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The Trend Report™: Schmurgled
Why Is It So Hard to Be Rational?
An interesting story about how hard it is to, you know, think rationally and the growing culture of skepticism and “rationality” as it comes to doing the right thing. Very interesting and very of this “I know everything!” moment of culture.
Beware The Bobos
If you read one story this week, read this. It’s from the latest issue of The Atlantic and is about the creative class of adults who are liberal and successful and how they, like generations before them, are accidentally building walls and creating deeper cultural divides. It’s quite illuminating.
Prop. 22 is ruled unconstitutional
This is huge! FUCK YOU UBER/LYFT/ETC.
Nursing Shortages Put Patients at Risk
We all knew this was coming.
Ultra-Vaxxed Israel's Crisis Is a Dire Warning to America
And we all knew this was coming. Woof.
New Zealand's lockdown extended
...and we knew this trouble in paradise was coming too.
"You are not a horse."
lol Americans are DUMB
When to Get a Flu Shot
I always get a flu shot! But the question is: when should you get it? The answer is: probably September, but at least before the end of October. That way, your body has time to process what it’s learning.
Employees getting happier working from home
And “companies are getting worried.” No shit! The whole point of capitalism and America is the delude you into thinking that your participation is independence, freedom, when it’s actually your giving over your life. Wake up!!
We Weren’t Happy Before the Pandemic
See above. I could have told you this but, again, you know this too.
Differences Between Isolation and Loneliness
Relatedly! Isolation seems unique to now, in some ways, but definitely loneliness has been here. We all have it. Such is life in America, or in modern society.
unvaccinated UV students disenrolled
"Patagonia won’t supply its products to the resort."
Messy times call for messy measures. I think this is the next evolution of “cancelling,” which we’ve been seeing a lot of in recent years. It’s very much a join-or-die mentality, which is extremely American. Division is in, baby!
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there’s been an uptick in conversation about puppets, mascots, and robots. There’s something about surrogates, about the unreal, that has long been trending but are finding a special place in culture now.
Let’s start with puppets. From touring Central Park’s marionette theater to the recently closed NOT I at LACMA, the puppet illustrates inward expressions that cannot be expressed outwardly without help. They are our desires and alter egos extended from our bodies, litrally turned physical to be manipulated and played with out in the world. Puppets are metaphors. Look to the kooky buzzy, probably silly singing doll girlAnnette, who serves as a manifestation of fame and the manipulations that come with love and being loved. By extension, AppleTV+’s Servant plays along the same rules of baby animation (Granted: I haven’t seen it and am unsure if the fake-baby here is alive.) as well as the upcoming Chucky television series, which waits in the wings to wreak havoc on audiences. Coincidence that most of these puppets are babies? No. We want our little alter egos to grow up and learn from our mistakes – or become our mistakes. That’s what we seem to be saying.
And then there are the mascots, the closest thing we have to court jesters. Largely seen in sports, the world of the mascot is one of mystery and performance and fandom, as a recent large feature on this world explains. Unlike puppets, mascots are scapegoats, excuses, ways for people to be bad and do bad all for the sake of a joke. From Notre Dame being offended by their mascot being called offensive to a fan using a mascot as a cover up for a racial slur to greedy copyright battles over who owns the Phillie Phanatic, mascots are fluffy catchalls for bad behavior, our finger pointing inner teen looking for someone else to take the blame. Mascots aren’t all bad though, as their job is to warm, as we know all too well from the most important figure of the 21st century: Gritty. This is all to say that every entity needs a mascot, as it gives an audience a blank space to project diverse backgrounds onto, someone to turn their frown upside down, to take the spectator or audience or watcher’s emotion, filtering it through itself, to present it back as joy. No matter what fucked up thing the mascot actually does, it’s job is to cheer and create cheer. No wonder we’re so obsessed with them right now.
Which leads us to robots, which are neither puppet nor mascot but also are absolutely puppets and mascots. They are beyond metaphorical child or teenage vessel but instead something we are crafting in our own image, obsessed and horrified by the idea that we may be able to create a mirror. From Boston Dynamics’ Atlas to Disney’s sentient robot entertainers to Tesla’s hobbling robo-friend, the robot intends to fully reflect our “best” selves, from being the perfect athlete to the most entertaining best friend. These tech creatures are supposed to make life more efficient, helping with healthcare or managing games, to do jobs so we can live a more leisurely life. That’s the dim hope that we’ll never fully have realized, as robots – like puppets, like mascots – are better at being friends than being us. They can offer us inspiration – hope for a refuge, insight into animal power – when we need it. They’re a reminder to look inward instead of outward, something that we should get from people wanting to go to space: a reminder to rebuild the self, the home, the planet. We should look toward these mirrors.
The biggest reason why these trending doppelgangers are so engaging is that they advance the trompe l’oeil, seductive tricks of the eye (or all the senses) that make one think the fake is the real. We saw this most obviously in 2020’s “Is it cake?” trend, which has morphed from meme to legitimate artistic fakery that begs the question of authenticity and enjoyment, to wonder if the real is even that good to begin with. Converging with trends like digital fashion for digital avatars and mind-bending public art from persons likeJR, we’re in a state of being intoxicated by foolery. There is a high from being faked out, from being entertained, and puppets, mascots, and robots take the inherently foolish feeling trompe l’oeil gives you and pops it into your every day, to indulge so much that you forget the fakery.
Thus, the lesson: how long can we indulge and project and distract? What are we indulging and projecting and distracting? Or are we too preoccupied to find the answer?
on abandoning capitalistic achievement
This interview with poet Ross Gay is very ~nourishing~ in that it reminds and teaches you how to align your own desires and pursuits with that which we call work. He also has some genius thoughts about day jobs. I love Ross Gay.
End of Botox Stigma?
My friend Lindsay wrote this essay and it is ~so good~ I had the pleasure of reading it along the way and am so happy to see it out in the world!
I have a short story out in this journal! I wrote it during the Kavanaugh hearings, about sexual misconduct allegations, being Latinx in the South, and the lives of children.
“DROP in Puerto Ricans identifying solely as ‘white’”
This is a big finding! And shows how intersectional identities of Latinx persons are.
The Black Artists Leaving America
A story like this comes out every few months and I read every one of them!
Molly Shannon opens up about tragedy
This is a great celebrity feature that illuminates a lot about this icon. Also of interest: she has a memoir coming soon and is married to the artist Fritz Chestnut, who is pretty good.
'White Lotus' Score Makes You Anxious
I’m late but Bobby kept telling me to read this. Why is the music from White Lotus so good and a mini-meme? Because it makes anxiety gRoOvY.
Let's talk about brands on TikTok.
A very good read, including a word with my favorite TikTok creator: the cuties of NPR’s Planet Money.
"Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Fortnite Creative"
Maybe next week I’ll write a longer piece about digital event spaces and how Fortnite is the new Madison Square Garden.
Jerma Lets Twitch Chat Play Him
The digital star pulled one of the wildest stunts by a creator in recent history: he turned his life into The Sims and let his fans control every aspect of his life. It’s incredible and I’m very surprised more people didn’t talk about this this week!
Rhye’s Michael Milosh Sued by Ex-Wife
For sexual violence. Bye bye, Starbucks sex music maker!
In the book Ready Player One, the real world that people live in has turned so gross and deadly and nightmarish that people live their lives vividly online, in an avatar system called OASIS. OASIS is a virtual reality world where people go to school, go to work, have fun, play games, and live their lives. This is where people see the world because the world is so bad. It is education and entertainment. It is both the student and the teacher.
I’ve been thinking a lot about younger generations – both younger Zoomers and Those Who Come After™ – and believe they are already living in a version of OASIS that already exists: YouTube.
YouTube is a place where children go for entertainment, for education, and for creative expression. This is a place that is neither a television channel nor a television-making tool but instead a sandbox that might give you something to learn from or something to laugh at. It’s everything to them. It’s nothing to them. This form of short-form entertainment indulging has given these young people tools to create and participate in the world, both as workers and entertainers in their own right. They can literally do anything because a place like YouTube can prepare them for anything.
After years of this, after a time where a child could have been born and “raised” by YouTube, we’re starting to see examples of this already, which is yielding strange videos that are a pastiche of references constructed from found digital materials like memes and free sound effects. To understand this, we have to start with the (delightful) Johny Johny meme, a crudely created digital animated series, character, and channel that teaches nursery rhymes with poor production values and even poorer entertainment qualities. To the adult eye, Johny Johny is a nightmare. To the child? It’s bright and colorful and silly good times.
Fast forward to now and there are videos racking up millions that appear like Johny Johny (or Cocomelon or LooLoo Kids or Pinkfong) but are distinctly not for kids but tap the same imperfect style: these are videos like “The Best Troll Miss T Coffin Dance Compilation” and “The Real Emoji Movie Part One” and “Omni Man vs Friday Night Funkin (Hard mode FULL WEEK)” and “Spiderman Cartoon vs Hulk Rickshaw Funny Animation - Drawing Cartoons 2.” These are videos that take what could be construed as kids content – animation, bright colors, slapstick comedy – and puts it through a filter that is grotesque, weird, meme-related, and ultimately a product that is recycled. It’s not elevated in any way. Why? Because these videos are by kids and for kids, the next generation of Johny Johny that older Gen Z creators share saying “what my friends send me at 3AM.” They are videos made to bridge children into tweendom into teenage life into young adulthood. It’s a part of a vernacular that builds on the roughness created by Super Stans™ and Queer Chaotics™ creators: content made from found materials.
While, technically, yes they may not all be made by 8 year olds but they are likely crafted and consumed by the 13 year old who has been told their entire life to “go watch YouTube.” At a certain point of watching, they started to make and participate and create, be it in the comments or as a creator themself. When you have a phone, when you have free apps, you can participate in the ecosystem that you have been told for years by parents, educators, and entertainment entities because you have the tools to make something. No wonder kids say they want “to be YouTube stars” when they grow-up: that’s a catchall phrase for “someone who makes something worth of being on YouTube.” A creator. Someone who makes.
The results are mixed, obviously: the beautiful kids go to the top, appearing on camera like Charli D’Amelios and Lil Huddys, while the kids who know they don’t have the face or confidence or poise to go on camera hide, making animated videos. Those kids are the dorks, the outsiders, those who are gems but are misconstrued as dirt. They’re the modern misfits. Unsurprisingly, they’ve turned to the internet and are trying to construct a reality, making more-than-three-minute videos that end up on YouTube and are not-great in quality (“Omni Man vs Friday Night”) but may-be-great as far as story (“Real Emoji Movie”). They’re schmurgled, a word for content and content creation that is crude in format but not in message, a new word that just means next gen deep fried.
Where will this take us? I have no idea. What I do know is that kids are much smarter viewers and creators than anyone gives them credit for. They have access to everything on the internet, thanks to YouTube and Google and TikTok and Twitter and [insert tech item]. They’re making their own universes of entertainment using the tools that they the world has given them – and it’s all found on YouTube, their one-stop-shop for anything you can imagine.
the last line of this poem 😍
You Can Do It
Caribou’s new song is decent but look at the dogs.
Kiki with Silky
I love Silky Nutmeg Ganache and this video with Trixie Mattel is a gem. I would watch this weekly!
"twitter: a story in four parts… "
"This is my type of funny.… "
Bless this binch.
"nothing prepared me for last sentence…"
Best BBL tweet you’ll see all week.
"let a man paint her & now she getting dunked"
Mona Lisa is not smiling.
"cursed performances of this song 💀"
Definitely peep the replies, to see all the terrible choirs trying to perform this cursed song.
"Interesting bedtime chat"
Read the replies, all about children who seemingly…….lived other lives.
And, finally, my weekend outfit.