THE SECTION WHICH PROBABLY WOULD PAY FOR TWEETDECK TBH, WHICH SPEAKS TO A SORT OF DEEP-LEVEL ADDICTION I DIDN’T KNOW I HAD:
Facebook Live From Desktop Now...Er...Live: It’s one of those weeks where I’m going to have to report on the launch of features that were trailed a few weeks ago, because this is how the tech news cycle works these days. Isn’t it fun? Anyway, we can all now SPEKE OUR BRANES live from the comfort of our own Cheeto-encrusted chair of choice, as Facebook this week rolled out the ability to stream live from desktop. Will be interesting to see how this develops, and whether it makes any inroads into Twitch’s territory (the lack of inbuilt payments means Twitch is probably not to worried right now) and how quickly the Mail starts frothing about the bongo possibilities this affords. I also reckon that each of you knows one person who, though you and they don’t yet know this, are going to use this feature as an opportunity to go LIVE at any opportunity to offer their own blistering HOT TAKE on news and current affairs to their ‘friends’. It’s going to be so great.
Reactions Come To FB Messenger: Yes, this was trailed too. Sorry. Anyway, this is now live and, as predicted, appears to basically be a wholesale lift of features from Slack. Nothing specific for brands here at the moment, but I quite like the idea of using this to determine the course of conversations - why not treat your next interaction with a group of people on Messenger as an elaborate ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ game whilst keeping it a secret from your interlocutors? Each time someone reacts to something you write with a ‘Love’ reaction, say, bring your conversational tone one step closer to ‘murderous rage’, just for LOLs!
FB Awards 2017 - Nominations Open: In case you want to win a metal balloon, pace Koons/Kapoor, and the envy of advermarketingpr people around the world. They have NEW CATEGORIES this year, based on the effect your work had on consumers - click that link and die inside a little when you realise they have had to explain the categories as though everyone likely to be reading it has an IQ in double figures. “Love - This is the work that made us fall in love with a brand”. Oh God, everyone thinks people like us are stupid, don’t they?
Twitter Considering Premium Tweetdeck: I think this isn’t a bad idea actually. Twitter is currently asking a test group of users whether they’d pay for an upgraded version of Tweetdeck (doesn’t actually sound that upgraded at all tbh, but hey ho) and exactly how much they’d be prepared to fork out. I’d pay - Tweetdeck basically underpins the fiction that I know how to do my (any) job - as would journalists and other advermarketingpr drones like me; it’s not enough to unfcuk the business in one fell swoop, but it’s certainly a good way of driving regular income. Although if you try and charge me $20 a month, I’ll...I’ll...well, almost certainly acquiesce, but grudgingly.
Periscope Broadcasts API: All of the fancy LIVE Api multicamera tech wizardry now on Twitter! Great! Not 100% certain why anyone would choose Twitter as their go-to platform of choice for a LIVE given Facebook hammers them on reach, but what do I know (as ever, rhetorical)?
You Can Now Save Livestreams On Instagram: Erm, not much more to say on this other than it’s only the broadcaster who has the option to save the file; obviously useful should you want to reuse the video on other platforms after the fact.
Instagram Trialing Letting Users Book Through The App: This could be quite big and DISRUPTIVE (can everyone please, please stop saying this?) - no suggestion as to when this might come to pass, but the option to book, say, restaurants through Instagram is a pretty big deal when it comes to marketing destinations.
Instagram Launches 2FA: So, er, turn it on. There are also a few other feature announcements in here - users will soon start to see some content in the feed not automatically displaying on scroll - this will be stuff that has been flagged by other users, and verified by Instagram, as ‘sensitive’ (no, me neither) and as such only viewable by choice rather than by default (following another day in which Twitter users continued to erroneously believe that I, and others like me, really wanted to have pictures of a human torso pinned under the wheel of a double decker waved in front of their faces, I can sort of get behind this). Oh, and this, too, which tweeness is so appallingly emblematic of Silicon Valley’s bland tech utopianism that it has made me REALLY annoyed and it’s only 714: “On March 25 and 26, tens of thousands of Instagrammers all over the world will come together for the Worldwide InstaMeet 15 to share their stories and spread kindness in the world. You can find an InstaMeet near you or spread kindness by leaving an encouraging comment, giving an inspiring person a like or sharing a message of support with a friend.” Insagram is about FOSTERING KINDNESS and in no way about selling you things. HONEST.
YouTube Statement On Improving Brand Security: Says nothing other than ‘we’re working on this’. One of the more interesting things about this whole story, imho, is that it points out one of those very weird areas where, despite the vast might of both Google’s computational power and the brains of its workforce, actual people are better than machines at picking out THE BAD STUFF - as poor, embarrassed, bongo-addicted Ben Evans pointed out, pulling down copyrighted material is relatively easy (“does the audio match what’s in our database? Yes? PULL IT!”) whereas determining whether a piece of content is allied to, or inciting, hate or extremism is a little tougher for a machine to determine.
YT Annotations Are No More: A slightly sad farewell to afeature which sort of defined the early YT aesthetic - you will no longer be able to enjoy the sudden, unbidden pop-up of an oddly-coloured ‘SUBSCRIBE BELOW’ box, or watch a YouTuber pointing into space at a suddently appearing message linking to their commercial sponsor or whatever. Except you sort of will, because all the features (including the ability to create branching narratives, etc, which annotations afforded) are all supported by YT cards anyway. As you were, then.
Google Posts Extended to Museums, Teams, Etc (In The US): Google Posts were, you will doubtless recall, launched last year and effectively acted a little as a changeable pinned Tweet at the top of Google search which famouses could set up to share LATEST NEWS with fans searching for them. This is being extended, in the US and Brazil, to sports teams, cultural institutions and, in the case of Brazil, musicians - this will be global eventually, so, you know, GET READY.
LinkedIn Introducing Trending Storylines: This is a rejig of the LinkedIn newsfeed, whereby it will pull out popular stories from across the network and present them in a ‘Trending’ tab on the app; you can use HASHTAGS to JOIN THE CONVERSATIONS. Great! Absolutely no details whatsoever on what the eventual options are going to be for brands to force themselves into the top of this new, exciting information curation EXPERIENCE via the injection of LOTS OF MONEY, but give them a few weeks.
Medium To Offer Premium Service: Now you will be able to pay a small fee to access some fairly rubbish-sounding stuff - EXCLUSIVE CONTENT (what, you mean more endless platitudes from the VC/founder community about how awesome everything is and how the relentless march of global capitalism can only be A Good Thing and by the way do you know how successful and alpha I am? THANKS!) and offline reading lists and new features (unclear what). HM.
Google Data Studio: Potentially useful service, this, which lets you produce reports on your Google Data (analytics, adword performance, etc) which then automatically refresh - basically custom Google data dashboards. Dull, but some of you might find it helpful.
Apple Launches Clips: Sort of their own Snapchat-type thing, except it’s no social element - this just lets iPhone users create Story-type content (video, stickers, drawings, effectszzzzzzzzzzzz...you know the drill by now) which can then b pushed out to all other social platforms. Quite a smart idea - rather than attempting to compete, this is simply providing a high-end content creation tool which is platform agnostic and, if the output’s half-decent and the cool kids pick it up, make iPhones a Thing To Have so you can use it too.
Meet Walter: A new Alien film is coming. This may or may not excite you; I couldn’t possibly comment. This is one of the doubtless myriad web promos for it, introducing the Leyland android Walter (the Fassbender character from Prometheus). It’s pretty but shallow, presenting various android features and letting you click some stuff, but the bit where you click ‘Reserve’ to attempt to buy one broke my heart slightly - you are presented with a message in dead-eyed legalese which states: “Walter is a fictional character in the film Alien: Covenant. By clicking the Connect button, you will not receive an actual "Walter". Fox may place ads about your fictional "Walter" tailored to you on certain websites that you visit. By clicking the check box and proceeding, you agree to receive email updates and offers from Fox” YEAH THANKS FOX FOR KILLING MY IMMERSION IN YOUR METICULOUSLY-CONSTRUCTED SCIFI UNIVERSE. Christ.
Great Britain Experience: Joint work by Expedia and Visit Britain showcasing some of the GREAT THINGS around Britain, this is just a bunch of promo videos, let’s be clear, but the tech which syncs them all together seamlessly as you, the user, switch between London, Manchester, Cornwall, Wales and the Highlands is really rather nice - you can’t see the joins at all.
Tech Nation: This is the website accompanying the recent Tech City UK report into the state of the tech industry; it’s not hugely exciting, fine, unless obviously you work in UK tech or policy (and even then tbh), but this is a textbook example of how you can launch a piece of research with a decent digital version alongside it. All the graphs are individually shareable, the interface is nice, it’s reasonably shiny but not too much so…look, you may not be impressed by this, but I promise you that there are still more organisations such as this who think that creating infographics from a report is DARK VOODOO, so let’s applaud those who are at least a little more advanced in their thinking.
Gucci Memes: This is sort of genius. Not all brands have a right to play (oh my God, WHAT did I just type? Sorry) in this space (OH GOD SORRY), but Gucci do - this project, where they work with artists to create memes featuring Gucci products, nails the aesthetic and the tone perfectly. STRONG work, and if you’re fascinated by the bleeding between high fashion / art and the edges of web culture then this is all sorts of interesting.
THE SECTION WHICH APPRECIATES YOUR SENTIMENTS OF POSITIVITY AND SOLIDARITY BUT WHICH IN NO WAY WANTS TO READ YOUR 20-TWEET ‘THREAD’ ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK AND FEEL BECAUSE, WELL, YOU ARE NOT THE STORY HERE, PT.1:
Name Of The Year 2017: One of my very favourite annual traditions, along with European Tree of the Year (on which note, shout out Oak Józef, worthy winner of the 2017 title), is the Name of the Year contest, which plucks the best names found in the media worldwide over the past year against each other in a public vote to determine which is the BEST name. The site’s a bit horrible, fine, but scroll down a bit and ponder whether to cast your vote for Shaft Cubit or H King Buttermore III, Bonjovi Hardeman or Cherish Bloodgood. Imagine being called ‘Cherish Bloodgood’ - WHAT must life be like?
Resist Bot: When I first saw this I thought ‘wow, what a clever use of bot tech’, and then someone I know in the US tried it and told me it doesn’t seem to work (or at least didn’t earlier this week). Still, a smart concept - an SMS bot which will take text messages a user sends it and turn those into letters sent to the user’s congressperson - easy, simple, and avoids the pro-forma letter thing which apparently is getting less and less cutthrough in US campaigning terms.
Collective Nouns for Pokemon: In case you’d ever had a burning desire to know what one might want to call a bunch of Magikarp (‘a piteousness’, apparently).
This Bot Kills Fascists: A Twitter bot which tweets out pictures of stuff, overlaid with the text “X KILLS FASCISTS”. Which, when written like that, sounds rubbish and sort of is, but some of these made me laugh this week which, for much of it, has been no mean feat.
Tinder Diaries: Ah, men. Men! Lads! What must it be like, I wonder in my more idle moments, to be an attractive woman on Tinder? Or indeed any woman, frankly? Well, curious men of the web, we can now lift at least some of that veil of ignorance thanks to artist Audrey Jones, who in this project creates small drawings illustrating some of the excellent conversations you can have with strangers on dating apps. I would buy these as prints as there is some GOLD in here. “Will you bring me BBQ?”, Audrey asks one potential suitor; “I will bring you whatever you want…”, he replies, “...Including my huge cock”, there conveniently failing to check whether said ‘huge cock’ falls within the Venn Diagram of ‘stuff Audrey wants’. Lads!
Violence Against Women Online Survey: Amnesty is doing research into the violence experienced by women online, across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit an elsewhere, and is looking for women who will share their experiences as part of the work. I hope you don’t you have anything to contribute, but I imagine most women reading this probably do.
Breaker: If you listen to a lot of podcasts this might be an appealing (iOS-only) app - Breaker effectively adds a social layer to podcasts, letting you share what you are listening to, browse others’ selections, discuss whole pods or individual episodes, that sort of thing. Oh, on which note, if you’ve a favourite UK podcast you should vote for it in the UK Podcast Awards.
Oree: I thought this was a joke, but, turns out, NOPE! Ever wanted a wooden keyboard or trackpad or speaker? No, I thought not, and yet here we are. Still, if you aspire to the most Instagrammable of Instagrammable existences, if your home is basically a series of stills from a scandi-inspired Airbnb listing, then a) you might like this; and b) I’d like you to stop reading now, please.
Elbow: This is sort of brilliant, at least from a design point of view. Do any of you old people remember, in the dying days of the cassette tape, someonereleasing a really small Walkman called the ‘Pebble’ or somesuch, which had a really strange design which left much of the tape casing exposed? I can’t find any evidence of it in the 30 second cursory Google I just did, so perhaps it was a fever-dream. Anyway, this is like that (thing that I just failed to adequately describe and which may not have in fact existed - God, I am good at this!) except even more minimalist - Elbow’s a prototypical tape player which just clips over the cassette itself, much like one of those clips your mate’s mum (who was really organised and had a freezer full of these) used to secure freezerbags. It looks ACE and scifi, despite the absolute pig’s ear I’ve made of this writeup, and if you’re a certain type of hipster you will salivate all over it. Details on if and when it will be available are sketchy, but there’s a survey you can fill in to register your interest so maybe fill it in and hope.
Two-Inch Brush: After another week which can charitably described as ‘a touch stressful’, this is a very timely website. Two-Inch Brush collects all of everyone’s favourite fuzzy-haired ASMRtist Bob Ross’s painting videos in one place - all 403 of them. I don’t imagine that there’s anyone reading this (ha!) who hasn’t experienced the soothing, soothing sounds and visuals that characterise Ross’s work and which have made him a legitimate internet legend, but, on the offchance, put some headphones on and give one of these a go. Do let me know if you discover yourself to have ASMR as a result.
Niles: Another really smart bot idea, Niles is a Slackbot which ‘learns’ - that is, you can add to its knowledge corpus through the Slack interface, as well as drawing from a variety of datasources such as Salesforce, Google Drive, etc. This is potentially really rather powerful, and is again a really smart way of using pseudo-AI for practical, tedious drudgery.
Partnership On AI: An organisation looking at the development of Artificial Intelligence (running the gamut of that increasingly imprecise turn) from an ethical / moral point of view. To quote, “the organization will study the potential societal impact of AI systems, and develop and share best practices. We will also create working groups for different sectors, for example healthcare and transportation, allowing us to conduct research on the specific AI applications in these different sectors of the economy. We will also develop educational resources and host open forums to widely disseminate information about the latest topics in the field and support an ongoing public discussion about the technology.” This is one of the most interesting fields in any discipline in the world right now, imho.
A(irport)PI: Sorry, that is a truly APPALLING ‘joke’. Anyway, this is Schiphol airport’s (lovely, lovely Schiphol) APIs, all exciting and open and AVAILABLE. Except at the moment the only thing there to play with, and it’s pretty unlikely that any of these will let you do anything TOO wacky, but still, it’s an interesting idea from both an openness and a data security point of view; although the range of interesting products and services that one can imagine being built on something so ostensibly simple as the flight times is already pretty vast, so the opportunities here are rather large I think.
Passive Aggressive Art Gallery: Artist Justin Cousson has been gently pointing out instances of inconsideracy in public spaces by setting up gallery-style notes and prices around them - so a roommate leaving a spoon in the sink becomes “"Sour Cream-Covered Spoon Left In Sink Before Leaving Town For Four Days," mixed-media (metal, porcelain, sour cream, filth), 2017 - $3400 - SOLD” You get the impression that Cousson goes through roommates pretty quickly, but this is rather funny.
Japanese Animated Film Archives: This is an incredible trove of vintage Japanese animation, covering the history of anime and more besides, presented by what I am guessing is the Japanese equivalent of the BFI. I say I am guessing as it’s all in Japanese, meaning there’s a very random quality to the browsing which I quite like (there’s an English-language version coming in ‘a month or two’, so if you’d prefer to know what the hell it is you’re looking at then bookmark this and wait, patiently).
The Facebookuette Cube: Odd, this - a printable PDF which lets you create a decision die which will help you determine how you should respond to comments on Facebook (if at all). This is EXACTLY the sort of thing I expect to see at Frieze in October - the aesthetic, the copy, the typeface feels VERY artworld of the now to me, which probably means it’s actually ‘artworld of 2014’, but wevs.
Animista: One for the coders amongst you, this site lets you create CSS animations on demand, which, given that as far as I can tell CSS stuff is pretty close to witchcraft at the moment, is useful.
Yesterdaynite: Instagram page of US artist Alim Smith who’s filling his feed with brilliant cubist-style images of black memes for US Black History Month. The style on these is ACE - see how many YOU recognise!
Untitled Serif: Yes, it’s a font, but I LOVE the way it scales when you scroll (look, just click it, it’s beautifully done).
Catching A Real Ball In VR: This is, admittedly, not the most compelling video you will ever see, but the tech is quite remarkable - this is Disney messing about in their VR labs and creating a setup where a ball can be caught by someone wearing a VR headset - meaning that they have been able to track the object’s movement in physical space and render it in virtual space in realtime, with enough accuracy to enable the user to catch the object in virtual and physical space simultaneously. Which, come on, is AMAZING. If nothing else, your future 5-a-side games will be VASTLY more exciting when you can play them in a VR Maracana with 100,000 screaming fans.
Pixelart Baseball Card Paintings: I am including this not because I have any care for baseball but because I really, really want to see this done for football stickers - I want Panini to commission this for next year’s World Cup. Come on, those would be GREAT (as indeed are these, by artist Robert Otto Epstein).
THE SECTION WHICH APPRECIATES YOUR SENTIMENTS OF POSITIVITY AND SOLIDARITY BUT WHICH IN NO WAY WANTS TO READ YOUR 20-TWEET ‘THREAD’ ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK AND FEEL BECAUSE, WELL, YOU ARE NOT THE STORY HERE, PT.2:
Google Maps To Let You Track Where Your Friends Are: So this is a tech platform update and as such should probably go up top, but then again I couldn’t for the life of me think of a brand application for this - Google’s testing the ability to let you share your location with your friends on a Gmap, allowing them to see exactly where you are as you, for example, come to meet them. Which has a lot of benefits from a safety point of view, with the flipside privacy concerns you’d imagine, but which will also let you play one of the world’s cruellest Hallowe’en pranks on someone who loves you come October 31 2017 - come on, like part of you isn’t tempted to stage your own kidnapping using this?
Photos of the Summer of Love: The real one with the acid and skag, not the fake one with the pills, these photos by Jim Marshall feature some excellent faces, outfits and moustaches.
Email This: This struck me as a REALLY useful service; a one-click Chrome extension which will email you the text and images from any webpage you choose, formatted to fit an email which you can subsequently read at any time; like Pocket, but stripped down.
May 1 Reboot: This is a THING - if you’re a designer or similar and you have a website or company and you’ve been thinking ‘oh, Christ, we really ought to update the website / brand soon’ for ages but real life ALWAYS gets in the way, then this global initiative to encourage creatives to work to an arbitrary May 1 2017 deadline for the launch of their NEW, REFRESHED ONLINE STUFF may help give you the kick you need to start the process. Or, alternatively, may cause anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. See how you go.
Loopy: Oh this is good (if, you not, resolutely unsexy). Loopy lets you really simple and easily draw process diagrams and flowcharts and stuff - you draw rough circles to create new ‘nodes’, draw arrows between them to connote flows of information or work, animate them, move them around...it’s really simple, nice to look at, and in the short time I’ve had to play around with it a genuine pleasure to use. On a similar note I also found this this week, but, er, it’s nowhere near as good. Sorry guys.
Mr Alphabet: Mr Alphabet is a bendy figure of a mime artist whose body has been designed so that he can be contorted into the shape of each and every letter in the alphabet - to be honest, to me this sounds like a frankly horrifying way of teaching your kids their letters (“and now if we break Mr Alphabet’s spine and invert his kneecaps, what do we get? That’s RIGHT, we get an ‘e’!”), but I know nothing.
Universe: This is interesting. A N Other ‘about.me’ type thing, the gimmick here is that Universe lets you create a simple website with a little bit of copy and a link to your social profiles, with its own url and design, in about 1minute flat, on your phone. They’re selling it as ‘perfect for your Insta bio’, which tells you everything about who its targeted at, but it’s a clever idea and I think there’s DEFINITELY something that the right fashion or design brand could rip off here.
The US TV Archive: Shedloads of it, from Trump backwards, all of it searchable based on closed captioning. If you’re someone who messes with video and art and stuff in a professional or ludic capacity then there is SO MUCH material here that you could potentially avail yourself of.
The Cars of Mad Max: Obviously I haven’t seen the recent Mad Max, but I understand it was very popular and quite good, and all the cars in it were actually real vehicles, built and then destroyed in actual real life. This is a wonderful album of photos of all of the vehicles, taken after construction but before filming began - petrolheads and fans of the film will find much to love here, as will any game designers looking for some convenient inspiration for vehicle design in their next post-apocalyptic brownfest.
March Fadness: Another one of these ‘what is the best one of x?’ contests we always get in March thanks to the US college sports season, this is seeking to find the BEST EVER one-hit wonder. It’s a US site so you may not recognise all the tracks, but it’s quite an odd thing that I’d not really thought of before that one-hit-wonders do have some sort of pan-societal appeal meaning that when they happen they tend to happen globally. Someone do some thinking about what that means, please, as I am too tired and my fingers are starting to ache.
Hello Hijab: Knitted hijabs for dolls, being made by a charity in Pittsburgh who are dedicated to doing ‘nice things’, basically. These will be available come April, almost certainly to some predictably froth-mouthed reactions online - ah, that’ll be fun.
The Pixel Spirit Deck: So I have to make a rare OFFICIAL WEB CURIOS APOLOGY here, not that the people at whom this is directed will ever know - turns out, that prediction about NEW WITCHES being a trend in 2017 was bang on the money, so sorry about that. Witch stuff is EVERYWHERE, even in ES magazine this week - I know nothing, and the people from whichever agency it was know everything. Sorry. Anyway, this is MORE WITCHERY, this time in the shape of a set of tarot cards combining symbols on the one face with the code needed to generate said symbol on the reverse. Part learning tool, part DARK INTERSECTION OF TECH AND MAJICK, this is ever so slightly creeping me out though I couldn’t tell you exactly why.
Populele: The moment at which I wanted crowdfunding to stop forever arrived on Monday when I saw this and realised it was going to become a reality thanks to the (at the time of writing) 993 gits who have decided that the world really, really needs a SMART UKELELE. Yes, that’s right, the world’s twee-est instrument, a crutch for unfunny ‘comedy’ songwriters and YouTube cover artists everywhere, is getting an IoT upgrade! The instrument’s got a ‘smart fretboard’ which lights up, showing you what cords to play when to help learners pick up songs - new songs tabs will be available to download. Which, on reflection, is a really smart idea and I shouldn’t be annoyed by this but I fcuking DESPISE ukeleles and all they stand for and so, sorry, no. Just no.
Tzina: This is a real oddity. A VR ‘experience’, part artwork, part memory palace, commemorating a now-gone public space in Tel Aviv; you are plonked into a slightly shonky 3d universe which you can navigate for a while, before being dumped into the middle of this square with people talking around you, telling their stories - you can change the passage of time by looking at the sun, thus moving the clock forward or backward and meeting different people and hearing different narratives. It’s a nice idea, though the execution was, for me, buggy as hell; see what you think.
Altwork: After the trend for standing desks a few years back, here comes the diametric opposite. We’ve all had to accept that the only response to the massive, shuddering car-crash that is The World is to lie back and let it all wash over us - to that end, the Altwork is basically a reclining work station which is part dentist’s chair, part ‘lazy fat future human’s entertainment pod from Wall-E’; you work by reclining with a screen and interfaces positioned above you, letting you blissfully sink in to a warm fug of contented relaxation as you watch this hour’s cavalcade of awful parade before your eyes. The promo images for this show people sitting broadly normally, if raised, but you just know that the core market for this is large, cheese-dust-encrusted men with a serious DOTA habit and really bad carpal tunnel. Either way, I am not convinced this isn’t massive foreshadowing for us all becoming really, really fat.
1 Hour of North Korean TV: ALL NEW (well, posted a week ago), this is a wonderful, odd look at the media coming out of Pyongyang. A bit like an Adam Curtis doc without the v/o, there’s a whole load of wonderful imagery in here which, per the US TV archive up there, will be a goldmine for any video artists out there. Particular highlights include the animatronic T-Rex and the slightly creepy children playing the piano duet (it’s impossible not to speculate as to what might happen if they fluff a note, hard as you might try not to). Wonderful, strange, sinister, odd.
This Was 1987: 30 years ago. 30! Liza Minelli! Donald! Run DMC! The Beastie Boys. Basically shows you how much things have stayed the same whilst changing beyond all recognition.
The Internet of Mugs: Look, please, can we stop this? It’s not funny any more. WHO THINKS THIS STUFF IS USEFUL OR NECESSARY? Ember is a SMART DRINK HOLDER which will keep your beverage at the exact temperature you require based on you setting the temperature on its FCUKING APP (or, admittedly, by twisting the base of the container). I cannot wait for the first person to suffer third-degree mouthburns after their Ember gets hacked and the temperature set to ‘surface of the sun’ levels.
2050 Earth: A rather nice project, admittedly by Kaspersky so a promo, but, which presents an interactive globe on which over time cities will be marked - each city will be a showcase for the futurology of designers and creatives, imagining how life will be (either in that specific location or in general) in 2050. It’s early days so it’s a bit thin, but there’s potential for this to become a really interesting collection of future imaginings - it’s curated, but anyone can submit ideas or images or 360 renders, so if you’re that way inclined take a look.
Pink Trombone: You’ve probably already seen this, but if not then welcome to my intense body horror. Pink Trombone is a website which lets you ‘play’ with a virtual mouth, manipulating the varying...bits...of our noisemaking apparatus to show you how human vocalisation works. The sounds! Dear God, the sounds! The fleshy, vibrating pink of the interface! The horrible, continuous reminder that we are all just made of meat...Christ, this is still horrifying to me.
Streetcrowd: A nice, relaxing antidote to the above horror which uses Google Streetview to do that ‘guess where you are now!’ game, the twist being that you are playing along collaboratively with a bunch of strangers in realtime. When I tried this, people were really charmingly playing it totally straight and noone mentioned Hitler even once, so here’s hoping it’s not been Channed yet.
By Boris Lurie
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
Cat Scientists: Scientists! With the heads of cats! Cat scientists!
Videogame Manholes: Continuing the occasional series of ‘Tumblrs celebrating one very particular niche thing as depicted in videogames’.
Anime Signage: Gifs of signs as depicted in Animes. Whilst this obviously SOUNDS really boring and rubbish, some of these are actually very beautiful (god, you can just hear the slightly sniffy inflection in that ‘actually’, can’t you? FYI, if I ever read this stuff back before hitting ‘publish’, this is the sort of thing I’d edit out. I don’t, but if I did then I would).
Tamazo: As far as I can tell, and based on the charming description (“I sharing photos of the housing estate and housing complex that I have been visit those”), this is photos of, er, Japanese housing estates, which are VERY far away from the hyperneon modernity of Tokyo we’re usually presented as ‘Japan’.
Black Kirby: Redrawing classic Jack Kirby comic characters and covers as people of colour.
Hardcore Will Never Die: Collecting old 90s hardcore mixtape covers. SO MUCH TO LOVE HERE, not least the DJ names - particular shout to DJ Tron with his slightly aggressively-titled ‘FCUKING HARDER THAN THE DEVIL HIMSELF’ mixtape, which makes me personally convinced that DJ Tron was almost certainly 16 when he put this out, bless.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
The Gamification of the post-Terror Experience: The only thing about this week’s BAD THING IN LONDON that I am going to post here, this is an excellent article looking at what it is about popular responses to BAD THINGS, particularly on social media, that are increasingly making us feel uncomfortable - SPOILERS: it’s because of the fact that everything in the aftermath is about getting stuff out there FOR THE NUMBERS. If you shared pictures of potentially-seriously injured people on Wednesday and then sat there checking your likes then I am fairly comfortable suggesting that you fcuk off and don’t read this any more because I don’t like you.
The Restless Ghosts of Baiersdorf: An excellent, and very long, piece on the history of the German town of Baiersdorf, its particular relationship to Judaism before and after the second World War, touching on history and ‘truth’ and race and the omerta which can exist in small communities. There’s some really interesting stuff at the end around German social attitudes to the term ‘race’ which is fascinating in the context of the issues currently faced by much of Europe, in particular.
Adam Curtis on The Age of Self-Expression: Reading Adam Curtis is very much like watching Adam Curtis - you can hear his voice in your mind’s ear, and if you soundtrack it with Autechre you could basically be watching one of his docs. This is his very good (but, essentially, Adam Curtis-ish) essay on how the ubiquity of self-expression as an ur-concept of a fulfilled life has oddly marginalised the actual act of artistic self-expression and created a homogeneity of culture which is a bit rubbish. Admittedly not a hugely revelatory position, but the way he arrives at it is interesting. Oh, and this - on ‘The Rise of the Gigabore’ - taps into a similar vein on cultural homogeneity, though personally I found the most interesting thing about it to be the title.
The Surreal Tradition of Bavarian China: This is...odd. There’s a town in Bavaria where each year they all dress up as fairly stereotypical representations of Chinese culture whilst simultaneously drinking the requisite 17 litres of beer per head; this is a Chinese American writer’s impression of the whole thing, which ranges from the baffled to the appalled to the baffled again in fairly short order.
Three Laws of Technology Hype: Smart essay by Rob Blackie looking at some of the things we ought to consider when determining whether a new, reported technology is being overhyped (it is, as a rule, ALWAYS being overhyped, but this is good critical thinking to employ).
Debunking The 4Chan Magic: So a few weeks after that piece tracing the links between 4Chan and Anonymous and, by extension, Trump, this is a slightly more skeptical counter-position which argues that actually one shouldn’t overstate the causal links there. It’s a pretty academic essay - which increases the surreality inherent seeing the word ‘shitpost’ being bandied about in this context) - but contains some really good points, not least the total inadequacy of the word ‘trolling’ to describe pretty much anything in 2017 given the almost meaningless breadth the term has acquired.
I May Not Harm Jeff Bezos: A short piece of comic scifi about Jeff Bezos - a man who is certainly, definitely not a frightening lunatic with too much power and money at his disposal, whatever this photo might make you think - and his robot butler. This is joyous.
On Millennial Pink: This is...astounding in its depth. You want an exploration of the cultural significance and evolution of the colour now commonly referred to as ‘millennial pink’ (in case you can’t imagine it, it’s almost exactly the same shade as the clouds over London Bridge at aroun 610pm on Wednesday evening; you’re welcome) - YOU GOT IT! This is obviously a bit silly, but it’s also a really interesting look at the way culture stitches together and forms itself, offline and on, and if you are that way inclined you could get a lot out of this in terms of semiotics, etc.
Syria: Football on the Frontline: Stories about people displaying adversity in warzones are inevitably ruinously emotional, and this is no different. Excellent reporting on the BBC, exploring how communities in Damascus are trying to maintain a semblance of normality by keeping kids’ football going despite, y’know, all the war and stuff, and looking at the parallel story of the men’s national team attempting to keep going through it all. An excellent piece, though there was part of me which couldn’t help think how slightly pony the BBC’s ‘Snowfall’ template looks compared to the big boys.
Work Yourself To Death In The Gig Economy: AND SMILE WHILE YOU DO IT! Excellent New Yorker piece looking at the lies peddled by Fiverr et al, presenting employment with them as freeing and empowering whilst ignoring the fact that they are underpinned by an assumption that the drones will work basically ALL THE FCUKING TIME to deliver services. PREDICTION: In the future it will be possible for anyone to rent out a section of their brain to perform low-level computational tasks for others in the background. What an awful thought.
A Massive Q&A With Bob Dylan: I confess that this only came through this morning and as such I have not read a word of it - given the fact that there are a lot of Dylan obsessives out there, though, it seems reasonable to assume that there’s an audience for whatever Mr Zimmerman says.
A Few Pieces About Zelda: Can I just say, again, how much I’d REALLY like a lend of a Switch and a copy of Zelda for a month, please? Eh? Oh, anyway, there’s some really excellent writing out there on the game at the moment, my favourites this week being:
The Hero of Thyme: Yes, yes, I know, but pun aside this is a great piece of writing about food in the game, and how the cookery system is implemented to allow an unexpected degree of player agency even in this tiny element of the overall gameworld.
How Breath of the Wild is Learning from PC Games: Clever, on the evolution of game design and overall trends in the open world genre.
How BoTW is the Future and Horizon is the Past: Another excellent article on game design and how both titles are emblematic of a coming and departing trend in presentation and content.
The Death Row Basketball League: Written by a death row prisoner who’s part of the team in question, this is a gentle portrait of both life on death row and the psychology of those on it. Small point, but I am glad they state the crime the author’s there for - not so as to judge, but I think it gives you an interesting kicker as you reach the end and are forced to interrogate the impression built of the author (/pseud).
Meet The Mercers: Ok, so this is LONG and very much inside-the-beltway stuff - you’ll need a reasonably tolerance for US political gossip to get the most of this, but even without it’s a fascinating and terrifying example of cash-for-access in action; this piece profiles the Mercer family, father Robert and Daughter Rebekah, who have over the years donated an eye-watering amount of money to various right-wing causes and who this year threw a whole bunch of cash behind the Donald - lo and behold, Rebekah is now seated if not at the right hand of the father then certainly close enough to the table to be able to exert some influence. Bleakly unsurprising, this is yet another example of how, thanks to an anti-establishment position underpinned by OLD MONEY, Trump has effectively ushered in a situation whereby the 0.1% is most definitely in charge. LOCK HER UP! Oh, as an aside, contains some interesting Cambridge Analytica mythbusting if you’re in the market for any more.
The Steve Bannon Crusade: This is SUCH a good takedown and a generally wonderful piece of writing. “He is selling tantrums as a revolution, a venom-belching mercenary imagining himself as a pioneer, regurgitating something about Fourth Turnings and New World Orders as if they were literal prophecy. Talking erotically about battle strategies against China doesn't make you a brilliant warrior; sometimes it just means you're a punk riding a helicopter.”
The Perils of Crowdfunding Healthcare: What happens when you remove healthcare support from people who need it? In 2017, they turn to asking strangers on the internet for help (BIG SOCIETY!) - this article explores what that currently looks like, and how it might develop in the future. Contains lots of good stuff about how this sort of market naturally swings towards rewarding particular ‘types’ of condition or need - largely virtuous need, presented as a cruel twist of fate to an otherwise morally upright, white and attractive victim. Tell me again how you don’t understand the term ‘privilege’?
The Bunny, the Witch and the War Room: This is MAD. Uri Gellar, telepathic rabbits and the weird things that the US military did to try and get a jump on the Russians back in the Cold War. Truly, you couldn’t make this up.
Ironic Sexism and the Hipster Gaze: On how a certain type of ironic sexism and objectification has become baked-in to the hipster aesthetic. Obviously VERY much of its type as an essay, but there are some interesting points in here about how objectification can (ad obviously does) persist.
The Root of Cowboy Music: This is SUCH a good piece of writing - the author, Carvell Wallace, takes a trip to a Southern cowboy poetry festival with his white girlfriend; the resulting essay is all about race and history and cultural tensions and how a people can be woven into a culture without either knowing it or often being recognised as such, and all sorts of other things. A great piece of writing.
Donald Trump is my Neighbour: Obviously he isn’t, but this piece imagines if he was - what would he be like? Unsurprisingly it quickly becomes clear that Donald is a DICK. Brilliantly written and observed, and very funny.
The Secret Life of the Lexicographer: Finally this week, if you love writing and words and language and are a bit of an introvert who would often quite happily sit somewhere warm and comfortable with a stack of books and some wine than leave the house and actually talk to people, then a) me too!; and b) this is going to be like catnip to you. It is GLORIOUS, so enjoy.
By Jimmy Marble
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) Introducing 2017’s memeiest new genre. MOGGWAVE. This is quite the thing:
2) I’ve featured Holly Herndon’s excellent music several times before on here - this is a video for her track ‘An Exit’, accompanied by an animated, glitched-out line art video which is a perfect complement to the song and which is just *beautiful*:
3) The new Gorillaz track and vid, in case you’ve not seen it. Very obviously the YT version of the full 360-degree extravaganza, but still VERY good:
4) I’ve seen Arca all over the web for a few months now - I feel *reasonably* confident that this is too leftfield to ever get mainstream famous, but there’s undeniably something about the combination of dreamy Middle East-inflected vocals and some pretty strong visual styling in the accompanying films. This, called ‘Reverie’ is unsettling as you like, and the video...well, it’s the best strange cyborg toreador anal bleeding clip I’ve seen all year:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! Doc Brown is EVERWHERE at the moment, for which good for him, he is very talented. He is also, though, a hugely talented MC - I am very much looking forward to his album later this year - as proved in this Fire in the Booth; the Poppins / van Dycke line alone is worth the watch:
6) The Trump sextape in claymation. The fact that this only has 40k views or so suggests that however much people may dislike the Donald, there’s a certain squeamishness about watching a plasticine woman urinating on the face of a plasticine man as he frantically rubs at his tiny facsimile genitals. God alone knows why, this is GREAT:
7) Finally this week, the most incredibly relaxing and strange thing I have seen in a while - this is ‘Hi Stranger’ and if you are an ASMR person this is a lovely note to end on ENJOY BYE ENJOY BYE!:
Please forward this onto as many people as your mail server can physically handle.