Web Curios 31/3/17
So that’s it - WE ARE TAKING BACK CONTROL! Do you feel in control? Do you feel like you know exactly what’s happening, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there? Do you feel that The Triggering is going to somehow resolve the creeping feeling that everything now happening is so far beyond our ken and influence and that the only reasonable response is to hide and cry?
No, you don’t. Still, CONTROL, EH?
Web Curios cannot, in all honesty, make any claims towards being able to help in that regard, but at the very least you may find one or two things in the following mess of html which put a smile on your face; or, alternatively, which finally convince you that it’s time to build the bunker and nail down the hatch.
So, then, come with me into the past - my past, the week I have just lived online. Slip into my digital skin, so to speak - I’ve always found it to be terribly uncomfortable, so, frankly, you’re welcome to it. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!
THE SECTION WHICH FORGETS HOW MUCH IT HATES THE PERIOD IMMEDIATELY BEFORE F8 WHEN FACEBOOK DECIDES IT HAS TO RELEASE ALL ITS FEATURE UPDATES AT ONCE AND FORCES ME TO HAVE TO WADE THROUGH EVEN MORE S*C**L M*D** RUBBISH THAN USUAL:
Facebook Is Now Actually Snapchat: It is FINALLY HERE! Yes, the feature that noone was clamouring for and, if the somewhat puzzled screencaps taken by normie ‘friends’ appearing in the Timeline is anything to go by, noone really understands yet! All the previously-trailed Snapchat-esque features (lenses, Stories, ephemeral conversations) are now available for us all to use in the FB app on iOS and Android. No brand angle here, at least not immediately, but HERE’S A PREDICTION - ‘Stories’-style units are going to become a significant ad option very soon (they’ll open up to Pages, fine, but, seriously, there will be NO POINT without ad spendzzzzzzz), so, much as it pains me to say so, you either need to learn how to make stuff like this or you need to hire people who do, as this is what is going to sell to clients in 2017-18. WELCOME TO YOUR IMMINENT OBSOLESCENCE, AGEING ADVERMARKETINGPRDRONES! Erm, that would include me, obviously. BONUS CONTENT!: This is actually a useful practical guide as to how all the new features work.
Facebook ‘Collection’ Ads: Better ecommerce ad units, basically (also, this should have been in here last week but I done a forget; sorry). ‘Collection’ ads (not, I don’t think, fully available in the wild yet, but ask your rep) are a video ad with a 4-part product carousel beneath; clicking a product on the carousel takes users to an AMP-style page within FB featuring upto 50 other products to browse, which then link out to individual sales pages on a client’s site. Sounds like an awful lot of clicks to me, but apparently the test results on these were good so ignore me.
EVERYONE Can Now Go Live In 360: Got a 360 camera you can attach to your phone? An overinflated sense of how interesting your life is to people on Facebook? Great! Get broadcasting! There are obviously lots of options for interesting streams here - I would love to see a series of live 360s streamed by people navigating the world’s most populous cities at rush hour, for example (well, ‘love’ is maybe a bit strong, but you know what I mean), but there is going to be MUCH dross.
FB Extended ‘Branded Content’ To More Pages: You remember the ‘Branded Content’ thing, right? The feature that lets ‘influencers’ and Pages tag brands in their posts to connote a brand partnership and make it TOTALLY TRANSPARENT that monies changed hands for the content that you’re preparing to enjoy? Yes, well this is being extended to non-verified Pages, meaning that ANYONE can now be a content shill for a large brand. If you do INFLUENCER WORK on Facebook, or indeed work with any third parties to make stuff, you need to know this stuff.
FB Launches Live Location Sharing: Just like Google did the other week, you can now share live updates as to your physical location with a group of friends (or just one) for upto an hour. Just a safety feature, but please let me reiterate how much you could mess with people’s heads using this come the end of October.
Facebook Comments In Gifs: Gifs! In comments! Oh community managers, the fun you will have with this! Also, brands, there is NO WAY you won’t be able to pay ££ to have clips from your show / movie / game included into the gifsuggestiontool as part of your INTEGRATED MARKETING STRATEGY, so get thinking.
Facebook Launches ‘Town Hall’: US-only at the moment, with no suggestion that it will extend elsewhere, this is Facebook getting its social conscience on and adding features allowing users to contact their elected representatives, find information about local government and the like. Just FYI for now, but if you do lobbying stuff then be aware that there is a whole ‘future of campaigning’ thing here that you might want to start considering.
Facebook Bringing Bots To Groups: Or at least it’s planning to launch this at that bloody F8 conference. Sketchy details at present, but the report suggests they are going to be of the ‘here’s a menu in chat’-type rather than the ‘have a conversation with a bot’-type; I envisage this effectively working in the same way as bots in Slack do, depending on the flexibility. The potential here is REALLY big, and could have implications for the use of FB as a collaborative working tool (cf [email protected]). As an aside, I think I may have mentioned before that Shardcore built a Muirbot on Slack which cobbles together phrases based on the Curios corpus - I just tested it and it spat out “Were flash cards a thing I can tell, just that they obviously couldn't afford the prime Shoreditch billboard placement which would mean he wouldn't run for reelection, but who also predicted some truly BRILLIANTLY mad and dreadful and high camp”, which fits pretty much seamlessly and makes me realise exactly how quickly this sort of thing is going to make me entirely redundant.
Better Donations Through FB: This is also very big, and not in a positive way if you’re JustGiving or other donation platforms. Users in the US, and eventually everywhere, will now be able to use Facebook to seek to raise funds for themselves; similarly, the fundraising options made available to non-profits last year are being extended to all verified Pages. This is A Good Thing, I think, although it doesn’t take a genius to imagine all the scammers who are going to see this as an excellent opportunity to screw people out of monies with artfully-told sob stories (God, what an unpleasantly cynical git I am; sorry).
Twitter Finally Fixes Harrassment Issues: AHAHAHAHAHA YOU CHUMPS! Of COURSE that hasn’t happened! Instead, Twitter has removed @usernames from the character count in replies, meaning that you now have a full 140 characters at your disposal, regardless of how many people you’re replying to and how long their @usernames are. Oh, and it also means that they’ve made the interface really, really horrible and confusing, massively increased the opportunities for spammers to aggressively target people en-masse, made notifications a total car-crash as a result, and generally done one of those occasional Twitter things whereby they introduce a feature update which noone asked for, noone wants and which serves to make the platform significantly less good for its core userbase whilst simultaneously doing nothing to make it simpler and more accommodating for new users. Which, when you think about it, is an impressive list of achievements for one relatively minor feature tweak so WELL DONE YOU TWITTER! This is a decent writeup of why this is broken, in case you need more telling.
Pre-roll Ads Come To Periscope: Is anyone really betting big on live video on Twitter outside of news orgs? Anyway, on the offchance they have now moved to monetise it through the existing ‘Amplify’ pre-roll ad programme (this is the one which lets you buy inventory against certain video content) - they’re guaranteeing that it will only work with certain verified ‘premium content publishers’ to ensure that Marriot don’t get their ads rolling before anything horrific, which is wise in the wake of the whole YT farrago.
Shoppable Instagram Rolling Out More Widely (In The US): Literally that - no new features, but a wider range of retailers are getting to play with this stuff. Inevitably opening up to the world by the end of the year, I reckon, so get ready.
Foursquare Making Data Available To Marketers: They are calling it ‘Google Analytics for the real world’ which made me die a little inside, but all this data about footfall, etc, is obviously hugely valuable if you’re a bricks-and-mortar retailer. Although I remain unconvinced that the userbase in the UK is large enough to make this data in any way meaningful.
Google Optimise Free For All: REALLY useful, this, particularly if you’re a small business - Google Optimise is a formerly paid service which is now being made available for nothing, and which effectively lets you do auto-A/B testing on your website, serving different layouts, etc, to different customer sets. This sounds complicated but it’s actually surprisingly easy to use, honest - it really is worth looking at, particularly if you sell stuff online.
BrexitBot: An excellent example of a clever use of Messenger Bots from the BBC, which launched this on Wednesday in the wake of The Triggering (I think, like The Fappening, this should always be capitalised); not flashy, but a really nice way of delivering the latest BREXIT BOMBSHELLS and allowing users to access explainer content about what is going on (what is going on?). A perfect example of how this stuff can / should work, imho.
Something About Cars: I don’t really understand the car that this site is selling - I think it’s probably very fast and expensive - but the site is quite future; it presents hundreds of different cuts of the same video, each subtly different, delivering a new one each time you hit refresh; the videos themselves are generic ‘LOOK AT MY SHINY EXPENSIVE CAR’ rubbish, but the way it’s taken a bunch of pre-cut stuff and Frankensteined it together in all these different ways is EXACTLY how lots of TAILORED BRAND CONTENT is going to be made in the future I reckon - get a whole load of source footage in one place and then get a rudimentary AI (not an AI, obviously, but it’s the generic catch-all term du jour for anything like this, so forgive me) to recut it for different audience profiles. Cheaper and faster than getting people to do it, this sort of thing is going to become VERY common sooner than you think. Or, alternatively, I am a know-nothing idiot who has just broken his own ‘no predictions post-Trump’ promise AGAIN. Christ.
Social Stalking: This is actually a long-ish read about how the author managed to find FBI Director James Comey’s supposedly private Twitter account in about 4h, but it is ALSO an incredibly good explainer on how to go about snooping on social media - this is essential reading for junior researchers, etc, as well as for anyone you know who is trying to keep an online identity secret (IT IS VERY HARD). Fascinating and useful.
Eckhaus Latta: You know how American Apparel’s ads were always borderline bongo, and really seedy bongo at that? Well Eckhaus Latta have gone one better, and made their new ad campaign ACTUAL BONGO. This is totally and utterly NSFW, even with the Japanese-style genital pixellation, but well-done them for the pleasingly unheteronrmative range of couples they’ve gone for here. I, er, don’t see *that* many clothes in these pictures, but perhaps I’m missing the point.
Sourcing Bloch: Andrew Bloch of Frank is obviously really successful and rich and stuff, and probably a nice guy, but he also nicks other people’s funny stuff and presents it on Twitter without attribution just for the numbers, which is the sort of behaviour which really fcuks me off, particularly when he just lifts stuff from Scarfolk or whatever without credit. This is a Twitter account pointing out exactly where he’s nicking the stuff from - no, I don’t run it, but I highly approve of its purpose FWIW.
Valenstein & Fatt: I spend a lot of time high-handly calling out what I think is rubbish on here, so it’s only fair that I give credit where it’s due - Grey London is rebranding as Valenstein & Fatt for 100 days, taking back the identity of its founders (who were unable to name the agency after themselves when they founded it because of the prevailing antisemitism of the era) as part of a broader push to increase diversity and tolerance within the industry. Even I can’t be cynical about this - good on them for taking the lead on something important.
THE SECTION WHICH PROMISES THAT AFTER THAT TEDIOUS CAVALCADE OF ‘NEWS’ THERE ARE SOME HONEST-TO-GOODNESS GEMS IN THIS WEEK’S LARGELY RANDOM COLLECTION OF WEBSPAFF AND WHICH SINCERELY HOPES THEY MAKE UP FOR ALL THAT BORING WORK STUFF, PT.1:
Beta.Parliament.uk: Erm, ok, so this isn’t actually a FUN GEM, but it’s worth pointing out because, well, because it made me ANGRY. A friend of mine works in digital in Government and she told me some *hair-raising* stories the other week about exactly how much money has been spent on digital transformation over the past few years, how much has been wasted on cancelled projects, and exactly how much they are forking out to contractors given they’ve reduced the civil service headcount from a few hundred to a few dozen (£1200 a day? ARE YOU MAD???) - and look! A new Parliament website! Except, er, all it is is a list of MPs and Peers. Look, I am a BIG FAN of GDS as a rule, and the gov.uk site was A Good Thing, but this...this is just starting to feel like a bit of a joke, isn’t it? Also, anyone want to speculate as to exactly how much DIGITAL PROGRESS is going to happen now that every single Civil Servant in the UK is going to be engaged in the Great Find & Replace Bill? No, of course you don’t, because it’s BORING, but the answer is ‘not very much at all’.
Brilliantpad: By way of a ‘humorous’ antidote to the above, this is a crowdfunding campaign (target met, thank the Lord!) raising money to produce a self-cleaning indoor dog potty. Let me just take a moment to explain this - you train your dog to relieve itself on the device, which then rolls up the resultant mess into itself; you then throw away the disposable element when the roll is ‘full’. Go on, click the link, you’ll get it immediately. Now, is it only me who thinks that this is simply a recipe for a horrendous fecal apocalypse all over your living room? No? Also, YOU ARE NOT MEANT TO LEAVE DOGS INDOORS TO DEFECATE. I hate people.
Women’s Voices Now: An initiative promoting and advocating for the rights of women across the world through film. Their blurb’s as follows: “Women’s Voices Now promotes and amplifies the free expression of the worldwide struggle for women’s civil, economic, political, and gender rights. Through online content and community-based events, we create platforms that connect conscientious art and media creators, activists, filmmakers, audiences, and advocacy organizations...our long-term vision is to create an interconnected and mobilized women’s rights community, working together to improve the status of women worldwide. Using the medium of film, we bring that vision into reality, fostering awareness of women’s rights issues and providing clear channels of action that encourage our viewers to join the movement for women’s rights.” So there.
The Avatar Museum: It’s quite likely that when you read this this won’t actually be working - sorry about that. Still, if you happen to be getting your Curios fix at some ungodly hour of the night, you will be able to enjoy this interactive exhibition currently taking place in Japan - the Avatar Museum lets visitors around the world interact with the museum and its physical visitors via a series of remote interfaces (avatars - DO YOU SEE?). Your mileage will vary depending on how busy the gallery is and a few other factors, but I personally enjoyed projecting a series of increasingly desperate “will somebody please help me please?” messages onto the walls to the apparent bemusement of the Japanese gallerygoers.
SAD: The White House website with a small, subtle tweak.
Kreations Ministerns: It’s been a while since I’ve seen a decent set of ‘really, wtaf?’ animations like this - these are GREAT. This is the instagram account of Robert Ek, a designer and animator who makes these very odd, vaporwave/seapunky CGI loops featuring blank-eyed mannequin-type creatures inhabiting slightly sinister 90s ray-traced landscapes in which slightly unsettling things happen to them. Excellent and properly odd.
The Human Library: This is a lovely project, I think - The Human Library is a repository of stories from/by people of all sorts from around the world, presented only with their ‘cover’ - ‘books’ are titled things like ‘The Single Mother’, ‘The Extreme BME Enthusiast’, or ‘The Alcoholic’, because, you know, LABELS. There’s perhaps a disappointing lack of depth to the content, though I hope that this is because the project’s in its infancy; regardless, it’s a good idea and one worth exploring.
Loopy: Lovely looped animations in a variety of styles by graphic designer Muti; what’s most impressive, aside from the quality of the work, is the breadth of visual identities adopted here.
Wonder: This is potentially great and potentially rubbish and I won’t know until the 583 people ahead of me in the waiting list (DAMN YOUR EYES) get out of the way - the theory, though, is that Wonder is a London-based tech rental service which will let you rent gadgets for a defined period of time at a set cost. They probably offer drones and stuff - I DON’T CARE I JUST WANT A NINTENDO FOR A MONTH DAMMIT (this isn’t working, is it?).
Penna: I don’t think anyone uses tablets anymore, do they? Aside from watching Come Dine With Me marathons in bed whilst smoking oneself into a coma they have broadly been declared obsolete. Maybe this will bring them back (it won’t) - Penna is a forthcoming Kickstarter campaign to fund this retro typewriter-style keyboard which works with your tablet to provide you with a BEAUTIFUL RETRO TYPING EXPERIENCE, should that be your thing. Personally I think that this screams ‘twat’, but I am so far from cool as I hurtle towards my 40s that this is probably some sort of ringing endorsement of its stylishness.
Burned Your Tweet: Twitter art project of the week, in which every time The Donald spekes his branes in 140 characters the Tweet gets printed and burnt by this little robot setup, the whole thing is filmed and then this account tweets the resulting video. Impotent rage, obviously, but it is *very* satisfying.
Google Open Source: All of Google’s Open Source projects in one place. Obviously this is only of interest to coders/developers, but it’s a hell of a resource with over 2000 individual projects available to mess with, covering everything from engineering to games to email and all things inbetween. Some of you will find lots of things to play with in here.
Scheduled: More Messenger bots! This time one which lets you outsource your caring about other people to an unthinking machine, thereby eliminating one more of the unique and fundamental qualities that make you human! Oh, ok, fine, I am hyperbolising slightly (SHOCKER), but still, there’s something a touch...cold about this. Scheduled lets you set reminders to yourself within the bot interface; so, say, check in with so-and-so in 6 months, or say thanks to your partner for just being lovely, that sort of thing. No real clue why this is doing anything better than A FCUKING CALENDAR, but it’s a BOT and therefore it’s COOL. See the BBC thing I pointed out up top as a good and useful thing? This is pretty much the opposite imho.
Bendy10: You’ll need to open this on your phone, but it’s a really nicely made site to sell you posters. Have a play with it - it uses your phone’s sensors to make you change your posture, and displays lovely scrolling graphics as you so do to make some SERIOUS POINTS about how much we all stare at the fcuking things all the time (and then tries to flog you some artworks, but the site’s so lovely you don’t really mind by that point). I’ve not seen anything done quite like this before - it’s a really neat use of the screen and sensors I think.
Lightform: Oh wow, this is interesting. Lightbox is apparently coming later this year - it’s effectively a mini projection-mapping setup, designed to be used by small businesses or artists, which lets you do projection-mapped video onto small areas using just the one bit of kit (and the software, obviously). The use cases shown on the site are interesting in themselves; the menu thing hadn’t even occurred to me, and there are all sorts of interesting angles in terms of what artists could do with this in terms of creating site-specific digital work. Really quite inspiring (unusually positive, I know, but I just had a cinnamon bagel and am feeling more upbeat about things momentarily).
The Cloud Atlas: I had NO IDEA that this was a thing, but am very happy that it is. The Cloud Atlas is the World Meteorological Organisation official classification site for clouds - it was brought to my attention this week by the SEISMIC news that NEW TYPES OF CLOUD HAVE BEEN DISCOVERED! I know, right? “One new species (volutus), five new supplementary features (asperitas, cauda, cavum, fluctus and murus), and one new accessory cloud (flumen)”; can we just pause a second to contemplate what a lovely thing the concept of an ‘accessory’ cloud is? I WANT AN ACCESSORY CLOUD.
Explore The Chicago Collections: The US does this stuff so well. This is a unified search platform and archive for historical municipal data from the city of Chicago - images, maps, etc, from a bunch of different archives and institutions all with one front-end interface. Obviously of most interest if you’re, you know, interested in Chicago, but this sort of historical archive is always a treasure trove regardless of your specific focus.
Alex Yeatts: The latest in the long line of Instagram bakers producing stuff so jaw-droppingly pretty/impressive that you don’t believe it’s edible. Alex Yeatts makes really lovely-looking confectionary, but also makes stuff that looks like ACTUAL ROCKS that you can break open to reveal amazing edible crystals and things - this stuff is actually unbelievable, really (I had no idea that ‘Geode cakes’ were a thing, but apparently they are).
I Am Inuit: A photo project by the OTHER Bryan Adams who takes photos, documenting the lives of the Inuit people across Alaska. Wonderful portraits of some very, very cold people and places.
Smart Satnav: This looks like it might actually be quite a good idea, though having spent a grand total of 30 minutes in my entire life in control of a car I am probably not best-placed to judge. This is a now-funded Kickstarter which is going to absolutely destroy its targets (it reached its goal in 7h) - the gimmick is that this is basically a satnav with massive bells on; voice recognition, gesture control, etc etc. Obviously the fact that it’s SMART also makes it VULNERABLE, so look forward to the first cases of clever kidnappers directing the tech to make you drive to a secluded spot where they will rob you blind and hold you for ransom. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
The European Music Incubator: “European Music Incubator is an innovative training program for European emerging musicians who want to develop a long-term career grounded on entrepreneurial mindset and beyond the traditional framework of popular music.” It’s open to musicians from Liverpool in the UK (that seems to be the partner area that’s been selected), and you have until 30 April to apply - so if that is you, or someone you know, send them this - these things are always appallingly promoted and richer than you’d expect, so it would be silly not to give it a go. God, I’m SO GLAD we’re leaving behind a system where support for emergent art and artists is subsidised, aren’t you? Eh? Oh. Me too.
By Doug Rickard
THE SECTION WHICH PROMISES THAT AFTER THAT TEDIOUS CAVALCADE OF ‘NEWS’ THERE ARE SOME HONEST-TO-GOODNESS GEMS IN THIS WEEK’S LARGELY RANDOM COLLECTION OF WEBSPAFF AND WHICH SINCERELY HOPES THEY MAKE UP FOR ALL THAT BORING WORK STUFF, PT.2:
Photos of Early Plastic Surgery: Apologies, this is presented in unforgivably annoying slideshow format - the photos, though, are just about remarkable enough to make up for it. See if you can shoehorn some of these into your next presentation for attention-grabbing effect!
Collection Appareils: Ostensibly an incredible collection of imagery of cameras from throughout history - seriously, there is SO MUCH on here - I encourage French-speakers among you to have a read of the copy on the second page of the website. What *is* going on?
Nyankichi5656: Another cat of Instagram, but this one is Japanese and seems to have a strange and inexplicable passion for cutely hiding in potholes. Who doesn’t like a pothole cat? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO!
Imagined Literary Map: This ticks SO many literarymapnerd boxes for me. A map of an imagined city where every road and feature is the title of a novel; you sort of have to click the link to get the idea, but for fans of books and cartography and made-up places, this is pretty much perfect and it’s available to buy if you’re so inclined.
The Fountain Pen Hospital: I recently discovered in conversation with some friends online that fountain pens are the subject of PROPER obsession - people get really...er...passionate about nib size and ink flow and what paper you ought to use and stuff. As a man whose fingers are regularly stained with Bic residue I have no idea what the appeal is, but if you’re the sort of person who knows what a Mont Blanc is then this is possibly some sort of pen nerd heaven.
Xperia Touch: I wouldn’t normally feature something new from someone as big as Sony on here - they are rich enough not to need featuring on some...er…’niche’ linkdump, after all - but this looks REALLY interesting. It was presented at MWC last month and isn’t available to purchase yet - and it’ll be VIOLENTLY pricey when it is - but the stuff it does is hugely impressive. Effectively it’s a small portable projector which turns any surface you project onto into a touchscreen; yes, basically the Minority Report thing. Obviously this is the first iteration and it will probably be a bit shonky irl; give it ⅔ years, though, and this stuff will be widespread, a few more and it will be a standard component of your phone. LIVING IN THE FUTURE, etc etc.
Giant Tears of Joy Emoji Beach Ball: I know one of you wants this for the Summer. I know it. I will, however, know which of you it is, so feel free to click and purchase safe in the knowledge that my disdain will forever remain unfocused.
Freeze Frame Bot: This is great - a Twitter bot that autogenerates short video clips which do the whole ‘video plays / record scratch / freeze frame / “yep, that’s me…”’ thing which was a meme briefly a few months back. Wonderful because they seem to be ripping the clips from infomercials, which means you are ushered into a bizarre world of speaking cable-ties willed into sentience by an unknown force. Thanks Josh for the tip.
Matroid: This isn’t quite live yet, but you can sign up for its eventual launch - this is potentially a HUGELY useful service which will offer a trainable search function for video using machine learning; you feed the programme a whole bunch of images of a set of things (cars, logos, etc), it trains itself to recognise them, and then you can set it on a whole bunch of videos telling it to isolate those ones which contain a particular thing (or sets of things). Combine this with the auto-editing stuff I alluded to at the top and you suddenly have a system which can automatically churn out video at a rate of knots. You remember all those autogenerated shovelware copy sites which were the bane of the web about 7 years ago when people started getting bots to scrape content and chuck it on websites to attract shonky ad revenue? It’s going to be like that again, but with AWFUL video. On the plus side, though, the applications for bongo are going to be limitless. So, er, great!
Joe Coleman: A strong contender for smartest personal website of 2017, and it’s not even April - well DONE copywriter Joe Coleman, this is very neat indeed. If it’s not immediately apparent to you, there’s a slider at the bottom of the homepage which you really ought to play with *taps nose*.
The Finger Heater: I’m sure there’s some sort of deep learning here about product design and entrepreneurship and DISRUPTION and stuff (sorry, am doing some work with a firm of Venture Capitalists and this sort of language becomes contagious after a while), but I’m buggered if I know what that is. This is another Kickstarter which has SMASHED its goals (of course it has, it’s aimed at MEN ON THE INTERNET) and which is, no lie, an actual heater for your fingers. Really. You remember those three-bar fires which your nan used to have on in the winter, despite the fact that the house was already at the sort of temperature which would have caused a lizard to sweat lightly and consider maybe opening a window? Basically one of those, in miniature, designed to sit behind your keyboard and keep your digits toasty and flexible as you continue your 19-hour session of the MOBA of your choice. Obviously aimed at the sort of gamer who, er, can’t afford heating, this is one of the silliest and most niche things I’ve ever seen on Kickstarter - apparently it was inspired by a three-year-old Reddit thread, so get digging back through the subs and see if you too can find an unmet neckbeard desire you can exploit for monies!
How To Cards: A lovely collection of ‘How To’ instructional cards from 19thC fag packets - these were given away as collectibles, and they are here presented as a browsable digital archive. I would like someone to do an art project offering up modern versions of these - what sort of advice would we need? How to scam free wifi? How to make eye-contact with another human being? That sort of thing.
Cook My Meat: Look, this is a REALLY ugly and hard-to-use site, but bear with me. It’s a little tool by MIT which lets you input how hot your grill is, how thick your meat, and how long you’re intending to cook it, and which then gives you a visual representation of how pink it’s going to be (a really, really ugly, pixelart representation, fine, but still). Now think how ACE this would be if it were made mobile-friendly and aesthetically pleasing, and how easy it would be to rip this off in time for barbecue season if you were, say, B&Q, and chuck it on a simple single-serving site. Go on, someone do this, it is a GREAT idea (and then bung me £100 or so because the Casillero doesn’t buy itself).
The Art of War 2: If you’re a particular type of person - or have met a particular type of person - you will know of Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’, a book which for a certain period in the 90s/00s was THE go-to manual for any pretentious idiot with delusions of business acumen (lots of MBAs used to cite it, which I’m leaving here without additional comment) and which they used to define their ENEMY CRUSHING STRAGEGIES, the businesstwats. This is the sequel - I really can’t tell whether this website is a work of ‘comic’ writing or whether the person behind it is genuinely a little bit...er...odd. Possibly both. Either way, it’s the very definition of a web curio; I don’t think anyone’s going to be studying this any time soon.
The Internet of Looms: Yet another fcuking Kickstarter (I should probably give them their own section, but I am loath to mess with the otherwise PERFECT AND UNIMPROVABLE Curios template), this is a SMART LOOM! You plug in a design and some wool and it will knit you whatever you like based on the pattern - this is really rather interesting for designers and small-scale manufacturers, but I can bet you LOTS of money that the first time you will come across this will be in an East London/Peckham pop-up doing ONE OFF ‘IRONIC’ JUMPER DESIGNS for hundreds of quid a pop.
Trophy Wife Barbie: Posters for sale - “Trophy Wife Barbie’s main goal is to highlight the limitations of labels and to explore gender issues and the modern female identity. The work is an invitation to consider what might happen if we focus on the things we have in common, rather than fear the things that make us different.” These, by SA artist Annelies Hofmeyr, are rather cool I think.
The Terrible Album Cover Art Motherlode: Literally HUNDREDS of the damn things, providing you with endless BANTZ FB fodder for the rest of your days (as ever, some of these really are astonishing; this one, for example. WHY DOES THE BEAR HAVE LAPELS???
Abandoned Love: Post-breakup messages and texts, rendered as text art and hung as though in celebration. Absolutely heartbreaking and very beautiful.
Beatpainter: This looks like it’s old but I don’t recall having come across it before, plus it’s sort of fun - give it access to your speakers and play some music; it will produce a Jackson Pollock-style artwork based on the tempo and timbre of the track you’ve chosen, based on a colour-palette you determine. Reacted pretty well when I tried it with d’n’b earlier, though I’m not convinced it will necessarily respond brilliantly to 1D. Forthcoming updates will let you ‘paint’ in the style of Mondrian and Van Gogh, apparently; I really like this, on reflection.
Nurse Web: I know we’re all sort of largely inured to the whole “wow, Japan’s quite culturally different to us, isn’t it?” oddity stuff by now, but occasionally you stumble across things that really do make you pause and wonder exactly why they exist. So it is with this site, which (and it’s all in Japanese and Google isn’t offering to translate it for me, so I am at a total loss here) appears to be a selection of stock photos of a woman in nurse’s uniform doing...just weird things. Smashing an iphone screen with her elbow, blowing into a conch, staring down beatifically from the sky as a disembodied head, that sort of thing. These are beautifully odd, and there’s something a bit sinister in here as you scroll through and start to note the blankly accepting face of her patient as various indignities are visited on him. WHO ARE YOU, NURSE WEB, AND WHY? Anyone able to tell me? Oh, totally SFW by the way - if this is a kink or fetish thing it’s a VERY subtle one.
Pure: No idea what you guys are into in the sack, and nor do I care - but, if you’re on the market for a fetish-friendly no-strings hookup app, this would appear to be that very thing. The site design’s rather lovely, and they also produce this erotic art digest which is full of quite cool stuff. No idea whether the app is actually any good or whether there’s anyone on it, mind, but if the concept tickles (whips, spanks, pinches, etc) you then check it out.
Oliver Helden’s Experiments Machine: Oliver Helden is a musician. This is the synthtoy he (or his label) have made as a promo. It is FUN, and even a cack-handed tin-eared musical failure like me can make something which sounds surprisingly excellent with little-to-no effort.
Midnight Oil: Midnight Oil, Australian activist band known over here pretty much solely for the EXCELLENT single ‘Beds are Burning’, are BACK, with this rather wonderful videosite for their new song, which presents each user with a totally different video thanks to TECHNOLOGY (this has turned into something of theme this week, entirely by accident - sorry about that) - it’s doing some very clever stuff behind the scenes and pulling clips from YouTube videos (at least I think it’s YouTube) and splicing them almost on the fly in time to the song; each time you load it up it will present a completely different collage of clips. Regardless of whether or not you like the song - it’s, er, it’s ok - this is a really fascinating way of VIEWING THE CULTURE, so to speak.
Fake It To Make It: A rather good little game to finish with - run your own fake news empire for fun and profit! Also has the collateral benefit of acting as a pretty good explainer as to how FAKE NEWS works, gets disseminated and is monetised - playing this will almost certainly be better than whatever work you’re meant to be doing right now, so give it a go.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
Synths Called Beast: Apparently people selling synth equipment online have a tendency to refer to said synths as ‘BEASTS’; this is a collection of those listings.
David Byrne Sounds: A baffling collection of short audio cloips of David Byrne of Talking Heads fame making sounds. WHY DOES THIS EXIST?
199 Hates: The illustration and graphic work of artist Mau Lencinas - one of the coolest aesthetics I’ve seen in a while, this work is great.
Weird Realms: A collection of largely random images themed around videogames and the 80s and horror which oddly coalesces into an unexpected visual coherence (/pseud).
Sofas of LA: Abandoned sofas on the streets of LA. WHY NOT, EH?
Kirby Hands: Another week, another Tumblr celebrating the art of Jack Kirby; this time, specifically, the way he drew hands (they were excellent hands).
The Best Art: A GREAT project. A tinyprinter spits out different algogenerated art prompts which artist Nicole He then responds to. Stuff like: “1490478746: Create a carrot that evokes larger social issues.” - yeah, who says art is easy? Brilliant work and some of the responses are genuinely witty; this is possibly my favourite thing on here this week.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
Samovar Magazine: An interesting looking new magazine for ‘edge’ fiction - my descriptor, by which I mean stuff that doesn’t necessarily fit into a specific genre pigeonhole - from writers not writing in English. Essays are here presented in both the original language and translation; I’ve not read everything on there, but there are at least a couple of interesting stories and the fact that they feature the superb Lavie Tidhar is a positive indicator of overall quality.
Hard Brexit: It’s interesting - or depressing, depending on your point of view - that the best explainer about ‘well, so what needs to happen now then?’ I’ve seen this week comes courtesy of Buzzfeed. This is a breakdown of some of the things that the Government is going to need to do over the course of the coming two years - there’s a LOT, and it’s HARD. WHODATHUNKIT? As an aside, the Find & Replace Bill is exactly the sort of thing that you could chuck machine learning at, no? Slightly amazed that no AI-solutionists have proposed this as a means of easing the legislative calvary that the Civil Service currently finds itself embarking on.
How Roger Rabbit Did It: Really interesting look back at Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (watch it again, it is STILL brilliant) and how it managed to do all the frankly never-bettered animation/liveaction mixing. It’s astonishing to think it was 29 years ago, and that another film like it may never be made as it’s simply too time consuming now to be worthwhile. Also, was that Brad Pitt in the execrable ‘Cool World’?
Hunting for Frogs in India: An absolutely charming portrait of scientists studying frogs in the Western Ghat region of Kerala; you will read this with a smile on your face, I promise, particularly the line about how ‘everyone is talking about frogs!’ - you can properly feel the geeky scientific excitement bouncing off the page (screen) in this one. An interest in amphibians is in no way required to appreciate this piece, fyi.
OK Computer at 20: OK Computer is an amazing album and anyone who says otherwise is WRONG. This is a whole host of writing about the album, its impact, the culture around it at the time, and some other fun easter egg stuff - if, like me, you are in your 30s, this will be a powerful hit of nostalgia (as an aside, they used ‘Perfect’ by the Lightning Seeds as a bed on some football TV show yesterday and I was immediately transported back to Swindon in 1994 which was, frankly, terrifying; the Proustian qualities of music are often overlooked, but I honestly hadn’t heard it for 20-odd years and it was an incredible time machine).
Delusional Parasitosis: Almost two essays in one here; talking to Gale Ridge, an entomologist, both about her work and about the increasing phenomenon of people coming to her with the cast-iron belief that they have an insect infestation - either in their homes or, more terrifyingly, subcutaneously all over their bodies. They scratch and obsess, but the itching never stops - it gets to the point where they begin to hallucinate bugs and obsess over everything they see being somehow larval. I first heard about this a few years ago and then promptly forgot all about it, but there’s an interesting question here about what’s driving this increase in what is evidently a very particular psychological condition. That stuff’s creepy, fine, but Ms Ridge is charming and makes entomology sound actually pretty cool, so it’s not all terrifying psychobodyhorror.
Old Hollywood Fixers: Brilliant piece looking at the people who covered up for Hollywood stars back in the Golden Era, people whose actual job it was to cover up alcoholism, drug addiction, homosexuality, murder...and, occasionally, when the actors in questions were no longer flavour of the month, to occasionally expose them to facilitate said actors’ exits from the studio. If you happened to see the Coen Brothers’ film about old Hollywood from a year or so ago, much of this will be familiar to you - good read, in any case.
How Scott Adams Found Trump: Scott Adams is the guy who writes / draws Dilbert; he is also a big fan of the Donald, and predicted his victory very early on in the campaign. He also believes that Trump is a master manipulator, using covert psychological manipulation techniques to conduct a 4d mind chess strategy of control (I am paraphrasing here, but only just). He also has some slightly odd and uncomfortable views about women. This whole interview, frankly, is a madness - I am always interested in the extent to which it’s possible to de-link an artist’s personal views from their output or indeed whether one should.
A Rookie’s Guide To Raising Investment: Not so much of a general interest piece, this one, but a great guide by Benji Lanyado, founder of photo site Picfair, on how the process of raising funding for a new business actually works. Smart and helpful and really very useful indeed if you’re thinking of taking some sort of entrepreneurial plunge.
Finding Love Through Wrong Numbers: Culturally fascinating look at the apparent trend amongst Indian men of dialling a bunch of random numbers until a woman picks up, and then engaging her in chat in an attempt to basically get a telephone girlfriend. A weird reminder that, as ever, the future is not evenly distributed at all.
The Elon Musk Interview: The one in which he casually talks about creating a brain/machine interface like it’s not even a thing; the one with the throwaway line about him telling his first wife that he was the ‘alpha’ in their relationship as they took the first dance at their wedding; the one which once again does nothing to convince me that he, Bezos, Zuckerberg and the rest are actually really frightening people who are going to end up doing something irreversibly bad at some point in my lifetime.
A Chat With Bret: Mr Easton Ellis, now something of a grumpy old man compared to his enfant terrible days, waxes lyrical on storytelling and culture and The Novel and stuff in the age of the internet. If you’re a regular reader of Ellis’ output you’ll find little new here, but he’s always an entertaining read.
Against The Evening Standard: Sam Kriss on biliously entertaining form, on why the London freesheet is so awful in so many ways. Sample quote: “You’re worried that having George Osborne as editor might compromise the paper’s editorial independence. What editorial independence? The Standard is a jellyfish, a parasitic worm, a creature with a hole at each end and nothing inbetween: it thinks nothing, it feels nothing, it floats through the infinite dark and waits for a tide to carry it along. Hence the fury. If someone believes something and you don’t concur, you can disagree with them. If someone has bad opinions, you can correct them. But there are no real opinions in the Standard, just the trace of drifting plankton, just idiocy and repetition.”
A Manifesto for Gay VR: This is ACE - on how gamer culture is sick and broken, and how the only thing that can save it is if virtual reality gets basically co-opted as a queer space. I am SO down with this as an idea - also, it would make so many awful people SO angry.
What Uwe Boll Did Next: If you’re in any way au fait with videogame culture you’ll know the name Uwe Boll - the director who, through bloody mindedness and a willingness to exploit certain interesting loopholes in film funding which meant that he could make genuinely awful films that noone wanted to see but still turn enough of a profit on them to keep investors happy, became known as the worst in the history of cinema, for work such as ‘Bloodrayne’ and ‘Alone in the Dark’, and who for a while seemed to be singlehandedly responsible for Tara Reid’s continued survival. This is a profile of him now that he’s apparently hung up his camera for good and is instead running a restaurant in Canada (successfully, by all accounts). Boll is a psychoanalyst’s dream, and this profile is strangely sympathetic to a man who seems borderline furious, to the point of near-apoplexy, at all times.
Why YouTubers Keep Messing Up: By a YouTuber. It won’t make you feel sorry for most of the idiots in question, but it does shed an interesting light on exactly how hard they have to work to keep this all going; I’d not really thought too much about the day-to-day battle they have with YT to keep on top of the various algorithms, and the amount of time you have to spend just DOING it and being ‘on’ all the time. Still, PewDiePie’s still a (rich, handsome, successful) tool.
The Future Agency: Really fascinating, this, looking at (amongst other things) how marketing-led futuretechdemos are effectively just a way of desensitising us to certain other practical applications of said technology we will be exposed to in the future, and the intellectual/social/cultural implications and underpinnings of the way in which potential futures are presented to us. If you do advermarketingpr or tech, this is fascinating (and even if not).
Cod Tongue Cutters: You think your Summer job was bad as a kid? Meet the Norwegian children (really, actual children) who earn a living (a good living) cutting out cod tongues each summer. You can’t really imagine kids in London getting into this in quite the same way, even considering the crazy sums these kids can earn.
Fellatio & Juliet: An exploration of how fellatio is presented in literature. Not smutty at all, and a reasonably serious look at power, consent, the male gaze, etc, in novels (although I am also certain that a proper academic working around these sorts of issues would rip it to shreds). Still, interesting - although does contain Houllebecq, which I am sure for some of you will be reason not to click. Also really reminded me of this song, which I hadn’t thought of for 20-odd years.
The Sense of an Endling: Finally in this week’s longreads, this is hands-down the best writing I have read all year. An extract from this book, it’s about extinction and the last examples of species, and our recently-acquired ability to resurrect the extinct, and genetic engineering, and loads of other things besides, but more than anything else it’s just a beautiful piece of prose. Please do read it, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Also taught me that the word for the last living member of a species is called an ‘endling’, which, as the author points out, may be the loneliest word in the English language. Amazing stuff.
By Tommy Bruce
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) First up, a brilliant sci-fi short. This is called ‘Strange Beasts’, and it is very much worth 5 minutes of your time:
2) Next up, the video for Moderat’s latest single ‘Reminder’ - it’s a 360, which is obviously no longer COOL OR INNOVATIVE, but I really like the approach they’ve taken with the on-rails nature of the animation; it has a nice sense of direction which many of these that I’ve seen simply lack, and the weird scifi story it tells is interesting and an excellent fit to the track:
3) Before Moby became the ubiquitous dinnerparty soundtrack to the late 90s with ‘Play’, he released a critically-panned, commercially-disastrous hardcore album called ‘Animal Rights’ which was all about militant veganism (I still rather like this track off it, fwiw) - his new project, whilst musically less thrashy, has a few of the same sonic imprimaturs. Anyway, this is called ‘Are You Lost In The World Like Me?’ and the video is an EXCELLENT old-school style animation about how TECHNOLOGY IS BAD MMKAY? I kind of feel like I’m a little bored of this particular iteration of this message now, but it’s a nicely produced cartoon and there are enough nice narrative touches to keep you interested til the end:
4) This is the most impressive piece of projection mapping I have seen in years - done on people’s faces, live. The possibilities for theatre are HUGE - this is so impressive, really. It’s called ‘Inori’:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! More Elro, because I think he is ace and I like the fact that he makes fun of himself, and the flow (sorry) is excellent, and the last verse is actually surprisingly affecting. He’s probably not going to make it, this kid, but it’s a shame as he’s definitely talented:
6) This was described as ‘an anthem against fcukbois’ somewhere online, which is as good a description as any - this is the fabulously named and fabulously queer PWR BTTM (fill in the vowels) with ‘Answer My Text’:
7) Finally this week, this is the new one from Jonathan Coulter, prince of geekpop who you may remember from ‘Still Alive’, the song at the end of the game ‘Portal’ (or, er, you won’t because you’re not actually geeks). This is called ‘All This Time’, and the video’s done in the style of an old-school text adventure and it is the best music video I have seen all year so ENJOY SEE YOU NEXT WEEK I CARE FOR YOU AND YOUR WELLBEING BYE!:
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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).