Web Curios 03/08/18
Wife-beating, justice-perverting peddler of race-hate Stephen Yaxley-Lennon is out on bail! HUZZAH FOR FREE SPEECH! I am exercising mine right now in order to call all his fans and supporters intellectually moribund racists at worst, or credulous idiots being puppeteered by actual proper fascists at best! Isn't free speech great!
BUT! None of you come here for politics (which is good, because neither do I - there's far too much politics happening elsewhere, to be honest, and - this opening para aside - I do sort of feel Curios should be a SAFE SPACE for all of you seeking respite from the punishingly-exfoliating infinite news sandstorm of THE NOW, and so, hopefully, will the rest of this prove). Er, lads, what DO you come here for exactly?
So forget for a moment the racists and the bigots and the horror and the fear and instead focus all your concentration on the web and all its multifarious nooks and crannies which, together, we'll explore like so many coprologists studying a particularly interesting turd. Once again I'm probably overselling it - as ever, THIS IS WEB CURIOS
THE SECTION WHICH ISN’T 100% CERTAIN THAT, GIVEN ITS RECENT TRACK RECORD, FACEBOOK IS REALLY THE BEST ORGANISATION TO BE LEADING THE CHARGE FOR IMPROVED DIGITAL LITERACY:
- Facebook Is Designing A Singing Talent Show: Let’s start right off with something miserable and futurehorrorish! Or at least it is to me - I don’t know, maybe I’m just a curmudgeonly killjoy, unable to appreciate objectively enjoyable things like some sort of middle-aged fun sponge (this is exactly what I am like, but that is not in fact germane to this link). Anyway, according to this report Facebook is working on a Musical.ly (oops, sorry, Tik Tok)-type talent show-style ‘game’ - obviously there are only very minimal details, but it sounds like a cross between HQ and that FameGame thing I featured last week; there are references in the code to ‘auditions’ and the ‘stage’, which ushers in a frankly miserable vision of a global, billion-person X Factor and DEAR GOD please don’t let Cowell near this.
- New FB Ad Options for Games: Specifically app games, I would imagine - you can now buy playable ads in Newsfeed, which will let target consumers play a snippet of your latest pastel-coloured timesink before, presumably, clicking through to buy direct. There are also additional options announced for value and return optimisation, but, really, life’s too short and it’s already too warm for me to care.
- New Tools To Manage Your Insta/FB Time: So, here it is - Facebook REALLY CARES about our wellbeing and mental health and the potentially deleterious effect which at least two of its platforms might be having on us. Per previous announcements (see Curios passim), here’s the blurb: “To access the tools, go to the settings page on either app. On Instagram tap “Your Activity,” and on Facebook, tap “Your Time on Facebook.” At the top, you’ll see a dashboard showing your average time for that app on that device. Tap any bar to see your total time for that day. Below the dashboard, you can set a daily reminder to give yourself an alert when you’ve reached the amount of time you want to spend on that app for that day. You can change or cancel the reminder at any time. You can also tap on “Notification Settings” to quickly access the new “Mute Push Notifications” setting. This will limit your Facebook or Instagram notifications for a period of time when you need to focus.” Amusingly, the notifications limit is set at 8 hours - IMAGINE what would happen if someone attempted to mute Insta for more than 8 hours! Imagine the updates they’d miss! The chia seed bowls, the GOOD BOYS, the funny selfies! God I hate everyone. This is obviously not a bad thing per se, but these updates, whilst ostensibly designed to limit use and prevent ‘meaningless scrolling’ are also designed to allow you to feel better about your Insta/FB usage. Give it 12-18 months and I am willing to bet money that someone will be peddling some sort of ‘mindful social media usage’ guide. It could be YOU!
- The Digital Literacy Library: Another step in Facebook’s slow, slow march towards the distant horizon of ‘being a company that’s not a constant source of human misery’, or at least that’s how I’m sure they see it, this is a bunch of tools made available to educators to help teach 11-18 year olds how to live better, safer lives online. It’s hard to be cynica...ha! No it’s not! It’s hugely easy to be cynical about this - what are you, an idiot? Fine, it’s not a bad thing per se, and the materials are all produced by Harvard and are just being promoted by Facebook, but, really, given recent events, do we really think Facebook has any interest whatsoever in promoting ‘information literacy’ on its platform? Honestly? If you had one of the largest and most profitable advertising platforms in history, would you want the consumers using it to become better at discerning when they are being sold to and manipulated and occasionally lied to? Hm.
- Twitter’s Results: These came out too late for last week’s Curios, but are now a week old and STALE (and, honestly, not that interesting to start with) - basically Twitter lost Monthly Active Users, which oughtn’t be a surprise given a) its crackdown on fake accounts; and b) the fact that NORMAL PEOPLE DON’T USE TWITTER. Anyway, it’s not that interesting - ONWARDS!
- Instagram Introduces IGTV Carousel: Instagram is testing a way to surface more IGTV content from the main app. It’s...it’s not very interesting, really, is it? Hm. Oh, ok, you might also be interested in knowing that Insta’s also doing a monthly roundup of the ‘best’ of IGTV, which might be worth a look to see what exciting and innovative things ‘creators’ are doing with the platform (so far, fcuk all that I can see, but your mileage may vary).
