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Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: a terrifyingly astute analysis of our “unlivable hell”

In Naomi Wolfs 1990 book The Beauty Myth, a woman walks into a department store. “To reach the cosme..



In Naomi Wolfs 1990 book The Beauty Myth, a woman walks into a department store. “To reach the cosmetics counter,” Wolf writes, this woman “must pass a deliberately disorienting prism of mirrors, lights, and scents that combine to submit her to the “sensory overload” used by hypnotists and cults to encourage suggestibility.” Confusion makes her the perfect customer.

Today we permanently live in that deliberately disorienting prism of mirrors and lights. Thanks to the internet, “commerce has filtered into our identities and relationships,” writes Jia Tolentino in the first essay of her book Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, as the web constantly overwhelms “our frayed neurons in huge waves of information.” It is out of this moment that Trick Mirror has been written, and it is this moment that it tries to capture, through nine essays that range across the glossy fitness culture, the modern wedding-industrial complex, her teenage experience on a reality TV show, and much more. “These are the prisms through which I have come to know myself,” she writes. “I tried to undo their acts of refraction.”

For many, Tolentino is the perfect person for the job. A staff writer at the New Yorker who built her reputation writing for esoteric and viciously funny womens sites The Hairpin and Jezebel, Tolentinos cultural criticism encompasses everything from pop music to rape culture, literary fiction to memes, the rise of youth vaping to the Westminster Dog Show. Her work is marked by forensic attention, generous insight, a tone that is both conversational and lavishly descriptive, and an absurd, sparkling sense of humour crystallised by the internets heavy layers of irony and meta-jokes. She is the kind of writer that is talked about with a mixture of rapturous admiration and pained envy.

Over the course of her promotional circuit for this book, such adoration has reached a fever pitch. The queue to get into its launch event at a bookstore in NYC was so long that more than a hundred were turned away. Over the past few days, Ive read social media posts exclaiming: “jia tolentino is proof that it is possible to be universally liked in 2019”; “I want Jia Tolentino to step on my throat” and “My new place of worship is Jia Tolentinos brain.” Zadie Smith has praised her “enviable style”, while Rebecca Solnit describes her as “the best young essayist at work in the United States”.

At the New Yorker, Tolentino mostly writes taught web pieces that zoom in on a cultural artefact or trend with a dismantling gaze, and in doing so extracts a broader observation. In a time when cultural criticism is keenly invested in the political, works are ever more regularly declared “radical” or “problematic”; Tolentino never overstates a works positive or negative influence on society, but magnifies its specific qualities until you see it fully contextualised, and begin to understand the structures that formed it. So Kanye Wests hyper-commercialised Christian worship ceremonies, which she accurately describes as “extravagantly normcore and vaguely cultlike”, prompt her to note: “So many things today seem, upon reflection, like a cry for help disguised as a demonstration of cultural capital.”

Here, her challenge is more daunting: from the outset, this is a book that promises contemporary American politics and culture as its subject. These essays, spanning memoir and criticism, are distinct from her journalism as a result. Though still crammed with startlingly precise sentences, they are longer and more discursive, tangential and unexpected.

The opening essay, “The I in Internet”, begins with a ten-year-old Tolentino writing “I literally am addicted to the web!”, before moving into discussions of Gamergate, Erving Goffmans theory of identity, Bari Weiss and feminist hashtags, and ending with an image of Tolentino sat scrolling on her phone, “masturbating through the nightmare until I finally catch the gasoline whiff of a good meme”. A history of the heroines of Tolentinos childhood and later reading effortlessly dips in and out of over 80 different texts. “The Story of a Generation in Seven Scams” links traces the infamous influencer disaster Fyre Festival back to the 2008 financial crash, exploring Jeff Bezoss Amazon empire and the 2016 election to paint a convincing portrait of late capitalism as the ultimate scam of the millennial generation. The final essay, “I Thee Dread”, places the modern wedding against the misogynistic history of the institution, and Tolentions own conflicted feelings about attending dozens of weddings in a tightly compressed period.

Tolentino is deeply and rightly pessimistic about our current era: “this feverish, electric, unlivable hell.” In one of the collections more painful essays, “We Come From Old Virginia”, Tolentino retrospectively questions her happy time as a student at the University of Virginia, exploring the unviersitys long history of campus sexual assault. Her reflections are sparked by the high-profile story of rape printed in Rolling Stone, later discovered to be spectacularly inaccurate in its reporting. “I hate the dirty river Im standing in,” Tolentino writes, “not the journalist and the college student who capsized in it.”

