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Friday 06 January 2017

Web Curios 06/01/17

And so it begins again. We return to our pens, fattened, bovine and docile after a fortnight’s enjoyment of the illusory promise of freedom, ready to once more face the uncertain future with a faltering smile and the deep-yet-unspoken hope that maybe this year will be the one in which it all just stops, just for a second.

But it won’t be. In fact, it’s all going to get faster and busier and more congested, more thick and clotted with signals and information and data and ephemera and news and anger and frustration. So, you know, deal with it. But don’t worry! Web Curios - part of the problem, definitely not part of the solution - will be here to hold your hand through what promises to be a truly interesting twelve months (in the most Chinese of senses).

Strap up, then, buckle in, and ready yourself as we start the long, slow descent into the very bowels of the information beast. IT IS ALL PROBABLY GOING TO BE FINE.

This is Web Curios.

 

NB: A NOTE FROM IMPERICA

My lovely publishers are launching an online magazine and are looking for writers. If you have a piece to pitch - topics generally within the broad theme of ‘contemporary culture, tech and the web’ will all be considered - then drop them a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. They will pay for published work, which isn’t to be sniffed at in this day and age. Also, rest assured that you don’t need to affect the same tedious air of ennui that infects all my prose, so don’t fret.

By Amy Sillman

 

WHY NOT KICK OFF THE NEW YEAR BY LISTENING TO THE FAREWELL TO OBAMA CONCERT AT THE WHITE HOUSE AND SHEDDING A TEAR?

THE SECTION WHICH SUGGESTS THAT IF YOU STARTED 2017 WITH ANY SHREDS OF HOPE OR OPTIMISM ABOUT THE HORRORSHOW WHICH IS YOUR ‘CAREER’ IN SOCIAL MEDIA YOU READ THIS AND REALISE THAT EVERYTHING IS STILL AWFUL AND IS ONLY LIKELY TO GET WORSE:

  • Facebook Launches Live Audio: Or, as it’s known to the older and more staid among us, ‘radio’. That’s right - you can now share a live audio broadcast of...well...whatever you like, frankly, over Facebook, which will then live on as an archived audio file on the platform, much like broadcasting live video. Not quite available to everyone yet, but coming soon, there are LOTS of interesting potential executions for this - if nothing else, I look forward to the emergence of amateur football commentators using this to stream audio live from matches across the country, or maybe comedians doing live commentary on EVENT TV and stuff - actually that last one’s not a bad idea; nick it, someone.

  • You Can Now Save Posts On Instagram: In a rare move, Instagram has decided to copy Pinterest’s functionality for a change rather than Snapchat’s - in any case, The Great Platform Consolidation shows no sign of abating in 2017. Users can now ‘save’ Instagram posts from accounts the follow, effectively letting anyone create scrapbooks of their favourite ‘grams to go back and browse later. Whilst this is in theory the sort of thing which can and should be exploited by brands with a shoppable Instagram experience - encourage people to save things in their feed in the hope that they’ll go back and buy your pointless crap later on - it will instead be in the main used by thirsty masturbators who will build up collections of cheesecake bikini/underwear shots with which to stimulate themselves to a bitter, dusty climax. I have, as you can tell, begun 2017 in quite the cheery frame of mind.

  • You Can Now Shoot 360-degree Video In Periscope: Anything FB Live Video can do, so can Twitter - later, yes, and on a platform noone really seems quite to know what to do with, but still. Beautifully, this is a feature which only works in conjunction with a particular bit of kit - an Insta360 camera attachment, since you ask - which means the likelihood of it ever getting proper traction is almost 0, but, you know, well done, Twitter, for keeping up. Sort-of.

  • Blue Ticks Appearing In The Feed: In the latest attempt to stop the spread of FAKE NEWS everywhere, Twitter is moving to show which accounts are verified in the Tweetstream - users who’ve attained the exalted status will have their ticks displayed in-feed alongside their usernames, thereby showing all other users that their words are nothing but the unvarnished truth. Will be interesting to see whether this has any impact on INFLUENCE, but may be a reason to bother going through the minor rigmarole of getting yourself verified (you appalling narcissist).

