interested in Taylor Swift the cultural hyperobject, and the question raised by this album in that context is: are we allowed to criticize Taylor Swift now? Paste posted a blistering pan that begins: “Sylvia Plath did not stick her head in an oven for this!” which, yikes. But it’s only bylined “Paste Staff,” and on Twitter (but oddly not in the review itself) the site appended an editor’s note explaining:

There is no byline on this review due to how, in 2019 when Paste reviewed ‘Lover,’ the writer was sent threats of violence from readers who disagreed with the work.

Washington Post pop critic Chris Richards has no such fears, describing the album as a “two-hour hostage situation” under his own government byline in front of God and everyone. We should keep an eye on him in the days to come, as a kind of Swiftie-rage bait station. Buena suerte, mi amigo. 🫡

Music Intern Sam Gavin posted “New content warning just dropped” with a yellow NYT connections category block that reads “Balderdash” above “Bunk, Crock, Hogwash, Horsefeathers”

But maybe Taylor Swift has ascended to the level of something more like “Donald Trump” or “climate change,” concepts so ubiquitous and culturally overdetermined that it’s no longer necessary (or possible) to defend a position on them because no one is changing their mind at this point. Giovanni Colantonio makes the case that the album might even amount to Taylor Swift (the person) criticizing Taylor Swift (the hyperobject):

There’s a sense throughout the record that Swift feels trapped. She’s become a prisoner of her own success, with her fans taking on the role of wardens. It’s a self-made conundrum and one that invites some understandable eye-rolls. It’s not just a first-world problem; it’s an issue that only exists on an alien planet solely inhabited by someone as powerful as Swift.

Also Today in Taylor: Tavi Gevinson posted a seventy six page PDF zine about Taylor called “Fan fiction (a satire).” Hard pass, but I liked Allegra’s much shorter and more interesting response to it. And Harvard’s “Taylor Swift scholars” (a thing which apparently exists) also noticed a certain ‘we already have Sylvia Plath at home’ quality to the new album.

Today in Not Taylor: Today’s Hate Read is “I hate Boygenius,” which seems like an idea that might still have enough juice to make someone mad.

fredesque posted: “me: no one believes me when i say there's a secret race of horse-people. therapist: try to ignore the naysayers. me: the fucking who”

While music writers might be allowed to criticize Taylor Swift, college students are definitely not allowed to criticize Israel. Columbia University president Minouche Shafik is putting on an absolute clinic in how to mishandle a crisis, even here in the post Kate Middleton era. According to Moira Donegan, Shafik tried her best to “[collude] with the far-right in its attack on students” but even the NYPD were like “yeah, that all seemed kind of overboard” and Congress-troll Elise Stafanik, the Charlie McCarthy of Joseph McCarthies, called for her to step down anyway:

“It is crystal clear that Columbia University - previously a beacon of academic excellence founded by Alexander Hamilton - needs new leadership,” Stefanik wrote.

Hamilton briefly attended Kings College—the school that became Columbia College—in the class of 1778. However, he did not found the school, instead dropping out to fight in the Revolutionary War and eventually returning to serve on the school’s board of trustees.

Tragedy and farce, simultaneous at last! Free of the need to repeat itself, historical productivity is way up. You may be surprised to learn that Shafik’s 1:15 a.m. administrative email closing the Columbia campus today has failed to end the protest movement, and anti-war encampments are spreading to even more colleges. Yale spent the morning arresting students, to no obvious effect. In The New York Times, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Troy Closson write:

The decision to bring in the police also unleashed a wave of activism across a growing number of college campuses. In the days after the tents at Columbia came down, students at Yale, the University of Michigan and M.I.T. erected their own encampments in support of those arrested. By early Monday, New York University had become the latest protest site.

In Discourse blog, former second-generation Columbia student protester Jack Mirkinson argued that “Zionism is in its Flop Era.”

We’ve all been there. We all know what it feels like when you’re in your flop era—when you’re throwing everything at the wall and nothing is sticking. And Zionism is going through a flop era in America.

That’s a big wad of bad news to digest on a Monday. How about some Today in Crabs?

Today in Crabs, in Czech

Via Jasper Nighthawk via Animation Obsessive here’s a 1976 Czech animated short called KRABI (“The Crabs”), which IMDB describes as “an allegory about the suicidal character of war waged by militant factions” and I would describe as “Carcinization and Its Discontents.”

Looks like I spoke too soon last week. Dylan Byers quotes a source at CNN asking: “Why is [Sir] Mark [Thompson, HRH’s Knight of the Media] doing interviews with the FT when he has no strategic initiatives or wins to announce?” [Guy who’s only been paying attention to CNN leadership since the Chris Licht era]: “I’m getting some Chris Licht vibes from this…“ I also said that if “actually made a Discord search that works, maybe Discord should just buy them?” Well 404 now reports that the Discord scraper has links to kiwi farms, so never mind! We regret the error.

Erika Hall’s “ is go:” Welcome to Chicken Town. And Australian medical staff are begging you to stop bringing snakes to the hospital.

Karl Olson posted “Oh this is a way better way of putting it:“ above a meme image that reads “A COMPUTER CAN NEVER FIND OUT, THEREFORE A COMPUTER MUST NEVER FUCK AROUND”

Today’s Song: Hazel English feat. Day Wave, “Jesse”

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1  I don’t buy jam, I buy honey, and I kiss it on the lips. El oso quiere miel! Oh, papi.