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Something’s Gonna Happen On December 21…
OK, so here’s a weird one for you. All month I’ve seen references all over the place to December 21. The date kept coming up in TikTok #Shifting videos, which I wrote about on Monday. It turns out there’s no one single explanation for what will happen on December 21, but all kinds of different internet communities have become totaly focused on it.
Christian TikTok is excited to see the “Bethlehem Star” on December 21. A bunch of new age-y users are convinced that the apocalypse that was originally predicted in 2012 will be happening. I’ve seen QAnon accounts using the date. And there’s a whole bunch of tweets on Twitter about how black people will all get superpowers on December 21.
It’s trending enough that UK tabloid The Sun has jumped on it and wrote an article about a pastor claiming doomsday will happen on the 21st. Also, Tom Hanks’ son Chet Haze has been posting about it on Instagram. It’s everywhere! And also increasingly speaks to the snowball-becomes-a-million-different-avalanches effect that most forms of digital communication experiences right now.
Trying to find any kind of useful and accurate and not completely insane information on Google about the seasonal movement of celestial bodies is actually extremely difficult. Which seems like a pretty big problem to me! But thankfully, SyFy Wire has written a debunk of this whole thing.
Two kind of interesting things will happen on December 21 and neither of them involve the biblical apocalypse:
It’ll be the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year in the northern hemispheres of the world.
At least, that’s what scientists say! If not, well, boy will my face be red when Jesus comes back next week and takes all the Christian TikTokers to eternal paradise.
Alright, Let’s Check In On Cyberpunk 2077
It’s been about a week since the release of Cyberpunk 2077. It will take future historians several tomes to fully chronicle all of the drama that has happened in the last six days. Based on just headlines alone, the game has terrible sex scenes, it’s virtually unplayable on PS4 and Xbox One, it’s full of so many bugs it actually gets in the way of the game’s story, there are literal penises and boobs clipping through character’s clothing, and it’s also extremely difficult to get a refund.
And this is to say nothing of the issues the game has with depictions of transsexuality. Which, if you’re looking to read more about, I highly recommend Polygon’s excellent review of the game from writer Carolyn Petit.
Misha Collins + Bill Clinton
A Tumblr-wide game of telephone has resulted in a very strange rumor trending today: Supernatural star Misha Collins hooked up with Bill Clinton in the 90s. It’s all very confusing and currently spreading over to Twitter.
Luckily, I found a really good post explaining how this whole thing got started. Like all internet rumors, it’s very stupid.
Supernatural fans, who have been extremely revved up since the show’s series finale last month, came across this op-ed that Collins wrote when he was interning for President Clinton in the late 90s. It’s actually an interesting piece. Collins, who was going by his real name, Dmitri Krushnic, at the time, came out publicly in defense of Monica Lewinsky, arguing that all of Clinton’s interns were “starstruck” by Clinton and pushed back against the media portrayal’s of Lewinsky as a “stalker.” In his op-ed, Collins details all the embarrassing ways that the White House interns tried to get the president’s attention, writing:
Rather, we shared riveting stories of how we had bumped into "him" in the hall or (fortune of fortunes) had shaken "his" hand on some passing errand.
The chance to tell your friends that you saw the president jogging, that Clinton patted you on the shoulder or that you received a Christmas card from the first family is the stuff that White House interns' dreams are made of, and many would go to great lengths to make those dreams come true.
Well, it turns out that Collin’s description of fawning Clinton interns was a little too intimate because it has resulted in this:
So, no, Supernatural actor Misha Collins did not have sex with former President Bill Clinton, but he did intern for him. Which is almost just as interesting. Hope that clears up any confusion!
The Pornhub Meltdown Continues
Two weeks ago, New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristoff wrote an admittedly harrowing piece about women who have their revenge porn uploaded to tube sites like Pornhub and how impossible it can be to get it removed. The piece prompted extremely swift reactions from Visa and Mastercard, who began blocking all purchases associated with Pornhub and the other sites in its network. Several days later, Pornhub nuked all of their unverified content. It looks like about 5-6 million videos were taken down in the initial purge.
The story isn’t as simple as it seems, though. Kristoff has, rightfully, in my opinion, been accused of actually causing more harm to the legitimate sex workers using Pornhub, who have now lost their main income source. There’s also the huge issue of Kristoff citing the work of Traffickinghub, which is actually a project by Exodus Cry, a Christian fundamentalist organization that uses human trafficking as a pretext to go after pornography and sex work.
There’s also the fact that Kristoff’s piece basically came in like a wrecking ball without acknowledging reporters like VICE’s Samantha Cole who have been responsibly covering this beat — without the help of an anti-porn Christian activist group — for a long time.
And then there’s the absolute mess happening among Pornhub’s users. The comments underneath this recent VICE tweet are a both a complete trash fire and a disturbing look at the priorities of a Pornhub power user. Here’s a sampling:
“I was just on the site as it all went down. This is bullshit, I was mashing my way through walls and walls of videos and couldn't find a single one still up out of those super mainstream step sibling ones. Fucking bullshit.”
“I literally cannot remember ONE TIME, that i actually watched a verified video. pornhub is fucking killing themselfs. At this point, good riddance, theres other websites that arent scared to give us the content we fucking want.”
“They just killed their website lmfao, no one wants the entirely vanilla ass verified content. I understand that there was a child porn issue, and good on them for getting rid of it. But they should've used an algorithm for purging those videos, like YouTube”
“Why?! For what reason?! That's like 80% of the good shit, one of the playlists I had is basically empty now!”
Over the years, Pornhub has attempted to paper over their extremely anarchic user-generated library of content with videos from, first, legitimate porn production companies, and then, verified amateurs, who have sort of evolved into a pornographic influencer tier on the site. The whole thing is then powered by Pornhub’s recommendation algorithms, which are probably closer to something like Spotify’s, using a vast hierarchy of tags to suggest videos organized by sexual position, race of the performers, genre of video, and most-emphasized body parts.
So it’s interesting to me that in those comments above that so many Pornhub users, at least the ones bold enough to openly tweet about using the site, seem to be furious that the unverified content is being removed.
It reminds me of reactions to similar purges of extreme content on YouTube and Facebook. It also reminds me of an old adage my former colleague Tom Phillips used to say, “slickness on the internet implies inauthenticity.”
The more a platform like Pornhub attempts to legitimize their content, the more they risk losing the chaos that attracted their most-engaged users, even, if in this case, the “chaos” we’re talking about is a pornographic free-for-all featuring videos depicting rape, exploitation, abuse, and revenge porn. But, nevertheless, it’s an uncomfortable truth about all platforms that host user-generated content and one that I’m not sure we’re ready to fully reckon with. What does it say about the fundamental nature of the internet that the the more extreme the content, the more intensely the users fight to keep it?
A Good Tweet
I Love This Guy’s YouTube Channel So Much
Frank Watkinson is a guitar player from the UK who has been active on YouTube for about three years now. His videos are usually finger-picked acoustic covers of songs from artists like Neil Young, David Bowie, and Johnny Cash. But lately he’s been uploading some totally left-field song choices — like the one embedded above by newer pop punk band The Menzingers. I love his description of song, “The original of this is just a constant downward strum, those that know me know I rarely strum, so this is my picking version of this song, I don't know the story behind this song but i'm guessing it wasn't too happy.”
From what I can tell, based on some comments I’ve seen on Reddit’s r'/emo subreddit and underneath Watkinson’s videos, over the last few months, YouTube’s algorithm started promoting him in the sidebar. This has led to an influx of new users watching Watkinson’s covers, which has kept him stickied in people’s sidebars.
The comments underneath Watkinson’s videos right now are really special. They’re full of super supportive mostly young people interacting with him and requesting songs. Which is how he’s ended up covering Slipknot recently. His Snow Patrol cover is also very nice and reading the comment section while listening to it this morning made me incredibly emotional:
One More Good Tweet
My Sister’s Bad Holiday RomCom Review Corner
I’ll be ending the next couple Garbage Days with a section cowritten with my sister Caroline. She loves terrible Christmas movies. She loves them so much she subscribes to the Hallmark channel’s streaming app and watches them all year long.
The Trouble With Mistletoe
[Ed. Note: This movie is on Passionflix, which is apparently like an R-rated version of the Hallmark app and is integrated with Amazon Prime. My sister says that she stumbled across it because her Prime recommendations are promoting it like crazy. She says it is absolutely WILD.]
What’s It About?
Caroline: “To preface, I did not go searching for this movie. I went down a spiral starting with Hallmark movies on Amazon Prime and after several times clicking ‘similar movies people watched,’ I came to this. The cover looks innocent and Hallmark-Like, but then when the Passionflix screen flashed in the beginning I realized I was in a whole different world lmao.
The Trouble with Mistletoe is the movie adaptation of a romance novel — basically think like a Hallmark movie that grew up lol. It’s about a woman named Willa Davis who is a pet shop owner from San Francisco who bumps into her high school crush that stood her up at a dance 10 years earlier. He comes into her shop to board a cat he’s watching for his aunt Sally. And then they have to fight their ‘animal magnetism’ for each other while they overcome their holiday struggles.”
How Does It Involve Christmas?
Caroline: “The only real connection to the title of the movie is the homeless man who lives outside the shop selling mistletoe for a $1. Some women say to him, ‘I never know where to hang the mistletoe’ and he says, ‘the trouble with mistletoe is not where you hang it but what happens under it.’
But the movie taught me that if you throw a coin in the fountain making a Christmas wish with a true heart you too can find your true love. Also an estranged aunt you didn’t really know can show up and offload her cat onto you.”
Is The Movie Any Good?
Caroline: “Well, The Trouble with Mistletoe opens with a dog wedding, which is refreshing.
But get ready for this one, Passionflix, I guess, has a BON: Barometer of Naughty, and this movie is a 3. The usual Hallmark ‘meet-cute’ is replaced in Passionflix with ‘meet-sexual tension’ lmao.
Also, two important scenes have to be mentioned:
The guy (his name is Keane Winters lol) comes over and she’s wearing holiday PJs and her shorts have a Harry Potter quote over the butt and he notices. Which I guess makes him even more irresistible to her since she’s surprised he read all the books not just watched the movies.
Willa tells Keane that he is like one of those chocolates you keep in your freezer. He says, ‘because I’m irresistible,’ and she say ‘No, bad for me.’
I would rate this a 3 stars out of 5. But honestly Passionflix is such a smart idea. Turning all these favorite romance novels into movies. I’m surprised this isn’t a more well-known thing.”
P.S. here’s "All I Want For Christmas Is MIDI".
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***