June 25, 2022

Urban collapse in video game trends: from SimCity and Civilization to Minecraft and Stardew Valley

The more I watch the streamers, especially the Vtubers, the more I've become aware of how broad the loss of faith in civilization and ever-marching progress has become. They are entirely online people, they are far more tech-hopeful than normies, they all live in cities, and as part of the entertainment sector, they're all left / progressive / etc.

They, and their audiences who watch them in droves, ought to be the most utopian and evangelist about civilization, urbanization, and the continual forward march of progress, whatever it means to them.

And yet the video game culture as a whole, including them, has decisively abandoned urban utopianism -- roughly since the 2008 Depression from which 90% of the country never recovered, and the lucky 10% only got to continue their consumption through trillion-dollar hand-outs from the central bank (quantitative easing).

By the same time, the complete failures of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also ended the average American's faith in an ever-expanding empire. And in a hyper-competitive endeavor like control over territory, what does not expand, contracts. As of roughly 2010, it's been over for us, and we've gradually come to accept it, and adapt to it.

Since then, the trend across the board has been to RETVRN to some earlier paradise -- how much earlier, and how far away from urban civilization, may depend on the streamer and their audience. But nobody can appeal to urbanism these days and get popular. They can't even ignore it, they have to outright appeal to the relatively more wholesome, cozy, and fertile past, as we seek to psychologically escape from the degenerate, hostile, sterile present.

This is a recapitulation of the pattern in European empires that were bloated, stagnating, and about to enter precipitous decline and collapse, around the late 19th and early 20th century. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the Arts & Crafts movement, primitivist Post-Impressionism, and so on and so forth. The American empire was still expanding at that point, so although we did partake of Gilded Age libertarian degeneracy, it was nowhere near the levels of fin-de-siecle European empires. But now that our imperial lifespan has entered that autumnal stage, we will also behave that way -- in its good and bad ways.

* * *

What was the video game zeitgeist like as recently as the 1990s and early 2000s? That was the self-declared End of History, when the only other imperial rival to America -- Russia -- had started to contract and implode. Everything for us here in the sole empire left in the whole world, would only get better and better -- and there was no doubt about it. Not a hesitancy, not a guarded optimism. It was the era of the information superhighway, unrivaled humanitarian intervention, the dawn of the new millennium, etc etc etc.

Expressing this zeitgeist was the trend in video games of urban growth and imperial expansion, epitomized by three hugely popular series -- SimCity (~1990), Civilization ('91), and Age of Empires ('97). There was nothing that could go wrong with mega-cities and their empires, it was just pure entertainment, excitement, and unalloyed fun.

However, these series ran into a stagnant phase over the course of the 2000s. Age of Empires' last original game (AoE III) came out in 2005, and AoE IV was stalled until 2021 -- and was a rehash of the Middle Age empires from earlier games, part of the sequel / reboot / remake disease of the 2010s and after. Consensus among fans (and rough sales figures) is that Civ V was the peak of the series, from 2010, not the most recent entry, VI, from 2016. The SimCity series peaked after the 2003 release of SC4, and the reboot of the series 10 years later, also called SimCity, was a disaster and killed the franchise off for good.

Did any new series take their place during the 2010s? No. Only one major new game was launched, Cities: Skylines, in 2015. That is not even an ongoing series like the previous three, but a standalone game. There is simply no interest left in cities -- whether among creators or consumers, and whether in the managerial side of zoning, building, collecting taxes, etc., or the aesthetic side of high density, concrete and glass, skyscraper scale, and the like.

Of course, video games did not exist really before the 1980s, but there were other media that expressed the consensus that urbanization and territorial expansion would only ever go further than the present. Mostly they thought of that in good ways, like the 1960s cartoon the Jetsons, but even the dystopian visions like 2001: A Space Odyssey assumed that our society's material basis would only get more and more sophisticated going forward.

The 2000s put an end to that view of the future. Between the bursting of the dot-com stock market bubble in the early 2000s, and the neverending Depression of the late 2000s -- as well as 9/11 and the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- nobody could seriously come out of that decade thinking that futurism, expansionism, and urbanism were going to be the next big thing, ever again. Some hung on, to some extent, for a little while, but overall the 2010s were a period of adapting to, or at least prepping for, the start of imperial collapse.

* * *

What were the trends in video game culture over that decade, and into this one, if not futurism and urbanism? Why, RETVRNING, of course. And it's not merely a matter of leaving crime-ridden cities for safe suburbs -- that had already been under way during the falling-crime period of the '90s and after. This new zeitgeist was about abandoning modern industrial society altogether, and going back at least to an economy dominated by agriculture, and at most pre-industrial artisanal manufacturing.

Spore, from 2008, was a bridge between the two zeitgeists, simulating the evolution of organisms from their most primitive forms, up to tribal societies, civilization, and interstellar expansion.

The 2010s saw the explosion of the genre of farming simulators -- who wants to simulate a sterile, decadent city, when you can simulate a wholesome cozy farm and a close-knit community instead? People in a collapsing empire, that's who. The standout game in this genre is Stardew Valley from 2016, building on the success of the earlier Harvest Moon series. The farming craze has even spilled over into vehicle-riding simulators, like the hugely popular Lawn Mowing Simulator (from 2021).

By far, though, the game that epitomizes the RETVRN zeitgeist is Minecraft, originally released in 2011 but still dominating the streaming schedules of the most popular channels right now. (The keeper of nature herself, Fauna from Hololive, will be playing it this evening, in fact.) There are no factories, assembly lines, modern supply chains, or anything like that. Subsistence is derived from cultivated crops and herding livestock.

Manufacturing materials and methods are all pre-industrial (wood, stone, iron but not really steel, hammers, ovens, etc.). No synthetics, no "chemicals", no mass-producing molds and engines.

And not only is there no large-scale empire, there is evidently not even a nation or kingdom. Presumably there could be a king somewhere to whom these people owe allegiance and taxes, but you would never know it. Nor are you preyed on by other empires -- at most, bands of a handful of pillagers, zombies, and so on. Not a large, organized, hierarchical army.

The players in Minecraft construct their own worlds, so it's not that the game developers forced them into a non-urban environment. Hypothetically, players could build up cities -- as big as they can get in a pre-industrial economy, but that can still be huge. And yet they have all opted to not turn this game into pre-industrial SimCity. At most, they form small villages where the players all know each other and interact over the long-term.

And those are not small towns, like we might find today with paved streets, including a Main Street, shops abounding, and special service places like a hospital or whatever. They are rural and remote, much like the back-to-nature utopian communes of the stagnant European empires of the 19th century. (Ours fared much better in America because they were not a retreat, but an expansion and settling of undeveloped land, back when such a thing existed here.)

If you can't find a plot of land IRL to set up your commune, just do so in a video game simulation -- the point is psychological relief, and simulations can do a decent job, if they're designed well and have a large user base to provide the semblance of community and belonging.

For those who don't have a large team to play with online, they focus mainly on building their own standalone structure, whether a home, castle, treehouse, or whatever. But not a city. Not even an urban home that is transplanted to an outlying area, but a rural cottage or manor, fitting the rural estate they're living on, surrounded by grass and trees and critters.

What's most striking is that these simulators are not made and consumed as though they were fantasy, like Medieval knights slaying dragons, or Druids conjuring up nature spirits during the summer solstice. They are meant to simulate quotidian, mundane reality in these pre-industrial, non-urban environments -- with only fantastical flourishes and stylization, not in the substance of the core.

As our economy, government, empire, and legacy culture industries continue their contraction and implosion, this will continue to be the trend, in video games and elsewhere.

June 23, 2022

"La Selva Faunita" (Ceres Fauna tribute, Madonna parody)

Having reviewed the appeal of the New Age cyber-world of Fauna from Hololive, I can post my tribute song to her now. :)

First, though, here is another example of the sinister tinge to her back-to-nature content. She's exaggerating the Sublime angle because it's a horror-esque special for Halloween, but that just makes the key elements of the role even clearer.

She's playing the possessive gf archetype, but without the intense crazy ranting demeanor. So it's not like she's catching him unaware, overpowering him, and he's giving up. He came looking for her, knew what he'd be getting himself into, and chose to do so anyway because his civilized world is not worth inhabiting anymore. And he'll be joining a community of others like him, along with the plants and animals of the forest, not being left to fend for himself after being tricked and taken advantage of.

The song that came to mind to capture her world was "La Isla Bonita" by Madonna (original lyrics here). Exotic, tinged with the Sublime, though not so dangerous that it's off-putting -- but tempting, making you pine away for it whenever you're not there.

In the new lyrics, the speaker is not longing for footloose freedom and frenzy. Now it's about belonging, tranquility, and permanence. The sense of excitement-seeking is still there in the current young generation, but it's about finding a place that is teeming, thriving, and fertile -- in contrast to their barren, dessicated, sterile IRL world.

Also, adapted the lyrics to reflect that the passage between the two worlds is mediated through a tech portal, not just hopping on a plane there and back. And of course, the heady blurring of IRL and virtuality when online has a palpable sense of place.

I kept the original Spanish opening line, since it's still apropos ("How can it be true?"). The others translate as "Faunita's forest / jungle", where Faunita is the cutesy / familiar / informal form of Fauna. "Selva" is more for a tropical rainforest, and is cognate with "savage" (and literary forms of "forest" like "sylvan"). "Siempre conmigo" means "always / forever with me". And "susurra 'ara ara' " means "she whispers 'ara ara' " -- a flirty / spicy nonsense vocalization from Japanese, used like "ooh ooh" or "ooh la la" by weeb girls, including Fauna during her ASMR streams.

Pronunciation guide: the stress of the title refrain is not typical for Spanish, but like the original song, "LA sel-VA fa-NEE-ta". Also like the original chorus, "pierce THROUGH". "Siempre conmigo" is stressed as usual in Spanish, "see-EM-prey cone-ME-go". Lastly, "soo-SOO-rrah A-ra A-ra".

* * *

Como puede ser verdad?

