By Shimizu Mari
THE SECTION WHICH ISN’T 100% CERTAIN THAT ‘PROGRAMMATIC AD BUYING IS BASICALLY SH1T AND PUTS YOUR ADS ON SOME PRETTY SHONKY SITES’ REALLY WARRANTS A FRONTPAGE OF THE TIMES:
Twitter Q4 Earnings Report: Short precis - less ad revenue! This won’t surprise anyone who’s actually used Twitter advertising before (appalling targeting, dreadful conversion rates. etc), but there’s been something of a doom-laden feel to the reporting around this earnings call. As a generic media wanker I obviously ADORE Twitter and so can I ask us all to start clicking on at least one ad a week to fool advertisers into thinking it’s actually worth spending money with them? Thanks.
Twitter Updates Safety Features: Of absolutely no practical interest from an advermarketingpr point of view, but, you know, A GOOD THING (if about 5 years too late, but hey ho): a few new features were announced this week, bringing safer search and an improved system for blocking persistent trolls from creating new accounts with which to harass people. Still doesn’t make up for the fact that the onboarding process for the platform is still preposterously un-user friendly and operates on the mistaken assumption that Twitter’s main appeal is the ability to listen to the banal utterances of famouses, but, you know, baby steps.
Pinterest Adds ‘Shop The Look’ Features: Given that none of the major platforms had anything significant to say this week, Pinterest gets a brief moment in the advermarketingprfeaturespotlight (what a great place to be!). This is one of two really interesting updates this week - a functional upgrade to Pinterest’s ad units allowing, much like on Instagram, multiple products to be tagged in a Pin, which will ‘let users click on individual items in photos so they can buy them or, if they aren’t for sale, see similar items that are for sale through the network.’ Given the way Pinterest is often used as some sort of 21C fantasy magazine doll’s house-type arrangement (or, as I read elsewhere this week, by ‘anyone planning a wedding between 2010 and 2013’), this is USEFUL and SMART so if you or your clients sell furnishings or similar you probably should get right on this.
Pinterest Lens: This is REALLY interesting. Pinterest also launched Lens (US only at the moment, I think), which is basically their own visual search tool; take a picture of anything and it will show you Pins which contain similar stuff - which, when combined with the product tagging and purchase thingy in the previous bullet makes for a POTENTIALLY COMPELLING MOBILE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE. Yeah! BUY THINGS! The tech looks really impressive, and the feedback from users so far (36h or so, so, you know, caveat emptor) has been good. THINK of the possibilities (no, please, don’t make me write any more about this).
Journey 84: So this year’s celebration of pituitary knuckleheads slamming foreheads (aka The SuperbOwl) is over, thankfully with nearly none of the annual obsessing over advertising which normally accompanies it. This one, though, by (I think they would concede) less-than-consumer-facing lumber company 84 Lumber garnered most of the plaudits for this ad, which ran in truncated form during the show and depicts a Mexican mother and daughter embarking on a journey to the US (TOPICAL!); the kicker here being that viewers were directed to this site to see the WHOLE STORY. The site crashed, the internet got angry, a whole load of op-ed ink was spaffed across the page as takes hot, lukewarm and ice cold were presented to the waiting public, and the company developed a global profile overnight. Pretty good going. If this is your thing, you can see all the SuperbOwl ads here; or alternatively here’s a whole site devoted to ranking and rating them, if you REALLY care that much.
Sneaky Like Pete: Sneaky Pete is, it transpires, a new series on Amazon starring small-faced Scientology apologist Giovanni Ribisi as...er...some sort of con-artist, I think, though I confess to not being able to muster even the ghost of a fcuk about this particular televisual event. Still, they’ve made a nice enough promo site for it, with the gimmick that users are encouraged to watch a clip of the show and see if they can lie their way out of whatever sticky situation the titular Pete finds himself in; it purports to use polygraphic-type tech to analyse your voice for trustworthiness, etc, to deliver you a plausibility score for your fib. Nice idea, though I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the tech under the hood might be a *bit* of a fudge - the gimmick is hugely stealable, though, and I think that, post-Alexa/Google Home, people are comfortable enough talking to the machines now that we might be able to explore voice-activation/interaction in digiadvermarketingprspaff a little more now.
