Me or not me

Also: real-life graphics, old-school sounds, and a dark turn for product reviews.

Me or not me
Screenshot from Moving Out.

Hello! We've just migrated to a new host. This is the "pardon our dust" send. There are still moving boxes everywhere. Please excuse the mess, missing icons, broken old posts, etc.; we should have this place fixed up by next week.

This week: real-life graphics, old-school sounds, and a dark turn for product reviews.

AI video generator turns heads, stomachs

via OpenAI.

On Thursday, OpenAI posted a slick preview of a new video generator that will forever pollute the search results for “Sora,” as well as the actual environment. It creates far more coherent AI videos than competitors like Runway, with results that may or may not make your eyes pop out of your head and catch on fire. There’s a lot of impressive stuff in their technical report, but one of the standouts is a tiny claim that Sora can generate multiple shots of a consistent character — a basic storytelling problem that has bedeviled users of image generators. (However, they only claim “within a single sample,” and the examples don’t show human faces.) Its abilities to generate Minecraft and convert to pixel art are also wild.

Tech channels are calling this “another DALL-E moment,” but it’s worth asking what the DALL-E 3 moment was. Seems like it was a big leap forward in image generation and prompt comprehension that most people got bored of using for free after a couple weeks of making 9/11 memes. While AI guys are again crowing that “Hollywood is OVER,” they said the same thing about all artists when DALL-E 3 came out in early October. But then the discussion shifted to how it was "lobotomized," speculation about lowered step counts destroying detail, and complaints that DALL-E never got expected features like image-to-image.

Sora doesn't seem to have solved some issues that plagued older visual gen AI (shape-shifting clothing, scale confusion, disorientation, dreamlike scenery shifts, trouble imagining damaged or imperfect objects, hands). It looks better, but not professional (yet). The oddity of many outputs still seems to place it in online video domains where looking cheap or surreal is normal: memes, horror, music visualizers, stock footage, shortform video. The most obvious beneficiaries of its release will be the AI creators who have already found a quality-insensitive audience and rack up 53 million views on videos like this.

The Grimace Shake echoes in eternity

Surely no fan of brand history could forget Grimace’s Birthday, the McDonald’s promotion which took over all social feeds last summer thanks to the antics of milkshake-chugging TikTok teens. But while he swiftly disappeared from the thoughts of adults who got sick of “purple shake scary” content by mid-June, Grimace has continued a strange existence in the realm of YouTube Shorts and the minds of children everywhere. In this popular Short, as in many others, he appears as a member of a horror mascot ensemble that includes Skibidi Toilet affiliates, Choo-Choo Charles, The Amazing Digital Circus characters, and other low culture amalgams who all constantly swap roles in purgatorial mobile game ad-inspired scenarios that take on a “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” resonance when left looping too long. This is all to say that you have to hand it to the McDonald’s Corporation for embedding their milkshake salesman so deeply in the psyche of a new generation.

The “me or not me” test

via Strife212 on Twitter

In one of the most "me" stories of 2024, employers like FedEx and Olive Garden are now making job applicants click "Me" or "Not Me" on a personality test depicting a blue alien named "Ash" at work, at home, and in therapy. The DreamWorks Animation-looking humanoid was allegedly made to eliminate racial bias, but it suggests that the entire test was designed by the type of old guy who starts sentences with "I don't care if you're black, white, or a blue alien..." The page also notes that 71% of candidates agreed that they considered the alien to be "their own race," confirming that this personality test, like all others, selects for people who will say anything to get the job. On Twitter, it was seen as an additional indignity heaped on job hunters, who are already "flipping a coin wrapped in razor blades."

404 Media's Emanuel Maiberg dug deep and completed the entire blue man test attached to a bartending job listing, surfacing a lot of unforgettable "Me/Not Me" scenarios along the way.

There are literally more than 80 of these and I don’t want to torture you with all of them, but permit me a handful more just to illustrate how tedious and confusing this application process is:

- An image of Ash manipulating some kind of molecule hologram like Tom Cruise in Minority Report with the caption “Always Wonder Why.”
- An Image of Ash giving an alien Ted Talk with the caption “Personal Best.”
- An image of Ash and three other aliens engaged in some kind of heated debate in a room that looks like Dr. Melfi’s office in The Sopranos.

Did he get the job? You'll have to read the story to find out.

Music industry charmed by soundfont covers

The channel Unpragmatic Covers makes magical MIDI covers using sounds from Runescape, accompanied by charming recreations of album art. Their cover of "Where Is My Mind" got a shoutout from the official Pixies channel, and a few standout tracks have broken out of the Runescape nostalgia zone. The songs fit into an ongoing wave of soundfont covers of classics like Nevermind, "Hurt," and In Rainbows (which earned Jonny Greenwood's approval).

Cyberpunk modder roasts YouTuber lighting

An extremely sharp-looking video of a Cyberpunk 2077 modlist promising “Real Life Graphics” has been viewed nearly two million times on YouTube; it’s the latest in a long line of Skyrim and Fallout graphics showcases to awe browsing viewers. ("These r the most realistic graphics ever in a video game bro...All the gamers should see.") However, the Cyberpunk video is also designed to advertise a custom lighting mod being sold through the creator’s Patreon page, a practice that has long been a sore subject in fan communities. In the wake of the video’s success, established Cyberpunk modder theCyanideX made a free “Reshade Paywall Begone” mod promising “the classic YouTuber look” by destroying the game’s dynamic range, forcing always-cloudy weather, and cranking the brightness up to 11. It’s clearly a jab at modifications that sacrifice player experience for a better-looking video; however, many on the comments page seem to actually like the mod’s effects despite its satirical intent.

A new mobile advertiser ascends to a throne of garbage

via reddit.

A game called Bloodline: Heroes of Lithas has become the deranged mobile advertiser to beat with its furry-centric “YOU HAVE A NEW SON” campaign, which Twitter and Reddit users have been reposting since December. But whatever you say about Bloodline showing AI-generated fetish material to random passersby, don’t you dare call it a liar. In 2022, Gamespot reported that the game really is focused on “courting companions” and raising "hybrid" heirs, making its ads relatively true to the spirit of the game (by mobile standards). However, the reviewer did object to the saucy one-liners that players’ companions deliver in the bedroom, writing that “a simple closing of the curtain followed by the appearance of the baby would have gotten the point across.”  

Wirecutter dabbles in body horror

via Wirecutter, a header image with no hint of the horrors to follow.

Editorially speaking, Wirecutter is a sort of healing salve for the brain: friendly, informative, productive, sober. Want to think more than you ever have about possible use cases for a five-gallon bucket? Wirecutter is the correct place, written with a sort of first-person authority that counters the more aggregated quality of other product-review sites. But a new article detailing staff writer Doug Mahoney’s journey for bug-free trashcans represents a brave new vision for the site, one that passes through a wormhole and emerges flesh inverted, writhing with terrible new life. His stress test for the Terro T800 Garbage Guard involved the production of a plastic bag full of poisoned, dead rats, which he then left in the sun, forgot about, and threw away once it was covered in “thousands” of maggots. You may be pleased to know that the Garbage Guard killed every one of those maggots, but commenters were not, chastising the author for recommending a carcinogenic product which actively destroys local ecologies up to and including apex predators. These commenters may have a point, but they lack the dark aesthetic sense necessary for proper home maintenance, a process by which decay begets order and death becomes ecstasy.     

Chum Box

That's all for this week. We'll be spending next week cleaning up around here.

via geocitiesdig.