- Garbage Day
- The king of brand safe nothingness
The king of brand safe nothingness
Read to the end for the queen of the rodents
Matt Healy Can’t Escape The Millennial Simulacrum
Alright, let’s catch you up: The 1975 lead singer Matt Healy went on The Adam Friedland Show back in February, which is a podcast that used to be called Cum Town and also used to be sort of connected to the greater dirtbag leftist cinematic universe, namely the much-bigger Red Scare podcast. The 1975’s fans, most of them teenage girls, freaked out because, while on the show, Healy acted like a huge racist edgelord, laughing along to an offensive bit about the rapper Ice Spice.
Then, earlier this month, rumors circulated that Healy was dating Taylor Swift. The two have been in each other’s orbit since the early 2010s. Once it became clear that the two are actually dating, Swifties also had a huge meltdown. Which has led to a lot of deeply neurotic posting from Swift fans who, apparently, up until now, believed that stanning Taylor Swift was activism of some kind.
Then, last week, Swift debuted a (bad) remix of her song “Karma,” featuring Ice Spice and also brought the rapper out on stage during an Eras tour date to perform it over the weekend. I guess Swift and her team thought this would be a good way to address-without-addressing Healy’s TAFS clip controversy, but it actually just made things much worse.
The most recent salvo in this whole drama was a Healy New Yorker profile titled, “Who Is Matty Healy?” The feature was written by the always-good Jia Tolentino. It chronicles Healy’s fixations on the reality-warping effects of mass and digital media, his contradictory feelings about masculinity and mental health, his history of drug use, the impact of growing up the child of working class parents who were also famous (his mom was on Eastenders), and his yearning for The 1975 to, as a band, mean something more than they currently do. Which is all great and good, except Healy has literally been saying this stuff for almost a decade. In fact, this isn’t even the first time he’s talked about this stuff with the New Yorker.
Luckily for you, and unfortunately for me, I’ve read almost every interview this guy has given since at least 2015 and I can tell you that all of them are about how he stopped using heroin, started using social media and irony too much to cope, got burned out on all of it, and is now pledging to finally grow up. He also wants to “deconstruct” the idea of a “rock band”. Oh, and, of course, there is always an undercurrent of seething resentment towards the band’s fanbase of young girls.
In the New Yorker interview, Healy refused to really apologize for anything he’s said or done recently, believing that anyone who was offended by the TAFS interview is “a bit mental”. And so, I’ll give the final word on all of this to rapper Azealia Banks, who, on Instagram, said that The 1975 makes music for “fat emo teenagers” and called Healy a “small white opinionated male musician.”
But Healy isn’t the only creator of his generation that seems to be pathologically unable to take the risks required to make the art and be the artist they think they are while using social media to LARP as if they have. I was struck by the similarities between Healy and infamous Instagram grifter, Caroline Calloway, who got her own big profile this week, in Vanity Fair.
If you haven’t checked in on Calloway in a while, she was chased out of New York after not paying rent for months while trying to ingratiate herself with Manhattan’s “post-woke” (hipster fascist) Downtown Scene during the pandemic, is now living in a retirement home in Florida, and is maybe, possibly, self-publishing a trio of books. Though, with Calloway, just like Healy, the online performance of creating always takes precedence over the actual creations. The similarities don’t end there, however.
Both Healy and Calloway exist in bizarre gray spaces when it comes to their country’s respective class hierarchies and had childhoods in the proximity of the entertainment industry (Calloway briefly acted as a kid). Both tried making slick, algorithmically-friendly content before it apparently broke their brains. For Healy, it was Spotify-optimized indie pop, for Calloway, it was larger-than-life Instagram captions about going to school at Cambridge. And then both got addicted to drugs and became obsessed with impressing the same edgelord podcasters. Calloway went on Red Scare back in 2019 and it was an extraordinarily painful experience to listen to. There’s also the weird fact that after flirting with that scene and either failing to break into it or realizing it wasn’t worth the energy (or the Republican dark money ran out), both are now trying to align themselves with a different, more market-friendly neoliberal artist crowd. Healy is dating Swift, of course, but the most recent The 1975 album was produced by the king of brand safe nothingness, Jack Antonoff. Meanwhile, Calloway’s life rights were briefly owned by Antonoff’s ex and Swift “squad” member, filmmaker Lena Dunham, and Calloway, in her Vanity Fair interview, explicitly promised a Dunham-related book dedication that will be “a minor news story” if/when it happens. Oh, also, both are constantly defined by their relationship to a much more establishment-friendly artist. For Healy, it’s Harry Styles, for Calloway, it’s her alleged former-ghostwriter, Natalie Beach, who has actually managed to publish a book.
It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe the defining millennial experience is actually just a deep longing to make things that matter, the crippling anxiety about what that might actually require — earnestness, introspection, material risk — and the delusion that you can achieve mainstream acceptance and still be your raw, unflinching self on the largest possible stage. I mean, how else would you describe virality? So, instead, creators like Healy and Calloway find themselves stuck halfway, using social media to endlessly speculate about the real art they could make one day after they finally grow up and get serious.
Not me, though, I write a newsletter about memes and I’m perfectly satisfied.
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Bluesky Launches A New Feeds Thing
Twitter alternative Bluesky, which has cooled a bit since its massive blowup earlier this month, has rolled out a new feature called “My Feeds”. In theory, this is more or less very similar to Twitter’s Lists, but in practice, it has a lot more going on underneth the hood. You can set up your own algorithm for each feed. For instance, I followed one this morning that is just updates from people I follow who also follow me. I’ve also seen feeds for Brazilian users, for skeets in Japanese, a bunch of furry ones, and, one called “cum,” which is just for skeets with the word “cum” in them. I’m aware of how insane that last sentence was. Let’s move on.
The Feeds tool continues Bluesky’s central moderation idea, which is that users should be able to fully customize what they want to see. You can toggle pretty much any visibility setting for the app and the tools to make your own algorithmic feed are even on Github.
Of course, when you put moderation completely in the hands of users, you do end up with some pretty big downsides. Namely, it means extremists can easily create silos to interact in. Just ask Discord how that plays out. And there has been an increasing far-right presence on Bluesky that will surely grow as users figure out how to network together better.
So, basically, I think what Bluesky is doing is promising, but I don’t think they’ve nailed it yet and I’m hoping they figure this stuff out while the site’s still small.
Twitter Decay Update
I came across this extremely curious Twitter reply section thanks to Mashable’s Matt Binder. The tweet on the left up there is from YabaLeftOnline, a Nigerian Pop Crave-style celebrity news account. On the right are the replies, which are all to UBA Group, a Nigeria-based bank. I scrolled as far back as I could and I think I understand what’s happening here.
Users began tagging UBA Group’s customer service account in the replies to YabaLeftOnline tweets back in November 2022. But in February of this year, YabaLeftOnline tweeted, “What bank is frustrating you today,” and a ton of people replied by tagging UBA Group. UBA’s account replied to each tweet. I thought it might be automated, but it looks like a mix, with some messages being written specifically for individual users. It seems like banking drama related to UBA Group is a big fixture in Nigerian tabloids.
Now users are doing it under just any random popular tweet. My hunch is that users are doing this for visibility, piggy-backing off a viral tweet or verified user to signal boost their complaint.
Once American users noticed this under the tweet from YabaLeftOnline last week, it turned into a huge meme and now users are tweeting UBA Group and asking them to help with random nonsense, like a refund on their Xbox Game Pass or with help setting up a screen in their goon cave.
Anyways, the fact that UBA Group has had to buy a gold verification star and repeatedly post guides on how to not get scammed by imitators, while also getting mass-trolled by random users, is, I’m sure, a good sign for Twitter. Oh, wait, the company is only worth a third of what it was before Elon Musk bought it last year nvm.
An AI Makes Famous Paintings Better
OK, first, let’s get something straight: Nothing any guy who pays for Twitter says in a thread about AI matters. Just take a big deep breath and accept that if you come across a dude you’ve never heard of before that has approximately 96,000 followers and has a name like Torbund, Jaxson, or Strephan, is using an avatar of himself wearing one of those soft flat baseball caps that men in Brooklyn are forcibly assigned by the city when they turn 35, claims he’s founded a bunch of successful tech startups you’ve never heard of, and writes long threads about AI and ends those threads by quote-tweeting the first tweet in the thread, he’s not real. These guys are a natural byproduct that’s emitted every time Blue Bottle Coffee opens a new location. They aren’t actual human beings. If you were ever ask them to meet irl they’d claim they had just moved to Copenhagen to take a job as a design director of a European marketing firm that’s also a boutique record store.
Anyways, these guys are particularly obsessed with Adobe’s new generative-AI tool, which is available inside of Photoshop’s beta version and can’t even draw Shrek. Specifically, these guys figured out that it can fill in what it thinks could be beyond the borders of paintings. Here’s an example of it being used on the Mona Lisa.
Thanks to the magic of computers we can now see what Mona Lisa’s cool secret rock formation looks like. Somebody call Dan Brown.
These guys have also been using this tool on album covers. This stuff is dumb, but it’s also harmless. And I have to imagine that it’s just as fun to make these as it is for Twitter users to get all worked about how this is somehow the death of art. Rich capitalists don’t understand artistic expression and are treating it like a novelty or a commodity? Surely this has never happen before in human history.
What I do find particularly noxious though are the guys who are excited about using this technology for education or as a replacement for human-made entertainment. Like this guy who is excited about making Epic Rap Battles Of History, but worse, as ‘the future of podcasts”. You can click here to see what this looks like in practice (it sucks).
HOA Guy Is Infinite Tomatoes Guy. I Repeat: HOA Guy Is Infinite Tomatoes Guy!!!
This tweet is going viral right now (not in a good way). I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone stan Home Owners Associations on the public internet before. Very brave.
If the name Nick Huber sounds familiar it’s because this is not the first time he’s gone bad viral for a dumb take. He was also the hustle and grind guy who thought you could infinitely grow tomatoes. Well, not if your HOA doesn’t allow you to have a garden, you can’t, Nick!
AI Agents Are Learning To Play Minecraft
MineDojo is an AI framework built inside of Minecraft. AI agents, sometimes called autonomous agents, are running inside of a “procedurally-generated” Minecraft map after being trained on 730,000 Minecraft playthrough videos on YouTube, 7,000 wiki posts, and 340,000 Reddit threads. You can watch clips of how the agents are doing here.
This is neat, but I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable about the idea that YouTube videos, wikis, and Reddit comments are what we’re using to train superintelligences. Like… you’ve read this stuff, right? Do you really want to create a sentient being that thinks the way a redditor talks?
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s the queen of the rodents.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***