THE SECTION WHICH IS MOSTLY JUST GLAD THAT PEPSI APOLOGISED TO POOR KENDALL:
You Can Now Search Stories On Snapchat: Snapchat’s in-app discovery is still a total car-crash when it comes to actually finding people you know, or want to interact with, or indeed anything at all, but they have now introduced the opportunity for users to search among Stories (at least those posted publicly to Snapchat’s ‘Our Stories’ channel); there’s something compelling about being able to cycle through the little human vignettes, and I say that as someone who has as little truck with Snapchat as possible. Of course, we all know what search means, right? AD OPPORTUNITIES! This is going to spin out into bidding to appear top in search for keyword x, and there is NOTHING we can do to stop it. Not that we want to - we love adverts here at Web Curios, and you’d be a fool to think otherwise.
New ACTUAL Snapchat Ad Offerings: It’s offering App Install ads - that is, targeting at people who the service thinks are likely to install your app - and targeting of people who have previously interacted with one of your ads. Which is all well and good, but there’s still appalling demographic info and the ad units are still violently expensive and, you know, tracking and conversion stuff is at best patchy, but YOU GET TO ADVERTISE AT YOUNG PEOPLE, and, despite the fact that they have no money to actually buy anything, the ad industry continues to fetishise them in a way which, frankly, is a bit creepy.
Say Hello To Facebook’s ‘M’!: Or don’t - after all, it’s just a Messenger Bot and won’t care at all. This is ‘M’ - the virtial assistant which Facebook has been trialling for a couple of years(ish) now with people in the Bay Area and which was at its inception an odd sort of chimerical hybrid of human intelligence and machine automation but which at its launch to the public is, as far as I can tell, basically a bot version of that fcuking Clippy assistant from mid-90s Word, popping up in your Messenger converstations to suggest Gifs you can include in your chat, or to exhort you to get an Uber or Lyft...obviously the interesting / coming thing here is its suggestion of context-relevant products or services, and how it decides whose offerings to pimp - here’s a thought, do you reckon it will be more likely to recommend stuff from brands or companies that have paid a lot of money to Facebook? NEVER! This is US-only at the moment, but expect it to be rolled out in other English language territories soon; does, er, anyone else find the fact that they just seem to be basically announcing that this will read ALL your conversations on Messenger from hereon in a touch on the creepy side? No? WAKE UP SHEEPLZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
A Free Version of Facebook At Work Is On Its Way: No idea as to when, but worth keeping an eye out for as I still think it has the potential to be a really useful internal comms platform when you remove the steep fees that they charged at launch.
FB Testing New Newsfeed: Because it’s FAR too hard to have stuff that you don’t necessarily like or care about spaffed in front of your field of vision online, Facebook is testing an alternative Newsfeed, sitting alongside the standard ‘rubbish from people you are friends with and Pages you ‘like’’ version, which will instead feed you ‘interesting stuff we think you will be interested in which comes from Pages you have never actually expressed an interest in’. Yes, that’s right, ANOTHER POTENTIAL AD CHANNEL!. No clear indication at present as to how this might play out - or indeed if it’s ever going to go beyond a test phase - but, you know, it’s ‘news’.
Facebook Has FIXED Fake News: They haven’t, of course - here’s a novel idea, maybe it behooves the consumer to actually apply some small degree of critical analysis to stuff they’re told rather than hoovering everything up like some sort of bovine infosponge? - but they’s said some stuff about how, you know, they will be CRACKING DOWN on this sh1t. Details are pretty sketchy, and there’s no implication here for advermarketingprdrones, and it’s 726 and I already feel like this is slipping away from me, so let’s crack on and talk of it no more.
WhatsApp Set To Launch Payments In India: Just FYI really, and a convenient reminder that if you’re working in/on a payments business you’ve got a pretty finite window before the big boys absolutely screw your pooch, so to speak.
Twitter Has Fixed Harrassment!: HA! NO IT HASN’T! Although accounts without a profile picture won’t have egg avatars anymore, they’ll have generic human silhouettes; which, frankly, didn’t strike me as THE biggest problem with Twitter when it comes to people being vile, but THEY KNOW BEST! (I am increasingly of the opinion that noone at Twitter knows best).