  • Vine Getting Killed On 17 January: I think that, for generations to come, the resulting Vine archive is going to prove a really rather surreal snapshot of the early years of the third millennium. NOT A PREDICTION BECAUSE I PROMISED I WASN’T DOING THOSE ANY MORE: by the end of 2017, someone somewhere will be embarked upon a project to make some sort of longform piece of film out of the graveyard of 6-second loops we’ll be left with. In fact, someone really ought to be given the job of tagging and taxonomising all the Vines ever made - if anyone wants to pay me a violent amount of money to do this, I am TOTALLY up for it, fyi.

  • Comme Des Garcons Black Pepper: It’s good to know that in the ever-changing we’re forced to endure some things remain constant - to whit, the ability of perfume houses to waste money on shiny-yet-totally-pointless websites. This is a VERY early contender for most bafflingly rubbish web experience of 2017 - take a tour through the 4 ingredients which shape the new Black Pepper scent by CdG! Click to experience the fragrance (it’s a website and so has no smell)! Journey through ‘episodes’ exploring the various base-and-top notes contained within the scent! Occasionally click your mouse! Discover what happens WHEN THE TONKA SOFTENS! This is wholly ridiculous, but, you know, well done to the webshop which got these idiots to pay for this (very shiny) piece of crap.

 

By Danny Rowton

 

NEXT UP, WHY NOT GIVE FICTIONAL MEMBER OF GORILLAZ NOODLE’S MIX OF AWESOME WOMEN A GO?

THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT HOLDING CES IN JANUARY WHEN WE ARE ALL FEELING EMOTIONALLY A BIT FCUKED AND VULNERABLE IS A CRUEL, CRUEL TRICK TO PLAY ON A POPULACE STILL REELING AND BANJAXED FROM THE HORRORS OF 2016, pt.1:

  • Bullsh1t Products of CES: Not all of them, obviously; that would be IMPOSSIBLE. That said, this article is keeping track of some of the more preposterous things being presented in Vegas this week, from smart trainers to a fridge that can smell your food to see if it’s safe to eat, for all the anosmia sufferers out there. As yet noone appears to have invented technology which can sense the tears of fear and frustration coursing down my cheeks as I contemplate how none of this stuff is going to get any better, but maybe next year.

  • Drone Sweaters: Some of you may well have received a drone as part of your Christmas haul this year, you LUCKY things. Have you stopped to consider its well-being, though? To think how it feels about being hurled into the cold January air with nary a thought for its wellbeing and comfort? Of course you haven’t, you heartless wretch; still, it’s not too late to invest in a hand-knitted piece of warm clothing for your flying plastic companion, so, you know, GET TO IT. I rather love this.

  • Listeners: If one of your resolutions this year was to listen to a wider variety of new music, much of it drawn from a selection of tracks which are being listened to by a bunch of Central European strangers, then this website is TAILOR-MADE for you (and even if you unaccountably failed to make that one of your soon-to-be-broken promises to yourself, it’s still pretty good). To quote its maker: “This project started on facebook as a group called 'Listeners Playlist' where my friends shared their favorite music with one another. This inspired me to create an independant website where an arhive with all the music that is shared in the group. Hence you are seeing now.” So there. This is actually really rather nice, not least the design/build, and I’ve heard a lot of good stuff through it this week.

  • Chord Progression Arpeggiator: Oh my this is fun. Fiddle with the settings - chords played, key, BPM, etc - and let this website generate some brilliant sounds. I lost myself for about 10 minutes when I first discovered it, and was pretty much convinced I was a musical genius by the end of that time; you too can experience that feeling of temporary elation.

  • A Map of Disputed Territories: If you want a quick reminder of just how fun 2017 could end up being, click this link and spend a brief moment contemplating all the flashpoints which could blow up in the coming months. Sobering-but-interesting, this gives brief descriptions of the reasons behind the border conflicts which is useful if, like me, you don’t actually know anywhere near as much about geopolitics as you’d like other people to think.

  • Zoom Through Art: So actually this is called the Google Arts & Culture t-SNE Map, but you’d never click on that title. In any case, this is another wonderful piece of work from the people at Google Arts & Culture, presenting pieces from over 600 collections worldwide in a crazy, navigate-and-zoomable interface. It’s an example - I think, they’re sketchy on details - on Google’s ability to auto-taxonomise stuff based on visual affinity; you can see that pieces collected here are arranged in distinct groups based on what they depict (animals, armour, nudes, etc), which aside from making it fun to navigate is also rather seriously impressive. This is a very soothing thing to play with for 5 minutes, FYI, should you still need to wash the taste of CES from your mouths.

  • Learn How Now: Teaching via livestreaming, basically. You can sign up to this site to receive live instruction on...er...stuff, from experts; similarly, you can also sign up to be an expert and do the teaching, and earn money from so doing. No idea what the likely takeup of this is going to be - the idea itself isn’t a terrible one, but the pricing structure’s what always seems to screw these things; going rate for a class seems to be around £15 for an hour-long session, which feels like a lot to pay for someone monging around on a webcam at you but which is obviously sod-all income for an hour of an instructor’s time. Still, if you want to spunk £10 on watching someone give you a tea-brewing masterclass over the internet then BOY are you in the right place.

  • Cinemetal Tshirts: Should you have spent the festive period bemoaning the lack of tshirts in your wardrobe featuring the names of iconic film directors rendered as band logos then consider this your salvation. You will all know at least one person who would probably really appreciate one of these - it’s up to you whether you decide to cut them out of your life in 2017, but, you know, it’s a thought.

  • Sketchar: An app (I know! People still make those! How quaint!) which uses basic AR tech to help you trace stuff. No, really, that’s it. You hold your phone over a sheet of paper, the app shows you said sheet of paper with a design projected onto it, you trace the outline of said shape onto said sheet of paper and, hey presto, you done a draw! What’s really interesting here is the hololens integration, which suddenly opens up the possibility of all sorts of genuinely appalling Changing Rooms-style bits of ill-advised domestic mural painting.

  • Still File: A series of actual photos shot so as to look exactly like the sort of 3d CG renders which desperately lonely teenage boys like me used to get excited about when flipping through the pages of 90s computing mags. Niche-but-impressive.

  • What Facebook Sees: A really smart little Chrome extension which, when installed, will show you what Facebook thinks is in every photo posted to the network. To explain, Facebook’s got an awful lot of image recognition tech baked in which we mostly don’t see - this strips away the artifice and shows you the tags which FB automatically applies to uploaded pictures, based on what it thinks the photo shows. You’ll see terms such as ‘outside’, ‘smiling’, ‘three people’, appear on all photos in your feed, and you will realise that, even if we are not explicitly telling the bastard platform anything it still knows what we are doing and is storing that information so as to better serve us adverts in the future, and you will feel a cold chill down your spine as you begin to realise that that blue speck way behind us is the Rubicon which we crossed a long, long time ago and it’s far too late to go back.

  • Trademark Vision: I got WELL angry about this when I first found it - the promo video which explains how it works describes the people behind this (very clever, I concede) service as being ‘passionate about protecting brands’. CAN EVERYONE STOP USING THE WORD ‘PASSIONATE’ ABOUT SKULLFCUKINGLY TEDIOUS CORPORATE BOLLOCKS, PLEASE? This means you, advermarketingprtwat, with your opening CV guff all about how you’re ‘passionate about communications’ or ‘passionate about enhancing brand value’. Are you really passionate about these things? ARE YOU? I hate you and would happily cover you in papercuts before rolling you in salt and bathing you in lemon juice. Anyway, sorry, what this ACTUALLY is is a service which uses image recognition tech to see whether any registered logos anywhere in the world resemble yours, which is useful if you want to prevent getting sued somewhere down the line. Still, though, passionate. Jesus wept.

  • The Best Of NASA’s Photos From 2016: Because whilst everything down here was a total and utter mess, space continued to look beguilingly calm.

  • Crypto Christmas: Obviously this is HORRIBLY late, but it’s 12th night so I’m just in time I think. I presume that this was dreamed up by someone who thought up ‘The 12 Days of Cryptmas’ and then was so proud of themselves that they had to make this website to go with it; in any case, it’s actually a simple and smart guide to better online security in 12 simple steps, which is worth sharing, despite its soon-to-be-irritating unseasonality, with less-savvy family members who might benefit from some gentle instruction on this sort of stuff.

  • Disney Princesses As Potatoes: I don’t know why, but the idea of small children getting annoyed by this really tickles me for some reason.

  • Quiet Tube: Drag this button to your browser and use it to watch any video on YouTube with all the horror from the comments magically hidden from view, so you can pretend everyone on the web isn’t a dreadful misogynist racist scumbag.

  • Something Concrete And Modern: A excellent blog, this, documenting the architecture which sprang up in the North East in the immediate post-war perid and through the 60s and 70s; if you’re into a bit of brutalism - and WHO ISN’T, right kids? - then this will be catnip to you.

  • Boy Bye Bot: Another year, another burner number service for women to give out to persistent men who won’t take no for an answer. PLEASE CAN SOMEONE REPLICATE THIS IN THE UK PLEASE? If nothing else, I want an anglo equivalent of the conversations here recorded. In fact, wouldn’t it be great to make one of these with lines and conversational gambits sourced from Twitter? Yes, it would, please someone make this now.

  • Fragile Boys: A collection of illustrations of beautiful, slightly androgynous and resolutely un-macho boys, done in the manga/anime style. No real idea who these might appeal to, but I’m sure one of you will enjoy this is some small way.

  • Patents Expiring TODAY: This is it. This is going to be the year that it happens, that you make it big, that you have THE idea that is going to make all the difference to your life and save you from the Sisyphean drudgery of your life. Or, alternatively, you can keep an eye on this site which lists all the patents in the US due to expire and steal any good ideas you find. Up to you, really.

  • Google News Lab Fellowship: If you or anyone you know is an aspiring journalist in the UK, Ireland or indeed a bunch of other countries then this is potentially ACE. I think it’s the second year they’ve run this - applicants pick a news org they’d like to be attached to for the duration of the programme and answer some questions as part of the application process; if selected, they’ll get an 8-week paid placement at said organisation. Participating outlets include the BBC, The Guardian and Trinity Mirror, so it’s PROPER STUFF - deadline for applications is 1 February, so get on it (or tell your friends/kids).

  • Aleppo Before The War: A truly heartbreaking series of photographs showing exactly what 5 years of war does to a city. It’s astounding and not a little depressing to think that as a near-middle-aged man the overwhelming majority of my visual cues for the Middle East involve bombs and rubble.

  • Sametime: I can’t quite understand why people would want to use this, but you may get more out of it than me - Sametime’s a service which lets you set up group text reminders for a bunch of people, so (for example) you can all get messages at the same time telling you to, I don’t know, DO SOME FCUKING EXERCISE or something. Sadly all the really fun trolling options - opting people in to a series of increasingly dark text messages from a fractured mind, for example - appear to have been thought of and nixed in advance, but perhaps you’ll be able to find a fun use for it.

 

By Kristian Jones

 

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT A MASSIVE 4-HOUR MIX OF VIDEOGAME MUSIC FROM LAST YEAR? GREAT, I BET!

THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT HOLDING CES IN JANUARY WHEN WE ARE ALL FEELING EMOTIONALLY A BIT FCUKED AND VULNERABLE IS A CRUEL, CRUEL TRICK TO PLAY ON A POPULACE STILL REELING AND BANJAXED FROM THE HORRORS OF 2016, pt.2:

  • The Donald Trump Archive #1: It doesn’t say much good about the Presidential prospects of The Donald that this exists and that it’s an important resource; this site provides a searchable archive of the man’s speeches, Tweets, TV appearances and the like, designed to allow interested parties to quickly and easily point to any contradictions and inconsistencies in the Presidential position. Which is all fine, had it not been conclusively proven throughout the course of the electoral process that contradictions and inconsistencies simply don’t seem to matter to the US electorate. So, you know, enjoy talking to yourselves about all this stuff, ‘liberal elites’, because noone else cares. Oh dear.

  • The Donald Trump Archive #2: This one’s of video - TV appearances, presidential debates and associated stuff, all preserved on the Internet Archive should you wish to wallow in the horror of what the next 4 years are going to be like.

  • The Obama Archive: By way of contrast, this is the White House’s own archiving of the social media presence of the outgoing administration. A genuine first - after all, pre-Obama there was no such thing as Presidential social media - and a fascinating record of how his team used digital communications. BONUS OBAMA ARCHIVE: ALL OF THE OBAMA GIFS, EVER. Just look at these and take a moment to curse America’s mandatory two-term Presidential limit.

  • Developer Sites of the Year: A collection of some really rather gorgeous webwork from around the world. Slightly smug to be able to say that several of these have been featured on Curios in the past year, not that anyone other than me will remember OH GOD WHY AM I CONDEMNED NEVER TO FORGET ANY OF THE BASTARD WEBSPAFF THAT CROSSES MY EYES???

  • Notch: No, not the fedora-wearing neckbeard weirdo who invented Minecraft but instead a system which lets you mocap yourself using a bunch of sensors and your phone. Not technically available yet but COMING SOON, Notch basically involves you sticking sensors to key points on your body; these send data to your phone, which then creates a model of your movements based on data from said sensors. Which if you’re an athlete of same description wanting to analyse your performance is probably quite useful, I would imagine, and which I’m sure will give you the opportunity to include an avatar of yourself in games at some point in the not-too-distant future, and which (and I’m sorry to have to share this thought with you but I need to get it out of my head before it festers) will also almost certainly be used to mocap people fcuking for the purposes of slightly weird CGI bongo. I mean, it will, won’t it? Oh, this is another thing which fulfils the same purpose, should you be in the market for one.

  • ASMRion: A little website which lets users create their own ASMR-inducing soundscape from a collection of looping samples, including rustling leaves, popping bubble-wrap and the like. Worked for me, though as ever with ASMR your tingle-mileage may vary. This is a HUGE market for headphone manufacturers to exploit, if you ask me - should Sennheiser wish to employ me for a violently-inflated consultancy fee, I am WELL up for it FYI.

  • Birdsearch: This is the Macauley Library of Ornithology. It contains photos and audio recordings of what looks like every bird in the world ever. YOU’RE WELCOME, TWITCHERS.

  • Bernie Sanders’ Big Printed Tweet: Add your own, for a meme which is already past its sell-by date.

  • Sony N: This is interesting; what I think is prototypical / concept tech only at the moment, N is a project by Sony which looks to create a non-intrusive wearable which allows for delivery of information by audio leaving the user free to look around and interact with their environment rather than being fixed on a fcuking screen. The idea is that the tech sits around your neck, with sensors and small speakers meaning it can deliver contextually relevant information to the wearer through localised, directional audio without being obtrusive. This stuff is fascinating, as is this piece on the broader trend towards ‘hearables’ (sorry, but) - lots of interesting potential here I think.

  • Artfinder Emma: A Twitter bot by Artfinder which, if you tweet an image at it will respond with a selection of other images from its archives which have common elements with yours. Which is nice.

  • Athelas: This is pretty scifi. Athelas is a piece of kit which you can keep in your home and which lets you analyse your blood WHENEVER YOU WANT. Fancy taking a quick look at your white blood cell count? GREAT! Perfect for hypochondriacs, and exactly the sort of thing which will do nothing at all to reassure those who already believe that we are hurtling towards a future in which the rich will get to be basically immortal whilst the rest of us povvos sit around counting our tumours.

  • MRNG: I thought we’d brought vowels back to startupland in 2016, but turns out we’re ditching them again this year - it’s so hard to keep up! MRNG is an app which basically adds a Tinder-style interface (remember when those were the new hotness?) to your email, letting you swipe left to delete, right to save, up to archive and down to mark as ‘read’, which may or may not sound like a good idea depending on how dreadful you are at email.

  • Thrinacia: I can’t help but look at this and think of it being used solely for dodgy applications, but maybe I’m just cynical (HEAVEN FORFEND!). Thrinacia provides a set of software tools which let anyone set up their own crowdfunding platform - presumably for anyone whose request for monies is too criminal, immoral or shady-seeming for Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Patreon to consider. Perhaps we should add one of these to Curios? PAY ME MONEY AND I WILL STOP DOING THIS TO YOU.

