THE SECTION WHICH IN CONTRAST TO LAST WEEK IS SOMEWHAT EMBARRASSED BY THE PAUCITY OF ‘NEWS’ HERE DISPLAYED BUT WHICH TRUSTS YOU’LL APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT THERE’S LESS OF THIS STUFF TO SCROLL PAST:
You Can Now Watch The Facebook Messenger Snapchat Stories Clone On Desktop!: So, er, yes, let’s be clear, there’s something of a dearth of STUFF HAPPENING this week; you’ll get what you’re given and LIKE IT. In the spirit of this ‘quality of news really is NO BARRIER’ ethos, here’s the ‘news’ that you can now experiment with the FB Messenger ‘Day’ stuff, announced last week and as featured in Curios a mere 7 days ago. The main takeaway from this is a) oh god if you thought that Instagram Stories were dull you have seen NOTHING yet, please can we stop telling people that they are creative because it is causing me nothing but aesthetic pain right now; and b) literally NOONE knows this feature exists yet in normieland. Whisper it, but perhaps they don’t want it or care. Maybe it’s popular indifference on the part of the lumpenproletariat which will save us from the inexorable tide of Snapchatism. Maybe.
Facebook Stories Slowly Rolling Out Worldwide: Or, it turns out, maybe not, given that the bloody Snapchat clone stuff on the main app is being thrust at everyone with increasing frequency right about now. Those of us outside Eire will soon have the opportunity to ‘enjoy’ ephemeral video-based content - such larks!
Twitter Begins To Offer Guaranteed Viewer Numbers On Ad Buys: Were I feeling less charitable than I in fact am (who am I kidding? The amount of charity I feel towards anyone, frankly, at this time of the morning on a Friday is vanishingly small at the best of times, not least when I’m dealing with a hangover), I’d make some sort of gag about how this would provide INCREDIBLE longevity for your ad campaigns based on how long it will take you to reach a set number of people with your on-Twitter pre-roll. To quote, this is “its first guaranteed ad product, which lets brands order a set amount of pre-roll video ads with certainty that they get seen by a target group of consumers”. Cost? The ‘low six figures’, apparently.
Alternative Universe Nazi Radio: So in actual fact it’s called ‘Resistance Radio’, but I’m pretty sure that my name is better. A promo for the Amazon ‘BUT WHAT IF THE NAZIS HAD WON???’-alternarealityscifi show, this is a site showcasing faux-radio stations from the programme’s alternative universe timeline, with three (or more?) different stations, DJs and musical styles on show. I am a sucker for this sort of worldbuilding, but can’t help look at this and think Amazon were a bit cheap here; the site design’s functional at best, there’s limited effort gone into the interface and it all feels a *little* bit sub-Fallout in execution. Still, er, Amazon is one of the most powerful companies in human history and I am a hungover man in his late 30s writing about stuff on the internet to an audience of bored office workers, so, er, hm, I WIN!
I Am Major: This is pretty much an object lesson in how you get burned by memes. So this is a promo site for forthcoming Scarlett Johanssen vehicle ‘Ghost In The Shell’, itself adapted from a popular anime from the 90s, which lets ‘fans’ create their own memes based on one of the show’s tropes, uploading an image of their choosing and overlaying it with some INSPIRATIONAL copy - “I am [INSERT EMPOWERING PLATITUDE OF YOUR CHOICE]”, basically. Except the film’s been dogged by controversy since Johanssen’s announcement as the lead, given that, you know, the original was Japanese, set in Japan, and she’s quite evidently very white; you know the way this goes by now. So the site’s basically offered a free, franchise-sanctioned platform for all the HATERZ to create Scarlett-bashing memes pointing out exactly how un-Japanese and whitewashed the movie looks, all in the production’s own officially-sanctioned look and feel - you can get a nice rundown of all the ‘I am a white actor taking work from Asian actors and an example of cultural appropriation’ memes here; the whole thing is simultaneously a funny ‘HA! Fools!’ exercise in Nelson Munce schadenfreude and a microcosmic example of just how exhausting everything is, all the time, everywhere.
Somebody Else’s Baby: This is a REALLY small thing, but I thought the design of this site which collects Tweets protesting against the recent statement by US Republican Steve King, in which he charmingly stated that America can’t regain its Chimerical ‘greatness’ by letting in ‘somebody else’s babies’, was simple and clean and easy and cheap and just A Good Thing. That’s it.
The Most Dad Website You Will See All Week: Look, it’s been slow, fine, but I guarantee that you will get a small frisson from this. It’s a site for those massive, fancy, expensive gas barbecues you can buy and it is an absolute MASTERPIECE of slightly macho and yet quite camp overdesign. Listen to the birds chirp as you imagine yourself outside in a garden GRILLING MEATS! Salivate over the 360-degree navigable CGI render of what is, let’s be clear, A FCUKING BBQ! You can just sort of hear a particular type of man ‘hmmm’-ing appreciatively at this site as they mentally prepare themselves for a nice Sunday BBQ hosting the lads and The Wives (you always capitalise The Wife, it’s A Thing). It’s basically the website equivalent of Basingstoke, this.
THE SECTION WHICH REALLY WOULD LIKE TO BE A FLY ON THE WALL AT MIPIM THIS WEEK, THE PROPERTY INDUSTRY SHINDIG WHICH TAKES PLACE IN CANNES EACH YEAR AND IS LIKE THE LIONS BUT FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE MORE SELF-AWARE ABOUT HOW BORING THEY AND THEIR JOBS ARE, PT.1:
Google Family Link: A really clever idea, this; Google’s new attempt to reassure parents that the internet and technology aren’t going to take their children down the road to perdition and penury lets parents apply specific parental controls to individual Google devices, and apply them remotely via their Google account - to quote, “Family Link lets you create a Google Account for your kid that’s like your account, while also helping you set certain digital ground rules that work for your family — like managing the apps your kid can use, keeping an eye on screen time, and setting a bedtime on your kid’s device.” Obviously it’s not going to stop your 13-year-old son masturbating to the point of friction burns to Brazzers, but it may mean that they’re forced to do it on someone else’s phone. So, you know, SMALL WINS!
Italian Comments: I’m allowed to laugh at this because it’s MY CULTURE (well, my Mum’s, but) so it’s ok. This is an EXCELLENT Twitter feed featuring screencaps of Italians (or, more accurately, the weirdly obsessive second/third-generation food police Italian community) having a go at people on the internet for the lack of authenticity in their food. SO MUCH ANGER OVER TOMATOES HERE.
Blackout Poetry Generator: This is rather cool; a little browser plugin which generates blackout poetry from any webpage you happen to be on at the time. Results obviously vary, but there’s a certain beauty to the oddity it produces (which suggests that perhaps blackout poetry isn’t in fact, er, very hard or indeed profound, but hey ho) (oh, and on which note, can I just take a moment to plug A Humument which is still by far and away the most interesting and successful variant on this technique I’ve ever seen? Can I? YES I CAN).
Every Name: I have NO IDEA why this exists, but it does and the web is a marginally better place for it. This is by artist Andrew Venell, and it’s a webpage featuring a seemingly infinite selection of invented names - long names, short names, all obviously generated by some piece of Excel or Markov Chain or whatever (yes, I know, I am misusing that term but FFS) in the back that produces new ones on each refresh. Don’t YOU want to meet Arno Feldmouth and hear his story? Wouldn’t you like to hang out with Lilian Blamechance? This basically made me fall into a 10-minute reverie about the imagined protagonists of the novels I will, thankfully, never write, and is imagination catnip imho.
LEGO Tape: Such a smart idea, this - not OFFICAL in any way, this is an already-funded Indiegogo campaign for sticky tape which creates a surface on which you can stick LEGO bricks, meaning you can turn any surface into a building opportunity. There are obviously myriad applications for this, but surely one of the greatest is to ensure that your children never leave LEGO bits on the floor ever again. That, or enabling the construction of elaborate LEGO garotte traps across domestic doorways; either/or.
Before The Flood SeaThingy: Yeah, fine, so this is a promothingy for last year’s DiCaprio-fronted climate change documentary meaning this is both OLD and BASIC, so, yeah, sorry about that; still, it lets you put in any location you like, pulling the resulting Gmap, and see exactly how banjaxed it will be when the temperature rises by a few degrees. Reassuring for me, less so for those of you living in Plymouth.
Where’s The Jump?: A database of jump scares in horror films, for those of you who want to know EXACTLY where they are and when - or, alternatively, for those of you who want to pick absolutely the most unpleasant film to watch with your twitchy date of choice this weekend.
Hearmuffs: A pretty basic gag, this, except it doesn’t feel that funny - Hearmuffs are spoof earmuffs for your Amazon Echo which will prevent the device from listening to every single thing you and your family say and logging it on a server somewhere so that Amazon can sell you more things. Except, hahaha, it’s a joke, hahahaha, and you can’t ACTUALLY buy it and even if you could it wouldn’t work because you can’t stop this now that it’s started and we probably just ought to accept that we’re just a bunch of datapoints, waiting patiently to be mined, trapped inside a slack, meaty prison. HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!
Block The Bully: This is VERY SILLY, but equally sort of A Good Thing; it’s a site which will automatically, when authorised, follow, then unfollow and block Trump’s Twitter account - an entirely cosmetic act of resistance, fine, but equally the sort of thing which you could imagine really getting under his skin. Just think of the reaction should he discover one month that his Twitter following has fallen, or if he becomes the most blocked human on the planet! Imagine the LOLS! Imagine the steely, massed, thermonuclear LOLs!
Spider Ties: Yes, I know this is just a PR stunt, and yes, it’s a silly gimmick, but equally, LOOK! A tie made from spider silk! I mean, it’s ugly as you like, but still, SPIDER SILK!
Autonomous Trap: I rather love the idea behind this. Simultaneously, though, I am started to get quite creeped out about how much witchcraft-related stuff I am seeing in 2017, following my confident assertion that the trendhunters’ prediction of ‘NEW WITCHES’ was absolute claptrap. Turns out I know nothing about anything - WHODATHUNKIT?! Anyway, Autonomous Trap imagines how one might use old techniques from the occult to stymie autonomous vehicles in the future - I do love the idea that you might be able to completely fox a self-driving car by pouring salt around it like a slug.
Charlie vs The World: Friday, yeah, the WEEKEND! The moment you’ve been waiting for to dispose of £60 of your salary in exchange for some lignocaine and a small portion of your self-respect! This is a nicely-designed site which shows you some facts about exactly how bad your occasional weekend gram is for the environment, what with the carbon footprint and all. I am still amazed that noone in London is peddling Fair Trade cocaine; you would CLEAN UP, seriously.
Cloth Map: A website promoting a hoping-to-be-funded-on-Patreon series in which the presenterbloke (of COURSE it’s a bloke!) travels around the world talking to people about the games they play, and exploring play culture worldwide in documentary style. Absolutely the sort of thing which doesn’t in any way need to exist, but pleasingly pointless and thus worth including. Who DOESN’T want to learn more about Bogota’s Dungeon’s and Dragon’s community? NO FCUKER, that’s who!
365 Luncheon Dishes: Turns out I am an absolute SUCKER for old-school recipe books; this one, from 1902, presents a different recipe for each day of the year and is a brilliant culinary time capsule. Fine, I concede that some of the recipes are a touch on the cursory side - I mean, really, WHAT IS THIS? “1½ lbs. of round steak, 2 eggs, salt, summer savory and pepper. Chop the meat fine, season. Beat the eggs well and add to the meat; when well mixed, roll it up closely, put into a dripping pan and bake an hour. To be eaten cold.” - but there are some wonderful oddities here.
S-Town: NEW TRENDY PODCAST KLAXON! By the people who brought you Serial and This American Life comes, soon, S-Town, which will be momentarily the talk of middle-class media Twitter until the next hot thing comes along. Here’s the blurb - it launches in 10 days, and all the episodes will be released simultaneously thereby making ‘binge listening’ a thing that actual journalists will write actual articles about: “JOHN DESPISES HIS ALABAMA TOWN AND DECIDES TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who's allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man's life.” THRILLING, EH?
Make America Misogynistic Again: Sexist ads from the 20th Century, accompanied by ACTUAL QUOTES from Donald. He’s, er, SUCH a charming man, and these are brilliantly effective (says the pinko liberal).
The Maps of the CIA: When they’re not listening into us via our white goods, the CIA also do some international work; this is a selection of maps from the last century produced by the CIA and recently published on Flickr, which, fine, can tend towards the specific (ethnogeographies of the central caucuses, anyone?) but are cartographically fascinating and actually quite cool to browse in a weird, Dr Strangelove, military paranoia flashback sort of way.
Nuclear Test Footage: Continuing the theme of Cold War paranoia, this is a YouTube channel featuring nothing but recently-declassified footage of US nuclear testing. Mushroom clouds as far as the eye can see; an absolute treasure-trove of FUN APOCALYPTIC FOOTAGE for you to play with, should you be so minded.
Bumpr: Do YOU use a Mac? Do YOU, like the person I was sharing office space with yesterday, fly into a slightly frothy-mouthed rage at the fact that it will make annoying, arbitrary decisions as to which programme to use to open links, files, etc? This is a plugin which offers a really nice solution - hover over any link or file and it will pull up a clickable menu letting you choose how to interact with said thing. Really nicely designed, this - whilst the application’s a bit dull, I concede, the idea behind it is slickly executed.
Blue China: Photos from China, taken at the point of the day/night cycle when dusk is falling at artificial lights are coming on and everything is imbued with this slightly odd indigo hue, giving landscapes the look and feel of your favourite cyberpunk narrative. The aesthetic here is gorgeous and SO future.
Supersonic: As we careen recklessly towards a future in which none of us can read or write and our interactions with the world are entirely defined and determined by the operating systems of the machines we’ve designed to coddle us (yes, fine, hyperbole, but), think of this as a small link in our inevitable decline as a species. Supersonic is a Google-developed Messenger app whose gimmick is that it doesn’t have a keyboard; messages are transmitted via text using a text-to-speech interface which transcribes your utterings and sends them to the recipient of your choice, thus obviating the need for fingers. Obviously this is superclever and not A Bad Thing per se, but I am an old man and mistrustful of change.
THE SECTION WHICH REALLY WOULD LIKE TO BE A FLY ON THE WALL AT MIPIM THIS WEEK, THE PROPERTY INDUSTRY SHINDIG WHICH TAKES PLACE IN CANNES EACH YEAR AND IS LIKE THE LIONS BUT FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE MORE SELF-AWARE ABOUT HOW BORING THEY AND THEIR JOBS ARE, PT.2:
Songsim: I like the outputs of this site even if I confess to being utterly baffled at the explanation of how they’re arrived at. Basically it presents a bunch of songs, visualised as geometric shapes based on their lyrical structure - there’s a whole maths-y underpinning to this which explain how it works but I am far too sleepy to make head nor tail of it. Suffice it to say that there’s something rather wonderfully minimal and 8-bit about its visual renderings of the music; all the outputs are available to download, and I reckon these could make nice posters or tshirts if you’re that way inclined.
The Sideways Dictionary: A really nice project, both conceptually and in design terms, which seeks to provide easily-understandable definitions of tech stuff (two-factor authentification, say, or cache, or HTTP) explained in metaphor. I love the layout and the interface, and think it could be ripped off for all sorts of other applications with a bit of imagination.
Joto: I WANT ONE OF THESE. Not enough to actually back the Kickstarter, fine, but enough to blart pointlessly about it on the web. Joto is a connected drawing board thing - basically a whiteboard with a robot arm attached to it, which robot arm will draw stuff on which whiteboard based on inputs from an app. So, say, you could draw a crudely-drawn penis on the app on your phone, and an EXACT rendering of the selfsame crudely-drawn penis would be spaffed out by the robotic arm in my house. AMAZING! Obviously the people behind this are offering all sorts of highbrow applications - allow anyone to draw original art on your walls from anywhere! - but, let’s be clear, this is mainly about the crudely-drawn penis potential.
The Loving Project: A webart photoproject which takes as its starting point the fact that interracial marriage was only legalised in the US 50 years ago, this presents couples whose marriages would have been proscribed. Combining audio and photography, this is a fascinating exploration of something which is very much still a contentious point in the US in a way in which it’s quite hard to understand in the UK.
The Disobedience Award: I am glad that this is a thing, but it says an awful lot - none of it good - about how we see the relationship between us and powerful institutions in 2017 that it need exist. Established by MIT, the Disobedience Award self-describes as follows: “The award will go to a living person or group engaged in what we believe is extraordinary disobedience for the benefit of society. Specifically, we’d like to call out action that seeks to change society in positive ways and is consistent with a set of key principles. These principles include non-violence, creativity, courage, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. We’re seeking both expected and unexpected nominees. This could include–but isn’t limited to–those engaged in scientific research, civil rights, freedom of speech, human rights, and the freedom to innovate.” I like to think that my continuing efforts to extract maximum pay for minimum effort from everyone who employs me makes me worthy of a nomination, but perhaps you know someone more worthy.
Archivio Grafica Italiano: A digital archive of Italian graphic design, which is basically bongo for the aesthetes amongst you.
Gender Equality in Films: Or, perhaps more accurately, not gender equality in films, as this nice piece of research / dataviz by Google demonstrates, showing exactly how disparate representations of men and women in cinema are. There are many excellent (depressing) facts in here, not least the one about horror being the only genre which features more men than women.
V For Wiki: The latest in the seemingly-neverending list of projects designed to make Wikipedia look a little less rubbish than it ordinarily does; this is an iOS app for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch (ha!) which makes Wikipedia pretty and a little more responsive - it will, for example, pull entries up based on your location, enabling you to bore whoever you’re with with obsessive amounts of trivia about whichever particular street you’re on or the fascinating manhole covers you can see if you ju...wait! Come back!
Good, Clean Jokes: Your mileage here will inevitably vary, but if you need a bunch of safe-for-kids gags then this Reddit thread delivers. Sadly doesn’t appear to contain my personal favourite, but I’ll leave it here for you by way of small recompense: What’s red and invisible? NO TOMATOES! Yes, quite.
Make Words Matter: A small project / provocation seeking to make us look at the language we use in the face of adversity - everything is a ‘fight’, a ‘battle’, a ‘war’, with ‘sides’ - and suggesting that perhaps there’s a useful exercise to be done in minimising this type of phrasing. If nothing else, last year’s referendum and the looming horror of Joxit make this worth a passing thought.
Live UA Map: This is an ugly site, no question, but there’s something bleakly compelling about this world map with STUFF GOING DOWN plastered all over it. As a way of browsing news stories from around the world, I rather like it - even if the overall effect is somewhat akin to having someone standing next to you and repeating a neverending litany of deaths from every single countrty you’ve ever heard of into your ears.
Pipes: Beautiful photos of massive organs.
A Ridiculous Timeline Of Star Wars Videogames: I care even less than you do about Star Wars videogames, trust me, but the sheer insane depth of information here present is simultaneously terrifying and...actually, no, just terrifying.
Bees and Herring In Red: A YouTube Live stream of a Facebook Live stream of an Instagram Live stream of a Twitter Live stream. I’m sure this is making some sort of point about something, but frankly this simply strikes me as the absolute logical endpoint of this fcuking insistence on turning us all into broadcasters.
Supermute: Twitter hack which lets you specificy a word or phrase which should anyone you follow on Twitter have the temerity to mention it will result in them being blocked from your account for a week. Arbitrary, and the sort of thing which if judiciously applied could improve your Twitter experience no end.
Oddity Viz: Like David Bowie? OH GOOD! “Space Oddity – a visual deconstruction, AKA Oddityviz, is a data visualisation project on David Bowie’s Space Oddity by designer Valentina D'Efilippo and researcher Miriam Quick. The project visualises data from Bowie’s 1969 track Space Oddity on a series of 10 specially engraved records with accompanying posters, plus a moving image piece. Each 12-inch disc deconstructs the track in a different way: melodies, harmonies, lyrics, structure, story and other aspects of the music are transformed into new visual systems.” So there.
The Dating Game: Back in the day when Google Glass was still looking like it might be a thing, I remember writing something on here about how there was SO MUCH POTENTIAL for interactive dating shows using the tech - livestreaming a dating experience with people making suggestions to Cyrano the poor sap into the affections of their partner (or get them slapped, either/or). Anyway, Google Glass is dead but FINALLY someone has caught up with my visionary blue-sky thinking. The Dating Game is seeking funding on Kickstarter to set up what they term an ‘interactive game show’ where you (either an individual or a team) are granted the power to guide someone through a first date and see what happens. This will almost certainly not meet its target, which is a great shame - can someone else with money pick this up and make it happen? It sounds brilliantly awful.
Listen To The Cloud: Remarkably relaxing, this - a site which lets you listen in to the chatter of airport communications from around the world, laid over gentle ambient sounds. Kind of white noise-ish, but simultaneously oddly compelling - perhaps I’m just listening in the hope of overhearing a live air traffic controller breakdown, though.
Endless Night: I could try and describe this (it’s basically a semi-interactive music video featuring a beautiful and well-muscled guy dancing in a studio; press ‘c’ to switch between different versions of the video in the now-hackneyed Honda Splitscreen manner), but I’d rather just leave the actual description here for you to enjoy. Well DONE, copywriter! “Endless Night testifies to the perfect symbiosis between man and their environment. As of the dancer’s wake-up, his body and the décor get animated against a minimalist and airy white background. The dancer injects his own rhythm to the décor that, in turn, comes to life.A human creation that places the human being at the centre of the concept but which, eventually, reveals that the belief of human supremacy triumphing over nature is pure trickery.” YES!
My Body Gallery: Designed to be an encyclopaedia of the human form, showing all the different shapes and sizes we come in without judgement and giving people a place where they can look at the near-naked bodies of actual, real, non-model people and feel a little better about how lumpy they are. A Good Thing, I reckon, and maybe the sort of thing which Dove might want to chuck some money at because REAL BEAUTY SELLS COSMETICS! You can toggle between men and women at the top, by the way.
Project 1917: A history project telling stories of those who lived through the Russian revolution, using only primary sources to paint the history. It’s a properly crazy time, if you’ve never studied it, and there’s some wonderful material in here - also, I just learned that on this day in 1917, “Lenin hatched a crazy plan to reach Russia in the guise of a deaf-mute Swede”, which is without a doubt the best thing I’m going to learn all day, hands-down.
Animal Pants: One of you will buy these, guaranteed.
The Vachina: Because, equally, one of you will also buy one of these vagina-styled purses off Etsy (of COURSE off Etsy!).
Purenetics: Finally this week, something which I think has to be a joke but doesn’t in fact appear to be one. Purenetics is a service which purports to help high-net-worth people looking for genetic material to help them have kids source the very best from the very beautiful; the service offers to pay upto £500k for 10ccs of dusty output, or some eggs, if you’re pretty enough. It’s so staggeringly crass that it feels like it should be a front for something, and yet there’s no indication that it’s a marketing campaign for A N Other creepy future film. Am I missing something? Am I being stupid? SOMEONE EXPLAIN.
By Eiko Ojala
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
Videogame Powerpoints: Erm, slides from powerpoints about videogames, but it’s all rather nice jagged graphical stuff rather than barcharts so there’s an aesthetic purpose to its inclusion, honest.
Trains In Games: A further addition to the ‘there is nothing so niche that there can’t be a tumblr of it’ pantheon.
People Hugging The New Joanna Newsome Album: See above x10000000000.
Philip Kremer: Absolutely the best weird, creepy, horrifying faces you will see all day. If you are feeling ESPECIALLY ballsy, why not see if you can swap the photos of senior management on your company website for some of these beauties?
Maps On The Web: Not going to patronise you with a description here.
TrumpTrump: A new creepy pen and ink drawing of Donald each and every day. These are really quite creepy in a spiky, angular, slightly broken sense.
Spongebob Closeups: The oddly fine art-like beauty of isolated elements from Spongebob Squarepants.
We Are The 15%: Companion piece to the project up there about interracial marriage in the US, this is a crowdsourced Tumblr of mixed-race unions and it is just sort of generally charming and not a little heartwarming.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
That One About The Queen Dying: This was EVERYWHERE yesterday, and for good reason - a brilliant piece of writing in the Guardian about the plans in place for when our monarch finally chooses to shuffle off this mortal coil, giving a moment-by-moment account of how the news will travel and what all the different layers of pomp and circumstance will be. Regardless of your republican / monarchist sympathies, this is quite marvellously odd; on the one hand, yes, it will be a major global historicocultural event; on the other, MAN there is some pretty baroque ceremony and pageantry in here given it’s 2017. Still, think of the extra days off work!
The Venn Diagram Museum: Bit of an outlier, this, but I wanted to include it as it’s an excellent illustration of the potential inherent in VR for exposition and information-delivery. The essay describes how Vi Hart (see Curios passim) designed a ‘Venn Diagram Museum’ using an HTC Vive to sculpt it in VR space. The really interesting stuff here is about how the medium worked to impose a degree of mental order on the concepts that Hart is trying to communicate; really made me think of the potential for this sort of use of VR as a communications tool aside from anything else.
How 4Chan Punked Shia: I am in no way condoning the sh1tlords of 4chan, but this piece, about how they assiduously pursued Shia Lebeouf’s ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ project (at the time of writing, not currently live) across the country with the express purpose of ruining it, is a neat distillation of all that is mad about that corner of the internet. This is a LOT of effort for the lulz, lads.
Treating Mental Illness With Psychedelics: All about the trend for treating mental health issues with varying doses of FUNDRUGS! I say ‘fun’ - pretty sure there’s noone out there taking ayahuasca for wholly recreational purposes. Lots of really interesting stuff about the history and conflicting schools of psychiatric treatment, along with some fairly strong reminders as to why I am pretty much entirely disinclined to ever take acid to ‘find myself’ (some things very much deserve to stay lost).
IKEA For Irish Pubs: This BLEW MY MIND. You know how wherever you go in the world you will find an ‘Irish’ pub, serving a bewildering array of Irish-sounding beers which you’ve never, ever seen on sale anywhere in Ireland and with exactly the same array of ersatz paddymobilia adorning the walls (in much the same way as at certain points during the 90s you couldn’t go anywhere in the world without seeing a bunch of slightly homesick-looking alpaca poncho-clad Peruvians blowing desultorily on a set of panpipes and wishing that Simon and Garfunkel had never written El Condor fcuking Pasa)? This piece informed me that there is an ACTUAL COMPANY which exports them all over the world - they build flatpack pubs in 6 different styles, to be shipped out and then assembled on, say, the Russian Steps as ‘O’Malley-tovs’ taks shape. Globalisation is MENTAL, mate.
They Are All The Same Banana: Equally mind-blowing was this piece, about the history of banana cultivation. Wait, no, seriously, it’s REALLY interesting. Leaving aside the fact that the banana is the devil’s fruit (it smells slightly fecal, there’s no two ways about it), this piece from Wired explains how each and every banana is basically genetically identical, being derived from cuttings from the same plant - making the world’s banana crop effectively the largest single organism in the world, and making it wildly vulnerable to disease. Hugely interesting about all sorts of things, not least the dangers of worldwide food monocultures.
My Intersex Body and Me: Arisleyde Dilone grew up tall, slim, tomboyish and flat-chested, before discovering that she was born with male chromosomes and learning that she would likely never develop breasts. This is the story of her growing up, her first boyfriend, her breast implants and her sense of self and identity and femininity, and it’s fascinating (and not sad).
Escape To Another World: I know I featured one of these last week, but this is another EXCELLENT piece on the whole ‘young men effectively choosing to drop out of life in favour of videogames’ phenomenon; this is a better read than last week’s, and makes a reasonably convincing case as to why there might be a shift in the minds of many young men in the affluent west that there’s simply no real point bothering with much of the trappings of what we generally come to see as ‘life’.
HP Lovecraft and Robert Barlow: Lovecraft’s attained that position in the popular cultural pantheon that everyone knows a few things about his work - eldritch, tentacles, madness - without most of them (myself included) ever having read a word of the man’s output. This is a fascinating piece examining Lovecraft’s relationship with Robert Barlow, a fan of his whose slightly tragic life is a microcosmic portrait of 20th Century sexual repression (and which contains a throwaway line by Allen Ginsberg which does nothing to dispel my growing feeling that the Beats were, to a man, absolute arseholes).
The Green Book: Along with the ‘no interracial marriage til 1967’ fact I learned this week, this was this week’s other stark reminder of just how recent a reality racism was in the US. Published in the 30s and 40s, ‘The Green Book’ was effectively an AA guide for black people traveling around the US, detailing the places where they might be able to do things like eat, wash and sleep without getting lynched (not actual hyperbole). Wonderful social history, this.
The Brain Meme: A far-too-involved exploration/explanation of the ‘4 levels of brainpower’ meme you may or may not have seen doing the rounds. Exactly the sort of over-serious exploration of internet nonsense that I love.
Mary Beard on Women In Power: Transcript of a wonderful lecture given by Mary Beard for Radio 4 in which she discusses the relationship between women and power through history with customary humour and erudition. I slightly love Mary Beard.
