By Clare Lewis
Web Curios 03/11/17
Whilst the vast majority of me is gladdened at the shining of the LIGHT OF TRUTH AND JUSTICE which is being shone on the Palace of Westminster, another, smaller part of me is also enjoying the absolute bemusement being displayed in some sections of the Italian media at this; "he touched her knee?" is the general tone amongst much of the commentariat, "You mean there weren't even any sex parties? AMATEURS!"
Anyway, we certainly shouldn't look to Italy for guidance on any of this (witness, if you're unaware, the country's recent charming reaction to its daughter Asia Argento being at the centre of some of the Weinstein revelations); instead, let's all instead take bets on who the urolagniaphile is (also, I was asking the BIG QUESTIONS about this on Twitter should you care or indeed have any answers). Not that there's actually anything wrong with that - shall we instead focus on the actual issues of power and control at the heart of all this Westminster gossip? No? Oh, fine, please yourselves.
Anyway, Curios is early this week as I have a genuinely terrifying meeting at 2pm before which I need to spend a good hour or so sweating nervously in a corner, so on that note I am going to GET RIGHT ON WITH IT. Get into the tub, make yourself comfortable and prepare to bathed in the warm, fresh infostreams - you can choose to imbibe if you so desire, but bear in mind it does get awfully cold if you wallow in it. THIS, AS EVER, IS WEB CURIOS!
THE SECTION WHICH HAS SPENT MORE TIME THAT IT WOULD LIKE THIS WEEK STARING AT FACEBOOK’S NUMBERS AND COMING TO THE DAWNING REALISATION THAT WE’RE STUCK WITH IT AS THE DOMINANT MEDIA PLATFORM (LEAVE IT OUT, MARK, FFS) FOR THE COMING DECADE AT THE VERY LEAST:
- Those Facebook Quarterlies: I feel there’s been less chat about these than normal this time around, perhaps because ‘Massive Global Media Juggernaut Continues To Make More Money Than Seems Feasible’ isn’t really news in the face of the growing realisation that ugly men granted high office will abuse that high office to try it on with women they’d never ordinarily get the chance to. Anyway, the headline here is that FB’s ad revenue jumped from $6.8bn to $10.1bn year-on-year, which is the sort of growth that VCs would sell their firstborns for. Couple that with the 16% uplift in Daily Active Users to 1.4bn, and Monthly Active User numbers hovering around the 2.1bn, also up 16%, and it shows that, whatever we might say we think and feel about it, the near-perfect Skinner Box that is Zuckerberg’s Big Blue Misery Factory continues to keep us entranced with its charms. DAMN YOU ZUCKERBERG. Still, it’s a great place to advertise! The only small positive I’m drawing from this is the slightly bitter feeling on Sir Marty’s face as he thinks about just how much of that $10bn is being disintermediated from his stable of parasitic ad buyers, but it’s thin gruel if I’m honest with you.
- FB Updates Ad Transparency Rules: Building on the announcement from last month in which Facebook announced that there was going to be an overhaul of transparency rules around ads, this post has expanded on the details to reveal that, seemingly, ALL Pages will be required to display all the ads they run in one, aggregated place, along with broad targeting information used with the ad buy. Additionally, when looking at a Page’s ads users will be told whether they fall in the particular demographic bucket for that ad. The timings here are a bit uncertain, but given that this is starting to roll out in Canada, then to the US, then to everywhere else, you have a bit of time to decide exactly how this is going to affect you - there’s a big question, tbh, over whether any normal people will ever think of looking at this (my guess is that they won’t), but it’s going to be an obvious place for journalists to dig looking for some dirt on marketing strategies and fcukups, and it’s also a pretty obvious place for competitor snooping too. So, basically, there’s currently nothing to see here but it’s worth bearing in mind if you do differential pricing ads for different demographics or stuff like that. Do you? YOU BAD PERSON.
- Air France Music: Basically there is fcuk-all s*c**l m*d** news this week so I am reduced to chucking a couple of brand websites in this section to pad it out a bit (yes, yes, I know, if there’s one thing Curios really doesn’t need more of it’s padding, but it’s a compulsion and I feel weird if this nets out at less than a certain length). Anyway, this is actually a really nice site by Air France which collects its in-flight playlists in one place, giving you an effortlessly chic and on-brand gallic tune selections with which to pretend you’re jetting off somewhere nice this weekend rather than grimly contemplating getting your Christmas shopping done early and trudging with dead-eyed determination between soft play dates. There’s only one on here now as this is BRAND NEW, but they’ll be releasing a new one every month so worth checking back.
- Strava Global Heatmap: I think I might be one of only about half-a-dozen men of my age who hasn’t embraced exercise in some form; on the one hand this has probably got something to do with being childless and not needing a legitimate reason to escape and just BE ALONE for a few hours every week; on the other, it might just be that I am not that fussed about longevity really. Nonetheless, whilst I slump in a chair experimenting with the best ways to get those cells metastasizing, my contemporaries are all Rafa-clad and Strava-enabled, cycling madly up hill and over dale in an attempt to...er...outrun death? Lose the paunch? Christ knows. Anyway, this is a long-winded introduction to the latest update to Strava’s global heatmaps, which show off user data from across the globe and paint pretty pictures of where the active like to, er, be active. These are honestly beautiful and fascinating and, fine, Strava has data which very few others can replicate, but others could take a leaf out of their book when thinking of how to present these. I’m sort of amazed that they’re not offering the option to buy hi-res prints of these - you can see a selection of nice examples of specific areas in this blogpost, should you so desire.
THE SECTION WHICH GIVES IT ABOUT A WEEK TILL VICE SENDS SOMEONE TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS WITH A BLACKLIGHT, PT.1:
- Gruesome Gotham: Nothing, thank God, to do with comic books (look, I have nothing against your love of superheroes, honestly, but do you think we could maybe give it a rest for a few years? No? Oh) - instead, this is a murder history experience for New York with an AR-layer: “Get a glimpse at New York City’s 19th century crime scenes using augmented reality. Travel between six murderous moments on the map and see the deadly deeds unfold right before your eyes.” No idea how good this is - can one of you who’s in NYV let me know, please? - but it’s amazing how little there is of this stuff; given the ARKit stuff, there must be some shiny variants on this in the pipeline - Googling ‘Jack The Ripper Augmented Reality’ gives me some proof of concept stuff from 2013 and a Layar overlay which I’d guess has been used about 200 times, so, please, can someone get on this? Thanks.
- The Curious Critters Club: A lovely site for kids (or, you know, for bored office workers looking to regress into nature) letting users explore THE MAGIC OF ANIMALS via this nice, cartoony interface which lets you explore a little 3d globe with your Scout-like avatar and learn about the various EXCITING ANIMALS you can find around the planet (until we kill them all). Charming.
- 95 Theses: Whilst I like this idea, it does rather fcuk me off that the only reason I have heard about it is that its creator John Naughton got to plug it in his Guardian column - anyway, bitterness at journalistic privilege aside, this is an interesting project in the wake of the anniversary of Luther’s own theses; Naughton argues that we are all in thrall to the Church of tech, and, per Luther, we could use a healthy number of questions to be asked about the assumptions we make about tech and our relationship to it. Naughton is posting these statements - “Facebook is not the internet”; “Solutionism is the obsession of the tech industry”, etc - each thesis is a proposition about the tech world and the ecosystem it has spawned, followed by a brief discussion and recommendations for further reading.” Lots of interesting food for thought here, if you’re at all interested in questions of tech and humanity and society (which you ought to be).
- Memory Assistant: A Twitter account sharing memories from childhoods of the past - OR IS IT?! Scarfolk-esque, this, in the creepily off-kilter nature of some of the stuff it spits out. This one about Bamboozle, for example, struck me as utterly plausible. This is rather good, though sadly probably just TOO late for its creator to land a cash-in Christmas book deal.
- All About Pumpkins: Had I found this last week it would have been pre-Hallowe’en and it would have been timely and perfect and SEASONAL. Now, though, it’s old and played out and SAD. Still, should you have use for the greatest online repository of pumpkin-related knowledge I or you have ever seen then I humbly present you this link - if nothing else I imagine supermarkets are currently selling the bastard things for about 10p each, so spend the weekend making 40 litres of soup and rubbing your hands with joy at all the savings.
- ABC Shaftesbury Avenue: A beautiful collection of photographs from when cinemas were PROPER CINEMAS and didn’t involve sitting in a freezing cold room (seriously though) surrounded by the light from a million phones, the smell of ‘cheese’ and the sound of what you hope is popcorn crunching underfoot but which you know may in fact be mousebones (if you’ve been to the Peckham Multiplex you will know that this is an honest-to-goodness possibility).
- NDA Lynn: This is a really smart idea, and I can see all sorts of applications for this sort of thing. NDA Lynn is a piece of software which analyses the content of an NDA agreement and assesses whether or not it ought to be signed - does it contain any particularly punitive clauses, say, or any unusual caveats? It’s obviously pretty rudimentary - I imagine, though haven’t read the tech specs, that it’s been trained on a corpus of ‘standard’ legal documents and simply looks for large discrepancies from its knowledge-base when scanning yours - but as a once-over it’s a good idea. I’d be fascinated to see something like this for Privacy Policies and T&C docs for large media / internet companies, which punted out a simple list of what it is that you’re signing up for. Actually, that’s a GREAT idea, someone steal it.
- NaNoWriMo: I don’t, let’s be clear, actually advocate you DOING this, but given we’re only 3 days into November I suppose I ought to once again point out that it’s National Novel Writing Month - if, by novel, you mean ‘50,000+ words of fiction’, which is a TERRIBLE definition but wevs. As an aside, on that basis - and were Curios classified as ‘fiction’, which is an interesting category distinction - I churn out a ‘novel’ every 6 weeks or so with this. Maybe I should publish it all in book form as some sort of an ART? No, no I shouldn’t. Anyway, this is the website for NaNoWriMo which offers guidance and encouragement for all those embarking on the endeavour; the more code-minded of you might prefer NaNoGenMo, which asks patricipants to generate 50,000 words of novel using code of their own creation; I reckon you’d be able to tell which was which, but not with total certainty.
- The Wifi Tapestry: A, er, tapestry which reacts to WiFi signals. Like so: “WifiTapestry is a dynamic wall hanging that visualises the wireless activity of a space. The tapestry visualises the ever changing "landscape" of radio frequencies around us. The invisible signals from Cellphones, printers and all kinds of smart devices leave an imprint as they try to negotiate available wireless channels.” This is a small-scale execution, but I really love the idea of reactive surroundings, altering themselves based on ambient signals and data - there’s a nice ART in here somewhere, perhaps a work which only exposes itself should nearby WiFi, phones, etc, be switched off OOH THERE’S A BRAND ACTIVATION IN THIS SOMEWHERE JUST THING ABOUT IT. How about a mysterious box (yes THAT tired old PR trope!) which will only open if nearby digital activity drops below a certain point? I mean, I am just writing WORDS here with no real understanding of whether this is even possible, but still, it’s a GOOD IDEA.
- Aibo: When I was about 20 I was obsessed with the idea of Sony’s Aibo, the robot dog that was JUST LIKE A REAL PUPPY but with no hair or faeces or propensity to maul people; now Sony have announced a rebooted version which is slightly less robotic and slightly more cute, and doubtless far more sophisticated in its ability to dance and caper and charmingly pretend to demand tickles that it will never feel. The weird thing is, though, that now I am older I look at this and feel nothing but a deep and abiding sadness at the thought of the sort of people for whom this is actually designed - not rich twats who want a toy, but the terminally lonely for whom a small robot dog could be a genuinely important companion. Imagine Aibo being your only friend. Imagine talking to it as though it were a real dog and stroking its plastic, unfeeling case in lieu of actual biological contact. Imagine that being your only interaction with another ‘thing’ for days and days and days on end. I don’t want to grow old.
