The second-worst font, drunk Targaryens, and AI plagiarism
Plus: The next Tom Lehrer, Wells For Boys, and Pancakes, Pancakes!
Welcome to the Follow Friday newsletter! If you’re new here, I am sorry for the video thumbnail below. If you’ve been reading for a while, then it’s probably not a surprise, so you have no one but yourself to blame. Please trust me when I say the video is actually great.
The single best thing I saw online this week: Seriously, what’s the deal with Papyrus? You know, the font that they use for yoga studios run by white people and also the Avatar movies? In a video perfectly timed to the release of The Way of Water, graphic design expert Linus Boman dives into the history of “the world's second most reviled font.”
I loved the depth with which Boman approaches the topic — in less than half an hour, he explains how Papyrus rose to prominence, what makes it unique among popular fonts, whether the hate it receives is deserved, and more. It’s well worth your time.
The best podcasts I’ve heard this week
It’s a classic Planet Money premise: What economics lessons can we learn from children’s books? A lot, as Erika Beras learned when she brought a mic into a third-grade classroom to analyze books such as “Pancakes, Pancakes!” by Eric Carle and “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein. It’s all very well told and, of course, adorable, but I was not prepared for this episode to have a shocking twist. Not gonna give it away, but just know that there is a moment in this episode that made me gasp/yell/maybe drop an expletive or two.
Via’ great podcast newsletter Hurt Your Brain — here is a great, short biography of Johnny Appleseed, who is not at all like the American folk hero you may have learned about as a kid. Turns out, he was way more interesting. I hadn’t heard of this podcast before, but I’m looking forward to listening to more of The Disappearing Spoon. This episode deftly combines historical mythbusting with agricultural and entrepreneurial history, and some data about pre-Prohibition alcohol consumption in the US that honestly helped me understand why the temperance movement was so alarmed.
One of my favorite TV shows I watched in 2022 was Los Espookys, a Spanish-language absurdist comedy on HBO, so it was a joy to hear the series’ co-creator Julio Torres (a.k.a. Andrés the chocolate heir) talking with Jesse Thorn on Bullseye this week. By an incredible coincidence, Torres wrote the SNL “Papyrus” sketch referenced in the video above, and co-wrote another all-timer: “Wells for Boys.” Anyway, Los Espookys has ended after two seasons (RIP), but I look forward to whatever Torres does next.
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help i’m addicted to this one video
I didn’t watch the Golden Globes because of all the racism and bribery that Hollywood has chosen to forget. But at least the voters picked some good winners this year: Banshees of Inisherin and The Fabelmans won the top movie awards, “Naatu Naatu” from RRR won for Best Original Song, and Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh from Everything Everywhere All at Once won in their respective acting categories.
The only the acceptance speech I’ve bothered watching, though, is for Best TV Drama, and I’ve watched it at least five times by now. House of the Dragon (hell yeah) creator Miguel Sapochnik is joined onstage by the two actors who played Rhaenyra Targaryen, Emma D’Arcy and Milly Alcock.
It seems they didn’t expect to win, and Milly seems to have had one or two or 12 negroni sbagliatos that evening. Emma, meanwhile, is simultaneously serving as Milly’s furniture and trying to hold back their tears. And then Milly suddenly seems to remember she is drunk on national TV and starts biting her finger to stop laughing. It is 90 seconds of perfection.
Bonus round: When you need a break from this video, may I recommend Winona Ryder and a flying slice of pizza?
Two things about ChatGPT
I've written before about ChatGPT, the conversational AI chatbot made by OpenAI, which has fully rounded the corner from "cool new tech" into "hmm maybe we should be worried about this." First, consider this post by, who had one of his articles plagiarized by a mysterious new blog that shot to the top of Hacker News, using tools like ChatGPT to change the wording. Disturbingly, Substack — where both Alex’s blog and the plagiarizer’s (and mine) are hosted — is refusing to do anything about it. Boo.
I also loved this video essay by The Nerdwriter about “the real danger of ChatGPT.” I think we are at the start of a very long period of disruption in writing and education. Take six minutes and watch this:
I’m glad this person exists
Last week, I talked about my affection for the music of Tom Lehrer, who in 2022 released all his recordings into the public domain. And as if by magic, this week I stumbled across the videos of a nerdy, witty musical comedian who seems to have picked up where Lehrer left off.
His latest song “Hardcore Engineer” (above) pokes fun at Elon Musk and other CEOs who demand that workers ruin their personal lives for the bottom line; “The Ransomware Song” explains why you should pay attention in math class; and my personal favorite “Big Tech” holds a mirror up to all the creepy & disturbing ways we’ve been “disrupted” by companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Take a listen:
The best thing I’ve read this week in Garbage Day issues a necessary corrective to the idea that the Brasilia riots are just a rerun of January 6th in Washington DC. There are plenty of things the two failed insurrections have in common, but the pro-Bolsonaro stuff is a lot scarier:
What happened in Brazil yesterday is an undeniable escalation of January 6th. It’s what happens when the companies that run our internet platforms don’t feel any need to moderate them at all anymore. It’s what it looks like when the mask finally drops. It’s what it looks like when the right wing finally says what it is they want and doesn’t feel the need to hide behind frog memes and Fox News clips and fake outrage and violent message board fan fiction anymore.
Look, it’s not a fun read, but it’s an important one. And anyway, this is what the palate cleanser is for …
Palate cleanser: 🎶 Dragging through the snow …
The wagging tail kills me.
… And the rest
Digital license plates, a thing you probably didn’t know existed, are stupid af
“You’ve seen a ball bearing, but have you ever seen…”
“You can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half”
A thread of horror movie posters that look alike
RIP guitarist Jeff Beck, who made the greatest-ever cover of a Beatles song
and finally, a perfect summation of what it’s like to go back to work after the holidays
Love the selection of links as always, and thank you for the shoutout!