Friday 24 November 2017

Web Curios 24/11/17

Gah! So much to do, so little time! This intro is necessarily going to be on the short side as I have STUFF to be getting on with and to be honest I imagine that most of you are going to be far too busy buying VAST QUANTITIES OF STUFF to be bothered with links today. 

Amidst the babble, clamour and NOISE of Black Friday, then, take a moment to lie back and let the soothing waves of webspaff wash over your beetled brow and troubled countenance - it's apparently great for the complexion. Web Curios!

alberto sughi

By Alberto Sughi

LET’S START THE MIXES WITH THE LATEST ONE BY THE LOVELY MAN BEHIND IMPERICA WHICH THIS WEEK IS PARTICULARLY GOOD!

THE SECTION WHICH WANTS TO FIND THE PERSON BEHIND THE TOMATO WEBSITE AND THANK THEM FOR THEIR MAD CHUTZPAH:

  • Collaborative Facebook Stories for Groups and Events: Shy of changing the colour of the website’s favicon to a ghostly yellow, there’s not a whole load more Facebook could do to demonstrate to Snap that it’s...er...aggressively targeting it as a business (I mean, look at the state of this, the shameless, thieving wrong’uns!). The latest ‘what, you do this too? What a coincidence, we came up with this entirely independently!’ feature update from Facebook comes in the form of this, which will  mean that ‘users of Facebook Groups and Events will be able to contribute to a Facebook Story visible to the rest of the members and moderated by the admins.’I think you could actually have some fairly fun experimental stuff come out of this, not least due to the oftentimes disparate composition of the larger Facebook groups - on the other hand, though, just imagine the sort of ‘content’ that the collective ID of the ‘banter’ groups would put together (on which note, I just plugged ‘banter’ into FB search and wow, Brexit really DID happen didn’t it).
  • Invoice with PayPal Through Facebook Messenger: Look, this isn’t worth me wasting prose on: “PayPal and Facebook are expanding their integrations today with the launch of an extension for Messenger that allows PayPal sellers to invoice buyers directly through private messaging...The new PayPal chat extension allows a seller to create and send their invoice without leaving the their conversation, so the buyer can act on it immediately. To use the extension, sellers open the extension tray in Messenger, select PayPal, then create a simple invoice by filling in details like item name, description, price and quantity. The invoice can also include a photo.” US-only as yet, but expect this to eventually roll out everywhere, in another move designed to ensure that all of your online interactions have that slightly queasy Facebook-blue tinge in the short to medium term future.
  • Send Hi-Res Photos in Messenger: Literally just this. No significant brand application that I can think of, but, you know, if you want to set your Messenger bot up to send pointlessly hi-res photos of, I don’t know, biscuits, then now you can. Great!
  • Russian Transparency!: Everything we think nowadays is determined by a shadowy politburo cabal running a sweatshop office of MASTER SOCIAL MEDIA MANIPULATORS out of Vladivostock. IT IS, I TELL YOU! In a move towards combating this worrying trend, Facebook’s set to tell people how many of the Pages they follow on FB and Insta were set up by Russia’s (in)famous Internet Research Agency (see Curios passim on this one); which is great and all, but also pretty disingenuous when you think about how Facebook works; visibility and reach are a factor of likes, shares, etc, when it comes to this sort of stuff, meaning most people who saw FAKE NEWS PROPAGANDA from these Pages won’t have had to follow them to ‘enjoy’ their lies. Still, it’s a start.
  • Facebook Trust Indicators: As part of its efforts to stop us being gulled by online shysters, Facebook’s also introducing what it’s calling ‘Trust Indicators’, whereby publishers on the platform can autosubmit a bunch of information about themselves: “Publishers may now be able to upload links to additional information through their Brand Asset Library under their Page Publishing Tools — including information on their ethics policy, corrections policy, fact-checking policy, ownership structure, and masthead.” This information will now be available to users curious to see more information about the newspeddler showing up in their feed - let’s not think too hard about the degree of critical thinking and curiosity which is required of the general public for this to actually make a meaningful difference to anything, or indeed the utility of a system which allows anyone to upload their own affidavits as to their journalistic and professional integrity. TRUST! TRUST FACEBOOK! TRUST IN MARK!
  • Join Friends’ Livestreams On Insta: To quote: “When watching a friend’s live video, simply tap the “Request” button in the comments section. You’ll see a confirmation that your friend has accepted your request, and you’ll have a moment to prepare. Once you’re live, the screen will split in half so you can hang out live with your friend. You can leave your friend’s live video at any time, making it easy to join for a quick hello or a longer chat.” There’s almost certainly some GREAT fan service stuff that famouses and brand ambassadors can do with this; just, er, take care as to who you let join you.
  • Snap Adds Context Cards to Lenses & Filters: This is 10 days old, apologies; seriously, though, there’s only one of me and there are a LOT of tedious s*c**l m*d** updates. Anyway, advertisers purchasing sponsored lenses or filters on Snap will now be able to add context cards - the feature that lets you swipe up from within a Snap to take you to a specific destination url - for no extra cost, meaning you’ll now have at least an outside chance of demonstrating why it was vitally important to spend a few hundred grand on a piece of software that allows people to, say, make their faces look like a friendly poo.
  • YT Updates Policy On Weird Kids’ Content: A reaction to the recent furore about algorithmically-generated videos of Peppa Pig making like Princess Bathory (a story which, weirdly, was mentioned in Private Eye twice before making it to the mainstream) - only of interest if you’re one of the BAD PEOPLE making ad money out of poorly-rendered CGI depictions of Elsa from Frozen doing ice docking or something.
  • I Am Reindeer: A nice initiative, running for another 5 days at the time of writing, seeking nominations for female creatives who are, to quote them, ‘bringing the magic’ (no, me neither); there will be nine winners, so if you know someone who’s, er, a brilliant female creative, why not nominate them and make their Christmas? GO ON.
  • Duroc Tomatoes: Long-term readers may be aware that I have a very sizeable soft spot for ridiculously overengineered websites for ostensibly tedious industries; this may well be the ur-example of these. Duroc, I learned this week, is the largest supplier of ‘snacking tomatoes’ (no, me neither) to the UK and a few other European countries; what would you imagine the website of a major tomato supplier to be like? Would you imagine it to have MUSIC and FLASH-LIKE ANIMATIONS and a ridiculously colourful aesthetic that reminds me of the set of Playdays? NO YOU WOULD NOT, and yet here we are. This is just SO wonderfully, riotously overengineered, and makes me wonder whether they needed to dispose of some budget at the end of the year, or whether the CEO’s nephew had just completed a course in creative webdesign or something. Wonderful and hugely pleasing.
  • The Bureau Agency: Look, I know that it’s easy for me to sit here in my ivory tower (cold kitchen) and throw barbed criticisms at everyone, I know this. “It’s easy for you”, THEY say (the identity of ‘THEY’ is as yet as undetermined, but imagine them as a seething mass of babbling flesh sitting just outside my window), “you just SIT there and CARP and WHINE and MOCK. Why don’t YOU try making something you miserable, destructive failure?” (there is a small extent to which I accept that ‘THEY’ may be an extension of my ID). Which is all well and good, but then I see stuff like this - the website for what, as far as I can tell, is an actual agency, asking for actual cashmoney for actual work, and which, from the Adam Curtis-style portentous video to the laughably-written copy, seems like the entry point for some sort of weird, comms-themed ARG - and I can’t help myself. WHO ARE YOU, THE BUREAU AGENCY? Interestingly they have culled a lot of the copy since I first found this earlier in the week, suggesting that whoever’s behind it has at least a small degree of self-awareness about how ridiculous the whole presentation is - if you’re reading this, though, let me just point out that the punctuation is still a complete joke. You’re welcome!

alma haser

By Alma Haser

NEXT UP, THIS PROJECT MASHING UP JAY-Z WITH DJ PREMIER - IT’S EXCELLENT, SO ENJOY!

THE SECTION WHICH HAD A WONDERFULLY BIZARRE EXCHANGE ON TWITTER LAST NIGHT AND IS RATHER ENJOYING THE CLIMBDOWN FROM THE OTHER PARTY THIS MORNING, PT.1

  • Just Type Stuff: This is what the web is for - not the bringing together of disparate peoples and viewpoints, not the sharing of ideas and feelings and knowledge and words and music and and and - no, it’s for this, a website which lets you type stuff into your browser and see it pop up in a little virtual world. I first saw this as part of the ‘Now Play This’ exhibition at Somerset House earlier this year, but it’s now available to all; TRY THIS IT IS ACE. Seriously, click the link, type stuff, hit return, see what happens. It’s GREAT, and you will derive more pleasure than you’d expect from creating a tiny virtual universe populated by floating cows and umbrellas and dogs and stuff (no, I know you don’t understand, but JUST CLICK THE LINK).
  • For Hims: 2017’s seemingly endless list of ‘X as a subscription service’ offerings continues apace with For Hims (no, I don’t know why they’ve chosen to pluralise ‘him’ and I really wish they hadn’t) which lets you subscribe to monthly deliveries of, er, haircare products and erectile dysfunction medication. It’s just such a weird combination of things - “Hm, I wonder whether there’s anywhere that will send me new hairwax each month so I don’t have to remember to buy it OH and while I’m here I’ll have some Cialis, yes, don’t mind if I do”.
  • Black Girl In A Big Dress: It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a webseries as much as this one - High Maintenance, in case you’re asking - but this is BRILLIANT. Black Girl In A Big Dress is a webseries about a black woman who’s also a Victorian cosplayer and no wait come back it’s good honest. Fourth wall-breaking and funny, this is excellent even if you don’t know anything about cosplay fandom (do any of you know about cosplay fandom? I have my doubts to be honest).
  • The Hotstepper: This is SO silly, and really rather fun. The Hotstepper is an app which provides users with directions to any location they desire, given to them through an AR layer of, er, a fat bloke in his pants walking ahead of them to guide them to their destination. Leaving aside the impracticality of needing to stare through your phone to see the route you’re meant to take, who DOESN’T want to be guided through life by a virtual bear wearing Kanye shades and some fetching blue briefs? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO! ETA until KFC rip this off for a Colonel Finder app? Approximately a month, I reckon.
  • A Foreigner’s Guide to the Polish Alphabet: When I was a kid and growing up in Swindon - have I mentioned I grew up in Swindon? Ghastly place, don’t visit - I went to school with LOADS of Polish people, meaning I acquired the largely useless ability to spell surnames like Maskelaniac and Wolosczinski without pause for thought, and learned early on that shouting ‘Curva’ at your mate’s mum when she turned up to pick them up from infants was, on balance, an error. Had I had access to this beautiful website (seamless segue there, right?) I might have been motivated to learn words other than ‘poo’, ‘grapefruit’ and ‘apple’ in the language - this is a gorgeous piece if webwork which explains to English speakers how the Polish alphabet works; what the letters are, how they are pronounced, etc. SO well designed and really far prettier and more interesting than it has a right to be.
  • Pupsocks: Have you always wanted a pair of socks emblazoned with the face of your fur baby (STOP IT, SAZ!)? Of course you haven’t, you’re not an idiot - that said, though, you might know someone whose life wouldn’t be complete without the addition of a pair of socks featuring their pet’s countenance all over them. This site lets you choose the socks, choose the colour, and then upload a photo of your cat, dog or budgie’s (or indeed any other animal - they appear to have a reasonably broad church) face which will be plastered all over said socks for you to sport with pride. I don’t think that there’s anything likely to say ‘no, please, I want to spend the rest of my life alone’ quite like socks with photos of your dog on them, but maybe that’s just me.
  • Postcards for Progress: A nice little project by Faris & Rosie where you or anyone else can submit designs for postcards which will in the next week or so be made available for anyone to buy, with all proceeds going to social justice charities. Why not participate? WHY NOT, EH?
  • Murder Data: We all LOVE data, don’t we? WE DO! Although occasionally data can be incredibly creepy and upsetting, as in the case of this website which aggregates publicly available information about murders in the US; to quote, “The Murder Accountability Project is a nonprofit group organized in 2015 and dedicated to educate Americans on the importance of accurately accounting for unsolved homicides within the United States. We seek to obtain information from federal, state and local governments about unsolved homicides and to publish this information. The Project’s Board of Directors is composed of retired law enforcement investigators, investigative journalists, criminologists and other experts on various aspects of homicide.” There is a LOT of murder in here - depending on what you’re into (please don’t be into murder) there’s almost certainly some really interesting things you can do with this dataset.
  • Snatch: This week’s BIG HYPE APP comes in the form of Snatch, which is an AR treasure hunt - using the app, you stare through your phone’s screen to find virtual packages which you need to collect and protect from other competitors; basically it’s some sort of Pokemon Go variant where other people can nick the Pokemon off you, but with the added incentive of REAL PRIZES; if users manage to keep hold of a box for 6 hours, they win its contents IN REAL LIFE. Worth a play while the userbase is still relatively small and you might have a chance of actually winning something and before the game is ruined by teenagers virtually shanking each other for McDonald’s vouchers or something.
  • Artland: The art world has long been ripe for DIGITAL DISRUPTION but for one reason or another there’s not been anything I’ve seen which has really taken off in the rather stuffy world of the gallerinas. I can’t see this changing matters, but it’s an interesting idea; artland allows galleries to create profiles and upload works, making them browsable and for sale through the app; punters can browse, chat about works, make enquiries and buy through the interface. I guess the problem here is that art is, for the most part, not exactly a regular purchase and so the user retention for stuff like this is pretty diabolical, but if you fancy doing a bit of arty window shopping this might be a fun download for you.
  • The Balanced Transportation Analyser: This is, it’s fair to say, a niche ‘interest’ link, but I’m including it in here as it’s such a wonderful example of OCD-level obsession and DEEP KNOWLEDGE that it’s worth highlighting. The Balanced Transportation Analyser is “an intricate spreadsheet model that ties together every facet of passenger transport in New York City including transit, auto and taxi. The model makes it possible to measure the effects of changes in auto tolls, transit fares and other policy levels on traffic levels, travel speeds, time spent traveling, agency revenues, emissions and other "externalities." It contains “pre-packaged” traffic-pricing scenarios which you may modify to test your own what-if scenarios. The BTA thereby offers a transparent and straightforward tool for transport policy-makers and advocates to test the impacts of tolls and other policy traffic pricing proposals.” Yes, fine, it doesn’t SOUND interesting (and isn’t, really, if I’m honest), but it’s worth quickly downloading the document just to see what TRUE Excel madness looks like. WHY IS ALL THIS IN A SPREADSHEET?
  • Novation Launchpad: Another in the list of seemingly-endless synthtoys available on the web - this one’s rather a lot of fun, and in the 20 minutes I spent dicking around with it the other day I managed to make myself believe I was a hitherto-unacknowledged musical genius and for that reason alone I will love it forever. Seriously, it’s seemingly impossible to make something that doesn’t sound ace.
  • With Jack: This is a really smart idea; With Jack is a bespoke insurance provider designed specifically for ‘freelance creatives’ designed to help with those occasions when your LOVELY LOVELY CLIENTS decide for whatever reason that they can just ignore your payment terms completely and leave you scrabbling down the back of the sofa for pennies with which to buy baked beans (LOVELY LOVELY CLIENTS!). I can’t vouch for the quality or flexibility of the policies, but if ‘freelance creative’ sounds like you then this could be worth a look.
  • The NYC Taxi Drivers Calendar 2018: SEXY CABBIES! Has anyone done a DEEPLY SATIRICAL Uber version of this yet? Good, it wouldn’t be funny.
  • Snide Octopus: An Instagram account which posts book spines with ‘humorous’ captions; the inverted commas there are because the gags are pretty hit and miss, but there’s something cute about the setup and, you know, I’m a fairly indiscriminate bibliophile.
  • Snips: Snips is voice assistant software for those who, er, fancy the idea of building their own voice assistant but who don’t want to be in hock to Google or Amazon for the pleasure. This is a really smart looking service which effectively operates in a similar way to those ‘look, we’ll help you build a messenger bot!’ services which sprang up about 9-12 months ago - anyone can tinker with it, and the resulting assistants are all deployed locally meaning you don’t have to deal with the slightly creepy ‘WHY IS AMAZON SPYING ON ME ALL THE TIME?’ side-issue that Alexa gives you. If you’re in any way interested in hacking together your own voice-activated butler then this is for you.
  • MagShuffle: This is such a nice idea, but the man who runs Cureditor; MagShuffle is a subscription service which, for £100 a year, let’s you subscribe to over 150 magazines, allowing you to choose a different one each month should you so desire. Obviously there’s a paralysis of choice issue here - there are TOO MANY MAGAZINES on the shelves, as my mate Paul once complained back in the late 90s - but this is a great gift idea.
  • The Bowie Broadcasts: This is admittedly a branded promo for Sonos and so should be Up There, but it’s actually really good and so am granting it the status of ACTUAL CONTENT; this is a series of shows recorded in the past few weeks an exploring the musical and artistic legacy of David Bowie, as discussed by musicians like Thurston Moore, Neneh Cherry and more. Really interesting and there’s some great music in these.
  • At The Museum: This is a great idea imho; At The Museum is a video series by MoMA in NYC, showing the behind-the-scenes world of running a major international arts institution. Yes, ok, it doesn’t SOUND like a lot of fun, but it’s got the same sort of interesting fly-on-the-wall vibe of good reality TV, and if you’ve any interest in the mechanics of the art world, or if you know someone who’s interested in a career in the sector, this is properly fascinating.
  • Jilly Ballistic: Cut-out street art from the New York subway. The style here is wonderful.
  • Mattia Passarini: Is it me, or are Italians weirdly overrepresented in the world of photography? And if that is true, why is it that my status as a half-wop appears to have granted me no special skills in that arena at all? These are the questions that keep me up at night. Mattia Passarini photographs remote peoples around the world, and his Insta feed is a wonderful window into distant lands;  the portraits here are just beautiful.

james marshalll

By James Marshall

NEXT UP, THE VERY GOOD NEW MIXTAPE BY PROSAICALLY-NAMED RAPPER MICK JENKINS!

THE SECTION WHICH HAD A WONDERFULLY BIZARRE EXCHANGE ON TWITTER LAST NIGHT AND IS RATHER ENJOYING THE CLIMBDOWN FROM THE OTHER PARTY THIS MORNING, PT.2:

  • Death Mask: I LOVE THIS. Death Mask is a little AR project which uses facial recognition and analysis to project the likely expected life expectancy of anyone you look at over their heads; effectively letting you place a small hourglass over everyone, counting down the grains til their inevitable demise. Sadly this is just a video demonstrating the concept, but I really want this as an app so can someone sort this out please? Thanks!
  • Erase All Kittens: If this week’s budget taught us anything, other than the fact that politicians should be banned from making gags at the despatch box, it’s that we’re all economically screwed and the future is bleak - THANKS EVERYONE! To that end, why not back this Kickstarter which is raising funds for a ‘teach girls to code’ game -  if you’re going to be unemployed, cold and hungry in your dotage, you might as well take steps to help ensure your daughters can support you.
  • Flexbot: Noone really ever talks about Amazon Flex - the bit of Amazon which lets anyone earn money from the company by acting as a courier for Prime, etc, by bidding for jobs to deliver stuff from fulfilment centres. It’s weirdly under the radar considering how many people apparently earn money through it, and it’s an interesting window into everyone’s gig economy future where we can only sustain ourselves by bidding on menial jobs at increasingly low rates and working 19 hour days helping to sustain the lifestyles of the 1%. Flexbot is a joke robot - or IS IT? - which lets Amazon Flex users game the job response system by mechanically tapping your phone’s screen faster than humanly possible, thereby allowing you, in theory, to accept jobs faster than your competitors and WIN AT LIFE. Take a moment to think about how depressing this is - go on, think about it. THIS IS THE FUTURE WE ARE BUILDING.
  • Somnox: Another Kickstarter, this one funded to the tune of £110k and rising, for a ‘sleep robot’; basically a small electronic lump covered in fabric which sits in bed with you and, through ‘breathing regulation, sounds, and affection’ improves your sleep. AFFECTION? IT’S A JACK-RUSSELL SIZED LUMP OF PLASTIC, FFS! It’s unsurprisingly light on detail about how it will actually achieve this improvement in your sleep patterns, but don’t let that stop you promising to drop £450 on a MAGIC SLEEP BOX.
  • The Icicle Atlas: More information about icicles, their shape and their formation than you could ever have dreamed of. I’ve spent far, far too much time in bad corners of the web, it turns out, as all I can think of when I look at these is that they look like a festive page of the Bad Dragon site.
  • The Pano Awards: There is seemingly no area of photography so specific and niche that it can’t have its own awards ceremony - here, then, is this year’s crop of entries into the Panoramic Photo Awards! Some of these are great, in fairness, and there’s a particular effect you get from a panoramic cityscape which I rather love.
  • Tifo: Covering similar ground to the equally excellent Mundial magazine, Tifo is a new website presenting erudite, intelligent writing about football. You want to read 4,000 words about why Gaizka Mendieta was awesome? No, me neither, but there’s plenty of other stuff on there too should you like to.
  • Ginger: As we all move to a point whereby we accept that life is hard and horrible and, frankly, not really very good for our mental health, so we progress to a situation whereby every single one of us is in some sort of therapy for something. As more of us realise that it’s good to talk about stuff, so more services will spring up seeking to exploit that realisation for commercial gain. Oh HI, Ginger! This is an app which offers access to VIRTUAL THERAPISTS, with text and video consultations available as part of a series of monthly packages at varying price points - just take a moment and go and have a look at the costs there. $130 a month to TEXT someone? WHAT THE ACTUAL FCUK?! This isn’t, I’m aware, a novel observation, but the exacerbation of the mental health divide between rich and poor I can see coming down the track is a pretty ugly looking juggernaut (almost as ugly as that mixed metaphor, turns out).
  • Celebrity Apology Generator: Stormzy won the apology game forever this week, but this is a fun little toy which churns out ‘I’m not really sorry about all the stuff you’re claiming I did’ statements for you to enjoy. What’s depressing is quite how well this manages to nail the tone and content of so many of the non-apologies we’ve seen over the past few months.
  • Let’s Robot: I feel like this is the future of something, but I have no idea for the life of me of what. Let’s Robot is a site which collects internet connected robots, all fitted with cameras and all controllable by THE CROWD via the browser - so you can, should you so desire, navigate an ACTUAL ROBOT around someone else’s apartment whilst chatting to other robot navigation enthusiasts. Per the recent Reddit game with the robot trying to escape from the rooms, there’s potentially quite a fun BRAND THING you could do with this type of tech. Also, I have just spend 5 minutes watching one of these things navigate someone’s living room, which is testament either to how wall-eyed with fatigue I am or how STRANGELY COMPELLING this is.
  • Geofind YouTube Videos: Lets you search for videos on YouTube based on the geography from which they were uploaded. A bit janky as these sorts of hacks often are, but it’s an interesting way of finding...odd stuff. Have a play.
  • RePhotos: This is a lovely site, collecting photos which show off the changing landscape of a scene over time - you know, the ones with those little left-right sliders allowing you to switch between old photo and new photo on a whim. There are thousands on here from all over the world and as such this is a pleasing historical timesink.
  • Artlexa Chung: An excellent single-gag Insta account which picks out images from artworks throughout history which seem to be wearing the same outfits as Alexa Chung, who if you take this to its logical conclusion is EITHER mining the entire history of Western art for her lookbook or is instead a time travelling muse from another dimension - YOU DECIDE!
  • FlirtAR: What would you get if you crossed Pokemon Go! with Tinder? A lifetime of solitude, for one, but also FlirtAR - a dating app which for no discernible purpose or benefit whatsoever creates an AR layer of the standard dating experience, letting you see where potential dates are on a map and, seemingly, HUNT THEM DOWN through your phone. This is never going to catch on, but can one of you please download it and give it a try, just to see exactly how bad it is?
  • Clara: I once spent a summer in a windowless room, working for Nationwide Building Society. They couldn't afford voice-recognition call-routing software in the mid-90s, so instead hired me and two other poor fcukers to sit wearing headphones, listening to calls coming in, hearing people say 'one', 'two' or 'three' after a series of menu prompts, and then pressing the appropriate button whilst the customer was fooled into believing that there was some high-tech magic at play. It's rare that you can *actually* define a job as 'kafkaesque', but I think that counts. This isn’t quite on the same level, but it’s chillingly bleak nonetheless; Clara is an AI Assistant that, er, isn’t in fact AI at all - instead, it’s powered by faceless, nameless ACTUAL PEOPLE doing all the heavy lifting in the background. Seemingly designed for people who want a PA but without the tedious ‘interacting with an actual person and treating them like a human being’ elements thereof, this is one of the bleakest ‘oh hi, future of employment!’ things I’ve seen in an age.
  • Elastic Man: PLAY WITH THE STRETCHY FACE! I think this has something to do with Rick & Morty, but don’t let that put you off, it is a FUN TOY.
  • Virtual Self: Finally in this week’s collection of poorly-curated ephemera, Virtual Self is, as far as I can tell and according to Friend of Curios Shardcore, “a massively over-engineered site for some truly terrible techno” but it is ALSO a very weird collection of strange pseudo-spiritual ramblings and...Oh, God, look, just click around and see where it takes you. Wait til you find the forum, though - why are there so many postings? Who made them? WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? Quite possibly an elaborate ARG for a firm of monumental masons for all I know.

kelly remsteen

By Kelly Reemtsen

LAST MIX OF THE WEEK IS THIS CHIPTUNE EXTRAVAGANZA BY CHIP TANAKA!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!

  • Nope, Not Arabic: A Tumblr collecting instances of script being used in ads and marketing which is meant to look like Arabic but which, well, isn’t.
  • Hipster Merkel: I LOVE THIS! Mutti as hipster icon, bless her.
  • Clozzed: “Between fashion and photography, the project initiated by Teddy Delcroix offers a walk from shadows to light through a nocturnal window shopping, costing nothing more than our viewing pleasure. Randomly upon a reflection of an inanimate mannequin or a neon light still on, the sleeping city dares to dream.” No, I don;t know either, but the photography on here is pretty slick.
  • Adam Hillman: Adam Hillman arranges objects in geometric patterns and photographs them. These are some of those photographs.
  • A Mini A Day: A new photo of some cool miniature stuff each day, which if you’re into doll’s houses and stuff - you weirdo - you will very much enjoy.
  • Gurafiku: A Tumblr collecting examples of Japanese graphic design, “seeking to lift the barrier of language, and present the graphic design of Japan to an international audience.” There’s some really beautiful stuff in here.
  • Glichykitty: The work of CGI artist and animator Ben Vedrenne.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!

  • Being a Woman Online: Long, involved, depressing and important research by Amnesty, which examines the sort of abuse which women receive online every day across the world. One in four has received threats of physical or sexual assault, which number is even more depressing for being entirely unsurprising in scale.
  • The Grooming of Emo: I’m too old to have been into classic period emo - MCR were just a little late for me, though I’m sure I’d have been sawing away at my wrists through the tears had I been a few years younger - but this piece, about the particular idea of gender relations encapsulated by the genre and what impact it might have had on teens growing up in the mid-00s and the way in which they think about sex and relationships and the like, is very interesting. Prompted a conversation with some friends about ‘music we liked as teens the lyrics of which are, on reflection, a touch ‘problematic’’, which reminded me of this stone cold classic by Adorable whose lyrics are an absolute horrorshow. Still, hell of a bassline.
  • The Land of Vendettas: In the week in which the Bosnian-Serb conflict was back in the news (and in which I was reminded of what a spectacularly awful war it was, and just how cravenly the West, for the most part, failed to deal with it), this piece - about blood feuds in Albania, centuries old familial conflicts dragging for generations and the price paid for grudges that never die - feels particularly apposite. Superbly written, too - there’s a line in here about how Central Europe looks quite a lot like a fcuked version of Central America which is *such* a good observation.
  • Amazon’s Last Mile: Seeing as I mentioned it up there, here’s a piece about Amazong Flex, how it works and how it’s yet another step towards the eventual, inevitable future point where we are all so fcuked, employmentwise, that we’re forced to monetise every single moment of our waking lives in service to Google, Amazon or Facebook. Very interesting as a ‘future of the labour market’ piece as well as another ‘oh, Christ, Amazon have won the next 100 years’ warning.
  • An Orgy of Killing: Let the title be a clue to you that this superb longread from the Guardian is not a cheering piece. This looks at what’s happened in Mosul after the Iraqi army had purportedly driven off IS/Daesh - unsurprisingly, turns out that even the good guys are bad guys, war is horrid and, as is our wont, we’ve left an almighty mess in someone else’s back yard the fallout from which is liable to continue sending geopolitical shockwaves into the future for years to come. WELL DONE US. Really superb war writing, this, if somewhat novelistic in execution.
  • Prisoner To Violence: A US prison inmate, serving time for second degree murder, tells of his part in a prison yard fight. Spare, sparse prose, the author’s got real talent.
  • The Serial Killer Detector: Isn’t big data GREAT? There’s nothing it can’t fix! Obviously that’s rubbish, but it’s always fascinating to see the areas to which people are attempting to apply data science and how it’s working out, not least here, where it’s being used to analyse available US data on murders and to try and tease out patterns to solve previously insurmountable cases. Hugely interesting.
  • The Zombie Diseases of Climate Change: Scary things I hadn’t even begun to think of before this week, part x of an almost infinite series - did you know that. as Global Warming continues apace and the polar icecaps melt, there is all sorts of weird and unknown bacteria which has been stuck in permafrost since the dawn of time which is slowly becoming uncovered and reintroduced to the environment? No, I didn’t either til I read this and now I am genuinely concerned that we’re all going to be wiped out by a 10,000 year old strain of mumps from Greenland.
  • The Professional D&D Master: I was never quite geeky enough for D&D as a kid (no really), but I get the impression I would rather have enjoyed it; after all, it’s basically someone telling you a story for several hours which is RIGHT up my street. This piece is about Timm Woods, who’s apparently the only professional Dungeon Master working in NYC in 2017 - you book him and he will come and run a campaign for you to your specifications, which sounds SO much fun. I think there’s something in this - take away the LOTR fantasy gubbins and you’re left with bespoke interactive fiction with some rough rulesets, which I reckon there’s a market for outside of basement-dwelling neckbeards (yes, I know, but come on).
  • The Most Hated Poet In Portland: You might have seen the Tweet that this piece was inspired by; a series of photos of poems posted to Instagram, each accompanied by artfully scattered fags, each seemingly the product of an edgy, tortured soul (stroke fcukboi), accompanied by some fairly damning commentary about the author’s likely personality and style. It went EVERYWHERE, and as it did it picked up more and more hate and snark and commentary...and this is an interview with that poet, who, poor bugger, seems utterly bemused by the whole thing. The author of the piece is a woman who joined the initial pileon, and her reflection on why she did and what it made her feel is an interesting thread running through this.
  • Promethea Unbound: This is LONG, but it’s worth every minute it will take you to read - it’s fascinating and bleak and shocking and hopeful and you will be rooting for the titular heroine all the way through.
  • Prozac Culture: Finally in this week’s longreads, a beautiful essay from Granta about the author’s longstanding relationship with his depression and the drugs he’s used to treat it. Not only superbly written, but a wonderful time capsule to the past couple of decades and our changing attitudes to depression and how Prozac - and, specifically, the marketing of it - altered them forever.

kate bellm

By Kate Bellm

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!

  1. First up, this is by Smerz and it’s called ‘Half Life’ and I have no idea what one might call this genre of music but it is ace and makes me feel very old (and like I might want to do some K and fall asleep under a pile of coats at a stranger’s house party, weirdly enough):

2) Korean hiphop corner! I’ve featured her here before, but this is the new one from Yaeji which is not only excellent but also reminds me weirdly of the Smerz track above so, you know, SEAMLESS SEGUE here. It’s called ‘Raingurl’:

3) UK HIPHOP CORNER PT.1! This is the best Fire in the Booth I’ve heard in an age. Rapman, who I first featured on here *checks* 2014, gets his opportunity on Charlie’ Sloth’s show and he uses it to show off his exceptional storytelling skills. Listen to this one properly, it’s worth it (and enjoy Sloth’s massively tone-deaf use of his soundboard at the end):

4) UK HIPHOP CORNER, PT.2! Harry Shotta released a new mixtape last week; this is his latest video which is much slower and more chilled than the usual 100mph jump-up stuff but no less good - this is called ‘Changes’:

5) UK HIPHOP CORNER PT.3! This is Manga St Hilare with ‘Far Away’. Turn this up LOUD, it is best enjoyed at high volume:

6) Finally this week, you remember Prism and that brief vogue for making music videos using it’s style transfer imagefiddling? Well this is like that, but better - and the song’s by David Lynch, apparently. ENJOY I LOVE YOU HAVE FUN TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER AND DON’T BUY TOO MUCH TAT! BYE!

 

Matt Muir

Matt Muir is interested in lots of different things, and as a result rather likes the internet. Web Curios is a weekly(ish) snapshot of what he has found interesting this week. You can find Matt on Twitter, where he's quite good. In his spare time, Matt tries to ignore the web as much as is humanly possible (not very much, it turns out).

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