Things will be faster now
Here are 75 links to tide you over until Garbage Day returns next year!
I make a lot of predictions in Garbage Day — pretty much nonstop tbh. Some of them come true, some don’t, and others happen in ways that aren’t immediately obvious. Though most often, I completely forget what I’ve written and the low-stakes heartbreak and mundane terror of technological progress rolls onward unabated.
Also, cards on the table, I am just terrible at year-end content. In all my years in the viral media content mines, having to sign up for end-of-year posts in the Big Spreadsheet that would circulate the newsroom, I never got particularly good at it. So instead, l’ll make one prediction/forecast and then maybe then we can all come back to it next year and see how I did: things will get faster.
Trends, memes, news cycles, laws, politics, social movements, fashion, music, food — it will all get faster. Our institutions over the course of the pandemic have ceased to function on their own. Whether we want to admit it or not, now, and possibly for the rest of our lives, the machinery of our various societies will operate downstream from content. This didn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that I would say started at some point between the first Myspace band to secure a major label record contract and Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, before it really go going by the time the Oreos Super Bowl moment happened, and then completed itself at some point between the release of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” and Kyle Rittenhouse’s appearance this week at Turning Point USA’s conference. For non-American readers, I’m confident you can replace those references with your own cultural equivalents.
When I was 17, I played in bands, had over 1,000 friends on MySpace (heh u jelly?), and could not, for the life of me, find skinny jeans in men’s sizes literally anywhere in suburban Massachusetts. At some point, the first Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters opened at a mall nowhere near me — they were at the Square One Mall, but my malls were the North Shore and Liberty Tree, I’m sure you understand. And when those stores did start selling skinny jeans, they cost as much as $60. In my senior year of high school, finally, the Kohl’s in my local mall (the Liberty Tree) started selling $30 pairs of slim cut jeans. I bought five pairs and I wore them until I was 23 years old.
Last summer, I was in Mexico City during a lull between COVID waves and, while walking around a touristy part of the city, I realized I had not been inside a clothing store in almost two years. I dipped into a Zara and an H&M and the clothes on the racks were pieces I hadn’t seen anywhere really before the pandemic. But I had seen them on TikTok for the first time as recently as earlier this year. Things on the internet that used to take years to physically materialize can now happen in a matter of days.
There’s a lot of talk right now about Gen Z embracing the “retro” styles that millennials grew up with. This TikTok of iPod Nano hair clips is a good example. But the bemused reactions from now-ancient millennials don’t acknowledge that those fashion trends weren’t as observable the first time around. The internet is a big index of everything we think or do and it’s getting faster and more complete all the time. Which means nostalgia waves will start mutating as fast as they appear.
The transition from emo, the then-retro fashion trend reinvented by young people online in the early 2000s, to “scene,” the neon-splattered original online mutation that came after, took about four years. I suspect that will not be the case for the trends emerging now. And this effect will be seen in every corner of society and it’s going to be pushed into overdrive starting basically now. Hold on to your butts, everybody.
Chile’s New Socialist President Is A K-Pop Stan
Earlier this week, Ryan teased my column and then I went and changed up my idea. SORRY! The original wild and wacky concept might get written early next year!
[Ed. note: It was supposed to be something about Rebecca Black and the famous Berlin nightclub Berghain, which I am still very interested in reading!!!]
Congratulations to Chile, whose people have elected former student activist and millennial leftist Gabriel Boric as their new president. You might have read about how he beat out his opponent, the far-right candidate, José Antonio Kast, who happens to be the son of a Nazi. Or maybe you read how Boric is the country’s youngest leader ever. Or how he supports the effort to write a new constitution for the country to replace the one left over from Pinochet’s dictatorship. Maybe you saw the hilarious unofficial CGI campaign ads of Boric dancing with farm animals or surrounded by a circle of Shreks.
But I’m interested in an especially pressing element of this exciting campaign, which is actually an incredibly important question that needs to be answered: is Boric a K-Pop stan? As a thirty-something leftist who seems to be more or less very online, it would not be entirely surprising if he harbored a genuine love of pop music.
It seems, upon inspection, that the connection between Boric and K-Pop is less personal and more political. The photos of him posing with photo cards of members of the K-Pop band TWICE were thanks to supporters giving him the cards as gifts. Over on TikTok, under the hashtag #Boric2022, BTS songs soundtrack fanmade campaign videos. On Twitter, the @KpoppersporBoric account chronicled efforts by the K-Pop-fan bloc to get him elected. And there were plenty of memes mashing up fandom customs and Boric’s campaign. At the very least, he seems to be picking up the lingo with ease: on Instagram, he greets K-Pop fan-groups by name.
However, here’s where the plot thickens. While Boric might not actually, himself, be a K-Pop stan, or, at least, not yet, it does seem to be true that he is a genuine Swiftie, to the degree that he keeps a picture of Taylor in his pocket. And Folklore is his favorite album, apparently. The taste jumped out!
With how gut-churningly wretched the collision of pop culture and politics under the aegis of our platformed society has become here in America, honestly, it’s just really nice to see a cute leftist politician engage with fans and their enthusiasms in such a genuine way.
Data-driven fandom — a.k.a. the organized, dedicated expressions of mass obsession that drives K-Pop acts to the top of the charts — has long ceased to become a phenomenon purely of the Asian idol culture that spawned it: the tactical lessons learned from fan campaigns are in use by fans in a wide variety of socio-political encounters across the world.
In fan spaces populated by teenagers online, there’s often a somewhat derogatory stance regarding adults who continue to participate in fandom. “Shouldn’t they be doing something better with their lives?” But as more of Gen Z reaches voting age, I think we’ll see a growing acceptance — and even an expectation — of occupying the simultaneous roles of passionate fan and mature political activist. Lessons learned from one arena benefitting work in the other. Campaign strategists might be hired on the strength of their experience running fan accounts. And on the part of politicians, candidates who can engage genuinely and supportively with pop-culture fan groups will be rewarded in spades, with loyalty and possibly even some new music obsessions.
Alright, finally, because I’m going on vacation for a little bit — Garbage Day will be back January 5th — here are 75 links to tide you over until I get back. This will probably cut off in your inbox. Click through to see the whole thing.
A very good YouTube investigation that was dropped into the Garbage Day Discord by ppyajunebug.
A really good animal account that was sent to me by a reader named Erika
“Seemingly harmless conspiracy theory accounts on TikTok are pushing far-right propaganda -- and TikTok is prompting users to follow them”
“The Sound of Neoliberalism: The Role of Music and Sound in Neoliberal Culture”
A Tumblr video is probably only really funny if you’ve spent a lot of time on Tumblr this year
The national anthem (there’s a chance that I’ve included this before, but I’m going to put it in again because it’s still funny)
“‘Mini-programs’ took over Chinese platforms. Now they’re being used to contact trace — and undermine user privacy.”
A really great thread of short videos from the Chinese app Kuaishou
Why aren’t we talking more about the Filter Bubble Transparency Act?
“TikTok Influencer ‘Isodope’ Is Stanning for Nuclear Energy”
A new kind of weird internet man (SFW, but doesn’t feel like it)
“Japan’s Seniors Discover New Way to Stay Young: Competitive Videogaming”
“Metadata reveals insights into PowerPoint calling for Trump to overturn the 2020 election”
A musician named LadBaby is competing with a punk band called The Kunts for the number one UK Christmas song. LadBaby’s songs are always about sausage rolls — this year’s is called “Sausage Rolls For Everyone” and features Ed Sheeran and Elton John. The Kunts’ song is called “Boris Johnson Is a Fucking Cunt”.
Good weasel video (this is isn’t a weasel, please don’t correct me. It’s clearly some kind of little guy.)
A bizarrely emotional and uplifting vision of the future that also happens to be a Chobani commercial???
“I Masturbated In Order to Manifest a Text Back From a Hinge Match That Ghosted Me”
“The electric rise and fall of London’s most notorious party pub”
Thoughtful analysis of not-so-thoughtful analysis of It’s A Wonderful Life
I’m not totally clear what this is, but I couldn’t stop watching this highlight reel of it
A Love Island banger that was dropped into the Garbage Day Discord by ppyajunebug
Oh wait… there’s more!!! I’ve written a bunch of stuff this year that I’m pretty proud of that has been living behind a paywall. I wanted to unlock a few of those posts for everyone. So here are a few Extra Garbage Days that you can check out while I’m gone:
Michael Hobbes on how all of American politics is just the War On Christmas now
The band glass beach on memes, the creator economy, and online sincerity
Today In Tabs' Rusty Foster On The Weirdly Hopeful Hellscape Of Media
Alright, that’s it! See you next year! Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, and thank you for everything. If you’re interested in subscribing, you can hit the button below!
Oh, and here’s one more link. It’s absolutely awful and sort of NSFW. It was sent to me by a reader named Paul. Thank you, Paul, I hate it.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
I think about this a lot. The speed at which things are speeding up. Soon, EVERYONE will be behind. And then what?