By Girma Berta
THE SECTION WHICH, AND CALL IT CYNICAL HERE, WOULDN’T BE 100% COMFORTED BY FACEBOOK’S INSISTENCE THAT IT’S NOT GOING TO MAKE BRANDS AND PUBLISHERS PAY FOR ANY REACH AT ALL:
- This week’s BIG HYSTERIA IN S*C**L M*D** LAND came in the shape of this post by (I think) Slovakian journalist Filip Struhárik, where he talked about how the introduction of the ‘Explore’ Tab - a feature being trialed by FB which separates the newsfeed into two distinct sections, one for stuff from ‘friends’ and the other from Pages - had basically decimated Page Reach for some of Slovakia’s major publishers. The post goes on to say that the same effect had been seen in several other territories where Explore was being trialed, leading to people jumping to the reasonably inevitable conclusion that this was a precursor to Facebook rolling this out globally and hammering the final nail into the mouldering coffin of ‘organic reach for brands’. “NOT SO!”, said Facebook, reassuringly, “This is just a test!”. Their exact quote bears a bit of scrutiny here - “There is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore”; the words ‘current’ and ‘all’ strike me as, well, being significant here is all I’m saying. Still, BUY MORE ADVERTS! Keeps people like us in a job, I guess, so GOOD NEWS, KIDS!
- FB Adds New Group Features: Groups are being pushed quite hard at the moment, particularly as something which brands can use - which makes sense, as they’re currently one of the few parts of the Facebook experience which works painlessly without needing to spend money (I give it 6 months, personally). This suite of updates is minor, but presents some useful cosmetic (welcome messages, hover-over profiles of Group members, BADGES!) and community management (admins can mute people, restrict posting privileges, etc). Although obviously you just WAIT til this starts rolling out to some of those 10k+ ‘humour’ groups and the admins get a bit power happy; that’ll be fun to watch.
- You Will Soon Be Able To Buy Cars Through Facebook: Or at least, you will if you live in the US - this is a series of partnerships with major car dealers across the country. Does Amazon sell cars yet? *checks* Nope! IN YOUR FACE, BEZOS.
- Facebook Trialing ‘Sets’ of Posts: The TechCrunch piece here linked screams that it’s an ‘attack’ on Pinterest, and it’s hard to see it any other way really; the deal is that Facebook’s trialing a feature whereby users can create ‘sets’ of images, posts, updates, etc, and bundle them together to share with their friends or a subsection thereof. Read the following, and see if YOU can guess what Facebook’s end-goal motivation here might be: “Sets could give people ways to express themselves beyond the traditional News Feed posts that can feel clumsy if one of your hobbies isn’t of widespread interest amongst your friends. While a post about a niche interest might not get enough Likes to reach the friends who might care, Sets are designed for more targeted sharing. Facebook could eventually monetize the feature by offering a special button on product ads that save a business’ items to your Sets.” I WONDER. Anyway, welcome to a world in which it’s absolutely impossible to avoid fcuking wedding lists and lookbooks and the like. Thanks, Mark!
- Facebook Testing Ephemeral Status Updates: I’m just including this for completeness’ sake, really, but this is a test feature which lets users post a 101-or-fewer character text-only update which can also be given a defined lifespan. I have nothing more to say on this.
- FB News Feed Publisher Guidelines: Obviously you all know all this stuff - OBVIOUSLY - but for those who don’t (or for those of you who have to write lengthy and time-consuming documents explaining concepts and features which anyone could teach themselves with a cursory 5 minutes in front of Google, God give me strength) this is actually potentially quite useful. This is Facebook’s own guide to posting on its platform, from getting people to see stuff to what you’re not allowed to do - it is very 101, but the stuff about audience optimisation is sensible and the sort of thing you can c&p to your 4k a month clients who feel like they ought to ‘do’ social media because they are stuck in 2011 and haven’t realised that, actually, it’s probably not that important really (SHHHHHH IT’S A SECRET!).
- FB Workplace Adds Screen Sharing (And A Few Other Things): Apparently now being used by 30,000 companies, FB Workplace doesn’t get talked about a lot but what I have heard about it is largely positive - anyway, it’s now launching screensharing for all your, er, screensharing needs. Oh, as did Slack, with a fancy new feature which lets users work simultaneously on shared versions of a screen. Which is very clever.
- Instagram Lets Users Go Live With Friends: Anyone going ‘Live’ on Insta will be able to invite any of their watching ‘friends’ into the broadcast, creating a split-screen effect. To quote, “You can remove your guest and add someone else at any time, or they can also choose to exit on their own. Share your live video to stories when your broadcast has ended, or choose “Discard” and your live video will disappear from the app as usual.” Lots of really fun potential for INFLUENCERS to do stuff here - fan service, etc, bringing fans in on rotation to ask questions and have a bit of a chat - and there’s probably quite a nice Gong Show-style shortform entertainment format here with the right presenter. Actually, that’s not a bad idea.
- FB Messenger Integrates PayPal: In America. So not really of any interest to most of you. Sorry.
- Twitter Modifies Ad Rules: Effectively taking a leaf out of the Facebook playbook, this is Twitter getting to the ad transparency party a few week late (Oh Twitter!). It’s all sensible stuff - worth being aware of the following list of what will be made public, which goes somewhat further than Facebook’s own announcements the other week I think: “All ads that are currently running on Twitter, including Promoted-Only ads; How long ads have been running; Ad creative associated with those campaigns; Ads targeted to you, as well as personalized information on which ads you are eligible to receive based on targeting”. There are slightly more stringent ones for ads deemed to be electoral in nature, but I can’t be bothered to write those up here so, you know, click the link and read the post.
- Play, Learn, Facilitate: I don’t normally include courses and stuff in this section, but this one’s being run by a friend of mine and it seems reasonably-priced and like a nice way to spend a Friday if you can persuade someone to pony up £100 for you. It’s all about creative problem solving and stuff, which if nothing else will be a pleasing alternative to having to pretend to care about selling things to people.
THE SECTION WHICH IS STILL NOT 100% CERTAIN THAT THIS NEOM THING ISN’T A VERY ELABORATE, YEARS-LONG ARG PROMOTING SOME SORT OF NEW ALIEN PREQUEL, PT.1:
- Neom: So let’s kick off with by far and away one of the oddest things I’ve seen all year - which isn’t really an internet thing at all. Neom is...look, here: “Neom is a one-of-its-kind industrial zone which will span three countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. It will be adjacent to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba and near maritime trade routes that use the Suez Canal. 2. The 26,500 square km (10,230 square mile) zone, will focus on industries including energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment; it will be powered entirely by wind and solar energy.” Which is all fine - now click on the website. HOW FCUKING WEIRDLY SCARY IS THAT? Read the breathlessly-optimistic future utopian prose! See the photos of the in-no-way-repressed women jogging in croptops! It’s all going to be great! Then think a little bit longer, and consider that if you were Saudi and you were seeking international investment for your proposed future-leading hub city-state, you’d probably dial down the woman-suppressing rhetoric, at least til the first few rounds were closed. Then think quite how much this website looks like the opening 15 minutes of every single dystopian scifi you’ve ever seen, the bit before you realise that there is a HEART OF DARKNESS beating beneath the shiny metallic skin. Am I being unnecessarily paranoid? Almost certainly, fine, but tell me that there’s nothing about this project that makes you go ‘Hm, I’ve got a funny feeling about this’. Oh, yes, and they granted citizenship to a robot too, which, interestingly, despite being feminine in appearance may actually have more rights in Saudi than women! LOL WAHHABISM!
- The NYC Love Map: I am a huge fan of this project by New York Magazine, which has taken reader-submitted stories of love and romance, each tied to a particular location in the city, and mapped them to create this honestly lovely interactive whereby you can explore the romance memories of others. The memories are small - one or two lines - and some are happy and some are sad, and some, like this one, are just beautifully sordid: “After some intensely hungry making out against a wall, I went for his belt and gave him a furtive handjob. He made a move to return the favor, but hiking up my dress in public in the middle of Manhattan — even in shadow, at 1am — felt more obvious than I was comfortable with, so I pulled back. He was totally respectful of my no, but the brief pause took a lot of the wind out of both our sails, and suddenly we realized we were two married people in our 30s messing around like teenagers in a security-camera-filled pedestrian plaza whose intense odor of urine was getting harder and harder to ignore. The whole thing rapidly plunged from hot to tragic, and we got in separate cabs and went home to our spouses. A year later he left his wife for one of the paralegals.” Please, Time Out, do something good online for a change and rip this off for London.
- Spotify Rise: Spotify’s launched Rise, which is designed to expose NEW AND EXCITING ARTISTS to your eager ears. Worth a look as you continue the futile attempt to maintain some sort of cultural relevance in the face of inevitable entropy and decay.
- Robu Grotesk: Actually the name of a font invented by designer Andrei Robu, and featured on this wonderful series of animated posters. I’d really like to see a stuff like this on digital billboards, so if any of you have anything to do with creative for London Underground campaigns then MAKE ME HAPPY. These are lovely, in any case, and weirdly remind me a lot of WipeOut-era Designers’ Republic work.
- Esteban Diacono: Esteban is a digital artist who says he’s definitely not an artist, but he is - self-describing as a ‘motion graphics designer’, his Instagram feed is a delight, full of wonderfully weird and beautiful and uncanny CGI people and faces an bodies; you might have seen that gif of the rubber hand slapping the rubber face this week - that was his. Definitely worth a follow, not least as it’s a break from the endless fcuking shots of AUTUMNAL SCENES and people you don’t really like pulling exactly the same fcuking face in 3million photos.
- Windows of New York: I bet you never knew that you really wanted a website dedicated to presenting graphical representations of New York’s different window designs, but it turns out you really did!
- Ethica Magazine: Veganism is BIG in 2017 - it is trendy and cool and good for the planet, and the world and their dog seems to be experimenting with a no-animal-stuffs diet these days. Part of me wants to shake these people by the lapels and suggest that they go full Jain if they feel so strongly about this, but another part of me wants to point them towards this rather good new online magazine which highlights stuff that is good for vegans, vegan issues, etc. I mean, the concept of vegan ‘cheese’ is one which I can’t pretend is anything other than horrifying, but your mileage may vary. FULL DISCLOSURE: this is set up and run by a friend of mine, but it’s still good, promise, and no money has changed hands for the inclusion of this link.
- Private Jet Studio: There have been a few articles about this in the last week or so, and in keeping with anything to do with Russia right now there appears to be some confusion as to what this is and how it works. As a non-journalist, though, I don’t have to worry about things like ‘fact checking’ and so can just take the Telegraph’s line which suggests that it’s a service letting young Russians hire a private jet on which to take shots for Insta, temporarily elevating themselves to the rarefied status of ‘Rich Kid of Insta’. There is a HUGE tongue-in-cheek parody of this just waiting to be done by the right brand or entertainment property here; alternatively, if you’re feeling more entrepreneurial, I reckon you could totally transplant this to South East England and make a few quid.
- AI Shelley: An AI (not actually an AI) which punts out horror stories on Twitter, with the gimmick here being that anyone can respond to Shelley’s Tweets and she will ‘work’ with them to co-create a ghost story, in the manner of Exquisite Corpse. Shelley’s an interesting idea - it’s been ‘trained’ on reddit’s NoSleep sub, so the source material is spot-on for the genre, and some of the outputs are convincingly human, but it seems to lose interest in the collaborative aspect of the storywriting reasonably quickly; that said, the line: “my body started to feel like I was going to cut myself from the inside out. I couldn't see him anymore” is genuinely rather unsettling, so WELL DONE that AI (not AI).
- The Mary Sue Rejection Hotline: There were a spate of these a few years back, but in the wake of the continuing horrorshow that is MEN this week, this new variant seems timely. Only works in the US but I don’t think there’s any practical reason why this shouldn’t be able to be set up in the UK too, this is a number that women can give out to men who are creeping on them to get them off their back; should said man call or text that number, they’ll receive a message telling them that they made someone feel uncomfortable, hence why they got given the number. Can someone create this here, please? Thanks!
- Kung Fu Cats: This week’s dose of feline Instagram content comes from Japanese photographer Hisakata Hiroyuki, who takes shots of cats in mid-air looking like they are about to do some sort of insane ‘Enter the Dragon’-style ninja takedown. Exceptional.
- Transitnap: This is a clever idea which unaccountably made me rather sad when I found it; the idea is that it’s an app which can ‘learn’ you regular commutes and set appropriate alarms to enable you to have a kip on the train/bus/tube and ensure you wake up in time to get off at the right stop. I can see how this would be potentially useful, but all I could think of when looking at it was the armies of shift-workers you see on the first tube of the day, catching some stolen shut-eye on the early one out to Heathrow.
- Online Ecosystem Maps: Fascinating little project by Coventry University, which has asked students on one of its courses to ‘map’ their digital platform/website usage and has posted some of the resultant ‘maps’ online; there’s nothing aesthetically interesting here, but I found the content really interesting (if not hugely surprising). Taking into account the fact that the accounts may not be entirely honest - no bongo, students of Coventry? - the general picture is of an online world where Facebook is literally THE content portal; few news sites, maybe some Reddit, but otherwise Facebook is it.
- Pigolin: Insta artist making *slightly* erotic manga-style work, Big bold colours, great aesthetic, slightly NSFW - TRY IT!
- Autonomous Vehicle Testing In Cities: Should you be in the market for a map showing you all the different cities around the world which are currently engaged in trials of autonomous vehicles then BOY will this make you happy.
- Probabot: Things are getting meta in botland; here we have a bot-hunting bot, designed to sniff our political bots on Twitter (the word ‘bot’ is about three instances away from total meaninglessness to me now), based on the extent to which they tweet about politics or related culture wars-issues and their ‘botness’ as determined by a service called ‘Botometer’. It may not surprise you to learn that there appear to be a lot of the bastard things.
- Custom Corset Pattern Generator: Look, I don’t know what you’re like, I don’t know what you’re into, I don’t know if you’re the sort of person who likes to pour themselves into a bustier and hang out with bearded men in frilly shirts ‘swigging’ ‘flagons’ of ‘ale’. You may well be, I’m not judging you in the slightest. If you want a website which will let you autogenerate sewing patterns for corsets then I am simply here to provide for you.
- Jazzari: This is a sort of beautifully brutal and sadistic music ‘toy’, presenting you with a fairly classic three-track drums/bass/keys lineup which you can programme and loop at will; the catch here being that you can only modify what’s being played by using code. It’s not designed as a teaching tool - you wouldn’t, I don’t think, be able to learn much actual proper coding from this - but you can pick up some rudimentary principles through playing around a bit, and it’s actually quite useful for helping teach time signatures and suchlike. Or it would be were I not a cloth-eared dunce.
THE SECTION WHICH IS STILL NOT 100% CERTAIN THAT THIS NEOM THING ISN’T A VERY ELABORATE, YEARS-LONG ARG PROMOTING SOME SORT OF NEW ALIEN PREQUEL, PT.2:
- Back to Bits: Back to Bits is “a curated animation project featuring the collective works of more than 40 artists from around the world, showcases a series of animated GIFs inspired by retro video games. This second round, or “level,” in the Back to Bits series is called Super 16, and is a tribute to retro 80s and 90s SNES games.” Like games? Like digital art? Good.
- Fancy Dresses Described: This is GREAT. A 19th Century book featuring 338 pages of alphabetical costume suggestions for ladies, ranging from ‘fly’ (‘don a black cap reprsenting the fly’s head’ - STRONG ADVICE) to ‘HMS Polyphemus’ (‘wear wooden naval ornaments in one’s hair’). Go on, you know you don’t want to go as a sexy cat AGAIN.
- Faces of Fear: It being Hallowe’en, almost, we’re getting all the stories about the inexplicable American appetite for the haunted house - you know, those places where you sign a waiver and then spend 45 minutes being waterboarded for fun by the sort of person whose willingness to partcipate in these sorts of things really ought to see them on some sort of list (there was one a few years back that I read about which involved someone paying for a ‘surprise kidnap experience’ which ended with the victim being faux-buried alive, which was so terrifying that I am getting sweaty palms just remembering). Anyway, this is a series of photos of American’s in mid-terror; these are great pictures, and it’s interesting to see the commonality of expression; we really are just animals, eh?
- The Hallowe’en Soundboard: I guarantee that your colleagues will NOT get bored of you making scream noises with your computer.
- Them: This is A Big Thing in many respects. Conde Naste this week launched Them, a new magazine aimed at and by the LGBTQI community, covering politics and fashion and style and all the sort of stuff you’d expect, from a Queer+ perspective. It’s very much a positive step, though there’s something sort of bleak about the fact that one of the biggest signs of mainstream acceptance of a movement is when it’s big enough to be advertised to as a specific, defined category.
- The Trip: This is a hell of an opportunity with the NYT. Is this you? If so APPLY: “We are seeking a journalist who, over the course of 2018, will go to every destination on our list and tell us the story of each place and the story of life on the road. The ideal candidate is a permanent student of life and astute documentarian of the world. This person should have a well-worn passport, the ability to parachute into a place and distill its essence and to render a compelling tale with words and images. Media experience is required, as is fluency in English, expertise in social media and facility with digital devices. Familiarity with languages beyond English is a plus though not a requirement.” GO GO GO!
- Viktor Skull Art: Viktor is a former drug addict who as part of his therapy started experimented with bone carving. Turns out he was rather good at it - this is the Insta feed of his skull carving business, showing all the crazy things he does with dead goats and the like. I read an interview with Viktor, who sounds like quite an...intense chap, and who said that he often finds a lot of the heads himself and removes the meat and muscle from them personally. Viktor’s from Translyvania. Make of all this what you will. Oh, he’ll do you a skull on commission if you’re that sort of turbogoth.
- Updated List of Netflix Streaming Genres: You want all the Netflix categories? WE HAVE ALL THE NETFLIX CATEGORIES! This list lets you browse all the different ways in which Netflix categorises films, and lets you click through to the selection, meaning that you decide you REALLY want to watch an ‘imaginative movie from the 80s’, say, or explore exactly what Netflix means by ‘mind-bending’ as a categorisation, fill your boots.
- Even Stranger Things: There’s a new series of Stranger Things! Some of you might be excited by this! Good for you! I think this little webtoy which Stranger Things-ifies any picture you give it, with a layer of image recognition to give it a name, is shonky as you like, but perhaps if you know and love the show it will look marginally less pony.
- Cryptokitties: We’ve reached peak blockchain, turn it off. Cryptokitties is a lovely, pointless idea which neatly illustrates some of the base principles of blockchain - you invest actual cryptocurrency to ‘breed’ these things, though christ knows why, with each kitten having its own unique identity and blockchain signifier. Over 4,000 have already been created, though, and you can browse them here should you so desire.
- The Anatomy of Typefaces: To quote, “This project aims to analyse visual characteristics of typefaces and to make them explorable through a web interface. The data reveals shared characteristics between typefaces, but also shows the misfits and extremes along the distribution of values such as contrast, x-height, width or weight.” Basically it’s a really rather nice searchable database of fonts, letting you specify parameters like serif or sans, as well as more esoteric ones like ‘weight’. If you’re a graphic designer this might be worth bookmarking.
- The Alphabet of Electronics: The alphabet, rendered as 3d designs, each letter representing an electronics brand starting with that letter which, yes, I appreciate is a poor description but I am VERY SLEEPY (I went to the theatre last night to see The Ferryman, which, apropos nothing, you MUST see if you can; superb work).
- 1 in 360: Are you musician, in a band or solo? Have you always wanted to represent a country (not necessarily yours, just ‘a’) at Eurovision? OH MY DAYS! This is your lucky year! San Marino - I confess to having been unsure that they even did Eurovision, but here we are - is this year opening up applications for the much-vaunted position of its Eurovision 2018 entry to the WHOLE OF THE WEB. Yep, that’s right, anyone from anywhere can submit an application to rep the principality in *checks* Portugal. All you have to do is upload a song - there’s then some sort of tedious social media popularity contest element before the LIVE SELECTION FINALS next year. Winners also get a recording contract - the whole deal sounds, frankly, preposterously good, and you don’t even have to subject yourself to the tabloid horror inherent in the X Factor or similar. READERS OF WEB CURIOS - BECOME SAN MARINAN!!!
- Botnik: Welcome to the future of CONTENT. Botnik is not a Russian disinformation network, despite the name (or at least I don’t think it is); instead, it’s “a community of writers, artists and developers collaborating with machines to create strange new things”. In practice this means it’s a bunch of people playing around with neural nets and the rest to try and automate the process of creating funny writing, or at least to see what happens when you give it a go. Some of the outputs showcased on the frontpage - the horoscope, for example - are genuinely funny and make think that the brief window whereby people could get book deal for being occasionally funny on Twitter might well be coming to an end.
- 42 & Vanderbilt: A glorious photoseries. Photographer Peter Finch stood at this particular Manhattan intersection taking pictures over a period of years; as he examined the shots, he realised that some commuters were captured in his photos taking the same route to work at a distance of years apart. This series presents those images, showing quite how little our routines change and quite how dazed we are as we undertake the morning ritual. The accompany essay, where Finch talks of the ‘trance’ experienced by the subjects, is one of the more depressing examinations of work and mundanity I’ve recently read. Still, HAPPY FRIDAY!!!
- Something Something Soup Something: A ‘game’ in which you attempt to determine whether various bowls of...stuff can or cannot be categorised as soup. No, look, wait, this is actually weirdly fun and sort of interesting, particularly if you’ve got any interest in taxono...oh, you’ve gone.
- Lost Memories: This, though, is excellent and very much worth your time - sack off work, this is LOADS better. Lost Memories is a game/interactive/thing, orginally developed for the Manchester International Festival, which lets you slip back in time to inhabit the online life of a teen girl in the 00s - the age of Neopets and Geocities and the like. “You play as 14 year old Nina, chatting with your online friend Kayla about a middle school love triangle, and building your blog between messages. You explore the online world Nina occupies, downloading images to decorate your blog as the drama at school unfolds.” I can’t stress how tonally pitch-perfect this is, but also a really interesting and accessible take on the visual novel; even if you don’t like games, this is worth a go, promise. You’ll enjoy it, and it beats the everliving fcuk out of whatever it is you’re currently being paid to pretend to care about.
By Paul Turner
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
- Rus Khasanov: Rus makes gorgeous, detailed-yet-grainy black and white animations; I featured a video of his last week, and this tumblr contains more of his hypnotic work.
- Space That Never Was: Tumblr’s not short of ‘blogs that share stuff from THE GOLDEN AGE OF SCIFI’, but this one’s an excellent example and a great repository of scifi art.
- Anime Floppies: Collecting - for no discernible reason that I can fathom - images of floppy disks as they appear in anime. Fortunately doesn’t depict the contents of said floppies, which given the genre is likely to be something horrific involving tentacles.
- Undead Teds: Teddy bears, modded to be all zombified. You want bears with exposed ribcages, burst eyeballs and a generally demonic demeanour? This is YOUR Tumblr. These are occasionally available to buy, apparently, should you want an ursine zombie in your home.
- Right Eye: Collecting pictures of people’s right eyes as found online. For some reason this is really, really creepy. Enjoy!
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
- The 20 Most Terrifying Stories On The Internet: According to them, not me, but it’s a pretty good list from what I can tell - this collates CreepyPastas, assorted Reddit threads, creepy corners of Wikipedia and some STRANGE AND UNEXPLAINED ONLINE PHENOMENA. I had completely forgotten about ‘She’s a Flight Risk’ til I saw this list - I was obsessed by that story for a couple of years, despite being 99% certain it was a fake, and it stands up pretty well on repeat reading.
- The Softbank 30-Year Vision: I tend not to include too many links to corporate presentations in here, mainly as I like to think of Curios as a slight respite from that sort of idiocy and horror (in favour of other types of idiocy and horror), but this is one of the more incredible things I have ever seen. It’s 7 years old but has relatively recently cropped up online and...and…I can’t decide whether it’s the work of a genius or a madman (although given Softbank basically IS technology, it’s fair to say that they’re closer to the genius end of the scale than, say, I am). Read this and marvel and be scared and think that, with this stuff and the Saudis, the future’s already been sewn up rather. Really, I can’t recomment this enough - you have to just dive in, pick a slide at random and enjoy the journey.
- On Not Taking Photos: A really interesting essay looking at the circumstances in which a documentary photographer should refrain from taking a shot, and what the raised hand means in lingua franca, and the question of individual rights versus the need to report, and all sorts of other things. I confess to never really having thought about this; it’s intellectually fascinating I think.
- On Being An Abuser: Hell of a piece, this. A dialogue between the author, whose understandably chosen to remain anonymous, and the man who a decade or so earlier had sexually assaulted her. As dispassionate as this sort of piece ever could be, it’s interesting not only to see the man attempt to address what he did but also to see the author’s evolving feelings in response to him, the extent to which she believes in his sincerity, and whether or not you can ever move on from such events. You probably don’t need me to make an allusion to trigger warnings here.
- Facebook Reacts: An excellent essay examining how Facebook’s own staff are reacting to the increasing chorus of disquiet at its potential role in determining real world outcomes (like, you know, elections and stuff). Even-handed, but does very much give the impression of why quant people, despite occasional brilliance, can get blindsided by stuff - just thinking about the numbers can lead to some unexpected negative externalities, lads - WHODATHUNKIT?!
- O Fenomeno: Mundial magazine consistently publishes some of the best writing on football anywhere online at the moment - this (admittedly kilometric, but it’s worth it) essay on the ‘original’ Ronaldo, he of the teeth and the herculean appetite for hookers and the outrageous ability to absolute ruin defences with a combination of pace and power and technique not seen since; if you’re of an age, this will take you RIGHT back, and if you’re not this contains enough YT clips to act as a primer as to why he was loads better than New Ronaldo (tbh this opinion is based mainly on the fact that New Ronaldo would never have been so image-unconscious as to get this haircut).
- Sleaford Mods and Capitalism: The Quietus with a typically excellent piece, here looking at Sleaford Mods and how they relate to THE STATE OF THE NATION; the piece is broader, though, and goes on to look at original mod culture, its status as a protest movement, and the reclaiming of the label from the ‘useless, fat and overblown’ Wellers and Gallaghers. Have to say, though, lads, much as part of me wishes you were right about this I think we might be slightly overplaying the ‘death of capitalism’ hand here.
- Ghostwatch: One of those TV programmes that’s attained a sort of legendary status despite not that many people having actually watched it, this look back at the show’s development, screening and the fallout thereafter is genuinely fascinating - for the few of you who may not be familiar, this was broadcast live on Hallowe’en in the early 90s, and basically convinced a large section of the viewing public that ghosts were real and that Sarah Green and Michael Parkinson had just proved it live on telly. Really good reporting, with superb access to people from the BBC who were involved at the time - if you’ve ever been involved in making telly - or indeed doing anything vaguely new at the BBC - you’ll recognise the feeling of terrified ‘winging it’ that everyone involved describes.
- Welcoming our New Robot Overlords: A glimpse of a potential future in which we meatpuppets are employed solely to take of and maintain our robot workforces. Interestingly this is exactly the sort of rhetoric spouted by Lord Wei of Shoreditch, who a few years back set up his Maker Wharf project in East London with an ostensible social enterprise purpose - to whit, to train people who might have ordinarily gone into ‘traditional’ blue collar employment to do ‘new economy’ jobs such as, say, 3d printer repair. No idea what happened with that stuff, but this is an interesting look at how this might all develop.
- Coffee as Existential Statement: Are coffee twats the worst twats (apart from the harassment twats, and the nazi twats, and...oh, they’re not are they?)? No, but they are up there - this is a great...essay, short story, series of reviews of SF coffeeshops, in which the writer explores different places to work and drink in San Francisco. It’s about coffee but it’s really not - this is very good writing indeed.
- The Problem With The Romans…: Wonderful piece which takes as its starting point the very particular sort of exclusionism practised by a particular sort of Tory whereby they drop Latin epigrams into conversation as a) a way of making them look clever and erudite; and b) acting as a sort of linguistic weapon in debate and then extends that to how we might be able to use football language and metaphor to affect the same end when talking to, say, Jacob Rees-Mogg.
- China’s Social Credit Score: In a week not shy of dystopian moments, this was another GREAT one - welcome to future China, in which citizens are assigned a credit score based on their behaviour! This was announced in 2014, but this Wired piece takes an indepth look at how it’s progressing and what it’s rollout might mean for Chinese society - as a mechanism of social control it’s a chillingly effective one, at least in theory, though the black market potential for gaming / exploiting it is interesting. Obviously we all look at this and go ‘Crikey, China, that’s a bit rum!’ and then go back to posting on a network which has already stated its intention to monetise your activity with banks, insurers, etc - IT’S ALL GOING TO BE FINE!
- Faces of an Epidemic: A photoessay showing the lives, and deaths, of opiate addicts in Ohio. As bleak as you’d imagine.
- John Titor, Time Traveller: One of my favourite slices of web culture WTFery I’ve seen in ages, this is the story of one John Titor, a man who in the late 90s started calling into late night radio shows claiming to be a time traveller. Yes, you will scoff, but read the whole thing - it gets VERY strange, with conspiracies and counter-conspiracies and there’s the outside possibility he might have prevented the Millennium Bug, so, you know, WHO KNOWS?
- Having Children Is Immoral: NOT A STATEMENT I PROMISE! Just a particular philosophical position, based on calculations of pain and pleasure and the optimality of never having existed at all vs existing. This took me RIGHT back to undergraduate days, and is actually a very clear and well-phrased articulation of a branch of philosophy which has a tendency to make people feel just a bit icky, as much good, hard thinking ought.
- My Date With Hollywood: Beautifully-written piece in which the author describes her novel being optioned for Hollywood by a BIG STAR, and what it was like dealing with it. Very little about Hollywood and the machine, but lots and lots about self-worth and confidence and just, you know, LIFE.
- Joel on Grand Designs: Golby on fine form as ever, this time training his eye of Grand Designs and concluding that it is probably the best evocation of the British Middle Classes that we currently have. It’s Golby so it’s very funny, obviously, but the observations about Grand Designs as memento mori are excellent.
- You Are Nowehere: The story of the end of a relationship told through the reality TV show ‘Alone’, in which people are tasked with surviving...er...alone. This is so sad and so lovely; it sort of needs to be read whilst wearing a big cardigan and clutching a hot chocolate, two-handed.
- 20: Finally this week, Paul Ford on his experience of being online for two decades, and by far and away the best writing I’ve read in ages on why the web is awful now. This is so well-done, and very true - read and nod along (and laugh). Look, try this: “ Our software is bullshit, our literary essays are too long, the good editors all quit or got fired, hardly anyone is experimenting with form in a way that wakes me up, the IDEs haven't caught up with the 1970s, the R&D budgets are weak, the little zines are badly edited, the tweets are poor, the short stories make no sense, people still care too much about magazines, the Facebook posts are nightmares, LinkedIn has ruined capitalism, and the big tech companies that have arisen are exhausting, lumbering gold-thirsty kraken that swim around with sour looks on their face wondering why we won't just give them all our gold and save the time. With every flap of their terrible fins they squash another good idea in the interest of consolidating pablum into a single database, the better to jam it down our mental baby duck feeding tubes in order to make even more of the cognitive paté that Silicon Valley is at pains to proclaim a delicacy. Social media is veal calves being served tasty veal. In the spirit of this thing I won't be editing this paragraph.” See what I mean?
By Beau White
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
- First up, the most insanely detailed one-minute animation I have seen in years. This is almost frightening when you think of the effort that must have gone into it. It’s called ‘Paper Trail’:
2) Next, this is a couple of months old and it’s a live recording meaning that the video is tedious as you like, but LISTEN TO THAT VOICE! Seriously, absolute shivers. Also, it’s a superb 50s pastiche and a great tune, but it’s the vocal that makes this kill. It’s by Durand Jones and the Indications, and it’s called ‘Is It Any Wonder?’:
4) This is by Zanias, it’s called ‘To The Core’ and for some reason the combination of melting VHS tape visuals and slightly grindy industrial techno is JUST WHAT I NEED right now. I think I might be hitting a wall:
5) I’m not a huge fan of Spoon, but I am a massive fan of this video which involves the lead singer being photoshopped in a series of odd poses that eventually coalesce into a sort of lipsync stop-motion...er...thing. The song’s called ‘Do I Have To Talk You Into It?’, but the video’s the star here:
8) Last up this week, the new video and track by Fever Ray. It’s...it’s odd, and a bit BDSM NSFW, but by far the most visually interesting thing I’ve seen all week. You’ll know it’s about to get odd when the lyric ‘I want to run my fingers up your pussy’ kicks in, FYI. HAPPY FRIDAY I LOVE YOU TRY AND BE KIND TO EACH OTHER BYE BYE BYE!