DON’T PANIC! DON’T PANIC!
Ok, maybe do a little panic. Is the future a race between Musk and Trump, to see whether we manage to flee the planet before we irrevocably eff it in the a? Well, no, it almost certainly isn’t - for a start we’re all far more likely to die slowly and painfully by an infinity of self-inflicted papercuts than we are in some sort of extinction-level event, so relaaaaaaaax a bit and ENJOY THE SHOW!
I mean, it does feel ever so slightly like all we can do at this juncture is to open the metaphorical popcorn (though personally I’m advocating something less metaphorical and significantly stronger and more dulling) and see what lunacy happens next. Now, though, forget about all the mess and horror out *there* - focus on all the mess and horror in HERE instead. Welcome once again to the (mainly) weekly autopsy in which I slice from clavicle to colon and splay the still-warm viscera of the web onto a glistening slab for us to ponder. What can we scry from this week’s messily-piled infoguts? ONLY BY READING ON WILL YOU EVER LEARN. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!
LET’S KICK OFF THE MIXES WITH ‘MOUTH MOODS’ WHICH IS THE BEST OF NEIL CICEREGA’S MASHIUP ALBUMS SINCE THE LAST ONE - SERIOUSLY, SO GOOD!
THE SECTION WHICH IS JUST WAITING FOR PINTEREST TO ADD STICKERS AND FILTERS SO WE CAN ALL DECLARE SNAPCHAT BINGO, PACK UP AND GO HOME:
Facebook Launches Stories: You know how Instagram Stories launched last year and everyone was like ‘oh, look, you copied Snapchat, well done’? WELL LOOK, FACEBOOK HAVE DONE IT AGAIN! Yes, that’s right, as of...well...soon, users of the FB mobile app will be presented with the exhortation to make and watch STORIES on their magical pocket computational devices, which, per the description, will work as follows: “The feature lets you share ephemeral photos and videos in a slideshow that disappears 24 hours later. The little circles to watch friends’ Facebook Stories appear in its main app above the feed so you can’t miss them.” So JUST like Snapchat then! No word as yet as to the exciting brand opportunities - this looks like a user-focused update for the moment, though ad options can’t be far behind for which we should ALL be grateful.
Facebook Amends Video Completion Calculations: Words to conjure with, I’m sure you will all agree. This is marginally more interesting than the headline might suggest (though only marginally; please, keep your expectations near to the ground); effectively Facebook is going to start using percentage completion of a video as a metric of user engagement when deciding which vids to punt into the Newsfeed, and will also be weighting watch times of long content more heavily than that of short content. The idea is that if you bother to watch 3mins of a 5-minute video that’s a more significant commitment than watching, say, 30s of a 45s clip, meaning that FB will be more likely to surface the longer content. OBVIOUSLY this is bullsh1t numerics from me here - noone, after all, knows the magical secrets of the ALGORITHM THAT POWERS HUMANITY (well, one, of them), but Facebook’s own statement states that they want to stop the inadvertent penalisation of longer-form video. All of which boils down to the fact that you are going to have to have lots of conversations with people who know JUST enough about this sort of stuff to be irritating about how, yes, this may be true, but it’s still equally true that noone wants to watch 6 minutes of corporate cheerleading about biscuits. So it goes.
Newsfeed-style Ads Coming to FB Messenger: You will soon be able to put carousel ads and the like into Messenger and fire them at customers with whom you’ve had interactions (Messenger ads can only be targeted at people who’ve already chatted to you on the platform; much like vampires, it seems, brands currently need to be invited over the threshold). Which is obviously what people want - OBVIOUSLY. These are already out in the wild for BIG COMPANIES like Topshop (as a targeting option when doing an ad buy), so expect them to be rolled out more widely asap.
Instagram Stories Now Live For All In UK: See section above about Facebook Stories. IT IS EVERYWHERE. Anyway, this isn’t huge news but does mean that you are now duty-bound to include Instagram Stories as a tactical execution in every pitch between now and the end-times (current estimate: May 2019).
Twitter Launches ‘Explore’ Section: You remember that ‘Moments’ tab that Twitter launched the other year and which noone’s ever really quite got on board with despite there actually being some quite good stuff in there? Well they’re getting rid of it! Instead there will appear an ‘Explore’ tab, which will bundle together trending topics, moments, search and ‘featured live streams’ in one place, effectively designed to be the go-to ‘hmm, what’s happening RIGHT NOW’ button for people who for reasons known only to them want to get their news in the most apocalyptic-seeming way possible (“what’s happening right now, dear?” “I don’t know, but everyone’s REALLY EXERCISED about it!”). What this is also going to be, obviously, is a huge big canvas for advertisers; they’d be fools not to consider offering the top space in ‘Explore’ as a BIG launch space, no? Much like they did with trends bitd. Anyway, WE WILL SEE. Maybe this will make Twitter magically appeal to the markets again (it won’t).
Twitter Killing Lead Gen Campaigns: You remember those campaigns on Twitter which let you target ads with datacapture features at users so you could get them to opt-in to emails, etc, on the platform? Yeah, you can’t do that any more. Oh, and you remember the Twitter ‘Buy’ button that they were trialling and we thought (well, maybe I thought, fine) would usher in an exciting new era of social commerce (is this dead now?)? Yeah, they’ve nixed those too. Oh, and you remember how developers used to be able to work with Twitter to make stable apps, play with the API and the rest? Yeah, they sold that to Google. That explore thing’s going to be GREAT, though. So great; you’ll see (once you start talking like Him, even in jest, it becomes a very hard habit to break, turns out).
Twitter Videos Now Automatically Loop At 6.5s: Vine is dead, long live Twitter Video. Oh, and if you’re nostalgic about Vine they’ve actually archived loads of really good stuff on the old Vine page here - this is really quite fun, and I will probably link it down there as noone actually reads this bit which does make me wonder, seeing as I don’t particularly enjoy writing it, why I bother with it at all. It’s not even February, FFS, and yet here we are already.
You Can Now Target YT Ads Based On Google Search Data: This is HUGE, and it’s sort of amazing you couldn’t do it before - you’ll now be able to target people with your video ads for sofas who have been searching for sofas on Google. Sketchy details as to when and how and stuff, but this is a huge reason to start to think about YT ads if you don’t already, particularly if you’re in a NICHE VERTICAL (sorry) where there’s likely to be less competition.
YouTube Adds Messenger To Its App: Because of course - of COURSE! - we need another Messenger app. No word on how it’s going to fit with the wider Google advertising ecosystem, but it will, won’t it? It’s only being tested in Canada at the moment, but its global spread is INEVITABLE. Really interesting potential for lots of things here - you can imagine this becoming a shared-viewing platform with chat features, which in turn makes advertising feel potentially like a lot more of a TV-type proposition which you could use to speak more intimately to audiences. Maybe.
Google+ Adds Some New Features: Like the Queen Mother who seemingly limped on, Mumm Ra-like, sustained by the sort of medical care that only truly plutocratic wealth can buy (or, alternatively, who was a simple animatronic model for the final years of her life), so Google is rich enough to keep Google+ going FOREVER, regardless of whether anyone’s actually using it or not. Weirdly I’ve seen a couple of pieces in the past few months suggesting it’s still big for photographers, geeks and LEGO enthusiasts, so perhaps it’s worth checking it out next time you’re doing some planning (but it probably isn’t). Anyway, these are some updates to the platform including better photo display, improved comments and a reintroduction of Events - who knows, maybe one of you will find this piece of ‘news’ TRANSFORMATIVE.
Snapchat To Introduced ‘Sequenced’ Ads: Basically you’re soon going to be able to buy ad units on Snapchat in 3x10-second bursts, meaning you could build an ad narrative across those three separate units to show consecutively. The piece - quite cleverly - points out that there are some interesting creative opportunities / challenges if you think of a piece of video advertising as a triptych where users may only see the first couple of seconds of each segment. Think about them. THINK ABOUT THEM NOW.
Tumblr Becomes Snapchat: Filters! Emoji! Stickers! Oh CHRIST! Actually this seems like a perfect fit for the Tumblr community, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
The ‘Digital In 2017’ Overview: I had a cold chill of miserable recognition when this floated past my eyeline this week and I realised exactly how long I have been pretending to care about this sort of rubbish. Nonetheless I once again present to you the (ever-excellent) annual We Are Social roundup of social media statistibollocks, enabling you to witter confidently about relative platform penetration across ASIA-PAC whilst simultaneously knowing in your heart of hearts that you don’t really understand the difference between Baidu and WeChat and you probably never will. This is, my predictably tedious snark aside, a HUGELY useful overview which you really ought to bookmark.The statistic in there about mobile data usage in Asia vs everywhere else in the world is jaw-dropping, for example (no, I’m not going to tell you what it is).
HeartBeats: So there’s been stuff I’ve seen that does heartrate monitoring using your mobile phone camera before, but this is the slickest yet - a collaboration between Unicef and ING (of course!) where your heartbeat determines the speed of a musical track and accompanying vidoe. Oh, and you can donate money to Unicef too, although you wouldn’t know it from the website which is the LEAST helpful ‘hey, look, you can give some money to charity!’ mechanic I think I have ever seen. 5 clicks to donation - FIVE. Seriously, ING, next time give the money direct to the charity rather than to the web dev (sorry, web dev) - the more I think about this, the more angry it makes me. What a fcuking waste of time and money.
">NEXT UP, HOW’S ABOUT A BRAND NEW TECHNO MIX BY INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED BEDROOM DJ FAT BOB?
White House Inc: Given the slightly…*ahem*...unclear manner in which Trump has divested himself of his assets (or indeed not in fact divested himself of his assets), this enterprising website offers visitors a whole slew of phone numbers you can call to leave messages for the President at one of his many companies. Because, the thinking goes, seeing as he owns these places, and he is now President, they are technically all Presidential offices. Sort of funny, but only if you don’t think about the fact that the person whose life you’re going to be making difficult by doing this is some poor minimum-wage schmo who’s answering phones on reception at a Trump resort. Which, frankly, is surely punishment enough in life.
The Year in Language: To be honest, if you only click on one thing this week then it really ought to be this. A wonderful piece of webwork and data analysis by Google, looking at the words and phrases which trended upwards in search in 2016, and comparing them to words and phrases from years past to explore the evolution of language and vocabulary. ‘Woke’ I can understand, but ‘Broccoli’ is an absolute mystery to me. Taken in isolation, these look like PROPER futurespeak (well, not ‘Broccoli’, but).
The Twistance: A Twitter list comprising all those science organisations which have GONE ROGUE on Twitter following The Donald’s less-than-science-friendly pronouncements in his first week in Office. Worth a follow, just for the gentle, white-collar science burns. There’s an interesting question buried in here as to whether this is in any way a Good Thing for the science community - on the one hand, way to reconfirm liberal support; on the other, it’s not like you’re talking to anyone who didn’t already think science was important (which is, in some small regard, a microcosmic reflection of why we’re all in this mess).
Let’s Sue Twitter!: A warning here - if you delve into this website (presuming that you, like me, are a LIBERAL SNOWFLAKE) you’ll likely end up getting a bit Eeyore-ish about THE STATE OF THE WORLD. This is a crowdfunding initiative to raise money to SUE TWITTER for suppressing the voices of the alt-right (or just ‘the right’, or ‘those fcuking post-chan cnuts’, or whatever you want to call them), and then distribute the proceeds of any eventual successful legal action amongst the backers. Which is a horrible idea, although fortunately one which I have a sneaking suspicion has less than a snowball’s chance of success. Still, a bleak little website full of bleak little men.
Alt-Space: Are YOU a bleak little man? Do YOU get froth-lipped with anger at the FEMINAZIS and the LIBTARDS and the CUCKS and the SNOWFLAKES? Do you ever think that maybe all this anger is perhaps bad for your system? Anyway, if that sounds familiar then you need THIS Chrome extension, which automatically scans webpages for mentions of such triggering terms as ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘transgender’ r ‘white privilege’ and flags them in advance so you can ready yourself for the ire which will doubtless begin to boil within your roiling gut. SATIRE, KIDS!
Project Yesterday: This has been in beta for a month or so now; it’s a really nice idea, where community members each post a daily link, the idea being that each day one should try and post from a different source so as to maximise the breadth and diversity of content you come across. It works rather well, and I’ve been exposed to quite a lot of stuff I might not otherwise have seen; give it a go, it’s an interesting mechanic which I think could scale rather well.
The List Cycle: Another year, another ‘hey, I’m going to try and mess with my Twitter feed to break the filter bubble’ idea - this one, though, is very clever and might actually work. To quote, “it's a piece of code which automatically maintains a list which only includes accounts I have interacted with in the last 30 days. I now use this as my main timeline.” ‘Interacted with’ in this case means “replied to, favourited, retweeted or subtweeted one of [their] tweets, favourited, retweeted or subtweeted a tweet [they] are mentioned in, or mentioned [them] in one of my tweets.” The script is, annoyingly, not linked directly from the Page, but I think it’s on github somewhere if you want to give it a go.
404 Wayback Plugin: Really useful, this, not least for journalists but also for amateur web archaeologists - this plugin searches the Wayback Machine every time you hit a webpage which 404s, trying to pull an archived version of said page to display. Really clever idea.
Esteban Diacono: It’s quite hard to describe these. Hang on. You remember when you were a kid and you’d occasionally see those things in toyshops (maybe you had a different sort of childhood to mine and actually OWNED them) - you know, floppy foam...things, often hands or similar, with a weird, tacky texture which in theory let them stick to walls when hurled but which in practice meant that they inevitably ended up covered in black fluff that looked, basically, like toe-jam within about 5 minutes of being used? You remember? No? Oh FFS. Anyway, imagine a bunch of CGI videos of faces and hands and stuff, made out of that material, being smushed and squished and stuff. IMAGINE IT! Yes! That’s it! THAT’S what this is like! Look, it’s an Instagram account and you should follow it, is all.
Search Is Back: An ugly-but-useful frontend for Facebook Graph Search which lets you easily search FB for people with particular interest profiles - so, say, male friends of friends between 25-35 who ‘Like’ Breitbart - so you can...well, realistically this is almost certainly going to be used for sexsharking, but I reckon you could have a pretty interesting (read: lonely, empty and bad for the soul) hour or so finding out how many people you vaguely know are friends with a suspicious number of, for example, attractive young women in their early 20s, for example. No idea why you’d want to do that, but just in case.
The David Foster Wallace Society: “The International David Foster Wallace Society was founded to promote and sustain the long-term scholarly and independent study of David Foster Wallace’s writing. To these ends, the Society welcomes diverse, peer-reviewed scholarship and seeks to expand the critical boundaries of Wallace studies. We recognize and champion the visual, the alternative, and the literary: the presence of minds at work. The Society showcases a variety of projects—at conferences, on panels, in our print publication, The Journal of David Foster Wallace Studies, and through other non-traditional modes of scholarly expression.” Can you IMAGINE the number of serious young men with beards and glasses this society attracts? Nonetheless, if you love DFW as much as me (a lot) then you might be interested in this.
The London Tube Map by Instagram Hashtag: Not all of them - just the hundred most popular. Still, gives an interesting perspective on how the city is seen through the prism of photography - and of the fact that Clapham is DREADFUL. #infernos? Really? Didn’t all of you leave your provincial sink-towns to get away from exactly that sort of place? LONDON IS WASTED ON YOU FFS. I say this as an old man who last went to a club in 2015 and who had to stay in bed for two days subsequently as the shivering subsided, so appreciate I have no skin in this game, but still.
Milanote: My ‘notes’ (HA!) say ‘Evernote for creatives’, which is a dreadful description so sorry about that - it does, though, look a little like a cross between that, and Pinterest, and A N Other moodboarding software, but I think that some of the features around tagging and stuff could make it stand out if you’re in the market for some sort of visual thinking aid-type affair.
Bot Ross: OH SO GOOD. Bob Ross, you will doubtless know/recall, is the be-afro’d star of those SO SOOTHING painting videos with the lovely man talking in his lovely voice about how to make the lovely art. This Twitter bot generates simple artworks in the style of Mr Ross, presenting them as short gifs which build layer-by-layer accompanied by Ross-style narrative descriptions of what he’s doing. Almost enough to induce ASMR, even without sound. If you’re interested in how it was built, there’s a writeup here.
Wisewear: MORE WEARABLES! This time, fancy wearable jewellery - erm, is this nice? I honestly can’t tell - I don’t think it’s nice, but then my grasp of accessory aesthetics is challenged at best. Anyway, these are bracelets and rings which are combined panic button (the first listed feature, in a nod to THIS FCUKING WORLD WE LIVE IN), activity tracker and general phone alert augmenter thingy, and they may be EXACTLY the sort of thing you might want. Maybe. Still think they’re ugly, mind.
Pitchbot: 2017 is absolutely going to be YEAR OF THE EVERYBOT! This year’s early contender for the big ‘yeah, this is just a silly gimmick, isn’t it?’ award is Pitchbot, which apparently lets startups practice their VC pitch. To a textbot. In text. Given that in real life you will be pitching for money a) in person; b) using your ACTUAL VOICE; and c) TO ACTUAL PEOPLE, I am unconvinced as to the value of this. Still, you know, BOTS!
Speeches of Note: As we prepare ourselves for four years - maybe 8! - of inarticulate jabber from the anus-like mouth of a buffoon, make yourself feel immeasurably worse by browsing this archive of inspirational political speeches from times gone by. Here’s Kennedy, for example: “Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.” God, it’s almost EXACTLY like now, isn’t it? *weeps*
Hololamp: This promises to be glasses-free AR. Will it be, though? Will it? In fairness, the video looks shonky enough to be believable, but also shonky enough to look unappealing - it’s basically AN Other version of the ‘hey look, it’s Leia’ hologram from Star Wars; the features list they trumpet is great, though, particularly where they run out of fun stuff to talk about and desperately parp out ‘3d PDF!’ like it’s something anyone right-minded might actually want. Bless them.
Drunktionary: An incredible list of slang terms for being drunk. So, so many great ones in here which I urge you to sprinkle through your conversations this year. Horrible interface (you have to scroll down and then navigate by letter), but worth it for some of the gems; try saying ‘kerschnickered’ when you’re...er...kerschnickered.
Weeknight Dinners: We’re about at that point in the new year where the crushing predictability of quotidian life is really starting to ram itself home. Go to work, come home, eat, consume media, sleep, wake with terrors, lie staring at the ceiling, weep, sleep, rinse, repeat. This series of photographs of people eating a midweek meal on a nondescript day in their lives are brilliant in their mundanity. THIS IS LIFE. ENJOY IT. SMILE. IT’S BETTER THAN THE ALTERNATIVE.
Blinkk: Blinkk ‘is a simple Mac app to remind you about eye breaks when working for extended periods at computer. It appears in the middle of the screen at regular intervals chosen by you and reminds you that eyes health is more important than anything and it suggests you ways of relaxing them. The decision to actually do it is yours, it does not interrupt your work.” I would respectfully suggest that if you need this then you have ISSUES, but I would also suggest that ONCE AGAIN, KitKat really ought to get on this WILL NOONE LISTEN TO ME THIS IS GOLDEN.
Send Emails Through Slack: I don’t really know what to think about this. I THOUGHT SLACK WAS MEANT TO HAVE KILLED EMAIL? I simply don’t know what to believe any more.
Make Checkbox Art: Want to let people make pixel art from checkboxes on a webpage? OH GOOD.
The CRPG Book Project: Ok, so this is niche but I have a hunch that some of you might rather enjoy it. There’s an excellent (again, NICHE) blog called the CRPG Addict, which has been going for a few years and involves an absolute OBSESSIVE playing through seemingly every RPG game ever released on PC ever; this is the Flickr account for an accompanying book which I think is coming out at some point, and which contains screenshots from basically every RPG game ever. It is a HUGE nostalgia trip, if that was ever your thing (and stop sneering, I know you watch Game of Thrones and that has dragons in it so you are in no way superior).
1917 On Film: Brilliant collection from the BFI, just released online, of archive footage from the mid-period of WW1. Propaganda and animations and POWs and just great social/cultural history.
How To Be A Poet: Really nice, this - a pair of poets (Jo Bell and Jane Commane) are putting together this resource for new and established poets, containing guidelines to the modern poetry scene and form and practice and STUFF. Even if you don’t write poetry, it’s still worth checking out as a source of interesting thought on writing and the creative process.
Xefer: SO interesting, this - basically takes any topic you care to mention and tells you how long it takes you to get back to the entry for ‘Philosophy’ (based on clicking on the first link to another Wikipedia entry found within). If you’re interested in taxonomy then this is endless fun (yes, I know exactly how that sounds); it’s basically an Erdos numbering system for concepts and stuff. You can also add in multiple terms to see how they compare; this is FASCINATING, promise.
Photos of 80s Dancehall Jamaica: Literally that - some great photos here of some of the coolest-looking people ever recorded on film.
NSFW Bot: Tweet photos at this Twitter bot and it will analyse them and tell you exactly how NSFW that picture is (with percentages!). Interesting to see how good the software is at knowing that even stuff which looks a bit fleshy isn’t in fact necessarily filth; I’d really like to see a whole bongo clip fed into this, frame by frame, to see how much of it falls beneath a 75% NSFW threshold and what that would look like reclipped together. Anyone else? No? Oh.
RealDonaldContext: Useful bot by the Washington Post which provides factual context to Trump’s Tweets, detailing exactly which occurrences have prompted the latest bout of cantspaffing. Still can’t quite believe this is real, you know, even at 916am the week afterwards. Mental.
He Will Not Divide Us: Is this Shia Lebouf de-jumping the shark? Probably not, but I still rather like this installation - a camera positioned outside MOMI in NYC, inviting passers-by to stream themselves giving messages of solidarity and hope and stuff (or just, you know, screaming obscenities at the night). Given the time difference, early in the UK is a GREAT time to check this out - I’ve taken to dropping in around 9-930 am to see what late-night weirdos are participating; as I type, a young Asian American kid has just spent about 6 minutes lubing up his palms for reasons I’m scared to think on too much, and has just explained that the #MAGA cap he’s wearing is a Chinese knockoff because ‘I got to rep the Chinks somehow’, which frankly is about as close to art Nirvana as you can get. Thanks, Shia!
Franz: ANOTHER magical messenger consolidation service, bringing together chats from FB, Whatsapp, etc etc etc, into one ‘convenient’ place. Or you could just go back to texting. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Lovely, simple texts.
Jessrona Grooming: An Instagram account run by a dog-grooming parlour which contains more videos than you can possibly hope for of dogs being blow-dried in slow motion to inspirational backing music. WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK???
Revive This: I rather like this, not least as it’s exactly the same as a project I tried and totally failed to make happen a few years back for LIFT (I AM A FAILURE). Revive This seeks to put archivists and musicians in contact with each other to reinterpret archival materials in new, thematic directions. To quote: “The RE:VIVE Initiative brings together archives and artists to create new music out of and inspired by curated sets of archival material. We facilitate collaborative sessions and workshops around the world and provide expertly curated “Sample Packs” of openly licensed archival material.” Such an interesting idea and worth keeping an eye on.
Our First 100 Days: One song a day, for Trump’s first 100 days. These are all going to be put out on Bandcamp - people can buy the tracks individually or pay $30 for the lot, which monies which will be donated to a bunch of charities across the US. I imagine the artists featured will all be OF THE INTERNET, but that’s sort of what you’d expect, and I think $30 for 100 songs is a pretty decent return, and it’s for CHARITY.
Harvard Digital Photography Course: I mean, it’s not sexy AT ALL, this, but if you’re looking for an insanely comprehensive and free online course to get good at photos, this is pretty much as good as it gets I think.
Pictures From The Women’s March: A BRILLIANT collection of photographs from marches across the world last Saturday - captures the scale of the event wonderfully, and as a bonus I really like the web interface too. A lovely reminder of something which, briefly, made me feel better last weekend.
2d Here: Stuff from films and cartoons and videogames, dumped into real-world scenes and presented on Instagram for your delectation and amusement.
Scenic Simpsons: MORE INSTAGRAMS! This time an account which takes scenes from the Simpsons and presents them as sort of abstract or geometric artworks, which works far better than you might think.
Pitch Deck: Touted as ‘Cards Against Humanity’ for startups (isn’t that just Cards Against Humanity? Anyway), this is a similar style of game which invites players to conjoin various terrible ideas for startups into comedic Frankensteins. Except you know that this is going to birth dozens of companies which will ACTUALLY get funding, or ideas that will happen, because you just KNOW someone is going to look at ‘Kickstarter: The Musical’ (for example) and think ‘yeah, the world REALLY needs that’ (appallingly, I can totally imagine the narrative arc there).
The Wall: No, not THAT wall. I don’t really know what to make about this - when I expressed slight confusion on Twitter, RIBA (the architecture people who are sponsoring this) rather sniffily responded that they partner with lots of different people ACTUALLY. So, erm, it would appear that this is actually a thing - I am baffled that it hasn’t received more coverage, because, well, it’s quite odd. “‘The Wall’ will be constructed of a million bricks, or equivalent, each representing a story where someone has prayed to Jesus and He has answered. A MILLION BRICKS – A MILLION ANSWERED PRAYERS. The landmark will be built in a highly visible location, such as next to a motorway, so that tens of thousands of people will see it each day and it will remain in the national conscience, a modern response to the Christian heritage of the country. It will confound expectations of what a structure commissioned by the Christian church may be like.” I mean, it’s ALREADY confounding my expectations and it doesn’t even exist yet, which is ontologically pretty fcuking impressive, so well done there, God. WATCH THIS SPACE!
Syria Street: In a week in which the US decided that they actually didn’t really have any humanitarian responsibilities towards the Libyan people, this is a timely reminder of why, perhaps, it might be nice if the rest of us thought differently. A post-Snowfall piece of journalism/storytelling by the Red Cross, this is both beautifully presented and hugely moving. Telling the story of one particular area of Tripoli called ‘Syria Street’, which divides two Muslim factions in conflict, this really is very good indeed - check it out.
Yolocaust: You’ve all seen this by now, right? Using selfies taken by tourists at Holocaust memorials and merging those images with photographs from the camps to highlight the slightly...er....tonally tricky nature of self-portraiture at tragic monuments, this is simultaneously a striking project and a slightly cruel one, imho. As was pointed out to me, quite rightly, by Rob Manuel, there’s not a huge amount of moral high ground to be gained from ‘shopping photos of dumb teens being dumb teens onto photos of murdered Jews. Still, an interesting project and, you know, MADE ME THINK.
The Hands-Free Umbrella Drone: This is a joke, right? £1300. The ‘Wedding Proposal Drone Package’ is just over £4k, in case you fancy spending a lot of money on a humiliating and yet deserved rejection, fyi.
Demand Protest: My overwhelming feeling at the first month of 2017 has been one of fatigue, frankly - really? A whole year, or more, of this? Can I really be bothered? I’m not 100% sure I can. I mean, look at this mess. Demand Protest is, ostensibly, a service which offers crowds on demand to turn up and picket any event you choose (this is plausible - these services exist already, and have done for a while); real-life astroturfing, basically, for any cause you choose. Except I first found this on Reddit being posted as an example of the sort of services lefties were going to use to pull together FALSE PROTEST against the Donald. And except I also then saw threads on Reddit talking about how the MSM needed to be made to know that all the anti-Trump protests were paid for. And except then I found another thread suggesting that the website had been set up about 3 months ago, and that the company behind it seems VERY shell-like, and that it wouldn’t have had time to do enough work to get all those testimonials, and that basically the whole thing looks a bit fishy. Basically NOTHING IS REAL and frankly I am not sure I can be bothered with any of this.
Mash Up Music Player: I think this is an advert for some sort of Japanese biscuit company, but who cares? It’s ACTUALLY a rather fun interactive music video thingy which lets you create a semi-unique music video song EXPERIENCE based on a bunch of different settings which you can toggle on or off as your 3d Japanese schoolgirl avatar (sorry, but, you know, STEREOTYPES) runs through the rather exciting CG environment. Fun.
Grindrhaiku: Thanks, Luke, for the tipoff - this is ACE. Grindr encounters in haiku form - “we take a bubble/bath in candle-light, kiss soft/and fcuk like we care”, that sort of thing. Funny, poignant, beautiful.
Ohroma: I’d thought the exciting world of haptic bongo and teledildonics had been a bit stagnant of late, so thank GOD for Ohroma, which basically brings the SMELL OF SEX to your pr0n experience. In their own words: “Dubbed “OhRoma,” users wear a sensory mask, in addition to their VR headset, that features two canisters that contain three cartridge slots. Users can select an assortment of aromas to include in the cartridge slots including “private parts,” “body odor,” “fragrances,” “panties,” “aphrodisiacs,” and “environments,” among others. When heated, the aromas provide viewers with an immersive experience unlike anything before, bringing them closer to the action.” Just take a moment to let your sense-memory imagine what ‘private parts’ might smell like when rendered artificially. No, really, DO IT. Almost worth buying some of these to wreak havoc with the scent vials, imho.
Finding Love: This is a 3d interactive art...thingy, which may seem like it’s very 2dminensional but which, if you see it through til the end, will give you a small-but-very-real frisson of human connection, I promise you. Takes 5m, max, give it a try.
Boootle: This is, I think, another promo, this time for a water brand - it lets you try and flip virtual bottles to land them on their base, which is FAR more fun than your job, probably.
Yo Let’s Up!: Brilliant, simple little browser game about jumping onto stacking blocks and keeping your balance. If you have a seat in an office where noone can see your screen, this may well be the rest of your day gone.
Solace: SO SO GOOD YOU MUST CLICK THIS SERIOUSLY IT IS SO GOOD. Solace is an interactive story, written by Jeff Noon (he wrote Vurt, amongst other things, which is SUCH a good piece of Manc scifi which you all should read) and animated by Evan Boehm and it is so, so beautiful, like a colourful storybook with clickable pages for adults, and I love it more than almost anything else in here this week (apart from the next link).
Astronaut: This is going to sound hyperbolic, but there have been times this week when everything has felt SO colossal and jagged that looking at this has been one of the few things to calm me. Astronaut is a site which pulls an endless stream of low-view, generically-titled YT vids into a viewer window, presenting a rolling picture of fragments of humanity as though seen by an orbiting intelligence. It should be dull or dispiritingly mundane, but instead it is one of the most oddly uplifting things I’ve seen online in months. I can’t stress enough how pleasing and relaxing this is, really. Try it.
Insane Clown President: Except obviously we have to dwell a bit, if only because it’s sort of the only story in town at the moment and seems to be infecting EVERYTHING ELSE. This piece is a decent ‘how did we get here?’ from Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone - it’s the first chapter of his book of the same name which will look at the RISE OF THE DONALD. Particularly good on the media’s culpability, which does rather put into perspective some of their wailing right about now.
How Doonesbury Predicted Trump: Doonesbury has been going FOREVER - I remember failing to understand any of the jokes in my Mum’s copies of the Guardian in the early 80s - and it turns out at various points of its run it’s made a point of lampooning Trump and, weirdly, predicting his RISE (I feel I may capitalise this at all times from now on - it feels suitably disaster-ish). This piece collects prose on the strip with some of the best examples of the Donald-bashing - which bashing, obviously, makes NO difference and proves that perhaps the BITE OF SATIRE is less sharp than we might once have liked to think.
The Radical Crusade Of Mike Pence: Let’s be honest, we’re all hoping that this sh1tshow falls apart asap, aren’t we? Except if THAT happens then we probably get this funster in charge of the US, which is (as noted during the run) a pretty scary prospect what with the dead eyes and the evangelism and the iffy attitude to women’s rights and the sort of general, overarching absence of anything resembling human warmth. Great!
Zuck for President!: Or maybe not, given he’s come out and says he has ‘no plans’ to run for office. Still, though, that we’ve arrived at the point where having a man who believes that all human interaction can, fundamentally, be improved through the application of mathematical rules is a preferable leader of the free world to the current incumbent, after just one week, is no small pointer as to how banjaxed everything feels. This is a nice imagining of what Zuck in power might look like, a gentle exploration of how he might get there and what he might go about doing once he arrives. It sounds OK, which is AWFUL to admit.
Jolie 2024: I mean, it couldn’t happen. Could it? This ones far more scifi, but it was an interesting thought experiment - particularly the stuff about the sexualisation of the office which would doubtless occur, creepy as it is.
Tales From The Frontlines Of Viral Photography: Sean Bonner took a photo of a poster in Japan, depicting The Donald and the KKK as being, you know, not totally a million miles from each other. The photo went viral - Bonner’s description of how that felt and what it entailed is an interesting one, not least as a quick primer on how media functions in 2017.
Murderous Manila on the Night Shift: I know I keep putting stuff about Duterte in here, but it’s just so appalling and so appallingly compelling. One of the very few rays of light around Trump is that, well, he’s not this fcuker. This is an NY Review of Books piece looking at the late-night murder squads currently cleansing the streets of the Filipino capital - state sanctioned murder continues apace, and there is nothing that anyone can seemingly do to prevent it. Astounding.
The NYT 2020 Report: A bit ‘inside baseball’, this, but if you have any interest in the future of media then you really ought to read this - the New York Times’ report into what it considers to be the future of the newspaper and the newsroom and how this will be delivered digitally over the next few years. Interesting and thought-provoking, and (imho) an indication that we’re going to be seeing a BIG cull of online publishers over the next decade as this stuff simply COSTS to do well.
Big Waves, Surfing and Meth: Point Break-ish in its celebration of the BAD BOYS OF SURF, this is a great piece on how drugs almost killed the surf scene in Santa Cruz. Great writing and great punk characters in this - should be soundtracked by Bad Religion or something similar.
The Correspondence: An excerpt from ‘The Correspondence’ by J Daniels, all about the author’s experimentation with martial arts and getting beaten up. Spare prose, perhaps a bit self-consciously macho Bostonian, but strong storytelling and muscular style (sorry, I know that’s pretentious but it does fit, honest).
Doomsday Prep For The Super-Rich: I read a dreadful scifi series last year called ‘Dust’or something, all about people after the apocalypse living in giant underground silos; unremittingly bleak and poorly written, it came to mind whilst reading this startling account of the mega-rich across the globe (but mainly Silicon Valley, OBVS) and their preparations for when SH1T GETS REAL at somepoint in the future (turns out they’re all going to live in New Zealand - lucky Kiwis!). WHAT DO THESE PEOPLE KNOW THAT WE DON’T?
Little Things: GORGEOUS essay in Harpers, in which the author visits a convention for miniaturists - people who are fans, collectors and makers of tiny versions of real life stuff. You want to find a 1:1000-scale model of a hot dog? HERE! Tiny television sets which actually work? NO PROBLEM! A lovely, gentle piece of writing whose prose does a wonderful job of drawing you into the tiny world the enthusiasts inhabit - really very soothing indeed.
Michael Joyce’s Second Act: One of David Foster Wallace’s best pieces about tennis, less celebrated than the Federer hagiography but no less good, was the essay String Theory, in which he explored the life and career of one Michael Joyce, a mid-ranked US pro tennis player in the Agassi/Sampras era. This profile looks at what happened to the rest of Joyce’s pro life and what he does now; whilst the author is, er, channeling Wallace a bit hard at times here, it’s a genuinely interesting followup to the original profile as well as being an interesting change of perspective; what is it like to be the subject of a truly celebrated piece of writing by a man widely acknowledged to be a genius?
On Being Donald Glover: One of the most impressively polymathic people out there at the moment, this profile of Childish Gambino/Donald Glover, ostensibly about his show Atlanta which is garnering plaudits everywhere but in fact about his whole sort of crazily multi-hyphenated career. Will make you feel weakly inadequate by comparison.
The Manual by The KLF: So, er, they’re NOT in fact coming back. Or are they? Per previous tearful rants, I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING ANY MORE. Anyway, this surfaced on the web the other week and it is an excellent example of why the KLF are /were such an interesting...thing. The Manual is their guide to how to have a no.1 record (which when it was written, in the late 80s, was less of a quaintly silly aspiration to have), but is also a brilliant piece of cultural reportage on THE BUSINESS, as well as a serious of swipes at their contemporaries, A&Rs, PRs, drugs, pop-culture, the media and everything else. Long, very long indeed in fact, but SO good if you are of an age.
Doing The No-No: This is from the podcast series Love + Radio, which I am reliably informed by Josh is EXCELLENT - click transcript, though, and you can read the full text of this episode which is jaw-droppingly strange, on body art and transhumanism and ethics and consent and, frankly, all SORTS of weird stuff. It’s an interview with DNA artist Adam Zaretsky, who has a LOT of leftfield thoughts about bioengineering and sex and eroticism and...yeah, you just sort of have to read it. Quite amazing.
Silicon Bullets: One of my favourite things in here this week. Silicon Bullets is an experiment in storytelling and gameplay and STUFF, in which Chris Farnell connects to a bunch of different random strangers in chatrooms, most of whom are there to CYBER (retroreference for all you old people out there), and presents them with a text-adventure style opening - they are in a room, there is a dead body, there are exits...WHAT DO YOU DO? Watching how different people respond to the scenarios, and how Chris keeps the whole thing moving, is JOYOUS. I would watch this being done in realtime SO much. Seriously, there has to be a theatre show in this somewhere, no?
Day 1851: An old person and their robot companion. Wonderful, beautiful and so sad, this is part of the latest edition of digital magazine 5 Dials which consistently contains some truly excellent writing. If you have seen the film Robot & Frank you will absolutely love this.
My Name Is Cow: The beginning of this year has been dreadful, in the main, but this has been a small beacon of whimsy and hope. You may have seen the ‘My Name Is Cow’ poetic meme doing the rounds over the past few weeks - this explains how it evolved and gives some lovely examples of its execution. If you haven’t, OH but you are in for a treat. I know I am a bit fragile at present, but there’s something about ‘I lyk the bread’ which almost makes me cry it’s so sweet. I should probably go and see someone about this really, it’s not normal is it?
Okay.: Finally this week, best new voice I have read in AGES. No idea who this person is - I mean, Medium says they are called Bolu Babulola, but I have no idea beyond that - but this is an astonishingly good piece of writing about being sidelined by your crush and SO much more. I can’t stress enough how good this is - obviously from a woman’s perspective but you should all read this regardless of perspective as it is SO STRONG.
2) Another beautiful piece of CG animation by a Manchester-based studio; this is SO satisfying, seriously:
3) Another AMAZING video by Bonobo, who return with the latest track from their (excellent, fyi) recent album - this is called No Reason, and the video is HYPNOTIC:
4) You’ve probably all seen this by now, but this video for Young Thug’s latest is just SO good - what would you do if you were the director and the star failed to show? This is what you’d do - man is a genius. Watch this if you haven’t already, it is STELLAR:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! This kid is 13. 13! He’s called Heru, and this is legitimately good, regardless of his age. Seriously, have a listen:
6) Finally this week, ANOTHER song called ‘Work’ - nothing to do with Beyonce or Rihanna, this instead is Charlotte Day Wilson, the video features people going down an escalator, and the track is gloriously melancholy and it *sweeps*. Enjoy. SEE YOU SOON BYE BYE SEE YOU SOON TAKE CARE DON’T CRY PLEASE BYE!: