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Barack Obama Book The Biography
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Supernatural Is Finally Over
It’s hard to believe, but after 15 seasons and 324 episodes, Supernatural, a show that premiered during the Bush administration, has ended. I’m very proud to say I have never seen a single episode. I once briefly considered trying to watch it, but a Supernatural fan told me to “just get through the first five seasons and then it’ll get good” and I thought, “you know what, no thanks!”
But because I have spent pretty much every day since 2008 reblogging memes on Tumblr, I have a weird amount of knowledge about it. Earlier this month, the show decided to sorta-kinda confirm one of the longest-running fan pairings on the internet, allowing the trench coat-wearing angel Castiel to finally declare his love to Dean Winchester (#Destiel). Castiel then promptly died immediately after and was sent to what the show’s largely queer fanbase are now referring to as “super mega gay hell.”
Apparently, the finale was even worse! Beloved characters died in really bad ways, there was a horrible wig, and I think a car went to heaven or something. If you want to follow the implosion happening on Tumblr right now, check out Tumblr’s Fandom blog, which liveblogged the finale, also check out Heritage Posts, which has been covering the finale like it’s the Super Bowl.
It’s really tough to pick a favorite meme about the finale, but here’s a really good one:
It’s Fight About “Fairytale Of New York” Season
Earlier this week, I wrote about how every 5-6 months or so every British person on Twitter gets in a huge fight about how to properly prepare spaghetti bolognese. Well, British internet has a lot of other fun traditions too. For instance, every Christmas, the tiny damp island nation has a big row over whether or not “Fairytale Of New York” is an acceptable Christmas song.
If you’re out of the loop on this, Celtic punk band The Pogues’ “Fairytale Of New York” has a slur in it. It’s a dark and depressing Christmas song and, in the fifth verse, one of the characters sings:
You're a bum, you're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap, lousy faggot
Happy Christmas, your arse
I pray God it's our last
For the last few years, British media has struggled with how exactly to deal with the song. Ban it? Censor it? Air it as is? The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan gave an interesting interview about the whole debate last year that I actually think about a lot whenever there’s a new political correctness argument happening online.
“She is not supposed to be a nice person or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate,” MacGowan said of the character saying the slur in the song. “Not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively.”
I’m not sure I wholly agree with MacGowan here. I think he’s being a little reductive. During another part of the interview, he said, “Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend! She is just supposed to be an authentic character.” It’s all a little dismissive for my taste.
But I also think he’s operating in good faith about the song and his take is worth considering amid our larger cultural conversations about how we, as a society, deal with “problematic media” made in different eras.
This year, the BBC announced that it would be airing an edited version that uses the line, "You're cheap and you're haggard," which was sung in 1992 by original singer Kirsty MacColl before she died in 2000. Great! All fixed. If you want to go hear the more brutal original, for some reason, you’re more than welcome. But for the UK’s biggest radio programs at Christmas time, it won’t have the f-word in it. All fixed.
Except not. This has, obviously, now become a huge lightning rod for the UK’s right wing. “Yadda yadda censorship. Blah blah free speech. To protect Britain’s cultural heritage we should say slurs on the radio etc etc.” Here’s a tweet from Laurence Fox (who I have written about before in Garbage Day):
It’s all just very exhausting.
Anyways, just in case there was any concern about how The Pogues feel about this entire thing, the band’s Twitter account had this to say to Fox:
(Herrenvolk means “master race” btw.)
A Hong Kong Bakery Made A Creepy Biden Anime Cake
I saw a bunch of pro-Trump far-right CHUDs on Twitter talking about this cake this morning.
According to Coconuts Hong Kong, the cake reads, “Warmly celebrate Uncle Biden for his election as the 46th US president.” I think the anime girl is Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but I’m not 100% sure about that lol. It doesn’t really matter to understand what’s going on here.
The cake is part of a current trend where every MAGA doofus on the English-speaking internet is proudly trying to claim that Hong Kong is based and redpilled. But don’t believe the spin. Also, the fact Hong Kong protesters use Pepe the Frog is just a coincidence.