- TEND: Blockchain timeshares! I mean, this is a gross oversimplification, but still basically accurate - TEND allows anyone to invest in...stuff, whether it be a stake in a sports car or a holiday property or whatever. Obviously this is all encoded on the blockchain because 2017, purportedly guaranteeing everyone’s scrupulous adherence to the rules of the game; anyone can put their assets onto tend to rent out to whoever wants it, whilst ‘shares’ in things can be freely traded between members thanks to the aforementioned Blockchain security. Let’s be clear, though - however shiny the site and how LUXE it’s branded, you are buying 4 days a year of a Porsche - you are not Rockefeller.
- Word Squares: A Twitter account which tweets regular examples of those clever word squares which work left to write as well as top to bottom, and which I realise will mean nothing to you without an example so, er, here! An example which inspired the whole thing! Utterly pointless other than an exercise in linguistics and computation, but there’s something pleasingly tidy about them.
- Les Autres: This is a great site, collecting playlists of diverse African music. I have no idea who is pulling these together, or indeed why, but there are 14 on there so far, each an hour or so in length, and if you want to hear some NEW AND DIFFERENT MUSIC (presuming you don’t listen to African tunes all the time, of course) then this is a very cool place to find it.
- Tuurnt: Taking its name from the POPULAR YOUTH SLANG for getting fcuked up (but you knew that already, didn’t you? God, I’ve just dadsplained), Tuurnt sounds, frankly, like a dreadful idea but perhaps its creators know better. The idea is that you advertise a party on the app, give details, and people can buy tickets to attend your shindig - basically letting you crowdfund your ket binge.The sort of thing which is probably aimed at bars or venues as what sort of MADMAN would use this to advertise a house party when anyone could buy tickets and turn up? I mean, you could probably have some INTERESTING TIMES, but they would be the sort of times which ended with the police and hospital and, at the very least, some panicked Yellow Pages-led calls.
- Poly: Not a dating app for all those tedious dullards who like to wang on about their propensity to sling their junk around indiscriminately, but instead a site by Google which lets you browse and download 3d models for AR environments for free - similarly, artists and makers can upload their own creations under a CC license should they feel particularly altruistic about their work. Given it only launched recently it’s still a little light on content, but the fact that you can host objects created using Tiltbrush and other such art programs means there’s a pleasing diversity of styles on display here.
THE SECTION WHICH GIVES IT ABOUT A WEEK TILL VICE SENDS SOMEONE TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS WITH A BLACKLIGHT, PT.2:
- Zach Lieberman: The Instagram account of Zach Liebermann who takes images and data from his webcam and messes with said images and data in wonderful ways to create strange, semi-abstract artworks from them. I would have this stuff on my walls, no hesitation, but those of you who’ve seen my walls will understand why.
- Co-Star: Astrology is rubbish, isn’t it? I am slightly bitter due to having spent a good few years at University being compared by friends to Justin Toper (I DO NOT LOOK LIKE HIM), but, come on, it’s bunkum, right? Regardless, if YOU believe that the relative position of Saturn to the moon on the day of your birth is the reason for your persistent lack of personal success (it’s not, it’s YOU) then you might enjoy this app, which uses your date, time, and location of birth to give you ‘professional quality’ readings. “Our powerful natural-language engine uses NASA data, coupled with the methods of professional astrologers, to algorithmically generate insights about your personality and your future.” - sounds good, doesn’t it? Well mine just told me that I was ‘typically well-dressed’, so frankly I’m unconvinced. Also, can I just point out that Justin Toper lives in bloody Madeira? Christ alive, I’m in the wrong jobs.
- Cyberpicz: We are ALL afraid of The Cyber, right? As news of alleged collusion (NO COLLUSION!) between, well, seemingly EVERYONE to use bot networks and the like to influence the democratic process continues to emerge, this is a new Twitter account spitting out the glorious stock photo images used to illustrated the dangers of The Cyber. This one is my favourite so far; if any journalists are reading this, I will love you forever should you manage to get this into an article.
- YoTo; Is this a good thing? I have no idea at all. YoTo is a Kickstarter seeking funding for what is basically a smart speaker for kids, the idea being that it’s important to get children used to learning how to use virtual assistants as early as possible. In admirably uncreepy design, YoTo eschews voice recognition and cameras in favours of (I presume) RFID-enabled cards which can be slotted into the speaker to unlock stories, games, teaching aids and the like, and which will come in a variety of different guises. The problem with these sorts of things, of course, is always longevity - unless the software support continues you’ll be left with about 10 cards of which your kid will be bored within a week, but as an idea it’s a rather nice one I think.
- Time For Payback: Not, sadly, some sort of elaborate revenge fantasy game in which you get to eviscerate by hand the hyperrealistic avatars of all those who have wronged you - instead, this is an interactive showing the TOUGH CHOICES that students in the US need to make when attending college, from where to go to how to manage their debt when they get there. Sort of interesting, but included mainly because I really like the way that the UX works here - simple but very effective way of doing a sort of branching narrative.
- NYC Cab Photos: “Joseph Rodriguez drove a cab from 1977 to 1985, and in the last two of those years, he was studying to be a photographer. He lost his first set of gear in a classic ’70s New York stabbing and mugging, but with a new camera, he documented what he saw on the job.” These photos are just wonderful, do take a look.
- What The Font: See a font, don’t know what it is, want to know? Take a photo or screencap and upload it to this database and it will see if it can determine which it is. Which is dull, fine, but possibly useful so BE GRATEFUL.
- Passion Infinie: A selection of photographs of football culture taken by fans around the world. This is a lovely project, reminiscent slightly of the excellent Goal Click, and very much cut from the same cloth as current kings of football hipsterdom Mundial magazine.
- The Shakespearean Insult Generator: This looks like it might have been around since Web 1.0, but the web’s been crap this week and so I’m clutching at straws somewhat here (and yes, I am well aware that the natural reaction to this statement is “Matt, just INCLUDE FEWER THINGS”, I know that that’s right and true, but I simply can’t, it’s stronger than I am, this compulsion to hoard and then regurgitate like some sick, ailing mother bird vomiting out infonuggets into a nest long since empty of young). No YOU’RE a spongy reeling-ripe clack-dish!
- Halite: I have to confess to this being another one of those links which I only understand a bit, but basically it’s a bot building competition; users are competing to code bots which participate in a game to ‘mine’ materials in a game world played across a 2d gameboard. Participants can code in whatever language they choose, so if you’re teaching yourself to code or have a kid who’s into that sort of thing this could be a nice practical project to play with.
- The FIFA World Cup: The EA sports version, that is. There’s a FIFA videogame world cup happening next year and YOU can enter - details are at the link, but given the fact that anyone with a modicum of online success thinks they are the fcuking nuts at FIFA this is an EXCELLENT way of sorting out bragging rights once and for all. The prizes are crazy, but know this - you WILL be beaten by a teenager because it is impossible that you will have put more hours into it than they will. This is FACT, do not try and dispute it.
- Viennese Modernism: This is a GREAT artsite. Next year, Vienna is celebrating 100 years of modernism through a focus on the painters Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, the architect Otto Wagner and the universal artist Koloman Moser. This site is an accompaniment to the events taking place throughout 2018, and is a wonderful selection of history and work and essays and photos and STUFF about the artists and their lives. I love the minimal style here, and the interface is seemingly designed to pull you in and just make you explore; I think this is GREAT, take a look and see for yourselves.
- Mormon Missionary Positions: Two fully-dressed mormons acting out positions from the Kama Sutra. The mormons are both male. I am sure this is making a series of points but I couldn’t for the LIFE of me imagine what those points are; regardless of your position on the mormon faith, these pictures are GREAT. Not technically SFW, but likely to cause a slight reevaluation of your browsing habits by your deskmates.
- The Demogorgon: Some of you, I know, will enjoy popular TV show Stranger Things, which I understand has recently started a new series. I have no idea AT ALL (and nor do I want to) how many of you enjoy the strange and esoteric range of sex toys provided by the now-legendary Bad Dragon company (see Curios passim for further exploration of this...niche retailer, but don’t whatever you do go and visit the subreddit dedicated to them as I did one fateful afternoon - to quote Sam Beckett, “Oh boy”)). However, regardless, this is dedicated to the point at which those two interest groups intersect - this is a dildo called ‘The Demogorgon’ and it’s apparently inspired by the TV show though they can’t obviously SAY that on the page and...oh my. This is probably NSFW, but I would take the risk and have a quick peek because, just, crikey really.
- Knifegame: Finally this week, a virtual version of that game where you stab yourself at increasing speed between the fingers for...er...no, I have no idea why this exists but it is pleasingly hypnotic and it’s quite satisfying when you slice a virtual digit off. Practice with this and then do the real thing at your desk to prove how HARD you are, go on.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Bedelgeuse: The art style here is hugely familiar - the combination of biological and botanical illustration here on display is beautiful, in any case.
- Brooms of China: Occasionally I’ll stumble across a website SO PERFECT that it makes me want to shut the web forever. This is one such site (imperfect only by dint of not being a bloody Tumblr), which exists solely for the collation of images of brooms in China. Mostly handmade brooms of the stick-and-twigs variety. That’s it. Nothing else. It is GLORIOUS in its tiny mundanity.
- Pessimists: A Tumblr collating not only episodes of the Pessimists podcast, “Highlighting technophobia, alarmism, protectionism and puritanism of the past”; what’s nice about this is that each episode is accompanied by a short reading list of supplementary materials, which I think is a nice touch and which should happen more often.
- Constable Frozen: This week’s oddest Tumblr isn’t actually that odd on the surface - it’s a standard-seeming collection of Frozen fan art, mashing up characters from the film(s) with other pop culture staples in classic Tumblr fashion. Or, according to this Twitter thread, it might be a long-hidden fetish site for people into Voreism. What do YOU think?
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- The Legacy of The Craft: I have SUCH a soft spot for teen witch high school occult gothfest The Craft - the soundtrack was surprisingly good (no, really!) and I had a proper, full-on ‘not sure if this is weird or not but I really fancy you’ crush on capaciously-gobbed evil-lead Fairuza Balk. Anyway, this is an essay on what it all STANDS FOR 20 years on, which is as good a piece of writing on the significance of an ephemeral teenflick as you’re likely to read this week.
- The Rotten Heart of Miramax: I don’t think this got the traction it deserved, unless I’ve missed a lot of coverage elsewhere. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg wrote a post all about his experiences working at Miramax on Facebook - he subsequently deleted it, but it’s reproduced here in full and it’s worth reading, not least as it addresses the ‘yeah, but surely everyone knew?’ point head-on with the frank admission that “yes, everyone fcuking knew actually and anyone who says otherwise is lying”. Depressing but at least it’s honest.
- The Pro-paedo Student Rumour: You may not have seen this one this week what with it being a US thing and also with us having our very own series of horrible things to obsess over online this week, but it’s worth a look at this explainer to see quite how insane the FAKE NEWS (sorry, but it’s word of the year!) epidemic has become. At a protest a Columbia University this week, a bunch of fake protestors briefly unveiled a banner supposedly being held by ‘liberal’ students in support of the NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association - don’t Google that, really); despite the banner only being up for a minute or so before others realised what it said and removed it, a photo was taken - this photo was circulated as being proof of the fact that liberals are pro-paedophile, and went massively viral across infowars circles. It’s not astonishing per se, but as an exemplar it’s pretty bleak - to quote the piece, “We may be approaching an epistemic breach unlike anything the United States has seen before. What is going to happen when Robert Mueller’s investigation is done? Or when a new Trump scandal, bigger than anything that has previously come out, drops? It may well be the case that an untenably high percentage of the country will not believe any news, no matter how well-supported, that casts their side in an ill light, and willbelieve any news, no matter how impossible-seeming, that denigrates their ideological enemies.” GREAT!
- Being Andre 3000: One of two pieces from US GQ this week, this is an interview with Andre 3000 mainly focused on some new fashion range he’s got coming out in the States but also meandering around his music, anxiety issues, thoughts on creativity and childrearing and all sorts of other things. Never less than fascinating, and so disgustingly cool it almost makes me sick.
- The Lust Experience: Despite the title this is not in fact titillating in the slightest; the titular Lust Experience is in fact an incredible-sounding fusion of theatre and ARG taking place in LA at the moment: “Since March, a group of over 100 participants have been living inside a conspiracy thriller as part of their daily lives: tracking online leaks and messages, engaging with actors during phone conversations and one-on-one personal encounters across Southern California, and collaborating to piece together the story of a nefarious organization that is trying to wreak havoc across the globe.” File under ‘things I wish would happen in London and which unaccountably are not, WHY????’ - this sounds SO much fun.
- Forgetting Your Bitcoin Pin: What would you do if you forgot the PIN to the Bitcoin wallet which housed $30,000? You’d panic a bit, probably, and then if you were a WIRED journalist you’d attempt to hack the wallet to get the monies out and write up the experience. This is, fine, a pretty techy/geeky account of how you hack a Bitcoin wallet but despite my having little to know interest in or understanding of Cryptocurrencystuff, this was still a compelling read.
- On Banning People: An interview with Rich Kyanka of legendary webculture cesspit Something Awful, which discusses the issue of banning and moderation on community sites; Kyanka’s got some fascinating things to say about Twitter’s culture problem, from the perspective of a man who runs a site where some fairly...uh...fruity things get thrown up on a regular basis. His thesis is, broadly, that it’s been left too long to fix, which frankly seems reasonable - I do, though, wish that Twitter took a leaf out of SA’s book in giving public reasons for people’s being banned from the platform; it might go a small way towards moderating some behaviours. Maybe.
- Women Aren’t Ruining Food: Or, indeed, anything else. I had honestly never even considered this, but having read this I now can’t seem to stop seeing it places; this essay explores the weird phenomenon in food whereby appreciation and acceptance of an ingredient or product or dish by women seems to somehow make that ingredient or product or dish somehow, well, a bit crap. Rose, salad, cupcakes...seriously, read the piece, it’s upsettingly clear-cut when you stop to think about it. A cheering (not cheering at all) reminder of quite how much sexism is EVERYWHERE.
- Words With Friends and Linguistics: A fascinating piece looking at how the game Words with Friends modifies and updates its accepted lexicon to reflect shifting cultural and social trends and by so doing how it holds a mirror up to global English language culture. I had no idea that ‘covfeve’ is an acceptable scoring word in the game, and now that I do know I am unsure how I feel about it. ADAPT OR DIE, I guess.
- The Best Bits of the Devil’s Dictionary: In case you’re not familiar, the Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bryce Bierce, is a series of ‘satirical’ definitions of words, basically a ‘comic’ dictionary from the turn of the 20th Century. It’s fair to say that time has robbed some of the zingers of their satirical edge, but this article collects 70-odd of the best ones - some are excellent, and I particularkly enjoyed the elegance of “Hostility, n. A peculiarly sharp and specially applied sense of the earth’s overpopulation.”
