Web Curios 04/05/18
HELLO AGAIN EVERYONE! After a brief hiatus born of my having the selfish temerity to step away from the web for a long weekend - did you take care of it? is it ok? I worry, you know - Web Curios is back, ready to almost immediately clock off again as we look forward to celebrating the May Bank Holiday in inimitable British style.
So, as you purchase your nitrous ampoules and get the pingers in, as you bulk-buy batch-crafted artisanal gin to mix into poorly-conceived mix-and-match cocktails, as you stake out your place on the nearest patch of beturded scrubland with your disposable barbecue and Tesco Finest snorkers and pray God that the rain stays away, let me ease you into the weekend with another selection of the very finest, the very best, the...well, not technically the freshest as a few of these have been hanging about since last week, but they're still ACE, obviously...the...the...most links anywhere on the internet! Consider clicking on every link and reading every word a sort of intellectual pre-penance, a bit like taking confession before you go out and do a murder - there is so much assorted smart and interesting and brilliant (all the work of people who aren't me, to be clear) in Curios this week that upon finishing it you will have EARNED the right to spend the next 72 sandblasting your frontal lobes with whatever combination of uppers and downers you choose.
Once again, then, take a deep breath, take my hand, and proceed to DIVE INTO THE TELEPORTATION POOLS OF MY MIND as I take you on a meandering journey through a bunch of utterly unconnected websites all strung together with the mucus-like glue of my prose. I'm glad it's back, youy're largely indifferent, but, regardless, THIS IS WEB CURIOS!
THE SECTION WHICH APPRECIATES YOU MIGHT HAVE SEEN MUCH OF THE BELOW ALREADY GIVEN THE FORTNIGHT’S HIATUS BUT WHICH HOPES NONETHELESS THAT THE THIN VENEER OF ‘INSIGHT’ GIVES YOU REASON TO AT LEAST SKIM IT FOR OTHERWISE ALL MY WORK IS FOR NAUGHT AND YOU WOULDN’T WANT THAT NOW WOULD YOU?
- Facebook’s Earnings: Oh look, MORE MONEY! MORE USERS! Like some sort of poorly-conceived hoover/hydra hybrid, you cut off one head and the others just keep on hoovering up the pennies - in this case, whilst Facebook might be reaching peak, Insta and Messenger and WhatsApp are all still growing vertiginously and, per the earnings call, are being looked at in terms of increased monetisation (you didn’t REALLY believe WhatsApp was going to stay ad-free forever, did you? Did you?). Interesting side note from the earnings call (despite Facebook’s recent insistence that its entire raison d’etre was the fostering of community and not (heaven forfend, no siree!) the collection of the greatest collection of information about human interest and behaviour that has ever existed, to be used for monetisation purposes how and whenever possible): there were somewhere in the region of 10 mentions of the term ‘community’ on the call with analysts, whereas there were over 40 of the term ‘ad’ or ‘advert’. Draw whatever conclusions you feel most appropriate here.
- ALL OF THE THINGS AT F8!: And lo, it came to pass that once again the world’s media gathered in San Francisco’s environs to once again congregate within the hallowed halls of Zuckerberg’s Big Blue Misery Factory to clap like seals at the GLORIOUS FUTUREANNOUNCEMENTS! And what were they this year? Well, there were LOTS (but mostly of limited interest, at least immediately, to advermarketingprdrones) - here is the full list from Day 1, and here is the full list from Day 2; and here is the Techcrunch aggregation of all of the stories from the event. For me, the big stuff is the ‘Clear History’ option for users, which enables people to effectively scrub Facebook’s profile of their browsing history - there’s no indication of how this is going to affect targeting options, and it’s not going to be live in the wild for a few months yet, but it’s a sensible move from a user (and PR, obvs) perspective. Other than this, the integration of apps into Stories on Insta and FB is a big deal - you can see by how excited people are getting about being able to inflict their musical tastes on their stalkers thanks to Spotify integration, for example - and something that, for appropriate brands, is a huge opportunity for expanding reach (oh, and the quote in here about them actively seeking to monetise stories with ADS is unsurprising but worth noting); equally, the additional expansion of AR for brands into Instagram and Messenger, along with the improved tracking tech they’ve announced, is big news (POOR THE SNAPCHAT), although it’s seemingly still going to be locked to those with all of the ad monies, at least for now. Oh, and there’s going to be dating, to keep the middle-aged locked into the platform forever, through the first marital slump, the affairs and the comfortable descent into the swinging and poly scene (that’s what everyone does in middle-age, right? That’s why all poly people you ever see on telly are so, well, unappealing, right?), but that’s of no interest to YOU, you virile young folk.
