✨ generative thoughts
/imagine clever subhed to engage readers and drive up CTR
🌃 INTO THE (AI) UNKNOWN
I consume a healthy amount of AI commentary (e.g. every episode of Hard Fork, LinkedIn speculation, RuPublicans). Still, it was social guru—and baker!—Dolly Meckler’s speculative MetBall images that dropped my jaw. Dolly used the generative image tool Midjourney to create tabloid-esque coverage of her fictitious challah gala.Click through to see my favorite image: a line of women, facing away from the camera, standing tall in head-to-toe sandwich bread.
This just in! Next year's Met Gala theme is *Carb Couture: A Lexicon of Challah Bread* Designers will be encouraged to focus on age old braiding and weaving techniques to create their garments.
In the name of the challah, I signed up for Midjourney this week and fell into the rabbit hole that is their Discord server. For those of you who haven’t tried any of these AI image generators, the concept is simple (and almost unbelievable) at first:
Type in a prompt with words, the system creates image(s).
Jumping into Midjourney’s Discord server is like entering a visual river of data. Unless you pay, everyone’s prompts are public so you can sit back and watch an endless stream of disparate images render right before your eyes. The first thing I saw when I logged in was a prompt asking for “menopause in Edward Hopper style” followed by four vector images of women looking serious and/or tormented. At 5:46 ET this evening, someone asked for “Sandra Oh with closed eyes, with air floating and rounded of baby cats.” It’s a weird place. I wish there were more carb costumes and less cliché art that looks like it was envisioned on the back of someone’s math homework (soldiers, skulls, scantily-clad anime).
Unlike Dolly, and those genius gays roasting the GOP with heels, I had no clever need for some AI images at the moment. I decided to wait for my daughter to come home so we could explore together. She’s just getting used to writing sentences and loves to draw, so I imagined this would be a wow experience.
Here is a rundown of her first four prompts. The mind of a seven-year-old girl meeting generative AI for the first time:
standing on the deck of a sailboat looking out at calm ocean water during sunset and whale jumping up from the water
pixar 3d animation cute peanut-colored dog eating a dumpling
realistic light-brown kitten eating a dumpling
Winnie the Pooh eating honey by the golden gate bridge
She thought the sunset was pretty and the animals were cute. She was into it for exactly as long as it took to get the fourth prompt written before she walked away and moved on to something else.
And that’s when I realized how profoundly far we’ve come with technology. She has no idea how wildly groundbreaking artificial intelligence is; the computer created images from her imagination in minutes because of course. My dad used to tease me about how I didn’t know how to “dial” a rotary phone, or “roll down” a window with a handle. The technology that was new to the world when I was her age feels practically steampunk in comparison to her digitized existence.
I’m spending a lot of my time right now investigating these AI tools that are popping up, especially those promising to create words and designs—the kinds of things I’ve spent my entire career working with humans to generate. I’d love to hear how AI is popping up in your life. Which tools have you tried? What is the conversation like at your workplace?
✊🏽 SEIZE THE DAY
Speaking of AI at work…
You might have heard that the writers in Hollywood are on strike. I’m glued to the coverage.Six days in, productions are starting to shut down and there are headlines that deals around town are getting canceled. At this point, all sides are gearing up for the strike to continue at least until July, though there are scenarios that have it continuing through November. This is going to be really painful for everyone.
Hollywood can get a bad rap from the outside, but remember that the vast majority of people who make film and television are not millionaires. Many are middle-class, working gig to gig. We are witnessing a large, public bi-coastal labor strike that touches on issues that affect all of us. The very fact that Hollywood has strong unions means that these issues are discussed industry-wide as opposed to being siloed in individual corporate boardrooms.
Early in the week, the WGA West held a joint unity rally where the head of Teamsters Local 399 gave an impassioned speech ending with a threat for the studios “if you want to fuck around you’re gonna find out.” Let this be the moment you learn about Lindsay Dougherty who has Jimm Hoffa tattooed on her bicep.
🎭 STAYCATION VIBES
Is it a vacation when you are
Kept on celebrating birthday week while I work on what comes next... spontaneous visit from LA-bestie Abby, TWO matinee performances (Funny Girl, Oliver!), a perfect long-awaited meal at Via Carota, overnight with the kiddo at a fancy hotel, many hours in the pool, sunset cartwheels at Lincoln Center, and one hug from my college friend, and freshly Tony-nominated, director Lear deBessonet.
Oliver is a very difficult show to confront; Dickensian London was a harsh, violent, anti-Semitic place. But, I trust Lear’s heart and artistic vision. I knew if she was picking the material, there was a reason. For her, the show is about finding love despite it all. My daughter and I stayed for the artist talkback which gave her a chance to see the actors outside of their costumes discussing the considerations they brought to their characters’ tough choices. An incredible, memorable afternoon.
What I admire most about Lear’s work is her commitment to teaching in the community. I cried during Consider Yourself when the stage filled with non-professional actors singing and dancing with the cast. She is a remarkable artist. Congratulations, Lear!
Consider optimism (and fight like hell),
I’m not here to break any kind of news. There have been deep discussions over the mechanics and ethics of Midjourney, and other similar services, for months now. Check out John Oliver on Midjourney from August 2022. Art in America also recently published a deep dive into the lawsuits from artists making the case that the algorithms were trained on unlicensed artwork.