Perhaps the most incisive and depressing essay is “Always Be Optimizing”, in which Tolentino questions her own taste for $12 salads, $98 shapewear, and rigorous exercise classes. It explores how wellness industries have coalesced to create a new ideal for women, requiring the “optimization” of both their performance and their appearance. “Feminism has not eradicated the tyranny of the ideal woman but, rather, has entrenched it and made it trickier,” she writes. “It some-times seems that feminism can imagine no more satisfying progress than this current situation – one in which, instead of being counselled by mid-century magazines to spend time and money trying to be more radiant for our husbands, we can now counsel one another to do all the same things, but for ourselves.”

But Tolentino is always alert to the seductive pleasures of these phenomena. In the best of her more personal essays, “Ecstacy”, Tolentino links the joys found in the Texan megachurch she grew up in with the highs of recreational drugs. “There are feelings, like ecstasy, that provide an unbreakable link between virtue and vice,” she writes. Taking ecstasy “can make you feel healed and religious, it can make you feel dangerously wild. Whats the difference? Your world realigns in a juddering oceanic shimmer.”

Trick Mirror has a deep understanding of the sick pleasure of pressing a spectacular, marbled bruise, and the compulsion to do it again and again. Tolentinos fascination with the subjects of each essays stems from the simultaneous repulsion and desire they provoke in her. Her critique of UVA is built on the “instantaneous, overpowering longing” she felt on her first visit. “At this school, I thought, you would grow like a plant in a greenhouse. This dappled light, the sense of long afternoons and doors propped open and drinks poured for strangers, the grand steps leading up to the Pantheon dome of the Rotunda – this was where I wanted to be.”

She allows for cognitive dissonance: the book is littered with asides like, “Ill admit that Im not sure that this inquiry is even productive”, or “I can feel the low, uneasy hum of self-delusion whenever I think about all of this”. As Tolentino rejects confident assertions, this is a book that deliberately resists definite conclusions: instead, her essays frequently end on a note of uncertainty, glimpsing new and at times uncomfortable revelations that often problematise more than they resolve.

The book is saved from being bleak by two tRead More – Source

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Burkina Faso military says it has seized power



The military in Burkina Faso says it has seized power and overthrown President Roch Kaboré.

The announcement was made on state television by an army officer, who cited the deteriorating security situation for the military takeover.

Mr Kaboré had faced growing discontent over his failure to stem an Islamist insurgency.

His whereabouts are unclear, but the officer said that all those detained were in a secure location.

The coup comes a day after troops seized barracks, and gunshots were heard in the capital, Ouagadougou.

Earlier, the ruling People’s Movement for Progress (PMP) party said that both Mr Kaboré and a government minister had survived an assassination attempt.

On Sunday, mutinying troops demanded the sacking of military chiefs and more resources to fight militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda.

The army statement said Mr Kaboré had failed to unite the nation and to deal effectively with the security crisis which “threatens the very foundations of our nation”.

The statement was issued in the name of a group not heard of previously, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration or MPSR, its French acronym.

Although read out by another officer, the statement was signed by Lt-Col Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who is believed to be the coup leader and a senior commander with years of experience fighting the Islamist militants.

The statement said that parliament and the government had been dissolved, and the constitution suspended, but promised a “return to constitutional order” within a “reasonable time”.

The military also announced the closure of Burkina Faso’s borders.

UN chief António Guterres condemned the coup and called on the military to “ensure the protection and the physical integrity” of Mr Kaboré.

The African Union and regional bloc, Ecowas, have also condemned the forceful takeover of power, with Ecowas saying it holds the soldiers responsible for the deposed president’s well-being.

Earlier, the news of his detention was received with cheers and celebrations in Ouagadougou, reports the BBC’s senior Africa correspondent Anne Soy.

Earlier video footage from the capital appeared to show armoured vehicles – reportedly used by the presidency – peppered with bullet holes and abandoned in the street.

Mobile internet services have been disrupted, though fixed-line internet and domestic wi-fi are working.

Mr Kaboré has not been seen in public since the crisis began, but two posts appeared on his Twitter account before the officer announced he had been toppled.

The later one called on those who had taken up arms to lay them down “in the higher interest of the nation”. Earlier, Mr Kaboré congratulated the national football team on their win in an Africa Cup of Nations match.

It is unclear who posted the tweets.

Some security sources say the president and other government ministers are being held at the Sangoulé Lamizana barracks in the capital.

On Sunday, hundreds of people came out in support of the soldiers and some of them set fire to the ruling party’s headquarters.

The coup comes a week after 11 soldiers were arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow Mr Kaboré.

But discontent has been growing in Burkina Faso over the government’s failure to defeat an Islamist insurgency in the country since 2015.

That escalated in November, when 53 people, mainly members of the security forces, were killed by suspected jihadists. And on Saturday, a banned rally to protest against the government’s perceived failure led to dozens of arrests.

Mutinying soldiers made several demands, including: the removal of the army’s chief of staff and the head of the intelligence service; more troops to be deployed to the front line; and better conditions for the wounded and soldiers’ families.

Similar troubles in neighbouring Mali led to a military coup in May 2021 – one that was broadly welcomed by the public.

Burkina Faso is now the third West African country to witness a military takeover in recent years. Guinea and Mali have had sanctions imposed on them by Ecowas to press them to return to constitutional order.


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India Covid: Booster shots start for priority groups as cases surge



India has begun giving booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to priority groups amid a surge in infections.

Health and frontline workers and people above 60 years old with comorbidities are currently eligible to take the jab.

The drive began as India battles a spike in Covid cases fuelled by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Early studies from other countries have suggested that a booster vaccine may provide more protection against Omicron.

The highly transmissive Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa in November.

Since then, several countries have expanded their booster programmes or shortened the gap between jabs to shore up protection against the variant.

In India, the booster shot – dubbed a “precaution dose” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi – will be the same vaccine that was given to a person for their first and second doses.

India has been mainly administering two locally-manufactured vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, since its vaccination drive began in January 2021.

On Sunday, India reported more than 179,000 new infections for the past 24 hours, driven by a steep rise in cases in big cities such as the national capital Delhi and financial centre Mumbai.

On the same day, Mr Modi chaired a review meeting with top officials, and asked for “technical support” to be provided to states reporting more cases.

The government had begun administering vaccines to 15-18-year-olds last week – it has said that 31% of Indians in this age group have been given the first dose so far.

More than 91% adults have been partially vaccinated so far, while 66% have received both doses.

But experts say that still leaves millions of unvaccinated people – many with underlying health problems that could increase the severity of the infection – at risk.

The spread of Omicron has also increased worries – India has confirmed a total of 4,003 cases of Omicron, with Maharashtra state reporting the highest (1,126), followed by Rajasthan (529) and Delhi (513).

The country has so far recorded more than 35 million Covid cases and about 483,000 deaths from the virus.

Last year, a devastating second wave overwhelmed the country’s health system, leading to a shortage in oxygen, hospital beds and critical drugs.


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Emily in Paris Fans Think Kim Cattrall Will Make an Appearance in Season 3



instyle– Fans are speculating a major pop-culture crossover in season 3 of Emily in Paris. After Kim Cattrall infamously turned down the chance to revive her Sex and the City character, Samantha Jones, for the rebootfans couldn’t help but wonder if Jones could make an appearance in the next season of the cult-favorite Netflix show.

If you’re watching And Just Like That … (and even if you’re not), you know that Cattrall’s character is supposedly off working her public relationships magic in London, England, just a quick trip from Emily (Lily Collins) and her booming marketing firm, Savoir.

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Emily in Paris Season 2

Fans noticed major parallels between the characters, from their location to their sex positivity to their career in communications. Plus, both series were created by big-time Hollywood producer Darren Star — with SATC costume designer Patricia Field now responsible for Emily’s kitschy, Parisian looks — making a collab that much more believable.

One Twitter user wrote, “Current theory: Samantha has supposedly moved overseas, hence her lack of presence in the new SATC TV series. Then she shows up by total surprise in a crossover episode of EMILY IN PARIS. I would watch Samantha try to tolerate Emily, 100 percent.”

Collins fueled the flames by teasing a possible season 3. The actress posted photographs from her Vogue Hong Kong cover featuring a jet-black shag haircut and dark makeup writing, “Season 3 pivot?? Who’s with me? …” Collins used the same caption when reposting a fan’s Tweet with the magazine images that read, “Emily in Berlin.”

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