Wow Platinum

Also: Internet decay, Albini drums & glowing televisions.

Wow Platinum
From Emoji history: the missing years♥

This week, we're talking about old links, old bathwater, and old Pavement songs. First time reading? Sign up here.

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This Week’s Stories

Stephen A. Smith pivots to Pokémon

Stephen A. Smith is continuing to get traction by applying his best-in-class take-smithing to new fields of debate: namely, Pokémon. A recent clip of the sports pundit answering whether or not Mewtwo could beat LeBron spotlighted his unlikely versatility, even in fields about which he knows, by his own admission, nothing: his credulous engagement with the source material, his Heidecker-esque mispronunciation of names, his bone-deep conviction in every opinion he utters. Re: Mewtwo vs. Lebron, Smith cites the imaginary monster’s psychic abilities and fearsome scowl as likely to give him the edge on the famed power forward. 

It’s not Smith’s first foray into nerd culture:

  • When asked which Gen-1 Pokémon starter starter he’d choose, Smith went with Charmander, because he liked its forehead [link]
  • When asked which Gen-2 Pokémon starter he’d choose, he went with Cyndaquil, for reasons largely having to do with an unrelated affection for White Castle [link]
  • When asked to pick between Goku and Vegeta, Smith pivoted with the skill of a seasoned broadcaster to report the passing of Akira Toriyama, then went with Goku, based solely on his name [link]

It’s engagement bait, sure, but a surprisingly good look for Smith, who has transitioned from the risible face of ESPN’s “embrace debate” era to a gentle, self-aware style of self-parody. 

More Stephen:

  • On his arch-nemesis, Jason Whitlock [link]
  • “I’m always triggered” [link]
  • “TAke a look, y’all” [link]

The internet is decaying

In their second report in two weeks on a subject close to EX Research’s heart, a new Pew Research Center analysis found that 38% of webpages that existed in 2013 are no longer accessible. Analyzing a million pages over a course of a decade, they found around 25% simply no longer exist, either at the page or domain level. Their analysis of link rot went a little further: 

  • 54% of Wikipedia pages cite a source that no longer exists
  • 23% of news pages contain a broken link
  • 1 in 5 tweets disappear from public view within months

These are bracing figures even for people well aware of the impermanence of the internet. Of course, as in real ecosystems, some decay is beneficial. All of this feels fairly abstract until it hits close to home, and a cherished Tumblr or, say, a website of published writing vanishes into the air. The solution isn’t necessarily widespread preservation but rather a broader awareness of this quality of our digital lives. 

Read more: 

  • The internet is rotting [link]
  • We need to rewild the internet [link]

Mario Builder 64 promises vaporwave infinity

A couple of modders have busted Mario 64 wide open with the release of Mario Builder 64, a hack that lets pretty much anyone make their own levels for the storied platformer. Developed by Rovertronic and Arthur Tilly, the hack was announced with a trailer that shows how capable the user interface is, creating platforms and buildings with a simple grid and browsable menu of implements. 

People have clamored for something like this ever since Nintendo released their own Mario Maker games, but those were planted firmly in Mario’s side-scrolling era. It’s impressive to see the third dimension cracked by a couple of hobbyists. Novice creators are already cranking out levels with titles like Boneyard Basin, Oozy Ooze Wastes, and Drip-Drop Abyss. 

Mario 64’s importance is undeniable — released in 1996, it pioneered polygonal graphics and 3D gaming — but subsequent 3D Mario games were much more playable. Instead, 64 endures as an aesthetic ideal, its washed-out cathode-ray color palette and dreamlike level design serving as particularly fruitful inspiration to vaporwave visual designers and contemporary altgame creators. Mario Builder 64 promises a new era in creativity for people seeking to remix the game’s raw materials toward new ends.


  • Dire Dire Docks Lo-fi remix [link]
  • Vinesauce: Mario Builder 64 [link]
  • Level Share Square levels [link]


I Saw the TV Glow

If the future is kind, I Saw the TV Glow will someday become an accessory to countless gestures of empathy, reproducing the same ritual that binds its two lead characters together. Much like Imogen Binnie’s Nevada, it’ll be recommended, via phone call or DM or Discord server, as a balm for the questioning and dysphoric — a way to encourage self-compassion through self-identification. Themes concerning refracted selves and hyperfixation with media aren’t necessarily new to stories about gender, but I Saw the TV Glow explores them with tactful restraint. Scenes blossom with pockets of neon light as mournful guitars (courtesy of Alex G) shimmer in the periphery. It’s drenched in sentimentality, but I think it earns it. I sincerely hope it reaches as many of the people who need it as possible. [Pao]

Conner O’Malley, Stand Up Solutions

Sometime over the past few years, stand up stopped being stand up. Julio Torres’ otherworldly prop comedy, Sarah Squirm’s candy-colored body horror, Tim Heidecker’s anti-stand up antagonism — these days, a good stand up set subverts the form. So it makes sense that Conner O’Malley would position his live act as an unhinged “keynote presentation” for a fictitious AI product called “Stand Up Solutions,” channeling his signature vein-bursting mania into a persona inspired by serial entrepreneurs in tech and marketing. You can catch the whole special on YouTube. It’s an hour of O’Malley doing what he does best, getting up to some mixed media hijinks and hazing front-row attendees with absurdist crowdwork. But it’s also the culmination of years of comedy; from mastering the art of barking at people for Vine to spoofing NowThis Instagram videos, O’Malley’s oeuvre is all about regurgitating online video culture. He spent quarantine pioneering new techniques for selfie-stick obscenity and refining his own brand of smartphone-centered horror comedy (seriously, watch this one). “Stand Up Solutions” represents a continuation of the themes he’s explored in videos like “Endorphin Port” and “Hudson Yards Video game” — the intrinsic emptiness of AI evangelism, metaverse marketing, and all manner of corporate technophilia. [Pao]

Shellac, To All Trains

Like everyone else, I admired Steve Albini: as a writer, a cook, an ideologue, an engineer, a ferociously focused professional in an industry full of shills, and, of course, as a musician. That he died just 10 days before releasing Shellac’s first new album in a decade gives extra weight to that effort, and to its seemingly prescient final song, “I Don’t Fear Hell.” But To All Trains is no Blackstar-esque whisper from the beyond. It is, per Albini’s famous aesthetic demands, a document of a band at a particular place in time, full of plague-of-locust guitar snarls, acidic turns of phrase, and, of course, those drums. They seem, as always, to fold time and space, compressing the vast distance between your ear and the original impact of mallet to head, despite however many layers of digital compression and obfuscation are involved in the relay. The drums will always sound exactly like that: Albini’s legacy, among others. [Clayton]

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Chum Box


  • 5 cool AI lifehacks [link]
  • Researchers designed a game called AlphaBetaCity to test how players responded to AI-written non-player characters. They found, maybe unsurprisingly, that players did not like or trust characters whose dialogue was written by AI [link]
  • “The archival violence inflicted by Artificial Intelligence differs from that of a typical archive because the information stored within an AI system is, for all intents and purposes, a black box. It’s an archive built for a particular purpose, but inherently never meant to be seen—it is the apotheosis of information-as-exchange-value, the final untethering of reality from sense.” From “An Archive At The End Of The World” [link]


  • You probably don’t love Dusk as much as the person who rigged up a handmade robotic shotgun and camcorder to turn it into a grainy analog monstrosity [link]
  • There’s a Monster Hunter theme park in Japan where people dressed up as monsters from the game run around and actually act like the monsters in the game [link]
  • Threads like this collection of great video game soundtracks are just narrow enough to surface a ton of great stuff you may not necessarily know [link]
  • Defector’s profile of Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield is surprisingly chunky, from a game-design perspective, and ends with a hell of a kicker [link]


  • Alt-rock icons Pavement have gotten their first gold record for “Harness Your Hopes”, a b-side (released in 2008) from their fourth (and fourth best) record (1997’s Brighten The Corners). The track’s newfound popularity can be attributed to – what else – a surprising hold on TikTok’s algorithm [link]
  • Jamie XX has now released two live mixes on NTS, and they are revelatory. A soulful studio mix [link]; a head-spinning live set [link]
  • Sure, you’ve read every Kendrick/Drake explainer out there, but have you read Chet “White Boy Summer” Haze explain it to his dad, Tom Hanks? [link]
  • The southern doom-metal band Thou soundtracked the excellent narrative adventure game Norco; now developers Geography Of Robots have returned the favor, creating a short game that narrativizes the apocalyptic themes of Thou’s new record [link]

The Internet

  • Here’s a new type of food rage bait: turning fast food even more grotesque – deep-frying it again, adding bacon, squeezing jalapeno juice into it – in your car [link]
  • This investigation into archaic, pre-emoji emoticons doubles as a spotlight for a bunch of gorgeous ‘90s handheld computers [link]
  • Apparently, Japanese fans gatekeep Western cartoons the same way American fans do anime [link]
  • Belle Delphine, the OnlyFans camgirl who in 2019 sold her bathwater to “thirsty gamer boys,” reported that PayPal withheld her $90,000 payout for the stunt; PayPal has since rectified the error [link]


  • “Her character’s name is Wow Platinum, because every generation gets the Southland Tales it deserves.” The release of Francis Ford Coppola’s gonzo epic Megalopolis launches a simultaneous contest for every film writer to have the best one-liner about it [link]
  • Inside the logistics of streaming movies while in prison [link]
  • Perhaps taking a cue from the more-is-more approach to some corners of YouTube games criticism, Novum released an analysis of Midsommar that is 7 hours long. The actual movie is under 2.5 hours [link]

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One last thing

David Cronenberg puts on a pair of sunglasses [link]