47 minutes reading time (9463 words)

Web Curios 02/08/19

Web Curios 02/08/19

A majority of one! It could all fall apart within weeks! PLEASE GOD LET IT ALL FALL APART!

It almost certainly won't, of course, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't all pray fervently just in case there is a God - if there is, they're definitely not a Tory. 

Anyway, I usually use this preamble to complain about how everything is terrible and then to make some sort of laboured and unpleasantly-biological metaphor likening this blognewsletterthing to some sort of suppurating, Cronenbergian nightmare, but I'm going to briefly change tack this week - if you can't be bothered to read this, normal service is resumed below. 

Someone on Twitter this week noticed that Imperica's been posting linkbuilding articles - paid pieces of content designed to improve third-party sites search rankings by featuring keyword links from other domains. It's not exactly high-quality journalism, was the implication, what are you doing? What Imperica is doing is attempting to earn some fcuking money so as to be able to pay the hosting costs, and the fees for the other writers who write the proper stuff - this is how fcuked small-scale publishing is on Twitter, and what low-traffic, niche-interest sites have to do if they want to do things like, I don't know, pay contributors or put out a magazine. 

As I said (also on Twitter) in response to this, Imperica isn't my site, I don't run it, and I don't get paid to write on it (others do, but I don't - I'm not a journalist and I don't need the additional money, and I would do this for free whatever), but it's worth pointing out the following. No money = taking linkbuilding cash to keep the lights on. Pay for stuff you think is good on the internet otherwise in a couple of years it will all be fcuked. 

And no, this isn't me begging you to cough up for Curios - as I said, this will always be free, whether here or elsewhere - this is simply a statement of fact; this stuff costs, whether it be time or money, and not everyone's in the same fortunate position that I am, of being able to spend 6 hours on a Friday morning writing self-indulgent webspaff just for the fun of it. 

Anway, this is a long-winded way of asking you to take 5 minutes (morelike 2) to fill in this year's Imperica reader survey - it will help Paul, who runs the site, get more info on who you are and what he might do to persuade of you to give a fcuk. Go on, make him happy

God, that was dull, wasn't it? Fcuk that sincerity for a game of soldiers, never doing that again. Here, look, take the links and FCUK OFF OUT OF IT. This is Web Curios, and you're very, very welcome.

By Todd Antony

LET’S KICK OFF WITH THIS ULTRACURRENT GRIME MIX BY GRANDMIXXER!

THE SECTION WHICH IS UNSURPRISED BY REPORTS EMERGING THIS WEEK THAT SUGGEST THAT FACEBOOK’S AD TRANSPARENCY TOOLS ARE, INCREDIBLY, INADEQUATE IN THEIR TRANSPARENCY:

  • The Facebook Numbers: Another earnings report and - guess what?! - the Big Blue Misery Factory made more money than ever before, and had more users than ever before (boosted in the main by growth in India, the Philippines and Indonesia), and despite having to pay out literally BILLIONS in fines continues rake in the advertising dollars like nothing else on earth. FACEBOOK IS DEAD!
  • Edit ‘Live’ Videos In FB: Facebook’s ‘Trim’ feature, which allows for in-app editing of previously ‘Live’ video streams when posted to a Page as archive footage, is being made more widely available. You need never again watch back that awkward bit at the beginning of the live when you were wondering whether the stream was in fact working! That’s, er, it!
  • Insta Testing Greenscreen-style Photo Background Feature: This is exactly the sort of feature which you look at and think ‘oh, that sounds fun, I bet that will allow for all sorts of momentarily frivolous creative applications and will usher in a whole new era of memery and online lols!’ and which in reality will end up being used to do the same tedious visual gag over and over again by every single fcuking person you know until you wish we could go back to the analogue age forever. Insta is apparently testing the ability for users to use their own existing camera roll photos as background to new photos - thereby allowing for all sorts of infinitely-recursive fun. Brands, you will have ONE SHOT at doing something exciting with this, so start planning NOW (don’t start planning now - it’s pointless and stupid and doesn’t matter, and you’d be better advised fixing the fundamental problems with your business than messing around with this pointless rubbish which makes not one iota of difference to your bottom line and which, frankly, is contributing to making the world a worse and more stupid place).
  • Instagram Donation Stickers Launch to UK Charities: This, though, is GOOD NEWS! Charitable organisations in the UK should now be able to benefit from Donation Stickers in Insta Stories, which will allow them (and other users) to append a ‘Donate Now’-type button to their content. You need to be registered as a charity to benefit from this - obviously - but this is unarguably positive so WELL DONE EVERYONE.
  • Twitter’s Numbers: I know I say this every time, but LOOK AT THE CONTRAST WITH FACEBOOK HERE. Comparing the two platforms was always a bit silly (they do different things, for different audiences), but seems even moreso now that Twitter continues to limp along with a paltry 140million Daily Monetisable Users compareed to the literal billions using FB. Still, ad revenues are up, so trebles all round!
  • Snap Launches ‘Instant Create’ for Easier Ad Creation: This is really useful - a super-simple ad creation tool for Snap, which automates vast swathes of the process to create native, vertical ad units for you with minimal fuss. The amount of automation here is really impressive, even down to the way the tools scrape a destination url for suitable images and crops them for 9:16 with nary a thought (though I guarantee that the results won’t look as good as you hope they will); if you’re a brand or business who wants to attract THE YOUTH then this might make worth Snap considering as part of your ad inventory.
  • LinkedIn Lets Businesses and Individuals Ad Services: You can now highlight EXACTLY what it is that you offer on your LinkedIn profile, with the ability to specify the services you provide - information which will now be searchable, making it theoretically simple for users to find accountants or plumbers or urinolagnia-happy dominatrices or whatever. I just popped over to LinkedIn to check whether this had rolled out to me yet - sadly it hasn’t, but know that as soon as it does I am listing ‘BUSINESS’ as my sole service and waiting for the multi-million pound offers to roll in.
  • Pinterest Launches Mobile Ad Tools: You can now set up and run ad campaigns on Pinterest from your phone! Yes! I am so excited I may never be able to stop using exclamation marks!
  • Stop Using Like Buttons On Your Websites: There are several reasons for this, not least the fact that it’s no longer 2013 and they are totally pointless and they slow down your site and noone likes or uses them anyway, but the main new one is that according to EU law you may well be liable under GDPR as a DIRTY DATA-SCRAPER should you be making use of them. This is technical and legal and, frankly, almost certainly going to be subject to a long-winded series of legal appeals and reversals and rereversals, but the upshot is that it’s probably not worth the hassle to bother with this sort of plugin any more.
  • Ofcom UK News Consumption Data: Lovely, exciting, UK news consumption data! Turns out TV news is still by far and away the best way of reaching most people - whodathunkit?! - but that social media is growing as a means of consumption. Although it’s frustratingly fuzzy on some of the exact meaning of this - results are based on survey data, conducted online and face-to-face, and I have literally no idea what people mean when they say they ‘consume news via Whatsapp’. They open links sent to them by friends? They subscribe to Whatsapp-based news services? THESE ARE QUALITATIVELY DIFFERENT THINGS FFS. Anyway, you want some numbers to prove whatever it is that you want them to? Great, here, take these.
  • Approved/Not Approved: I like this. A project designed to highlight some of the slightly odd any hypocritical decisions made when it comes to approving or rejecting adverts for sexual content, specifically those ads designed to flog sex-positive things like sex toys and lube. This is put together - unsurprisingly - by manufacturers of said devices, but despite the obvious vested interest the point stands; ads for pharmaceuticals seem to get through far more often than ads for sex education and the like, which doesn’t quite feel right.
  • Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: It’s been a while since I’ve seen a really good film or TV promo site, but this one, for Tarantino’s latest, is WONDERFUL - presented in the style of a print magazine from the era in which the film’s set, the design here is just perfect; you can almost smell the paper through the screen, the visual design is perfect, the articles draw you into the fictional Hollywood and the wider Tarantino metaverse, with ads for the ever-present Red Apple cigarettes and other familiar brands from Pulp Fiction and other movies...The whole site is excellent and a genuine pleasure to spend a few minutes browsing, and even make me almost want to go to the cinema for the first time in approximately six years (but only for about 10 seconds).
  • Gucci Marmont: I think this is the third of these Gucci websites I’ve featured on here, but I am NOT ASHAMED - it’s another of their hand-painted, ultra-confident, super-luxe and VERY SILLY series of microsites which present an entire range in the style of beautiful, opulent still lifes. As per usual, there’s minimal annotation - it’s expected that you just know what these bags are and that they speak for themselves, and it’s perfect. Note the way that the light sources on each painted bag seem to change slightly as you move the cursor around them; now THAT is luxury web design. Also, as my friend Jay pointed out, “Superlux website and then an approachable pricing strategy: getting designer handbags back to £800 / $1000 (a price point they'd all exceeded for a few years) to hit those Millennial & teen wallets. Not stupid.

By Echo Morgan

NEXT UP, WHY NOT TRY THE NEW ALBUM OF CHOPPY BEATS BY LA PRODUCER BLARF?!

THE SECTION WHICH PRESUMES THAT NOW THAT SAUDI IS LETTING WOMEN LEAVE THE COUNTRY UNACCOMPANIED WE’RE GOING TO JUST FORGET ABOUT KHASHOGGI AND ALL THE OTHER STUFF, PT.1:

  • 100 Every Day: 100 people die in the US every day as a result of gun violence, a number so mad and so large that it’s quite hard to countenance. 100 Every Day is a project asking designers to contribute a piece of design - a poster, specifically - highlighting the statistic however they see fit to raise awareness and remind people that this is, in fact, a daily reality. “We are not calling for restric­tions to our Con­sti­tu­tion­al Rights, but just common sense legislation that will help save lives. We’re not an institution. We’re just a group of creative people who think that 100people shouldn’t die every day.” Exactly. There are some lovely designs here, aside from anything else.
  • 99 Music: A lovely site by The Ringer, which lets you explore their selection of either the 40 best albums or the 40 best singles of 1999, complete with all the Spotify integration you could hope for so that you can ‘enjoy’ the two-decade old stylings of, say, Lou Bega (yep, he’s in there, and you KNOW that he has every right to be). Each entry includes a bit of trivia, occasional throwback interviews, assessments of whether the track would still be a hit in 2019, and is generally a lovely little nostalgia timecapsule (if you’re me) or a journey in time to a strangely optimistic past where people still naively believed that things could one day get better (if you’re a child).
  • Facebook Ad Watch: Despite the reported inadequacy of Facebook’s ad transparency tools, a couple of researchers in Germany (I think) have used it to scrape the dataset and present this slightly-less-shonky searchable database of Facebook ad spend around the world, searchable by topic and with some simple dataviz done in Tableau over the top of it. It’s a bit janky, but nonetheless a nice alternative way to explore some of the GREAT POLITICAL ADVERTISING we’ve all been subjected to over the past year or so - it’s worth clicking the ‘Stories’ section to go through some of the curated datapoints they’ve collected, as it gives an idea of the sort of research you can undertake with a bit of effort.
  • Poolside FM: Fcuuuuuuuuuuuuk. I just did a check and I featured the first iteration of this site in FEBRUARY 2014. FEBRUARY 2014!!! 5 and a half years ago! I was...oh, still in my 30s, fine, and already horribly broken and jaded, but, still, WOW have I been doing this crap for a long time. On the offchance, how long have you been reading this crap for? And, er, WHY? Anyway, Poolside FM is a BEAUTIFUL retro-style site which is basically just a bunch of 90s-ish music and video presented in a very vaporwave-y type faux-Mac OS. Which is a pretty nonsensical descriptor, I now realise, so click the link and be transported to an LA poolside two decades prior. Oh, in case you’re interested, here’s my intro from that February 2014 Curios - imagine the wavy lines across the screen presaging a brief moment of time travel…”Well HELLO! Isn't it exciting? Today we celebrate that wonderful intersection of cold weather and gravity - the WINTER OLYMPICS! A few weeks when we can get all exercised about Russia's absolutely appalling human rights record and attitudes towards non-heteronormative lifestyles whilst at the same time blithely ignoring the rank hypocrisy of many of our favourite brands who like to talk about how they're all up for liberalism and diversity and frown upon homophobia and the like whilst STILL paying shedloads of cash for the right to advertise their crap at a wasteful, corrupt event in a country which turns a blind eye to stuff like this on an hourly basis. WELL DONE US AND INDEED THEM! (as an aside, yes it's nice that Google's doodle is today all rainbow-ish, but really - shouldn't the richest and in many respects most powerful corporate entity perhaps maybe do a little bit more than effectively the graphic design equivalent of a subtweet at an entire country? No? Just me?).” Wasn’t that fun!
  • FakeText Spotter: The past 18 months have seen an explosion of ‘AI’ (mostly not in fact AI) tools to create images and copy and sounds, tools which are increasingly appearing in versions which can be made us of by normies like us (albeit in slightly janky fashion); the past couple of months have seen a slightly nervous response to that, as people start to rightly question at what point we’re going to stop being able to tell when something’s been algogenerated or not. There have been a number of experimental tools designed to help determine whether an image is a product of a GAN, say, or whether a face filter’s been applied to an image, but this is the first I’ve seen that seeks to analyse text to determine the likelihood that it’s been spaffed out by a GPT-2 or similar. Plug in any text you like and the programme will analyse it to and tell you to what extent each word in the text was likely to be there, based on what the GPT-2 model was likely to predict. Which, again, is a horrible description, sorry - basically if all the words appear in a highly probable order, it’s more likely that the text was machine generated; humans are less predictable, is the upshot. Only a proof-of-concept, and as soon as the machines get better this stuff’s going to become impossible, but, well, have a play!
  • Chalmers: A fascinating project, Chalmers is a chatbot designed by the city of Toronto to be an automated source of assistance for the homeless - users visit the site and are presented with a simple conversational interface which will let them find details of the nearest shelter, soup kitchen, medical centre, etc, as well as helping direct them to on- and offline mental health services and other support networks. This is SUCH a smart idea - obviously there are questions around accessibility, and how the target audience for the service can be made aware of it, and how to keep the information current and live, but in principle it’s a useful tool which offers practical support at low cost. There’s definitely a model here to be built on.
  • Where You At?: This bills itself as ‘an event app for Snapchat’, and I think is effectively a third-party plugin-type app which allows you to create events and manage guestlists within Snap. Which, obviously, sounds like a terrifying recipe for the sort of parties made infamous in the early teens, when some kid would post an innocent houseparty invitation on Facebook only to find an entire community of meth addicts having complicatedly-lubey congress in the burnt-out ruins of their family home a few short days later. Which gives me an excuse to link to this, which is still one of the greatest TV interviews I have ever seen. Genuinely quite curious to know what Corey’s up to these days, should anyone fancy a bit of light detective work.
  • Liquid: A lovely little bit of coding, this, offering you a fancy liquid simulation in-browser, which you can make move simply by waggling your phone. This used to be the sort of thing you had to download an actual app to experience; now it’s a few lines of code to run it in-browser (ok, fine, possibly more than ‘a few lines’, but you get the point) - at this rate we’ll all be able to play Playstation through Chrome in approximately three years, at which point noone will ever get anything done again and we’ll all basically just give up as a species and Wall-E ourselves into oblivion. Probably.
  • A Witness Tree: On the one hand, this is a really smart little project in which a tree in Harvard forest in the US has been hooked up to a bunch of sensors and given the ability to automatically Tweet data about climate readings to the world, the idea to better communicate and personalise the very real effect of climate change on living organisms experiencing its effects in realtime; on the other, this is a tree basically live-tweeting its slow demise, which is quite deeply horrible if you think about it too hard. So, er, don’t!
  • The iPhone Photographer of the Year Award 2019: Given the fact that I think it’s widely accepted that iPhones have long been surpassed in terms of camera quality by a bunch of other brands, it seems quaint that its the only brand that has its own dedicated photo contest (or at least that it’s the only brand that has a photo contest anyone’s heard of). That said, given the insane extent to which the current generation of phones tweak and manipulate every single image they shoot, the idea of having photography competitions at all seems slightly redundant; we should just let the image enhancing software models duke it out between them. Anyway, this is this year’s crop of excellent iPhone pics; regardless of whatever happens in post, the framing and composition in most of these is as stunning as you’d hope.
  • Holoscape: This is a Twitter thread of demo footage of a game that doesn’t exist yet, but it’s worth checking out as a window into a potential future in which we’re all playing persistent, shared-reality AR shooters on our phones. Holoscape is a work-in-progress AR game, in which users can play in teams (MMO-style, ish), do quests, etc, all in a shared AR world in which an individual player’s actions can and do effect other players’ experiences. Which is a big deal - current AR games like Pokemon Go or the Potter one that weirdly noone seems to be playing work on a player-by-player basis, with everyone having their own, separate gameplay experience rather than sharing a gameworld, but this (and the eventual full version of Minecraft AR) is far more cooperative and collaborative and, as a result, potentially interesting.
  • The Guardian Digital Design Guide: A beautifully-designed design guide, from the Guardian. This is clean and beautifully-presented and clearly laid-out and generally does a superb job of laying out the design principles that underpin the Guardian website, and is basically an object-lesson in clear communication of visual principles.
  • Photorealistic Minecraft Textures: Oh WOW. You think you know Minecraft, right, all blocky textures and janky sprites and really impressive constructions, fine, if you view them in tilt-shift, but basically a kid’s sandbox? Well THINK AGAIN. This is amazing - a texture set designed by a pretty prolific modder which turns the previously childlike visuals of Minecraft into the sort of thing you see in the pages of terrifying ‘My Alpine retreat’-type design hagiographies in *Wallpaper or similar magazines. You can use this to create the most INCREDIBLE interiors, and if someone doesn’t start using this as an actual, honest-to-goodness shortcut for 3d architectural renders I’d be amazed. Aside from anything else, this now affords a really cheap and relatively easy way of creating hugely shiny interiors - pay a decent Minecraft builder, apply this texture and BANG, no need for hours of tedious 3d CAD-type work. Honestly, you could do LOADS of interesting stuff with this with a bit of time and imagination.
  • Tera: I think I featured the NASA project that this is born out of in here last year - in any case, Tera is a project currently being crowdfunded on Indiegogo which is seeking funds to build a proof-of-concept eco-structure outside NYC - “Nestled in the woods of Upstate New York with sweeping views of the Hudson River, TERA is a high-tech, luxe, green eco-home that’s unlike any other on this planet – available on a nightly basis for anyone wanting a glimpse into the future of sustainable life on and beyond our planet. Developed from AI SpaceFactory's NASA-award-winning Mars habitat MARSHA, it's created with space-grade technologies and materials that were developed for long-term sustainable missions on Mars.” Basically this is going to be a super-trendy Airbnb, but the potential upside is that one can imagine a theoretical future where the learnings from projects like this are applied to mass construction in the future to minimise environmental impact, etc. Although we’ll almost certainly be past the point of no return by the time that happens, so, frankly, who cares? Christ, that was upsettingly nihilistic, sorry - it’s 848am and I am having something of a slump. I’ll try and pull out of it, maybe some toast will help.
  • How People Around the World are Beating Summer: Ah, this’ll do the trick - a lovely collection of photographs of people around the world cooling down by whatever means necessary. Genuinely cheering, although it does rather point out that Summer appears to have decided to stop early here in London.
  • Sculpt: I am sure you can probably do loads of really cool stuff with this webtoy by Stephane Ginier, but all I really care about is the fact that it gives you a spherical ball of flesh-coloured digital putty to play with and that, with a bit of time and effort and, fine, a bit of skill, you can create some genuinely horrific-looking little bald faces, not unlike those weird balls-with-faces toys that were popular for a while in the 80s/90s. You know, what were they called....Madballs! Jesus, they still exist? Anyway, you can make hideous faces in 3d, what more do you need to know?

By Nvard Yerkanian

NEXT, SOME PROPER TECHNO WITH AN HOUR’S MIX BY EXi!:

THE SECTION WHICH PRESUMES THAT NOW THAT SAUDI IS LETTING WOMEN LEAVE THE COUNTRY UNACCOMPANIED WE’RE GOING TO JUST FORGET ABOUT KHASHOGGI AND ALL THE OTHER STUFF, PT.2:

  • Dog Photographer of the Year 2019: OH LOOK AT ALL THESE LOVELY ROFFS! Lots of lovely photos of lots of lovely dogs, all ratified as being lovely by the Kennel Club, no less! Obviously these are great photos of beautiful animals, but I do sort of feel honour-bound to point out that professional dog breeding as ratified by the self-same Kennel Club is a sort of horrorshow of unpleasant breeding practices and genetic lines inbred to a point of near-handicap. God, what a miserable, joyless funsponge I can be. ENJOY THE ROFFS!
  • Spoton: Like Uber, but for pets! Is a pitch that I can’t imagine ever working, ever, and yet here we are - Spoton is, seemingly, exactly that, offering a specific car service which caters exclusively for people who want to travel with their animal companions. It’s only available in New York, and to be honest I can’t quite see it scaling; also, do Uber drivers get p1ssy about having animals in their cars? I have taken a very sick cat to the vet in an Uber and the lovely driver did a proper Steve McQueen to get us there before the poor thing died, so I’m slightly skeptical as to the need for this.
  • Enfont Terrible: This is a truly appalling pun, but it’s also a very cool font toy indeed so I’ll let them off. The site lets you mess with any font you like to create your very own weird, stretched, compressed, glitched out version; you can drop in a font file to start playing, and the software allows for a pretty spectacular range of effects to be applied to create something truly unique. If you’ve ever wanted a font of your very own - I was once promised one, called ‘Muir’, by Lucy Brown; Lucy, if you’re reading this, I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN - then this isn’t a bad place to make one. It will be a weird, hideous mess, fine, but it will be YOUR weird, hideous mess.
  • If This Is A Man: This is a couple of years old now, but it’s no less wonderful for it. This is the reading of Primo Levi’s ‘If This Is A Man’ which took place at London’s Southbank Centre in 2017, recorded for posterity and presented as a series of recordings on Soundcloud. The narration is shared between various actors and notable figures from journalism and the press, alongside people with an historical connection to the work, and it’s done beautifully; the music which occasionally accompanies the prose is wonderfully complementary. If you’re not familiar with the book, this is your chance to rectify that - this is one of the greatest things ever written about the Holocaust, and the human capacity for endurance and forgiveness, and it is utterly, utterly brilliant (but you will cry like a child at various points throughout, be warned).
  • Tuigram: A Spanish app whose sole purpose is seemingly to allow you to Instagram your Tweets (a sentence which I now want to go back in time and show to someone from 2003 to see what they make of it). I have no idea why you would want to do that, but if you do then this could be the best thing in Curios this week (it is not, how DARE you).
  • Tidy Elections: Useful for political researchers and students of psephology, or anyone who wants some electoral datasets to play about with, Tidy Elections offers simple, clear electoral maps for unfashionable elections, created as a response to the fact that it’s often really hard to find clean datasets for less-reported-on nations. You want a clear breakdown of how the 2018 Timorese elections played out? You got it!
  • Downie: ‘Download this video off YouTube’ services are ten-a-penny, fine, but Downie is seemingly a one-size-fits-all service which will let you rip any video from any platform with ease. It’s desktop only, and it’s paid-for, but if you somehow need to rip video from all over the web with ease and impunity then a) I posit you’re doing something borderline-nefarious; and b) this will help.
  • Imagefinder: 200,000+ royalty-free stock images available to search and download. One to add to the list of ‘places I go when I have to find images for another fcuking pointless presentation and I have to pretend to care about copyright’.
  • ORB: Or, the Open Reduction Blocks Project, which is taking the redacted elements of the Mueller report and turning them into individual artifacts - look! “What we did is extract all of the large black blocks in the Mueller Report as individual works of art. These individual works are called ORBs (Open Redaction Blocks). The mission of the ORB Project is to provide an open set of data and visual assets to allow artists and designers easy access to ORBs for use in their creative works. All ORB assets and data are released under a Creative Commons license, and are available for free to the public at "http://orb-project.us" and on Github. On this site you can view and download individual blocks from the gallery. We will also highlight creative projects using the blocks, as they appear.” Which is sort-of silly, but I do like the concept quite a lot, not least in terms of the artists’ chutzpah here.
  • Unconsenting Media: A database allowing users to search for sexual violence in film and TV, so as to be able to check in advance whether something is going to contain specific scenes or themes that they or others will find distressing. It’s astonishing that 53% of all the TV shows currently in the database mention sexual assault or rape - is it really that essential a plot device?
  • Photos of Old Cinemas: LOTS of photos of old cinemas! This is a fantastic collection, collected by location in the main, which lets you go back to an imagined golden age of the silver screen, when going to the pictures was an event and the architecture and exteriors reflected that. So much excellent design from the 50s and 60s in here, and so many future Wetherspoons.
  • The Open Syllabus Visualisation: “This visualization shows the 164,720 most frequently-assigned texts in the Open Syllabus corpus, a database of 6,059,459 college course syllabi...By analyzing this across millions of classes, we can start to get a bird's-eye view of the relationships among books, articles, and disciplines that emerges from the collective process of teaching and learning encoded by the syllabi.” I have no real idea what any of you might want to do with this, but it’s potentially interesting in terms of getting an idea of dominating themes or ideologies in contemporary academia, maybe.
  • Every Windows 3.1 Theme: Are YOU nostalgic for old operating systems of yore? Why? They were awful, and however much you might complain about Windows Vista or whichever version is your personal, particular bete noir, you also know in your heart of hearts that it’s a million times better than it was attempting to navigate a GUI in the 80s or 90s. Still, you want a time capsule to the days of floppies and INCREDIBLY LOUD AND CRUNCHY HARD DRIVES then this is that time capsule.
  • Soviet Photography: An incredible archive of the official photography magazine of the Soviet nation, starting in 1926 and going all the way to the mid-90s; this charts the development of a national/political photographic aesthetic, as well as shifts in camera technology, and is a total timesink for anyone interested either in the history of the Soviet Union or photography more generally.
  • Scanimate: “Scanimate is an analog computer system that was built by the Computer Image Corporation of Denver, Colorado in the late sixites and early seventies. In all only eight machines were ever produced.” It was used to make early-era CGI-type graphics for film and TV, and this is one man’s labour-of-love website to preserve the memory of the style and aesthetic of that era. If you’re in any way interested in 80s-style retro CG and that sort of general look, there will be a LOT to love on this site.
  • Gotham Shanghai: ‘Gotham’ is, I concede, a pretty fcuking tedious and played-out aesthetic - yes, yes, we GET IT, Batman, you are MOODY and CONFLICTED and it is ALWAYS GREY AND RAINING - but this set of photos by Amey Khan, applying that exact sort of gunmetal aesthetic to the generally neon shine of Shanghai exhibits some quite gorgeous contrasts and is generally better than you’d expect.
  • Buttsss: A brilliant and incredibly necessary collection of animated gifs of cartoon bums. Bums with eyes, with wings, with lasers emerging from the cheeks, bums with attitude, with sass, callipgyian bums, bums with barely a gradient - ALL OF THE BUMS, basically. If you can look at this without smiling and feeling a little bit happier about the world then you’re probably irreparably damaged by modernity and ought to consider maybe stepping away from the 21st century for a while. Please feel free to @ me on Twitter with your favourite bum, should you so desire (cartoon ones only, though, this isn’t some sort of thinly-disguised thirsty bongo-solicitation).
  • The Opening Day of Disneyland: Happy faces! Retro vibes! The most genuinely horrifying Mickey and Minnie Mouse costumes you will ever have seen in your life! No, really, click the link and look at the second photo and wonder what the everliving fcuk Walt thought he was doing with those. Nightmares for days, I tell you.
  • Stop Alien Abductions: Thanks SO MUCH Dan for sending me this - you will thank Dan too, once you’ve dived headlong into the exciting world of preventing alien abductions. This is SUCH a good site - incredible old-school design despite still being very much active (there are references to 2019 on there - can someone PLEASE tell this person about Wordpress themes?), and a proper, actual, literal, tinfoil hat conspiracy. Michael Menkin is concerned that alien abductions are causing autism in children, and to guard against that maintains this site offering his skills as a constructor of anti-abduction helmets and baseball caps, specially designed and custom-constructed to Menkin’s own design to prevent mind control and interference by said alien visitors (you can find out more on the sister site Aliens & Children, fyi). This is...well, it’s exactly as you’d expect, and all the better for it, and I thank Mr Menkin for his tireless investigation into the root causes of autism. If nothing else, PLEASE can you start spamming this site in the comments of every single fcuking pr1ck on Facebook still banging the autism/MMR drum? I love the idea of their indignation as they insist that no, actually, this particular brand of ascientific mental is just TOO MUCH, whereas theirs is absolutely fine.
  • Jace, The Ingham Family Reborn: Finally this week, what might be the apogee/nadir of YouTuber/Influencer grifting. You thought Belle Delphine’s bathwater the other week was a milestone? This is better (worse). The Inghams are apparently a YouTuber family, who recently-ish gave birth to a new addition which they chose to inexplicably name ‘Jace’ (I really, really hope it’s a tribute to this - by the way, WHAT a theme tune that was) - they’ve partnered with a maker of ‘reborns’ (those intensely creepy, ultra-realistic models of small children often purchased by people who’ve suffered miscarriages or early-infant death) to offer a limited-edition run of dolls of their son to whoever wants to pay £300 for one. WHAT?!?! WHAT THE FCUK?!?!? WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WANTS TO BUY A DOLL IN THE LIKENESS OF A NEWBORN CHILD BELONGING TO A BUNCH OF FCUKING STRANGERS OFF YOUTUBE? WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH SUCH A THING!?!? HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN IT?!?!?! “Evening Karen” “Evening Susan” “What’s that, Karen?” “Oh, it’s just a doll I bought off the internet - did you know that that infant child is an exact replica of that belonging to a moderately-successful family of YouTubers called the Inghams?” “Really? How much did that set you back then, Karen?” “A very reasonable £344, Susan, and I got all the accessories too, and a chance to meet the Ingham family at a meet and greet picnic at which I will present them with a copy of their own child to gawp at in some sort of in-no-way-mad form of worship” “Sounds reasonable, Karen. Fancy buying these magic beans?” Everything is mad and everyone is an idiot, except for us (and I have my doubts about you tbh).

By Steve ESPO Powers

FINALLY IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, WHY NOT ENJOY SOME DREAMY BALEARIC HOUSE?

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:

  • Culinary Canvas: Just the one Tumblr this week, but at least it is in fact actually a Tumblr. Culinary Canvas is a website presenting the creative food photography of Lauren Purnell, who I think is based in the UK. If you ever need a shoot in which a bunch of food is made to look like, I don’t know, a messy pileup on the M6, Lauren may well be the person for YOU.

THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:

  • Sick Sad Girlz Club: Pulled from the longread on chronic Lyme down *there*, this is an interesting Insta feed - it’s meant to offer a supportive position to women suffering with their bodies, whether with chronic illness or temporary pains, and it offers a pleasing antidote to the polished instaperfection of so much of your TL.
  • The Pink Lemonade: A VERY well-curated feed of feminist artstuffs.
  • Hayley Welch: Hayley Welch makes murals, amongst other things. Her feed is full of excellent work - the slightly sad bee almost broke me just now, though it could also be the very sad interview about Lyra Mckee which is currently on Woman’s Hour.
  • Top Of Water Tower: Photographs of the tops of water towers in Japan. No, I know, but you’re wrong.
  • Stef Dies: Last in this week’s selection of Instas, Stef Dies is a project in which the artist, presumably Stef, photographs herself looking dead in various places, in a play on the standard selfie pose. I love this SO MUCH.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • Facebook Fact Checking: This is Full Fact’s (the UK’s independent fact checking body) initial report into Facebook’s fact checking processes - it’s interesting to read as an assessment of the difficulty inherent in implementing fact checking solutions at scale, an acknowledgement of the work Facebook is currently undertaking (which it’s fair to credit Facebook for; Full Fact broadly applauds them for their efforts, though with the obvious caveat that it’s still not enough), and, finally, as a sober corrective to the general Zuckerbergian ‘don’t worry! We’re building systems to automate all this stuff!’ rhetoric. The most important line in here to my mind is the one where Full Fact quite plainly state that they have seen no evidence at all to suggest that tech like this is anywhere near existing, and that the problem it is trying to solve might well be beyond the ken of existing processes and models. Techological solutionism as a flawed ideology? WHODATHUNKIT!
  • Johnson as PR Offensive: I’ve got pretty serious Johnson fatigue at the moment (please, no sniggering), as I imagine do you all, but this piece is worth reading if you can stomach it; it’s a good portrait of the man as an exercise in PR, and contains several good observations about how and why that works, and why it’s perhaps a touch on the troubling side that MAINTAINING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE is now basically a sort of national-level diktat.
  • Whither Filter Bubbles: Jeff Jarvis is a divisive figure, but this piece, in which he questions the assumption that we all exist in filter bubbles of our own making and it’s this that is contributing the the fractured, fractious nature of public discourse and the fact that everything is a MESS, is an interesting read. It’s less about filter bubbles per se, and more about the media’s tendency to pick a term or trope and uncritically run with it; see also ‘surveillance capitalism’, which Jarvis accurately points out is an unhelpful term in many respects, devaluing to an extent the very real and actual surveillance being undertaken by actual governments by equating it to the way advertisers use cookies. Contrarian, but smartly so.
  • Chinese Business Models: VC-penned piece about how businesses in China are developing innovative business models online faster than you can say “wow, we lost the battle for the future before it even started, didn’t we?” Hugely interesting, I promise, even if, like me, you have very little interest in the business of business.
  • Neom May Be Our Future: Do you remember Neom? Of course you do! Neom is Saudi Arabia’s planned ULTRACITY OF THE FUTURE: I featured it in October 2017, and described it thusly: “HOW FCUKING WEIRDLY SCARY IS THAT? Read the breathlessly-optimistic future utopian prose! See the photos of the in-no-way-repressed women jogging in croptops! It’s all going to be great! Then think a little bit longer, and consider that if you were Saudi and you were seeking international investment for your proposed future-leading hub city-state, you’d probably dial down the woman-suppressing rhetoric, at least til the first few rounds were closed. Then think quite how much this website looks like the opening 15 minutes of every single dystopian scifi you’ve ever seen, the bit before you realise that there is a HEART OF DARKNESS beating beneath the shiny metallic skin.” Anyway, this piece looks at the ridiculousness of the whole concept - vapourware for the plutocratically rich, kept aloft by puffs of hot air emanating from the mouths of luxuriantly-remunerated management consultants. Absolute madness, and still incredibly sinister.
  • Famous Birthdays: One of a couple of articles this week that made me feel incredibly old, this piece profiles the database of famouses that is the website Famous Birthdays, that has seemingly by accident become an absolute magnet for YouTube and TikTok fandoms who congregate on the site to discuss their favourite streamers and ‘creators’ (God forgive me); this is sort of arcane and baffling, but also a great tip in terms of finding new influencers to work with (please stop working with these people, it’s HORRIBLE).
  • How GenZ and Millennials Are Different: If you’re a strategyplannerinsightmonkey then this is a VERY useful read indeed, pointing out all of the behavioural and attitudinal ways in which GenZ differ from the now ANCIENT millennial demographic. The ‘why’ here is because apparently GenXers like me, who are currently raising GenZers, have markedly different value systems and parenting styles vs the boomers who raised millennials; whether you buy that or not, or indeed whether you believe anything at all this article says, it presents an awful lot of DATA that you can interpret to make whatever point you want - it doesn’t matter, the tactic is almost certainly going to be ‘co-create with the streaming community!’ whatever fcuking way you frame it.
  • Where Everyone Is An Influencer: A slightly dizzying pen portrait of thys year’s InstaBeach event, at which a bunch of internet-famous children get invited by Instagram to hang out at a beach party and, I don’t know, film each other getting high on cola and fingering or something. There’s something quite creepy about all of this - not least the shot about halfway down which shows a slightly fat, middle-aged photographer snapping the beautiful young things in the party pen and looks a touch on the predatory side.
  • Jojo Siwa is the Master of the Universe: This is the second ‘wow, so OLD’ article this week - before reading this, I had no idea at all who Jojo Siwa was; now I am slightly in awe of her terrifyingly perky song-and-dance routines, and the military-industriual entertainment complex that has seemingly sprung up to keep this tween at the peak of the pre-teen music business. This doesn’t seem like it can be doing the kid any good, does it?
  • VSCO Girls: Oh, I was wrong, there are THREE pieces that made me feel old this week. This is about ‘VSCO Girls’, a term apparently catching on on social media to connote a particular sort of slightly-basic-but-pretty-WASP-type, based on their stereotypical use of the VSCO photoediting app. There’s nothing in here that’s not been a facet of teen life since the 50s - the cliques, the status anxiety, the slang, the bullying - but it’s the language and slightly weird air of self-awareness that pervades this that made it feel totally alien to me. Which, frankly, is good, as I am a nearly-40-year-old man and if it didn’t feel alien there are probably some problems with my lifestyle.
  • Drinkable Weed: I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I quite like weed, but even as a habitual user I find the idea of consuming it in drink form a pretty ridiculous one. Still, there are lots of companies in the middle of the North American weed Wild West who are banking on the fact that I’m an idiot and in fact what people really, really want to do is get boxed off their tits on THC-infused mineral water - this piece is a slightly Gonzo-ish look at a few of the players. It does, I have to say, sound like the weed industry is probably quite a lot of fun at the moment (and a massive, massive racket).
  • The Man Who Will Save The Grocery Store: This is an absolutely fascinating piece about the future of food retail, from the point of view of the retail and food consultants who are trying to prevent Amazon from consigning yet another bricks-and-mortar business to the past. Honestly, even if you don’t think you’re interested in selling groceries, or how design influences purchase decisions, or what the motivating factors are on consumption habits in 2019, you will find this compelling; oh, and, again, if you’re a plannerstrategyinsightmonkey this is very much worth reading.
  • One Night Wonder: Writing a musical is HARD (I say that as someone who tried - we got all the songs, but trying to shoehorn them into a plot proved beyond us (me, mainly). I still maintain that ‘Sex in the Office’ was a stone-cold classic, though, and deserves to find an audience one day); imagine doing it, getting a slot on Broadway...and then having it shut down after only one performance after a critical mauling. This is about what that feels like (it feels horrible) - it’s a lot more uplifting than you’d think, honest.
  • A Pre-schooler’s Guide To Managing Your Assistant: From McSweeney’s, this is very, very funny - although I say that as a childless man. Your reaction as a parent may be more of a knowing, slightly-pained chuckle.
  • The Duct Tape Typographer: Short profile of Shuetsu Sato, a 65 year old employee of the Tokyo underground who has achieved a degree of fame and affection as a result of his painstakingly-cut, beautifully-designed public information notices on the network, which he makes using duct tape and a stanley knife. This is glorious, and there’s something so peculiarly Japanese about this honing of a single action to near-perfect status.
  • A Brief, Awful History of the Lobotomy: Just be aware, if you’ve ever had a member of your family treated by lobotomy and don’t quite know exactly what it entails, maybe skip this one. Otherwise this is a brutal and quite horrifying look back at the early days of brain surgery and experimentation, when it was perfectly acceptable to take a bunch of patients from the local asylum and go rootling around their frontal lobes with a pointy bit of steel just to see what would happen. It’s easy to forget this - that,whilst we are obviously all standing on the shoulders of giants of science and research, whose methodological approach to enquiry enabled some of the greatest advances known to humanity, we’re also standing on the shoulders of the sort of people who’d think nothing of removing large chunks of someone’s cerebellum because, well, they were there and why not?
  • Love, Peace and Taco Grease: Or, ‘How I Left My Abusive Husband and Found Guy Fieri’. Fieri, in case you forget, is the much-maligned TV chef and restaurant owner whose food is all about BIG FLAVOURS and who constantly seems to be shouting at a burger. This isn’t really about him at all; it’s instead a very, very good personal essay about escaping from an abusive marriage and finding freedom in unexpected places.
  • When Lyme Disease Becomes An Identity: Coincidentally, in a week in which Lyme disease was in the UK news I also came across this piece, which looks at the strange and slightly mad world of ‘Chronic Lyme’, a variant on standard Lyme disease which is marked out by the fact that you can’t define its effects or its symptoms and people get VERY VERY VERY obsessed with the fact that they have it. I am fascinated by stuff like this - it’s adjacent to the other Very Online phenomenon of people who are convinced that they have tiny, itchy filaments embedded all over their skin - and the associated industries of massively awful grifters than inevitably spring up around them. Take a look at some of the numbers being quoted for treatments in the piece; insane.
  • Love Island: The Experience: Amelia Tate goes to the Love Island Experience in Brighton, where people paid actual cashmoney to hang out on a shonkily-built replica of the show’s set, take photos with ex cast members and, er, watch the show on a big screen. You want a snapshot of the provincial youth of Britain in Summer 2019? You could do worse than this (this is said with much less snobbery than it sounds, promise).
  • Subways Are For Sleeping: A wonderful piece from the archives of Harper’s Magazine, this is a 1956 profile of one Henry Shelby, an ordinary New Yorker who just so happens to be homeless. It takes you through Shelby’s routines - where he eats, where he sleeps, how he finds work and money - and as it does so paints a picture of a time so alien to now it almost feels like centuries ago, one in which it was perfectly reasonable for someone to be homeless and find work, and where Shelby’s status seems to confer him a sort of freedom rather than the abject misery he’d experience in 2019. Really, really interesting, and surprisingly cheering - you’ll leave it wishing Shelby well, and possibly wanting to go for a very long walk.
  • The Hell Marathon: If the 20th century’s best sportswriting was largely considered to be that about boxing (pace DFW and tennis), I’d posit that the best stuff I’ve read over the past 20 years has been about running, and in particular distance/endurance events. This is another brilliant piece, focusing on the Hell Ultramarathon: “The Hell Ultra, an annual race in which contestants run nearly the entire length of the [Leh-Manali] highway, beginning in Manali and ending atop the Shanti Stupa—a Buddhist monument—in Leh. The 298-mile trip takes runners through five different mountain passes that reach up to 17,500 feet, equivalent to the higher of the two main Mt. Everest base camps. The first pass, known as Rohtang in the local language, translates to “pile of corpses” because of what it can do to travelers who attempt to cross it at the wrong time of year.” Quite, quite wonderful.
  • The Chelsea Affect: Another archive piece, this is Arthur Miller, post-Monroe, reflecting on his sojourn in the Chelsea Hotel in New York. There’s a lot of era-appropriate namedropping, as you’d expect, which is occasionally confusing unless you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the artistic demi-monde of the 60s, but it’s a charming piece, Miller’s obviously a brilliant writer, and in the form of landlord Mr. Bard, one of the best real life characters I’ve read in a while.
  • Longshore Drift: This is SUCH good writing - short fiction by Julia Armfield, about teenage female friendship and feeling out of place and dislocated and uncertain about you and the friend you cling to. I would read an infinity of this; the characters and the place and the prose are all perfect.
  • On Writing: Finally in this week’s longreads, a piece on writing by poet, copywriter and Friend of Curios Rishi Dastidar. Rishi’s writing makes me angry it’s so good - every line of this short piece is perfect, and I hate him for it.

By Sophie Gabrielle

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:

1) This is from a few years back, but editor Paul found it courtesy of Rupert Goodwins on Twitter; it’s 2001 redone as though it were a Picasso painting, courtesy of style transfer software, and it looks WONDERFUL. Take any frame of this, blow it up and whack it on a wall, it would look great:

2) This is VERY trippy. A video for Bunny’s Dream by Matthew Dear, created entirely through VR puppetry software, in which the titular bunny is chased through a fantastical landscape by...er...a weird VR goose-type-thing? Anyway, it’s very hallucinatory, but it gives an idea of how much you can do with puppetry in a virtual space:

3) Previous Curios favourites, Korean pop-punkers Drinking Boys and Girls Choir, are back with their latest single called ‘Big Nine LET’S GO’ and it is typically excellent. Try not feeling a bit perky after you listen to this:

4) This band is called Snarls, and if I were ever asked ‘what do archetypal art students look like in 2019, Matt?’ I would point the questioner at this video (I mean, LOOK AT THE DRUMMER! He may as well have St Martin’s written through him like a stick of rock!). The song’s called ‘Walk in the Woods’, and it’s really very good in a hugely early-90s sort of way:

5) UK GRIME CORNER! This is ‘Pass The Mic’ by The Heavytrackerz and it’s a multi-MC extravaganza (and Manga, as usual, wins hands-down). The beat here is superb, btw:

6) This is by Emma DJ. It is called ‘Slug’. It is…challenging, and the video is horrible - I mean genuinely unsettling CGI. I would tell you to enjoy it, but I’m not 100% certain it’s possible to do so:

7) This is a quite astonishing piece of music and I absolutely adore it. It is NOISY and SCREECHY and INDUSTRIAL and all-told quite frightening, but it’s also an absolute banger, the video is wonderfully unpleasant, and if you mixed this with some drill’n’bass I think you would have a classic for the ages. Honestly, this may well be my song of the year to date. It’s called ‘Love Is A Parasite’ and it’s by Blanck Mass:

8) This is called ‘Oligarchs’, and it’s one of the most impressive pieces of concept-CG I’ve seen in an age. Slight shame that so many of the models are of the generically-pretty anime girl type, but the overall design and aesthetic here is really strong:

9) Last up this week, this is 100 Gecs. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them - I only discovered them this week, and they immediately catapulted to the top of my list of ‘music that if I had children I bet that they would insist on playing really loud to upset me’. This is utterly baffling, very NOW and sort-of brilliant - see what you think. This is called ‘800db cloud’, and you just try making sense of it OH AND LOOK AT THAT WE’RE AT THE END BYE I LOVE YOU BYE BYE BYE HAVE A LOVELY WEEK AND I WILL SEE YOU IN SEVEN DAYS TAKE CARE AND BE KIND TO EACH OTHER AND BE KIND TO YOURSELVES AND BE KIND TO ANIMALS AND BE KIND TO STRANGERS AND LET’S ALL TRY AND JUST HAVE A GOOD OLD TIME OF IT BECAUSE I LOVE YOU AND I WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY BYE TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU BYE!!:

Ars Electronica launches a music festival
Anna and Alex present more Intelligent Machinery