- FB Introducing New Video Ad Formats: Pre-roll, basically, which they’ve been touting for months but which seems now to be A Thing (in the US, at least, and only through Facebook Watch rather than in Newsfeed), these excitingly “also included a new feature called "preview trailers," ads to promote Watch shows and other videos that can take viewers to the full-length program.” Excuse me while I take a moment for the tumescence to subside.
- New Tools for Facebook Fundraisers: Of course, sometimes Facebook does things that it’s hard to frame as anything other than A Good Thing, no matter how hard I try (and God knows, I tried) - this allows for matched donations, creates a whole new raft of categories for ‘personal fundraising’, and eliminates Facebook fees for said personal fundraising projects. As per, these are starting in the US and then rolling out globally, but it makes Facebook an (even more) obvious choice as a place to raise money (although I find the growing concept of personal fundraising incredibly depressing, given it feels like a direct consequence of the sorts of services / assistance that people might once have reasonably expected to receive from, I don’t know, the state, or third sector organisations which no longer exist as a result of several years of swingeing cutsohgodnopleasenotthepoliticsmakeitstop) (oh, good, see, I did manage to find a negative take, well done ME!).
- Marginally Better Video Retention Metrics for Page Admins: Thrill-a-minute stuff, this, isn’t it?
- Facebook Is Fighting Fake News By Making It Smaller: This is, I promise, not a joke or an Onion headline.
- What Does Facebook Know About Me: This Q&A, part of FB’s ‘Hard Questions’ series (see Curios passim - and also this one, which is honestly interesting regarding what it does and doesn’t allow on the platform), is actually a pretty decent rundown of what information Facebook holds about its users and how that information is then used, but contains this absolute ZINGER which I must quickly draw to your attention. ““Q: If I’m not paying for Facebook, am I the product? A: No. Our product is social media – the ability to connect with the people that matter to you, wherever they are in the world. It’s the same with a free search engine, website or newspaper. The core product is reading the news or finding information – and the ads exist to fund that experience.” WELL GOLLY GOSH, MARK! Given, though, that social media is necessarily constructed solely of content produced by us, its users, it is surely massively disingenuous to suggest that, given we are the ‘information experience’ the company purports to sell, that the product is not EXACTLY what fcuking are, you appalling obfuscatory fcukers.
- Insta Launching Native Payments: Well this is big, and snuck in somewhat unnanounced overnight - Instagram users in the US and the UK, at least some of them, are being offered the opportunity to input their credit card details so as to allow native payments through the platform, which is obviously HUGE from a retail point of view. No indication at all as to how the experience will work for users, and seemingly no retailers have yet been offered the opportunity to let users check out through Insta, but it’s a matter of DAYS, surely. Are you excited? I’m excited (I’m not excited).
- Download All The Stuff Insta Knows About You: IT IS OWNED BY FACEBOOK IT IS JUST AS SHADY FFS DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND YOU MOUTH-BREATHING IDIOTS?
- Twitter Results: These were widely hailed by analysts as A Good Thing for Twitter overall, and the toplines are positive - ad revenues are up 21% Q on Q (although contrast that with Facebook’s terrifying performance and you start to see that this is all pretty relative), and DAUs is up 10%...but equally, this is the third consecutive quarter in which that DAU uplift has shrunk, which isn’t a fantastic trend. I’m as bearish as ever on Twitter’s market prospects, though continue to find it impossible to conceive of a better solution for communicating at speed and scale (which perhaps speaks to my own paucity of imagination rather than to anything big about Twitter itself).
- Twitter Announces New Sponsored Content Formats: Buried within this rather tedious announcement about some new TV partnerships or somesuch is the SEISMIC REVEAL that “Twitter is also announcing new ad programs. There are Creator Originals, a set of scripted series from influencers who will be paired up with sponsored brands. And there’s a new Live Brand Studio — as the name suggests, it’s a team that works with marketers to create live video.” I confess to not having even bothered to look for additional information on these, as if you have the sort of budgets to be thinking of this sort of crap then you almost certainly have a Twitter rep already attempting to flog you it, but I hope that by acknowledging my professional inadequacy here I will go some way towards mitigating it. Have I? IS IT ALL OK?
- Snapchat Results: We’re not going to dwell on these, but TechCrunch’s piece is a reasonable overview of why the numbers are...not good (and further clues were found in the F8 stuff from Day 2 in which they announced that Insta and WhatsApp’s Story mechanics were being used 2x and 3x as often as Snap’s original version).
- Snapchat Launches Snappables: Presumably because ‘slightly janky AR games’ didn’t fit with the brand. Snappables are a series of interactive lenses, which allow users to play a series of simple games controlled using the same AR interface that puts dog ears on your head to hilarious effect no stop it I am crying it’s LIKE YOU ARE A DOG rofl. So you can bop your head up and down to do virtual keepy-ups, say, or contort your mouth to catch floating emoji poos, or whatever (I am guessing as to some of these, you may be able to tell). At the moment these are being built in-house and rolled out weekly, but they would BITE YOUR HAND OFF if you are a brand that wants to spend 6 figures (I’d guess minimum spend on one of these at the outset would be no less than $250k) on making a themed game where you have to, say, chomp as many Whoppers as you can in a minute (£10 says that literal idea, or a close variant on it by one of the fast food peddlers, is one of the first three branded versions). This feels very much like an excellent way for digital studios with some AR chops to make some quick and dirty cash for what will basically end up being fancy shovelware - God, it’s like 2010 and Facebook apps all over again!
- Snapchat Testing Unskippable Ads: Only in its - largely execrable - commissioned shows, mind (seriously, have you ever tried watching any of Snapchat’s original content? I know I am pretty far away from the target audience here, but, honestly, I’d almost rather watch Zoella) - beautifully, the report (apologies for the Mashable link, btw) refers to these unskippable 6-second spots as ‘Commercials’, as though Snap has invented something SHINY and NEW and REVOLUTIONARY. The future is the past all over again but with a greater degree of jaded ennui, I am discovering.
- Snap Launches Spectacles 2.0: Because it’s nearly Summer (ha!) and you might be in the market for a new pair of shades with which to record all of the sunburn and vomit and rejection. It’s not exactly clear what differentiates these from v1.0, other than the fact that they are on mass-sale and that they have some new colourways, but if YOU want to film slightly motion sickness-inducing facevideo then go for your life.
- All Of The Snapchat Ad Formats: A really useful rundown by Business Insider (again, sorry) - exactly the sort of thing that all platforms should have readily accessible as an explainer and yet weirdly don’t seem to have in place at all.
- Alexa Will Now Remember: Well, soon - and in the US only, but if you do stuff around recipes for Amazon’s Domestic Surveillance Hub (or Echo, as it’s more commonly referred to) then you ought to be aware of the imminent introduction of a degree of persistence in the device’s memory; users will be able to tell Alexa to ‘remember’ information (in the example they suggest birthdays, but one could equally use ‘my favourite Divinyls song’ or ‘the podcast that makes the red mist recede’); the applications for this for Echo app developers are obviously really big, not least for the creation of games - you could reasonably imagine scripting an audio-RPG which allowed for persistent and interactive inventory management, for example (Jesus, that’s where my brain decided to go first with that? SO DEPRESSING).
- Google Surveys: Josh, who knows everything about surveys and data, tells me that Google have been punting this to research agencies for a while now, but the fact it’s now available for anyone to use is a NEW THING! Using Google Surveys, anyone with a Google account can set up a reasonable (if, as professional datawonks would scream, VERY unsophisticated and statistically problematic) series of surveys using all the question types you might expect, targeted (roughly) by region (broad geography-level rather than anything so useful as postcode) and age (standard demographic brackets) - you pay per response, with the cost depending on all the usual factors like complexity and the like. Costs seemingly start at £0.08 per respondent, which seems like a pretty good deal as long as you don’t worry about fancy stuff like weighting and the like.
- Ofcom Media Use Data: The latest data dump from Ofcom, telling us all what we already know - to whit, we are all staring at our phones all the time. Nothing hugely surprising, but useful to bookmark for the next time you need to persuade a client that no, really, it is important that they have a mobile-friendly website (you scoff, but I get paid to deal with some SPECIAL PEOPLE). Oh, and the other main takeaway is the first real acknowledgement in these sort of stats that the vast majority of web users are simply not intellectually capable of understanding some of the complex issues which underpin online information flows, or indeed bereft of the critical thinking faculties required to make sense of, well, most things on the internet. Which is simultaneously true and incredibly depressing.
- The Strategic Planners’ Presentation Template: Obviously YOU are all far too sophisticated and professionally advanced to have need of this sort of thing, but on the offchance that you know someone who might benefit from this sort of guided instruction then SHARE WIDELY. It’s old, but it’s still useful.
- The Humanity Test: Simple, clever, and riffs on the Captcha ‘are you human?’ tests in an interesting way - smart, by the UN.
- Invisible Friends: Last up in the tedious-but-necessary section about WORK is this excellent idea by Australian charity MPAN (Missing Persons Advocacy Network) which uses Facebook’s otherwise creepy-as facial recognition feature to help find missing antipodeans - by adding profiles connected to these missing individuals as ‘friends’, Australian FB users can, simply by using the platform as normal, help identify them. Every time anyone gets tagged in a photo, it also alerts their friends that they have been tagged - meaning that if anyone gets tagged in a picture featuring these missing people, the profile owner (in this case, the charity) will get an alert, and a clue as to where the missing person in question was, when, and who with. Simple, smart and for a good cause, this ought to win awards.
THE SECTION WHICH IS POINTEDLY NOT MAKING ANY REFERENCE TO THE DATE AND A POPULAR FILM FRANCHISE AND WHICH WOULD REALLY PREFER IT IF YOU ALL DID THE SAME, PT.1:
- Amazon Blueprint: Despite my long-standing fear and antipathy towards Amazon Echo, this looks FUN. Blueprint is a really smart idea (you’ll have to change your settings to US English to use it), which allows Echo users to program their devices from a series of ‘blueprints’, which can be edited to your own specs - effectively it’s a REALLY simple recipes editor for the platform, a gateway into spinning up your very own coded Alexa games. The fun stuff comes when you look at some of the pre-programed prompts they have in there for you to mess with - depressingly, these include an awful lot of ‘be nice to mum’ presets, suggesting a) a depressingly stereotypical attitude to gender roles in the homes; and b) that families might want to pass on the onerous task of, you know, being nice and saying thankyou to each other to a fcuking pseudo-AI, which is too depressing to dwell on now so we won’t - which include some really interesting choose your own adventure-style games which can be rewritten in-browser to your own specifications. The ability to make bespoke stories and games to play with your kids through the device is, I concede, very cool indeed, and the sort of thing that were I in possession of some sort of idealised family unit and an ounce of paternal feeling I might be quite into trying out; maybe you will too.
- Lifefaker: This is one of those aforementioned stale links, being as it is a whole week or so old; nonetheless, it's a very smart and nicely executed initiative by mental health organisation Sanctus, drawing attention to how Instagram makes you FCUKING MISERABLE. The sad thing about this is that were this service to actually exist - that is, offering stock photos to present the illusion of a perfect life to idiots on social media - it would absolutely coin it in.
- Napflix: Thanks to MR PR for pointing this out to me - Napflix, disappointingly, isn’t a PR stunt for Silent Night or some other mattress manufacturer (HOW DO THE DUCKLING AND THE HIPPO FCUK????) but instead is a website which will pplay you a variety of soporific videos should you be desirous of getting some kip. You can set a timer on the site so it’ll shut down after a certain period of time, meaning you can drift off to the soothing sounds of Bob Ross, or someone filling a dishwasher meticulously and efficiently, or, brilliantly, the Royal Wedding (nice shade, anonymous creators behind this site). This is basically an ASMR-head’s fantasy come true.
- Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls Podcast: An occasional exception to the ‘Web Curios doesn’t do podcasts because its author can’t be bothered to listen through 73 hours of people in their 20s/30s guffawing at how FUNNY and CLEVER they are in order to find the 1% that aren’t total and utter self-indulgent toss’ rule, this one is a series of 20 minute or thereabouts episodes, each focusing on an awesome woman from history. Based on the bestselling book on the same name, there are 10 of these and you’d hope they’d do more.
- FaceVTuber: A browser-based version of those iPhoneX apps that have been doing the rounds of late, transforming you into the puppetmaster for an anime avatar in a terrifying precursor to the sort of full-body live mocap image transfer stuff that will pass for theatrical performance in a few short years time (seriously, this stuff will be part of a big-ticket show within 18 months, imho - GAH STOP MAKING PREDICTIONS MATT IT NEVER ENDS WELL); click the link, click ‘start’ in the box on the left, wait for it to track your face, then click ‘set’ and then watch as the little anime girl starts to track your every move and facial expression. It’s...odd, frankly, if incredibly impressive - oh, and you can move the mouse around to move her hands too, meaning that with a minimal bit of work you can do some sort of slightly weird J-Pop dance routine with her which I can attest will make you feel VERY STRANGE if you’re a 38 year old man trying this out in his kitchen of a Friday morning.
- Voice To Gif: Built, I think, as a small promo for the Webby Awards (not that I care really), this site listens to you speak (5 words max), analyzes your speech and spits out a gif representing what you’ve just said. It’s...imperfect, but fun for 5 minutes - annoyingly, based on my minimal playing around with it, it seemingly doesn’t work with anything violently offensive.
- All Of The Vintage Video In The World: Moderately hyperbolic, fine, but this is a truly incredible effort by YouTube user Guy Jones who’s uploaded what seem to be literally hundreds of old videos, the earliest seemingly from the late-19th Century, from all over the world - the footage here is honestly amazing, from New York in 1911 to Kent in the 1950s, nothing much is happening in most of these but it’s fascinating just to watch the faces (and, my God, the facial hair! The BONNETS!). Honestly, I could stare at these for hours.
- Amnesty Troll Patrol: As part of Amnesty’s ongoing work to attempt to reduce the toxicity of online life, the organisation is using its ‘Decoder’ platform - harnessing online communities to do heavy lifting when it comes to data analysis - to allow volunteers to sift through material on Twitter and identify problematic or hatespeech; this information will be used as part of Amnesty’s reporting to Twitter of the scale of the issues with abuse and harassment on the platform. It’s a good idea - the mechanics are a little shaky at times, and it could be explained better, but overall you can’t argue with the intent - but one does rather feel that the fact that Amnesty is even having to think about this at all is proof of some pretty fcuking spectacular abnegation of responsibility on the part of the platform itself. THANKS AGAIN, SILICON VALLEY!
- An Emmy For Megan: I don’t normally recommend webseries on here either, mainly as most of them are dross, but I’ll make an exception for this - An Emmy For Megan is a superb, hugely meta, short series starring actress Megan Amran in her quest to win an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Short-Form Comedy or Drama series, in a series designed specifically to accomplish that goal. Hugely meta, very self-aware and a lot funnier than it ought to be given the ostensible thinness of the gag, I hope Megan does win an Emmy (she is unlikely to win an Emmy).
- Lobe: Part of me thinks that the 2017-8 RUSH TO GET INTO AI is going to end up a lot like the RUSH TO LEARN TO CODE of 2010-13 - that is, with a lot of people with some pretty rudimentary skills / services who end up being overtaken by automation and realise that they’re about to be consumed by the avalanche they’d spent the previous two years trying to outrun (I really ought to have learned that I can’t actually do metaphor after 5+ years of shoehorning them into the openings of this bastard thing, but WEVS); so it is when I look at Lobe, which is an off-the-shelf plugin solution designed to allow developers to implement gestural recognition into a website or app. So you plug the code in and it will theoretically allow you to train your product to recognise users giving a thumbs up or thumbs down, or clapping, or whatever. It’s drag-and-drop and seemingly designed so that even a no-code moron like me can use it; if you inexplicably want to give your users the ability to, I don’t know, shop on your website by making fingerguns at their webcam (and, now I mention it, who WOULDN’T want that option? NO FCUKER, that’s who) then this is the toy for you. And if you’re working on gestural interface stuff, maybe accept that the ship has sailed and, er, I don’t know, retrain as a teacher or something.
- TimePix: Oh my, this is WONDERFUL! TimePix is another of those ‘mapping photos from THE PAST onto...er...a map’ (I really ought to think about how I finish sentences when I start them) - it only includes photos from the UK, the majority of which are from the North West, and if you ever wanted the opportunity to delve back into the history of Manchester and the surrounding area via photos from the 30s to the 50s then WOW are you going to enjoy this. Wonderfully, these are all the result of the process of updating Ordnance Survey maps, the slightly bizarre process of which you can read more about here should you so desire (it’s worth it, I promise, for the big wooden arrows - no, I’m not going to explain, you can just read the bloody thing and like it).
- Eddie Putera: The Instagram feed of miniature diorama artist Eddie Putera, who makes incredibly detailed miniature landscapes and documents the process here. These are INCREDIBLE.
- TOSDR: Or, Terms of Service: Didn’t Read. Timely, given the world’s recent decision that actually maybe the Ts&Cs are important after all; this site takes the terms of most of the major websites you’re likely to use - Google, Facebook, Amazon et al - and presents them as simple, broken down bullet lists of what is good and bad about them, with explanations as to what the legalese means, links to discussions about specific aspects of each policy, and an overall rating as to exactly how hard the site in question is fcuking you in terms of how much of your immortal soul it’s covertly stealing from you as you browse (that’s how it works, right?). Useful, if not a little depressing.
- Job Ad Gender Decoder: A really good idea, this, which one would hope might be picked up by one of the major job sites as frankly it’s a piece of p1ss PR activation which would almost certainly get you some decent coverage AND it’s A Good Thing to boot. Made by @lovedaybrooke and Kat Matfield, this is a simple tool which lets you plug in the copy from any job ad and which then analyses it to scan for the sort of gendered language which research has suggested exists in much of recruitment literature and which is a major contributor to a lack of workplace and hiring diversity. You can read more about the methodology here; seriously, though, there’s no real reason why stuff like this couldn’t be included as standard as part of the job upload process on Guardian Jobs (I mean, this is SO Guardian) or similar - someone make it happen, please, thanks.
- The Meaning of Giff: B3ta was one of the websites, back in the mid-late 2000s, which enabled me to have an agency job without going mad - the amount of time I spent stealing my employers’ monies whilst going through old editions of Question of the Week or playing ‘Man Milk or Moo Milk?’ (retrospectively, it’s somewhat miraculous that I managed to keep a job - I KNOW, RIGHT? - and is proof positive that, honestly, a slightly more draconian attitude towards workplace internet usage might actually be useful in weeding out people like me whose attitude might be, well, questionable) really cannot be underestimated. Rob Manuel, whose baby it is, is fortunately able to devote a bit more time to it again, not least thanks to a Patreon which you can contribute here if you like, which is good because it means stuff like this happens. The Meaning of Giff asked B3ta’s users to update the classic comedy book / game ‘The Meaning of Liff’ (those of you too young to recall this, get a primer here) for the modern age, “matching up British villages with experiences and emotions you only have because of the internet and modern life.” Which means you get magic like “Milford Belper: When you start typing in a site in your work browser with your boss watching and as the suggestions come up you realise to your horror that the browser history has synced with your home browser history” - and if that didn’t make you smile, you probably oughtn’t be reading Curios anyway.
- Puentacles: I haven’t seen any particularly special tattoo artists for a while, but this stuff honestly amazed me. The line work is beautiful, and the pieces involving the two-tone person/animal figures are just gorgeous (click the link, you’ll see what I mean).
- Josef Square: A WONDERFUL collection of vintage Czech film, exhibition and advertising posters, all on sale. Even if you’re not in the market for some mid-Century Central European design classics - what is WRONG with you? - the collection contains over 1000 pieces which you can browse should you want to get a bit of a retro-aesthetic fix (you want it, you know you do).
- Design Shortcuts: A whole bunch of shortcuts to webtools of use to designers, all in one place. You want a nice, easy reminder as to what the bloody keyboard shortcut is for that layer function in Photoshop (by the way, there are few acts of petty corporate sabotage or defiance that please me more than writing Photoshop without the Adobe-mandated ™ symbol at the end of it - PUNK IS NOT DEAD), this is the site for you.
- Identity Theory: On the one hand, this site has been around for ages and as ever when I find stuff that is a bit old I am slightly furious with myself for not having seen it years ago (WHY HAVE I NOT SEEN ALL OF THE INTERNET YET???); on the other, the fact it’s been going for ages means it is PACKED WITH CONTENT - if you’re into literature, poetry and literary criticism then you are going to love this. LOOK! “Identity Theory is an online literary magazine and cultural hub that has been publishing original writing, interviews, and other forms of creative expression since July 2000. Within our web-based magazine’s thousands of pages, you will find:Over 200 author interviews featuring notable writers like Howard Zinn, Jonathan Safran Foer, Chip Kidd, Azar Nafisi, Ethan Hawke, Donna Tartt, and Sarah Vowell. Music interviews with indie and mainstream bands from Animal Collective and Ariel Pink to the Gin Blossoms to Midnight Oil to Sleater-Kinney and beyond–as well as album reviews and other music features. Short, innovative fiction, including recent favorites “We Are The Pretty”by Ryan Rickrode, “A Bird in the House” by Ben Black, and “Jack & Emily Texas Roadside Incident, Summer 2012” by David Rice. Creative nonfiction about everything from race relations to warblers to whales to the erotic art of dying. Film interviews with actors and directors like John Cusack and Doug Pray, as well as a film news and reviews blog. Visual art and interviews including boxing images, New Yorkercartoonists, and photos of Guatemala and Cuba. Book coverage, including a literary blog and formal reviews. A social justice section [NB you can tell this an old site as they use the term ‘social justice’ with no embarrassment whatsoever] containing politically conscious material and a frequently updated blog. Poetry from all over the world, as well as interviews with poets such as Donald Hall and Major Jackson.” Click the link, enjoy, but please don’t forget me as you discover all this, well good writing and stuff.
- Natives Photographs: A lovely project, promoting the photography of indigenous peoples from around the world. Lots of shots by Inuits, Native Americans, Indios peoples from Central and South America, and generally just great photos of awesome places taken by the sort of people whose photography perhaps isn’t promoted as much as it ought to be; helpfully, you can also contact them to discuss hiring any of the photographers whose work is featured.
