No folks, this is not an edition of “Marty complains about his frankly charmed life.” I had a good week! Got my first jab of the COVID vax (Pfizer flavor, go back on the 19th), had a day off on Friday, built my new desk, got to catch up on some new movies (Godzilla vs. Kong was stupid but super fun, Raya and the Last Dragon was beautifully animated), I cannot complain.
No folks, I’ve got something different here for you.
I’m not what you’d call a huge sports guy. My general connection to sports is that I pay attention to what’s going on with the Orioles and Ravens, watch the games from time to time (an Orioles game is a great accompaniment to a nap, and I mean that in a good way), I try to get into Hockey more, but that’s that.
Now, Mixed Martial Arts, I’m a little more into. But even then, outside of marquee fights, I’m not what you’d call a huge fan.
But every now and then a story breaks where you sit up and take notice. This is one of those.
Let’s go with the headline.
Yep. Real thing. Defector.com.
Canadian MMA fighter Khetag Pliev began his fight against Devin Goodale on Thursday night with 10 fingers, as almost every fighter begins almost every fight, but he ended it with nine. Fans in attendance for Cage Fury FC 94 in Philadelphia got to witness the first win by TKO – (Detached Finger) in promotion history, as the fight ended between the second and third rounds when someone in Pliev’s corner pointed to where his left ring finger used to be and was, presumably, like “Where’d that one go?” Nobody knew where the digit was at the time, but it was very clear that it was not where it was supposed to be (on his hand).
Yep. That happened.
Now, granted, dude’s finger was eventually found — and even REATTACHED! — but… no matter how your week was, remember: you didn’t misplace a finger.
Now, onto the things…
One of my big pandemic dives has been the world of YouTube cooking personalities. I was a big fan of Bon Appetit before it imploded, but the channel which has taken hold of me since is that of the Babish Culinary Universe.
That said, who is this Babish, and why is his head off screen so often? How did he get here?
Karen Han over at Slate sat down with the man behind it all — real name Andrew Rea — and if you’re already a fan, or haven’t been converted yet, this is a great read to learn more or get started.
Of the genres that are most prevalent on YouTube—cute animals, makeup tutorials, commentary—food and cooking videos are two of the most major players. Within that deep field, Andrew Rea may just be the biggest star of them all. If his name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, the title of his YouTube channel, Binging With Babish, likely will.
Rea’s videos, in which he re-creates dishes seen in movies and TV shows—some recent uploads include “Cookie Cat From Steven Universe” and “Chicken Kiev From Mad Men”—consistently hit over 1 million views. His most-viewed video, an episode inspired by Pixar’s Ratatouille, boasts more than 25 million views, and of the most popular videos on the channel, 30 have been viewed more than 10 million times. Though Rea’s flagship series remains the eponymous Binging With Babish, he’s also introduced several other series to the channel, including one hosted by Sohla El-Waylly, formerly of the magazine and YouTube channel Bon Appétit (the two met “right after the sort of fallout over at elsewhere”—more on that later). Considering that the first Binging video was made purely as a way to blow off creative steam, Rea’s rise to the top of food YouTube has been unbelievable—as well as something of an independent counter to his biggest peers’ more corporate world.
NFTs. Non Fungible Tokens.
If you have not heard of this term, trust me, you’re better for it.
In short, it’s a way of selling collectibles on the blockchain (another word which I’m hoping you don’t know), and it’s also been the focus of an absolutely insane, environment-endangering (really!) financial bubble.
And what’s worse? The creator never wanted it to be this.
Anil Dash writes for The Atlantic in a piece which both serves as a great explainer of NFTs, but also is tinged with the regret of what they’ve become.
By the wee hours of the night, McCoy and I had hacked together a first version of a blockchain-backed means of asserting ownership over an original digital work. Exhausted and a little loopy, we gave our creation an ironic name: monetized graphics. Our first live demonstration was at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, where the mere phrase monetized graphics prompted knowing laughter from an audience wary of corporate-sounding intrusions into the creative arts. McCoy used a blockchain called Namecoin to register a video clip that his wife had previously made, and I bought it with the four bucks in my wallet.
We didn’t patent the basic idea, but for a few years McCoy tried to popularize it, with limited success. Our first demo might just have been ahead of its time. The system of verifiably unique digital artworks that we demonstrated that day in 2014 is now making headlines in the form of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, and it’s the basis of a billion-dollar market. Head-spinning prices are now being paid for artworks that, just a few months ago, would have been mere curiosities. Last week, Kevin Roose, a technology writer for The New York Times, offered a digital image of his column for sale in a charity auction, and a pseudonymous buyer paid the equivalent of $560,000 in cryptocurrency for it. McCoy has just put up for sale the very first NFT we created while building our system. Capturing an animation called Quantum, it could go for $7 million or more, Axios reports.
I have no financial stake in that sale. The only NFT I own is the one I bought for $4, and I have no plans to sell it. I certainly didn’t predict the current NFT mania, and until recently had written off our project as a footnote in internet history.
The idea behind NFTs was, and is, profound. Technology should be enabling artists to exercise control over their work, to more easily sell it, to more strongly protect against others appropriating it without permission. By devising the technology specifically for artistic use, McCoy and I hoped we might prevent it from becoming yet another method of exploiting creative professionals. But nothing went the way it was supposed to. Our dream of empowering artists hasn’t yet come true, but it has yielded a lot of commercially exploitable hype.
There’s something about the process of getting vaccines which feels a lot like the end of High School or College to me.
A long road. Lots of sacrifices. It’s all come down to this moment. And now that the moment is here…what the hell do we do next?
The unfortunately named epidemiologist Larry Brilliant (YES THAT’S HIS NAME) is one such person obsessed with our next step, and Steven Levy at Wired has interviewed him to discuss what we all can — and NEED — to do.
I do not recommend reading this one if you are easily scared, because we’re definitely not out of the woods yet.
Wait, didn’t we knock polio?
We haven’t knocked it yet! We’ve been working at polio for 70 years since you read that article on the front page of the newspaper saying polio is conquered. That’s my point. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen the way people envision it. The threshold for herd immunity is when, on average, one case is able to infect fewer than one other case. It’s a math equation: Herd immunity means the effective reproductive number—R—is less than one. In that case, the pandemic fritters out. But with every new variant that is successful, R increases, crowding out the incumbent. Take a look at Brazil right now, where the P.1 variant has overrun hospitals. The city of Manaus announced some months ago it had reached herd immunity. They were very proud of it, even though they got there by people getting sick and many people dying. Then the P.1 variant appeared, and almost as many people got sick as before. They asked, if they had 76 percent herd immunity, how could that number get infected again? They were infected by the P.1 variant on top of having been infected by the original, because the P.1 variant was more transmissible.
But that was before the vaccine. Wouldn’t we prevent this if our herd immunity came from that?
Here in the US, 30 percent of people say they’re not going to get vaccinated. We don’t vaccinate children, but they’re part of the herd. We have immigration of people who haven’t been vaccinated. A lot of people get vaccinated and don’t take the second dose. But let me be clear—the response is extraordinary. I’m saying I want to hedge my bet, because I do not believe for a second that the success that we are having in the United States is replicable around the world. The whole reason we’re rushing to vaccinate everybody is to get people protected against this disease, so that when we do get variants that are more lethal, we will be able then to simply get booster doses. These vaccines clobber today’s variants, but they can’t clobber tomorrow’s, because we just don’t know where this wily virus is going to mutate and become a variant.
If you have half the population vaccinated, can we still have an incredibly destructive spike?
Of course. We’re all customers for the virus. There’s no wall that will keep the virus out. Think about the pandemic in year three or four. There will still be billions of people unvaccinated. Billions of people will harbor billions of viruses. Each one will be replicating. A certain percentage will mutate. A certain percent will become variants of those variants—some will be of high concern, and a percentage will be fucking nightmarish.
Remember: Any week you end with as many digits as you started is an absolute win. Make this a good one for you too.
Have a very happy Easter if you celebrate, otherwise, have an awesome week!
See you next week.