Making robots smile

Making robots smile

This week, we're talking about ethereal anime, internet rap, and Digimon mortality.

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This Week's Stories

Pitchfork good?

Pitchfork announced the hire of Mano Sundaresan, founder of the extraordinarily good blog No Bells, as the site’s new head of editorial content. This comes after Conde Nast laid off scores of long-term editorial staffers and repositioned the site as a sub-brand beneath GQ, prompting many “death of Pitchfork and music criticism" thinkpieces, including from this very publication, earlier this year. But it’s hard to imagine a better and more encouraging hire than Sundaresan, whose coverage of underground internet music and the way it tangles with social media platforms, games, and other digital media is no less than pioneering. This is the rare media staffing story that may actually have an outsize impact on the things you see, hear, and talk about. 

Read more: 

  • Sundaresan and GQ editorial director Will Welch discuss the site’s new direction [link]
  • Elden Pitchfork writers not enthused [link]; [link]

Bear bad?!

Hit kitchen-auteur romance The Bear has returned for its third season, and it seems to be laying out, again, the fissure between the TV-reviewing establishment and actual humans. The show sits at a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a 58% audience score, with the negative reviews mostly just pointing out that the emperor has no clothes — that a once-interesting show has grown increasingly trite and cloying and self-important. (Of establishment critics, Slate was the most direct: The Bear is not a good show.”) You may remember a similar narrative playing out with True Detective: Night Country earlier this year, a show critics hailed as a return to form that was duly eviscerated by everyone who watched it live. As prestige TV has entered its geriatric era, high-gloss shows you’re supposed to like keep trucking on, while people increasingly choose to spend their screentime elsewhere. 

An OFFICIAL EX Mod to Watch 


via r/skyrimvr

Though EX rarely reports on yet-to-be-released things that may not be any good, or indeed ever come out, we are breaking this editorial rule based on the strength of a single GIF. The upcoming Skyrim VR mod Smokes of Skyrim, which allows you to light up in VR, has earned our OFFICIAL “Mod to Watch” designation based on:

  • The undeniably satisfying manner in which the player must dip and rub their marijuana cigarette inside the lighter
  • The lighter appearing to contain a miniature bonfire or the idle sprite for the Flames spell
  • The notification “Unlit Joint has been equipped”

You might have noticed that many Skyrim mods share the acronym SoS. This is a tribute to a pornographic mod called Schlongs of Skyrim, which is now a decade old and known across the internet as SoS. The notoriously buggy mod appears in countless r/skyrimmods posts like “My schlong is not working” where someone complains that SoS bugged out. This led many well-known modmakers to name their non-pornographic mods things like Seasons of Skyrim, Simplicity of Snow, Sons of Skyrim, etc., to increase the general confusion whenever someone refers to a mod as SoS, as a bit.

Chiitan stays winning

After a few turbulent years as a social media sensation, it's safe to say that Chiitan — a "0-year-old" baby otter who bills themselves as Japan's "crazy mascot" and an "ad god" — got the last laugh. They've become notorious for their elaborate stunts and unhinged, Gallagher-grade prop comedy. Some prime examples of Chiitan-posting:

Chiitan originally debuted in 2017 as an unofficial mascot for Susaki, a city in Japan's Kochi Prefecture. Their popularity eventually earned them promotional deals with major companies like Sega and Square Enix. However, in 2019, Susaki's government publicly severed ties with Chiitan, citing the increasingly manic and destructive nature of their videos — and other companies followed suit. They've since been on a one-otter crusade to "destroy advertising," and they've done an impressive job committing to the bit. Chiitan's anarchic social media presence inspired a cult following, making them a beloved mascot across the globe — even if their hometown has disowned them.