57 minutes reading time (11458 words)

Web Curios 01/05/20

Web Curios 01/05/20

Hi everyone! Hi! How are we all?

An uncessary question, obviously, for we are all ecstatic at the news that our Prime Minister has managed to not only cheat death at the hands of the pandemic, but, equally, SPAWN ANOTHER JOHNSON! To the...indeterminate extant ranks of the brood, then, we can welcome whatever the fcuk they end up calling the poor kid! I think I'm going to call it Poor Kid! Hello, Poor kKd! Will you EVER know how many Christmas cards you ought to be sending at Christmas? Where do you think you'll sit in the will? So many questions for Poor Kid!

Anyway, as you can tell I am HIGH ON LIFE, or the omnipresent scent of Johsonian jizz, carried, wafting, on the summer air throughout London - either/or, really. I hope you are too, and that you are ready for another bumper, jam-packed edition of Web Curios, your ESSENTIAL lockdown companion for the end times that very much feel upon us. Click! Read! Watch! Laugh! Cry! Boggle! Gibber! Whatever you do, though, DON'T WORRY! It's all going to be ok, we've got Poor Kid as our new national mascot! DO IT FOR POOR KID!!!

Ahem. I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, you have possibly stopped reading, we are all still indoors. 

***NEW EDITION OF IMPERICA MAGAZINE KLAXON!!!*** It is HOT off the press, and contains some great essays (the one on atheism and the alt-right is particularly good imho) and you can buy it here for the low, low price of THREE QUID!***

By Bertjan Pot

LET’S KICK OFF THIS WEEK WITH A LOCKDOWN DJ SET BY BIZ MARKIE!

THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT CHOOSING WHETHER TO LET THE ZOOM PEOPLE OR MARK ‘HONESTLY GUYS, I JUST WANT TO CONNECT THE WORLD!’ ZUCKERBERG HAVE YOUR VIDEOCALL DATA IS A BIT SOPHIE’S CHOICE-Y:

  • Facebook Is Copying Zoom: I mean, that’s not quite it and it’s not the whole story, but this is about a week old now and I presume you all know about it, so I reckon I get to take some authorial license here. Basically this is the announcement that Facebook is going BIG on videocalls, allowing for the same sort of functionality that has made Zoom super-popular (the whole ‘anyone can use our videocalling platform, you don’t need an account!’ thing) but on everyone’s favourite familiar digital surveillance panopticon. There’s actually quite a lot in this announcement, including a few tweaks to Insta livestreaming (including the ability to export old streams into Stories), the upgrading of WhatsApp calls to 8 participants from 4, charitable donations direct from Insta Lives, and (coming soon) the introduction of paywalls for livestreams from Pages, which is to my mind the most interesting part of this and, obviously, the bit that’s received less attention than any of the rest of it. I can’t quite work out whether this is because most tech journalists are unimaginative hacks, or because my assessment of what is interesting is simply so skewed by years of being EXTREMELY ONLINE that I’m incapable of empathising with normies and what they might care about anymore; WHICH IS IT?? Don’t, please, tell me.
  • Facebook Launches Chatbot (Well, The Code): Facebook’s being doing a lot of fiddling in the chatbot space over the past decade (we all remember the great Year of the Chatbot in approximately 2016, right? When agencies decided that we were all going to be building digital conversational interfaces and rushed to establish teams to deliver those services, only to discover that people enjoyed interacting with bots on Facebook about as much as they enjoyed dealing with those nested phone menus that you find yourself shouting at before being placed on hold for an hour to BT, mainly because they are EXACTLY the same?), and this is the latest expression of it. “Facebook AI has built and open-sourced Blender, the largest-ever open-domain chatbot. It outperforms others in terms of engagement and also feels more human, according to human evaluators...Today [actually, this was yesterday - it’s the magic of time travel!] we’re releasing the complete model, code, and evaluation set-up, so that other AI researchers will be able to reproduce this work and continue to advance conversational AI research.” So there - mainly of interest (in fact, solely of interest) to those of you playing around in the conversational AI space, of which I imagine there are approximately two of you.
  • Facebook’s Results: The headline figure that really grabbed me here was the 3bn figure - that is, 3bn people used Facebook products in April 2020. That’s literally half the human population (almost) (so not in fact literally) (damn the linguistic imprecision that cost me that place at Cambridge), and is the sort of number to wave at people who naively think that Facebook’s going anywhere in the next decade or so.
  • Twitter’s Latest Numbers: User numbers are up, but they junked all their revenue predictions for the year based on the pandemic, so this is basically just a holding statement before the really significant figures come out in Q2. Still, the user numbers look good, even if the ad revenue would be scaring the hell out of me if I were an investor.
  • TikTok Launches Donation Stickers: It’s now simple for users on TikTok to add a ‘donation’ sticker to their, er…’Toks’?’ Which is A Good Thing, and the sort of thing which brands might want to consider grafting onto their sponcon because, well, it’s the right thing to do. If you’re going to lift a TikTok craze for brand kudos, the least you can do is encourage people to donate at the same time whilst you match funding.
  • TikTok Numbers: It’s passed 2bn downloads. It’s over, there’s no hope, our collective future is one in which we do nothing but stare slack-jawed at the continual procession of well-off midwestern teens performing sub-Saturday Night Live skits in their terrifyingly-well-appointed kitchens as the world around us crumbles. No, it’s decided, there’s nothing we can do about it.
  • YouTube Bringing FactChecking To The US: This is an extension of what’s already in place in Brazil and India; if users search for specific queries around which YouTube believes there to be significant quantities of disinformation on YouTube, the platform will put out ‘fact boxes’ in the search results to point them away from the 5G muslamic rayguns and into the comforting, welcoming arms of some verified third-party sources. “Our fact check information panels provide fresh context in these situations by highlighting relevant, third-party fact-checked articles above search results for relevant queries, so that our viewers can make their own informed decision about claims made in the news.” Per previous comments here in Curios, what’s a GUARANTEED way of making conspiracy nutcases who believe in a lizard-led controlling elite think twice about their nutso theories? Yes, that’s right, getting one of the world’s largest companies to tell them that their beliefs are unfounded and they should just listen to the grown-ups. Bound to work.
  • Reddit Launches Chatrooms: This is really interesting (and is also going to result in SO MANY male Redditors having same-sex masturbatory experiences together, often involuntarily); “Start Chatting is a new feature that matches you with other redditors who have similar interests as you and want to chat too. To get started, visit a community you’d like to chat about and select the Start Chatting button.” The idea is that you’ll be matched with upto 7 (I think) other users, selected at random, who’ve also expressed an interest in chatting; users can block others who do or say anything unpleasant, thereby guaranteeing that you won’t see their messages anymore and won’t be matched with them in subsequent chats. Obviously, this being Reddit, it will be a cesspit; equally obviously, this being Reddit, it will also be a fascinating social experiment. For brand-type stuff (sorry, but there is at least a thin professional veneer to this first section of Curios) there’s quite a lot of fun SURPRISE AND DELIGHT stuff you could do, having talent just drop into chats on specific relevant subReddits to entertain fans; worth having a think about how you might use this, particularly if your client’s the sort of brand to have a fandom or interest community on the site.
  • You Can Now Turn Videochats Into Podcasts: Basically putting this here solely for the purpose of asking you to please, please not do this.
  • Digital In April 2020: Robin Grant’s team of social media dataminers released this last week, slightly too late for Curios, meaning this is less steamingly-fresh than it might otherwise be; still, if you want 140-odd slides featuring ALL THE SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE DATA from around the world, including a bunch of numbers that show the REVELATORY truth that, yes, we’ve all been using s*c**l m*d** quite a lot since we decided outside was BAD. If you want some definitive stats on how the Gabonese have changed their Facebook usage since January then this is going to make you very, very happy (I might be lying about Gabon, fine, but you get the idea).
  • Insights From Hollywood: There are lots of words I hate relating to the stuff I do for a living; ‘content’, obviously, ‘deck’, ‘strategy’ (to be honest, ‘job’ is another one that makes me feel really sad, as is ‘s*c**l m*d**’), but currently in pole-position is the word ‘insight’. “Some great INSIGHTS in here!”, say emails linking me to another load of dull statistics! “Why not join our webinar for INSIGHTS from A N Other generic media w4nker?”, promise the invites, asking me to listen to someone JUST LIKE ME lying about things that they have no real authority to talk about. STOP TRYING TO DRESS THINGS UP AS IMPORTANT BY USING THE WORD ‘INSIGHT’ FFS IT JUST MAKES YOU LOOK STUPID. Ahem. Anyway, this is a useful presentation (thanks to Camila Toro for sending it to me), which does a really good job of demonstrating what the term is meant to mean in the context of advermarketingpr by taking a bunch of famous films and demonstrating what the INSIGHT one can take from each of them is. If you’re still struggling with colleagues using the term despite having no practical idea of why they are doing so, and if you need to do a bit of teaching about ‘how you look at something and develop a truth or rule from it which you can then export as some sort of maxim or aphorism which in turn can be used as the starting point for creative work’ (and if you’re a better person than me, who is now at the point where I basically start crying every time I open a work email), then this is rather useful. For the rest of you, there’s maybe a fun reverse quiz in here where you get people to try and guess the films based on the ‘insight’ (must stop typing that word, it’s lost all meaning now).
  • Cadbury’s and QR Codes: This did the rounds last weekend to much acclaim for advermarketingpr Twitter; Jerry Daykin, who used to work at Cadbury’s, writes about his experiences wasting an unquantifiable (but, rest assured, vast) amount of time and money getting QR codes printed on the back of chocolate wrappers so people could enjoy joy-related content (insert biscuit for contentzzzzzzzzzz). It’s interesting, and Daykin is admirably honest about why it didn’t work - on the other hand, though, judging by the seal-like clapping that greeted its publication you’d think he’d brought the books of Revelation down from Patmos. Look, if you work in advermarketingpr and you read this and think ‘ooh, he’s right, I’d never thought of that before!’, and the idea that consumers might not be itching to consume MORE branded content that they have to jump through irritating hoops to access is a novel one to you, then you are terrible at your job and you should go and do something else. Now, I wonder how the Creme Egg ‘let’s ditch all our TV ads and try and get people to watch short branded ‘comedy’ films on a microsite instead!’ campaign worked out for them…(obviously this is going to end up having been vastly successful and I will end up looking stupid, but I’m used to that by now).

By Mathery Studio

NEXT, WHY NOT ENJOY THIS ABSOLUTELY KILOMETRIC SPOTIFY PLAYLIST OF SLIGHTLY-OBSCURE COVER VERSIONS?

THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO CONGRATULATE EVERYONE WHO WAS TALKING ABOUT SYMONDS BEING PREGGO BACK IN OCTOBER FOR BEING SPOT ON WITH YOUR TIMINGS, PT.1:

  • Tons Of Help: Advertising…dammit, there’s no other word, ‘guru’ Trevor Beattie was featured in here last year for his ‘Bank of Mum & Dad’ initiative, offering interest-free loans of upto 1k to people who needed them; this is an offshoot of that, offering smaller, one-off cash handouts of 100 quid to people in dire straits. It’s small, but every little bit really does help; you can either apply for a grant if you’re in need, or if you’re in the fortunate position of having a spare...er...monkey? Pony? I can’t quite work out whether it says better or worse things for me that I don’t know the Lahndahn slang for blocks of currency...anyway, if you can spare £100 you can donate it to the initiative to be passed on to someone more needy than you. A good project which I would encourage you to share widely; it’s not a load of money, fine, but it’s an amount that could make a small, helpful difference to someone in need.
  • Layoffs: A website tracking layoffs from startups as a result of COVID, but which rather than being a slightly macabre record of companies shedding staff (which, fine, it also sort-of is) is in fact a way of hopefully helping those staff find new jobs. If you’re looking to hire software / product people who need a gig, this is a decent place to start looking.
  • Free Games For The NHS: Literally that - a bunch of games companies are making some of their titles available for free download for NHS staff; all they need to do is register with their staff email address, and they’ll be sent instructions on how to access a free game of their choice on XBOX, PS, PC or Switch. If you know anyone who works for the Health Service, send them this - it’s a small thing, but it’s nice.
  • Kindness Amid Coronavirus: I nearly got into a fight with a jogger on Sunday (I told him he was jogging like ‘a fcuking cnut’ - he really was, two abreast on the pavement ; he jogged back 45s later to remonstrate with me in equally-choice Anglo-Saxon. Honestly, thank God he was obviously not going to actually punch me, I’d have been paste); that wasn’t very kind. This website, though, serves ONLY to communicate the nice things - it’s a map tracking all the good news from the pandemic, all the nice things that people are doing for each other worldwide. You can look around the map and click on specific areas to learn more, or submit your own links to stories which you think fit the bill; if you’re after an antidote to the seemingly-neverending cavalcade of misery, incompetence and human suffering coming at you from every single screen in the world, this might be for you.
  • The OpenAI Jukebox: OpenAI is the group behind GPT-2, the gold standard of textual AI and the tech behind the Talk To Transformer website which has been used to build text adventures, write academic papers and cobble together scripts and screenplays which people claim are written by AI but really aren’t. This is their latest toy; the OpenAI Jukebok presents a bunch of songs, including lyrics, sort-of made-up by AI (they’re quite open about the fact that the dozen or so ‘polished’ tracks on the homepage are finessed by a human); they’re terrifying, inhabiting a weird, aural uncanny valley that I didn’t know existed til I clicked the link an hour or so ago. What’s more interesting is to click through into the selection of raw samples, which are far less coherent and a lot messier and, aurally, REALLY interesting; the Ed Sheeran ones in particular are terrifyingly nearly there. There’s not currently the option to generate your own tracks, but I imagine that will be included in version 2; there’s no way in hell that we won’t have had a co-credited human/AI number one by 2025 (feel free to make fun of me about this one when it fails to come true; for reference, I am SO BAD at predictions that I once stated with confidence that the USA would win a football World Cup by 2020; bet against me whenever you can, it’s a BANKER).
  • Syncers: I picked this up from Jed Hallam’s ‘Love WilL Save The Day’ newsletter (which you really ought to subscribe to - you get one genuinely great new music mix each week, along with some rather good writing, and it’s introduced me to loads of music I would never have heard otherwise) - Syncers is a website that lets whoever visits it listen collaboratively with everyone else on there to whatever’s playing, suggest the next track using Soundcloud links, chat, and generally hang out in a sort of virtual bar (the sort of bar that I reckon is possibly only populated by men, none of whom are talking to each other but instead are drinking intently, nodding rhythmically to the bassline of the obscure minimal techno white label being played by the terrifying, blank-eyed, multi-pierced androdj with the interestingly-accessoried trousers). Far, far better than this admittedly-appalling description made it sound, honest.
  • Random Training: Are you all still doing Joe Wickes? Are you all as buff as he is? Do you have new hard places where your soft places used to be? Damn you, in that case, as I am as doughy as I ever was (ha! I am not doughy at all! I am all spiky bones and elbows and borderline anorexia, joke’s on YOU!); perhaps I should try this website out, which sets a 20-minute timer and then spits out a selection of suggested exercises that you should do for 30-odd seconds at a time to make up a full, different-every-time workout, soundtracked by a random link off Soundcloud to offer you a surprise musical accompaniment. Let me stress now, for the avoidance of doubt, THIS IS PROBABLY NOT A VERY GOOD WAY OF WORKING OUT, and may well lead to muscle strains or tears or rends if you’re not careful. Great, now that’s out of the way, click the link and see what health-endangering exercise regimen it encourages YOU to undertake!
  • Supernatural: Pretty much on the opposite end of the sophistication spectrum when it comes to exercise is Supernatural, a VR platform that promises to offer you workouts ‘in the most beautiful places on earth’, all without leaving your home. I’ve used VR a bit over the past few years, and whilst it’s undeniably getting loads better I still can’t quite square the experiences I’ve had with the implied promise of the website, which seemingly envisages you doing one-legged Namastes on the top of some sort of exotic peak at sunset; not quite sure how that squares with the inevitable bit when you bump into your couch or get tangled in the headset wire, but perhaps you’re more coordinated than I am (you definitely are). It’s only currently available in the US and Canada for some reason, but I reckon you can probably lie your way around that if you’re desperate for some virtual nature workouts (or, er, just go to the fcuking park and lift a log, you weirdo).
  • Mark Watson’s 24h Comedy Marathon: If you’re reading this on Friday, it starts at 9pm, runs til 9pm Saturday (of course it does, probably didn’t need to explain that bit), and will feature a rolling cast of comedians from across the UK (and possibly around the world), all doing sets from their home to raise money for foodbanks, hospices and other good causes. The link above takes you to the fundraising page, but look at Watson’s Twitter from 9pm for streaming links - this is a lovely idea, which Watson’s been doing for a few years now and is always good fun. Also, my friend Vix took part in this last year and has ended up becoming an actual, proper standup as a result, so who KNOWS where it will take you?
  • Loomie Live: This doesn’t exist yet, but it will - I am just helping you prepare, mentally, for the inevitable. Are YOU getting face fatigue from all the videocalling (and this week saw the first wave of stories about the boom in plastic surgery consultations taking place in the wake of us all staring at the pixellated hideousness of our own faces for 7 hours a day)? Wouldn’t you like some sort of digital avatar to hide behind? That’s exactly what Loomie is promising with its ‘coming soon’ Loomie Live service, which promises to provide you with a Bitmoji-style cartoon avatar of yourself to represent you on videocalls instead of the real you. I can’t wait until the future in which my poor attitude and frankly risible work ethic is deconstructed by HR while they wear lightly-Pixarified masks of their own faces! This is a horrible future that is coming down the line faster than I want - MAKE IT STOP SOMEONE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
  • An Interactive Twitter Murder Mystery: Choose Your Own Adventure Twitter games aren’t new - the latest, best version prior to this being the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? game version that someone built last month off the back of the Quiz TV show (and which annoyingly I now can’t find to hyperlink) - but I don’t think I’ve ever seen something with this level of polish; there are VIDEOS, ffs! Alasdair Beckett-King presents a wonderful (and very fun, and funny) murder mystery game, played entirely within Twitter, which takes on on a wonderfully-hammy journey through a bunch of classic tropes and cliches on its way to unmasking the murderer. Can you survive? Will you find the culprit? Honestly, if agencies aren’t already throwing money at him to make versions for clients, they are all idiots (I think, by this point, my feelings on agencies and their ‘idiot/non-idiot’ status is mostly clear).
  • Block By Blockwest: This was meant to happen last weekend, but the servers fell over so it didn’t. It’s now rescheduled for later this month - so if you want to enjoy SXSW but in Minecraft (for this is exactly what that is). It’s happening on May 19th - the website contains a list of confirmed acts (names I have heard of are thin on the ground, but I’m 40 and this is definitely not aimed at me) but, more helpfully, a tutorial on how to access the Festival; Minecraft is a bit fiddly, I’m told, when you start trying to do stuff on different servers, etc, so it might be worth getting a feel for it in advance of the event to make sure you can get online with minimal trouble. Still, ANOTHER amazing and wonderful bit of innovation, using virtual environments in novel ways; I think this might be my favourite side-effect of the pandemic.
  • Airtime: Watch stuff together with your mates on your phone. Literally, that’s it - like a watchparty thing except it works on mobile. It’s a bit limited - you can watch YouTube and ‘selected’ TV shows and movies - but it’s better than nothing, and if you’ve got teen kids this might be something to point them at as a new way of socialising with their friends (HA! JOKE! Obviously your kids are all using stuff way cooler than this that you and I haven’t heard of).
  • Unavoidable Disaster: I can’t quite recall where I found this, which means I can’t go back and lift their description of what the fcuk it actually is - which is a shame, as I honestly don’t really know. I think it’s basically one person’s occasional linkdump, but presented as a weird-yet-aesthetically-pleasing collage-type image, with each element being an annotated, clickable url. I really, really like this - there’s something about the fact that everything’s sort-of hidden behind a click that encourages exploration, and the aesthetic is rather lovely, in an oddly-50s-Americana sort of way.
  • Got Your Back: Can we all agree that backgrounds to videocalls have been done now? GREAT! Still, if you can still be bothered to think about communicating the uniqueness of your personality via the medium of a specially-chosen backdrop for your work calls, then this selection is probably my favourite so far. Shiny, arty, surreal, occasionally disturbing, these feel to me like they’re channeling the same sort of aesthetic as long-running, WTFish Twitter account Archillect. If nothing else, you can absolutely be THE most Art Basel-esque person on your work drinks this afternoon, and, frankly, what the fcuk else are you going to achieve today?
  • Bookcase Credibility: This is what happens when you don’t have a background and instead choose to speak to the world in front of a backdrop of book spines - Twitter accounts like this one spring up and judge you. This is a UK account which does a very gentle line in humorous commentary of the bookshelves of famouses (sample: “David Baddiel. No chances taken here. David surrounds himself with bookcases and the vaguely hexagonal shape suggests they move round us, closing us in with him in a honeycomb of credibility. The sensation is of being welcomed into the hive of a particularly well-read bee.”), but which would be made IMMEASURABLY better if it accepted nominations and started absolutely roasting the bookshelves of members of the public. In fact, can someone turn that into a subReddit? Thanks! Oh, by the way, someone’s doing exactly the same thing but in the US, but it’s less funny
  • Lovo: This is really interesting, but also really bad news for voice-over artists online. Lovo is a service which purports to offer a variety of human-quality AI voices for text-to-speech output, offering you a cast of different made-up tones to insert into your podcast, audio dramas, videogames...It’s a paid service, obviously, but even with prices starting at $20 a month it’s clear to see how much cheaper it is than paying actual humans to do it for you; the output wouldn’t, to my mind, fool anyone, but this sort of tech is only going to get better, and if you’re planning on making a career out of v/o stuff in the coming decade then you’d better be good, basically.
  • Glanceback: I really, really love this project. Glanceback is a Chrome extension which once a day will take a photo of you when you open a new tab, and ask you to share a thought; these photos are kept to form an archive of your face, captured at random, uncurated and unstyled and unexpected. “Once you type your answer and press enter, the photo and thought will be collectively saved to your history of glances, cumulatively creating an archive of moments you share with your screen. Given that most of the digital photos we generate of ourselves today are highly curated (i.e. wait let me fix my hair and smile and please take at least 10 photos just to make sure there’s a good one!), Glance Back also acts as an antidote to this attitude by providing you with unexpected and often… unflattering… photos of yourself.” It’s important to note that the photos are only stored locally - there’s no danger of your face being used for nefarious purposes (unless there’s something VERY nefarious hidden in the code). Pretty much perfect digital art imho.

By Pawel Bajew

I FIND THE PRACTICE OF REFERRING TO BAND MEMBERS AS THOUGH THEIR SURNAME IS THE NAME OF THE BAND THEY ARE IN TO BE INCREDIBLY FCUKING IRRITATING, BUT WILL MAKE AN EXCEPTION FOR JAMIE XX’S RECENT ESSENTIAL MIX AS IT IS VERY GOOD!

THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO CONGRATULATE EVERYONE WHO WAS TALKING ABOUT SYMONDS BEING PREGGO BACK IN OCTOBER FOR BEING SPOT ON WITH YOUR TIMINGS, PT.2:

  • Facedoodle: Draw on your face! In AR! Move your face around and watch as the graffiti moves with you, as though it were somehow attached! Except it’s not! This is literally just a browser version of what you’ve been able to do on your phone for ages, but, well, here! You will use this approximately three times; once just to see how it works, once to attempt to do something genuinely artistic or creative, and once to draw a spaffing cock on your forehead (I don’t make the rules).
  • Citizen DJ: Oh wow this is a lot of fun and a great use of archive materials. The US Library of Congress is encouraging people to use its sound and video archive to MAKE MUSIC! Yep, they want you to use sound recordings, old snippets of music hall entertainment, old radio broadcasts, ambient recordings, whatever, to compose brand new music of whatever style or genre you fancy. This is SO SO GOOD - not only do they offer you complete access to the library collections, but they’ve even built-in some rudimentary beatjuggling software into the site, so anyone can play around with whatever they like, right there in the browser. I am honestly floored by this - not simply because it’s such a wonderful, fun use of the materials, but because I simply don’t expect this playfulness from a national archival insititution. It’s as though the British Library had basically made its entire collection available as a resource for blackout poetry, or the Tate isolated all the individual elements from its archive of paintings to use in a gigantic online collage game. So, so, so good, and a new gold standard for ‘interesting and fun ways to get people to engage with your archives’.
  • Cuddlecall: Remember the farm where you could book a llama to join your work meetings? Remember how fresh and fun and exciting that felt? Well, it’s not fresh and exciting anymore, it’s OLD and has spawned IMITATORS - like this one. “cuddlecall.me connects you with your favorite cute, cuddly animals directly over video chat. Perfect for virtual classes, meetings, birthday parties, or other events! Pick any of our animals that you'd like and during the specified time cuddlecall.me will join your call to wow and amaze your guests. Works with all major video chat clients like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Go2Meeting.” Except there are no details on who’s behind this, or where the money goes, and the whole thing smells a bit sketchy. Still, if you’d like to book someone who is DEFINITELY NOT a human in a rabbit costume to join your company meeting later, go for it!
  • Special Guests For Zoom: Other videocalling apps are of course available. This, though, is a really interesting idea - like the one above, but instead of booking CUTE ANIMALS you can instead book archetypes to join your call and help you achieve your doubtless-dastardly goals. You can book the hypeman, who will always back up whatever you have to say, the timer, who will ensure no one person dominates the chat, the critic, who will tell everyone how stupid they are...you get the idea. This is a really interesting idea, and made me think that that Cameo app really should pivot to letting you book minor famouses for your calls; honestly, if I had access to Dave Benson Philips, say, I would TOTALLY be pimping him out for £200 for a 15m appearance. IMAGINE how good that would be? Or Timmy Mallet! Or someone that younger readers might actually have heard of! Anyway, this is an interesting idea that you can tweak and turn into an ACTUAL, POTENTIALLY QUITE GOOD PR THING (if you can turn it around in about 24h, because I refuse to believe that I am the only person who’s had this thought).
  • The Phonetic Reverser: Or, more simply-put, a website which will help you learn how to talk backwards. Now that you’ve accepted that you are not going to finish (or start) the novel, or get really good at the ukelele, or finally get round to reading A La Recherche, or any of the other things you’d half-hoped to achieve, perhaps it’s time to scale back your ambitions to something a little more realistic. Perhaps teaching yourself how to say “I find everything you do risible and I think you’re a joke” backwards, so you can insult those close to you in secret, is within your gift? I like this a lot, not least as it offers you phonetic guidance on how the everliving fcuk to actually say this stuff, as well as the option to hear your own speech reversed for practice purposes.
  • Fifteen Monsters All In A Row: This is a really cute little bit of interactive fiction which you can play with your kids if they’re reasonably small. You, the player, have to defeat 15 monsters! How will you do it? Except you don’t have to defeat them, you can make friends with each of them instead, and the whole thing is in-part designed by a kid and so it’s lovely and whimsical and super-cute, and it’s honestly a really nice 15-minute thing to do with a small child and a lovely introduction to IF as a concept.
  • Bad Seed TV: Nick Cave’s launched a 24h TV station on YouTube! Combining studio footage, concert footage, videos, interviews, songs and rarities, and quite possibly including a bit of actual, live-right-now-Cave every now and again too, this is very cool indeed and the sort of thing that if you’re a Nick Cave fan will probably end up being on pretty much constantly in your house. There’s a chat channel too, so you can hang out with other Cave fans in the sidebar as you watch lovely Nick and the lovely Bad Seeds make their lovely music. Honestly, this is superb, and the sort of thing you can imagine becoming pretty ubiquitous for bands with a big enough back catalogue of stuff to draw on.
  • Get A Small Israeli President In AR: No, really! Look, here’s the blurb from The Next Web: “To celebrate the country’s Independence Day, each year the President of Israel opens his home to people of all walks of life and personally meets them for a brief selfie sesh, accompanied by an uplifting speech. But due to the coronavirus lockdown, the President has decided to address the nation in a responsible manner… by turning himself into an AR hologram...According to a press release, President Reuven Rivlin is set to “visit” each and every home in Israel in his virtual form, as he believes that “now, more than ever, personal contact with Israel’s citizens is of paramount importance.”” Seriously, though, nothing can prepare you for how brilliantly-weird this is; fire it up, and Rivlin appears through your phone screen looking, frankly, a bit dishevelled, wearing a crumpled suit that looks about 3 sizes too big for him, and sort of waves his hands around whilst talking at you in Hebrew. I can totally see Boris Johnson doing a version of this - try it out, you will see what I mean.
  • What To Watch: As someone with a Michael Owen-like appreciation of cinema, I’ve not got a massive backlog of CLASSICS that I feel I must watch, or a library of movie favourites to cycle back through; which means that my girlfriend and I have mostly been watching genuinely appalling horror films as part of the lockdown experience (things I have noticed as part of this - I think there must have been a screenwriting trend in the past decade or so where every single person with a mediocre thriller/horror film script was told by someone ‘look, if you don’t quite know how to frame it, start with the endpoint scene of horrific destruction and then cycle back to the beginning to show how we got here; works every time’ because, honestly, they ALL do it); if you’re running out of inspiration for films to pass the time, this site claims to offer recommendations based on ‘stuff that people are talking about right now’, though I’m fcuked if I know where they are pulling this supposed chat from. Regardless of the methodology, though, this contains LOADS of stuff I’ve never, ever heard of - I can’t vouch for quality, but it certainly ticks a lot of obscurity boxes. Note, though, that it won’t stream the films - you’ll have to find them elsewhere.
  • Golden Hour: An app for your Mac which will light your face BEAUTIFULLY during your calls, presenting you as a glowing beacon of health rather than the pasty, pustulent lump you’ve doubtless become in the six weeks since you last bothered to look in the mirror.
  • Vocal Synthesis: A YouTube channel dedicated to creating fake audio of famouses using machine learning, which came to my attention via this post by Andy Baio, in which he explained how Jay-Z’s Roc Nation attempted to get all legal with it the other day in a classic example of the Streisand Effect (if you don’t visit Andy’s site, Waxy, by the way, you ought; if nothing else you’ll always get about a dozen of my best links each week in advance, and without any of my horrible prose). The channel contains dozens of examples, and the quality here is quite astonishing; there’s no attempt o present these as anything other than well-made fakes, but you can easily see how good this is going to get in the next year or so. Combine this with the OpenAI jukebox up top and it’s not impossible to imagine a future in which Ed Sheeran NEVER STOPS MAKING MUSIC oh god please no.
  • The Decameron Project: This is on Patreon, and you can back it if you so choose, but all the entries are ungated so you can equally read to your heart’s content for free (but, er, chuck them a few quid if you can afford it). The Decameron Project takes it’s name from Boccaccio’s plaguetime chronicles from the...er...10th? Gah, no, early-14th, damn my lack of knowledge...anyway, the 14th-century collection of stories from Florence in plaguetime, and is a collection of writers posting a new story each day throughout the pandemic. Styles and themes vary, but the overall quality is high (as it should be, these people are pros) and there’s a LOT in here to get your teeth into if you’re in the market for (at the time of writing) 40ish short stories by a range of writers.
  • The British Museum Collection: See, on the one hand this is obviously ACE - the British Museum’s made loads of its collection available in digitised form online for the first time this week - but on the other it’s just not as fun as the Library of Congress project. Still, “under the new agreement the majority of the 1.9 million images are being made available for anyone to use for free under a Creative Commons 4.0 license. Users no longer need to register to use these photographs, and can now download them directly from the British Museum. Under the terms of the Creative Commons license, you are free to share and adapt the images for non-commercial use, but must include a credit to the British Museum.” (that description from the excellent IanVisits, by the way). Expect some PRETTY POINTED remixes of the Elgin Marbles coming soon from the disgruntled Greeks.
  • This Is How Mind-Fcukingly Rich Jeff Bezos Is: Absolutely the worst thing about the pandemic (not the worst, OK, but the thing that has personally caused me the most grief) is the amount of money I have ended up giving MechaBezos over the past few weeks, simply because it’s so much easier than not giving him money. This website is a quite staggering visualisation of the scale of Bezos’ wealth; I know you think you know how much money he has and how that compares to how much money is maybe a reasonable amount for one person for feasibly possess, but I promise you that you really don’t have the faintest idea. Seriously, click on the link, scroll, and marvel - and then, hopefully, get angry about the fact that this is the case. Look, should there be any of you reading this who believe strongly in the right of the individual to pursue their own endeavours and benefit from the fruits of their brilliance and their success - yes, I get it, and I agree that people should be able to invent and create and get rich off the back of their invention and creation! I do! I just don’t think that when your wealth exists in no small part because you make margin by fcuking a LOT of other people, and when it is so large that there is NO CONCEIVABLE WAY you could ever, ever use it all, that perhaps you ought to, well, stop. Would the world be a worse, less creative, less amazing, less advanced place if we all agreed to cap personal wealth at, say, $2bn? I posit that it would not, and that things would be better. There we go, ELECT ME TO RUN THE WORLD (please, don’t, I really, really wouldn’t enjoy it.

 

By Miles Johnston

NEXT, TRY THIS SUPERB HIPHOP MIX WITH A DISTINCTLY-90s FEEL BY DJ WREX!

THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO CONGRATULATE EVERYONE WHO WAS TALKING ABOUT SYMONDS BEING PREGGO BACK IN OCTOBER FOR BEING SPOT ON WITH YOUR TIMINGS, PT.3:

  • Songalong: This is a really cute project. Songalong invites you to compose a new song each week - they give you a theme, and the rest is up to you. It’s started today, so there’s nothing on there at the moment, but the idea is that they’ll collect people’s submitted tracks and collect them on the site, so you’ll eventually end up with a wide-ranging, varied collection of songs created by people across the world, arranged by themes. This week’s prompt is ‘a song about an unlikely friendship’ - I am genuinely excited to see what people create, and I really do hope that this gets shared widely to encourage as many people as possible to give it a go; please do send this to people you know who make music, I think it’s a great project.
  • Out of Context Animal Crossing: I think this was sent to me by Alexander Burley - THANKS ALEXANDER BURLEY! - and it is exactly what it suggests; a Twitter account presenting screencaps from Animal Crossing, without context. Occasionally funny, occasionally makes me think that Animal Crossing is a far, far darker game than people have been letting on.
  • Daily Effects: I think I am going to respond to every single call for ideas for ‘creative’ video stuff from now on with ‘look, just pay some kid on TikTok, they are better at this than everyone’. I mean, check this person out - the gimmick to this account is that each day the creator adds one additional visual effect to their original video, and if you scroll right to the bottom you can see quite how far it’s evolved. The creativity and the technical skill here is honestly astonishing - THESE KIDS ARE BETTER THAN YOU AT VIDEO (also, better than me, let me be clear; tbh you are almost certainly better at video than me, I am rubbish).
  • Akinbeat: Plug in whatever artist or band you like and this site will generate a playlist of ‘similar’ stuff. I have no idea what is powering this under the hood, but it generates the playlists from individual YouTube tracks and it seems to work quite astonishingly well; if you’re after a non-Spotify/Pandora alternative then this isn’t a terrible option for the creation of the odd platylist here or there,
  • The Best Travel Webcams: Are we all agreed that none of us are going on a foreign holiday anytime soon? GREAT! Console yourself (it is no consolation, dammit, I was really looking forward to going to Greece in September and I am TOTALLY going to sulk when that inevitably gets cancelled) with this collection of quite wonderful webcams from around the globe, including trips to the mountains, river journeys, city breaks, safaris...honestly, whatever sort of ‘I don’t want to be here, take me somewhere else please magical internet machines’-escapism you’re after, you’ll find it here. Except Agistri, you bastrds.
  • Are You Tone Deaf?: Well, are you? Why not find out by taking this test by Harvard University? You’ll not only get an accurate assessment of whether or not you’re really tone deaf or just really, really sh1t at music AND you will be contributing to serious academic research at the same time.
  • TRex Gone Wild: Not, to be clear, anything to do with T-Rexs getting sexy; instead, this subReddit shares photos and videos of people out and about wearing those weird foam T-Rex costumes that have become weirdly popular in the past few years. On the one hand, this is very much a one-note gag; on the other, I will never get bored of the floppy-headed gait of a man dressed up as a predatory lizard chasing some cats through a house.
  • Brutalist Sandcastles: Calvin Seibert makes architecturally-impressive sandcastles which are sort-of reminiscent of the National Theatre, and they are GREAT, and OH GOD I WANT TO BUILD A SANDCASTLE FFS.
  • The Weirdest Kinks: An excellent example of the classic ‘wow, Reddit, you really do contain multitudes’ thread, this. “Sex workers of Reddit, what’s the weirdest kink a customer has asked you to fulfill?”, runs the question, and OH BOY do people answer it. This is joyful, mainly because (mostly) whatever you might be into, sexually, you will be reassured that it’s pretty much normal compared to what some of these people have been exposed to. Some observations, before you dive right in: a) it’s 99% men’s fetishes - why? I refuse to believe that men are significantly more kinky than women, so why is it that there are so few female clients referenced in here? Is there an answer in Krafft-Ebing I should look up? Anyone?; b) people don’t seem quite as weirded out by the “someone paid me to lie really, really still for an hour without talking while they w4nked at me” stories as I feel they ought to be; and c), I think I am going to start referring to people as ‘footslut Georgio’ because it is the single greatest epithet I have heard so far in 2020.
  • The Shampoo Challenge: I can’t remember how I found out about this, but I am SO GLAD that I did. I’m not personally into cock, but even so I was oddly charmed by this hashtag, which consists of literally HUNDREDS of men who’ve decided to photograph themselves balancing shampoo bottles on their erect penises (said penises are encased in shorts, though, so it’s not total bongo). LOOK AT THEIR PRIDE!!! Honestly, it’s weirdly-heartwarming and cheered me up no end earlier in the week (and has done so again just now - thanks, anonymous cocks!) - to be clear, though, if you don’t want to see lots of erect penises (albeit silhouetted inside jockey shorts) then probably don’t click the link.
  • The Hogwarts Digital Escape Room: Thanks to Julian for sharing this with me - it’s another Escape Room done in Google Docs, but this time it’s Potter-themed, so if you’d like to enjoy some clicky intricacy which draws on the most tediously-ubiquitous children’s literary saga of all time (I like Potter, but, well, can we give it a decade off, please?) then GET IN. It’s simple enough to be enjoyed by kids (I reckon 8-9’s probably the age gate here), so share with yours (or indeed other people’s) if they’re Potterphiles.
  • Desktop Meadow: I don’t normally include stuff that requires a download, but this is too lovely not to share. Download the program and start growing a virtual meadow on your desktop, complete with little birds that will come and visit and which, over time, will bring messages from strangers - who are other people elsewhere playing the game. This is SO BEAUTIFUL and just a really lovely piece of digital gameart - honestly, it may sound twee but do give it a go (also, what’s wrong with twee you CNUT???).
  • Prince Of Persia: I just discovered that there’s a version of Prince of Persia that you can play in-browser. This is fcuking brilliant, and it’s all I can do not to sack of Curios right now and go and fall into a spiked pit.
  • Clicking Bad: Finally this week, this is VERY OLD but it was new to me and it’s kept me vaguely-occupied all week; it’s a classic ‘clicker’ game all about building a meth empire, and in common with all such games it’s very, very soothing, in a sort of ‘do nothing, stuff happens’ kind of way. I recommend opening this and keeping it running in a browser as something to stare at as the latest pointless, tedious Teams call with idiots drones on around you.

By Cynthia Karalla

LAST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, ENJOY THIS FANTASTIC, GALLIC, LOUNGEY SELECTION BY 2CV!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:

  • German Signs About Coronavirus: Literally just that. These are all in German, should that not have been made clear from the title.
  • Blanke Bedenten: More German coronacontent! This time it’s German medical professionals, posing naked in protest at what I presume is their belief that provision of protective equipment has been inadequate. For some of you, the mere promise of naked doctors will be enough, but it’s also interesting to me as a corrective to the ‘everything is fine in Germany compared to here’ chat; no question that the UK’s fcuked it in several key ways and that our government is full of cnuts, but, equally, every single country’s population, aside perhaps from New Zealand, has variously had complaints about their administration’s handling of the pandemic.
  • Model Architecture: A Tumblr of architect’s models. Lovely, lovely models of buildings. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.
  • How Loopy Is That?: Superb, beautiful, hypnotic looping gifs. Seriously, you may never come back from this link, they really are that mesmerising.

THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:

  • Lend A Hand: Another lovely small, cheering project, Lend A Hand is simply asking people to share photos of their hands along with an accompanying story of kindness experienced during the pandemic; they’ll then post them out through this Insta account. It is, fine, just photos of people’s hands, but they are nice photos of nice hands with nice stories attached to them, so just fcuking enjoy them, ok? OK????
  • #Kutimancometogether: Kutiman’s a musician whose work I’ve featured in here before; he’s been doing little videomusicalmashups on his Insta feed under this hashtag, which you can see here collected, and they are ACE. Seriously, check out the Flea/Stevie Wonder one, it’s superb.
  • Sasamana1204: This person makes really, really pretty sandwiches. It may not seem like much, but these are SO PRETTY. They are Japanese, inevitably, as everything that is incredibly cute and very precise must by law be.
  • Francois Vogel: Vogel is a video artist, I presume a French one, and his Insta feed is a wonderful carousel of slightly-odd video, manipulated with various effects to Dali-esque ends - seriously, his use of scanslit results in some very, very odd-looking cats, amongst other things.
  • Barbie Woodshop: I always feel a bit guilty about featuring amazing acts of parent/child creativity, mainly as I worry it will make more, well, standard parents feel a bit inadequate. This, though, is too lovely not to - this bloke and his kid are getting into woodwork, and so is Barbie. Honestly, you may not think you need to see photos of Barbie skillfully-manipulating a bandsaw but, well, you really do.
  • The Cooking Bstard: A colombian chef posting cooking guides and recipes; included partly because, well, you probably don’t cook too much Colombian cuisine so why not learn and, more prosaically, because the name of his Insta feed made me laugh more than almost anything else this week (it’s been trying). Thanks, again, to Camila for this one.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • Shiny, Happy Quarantine: I don’t use Instagram - I mean, I can use it, I just don’t, it simply doesn’t interest me - or Facebook, aside from a worky group I’m in, which means I’ve not been subjected to much, if any, idealised lifestyle content depicting people’s blissful quarantine experiences. In this essay, Dave Pell presents his dispatch from his perfect quarantine life - if you’re sick of people telling you to BAKE BREAD LEARN A LANGUAGE COOK BETTER MEDITATE MORE WRITE A BOOK FIND YOURSELF then this will probably make you feel significantly better.
  • Saving the COVID Chronicles: As ever with modernity, we are chronicling this passage of time at a scale and with a breadth of voice unprecedented in human history; as ever with digital materials, the extent to which these chronicles will maintain over time is...uncertain. This is a look at how various archivists across the web are working to try and preserve the incredible volume of social history being created every second across the web, in the midst of, and about, COVID-19. You know all this, obviously, but it’s worth reading these pieces to be reminded of the wealth of human history and experience that will be lost as a result of the inbuilt ephemerality of Stories, for example, or the fact that A N Other media owner could choose to pull the plug on a platform in a few years’ time, consigning all these meticulously-constructed personal histories to the great binary scrapheap in the sky. I wonder whether there will be a move towards an international consensus on preserving digital materials after this, by a UNESCO or similar?
  • How COVID Will Change Retail: Obviously this should in fact be called ‘How COVID might change the face of retail’, but noone ever clicked on speculative headlines like that. This is by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, and is very US-centric insofar as it looks specifically at the previously-mall-led culture dominant over there, but it contains enough interesting and smart observations to make it universally (potentially) applicable. Everything in here is stuff I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere, but it’s one of the more comprehensive pieces I’ve read on how the change in movement habits will impact commerce and how that, in turn, will have significant likely impacts on property, which in turn affects everything else. Obviously all the predictions in here might turn out to be totally wrong, but Thompson’s at least asking the right questions about what the next 24m will look like and what they will mean for the 120 to follow.
  • The Media and Lockdown: Sam Leith writes on how the media is in many ways running the narrative when it comes to the pressure to ease the quarantine measures, making a compelling case that the clamour for clarity and ‘a strategy’ is born as much of the need to have something new to put on the front page as it is a desire to hold the Government to account. I particularly like the detail about all the papers having spunked their ‘lockdown baking’ guides too soon; I can only imagine the horror of conference these days as a bunch of nervous faces attempt to come up with a novel angle on ‘we’re still inside and everyone’s really fcuking sick of reading about baking’.
  • Domestic Telepresence At Scale: Or, perhaps more appealingly to the average reader, ‘some thoughts about how videocalling might evolve so as to become better and more seamless and less annoying and rubbish now that we’ve all accepted that it’s a thing’. This is really, really interesting - similar in scope to the piece last week about creating digital spaces with similar properties to physical space in the way they facilitate interaction, but focused on imagining a way in which we could have a more seamless, and pleasant, experience of inviting people into our homes via video. I would bet significant cashmoney on the next big Ideal Home-type show featuring an awful lot of full-wall screen setups for full-size telepresence-type stuff.
  • COVID Nudes: On the one hand, this feels slightly like it might have been commissioned by a COVID journalism bot which just pairs a random, zeitgeisty word with ‘...in the time of COVID!’; on the other, this is a surprisingly well-written and interesting look about the semiotics of the n00d…’in the time of COVID!’, with a particular focus on its role as in fine art and portraiture.
  • Quarcore: I AM SORRY, BUT I DID NOT MAKE THAT WORD UP. Blame GQ, which examines the world of ‘prepper fashion’ - for those of you unaware, ‘preppers’ is the generic term for people who sort-of think that everything’s going to go pretty seriously to tits and as such have stocked up on tinned food, bows and arrows and lots of very expensive Kevlar-reinforced underwear for when things really go South. What’s most interesting about this is the intersection with actual urban fashion - I know at least two people who dress like this in real life (Hi Ed! Hi Jay!), as though they just stepped out of a Gibson novel, and I know how much this stuff costs (lots, basically); there’s a load of quite fascinating cultural semiotics stuff in here if you fancy a bit of a dig around.
  • The Insta Cash Giveaways: On the current phenomenon of influencers on Insta doing cash giveaways to a lucky follower, just as long as they go and follow this bunch of other accounts RIGHT NOW; this piece explains how this works, and how the influencer’s make bank off it (basically they give away, say, $10k, but charge out 20 ‘follow this account’ slots at $1k to brands or aspirant-influencers, thereby making a neat 100% (or whatever) profit. Fascinating, not least for the throwaway line in there about some of the biggest current purchasers of these opportunities to gain followers being plastic surgeons, which says several not-entirely-excellent things about where we’re currently at as a species.
  • Why Did The Youth Social Action Agenda Fail?: This is quite serious, and quite policy-focused, but if that doesn’t put you off then I would really recommend reading it; it’s by David Reed, and is the first in a three-part series in which he looks at why the UK Government’s multiple-year focus on increasing ‘youth social action’ in the country. It’s quite depressing, but hugely instructive - Reed was himself involved with multiple projects as a third-sector worker, and his account of how these initiatives get dreamed up by spin doctors and senior civil servants and how that then plays out in reality is sobering. You read this and you realise that it’s a fcuking miracle that anything ever gets done in a system where political priorities which determine the fundamental ways in which the country works change every two years when there’s a reshuffle or an election.
  • On Fortnite’s Travis Scott Concert: If you’re interested in knowing more about how the Travis Scott/Fortnite thing actually worked, and a bit of intelligent commentary on WHAT IT ALL MEANS FOR THE WORLD AND ENTERTAINMENT AND BRANDS, then this typically-astute essay by Matthew Ball is worth reading. I found the whole thing very, very impressive, fwiw, but I do rather wish there was more clarity on how much it cost, as it would stop people asking me ‘so how much would it cost to do something like that but for a bank?’ and other such FCUKING STUPID questions.
  • How TikTok’s Changing Musical Titles: Basically labels and artists are finding that they need to SEO the titles of their singles to take advantage of a 6s clip of part of the hook being used in a viral dance craze. So it goes.
  • The Stockbrokers of Magic: The Gathering: Magic: The Gathering (I am not going to type its full name again) is one of those things that you might vaguely remember from your childhood and which you probably don’t realise are still weirdly massive (see also: Runescape). For those who don’t recall, it’s a card game which basically revolves around building out the strongest deck you can from a finite selection of commercially-available cards of varying power and rarity. It’s also one of those things that has an incredibly complex economy attached to it (basically it turns out that there is literally NOTHING on this earth that people won’t make a market out of); this WIRED piece looks at how that economy works, and the very weird world of those who play it for big stakes.
  • Animal Crossing and Productivity: You may have read all the Animal Crossing thinkpieces you think you need, but please make time for just this one additional article. In it, Grayson Morley writes about his relationship with the game in the context of his wider life, pre-and post-quarantine, and how he sees it in relation to his own wider relationship with work and leisure. It still doesn’t quite address the confusion I have about ‘intense productivity as leisure pursuit’ that the game seems to embody, but it’s a lovely piece of writing.
  • Walking in Japan: This is WONDERFUL, and in may ways perfect for lockdown. Craig Mod walked a lot of Japan; this website collects his notes and thoughts and photos of that walk. Honestly, I can’t tell you how beautiful this is - it’s slow, meditative and spare, and Mod writes simply about both what he’s experiencing as he walks and the wider cultural context within which it sits. “Let me emphasize that this is not a guide, but it's also not not a guide. It's a collection of notes, tips, and, I guess, "travelogue" entries about walking the Ise-ji route of the Kumano Kodō. I wrote this because I love the Ise-ji, and want you, also, to think: Damn, that looks like a fine hike. So consider this a persuasion or seduction, a thing to bookmark and return to, for when you decide to give this walk a go. Consider it a playful dare, for when we can all go out and walk again.” Honestly, this is ART.
  • Sucking Your Own Knob In The Age Of COVID-19: This is not art - instead, it’s a look at how the ancient art of autofellatio is gaining popularity as men struggle to work out what to do with themselves during lockdown. There’s a lot to love in here, not least the slightly-poignant comments from the guys who think they might never ‘get there’ but are happy willing on those who do. There’s quite a lot to unpack in this practice from a psychological point of view which I don’t personally think gets investigated quite enough - I mean, do these people spit or swallow? And if the former, do they feel some sort of small, personal and weirdly-conflicted sense of rejection in the immediate aftermath - but, mainly, it’s just quite funny.
  • Snorkelling Against COVID: A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE NEW IMPERICA MAGAZINE! This is an essay from Issue 4 - available to buy here! - this is Lucrezia Lozza about how a humble snorkelling mask from Decathlon has been at the heart of Italian efforts to treat victims of the virus.
  • The Nine Elms Cold Store: God I love this - not only is it a history of forgotten London, but it’s a history of forgotten London which is right round the corner from my house. The Nine Elms Cold Store was a massive monolith which started its life as a cold storage warehouse and then had a weird, mixed-use life as part of London’s counterculture in the late-70s and 80s. This is SUCH a wonderful essay, not least for the several stellar anecdotes dotted throughout. Gay clubbing in the 80s was SCARY, turns out.
  • The Stuntman: Or, “why Richard Branson is a sh1t”. This is a great portrait, based on a new biography of the man, by David Runciman in the LRB, which does an excellent job of demonstrating why Branson’s free-wheeling rebel schtick is just that. A small Branson anecdote; his businesses, I am told, employ a surprising number of blonde women in their 40s and 50s who all have senior roles, often ill-defined, and who are otherwise characterised by the fact that each and every one of them made the unusual career move of going straight from air hostessing to a well-remunerated position in the corporate world. You may wish to speculate as to why this is.
  • The Rematch: A GREAT comic which imagines what would happen if the tortoise and the hare had a rematch. This is superb - well-drawn, funny and with some excellent little observations and small gags scattered throughout.
  • Get Fat, Don’t Die: I absolutely adored this article, but it made me cry quite a lot so caveat lector (is that right? I don’t speak Latin) and all that. It’s about the ‘zine Diseased Pariah News, which ran for 9 years in the US at the height of the AIDS epidemic, offering funny, frank and unsentimental advice to the country’s thousands of men living with the virus as it cut swathes through their friends and contemporaries. It’s in the main about the fabulously-named Beaowulf Thorne, but it’s equally about the revolving cast of sidekicks and misfits who helped him compile each edition. I fcuking hate the term ‘inspirational’ but, honestly, this really is - oddly I am welling up a bit again as I type this, suggesting it really did make an impression. Please do read this, it’s beautiful.
  • Natural Selection: This is ALSO beautiful - it’s a truly superb essay profiling a man called Irv Teibel, who was basically responsible for the birth of ‘natural ambient’ as amusical genre (you know, the sounds of seas, forests, whalesong, etc etc) but who was far, far more than that. Everything about this is a joy - Teibel’s obvious, charming eccentricity, the immense amount of information and knowledge that it imparts without ever obviously trying...honestly, even if you don’t give two fcuks about music or sound or anything, this is still the loveliest thing you will read all week.
  • I See The World: Finally in this week’s longreads, a rather short one. This is by Jamiaca Kincaid, and is a sort of stream of consciousness prose-poem about right now, and is very beautiful indeed.

doorcat

By me

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!

  1. This is the first excellent music video I’ve seen since lockdown; it was all shot ages ago I presume, but it’s a lovely, shiny piece of visual storytelling. The song’s quite an odd mix of stuff, but it works with the visuals - this is ‘Bikini’, by Bass Astrax x IGO:

  1. This, by contrast, is VERY quarantine-y. It’s called ‘Smile’ and it’s quite unsettling - thanks, Erian Trotland!:

  1. This is EXCELLENT, and exactly the sort of thing that a brand could commission 10 influencers to collaborate on for a semi-decent bit of lockdown advertising imho. This is called ‘Exquisite Quarantine’, and it’s exquisite corpse but with film; 17 directors each have 30 seconds of film, each following on from the next. I really enjoyed this, far more than expected:

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever featured music from Kyrgystan on here before, but today that PATHETIC EXCLUSIONISM ends! This is Biykech, with her recent single Kyrk Kyz - this is very good, and very different to anything I’ve heard before whilst at the same time being very recognisably a record from 2020:

  1. Last up this week, this is just fcuking amazing. SOMEONE RECORDED AN ENTIRE FCUKING TALK SHOW IN ANIMAL CROSSING. Seriously, just look at this, it’s amazing (even if, to be honest, I couldn’t really give a fcuk about the actual content). Why don’t YOU spend the weekend interviewing YOUR friends in a videogame and recording the outputs? Whatever you choose, IT’S TIME FOR ME TO GO BYE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE SEE YOU NEXT WEEKEND UNLESS I DECIDE TO TAKE THE BANK HOLIDAY OFF IN WHICH CASE IT WILL BE TWO WEEKS WE’LL SEE HOW IT GOES BUT REGARDLESS OF WHEN I RETURN KNOW THAT I WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY AND SAFE AND THAT I AM HOPING AGAINST HOPE THAT EVERYTHING IS SORT OF BROADLY OK FOR YOU THANKS AS EVER FOR READING THIS FCUKING THING I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU BYE!!:

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