New Twitter APIs Launched: Look, I’ve never pretended to be an engineer or developer or whatever, so don’t expect me to be able to explain what all this stuff is actually about. There’s stuff in here about being able to do more stuff with DMs, and about them having “launched the Account Activity API, which provides access to real-time events for accounts you own or manage, with delivery via webhooks.” Exciting, eh? God, I am such a dumb marketing drone.
Businesses Can Now Ask Customers To Share Their Location In DMs: Which, from a customer service point of view, is quite useful if you have physical stores and the like; imagine the easy ability to direct people to their nearest store, or, using it as a way to help breakdown engineers reach people in their cars. Potentially useful.
Twitter Lite: Ignore the spelling - this is a new version of Twitter which is designed for people with crappy connectivity. No brand implications that I can see, but I had a play with it and it’s quite a lot smoother to use than the standard app so you might find it worth a look.
Amazon Does ‘Influencer’ Stuff: This is basically just an extension of the standard Amazon Affiliates programme, whereby anyone can get commission on stuff that gets sold on Amazon through links from their webpage - the difference is this is a slightly shinier version, available by application only to people deemed INFLUENCERS by Bezos and his terrifying drone army. Worth being aware of if you’re trying to use a famous to flog your tat, though no indication as to how long it will take to get to the UK.
ALL OF THE APRIL FOOL’S GAGS!: Whisper it, but it feels slightly like this year might have seen the beginning of the end - or at least a slight lessening - of the dead-eyed, humour-free adcuntpalooza that has been branded April Fool’s gags. We’re all just too tired and sort of dazed by everything to be able to parse any of this stuff, and frankly we’re being lied to by everyone on an hourly basis and could do without a fcuking biscuit brand adding to the confusion. Anyway, here are all the BRAND LOLS from the US, and here are all the UK variants (I presume PR Week is throwing some shade here with its reference to ‘creative flair’ in the url).
What Google Thinks Kids Think Is Cool: The most pilloried thing in advermarketingprland this week until Pepsi happened and buried it under an avalanche of woke, this is Google’s report into what THE KIDS are into in 2017, which cause the Steve Buscemi meme to become so ubiquitous that it really should be retired for a while. It’s worth pointing out exactly HOW bad this is, though - from the title (“It’s Lit!” - is it, Google? Is it?) to the casually-included statistic which suggests that 42% of Gen Z is on Google+ (YES MATE YES THEY ARE), this is a pretty clear example of why you shouldn’t publish a bunch of claims based on a sample size of 1,000.
That Pepsi Farrago: Look, it’s DONE - but in case you missed it, the Indy’s takedown is very good, as is the New Statesman’s, but both of them pale before the (predictable) brilliance of McSweeney’s. Oh, and in case you missed it, this longread from a couple of months back seems eerily prescient in the light of this sh1tshow.
Impossible Fortress: From what I can tell, Impossible Fortress is a book which has seen Ready Player One and thought ‘yes, the world needs another one of these so let’s channel every single little bit of fan-fulfilment 80s pop/nerd culture nostalgia into a cash-in tonal ripoff so blatant that it’s almost a touch embarrassing’, but they have made a really rather good 8-bit browser game as part of the promo campaign so all is forgiven.
The Fedex Soundtrack: Fedex have just officially killed the ‘hey, let’s turn DATA into MUSIC’ thing - you can now turn your FedEx tracking number into MUSIC! Actually I’m being a bit unfair - the site’s pretty, the visualisation of the package’s journey is nicely done and the music’s actually not bad, and there are plenty of cues for users to sign up with the brand thereby making it all TRACKABLE and MEASURABLE and stuff, - but who has ever thought “I want to spend 8 minutes of my life logging on to a website and entering in an alphanumeric string in order to hear some algorithmically-generated plinking based on some logistical data”? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO.
The Poop Troop: There were yoghurts when I was a kid - and, turns out, also nowadays - which were called ‘Munch Bunch’ and had cheery anthropomorphised fruit mascots all over the packaging. Now imagine if instead of humanoid fruit designed to sell you edible bacteria you were instead confronted with humanoid faeces designed to educated you about chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) - wouldn’t that be fun? Well IMAGINE NO LONGER, as here come THE POOP TROOP! This is...just amazing, really. It’s basically a series of stickers/gifs which are designed to be used...no, sorry, I have literally no idea as to the use case for this. “Brings to life multiple types of bowel movements and some of the associated emotions with each”, it says! “Use the series to determine treatment goals and have a more productive dialogue with your doctor”. Really? Would you be LESS embarrassed introducing your doctor to ‘Clogged Chris’ rather than saying ‘Doctor, I am having trouble defecating’? Special mention here to whoever thought that it was necessary to add a hashtag to this campaign - I can really see #confrontconstipation being used ALL OVER the web.
By Angela Dean
THE SECTION WHICH IS GOING TO GO OUT ON A LIMB HERE AND SUGGEST THAT MASTODON IS NOT GOING TO KILL TWITTER, PT.1:
Mastodon: Right, let’s get this out of the way now - apologies, it might take a *little* explaining. Mastodon is a Twitter clone, whose main selling points are its open sourceness and its straight-up position of banning Nazis. The link there takes you to a list of all the Mastodon ‘Instances’ that are currently live - rather than just existing in one place, Mastodon effectively lets anyone set up their own version of the software which acts both as a local community and one which can link up with the wider ecosystem (to a degree). Pick an instance which is accepting signups and have a play - it works like Tweetdeck used to, is full of people who work in software and advermarketingpr, it already has a parody Trump account on it (why would you do that? WHY?), and its onboarding and explanations make Twitter look like a user-friendly cakewalk. You can read a writeup of it here and here and here - see what you think. Bonus points to any of you who can convince your clients that they need a Mastodon strategy by close Monday.
Emo Diary ‘05: Tweeting a line at a time from an emo teen’s diary from 2005. If you have ever enjoyed Cringe or things of that ilk you will adore this - come on, how can you not love an account which shares gems like: “24/06/06 megan gets what she fckin deserves when harry disses aidan, seeing as she's been doing it about my bfs like, forever”? Impossible.
The Internet Noise Machine: A response to the in-no-way-creepy-or-thin-end-of-the-wedge-ish recent legislation passed by US Congress which “makes it legal for your Internet Service Providers (ISP) to track and sell your personal activity online. This means that things you search for, buy, read, and say can be collected by corporations and used against you.” This site will, at the push of a button, open a new tab in your browser and keep loading up new random websites within it, thereby creating a false internet history to confuse and befuddle the buyers of your data. Which is fine, but personally the real joy in this comes from the strange journey that it takes you on - I could pretty much put this on a big screen and watch it cycle through odd sites and searches forever. Look, it just searched for “Turkey motor section dungeon”, it’s BRILLIANT.
Moodelizer: Silly but sort-of brilliant, Moodelizer is an iPhone app which lets you add dramatic soundtracks to any video you shoot - there’s a simple synth-style interface which lets you change the intensity and tempo of a series of predefined backing tracks simply by dragging your finger over a little trackpad, and the results (you can play with it on the site) are actually pretty fun (in a dumb way).
The Great Taxonomy of Cock: Does ‘cock’ present firewall issues? Tbh my slightly inconsistent attitude towards swearing in Curios means that I’m pretty sure that this gets Scunthoroped by most corporate email servers, so I can’t imagine that this will be the particular straw that fcuks the dromedary. Anyway, this is a GREAT visualisation of a whole host of different terms for ‘penis’, arranged by whether they are descriptors relating to purpose, shape or whatever else. You can discover your own favourites, but I’ll wager that whoever referred to it as a ‘bowel starter’ in the late-19thC probably didn’t get much use out of it.
JellyTank: This doesn’t appear to be a joke, in which case I WANT ONE. Jellytank is ‘coming soon’ - a small fishtank for jellyfish. Yes, jellyfish. Buy one of these, sit it on your desk, fill it with little jellies and watch, mesmerised, as they pulsate around all over the place. I confess to having no idea at all about the morality of keeping jellyfish in a confined space like this, but I’m going to be hugely vertebrate-centric about it and presume that they’re not hugely sentient and as such it’s broadly ok. JELLYFISH TANK FACT - jellyfish tanks should always have curved sides, as otherwise the jellies can get trapped in the corners. I have no idea how I know this.
DroneClash: This is going to be on TV soon, no doubt. DroneClash is a Dutch project designed to basically do Robot Wars but with drones - it’s going to happen in December 2017, and they’re currently after sponsors; as far as I can tell, participating teams are going to be able to bring a team of drones with them to race and fight, with some sort of additional drone bosses to fight (details are a touch sketchy at present). This sounds simultaneously dreadful and all sorts of fun, and if Craig Charles isn’t fronting a C5 version of this by 2019 I will be most disappointed.
Make Slogan Great Again: Make your own Trump 2020 campaign poster! Laugh, and try and ignore the terrifying reality of that man being in charge of significant US foreign policy decisions!
Trump’s Ties: Childish-but-great, this - Tweeting pictures of Donald Trump doctored so that his ties are of kilometric length. Particularly nice because the ‘shopping is actually really good; technical skill elevates the gag slightly (‘elevates’? What is this, Great British Menu? Christ, Matt, sort it out).
Sounding Gestalts: You know how I said up there that the FedEx thing has killed the whole idea of ‘make music from datasets’? Yeah, I take it back - this is the sound of MOULD. To quote, “by inoculating and documenting the different growth patterns of Yeast, E. coli and Lichen via a large format enlarger (treating the Petri-dishes as photographic negatives)...[a] bespoke grid system is then placed above a petri dish or a select microbial colony, enabling the transcription of growth patterns onto fully chromatic punch card strips to be fed into a mechanical music device such as a grinder organ or music box.” Want to hear the sound of lichen? COURSE YOU DO!
Diverse UI: A good project compiling user images of non-white people for use by developers who need avatar images to illustrate their social network or whatever. Useful, and generally A Good Thing.
Lolly: Crowdfunding project which looks like hitting its target - its goal is to produce a 3d microphone which can be plugged into an iPhone or iPad, which basically means that anyone will be able to do full 360 audio on the go. If you’re a filmmaker, ASMRtist or just someone who likes the idea of messing around with 360 video and audio, this might be quite useful.
MeMoji: Look, I didn’t name the bloody thing. MeMoji is an app which lets you take photos of your face (or your friends’ faces) and warp them into human emoji. Which sounded like a rubbish idea when I started typing this but then segued into my imagining what an exquisite troll it would be to make my friend Paul’s face the go-to expression of laughter, say, or mild embarrassment, in all future conversations with him. Try it today with the fizzog of YOUR most shy and self-consious pal!
World Emoji Map: I think this was an April Fool’s thing by Dark Sky, which provides weather data to developers - you can see a map of the world with, instead of temperatures or wind directions or whatever, emoji overlaid atop it, giving a really quite surreal impression of the world’s general mood - I think the emoji are determined by weather, but as I type the whole of Europe is covered with largely shell-shocked little yellow faces which feels about right, emotionally-speaking.
Theo Cook: Theo Cook is a very skilled carpenter and craftsman, and his Instagram feed is full of beautiful woodwork. The Japanese Dovetail Joint may well be the most satisfying piece of video I’ve seen all year.
Defrag Drive C: Emulating the old Windows defragging programme which you used to have to do every now again for reasons that were never made clear to teenage me, and which made a noise like death and took forever. Weirdly nostalgic, and also SO old and arcane looking that you can probably set this to fullscreen and just leave it running while you tell IT that your PC is ‘doing updates’ and slope off to the pub (you’re welcome!).
By Metal Maniac
THE SECTION WHICH IS GOING TO GO OUT ON A LIMB HERE AND SUGGEST THAT MASTODON IS NOT GOING TO KILL TWITTER, PT.2:
Women When Noone’s Watching: A lovely series of drawings by artist Sally Nixon, depicting women doing stuff alone and unobserved. Mundane, funny, cute, and with a beautifully idiosyncratic art style, these are gorgeous.
Kate Nash Is Making A Record: I don’t care what you think, Foundations is one of the best singles of the past decade, and she was on Watsky’s excellent Cardboard Castles album, and she’s crowdfunding to do another album without label support and, frankly, I reckon she deserves a tenner. You may do too. BONUS RETRO MUSIC CONTENT: the video for Foundations really reminded me of this CRACKING promo for Plan B’s ‘No Good’, which is still a brilliant clip.
Cassini’s Greatest Pics: It was announced this week that the Cassini spacecraft, which has been taking pictures of the cosmos for the past 20 years, will suicide itself in September this year as it will finally succumb to Saturn’s gravitational embrace. This is a collection of some of its finest pictures, and they are glorious.
The Post-punk Motherlode: Literally ALL the post-punk music you could ever want to download, all in one place - there are about 25h of artrock, punk, new wave and the rest here, all zipped and ready for you to snaffle; it’s all free, so it would be practically rude not to sample some of it.
Vintage Patterns: An amazing collection of vintage sewing patterns - ‘vintage’ in this case meaning ‘more than 25 years old’, which if you do fashion or craft or whatever else might be rather useful and potentially quite fun; if nothing else it might save you from being scalped by some nefarious Brick Lane boutique owner who definitely saw you coming, fresh from your bottomless prosecco Shoreditch brunch (I’m not judging you)(oh, ok, I am).
Elicia Edijanto: The Instagram feed of artist Edijanto, whose black and white watercolours are rather beautiful I think.
Birth Photography Competition 2017: I wasn’t expecting much here - I mean, there are only so many pictures of purple, wrinkled, squinting homunculi cradled to a sweating parent’s chest that anyone need ever see, right? - and then I clicked and realised that these were perhaps slightly more interesting; fine, there are a few standard ‘mother and child post-partum’ shots, but there are also quite a few which show slightly different sides to childbirth (namely, the screaming) - the winning photo is stunning, and there are dozens of hugely impressive shots here. Even for someone who keeps telling himself he’s getting a vasectomy for his next birthday, these are really rather incredible.
Joycestick: An interesting project looking to create an interactive, explorable 3d world inspired by Ulysses; it’s still in development so the site’s mostly explainers and proof of concept stuff, but it’s worth a look if you’re interested in how 3d/VR can be used to do experimental narrative stuff, or to assist with the educational / critical experience.
Cheese Science: A WHOLE WEBSITE dedicated to the science of cheese and cheesemaking, which may not sound thrilling (OK, it’s not) but is exactly the sort of pleasingly niche concern which is Web Curios’ bedrock. “Blue cheese has a unique aroma that is between perfume and cough syrup.” Cough syrup? Really? Anyway, if you’d ever wanted to conduct some in-depth research into the chemical properties of casein, you need look NO FURTHER. Also, how can you not love a site with copy like this: “Want to learn about the chemistry of Fondue? More like FUNdue, am I right?!” EXACTLY.
Arabic Letters: A beautiful and rather clever illustration project, taking Arabic words and drawing them in the shape of their meanings - so the word for ‘fox’ is drawn in the shape of a fox, etc etc. So lovely, and made me temporarily want to take up calligraphy until I realised who I am and what my limitations are.
Cedric Grolet: It seems not a week can go by without my discovering another baker on Instagram making cakes so magically Wonka-ish that they look like something from the early bit of the fairtale before the kids get punished for their gluttony by being eaten. This is the feed of French patissier Cedric Grolet, who has raised the bar even higher than last week’s cakes in the shape of actual rocks with his frankly incredible creations. LOOK AT THAT APPLE TART. Bake Off can DO ONE, frankly, I want to see this bloke at work.
Deep Colour: Input a line drawing, give the software some pointers as to what sort of colours you’d like it to be, and be AMAZED as this website colourises the outline for you. It’s sort of crap, but simultaneously quite impressive when you think that this sort of thing will work perfectly in about a year’s time.
Hyperlax: A really relaxing site which pulls new videos tagged #hyperlapse on Instagram and plays them one after the other with some slightly crap chill soundtrack in the background. Turn the sound off, put something decent on in the background and zone out as you travel around the world at several millon miles an hour. This is honestly wonderful - much like the Snapchat Stories discovery thing I mentioned up top, there’s such a wonderful feeling of the breadth of humanity you get from this stuff (sorry, that was uncharacteristically upbeat - NO MORE!).
Old Cinemas: Vast Flickr archive of photos of old cinemas, the sort which have latterly been transformed from art deco masterpieces of the golden age of movies into dun-carpeted cirrhosis megastores - CHEERS, WETHERSPOONS! There are a LOT of photos here, so if you’ve ever wanted to lose yourself in the ODEON architecture of the 1950s then WOW are you in luck.
Giphy Says: A new gimmick app from Giphy which, much as it pains me to say so, I am quite in love with the idea of - film yourself talking into your phone camera and this will recognise your speech and produce a gif of you talking with auto-captioning, meaning it has never been easier for you to create a series of looping animations of you telling people to “FCUK OFF” in a variety of entertaining fashions - if that’s not progress I don’t know WHAT is.
Eyegaze: If you want a slightly creepy glimpse into just how easy it is soon going to be for anyone to create their own digital version of you, which looks like you and moves like you and which they can manipulate in virtual space for whatever purpose they choose, then take a look at this little tech experiment which takes photos of people and makes them reactive so that the eyes follow your cursor around the screen. It’s a small thing, fine, but it looks *just* close enough to real to be really quite unsettling - take a second to let your imagination go crazy on where this sort of tech might end up. Yeah, LOVELY, isn’t it? Christ.
Actual TV Shows Being Pitched This Week In Cannes: Because we’re all advermarketingprtwats (oh come on, we are), we think Cannes is just the Sorrellfest in June - but NO, there’s the film festival, or course, and MIPIM, and this one which is all about the TV industry. I have literally no idea at all as to whether these are ACTUAL shows being pitched, but I don’t care because they sound so brilliantly awful - it’s quite TV Go Home, and the fact that I can’t tell whether it’s satire or not is in and of itself a touch troubling. Is this real? “Wild Therapy (Banijay Rights): Crisis couples try surviving wilderness w an ex-Special Forces soldier”? Is this? “Sins of the Father (Gil Formats) - children of notorious criminals tell their stories and confront their parents”? God I hope so.
Reddit Place: This was an unexpected positive news story about internet culture, which isn’t something you can often say - last weekend, Reddit launched one of its occasional experiments (remember the Button?) - this one presented Redditors with a blank canvas on which they were invited to collaboratively draw. A cursory understanding of ‘how stuff works online’ might suggest that this would quickly have descended into a hell of swastikas and crudely-drawn penises, and yet this was the lovely result. This is a rather good piece explaining it a little better, and this is an annotated version of the final image explaining who made each element of it and what they all signify. Honestly brilliant, this - sometimes (and only sometimes, and only for brief intervals) I love the web.
http://www.wwwwwwwwwwwww.xyz/: No idea. Really, I don’t understand this AT ALL - it’s a piece of webart pulling stuff from YouTube and letting you create your own audiovisual collages by switching between 30-odd channels at a pace of your choosing and in any order you like, but beyond that I have NOTHING. This would look great on a big screen, but is oddly immersive even on your monitor - have a play, and if you can work out wtf it’s actually about / for then please do let me know.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
Bad Samples: Celebrating the outputs of neural networks and machine learning systems that don’t quite work in the way their creators would like to present to academia (this is pretty niche, I think, even by Curios standards).
Lewis & Quark: Subtitled ‘Postcards from the Edges of Science’, this is a WONDERFUL Tumblr and a new personal favourite; from recipes produced by neural networks, to bot-created knock knock jokes, this is FULL of brilliant, funny and slightly geeky work which also does a gentle job of exploring how this stuff actually works. Excellent and worth reading.
Daniel De Bruin: Digital artist and inventor, collecting his projects on Tumblr - includes a frankly TERRIFYING-LOOKING biometrically-controlled ‘thrill ride’, which looks like an absolute horrorshow.
Marvel 1980s: Marvel comics of the 1980s! Er, that’s it! Lots of really cool illustrations from comics published bitd.
Death Sentences: Lovely literary snobbery, this Tumblr collects ‘the last phrase you read before abandoning a book’ - marvel at sch prose gems as “With that she moved in between them and shortly was enjoying being the middle layer of a triple layer orgy.” (from this, apparently).
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG AND WHICH THIS WEEK INCLUDE 5 ACTUAL PROPER MUST-READ THINGS!
Alexa Is Not Your Friend: Let’s kick off this week’s longreads with this in-no-way depressing look at the emotional connections people are forging with their Amazon voice assistants - hot on the heels of this week’s revelation that people want to fcuk Siri (look, noone wants to fcuk Siri), this piece examines how easy it is to create a bond with something with which we interact vocally, and the role that digital assistants like this could play in helping us cope with the lonely, disconnected futures that all await us.
I’m With Her: At the time of typing this site’s down, but hopefully it’ll be fixed when I publish this as this is a great piece by the designer behind the Hillary 2016 campaign logo - you probably don’t remember, as, well, it was ages ago and quite a lot of other stuff’s happened since then, but when it was launched it was widely ridiculed as being simplistic and childlike; over time, though, it was adopted by her supporters and became an instantly recognisable - and hugely flexible - piece of design. The author’s explanation of how it felt to be the person who created it and watched it go out into the wild is honestly fascinating.
My Fully Optimised Life: Yes, ok, so making fun of Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop and all that stuff is like shooting fish in a barrel, but it doesn’t mean it can’t also be very funny (the smoothie bit alone is worth the click).
Computer Moves: Despite being whatever the opposite of a chess savant, I am increasingly drawn to reading longform articles about it; there’s so much interesting stuff around the edges of the game, not least the manner in which it’s possibly the field in which AI/human collaboration is most advanced. This piece looks at how AI in chess currently works, and explores (though perhaps not in as much depth as I’d like) how, despite the absolute dominance of AI in matches against humans, a human/AI combination will nearly always beat a pure AI opponent. Slightly reassuring, insofar as there’s hope that the machines may find some use for us in the future.
Breaking the Seal on the Kayfabe: If you’re not familiar with the term ‘kayfabe’, here. Got it? GREAT! This is a brilliant article by a woman who had never previously watched wrestling experiencing the hallucinatory madness that is Wrestlemania for the first time and recording her impressions. Very funny, totally confusing, quite odd, and proof that WWE is basically ‘Days of Our Lives’ in tiny pants.
The Emotions of London: Hugely geeky but rather wonderful academic paper which analyses novels set in London from the 19thC onwards and maps how they depict the city and their characters, plotting where gothic vs historical novels are set, how ‘happy’ characters are depending on where they’re said to live...I would LOVE to see a whole website dedicated to this sort of analysis, should anyone have a whole bunch of time and money they can devote to creating one.
The Style of the Decade: An interesting NYT piece on female fashion in the second decade of the millennium, which posits that the defining aesthetic trend of this 10-year period in women’s fashion is the covering up of the female form, with a move away from visible flesh towards a slightly more androgynous silhouette, and the idea being that this is the result of a general Western trend towards female rejection of the male gaze.
Sequoias: A lovely piece, again from the NYT, on the frankly MASSIVE sequoia trees of California. Will make you want to get on a plane to the West Coast and hug one - if you have never been, add it to your list of ‘stuff I would like to see before the world becomes too fcuked and we are all living underground’ as these things are INCREDIBLE. Also, lots of them are in a park called ‘Muir Woods’ which when I visited my dad out there when I was very small made me feel SUPER important, which is a small personal detail about which none of you will care but of which I was just reminded and got all misty-eyed about.
What’s In Your Spank Bank?: A bunch of YoungTwitterJournoCrowd writers wax lyrical about the weird things which they crack one off to. There are a couple of excellent pieces of writing here, and fair play to them for not using aliases - in particular Carl Anka, whose Google results will forever reveal that he once joined a ‘no wnking’ community on Reddit. Fair play, Carl, fair play.
Tony Hawk Teaches Me How To Olly: Sadly not actually ME - had it been I would probably still have been surgically attached to Mr Hawk’s ankle, begging him “PLEASE BE MY FRIEND TONY” - but instead Kelly Conaboy, whose endearingly silly tale of how she travelled to Tony’s house and spent a few hours with him as he patiently tried to get her to jump on a skateboard is honestly just heartwarming and goofy and fun. I challenge you not to smile whilst reading this, go on.
Uber’s Dark Patterns: A look at all the tricks and techniques that Uber uses to keep its drivers driving - mainly using the sort of UX/UI tricks that app and videogame designers have used for years to trigger the ‘just one more play!’ impulse and keep you jabbing at the Skinner box. Notable not for the fact that it happens - after all, this shouldn’t really be news to anyone and it’s not like we thought Uber *wasn’t* a deeply sinister corporation with the morals of a sexually voracious tomcat - but more that we don’t realise that 90% of service providers and brands use stuff like this ALL THE TIME to a greater or lesser extent. Bear this stuff in mind next time you’re on Amazon, is all I’m saying.
Cars & Second-order Consequences: Very smart piece by Ben Evans exploring some of the broader economic and social outcomes that might be engendered by the advent of self-driving cars. Made me feel REALLY stupid, not least as I hadn’t thought of any of this stuff myself - the points about the knock-on effects on jobs in retail, manufacturing, etc, are all hugely relevant and you ought to read this if you have even a cursory interest in futurology and stuff.
Fcuk You And Die: Something Awful is one of the weird, semi-forgotten places where internet culture as we know it all began - this is a great oral history of the site, featuring interviews with Rich Kyanka who founded it and who is responsible for some of the funniest things I have ever read online, as well as several other contributors including @fart and other WEIRD TWITTER icons. It’s worth noting that these people, who all presided over a site where some really pretty reprehensible stuff got posted, are collectively of the opinion that ‘the web’s a really horrible place these days’, which, fine, might just be old men shaking their fists at the newfangled motorcar contraptions, but gave me slight pause for thought. BONUS SOMETHING AWFUL! Edward Penishands, still making me cry with laughter a decade on, and the terrible story of Swap.avi and why it’s not really OK to laugh at stuff like 2G1C.