  • Ruffit: A backpack for you to put your dog in. You dreadful, dreadful person.

  • Pixie: Do you remember a few years back there was a vogue for sensors you could stick on things - your phone, your keyfob, etc - which would let you track their position so you could find them down the back of the sofa? Well this is like that, but with an extra layer of augmented reality to let you ACTUALLY SEE where the thing is on your phone. To be honest, you could probably persuade small children that finding lost stuff is FUN using this, which probably makes it a worthwhile purchase for those of you with kids.

  • The Harbin Ice & Snow Festival: Some pretty wonderful photos of ice and snow sculptures from this year’s festival in China, which opened yesterday. LOOK AT THE MENTAL PEOPLE SWIMMING IN A POOL CARVED OUT OF ICE. Just imagine their nipples.

  • The Brand Haiku: Tweeting haiku every day, created using brand names. Not sure if these are composed by a person or by a bot, but I like them in any case.

  • The Best Lego Models of the Year: These are just WONDERFUL, and will almost certainly have some of you inventing ‘fun’ projects for you to torment your children with for the next few weekends.

  • Yo Tengo Nombre: This is heartbreaking - the site is “a searchable, bilingual database created by the Texas Observer for families to identify loved ones who perished in Texas after crossing the border. This visual resource comprises basic forensic information about the migrants as well as photos of personal belongings found with their remains. The goal of the project is to help families, activists, government officials and others facilitate the identification of migrants.” So, so poignant. Still, he’ll build a wall!

  • Willow: Willow is a smart breast pump, which actually, all my scoffing and snark about IoT stuff and CES idiocy aside, seems like rather a smart piece of design; the kit is built to be hands-free, meaning it can be work whilst doing other things, and it tracks how much you’ve expressed and all the other data around lactation you could possibly imagine. Those of you who are currently pregnant might want to sign up for updates on this, as it is coming ‘SOON’.

  • All Of Westworld Recut Into A Single Timeline: Just in case you found it TOO CONFUSING in its original cut (you idiot dullard).

  • All Of The Fcuks Of 2016: An analysis of all of the instances of the word ‘fcuk’ on Twitter in 2016. Unsurprisingly we reached peak fcuk on that awful day in November, but my favourite bit of this is how many people seemed to want to ‘fcuk Andrew’ last year - WHO IS ANDREW? WHAT DID HE DO?

  • Open Source Vibrator: Are you a developer? Would you like to play around with teledildonics code to create some sort of terrifying frankendildo powered by Tweets? Imagine, you could set it up so as to only work when Trump tweets, thereby inextricably linking the sexual gratification of a user with the ill-considered musings of the President elect. WHAT COULD BE BETTER? Seriously, the possibilities here - just you WAIT for the Tinder integration (this will totally happen - a buzz every time someone swipes right on your profile, etc etc).

  • The Heng Balance Lamp: A really nice and unusual bit of design on this Kickstarter project, now funded, which I am including almost solely because of the line in its description ‘Are you bored of traditional ways to switch lamps on or off?’ HOW DID THEY SEE SO DEEP INTO MY SOUL???

  • The 404 Error Gallery: A selection of imagined 404 pages, as part of a lovely little webart project - have a browse around, some of these are ACE (my favourite, fwiw).

  • Hipster Clothes For Dolls: Are you the sort of ‘grown-up’ who has a collection of lifelike, fully-articulated 6” toy people you like to dress up? Would you like the opportunity to spend £50+ on bespoke clothing for said toys, clothing which mimics the very outfits by Supreme and the like that you may well have in your wardrobe? You disgust me.

  • Every Day Home Alone: A Facebook Page which each day will post exactly 17.1 seconds of the film Home Alone for you to enjoy.

  • Perifit: I was in the car with a friend of mine who’s recently had a kid the other week, and her phone kept beeping away with notifications which she seemed to be ignoring; when I mentioned this to her, she explained it was actually just an app reminding her to do her kegels - this led to a slightly awkward moment, but we got through it and will probably never speak of it again. Anyway, this looks like a LOADS better way of making sure you don’t wet yourself every time you take a post-partum sneeze; Perifit is a SMART KEGEL TRAINER! As far as I can tell, it not only tracks your progress in the manner of all IoT devices ever, it also lets you play a knock-off version of Flappy Bird simply by squeezing your vagina. WHO DOESN’T WANT THAT?

  • Tiny Heist: This is a great game and an excellent way of wasting the last few hours of this, the most miserable of working weeks (until next week).

 

By Moises Saman

 

LAST UP FOR THE MIXES, HOW’S ABOUT A FUNK, SOUL AND HIPHOP SELECTION? GREAT!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:

  • Irish Election Rides: Collecting and presenting photos of Irish politicians looking reasonably attractive, for politicians. Odd.

  • Marvel Title Pages: Literally that - a collection of title pages from Marvel comics through the years. A wonderful repository of comic art, regardless of your devotion to Marvel stuff.

  • Spicy England: I love this - it is so WONDERFULLY pointless. Someone, no idea who, is looking at where spicy foods produced in the UK are packaged or manufactured, looking the addresses up on Google Streetview and presenting pictures of unprepossessing industrial estate warehouses on this Tumblr. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS, UNKNOWN MAN (as ever, I don’t know the gender here but it’s pretty unlikely this is the work of a woman I reckon)?

  • The Kids Should See This: Unhelpfully this showed up AFTER Christmas - nonetheless, this is a great repository of gift ideas for kids which is worth bookmarking if you are likely to need inspiration at some point in the next 12 months (or, you know, just buy them improving books and tell them to lump it).

  • Inspirational Mandarin: Inspirational quotes in Mandarin. Just that.

  • Neomechanica: An awesome collection of cyberpunktechanimemecha-type illustrations and gifs and graphics - SO good.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • Stuff We Got Stuck In Our Bums Last Year: I don’t mean to start on a puerile note, but, well, this is TOO GOOD not to include. It’s not particularly long, but I guarantee that you will ABSOLUTELY be sending this to people you know or posting it on Facebook (it’s ok, I won’t judge you). This is a list of stuff that people in the US got stuck in themselves last year, according to hospital records; reader, you WILL wince. As an aside, a guy I went to university with is now a doctor and once told me that he had to remove an actual electrical plug (UK, not US or EU) from someone’s bottom once. Take a moment to consider the shape and dimensions of a UK plug. Well quite.

  • The Best Bad Restaurant Review of 2016: A collection of wonderful hatchet jobs compiled by Eater, including a couple of absolute belters by Jay Rayner and the sort of chilly dissection which the New York Times does so well. Wonderful prose on display here, particularly if you’re the sort of person whose first act on a weekend is to read the food reviews.

  • Learning To Hear On A Cardboard Piano: A beautiful piece, created as part of a prisoners’ creative writing project for inmates of a prison just outside Chicago. Its author, serving an unspecified sentence for an unspecified crime, talks about teaching himself to play the piano using a keyboard he made for himself out of cardboard - the sort of thing which ought to be mawkish and sentimental but really isn’t at all.

  • Peretti To His Staff: Jonah Peretti really is an irritatingly clever person. As the Buzzfeed juggernaut continues to lay waste to all before it and seems set to provide the dominant model for digital media for the foreseeable future, Peretti sent out his annual missive to staffers setting out his vision for the company’s next year; if you work in, or have an interest in, digital media, this is pretty much essential reading - very smart.

  • What Scientific Concepts Deserve To Be Better Known in 2017?: Each year, science magazine Edge asks a bunch of renowned thinkers the same question and presents their answers - this year, they asked a seriously impressive collection of people which scientific concepts should be better known in 2017. The answers are honestly fascinating - there are over 200 here, but I encourage you to have a bit of a wander through them as you will learn LOADS; the one about the second law of thermodynamics was particular good imho.

  • Gun Violence and Radical Empathy: This piece documents a project whereby people affected by gun violence - whether shooting victims, their families or other - are brought together with hard proponents of the right to bear arms in an attempt to bridge the (seeminly intractable) gulf of opinion which divides them. One of those articles which is simultaneously sort of heartening and incredibly depressing - also, though, very powerful indeed.

  • Alan Yentob: This profile of Alan Yentob is from last year and was in the Guardian, so you may well have seen it aready; if not, though, it is a WONDERFUL portrait of a very British sort of liberal intellect, and, as much if not moreso, of the BBC as a whole and how, for better or worse, it’s not really a place for Yentobs any more.

  • Alan Bennett on 2016: Extracts from Bennett’s 2016 diaries, which, whilst I appreciate the need to look forward rather than staring shocked at the steaming wreckage of last year, make for oddly comforting reading. I really want Alan Bennett to be my grandfather, which is impossible for a range of reasons but.

  • What Makes Things Cool?: A really interesting look at the history of advermarketing, and the psychology behind how we get sold stuff we don’t need and have no idea we want. May well be Mad Men 101 to lots of you, but much of this was stuff I hadn’t read before.

  • Death On The Hippie Trail: Brilliant piece of travel writing, this, on the disappearance and death of a young man travelling around the Himalayas, the strange role of the sadhu in traveller culture, and the peculiar, liminal existence that long-term travellers after meaning often seem to find themselves in. Really good, this, and sort of creepy in a wonderfully detached and icy sense.

  • Being Billy Bob: No idea AT ALL how I missed this last year, but this profile of Billy Bob Thornton in GQ is just stellar. The tone is wonderful, both mocking and sort of affectionate, and there is just SO much wonderful Hollywood madness buried in here. The bit about My Little Pony is almost certainly my favourite interview anecdote of the past 12 months.

  • The WELL 2017: In what is now a Web Curios tradition, here’s the link to this year’s discussion about the state of the world between Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky, compiled from their chatlogs. Smart, witty, funny and scary in equal measure, this is a brilliant insight into two very clever people parsing out where they think the world is headed - so much good stuff on politics and tech and the web and pretty much everything else that matters besides.

  • The Murakami Effect: A fascinating essay about the effect that Haruki Murakami’s international success has had on the manner in which Japanese literature is written and structured - effectively asserting that the stylistic elements which render his prose so effective in translation to English have been adopted by other writers to the detriment of Japanese literature overall. Really, really interesting.

  • Alone Forever: Heartbreaking essay in which the author examines her, and others’, attitudes to the fact she will likely be single for the rest of her life. Honest and sort of brutal and not an easy read at all, but very well-written indeed.

  • Cassandra: On womanhood and 2016 and female power and agency, this is short, smart, funny and wonderfully written - really very good indeed, and a beautiful conceit to boot.

  • Revenge: Finally this week, a truly outstanding piece of poetry which you could do worse than share with any US liberals you know - hell of a rallying cry, this. Superb - read it.

 

By Stefan Burnett

 

AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:

1) Here is Web Curios’ Happy New Year message. Enjoy:

2) I don’t really understand why this hasn’t got billions of views - it’s Life on Earth, it’s got an Attenborough v/o, it lets you experience being an urban fox in 360-o-vision...what’s not to love?:

3) Welcome back to the KLF! Or not! Who knows?! Whatever the actual truth of it all, THINGS are stirring somewhere in Mu Mu land - this is the 40-minute docuthingy which appeared on the web earlier this week and sparked all the interest; it’s basically a bit like a very specific Adam Curtis doc made by someone very, very stoned, and I say that as very high praise indeed:

4) This is by Max Cooper, it’s called ‘Order From Chaos’, and is both a brilliant clicky electro track and the most satisfying music video you will see all week. The animation here is SO pleasing, I can’t stress enough quite how joyous it is to watch:

5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! There are loads of reasons for me to hate this - the fact that he spells his name Kamakaze, the fact that the track’s called ‘Year of the Kamdog’ (I mean, really) - but turns out that this is a cracking tune; the production is just ace (not enough xylophones in hiphop if you ask me), and the visuals are really welcome change from your standard LDNGRIME fare:

6) Relatively lean video pickings in this first week of 2017, so we’ll close out with this compilation of Shardcore’s Glitch News Network bot - this is ALL of the news of 2016, glitched and clipped together into one whole seething mess of information. Another of those ‘if I were having a particular sort of party I would totally put this on a big screen on a loop to fcuk with people’ things - it’s wonderfully mad and sinister. BYE EVERYONE HAPPY FIRST WEEKEND OF THE YEAR BYE!:

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