Last night I streamed to San Holo
Just like I'm still logged on, her scent so strong
Gardener with eyes like a campfire
New home for a castaway, from 3D space

Sheltered by her canopy
Noah's Ark-size family
This is my reality
La selva Faunita
And when she calls for rain
The blossoms swell so ripe
Pierce through my nose and daze my mind
Your primal cyber sighs

I feel transformed in San Holo
Moss-and-citrus tea she serves to me, and chants with glee
"Siempre conmigo"
Each night climbing through the glass, to touch that grass

Sheltered by her canopy
Noah's Ark-size family
This is my reality
La selva Faunita
And when she calls for rain
The blossoms swell so ripe
Pierce through my nose and daze my mind
Your primal cyber sighs

I'll plant my roots where the yews never die
When the wind breathes aloha, it refills all your life
From orphans to saplings, they came for rebirth
Where the earth feeds a tree, and a tree seeds the earth

Last night I streamed to San Holo
New home for a castaway, from 3D space

Sheltered by her canopy
Noah's Ark-size family
This is my reality
La selva Faunita
And when she calls for rain
The blossoms swell so ripe
Pierce through my nose and daze my mind
Your primal cyber sighs

Nya nya-nya nya nya nya

"Siempre conmigo"

Nya nya-nya nya nya nya

Susurra "ara ara"

La selva Faunita

Your primal cyber sighs

June 22, 2022

Ceres Fauna's New Age cyber-world, and the appeal of Vtubers in a disintegrating society

I wrote a tribute song about one of my favorite streamers, but I realized that readers here may not know about her, or Vtubers in general. So before that post goes up, here's an overview of her content, and its appeal.

Of the streamers I've watched, the one who really creates a sense of place is Fauna from Hololive. The overall theme is returning to nature, but it's mediated by online platforms and video games at the same time.

It's exotic, but eclectic in a way that's not possible in the real world, mixing the magical fairylands of Northwestern Europe with the primeval tropical rainforests of the New World, and the cozy town shops of Japan (cafes, bakeries, spas, etc.). Somehow it all blends well together, in a distinctly New Age and online fashion.

This is where it's better to be a Vtuber, with an animated avatar and illustrated backgrounds, instead of a camera showing your real-life person and home (too much work and money for convincing costumes, make-up, and staging).

Crucially, the sense of place is not done through piling up "lore" and "backstory". Listing a bunch of things doesn't make them true, or believable. "Because it says so in the relevant section of their wiki" -- not exactly painting pictures with words.

Impressions of the atmosphere of her little world are brought to life through the artwork of the characters and their environment (even the transition during the intro and outro of her streams, which is a bunch of cute vines taking over the screen). She has a naturally melodious, storytelling voice, so that whatever she's talking about always sounds like a tale. Her background music is usually Japanese bossa nova. And she frequently evokes the smells, tastes, and textures of whatever location she's bringing you along into that day.

Her specialty is ASMR, which involves some kind of roleplay among characters during a brief narrative vignette, typically of a fantastic nature. She's not just playing around with sounds, but creating dreamy ambient soundscapes with layers of trance-inducing repeating rhythmic patterns, sighing, whispering, and sometimes natural droning in the background (rainfall, etc.). It's a mellow, New Age take on noise music.

What distinguishes her from earlier examples of New Age culture is the tinge of a dark, sinister, Sublime force, similar to old time-y fairytales, but always done with a humorous self-aware take on it. It's not just meant to scare kids (and most of her audience are in their 20s and 30s anyway, I'm sure). There's a comic side to it as well, matching her giggly girly personality. She really is sui generis ("not like the other girls").

These aspects all come together in the framing of her relationship with her fans. She is a witchy woman of the forest, who welcomes a lost traveler, offers him some heady brew, and turns him into a sapling (the designated name for her fans), who will stay forever under her cultivation in the forest. Tee hee!

But she always frames it as her being a benevolent steward over nature, which she is offering the stranger to join, in a community of countless others like him, along with all the plants and critters -- not as playing a cruel trick on him, and abandoning him once she's had her laughs at his expense. Her brand of spellcaster is warm, welcoming, and attentive, not icy, aloof, and callous.

And her character design is influenced by a mythical deer-like kirin (with horns, not branches, on her head), instead of a standard witch with the hat, broom, wand, etc., softening the somewhat sinister side of her character.

As a whirlwind tour through her world, here are a few examples. The music video for her song "Let Me Stay Here". The ASMR collab she made with Gura for Valentine's Day, which hints at the turning-you-into-a-tree trope. Or a recent ASMR featuring soundscapes created by ear-massaging the special head-shaped microphone. A longer just chatting stream where she interacts more with the people in her chat, in a tropical setting. As for video games, a Minecraft stream where she's joined by a Hololive friend, Mumei, and they gab and joke around together while building things in their fantasy land.

* * *

What could possibly be the appeal to her large fanbase of being turned into a tree to remain in her forest? Without being too emo about it, our societies are collapsing right now -- the government, economy, legacy culture-making industries, communities, and families -- and they were already weakening over the past several decades.

