I'll See You When I See You

Naomi Osaka ghosts Trent Crimm, The Independent, and the rest of the French Open, and spare a thought for the billions of tabs that will never exist.

It’s the 208th consecutive Infrastructure Week in America, but in France after being fined $15,000 and one subtweet for refusing to do press conferences at the French Open, Naomi Osaka said actually she just wouldn’t do the French Open. “I’ll see you when I see you ❤️” is literally how the Notes app resignation of the world’s highest paid female athlete ends, which approximately translates to “va au diable, putain ❤️”

No one had much to say about this development is what I wish I could tell you, but the truth is that literally everyone has an opinion. Halle Kiefer rounded up most of the tennis world’s replies for Vulture, including Martina Navratilova’s somewhat premature assessment that “while she tried to make a situation better for herself and others, she inadvertently made it worse” and Serena Williams’s inscrutable “I’m thick. Other people are thin.” Yes, Serena, we noticed. The NYT’s Christopher Clarey thought the real problem here was Osaka’s “failing to be accessible.” Hmm! A letter signed by the heads of several international tennis associations implied that skipping press conferences would give Osaka an “unfair advantage… which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments…” reported Matthew Futterman. “This is sport,” is how fellow tennis pro Sofia Kenin described sitting at a table in front of a room full of reporters, “You just have to somehow manage it.”

For all the justifications and criticisms, I didn’t see anyone even try to make an argument that press conferences were important for journalism. “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if something interesting happened at a sports press conference?” is pretty much the whole premise of “Ted Lasso.” But The Guardian’s Jonathan Liew made the opposite case: “one of the world’s best athletes would literally rather quit a grand slam tournament than have to talk to the press. Rather than scrutinising what that says about her, it might be worth asking what that says about us.”

For a while last night, my trending topics on Twitter were:

So on my personal feeds, it looks like everyone is continuing to have an extremely normal one. This is what the Twitter Weather should be, but instead Twitter is trying to launch some kind of paid subscription thing about the actual weather. Perhaps we will finally be able to find out if it’s raining in New York.

What if Bill Clinton worship suddenly became a partly-ironic meme? Intern Linda has a research paper for us about Toad Worship, and read on after that for a bad take and a bad pool.

Hello lads, I'm kicking off with a paper by Kecheng Fang on my favourite Chinese meme: Toad Worship (DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2018.1485722). Usually when Chinese internet breaches the Great Firewall it's for something disturbingly nationalist. That’s the nature of the internet in a state with heavy censorship and a powerful propaganda machine, so quite a lot of Chinese internet dissent ends up taking the form of memes

On the surface, toad worship is just a bunch of Chinese people shitposting about how much they love former CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin, who was the equivalent of president and Bill Clinton's contemporary, but their actions—posting images of him, praising him as “our toad”, and reciting quotations from his interviews like gospel—are actually a parody of the modern Chinese state-promoted-leader-worship. The joke that every meme shared of Jiang would extend his life for one second (abbreviated as +1s) for instance, references the Mao-era practice where citizens ate long noodles on the glorious leader's birthday to bolster his longevity. Further, by lavishly praising Jiang, they can backhandedly critique his successors. In response to the rollout of an app for studying the "thought" of current Secretary General Xi Jinping, toad worshippers redoubled their efforts reciting random phrases from Jiang's interviews. The meme got so big that the government did bizarre shit in response, like ban huge inflatable toads.

The full paper includes a selection of these memes and explains why toads, but also more seriously examines the varied motivations of these extremely online Chinese people—both political and not. All I have to say is that if you ever see this illustration of glasses and two nostrils—or if you wanna juice your Alibaba hot take—you'll know what's up. If all of this makes you want to extend the toad's life too, someone made a Jiang Zemin themed telegram sticker pack.

Lastly:

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+1s to Intern Linda. Tomorrow: three slugs and one snail. Meanwhile, at business:

Horrific aerial terror pool menaces innocent Londoners. Josh Dzieza on what happened to all the chicken wings. Montero’s reopened. “China reports first human case of H10N3 bird flu,” but it’s probably nothing. Alexandra Marvar spins the Wheel of Content for The Times and lands on: thirst-trapping millennial metal detectorists. Put on the armor of God with mecha Jesus Christo.

Today’s Song: Edith Piaf, “Non, Je ne regrette rien”

~ Ni le bien, qu'on m'a fait, ni le mal, tout ça m'est l’onglet ~

Je pépi a @fka_tabs. Moi, je me regrette tout.