THE SECTION WHICH IS GRUDGINGLY ADMITTING THAT SNAPCHAT MIGHT NOW ACTUALLY TIP INTO MAINSTREAM UBIQUITY AND WHICH IS PRETTY FCUKING UNHAPPY ABOUT IT TBH:
Facebook Updates How Live Works: Well, a bit. These are mostly useful for broadcasters rather than brands or your standard punters, though obviously there’s something here for everyone because, well, it’s Facebook and we must all use it all of the time on pain of being forgotten. I can’t be bothered to list ALL the things - seriously, there are loads, but the main ones are that: you get better insights on your Live broadcasts; Pages can now designate other users who can broadcast live from said Pages - meaning you can effectively have roving reporters out in the field who you can patch in to your Page on an ad hoc basis; pinned comments on Live broadcasts; the ability to cross-post archived Live broadcasts to multiple Pages even when they are no longer live; and (and this is the big one, I think) the ability to go Live from a webcam on desktop - which, and noone seems to be talking about this which perhaps suggests that what I am about to say is all sorts of boll0cks, I think suddenly creates an interesting new platform for your influencer types to broadcast on. Anyway, LOADS of stuff so none of you have any excuse whatsoever for not streaming every single fcuking moment of your shiny, exciting lives into the gaping maw of Zuckerberg’s ravenous big blue misery factory.
Facebook Journalism Project: In what’s an interesting move for a company which is still incredibly keen on reassuring the world that it is not in fact a publisher oh no siree, and which is JUST A TOOL and not actually media itself (not sure this is an entirely coherent message, lads, but wevs), Facebook this week launched its Journalism Project which I’m not going to describe in full because LONG but which you really ought to have a read of. There are quite a few interesting format tweaks for publishers in here, including the ability to bundle lots of different content together in what sounds like a multi-instant-articles-type format (on which more here), hackathons, collaborative working and much more besides.
Ads In Instagram Stories: Look, it was inevitable, don’t get upset about it. Brands are getting the ability to insert ads - nice, high-end, fullscreen video stuff, it’s not going all wild west quite yet and I don’t think it’s going self-serve for a while, and it’s only open to 30-odd partner brands at the moment, but still - into Instagram Stories, whilst brands with an Instagram Business Profile will now get decent analytics on the Stories they post for better self-justification/backslapping. The ads aren’t actually as appalling development as they sound; apparently they’ll appear between users watching other people’s Stories, and only after someone’s watched a few, and the quality control is interesting; there are some quite fun creative things you could do with the format, I reckon, but there’s obviously a concomitant cost to producing something shiny enough to pass muster. Anyway, there you are.
Snapchat Gets Search: One of the major barriers to new (OLD) users getting to grips with Snapchat has traditionally been the platforms stubborn insistence on making it nigh-on impossible to discover content and users within the app - WELL NO LONGER! Now your racist gran will be able to install Snapchat and find the Mail and Express accounts STAT, meaning there’s very little to stop us all being forced to share videos of ourselves giving HOT TAKES on the latest Trump atrocities whilst comedy lasers shoot out of our eyes. Fabulous. Obviously the serious benefit here (aside from the not insignificant one to users) is to brands - you think you won’t soon have the opportunity to pay money to appear as a suggestion in search, by name or category? HA! There are a few other UI tweaks announced in this update (coming to Android first, iOS SOON), but frankly they’re all secondary - this now lets brands advertise Snapchat campaigns EVERYWHERE (“search Anusol on Snapchat!”) which means it has suddenly become a BIG(ER) THING.
Snapchat Testing New Ad Formats: Deep-linking to apps (so you can run an ad which, with an up-swipe, takes users to a specific point within your app) and auto-fill datacapture. So there. I am bored of writing about Snapchat now (which frankly doesn’t bode well for my potential future doing this crap, but perhaps for the best).
YouTube Launches SuperChat: It’s not often that Google launches something at which you go “Er, really? You sure about this?” and yet here we are. YouTube is going to give commenters the ability to pay actual cashmoney to get their comment pinned at the top of the whole comments thread for any given video.Yes, that’s exactly right - sounds GREAT, doesn’t it? Obviously creators have the option to turn this on or off at their discretion, and to block particular users from the service, and to block certain words or phrases for being used in pinned comments, but still. Although perhaps there would be a certain perverse joy in having people pay you money to write sticky abusive comments on your stuff, I’m not sure. Anyway, if you make stuff and you really want to play with this then GOOD LUCK TO YOU; caveat emptor is all I’m saying here.
Slack Now Plays Really Nicely With Google Docs: I know, I know, this is really boring (as opposed to the scintillating material so far - it’s been a doozy, I know! - but it’s also really useful.
Save Monopoly: I know, I am playing into their hands by linking this, but it’s important. In a marketing masterstroke, Hasbro have launched this website letting people around the world vote on which of the playing tokens should be kept in the set, which should be discarded and which should be their replacements. It’s clever, the website’s functional, the music’s hideous...look, the only reason I am featuring this is that I think something in all of us will die if a fcuking emoji or hash symbol gets onto the Monopoly board. I know, I know, I am OLD and CONSERVATIVE and REACTIONARY, but IS NOTHING FCUKING SACRED?!?!?! I say this as someone who’s literally never played Monopoly - only child of a broken home, kids, hear the violins? - and yet it is STILL important. MAKE THIS STAND.
Meet Vincent Dignan:It seems unfair to single out an individual for mockery, but, looking at his website, I am pretty sure Vince’s ego can withstand the blow of some gentle mockery from an underachieving webmong keyboard warrior. Still, though - Vince! Vince! What the fcuk are you playing at? I do like the line “AS FEATURED ON MANY OF THE GREATEST WEBSITES ON THE WEB”, though - is this a joke? Someone please do let me in on it, if so.
THE SECTION WHICH FOR THE FIRST TIME IS FAIRLY CONVINCED THAT EVEN SOME OF THE MORE OUTRE LINKS IN HERE THIS WEEK ARE LESS ODD THAN WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE REAL WORLD AND WHICH FINDS THAT FACT NOT INSIGNIFICANTLY TROUBLING, PT.1:
The Crap Of CES, Pt.2: Following on from last week’s collection of CESballs, here’s another selection, lovingly curated by the person or people behind the Internet of Sh1t Twitter feed - featuring such Web Curios favourites as the Smart Belt and the Smart Pants. I think someone should run a competition now asking for predictions for CES 2018 products, with prizes - actually, Wired, that’s a GREAT idea, do it, go on.
Toontastic: Many of you, I imagine, are successful and emotionally-rounded human beings with families and offspring. Whilst I struggle to comprehend what that must be like, this struck me as the sort of thing that your kids might enjoy - I might be wrong, though. Toontastic actually existed before, but this is the NEW EXCITING SHINY version - it’s by Google, and it’s effectively a digital sandbox for storytelling - it lets kids put together animated stories using a simple, effective interface to craft multi-act narratives with shifting cameras and perspectives, moving characters and ACTION and stuff. The potential sophistication of this is really impressive, should your LO (see, I read Mumsnet) (I don’t read Mumsnet) be a budding Jodorowsky, but equally I reckon it is simple enough to let kids just tell the sort of stories that they do with LEGO or Barbie or whatever. Looks seemingly TOTALLY BENIGN, although I accept no responsibility for any dark subliminal messages which Google may or may not be attempting to inject into your kids’ skulls.
Comics Club: On a similar-ish vibe to the above, except all analogue, is this site which collects a whole load of tips and resources for parents whose kids might be into writing their own comics; it’s only just launched so is a touch content-light at the moment, but it’s worth bookmarking if you think your children might be that way inclined.
My Money My Food: It’s a miracle I’m even bothering to write this right now - I would MUCH rather be watching every single video on this awesome YouTube channel, which is a series of cooking vids showing Indian village cooking on a massive scale - from huge skate to 300 eggs to whole goats, this is both fascinating to anyone of a foodie bent as well as being one of those ‘Christ, the web is AMAZING isn’t it?’ eye-openers which happen less and less often imhaojo.
Oculus Medium: This is the Oculus version of Google Tilt Brush - you remember, that software which lets you draw / sculpt in a 3d virtual environment? Course you do. Anyway, Oculus’ shot at it is aimed squarely at animators and 3d artists, but the results they show off on the website are hugely impressive. We’re not going to see the best of this stuff for another 18 months, I reckon, but the potential for worlds built using these tools is near-limitless - how long before we see monumental architectural projects being undertaken in virtual rather than physical space using stuff like this? I have no idea, obviously, but just thought I’d ask.
The Trumpwatcher: This is GREAT. Friend of Curios Shardcore has built a new bot, one which takes the Donald’s Tweets and maps them (where possible) and analyses them for sentiment, and offers an assessment of the man’s current mood and the likelihood of whether or not he wrote said Tweet himself. Depending on whether or not he shifts to @POTUS in a week, over time we can build up a map of Trump’s moods which might be an interesting exercise in depressing data analysis. You can read all about the HIGH CONCEPT here, should you desire, but it’s worth a follow.
The Visual Telling of Stories: This is REALLY odd. It’s a sort of neverending cabinet of artistic curiosities of almost infinite breadth, covering the classics, advertising, Americana, food...basically everything. It’s got scans from magazines, it’s got...it’s got EVERYTHING. It’s by an academic called Dr Chris Mullen - is that a real person or an alias? Literally no idea at this point - and the UI/UX alone makes it worth inclusion here. I can’t stress enough how pleasingly, compellingly odd this is - like the website equivalent of stumbling into a low-ceilinged old print shop with labyrinthine corridors and a proprietor who looks straight out of Jim Hensons’ Storyteller (shout out all of you old enough to get that reference).
Airwander: Really smart idea, this - a travel site which looks to book you flight tickets which allow for layover/stopover time based on how long you want to spend in your mid-point destination. Given these flights are often cheaper than going direct, this is an excellent way of shaving a few quid off a long-haul holiday and squeezing in a visit to an additional place; if I were, say, Singapore or some other transport hub, I would totally rip this off.
Toko Compression: For those of you who think that your commute is unpleasant; spare a thought for the poor, poor Japanese. Wonderful-if-depressing shots, these, of the somewhat squashed salarimen/women of rush-hour Tokyo.
The Backtrack Skyn: I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty reasonable judge of when I’m getting p1ssed; I tend to feel happy, for a start, which isn’t a naturally-occurring emotional state for me most of the rest of the time. If you, though, are less good at knowing when you’re beginning to make a slurring mess of yourself, this piece of kit could be a GODSEND. The Backtrack Skyn (and what a name, by the way!) claims to be able to measure alcohol levels through the skin, letting you track how boozed you are by way of a readout on your smart watch. Whilst this might not take off, something very much like it almost certainly will - welcome to the tedious future in which teenagers do the bragging ‘I’VE GOT A HIGHER BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVEL THAN YOU!’ thing before being sick on each other, and in which competitive drinking tournaments in Kavos reach a whole new desperate nadir. CHEERS!
That Bloke With The Sweaters: Look, I found this AGES ago, it’s not my fault it’s been everywhere this week. Still, though, look at his face!
The Action Figure Museum: This is an actual, physical museum, located in Paul’s Valley Oklahoma. Click on the ‘Look Around’ button and let the 8 year old boy in you MARVEL.
Tiny Spires: A lovely, whimsical Twitter bot which every 3 hours spits out a piece of geometric art designed to look like a castle (the account references Mary Blair’s Small World art, which may mean more to you than it does to me). Cute.
The Indexer: I am including this solely because it is such a wonderful, perfect example of ‘wow, there is some really niche stuff online, eh?’ - this is the website for the international journal of indexing, a publication specifically for the people who...er...compile indexes. WHO EVEN KNEW THAT WAS A THING??
Music For Programming: A site collecting a whole BUNCH of mixes of music which, the curator claims, are perfect for coding to, consisting largely of ambient/drone-type sounds which should soothe rather than distract as you attempt to wrangle some Java (did that sound like I know what I am talking about? Oh).
How They Did Special Effects In Old Films: A series of gifs showing how Chaplin, Keaton and others did some of their more spectacular special effects/stunts. These are fascinating (but prove that Keaton was actually mental).
221b Baker Street: I am not a Sherlock obsessive, but for any of you that are - can it POSSIBLY be a coincidence that this Google Street View look into the apartment from the BBC TV show has gone live whilst the current series is online? Can it? Are there clues hidden within here? I have literally no idea on any of those counts, FYI, but if you want to spend an hour or so peering into the reflections on bottle and at the labels on tins of beans in Sherlock’s underwhelming digs in the hope of gleaning some small insight then click right ahead.
Generative Spiders: Each time you refresh this page a new Web GL spider is generated in shiny polygons to wander around your screen. That’s pretty much it, really, but I like it.
Kitestring: Not the first of these services I’ve featured here, but I like the simplicity of this one. Kitestring lets users sign up with their phone number and that of a number of friends/contacts - the idea is that you can then set the service to text you at a pre-arranged time; if it doesn’t get an acknowledgement from you within a predetermined period it will alert your contacts that something might be up. The really nice thing is that you don’t even need a smartphone - really smart service design.
Revl: Another events discovery app, Revl launched this week (I think) and is from London so, you know, good luck to them. The idea is that users can sign up to follow venues or brands or individuals whose events interest them; events are then presented in a Twitter-style (this is an awful and lazy comparison, but you get the idea) stream through which you can scroll. You can also search by event type, create ‘lists’ based on different themes...you get the idea (and if you don’t I’m really sorry, it’s 8:22 and I’m having a small slump while my tea brews). The partners they have signed up for launch are impressive enough to make it worth a look imho.
Polimonitor: This is really useful, potentially. I presume it’s been put together by some PA shop but I can’t be bothered to look (sorry) - in any case, Polimonitor is a site which lets you search a database of tweets from MPs, Assembly Members, Peers, etc, by keyword and by type of politician - a BOON for journalists looking to embarrass parliamentarians with utterances from the distant past.
Ward + Robes: I got a RIGHT emo on at the site of this earlier. Ward + Robes is a Canadian initiative making hospital gowns for teens in collaboration with designers to create hospitalwear which is marginally less depressing than the standard issue gear. This is just SO lovely, and (and I’m sorry for thinking this way) give it’s only in Canada is EXACTLY the sort of thing a UK fashion brand could co-opt if they wanted some CSR brownie points (really, I’m sorry).
Alchema: Have you ever made your own beer? It is, for the most part, absolutely ghastly stuff (inevitably not helped if, as we did, you are just too impatient to wait the full 6 weeks and you decide to drink it after 3). This, though, looks MAGIC - Alchema is basically a smart bucket into which you chuck a bunch of fruit and stuff (I confess to being sketchy on the details of brewing / fermentation here, but I’m sure it probably comes with instructions) in order to produce your own ciders from a bunch of different recipes. It probably doesn’t *need* to be connected to the internet, but why the fcuk not, eh?
One Foot Wonder: If you lost your leg to cancer, what would YOU do? You might, were you in any way similar to the owner of this odd little Instagram account, ask to have it denuded of flesh and returned to you so that you could make it the star of this week’s cultiest Insta feed, in which said amputated leg, now decidedly skeletal, documents its travels and adventures. This is...strange.
ToDoBook: I had no idea that this was the sort of thing people might want, but turns out it’s HUGELY in demand - To Do Book is a Chrome Extension which lets you block yourself from using Facebook until you’ve completed a set number of named tasks; beautifully, it works within the newsfeed so it shouts at you about your accomplishment failures each time you try and log on. Outsource your willpower to someone else, go on!
Write.as: Simple, no-friction anonymous publishing platform. For when you absolutely HAVE to sh1tpost about someone but haven’t got anywhere to do it.
THE SECTION WHICH FOR THE FIRST TIME IS FAIRLY CONVINCED THAT EVEN SOME OF THE MORE OUTRE LINKS IN HERE THIS WEEK ARE LESS ODD THAN WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE REAL WORLD AND WHICH FINDS THAT FACT NOT INSIGNIFICANTLY TROUBLING, PT.2:
Underdogs: We may already be a few weeks into 2017, but don’t let that stop you from investing in a charity calendar featuring dogs photgraphed from underneath so that you can see their adorable doggy bellies. You will ALL know someone who will want one of these.
The Shamen of Kazakhstan: I once lived with a man from Kazakhstan. He was called Dilshot, and were it not for the fact that he dressed in the standard post-Soviet mid-90s uniform of jeans, trainers and a variety of interestingly-patterned synthetic knitwear he could easily have stepped straight off a squat, sturdy pony on the Steppes, low forehead and all. He was very fond of a particular sort of horsemeat sausage he would bring back from Kazakhstan after each holiday, and which looked so much like a diseased zombie horse penis (really, it was uncanny and not a little repellent) that we would say quite unkind things whenever he ate it in our presence. Sorry, Dilshot. Anyway, this has nothing to do with penile charcuterie, but DOES feature a lot of ace pictures of shamanic types, ritual blooding, sparse landscapes and sheep.
Europeana: What’s the EU good for? ABSOLUTELY NOTHI...actually, I think you’ll find it’s good for many things, not least the creation of stuff like THIS, which is a truly mind-boggling archive of artworks, books, videos and the like from institutions across the Union. There’s a *small* question mark over the need to spend EU money doing this when, you know, Google, but let’s gloss over that and instead enjoy the fact there are over 50million different works in here in a variety of different media, half of which are available for re-use. A pretty amazing archive, all told.
Spyn: A (funded) Kickstarter for what are basically spinning tops for people who think tossing a coin is TOO BANAL a way to make a decision. The tops come in a variety of flavours - ‘yes/no’, ‘you/me’, ‘now/later’ - and admittedly look quite pleasing, but FFS kids JUST USE A 2P PIECE. Also, their strapline is ‘decision-making made fun’ - tell that to Sophie.
Digital Music Lab VIS: I confess to not WHOLLY understanding this, so apologies - it looks/sounds interesting, though. I’m just going to leave their description here and hope that it means more to you than to me: “DML VIS enables you to explore, analyse and compare music recordings from three large libraries originating from the British Library's Sound Archives, CHARM and I Like Music. The interface operates in two modes – collection-level analysis and recording level analysis. You can switch between the modes by clicking on the button at the top-right corner of the screen.” So, er, there.
Opera Neon: A new browser! Well, new-ish - Opera’s been around for a while, but this Neon update magically turns it into the shiniest browsing experience out there. It’s rather hard to describe (no, really, it is), so I suggest you click the link and look at the video; personally I think for someone like me who has about 60 bookmarks they visit each day it would be unusable, but for more standard webusers it could be a nice alternative to the increasingly bloated excesses of Chrome.
Uber Movement: Google announced overnight that they will be including Uber car movements on the Maps app in future, which is sort of incredibly big news for the cabbies’ worst enemy in terms of cementing it in the popular consciousness as A Permanent Thing. Anyway, this has nothing to do with that - instead, it’s Uber’s way of GIVING BACK, offering access to (anonymised, natch) data on journeys taken all over the world. The idea is that it will allow policymakers and the like to make use of all the interesting info Uber has on traffic patterns, route optimisation, pickup density and the rest so as to allow for better, smarter planning. Which is in theory a great idea and A Good Thing, but I can’t be the only person who can equally think of at least three hugely criminal use-cases for all this information can I?
U-Pet: You love your cat, right? You want it to be happy, and to (perhaps, in an ideal world) for it to stop attacking you every time you go near it? Well why in the name of christ would you buy one of these things, then? Not just for cats, but those were the ones which struck me, U-Pet produces a range of pet-carrying...things, which have these odd little bubble-shaped windows so that your poor trapped pet can stare out from it like a baleful astronaut. Some of these things are BACKPACKS. Can you imagine a cat’s response to being put in one of these? Your arm would be like a meat Cheese String, it would be *horrific*.
The Most Amazing Skeletal Face Makeup You Ever Will See: Seriously though.
The ‘Leave Me Alone’ Sweater: This is how I feel SO MUCH.
The Cthulhushop: For all your ‘souvenirs from the unspeakable otherrealm’ needs.
Snappr Photo Analyser: A site which purports to ‘analyse’ your LinkedIn profile photo and tell you exactly how good it is on a scale of 1-100. I confess to not having tried it out as I don’t have a profile photo on LinkedIn - YEAH, TAKE THAT THE MAN! - but the results, from what I’ve seen of others’ attempts, tend to be of the ‘close your mouth’ and ‘you need more shadows under your chin’ variety. If you work in a REALLY dull office environment I imagine that this is the sort of thing that might pass for fun afternoon BANTZ, so go for your lives.
Open Courser: We’re still early enough in the year that many of you may still believe in your promises of self-amelioration for the year - in which case, this directory of free online courses sorted by subject may well be of use. You probably won’t learn Mandarin in 2017, but at least this will allow you to make just enough of an effort to do so that you feel guilty about abandoning it all by mid-April.
Compare US City Data: I know most of you couldn’t give less of one about how the average annual rainfall of St Louis compares with that of Minneapolis, and indeed neither could I, but this site is one of the most incredible data gathering and comparison efforts I’ve ever seen - just LOOK at the amount of information it’s pulling through. Seriously impressive, and a standard to aspire to in terms of completeness.
The Worst TV Show Ever: I say this as someone who in all seriousness pitched a show idea called ‘How To Lose A Guy (Or Girl) In 10 Days’ to a production company once. Just...just read the description: “A new docu-reality series from the makers of "Catfish: The TV Show" is looking for people with strong opinions on anything from POLITICS to SPORTS who are vocal about it online. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO BE HEARD! DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT THINGS LIKE: Feminism, Gaming, Vegans, Conspiracy Theories, Rival Sports Teams, Syrian Refugees, Immigration, Black Lives Matter, LGBT/Trans issues, etc. If so, WE WANT YOU!” Wow. Here’s a similarly cheering one JUST on gaming, in case you didn’t think this was repellent enough. Thanks, 2017, you’re starting off WELL.
Antipersona: I get the impression that this might fall foul of Twitter’s Ts&Cs, but we shall see. I like the idea, though - Antipersona is an app which lets you experience what it’s like to use Twitter as someone else for a day - through the app you can see the feed as they do, as well as the @mentions and notifications they get (though not, obviously, DMs). A lovely exercise in developing online empathy (but probably not in fact developing online empathy).
Buttbart: A satirical take on Breitbart, written by everyone’s favourite purveyor of comedy gay internet smut and, increasingly, esoteric liberal avatar and life coach (no really, check out the AMA, it is oddly inspiring) Chuck Tingle, this is very silly but made me laugh a lot, particularly the Milo reference.
The Earring: An earring which actually looks like another ear. Why not, eh? By the same person who made the finger ring which you will doubtless have seen on other, inferior aggregators of other people’s content from across the web.
Photospots: I love projects like these. This is NEW and really interesting - a map site mashing data from photos posted to 500px to map the density of photos taken at various locations around the world; the closer you zoom, the more photos from individual locations you get to browse. Fascinating stuff, not least to see the tedious homogeneity of shot you get in so many places, and there are HUGE numbers of interesting things you could do with this info if you were a brand (off the top of my head, it gives you a really useful way of seeing where it might be worthwhile doing experiential stuff to hit keen photographers, for example).
Chemi-on: Programmable LED sunglasses. I don’t really think that there’s anything more to say, but if you want to see the dickiest thing of the year so far then I really advise you to click on that link post-haste.
Mystery Search: GOOGLE LOTTERY! Mystery Search lets you search Google for whatever you like; the gimmick being that the results thrown out are those for the search inputted by the last person to use the site, meaning you could be presented with anything at all, from ‘kitten play’ to ‘horrific anal prolapse’ (really sorry ifyou got that one). Strangely compelling .
Horrific Fish of the Deep: The AWESOME Twittr account of a Russian fisherman on a deep sea trawler who shares shots of some of the frankly TERRIFYING things that the boat dredges up. I promise you, you will struggle to believe that these are actual real living things and not props from the Cthulhushop back up there. DON’T HAVE NIGHTMARES.
Star Trek: The Cruise: Sadly the 2017 cruises (note the plural there) are all sold out, but bookings are now being taken for 2018, should you want to go and hang out on a boat with Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn and a bunch of other people who I frankly really didn’t recognise at all. The main reason I’m including this, though, is that I’m aware that quite a few men and women of a certain age will have had a slight sexual awakening about Commander Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation AND HE IS ON THE BOAT! I can only imagine the insane amount of sexual tension in the air as a bunch of very particular late 30somethings vie for his attention amongst stilted games of shuffleboard - this sounds like a reality show in waiting, frankly, someone please commission it.
The Ed Gein Jacket: Have you ever wanted the opportunity to commission a latex jacket crafted so as to look as though it’s stitched together from actual human skin and on which are clearly discernible faces, ears and the like? No, of course you haven’t, and yet once again here we are. They’re made to order, unsurprisingly (would you want a wardrobe full of these knocking around the house?) so you might have to wait a while, but Hallowe’en’s AGES away.
Parihug: Electronically-connected teddybears - hugging one causes the other to gently vibrate in what the makers call ‘haptic telepresence’, which I think is a rather cute idea, particularly for children of parents who travel a lot or work late, but which I am mainly including as a nice segue to / contrast with…
Kissenger: Basically EXACTLY LIKE the distance-hugging bears, except instead of cute bears delivering hugs across distances this is a weird, horrific fake mouth...thing which lets users exchange ‘kisses’ through haptic feedback. Click the link and take a moment to imagine that sensation, and realise exactly how far away we are from proper sexbots, and breathe a gentle sigh of relief.
Divine Interventions: Religious-themed dildos. No more, no less. Both NparticularlySFW and massively blasphemous, for clarity.
Yeah Boi!: You won’t understand why this exists (it’s a meme, apparently, but a bit of a niche one), but I guarantee you will play this more than you expect. Click to jump.
Star Wars Fighter: Last up in the random link soup this week, this EXCELLENT side-scrolling shoot-em-up very much in the classic R-Type vein, except STAR WARS! Even if you, like me, could not care any less about Lucas’ monster baby this is a truly GREAT browser game and a perfect way to waste the next few hours of your employers’ time before going off to numb the pain of your working life with drink and drugs and sleep and tears until the whole stupid, pointless merrygoround starts again on Monday.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
Seek Victory: The past few months has seen the internet EXPLODE (well, certain bits of it) with interest in Yuri On Ice, an anime focusing on ice skating prodigy Yuri but, more significantly, his relationship with his (male) coach. Fandoms have gone crazy over it - this is one of the cuter Tumblrs I’ve seen on the show.
Miguel Magro: The eponymous artist’s Tumblr showcasing his highly-stylised caricatures - love the way he does faces.
Fcuk Yeah Hugh Laurie: When he was famous in House I started to feel quite proud of the fact that I look a little bit like Hugh Laurie if you squint a bit; seeing him at the Golden Globes at the weekend, when he went back to looking a little bit like me, changed my mind rather. Still, a rathe nice fan tribute to the man who will always in my head and heart be Bertie.
Bearly Functioning: This Tumblr of ursine cartoons is the author’s way of dealing with her depression and anxiety; there’s a touch of the Hallmark about some of this, sure, but there’s also a real charm to the art style which makes it ok.
Gente En Sitos: I really don’t quite get what’s happening here - the title translates as ‘People In Places’, and I suppose that’s just what it is; a series of nondescript photos of nondescript people in nondescript locations. Awesomely banal and one of the most (genuinely) artistic things I’ve seen on Tumblr for time.
Because Birds: Videos of birds. Pretty much nothing else.
Jack Kirby Dislikes Ears: Turns out iconic (sorry) comic book artist Jack Kirby really, really doesn’t like drawing ears. Seriously the evidence is ALL HERE - not one shell-like in evidence.
How To Make Me Come: Text-only erototumblr which is also a collection of really strong essays from women about what they like, sexually. Runs the gamut, and is as much women talking to each other and themselves about sex and sexuality as it is fantasybongo material. Really, really interesting (and probably a bit embarrassing if someone catches you reading it at work, fyi, though looks pretty sober so if you have noone peering then GO FOR IT).
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
The 21st Century Gold Rush: Brilliant, brilliant work by the Huffington Post (not a sentence I type very often, that one), both journalistically and presentationally in this investigation into the manner in which criminals - of both the organised and less-organised sorts - are making an awful lot of money from the refugee crisis (still happening, that, fyi). Looking at the situation in Niger, Italy, Turkey and Germany, this is not only fascinating reportage but a great piece of webwork. Can’t recommend it enough, really.
Joel On Donald And The Wee: I know, I know, we are all already bored of the wee thing and all the jokes (I’d sort of had enough by 9am on Wednesday tbqhwy, so trust me when I say I empathise), but Joel Golby’s HOT TAKE on the big questions we’d all want to ask Donald about the wee thing, were it in fact to be true, is so funny that actual tears were streaming down my face as I read it. I promise, you won’t be disappointed, however jaded you are at the thought of the man who is about to be elected to a position which still, for the next ten days at least, carries with it the popular title of ‘leader of the free world’ being urinated on or at the very least around, by an unspecified number of sex workers in a Moscow hotel room. It took exactly 11 days for all the dreams we had about 2017 to be shattered into microscopic pieces, so thanks for that everyone.
The Future of Cruising: On reflection, that should probably read ‘Cruises’ - this is about being on a big boat rather than ‘looking for badgers’. Anyway, the piece is a fascinating look at how the man who brought Magic Band technology to Disneyland (you remember, the crazy tech which tracks visitors around the park to optimally personalise their Disney experience and - inevitably - sell them more mousetat) is bringing the same tech to the cruise ship experience. If you are in any way interested in retail and/or hospitality, this is sort of a must-read (and it’s also very good if you’re just interested in tech and marketing and stuff, frankly).
Meet The Pillow King: My Pillow is an American company which sells a frankly staggering number of the country’s pillows; this is the even more staggering life story of the man behind it, a former addict who has somehow - and really, it’s not wholly clear how he’s managed it even after reading the profile - managed to create a business which is on its way to billion dollar status if growth continues. Contains the frankly wonderful line: “he realized that abusing crack and running a business weren’t compatible in the long term”, which I suppose is a pretty hard epiphany to argue with.
Lauren Duca’s Letter To Trolls: Lauren Duca, in case the name isn’t immediately familiar, is the Teen Vogue coumnist who elf-faced human sphincter Martin Shkreli decided he wanted to woo and who this week got him kicked off Twitter for doing some deeply creepy stalking of her. Unsurprisingly, this chain of events saw Ms Duca exposed to some of the charming men of Twitter who felt emboldened to make clear their feelings as to her rejection of Mr Shkreli’s advances and her complaints at her behaviour (clue: they were DISPLEASED); this is her response to them. It’s more poignant for the fact that the prose can’t hide how shaken and upset she understandably is by the whole thing, which makes its writing all the more impressive.
I Want Wings: A long, discursive and academic look at the concept of the cyborg, taking in physical enhancements, neuroscience, tattooing and the transhumanist movement. A smart and wide-ranging piece of writing which is a rather wonderful primer on the whole idea of man-as-chimera.
The Limits and Possibilities of the Robot Chef: Moley (don’t know why, but that name makes me feel unspeakably sad and lonely - anyone else) is a robot chef (made in London, no less). He can only cook one dish at the moment - it’s a bisque, since you ask - and he needs a LOT of help, but he can make it. This piece from NY Mag is a beautiful and slightly bemused look both at the technology - no spoiler to say that the author is somewhat skeptical as to the long-term potential here - and the art of cooking, and contains some lovely writing about food overall.
My Teenage Dirtbag Fight Club: Tales of white trash adolescence in the 90s. I can’t quite work out if I believe this or not, but it’s a nice piece of reminisce-y storytelling nonetheless, all about young male adolescence and the nihilism that most people outgrow by the time they hit their late 30s (note to self there, dear reader). Part of Buzzfeed’s rather excellent 1999 nostalgiafest, which is definitely worth delving into if you are of an age.
How To Edit Your Wardrobe: I’m including this mainly because it made me spit with anger and then made me think that it had played me specifically to make me spit with anger. Anyway, your mileage may vary - this is the story of a GQ fashion writer in New York and how he learned to give up his obsession with fashion (sort of, in a very obsessive sort of way). HOW MUCH WAS THIS GUY GETTING PAID? I mean, I know he will have gotten a LOT of comps, fine, but still. Nah, on reflection I hate him.
Northern Oddities: Another in the semi-regular series of Web Curios longreads about slightly odd women doing slightly odd jobs. This is Kathy Burek, a veterinary pathologist in Alaska who spends most of her life cutting up dead reindeer, otter and whales to find out how they died. Not only interesting in the ‘hm, yes, you do an ODD JOB’ and ‘blimey, that’s some graphic descriptions of whale viscera you’re blessing me with’ sense, but also as regards the manner in which jobs like hers can give clues as to climate change - pathetically, I’d given no thought whatsoever to the slightly bleak bacterial angles to climate change (cf if waters get warmer, different strains of bacteria appear in them which naive species may not be designed to resist - cheery stuff!).
Megadeth Arizona: This is FASCINATING - a look at how Megadeth’s album Youthanasia (great title, guys) was marketing using the very nascent world wide web. Brilliantly told - if you work advermarketingpr and/pr the music industry you will love this, I promise you.
Why We Can’t Fix Twitter: A really interesting viewpoint from someone who was behind one of the near-infinite number of ‘like Twitter, but better/kinder/smarter/more thoughtful’ variants which have launched and died in the past 5-6 years or so. The central premise of this is that we as users - and, crucially, as media - are absolutely addicted to the potential for quick virality which Twitter affords and as such there is absolutely no way of fixing any of the myriad issues the platform has without simultaneously banjaxing the thing which everyone loves about it.
Meet Jared Kushner: It’s probably worth acquainting yourself with one of the men who’s going to have the Donald’s ear over the next four years. Jared sounds like a perfectly charming person and by no means a terrifying, predatory businessshark. Oh me oh my.
Ronaldinho’s Letter To His Younger Self: This is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing about football I have read in ages, seriously. If this really was written by him, he’s a far better writer than many people paid to do so; this is genuinely moving, I promise you.
Welcome To The Facebook Hotel: Short but funny, and absolutely on-point. This is very good indeed.
Doing Acid At CES: As the author quite rightly points out, doing acid in Vegas is sort of sub-Gonzo 101 - to her credit, though, the combination of her heightened state and the generally hallucinatory quality of the tech show combine to produce a piece which is in equal part funny and sort of alarming. You will fear for all our immortal souls by the end of this (so, you know, sorry about that).
The Concussion Diaries: Just f your i, this absolutely ruined me when I read it. You don’t need to be interested in, or really even know anything about, American Football to get something out of the story of Zac Easter, an all-American kid who loved playing football and loved the physical aspects of the game and the hits and the tackles and the neck-snapping impacts and who ended up killing himself when he could no longer cope with how much the sport had fcuked him and his mind up. Combining extracts from an essay Zac penned before he died as a post-mortem confessional about his feelings about the game and his mental health, this is honestly heartbreaking. A great piece of writing.
Writing the Bowie Musical: Amongst the flood of year-on pieces on Bowie, this stood out a mile - a recollection by Michael Cunningham of how he collaborated on a very early version of the Bowie-penned musical Lazarus, and his relationship with its composer. Such a wonderful, personal account of the man - this is warm and sad and simultaneously not sad at all, and is a bit of a must-read.
My Longed-For Child: This though is hands-down the best thing I read all week - it’s about having a kid and the act of giving birth and how you feel afterwards, and it’s unflinching and sort of brutal and some of the writing is just perfect. It always seems hyperbolic to invoke Plath - hyperbolic and a bit lazy, frankly - but there were a couple of phrases here which were straight out of Ariel imho (that line about the electric eel is a killer, for example). Enjoy, this is wonderful (by Lucy Jones).
By Cody Bratt
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) Let’s kick this off with the best animated depiction of what modern life is like that you ever will see. Familiar?:
2) Next up, this is called ‘The Great Undressing’ by Jenny Hval. In the video, Hval is gloriously unselfconsciously naked throughout - it is not titillating in the slightest, and it makes a lovely counterpoint to the slightly ghostly track. This is GREAT:
3) This is by Habitaat (no, me neither) and it’s called ‘Follow Me’, and the video is really quite striking, mixing chopped up video and painted overlay with editing which is oddly reminiscent of the movement transitions you see in Google Streetview (no, wait, it’s GOOD, honest!). Nice track, too, in a choppy, blocky sort of fashion - have a listen:
4) This is SO bedwetterish - I mean, really, it’s so twee it could be used to soundtrack an advert for a bank or something - but oddly it didn’t bother me that much, possibly because the two singers seem to be having such a lovely time together in the video and because I’m basically an absolute sucker for this sort of thing which is, I am aware, cripplingly uncool. Hey ho. Anyway, this is called ‘Letters to Ty’, and it’s by Alfie:
5) NOT HIPHOP CORNER! This is by Syd, of Odd Future and The Internet fame, and it’s called All About Me and it is wonderfully hypnotic. Great track this:
6) ANOTHER crap week on the videos (sort yourselves out, Christ) so only one more this week - it’s by Cherry Glazerr and it’s called ‘Nuclear Bomb’, and it’s actually a much sweeter piece of indiepop than the title might suggest, reminiscent of Throwing Muses if you were to ask me; the video is her having what looks like the BEST and SEXIEST date with her guitar. ENJOY HAVE FUN SEE YOU SOON I LOVE YOU: