Discover more from Follow Friday
Black Disney princesses, AI Frank Sinatra, and a scary Twitter prediction
Plus: Very hard video game levels, Thomas the Tank Engine's dystopia, and why the WGA is striking.
Welcome to Follow Friday! This week you get an extra-long edition of the newsletter because I’ll be off next Friday. BUT I’ll have a short announcement post going up mid-next week, so keep an eye out for that.
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The single best thing I saw online this week: I didn’t read every single entry on this Vulture list of the 100 hardest video game levels of all time. But I read the ones from the games I have played, and YEAH! That “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” level in The Lion King for Sega Genesis WAS bullshit! Confirming that that was the case is my personal version of this xkcd comic:
The best podcasts I’ve heard this week
After seeing the reviews, I’ve decided I’m not going to bother with the new “live-action” remake of The Little Mermaid (fool me once, shame on you; fool me six times…). But I really loved Sam Sanders’ and Dr. Aria Halliday’s approach to the new film on Into It, comparing Halle Bailey’s star turn to the only other times Disney has put a Black princess on screen: The made-for-TV Cinderella movie starring Brandy, and the oh-so-promising and oh-so-frustrating The Princess and the Frog. And if you don’t mind learning about how the remake differs from the original, I highly recommend sticking around for Angelica Jade Bastién’s review at the end.
(P.S. For some stupid reason Substack won’t let me embed the Apple Podcasts version of this episode, which is why it’s different from all the others in this edition. My apologies to all the readers with obsessive-compulsive tendencies).
If I were a fish, I would have been caught and eaten a long time ago. I know this because of how easily I was baited by the title of this ICYMI episode, “The Internet’s Biggest Secret.” The secret in question is the new permanent co-host of the show, joining Rachelle Hampton and replacing Madison Malone Kircher, who left the show last July. And the winner is … spoiler alert, I guess … Candice Lim, who has great chemistry with Rachelle and tells listeners all about her relationship with the internet in this fun chat. There is a story about getting catfished on Miley Cyrus’ fansite. It’s great.
Did you know that Thomas the Tank Engine was subtly an authoritarian horror story? Yeah, me neither, and that’s just one of the many train-adjacent tales in this excellent episode of 99% Invisible. Guided (conducted?) by “resident train aficionado” Kurt Kohlstedt, the episode also covers the special type of explosions that can keep trains safer, how you can still live like a 19th century robber baron, and the internet-famous train bridge that trucks love to ram into. It’s all worth listening to, but mostly, I will never get over the Thomas the Tank Engine story. Nightmarish.
help i’m obsessed with these “ruined” mashups
(fair warning, NSFW language in this embedded video)
This week, I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, read a lot of news, and seen a couple movies (You Hurt My Feelings is pretty good!). But in the moments of quiet, what rushes in to fill the vacuum in my brain? Why, it’s an AI-assisted rendition of “Get Low” by Lil Jon, as “performed” by Frank Sinatra.
I am not proud of this.
The mashup comes from the YouTube channel There I Ruined It, which specializes in original & (to me) hilarious mashups of songs and artists that should not go together. These mashups are often accompanied by really impressively edited videos; it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think mine is the “kids’ edition” of “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor”:
I am blown away (and a little scared) by the near-perfection of the AI Sinatra voice, and can’t wait to see what else There I Ruined It can do with this technology.
A good video about the writers’ strike
Drew Gooden is back with a timely video about the WGA Strike that is throwing movie & TV production into disarray. If you already understand and agree with the aims of the strikers, this video is just going to tell you what you already know. But for everyone else, it’s an entertaining and compelling primer on what the writers want and the lousy conditions that led to this strike happening. I’d also recommend the latest episode of Underunderstood, “Big Ideas Lost to Mini Rooms,” which goes deeper on many of the same issues with The Bear writer Alex O’Keefe.
The latest from LightningPod
Here’s what I’ve been producing and editing this week. For more, follow LightningPod on LinkedIn.
On Grit, CEO Coach Matt Mochary spoke to Joubin Mirzadegan about hero complexes, finding inner peace, the “zone of genius,” and much more. Matt has worked with tech and finance leaders such as Brian Armstrong (CEO of Coinbase), Bastian Lehmann (former CEO of Postmates), Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI), and I loved his attitude toward money and trying to help others. I am simultaneously jealous of the fact that he lives in Hawai’i; you can literally hear birds singing behind him in parts of this interview.
On Lock and Code, security researcher Alec Muffett joined David Ruiz from Malwarebytes to talk about new laws that require porn sites to verify the ages of their visitors. This trend may create a new internet for everybody, not just minors, Muffet says, at the expense of our privacy & security. And crucially, these laws, which are being passed or considered at the state level in the US and in several countries around the world, might not even do the thing they are supposed to do. “Kids are smart, much smarter than they’re given credit for by the age verification bridge,” he says.
An absolutely incredible cover of “Smooth Criminal”
From the comments: “As a guitarist myself, she just blew my mind with that ending playing the riff and rhythm at the same time. Sad that most of those people probably have no idea of how much of a spectacular thing that was to witness in person.” Agreed, what is wrong with this sedate audience? I would be freaking out.
The best thing I’ve read this week
Is Twitter the new Fox News? It’s owned by a “far-right activist” with no scruples a la Murdoch, sure, but John Herrman argues that it’s worse than that: The heavy users who are still on the platform are going to become more conservative than they already are, because of Twitter’s antagonistic nature:
More than any other of its social-media contemporaries — and more than the traditional media over which it also exerted interesting and sometimes vexing influence — it’s a space of constant contestation. Its accessibility and promise of proximity to power made it a useful platform for mounting rhetorical insurgencies of virtually any stripe, whether they’re seeking recognition from a political party that would rather ignore them, briefly drawing mass attention to an esoteric cause, or, say, rallying support for an actual military insurgency.
This is a nuanced, and slightly terrifying, analysis of why this will make the mainstream Republican party “terminally online,” when it didn’t do the same for the Democrats. Read the whole thing here.
Palate cleanser: Do you remember?
Kiki the cockatiel remembers:
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and witness: A deadly predator at the top of his game