A Lexicon of British Comedy Writing Terminology: You’ll need a passing familiarity with the UK comedy scene to really get the most from this, but see whether you like this and then click or don’t: “Jazz Trumpetry - the extra, unneeded punchline that comes after the punchline you should’ve finished a sketch or scene on. It comes from the Brain Surgeon sketch which the Dawson Brothers wrote for Mitchell and Webb. The original draft was road-tested at (they think) London’s tiny Hen and Chickens theatre, where they had a joke where a rocket scientist comes in and says “Brain Surgery? Not exactly Rocket Science.” Big laugh. But they’d written an extra line after that, where a Jazz trumpeter comes in and finishes his line with “Rocket Science? That’s not exactly Jazz Trumpetry.” It tickled them to write it, but at the test out night, no laugh at all. So Jazz Trumpetry was cut from the final sketch that got on air – and ever since, has been the Dawson Bros’ shorthand for misjudged bonus punchlines. “
Love in the Time of Cryptography: Another week and this would have been my best-of pick, but it’s SUCH a strong collection that it’s been beaten into 5th place. Still a GORGEOUS piece of writing by Quinn Norton about her relationship with her reserved, geeky and super security conscious foreign partner, and how it developed alongside encrypted conversations between them. Really very lovely indeed.
Bringing it Back Up: Anorexia and blindness and parents and control all mixed up in this beautiful piece by Ethel Rohan. Superb writing here.
Confessions of a Watch Geek: I have wanged on enough about how good Super Sad True Love Story is that you should all have read it by now and should therefore all be excited to read a new essay by Gary Shteyngart - this is about his middle-aged watch obsession, how he became a collector and an obsessive, and how, to quote the piece, “In a society hopeless and cruel, the particular and the microscopic were the only things that could still prove reliable”. Brilliant.
Boys: This is absolute virtuoso stuff - tightly structured with a stylistic tick which could be considered a gimmick were it not so successfully realise, this essay by Rick Moody is about two brothers growing from childhood to adulthood, their relationships with each other and their parents and the world around them. It’s rare for prose to read so poetically, but this is wonderfully lyrical.
Out Line: Finally though, THE BEST THING IN HERE THIS WEEK. No question - if you didn’t see it on Twitter on Wednesday, please do click this. Get a cup of tea and enjoy what is possibly the best piece of (ever so slightly) interactive fiction I have ever read - not only is it a great piece of writing, but the way in which the form and function work together left me on the floor. It’s so, so good, and I really can’t recommend it enough.
By Remy Holwick
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) First up, this is called ‘Reliquary’ and it’s by Pivovar, and I love the CGI in the video as well as the skittery percussion:
2) Next up, this is by Greta Isaac, it’s called ‘You’, her vocal is great and I want gifs of all the faces of the people in this as they are just SPLENDID:
3) Dante’s Tail is a NEW SHORT BY PIXAR! Well, that’s a bit grandiose - it’s more of a trailer for their next full-length film called ‘Coco’, but it’s a cute little vignette and the dog has a GREAT spastic face, 12/10, great doggo:
4) This is the new one by Bjork, called ‘Notget’ - you know what it’s going to sound like, it’s Bjork, but even if you’re not 100% charmed by her electropixie stylings this is worth a wathc for the excellent Lawnmowe Man-ish visuals alone:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! Featuring Scrufizza, Mikill Pane, Dream Mclean & Al, the Native, this is called ‘Drumroll Please’ and sounds like a bunch of grime MCs going over the soundtrack to ‘Whiplash’, which is exactly as good as it sounds (no really, this is excellent and the production is huge imho):
6) Finally this week (sorry, time has been TIGHT), an absolutely brilliant and VERY ODD animation about ‘love and regicide’ by Felix Colgrave called ‘Double King’. Enjoy, and HAPPY EASTER PLEASE TRY NOT TO GET DIABETES FROM ALL THE CHOCOLATES OR TO GET CRUCIFIED BY THE ROMANS!:
Please forward this onto as many people as your mail server can physically handle.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter by becoming a member of the Imperica community.