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A Frog Account Shows His Face
If you’ve never had the misfortunate of attending a far-right protest in the last seven years or so, you may not be familiar with how weird the dynamics can be in terms of the actual people that show up to attend. The breakdown basically looks like this:
Genuinely violent extremists
Boomers who showed up to party and don’t seem to notice or care about the people sieg heil-ing and wearing tactical gear
Weird nerds who think they’re at a 4chan convention
And this confusing mix of demographics is pretty much the same in any country, though with regional variants slotted in. For instance, at a Milo Yiannopoulos and Proud Boys demo in Boston I covered a few years ago, the boomers were dressed up like Paul Revere with tea bags stapled to their tricorne hats (Boston tea party, get it?) and a bunch of bro-y college guys were wearing Pepe the Frog face paint. And when I went to a march in London organized by ultranationalist football hooligan Tommy Robinson and his English Defense League, there were a bunch of middle-aged blokes who got bored — or tired — of marching and posted up at a nearby pub and just sang racist football songs at counter-protesters, while a sizable group of pony-tailed Alan Moore-looking nerds, who brought golden statues of Pepe the Frog and waved huge Kekistan flags, talked at me for at least 45 minutes about the powers of meme magic.
All of this is to say that when I see an account with a Pepe the Frog avatar on the internet, I have a fairly clear picture of what that person’s irl vibe is like. It turns out, though, many people do not because a Twitter user named @deluxe_pepe decided to post face over the weekend and it was a big shock for people. He’s on the left up there. The woman on the right is some former news anchor from Arizona.
The overwhelming reaction to seeing what @deluxe_pepe looks like, going off the replies to the above tweet, was “soy,” which has got to hurt. Especially if you’re, like him, trying to sell QAnon merch on Twitter by modeling it yourself.
But @deluxe_pepe’s cringefail face reveal speaks to a larger cultural weirdness that I think is especially palpable in the US at the moment. We basically don’t know how to align real life sensory information with what we see and read and watch online, which increasingly is either as important or more important than what’s happening offline. I used to make a joke during the pandemic that there were a bunch of people I met in 2020 via Zoom and I had never seen their legs before. Which is something you don’t really think about, but it’s strange nonetheless.
And I don’t think @deluxe_pepe is the only conservative suffering from this metaversal dissonance, let’s call it. I actually think it’s the defining issue of the Republican Party right now, a side effect of their Total Posting political strategy.
You can see this acutely with the pre-presidential campaign of Meatball Ron “Pudding Fingers” DeSantis, who looms larger-than-life over conservative media via his outlandish legislation, headline-grabbing press releases pegged to the right-wing grievance cycle, and mean tweets intimidating political journalists. But in meatspace, the guy has the charisma of a high school DARE officer who may or may not have wiped his snot on an old man’s shoulder at a recent event in Iowa. And it’s an especially bad liability when you’re running against Trump, who, unlike everyone else trying to take over the country by copying him, mostly through instinct, has mastered how to basically be the same kind of maniac online and off. In other words…
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“I Am A Surgeon,” But It Doubles Every "Surgeon"
I think we can push this further. Every time he says “surgeon,” it should play the entirety of Bee Movie or something.
New TikTok Couch Controversy Dropped
This big blue couch is simultaneously stuck inside of TikTok’s and Twitter’s respective algorithms at the moment. The initial video was watched 45 million times on TikTok and another 87 million on Twitter. The TL;DR is that a TikTok user named @yafavv.mandaa found the couch on the side of the street “in the pouring rain” and believed that it was a Roche Bobois Bubble Seat.
The virality kicked off a series of adjacent controversies. Some users are saying it’s probably full of mold or bed bugs. Other’s are saying it’s not a real Roche Bobois. And some are just begging everyone to shut up about the couch.
AI Might Finally Start To Integrate Into Our Existing Apps
Last year, Amit Jain, the CEO of a video AI company called Luma AI, told me that he thought that prompt-based generative AI was probably just a precursor for real app-based interfaces. He had a take that I thought that was pretty smart, which was that a lot of animosity and distrust and anger around generative AI stemmed from the fact that these tools weren’t good enough to be integrated into a traditional creative software, like, say Photoshop.
I don’t know if making these tools feel more artistic on an interface level will magically fix everything, but I do think it could help. And I think we’re getting very close to a point where we will, at least, find out.
Adobe launched Firefly, which is their answer to a prompt generator, back in March, which is a good signal that the company is at least thinking about how to integrate this tech into their products. And now there’s DragGAN, which was not created by Adobe, but is an AI-powered equivalent of their warp tool. You can read about how it works here and watch a bunch of demos of it in action here.
And on the video side, things are more, well, not faster, but moving at a different pace. I noticed filmmakers, particularly on YouTube and in the advertising and music video realms, have been much more open to experimenting with this stuff. And I think AI-generated video fits much easier into a film production stack.
Here’s a really impressive new example of how folks are figuring out how to clean up AI footage. (Let’s hold off on having a conversation about why so many people are using AI to just generate different ethnicities of beautiful women.)
Where Does E-Sports Go From Here?
I am, admittedly, not keeping as close an eye on e-sports as I probably should be. That was very apparent while compiling last month’s Garbage Intelligence report. E-sports and, specifically, Spanish-language and Latin American e-sports leagues pretty much dominate every streaming platform in a way I didn’t totally understand.
And that’s what makes The State Of The E-sports Industry so curious. It’s not going so hot!
Earlier this month, FaZe Clan, the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team that is probably the closest e-sports has to the Tom Brady-era New England Patriots, if the Patriots were owned and operated like a World Of Warcraft goldfarming operation that was also One Direction for radicalized Pewdiepie tweens, announced that they were laying off almost half of their staff. And The New York Times had a big piece out this weekend that described the overall e-sports industry as “teetering”. Viewership is down, stocks are down, and FaZe isn’t the only operation announcing layoffs.
I’m going to harness all of my sports media knowledge at once here to try and give you some coherent analysis. I think there are two ways to look at this contradiction — that e-sports is still huge on streaming platforms, but tanking as an industry. It could be that e-sports is like wrestling in the 90s and it’s just a matter of time until it finds its own Vince McMahon (gamer Vince McMahon is a truly terrifying thought). Or, perhaps, e-sports leagues will end up like FIFA, the Premier League, or Formula One, and catch on huge internationally and leave America behind.
There’s A TikToker That Reviews Fancy Bathrooms
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My girlfriend sent this to me recently and I don’t say this lightly, but this is perfect content. 10/10, make a million of these, please.
Tumblr Discovers Cogs Fluid
John Cogs is a scientist (I think?). And, in 2020, he posted a video of an invention he says he created called, of course, Cogs Fluid. You can watch the video here. I tried to find out more information about Cogs and his fluid (sorry), but I can’t find anything. It seems like it’s some kind of white, semi-viscus industrial liquid made out of what he claims is a “silicon-based polymer”. He says that he signed an NDA, though, and can’t talk more about it publicly.
Anyways, Cogs has now gone very viral on Tumblr. And people are being very predictably horny in his replies. Which Cogs has said he doesn’t appreciate.
An Extremely Good TikTok
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Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s blue Gatorade macaroni.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***