THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT NOONE IS PAYING QUITE ENOUGH ATTENTION TO THE FACT THAT FACEBOOK IS DEVELOPING MIND-READING TECHNOLOGY, BUT WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY 100% SURE THAT THERE IS NO WAY THAT WE ARE AMBLING TOWARDS A FUTURE IN WHICH WE ARE SERVED ADVERTS BASED ON OUR DEEPEST SUBLIMINAL HOPES AND FEARS AND WANTS, OH NO SIREE:
FB F8 - ALL THE VIDEOS: WHY do the fcukers have to make all these bloody announcements in one of those weeks where I’ve got a fortnight’s internet to write up? Damn them. Anyway, these are all the videos from Facebook’s F8 this week, which are techy and obviously massive puff-pieces for how awesome Facebook is but which are, the few bits I’ve watched, actually pretty interesting if you’re into all this stuff (and if not, really, please do skip this section as it’s likely to wang on a bit).
FB Goes Big On AR: So the BIG news (apart from the fcuking mind-reading, let’s be clear) was the Facebook Camera Effects stuff - ripping wholesale the line Snapchat peddled about its software putting the lens front and centre of the user experience. You can read all about the featureset in the TechCrunch piece linked above, or in this Buzzfeed piece here - the main things to note, as far as I can tell, are: 1) This is the biggest thing for AR since Pokemon Go! last year and marks a significant step on its journey to mainstream ubiquity; 2) This is a HUGE opportunity for agencies to set up shovelware shops for all this crap, much like we all did when FB apps were a THING that we could charge clients for - seriously, each and every one of you will be pitching your clients branded AR layers every single sodding week for the next two years, because why wouldn’t you? This is basically opening up Snapchat-style brand overlay stuff to EVERYONE, eventually at least, so expect to be bombarded with opportunities to slap a fcuking AR layer onto anything and everything, regardless of utility or use case. So, you know, go wild!
FB Messenger Chat Extensions: This is basically a whole load of updates to the Messenger platform software which enable Messenger to function a little more like a series of plug-in apps; so you can now, say, call up a collaborative shopping list when in Messenger chat with friends to which everyone in the conversation can contribute, or “a photo bot that lets people create shared albums that live in the thread”; or “a flight-reservation bot whose main interaction is in a person-to-bot thread, but that lets people share itineraries and flight status in threads with their friends.” Effectively this is going to increase the utility of chatbots (we should really stop calling them bots; they’re apps) and make it easier for them to propagate - it’s not clear how the whole ‘you can advertise to anyone who’s interacted with your bot in Messenger’ permissions thing is going to work with this, which makes it LOADS easier for a bot to get thrown into your conversation without your sayso - if someone I know introduces the Ocado bot to our conversation about our middle-class picnic planning, does said Ocado bot then have permission to occasionally pop up to try and sell me more halloumi? HM.
FB Messenger Discover: It’s only 7:03 and I am already SO BORED of this Facebook stuff. Let’s just C&P this: “Discover is a new section in Messenger where people can browse and find bots, nearby places and businesses to message. As a developer, Discover allows you to showcase your messaging experience to the more than 1.2 billion people who use Messenger each month.” The thing to note here is that you have to submit your bots for inclusion in this section - so, er, DON’T FORGET. Interestingly it is also possible to limit discoverability and prevent your creations from showing up here; I quite like the idea of building an exclusive, in-the-know-only Messenger concierge service for an exclusive elite of Facebookmongs, but maybe that’s just me.
QR Codes In Messenger: I think this might be the point when we all have to stop laughing quite so hard at the idea of the QR code - now that it’s baked into Facebook Messenger, expect to see them being used a LOT more (admittedly the base is LOW here, but). You can generate a code which, when scanned through the camera with Messenger, will launch a specific chatbot within the app for the user to engage with. Again, this is a very smart move for marketers - because of the aforementioned ‘talk to the bot once and it will advertise at you FOREVER!’ nature of how Messenger ads (currently) work, inducing people to use your Messenger QR code basically gives you tacit permission to sell them stuff in perpetuity on the platform. Great!
Group Payments Available In Messenger: This wasn’t an F8 announcement, but I am trying to be neat. Anyway, you can now send payments to people you’re having a group chat with. Not exciting, but satisfies my need for thoroughness.
Facebook Launches Spaces For VR Fun!: Look, I know you invested all that money in Oculus and that you need to push this stuff, I get it, but NOONE WANTS TO EXPERIENCE FACEBOOK IN VIRTUAL REALITY. NOONE. You can get a feel for what it’s like in this Mashable (sorry) piece and accompanying video, but you can sort of imagine - disembodied hands, weird Mii-like avatars, the ability to do all the stuff you currently do on Facebook with a clunkier interface and slow graphics. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt that some variant on this sort of stuff is The Future in some sort of sense, but it’s just not quite here yet. Obviously the technology is hugely impressive, but I can’t see this as anything much more than a gimmicky tech demo.
Facebook At Work Adds Features: Basically filesharing, Slack-style bots and some compliance stuff. It’s REALLY boring, this, trust me.