- An Oral History of Jeff Goldblum Goldblum is, according to my girlfriend at least, one of the sexiest men alive (she also believes that about Terrence Stamp, though, so her judgment is perhaps impaired); this piece in which various Hollywood people wax lyrical about how AWESOME Jeff is did nothing to disabuse her of that notion. It’s very funny, some of the stories are great and yet...I don’t know, maybe this is just post-Weinstein ambient creepiness but were I Jeff I wouldn’t necessarily have wanted this published right at this point in time.
- You’re Asking For It:: Web Curios favourite The Hairpin offers a short rundown of all the situations in which it is clear that a woman has been ‘asking for’ men to have a grope. Funnydepressing.
- Lost and Found: A superb piece profiling SHADOWY GLOBAL NETWORK (not that shadowy at all, but it reads better that way) Necrocore, which is a loosely affiliated bunch of forensic pathologists and suchlike which travels around the world attempting to solve mysteries around missing persons and unexplained disappearances by, er, exhuming illegally buried corpses and the like. It’s like it’s waiting to be made into some sort of vehicle for old actors, possibly starring Helen Mirren.
- Joel Meets Ed Stafford: As part of my seeming contractual obligation to include something from VICE each week, this is Golby talking about some survivalist bloke who’s got a new show on telly; frankly I don’t care who Ed Stafford is or what his TV show is, but the writing is as ever brilliant as the author comes to terms with exactly how fcuked we’re all going to be when the apocalypse happens unless we’re titular survivalist Ed Stafford.
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
- First up, a video which you won’t watch for more than about a minute but which I guarantee will mesmerise you - this is a FULL HOUR of made-up celebrity faces, created by a neural network - that’s right, each of these faces has been MADE UP BY A COMPUTER. It’s absolutely incredible and compelling and quite scary - if you look closely you’ll see that they are just a *touch* off-kilter, but a passing glance would convince you they were possibly actual, real, F-list famouses. I give it 3 years til someone coins an actual psychological condition which describes the mental state whereby the sufferer is honestly incapable of determining whether something is real or false:
2) Next up, there was probably a time about a decade ago when the Go! Team were one of the coolest bands on the planet and then they sort of vanished - this is their new single and it is SO FUN. It’s happy and chirpy and somehow not irritating in the slightest, and has cheered me RIGHT up this morning - perhaps it’ll work for you too. It’s called ‘Semicircle Song’:
3) I’ve never been a particular fan of The War on Drugs (insert your own lame pothead gag here if you so desire), but this is a cracking song and the video, in which a woman and her tree-man-friend go on a bit of a journey together, is charming. This is called ‘Nothing to Find’:
4) This is brilliant. It’s called ‘Wormhole’ and it’s by Powell and it’s all glitchy and skittery and like a 2017 version of early rave and the video is basically just a Friday night in middle-England with some surreal illustrative flourishes and it captures the desperate need to HAVE FUN and the ridiculous ways in which people fail and it’s basically video art is what I’m saying here:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! Curios favourite Elro is back with a new track and an EXCELLENT video for it - very nicely done, and fits with the rather dark tone of the song. Elro’s not the only person rapping about not being well, fine, but his honesty sets him apart imho. This is called “Me, Myself & I” and if it resonates then, y’know, hold tight and talk to someone:
8) Last up this week, this is by Flying Lotus and it’s called Post-Requisite and the track’s a nice instrumental and all but it’s the cut-up collage video here which I love - enjoy this, it is BRILLIANTLY done, and have a good weekend and I LOVE YOU ALL and bye and maybe not see you next week, depending, but don’t forget about me I need you bye bye bye:
Matt Muir is interested in lots of different things, and as a result rather likes the internet. Web Curios is a weekly(ish) snapshot of what he has found interesting this week. You can find Matt on Twitter, where he's quite good. In his spare time, Matt tries to ignore the web as much as is humanly possible (not very much, it turns out).