Jake Paul, Gangnam Style, space tacos, boring futures, black holes and pop-punk revivals
Hi friends. Today is November 5, 2021.
And if I’ve learned anything in my 32 years on earth, it’s that few things live up to the hype that precedes them. A black hole is just a poorly photographed forest. The metaverse is just Mindcraft (… but shitty and evil). The socialist revolution is a primary fluke. The “new” media breakout just wears a shiny wrapper.
The only entities to break the rule of hype consistently are Beyonce (of course) and Jeni’s Ice Cream (see: seasonal flavors). All other fanfare is under-deserved. Let’s go read some articles!
If you read anything this weekend
“The Cultural Revisionism Industry,” by R.E. Hawley in Gawker. I still can’t tell what New Gawker is supposed to be: a Thought Catalog for aging millennials? An upstart/downmarket challenger to Slate? Regardless, this is a really smart essay on the sudden flood of podcasts and documentaries about recent history. They all purport to correct the historical record … while maybe, actually just flattering their listeners. Like the “you” in “You’re Wrong About” is never me, is it?
“Can Jake Paul Fight His Way Out of Trouble?,” by Kelefa Sanneh in The New Yorker. Regular readers of this newsletter know I love an influencer profile in a legacy magazine, if only because the gap between the author and the subject is often weird/interesting. In that vein, I present the New Yorker on a YouTuber so ubiquitous and so hate-able that people pay good money to see him beat up.
“Meet the Obsessive Role-Players Who Live Inside the World of Grand Theft Auto,” by Meghan Gunn in Narratively. The most fascinating thing about this story is not that streamers have built an evolved (and involved) online world on top of a video game … but that the world they’ve created has become gradually both more realistic and more mundane.
“The Mark Zuckerberg Aesthetic,” by Amanda Hess in The New York Times. On the boring, obvious tastes of Mark Zuckerberg, which will likely shape large portions of the “metaverse” to come. “They have slain our childlike fantasies of space exploration and virtual reality adventure, redirecting our imaginations into sealed corporate environments that can be exploited for profit.”
“South Korea Plots Its Next Entertainment Blockbuster,” by Christian Davies in The Financial Times. Super interesting look at how tiny South Korea became such a force in global culture — featuring state broadband policy, YouTube metadata and, naturally, “Gangnam Style”!
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Space tacos. Zany McDonald’s. Penny the Anti-Vaxing Pig. Why women fall for Pete Davidson (?! I don’t get it) and why some dogs tilt their heads. The strange case of Chinese influencer Li Ziqi. The origins of American birthday celebrations. Could Zillow buy up the neighborhood? Nope, it does not look like it.
TikTok is bringing pop-punk back. Wearable tech has gone way too far. “Digitally pickled.” Reddit’s labor movement. How TV gets the internet wrong. Whatever happened to Sydney Leathers? Why does a Playboy pin-up still surface in comp sci homework? Last but not least: Those Ivy League students schilling for CBD … don’t actually go to Harvard.
That’s it for this week! Until the next one. Warmest virtual regards.