FB Launches Calls-to-Action Within Instant Articles: If you have Facebook Instant Articles set up, you can now add “Page Like and Email Sign-Up call-to-action units, prompts for readers to like a publisher’s page or sign up for an email newsletter from within an Instant Article.” So there. Although given the fact that noone appears to like Instant Articles or indeed see any benefit from them as publishers, your mileage here may vary.
Facebook Releases Canvas API For Advertisers: This is, I think, rather a big opportunity (although word is that Facebook is now downplaying Canvas as a platform opportunity, so maybe this is another example of my backing a horse that is destined for the knacker’s yard) - basically this means that it’s even easier for agencies to offer Canvas as a service to clients. Given the fact that we’re all going to be making stuff that looks a bit like Canvas in the future - full-screen, mobile-first (only, frankly), I’d suggest that making this sort of stuff is a pretty smart move for agencies, as if nothing else it’ll prepare you for the future in which everything is shiny images and video and we have all forgotten what these funny symbols you’re looking at right now are.
Facebook Improves Video Metrics In Page Insights: Basically a whole new, more granular, set of numbers that you can baffle clients with. DATA! BEAT THEM TO DEATH WITH DATA! What does any of it mean? FCUKED IF I KNOW, BUT DATA!
Pages Link To Groups Now: This is really quite interesting - Pages can now point users at particular Groups from a ‘Groups’ tab in the left-hand sidebar, meaning they can now designate, say, official communities to send fans to - “As part of the new features being tested, brands can also create groups and link to them from their Pages. So, if a nonprofit has a brand page, its administrators can create groups specifically for certain causes, like helping children or disaster relief.” You could do quite a bit with this, I think, in terms of creating fan communities or campaign organisation and the like.
New Features for Instagram Stories: Sort of superseded by the F8 stuff, this, but this is another host of Snapchat-ripped functionality for Instagram’s Stories platform, offering users the ability to add tracking stickers to video and the like. Again, brand options here are unclear but you can bet your life they will be myriad because Mark’s not an idiot. Oh, and seeing as we’re doing Instagram, here’s an announcement about how all your messages, the ephemeral ones and the standard ones, will now all go to the same inbox - huzzah! And another, where you can organise your saved posts into folders so that you can conveniently return to all the thirstiest shots from the people you stalk whenever you like.
Snapchat Introduces World Lenses: I mean, they did this on Tuesday and then literally a few hours later Facebook announced all its AR stuff and OH SNAPCHAT! It’s all getting a bit awkward, really. World Lenses are basically Snapchat’s own version of the FB camera stuff up top, except without, as far as I can tell, the open developer platform underpinning it all - it lets you drop virtual 3d objects into the real world and then record them in your Snaps to share with people. Really impressive tech, again, and it looks fun, but if you had to bet on one company monetising this sort of stuff successfully and making it mainstream and ubiquitous and stuff, it probably wouldn’t be the yellow one.
Snap To Store: Although they have launched this ad product, in the US at least, which lets advertisers track which customers who saw a promotional campaign on Snapchat then went on to visit physical retail locations, which is obviously pretty useful. There’s also some stuff in this story about future ad products which will see users on Snapchat divided into interest groups, etc, for better ad targeting, which is crap for users but good news for advertisers - still, lads, might want to get a move on with this monetisation stuff because, er, time’s a wasting.
Pornhub Launches AR Stickers For Your Naked Photos: Silly, but an example of really smart (silly) PR.
LinkedIn Launches Lead Gen Ads: Harvest email addresses from the besuited dullards who interact with your branded content on the world’s most tedious social network! My predictable and increasingly unfunny snark aside, this is a very useful addition to the product suite imho.
Periscope Launches Custom Hearts On Live Video: Oh Twitter! It’s almost quaint quite how un-zeitgeisty this feels after the tsunami of future which everyone else hit us with this week, but hey ho, here we are. Brands will now be able to pay to have custom image replacing the ‘hearts’ which pop up when users interact with a video on Periscope - so you could have your logo appear all over the stream, for example, or a custom graphic depicting something pertaining to a particular campaign. Why would you want to do this, particularly giving the eye-gouging amount of money this is likely to cost? NO IDEA!
Google Analytics Is Getting A Bit Easier To Use: I find GA a horrendously unfriendly service, so this is pleasing. You’ll basically get easier-to-customise dashboards, and the whole thing looks like it’s going to get a little less ugly. It’s not exciting - is anything anymore? It’s now 747am and I am in some sort of weird, social-media-news-addled fugue state - but it’s useful.
The VR Press Centre: WHY? I know, fine, it’s not meant to be a real, useful thing - it’s a proof-of concept, a gimmick, I get it - but it’s just SO RUBBISH. This is built for KLM, and it’s a VIRTUAL PRESS CENTRE! Look! It’s a 3d-rendered KLM cockpit, which you can look around and, er, READ SOME PRESS RELEASES! LOOK AT SOME TWEETS! There’s so much that’s confusing about this, not least the question of why the newsroom is in the cockpit of a plane, or indeed why anyone bothered to make it. Still, marks for effort at the very least - I am going to confidently predict that this is not the future of the press centre.
