Due To The Unfortunate
"A starfish's... hole, I guess."
So I’m told this Rachel Aviv story about Alice Sebold in The New Yorker is great, and I’m gonna read it in just a minute, but first I have to find out about the Michigan State University shooting TikTok sponsored by Bioré. We let a whole generation of kids grow up expecting to be murdered in the classroom, and now they can’t even monetize it? I thought this was America. Speaking of which, I also can’t read that New Yorker piece until I get functionally rational as to why I should have Max. And I’m not even going to be able to access it until I collect the eldritch one-time passcode scrawled in blood on my bathroom mirror to finish my four-step authentication and get through the New Yorker’s impossibly forgetful paywall.
Ok. I’m comfy, the lighting is right, I’ve got a snack and today’s third serving of Mango Peach MyProtein on ice, let’s get into this. Just out of curiosity, how long is… ELEVEN THOUSAND WORDS? Eleven thousand words? Ma’am. Am I, in all honesty, ready to sit down and read a whole-ass nonfiction book right now?
Maybe first we should see what the critics have to say about the live action “Little Mermaid,” which finally premieres this weekend. Bloomberg’s Chris Rovzar did not care for it.
The unpolished tone extends to the sets and the costumes on land, which have the bright, generic blandness of an ad for a Sandals all-inclusive resort. Underwater scenes look like the kind of video you see behind the lyrics at a karaoke bar…
…The original [“Under the Sea” musical number] is adorable and joyous, and features sea creatures with cherubic, smiling faces. But in the 2023 version, they are faceless, and thus (sorry, fish) they’re simply not as fun to watch. Both the old and new numbers end with the camera rapidly cutting between all the sea creatures that are “dancing.” In the animated version, this moment is a triumph. In the modern iteration—as the camera jumps between a manta ray’s belly and a snail’s arm and a starfish’s… hole, I guess—you just wonder “What the hell am I looking at?”
Also Awkwafina is in trouble for doing a blaccent (again) in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s abominable seagull rap number “The Scuttlebutt,” which sounds like Gilbert Gottfried doing Hamilton over the music from the elevator to hell.
Oh hey, “About 60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate… went missing on a rail shipment from Wyoming to California in April and has still not been found,” cool, I’m sure that’s fine. The Oklahoma City bomb was about 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate. And a Nazi rammed a box truck into the White House barriers last night. Seems normal! I forget what I was about to do. Oh right, I was gonna read that…
Ooh, a text from Intern Camille: Yadda yadda… Guy Fieri themed ARG… the Voynich Manuscript… Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities… yup, this sounds like Intern Camille stuff all right. Let’s see what it’s about.
How many miles to Flavortown? Can you get there by candle-light? No, you can't. But according to the Tumblr Guy Fieri ARG, you can get there with a library, a donkey, and a copy of the Voynich Manuscript.
In January 2021, Tumblr changed its logo to resemble Guy Fieri in celebration of his birthday while also promoting a blog with several cryptic gifs of Guy Fieri tagged with "Et in Arcadia Ego". Tumblr users latched on quickly to the cipher, digging in deeper to interact directly with the Tumblr Staff orchestrating the whole thing: some were there to help, some weren’t, and some were there to actively throw popcorn and red herrings.
Over the course of the ARG, several things were made clear: that within the game’s fiction, Guy Fieri and Dr. Phil served in the Gulf War together, leading to a crackship that even the Staff supported, creating a special Valentine’s Day banner dedicated to it, to the confusion of many; that the game’s main cipher was based on the Voynich Manuscript; and that the game masters kept asking players to read Ulysses and Borges. The game results in a quest through the land of Arcadia, to guide two surrealist artists to Flavortown and return them to our universe. The original ARG happened over the span of two months, and after that, players thought it had ended, with the occasional recap popping up.
Then, in 2022, it came back. And... it's still back! The sequel’s pace is less frenetic, and this time around, there are unsettlingly ominous gifs of Fieri and a sequence of websites inspired by Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. And while I don't know where posts like this video splicing together Flavortown with Wings of Desire will take the game, I'm very excited to find out.
The archaic word of the day is mirifical: miraculous or wonderful.
—Camille Butera can’t see you, but she knows you’re here
Let’s all watch “Wings of Desire” again soon. But real quick, before I finally tackle this New Yorker thing, it looks like it’s been a grim climbing season on Everest, with:
[p]eople… dying on Everest almost daily this season. Except for the three Nepali climbers who perished after a serac collapse in the Khumbu Icefall, none died in a climbing accident, but rather from health issues.
If you’ve ever wondered how a Sherpa rescues someone, apparently they just make you into a backpack and then stroll down 1000 vertical feet in the death zone carrying you on their back? The second video there is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen a human being do.
Also remember back in January when Ashlee Vance told us about Bryan Johnson’s quest to possess a teen butthole in Businessweek?Well he’s back, again in Businessweek with… substantially the same story! This time it’s more focused on a specific no plasma refused intergenerational blood-dump event, but it hits all the same notes. Good for Vance, selling the same story to the same magazine twice in less than six months! That is how you make a living as a writer, my friends.
Today in Bugs: “New species of skeleton shrimp identified after discovery on Gippsland Lakes.”
Today in Prehistoric Protokitties: “A Saber-Toothed Predator From Long Before Evolution Came Up With Cats”
Life on land throughout the Permian Period, which lasted from about 298 million to 252 million years ago, was dominated by synapsids, the evolutionary precursors to mammals or protomammals. Dinosaurs were millions of years from evolving.
“Permian synapsids included our own ancestors, and not nearly enough people know about this,” said Christian Kammerer, a research curator and paleontologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and an author of the paper.
Nobody is talking about this!
Ok, Rachel Aviv, it’s you and me. Let me just hit send and—
Today’s Song: tstewart, “isle of the blest”
Thanks to Music Intern Sam and ARG Intern Camille. If ten of you become paid subscribers before tomorrow I promise I will actually read this New Yorker piece and tell you about it, let’s gooooo
You’re gonna have to parse that sentence yourself, I am not helping.