The word of the day is gibberish

Also: the People's Champ, the centrist Necronomicon, and Agent 47's breakfast takes.

The word of the day is gibberish

EX is a research report about where culture is headed. You can learn more here. This week: zoomer keyword stew, Smash beef, and Xur’s god rolls.

1. Peter Griffin’s swan song


Hey there kai cenat #petergriffin #familyguy #aisongcover #heytheredelilah

♬ original sound - Doozy

Animator @doozycomics made a beautiful Tiktok of a dying Peter Griffin AI-singing “hey there Kai Cenat” while papercraft recreations of Subway Surfers and Minecraft parkour scroll by in the lower pane. The song is a catalog of Gen Z internet obsessions; many, like Fanum tax, appeared in the “I just wanna be your sigmaRoblox baby song from early October, which doozycomics previously turned into a troubling Alex G remix. (Both songs raise the question of whether the brains of Tiktok users themselves are now activated by keyword stuffing.)

The channel started out with B&W imagery and popsicle stick jaws in May before graduating to colored pencils, more work-intensive animation, and AI covers. The word “brainrot” appears a lot in the comments, but these funny videos aren’t to blame; they just remix internet mind poison in a style that makes people think about what they’re seeing.

2. Get to know “The People’s Champ” of Smash Bros.

Though Super Smash Bros. Melee has been a staple of the fighting games community (FGC) for more than twenty years, the Melee esports scene continues to struggle against Nintendo's increasingly draconian rules. As players and viewers rail against the company's most recent "community tournament guidelines" — which cap attendance at 200 participants, limit prize winnings to $5,000, and mandate that every tournament be a nonprofit event — a clip of Melee esports commentator Bobby "Scar" Scarnewman has begun to resurface on Twitter. In the clip, Scar argues for calling Nintendo's "bluff," daring the company to send cops to the venue to remove their TVs. "Until I see that happen, I don't believe it," Scar says.

While the clip is certainly relevant to the latest restrictions, it was actually grabbed from a stream Scar held almost a year ago as a response to a different incident in which Nintendo shut down the Smash World Tour with little advance notice. On the one hand, the clip's re-emergence illustrates just how frequently Nintendo angers the Smash Bros. Melee competitive scene, wielding their notoriously rigid copyright policies to suppress the work of countless players and event organizers. On the other hand, it also illustrates how much respect Bobby Scar has garnered as "The People's Champ" of the Smash Bros. community. His reputation as both an energetic storyteller and an authoritative Smash analyst is so widespread that he even has his own emote on Twitch.

3. Conductor, we have a good channel here!

Conductor Williams, a producer whose credits include Drake and Tyler, the Creator, is likely the best person teaching hip-hop production on YouTube right now. Over at his channel, he discusses the creative process behind different beats, compares gear, and even shares footage from sessions he's done with other artists in the past. (If you’ve heard the “Conductor, we have a problem here!” tag on a track lately, or pretty much any recent Griselda LP, you’re familiar with his work.) Williams' charismatic delivery and extensive musical knowledge make for educational content that's a cut above what's normally on offer on the platform.

One of the main things that separates him from other hip-hop production YouTutors is his approach to juxtaposing technical information — e.g., demonstrations of how he uses gear to manipulate samples — with observations about the music's aesthetic and emotional qualities. This is partly because other YouTubers who teach music production, particularly within electronic- and hip-hop-adjacent genres, tend to focus on software-centric techniques, sharing screen captures of applications like Ableton or FL Studio. Williams' process, however, harkens back to older-school styles of production, relying more on hardware samplers and sequencers to assemble beats in a more impressionistic and improvisational context. This allows him to elaborate on creative decisions and how he distinguishes between different sonic moods while also triggering samples and constructing beats in real time.

4. AI sees god if you ask it to illustrate “lorem ipsum”

A user on 4chan’s Technology board (/g/) used a permutation of lorem ipsum text as a prompt for Bing Image Creator and got back a radiant image of a three-fingered Christ in Majesty attended by angels and philosophers in an eternal kingdom of Latin nonsense. Both Bing and Midjourney will cook up interesting pictures when you feed them scraps of poetry or incoherent rambling, as they locate imagery that they deem closely related to the flavor of the words you’re using.

