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What Sofia Vergara’s Emmys Sketch Means For Latinas

By now, you've probably seen some of the chatter surrounding Sofia Vergara's sketch at the Emmys.

You spin me right ‘round. And I’m not liking it.

By now, you’ve probably seen some of the chatter surrounding Sofia Vergara’s sketch at the Emmys.

It involved Vergara posing on a giant spinning platform, the joke being that her Latina-brand hotness would provide a welcome distraction from a boring speech (which mentioned diversity) by Television Academy CEO and chairman Bruce Rosenblum. But for many on Twitter, the stunt was more cringe-worthy than funny.

NBC

Vergara has responded to the backlash, telling her critics to “lighten up.”

Vergara has responded to the backlash, telling her critics to "lighten up."

“I think its absolutely the opposite,” she said. “It means that somebody can be hot and also be funny and make fun of herself. I think it’s ridiculous that somebody started this — I know who she was — who has no sense of humor [and should] lighten up a little bit.”

And some agree. At Mediaite, Cathy Reisenwitz wrote, “Vergara stepped up on that pedestal because she had something to say about her industry. If you can’t hear it over the sound of her beautiful body, that is your malfunction.”

Fox / Via whatculture.com

No word on who Vergara thinks “started this.”

No word on who Vergara thinks "started this."

Who invites you to tea and then won’t serve it? Come on, Sofia.

Paramount Pictures / Via soletstalkabout.com

But pop culture events that play out in front of a large audience aren’t just about one person at one moment.

But pop culture events that play out in front of a large audience aren't just about one person at one moment.

Vergara’s participation in that sketch — and the fact that it was pitched, written, and approved — makes this moment bigger than Sofia Vergara. This moment is about Latina representation in general.

Columbia Pictures / Via reactiongifs.us

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Grumpy Cat Doesn’t Like Your ALS #IceBucket Challenge

Tardar, also known to the Internet as Grumpy Cat, has a few things to say about your ALS Ice Bucket Challenges: No, Nope, Nada. Tardar’s not willing to get under the ice, because cats are too cool for viral Internet videos, and they would like to remind you they’re already dominating Internet traffic by being their awesome selves, aka, not human.

Like other felines, Grumpy Cat is just going to sit there and watch you get uncomfortably cold in the name of charity, and quite frankly, Tardar wants none of that. Instead, she’d like to remind you about these #IceBucket Challenge #FAILs, because those are the only ones worth watching.

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Missing — And Finding — The Magic Of Haruki Murakami

The incredibly popular Japanese writer just released his latest book in English . It’s a departure for him, and for me. (Minor spoilers, insofar as a Murakami book can be spoiled.)

Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

When I picked up my first book by Haruki Murakami, somewhere around the start of high school, I did not expect to like it. He writes the exact opposite of what I tend to read. I’m drawn to essays full of sharp observations and overflowing with feelings; I go for wry female writers and long, nonfictional sentences peppered with a lot of commas. Murakami writes fiction that is spare and mild. Rather than planting his feet firmly in reality, he lets talking cats and rifts in the space-time continuum brush up against his otherwise aggressively normal characters. I’ve read nearly all of his books over the past decade yet I can’t so much as recount their plots to anyone who asks — it’s too hazy, too personal, too much like trying to describe a dream once you’ve had your coffee. But at 14 I tore through the slim, strange volume that is After Dark and he’s been my favorite writer ever since.

What I was responding to was the remarkable-at-least-to-me idea that you could be alone without being lonely. I was a nerdy, obsessive teenager, and Murakami provided a template for introspection that felt downright revolutionary. His books are odysseys, most of which follow similar blueprints. A character, usually a quiet and solitary man, meets somebody or finds something or receives a strange phone call, and before they know it they’re tossed from their simple life into a winding, harrowing journey.

In the process, these characters tend to learn something about themselves; they solve long-dormant mysteries from their own pasts or open their hearts to deeply unexpected people. They’re not rich but they don’t lack for money, their apartments are tidy, and they enjoy jazz, Wild Turkey, and occasionally conversing with well-dressed prostitutes. There is a lot of sex and sometimes the descriptions thereof can make your skin crawl. But mostly there is a quietness and a strength to the way Murakami’s characters make their way through the world he’s drawn for them. They don’t question their missions for long — the philosophy being that if something’s in front of you then you may as well just do it.

I read those books so many times: Sputnik Sweetheart and A Wild Sheep Chase while I was finishing high school and figuring out where to head next; Norwegian Wood and The Elephant Vanishes during an especially lonely, relationship-less patch; Kafka on the Shore in the dining hall of the small college that became the only place for me. I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle over the course of long train rides back and forth between home and school and New York City, and when I finally moved to an apartment after subletting and squatting for months after graduating, about half of the 20 or so books that I brought were by Murakami. Even alone, or searching, or uncertain, he was there with me.

What made him stick was this central thesis, crackling throughout all of his books, that your own inner life is something worth devoting time and energy to. This is true even if you are — as his characters near-uniformly seem to be — totally average, at least on the surface. These odd adventures they had were a way of making their emotions legible, and so they helped me start to name mine. Because that’s the real fantasy: What if you could revisit your old confusion, your sorrow, your trauma, and wend your way back through to its core? What if it could be made physical, the inward quest turned outward?

Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

There were no parallel universes in my small Boston suburb, or on the campus of my not-quite-upstate New York college. There were no reclusive men dressed as sheep, nor were there abrupt phone calls that whisked me across the world. There was, though, uncertainty, and a burgeoning case of anxiety, and bouts of loneliness. There were fights with great friends and misunderstandings with family and a few deaths that came much too soon. Reading thousands of pages of characters making their way through not-dissimilar struggles, aided and hampered by an element of Murakami’s magical realism, buffered me and helped me see more clearly. Look, he seemed to be saying, here is how you mourn, here is how you sift back through what’s happened to you, and look again, there is still a small bit of wonder.

And so his latest book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Many Years of Pilgrimage, came as something of a shock. (A quiet, slow shock, because that is how Murakami does everything.) There is no magic in it, no thresholds into alternate universes. His usual MO — rendering a character’s emotional journey as a physical, fantastical one — falls away here, leaving only ordinary Tsukuru Tazaki to muddle through his past on his own. On the first page, we learn that at the age of 20 he was dumped by an incredibly close-knit group of friends and that his life essentially stopped there. Two decades later he’s fine, with a decent job and a promising third date, but he’s never been able to shake exactly what went wrong in that friend circle.

The book catalogs his painful, halting attempts to find out, with no talking animals to guide him. There is one moment when Tsukuru recalls listening to a story told by a friend from the past, one that the friend’s father had recounted to him, that contains a hint of something otherworldly, but only there, shrouded beneath layers of recollection, is even so much as an occult glimmer. A friend, not-quite-jokingly on Twitter, described the book as “normcore.”

I know that Murakami is so much more than his magic. His memoir about ultramarathons, What We Talk About When We Talk About Running, is a spectacular sideways look into how we create and operate, and his collection of interviews from the aftermath of the Tokyo subway gas attacks (Underground) lingered with me for weeks after I read it. He can take any topic imaginable, it seems, and imbue it with both weightiness and wonder. But the lack of fancy in Colorless Tsukuru made reading it a tougher, darker experience than I’d bargained for. Lately the anxiety that reared up in college has been back with its claws out, ripping holes in nearly everything — my job, my relationship — that I love and identify with. It’s been hard to restrict my dry-heaving panic attacks to the inside of my apartment but it’s even harder to feel alone, to feel like my brain has seized control of my body without a warning or an exit. When I received the book in the mail, I tucked into it like I was starving.

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Turns Out Facebook Isn’t a Good Place for Discovering News After All

Twitter has long been noted as a great source of breaking news. Mainstream outlets like CNN have been mining the service for breaking news. Despite being a source of news for almost 50 percent of Internet users in the U.S., Facebook doesn’t do nearly as well at surfacing news as Twitter. So why the disparity?

According to a Facebook post by Anthony DeRosa, the editor-in-chief of mobile-news app Circa, “Facebook is virtually useless for trying to follow updates on #Ferguson.” Indeed, Twitter has been the place to go for updates. However, with a much larger audience, it’s easy to assume that Facebook would be a destination for breaking news.

The problem with this assumption is that Facebook’s algorithms act like a gatekeeper when it comes to news dissemination. “Photos, links to livestreams, and breaking-news updates (about Ferguson) were rapidly spreading on Twitter on Sunday night, while Facebook users were catching up on the day’s Ice Bucket Challenge videos,” writes Sam Kirkland for Poynter.

It seems Facebook’s algorithms are designed to surface posts that receive interaction, rather than posts that are timely. Pew data indicates that more people get their news from Facebook than Twitter, but Twitter has long been the favored social network for journalists and media professionals. Perhaps the journo community is attracted to Twitter precisely for its ability to break the news.

Kirkland posits that the two networks should become more like each other: Facebook has to be faster and better at surfacing news, and Twitter needs to enable more long-tail content and better discussion. The problem with this idea is that Facebook has tried to get better at doing news in the form of its Paper app, which failed miserably by traditional metrics. According to Comscore data from June, the app only has 119,000 monthly active users, who only browse for 18 seconds a month. This essentially means people download the app, take a look and never use it again.

While Facebook has tried to get better at delivering news to its users — through algorithm tweaks or the release of Paper — its efforts have been in vain. While people like to get their news from Facebook, breaking news happens on Twitter, where the journalists are. Twitter was the best source of information for Ferguson, but the story did show up on Facebook — just much later. It isn’t too far a logical leap to assume that without Twitter, Facebook may never have heard about Ferguson at all.

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Amazon Acquires Twitch for $970 Million

Amazon has acquired Twitch, ending months of speculation about Google courting the video streaming company. The purchase is for approximately $970 million, and the deal will reportedly allow Twitch to retain its autonomy.

Twitch CEO Emmett Shear wrote in a blog post:

We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster. We’re keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon’s support we’ll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.

That said, Twitch has been making changes recently, perhaps in anticipation of the acquisition. While I recently contended that Twitch silencing copyrighted content may have been to line up with YouTube, the point still holds for Amazon. Big parts of Amazon’s business involve the sale of copyright content through direct download, so Twitch’s decision to protect intellectual property rights makes sense.

“Like Twitch, we obsess over customers and like to think differently, and we look forward to learning from them and helping them move even faster to build new services for the gaming community,” said Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, in an announcement.

Amazon certainly has a history of supporting young companies, especially through AWS. While the acquisition may seem unexpected, Amazon is a premier web services provider, and Twitch has experienced growing pains.

“To be quite honest, we can’t keep up with the growth,” Matt DiPietro, Twitch’s VP of marketing, told The Verge in February. “That’s a good problem to have.”

Both Twitch and Amazon seem to be winners with this deal. Twitch gets a much beefier infrastructure and better tools to work with, and Amazon’s large marketing and sales engine could have an ideal target in Twitch’s younger audience. The only issue could be that a hands off acquisition sometimes isn’t quite so hands off.

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