THE SECTION WHICH ACHIEVED A 20-YEAR GOAL THIS WEEK BY SEEING ‘THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST’ AT THE CINEMA AND WHICH FRANKLY DIDN’T REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT ALL THE FUSS WAS ABOUT, PT.1:
Doonald Trump: Look, I promise that there will be a time in which 90% of web output isn’t about this arsehole; I promise. Until that point, though, you’re just going to have to accept that the web is a mirror of the world we live in (OR ARE WE THE MIRROR???? Dear God, it’s too early) and that as such we’re just going to have to deal with it. Also, some of the stuff being made is just ACE - to whit, this WONDERFUL piece of webart which stitches together clips from the NOW, clips of Trump’s campaign speeches and Presidential speeches which are magically drawn from some back-end database and arranged in random fashion each time you visit, creating a sort of darkly Adam Curtis-like documentary which is honestly chilling (the music also helps). The best compliment I can pay this is that it would totally fit were it playing on a TV in any 1980s future dystopian film (seriously, imagine this playing on Biff’s TV in Back to the Future 2 - it’s perfect).
Trump CNN Screenshot Generator: This week’s ‘hey, look, let’s undermine him by creating fake images of him saying dumb stuff!’ toy comes in the shape of this website, which lets you create an image of Trump speaking to the press with whatever text you choose written on the aston (does everyone know that the overlays you see on TV with people’s names, headlines, etc, are called astons? They are. Unless you’re in America, in which case they are called Chyrons. You didn’t care, did you? Sorry) - so you too can make LOLSOME GAGS about him saying he’s got tiny hands or similar. Although there’s actually an interesting experiment you could play here with making some almost plausible screencaps here and seeing how much of an argument you can start on Facebook with them. Not suggesting you should, just that you could.
Is Now Illegal: Another toy, this time letting you make a gif of Trump holding up a sign saying thing X is now illegal. Which is utterly pointless, except as a weapon in childish online arguments (“YOUR FACE IS NOW ILLEGAL”) or as a way of communicating your refusal to do any more work to your colleagues.
Trump Valentine’s Cards: The web has been comparatively quiet on the subject of the hallmark holiday this year - are we all too sad and scared for love? Well, yes, frankly - so in the absence of anything CUTE AND LOVELY I’ll just leave this collection of Trump-themed Valentine’s messages on Imgur which you can almost certainly print out and hand to whichever unfortunate you choose to foist your affections on next week (YES I AM ALONE WHAT OF IT?).
Avatars Against Trump: One of the great unanswered questions of the first few weeks of the new US administration has been “yes, but what do the oddities of Second Life think of it all?” Well wonder no longer, gentle reader - the Second Lifers are NOT HAPPY. This is a collection of photos of anti-Trump protests in the seemingly ever-living virtual world; I don’t 100% know that having your ‘Love Trumps Hate’ message delivered by an anthropomorphised fox lady with comically spherical breasts is actually going to, you know, affect meaningful change, but more power to you, virtual people!
Resistance Calendar: This is a US thing, but the idea is actually a rather nice one. Given the amount of nervous “but something must be done, but WHAT?” conversations happening amongst scared liberals all over the place right now, this website which collects protest and direct action opportunities across the US in one place is a useful resource. Something like this for the UK might be useful, maybe (or, alternatively, would shed a painful degree of light on the UK left wing’s current ‘Judean People’s Front’ / ‘Judean Popular Front’ travails, either / or really).
The Best Hans Rosling Talks: Aside from TPT (and who’s to bet against Saint Peter having a cheeky line with her at the Pearly Gates, eh? EH?), the BIG DEATH of the week was physicist and data scientist Hans Rosling, who did so much to popularise data workand stuff. These are 10 of his best talks, presented on one page - if you’re at all interested in data work and numbers and stats and stuff - and who isn’t, RIGHT KIDS? - then these are wonderful; the man was a really good explainer of hard things in a simple and engaging way. These are TED talks, by the way, but done by a smart person who actually knew what they are talking about rather than by A N Other energetic guru with a social media profile.
Get Your Own Robot Arm: You know those giant robot arms you see in car factories that do all the spraying and stuff? Would you like one of those in your own home, except obviously small rather than 10ft tall? OF COURSE YOU WOULD! Get involved with this on Indiegogo - the project’s already smashed its funding target, but there’s another month left for you to chuck $200+ into the crowdfunding oubliette in the hope that you’ll get one of these in return. The main target market for this is obviously people in the 3d printing/making space, with the arm equipped to do printing, laser cutting and fine finishing, but frankly the opportunities are ENDLESS. You could program it to cut your hair, to hold your coffee at mouth height so you can drink and type AT THE SAME TIME, or to hold a tissue and gently dab the tears from your face as you ask yourself why, yet again, you’ve chosen to spend your time with 1s and 0s rather than actual sentient beings.
Drum Keyboard: This is a bit of Open Source code for VR environments, but forget that - it is also THE MOST fun-looking way of typing I have ever seen. The idea is that it lets anyone build their own drum keyboard in VR - using two hand controllers, you can bang out letters on large keys, spelling out words. Imagine how fun that would make writing emails, especially given the ability to assign different sfx to different keys. In my head, there is now ALWAYS going to be a cymbal crash when I hit ‘send’ on anything - this looks hugely satisfying and I want it now.
The Magic iPod: If you haven’t seen / played with this yet this week, ENJOY! This is a very fun little music toy which lets you pair one of a selection of 00s hiphop songs with one of a selection of 00s emo-type alternative tracks to see what they’d sound like as a mashup. You can create some absolute appalling monstrosities - as I type, I am able to confirm that “Real Slim Shady” by Eminem was never intended to be Frankensteined together with ‘I Miss You’ by Blink 182. WHO KNEW? Much fun here.
All Of The Gifs Of French Politicians You Could Ever Need: Reaction gif heaven, compiled by TV channel France Info. Free bit of PR for the Parliament Channel here - do this for the UK and enjoy the fleeting internetlove (actually given the amount of time that the country’s political commentariat spend on Twitter (approximately 78% of their waking lives) that internetlove could be a lot more persistent).
A Is For Albert: A gorgeous little project by Studio Lovelock - a simple A-Z for children, featuring lovely little animations for each letter. Nothing groundbreaking here, but the design and animation are cute, and the site’s nicely executed. Pleasing.
Weather With Spotify: Actually this is a promo tie-in between Spotify and Accuweather so it should probably be UP THERE, but it’s nice enough that it can sit in the ‘cool stuff not by brands section’. The site lets you select from various cities around the world, and select a weather type, then gives you a playlist of tracks most-played in that city in that weather. Simple and clever and the site’s really well-made, although the music it seems to select is depressingly anodyne whatever the weather, wherever you are - Hotline Bling? Really? Christ’s sake, rainy London, what is *wrong* with you?
Magic Eye: THE premier magic eye resource on the web! Oddly for a site which looks like it was designed and built in 1998, and given that I don’t think anyone has cared about Magic Eye stuff for approximately 15 years, this appears to still get updated. Why not spend the rest of the afternoon seeing if YOU can see the sailboat?
SocialFixer: Caveats apply here - I’ve not actually used this - but everything suggests that this is a legit service which won’t steal all your data and sell it to the mob (that said, Web Curios accepts no responsibility for all your data being stolen and sold to the mob). SocialFixer is an apparently long-running program which effectively mods Facebook (although only on desktop, which obviously limits its appeal); you can use it to apply keyword filters to your newsfeed, block boosted posts, hide bits of the Page you might not want to see, etc etc. For those few of you who don’t solely consume your FAKE NEWS through your phones, this might well be quite a useful way of limiting the amount of rage / disappointment you feel on a daily basis.
Paints Chainer: Nice little bit of software which will automatically colour in any line drawing you feed into it. Erm, that’s it, but it’s quite nifty.
Pepe - An Explainer: If you’ve ever found yourself wondering exactly what Pepe actually stands for, what the frog truly believes, and what the REAL Pepe feels about all this alt-right schtick then WONDER NO MORE, for his creator Matt Furie has finally posted this comic explaining everything. So that’s clear, then.
21 Wonderfully Stupid Life Hacks: Normally Web Curios has the sort of incredibly high quality threshold (read: feeling of quite intense snobbery and superiority to your standard linkdump) which means that this sort of sub-Upworthy ‘content’ doesn’t get a look-in; occasionally, though, you have to acknowledge when something is just very, very funny. This collection made me properly LOL, and I promise is worth a click despite the hideously unpromising title.
The Black Metal Antiquarium: Black Metal might not really mean much to the younger readers, but for those of us of a certain vintage the term conjures up wonderfully camp images of skinny, pasty men wearing ill-fitting studded bondage gear and facepaint, often holding mediaeval weaponry of some description and occasionally daubed in goat blood (and, er, on a few rare occasions burning down churches and actually killing people. LOL!), and sending tabloid media in the UK into a brief tailspin of horrified affrontery. This Facebook Page presents a wonderful selection of photos from this era - best accompanied by some Dimmu Borgir and some devil horns \m/.
THE SECTION WHICH ACHIEVED A 20-YEAR GOAL THIS WEEK BY SEEING ‘THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST’ AT THE CINEMA AND WHICH FRANKLY DIDN’T REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT ALL THE FUSS WAS ABOUT, PT.2:
Do Sex Things To Me: A Twitter account which regularly shares slightly off sexbanter. If “My currywurst is impressively meagre” makes you laugh, then you’ll be right at home here.
Bird Art Bulgaria: Have you ever wanted to own a meticulously-crafted fantasy-style helmet, fashioned from metal in a variety of different styles from history/fantasy? OF COURSE YOU HAVE! Almost certainly a supplier to several of the Black Metal bands in the Antiquarium, Bird Art’s Etsy store is a wonderful insight into the world of EXTREME COSPLAY. And yes, they do have a Skyrim helmet you loser.
Ping: Ping is the latest entrant into the ‘business cards are RUBBISH, let’s disrupt them!’ marketplace; the idea being that by simply sharing your email address with someone through the platform, you will be able to send them your personal profile, start conversations and effectively use the platform as a CRM system for your personal / business life. Which frankly sounds like awful, but if you’re a PROPER TYPE A ALPHA PERSONALITY (I, it may not surprise you to know, really am not) then it might appeal.
SHINKANSEN: A Twitter account sharing pictures and videos of Japan’s iconic (sorry) bullet train. No, I’m not a train enthusiast, honest, but some of you might be - Web Curios is nothing if not a broad church.
Pictogram Music Posters: I think I featured the original selection of these here a few years ago; the artist, Viktor Hertz, has made a whole new series, illustrating songs by a whole range of artists with a single, beautiful image. All of these are available to buy as posters through a Kickstarter, and cost about £20 including shipping; there are some really gorgeous designs here (I ADORE the ‘Self Control’ one unreservedly).
Pexels: A really good stock photography service. Yes, fine, it’s dull, but occasionally Web Curios aspires to utility (aspirations are rarely met).
SEGA Music: SEGA recently chucked a whole motherlode of their game music up onto Spotify - this is that motherlode. If you want to really make yourself unpopular with the majority of your colleagues, why not subject them to endless loops of the Sonic themetune for the rest of the day?
Desserted In Paris: An Instagram account combining photographs of Parisian patisserie with impeccably-coordinated men’s footwear. The shoes match the madelines - what of it? I could probably try and shoehorn a ‘Crocs-embouche’ gag in here, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort so let’s just imagine that I did and move on.
Humans of the Year: Given the uniquely...er…’challenging’ nature of much of 2017 so far, it’s nice to have something positive to read. This series of profiles by Motherboard looks at some of the people around the world who are doing some amazing, interesting stuff in science and tech, and who can be broadly said to be at the least attempting to make the world a better place. Actually a bit inspirational, and I hate that term. Individuals profiled so far include neuroscientists, data security experts and people working on extraplanetary tech; SO MUCH CLEVER HERE.
Make Any Headphones Wireless: Do you want to have the exciting future promised to you by Apple earbuds, but without becoming a slave to the Jobsian product ecosystem? OF COURSE YOU DO! So back this Kickstarter, then, which is basically a simple Bluetooth dongle which you sync with your phone and plug your headphones into, meaning you don’t need to plug said headphones into said phone. Which is great and all, but TECHNICALLY the wires are still attached and so TECHNICALLY this is a lie. Technically.
Comment Mode: Whilst most of us do the sensible thing and NEVER go below the YouTube comment line, there will also be some of you who take unaccountable pleasure from the cesspit of humanity you find there (although tbh it’s actually loads better than it used to be and occasionally delivers some true comedy gold). If you fall into the latter camp you may enjoy this Chrome plugin which lets you watch videos whilst simultaneously browsing the comments, thanks to clever splitscreening. I can’t promise it will enhance your enjoyment of your favourite cat video, but give it a go.
Creative Commons Search: Another dull-but-useful link to bookmark - Creative Commons this week improved their search function, meaning it’s now even easier to search for materials under a CC license. Currently searches Flickr, 500px, and the archives of the Rijksmuseum, and NY Met/Public Library - useful for those of you who care about small things like copyright.
OOO: Not Out Of Office, but z-OOO-m - this is a silly but weirdly fun iOS app which lets you create short, zooming videos set to music. That’s literally it - to quote, the app “turns your camera into a toy. Zoom super far, super fast, super slow, or anything in between. Pick a track to add some music while you zoom. After recording, share your video anywhere you want with anyone you want.” Totally pointless, but there is always something inherently funny in zooming in dramatically onto someone’s confused, frightened face.
Found By Laura: I’ve long loved found materials as an artform; I have a whole bunch of copies of Found Magazine knocking about my flat, and I am always on the lookout for interesting stuff lying around (on which note, let me remind you of this story from Web Curios past…). It’s less prevalent online than it used to be, which is why this Instagram account featuring a bunch of found materials was such a treat - it’s all post-its and letter scraps, and as with al found archives it’s by turns banal and baffling.
Interactive Projection Mapping: This is the future of projection mapping - the tech on display here moves the projection dependent on the position of the viewer’s phone, letting them effectively use the phone as a torch to ‘illuminate’ stuff with projections. Which, I concede, is a godawful description which barely makes any sense at all, so sorry about that - just click the link and start thinking about how you probably just have enough time to do something REALLY cool based on this for Hallowe’en.
SelfieFeet: Now, on the one hand this is a fcuking stupid gimmick idea designed to let you take hands-free self portrait photos by strapping your phone to your foot (yes, I know) which deserves to disappear without a trace. Except if you watch the video there are actually a bunch of other properly useful applications buried within there which might actually be worth pursuing - I thought the ‘use a wine bottle as a phone stand’ thing was legitimately genius, though that might be the opinion of a man whose domestic field of vision seemingly always includes at least one bottle of Casillero. Anyway, I have decided that I think that this probably deserves the £5k they’re looking for - although the fact that they didn’t go with the ‘Selfieet’ name instead is almost enough to change my mind again.
Paint Over: You wouldn’t think that a load of photos of graffiti which has been badly painted over would be quite so artistically satisfying, and yet here we are. Really reminiscent of Rothko in the colourblocking (/pretension).
Peanut: Props to the PR on this - I know it’s done by the woman behind Bumble and so has TECH SUCCESS HERITAGE, but still, the coverage on this has been great. Peanut, in case you didn’t catch the Standard piece yesterday (or any of the other writeups) is basically a platonic dating app for mothers (except obviously I’m sure it doesn’t have to be platonic if you don’t want it to be), designed to solve that ‘none of my mates have kids the same age as me, and everyone I met at NCT was a complete fcuker and their children are terrorists’ issue which I know lots of women with small kids have. Is there a Tumblr called ‘Cnuts of NCT’ or similar? I feel that there’s some fertile territory here.
JigTalk: Gimmicky dating app of the week #1! This is JigTalk, which is basically Tinder but with the added frisson of people’s profile pictures being obscured until you’ve exchanged a certain number of back-and-forth question-and-answers; for each question/answer, another piece of the jigsaw (GEDDIT?) obscuring your interlocutors’ pictures are removed, letting you slowly assess whether or not you’ve spent the past 15 minutes conducting a cagey, oblique test message conversation with someone whose bodily fluids you would cross continents to avoid. Going to throw this out there - this one is DOOMED.
Sapio: Gimmicky dating app of the week #2! Sapio is Tinder but for massive intellectual snobs. You create your profile by answering a bunch of questioned designed to let you show off how INCREDIBLY smart you are, like ‘what would a perfect democratic system look like?’ or ‘tell me in great detail about exactly what you got in your A-Levels and how you could have got a first but you were too into the party scene, you know?’; the system then pairs you with suitable others based on the content of your answers. I have to say, despite being a complete online dating refusenik I find this hugely tempting, mainly because you just KNOW that there will be some absolute gold in here - I don’t expect a HUGE degree of self-awareness from the many of the answers, and I equally get the impression that there will be a LOT of people who aren’t quite as smart as they think they are telling you LOTS about the unique and special qualities of their BEAUTIFUL MIND. God, can you imagine the mansplaining potential in here?
Atomic Love: Gimmicky dating app of the week #3! Atomic Love basically gets a pseudo-AI to write your dating profile for you. Which would be fine, were it not for the fact that dating profiles are SO 2011, what with everyone just deciding who to rub mucus membranes with based on a quick look at three photos, some hamfisted textflirting and a few hours of violent power-drinking. You plug in your text, tell the app what sort of people you want to bone, and it will alter the text accordingly. Beautifully/weirdly, the different types of person you can target the copy at seem to be based on perceived intelligence, ranging from ‘Genius’ to ‘Normal’ (AKA intellectually bereft) - the lowest setting turns all your copy into emoji, one would presume.
Faceapp: After everyone got obsessed with data-thieving facescrubbing toy Meitu the other week, here comes another - Faceapp is the slightly more serious - and thus infinitely more creepy - alternative to Meitu’s anime stylings; rather than just applying filters to your fizzog, this will actually twist your mouth into the hideous rictus of a CG smile. Or, alternatively, twist anyone ELSE’S mouth into said rictus; perfect for some low-grade photoshop trolling, I think, and the sort of thing which you could cause a bit of mild trauma with on Facebook (oh come on, use your imaginations).
TopoTopo: I LOVE THIS. Plug in any place in the world and this will spit out a 3d printable model of the topography of said place - so you can print out MOUNTAINS! Hills! Valleys! Canyons! This is SO nice, totally free (you obviously need to sort your own 3d printing, but), and you even have the option of setting it to print the topography as a series of 3x3 blocks for jigsaw purposes. If you know someone whose special happy place is somewhere topographically interesting there are SO many present ideas here.
Who Wants To Be Second?: Given that LOVELY THERESA (Kind Theresa! Caring Theresa!) has managed to put the UK first in the queue for the DEAL OF THE CENTURY with Don’s America (and thank Christ for that, RIGHT KIDS?), the race is on to see who gets to be second in that queue. Step forward this site, by a German satirical TV show, which is collecting a bunch of spoof application videos from countries around the world, explaining why it is they who should follow Britain in the race to burrow up the colon of the United States. The humour is hit and miss, but some of these are GOLDEN (I particularly liked the one about Germany, if you need a place to start).
Fluid Paint: OH THIS IS SO GOOD. A painting simulator which does the most incredible job of mmimicking the tactility of oil paints. Seriously, have a go - it is GLORIOUS, super-satisfying and actually really rather easy to use. So much fun.
Favelagrafia: A brilliant website and project which has given iPhones to a bunch of people living in Rio’s favelas in order to allow them to document their own stories however they like. Combining photos, videos, interviews and first-person narrative, this is a wonderful exploration of the sort of bits of Brazil which were the subject of countless, breathless ‘look, here I am doing REAL JOURNALISING’ reportages during the Olympics last year. Really excellent storytelling on all counts.
Spell Tower: An EXCELLENT little browser-based spelling game, which I promise you is more fun than whatever it is that you are meant to be doing in the office right now.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
Dogs With Tongues Sticking Out A Little: Only a little, though.
Sport Balls Replaced With Cats: Probably wise not attempt to replicate these with actual cats.
Mixed Up: Not quite sure how to describe this - it’s one of the standard scrapbook-type Tumblrs, taking visuals from all over the place and collecting them, but there’s a particular aesthetic here that emerges and a way in which themes segue from one to the other over time which brings a really strong sense of continuity to the selection (God that was unforgivably pseudy, sorry. Still true, though).
Microwhat: Before and after shots of stuff that’s been microwaved. This is OLD but still ace; the gifs are proper artlike.
Annee Schwank: The Tumblr of a Florida-based artist and illustrator who does AWESOME comic-book style sketches of (mainly) women and their mouths.
Confused Cats Against Feminism: This is old, but it does rather feel that some of the images on here may be quite useful at the moment.
People Getting Really Mad At Food: A bunch of wonderfully angry and offensive comments posted on Reddit on foodporn threads. The one about asparagus made me spit tea everywhere.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
A Short History of the Trump Family: I really promise that I am trying to keep stuff about THAT FCUKING MAN to a minimum, but this really is excellent - a LONG and exhaustive/ing look at the Trump family’s history in New York - the DEALS and the BETRAYALS and the...er...links to the mob, and the racism, and the rest. It’s a long howl of liberal outrage, fine, but it’s also a beautifully-sustained piece of near-incredulous fury at the history of crookery which characterises the man and indeed his broader family. I know that our political classes have a lot wrong with them - I mean, this past week in the Mother of Parliaments has been a pretty clear indication of that - but there’s some pretty staggering stuff in here.
How To Beat Trump: Or, more accurately, how the left can make protest work both in the US and outside it. The points here made apply equally well to the UK as to the US, particularly in light of a few weeks in which the left appears to be far more concerned with repeatedly taking it in turns to fcuk itself with knives rather than, say, attempting to present a coherent alternative to the revanchist antiglobalisation movement sweeping the world.
I Helped Create The Milo Trolling Playbook: Ryan Holliday is a professional media manipulator most of whose output I tend to take with several large pinches of salt - this piece, though, about how controversialists (or, if you prefer, trolls) go about their business, and how best to counter them, is really rather interesting and full of smart thinking. Holliday was responsible for briefly making Tucker Max properly famous in the early 00s, which considering the man was effectively a walking date-rape apologist was basically involved trolling feminists left, right and centre (techniques which Milo and his ilk have basically lifted wholesale). Worth reading if you’re interested in the whole ‘BUT SHOULD WE DENY THEM THE OXYGEN OF PUBLICITY?’ handwringing.
Aleister Crowley’s Filthy Sex Poem: You all know Crowley, right? Self-appointed Antichrist (“why do you call yourself the Antichrist?”, Crowley was once asked by an interviewer; “It’s what my mother called me” was the somewhat unexpected but in retrospect actually pretty believable answer. Poor little Aleister!), casual murderer of Nepalese mountain guides and voracious sexual deviant, Crowley wasn’t shy of filth, as evidenced by this 666-word (but of course!) piece of absolute grot, which pulls no punches in its depiction of, let’s be clear, scat-play. Read this, and feel SO vanilla. Bonus fact: I was told this week that Alan Moore, wizard of Northampton, named his daughter ‘Leah’ after the lover to whom Crowley dedicated this poem. Which, frankly, is pretty odd imho.
Making It Big: An interesting look at the likelihood of making it BIG as a band in NYC, which is accompanied by some really rather gorgeous visualisations of the MUSIC ECOSYSTEM in the city. A really nice example of dataviz as accompaniment to a story, done well.
In Memory of Dump FM: Occasionally in the course of my meanderings around the web I’ll stumble across something which highlights yet again the fact that this is an unknowably vast space whose culture can and will never be mapped fully; you know, when you suddenly learn of communities or things which are millions-strong but which have never crossed your path and whose existence you only very vaguely understand? This is one of those - “Dump.fm was a real-time imaging sharing site that took its cue from the transmissional aesthetics of radio, perhaps ham radio in particular. Since its inception in 2010, the ragtag group of amateurs and auteurs of digital junk space who participated fulfilled the site’s mission of “talking with images” by adding these images to a single chat stream, much as one would add multiple mixing channels to a single broadcast mix. The gifs, pngs, and jpgs inevitably became spliced, remixed, broken, minced, enlarged, interlinked, and eroded, elaborately arranged in gif altars or parsed into animated rebuses by the site’s semi-anonymous users.” It’s effectively been a precursor/test bed for seapunk and the whole ‘New Aesthetic’ movement, and the obituary here presented is online cultural anthropology of the best sort. I love this sort of stuff.
Meet Kevin Prince Boateng: Interviews with footballers are almost always so dull as to be utterly pointless; this is the rare exception. Kevin Prince Boateng has had a very odd career, but the most unusual thing about this piece is how articulate he is, and how willing he is to talk about his fcukups; the bit about his lifestyle at Spurs is what you always sort of think happens when young footballers go off the rails, but you never normally hear of it. Genuinely interesting, and far better written than most football stuff (Sid Lowe is a great journalist).
Alternate Endings: Brilliant article exploring the future of interactive storytelling, with particular reference to the potential for inclusion of branching, user-directed narratives in film. You will, of course, remember that I featured interactive short film ‘Possibilia’ in Curios at the tail end of last year; this is a broader look at the sort of technology underpinning it, and an exploration of how user reaction data can be used on the fly to tailor a narrative based on subconsciously-expressed viewer interest. Which may or may not be a good thing - videogame storytelling hasn’t exactly benefited from its attempt to craft divergent narratives - but which is certainly fascinating on a technical/conceptual level.
How To Become A ‘Best-Selling’ Author: An actual, proper step-by-step guide to scamming your way to best seller status on Amazon - actually really quite impressive how easy this is to do. Note this doesn’t actually help you sell any books, but it does let you print ‘Amazon #1 Author!’ on your website which, to a certain class of gullible idiot, effectively makes you GOD.
Alexa Is Stupid: The best takedown of the Alexa hype I’ve yet seen - pointing out that, yes, fine, it’s a GREAT clock radio but that in fact that’s about all that it actually does well. I was at a tech demo thingy yesterday where Alexa and Google home were also on display, and much of the thing consisted of the guy doing the demo effectively saying “Be QUIET, Alexa!” with varying degrees of exasperation, so I’m with the author here.
The Troll Taunter: An actually, properly uplifting and heartwarming story about how a young woman has stood upto misogynist bullying in the Wikipedia editors’ community and through so doing improved the knowledge base around female scientists and their achievements. Honestly, this will make you feel marginally better about the world, I promise.
How Fling Died: If you’re in your early 20s, you may recall Fling from its brief period in the sun a couple of years back; for the uninitiated, it was basically a service which let you punt out pictures to an audience of strangers and to then engage them in conversation. It ended up effectively being a low-friction sexting/hookup app, but this piece is less an exploration of the app and why it went wrong and more a portrait of one young, rich man’s descent into obvious cocaine hell - the amounts of money being burnt here are STAGGERING, and I very much applaud the author’s restraint when writing lines like ‘colleagues were struck by his erratic behaviour and rapid weight-loss’, and noting the frequent ‘hard-partying’ trips to Ibiza. Thing is, though, you get to the end and you realise that there was no kickback to this - the kid burnt through literally millions, but he’s still a millionaire - there’s no loss here, no failure, just a series of photos taken from the now-permanent tropical holiday he seems to be on. Which makes me think, frankly, were I in his shoes would I necessarily have behaved differently? Actually, who am I kidding, of course I would - I wouldn’t have bothered with the stupid startup and instead skipped straight to the drugs and holidays. FOOL.
Anna Nicole Smith’s American Dream: This is an interesting picture of the life and death of poor, sad, slightly mad Anna Nicole Smith, which contains interesting observations about the culture of cruelty which permeated celebrity in the 1990s; it’s interesting that my generation looks back at the 90s as a halcyon period of hope and prosperity considering it sowed the seeds for much of what is truly reprhensible about popular culture in 2017.
I Work From Home: This is funny because it’s so painfully relatable. Freelancers, you will HOWL at this.
The Anne of Cleves Effect: Let me once again flag up The Hairpin as an excellent place to find writing for/about women - this essay, about Tinder and self-image and, sort of, Anne of Cleves, is short and sweet and A Good Thing.
Underground: An actual, proper short story to finish with, from the pages of the New Yorker - Underground is the story of one man’s day in New York, in which small things happen. A superb piece of writing - thinking back to it as I write this, I could tell you so much about the narrator based simply on implied or inferred facts drawn from the short, which imho is the mark of some excellent short story writing. This is really lovely, and deserves the sofa and a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Treat yourself.
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) Let’s start with the new one from M.I.A which is no Paper Planes but which is to my mind the best actual song she’s done in ages - the video also is all sorts of impressive, what with the crazy kinetic dancers. Catchy as all you like, in a weirdly atonal way - I really like this. It’s called ‘P.O.W.A’:
2) Next up, the wonderful voice of Iggy Pop doing its spoken word-type thing all over the top of this track by Pins, called ‘Aggrophobe’. SUCH a voice:
3) Not quite sure what this reminds me of - there’s a definite whiff of recycled indiopop here, but in a good way. Anyway, this is ‘A Friend’ by Formation; the video features a really excellent fist fight on what I think is the Bakerloo line (better Tube geeks will obviously be able to correct me here):
4) NOT QUITE HIPHOP CORNER! This is the new one from Chance the Rapper, and it’s all melancholy piano and surprisingly sweet vocals, and it’s called ‘Same Drugs’ and it’s rather lovely:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! When I first featured J Hus on here two years ago (well, 18 months, but still) he was just starting out - he’s now PROPER FAMOUS, or least he is according to his status amongst the Hackney 14 year olds I know (this is less creepy than it sounds, I promise - I’m not some sort of weird internet Fagin, honest. Erm, this isn’t helping, is it?). Anyway, this is his recent collaboration with the excellently-named Dave; it’s called ‘Samantha’ and it’s ACE:
6) MORE UK HIPHOP CORNER! Stormzy, on the other hand, has been proper famous for ages. This is his latest, called ‘Big For Your Boots’ and it is also ACE:
7) EVEN MORE HIPHOP CORNER! Finally this week, this is a bit of a slow burner but once it gets going it’s excellent. Featuring Dev Hynes (Blood Orange, Lightspeed Champion, etc) and Wiki (Ratking), this is ‘Nothing to Hide’ by Sporting Life - ENJOY HAPPY WEEKEND HAVE FUN TAKE CARE TRY NOT TO CRY TOO MUCH!:
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