By Jason Chen
THE SECTION WHICH IS SORT OF GLAD ABOUT THE FACEBOOK ELECTION STUFF TODAY BUT IS ALSO SLIGHTLY WORRIED IT WILL LEAD TO CAROL CADWALLADR RUNNING AROUND SHOUTING ABOUT CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA AGAIN:
- Facebook’s 9 Pledges On Election Interference: And lo, it came to pass that Zuckerberg finally decided that it was probably a good idea that the Big Blue Misery Factory pull its finger out and address all those pesky questions about transparency in political ad-buying, and lo, it was good. There’s nothing remotely controversial in this (the link above’s to Techcrunch’s post on the pledges, which is a decent overview, but you can see the original post here), but the main point of interest to me is the requirement that those that buy ‘political ads’ will now have to disclose all political ads that they currently have running, visible in one place. It’s a clever way of doing this, as it nods to transparency without at any point disclosing the Facebook person-categorisation which allows the targeting to work so well. The other point, about political ads having a clear attribution - as in, which Page is paying for them - is also interesting; does make one wonder whether this is going to eventually become a requirement for all ads on the platform (it won’t, will it?). Also interesting is how they think they are going to track ‘political’ ads - I really look forward to see the semantic calisthenics that are going to go on around this as unscrupulous advertisers attempt to swerve it.
- Facebook (Temporarily?) Removes Targeting By Job Title, Etc: In the wake of the story last week about how you could target people based on their stated profession of “Jew Hater”, Facebook’s this week nixed everyone’ ability to target ads by the above-four criteria. There are workarounds with saved audiences, etc, but new campaigns don’t currently allow for this - I’m going to guess this is temporary, though, and the feature will be back in a few weeks when they’ve taken some reasonably simple steps (ie not letting people write “Jew Hater” in the ‘professions’ field, which sort of seems like the sort of thing someone might have thought of earlier tbqhwy).
- FB Tweaks ‘Collection Ad’ Functionality: Collection ads (you remember them! Launched earlier this year, one big ‘hero’ image (sorry) and then a carousel of products beneath it - Christ, the amount of my head which is taken up with this stuff) are getting a bit of a revamps - a few new features have been being tested with a few retailers in the US, namely a more full-screen experience for users on mobile, the ability to tag individual products, store locators within the ad, that sort of thing. Not in the UK yet, but JUST YOU WAIT.
- Instagram Stories Ads Now Work With FB Canvas: And a few other things too, actually, but the Canvas-in-stories placement is the most interesting one I think; the big, full-bleed imagery and interactivity (swipe left! Swipe right!) of Canvas makes a lot of sense inside Insta Stories, regardless of how bloody unwieldy the damn things are to build. There are a couple of other updates - boosting organic content into Stories ads, for example - so if you care about this sort of thing then click the link and LEARN. I don’t, so I’m going to move on now, ok? Ok!
- Insta May Be About To Change To A 4-image Grid: SEISMIC STUFF! Obviously not in fact seismic stuff at all, but the sort of thing you should pretend to care about now as you can probably waste a good few hours of your time - and your clients’ budgets - by having some CREATIVE SESSIONS around how you could potentially leverage the exciting new opportunities of having 4 images in a row on your Insta page rather than 3. I promise you, there are going to be at least three executions of this which will be breathlessly received as ‘AMAZING CREATIVE’ once this shift happens, and if you get in early it could be YOURS! Never let it be said that Curios isn’t an aspirational, inspirational newsletterblogmess inspiring YOU to be the best and most successful advermarketingprdrone you can be!
- A Slight Change To Autoplay Audio On Insta: This is HUGE (it’s not huge)! Now when you go to your Insta feed and you turn on the audio on a video, it will automatically set ALL videos in your feed to SOUND ON. Which actually means you could possibly do some quite fun attention-grabbing stuff with ads based on this, possibly, but it’s not interesting enough to linger on much longer and so ONWARDS!
- Twitter Testing ‘Popular Articles’ Feature: Not unlike Facebook’s ‘Trending’ news section, Twitter’s apparently testing a feed of links to news pieces which are popular within your network - whether those you follow, ‘INFLUENCERS’ or people in your immediate geographical vicinity. Which is of little interest to brands, at least initially, but it’ll be interesting to see whether there are ways to game this through a concerted campaign of sharing a specific link by verified or high-profile accounts; you could in theory use a network of ‘influencers’ all tweeting a specific link to a story within a short timespan to punt something onto the trending list (obviously this is HUGELY theoretical, but fcukit, in the absence of any real information as to how this stuff works, why not speculate?).
- Self-Serve Audio Ads on Spotify: Some people I know (on the internet, obviously - noone I know talks about this stuff in real life, thank Christ, although that might explain why all my conversational attempts meet with blank disdain) speculated on seeing this announcement whether anyone actually listened to Spotify ads anymore - presuming anyone does, though, this is a way of reaching them through a new, self-serve….er...service from the platform, which lets you submit a short script, select your targeting options (age, gender, location, musical taste, etc) and budget, and which will then generate the ad for you complete with v/o. If nothing else, you might be able to get some interesting customer info out of this based on information about ad-clickers’ music tastes. I love the idea of shops changing their soundtracks based on reactions to their Spotify ads: “Yeah, since we saw a massive spike in interactions with the ad from Death Metal fans we’ve switched all the music in Topshop to Cannibal Corpse, it’s been revelatory”.
- Bears Ears: Bears Ears is one of 21 areas of outstanding natural beauty (National Monuments) in the US which have been threatened by Trump’s decision to remove some special protection designations. This site, by ethical clothing people Patagonia, is a really nicely made campaign to petition the Department of the Interior to look more closely at this issue; it’s a lovely combination of ‘Click here to lobby’ functionality, high-quality video and audio, some VR functionality...basically if you can afford it, this is the ur-state of all campaign websites on the web imho.
THE SECTION WHICH IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT REALLY DOES RECOMMEND THAT YOU CHECK OUT THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF THE PLUMBER AND THE MAN-FACED HORSES, PT.1:
- Mondrian: Good old Piet, with his lines and colour blocks! This site, by the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague to celebrate the centenary of the Der Stijl artistic movement of which Mondrian was a significant part, allows users to navigate through periods of the artist’s life, learning about his work, his influences and the artistic milieu he inhabited. It’s all interesting stuff, but the interface is the star here; it’s really simple - the site’s arranged in a grid, basically, that’s all there is to it - but the fact that you navigate through it in straight lines, JUST LIKE ONE OF MONDRIAN’S PAINTINGS! Yeah, ok, fine, it’s not that clever, but there’s something rather lovely about the way the UI mimics the form of the artist’s work. Or at least I think there is, your opinion may vary (and be wrong).
- Next Reality: It’s getting to the point where it feels like I ought to have a dedicated AR section in here to track all the cool new stuff that’s being pumped out on a seemingly hourly basis at the moment. Or, alternatively, I can just point you at this website and tell you to bookmark it because it’s really useful - it collects all the fun ARKit/ARCore stuff that’s doing the rounds at the moment in one place, which is A Good Thing. There’s also an attempt to create a community of AR-interested people around the site, which may or may not work, but as a way of keeping up with all this stuff it’s a pretty useful one.
- Firstage: This, though, I’m not sure is going to be a thing. Firststage purports to be the WORLD’S FIRST (I am increasingly inclined to think that the designation ‘world’s first’ in this sort of space should be taken to read ‘we’re not going to make any money’, but maybe I’m being unfair) AR gig platform. Which is nice for them. It works as follows - you download the app (barrier 1!), you then point your phone at a Firststage sticker (barrier 2!), you pick an artist and then you watch them perform as a little AR avatar (or, if a band, like a whole host of musical Borrowers) on your phone, dropped into the environment by AR magic. Which is lovely, but once you’ve got over the novelty of having a tiny, singing homunculus atop of your coffeecup, sort of leaves me with the question of why anyone would do this rather than just looking up some footage on YouTube. Still, it looks cool!
- Gifs In AR: I think I trailed this a few weeks back, but now it is HERE! You can now, using Giphy, drop gifs into the REAL WORLD through AR; you can then take video of, say, a poorly-rendered slice of pizza dripping virtual cheese, hovering uncannily in space, and share it with the world. Obviously if any of you do stuff with 3d assets, etc, it’s worth getting in touch with Giphy to work out how much you’d have to bribe them to get YOUR brand mascot included in all this fun. Just imagine how great it will be when we can have KFC’s Colonel and Ronald McDonald and the Burger King all dancing together on our sofas like a happy Carnival of fat and sugar and salt and loneliness!
- No Questions Asked: Simon sent me this - thanks Simon! - and he said that there really ought to be one in London and Simon is RIGHT. No Questions Asked was a project that ran in NYC over the Summer - users downloaded the app and signed up to the experience and were then set a series of weekly ‘tasks’ they were meant to complete with - per the name of the thing - no questions asked, the idea being that the app would send you places (galleries, bars, walks, restaurants) you may not have otherwise explored, and that it would lead to SERENDIPITOUS FUN. As far as I can tell, this was just done as A Nice Thing rather than to any commercial end; if, though, you work for a lifestyle brand this is exactly the sort of thing which you could pretty much lift wholesale (if you were OK with the corruption of the pure and good in favour of commoditising every experience for branded gain, which of COURSE you are!).
- Pi Exchange: Really interesting, this. It’s not quite up-and-running yet, but the idea is that Pi Exchange will get access to all your data from a variety of sources - Facebook, Twitter, Fitbit, your location, etc - and will then effectively act as a broker for that data, selling it on for you and enabling you to, at least in theory, monetise your life or at least the bits of it that are being tracked by the internet. They’re not currently in a position to actually do any monetising yet, but I am intrigued to see how (if) this ends up working; some of you (ha! Who am I kidding?) may recall a similar initiative from the European Union the other wek - this is a TREND! Put it in your ‘decks’!
- 80s NYC: In an unusual moment of attempted self-improvement, I am trying to watch some CLASSIC FILMS to see whether cinema can stop me from sitting at home drinking and crying (so far it can’t, but I’ll let you know whether matters improve); I watched Annie Hall the other day, which is excellent even if Allen is obviously a DEEPLY PROBLEMATIC auteur, and which made me once again reflect on the frankly insane transformation NYC went through in the 90s/00s. It was PROPERLY sketchy in the 70s and 80s, and this site (wow, that was an ill-advisedly long-winded segue, eh? Sorry!) lets you explore the city as it was in the 80s thanks to a streetview-esque interface stitched together from old shots. If you have even a passing knowledge of New York in recent years, this is a fascinating way to see quite how much it’s evolved in the past 3 decades - this is GREAT, and as I always end up saying ‘please can someone do this for London please thanks’.
- The Corbyn Jug: Because I know lots of you love Jezzus, and may want to purchase a jog featuring his likeness. Also, it’s Labour Party Conference next week and so this is an appropriate vessel from which to drink the warm blood of a Tory whilst tearfully saluting as the Red Flag plays.
- Centrism.biz: Seeing as we’re doing politics, here’s Centrism.biz, some fairly heavy-handed satire explaining why ‘centrism’ is bad mmmkay? In case you didn’t know, it’s because it’s antiideological and in thrall to the global capitalist superstructure, fyi. Your mileage on this one will vary dependent on how guilty you feel about your support for the New Labour movement, or indeed if you can remember a time in UK politics when there was a vague sense of hope.
- AISpy: It’s occasionally nice to be reminded quite how far away we are from a universe in which we are all subjugated by artificial intelligences of immensely superior cognitive ability (although, on reflection, it does rather bring into sharp relief the fact that as things stand we are instead subjugated by morons. HM). AISpy is a cute little game which uses Google’s nascent image recognition tech to power a little game of I Spy - you take a series of photos of the room you’re in, and the software invites you to guess which element within the room it is ‘thinking’ of. INCREDIBLY hard, mainly due to the fact that it identifies incredibly specific details - who when playing I Spy does “F for forehead”? I mean, I know I have fcuking acres of it, but still, that HURT, AI!
- Polly: Smart, simple little positive polling app with neat Snapchat integration which lets you ask simple polling questions which can be shared on Snap; users can answer the question within Snap without needing to login to a platform or anything like that; as a light-touch thing, this is potentially quite useful if you’re a brand on Snapchat looking to GAIN INSIGHTS INTO THE MILLENNIAL CONDITION or something.
- Facestyle: Adobe toy demonstrating their own ‘give us a photo, we’ll apply a style to it to comic/artistic effect’ - I wouldn’t have bothered including this but then I tried the ‘make me look like a bronze of myself’ setting and it threw out this gaunt-cheeked monstrosity and I was HOOKED.
- Pennywise Dance: A Twitter account revealing the most horrifying aspect of the clown from IT - his incredibly creepy dancing. One-note gag, but surprisingly funny even if you are old enough to look at this and go ‘yeah, but it’s just another iteration of the dancing spiderman gag, isn’t it?’ like the jaded, joyless funsponge you are (I am).
- Get An iPhone X Phone Notch: This is the sort of thing which I’m sure is an absolute ZINGER if you’ve got a preferred side in the Great Mobile Hardware Wars of the 00s, but it leaves me slightly cold - still, this is an app which lets Android users mimic the ‘unique’ notched screen design of the new iPhone, which is all funny and ‘hahahahaha Apple fanboys you d1cks’ until some happens to see your screen and thinks your phone is newer and shinier than it actually is and half-inches it.
- Battlbox: We’ve done the idiocy of ‘things as a subscription service’ here before, but this is one of the better (worse) ones I’ve seen in a while. Battlbox is a monthly subscription service for the sorts of people who are twitchily convinced that civilisation is ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE - you know, the sorts of people with subscriptions to survivalist journals and who go on Reddit to share photos of the ‘kit’ they carry with them at all times should the vague entente cordiale which currently exists between people whereby we don’t immediately rob, maim or kill anyone we come across. For a fee - and not a small one - it will send you a bunch of VITAL MATERIALS for you to stockpile for when everything collapses, such as, er, rope and protein bars and CONCEALED HOLSTERS and frankly everyone who signs up to this should probably be on a watchlist somewhere. Thanks to Ben for the tip.
- Used Coach Sales: A website where you can bu used coaches on the cheap. Included mainly because this has been the week in which we’ve all been forcibly reminded of that fcuking bus and that fcuking man with the fcuking hair (no, not him, our one), and wouldn’t it be nice to all club together and buy one of these (you can get a doubledecker for about £6k, just saying) and emblazon it with “You will never be Prime Minister, everyone thinks you’re a snake and your disingenuous freewheeling schtick got old three years ago you malignant flump” and park it outside the Johnsons’ abode? Yes, yes it would.
THE SECTION WHICH IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT REALLY DOES RECOMMEND THAT YOU CHECK OUT THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF THE PLUMBER AND THE MAN-FACED HORSES, PT.2:
- The Cornell HipHop Collection: This is apparently only a tiny fraction of the archive of hiphop culture being housed at Cornelll University in the US, but even given its relatively small size this is a fascinating opportunity to explore photos and ephemera from the 78-85 period. The photographs in particular are just great; I mean, LOOK at Flava Flav in this one. The interface is a bit horrid, fine, but it’s worth persisting with.
- City Describer: Another in the ‘AI’s not quite there yet’ pile, this is a Twitter account which shares photos of cities along with what Microsoft’s computer vision AI thinks they depict; an aerial view of St Paul’s in Rome is identified as ‘a stack of flyers on a table’, which is probably the crappest description of an architectural wonder there has ever been, so well done AI.
- We Have Taste: A really nice idea, this - a local recommendations app which instead of asking users to rate venues, leave reviews, etc, instead simply requests that they pick ‘favourites’ in a variety of categories, and then ranks venues within those categories based on the amounts of ‘favourites’ they receive; the gimmick being that you can only have one favourite in each category at any one time, and therefore you really have to think about it (or so the idea goes). It’s an interesting way of removing the opportunity for trolling, and I think there’s probably quite a few applications for this sort of setup if you can be bothered to think about this harder than I can.
- The Drunk: Photography by Lee Chapman, depicting the ruinously p1ssed on the streets of Japan. You see these people? They’re YOU, they are, etc etc etc.
- Keybright: I really don’t quite know what the use case for this is, but I like to imagine that one of you will be able to come up with one. Keybright is designed to be used with your phone or computer hooked up to a projector - you type and a stream of ethereal, glowing letters rise up across your screen, exploding with every hit of the spacebar. Which I suppose could be fun in a theatrical context, perhaps. What do YOU think?
- The Flying Martha: The most enjoyably frivolous Kickstarter thing I’ve seen in ages, this - The Flying Martha is a bird-shaped flying toy (ornithopter, fine), which works based on a simple wind-up mechanic and flies by flapping its wings and which just looks LOVELY and the sort of thing you might want to buy for your kids but which you secretly know you want just for yourself. $9k away from its goal with three weeks left, so I reckon if you chuck some money at it you’ll be throwing your very own wind-up bird in a matter of months.
- Timemaps: SUCH a clever idea for a different style of map by the people at Mapbox - timemaps are designed to initially show users the rough direction and distance of a set of locations from their current position; they can then pick one and get specific directions to it. So, for example, it could show you pizza restaurants relative to you - you could then make the judgement as to whether you were willing to walk 10 minutes to not have to eat Pizza Hut, and then be directed to somewhere semi-decent. A really nice piece of design which I can see being used widely.
- An Incredible Set of Videos of Live Rock Performances: Fans of 90s ‘alternative’ will find a LOT to love here.
- Pulp Covers: A Twitter account posting a succession of excellent novel covers from the days when you could put straplines like “On her wedding night, a strange man wandered in…!” alongside a lurid oil of some leering wrongman gazing lasciviously at a voluptuous victim without someone going “It’s...it’s...a bit exploitative, no?”. Great stuff.
- The Spomenik Database: If you’re into the brutalist architecture of the former Yugoslavia then BOY do I have a treat for you! This is a collection of information and photos of Spomenik, which to steal their description “are a series of memorials built from the 1960s-1990s during Tito's Republic of Yugoslavia, whose primary intent was to honor its people's resistance struggle during the National Liberation War (1941-1945) (aka WWII) against Axis occupation.” SO bleak, but in an excellent and fascinating way - also, some of these are just beautiful.
- Spacetime Prints: Another Kickstarter, this time crowdfunding posters depicting the planetary alignment of any given date; the idea being that you can buy beautiful, high-quality prints of how the solar system was aligned when YOU were born (or, if you’re less self-absorbed, anyone else you care to imagine). It’s passed its goal so will definitely happen, and if you have a space-obsessive in your life then this is a potentially gorgeous gift for them.
- Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017: Seeing as we’re on ‘space’, these winning images from this year’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest are absolutely stunning. They’re on display in Greenwich at the moment, so go and check out the whole lot as it’s always a beautiful spectacle.
- Intelligent Speaker: I am sure that this might be useful to some of you, but I’m slightly baffled as to how. Nonetheless, Intelligent Speaker is a Chrome extension which will read out any page you navigate to at the touch of a button in a slightly stilted, creepy, text-to-speech fashion. Which means that you can, say, get it to read you a long essay while you, I don’t know, pretend to stare at a spreadsheet or something. Why not try consuming BBC News with this? I tried it earlier and the cold, robotic cadence worked perfectly with the Zuckerberg/Facebook story for example.
- Safe City: File under ‘this is a very smart idea indeed but Christ alive is it miserable that it needs to exist’, “Safecity is a platform that crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. This data which maybe anonymous, gets aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. The idea is to make this data useful for individuals, local communities and local administration to identify factors that causes behavior that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions.”
- The Internet Health Report: This is an interesting initiative by Mozilla, who continue to do lots of really interesting and valuable work around the open web. This is effectively a ‘state of the web’ study, aggregating information from a variety of academic sources on how the internet is faring across five key indicators; literacy, openness and innovation, privacy and security, etc - the idea is that over time this will become a tracking study to gauge progress across these (admittedly contentious / subjective) criteria. There’s lots of interesting stuff in here around how the web functions worldwide, so worth having a dig.
- Kei7474: An Instagram feed of photos of Japan that are SO BEAUTIFUL that they temporarily made me forget to be angry at the fact that the photographer is only 25. Oh, and if you want another Insta feed of Japanese photos then the Kyoto Journal is also lovely, in a very different (less shiny) way.
- The Air Conditioning Watch: This is...confusing. Another Kickstarter, this one’s for the Aircon Watch, which, it claims, will COOL YOU DOWN (or heat you up) depending on your needs and desires. The exact science behind how a watch can modify your entire body temperature is, well, sketchy, but I suppose one might charitably assume that that’s because they need to keep some sort of competitive advantage here and not in ay way because it is made-up nonscience - it seems to be based on the same principle behind, say, the application of icecubes to the wrists to rapidly cool temperature, and I suppose that works so maybe this will too. Anyway, it’s got LOADS of money behind it so it is ‘definitely’ happening - caveat emptor is all I’m saying here.
- The Dadbag: You remember bumbags, right? Still worn, inexplicably, by middle-aged American tourists, and still, unforgivably, referred to as ‘fanny packs’ by said tourists, this is a REINVENTION of the bumbag - now instead of it looking like a crap piece of synthetic fibre strapped to your midriff, it can look like, er, a fake, hairy male belly. Yes, that’s right, if you’re the sort of person who thinks that a ‘dadbod’ morph suit is the acme of hilarity then this is the accessory for YOU. Guarantee you, though, that this will stop being funny to you slender 20somethings as the first vestiges of paunch start to afflict you - it happens to us ALL and we will ALL DIE, so stop being smug about your beauty and thinness because it is EVANESCENT oh god i am hurtling towards forty so fast that I think my face is becoming all elastic and saggy with the wind oh no that’s just my reduced collagen levels :-(
- The ETA Clock: I have DEFINITELY featured something like this before, but I’m fcuked if I can dig it out of the archive meaning it may even have been BACK IN THE DAY when this blog was on the website of a major international PR company (no, I don’t believe it either). Anyway, this is the last Kickstarter of the week which is just past its goal and so WILL be bringing us a real-life version of that clock from Potter which shows where all the members of the family are at any given time. “The Eta Clock isn’t your ordinary clock - it doesn’t tell time. Instead, it keeps you connected to those who matter most, exchanging time for location. The Eta Clock tells you where the people in your life spend their time, with each hand representing a person in your connection circle and each segment of the clock face corresponding to a destination. As the people in your life proceed throughout their day, the clock hands mimic their movements, traveling to and from destinations like “Work” and “Home.” Sadly doesn’t seem to be offering you the option to customise the locations on the clock, so ‘Secret lover’s house’, or “Brothel’ or ‘Dealer’s’ are options you’ll have to mod in yourselves.
- Manly: A photo editor for MEN, which basically lets you ‘shop in pecs and abs to your selfies. Oh, and tattoos as well. So not only have we reached a period in British culture where all men under the age of around 33 are seemingly compelled by law to go to the gym and drink protein shakes and wear v-neck tops which show off their waxed torsos, and have to have tattoos, and have to wear jeans so thin that they make their legs look like ill-advised spindly add-ons to their massive meatframes, we’ve also reached a point where those of us who don’t look like that now have the tools to pretend that we do so as to better fool thirsty others into meeting us for a drink. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE! (NB - I am obviously just bitter because this is seemingly iOS-only).
- Cospenis: I am amazed that I’d not seen this before, but better late than never. Cospenis is a Subreddit devoted to men sharing photos of their penises, dressed up as...characters. Highlights on the landing page include the man who’s dressed his cock up as the gimp from Pulp Fiction, and the Jekyll and Hyde effort which wins prizes for its use of makeup. Obviously not really very SFW at all, and may put you off penises for life, but, you know, ENJOY!
- Tops & Tails: We finish with a return to a more decorous pursuit than perving at penises in top hats - this is a fun little webgame (‘fun’ if you like words; if not, of no interest to you at all) which asks you to pick which pair of letters should sit at the front and back of a series of other letters you’re presented with. ARGH GOD that was an appalling description, sorry. Let me use theirs instead: “you’ll be shown 30 pairs of letters. Above them will be a word with its first and last two letters missing. All you have to do is pick a letter pair that can be dropped at the start and end of the word to complete it. So if the clue was __ANTI__, you’d pick the pair ME, to spell MEANTIME.” You will, I promise, feel STOOPID, but it’s very satisfying when you get them right (has happened to me all of 9 times).
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
- Buffalo Juggalos: Having been in the news again of late as a result of their March on Washington, the Juggalo community’s once again come in for some not particularly enlightened scrutiny; I’ve said this before, but whilst it’s easy to make fun of a bunch of poor people with often limited education who listen to music which is, objectively, awful, and who make a lifestyle out of said shared musical appreciation, everything I have ever read or seen about Juggalos paint them as an incredibly, well, nice community - inclusive and tolerant and seemingly kind and non-violent. This Tumblr is a series of photos and interviews and essays around the culture and community in Buffalo, accompanying a documentary of the same name made a few years back; it’s really interesting, and also gives me an excuse to link to the magnets song again.
- Riz Ahmed Heads: Emmy-winner Riz Ahmed - or at the very least, his face - replicated over and over again on this rather single-obsession site. An excuse to link to Riz’s track ‘Flush’ from a few years back, which is genuinely excellent and whose video I featured on Curios when it came out 7 years ago.
- English Modernism: Examples of design and illustration.
- Automatic Pastels: Pastel shades automatically created by a computer. 48 times daily. Should you need them, they are HERE.
- CAT CAT CAT: Cats on Tumblr are nothing new, but these are RUSSIAN CATS! In the great marketplace of cat pictures online, these are RARE and therefore HIGH VALUE.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
- The Making and Breaking of Iggy Azalea: You remember Iggy, right? High ponytail, mediocre flow, briefly ubiquitous and then BANG hit by the cultural appropriation hammer and off into obscurity for her. This is an interesting portrait of her rise and (to date) fall, painting a picture of an incredibly single-minded person when it comes to the pursuit of success. Is it me, though, or is there a certain veiled ‘tone’ here when it comes to the way in which she might have been treated by certain members of the male hiphop community when she was a kid starting out? There’s a line in the piece about someone being keen to go on the record to suggest that nothing untoward went on between him and a young Azalea - something which once you’ve read it you realise is notably absent from a lot of the other accounts in there. It just feels like there’s some potentially rather dark stuff between the lines here, is all.
- Reading 60 Years Of Playboy: Perfectly SFW, don’t worry - this is an account of what examining 6 decades worth of Playboy centrefolds does to the mind and one’s ability to see nudity; you may not be surprised to know that there’s a certain flesh-blindness that creeps in perusing the published anthology of the magazine’s history. Particularly good on the shifting taste in bongo over the years, and the tediously persistent nature of the male gaze inherent in it over the years.
- I Bought a Russian Bot Army: Effectively this ends up being a practical guide to how one might go about procuring a few thousand bots on Twitter, and what might one then end up getting said bots to do - which may not have been the author’s initial aim, but is quite interesting and potentially useful if you have a spare $100 and an idea of some stuff to mess with. In all seriousness, I would rather like to fcuk with an eventual Tory leadership contest with something like this, so let’s all keep it vaguely in the back of our minds.
- Smokers Are The Last Nice People Online: This may or may not be true (although as a smoker, I’d like to believe it is), but as an exploration of a niche online subculture - in this case, that which exists around the website Airportsmokers.com (on which people, er, review smoking facilities at airports) - this is a lovely piece of writing on the sort of community of shared experience that can only exist on the web.
- Clickbait Academia: There was an academic paper which stumbled across my timeline this week, something about colonialism actually being GOOD, mkay?, and I skimmed the abstract and sent it to my friend Phil who’s an ACTUAL DOCTOR and who studies race and colonialism, and he pointed me at THIS - which is an article exploring how academics and journals have basically all discovered how clickbait can work and are as a result starting to pen really pretty indefensible takes on stuff so as to get more clicks and, as a result, loads of attention for said academic and journal; and in academia, attention and notoriety means TENURE. Interesting, but another thing to be wary of which, frankly, I could do without.
- RapCaviar and HipHop Influence: Another one of the seemingly endless stream of ‘how influence and power works in music in 201x’ pieces, but this one’s particularly interesting on how Spotify’s RapCaviar new music playlist can be absolutely instrumental in breaking artists, and how that process functions. Explains how Lil Uzi Vert got so famous, which (despite liking a few of his songs) had to date been pretty much entirely baffling to me.
- Inside Ilbe: File under ‘everywhere is the same and everywhere is fcuked in 2017’, this is a portrait of South Korea’s own, charming version of the alt-right, centred around a Chan-ish website called Ilbe. What’s most interesting / depressing about this is the commonality of grievance amongst the kids in the forums - it’s the familiar litany of young men feeling emasculated and underpowered and feeling that somehow the fault for this lies with women and foreigners.
- The Business of Street Style Bait: So LFW came and went with relatively little fanfare for the outsider (I am sure it was huge if it’s part of your filter bubble, but I saw very little online this year I must say), but as ever it delivered a reliable procession of (mostly Japanese) kids dressed in what looked like offcuts from the Pet Shop Boys’ dressing room, desperately looking to be papped and thereby raise their influencer quotient a notch or two. This is a fascinating look at what it’s like to experience LFW as a street style INFLUENCER - it sounds, frankly, EXHAUSTING, but I have worn exactly the same outfit since circa 2004 and hence am a know-nothing bozo in this particular field.
- The Don of Hiphop Sign Language: I love this - interesting and educative and HEARTWARMING, it’s a profile of Matt Maxey, the young man who does the sign language at Chance the Rapper’s gigs (and other people’s too, sometimes), and look at the wider ASL/music scene and it’s SO NICE. Everyone in here just seems lovely, frankly, not least Chance the Rapper; also, the linguistics here are fascinating in terms of the creativity involved in some of the spoken-to-ASL translations going on. Really, really nice, and I mean this in the best possible way.
- In Conversation With John Cleese: As with much of Cleese’s output post-A Fish Called Wanda, this interview doesn’t exactly make him seem nice, but it is a really interesting and wide-ranging conversation that also works as a neat encapsulation of the frictions between the old and the young when it comes to matters of plitical correctness - the interviewer’s obvious weariness and disappointment in Cleese’s failure to understand that nowadays many feel that there are some things that, actually, it’s not OK for an Oxbridge-educated old white guy to make gags about is a sort of microcosmic evocation of CURRENT MALAISES.
- I Don’t Really Know How To Describe This: Just that it’s a truly GREAT story with a brilliant twist and seriously, read it, it’s wonderful and will put a smile on your face.
- Love & Food: I don’t normally link to Guardian pieces as you know (figuring you will have mostly read them already) but this was somewhat buried on the site and it is a beautiful essay about how cooking with someone we love is an intimate and wonderful act, and can define so much about one’s relationships - how you move and interact and work together in the kitchen is a wonderful analogy for your relationship as a whole, in my mind at least, and this captures this with lovely prose.
- The Story I Can’t Write About My Family: This is superb. Sad and self-aware and has the crackling, greasy-between-the-fingers air of a coming electrical storm to it. There’s something in the tone that reminds me of the Foster Wallace short ‘The Depressed Person’, and it’s probably worth noting that this isn’t a hugely happy piece - no trigger warnings, but it’s got that sort of low-level ambient misery that all portraits of middlingly dysfunctional family units seem to be imbued with. Brilliant writing.
- How To Kill A Possum: Not actually a set of instructions, but the story of how the author has had to become a mammal-killer to protect her chicken coop. The best writing in here this week, hands-down; this is funny and brutal and unsentimental and just excellent.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
- First up, this is Emmit Fenn with ‘What We Once Were’, which is all filmed on Kinect like when it was cool back in 2010, but this is the 2017 version and so is brilliantly shiny and future and sort-of terrifying. ENJOY!:
3) This may be terrible, but it’s also really quite shambolically, sloppily, noisily charming, and reminds me of Boyracer, and the singer might well be drunk throughout, but, still, I present to you ‘Waiting on You’ by Oh Boland:
4) Next up, it’s a new track from Nightmares on Wax which is basically an excuse to share the beautiful, slightly kaleidoscopic video which accompanies it. Should you be in a position to do so, I would very much recommend skinning up and then watching this:
5) Finally this week, it’s a piece of Italoelectronica by LIM with a genuinely beautiful video. Put this fullscreen and enjoy the subtle morphs - this is really rather wonderful. HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYBODY I HOPE NOTHING BAD HAPPENS TO YOU OR TO ANYONE YOU LOVE BYE BYE BYE: