4 YouTube Rabbit Holes That Show Bizarre Levels of Obsession
Since I started writing for Cracked, one lesson I've learned the hard way is to always do my research in incognito mode. Otherwise, the algorithms that run nearly every aspect of my online existence will go absolutely haywire. The ads that pop up on my Facebook feed are nothing short of terrifying.
The YouTube video suggestion algorithm, on the other hand, has taken my search history and thrown some topics my way that I wasn't sure I'd be into at first, but now I can't stop watching them. These video genres have made me feel a lot better about my own obsessive nature, and I once spent two weeks trying to figure out if the events in Die Hard finished up before midnight on Christmas Eve in order to disqualify it as a Christmas movie (5am at the earliest, in case you were wondering).
Super Mario Maker Playthroughs
I am not a gamer myself, but I absolutely love watching gamer channels on YouTube. To me, there's just something oddly comforting about watching other people play video games. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I grew up with an older brother and a Nintendo with only one fully functional controller. That might also explain why I have such a deep emotional connection to Luigi.
Since Nintendo released Super Mario Maker in 2015 and SMM2 in 2019, this has become my favorite game to watch other people play. Not just for the nostalgia for the Mario games I grew up playing, but I love that Nintendo threw down the gauntlet and said, "Screw it! You guys want more classic Mario levels, make your own!" And now, the Mushroom Kingdom is a freaking Saw movie.
Super Mario Maker has allowed millions of users around the globe the opportunity to tap into the darkest regions of their souls to create diabolically evil levels designed solely to send the world's most famous Italian plumber to his death over and over again. More importantly, there are some great YouTubers that have looked at these sadists and accepted their challenge.
I've been cycling through three SMM players' channels lately: CarlSagan42, Ryukahr, and DashieGames, but I'm constantly checking out other channels to find new favorites. These videos contain all, if not more, of the thrill of victory and agony of defeat you'd find in any other mainstream sport, but with the added spectacles of A) watching a highly focused geek process information in real time, B) plenty of jump scares, and C) tons of nerd rage.
Watching these SMM videos and the level of ingenuity it takes to create and beat these levels, I can't help but think about how we could maybe harness these powers for the good of humanity. Take a cue from The Last Starfighter and recruit these players! If all of these people could figure out the physics of every conceivable combination of objects and enemies in video games like this, maybe we could get NASA to lock these guys in a room and tell them, "Here's a book on astrophysics and some Hot Pockets. Now, figure out transwarp travel."
Filthy Food Porn
I have always maintained a theory that there's a significant amount of internet porn that's just way too specific to possibly have anyone on the planet actually find it sexy. The only reason it exists at all is to maintain Rule 34, even if it violates the law of supply and demand. Did anyone really ask for a porn parody of The Cosby Show? No, but they made one anyway.
The same principle is now happening with food porn. Almost as soon as foodie culture proved to be Instagram gold, the internet was inundated with short, clickbait-y cooking tutorials that aimed to put a new spin on our favorite foods. At first, these videos actually taught you something about cooking, but with the pressure to keep their content new and exciting, the entire genre has quickly devolved into a culinary version of Jackass.
If you're able to turn off the part of your brain that associates sight and sound with your gag reflex and view these videos strictly as performance art, they're actually quite genius. I find they're a fun way to kill a few minutes while waiting for the pizza guy to get to my house. Plus, these clips help me overcome the shame of eating Domino's by pointing out that I could be eating something way worse.
There are three categories of these videos I particularly love. The first is what I like to call Accidental Reverse-Engineering, where the hosts try so hard to add a new twist on a classic dish that they wind up inventing something that already exists. They'll spend five minutes talking about French Toast Casserole like they just invented cold fusion, while seemingly unaware that bread pudding is a thing. Mini meatloaf bites? Oh, you mean meatballs? Cheesy baked fajitas? Enchiladas ... the word you're looking for ... is enchiladas.
The second category I call Rube Goldberg Meals, where they make a meal that's a thousand times more complicated than it needs to be. The hosts of these videos aren't really cooking so much as they are trying to keep themselves busy until the Adderall wears off. That's why they never tell you the real prep time on these dishes. They're just trying to keep going until their teeth stop vibrating.
What really gets me about these videos is they always try to use the same ingredients every time, and it's always stuff the average American might have in their kitchen right now. It's almost like they're daring us to make these things ourselves. Resist that temptation. If you really want to try any of hundreds of meals made from the same seven ingredients, go to Taco Bell.
The final category is Chaotic Evil. Spaghetti-O Jello, hot dog cakes, deep fried pizzadillas ... these ironically named channels like Yummy or Tasty show you how the meal is made much in the same way Breaking Bad portrayed cooking meth: they gloss over many crucial steps because they definitely don't want to be held liable if you try this at home. That's also why they don't show the host's face, use a narration, or show any of the guests actually consuming the food at the end. They can't leave anything to identify the ones responsible for these culinary war crimes.
Sovereign Citizens Go To Traffic Court
The sovereign citizen movement is a bizarre subculture whose members do not recognize the federal government as legitimate. They believe they are answerable to their own individual interpretation of common law, and that they are free from any and all legal restraints they feel do not apply to them. Like any political ideology, the spectrum of "SovCits" can range anywhere from "Hmm, that's an interesting theory" to "Holy crap, how many federal watch lists is this guy on?"
I'm sure since I brought up this subject, the comment section is gonna be really fun. But before anyone flies into an all-caps rage about this, just try to keep in mind that there's just as much chance of you talking people into your way of thinking as they have of talking you out of it. Welcome to the Internet! All I'm wanting to say about SovCits is this: Watching videos of these people going to traffic court is some of the funniest shit I've seen in my life.
First of all, for a group that does not recognize the court's jurisdiction over them, I find it amazing how many of them are right on time for their court date. Secondly, it's traffic court! If the American justice system were a video game, traffic court wouldn't even qualify as a tutorial level. Just by showing up to contest a traffic ticket you have a 50/50 chance of winning, because if the officer that issued your ticket doesn't show up to testify, you win by default.
But sovereign citizens will show up to court ready to Jedi mind trick the entire system into collapse, and they will split hairs on a molecular level if they have to. They might try to invalidate the charge with Olympic-class mental gymnastics. They weren't "driving without a license" because they weren't driving. They were traveling, and they have a right to travel on public roads in a car that is their personal property. Ok ... were you traveling in neutral the whole time? Because last time I checked the D on your gear selector stands for drive.
Or, they might try to invalidate the charge by saying the officer had no authority to pull them over in the first place because no one has the right to impede their progress. Dude, you were on your way home from Burger King. You weren't exactly transporting a kidney for transplant. Calm the hell down.
More often than not, they'll try to put the entire system on blast by challenging the legitimacy of the court itself, often by citing as many obscure sources as they can pull out of their ass: the Bible, the Magna Carta, the Articles of Confederation, foreign treaties, the Federalist Papers, and using enough random Latin phrases you'd think this was finals week at Hogwarts.
Sorry, but I just think it's funny to watch someone fight the entire legal system with such ferocity over something as trivial as expired car tags or not having a valid driver's license. These people would rather have a judge hand them a $500 fine for contempt of court rather than pay a $100 ticket for something that could've been prevented by spending $40 at the DMV.
The Wintergatan Marble Machine X
In March of 2016, Swedish musician Martin Molin and his band Wintergatan went viral with a video of a song played on a giant hand-cranked music box they had constructed using a ton of plywood, LEGO pieces, a deconstructed vibraphone and bass guitar, contact microphones to emulate the percussion, and over 2,000 steel ball bearings. The video for the song, simply titled "Marble Machine" now has over 176 million views on YouTube. I've contributed over 100 of those views myself, because the song is insanely catchy.
On January 18, 2017, Molin uploaded the first video of his Marble Machine X series, and in the video he explained his ideas for what he wanted to accomplish for the new version of the machine. The overall goal was simple: to improve on the design of the original Marble Machine, correct its many design flaws, and allow it to be taken apart in sections so it can go on a world tour. The new machine has to not just be able to play just one song, but an entire concert.
Four years later, and with two YouTube channels featuring over 50 total hours of content on the building of the Marble Machine X, it is ... still not done. It's getting closer, though (fingers crossed)! The reason it's taking so long is because A) nearly every time they move on to designing a new part it points out a problem with an earlier component, and B) this machine has over 3,000 custom-designed parts. Watching them build the Marble Machine X is like binge-watching Lost: they keep going back and changing things you thought were settled and after a while you learn to not get too attached to your favorites.
These videos are pure engineering porn. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, what anyone would call handy. My wife hardly trusts me to use a hammer, but watching these videos ... makes me want to build things. Sometimes, when I'm alone, I find myself looking up prices on CNC machines and TIG welders. Just last week I was at the hardware store where I found myself referring to an angle grinder as a "naughty girl." I'm not proud of what I'm about to do with this ShopVac, but I'm absolutely going to do it.
On the surface, the building of the Marble Machine X should've been a recipe for disaster. At the center of it, we have a talented artist with a ridiculously high standard of perfection trying to create something the world has never really seen before, and he has set no deadline for himself. If Martin Molin wasn't so damn affable all the time this project would be a descent into utter madness.
But instead, he and his team face each problem head on by being able to step back, analyze the situation, and work the problem. I for one am glad his videos also show how talented Martin Molin is as a musician, because if they went to all this trouble for the Marble Machine X to play shitty music, I would be royally pissed.