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lol you wouldn't get it
On the rise of hyper-niche, insider references and some advice to get you through the week.
Could an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza meet its aims?
Israel’s Jabalia attacks may be ‘war crimes’
More than 3,600 Palestinian children killed in war
“contemptuous of international human rights concerns”
This week on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
"my father was against antisemitism"
"Michelle Alexander & Ta-nehisi Coates publicly support"
”terrible way to wake up”
”Some final thoughts”
”the MLK some of y’all are talking about”
”The video Amy Schumer”
It’s also important to note how insane celebrities like Amy Schumer have gone, which is converging into one corner of (white) activism colliding – if not attacking – another corner of (Black) activism. See the ridiculous attempted “gotcha” of activist and actor Asia Jackson by Schumer. I think this Ryan Ken video and this Matt Lieb video sums up the tension best. See also: Björk’s Tweet on the matter, which is the best Tweet of the week.
“Israeli propaganda against journalists in Gaza“
“published in the Jerusalem Post”
“I’m still alive”
Related: a lot of conversation about Gazan media, specifically by journalists and creators who are trying to share their stories – only for people to call them propaganda. Heartless.
WeWork Plans to File for Bankruptcy
Who is surprised? Also…isn’t this like the fifth time they’ve done this? Sheesh.
Fallen Crypto Mogul Convicted
This week was another bad one, but your week was definitely better than Sam Bankman-Fried’s. Related: the best story you’ll read about law and art is an interview with the courtroom sketch artist who found a variety of guises that Sam took on in court. Absolutely fascinating!
Alabama Mayor Kills Self
“headlines are two days apart”
This may have gone under most people’s radars but, when we talk about how outing people and queerphobic words have actions, this is what we mean: an Alabama mayor and pastor took his life after being outed by a right-wing publication, after asking them not to be outed. Just awful – and exactly the goal of queer hate now.
Climate activists spray-paint Paris's Louvre
Good. (Also I don’t think enough people talked about how an arsonist destroyed a public version of Venus of the Rags, which is all about waste. Good news on that though: it’s being restored.)
Microsoft’s AI is making a mess
“Well this is awkward”
“Generative AI is not actually that useful”
"Julia Louis Dreyfus asked ChatGPT"
This week in “Wow, AI sucks.” Big AI news of the fart house variety is that double deuces Rishi Sunak and Elon Musk had a chat about AI, where Elon said the tech would end all work. Okay? How are we non-richies surviving then? Y’all billionaires not thinking about us. (Speaking of Musk, his losing era continues as he’s going to sell Twitter handles for $50K+.)
What is behind the unexpected decline in dementia?
Millions Have Cognitive Decline and Don't Know It
Something is happening in the aging and memory space.
Bird names honoring enslavers, racists will be changed
A great story on how many bird names are going to be changed as they’re named after enslavers and white supremacists.
Rats may have power of imagination
I guess this makes us the biggest naked mole-rats of them all.
"When your costume is too niche and you realize these aren't your people,” the on-screen caption of a TikTok reads. The costume in question? A woman wearing a mini-dress while holding stacked trays of 48 empty oyster shells. Do you get it? If not, does this help?
This video captures the feeling that kept popping up in the comments of video after video after video this week: Halloween costumes have gotten delightfully niche. “These 2023 costumes have been extremely niche and I’m here for it,” someone wrote about a costume inspired by a 2014 news blooper. “I love when I understand even the niche-iest costumes,” someone wrote about a costume inspired by a 2005 Wife Swap star-turned-meme. "this year's halloween costumes need to go down in the hall of fame,” a TikTok declared, after proceeding to show costumes inspired by everything from a 16 year old Hillary Duff performance to a specific scene from Reno 911.
There is a joy to this, that memes are now so mainstream that they are costumes. It also reveals a very of-the-culture phenomena that has always defined generations but is taking a new turn now: if you know you know, where a subject makes a gesture (Someone dressed as “Who will clean your toilet?” Kelly Osbourne.) and is met by an audience who understands the source material (The View, 2015). These costumes are the equivalent of putting on an underground song at a party and someone coming up to you to tell you that your taste is impeccable. This gesture builds off of the years of slang becoming too niche and everything becoming pastiche, where any public gesture you make is an accessory of your internet literacy and TikTok savvy. To be cool today is to be an encyclopedia of memes and moments, which allows you to participate in conversations layered with whatever random reality show or TikTok audio reference of the moment.
This is the logical evolution of the very 2020s meme costume party trend, where costumes come with quotes and outfits require lip syncing, evoking and recycling and playing with a form of semiotics that only work with hyper-focused media consuming audiences. You no longer can be the movie character: you have to be the specific line of a specific scene of a specific person from some random moment of some video. Seeing this turn direct with Halloween costumes makes perfect sense since the holiday is always a game of one-upmanship. Will you get the reference? Did you dig deep enough to find the most specific type of character to portray? What was once a gay joke of dressing up as a specific niche era of a pop star has now become everyone, from a “so preppy” costume to Knife Britney to Burj Khalifa Rihanna to Patrick Star in heels to that Eric Stonestreet meme to the boss and CEO to thicc squidward to Nene Leakes falling to that one Irish cocktail TikToker to so many of that apple store monkey boy.
Of course, normal Halloween will persist – from mundane things in Japan to brilliant fish markets scenes – but the days of simple costumes being buzzy are over. They’re not cool, unique, or that “smart.” In fact, it makes you look old and out of touch. This is going to hurt celebrities and the disconnected most, as just dressing up like a peacock or as another celebrity shows you’re out of town and not in the real, online world: to succeed, you have to do like Lil Nas X and be your own meme or be like Meghan Thee Stallion and be a specific gremlin – or you will look outdated.
But, really, does this matter? Yes, because celebs, brands, and old people cannot buy credibility by repeating a piece of slang or making a meme: you have to be able to show that you are in-the-trenches, watching the same TikToks and consuming the same content as the cool kids. Otherwise, you reveal your irrelevance (or inability to connect).
It Follows Is Finally Getting a Sequel
Some questions. Why? Who is asking for this? Will they finally speak on the strange clam phone? Stone me if you will, but I thought the original was pre-A24 edging made while huffing poppers from the 1980s. Granted, I am a hater at heart: I should revisit it.
FNAF: Peacock's Most-Watched of All Time
"a turning point"
There is going to be a lot said about the Five Nights At Freedy’s movie, in that it mobilized Gen Z to go to theaters and stream on a (dud) platform – and it’s all based in not-new, digital-first IP. The movie is not good (I half-watched it and it’s neither scary nor interesting.), which doesn’t matter given the hunger for cash in this starved economy. This was the rare W for Hollywood, given the year they’ve had.
HBO Bosses Used Accounts to Troll Critics
The way television executives are acting like angry stans. This is psychotic and definitely another check in the box of the public not trusting them. Just read what they Tweeted too: so embarrassing.
Max Adds Matthew Perry Tribute
The death of Matthew Perry is sad (and seemed to somehow break through all news, in a way I was not expecting), which relates to some very questionable brand (and general people) behavior like this.
Millions work as creators. In records, they barely exist.
An interesting economics story about careers and the creator economy, which is barely recognized by the state.
"North West for I-D magazine"
I refuse to link to the North West “debut” interview for i-D, but I will take this opportunity to say: it is so bizarre that people simp literal nepotism children. North, you will never be Tavi Gevinson – and no clout-chasing story will ever convince me otherwise.
Seeing a lot of salivating about the return of Phoebe Phyllo. The collection is…underwhelming and boring and overpriced and very much not what anyone asked for, like the “elevated” Boss collections. This piece by
Echoes of Mishima
This now-closed group show at Mexico City’s Galerie Pepe featuring incredible works from the 1960s through 1990s by Japanese artists mashing tradition with the (queered) male body. It’s Tom of Finland via yakuza.
Keith Lee tried to review some ATL restaurants
“the hungriest food reviewer”
"In a North England city"
This week the whole world became interested in Atlanta restaurant culture, thanks to creator Keith Lee.
“grew up in a proud family”
"Is this normal"
There is a thing happening on TikTok where people are sharing if they grew up in homes where 1.) everyone was naked and farting and walking into bathrooms or 2.) no one was ever seen or heard making bodily functions. I grew up in the latter, only because manners were the most important thing in our military household.
"making 6’5” babygirl so comfortable"
"man with a bag"
I’m keeping an eye on the Jacob Elordi “babygirl” cultural conversation, and how this giant hetero is pushing gender and masculinity conversations much further than people like Harry Styles ever will.
Two recent interviews with two of my favorite writers that I wanted to share!
First, Sigrid Nunez, who wrote the breakout The Friend and What Are You Going Through. Her new book called The Vulnerables – which apparently finishes and continues this spiritual trilogy – is out on Tuesday and, yes, I WILL be reading. For the unfamiliar, Sigrid is a writer of a certain age (in her seventies) who writes about the minutiae of life and life’s end as if a 31 year old. I’ve said this before but Sigrid is the best non-Millennial Millennial writer. Her works are funny and tragic, ekphrastic dives that go as deep into culture as they do emotion (and there’s usually an animal of literal and spiritual import). She is a genius. A treasure! Anything she says I will take as biblical. That is why I want to draw your attention to an interview she did with New York Times Magazine. She had some fabulous things to say – how she thinks autofiction is lol, her love of gymnast Simone Biles – particularly her thoughts on writing talent, which she observes as a college professor dealing with young students.
“When I was teaching in Boston,” Nunez said of an M.F.A. program there, one of several in which she has taught through the years, “we read one of Flannery O’Connor’s lectures. The class, which was a very good class, took a lot from the piece, but there was one thing they objected to very strongly: her statement that ‘the ability to create life with words is essentially a gift. If you have it in the first place, you can develop it; if you don’t have it, you might as well forget it.’ And that was the one thing that they pounced on: They said it was gatekeeping.”
To Nunez, O’Connor’s statement was just common sense.
This is wild. Yes, you “can” do anything – but you will not be good at everything that you do. You shouldn’t be good at everything! I said this last week in relation to kids who want to be adults but to be young is to desire to eat the world in one sitting – and to think you can actually do that. That was true when I was younger and that is true now – except there is this new tone of faux-polymathism to younger people, where people think because they have access to technology or that they got a good grade that they all of a sudden have a doctorate in literally anything and deserve to “have that.” Sweetie, you’re still on your parent’s phone plan and don’t know how to do your taxes (not to mention you have no idea how to Google). Please listen to Sigrid.
Onward to Miranda July. The artist-author-director is a Los Angeles counter-cultural icon known for her idiosyncratic and deeply dry reflections on being alive. Most people know her for Me And You And Everyone You Know, but real ones know her for things like the app Somebody and her observational art and the feminist film network she started. Besides Sigrid’s The Friend, a modern classic – require reading of the past decade – is her debut The First Bad Man, a weird and queer heart-tugging LA story. She has a new book coming out next year and, to build buzz, she’s starting to do press – and you must watch her recent Art21 feature. For the unfamiliar, this segment is a crash course in her practice, not to mention her charm and eccentricities. It also gives terrific glimpses into creative processes. For example: what does it mean to be a collaborator? Take these words with you, especially the next time you enter a group project.
I'm full of my own trust, abandonment issues, like all kinds of things that make it hard to get close to people. So it's a real miracle when something like that connection can happen. It becomes very beautiful, and emotional, and light, which is so, so incredible because it's not very light inside me. I think that's part of the risk thing is literally anything is possible in the moment. It's kind of like being in a dream or something. But a shared dream, not a lonely in-my-head dream. And the reward of working this way is creative freedom on every level.
I love the idea of a “shared dream.” Of course this requires an openness, an ability to soak up whatever someone pours over you. That is not easy! Because, like the kids Sigrid mentions who think they can do anything, we often seek to control and hold sacred our ideas. One of the must vulnerable and giving things we can do is allow someone to put their fingerprints all over our ideas (not to mention ourselves). That is sharing. This type of collaboration can be so hard, as it is so deliciously egalitarian and, in many ways, socialist: it’s not about you. It’s about collective action, collective responsibility, collective creation, collective joy. It’s a great metaphor for life which, again, is the greatest group project of all time.
Some inspiration! Some things to think about as we share in each other this week and beyond.
"owl stole a kid’s stick-horse"
This owl is in the running for bird of the year.
Speaking of horses, can you guess how many blood types horses have? I guarantee you’ll be wrong.
"Girls: let's order an Uber"
This was literally me on Friday night.
"9/11 or autism"
This is scientifically every (American) friend group right now.
“SINKY or a DINKY”
What are you? I’m a DINKWAD.
“PLEASE stop focusing on the Zodiac”
Chloë really was a babe in that movie.
“Dorin is on bake off”
This is exactly what I thought. Talk about cultural semiotics!
"the WRONG track"
I know we talked Halloween earlier, but I had to share this graphic song played at a kids costume presentation.
"This video of Abby Lee Miller"
I literally cried. She wheeled over and everything.
“it’s karaoke day”
I don’t like people touching my feet and I hate singing but I love this.
“get the testosterone one”
A brilliant statement on trans masculinity.
“moment lives rent free”
DJ Roach In The Club
And, finally, a look at my dream job.