Corrupting text in the style of lorem ipsum (scrambling word order, adding nonsense words, leaving words out) is also one of the ways 4chan users get Bing to generate NSFW stuff. The text filter that’s meant to censor lewd prompts seems very literal and easily confused, but the image generation process that follows is sensitive to suggestion and deft at untangling chopped-and-screwed prompts. Proper English gets you blocked by the super-ego, but speaking in tongues is a pathway to the machine id.

5. Bungie layoffs have apocalyptic impact on Destiny community

News of game delays and major layoffs at Destiny 2 developer Bungie (who reportedly fired around 100 employees) sent the game’s content creators and subreddit into a tailspin this week. It also raised an interesting question: how would you feel seeing your own layoff discussed by the guys who stand in front of the inferno thumbnail? On one hand, it could be dispiriting to see your life woven into the ceaseless weekly coverage of an MMO’s ups and downs alongside videos about Xur’s latest GOD ROLLS. On the other hand, it might be exhilarating to turn from a live service gamer’s greatest enemy (a developer) into something more dear than a friend (evidence that they are right about the game’s imminent collapse).

In addition to offering some genuine sympathy for those affected, particularly in community roles, creators unearthed plenty of talking points:

  • Bungie laid off composers Michael Salvatori (who’d worked on their games since Halo) and Michael Sechrist (who’s credited with the consensus best song in the game)
  • Bungie missed revenue projections by 45%, likely because many players found the last expansion boring and quit playing (these players include ⅔ of EX); 45% has been described as “a lot,” leading to doubts about the quality of the original projection
  • Player sentiment is at an all-time low, as are Steam player counts (via Datto)
  • Fans continue to jeer at an infamous slide from a 2022 GDC talk where Bungie warned about the perils of “overdelivery”
  • D2 game director Joe Blackburn may have foreshadowed the layoffs with insincere-sounding praise of parent company Sony on Datto’s game show last week (mentioned by Fallout Plays)

6. Martin Scorsese has logged on

Martin Scorsese joined the film-buff platform Letterboxd last week. Foisting an octogenarian onto a new social-media platform has the air of a PR stunt, except for the fact that Scorsese, at this point in his career, is far too hallowed to be foisted anywhere, giving the whole thing a sui generis air. Thus far he's posted zero reviews and two lists: a series of films he deems "companions" to some of his masterpieces, and an unranked top-ten list of widescreen films. Together with his recent guest appearances in his daughter Francesca's TikToks, his embrace of the platform feels like a rejoinder to the meme of him as a curmudgeon that expresses inappropriate fealty to various Disney IPs.

It's also a big W for Letterboxd, a humble movie-logging site begun in 2011 that exploded during the pandemic and has become a central (if occasionally insufferable) hub for film appreciation online. By remaining focused in its subject matter, Letterboxd still feels like a forum, with its own stars, memes, and strains of discourse. It's one of the least-terrible social-media platforms out there, and it's slightly better with Scorsese's presence. Here’s hoping everyone stops asking him about Bottoms on there.

7. Kendrick Lamar's creative services company remains baffling

The only thing as hot as Kendrick Lamar's seven-album run with label Top Dawg Entertainment was the string of contemporary classics released by stablemates like Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock over the same period. So it was strange when Kendrick announced his departure from the label in favor of pgLang, a "multi lingual, at service company" with his longtime collaborator Dave Free. If you are wondering what a “multi-lingual at-service company" is, the duo's output thus far will not clarify much: Kendrick Lamar's recent videos, some ads for Converse and Cash App, the debut record by Baby Keem, the very good video for "The Hillbillies."

Their newest output is a limited drop of minimally designed, feature-light phones produced alongside the dumbphone company Light. Only 250 will be produced, so it doesn’t matter what they cost: they’ll be available for resale for a zillion dollars and you aren’t getting one. The whole pgLang thing is mostly interesting as the apparent passion project of one of our most acclaimed living artists, a Pulitzer-winning Voice Of A Generation whose every utterance was treated as high literature for a solid decade. While a creative agency producing funny, esoteric ads and offbeat brand partnerships is an interesting thing in and of itself, it’s all a little deflating coming from Lamar, who appears to have gotten so good at making genre-defining rap records that he got bored with the practice and sought a career in marketing.

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Chum Box

That’s it for this week. We’ll be spending the weekend in front of the inferno thumbnail.