Inspired | October 2020

Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in October: alternate histories, fighting distraction, spoilers!, finding hope in 2020, and more. (Links marked with ($) may be behind a paywall.)

Downstream From History: What Makes a History ‘Alternate’? by Alaya Dawn Johnson: “Who decides what’s “real” and what’s “alternate”? Real history often seemed wack to me, but I had to learn it anyway. If history is a story, with protagonists and themes and a destination, however nebulous, an arc which must bend gracefully to our present time, can’t it have a remix? Some fanfic?”

How to be indistractable by Nir Eyal: “Distraction, in other words, is a symptom of a problem – not the problem itself. Those deeper and systemic reasons – such as an inability to cope with fear, anxiety or stress – deserve our concern, because it’s only when we start to address them that we can make real progress.”

Spoiler Alert! On the Modern Problem of Spoilerphobia by Sarah Kozloff

Knowing about the hot new book or movie can embody a certain cultural “one-upmanship” and indicate class privilege. Those with the money, time, freedom, and motivation to stay on top of current releases or buy new hardcovers may obtain an experience denied to those who have to wait for library copies or cheaper venues. So, the power to “spoil” lies disproportionately in the hands of those with elite access—like the critic—while anxiety about being deprived of an “untainted” experience affects people with less access.

Pandemic entertainment is designed for social bubbles. But what if you’re alone in your bubble? ($) by Todd Martens

As we slowly adapt to living with the pandemic, many of us are realizing that the connection we miss to art and entertainment is as powerful as it is to our social relationships. It’s art, after all, be it a concert, a theater, a museum or even a theme park, that helps us make sense of or simply survive the moment we’re living in. 

Yet the more events that pop up, each one encouraging groups of four or five, or even takeout tasting menus that require of minimum of two orders, serve only to heighten the sense that I am on my own.

Which Hollywood Sex Symbols Actually Have Sex on Screen? A Study. by Carrie Wittmer: “Cinema is either a reflection or a response to the times, sometimes both. Movies—particularly major motion pictures with major movie stars—shift to reflect American values, and so have sex scenes.”

In 2020, Hope Is Not A Given — You Have To Work For It by Elamin Abdelmahmoud: “Optimism anticipates good outcomes. You should do no such thing. You are not in the business of anticipating. Instead, hope is about leaving the door open and not shutting out the possibility that something good can walk through it. Such an opening can be a great comfort, if you let it.”

I’ve Never Been Able To Escape Segregation And Now White People Can’t Either by Emmanuel Felton

But the 1990s debates about what was politically correct robbed my generation of the ability to talk about race and instead encouraged us to embrace the idea of color blindness. On social media this summer, I saw my white childhood friends and classmates attempt to start grappling with race, seemingly for the first time. Posting black squares on Instagram and then immediately going back to their regularly scheduled posts of their babies or dinners. I want to believe that a new generation would be able to pick up the mantle of equality, as Ladner suggests, but the further we get from the age of explicitly racist policies, the more nuanced the conservations have to become.

Designing a Home Will Always Be Political by Mekita Rivas: “Whether people realize it or not, what they display in their homes is a clear reflection of what matters most to them.”

What’s the most interesting thing you saw online this month?