Liminal stoners

Also: bonkable surfaces, mouthwash horror, and the gamer's playpen.

Liminal stoners

This week, we’re talking about rapping AI, the furniture store on the borderland, and the biggest lie in Mushroom Kingdom history.

Minecraft … on weed

Many Minecraft YouTubers burn out or age out. But some simply chill out. The Highcraft crew, led by SoCal streamer/skater cscoop, play game modes like Skyblock with custom rules that impose a lot of punitive smoking. (“If someone makes the cobblestone generator wrong and turns all the lava into obsidian…they have to take, like, five rips.”) The players have been in the Minecraft trenches doing stuff like SMPLive for years, so most of the appeal is seeing how much they have to smoke before the wheels come off (“I really don’t like looking at the void”).

The channel also has a distinct visual identity. Everyone plays as a default Minecraft Steve. All the thumbnails use the same picture of a red-eyed Steve handing you a blunt. The videos sometimes feature IRL segments that help give them that scuffed “made in 2010” feeling. Highcraft pulls you both forward and backward in time: it reminds you of the loose low-stakes Minecraft videos kids used to make, while also showing you that the kids who made that stuff are, like, 25 now.

AI comes to rap beef

The Kendrick-Drake rap beef is the first major rap beef to occur in the AI era, which mucks the whole thing up. The original “leak” of Drake’s diss track led to hours of speculation that it was an AI fake, followed by delighted ridicule that people would even speculate such a thing. (It was obviously not, for what it’s worth; AI can’t do Hov’s whisper flow, among other things.) Later, a leaked reference track that seemed to out Lil Yachty as Drake’s ghostwriter was widely speculated to be an AI fake. (It wasn’t.) Soon an entire Lamar response track and an entire Drake response track made the rounds; both definitely were AI, and also sucked. 

All of this is part of the post-"Heart On My Sleeve" reality. That track — an AI-generated Drake/Weeknd collab that credibly recreated the vocal intonations of both artists — rewired the public consciousness about what AI can do or sound like. (Swifties spent the days before The Tortured Poets Departments’ release melting down about the verisimilitude of supposed leaks.) But rap beef works best if it feels clandestine and unofficial, confirming some rumors and creating entire new ones. Half the fun is sussing out subliminals via Genius annotations. Anyway, a cursory familiarity with either artist makes clear which tracks are authentic. AI couldn’t possibly recreate Kendrick’s crazed delivery on “Like That” or the suite of home-run punchlines Drake gets off on “Drop & Give Me 50.” AI just pumps smoke into the room, which isn’t such a bad thing when sleuthwork is half the fun.

Far-right protest mildly disrupts WoW auction house

Via ne0scythian on Twitter.

ORGRIMMAR, Durotar — On Monday, the financial district of the Horde capital was rocked by a protest in which dozens of accounts with names like “Clintonvictm” and “adrenochrøme” killed themselves in front of the auction house. While this incident may have raised orcish awareness of the misdeeds of the Clinton Crime Family, it’s just as likely that it was totally ignored by most denizens of Kalimdor, who are used to tromping over corpse piles that have been arranged to spell out political messages or website names.

The practice of spelling out banned words (often gold-selling URLs) is hardly new to WoW. It was common in vanilla, when free trial accounts were plentiful and player corpses lingered longer than in the current game (or its “Classic” variant). One notorious advertiser, Susanexpress, continues to resell WoW and Diablo gold to this day. Generations of players have fond recollections of /sleeping on top of these messages to mess up the letters, setting up model train sets on top of them, or using the old Corpse Explosion ability to obliterate them. The abundance of corpses in the screenshot suggests that the protest’s organizer was some kind of multiboxer or botter, but that’s also a long-standing feature of these demonstrations.

The hunt for the real backrooms continues

Annotated version of the original Backrooms image, shared in the "All Currently Known Backrooms Image Information" document on the Virtual Carbon Discord server. The doc is credited to "@Z2r, SM," and server members.

The idea of the Backrooms — a spooky yellow office that goes on forever — started with a single photo posted to 4chan in 2018. Now that the Backrooms (and related “liminal spaces”) have become an infinite content fountain, people are understandably curious about where this picture came from. But it's not easy to find the epitome of the anonymous office space. The Discord community of lost media YouTuber Virtual Carbon has been looking into it, creating a massive document cataloging current theories, including the idea that the numbers in the original filename are a timestamp dating back to 2012.

But the main thing they’ve done is debunk. The doc has a list of more than 40 hoaxes, CGI recreations, and businesses that are sick of people calling them to ask if they are the Backrooms. The latest of these, discovered last Tuesday, is a California furniture store whose interior sort of lines up if you replace the carpets and wallpaper. Despite the excitement on YouTube (the new photo, which keeps getting deleted elsewhere, can be seen here), the maintainers of the document quickly added the location to the “debunked” list after calling the business on the phone and getting an irritated denial that “none of our locations look like that.” But could they have looked like that back in 2012, or before a remodel? Don’t trouble yourself to ask the already aggravated employees of [furniture chain redacted]; plenty of content creators and liminal spacers are already doing so on your behalf.

The dean of Mario Studies returns

Thanks to an army of speedrunners, Super Mario 64 is one of the most thoroughly studied games ever made. But it's far from exhausted. This week, Mario scholar pannenkoek2012 released another of his giant investigations into the game’s oddities, which often involve painstakingly animated Nintendo-themed demonstrations of concepts like floating point numbers. The four-hour video is hard to summarize, but: to show why Mario sometimes hits his head on nothing and makes a “boing” noise, pannenkoek explains "edge-vertices," movement between frames, bonkable surfaces, the programming of Mario's hat, and the universe. (Pannenkoek also recently popped up as a background character in the heated debate over the likelihood of cosmic radiation affecting a Mario speedrun, which was called "the biggest myth in speedrunning.") Despite the obscurity of the invisible wall issues the video focuses on, it's full of perfect clips of speedrunners hitting those exact problems and howling about them — a richness of citation that speaks to the mind-boggling number of hours SM64 players have actually logged, as well as the absurdly thorough approach of this video’s creator.

TikTokers are shilling industrial grade glycine

A Chinese chemical manufacturer named Donghua Jinlong continues to serve as the butt of a series of TikTok in-jokes. In a freak algorithmic accident, an extremely straight-laced promotional TikTok about the company’s “food grade glycine” went viral after the company posted it late last month. Early riffs on the video mostly relied on references to controversial Twitter podcasters, but the meme has since breached the “post-dirtbag left” containment zone; over the past couple of weeks, TikTokers have produced fake infomercials, AI-driven musical tributes, and “brainrot” sketches dedicated to marketing glycine. @citiesbydiana has perhaps the best high-effort take on the meme. Though TikTok often “yes, ands” plenty of non-sequiturs into memetic reality, the Donghua Jinlong stuff feels special: This is one of the few TikTok trends to directly reflect the absurdity of algorithmic curation, gesturing to the depths of viewerless branded content lurking below TikTok’s surface.

Chum Box

That's it for this week. We'll be spending next week finding new bonkable surfaces.