Discover more from Follow Friday
Meta's Twitter clone won't be the new Twitter
Plus: A scandal at GQ, how The Sims think, and chimpanzee liberation
Welcome to Follow Friday! You know what’s a great movie that no one talks about? The Sting. I saw it at a theater here in San Francisco last weekend and was overwhelmed by how entertaining it is, from start to finish. The music, the costumes, the script, even the beautifully illustrated title cards that carry you through the heist. Just delightful.
The single best thing I saw online this week: I feel like this video has been showing up in my YouTube homepage for months, and this week I finally decided to watch it.
Sometimes, the algorithm is right. I don’t know all these classical composers well enough to get even half of the references, but it’s such a fun conceit and a window into someone’s deep knowledge of musical history.
The best podcasts I’ve heard recently
Your enjoyment of this episode of The A24 Podcast will hinge on how much you can tolerate two famous actors telling each other how great they are. But, if it helps, both of them deserve the praise, because they are Julia Louis-Dreyfus and J. Smith-Cameron. Despite rolling my eyes at the Hollywood-iness of their compliments, there’s a lot to love here, including some juicy details about how J’s character Gerri could have played a bigger part in the Succession finale (spoilers, obvi); how she got the name J. Smith-Cameron in the first place; and a rave review of Across the Spider-Verse by Julia, although she repeatedly calls it “Spidey-Verse,” which I found immensely endearing.
Longtime listeners of This American Life and/or Fresh Air and/or several Pineapple Street Studios podcasts have probably heard Jonathan Menjivar’s name a lot. He’s been a radio and podcast producer for more than 20 years, a career that has allowed him to go from working-class Latino kid to middle-class media elite. On his inspired new podcast Classy, Menjivar steps in front of the microphone to ask: Is that good? He’s asking questions on this show that are difficult (or perhaps impossible) to answer, challenging generational taboos, and also revealing to the public how you can know if Terry Gross is real-laughing or fake-laughing. I have loved every episode so far, but you should probably start at the beginning, with “Are Rich People Bad?”
I celebrated the 4th of July on Tuesday with some friends at the park. We drank beers, soaked in the sunshine … and, almost immediately, expressed some uncertainty about wearing red, white, and blue. Earlier that morning, I had listened to the latest episode of 5-4, in which Rhiannon Hamam, Michael Liroff, and Peter Shamshiri tore apart the recent Supreme Court decision 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. Opening a giant loophole to anti-discrimination laws and based on an entirely fabricated, hypothetical grievance, it’s one of many recent decisions undermining the credibility of the court (to their credit, 5-4 has been telling us the Supremes sucked since 2020). Loving this country also means being willing to admit, the system is broken.
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WTF was GQ thinking?
I don’t habitually read GQ, and my days of not taking them seriously are certainly coming to a middle after this week’s drama around an article written by contributor Jason Bailey. Hired to write about the disastrous and ongoing mismanagement of Warner Bros. Discovery by David Zaslav, Bailey delivered an appropriately critical story chronicling everything going wrong over there. GQ published it, but then — under pressure from Zaslav’s PR people — tried to water down the article before deleting it entirely.
It gets worse, as Drew Magary writes in SFGate:
GQ could have, should have, stood by its reporter, especially given that he was a freelancer just trying to earn a living. Maybe if former Editor-in-Chief Jim Nelson was still in charge of the place, it would have. That GQ was both thorough and undaunted. But Variety just reported that current Editor-in-Chief Will Welch is attached as a producer on an upcoming Warner Brothers film that’s based on a GQ story and that he was one of the editors Zaslav’s stooges complained to.
This is level 1000 of the Streisand Effect. Zaslav’s vanity draw a lot more attention to Bailey’s criticism than it probably would have received otherwise, and GQ’s complicity is a media scandal that should, one hopes, scare away both talent and readers. It’s a profile in cowardice all around.
Three things to read about Twitter, Threads, and Reddit
(The screenshot of Threads at the top of this newsletter comes via, who got it from Will Oremus on Bluesky, a platform I am not on and have no plans to join.)
Meta’s new Twitter clone, Threads, “lacks any of the magic of a new social network because it already built its own caste system,” writes. The emphasis on attracting influencers to the platform and foisting an Instagram-style algorithmic feed on users reflects a deep misunderstanding about what made Twitter good when it was good. Instead, Threads is “a marketing channel for the least-interesting people on Earth,” Ed writes.
- takes a broader view of all the platforms trying to replace Twitter, and coins a genius term to describe why they’re not working: Eternal Woodstock. “Every few weeks, users flock en masse to new platforms, rolling around in the mud, getting high on Like-dopamine, hoping that they can keep the transgressive, off-kilter meme magic going just a little longer, even though social-media culture already been fully hollowed out and commercialized.”
And in The Verge, David Pierce zooms out even further to include Reddit and explain why the social web as we knew it is dying (called it). So where do we go from here? He expresses in shorter, better words what I’ve tried to say about Discord: It’s “a clever mix of chat app and broadcast tool, a place where lots of like-minded people could conceivably hang out and connect. But, uh, have you ever been in a Discord with thousands of people? It’s pure chaos, and requires you to either devote your life to keeping up or resolve yourself to missing everything.”
The latest from LightningPod
Here’s what I’ve been producing and editing this week
Have you heard of Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act? … Hey, wake up! This is important. This week on Lock and Code, David Ruiz interviewed EFF analyst Matthew Guariglia about Section 702, which empowers the US National Security Agency to sweep up countless emails, DMs, and likely mobile messages without a warrant. Guariglia explains what can be collected, who can read it, and how this provision that was originally intended to monitor foreign spies actually became a tool for surveilling Americans.
And on Grit, Tealium CEO Ted Purcell spoke with Joubin Mirzadegan from Kleiner Perkins about unlocking high performers, moving on from a family tragedy, being a startup guy at big companies, and more. He also tells a couple very funny stories — one is about corporate culture in Israel, and the other comes from his days working alongside former SAP CEO Bill McDermott.
A really cool video about The Sims
I love, love, love it when a good communicator is able to explain something as complicated as AI. And granted, this video by Game Maker’s Toolkit is talking about the AI of approximately two decades ago. But it’s no small feat to make a clear, visually interesting video about something as technical as the AI in The Sims, and I lapped it all up.
The best thing I’ve read this week
Via Ben Werdmuller — I had no idea what to expect from this short story, “Didi,” by Amber Caron, from her book Call Up the Waters. About a quarter of the way into it, I thought it was becoming a spooky horror story. But it actually became something far more interesting than that; as the introduction by Clare Beams notes, “Caron is both participating in and subverting the teenage-girl-drama genre.” This is one of those extraordinary stories that really sticks with you for days to come.
“I don’t know,” Evan says. “Something about her makes me nervous.”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you noticed—” he says. He stops. We listen as a door down the hall opens and closes. Didi is in the bathroom. He lowers his voice to a whisper. “It’s like she’s set up mirrors all around her. Like she’s constantly watching herself every time she moves.”
The next morning I call my brother. I ask him if he is sure he sent the right child.
“Don’t let your guard down,” he says. “This is what she does.”
Palate cleanser: Look up
This is Vanilla, a 28-year-old chimpanzee, seeing the open sky for the first time in her life. The Washington Post has the backstory about her journey from medical research subject to viral video star.
Trust me and click these:
I love this “minimal luggage” experiment from Japan Airlines
Not The Onion: Subway faces backlash over ‘distasteful’ sign referencing Titan implosion
Actually The Onion: Famous Nicknames Of U.S. Presidents (NSFW language)
Why rich people are prone to “brain rotting” contrarianism
Gwen Stacy’s theme in Across the Spider-Verse has a very clever musical easter egg
A viral “proud Democrat” on Twitter was super duper fake, and a lot of people fell for it
First-class vintage rail travel in the US is still possible, thanks to these enthusiasts
Don’t mention this when you’re proposing
“Beige-fluencers” are cheerleaders for a life of no surprises
What your beach reading says about you