2023 TikTok is 2013 YouTube
Inspecting the ceiling of content and why we need to work with AI.
South Korea Smashes Own Record for Lowest Fertility Rate
This is interesting, and feels like a first: more people died in South Korea than were born last year.
Four-Day Work Week Study Finds Majority of Employers Shifting
These companies tried it — here's what happened.
I want to believe this, but I don’t.
Why are UK supermarkets facing fresh food shortages?
Venice canals start to run dry as low tide and lack of rain hit
Snow in California, sunbathing in DC
These all feel related, at the intersection of climate and everyday life.
11-Year-Old Girl Dies of Bird Flu
Not to worry you but!!
“presented entirely as a civil and bureaucratic process issue”
“we traffic so many kids”
Big story this week was the discovery that so many migrant children are being trafficked, working in corporate factories. This is very bad!
US faces new threat from Canadian ‘super pig’
Oh? Okay. Maybe the 30 - 50 feral hogs guy was right.
"Trump says he brought "Trump water" for the residents"
"Donald Trump to McDonald’s workers in East Palestine"
“absolute unforced error”
I know better than to assume Biden hasn’t helped, but the optics of this are not-great. Moreover…
House Republicans launch probe of Buttigieg
”they are deliberately misleading their loyalists”
Trump’s Ohio Visit Puts Spotlight on Rail-Safety Rules He Ended
The weaponization of East Palestine is going to blow up in everyone’s face: the GOP is trying to paint Buttigieg as the demon here, while safety measures were cut by Trump. As
Marianne Williamson Is Running for President Again
I believe in her.
Tennessee takes lead in Republican effort to restrict drag shows
“Ours is a revolution of love”
This is quite unbelievable? I recently read Chelsea Manning’s Readme.txt, which was a reminder of how quickly trans and queer rights came – and seemingly are going.
Supreme Court hearing case that could rewrite social media
This story should have gotten more press this week, as social media’s means of operating could change tremendously (especially places like YouTube!!).
Elon Musk keeps laying off Twitter employees
What an idiot.
Meta To Roll Out Paid Verification Service For Instagram, Facebook
"zuck is watching the complete meltdown"
Zuckerberg copying Twitter is so flop. They tried to kill Instagram once by pushing reels, why not do it again in a different way?
If you’re on TikTok, you’ve heard the mashups. There’s the one that puts “We Will Rock You” and “Undone” and “In Da Club” and “Dumb Ways To Die” all together. There’s Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” via Burger King’s “Whopper Whopper” remix. There’s that guy who sings mashups of different songs over new songs, like Tracy Chapman over Miley Cyrus and Bee Gees over Usher and Uncle Kracker over Robin Thicke. They’re quirky fun!
Then there are the food mashups. Made most popular by the icon @tanaradoublechocolate’s “Everyone’s So Creative” react videos, we’re in a moment of recognizing the fun and folly of making tacos inside a bag of Doritos and eating a microwaved salt and Red Bull sandwich. More is more! We’re not just putting an egg on it: we’re literally wrapping sandwiches in scrambled eggs.
And fashion mashups! We can’t forget about these. Look at creators like Wisdom Kaye and Sara Camposarcone, who are on both ends of the spectrum aesthetically but are doing similar things: they have “great taste,” according to publications, who use high fashion to dress like the Justice League or a Guy Fieri Pride float. It’s a mashing of styles!
The music, the food, the fashion: they’re all separate – but they’re not. What you’re witnessing here is two things, which both go hand in hand. First, we’re in the throes of mashup culture. While people are calling this maximalism, that’s a bit of a misnomer considering maximalism is a pile-on. Yes, that is true for elements of this culture – but the mash-up is about layering, about finding synergy and connections in unrelated things, specifically things of different cultures, eras, and stylistic intent: the result may be maximalistic, but the gesture that made it is based in mashing ideas up. Somewhere, Girl Talk waits in the wings.
The other thing – which I think is bigger, more illuminating, and new and not – is that TikTok is recreating mid-2010s YouTube, or the era when the Internet finally graduated from niche to macro-culture. The music mashups? They’re the second coming Roomie’s One Guy, 14 Voices and Anthony Vincent’s Ten Second Songs 20 Style Covers. Culinary piling-it-all-ons are echoes of Epic Meal Time in more intimate forms. The fashion? It’s just Disney Bounding built upon the scaffolding of early 2010s pop starlet fashion theatrics by Nicki and Katy and Miley and Gaga. Then there is the creeping return of flashmobs and double-popped collars and neo-chevron. All these things have been done before in a different era of internet, but are being repackaged as new discoveries.
We know styles are cyclical and time is increasingly meaningless because of TikTok, as has been written again and again and again. What’s more interesting in this repeating of the past isn’t that these trends are replaying: it’s that they represent the growth economy playing out in consumer-based entertainment. Mr. Beast wouldn’t be doing a mass unblinding in 2023 if there wasn’t the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2013 or KONY in 2012, philanthropy efforts that turn giving into a flashy, viral act now exaggerated into Mr. Beast’s brand.
There’s a ceiling to what we can come up with – and we’ve hit it. Nothing is new because there’s only so many new things that can be made. While novelties can and will occur, these trends repeat and repeat offering a light déjà vu because there really is a universality (or super normality) in experience, regardless of time. New generations coming online are the monkeys at the typewriters and, while exciting in the moment, they’re unknowingly stumbling on things that came before. It’s no one’s fault, nor is it a problem, but it gets at a current “issue” in culture: we have too much content and are having trouble cutting through the noise.
I spent all night on TikTok Live
Look, I understand weird shit goes on on TikTok, especially lives. But that’s part of the charm! Go to sleep if it weirds you out.
"you're kind of a spoonfed wimp"
There was a discussion this week about vintage apartments and how they “are dirtier,” when the reality is they are just older and have seen some shit. This gets at how increasingly the need for everything to be pristine is going to turn everything into adult dorms. This is the carcinisation of housing!
"A Record Number of Young Men Are Single"
"duetting men who hate women"
5 facts about single Americans
This is going to be a conversation we will continue to have and see. It seems like the Gen Z/Millennial answer to Boomer Dad Who Hates His Wife.
Are we witnessing the end of the BBL era?
"plastic surgery is going to go out of style"
"Pilgrim" Kim Kardashian And Ethel Cain Trend Explained
The talk of the end of the BBL era isn’t new, but it does get at what TikTok creator @peoplesoracle puts so well: things like plastic surgery and shows of wealth are certainly going to be minimized as the rich will attempt to make themselves “look like us” as they hoard wealth. Why else is Kim Kardashian dressing like she’s on the prairie going viral?
The Billionaire’s Daughter Knows What You’re Thinking
"it's now about writing about the perception box"
Related to the above. Remember those Catapult layoffs? It’s worse than you think. Never trust the rich!!
"our capybara DUUUUPE"
“would you spend the day”
"Bathing ALL my pets?"
The Science Behind the Unproblematic Nature of the Capybara
The animal of the moment is the capybara.
“You’re not broken: our system is”
”Is mental illness just a natural reaction to a sick society?”
There is a(n economic conspiracy) theory of sorts circulating TikTok that I feel like is going to pick up: that modern life and work is just a zoo for humans, that we’re in the throes of mass zoochosis. See also: corecore, the mashup aesthetic that points out the soft drolling advertising of the swipe.
Isolée - Rumour
This will probably mean something to approximately three people but 2000s minimal house superstar Isolée is back with his first song in over a decade.
The artist Refik Anadol is having a moment. Refik uses machine learning to make projections and video art, working with large volumes of images (Talking millions.) to craft what he calls “machine hallucinations,” artworks that mimic the forms images by regenerating them into a quick-moving landscape, as if you’re witnessing the computer trying to turn them into a single idea or set of visual ideas. I’ve interviewed him a few times over the years, watching him go from showing in a small space at the Pacific Design Center to taking over the Walt Disney Concert Hall. He was formerly a little Los Angeles tech-oriented artistic secret, but has crossed over into the mainstream.
The rise in AI has shifted his being a beloved figure in the tech-art space to a divisive artist who is slipping artificial intelligence onto white walls. For example: he did the visuals at this year's Grammys, which some saw him as the star of the show. But his work Unsupervised at MoMA? It’s capturing the limits of imagination for critics: ArtNet thinks it’s fun if you don’t think about it too hard; Fast Company thought it was a stunning, mind-bending loop; the New York Times thought it was a screensaver; and Jerry Saltz of New York called it “pointless museum mediocrity.”
I am no defender of AI – but I am a defender of Refik, who is blooming because of (and despite of) AI's recent consumer world breakout. What’s happening with him – as seen in the New York Times and with the insufferable Jerry Saltz – is classic art world gatekeeping, which we covered in a Report™ months back: when the rich and elite are forced to share an environment with artwork that has a mass appeal, there is a need to attack it because it’s too easy, that it’s wasteful, that it serves no value. I enjoy conceptual, deep-thinking art as much as the next snob (Which…I am not afraid to admit.) but it’s a bit offensive that the art world is so ready to attack the appealing. In a time of Van Gogh (and now Hockney) non-museum experiences that copy Refik, museums need some contemporary sex appeal to stay relevant. Unless the entire museum is converted, there shouldn’t be a problem with a single splashy screen that turns the museum into a destination, which could serve as an entrée to more contemporary and historic works.
The problem with the conversation about Refik’s work is that it’s a sponge for our AI ennui and our desire to control. So much AI conversation is about either it’s stupidity or how it will affect our jobs, while also zooming in on its flaws and reliance on people. If you’ve been on TikTok or Twitter in the past year, you’ve seen AI’s possibilities: this week alone, it made Gen X young again and turned people into incorrect paintings, all while a beauty filter terrified users. These are concerning, obviously, and crash into a minor crisis in the literary world: science fiction magazine Clarkesworld had to close submissions because AI-written short stories and general spam; meanwhile,pointed out how people are using AI to help write their books and cover letters, which is as stupid as it sounds. All this gets at AI being a product, something that just shows up, assumedly perfect, which people figure out ways to fuck with and get fucked by.
AI is very smart and very dumb: it’s the best and worst of technology. But what’s not happening, as there is likely a gap of experience with the technology, is that there is a failure to take control of it. From the reviews of Refik to these “scary” filters, all the talk of AI is that we are helpless against it, that it is changing us, that we are boring holes in our brains by using it – and that might be true. Shouldn’t this be an opportunity for working with this tech, teaching it, making it more manageable, and finding ways to make it more organized, simple, and “smart”? This resignation is ridiculous, which brings us back to Refik: it’s refreshing to see someone trying to reshape the machine, to work with AI’s promise in a way that can be aesthetically pleasing and symbiotic. It’s not perfect, but it’s a pleasing attempt.
"Ariana DeBose wrote the show's opening rap"
"the bafta actress nominees"
"condragulations, you're the winner"
“these are sisters”
"the audience during Ariana DeBose’s Bafta performance"
"Me discussing Ariana DeBose’s BAFTA rap"
"sitting on zoom in an important meeting"
"how many times have i watched"
"Backstage with #ArianaDebose"
"Ariana DeBose opens the ceremony"
If you’re unfamiliar with the Ariana DeBose BAFTA performance, you missed a crucial part of 2023 internet. I recommend watching the full performance in the last link, as it’s just as unhinged as the viral clip. (Also: it wasn’t that bad, but it was that bad because the entire audience just stared at her. No one, save for Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis, were jamming along. It was very embarrassing, that the world’s best “entertainers” don’t know how to be proper audience members.) (Either way: this is so good because it’s “Imagine” level cringe.) (Also here’s Ariana talking about it along with Jamie Lee.)
“i’m a creep”
"don't sleep enough"
Another good trend this week: the Ice Spice-is-Thom Yorke conversation.
"What Was That S Thing"
This history of the Stussy S which has nothing to do with Stussy.
"the invisible heels"
When we talk about the legendary children, these are them.
"made specifically for me"
"having a good attitude"
Another week, another gay man does something very funny on Jeopardy! by accident.
"Mark Wahlberg’s 40 day challenge"
I guess he really is trying to rebrand Lent. Unhinged.
"excessive force ones"
This is killing me. The most boomer shoe to ever shoe.
"never wanted to be vegan more"
This will make you not wanna eat meat for the rest of the weekend.
"there was an ANGEL"
Make Disney Adults eat real food again.
"Mr. Gay Pride"
We really need to place bets on Pedro’s boyfriend drop.
And, finally, the best song of the weekend.
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