The Dominos Pizza Empire: This piece by Bloomberg looking at the Dominos business, how it reinvented itself following its mid-00s slump, and how smart its marketing is, is reasonably interesting but I’m including it mainly for the design on the page which is...I mean, I’m all for giving designers free rein, but this is quite...well...silly. Fun, but silly.
Kellyanne’s Alternative Universe: Because we couldn’t not include something about The Administration, right? This is an interesting and reasonably sensitive and even-handed portrait of Kellyanne ‘SPYING MICROWAVES’ Conway, which despite being pretty even in tone still manages to make the whole lot of them sound utterly mad, and presents the reality of working in the Trump White House as being a little like having to play a constant improv game with someone who is holding a loaded gun and may or may not be on meth.
Plot 29: This is gorgeous and sad and hopeful - an extract from a memoir by Allan Jenkins, about how he found comfort in gardening after an upbringing in care. Made me do a *bit* of a cry, I must be honest.
I Don’t Have Cancer (Yet): What does it feel like to learn that you may (in fact probably will) get cancer, that your genes may well already be conspiring with your body to fcuk you up, and to come to terms with the time bomb in your mid-30s? Like this, apparently - a smart and funny and honest and hopeful piece of writing.
Death Is Real: This is a beautiful interview with / portrait of US singer Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie), whose wife died last year leaving him to bring up their small daughter. It’s gorgeous and intimate and sad, particularly on dealing with death through art. You can hear the album that came from the death here - it’s not, let’s be clear, a happy listen, but it’s very lovely.
Is Intersectionality A Religion: I found myself agreeing with more of this than I expected, about the increasingly cult-like approach to wokeness affecting much of online discource about now. Does that make me a fascist? I DON’T EVEN KNOW ANY MORE!
The Hofziner Club: This is an extract from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, and it is BRILLIANT. If you’ve not read the novel, enjoy this and then go and buy a copy from your local independent retailer (or, fine, Amazon) and spend the weekend devouring it - you will thank me, I promise.
The IOU: Published this week for the first time, this is a short story by F Scott Fitzgerald about...oh, just read it, it’s very good indeed and it will take you RIGHT back to the early 20thC.
Homecoming: Oxford: This, last up this week in the longreads, is beautiful. I didn’t realise VICE were doing a series of these, taking writers back to the towns where they grew up to do reminiscent-y retrospectives; this is Nell Frizzell writing about growing up in Oxford, and it is gorgeous and will make you remember that Summer when you were 16 and EVERYTHING was exciting and possible and you hadn’t yet learned that the glister rubs off of life after a while.
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) I’d completely forgotten that Portugal The Man existed after they went through a period of releasing cracking songs and videos about 5-6 years ago. They lurched back into my consciousness this week, though, with this absolutely excellent track - this is called ‘Feel It Still’ and I challenge you not to click your fingers all the way through. This is going to get ruined through overuse in advertising, inevitably, so enjoy it while you can:
2) What do you get if you cross hardcore with hiphop and a healthy dose of social protest? You get this, apparently - it’s by Ho99o9 (that’s how they spell ‘Horror’, you see) and it’s called ‘United States of Horror’:
3) There aren’t enough trailers for poetry books. This is a lovely one, though - bright, clean animations to accompany selected lines from Rishi Dastidar’s forthcoming collection (about which more next week). I would be really interested to see a collection of poetry presented as a series of interactive animations, playing with kinetic typography and stuff, so if anyone wants to make that that would be great thanks. :
4) This is called ‘Dance With Me’ and it’s by Cameron Avery and it reminded me slightly of Leonard Cohen who I realised last week I am still really sad is dead:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! Novelist has been getting ALL the hype over the past year; this Warm-up Session on SBTV is a pretty good primer as to why; it is VERY good:
6) Finally this week, this is by Kid Koala and Emiliana Torrini, it’s called ‘Fallaway’ and it has relaxed me to the point of near catatnia. I hope it does the same to you - HAPPY FRIDAY! HAVE FUN! TAKE CARE! TRY NOT TO DIE!:
7) Oh, no, HANG ON - THIS is the last video this week. It’s by Tommy Cash, it’s called ‘Surf’ and it is simultaneously utterly filthy and totally SFW - ENJOY!: