Friday 29 September 2017

Web Curios 29/9/17

One of the things that struck me in the midst of all the media coverage of international superstar bongo-peddler Hugh Hefner's demise was (aside from the man's uncanny resemblance to Touche Turtle) quite how miserable he looked in almost every photo taken of him in his dotage. It's almost as if he'd discovered that being entirely in the grip of adolescent appetites whilst simultaneously staring your ninth decade right in the face is a bit, well, dispiriting, and that he in fact knew his was a tawdry existence that didn't bear too much examination (especially not beneath a blacklight). 

BUT! We are not here to talk about that man! We are here to grudgingly wade through another selection of this week's CONTENT, cobbled together by artisans worldwide for your browsing pleasure. Curios is going to be off next week due to me being in Venice with my mum (restaurant tips gratefully received, seeing as you're here), so be extra sure to read EVERY SINGLE WORD in this week's edition; carry my voice with you in your mind's ear, listen to my dulcet tones while I'm away, let me burrow deep into your very meningea and deposit there the spores that may one day develop into full-blown web psychosis. We don't quite know what the long term effects of this insane level of data consumption will be on our pliable mammalian brains, so with that spirit of open-minded experimentation to the fore let's CRACK ON with the WEBSPAFF FIREHOSE that is WEB CURIOS!

greg girard

By Greg Girard



  • Yes, 280 Characters!: More space to express yourself! Thus burbled the announcement from Twitter this week as they took the SEISMIC decision to expand the character limit  from 140-280 and thereby ushered in a whole new wave of unfunny gags about how what everyone actually wants is fewer Nazis and Bots on the platform but Twitter - silly, contrarian Twitter! - just won’t listen! Anyway, this update is seemingly going to roll out everywhere over time means that you too will be able to explore exactly how much BETTER all this extra text is going to make your Twitter experience (and if you are impatient to get your hands on the extra 140 there are several hacks you can implement to bump your character count, not least this Chrome extension). What does this mean? What does ANYTHING mean, amirite? It means, largely, fcuk all for anyone; if you’re a brand there’s probably a window of a few days where you can do decent numbers by doing something ‘funny’ and ASCII-based with the extra space, and it’s probably useful for customer service-related, actually, I can’t think of anything else and I don’t care to write any more on the topic. Onwards!
  • Facebook Launches Dynamic Creative: Now this, this is more interesting. I was on a panel earlier this year (it is unlikely I will ever be asked back) and made myself reasonably unpopular by being tediously adolescent in my approach to the whole thing and by suggesting that automated creative was going to to fcuk a lot of people in the industry before too long. AND LO, IT CAME TO PASS! Or, at least, sort of. Facebook Dynamic Creative is being rolled out - although no details as to timeframe, and the original developer post about it appears to have disappeared, so Christ knoww - as of the now, and (very) basically will let advertisers upload a whole bunch of media to FB, select their audience, and have Zuckerberg’s Big Blue Misery Machine cobble together a bunch of creative assets designed to appeal to all the different targets you’ve specified. To quote: “Dynamic Creative allows advertisers to tap the most appropriate photos, titles, descriptions, calls to action and other ad components, and Aziz added that rather than creating full ads, the social network provides brands with creative asset feeds, and its Dynamic Creative system then “automatically generates the creative variants and finds the best-performing combination for the target audience.”” So GREAT NEWS for everyone in adland! (this is not great news).
  • FB Gets Better Brand Lift Measurement: Phrases like ‘brand lift measurement’ are those which really make me question the value of everything at 7:13 am on a cold, lonely September morning, so I’m just going to leave this description here: “we’re introducing new measurement solutions that will enable advertisers to see the impact of their ad campaigns on both Facebook and TV, as well as the incremental impact of both platforms when used together. Nielsen Total Brand Effect with Lift and Facebook Cross-Platform Brand Lift both provide advertisers with the ability to evaluate the impact of their campaigns across Facebook and TV.” Do you care? Because I really, really don’t.
  • FB Improves Ability To Stalk Real-World Customers on FB: This is a rather opaque announcement - this feature is available to ‘select retail partners’, presumably US-only, and will let them create audiences for ad targeting from people who visit physical locations owned by said advertiser. Details on how this actually works are VERY sketchy - in-store beacons, maybe? - but if YOU fancy adding to the number of ways in which your adverts can creepily follow people around the web like so many rotting zombie puppies (no, me neither, it doesn’t really work, does it?) then here you go!
  • Instagram Does A Good Antiharassment Thing: There’s no commercial / brand application to this, but I’m including it as an example of how, LOOK TWITTER, it is possible to take practical action to modify the mechanics of your platform and thereby to improve its civility - LEARN. Anyway, Instagram now gives users the option to limit who comments on their posts to a variety of different groups, such as ONLY their followers or ONLY people they follow. Simple but smart. As I said, LEARN.
  • YouTube Also Launches Automated Creative: Anything Facebook can do...there’s some stuff in here about improved intent targeting for YouTube ads, but the really interesting stuff comes here: “Director Mix is a feature where brands upload one or a few creative templates that then spits out “tens, hundreds or even thousands of versions of the ad for different audiences...Typically [brands] need a wider range of assets—one of the challenges that has surfaced is [that] to do it at scale consistently can sometimes disrupt existing production processes or create a rise in cost.” While similar tools already exist for display ads, they have not been available for video promos. In addition to cranking out the production of videos, machine learning analyzes the ads to let advertisers know which ads are working.” WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE VIDEO EDITORS?
  • Pinterest Allows ‘Interest’-based Targeting: Pinterest has a surprisingly large number of clever things under the hood, one of which is its ‘interest graph’ which takes users’ behaviour and extrapolates what they’re into from it. Advertisers will now be able to target ads against specific interests or combinations thereof. Which is nice, if you’re an advertiser.
  • Pinterest Removes Need For Agencies From Influencer Marketing: Well, almost. Still, this is an interesting development - Pinterest is basically setting up its own influencer marketplace, whereby brands can determine which sorts of people they want to INFLUENCE and Pinterest will then put them in touch with a pool of potential INFLUENCERS on the platform who can then bid for the work. Which, let’s be clear, is VERY SMART and also pretty terrible news for any agencies currently making a tidy 20% vig on the fee as well as all the project management costs on this stuff. If Facebook and YouTube aren’t doing similar I would be AMAZED.
  • Vimeo Launches Livestreaming: Just in case there wasn’t enough choice of platforms on which to broadcast your less-good-than-telly CONTENT, here comes Vimeo with its version - I can’t quite tell from my cursory investigation whether it allows multicamera and stuff from the off, though given its status as YouTube’s artier / more technical cousin you’d imagine so. There’s some interesting stuff in there about the ability to add in email capture and calls to action, etc, so it’s worth considering as part of your quest to livestream your less-good-than-telly CONTENT to every single corner of the fcuking web, whether or not anyone asked for it.
  • Snap Switch: Unless you work in FS it’s unlikely you’ll have heard of the Current Account Switching Service - it’s a not-for-profit organisation which exists to, er, help people switch their current accounts. That’s a good thing! It’s helpful! I am unsure, though, about this work - they partnered with Snapchat to launch a WORLD FIRST activation, using Snapchat’s never-before-seen ‘slider’ functionality which lets users fcuk with a photo using The idea here is that the sponsored lens will be “a highly-sharable experience for young millennials who are often disengaged when it comes to thinking about their finances”. Which is nice. Just...I mean, I don’t know if you’ve had anything to do with Snap recently, but these things cost EYE-GOUGING amounts of cash, and I’m just sort of confused as to exactly how they’re going to justify spending 6 figures on what, let’s face it, is a fairly standard facewarping tool. Still, given it’s Snapchat and finance I confidently expect this to win shedloads of awards thereby yet again proving that I am a know-nothing bozo.
  • Cheese Stream: Back on the livestreaming again, this is a slightly bizarre promo by ABN Amro which has decided to stream live from a Dutch cheese emporium for 5 days this week (at the time of writing we’re waiting to embark upon day 4 of casein-based fun). YOU CAN BUY CHEESE FROM THE SHOP THOUGH! Seriously, YOU CAN BUY CHEESE FROM AN ACTUAL DUTCH MAN LIVE ON THE WEB! This is apparently supposed to highlight something about the opportunities and limitations of online commerce for small businesses, but LOOK! ACTUAL WEB CHEESE! God the future is amazing sometimes.

fabio magalhaes

By Fabio Magalhaes



  • One Day In My World: A beautiful project, conducted jointly by Witness Change and Handicap Internation, drawing attention to mental health issues which arise in post-conflict situations, Bringing together some stunning photography with the stories of those coping with the aftermath of war, displacement and the like in territories including Lebanon, South Sudan and Madagascar, this is a gorgeous and very moving piece of webwork.
  • Your Flag Is Rubbish: Despite my antipathy towards the concept of the THREAD and the almost-inevitable self-importance it seems to connote (says the man who writes 7k words of pure self-importance each week - IKR?!), this is brilliant - Ken Cheng this week decided he was going to write tweets critiquing every single nation’s flag, starting with the US and moving through Botswana (“need to learn art”) and Antigua and Barbuda (“looks like a woman looking at a sunset through her open legs”, which it really does and which you will never be able to unsee). Silly, and all the better for it.
  • Studio Venezia: The digital component of the work inhabiting the French Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale, this a very cool idea; the website lets visitors experience the audio from the Pavilion in real-time, with accompanying visualisations, as over the course of its existence over 170 musicians from around the world are invited to spend time in the Pavilion and create whatever they see fit as their contribution to the collective artwork. Yes, ok, fine, it’s wanky as you like, but what do you expect? I’ve dipped in occasionally over the past week and there’s something honestly lovely about the visuals and the synchronicity with those experiencing the work physically in Venice, and I very much like it so there.
  • Hiphop Words: I’m a sucker for this sort of thing - this is the latest in The Pudding’s series of incredibly comprehensive linguistic analyses of music, this time looking at the vocabulary used in hiphop to determine what the most hiphop words in the English language are. FUN GAME: get to the list of the top 50 words and try and write some bars using only then, and see how long it takes you to feel really, really stupid (about 20 seconds, I think). Not only interesting but beautifully presented - I know parallax isn’t fashionable any more, but this is very well-made indeed. Also presented me with the unsurprising but pleasing fact that ‘lonesome’ is the least hiphop word ever, which sounds like a challenge to Mi(gos).
  • Topical Instagram Poetry: No, wait, come back, it’s good I promise. Nick Asbury is writing regular short verses inspired by whatever’s in the news and posting them on Instagram and some of them are really quite good. You can read Asbury’s explanation of how this came about and why he’s doing it, but I really recommend taking a look at the work - styles are varied and, whilst the subject matter is, given its topicality, really fcuking miserable at times, it’s surprising how refreshing it is to see versified news (to me, at least).
  • Hootenanny: A clever twist on the ‘hey, let’s see what we can extrapolate you based on a bunch of data’ gimmick, Hootenanny (apparently nothing to do with Jules Holland) takes your Spotify listening data and, based on what you apparently prefer, makes recommendations as to which festival where in the world you ought to attend. Which actually is a pretty neat gimmick, and might be the sort of thing a MILLENNIAL-FOCUSED travel brand might want to *ahem* resurrect next spring as all the lineups start getting announced. Web Curios takes no responsibility for the shame and trauma you might suffer should it recommend that you go to the Alex James / Jaime Oliver horrorshow, mind.
  • Inkitt: I read a LOT; I mean, violent amounts. Books are my favourite means of blotting out the pain (or occasionally, when I’m in the mood, of acting like a saline bath to a body covered in emotional papercuts - it’s nice to mix it up, after all). It is, though, EXPENSIVE being a bibliophile, so Inkitt is in theory a BOON to the voraciously omnivorous consumer of prose. The gimmick is that anyone can upload their novel to the platform - readers can consume whatever they like, leave feedback, etc, and the site uses the data about what is being read, how fast, for how long, etc, to determine likely blockbuster hits and reward the authors with a publishing deal through them. Which is great, and I’m sure there are some authors for whom this will prove a viable alternative to Kindle self-publishing or Watpad or whatever, but....WOW is there some absolute tripe on here. I cannot stress enough how much absolute JOY is to be fund just in the single-sentence descriptions; I mean, tell me you don’t want to read more: “A jealous, malevolent wife hooked on prescription drugs, a husband caught between reality and erotic fantasies, and an angel cast from heaven, are all bound together by their hatred for one woman.” THIS IS GOLD.
  • Biolojical: A Twitter feed sharing biological facts presented via the medium of emoji and which ought to be used as inspiration for anyone whose social media work intersects with science, or indeed anyone who’s interested in CREATIVE TWEETING. This is really smart.
  • Dataviz Project: This is great, by Danish design studio ferdio - a series of examples of different dataviz styles for you to peruse, with examples of what they might be used to convey and brief descriptions of the data relationships they can be used to document.
  • Stolen Camera Finder: Or, “another reminder why photo metadata is sneaky”. It’s a clever idea, this, letting you upload a photo to the site and then using the picture’s exif data to find matching pictures from around the web which would have been taken with the same device - the idea being that users can track where other images taken by their stolen camera have ended up and possibly track the thing down. Or, maybe, you could use it to find all the images by a particular photographer that you like! Or, er, by that person you’ve been stalking! Won’t work with Facebook photos as the platform strips out exif data automatically, which makes it a *bit* less liable to be used for creeping purposes.
  • Ukiyo-e Search: Literally the only search engine for several thousand Japanese woodblock images you will ever need. If you want to spend hours perusing nearly a quarter of a million ancient Japanese artworks, then my WORD is this for you.
  • Trump Eats Farts: This is puerile and childish and silly, but equally is exactly the sort of thing which I could imagine really getting on the man’s nerves and as such I endorse it wholeheartedly. Link the site to your Twitter account and it will ensure that each time Trump tweets, regardless of the time or what you might be doing, you will respond with #trumpeatsfarts - the idea being that if enough people do it, the phrase will automatically begin to trend each time he Tweets. Which, let me repeat, is VERY SILLY, but which made me think that there are a number of other people on Twitter (you can make your own lists, I’m sure) who would merit this sort of treatment; can you imagine how riled Morgan would get at this sort of stuff? Someone build it, please. Thanks.
  • Moviemania: Literally ALL the film-themed phone wallpapers you could ever want. I don’t know why you’d want them, but here you are.
  • Khroma: The latest ‘hey, let’s add ‘AI’ to this webtoy and see if people think it’s cleverer than it actually is!’ gimmick to pass before my eyes, Khroma claims to be an AI palette generator. Except it’s not really AI in any meaningful sense, but still. You choose your favourite 50 colours and it uses those as a starting point to generate an infinity of colour combinations which, in traditional fashion, you can export as CSS or whatever. Might be useful, might not, but if you’re thinking of redecorating the house then why not give AI Laurence Llwellyn Bowen (wow, that’s a reference that dates me, Christ) a try?
  • Nope City: A webiste that lets you type in stuff you dislike (your ‘nope’) and which presents back to you a seemingly-neverending succession of things that other people have specified they hate. Weirdly compelling, this - I’d actually really like something like this as an installation if anyone fancies building me one, like a little, personalised We Feel Fine of hate and disgust, just for me.
  • Underwater Photography Awards 2017: Apparently Scuba Magazine runs this every year - who knew? Er, scuba enthusiasts, quite possibly, but still. The photos here are MENTAL - there’s something so wonderful about the colours of these shots, and the detail in some of the images is spectacular. Can I ask, though, that noone coopt the lovely photo of the sea lions into a tedious “these sea lions look like they’re about to drop the most fire hiphop album of 2017” gag, please? No, really, I mean it, it stopped being funny with the pigeons about three years ago.
  • TierZoo: Much funnier and more interesting than it ought to be, Tier Zoo presents information about wildlife and the natural world in the manner of overzealous men discussing videogame character loadouts. Want to know why Cheetahs are ‘low tier’ big cats? OF COURSE YOU DO! This actually a very clever series, and might appeal to your videogame obsessed teen son (although to be honest it might equally not; I’m not exactly au fait with teen sons).
  • Mediaversity: Interesting project, this, that rates and ranks media (TV and films, basically) based on the degree to which they reflect ethnic and gender diversity in the US. Interesting, not least as it makes you realise very, very quickly quite how appallingly most media does in representing the actual makeup of the world we actually live in.

josh huxham

By Josh Huxham



  • Six Degrees: This is something that was being developed by the lovely people at BBC Digital Studios last year when I was working with them and I forgot about it and then LO! It appeared in my feed this week and I was reminded of what a nice idea it is. The gimmick here is that the site takes you from fact X to fact Y via a bunch of odd supplementary facts along the way - so, for example, you might go from ‘tree frogs hear through their toes’ to ‘toes evolved from sawblade-style fins on pre-Cambrian aquatic beasts’ to ‘the hoxton fin was the most preposterous haircut to ever achieve mainstream acceptance’ get the idea. It is FUN and you will LEARN THINGS.
  • The David Rumsey Map Collection: You want to browse a collection of over 150,000 maps? OF COURSE YOU DO, YOU CARTOGRAPHICAL LUNATICS!
  • Thomassons!: This makes me SO HAPPY. I didn’t know this until this week, but a ‘Thomasson’ is an architectural feature which serves no apparent purpose, usually a leftover from some previous construction which has remained standing while the rest of the stuff which contextualised it has over time vanished. Staircases to nowhere, pointless handrail, that sort of thing. Look, I know that sounds deathly dull, but I promise you there’s something oddly fascinating about this - the link takes you to the hashtag search on Insta for the term. Christ I love me a folly.
  • PIES!: Literally the most impressive pies you will see on Instagram all week. EXCELLENT fractal pastry work on some of these; try that, Hollywood.
  • People of Craft: A site designed to showcase the work of people of colour working in the creative industries; designers, artists, photographers, can filter by discipline, and the profiles, whilst minimal, link out to the various personal sites and social profiles. If you’re a non-white creative, get yourself on here.
  • Puerto Rico: Pictures of a devastated country. One of the most remarkable places I’ve ever been, this photoseries in the Atlantic shows just how much of an effect the recent storms have had - should you be minded to donate to relief funds, this site is collecting international aid efforts for the country.
  • Laser Socks: This is almost certainly coming to a geeky event near YOU soon - from the description: “Players try to point a laser pointer at their opponent's socks while dodging their opponent's laser. Whenever they score a hit, the health meter closest to their opponent's play area fills up with blue light. Whoever gets their opponent's meter to fill up first wins.” Which is fine as far as it goes, but click the link and watch the videos of people playing and enjoy the BOUNDLESS FUN that they appear to be having. The closest we are ever likely to get to being a kitten being teased by a laser pointer.
  • Next To Die: Slightly jarring segue from the last link, this (that’s the beauty of Curios! Come for the links, stay for the jarring tonal inconsistencies!), this is a site from the Marshall Project (a nonprofit delivering journalism on criminal justice issues) which shows upcoming executions in those states in the US which still have the death penalty. In Florida, Michael Ray Labrix is at the time of writing 6 days away from execution - the site presents the details of his conviction, and it’s fair to say Labrix didn’t do anything nice to get to death’s waiting room, but this is nonetheless an incredibly stark and powerful site reminding us that the US still kills people for the crimes they commit.
  • Tabloid Art History: A brilliant Twitter account drawing attention to compositional similarities between photos of celebrities in tabloids and classical artworks, The Britney Spears / Caravaggio one is genius.
  • Vinyl Shelf Finder: In know that at least one person reading this has a vinyl collection which is measured in distance rather than numbers - this is for YOU! Smart and geeky Raspberry Pi hack which you can use to point out where a specific record is in your MASSIVE COLLECTION with a little laser pointer and which will no doubt be a comfort to you as you spend yet another reason dusting down the N-O section and wondering why she never calls any more.
  • Ethics for Design: An interesting site/manifesto around the ethical considerations inherent in design, with an accompanying interactive documentary which uses a BEAUTIFUL interface to let you change the manner in which you’re interacting with the information being presented to you. Even if you have no interest at all in design or the ethics thereof, I strongly recommend you take a couple of minutes to watch the film and see how the simple drag/expand interface lets you change the way you consume the story. Really very nicely done - and fascinating stuff, too, on the intersection between the two areas.
  • Limericking: Topical limericks. No, wait, come back, these are good, I promise - witness this one, on the Twitter character limit: “.@Twitter, pursuing its goals /
    Is loosening up the controls / Thus aiding loquacious / Diffuse, ostentatious / And sesquipedalian trolls.” See?
  • The Adult Swim Singles 2017: This has probably been going since the start of the year, but WHAT OF IT? This is Adult Swim’s selection of singles for the year, currently upto #22, each presented with its own little 3dartworkthingy and which is a rather nice thing to just leave open in the background for the next few hours.
  • Short Trip: Are you feeling frazzled and frayed and rough round the edges? Is the world colossal and jagged to your tired eyes? Does it feel like every day is another toothy fight with an uncaring universe which seems designed to act upon your soul in much the same way that stones interact with denim? YEAH, WELL SUCK IT UP SUNSHINE, THIS IS MODERNITY. Christ alive, just deal with it, yeah? That said, this link is the most soothing thing you will experience all week - its creator, Alexander Perrin, describes it as an interactive illustration; put on some headphones and spare yourself 3-4 minutes to enjoy this. Oh, and press space!
  • Face The Music: 1million points for effort and all that, but this doesn’t really work - still, it’s been a while since we’ve had some sort of slightly shonky face recognition plugin where one’s definitely not needed - in this instance this is a Polish (I think) group’s new track getting the single-serving music website treatment, whereby YOU the lucky viewer/listener can ‘enjoy’ different versions of the band’s new video based on what the site perceives your facial expressions to show. Effectively this just flips back and forth between a ‘happy face’ and ‘sad face’ version, but I was gurning like I was back at The Fridge in 1997 and it was basically picking up nothing, so either my face is an emotionless mask of nothingness (plausible, I grant you) or the software’s a bit rubbish. See whether YOUR face works!
  • Eros: In the week in which socially-acceptale face of pimping Hugh Hefner (five knuckle-)shuffled off this mortal coil, it seems appropriate that I should link to Eros, a short-lived ‘erotic’ publication from 1962, which ran for only four editions before being shit down and which attempted to fuse a highbrow literary ethos with, well, smut. So you get some naked Monroe pics alongside an assay about the philological problems with the naming of the clitoris, say, or an abridged retelling of Fanny Hill. Sort of NSFW, but really very mild, and no employer’s going to begrudge you looking at an article from 55 years ago about attempting to purchase a ‘French Tickler’ in Tokyo.
  • SexService: Finally in the miscellania this week, a truly baffling proposition which I don’t attempt to explain to you here but which I think, based on the little I can glean from the appalling English employed on the site, is basically prostitution on the Blockchain. I mean, it claims it’s for everyone, but I’m not convinced what with the fact that includes a payment mechanic which, unless I’m very naive, is the central tenet of prostitution. The idea behind it is (and again, I am reaching slightly here as it’s not really very clear at all) that it will provide a verifiable profile for anyone who wants it, enable secure and untraceable payments and...yeah, I mean this is for prostitition, isn’t it? It’s basically Punternet crossed with Bitcoin. Whilst the site itself is SKEEZY (you will feel grubby being on it, I guarantee) there’s actually the nugget of a good idea in here; verified, trackable profiles linked to the Blockchain could in theory improve the safety of sexworkers no end - this, though, probably isn’t going to fly. Still, isn’t it heartening to know that there is no technology so obscure and hard-to-understand and FUTURE that it cannot be applied to the base human desire to have one’s mucus membranes stumulated!

evijia laviniah

By Evija Laivina



  • Tokyo Fashion: Despite it now having been several decades since the whole ‘look at the crazy kids of Harajuku and their MENTAL outfits!’ thing first started happening, it’s still not old - this Tumblr collects some excellent examples of WTFashionery and some jaw-droppingly goodlooking young people all in one place. I guarantee you will feel VERY ugly and vanilla after scrolling through a few of these.
  • Tokyoiter: Imagining if the New Yorker was in fact a magazine based in Tokyo instead, this site (might be a Tumblr, might not, WHO KNOWS?!) presents covers for the imagined magazines. They nail the style perfectly; I’d like to see a London equivalent, please, thanks.
  • Atomic Chronoscaph: Collecting a whole bunch of vintage scifi, fantasy and horror stuff in one place; a lovely corner of retronostalgia.
  • Latex Bones: Ok, fine, we’ve done balloon animals here before, but these are BALLOON ANIMAL SKELETONS! Basically everything on here looks a bit like the skeleton Koopas from certain levels of Super Mario, and that is A Good Thing.


  • Understanding Uber: A whole week on from the earth-shaking news that Uber were probably NOT actually going to get kicked out of London if you actually look at what was said and the likely reaction to it by all parties, this is the best piece I’ve read on the company, on TfL’s ruling, the relationship between the two organisations, and why it is that Uber will almost certainly continue to operate in London after all. You don’t want my exceptionally lukewarm take on this, but if this forces the business to be marginally less awful then it’s hard not to see it as A Good Thing.
  • Prince’s Hot Chicken: I think I linked to a piece last year about a food writer going to Nashville to try its iconic ‘Hot Chicken’ - this piece looks at the same food from the same place, but traces the history of the dish and the cultural context within which it existed, looking at how it’s become nationally ubiquitous across the US and how this plays into issues around food and culture and identity and appropriation. Excellent essay and will make you HUNGRY.
  • Why Do Straight Men Send Other Guys Dick Pics?: Er, do we? Is this a thing? It’s an age thing, but I have *very* limited experience of this as a concept - apparently, though, or at least according to this article whose publication obviously makes the phenomenon REAL, guys are starting to share photos of their cocks with each other to get objective reassurance about the quality of the shot before sending it to (what one hopes will be) a willing recipient. I don’t know - part of me thinks that were I to receive a message from one of my friends including a photo of their junk along with a ‘should I send this to [object of desire]?’ I’d probably be inclined to respond with ‘mate, if you’re so insecure about the prospect of sending a photo of your junk to [object of desire] that you feel compelled to ask me, a man who has no interest in ever seeing your junk, to tell you whether or not it’s OK then either a) you have an unhealthy interest in showing people your junk; or b) you are probably not the sort of person who is generally confident enough in life to cope with the idea of a photo of your junk floating around the ether’. Anyway, this is great and very funny and came to me via Jay Owens who is ace.
  • The Silicon Valley Gender Equality Backlash: In case you haven’t already seen and rolled your eyes at the latest dispatch in the techbro gender wars, this is a piece in the NYT which presents a bunch of people (MEN!) in the Valley railing against their perception that the push for greater gender diversity has gone TOO FAR, pace Damore. It’s obviously full of idiocy, but take this quote as an exemplar: “”No eyebrows are going to rise if a woman heads up fashion [...] But we’re talking about women staffing positions — things like autos — where it cannot be explained other than manipulation.”” NO MATE THERE IS LITERALLY NO WAY - NOT ONE WAY, NOT ONE NOT EVER - THAT A WOMAN, WITH HER OVARIES AND BREASTS AND VAGINA COULD EVER POSSIBLY HEAD UP SOMETHING TO DO WITH CARS BECAUSE, AND THIS IS THE FUNNY BIT, THEY ARE REALLY BAD AT DRIVING. These are the men shaping our futures.
  • The Strange Story of Saving Snopes: Snopes recently had to crowdfund to keep going - fortunately it got funded, meaning for the moment at least we can continue to have a place where we can factcheck the more egregious claims made by Donald Trump and other idiots with access to the web. This, though, is the story of the site’s genesis and the very weird power struggle at the heart of it; there’s a properly weird undercurrent to this, not least the relationship between the now-ex couple who used to run it; there’s just rather a lot of strange running through it.
  • Trollhaten: Sweden and immigration and crime and the failure of the Scandi socialist utopia in this brilliant essay in Granta; this stuff might all be familiar to you should you be long-standing aficionados of monochrome Nordic crime dramas, but I was fascinated by this look into the weird, dark, slightly off-kilter heart of Sweden.
  • The Accidental Assassination of Kim Jong-Nam: This is crazy, a real, proper “Cor, spies and plots and MURDER and intrigue” story with an added dimension of post-YouTube wtf-ery; you’ll recall earlier this year when Kim Jong-Un’s brother was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur airport by two women, one of whom was wearing the now-infamous ‘LOL’ sweatshirt? Well this is the story of how the assassination (probably) happened, and how - seriously, the setup here whereby they persuaded the poor, duped woman that she was going to be internet famous by starring in a series of prank videos, is jaw-dropping and SO 2017 it’s almost a joke.
  • On Twitter’s New Character Limit: This is a very good essay. “Twitter is literally a white supremacist website. For its entire life, it has ignored mountains of racism (and every other form of abuse), because to kick off all the Nazis and hysterical racists would lower its engagement statistics in the short term.” You get the gist.
  • Libras Are Having A Hard Time: I mean, it’s a piece of comic writing and all, but let me tell you that THE STRUGGLE IS REAL right now. This made me laugh a lot.
  • Fcuking With The Eggheads: The latest in the long line of Oobah ‘Humiliation Correspondent’ Butler’s pieces in which he does something seemingly idiotic and pointless for the purposes of 4,000 words of copy; in this edition, Oobah goes on daytime TV show Eggheads in an attempt to MESS WITH THEIR MINDS. This is excellent, and very funny.
  • The Hidden Cost of ‘Pivot to Video’: Controversial opinion, here - I don’t think that anything in here should be surprising to anyone who’s not a moron, but nonetheless this is a comprehensive overview of all of the reasons why, for publishers, going all-in on video might actually be a really, really bad idea. There was a graph doing the rounds yesterday showing how many video views a series of big publishers were getting on their own sites vs YT vs FB - which do YOU think was spanking all the others? Which do YOU think accrues least benefit to the publishers in question? Exactly.
  • Long Live The Group Chat: Really interesting piece about how group chats on Whatsapp, etc, function as effective safe spaces for PoC to talk without being, basically, sea lioned and the rest.
  • Being a High-End Mover: Several thousand words on what it’s like being a long-distance trucker moving the belongings of the super-rich across the US really oughtn’t be this interesting, but this is great - the opening paragraphs alone are (to a non-driver at least) a gripping account of what it’s like to drive a piece of machinery that could kill LOTS of people if you lost control of it on a hill, and the rest of it’s a wonderful portrait of a professional world I’m pretty sure I am never going to get any closer to.
  • Sex in the Garden: I’m not quite sure what to make of this - some of the writing is excellent, whilst some of it is just embarrassingly purple; you see what you think. This is a collection of reimagined vignettes from various Garden of Eden mythologies, penned by Stephen Greenblat who’s apparently an expert on such things. ‘Enjoy’.
  • The Repressive Soul of Thomas the Tank Engine: Do little kids still watch this, or has it been supplanted by Charlie & Lola and Peppa Pig and Sarah & Duck (this last is EXCELLENT by the way - I can highly recommend the episode about ‘Bread’ in which Duck basically gets off his tits on carbs)? Anyway, you won’t look at it the same way after reading this New Yorker piece which exposes the darkly authoritarian undercurrents on the Island of Sodor, where engines MUST COMPLY.
  • Fixing Facebook’s Ad Machine: After the Zuckerbergian ad transparency address last week, an intelligent take on how this might all work by a man who was involved in building the ad product in the first place. Interesting, even if the piece presents more questions than answers on how this radical ad transparency will in fact play out.
  • The 100 Hardest Videogame Bosses: RANKED! This is nothing but manchild nostalgia for which I apologise not at all.
  • One Two Three, Eyes On Me: From the latest LRB, a teacher’s account of the hyperdisciplined teaching practices being put into place in some UK schools. What with not being a parent I have no idea how mainstream / prevalent this stuff is, but I remember when talking to the kid I was mentoring last year being struck by the seemingly draconian disciplinary methods in place, and that had NOTHING on this stuff. It sounds, frankly, horrid, but then WHO CARES if it delivers an army of perfectly-pliant worker drones ready to carry Britain on their shoulders into a new and glorious tech-utopian future, eh?
  • The 21st Floor: Finally not strictly a read, but an incredible and powerful piece of journalism from the BBC, the digital counterpoint to the package Newsnight aired on Wednesday and which tells the stories of the 21st story of Grenfell tower - the dead, the survivors, the emergency services - and through which tells the story of the entire incident and aftermath. So, so good - well done the BBC.

akseli gallen

By Akseli Gallen-Kallela



2) This is by Torres, it’s called ‘Helen in the Woods’, and it reminds me hugely of early-era PJ Harvey which can only be a good thing. Cracking song, this:


3) My love for B&S is well-documented (by me; noone else cares, and nor should they); this is their latest single, which is called ‘We Were Beautiful’ and it’s typically great and is accompanied by a really rather beautiful video of Glasgow on a Saturday:


4) Possibly my favourite video of the year, this - Warhaus’s latest single is called Mad World, and it’s decent enough in a sort of lounge-y, louche way, but the clip - a single-shot, one-take clip populated by the Summer drunks of Magaluf - is just charming:


5) HIPHOP CORNER! Princess Nokia is highly tipped at the moment, and this double-bill video neatly shows why; presenting her tracks ‘Bart Simpson’ and ‘Green Line’, this is an eight-minute short film which is effectively the definition of teenhood (skiving, mooching, kissing, classrooms) and the accompanying songs demonstrate quite what a strong lyricist she is. This is ace:


6) King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard still have the best worst name in current music - here they team up with the equally appallingly-named Mild High Club for ‘Countdown’, which is nice slice of mildly psychedelic indiepop which comes with one of the more exceptionally trippy animated pencil-drawn videos I’ve seen in a while (admittedly there’s limited competition, but):


7) Last up this week, Julien Baker with a song called ‘Appointments’. This is beautiful, give it a listen. I’ll be back soon, probably. BYE! BYE! I LOVE YOU! BYE! TAKE CARE!


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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