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crying, listening, throwing up 😭
Examining what audio culture means, along with a few curious cultural storylines.
The U.S. is threatening to ban TikTok? Good luck
The Craziest Moments From Congress' TikTok Ban
"here's a really quick recap"
If, somehow, TikTok “gets banned” it would be a singular, once-in-a-lifetime cultural loss. It won’t happen but, if it does, we’d be dumping out the source of life right now.
Ugandan pass bill imposing death for homosexuality
"a direct line from far right evangelicals in the U.S. and this"
"the targeted export of evangelical Christianity to Africa"
The news of (effectively) banning queerness in Uganda is bad, but it’s also exported hate from the United States. In many ways, far right Americans are looking at Uganda as progressive here.
"Emma Curtis testifies before Kentucky"
"I'm a third grade teacher in Austin"
“who has a trans daughter”
"The trans community is as terrified as they've ever been"
This week’s roundup of trans, queer, and ally heroes speaking before legislators.
Researchers find ‘terrifying’ plastic rocks on remote island
Cue the TikTok sound “Cool!”
Sickle cell patient's success with gene editing raises hope
This is major news!! It’ll be interesting to see how this develops, and if it can become widely available. What will come next from gene-editing?
Spotify Spent Less Than 10% of the $100 Million Diversity Fund
Problems Inside Facebook Gaming’s Black Creator Program
BBC Update on Diversity Fund Criticized as 'Smoke and Mirrors'
Black creators find fewer partnerships for Black History Month
CEOs Are All Talk and No Action on Inclusion Benefit
I feel like I keep seeing and hearing stories about the “diversity” efforts by organizations falling woefully short, if not completely abandoned. The Spotify item is new, while the others are part of this ongoing trend from weeks and months back. Funny how times change.
March Madness Will Cost Employers $17.3B
A top ten stupidest story of 2023.
An Untold Story Behind Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Defeat
Absolutely correct me if I am wrong, but I feel like the GOP has committed decades of really shitty and morally corrupt behavior to tilt elections – and they keep getting away with it, coming forward with tails between legs in their golden years.
Women Talking won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, for the auteur Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Miriam Toews’ novel Women Talking. Like the book, the movie is about “a community of women [coming] together to figure out how they might move forward together to build a better world for themselves and their children.” A lot of this is done by doing just that – talking – creating a Twelve Angry Men-style debate about whether these women should leave or stay in their situation. We, the viewer, effectively eavesdrop on their discussions.
The act of eavesdropping has long been the joke about podcasts. One popular meme sums up the idea: a little boy sits, eating ice cream, laughing while seated next to a group of women who also sit, eating ice cream, laughing. The difference is the boy is real but the women are an advertisement. This meme has uncertain sources but has been trending, belovedly, relatably for years and years and years.
Podcasts are having an identity crisis too. While one in five Americans listen to a podcast daily, there has been a worldwide decline in new shows by 80%. Podcasts, a historically audio-only format designed in the style of radio, are shifting their focus from listening-only to listening-while-watching as video podcasts are preferred by listeners (viewers?) over the audio-only. Unsurprisingly, YouTube is now a top place for podcasts by some reports (and is intentionally reshaping the space), shifting the form from talkies to talk shows.
Then there are audiobooks. According to NPR, the hierarchy of audio entertainment breaks down with radio first (47%) then podcasts (21%) along with “other” (21%) placing audiobooks last (11%). This sounds like a small group but, when you look at the numbers and consider the book industry, audiobooks are gigantic: it’s an industry expected to reach $33 billion in revenue by 2030, with gains increasing steadily over the last ten years.
Related – and nearby – is the rise of “listen to this article” features, a little play button appearing now on most publications and powered by services like Audm. Audio articles are being used to reach younger readers (listeners?) and those looking to multi-task while reading, helping boost reach and retention for publications (not to mention lifting engagement and traffic, subscriptions, revenue, etc.).
Why is this happening? Why are we all enmeshed in the idea of listening, but not talking? I think this captures the cultural, emotional, and spiritual recession we’re all in. While you could ostensibly tie this to the act of having conversations and reading, the audio field has become a surrogate for our having a fulfilling life, where you can meet with friends, have deep, freshman-year style discussions about the meaning of life, along with time to read every single book that you loved. The idea of the salon, of being able to sit in a room with people while reading and sharing thoughts, has disappeared for anyone who is outside of capitalized economies (be they at the far top or far bottom).
For the majority of us young adults in the middle, this squeeze looks like a social recession and less-is-more friendships, burnout after burnout after burnout, leaving us longing and longing. “Where did all your Zoom friends go?” we wonder, ears open, scrubbing floors on the weekend, listening to people we don’t know in deep conversations with each other. “Where did the time go?” we wonder, turning on our books, listening to articles, stocking up on conversation that we will force onto coworkers. “Is anyone listening?” we ask an empty room, as thinkpieces play about the loss of culture, of time, of connection. Listen to this story about women talking? “Yes,” each of us says. “Because I am lonely.”
"Who's gonna tell him?"
"Congress TikTok is a pretty great representation"
The best part of the TikTok trial was…all the congresspersons outting themselves. (Related: this non-gay representative.)
These New Yorkers Hate the New ‘We ❤️ NYC’ Logo
Very flop! Very spitting on Milton’s grave!
My mother, the troll
This story is fascinating for many reasons, largely it’s discussion of the modern troll.
Text to Video Generative AI Is Weird as Hell
Really awful stuff. Wait for the “punch” video!!
"I used Try It On"
"the second one"
"AI got a ways to go"
Wanna see weird? Just look at the rejected AI headshots! (Also if you get an AI headshot…please email me so I can personally share how much of a silly goose you are.)
Lego Lilies? Ai Weiwei recreates Monet's giant masterpiece
I cannot tell if this is very cool or very dumb, largely as Weiwei is Damien Hirst-ifying those flower kits via those dot art “paintings.”
Sofia Coppola’s Daughter Made Her TikTok Debut
I didn’t know it was possible to simultaneously hate, hate, hate something while also deeply enjoying this so much. (Also the irony here about working around nepotism baby’dom when…her mother is a nepo baby final boss).
"Late night scrolling"
Take me to slide projector TikTok.
"mental health has pretty safely hit the “breast cancer zone”"
A perfect take, related to the stupid Ted Lasso Goes To Washington.
"intersectionality theory being mis-applied to argue"
"this a cis teenage girl voguing"
"I’ve been included in this genre as well"
"we really fucked up"
These all feel related, along the axes of sociological terms and vague prejudices.
Judge Eviscerates Internet Archive’s Scanning Program
A stupid loss for Internet Archive, a stupid win for big publishing, all over scanning books to make them more available online.
Non-Disparagement Clauses Are Retroactively Voided
In other court news, this seems like a win for workers.
Gwyneth Paltrow Utah ski accident trial’
"work on those facial expressions before the jury comes"
“I can’t stop laughing”
“what is going on at this trial”
Week two of Gwynie doing something bad-bad, this time via her trial. (See also: Rebecca Grossman).
Here are a lightning round of four storylines I’m following. Do with them what you will! Are they all related? No…or at least they’re not related at this moment.
Are there more religious movies now? Because I find the most entertaining thing in Hollywood to be the fall of Hollywood, I spent some time this week laughing at how poorly the Shazam sequel did only to discover something gross: a rise in Christian “blockbusters.” While these aren’t, say, true blockbusters like Heaven Is For Real and The Passion (Double ew.) but instead a slow-drip of “hits” including Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist (#5 debut, $3.6M), The Chosen: Season 3 (#1 [!!??], $5.8M), the 2022 rerelease of Lourdes (#11, $197K), Jesus Revolution (#3 [!!??], $47M [!!??]), Southern Gospel (#14, $287K), and Come Out In Jesus Name (#4, $970K). This represents many things – a rise in low-budget, high-reward Christian cinema; Hollywood bending an ear to the right – but most specifically the thriving parallel universe of Christianity, where someone like Jonathan Roumie (Who?) can star in the crowd-funded hit The Chosen and go onto to star in Jesus Revolution, only to recently get signed to UTA. Real freak shit happening here. (Related and very different: the success of theatrically released animes.)
While you literally could say the same thing about drag queens, there’s been a recent thread in culture pointing out how conservative thought leaders are just failed Hollywood aspirants, which further emphasizes how Hollywood wants to be DC and how DC wants to be Hollywood. Actor-as-politicial-bullhorn is way out (Just ask Gal Gadot.) but the other way around is thriving: Steven Crowder, Michael Knowles, and Ben Shapiro tried and failed at Hollywood, as did Candace Owens (wannabe Vogue person) and Christian Walker (wannabe actor) and Steve Bannon (wannabe producer) and Meghan McCain (former SNL intern). While the reverse seems to happen on the left (See: Ron Reagan, Steven Ford, Malia Obama), the New York Time’s Jamelle Bouie put it best by noting that these persons traded roles, now playing “horrible chuds who advocate terrible things.” The most egregious of this is Michael “Ban transgenderism!” Knowles who not only was an actor but starred in an extremely queer role. (See also: George Santos.) Where will this all go? No clue, but this adds a further blur between power and fame, while helping build the right’s house of cards.
Do I want to talk about kids for the second week in a row? Of course not! But are we going to? Yes. This week the mess happening in politics around “saving children” pivoted to the Parents Bill of Rights, Kentucky’s passage-and-vetoing of trans affirming care, Lauren Boebert becoming a grandma at 36, pushing to ban child brides, and elementary kids being too bored to teach. A longer lede happening here – which directly relates to what I spoke about last week – is seeing more adults who were fucked up as kids coming home to roost. Example: former child actor Amanda Bynes, who sadly made news via a (public) breakdown she had. The news about her was quite sad, but quickly shifted to the smoking gun: Nickelodeon’s Dan Schneider, whose name trended bigger than hers given his yuckiness. This storyline is a part of a new wave of framing child experiences as adults, as we’re seeing and saw from Jeanette McCurdy, Collin Gosselin, and Emma Chamberlain. You can see where this is going next: a rise in former “famous” children coming out with experiences about how the adults around them – family and not – fucked them up for cash. See the extremely flammable Teen Vogue exposé on growing up in a YouTuber family, along with countless TikToks addressing the same subject, along with a rise in former reality star kids speaking out. There will be a great reckoning here in the next few years.
I’m reading journalist and Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa’s book How To Stand Up to a Dictator, which is a must-read for anyone who works in social media or who uses social media. For the online worker, Ressa speaks to the power of information and disinformation, and generally the idea of tapping into communities (or completely missing what you’re tapping into), which feels particularly important as we’re experiencing a drought of viewpoints as states, businesses, and brands attempt to “become people” via Twitter and TikTok. Aspointed out in a brilliant story this week built around a recent brand Twitter trend, it asks a question of one’s voice and who public, capitalist participation is for – and why it exists to begin with, given that social helps mask or obfuscate malpractices. This idea came crashing into the TikTok-goes-to-Washington discourse via TikTok posting CEO which had users simping for him and repurposing the hearing into a video meme. I’m unsure where this is going to go but it seems like a non-political reckoning is going to happen as more people realize brands and social platforms are not our friends. (All this to say: more brands need to be like Sesame Street’s accounts.)
“We crashed Truth Social”
Donald Trump’s Nasty Ron DeSantis Nicknames, Ranked
Unrelated and not, but a funny story about how a few dudes literally crashed the Truth Social app by getting Ron DeSantis trending. In looking at this story, I also noticed Trump’s (incredible) nicknames for that man, which New York recently ranked.
“sleeveless tops are a trend”
Oh US Vogue is down real, real bad.
"we didn't have backdrops"
I almost posted something about this a few weeks ago but TikTok is increasingly where former viral stars go to have their Behind The Music moment. This week, we hear from Cara “Leave Britney alone!!” Cunningham.
"What do y’all think her favorite Björk album is"
"he going to JAIL"
This week in very good Kardashian posts. (The latter of which reminds: we’re entering a new era of fan fiction, arguably of micro-fan fictions, which is couched next to the delightful queer insanity that is floptropica.) (NOTE: Do not click on those floptropica links unless you want a gay nuclear bomb dropped on your fyp. I am warning you it will permanently alter your algorithm.)
"picture from moms trip to the louvre."
An incredible celeb sighting in Paris. Arguably the celeb to sight!
"oh I know her next album is gonna be FAR OUT"
No matter the time period, Pop Crave would always be rotted.
"i am on the FLOOR"
And, technically, so is that tia.
“the journey is usually the part that you remember”
Love you, Zipper Cyrus.
“Why did they write his name like this”
Very interesting question about the Prime Minister of Canada.
"whenever i hear "noam chomsky" i picture this guy"
I feel like this picture is having a meme moment. Anyway, I agree with this Tweet.
"no fucking way"
Easily the tweet/TikTok of the week.
And, finally, my role in the Fast & Furious franchise.