By Nathan Reidt
THE SECTION WHICH, FOLLOWING THAT HORRORSHOW, IS GRATEFUL FOR YOUR CONTINUED ATTENTION AND PROMISES YOU THAT THERE ARE SOME CRACKERS IN THE NEXT SECTIONS, HONEST, AND THAT THAT WILL PROBABLY MAKE UP FOR AT LEAST SOME OF THE PRECEDING FACEBOOK RUBBISH, PT.1:
Google Earth In-Browser: To be honest, lots of you can stop at this link - if you never bothered to download Google Earth back in the day you will absolutely lose yourself in this. You can now do all of the amazing stuff you used to be able to do within Google Earth on desktop in your browser - you can zoom literally ANYWHERE and check out the incredible 3d renders of EVERYWHERE ON THE PLANET. I just did a little narcissistic zoom down onto my road and had a proper “oh my God isn’t the majesty of nature amazing” moment; seriously, just go and play with it.
Every Noise At Once: I know for a fact that I have featured this before but it was YEARS ago, possibly in the H+K days, and it surfaced again this week and it’s still good and not everything always has to be new and I should probably just get on with telling you what it is. It’s a map of EVERY SINGLE musical genre possibly imaginable (no, really), developed by a Spotify engineer and which, to quote the site, “is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 1524 genres by Spotify. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier” You can listen to examples of all of the genres, and what’s really nice is that if you scroll all the way to the bottom there are about a dozen more links taking you to different cuts of the data, in terms of popularity by geography, say. This is just wonderful, basically.
Mike Boyd: Truly beautiful tattoo work. Really, really lovely Instagram account, this.
Postepic: I’m sort of torn on this - on the one hand, I’m all for sharing stuff from / about books; on the other, I find the styling here almost nausea-inducingly twee and ‘inspirational’. So it goes. Postepic is actually a really smart idea which could / should be co-opted by publishers (or, more likely, by fcuking Amazon) - it’s an app which lets users take a photo of a page in a book they’re reading, isolate a particular passage and then turn said passage into an image with the selected quotation included on it, o you can create your own slightly cliche quotepics to share with your SOCIAL NETWORK. I am personally slightly tempted to get this and then create a series of beautiful, contemplative pictures featuring sunset scenes accompanied by some of the more colourful passages from American Psycho, but I can’t imagine anyone else would enjoy that as much as I would.
Stumbl: Another excellent portal through which to experience the avalanche of HUMAN LIFE that is YouTube. You tell this website how long you want the videos it serves you to be, how many views they ought to have, whether they need to be in a particular category or tagged with certain keywords, and then it basically creates an infinite playlist of CONTENT based on the parameters you select. Fascinating, and potentially a near-fatal timesink if you let it get its claws into you.
Cabana: A new app from Tumblr which lets you watch videos with friends (up to five of them) and do video chat. It’s simple, no frills, and will probably find a small, dedicated audience amongst the fandoms; you may find a use for it. Although actually this might be quite a useful way of getting feedback on work-in-progress stuff, come to think of it. Oh, I don’t know, YOU come up with a reason it exists.
FindFace: Another one of those in-no-way-creepy services which lets you plug in a photo of someone and then spits back at you what it believes to be their Twitter profile (presuming of course the image they use as an avatar vaguely looks like them). Not suggesting that you all ought to not use your faces as avatars, but, er, maybe you shouldn’t actually all be using your faces as avatars. Is this paranoid? I can’t even tell any more, frankly.
Autodraw: More witchcraft (YES, FINE, I KNOW, WITCHES ARE DEFINITELY A THINK IN 2017, I AM SORRY JWT) from Google - Autodraw is a frankly crazy platform which lets anyone - even someone as artistically inept as I am - scrawl some stuff on a canvas, at which point the system tries to guess what it was you were trying to draw and lets you select from various templated ‘best guesses’ to drop onto the canvas. So, to give a practical example, you could use this to do INCREDIBLY quick and easy diagrammatic representations of stuff - just draw some lines and shaky squares and circles and this will make it look significantly less sh1t. Or, alternatively, draw a crudely-drawn penis and giggle childishly at what Google thinks you might be trying to create.
AI On Twitch: This is...weird. A 24h Twitch stream hosted by some sort of AI (it’s not an AI, it’s a chatbot, but frankly these terms are all so weirdly mixed-up that it’s moot whether anyone currently has working mass-market definitions for any of them - although, actually, the description does make some mention of it learning from interactions so there must be a neural network back there somewher...oh, hang on, you don’t care about my internal monologue here at all, do you? Sorry!) which lets anyone ask it questions and have a bit of a chat. It’s rudimentary and not that compelling, but there’s something quite...future about this, and weirdly sort of sad. Particular props to the developers for saying, prominently, that trying to make it say sex stuff is boring and people should be more imaginative.
The Global Jukebox: An incredible repository of folk music from around the world, the Global Jukebox, to quote, “explores connections between families of expressive style. One can travel the world of song, dance and language through the Wheel Chart and the Map. Thousands of examples of the world’s music, dance and other expressive behavior will now become available. The Global Jukebox is presented as a free, non-commercial, educational place for everybody, students, educators, scholars, scientists, musicians, dancers, linguists, artists and music fans to explore expressive patterns in their cultural-geographic and diasporic settings and alongside other people’s. By inviting familiarity with many kinds of vocalizing, musicking, moving, and talking, we hope to advance cultural equity and to reconnect people and communities with their creative heritage.” This is VERY deep, and whilst it’s not going to provide you with material for your next house party playlist it is a fascinating collection of musical and ethnographic history.
Vulgar: Oh I LOVE THIS! Vulgar is a made-up language generator which at the press of a button will spit out a completely fictional fantasy language, with a name, vocabulary, sentence structure, phonetics, the works. If you like language this is beautiful and a bit compelling.
Nikita Golubev: Instagram account of an artist who uses dirty cars and vans as his canvas, and which I can absolutely guarantee you are going to use in a pitch deck (NOT A FCUKING DECK) or moodboard at some point in the next few months.
Oldschool Mac Emulator: Before Macs were cool, they were just these weird, ugly machines with crap graphics which odd people had (look, it’s true, trust me). This, from the remarkable folk at the Internet Archive, lets you hark back to those days, with a motherlode of old Mac programmes you can play around with, including some truly dreadful but weirdly compelling games - the art direction on Mac titles was always very distinct, so if nothing else it’s worth checking out for the visual / aesthetic cues.
DISCO!: The Getty Images archive of old photos of the disco era (and, actually, clubs in general) is legitimately wonderful and absolutely mesmerising. You just know that if you were to lick any of these people your tongue would go numb within milliseconds - there is a WHOLE lot of cocaine knocking about here. Have a dig - it’s a mixed bag, but there’s so much gold in here if you look.
Songsleuth: This is LOVELY - Shazam for birdsong, basically. Not really sure I can describe it any more than that, but it’s a glorious idea and the sort of thing it might be nice to download next time you go on a countryside walk or something, presuming any of you detach yourselves from the web long enough to undertake one (I am obviously projecting here, aren’t I?).
Zero Likes: Cracking art project which, to take the description from the page, “is a meditation on the aesthetics of nothingness. I trained an AI to create images in response to over 100,000 Instagram posts that received zero likes.” The images are abstract but have the quality of degraded daguerrotypes and are rather beautiful I think.
The Hyperrealistic Donald Mask: Ebay. 3 days left. $4300 at the time of writing. Just in case any of you weirdos is interested.
Forest: I don’t really go in for ‘mindfulness’ as a thing, to be clear, but I rather like this app - Forest is designed to help people concentrate and ignore their phones, the idea being that each time you want to be incentivised to PUT THAT FCUKING SCREEN DOWN, you open the app and it starts to grow a little tree. The tree will only grow for as long as you keep the app open; closing it prematurely will kill the sapling DEAD. Over time, you build up a forest based on all those moments you’ve spent focusing on stuff that isn’t THAT FCUKING SCREEN - a forest which will look WELL rubbish if it’s full of dead trees, so there’s your incentive. Cute.
USA Facts: Dull-but-actually-interesting, this - backed by Steve Ballmer of Microsoft fame, this is an independent service which provides an easy, open repository of verified data from US government agencies in one place. There is a LOT of information here, pulled from over 70 different sources, and it’s no mean feat - it’s telling that, whilst this is the sort of thing that Government would LOVE to be able to do itself, it takes private income and freedom from bureaucracy to pull it together. Those of you who read this and work in public sector digital, do check it out - it’s really very impressive.
Kevin & Friends: An Instagram account sharing short comic strips about ‘Horribly Optimistic Kevin’. It’s a one-note gag, but it’s a good note.
Hololems: I confess to getting a little fanboy excited at this. This is a demo of what Lemmings - you remember Lemmings, right? LET’S GO!, etc - would look like if played on a Hololens, with the Lemmings using your living room furniture as their course. This is really, really smart - obviously the gameplay looks janky as you like, but the object recognition and stuff on display here is really impressive.
Tweetstorm Generator: If YOU want to be one of those irritatingly hubristic people who decides to write 32-tweet threads about STUFF, then why not try this iOS app which takes any lump of text you feed it and automatically breaks it up into a series of numbered tweets for you so that you don’t have to. I am sort-of tempted to plug a Curios into it and kill my miserable Twitter following over the course of 37,000 tweets. I bet that poor sod who vowed to Tweet the entirety of Potter at Piers Morgan wishes he’d known about this.
The Nasa Image & Video Library: Newly made available online, this is basically the spacey motherlode - all of the photos and videos you could ever want of NASA stuff, from launches to moonwalks and everything inbetween. Wonderful archive of great things (and, it seems, quite a lot of photos of NASA staff socials, oddly).
Feminist Ads: A project creating a different feminist advert for a major brand each day for 100 years. Some of these are really excellent; kudos to LA-based copywriter Eileen Matthews whose work this is.
(this is Venezuela this week, by the way) By Marco Bello/Reuters
THE SECTION WHICH, FOLLOWING THAT HORRORSHOW, IS GRATEFUL FOR YOUR CONTINUED ATTENTION AND PROMISES YOU THAT THERE ARE SOME CRACKERS IN THE NEXT SECTIONS, HONEST, AND THAT THAT WILL PROBABLY MAKE UP FOR AT LEAST SOME OF THE PRECEDING FACEBOOK RUBBISH, PT.2:
Chaos of Delight: I confess to not really having that much of an idea as to exactly what soil mesofauna actually are (In the unlikely event you care, “In soil science, the mesofauna are usually defined as invertebrates, sized between 0.1 mm and 2 mm, although some references increase this to 10 mm.”, but from what i can gather from these amazing photos they are very, very small insects, here presented in some rather wonderful close-up photography.
SCUMM-8: There are only a couple of you to whom this is going to be of any interest, but if you’ve ever wanted the opportunity to be able to build your own Lucasarts-style point-and-click adventure then this tool, which presents a cobbled-together version of their SCUMM interface for the Pixel-8 development platform meaning anyone can, in theory, make their own Secret of Monkey Island.
Stranger Love Songs: Butcher Billy (see Web Curios passim) returns with his latest pop-culture riff, this time taking classic love song titles and illustrating them as though they are paperback horror novels from the 80s. Great design work.
Waitchatter: Christ, this is depressing. I mean, it’s sort of a clever idea and I get the application, but are we REALLY not allowed to waste any time any more? Must we fill each and every minute of every single fcuking day with ACHIEVEMENT and SELF-IMPROVEMENT and GROWTH and Christ alive JUST LET ME STAY MEDIOCRE YOU SLAVE-DRIVING FUTURE-BAST4RDS. Ahem. Anyway, sorry, this is a Chrome extension for Gchat which will, while you’re messaging someone on the platform, fill the seconds while you’re waiting for your interlocutor to respond to your scintillating conversational gambit by asking you to translate foreign words so you can LEARN WHILE YOU WAIT. I mean, it’s A Good Thing but I am so tired and I don’t think I can improve any more.
Slime Queens: Not, it may surprise you to learn, anything filthy at all - instead this is an Instagram account which features videos of people playing with slime (that is, a home-made mix of glue, borax and soap which goes all gloopy and sticky and satisfyingly tactile) to really pleasing effect. If you’re at all ASMRish you might find this triggers you rather pleasingly; oh, and here’s a guide to making your own, which if you have kids would, I think, be a pretty fun rainy day activity (look, see the wholesome tips Web Curios provides? It’s not just for childphobic misanthropes, honest!).
The Iron Maiden Cover Art Gallery: An exhaustive look through the cover art of Iron Maiden, from Eddie’s first appearance to his increasingly camp later outings. I remember going into Our Price in the 80s and staring mesmerised at the Maiden covers - there’s something really bleakly hopeless about the art style employed back then which is so redolent of the Thatcher years imho.
Pasted: An iOS app which lets you easily create arty collages from your photos - simple tools, but they work to pleasing effect (though the aesthetic is exactly the sort of slightly bland airbnb/wallpaper-style of anodyne Scandi minimalism which has become ubiquitous over the past couple of years). It’s by one of the blokes from the Shins, which may or may not influence your decision to interact with it.
Svaha: A US clothing website which ships internationally, Svaha designs clthes for geeks - specifically, for women and kids who want to show off their geekery whilst maintaining some sort of veneer of fashionability (I refer you to previous caveats as to my inability to work out what looks good and what doesn’t). I think some of the kids’ stuff on here is lovely, though, particularly the tshirts with code on them - see what you think.
Science Posters: There are marches happening tomorrow and next weekend in the US to protest against cuts to science funding and raise awareness of climate change this site is collecting poster designs for people who want to print and brandish something a little more pro-looking than they might be able to come up with themselves. Some lovely designs here, and the sort of thing which is repurposable for whatever local pro-science thing you may or may not be getting up to.
LOT2046: I am pretty sure that this is an ARG (remember those?), but I am baffled as to what or how. The blurb says it’s a clothing store - “LOT is a subscription-based service which distributes a basic set of clothing, footwear, essential self-care products, accessories, and media content. The clothes are dispensable: as they wear out they can be bundled and returned, eliminating clutter.” - but there’s a lot of stuff on there that seems like a nod to a wider mystery or story beneath the surface. WHAT DO *YOU* THINK?
GeoVisual Search: Pretty amazing, this. Select an area on Google Maps and this will search the world for other areas that look like it - so, for example, you can show it a football stadium and it will pull up all the other places where it has recognised a football stadium. I mean, no idea at all what you’d do with this right now, but it’s incredibly impressive.
The Great Language Game: Geeky-but-great, this plays you a short snippet of someone talking in a MYSTERY LANGUAGE and asks you to identify which language it is. Look, fine, I know it sounds dull but it is surprisingly ace, I promise you.
Parihug: Just-funded Kickstarter for a soft toy which lets you share hugs from across the world (SO CUTE!) - the toy has a pair which, the idea is, a parent takes with them when travelling and which is connected to its ‘twin’ online. Parent hugs their toy, kid’s toy hugs the kid. Which is quite lovely, and I am really struggling to find anything cynical to say about it all. How queer.
Dawn Chorus: Alarms on phones are HORRIBLE, aren’t they? Either horribly jarring or falsely saccharine (STOP TRYING TO CONVINCE ME WAKING UP TO GO TO WORK ISN’T HIDEOUS), there’s a dearth of good options out there (or at least I’ve not seen any). This, though, I love - and it’s a really nice piece of marketing for The Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, which has launched this app for iOS allowing you to be awoken each morning by the sound of birdsong from its digital archives. I mean, obviously most of us live in concrete dystopias and so perhaps the idea of being awoken by nature is just too cruel, but I quite like it.
Feral Horses: Nice idea, this. Feral Horses is a soon-to-be-launched art investment platform, which promises to let anyone invest in an artwork, or a fraction of one; the artworks are then rented out and the profits divided among the shareholders. Potentially a hugely interesting idea, although I was made irrationally angry with jealousy when I scrolled down and saw how young, attractive and rich its founders look.
Cheese or Font: Is it a cheese or a font? WHO KNOWS?
Inert Products: If you’ve ever wondered ‘Where can I get my hands on an incredibly realistic replica of a car bomb?’ WONDER NO LONGER! Inert Products sells this stuff, presumably to organisations who train people for deployment in warzones and the like - there doesn’t seem to be any restriction on who can buy this stuff other than cost (fake mines don’t come cheap, turns out), so if you fancy causing a major terror alert this Summer, or alternatively really upping the ante next time you go to a fancy dress party hilariously costumed as a COMEDY TERRORIST then fill your boots.
I Don’t Give A Seat: Celebrating the upholstry of public transportation networks worldwide, because this is exactly what the web is for.
The Smart Bra: The internet of breasts! Nearly-funded with three weeks to go, this is called Vitali and is fitted with sensors and stuff to track your breathing, posture and heart rate - creepily, the blurb suggests that if it notices that you’re breathing erratically or demonstrating symptoms of stress, the bra will encourage you to regulate your breathing (“Why are you breathing like that?” “Oh, my tits are vibrating; they’re telling me I need to centre myself”). As a non-bra wearer I’m not sure what to think about this - can any of you imagine this being a useful or necessary thing?
Things Full of Beans: ...that really shouldn’t be full of beans. Oddly really quite upsetting.
Self-reflected: Beautiful images of brains, sliced and coloured and oh so glorious. Sadly not available to buy, as far as I can see, but I am totally going to email the person behind this and ask about prints because I WANT.
Paper Sizes: All the standard paper sizes from around the world, in one place. Yes, I know, it’s STAGGERINGLY dull, but probably useful to a couple of you, maybe, perhaps. LOOK, I AM TRYING TO BE HELPFUL FFS.
Ultimate Dream Life Abroad: The latest iteration of THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD EVER, this one doesn’t appear to be a marketing thing for any particular place - instead, it’s the chance to win the rights to a bookshop in Laos, currently owned by a Quebecois expat who wants to hand it over to the ‘right’ person, along with, apparently, $10000. It’s all being documented by a US filmmaker, so I presume this will all become a documentary at some point, but if you fancy having the opportunity to give it all up to sell battered copies of ‘On The Road’ to opium-addled gap year stereotypes then this is your DREAM CHANCE. There’s a $50 entry fee, FYI, which makes me think the current owner’s got this figured out pretty well.
NYC Taper: An INCREDIBLE resource, this, providing recordings from recent New York gigs. It tends towards the hipster indie end of the musical spectrum, fine, but the archive here is astonishing and rewards careful perusal.
1001 Roguelikes: Browser-based roguelike game which you will enjoy if that sentence means anything to you and which if it doesn’t you can probably skip.
Seedship: A lovely little story game in which you play the AI in charge of a ship full of colonists fleeing Earth for a new home; you play through as you attempt to find another planet to inhabit, with decisions you take during the playthrough shaping the evential fate of the civilisation you eventually create. Short playthroughs - about 5 minutes a time - which leave you with a lovely set of persistent stories and imagined worlds at the end. Gorgeous, really, I can’t recommend this enough.
The D1ck Code: This was EVERYWHERE over the weekend, so apologies if you’ve seen it - if not, though, ENJOY! The D1ck Code (sorry for the silly spelling, but I don’t have enough readers to absolutely ignore firewall compliance) is designed, apparently, to enable men to share information about the size, shape and, er, ejaculatory performance of their wang without having to go so far as to share a photo or video. Which, er, is all well and good, but I’m not sure that people share pictures of their cocks (ach, FIREWALLS BE DAMNED and screw the reader numbers) for purely informative purposes. Ah well. You can obviously use this for WHATEVER reasons you like, but I think it would be a fun way for teams of girls to speculate as to what THEY think the penises of their male colleagues look like. Go on, live a little!
Words Hurt: Yes, OK, it’s ANOTHER single-serving site for a music video. BUT this one’s all interactive and the branching narrative works really, really well, and I like the interface and the song’s actually pretty cool, and there’s quite a lot of cool UX/UI stuff with the controls that you could rip off, so CLICK THE LINK.
The Reddit Bongo Categorisation Motherlode: Finally this week, there is SO much wonder here. This is a Wiki featuring some 10,000 subreddits, ranked by number of subscribers, all about sex. Whether it’s places where people share clips and gifs, or images, or just chat, this is one of the most incredible examples of rule 34 I have ever seen. Technically SFW until you click into the Subreddits (though obviously there are some BAD WORDS on the page) the joy here is in scrolling down and thinking “What? There’s a whole community for people who are into *that*, and it’s *how* big?!”. The top of the list is pretty vanilla, but scroll down long enough and you start to hit some pretty esoteric stuff. I don’t want to click on ‘predicament bondage’, for example, because it’s too much fun speculating as to what the fcuk it might mean. WONDERFUL, more from an anthropological than sexual point of view (honest, guv, I buy it for the articles, etc etc).
By Fabian Muir (no relation)
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
Grauniad Highlights: Laughing at the middle-class stereotypicality of the Guardian is a bit easy, sure, but that doesn’t stop this from being funny. Seen in isolation, a headline reading “I ordered 50 tiny tambourines online, then wept” is too, too beautiful.
Precious Possessions: A small student art project inviting people to submit photographs of their most treasured material possessions along with a short piece of prose explaining why they were chosen. Predictably I love this and got WELL emo when I came across it.
Relatable Pics of New Labour: Do you know what the Labour Party’s lead in the polls was around this time 20 years ago? 20-odd %. Mental. Anyway, remember the days when they were a credible political force / shake your fists at the people who killed the dream (delete per your personal belief system).
Dumb Birds: A Tumblr collecting pretty decent sketches of North American birds with insulting captions and descriptions. Silly, but I quite like the futile rage.
SASJ: A Dutch visual artist studying in London (she doesn’t state her name) has been making one digital work a day since 01/01/15 - this is where she collects them. Lovely, soothing gifdesignwork here.
Pixels In The Wild: Collecting examples of pixel art and typography and stuff; a potentially useful design resource, maybe.
Cheeky Mooning: Very gently NSFW, the blog description alone was enough for me to include it: “The number one daily source for cheeky straight lads mooning and flashing their arzes”. Number 1? There’s competition?
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
Pulitzer Winners: NOt exhaustive, but a decent list of links to some of this year’s winners across various categories. Special mention to this piece on PTSD post-Afghanistan, which is an absolutely stellar piece of journalism and one of the most emotionally-affecting things I’ve ever read about the experience of war.
American Strongman: Wildly entertaining (and, yes, VERY Foster Wallace-ian (sorry, not a word, I know)) piece looking at the competitive bodybuilding landscape in the US, all oiled and mahogany and MASSIVE, but taking in wider US cultural issues, the Donald, modern masculinity and all sorts besides.
From Somerdale to Skarbimierz: This is LONG and a bit hard, but it’s very much worth it - ostensibly the story of how Cadbury’s shifted production from the West Country to Poland, this (very, very long) LRB piece sort of morphs into one of the best explanations of how global capitalism and supplychains work, EU protectionism and subsidy and how everyone at the bottom is likely to just keep getting squeezed harder as we dive into the future. Not, as you might have gathered, a hugely uplifting read, but one which will leave you feeling smarter than you were before.
Notes from a Nuclear Tourist: One of those pieces which, when it was commissioned, probably didn’t feel as teeth-janglingly contemporary as it currently does (thanks, Donald!), this is a look at the people who, should it come to it, have responsibility for actually pushing buttons in the US nuclear control centres. I don’t think I’d enjoy the responsibilty tbqhwym.
The Guy Has A Point: A really interesting essay looking at the furore caused when the artist who designed the bull statue outside the New York Stock Exchange complained that the addition to the area of the ‘Fearless Girl’ sculpture alters the meaning of his work and should be removed. Briefly, the piece attests that the original artist is entitled to the opinion because Fearless Girl was, lest we forget, an advermarketingpr stunt as as such that impacts its status as an artwork. BIG QUESTIONS here, but presented in a thought-provoking and engaging way.
A Hipster in Syria: This will probably make you quite angry - it certainly did me. The story of Brace Belden, Brooklynite and archetypal hipster, who decided that he wanted to go to Syria and check out some war. Maybe I’m being unfair on him, but the man sounds like a tool.
The New Hirsts: One of the big draws at this year’s Biennale in Venice is the new stuff from Damien Hirst - this is an excellent overview of it, from high-concept to execution, which also talks to Hirst about his work, the market and the money. I’ve never massively liked Hirst’s work, but the scope and ambition of this stuff is just startling, and I’m a sucker for the imagination behind the backstory (which, if you’re unfamiliar with it, positions the works Hirst’s showing in Venice as salvage material from a shipwreck uncovered by the artist and here displayed for the first time)..
The First Decade of AR: Timely, this, from Ben Evans, given F8 this week - this is his look at AR so far, how likely we are to be moving towards mass-adoption, and where the tech’s going to go next. I’d be interested to know whether Evans thinks any of this needs revising in the wake of all the Facebook stuff, but in any case this is a smart, as ever, exploration of some of the potential extrapolated consequences of AR getting a foothold within the mainstream.
The EVE Fanfest: I occasionally post stuff about EVE here - EVE, for those of you unaware, is a heinously complicated virtual spaceworld game, with the most evolved and frankly insane-sounding virtual politics, economy, media, etc in-game - and even though I have never, and probably will never, play the thing, I find its stories endlessly fascinating. Here a journalist goes to its annual fan convention and tries to explain how it all works - he fails, totally, but it’s a wonderful evocation of exactly how seriously its players take this, and the extent to which in a weird way it’s almost a full-scale permanent work of digital performance art (yes, I know, sorry).