But the cake does reflect a troubling pro-Trump sentiment growing among Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. Villa Villa Cafe, the shop that made the cake, is a “yellow” business. Following the Hong Kong protests last year, different shops in the city started classifying themselves as “yellow” (pro-democracy) or “blue” (pro-government/China).
If you haven’t been following the newest developments in Hong Kong protests, basically, like all protest movements, the longer things have gone on, the weirder they’ve become. There have been a few good pieces written on the phenomenon of Hong Kong democracy protesters who love Trump, but the TL;DR is Trump is perceived as being tough on China. The city’s activists are now waiting to see what a Biden administration will mean for their future, but they’re not exactly excited about him.
So no, Hong Kong protesters haven’t been radicalized, it’s a little more complicated than that.
And if you’re looking for a good journalist in the region to follow, I recommend Taiwanese reporter William Yang. I interviewed him for Garbage Day subscribers yesterday! He’s most recently been focusing a lot on the region’s COVID response, but he also tweets a lot about Hong Kong.
Here’s A Good Video
Amazon’s AI-Generated Barack Obama Book
OK, I love everything about this. Earlier this week, Eric Nelson, an executive editor at Harper, noticed that a book called Barack Obama Book The Biography was the #173 most popular book on Amazon. Sadly, the listing has since been pulled down, but thankfully, some screenshots were preserved, like this comment from a Trump supporter who was mad that the AI-generated nonsense book about Obama wasn’t as good as Dan Bongino’s.
Slate writer Dan Kois put together a really great analysis of Barack Obama Book The Biography. He fed a chunk of the book into the Giant Language Model Test Room natural language tool to see if it was in fact written by a machine. Kois concluded that there seems to have been a human involved at some stage of the book’s creation, but it’s mostly machine.
I think is super funny and totally harmless, but it also makes me deeply uncomfortable. Eventually AI-generated entertainment — whether it’s written or filmed — will be good enough that most people won’t care. Kois even notes in his Slate article that the AI-generated prose isn’t half bad at explaining Obama’s life.
I have nightmares about dystopian futures where the lower social classes are fed AI-generated nonsense entertainment, while the mega rich are the only ones who can afford human-made art. In a lot of ways, I think this is already how Facebook works — a horrifying invisible robot that lives in our phones feeding its mainly working class users repetitive “you’ll never believe what happens next [Gold digger prank] *magic trick*” videos.
Anyways, while Barack Obama Book The Biography no longer seems to be available, University Press, the “publisher” that made it, is still selling books on Amazon. And it looks like they’ve got some pretty cool ones to check out!
Here’s Another Good Video
And Here’s One More Good Supernatural Meme
Finally, Some Thoughts On Newsletters…
I have more or less tried to stay out of the newsletter Discourse happening right now. Mainly, I just don’t want my precious Garbage Day associated with “the media” and “digital publishing.” This is my private island of trash and I want it to remain something fun and relaxing for people. But people on the internet are talking about newsletters right now and this is a newsletter about what people talk about on the internet. So, you know, at a certain point, I’ve got to acknowledge what’s going on.
Luckily, I shared most of my thoughts about newsletters and digital media with nofilter’s Kathryn Lindsay this week. She was nice enough to interview me about Garbage Day and here’s what I told her about ~The Future Of Newsletters~:
There are a lot of people right now trying to answer this question of, “What does success look like?” And people are obsessed with newsletters. I was literally in a Twitter fight because people expect newsletters to be this revolution in publishing or something. I think if you're [coming] from the viral swamp, the content sweatshop, there's this feeling like you have to be going viral constantly, and going viral constantly means that you're not really getting human beings reading you. You're getting Facebook ghosts.
I like to think that [with] Garbage Day, it's like, Oh, I can talk to people. My readers email me and I talk to them and I know some of their names. It feels very mid-2000s message board, but it's nice. It's nice to remember the internet isn't just chasing traffic. There's people that want to talk about stuff and they want to communicate.
If you’re looking for even more newsletter Discourse, we talk about it on my podcast this week too. And here’s a good meme from Deez Links writer Delia Cai that I think really captures the whole conversation right now better than anything I could say:
P.S. here’s a very interesting video about feminine energy.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***