- Whatsapp Launches Improved Business Tools: This is useful - a bunch of additional options for businesses who want to integrate Whatsapp into theis sales / customer support journey, including ‘click to start Whatsapp conversation’ buttons for business websites and a couple of other similiar updates besides. Interestingly (is this interesting? I feel like my sense of perspective might possibly be a touch warped), this is the first step in the Whatsapp monetisation...er...journey (sorry), with businesses charged for replies to customer enquiries that take longer than 24h to deliver (the article here does an excellent job of explaining why that’s so smart, so, er, I won’t bother). This is probably not quite available to everyone yet, but it’s imminent and worth thinking about if you, er, do business (Christ, this is going to be a struggle today, I can feel it - apologies in advance for the quality of the forthcoming output).
- Whatsapp Launches 4-Way Group Video Chat: I would honestly rather explore the possibility of DIY trepanning than engage in 4-way video chat, but you may be less appalled by this idea than I am.
- Snap Opens Self-Serve Ad Marketplace: Another in the recent spate of self-serve solutions for video ad placement, this is Snap’s attempt to open up ad buying for its ‘Discover’ shows to a wider audience, and to offer better placement / targeting options. “With the private marketplace, advertisers can order an ad in a show like "The Braid Up," a haircare show produced by Cosmopolitan, and only target a segment of the show's audience, like women age 18 to 24, according to Brian Madden, senior VP of development at Hearst Magazines Digital Media.” No word on whether or not they are going to be running quality checks on the ads submitted - I really want to get to a point where your QUALITY BRANDED CONTENT CONSUMPTION EXPERIENCE can be interrupted by a 10-second video of me eating sweetcorn from the can and wetly exhorting you to READ CURIOS.
- Snapchat Introducing Voice-activated Lenses: So now you’ll be able to shout, I don’t know, ‘BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!’ and get the He Man filter (there isn’t a He Man filter, but having now just thought of it I feel there really ought to be). This isn’t part of the Lens Creators suite yet, as far as I can tell, and is limited to Snap’s own filters, but will doubtless be extended to everyone and to Lens makers soon enough. Regardless of Snap’s potentially fcuked status as a messaging platform thanks to the juggernaut-like progress of Insta Stories, there’s no questioning how good their tools are - my boss knocked out a quick prototype soundboard using its Studio tools in about 5 minutes this week, and the range of options for creators makes it an excellent way of experimenting with AR at no cost whatsoever.
- Make Sure Your Website Loads Quickly: Page loading speed is now a factor in Google mobile searches - so if your Page takes ages to load due to, I don’t know, horribly bloated bullsh1t code, you’ll be depreciated in search. I know I say this semi-regularly, but I promise you that if your client base consists of tedious b2b-type businesses then I guarantee that at least one of them will have a site you can sell them an upgrade on based on this. God, I’ve just made you all THOUSANDS - WHERE IS MY CUT, DAMN YOU?
- Decathlon United: I have, it may not surprise you to learn, a very limited tolerance for the sort of corporate ‘OUR FAMILY OUR VISION’ touchy-feely nonsense which corporations come out with to try and make them feel smaller and more human and less like single-minded money-huffing monstrosities, and I was prepared to dismiss this site by Decathlon out of hand, but then I started digging through it and, well, it’s really nice and I found it incredibly hard to be cynical about it. It presents a bunch of stories of Decathlon employees explaining the story of how they came to join the company, all mapped onto its ‘values’ and associated guff (ok, so I can still be a bit cynical); it’s really nicely made, the stories are more interesting than you normally get with this sort of thing, and it does an excellent job of presenting an image of a company that gives a fcuk (it doesn’t. No companies give a fcuk, about you or anyone else). Really rather good.
- Post Haste: Do you remember classic Atari videogame ‘Paperboy’? Under-35s, maybe not - still, now you get to experience it in a gently reskinned promo game for MailChimp, which is reasonably fun for 5 minutes and which taught me that the MailChimp logo/mascot has a name, and that name is Freddie von Chimpenheimer, a fact that I wish I had never learned and which I feel compelled to pass on to you because why must I suffer alone.
By Pico Garces
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT THE COVERAGE OF STEPHEN YAXLEY-LENNON IS FRANKLY LESS PROBLEMATIC THAN THE EXISTENCE OF AND SUPPORT FOR STEPHEN YAXLEY-LENNON, PT.1:
- The News Hero: A game! An educative game about TRUTH and THE NEWS and HOW TO TELL WHAT IS REAL! Somewhat incredibly, this is made by NATO (thanks Ged for the pointer), and is aimed...no, I don’t know who it’s aimed at. Anyway, you play an editor whose job it is to fill a paper with stories each day, but who has to balance that need against the importance of ensuring that everything you print is TRUE and FACT-CHECKED; this is, I presume, designed to teach kids about the importance of source checking and critical thinking and stuff, whilst all the while promoting the news as a FORCE FOR TRUTH AND GOOD and suchlike. It’s...it’s not going to work, is it? I mean, if any of you saw the footage from the Trump rallies this week, featuring cameras panning across long, serried ranks of spittle-flecked red-tinged faces all waving middle fingers at the fake news media, making throat slitting gestures and generally giving off a very ‘not into the news so much, thanks’ vibe, then you might perhaps have got the impression that, well, the reputation of the news was perhaps beyond saving in some quarters. Still, the game’s not un-fun for 5 minutes, and your kids might like it. Oh, and the IRONY of a game called ‘News Hero’, presenting journalism as a noble profession, being presented on a platform that has done as much as anything else to reduce the profession to a miserable moneypit cesspit is almost too delicious for words.
- Odd AI decisions: This is wonderful - a Gdoc listing some of this years more notable examples of AI and machine learning coming up with...baroque solutions to problems that the programmers of said AI could never have imagined. Like some of the more feverish patch notes from Dwarf Fortress, if that means anything to you - read this any try not to get a little bit scared / excited about how the future might pan out: “Creatures bred for jumping were evaluated on the height of the block that was originally closest to the ground. The creatures developed a long vertical pole and flipped over instead of jumping.” THE MACHINES INVENTED POLE VAULTING FFS HOW MAD IS THAT?
- JODI: This is CLASSIC ARTWANK, kids! Jodi is an art collective established in...er...I think the late 90s, and this is their website - a true classic of the genre, completely inscrutable and wonderfully confusing and rabbithole-like. Just click, trust me - it’s like a gigantic wormhole of hyperlinks which will take you...er...Christ knows where. It’s SFW in the main, and I’m yet to stumble across anything weird or horrible from it (though what the actual fcuk this is all about I have no idea), so feel free to just have a bit of a wander and an explore - do let me know the best things you stumble upon, as this thing is VAST and I think I have seen approximately 5% of it at most.
- The Open Source Mars Rover: So the Summer holidays are here and I imagine your kids are already clamouring about how they are BORED and there’s NOTHING TO DO (I imagine that that’s not true any more, actually - I imagine that left to their own devices, kids on Summer holiday in 2018 would spent literally 19 hours a day playing games, watching Netflix and listlessly watching Stories whilst their frustrated parents attempt to entice them out of the darkness with promises of icecream - is that how it works these days?), so why not introduce an EXCITING NEW PROJECT to the next 4-5 weeks? Yes, YOU TOO can now build your very own Mars Rover from the open source plans you can get from this site - apparently everything you need to make one is readily available from hardware shops and the like, so, er, dads, get to it (I know that’s stereotypical and obviously there will be plenty of mums - and indeed non-parents, dear God inclusivity is HARD WORK - who are into this, but, really, this is SUCH a dad project).
- Insta Repeat: An Instagram feed highlighting the tediously uniform nature of the Instagram aesthetic, and exactly how many identical photos of the same fcuking things there are all over the platform - the ones of the tents, taken inside facing out, are astonishingly homogenous. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I really want an app which notes where you are in the world and the angle you’re holding your phone at and uses that information to work out whether you’re probably taking a photo of the London Eye, say, looking up so it looks all abstract and arty, and tells you ‘look, mate, LEAVE IT’. Can someone make that, please? It can be called ‘joyless prick’, after me.
- Fabric: Billing itself as an ‘effortless journal’, Fabric’s actually a great idea in theory - iOS only at the moment, it promises to automatically track and record your life: “Fabric automatically creates a timeline of events in your life by using your phone's location features, accelerometer and photos. It can identify visits to publicly listed places (provided by Foursquare) or private places you add. You can then add photos and memorable quotes, record the people (or pets) who were there, so you never forget the things you want to remember. You can also automatically import posts you've made to Facebook and Instagram to see where and with whom you spend your time.Fabric uses all this context to create interesting aggregate visualizations of your experiences that include, for instance, the cities or restaurants you’ve been to.” It’s a really smart concept, and I can see the appeal - not least as a really light-touch, quantified life, annual datagathering/visualisation tool which each year could produce a ‘year in my life’ output reminding you of everything you did, saw, ate, etc. I would vastly prefer this if there were an additional option to create an ongoing prose narrative based on the data - imagine if you could pick from different styles or authorial voices to be your automated biographer! Imagine being able to have your life written up in the style of, I don’t know, Jilly Cooper! Lee Childs! Bret Easton Ellis! God, I really want this now, someone make it for me please.
- Ben Lecomte: Ben Lecomte is a madman, and is swimming from Tokyo to San Francisco RIGHT NOW. Not all in one go, you understand - that would be, well, even more mad - but in daily bursts, sleeping on an accompanying ship for the six month duration of the project. Along the way, Lecomte and his accompanying team will perform oceanographic and physical research on him and the waters through which he’s swimming, all of which is being documented at the rather nice site built to accompany the endeavour. You can track where Ben is using a live satellite tracker - right now, he’s...oh, yes, he’s in the middle of the fcuking Pacific, where he will stay for the next 25 weeks or so. Insane.
- The Go Fly Prize: Boeing is offering $2million to the winner of this contest, for people to design the best “safe, quiet, ultra-compact, near-VTOL personal flying devices capable of flying twenty miles while carrying a single person.” The contest started last year (SORRY, MAD SCIENTISTS) and the initial round of submissions has closed, but the good news is that there’s a second phase you can enter which lasts til next March, so there’s PLENTY of time for you to start sketching out your jetpack alternative. I am honestly fascinated to see what comes out of this - I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the submissions to date (sadly no designs or any related materials are yet public, so we can but speculate) might come from...er...eccentrics.
- Partridge Ideas: Real TV and radio shows which sound very much like crap ideas from Alan Partridge. Working as I am around telly at the moment, I can absolutely vouch for the fact that Monkey Tennis would TOTALLY get made in 2018 were it not now its own punchline. Very much from the same vein as Daytime Snaps but, I am assured, not by the same person.
- By NWR: Cinephiles! Is Nicholas Wending Refn any good? His stuff’s all stylish and sexy and trendy, right? Anyway, this is his NEW VIDEO MAGAZINE THING! “What is it?” I hear you squeal excitedly, “and does it have Ryan Gosling in it?” Well, THIS is how it’s described - I will leave you to draw your own conclusions: “Quarterly volumes of content divide into three monthly chapters, each featuring a fully-restored film. These cinematic revivals inspire a wealth of original content, drawn together by our special Guest Editors. As we evolve and expand, we will encourage exploration of a wide range of avenues by curators, writers and the engaged public, building a community of those who like to create, to watch, to read, look or listen. In a world of the instant, byNWR takes its time on a tangential line towards the undiscovered...where we share, enjoy, and look to the future--with hope, prosperity, and the idea that culture is for everyone.” My conclusion? Someone involved in writing the above is an idiot.
- Good Slides: A Twitter account featuring some truly baffling content from the archives of Slideshare. Clip art! Deep fried slides! THE SIMPSONS! Tell you what, though, I would have really enjoyed the presentation about ‘What Colleges Can Learn from the Insane Clown Posse’, so if anyone can dig that our for me that would be great, thanks.
- Doodle Chaos: Twitter account of...er...artist, I guess, Doodle Chaos, who does all sorts of quite remarkable things; you may have seen their Line Rider video doing the rounds this week, but they also do Rube Goldberg-style contraptions with ball bearings and springs - this video, featuring Dude Perfect-style ‘trick shots’ all done with springs and marbles and bits of wood, is ASTONISHING. The whole account is a must-follow, basically.
- The Reddit Video Downloader: I have no idea what sort of videos you might want to download from Reddit (really, I don’t! I don’t know what you use it for! I have NO INTEREST in your fetishes, though I’d caution you to maybe SLOW DOWN and watch for chafing), but, whatever your proclivities, this might be useful to you.
- The Data Transfer Project: File under ‘not very cool but actually quite important and really quite interesting in a slightly serious sort of way’; the Data Transfer Project is a joint initiative between Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter which is designed to make it easier for customers / users to switch between service providers as seamlessly as possible, and to create “[a] common framework with open-source code that can connect any two online service providers, enabling a seamless, direct, user initiated portability of data between the two platforms.”. Basically it’s a good thing that all large web companies ought to commit to (*cough* Apple *cough*).
- The Anthropocene: AKA THE NOW - the era in which we as a species have seen fit to name after ourselves in honour of the way we are fcuking the planet in a variety of long-lasting but, well, impressively inventive ways (as an aside, this is one of the madder things I’ve seen this week)! This site is the home of a forthcoming documentary on the modern environmental era along with the wider project of which it’s a part; comprising VR and AR activiations, a global touring exhibition as well as the aforementioned film, this is set to be a significant exploration of all the wonderful (not wonderful at all) ways in which we’re affecting the globe. As sobering as you might imagine.
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT THE COVERAGE OF STEPHEN YAXLEY-LENNON IS FRANKLY LESS PROBLEMATIC THAN THE EXISTENCE OF AND SUPPORT FOR STEPHEN YAXLEY-LENNON, PT.2:
- Miniflix: Do YOU like short films? Do YOU want a site which collects and presents the best shorts from around the world, arranged by genre, including animations and comedies and dramas and more? YES YOU DO AND HERE IT IS! It’s a paid service BUT it runs a 14 day trial and in this day and age if you can’t work out a way to generate infinite email addresses to keep getting this for free forever then you don’t deserve to be reading this (er, that’s technically stealing, isn’t it? And I do believe you should pay creators if you can afford it. Er, so maybe don’t do that after all, ok).
- Vanilla Bean: Obviously most of the dozen or so of you reading this are in London and therefore can’t move for vegan restaurants; struggling through the quinoa jungle each day, feet slick with the residue of a million different nut ‘butters’, munching down on a pulled jackfruit ancient grain wrap, you can’t remember the last time you saw someone wearing leather shoes, let alone even considered attempting to digest animal proteins. OF COURSE. However, for the 2 of you reading this from THE PROVINCES it might be a touch harder to know where to go to source your heritage celeriac carpaccio, so Vanilla Bean - a search engine for vegan restaurants - might well be of use, particularly if travelling around the country. I can’t vouch for the quality of the selections, but, well, it’s vegan, what do you want? JOKE, JOKE, JESUS.
- Photoscan: This might have been around for ages but it’s new to me - Photoscan is a Google app which is designed specifically for scanning in analogue photos with your phone’s camera. It contains settings to remove glare and do light retouching of faded photos, and if you’ve got a family member who’d appreciate an easy and relatively simple way of scanning a bunch of old shots then this is probably the best thing you can point them at.
- Small Cars Club: Do YOU like small cars? Do YOU want a whole website dedicated exclusively to three-seaters, two seaters, microcars (no, me neither) and the like? OH GOOD! If nothing else it’s a really interesting look at some of the stuff coming out of China at the moment, by brands you will almost certainly never have heard of but which probably are the future in some small (ha) way.
- Surveillance Gallery: A webart project which takes spyware used by various administrations and actors around the world and creates audiovisual representations of them in digital space, enabling you to ‘see’ the software and ‘hear’ its work. In the words of its creator (aka nex), it “aims to create a sensorial experience of these spy technologies through visuals and sounds, in an attempt to deconstruct the power of the watchers and tell the stories of their victims. Walking through some of the most prominent and outrageous cases of digital surveillance of human rights defenders, you will be able to see and hear the spyware used by governments around the world.” Increasingly creepy and unsettling the more you engage with it, which is exactly as it should be.
- Resist the Internet: Also by nex, this is a Chrome extension which when installed prevents you from using specific web-based software - so if you try and navigate to Google it will instead send you to DuckDuckGo, or if you try to get to Twitter it will redirect you to Mastodon (though it’s not like that’s not got its own problems). As nex himself says, it’s just a joke - but I do very much like the idea of similar extensions designed to preserve one’s political integrity, say. I’d love to see a range of these designed in similar fashion but each purporting to keep you ideologically ‘pure’ by blocking access to certain sites which don’t conform to the worldview of the extension in question. Actually that’s not a terrible idea at all - go and make it, someone, and win approximately 3 minutes of ephemeral online fame!
- How The US Uses Land: I don’t imagine that too many of you are actually that fussed about the manner in which land in America is used - I mean if you are then GREAT, this is going to be unexpectedly thrilling for you - but I’m including the link more as it’s a really rather nice example of dataviz and interactivity. The way in which the maps rearrange themselves as you scroll is simple but clear and well-executed - also, MAN there is a lot of space in America, eh? Obviously not enough for any more migrants though, oh no no no. At least not brown ones, eh? Jesus fcuk, modernity.
- Every Painter Paints Himself: A slightly serious website about ART and ART THEORY and ART PRACTICE - if you’re interested, though, there’s some great stuff on here, essays about art criticism and history, profiles of some of the great artists, analyses of individual works...as a companion to an art history course I imagine this would be wonderful, and frankly even as a dilettante it’s a fascinating archive of knowledge.
- Neural Pikachu: A little machine learning-derived toy which lets you draw a shape and which will then try and turn it into a version of Pikachu. As with all these things it serves more to highlight the limitations of the tech rather than its brilliance, but it does mean that you can create slightly horrific, mutant Pikachu-esque ghosts with which to upset anyone who holds that yellow oddity in a special place in their heart.
- Norn: I’ve never been a member of a club - not least due to the slightly pathetic Marxian outsiderism I still pathetically cling to, despite being not too far away from my fifth decade, but also because, well, NOONE’S EVER ASKED ME. I saw this and sniffed rather as per, but further investigation does make it sound rather interesting. Norn is a network of members clubs, which seems reasonably priced and exists to run ‘salons’ and discussions and supper clubs and stuff between ‘interesting people’. My hackles rise slightly at this sort of thing, as it often seems to confuse ‘interesting’ with ‘attractive, rich and international’ when in fact the two qualities are often antonyms in my experience, but the pricing’s keen and the opportunity to live in one of the members clubs in NY or Barcelona for a month for $2k really isn’t that bad at all when you compare it to an Airbnb or short-term let. Everyone else MIGHT be a total cnut, though. It’s a CONUNDRUM.
- Mariano Pascual: The latest in the occasional series of ‘designers’ websites which are really, really cool’ - this is the site of Barcelona-based Argentinian emigre Mariano Pascual, and it is SO FUN. Honestly, it’s a genuine pleasure to play around with, enjoy it.
- Bands FC: A great idea, wonderfully executed, this Twitter feed shares bands reimagined as football teams - or, more accurately, football team logos/badges reimagined for famous bands. Look, if you’re into football or music then you will like this, and even if you’re not into either then some of the designs might appeal. LOOK, JUST TRY THE BASTARD THING OK?
- Hold Your Fire: Kristina Filler’s father was a teacher; two decades ago he was shot and killed outside school by a gunman with a history of mental illness. Now a young woman, Kristina’s selling anti-gun tshirts with a rather nice design, with all proceeds going to pro gun control charities in the US. A good cause, and the tees are nice - check them out if you’re in the market for some new clothes and to donate to fcuk the NRA.
- Nuria Riaza: Nuria Riaza is a Spanish artist who works in ballpoint pen and WOW is she good.
- Googly Eyes On Things: Putting googly eyes on stuff isn’t, it’s fair to say, a new thing on the internet, but this is a new Twitter account and, frankly, the gag never gets old. If you don’t laugh at the photo of the penis belonging to Michelangelo’s David with a pair of google eyes then, well, I am sorry for your loss.
- Mr K Tattoos: Some of the most impressive needlework I’ve seen in an age from NYC-based tattoo artist Keith McCurdy.
- Sand Castles: Photographer Markel Redondo travelled around Spain, photographing ruined old forts using a drone to get an elevated aerial perspective; the shots here, showing the context of the ruin in the surrounding landscape. Really rather wonderful.
- Menu Fails: A good week for Twitter accounts, and this last one is no exception. Menu Fails presents, as you’d imagine, poorly-translated menus from around the world, as well as examples of the imperfect work being done by Google Translate’s AR app - worth a follow for the baffling glory of ‘Misogyny Black Cod’ alone - actually, a Culture Wars menu for a popup would be a decent-if-potentially-pyrrhic) PR stunt, should anyone be looking for one (Matt Muir - his dayrates are reasonable!).
- The Marine Traffic Map: LOOK AT ALL OF THE BOATS! Slightly midblowing live map of international shipping traffic, showing every single boat currently afloat on the seven seas (is it still seven? I forget). You can click on each individual ship and get information about what type it is, where it’s going, etc, which honestly is more interesting than you’d think (admittedly you might be thinking ‘fcuk that sounds dull’, but I promise you it really is marginally more interesting than that). HOW are there not more collisions?
- Blindfolded Drawings: Geraard Raatgeep is a Dutch man who does arts and puts them on the internet. His latest art is to undertake a series of drawings, all created entirely whilst blindfolded. Geraard selects colours without seeing which, and draws without being able to see the output, posting the resultant masterpieces on this website us to admire. He’s been doing it for about 6 weeks - I wish I could say that there was some sort of notable improvement in the output quality but they are of...consistent quality. I don’t really know why this exists, as per, but I am glad that it does - you might want to click around the rest of the site, as Geraard’s been nothing if not prolific in his output over the past few years…
- Tories of Bumble: This might have been around for ages, but I was only shown it this week - a wonderful Insta account, this, sharing screenshots of the most Tory suitors on dating app Bumble. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of these are joke profiles crafted specifically to get coverage on this account - I mean, surely no actual people write “Sports. Pints. Banter. Mid-19th Century Literature” on their dating profiles, do they? Regardless, this is GOLDEN.
- Visualising the New York Public Library Archive: “On January 6th, 2016, The New York Public Library made over 187K digital items in the public domain available for high resolution download. This is one of many experiments by the NYPL Labs to help patrons understand and explore what was contained in that release.” This is SUCH an interesting way of being able to explore the archive - you can get lost in this, so be warned.
- Nuclear Dissent: An interactive documentary looking at the history of the development of the nuclear bomb, with France’s nuclear tests in French Polynesia from the 1960s to the 90s providing the focal point. Combining video, 3d modelling and some really very cool audio work, this is a beautifully-made project which, given the, y’know, SOMEWHAT SHAKY geopolitical footing on which we all seem to find ourselves seems somewhat fitting to share here in the year of our lord 2k18.
- Sexytext 101: Whilst I don’t normally reveal my sources (IT’S ALL I HAVE LEFT MAKING ME SPECIAL), I feel it’s important for me to point out to you that I discovered this site thank to this essay about how men are turning to the web to source their sexy text chat. “Nah”, I thought to myself, “that can’t be true” - AND YET HERE WE ARE. Sexytext 101 is an absolute GOLDMINE of comedy, from the fonts to the content - WHAT red-blooded human could resist such gems as “I’m starting to feel a burn travelling inside me…it’s getting hotter and hotter…and I can feel my heart beats in my ear lobes! What are you doing to me!” Please, please, please can one of you start using this with a partner and screencap their reactions; I think there is a strong 3k RT thread in this somewhere.
- Cashbags: Finally this week, a VERY odd little game in which you play the proprietor of a guesthouse, trying to make money and keep sane in a very, very odd world indeed. This channels a LOT of Salad Fingers here, should that mean anything to any of you, and is all the better for it - this is honestly really quite unsettling, in the very best way.
By Daniel Coves
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
- Zayn X Ducks: Another side to the almost-infinitely-multifaceted One Direction fandom - this is a Tumblr dedicated to Zayn Malik and, inexplicably, ducklings. WHY ZAYN MALIK AnD DUCKLINGS???
- BHL Fait Des Trucs: BHL, aka Bernard Henri-Levy, aka the man who, along with Simon Cowell, is single-handedly seeking to rehabilitate the ‘white shirt unbuttoned to the navel’ look for middle-aged men the world over. This is a Tumblr showing nothing but photos of BHL - BHL looking gallic, BHL looking moody, BHL THINKING ABOUT STUFF. He’s not really much of a philosopher in an academic sense is Bernie, but when you compare him as the French natural ideal of a filosofe with the anglo equivalent, the equally not-really-a-philosopher pamphlet-peddler De Botton, it’s hard not to feel that the French simply have a bit more fun.
- Internet History: Odd photographs from the old web. Really, really odd photographs. Beautifully context-free, and exactly the sort of thing you can steal for your next slightly-edgy Powerpoint.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
- The 100 Best TV Episodes of the Century: I don’t really watzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry, I nodded off there - what was I saying? Oh, yes, this is a list of the 100 greatest TV shows of the past 18 years, as ranked by The Ringer - there’s enough in there to make you angry and annoyed, and a few things you’ll likely never have seen or possibly even heard of, and it’s a nice, funny ride through nearly two decades of mainstream visual pop culture, and the site design’s rather nice too. WELL DONE EVERYONE INVOLVED.
- Losing Earth: You may have heard that the New York Times Magazine is giving over its entire issue this week to this essay - 30,000-odd words on how the events of the 80s led us to the point we’re at now (to whit, fcuked by climate change). This is obviously VERY long, and it’s already been flagged as potentially contentious for its underplaying of the role played by BIG ENERGY in some of the events here described, but as a piece of historical journalism it’s an incredible feat. My main takeway from this was that John Sununu is one of the great, unheralded villains of the 20th Century - seriously, the way he’s painted here that man carries an astouding degree of responsibility for, well, the fact that the future’s a bit banjaxed, which would cause me one or two sleepless nights were it me.
- News From the non-English Internet: A Reddit thread in which users from around the world share the bit news stories from their region which may not have broken out around the English-speaking web quite yet. Honestly fascinating, and a bit depressing - it’s always useful to be reminded that there is far more news than can conveniently be written up in any one 24h period, and that the English-speaking world isn’t - and probably ought not to be considered - the epicentre of everything any more (not indeed that it ever necessarily was).
- There is No Such Thing as Unconscious Thought: Really interesting piece about the process of thought, how the brain works to solve problems, and why the idea of thought just sort of happening in the background is probably rubbish. If you do planning or similar work, I think this will probably resonate with you rather a lot.
- Polling White People on Twitter: It’s been another crap week for people failing to understand that it’s a condition of use of the term ‘racism’ that it can’t meaningfully be applied to comments about white people (see the Sarah Jeong story if you’re not aware of what I’m talking about) - this piece is a slightly depressing exploration of exactly how little white people online seem to enjoy being challenged on the fact of our whiteness. What it shows more than anything is the incredible degree of personal assault that so many feel in the face of what is no provocation whatsoever - you remember all those hand-wringing thinkpieces in the wake of 2015/16 in which people opined about there being a whole class of people who feel threatened and abandoned and ignored and vilified (regardless of the truth value of any of those feelings) and that that’s why Trumpxit happened? It’s, er, it’s not getting any better, lads.
- How To Make Your Own Medicines: This is honestly amazing. Four Thieves is a collective of….hackers? Not really sure how you’d describe them, but that’ll do I suppose...a collection of hackers who are seeking to break big pharma’s dominance over the production of essential medicines by showing people how they can make their own, at home, for a fraction of the cost. Obviously there are PLENTY of reasons why it’s important that medicines be researched and tested properly, and that requires money and funding which only Big Pharma can provide (or at least that’s their line…) - I get that. That said, reading this and seeing anti-HIV medication being knocked up at a unit cost of $3 a shot rather than $70 makes it hard for me to think anything other than GOOD ON YOU, FOUR THIEVES - proper Robin Hood, Gonzo science, and far more useful than the rather more publicly known genetics-bros end of the medhacking spectrum.
- How To Edit A Human: A well-written, comprehensive and comprehensible history of gene editing tool CRISPR, which you’ve probably heard about (cf the gene-editing techbros mentioned above) but, if you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t understand. This article profiles the woman who ‘discovered’ CRISPR and does an excellent job of simply and clearly explaining how it works and what its potential applications might be - the overriding subtext here, that human gene editing for enhancement purposes, is far closer than you probably think - is so scifi it hurts.
- The Gender Lexicon: An A-Z of genderqueer terms, which I personally found hugely useful and interesting; useful next time you want to try and explain to someone exactly how much of a fluid and near-infinite spectrum gender is.
- When A Stranger Decides To Destroy Your Life: Mad, slightly terrifying account of what happens when someone you don’t know decides that they want to fcuk your life up; the author had her existence turned upside down thanks to the malicious actions of a total stranger, whose only previous interaction with her had been a disagreement in a conversation on Facebook. So, next time you get into a public slanging match with someone about Brexit a) stop it - really, NOONE GETS BETTER AS A RESULT OF THIS STUFF; b) be aware that it’s not that hard for them to find out quite a lot about you based on your photo and real name, and that if they are mental they could decide to subject you to several years of hell! The Web - bringing people together and eroding barriers between us for 30+ years!
- What Is QAnon?: I try not to go too hard on online conspiracy stuff - I never mentioned Pizzagate, I don’t think, for example - but QAnon does feel slightly like it’s crossed into the mainstream by now and so probably deserves a brief mention. Click the link, read the piece, and despair at the fact that Ickean lunacy has now passed into mainstream political discourse. It does feel ever so slightly like that MAGA crowd might be about to go full Rothschild/Bilderberg/Lizard People/Archons/Saturn, which would be sort of funny but then very quickly not funny at all for anyone really.
- Killer Memes: A piece about how hard it is to make memes in 2018, which is also about the gap in the market for a good meme-making app (seriously, this really is a big opportunity imho), which is also about the fact that memes are so incredibly deep and layered and sophisticated now that they can effectively communicate an Iliad’s worth of ideas in a Gang weed still. I really am looking forward to all the Phds on meme culture and semiotics being written right now being made available for people like me to read (I am loads of fun at parties as you can imagine) (ha! Like I get invited to parties!).
- What Happened When I Tried Talking To Twitter Abusers: Or, ‘The worst cnuts on Twitter have double-figure IQs’. It’s impossible to read this and not get a bit depressed imho, but see how you fare.
- In Search of the Last Great Video Store: Hot on the heels of last week’s celebration of the last Blockbuster store, this is a great longread about why video stores matter. I honestly hadn’t considered quite how much the Netflix/Amazon hnegemony is going to impact the way in which people discover cinema, but the very weird selections both platforms have (seriously, you try getting stuff much before the late 70s on either, let alone foreign cinema from any period pre-00s) means that it’s all of a sudden really hard to imagine where young people will go to learn about the canon of 20C cinema, or find the weird rarities that made being 16 with access to a VHS so thrilling (I would NEVER have watched ‘Martin’ if all I had access to was Netflix, and my life would have been all the poorer for it; or ‘Meet The Feebles’, which you really should watch if you get the chance OH GOD IT’S ON YOUTUBE WATCH THIS THIS WEEKEND PLEASE AND TELL ME HOW ACE IT IS YOU WILL THANK ME)
- Rigging McMonopoly: A brilliant longread telling the story of how a man rigged the McDonald’s Monopoly promotion in the 90s to the tune of millions of dollars, and how he eventually got caught. This has got everything - the mafia, an unlikely criminal, some hard-boiled, sweaty cops, betrayal...a genuinely great read, written very much in the style of an old school crime novel.
- Ancient Androids: A look back at the history of automata through the ages - this reminded me of a short story I once read about an erotic automata built specifically for a Sheikh or Sultan in the 11th Century; known as the ‘Maitresse Machine’, it was ingeniously constructed so as to be able to embrace a (male) lover in its arms and bring them to climax through a simulacrum of penetrative intercourse; the machine’s owner requested that it be fitted with an anti-cuckolding device to ensure that he and only he would ever be able to ‘enjoy’ it, and so the machine was equipped with a lever behind its ear which if not tripped before engaging in congress would result in the unfortunate human lover’s member being sliced off by a spring-mounted blade fitted to the inside of the machine. Bet you’re glad you read this now.
- Kink and Orthodoxy: A really interesting piece exploring the relationship between a strictly orthodox faith and some pretty heavy kink, in particular focusing on a dominatrix studio in NYC which deals with a lot of Orthodox Jewish clients. There’s some rather eye-opening stuff here, but it’s the psychological intertwining of repression and guilt and release and pain that is most interesting. Some of the imagery’s a bit NSFW, but, well, which employer worth their salt is going to object to a photo of a slightly doughy middle-aged man being cat-o-nine-tailed? Well EXACTLY.
- Gaming’s Toxic Men, Explained: Incredible as it is that we continue talking about Gamergate in 2018, we must - not least as, as I saw it described on Twitter this week, “It’s about ethics in games journalism” is actually a fundamental tenet of much of the criticism being leveled at the media now. This goes through the various bugbears of the movement, the arguments and why they exist, and, unsurprisingly, offers nothing hopeful about how it can be dealt with or minimised. Which is nice.
- Black Cowboy: This is a WONDERFUL profile of the first champion black cowboy in the US - Myrtis Dightman won the cowboy world championship in 1967, the first black man to do so in an era in which racism was still rife across the country and particularly in the very white arena of bull riding. This is glorious portrait of a fascinating and brave man, and the era in which he lived - the final paragraphs about his life now are just perfect, and the whole piece is a joy regardless of your feelings about men riding bulls.
- Destroy All Monsters: A great history of Dungeons & Dragons (the game, not the cartoon), including the author’s pilgrimage to interview, and play D&D with, Gary Gygax. One for the geeks, fine, but they will ADORE this (and maybe you ought to try it too!).
- The Impermanence of Importance: A brilliant LRB review of the new memoir by Ben Rhodes of hims time as Barack Obama’s speechwriter - it’s a wonderful dissection of the text, and does a superb job of offering a critique / recap of the Obama presidency alongside the book review itself. It’s particularly good on the stardust effect of ‘Obama as icon’ and the extent to which that might have hamstrung Obama the man somewhat when it came to delivery, but the whole article is fascinating.
- The Tyranny of the English Language: This is hugely interesting - to what extent is the almost complete dominance of English as a language hampering discourse and thinking? I am sure I have bored on about this before, but as someone who’s bilingual (English-Italian, an almost entirely useless combination of languages unless I want a career correcting the appalling spelling and grammar of tourist menus in Rome) I can absolutely testify to the extent to which language shapes and frames and, to a degree, constrains thought. Really very good indeed, and hugely thought-provoking.
- Please Take: The best piece of writing I read all week; this, by Catherine Lacey, is truly beautiful, on grief and love and loss and and and and. Bookmark it for when you can read it all in one sitting, it’s worth it.
- My Ultimate Facebook Post: Finally this week, another piece of superb writing by McSweeney’s - you will want to post all of this as a status update, but you mustn’t because, well, that’s the point. SO GOOD AND SO TRUE.
AND NOW, FINALLY, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
1) First up, this is a wonderful selection of short shots of miniature landscapes which is SO ripe for stealing as an art style - seriously fcuk those old Cravendale ads, do it properly and this will do numbers imho:
4) GTAV has just released a new update in which players can own nightclubs - it features a bunch of real-world DJs who you can book to play sets in-game, and to promote the expansion Rockstar commissioned one of them to create a new track for the game, with the video shot entirely in-game. This is, honestly, great:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! A new Studio 82 Session from 1Xtra, featuring Yizzy, Discarda and Tommy B - I’m not a total fan of all of this, but the way they switch styles and the range of beats they use is very impressive, as is the frankly insane pace of the last five minutes, which even when they slip into a bit of higgedybiggedy dnb stereotypes is still pretty ace:
6) Finally this week, this is Homeboy Sandman and Edan with ‘Grim Seasons’ - brooding and excellent, this is a pure anti-Summer banger. ENJOY AND STAY COOL AND TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER AND KNOW THAT WHATEVER HAPPENS I CARE ABOUT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU IN SOME FASHION AND WISH YOU HAPPINESS AND COMFORT AND PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL AN ABSENCE OF PAIN AND FEAR IN YOUR LIVES IT IS ALL GOING TO BE OK AND IF IT’S NOT OK THEN IT’S PROBABLY ALL OVER SO THERE’S NO NEED TO WORRY OK? OK! GOOD! HAPPY WEEKENDS AND SEE YOU SOON BYE BYE BYE!
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