Civil War In The White House: Team-by-team breakdown of the factional wars breaking out in the White House as Kuchner and Bannon (apparently) vie for power behind the scenes. Brilliantly soap opera-ish, but also just a little bit scary - er, lads, SHOULDN’T YOU BE WORRYING ABOUT RUNNING A MASSIVE COUNTRY? Lads?
Dropped: A wonderful profile of Anthony Gatto, widely acknowledged as the best juggler ever seen, who stepped away from it to, er, run a concrete business. Less about juggling - though there’s quite a lot of juggling, fine - and more about what it feels like to attain mastery of something, how that feels, and why one pursues that status in the first place and why one then bothers carrying on (or not). Brilliant writing, this.
Aadhaar: I had no idea that India had instituted a universal ID system where everyone is effectively issued an ID number at birth (they have) - this is a really interesting at how it’s working and what it means, and what some of the slightly creepy and Orwellian (an overused term, I know, but really apt in this case) use cases for it might be in terms of social control and the like. Shades of Kafka, too, in the bureaucratic hell that not having a number could unleash upon someone.
Winning and Losing in Modern China: Fascinating look at the culture of ‘losers’ in China - ‘Diaosi’ is apparently a term used by young men in China to describe themselves. To quote, “they are predominantly men born in the 1980s, the large majority play online games (82.5%), and finally, by self-identifying as Diaosi, it means that they do not see themselves as Gao Fu Shuai (tall, rich, handsome, 高富帅). This seemingly innocuous combination of commonalities—masculinity, technology, and class—has in fact situated these so-called losers as one of the most politically dynamic social forces to have emerged in contemporary China.”
Ray Davies Speaks: A BRILLIANT interview with Ray Davies of the Kinks, who reveals himself to be a brilliant eccentric and curmudgeon and which leads to one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve read in ages. Regardless of your knowledge of the Kinks or the 60s, this is an excellent read.
Margaret Atwood, The Prophet of Dystopia: A brilliant profile of one of modernity’s best-loved literary figures, Atwood’s imagination and writing continue to be exemplary, and, as this proves, she’s got a hell of an eye for a pithy one-liner. I would give my right arm to be able to come up with stuff like this: ““The pen is mightier than the sword, but only in retrospect..At the time of combat, those with the swords generally win.”
The Donald Trump Style Guide: Oh, McSweeney’s, how do I love thee. This is brilliant and savage.
The Photographic Eye of Melania Trump: Attempting to get inside the head of the first lady through analysis of the photos she’s posted on Twitter, this is a far better piece of writing than that description would suggest. Very smart, well-written and fascinating on the semiotics of photography both generally and specifically.
Superbabies Don’t Cry: Finally this week, a wonderful essay by Heather Kirn Lanier about her quest to optimise her pregnancy and how she coped with the reality of her failure to produce a ‘superbaby’. Beautiful and sad and hopeful and I loved it even despite being emotionally barren. Read this, it’s great.
By Ana Cuba
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) First up, this is called ‘Imagining My Man’ and it’s by Aldous Harding, and I love it immoderately. It is a glorious song, and her album’s out soon and you should all buy it. Melancholy beauty ALL OVER THE PLACE here:
2) Next up, though I have NO TIME for Pharrell and not much for Cassius either, this is a hell of a use of splitscreen in the promo for their song “Go Up”:
3) This is by Maier & Erdman and I am going to let them explain it: “The video shows a landscape created synchronously with the music. The generation of the visuals is based on the sound spectrum. The diverse frequency bands have been used to algorithmically define the visual parameters such as geometries, materials and lightings. Through this sonic analysis and spectral decomposition each element and texture of the track has been visually processed. The whole sequence has been created in a procedural way where the definition of every part has been based on mathematical integrations.” It is GOOD:
4) The best 8-bit-style animation I have seen in ages, this - it’s by Mozuya, who I think I have featured on here before, and it’s called LV5:
5) THRASH METAL HIPHOP CORNER! This is H09909S (Horrors, OBVS) with ‘City Rejects’. They are VERY ANGRY YOUNG MEN, and this is very cathartic to blast loud:
6)MORE HIPHOP CORNER! This is, lyrically, SO smart - I’m not 100% about the production, but lyrically this is spot-on. It’s by Open Mike Eagle and it’s called “Dark Comedy Late Show”:
7) EVEN MORE HIPHOP CORNER! Last up this week is this - look, I know it’s 10 minutes long but I promise you that it really is worth it. I laughed SO MUCH watching this, it really is worth paying attention to and persevering with. The first 50s are a bit NSFW, fyi, but after that it’s pretty vanilla and once you get into the swing of it it is legitimately hilarious, I promise. Anyway, BYE ENJOY YOURSELVES I HOPE WE DON’T ALL DIE IN A NUCLEAR CONFLAGRATION BEFORE I NEXT GET TO SPEAK TO YOU BYE BYE BYE!!:
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