Today's under-40 people want stability, permanence, rootedness, tranquility, communal bonds, thriving, fertility, and caretaking -- the world that the Boomers were born into, but torched to the ground in favor of excitement, dynamism, fleeting flashes, gypsy-like migration, shaking things up, individualism, social striving, sterility, and letting the devil take the hindmost. Boomers left the countryside and small towns to gentrify the cities, now young people are priced out of them and wouldn't mind moving somewhere more peaceful. The IRL world by this point is dessicated and decadent -- the appeal of a wholesome, fertile forest sells itself.

Of course, few of these people can literally return to nature IRL, so they seek a simulation of it in the virtual world. And in addition to reconnecting with the plants and critters (or a sim of them), they want to reconnect with other human beings (or their online extensions). Primitive man is never an isolated, alienated, go-it-on-your-own kind of species. That's why the audiences for streamers want a sense of community, interacting with others like themselves, instead of just consuming a media / entertainment product alone. A group of people that will endure over time, not just whoever happens to be in the same movie theater as you on a given showing.

As the American empire enters the staggering phase of its decline, we're going to see a culture similar to the European empires when they were about to enter terminal decline -- around the turn of the 20th century (fin-de-siecle, Edwardian, etc.). Such as the theme of having no roots or family to stabilize you, and seeking belonging in a fantasy land -- being an orphan, of one kind or another. Like the Peter Pan stories. And returning to the low-ambition simplicity of nature, like the Wind in the Willows stories (or the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, in higher / visual culture).

It's wrong to view those cultural works as escapist, as though their characters, or the audience living through them, could have found what they were looking for in the real world, but spurned that alternative as beneath them in some way. No, the foundations of their societies were crumbling to pieces, and that means you either escape to some safer and secure place, or you fall into oblivion for no higher purpose.

Unlike the turn of the 20th C., though, we have no other thriving empire to immigrate to, as people from bloated / collapsing European empires did when they came here back then. Culturally and psychologically, however, we will still escape the turbulent and sterile real world of here-and-now, to some imaginary place that is stable and fertile, as a defense mechanism.

And just because someone doesn't inhale this copium, doesn't mean they will enjoy a more stable and thriving IRL existence -- they will be going down with the capsized ship as well, they'll just go crazy and delusional along the way.

That's why more and more people are taking the streamer pill, and the Vtuber pill in particular. You can exert your will as hard as you want to keep IRL bonds together, but accept that things are falling apart, and you can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

The only thing you can actually influence going forward is how bearable the collapse is going to be, and that means finding and contributing to these wholesome and exciting online communities, instead of piling yet another doomed avatar into the toxic waste dump of debating / discourse platforms, where everyone is just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic -- and without any of the dinner jackets or violins at that.

June 20, 2022

"She Will Be Sub'd" (Gawr Gura birthday / 4-mil subscribers celebration, Maroon 5 parody)

To celebrate the birthday of the sweetest shark in the streaming seas, as well as her hitting the 4-million subscribers milestone, here's a tribute song to the Vtuber princess herself, Gawr Gura.

It's set to the tune of "She Will Be Loved" by Maroon 5 (original lyrics here). I'd been writing some lines down for it already, but then she performed it for the first time during her 4-mil subs karaoke special. That sign from above convinced me to flesh it out into an entire song for a proper post, and not just put up a fragment in the comments section.

It's not from my perspective, but an imaginary early diehard fan of hers, who helps keep her motivated during the uncertain initial stages of a content-creating journey. Before she was signed by Hololive and attracted millions.

She's been entertaining and bringing audiences together since she was in high school, and I was struck by a YouTube comment to the effect of, "Wow, that was Gura? I can't believe I've been following the same person through three different personas for nearly a decade..." That just goes to show that it's not only brand loyalty to the single creator behind various incarnations that makes her so popular -- you would be drawn to her various accounts even if you were totally ignorant of her constant presence behind the scenes!

Someone like that super-fan must've been there encouraging her in one way or another. Probably several such people -- this song is condensing them all into a single voice.

What better occasion to reflect on her origins, than her birthday and mega-subscriber milestone? Especially to keep in mind that a star's destiny is not always apparent at the outset, and that they have to overcome setbacks and persevere through phases of tension and doubt. I think the bittersweet portions of the Maroon 5 original keep it from sounding like a purely joyful celebration, or a triumphal high-fiving.

She's soldiered happily onward throughout her posting career, and she deserves to feel proud, although she's too gracious and kind to indulge in too much public reflection -- but that's what we're here for!

Big hugs from everyone you've touched over the years, even us latecomers who initially ignored the Vtuber phenomenon as "people watching people play video games," instead of seeing it as must-attend parties hosted by a captivating entertainer.

Pronunciation guide: the stress pattern basically matches the original, but that itself is too unusual in places to spell out here. The only thing to clarify is in the bridge, there's stress on the word "on" in the phrase "they're WISH-ing ON her STAR".

* * *

Meme-ing teen just started streaming
She forced herself to leave her shell
Hosting parties to not feel lonely
She cured their loneliness as well

I sailed through sites and sites
And crashed upon your shore
We'll make your channel a lighthouse
And nations will come explore

Cheering live while you play your games
And staying even when you're dropping frames
Go browse the girl with the scuffed profile
Promise someday it'll be worthwhile

And she will be sub'd
Yes she will be sub'd

Download my drawings, play my fan-songs
I want to make you feel uwu-ful
Sometimes the content feels like such a chore
But powering off would be premature

It's not only handhearts from gigachads
The lowbies combined keep you strong
The vibe's so fun, and they're always returning
You've made them a place to belong

Cheering live while you play your games
And staying even when you're dropping frames
Go browse the girl with the scuffed profile
Promise someday it'll be worthwhile

And she will be sub'd
Yes she will be sub'd
And she will be sub'd
Yes she will be sub'd

She questions how high she's held in regard
Other side of the screen, they're wishing on her star
Both on and offline, she can feel so small
I'll be her back-up when she just wants to uninstall

Download my drawings, play my fan-songs
I want to make you feel uwu-ful

Cheering live while you play your games
And staying even when you're dropping frames
Go browse the girl with the scuffed profile
Promise someday it'll be worthwhile

And she will be sub'd
Yes she will be sub'd
And she will be sub'd
Yes she will be sub'd

(Please don't leave your flock to go offline)

June 16, 2022

Streaming, the last format exciting enough to attract paparazzi, in contrast to podcasting

I keep saying it, but if you're not tuning into the streamer-verse, you're missing out on the only thriving and dynamic format of entertainment these days.

How dynamic and buzzworthy is it? It's the only place where the paparazzi still thrive -- AKA the clippers. If the individuals, and their entire scene, were not in demand by the general public, the paparazzi would get no money or status by covering them.

Literally no one consumes the output of the paparazzi who cover Hollywood movies, TV, sports, or video games. E!, Us Weekly, TMZ, and Blind Gossip, have fallen off from 10-15 years ago -- not because of anything they did wrong, but because the people / scenes they cover have fallen off from the public's fascination.

It's only the streamers -- some of whom play video games, some of whom are in other genres of streaming -- who generate such an organic amount of buzz, that a form of paparazzi can strike it rich (monetarily, or at least in clout) by covering them and providing snapshots to the audience, who don't have enough time to follow everything that every streamer does.

It's progressed to the point where there's internal debate about the value of clippers, akin to the Midcentury portrayal of the paparazzi covering movie celebs (like La Dolce Vita). Are they good, bad, annoying, helpful, leave them alone, chase them away, etc.? But they're thriving enough as a part of the entire ecosystem of streaming, just as the paparazzi were in the Hollywood celeb ecosystem back then.

There are even "weekly / monthly re-caps" of streamers in a certain genre, like Vtubers, or just Hololive English, that are regularly posted by a number of compilation channels on YouTube. It reminds me exactly of Talk Soup on the E! channel back in the '90s and 2000s, which took clips from a variety of talk shows during the week, and added a quick witty comment afterward, similar to the clippers zooming in on the streamer's face during a really funny line of dialog, maybe adding a text comment of their own on top of the visual.

What other form of entertainment generates a weekly review of the primary content, for the audience who can't keep up with everything -- and where this secondary content is considered entertaining in its own right, like Talk Soup back in the day? It's the clippers, "This month in Hololive-EN" YouTube compilations, the clearinghouse subreddit of LivestreamFail, and so on, all covering streamers.

Way back when, there were movie stars, then scripted TV stars, then reality TV stars, and now -- streaming stars. I don't think that risks inflating their egos, they already know what their follower counts and monthly incomes look like, how much of an entire ecosystem there is that is centered around their primary content, etc.

And as for the female streamers, they're the only thing close to an It Girl these days, whether they show their face or use a moving anime girl avatar.

* * *

Just to demonstrate that this is not merely a change away from IRL mass media, like movies in theaters, to online sub-cultural media, consider the other huge format to come out of the info-economy / entirely-online era -- podcasting.

Nobody clips podcasts and maintains a channel of their own for these clips, there are no weekly / monthly compilations, and there is no single clearinghouse subreddit about the podcasting format. And even if someone tried to do so, it would not be considered entertaining in its own right. The only reason people would clip podcasts would be to wage informational warfare against the hosts and their audience, to dunk on the other team, etc.

Generally, though, the info-warriors stick to screenshotting / quote-tweeting their enemies' tweets, rather than clip their podcasts. Twitter is their primary platform, and the podcasts are an appendage of that platform. Podcast content is a peripheral, not central, form of content in their take-meister / discourse ecosystem.

That doesn't mean it's less thought-out, or shorter-form -- quite the opposite. It's longer-form, and more structured than their tweets. But it's more of a side-hustle or passion project, and their full-time role is arguing on Twitter.

That is the opposite of the streamers, who generally post little at all on Twitter or any other textual platform, other than notices about upcoming streams. Streamers have more followers on their streaming platform than on Twitter, whereas the podcasters have more followers on Twitter than on their podcasting platform of choice.

To reiterate, people don't clip podcasts because they're not the real, primary content that grabs the audience's attention. It's posting on Twitter that is most relevant.

Still, aren't screenshotters like the paparazzi? No, because they're all highly partisan, screenshotting their enemies in order to dunk on them. Paparazzi were simply chasing the popularity, and didn't care one way or another about their subjects. Hate them or love them, taking a killer picture of them could earn you big bucks from a publisher, and perhaps fame if you did it long enough.

That is how the clippers of streams behave toward their subject -- whether you think this particular incident was based or cringe, you know it could do huge numbers, and you could monetize that as a nice little gig. Maybe even get famous in your own right if you stick to it enough. It's not primarily a bunch of bitter jealous haters clipping a stream in order to dunk on their sworn enemies.

* * *

Probably this has to do with the difference between media and entertainment, where media is far more ideological, and entertainment less so. You can make fairly ideology-free art and entertainment, but ideology-free media / reporting is a lot rarer.

Entertainment exists in its own space, although it may get conscripted into a political war. But the media, academia, and the "knowledge economy" are far more politically charged from the get-go, since their whole role is to justify and rationalize what is going on at the elite level. Entertainment is just to entertain.

Speaking of which, I notice that the streamers have lower education levels than their counterparts in the media or academia or knowledge economy sector. Not that they're less intelligent, they just didn't get sucked into the higher ed bubble as far as the media strivers did. Maybe they only did high school, or took some college but started streaming full-time instead of graduating. Or graduated but did streaming instead of grad / professional school.

Another way that they are the ones who are most similar to the Hollywood celebs from an earlier era. You didn't have to have a professional degree to star in Hollywood movies, let alone was there a premium for going to an Ivy League school. Your job did not involve propaganda, so you didn't have to be so thoroughly familiar with the ideology of the ruling elite -- what to promote, what to discourage, what to refrain from mentioning entirely. Just be entertaining, and that's it.

* * *

Where else might there arise a paparazzi role to cover the primary content? TikTok. That's entertainment, not media, and fairly ideology-free. (Reminder to Twitter-tards: everything you see from TikTok comes not directly from TikTok, a site / platform you never use, but mediated through cherry-picked examples by rage-baiters from your own platform, e.g. Libs of TikTok.)

But it's pretty short-form stuff, and so heavily visual and musical. There's not much to clip -- the entire original content is already of clip length. I see TikTok as providing the next models, rather than movie / TV stars who had to play characters in a narrative. There's no narrative or character history on TikTok. It's impressionistic, lifestyle vignettes, and lacking backstory or lore -- personas that are mysterious and alluring.

Models rarely figured into the paparazzi activities, unless a photographer followed one around IRL. You couldn't just source some clips from TV shows, stitch them together, and comment on them, like Talk Soup. The content that the models were a part of, was an ad campaign or runway show that you could take in all at once, in already public spaces, like billboards. You didn't need a middleman to "curate" a bunch of the models' content in one convenient place.

Aside from a very small number of supermodels, the model never reached the same level of celeb status as the actresses or singers (who were also playing characters whose brand and personal life could evolve in narrative form).

That's not to downplay TikTok or models -- I've written for awhile about the death of models, how actresses and singers have taken their place, and I wish they would come back. Hopefully TikTok can do that, but there are way too many vying for what must necessarily be a small number of slots at the top level. Others could continue doing it for fun, as a hobby, of course.

But there would still have to be curators, gatekeepers, or tastemakers -- like whoever casted the American Apparel models back in the good ol' days, or the cover girls for glossy magazines before that. And so far, the only kind of curators I see are the innumerable "TikTok compilation channel" operators, who put literally anyone in their re-uploads to YouTube. They don't have the eye for it.

It seems like each major brand would have to have its own TikTok account, which would feature models from TikTok (whether they were aspiring amateurs, or just lucky one-timers), wearing the brand's clothes. Like, if L.A. Apparel (the successor to American) had its own account, and you followed their feed in order to see who their casting directors had selected, out of the however-many-zillions of babes on the platform.

Or whoever the top alt-girl clothing brands are, more appropriately for TikTok.

Or Brandy Melville, also very appropriately for TikTok, which is not all e-girls, but has tons of normies who still want a fashionable edge to their everyday look.

Anything would be better than the garden-variety TikTok re-uploader on YouTube, encrusted with ads, "remember to subscribe" garbage, and the like. It has to be a showcase, of good taste, with no appeals to do anything -- it's already understood where to go get the things being modeled, or where to look that up elsewhere.

To wrap up where we started, that is another huge benefit of the streaming format -- they never waste their breath annoying you with those reminders to subscribe, smash that like button, comment down below, click the bell to get notifications, bla bla bla, like we slept through all of the 2010s and don't know how to use a social media site.

It's just not huckster-y -- and they make tons more money than the hucksters anyway! Or maybe, because of the lowkey nature of their salesmanship. The streamers do read the names and messages from people who leave a donation, but those dono's are not required to watch the stream, so it's more like a list of acknowledgements or credits in a book, movie, etc. "Produced with the generous support of the following people and institutions..." It's not salesman stuff.

I'd better stop there, though, before I get into the business models of streamers vs. podcasters. But briefly, it looks like you should make most or all of your content free, and aim for a contract with an employer / agency willing to hire you, or lacking that, get donations from fans who want to express their fandom and desire to be a benefactor -- not as the price of admission for every audience member.

June 12, 2022

Today's public booba flashing report, and the return of outgoing / rising-crime times (Feral Girl Summer)

Tonight I received further confirmation that the outgoing, wild, rising-crime climate is indeed back in full swing, after having been in a cocooning / falling-crime phase from roughly 1990 to 2020. Now it's back to the climate of 1960 to 1990, starting at the beginning of course, not the climax of that wave.

As I was driving through the city, traffic was slow -- after 10pm on Saturday night, on the main avenue for nightlife. Coming down the other lane, there's someone on top of a car -- no, hold on, as it pulls closer, it's a young babe hoisting her crop-top all the way up to her collarbone, jumbo jugs just a-jumblin', up and down, up and down, above her smooth slender tummy, beating against her ribcage like a primate pounding its chest.

She's standing straight up through the sun-roof, big hair waving off to either side of her face.

And she's not looking down at any of the pedestrians, but staring coolly ahead, like a fighter advancing toward some ring further down the street, eyes narrowed to intimidate her opponent. The audience is cheering on their hero from the stands within the arena of the main drag, all whipped up for this Saturday-night showdown.

Only there is no scheduled main event, no street festival, no outdoor concert, no occasion of any kind that would encourage this kind of spectacle. She is doing it because she just felt like it, and couldn't contain herself. She came out to hype up the crowd for the return of public exhibitionism -- not to thirst-trap or horny-post IRL, but simply to feed the do-what-you-feel zeitgeist.

She was lowering the inhibitions of the crowd by leading by example: if she can do that, then surely anything just shy of that is OK as well for us to do, if we're not as adventurous as she is. Before long, it will become totally normalized, in a way that would've seemed to come from some alternate dimension just five years ago, during the depths of the #MeToo hysteria -- "Yep, there goes another booba-bouncer who's standing through the roof, it must be Saturday night..."

I have not seen anything like that in my life. Maybe if I'd gone to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or whatever, but not just coming down the main street of a flyover city, with no external reason for debauchery. And even the flashers at Mardi Gras are only doing it momentarily, directed at specific individuals, to get those beads -- not leaving them exposed indefinitely, to the crowd in general, slamming repeatedly against their body, for nothing at all in exchange.

Nor was it a case of a sloppy drunk whose top was falling down, which she was too dazed to fix. She held her balance standing up in a moving car, deliberately lifting her top -- purely for exhibitionism.

Also unlike garden-variety exhibitionism, neither she nor anyone else was taking pictures or recording video for uploading to a social media platform. I'm sure that as a Zoomer she was inspired by the "Feral Girl Summer" trend on TikTok, but she clearly could not post what she was doing to any online platform (too salacious for social media, not sexual enough for porn sites). This is a purely IRL phenomenon.

Wild times are coming back, people.

* * *

If you started reading this blog anytime after 2012, you might not have read my extensive, in-depth series on the outgoing / rising-crime vs. cocooning / falling-crime cycle. I began that in late 2009, and made it the main theme through 2012, with occasional posts after that.

I predicted, from the timing of past cycles, that cocooning and falling-crime would last through about 2017, and rise after that. Off by only a year or so, as I distinctly remember all the public catcalling toward me by young babes in their cars in late 2019 (wrote a few posts on that at the time). And the soaring crime rates as of 2020 speak for themselves.

This is more than just the shifting of phases within the 15-year excitement cycle, from vulnerable to restless, as of 2020. The last restless phase, 2005-'09, did not feature this level of public exhibitionism, even remotely.

I covered pretty much every social and cultural topic, high and low, big and small, in the context of the crime-and-cocooning cycle. And sure enough, public exhibitionism and nudity was one such topic.

Here is the first one, on the disappearance of flashing and streaking.

Next one on the cohort effect, where nudism in cocooning times was only being kept alive by increasingly older people, who were young when it was in. That's the crucial difference for tonight's spectacle -- no way was she over 25, let alone a Boomer of 65 who had done some flashing and streaking back in the '70s.

Follow-up on the increasingly gray-haired clientele of swingers' clubs. Give current trends a decade or so, and it'll be 20- and 30-somethings again.

Lastly, not about exhibitionism per se, but public nudity, where showering naked in public (such as after gym class in schools) disappeared quickly.

There's all kinds of related topics I covered back then -- just navigate through the archives by year on the sidebar at the right, pick any month at random, and skim through the post titles. If you can think of it, I've already written about it, over a decade ago. :)

Butts vs. boobs, thicc vs. skinny, douching and shaving down there vs. going au naturel -- you name it, I covered it. I covered all sorts of non-sexual topics, too, but in case this post piqued your curiosity.

Incidentally, it's also relevant that tonight's girl was skinny and flashing her boobs -- not a thicc PAWG twerking her bare buns. Outgoing / rising-crime climates focus more on boobs than butts, and idealize skinny rather than thicc girls (this is reflected in actual body shapes as well, not just what is considered attractive).

It's bittersweet for an assman like moi, since I enjoy the outgoing climate better. However, judging from the last rising-crime period, there were still fairly thicc butt-girls through the first decade of the wave, i.e. the '60s. But their numbers were declining, and by the '70s, '80s, and early '90s, the voluptuous va-va-voom women of the falling-crime Midcentury were nowhere to be found.

We hate to see them go, but love to watch them leave...

June 9, 2022

Gen-Z echo-ing Gen-X in having mature tastes, not perpetual adolescents

As often happens, I started riffing in the comments section until it turned into a full post, starting with this comment. Read it all there.

I've noted before how charming it is to hear Gura performing mature songs during karaoke, and not only youth-culture hits. But I think it's part of a broader difference between Zoomers like her and Millennials, while being quite similar to Gen X-ers. Another example of the generational pendulum swinging.

Inspired by her recent inclusion of "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia. BTW, if the sharky chanteuse is looking for a similar song for next time -- or just her own enjoyment -- there's "Sway" from 1997 by Bic Runga (New Zealand rather than Australia, but close enough). It was not an international hit like "Torn," and I first heard it from a YouTuber covering it in the late 2000s (Ana Free).

In general, the adult contempo side of the '90s doesn't get enough awareness. But I think Zoomers would resonate with it, perhaps more than the Eurodance anthems of the time that they're familiar with.

The '90s were such a chilled-out decade, I spent far more hours watching the iconic video for "Take a Bow" by Madonna than any house / Eurodance / techno hit. The latter simply were not as ubiquitous on MTV, while Madonna was. And she was not in high-energy danceclub mode at that time. I didn't pick up on the song's Far Eastern motif back then, but it's comforting to hear some good ol' multiculturalism from the pre-wokeness era, which would have prevented it as an example of "cultural appropriation". Enjoy it before it gets retroactively scrubbed by Silicon Valley censors:

June 3, 2022

Dreamy layered soundscapes in y2k R&B

When I first started figuring out the 15-year excitement cycle, I quickly hit on the tendency for harmonic rather than melodic music during the vulnerable phase of the cycle. Lots of layers, droning, sighing, ethereal, floaty, dreamy -- like coasting down a lazy river ride at a water park. Perfect for audiences who are in a refractory phase, and who don't want much stimulation or else their nervous systems will overload.

For more detail, see these earlier posts on the pattern for both indie and pop genres, here and here.

My examples from the early 2000s vulnerable phase were a bit sparse, because I was going from memory, and as it turns out, most of the key examples were from R&B, and I never listened to it that much at the time or since. But I've been reliving the y2k sound lately, and quite a few examples jumped out, which I would not have recalled from memory.

Only one is technically from the early 2000s, but the other three are from '99 -- they were ahead of the curve, leading into the early 2000s, and do not sound like the rest of the late '90s manic phase (techno, Eurodance, Britney Spears, etc.). The point is that they show the fatigue from the late '90s manic phase was setting in, and the cycle was just about to crash into a refractory state.

The late '90s and early 2000s was pretty weak for rock, compared to earlier eras, and electro dance music wasn't nearly as popular as it would become by the late 2000s and 2010s. The R&B and rap genres were a lot more central to the zeitgeist than before or after, so if you don't know what was going on in those genres, you'll miss a lot of the y2k vibe.

I won't do an in-depth analysis of each song, just a few notes about what they all have in common. As usual with the dream-pop sound, there are zillions of layers, both vocal and instrumental. There's not much melody or even hooks / riffs, but rather sleepy, trance-inducing repetitive motifs (like the harpsichord line in "If You Had My Love"). The rhythm section isn't very danceable, and there is minimal accenting of the off-beat, unlike the UNH-tsss percussion of late '90s techno / Eurodance (and no replacement of the hi-hats with other rhythmic instruments).

Vocal delivery is pretty low-energy and ethereal -- not because it's rap, and not meant to have lots of intonation changes, but because it's a dreamy ethereal time for R&B, rather than the belting-it-out style. Only "Thong Song" has an intense vocal passage, and it's only near the climax, not sustained throughout the song. All of them are written in a minor key, as per yoozh with the dreamy droning don't-disturb-me style.

For comparison, "Believe" by Cher from a bit earlier ('98) has the beginnings of the ethereal soundscape approach, but only in the intro and occasionally afterward. It has the standard UNH-tsss, hi-hat accenting the off-beat, super-danceable rhythm of the techno of its time. And the vocal line is more melodic, has much greater intensity, and is more uplifting. Also, written in a major key.

The songs that follow are quite a radical departure, and showed where the mood would be during the start of the new millennium, as excitement levels plunged into a refractory state.

* * *

"Genie in a Bottle" by Christina Aguilera (1999):

"If You Had My Love" by Jennifer Lopez (1999):

"Thong Song" by Sisqo (1999):

"Try Again" by Aaliyah (2000):