Dead presidents, surprise cameos, and the best defunct ride at Disneyland
Plus: Sparatacus, Linkin Park goes back to the 80s, and some juicy new Twitter drama
Welcome to a slightly-later-than-usual edition of Follow Friday. Here’s a slightly creepier-than-usual video to kick things off:
The single best thing I saw online this week: This video is impressive both as a work of entertainment and on a technical level. It takes artist renderings of what old US presidents would look like today — originally made by George Aquilla Hardy and Magdalene Visaggio — and animates them, so that they blink and emote and turn their heads slightly. It’s not mentioned in the Description, but I think this was achieved using an AI tool from MyHeritage called Deep Nostalgia. It’s a little unsettling, and really convincing. But wait, there’s more: The woman who introduces the video is also AI, which I never would’ve realized if this Instagram account hadn’t credited Synesthesia for the intro. We live in unusual times.
“Well, that’s just Rudy Giuliani” — my wife, when she saw the modern-day rendering of John Quincy Adams 💀
The best podcasts I’ve heard this week
I’m pretty sure the first Star Wars-related thing I ever saw was a brief glimpse of the Disneyland ride Star Tours when I was maybe 4 years old. I saw it from aboard that park’s PeopleMover, a slow-moving ride that gave guests a relaxing tour of Tomorrowland, peeking inside buildings like Star Tours and Space Mountain. This week on Podcast: The Ride, the hosts explain why that was such a great experience, and why it’s such a shame that the still-extant PeopleMover tracks have been vacant for more than 20 years. They also talk about a creepy old Mickey Mouse cartoon; just go with it.
If Books Could Kill’s latest episode is about the mega-bestselling 2006 book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, and oh, boy. I had never tried to read this one and I am glad I stayed away. No spoilers but … at one point in this episode, Peter Shamshiri relates an anecdote about the book’s impact to Michael Hobbes which confirms that, in fact, If Books Could Kill is a perfect title for this show. I wanted to scream.
I’ve referenced‘s writing a bunch in this newsletter, and I’ve also been a devoted listener of his podcast with Luke Bailey, The Content Mines. It was a really excellent chat show about the internet, but Ryan and Luke have decided to put their show on indefinite hiatus; this was personally of great interest to me as someone who also recently decided to wind down an internet culture podcast. Especially if you’re an indie podcaster, this punchy quasi-farewell is worth a listen.
help i’m addicted to this wordle-ish game
Even though the public conversation around it died long ago, I suspect a lot of people are still playing Wordle. I’m one of them (today: 4/6 on hard mode). The success of Wordle has also sparked a revival of simple games designed to be played in your phone browser, such as Worldle (guess the country), Quordle (guess four words simultaneously) and Listed (guess the San Francisco home prices, then go cry a little).
As your friendly neighborhood movie geek, I’ve been magnetized to four cinema-related games and play them almost every day: Framed, where you guess a move based on up to six individual frames; Moviedle, where you’re given a one-second clip, a two-second clip, and so on; and my new favorite, Movie to Movie. This one is sort of like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Using your knowledge of actors’ filmographies, you have to find the connections between two seemingly disconnected movies.
One of my favorite things about Movie to Movie is that you can make your own challenge by choosing two different movies you want to try to connect. As a fan of 1995’s Clueless, I decided to see if I could connect it to one of the films Cher obliviously watches with her gay crush Christian,
Sparatacus Spartacus. Try it out here.
(Here is one possible answer in case you’re stumped).
What if “Numb” by Linkin Park was an 80s pop hit?
I unironically love this and make no apologies for how many times I’ve listened to it this week.
Help my video idea win this contest
Film YouTuber and Follow Friday podcast guest Patrick Willems is one of my favorite video essayists, and he’s doing a fun thing with his Patreon supporters this month: He solicited hundreds of suggestions for future videos, picked 16 of his favorites, and is pitting them against each other in a March Madness-style bracket. My suggestion, “What Makes a Surprise Cameo Actually Good?”, is one of the 16 and at press time is narrowly winning a vote against “Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colours Trilogy - The Original Cinematic Universe.” So if you’re one of Patrick’s Patreon supporters, go vote in that. Let’s put one of the greatest cinematic artists in European history in his place!
Roy Kent manages to not call Elmo a “wanker”
As I impatiently wait for Ted Lasso Season 3 to drop, I was happy to see Brett Goldstein a.k.a. Roy Kent getting another chance to hang out with Muppets this week. Previously known for his one-man rendition of The Muppet Christmas Carol, Goldstein recently guested on Sesame Street to talk about games with Elmo and Grover. For the adults watching, there are some very cute and clever references to Ted Lasso here (my favorite is Oscar the Grouch’s sign), but nothing will ever top that time they parodied Game of Thrones.
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The best thing I’ve read this week
admitted discussed in this newsletter, I’ve been a little addicted to all the drama coming out of Twitter, the site where I used to spend a big chunk of my time online. But even I was surprised by some of the juicy details in “Extremely Hardcore,” The Verge’s big report on Elon Musk’s first couple months running the Bird Site. For example:
Twitter might have had a reputation as a left-leaning workforce, but there had always been a faction that disapproved of its progressive ideals. On Slack, some of these workers had formed a channel called #i-dissent, where they asked questions like why deadnaming a trans colleague was considered “bad.” When Musk announced he was buying the company, one of the more active i-dissenters was thrilled. “Elon’s my new boss and I’m stoked!” he wrote on LinkedIn. “I decided to send him a slack message. I figured you miss 100% of the shots you don’t make 😅 🚀 🌕”
This employee was cut during the first round of layoffs. Soon, all the prominent members of the #i-dissent Slack channel would be gone. The channel itself was archived, while bigger social channels like #social-watercooler were abandoned.
Palate cleanser: Guess who’s got a new raincoat?
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