- The Dog Toy Project: Photos of dog toys, before and after the dogs in question have...er…’loved’ them to death. This is a campaign for petfood or similar waiting to happen (you know, I keep saying stuff like this in Curios and then waiting expectantly for the ad creatives of the UK to listen to me and take my glorious free ideas and advice and they NEVER seem to and...well...all my ideas are sh1t, aren’t they? OH GOD THE SCALES HAVE FALLEN FROM MY EYES!), so come on, people from Pedigree who I am sure read this (they don’t), get on it.
- Pacemaker: Another thing that’s been out for a while and yet which I had never seen before - seriously, this sort of thing makes me feel weird and insecure; I NEED THE NEW - Pacemaker is a DJing app (is being a DJ sort of retro cool now? A bit like having a bakelite telephone or watching TV live?) which lets you mix, scratch, chop and generally fcuk with tracks on Spotify, letting you treat everyone at your party to your amazing turntablist skills (you are terrible, do not believe my lies) without the need for Technics or vinyl. I had a play around with this, and whilst all I could produce was a frankly unpleasant racket, it’s a lot of fun and you might do better.
- Art Connoisseur: A lovely Twitter bot which takes images from Artsy and provides machine-generated criticisms of said art. Oddly whimsical and rather sweet in an odd sort of way.
- All The Spotify APIs: There may only be about three of you to whom this is interesting or appealing, but I hope that you three REALLY appreciate it.
- Fcuking With Slack: Evil-but-brilliant Slack plugin which will make it look like you’re typing on Slack even when you’re not. Keep your colleagues in a heightened state of suspenseful tension while you swan around the office making tea! Keep them on tenterhooks as they wait for your long, thought-out response to a question...that is never coming! Oh the japes you will have (as someone who unwittingly managed to alienate several of his colleagues by slagging them off in here - admittedly in abstract fashion, and, guys, I wasn’t talking about YOU! - can I strongly advise against you doing this? Ok good)!
- Mitchel Wu: Mitchel Wu takes photos of toy figurines, which, yes, sounds a bit crap, but NO IT IS NOT CRAP! These are excellent - dynamic, kinetic, nerdy, funny little works of art; seriously, they really are wonderful and the skill displayed is sort of awe-inspiring.
- Kernit: A font, inspired by everyone’s favourite angst-ridden felt frog with pingpong ball eyes. A silly gag, but the font itself is actually rather lovely and the site presenting it’s far cuter than it needs to be.
- Cats In Food: You didn’t know, did you, that when you woke up this morning you would later fall into a rabbithole of images of cats, photoshopped into foodstuffs like it was the most natural thing in the world? And yet here we are. Instagram GOLD.
- Satoshi Aizawa: The Twitter feed of digital artist Satoshi Aizawa, whose small, minimal black and white illustrations and animations are simultaneously geometric and abstract and hugely, oddly soothing.
- Sorry I Have No Filter: Thanks to Dan for the tip; this is an online store selling badges, tees, pins, jackets, the usual range of merch, all with a nice bonus that anything that gets bought from the shop will help fund an initiative to help open doors for, and support, women in the creative industries - as the people behind it point out, ‘the design industry has traditionally been a boys’ club at the top’; this is a small step to help redress that, and therefore A Good Thing.
- Twitter Picasso: ANOTHER Twitter feed (Insta’s over, Twitter is BACK!), this one a truly special feed of really quite bizarre fan art, rendered in ballpoint; this is, I promise, a SPECIAL TALENT (no, really, it’s weirdly grotesque but also actually very, very good).
THE SECTION WHICH IS POINTEDLY NOT MAKING ANY REFERENCE TO THE DATE AND A POPULAR FILM FRANCHISE AND WHICH WOULD REALLY PREFER IT IF YOU ALL DID THE SAME, PT.2:
- Poppen Atelier: Doll makeover stuff has been online since forever - who’d have thought that doll obsessives would be one of the most long-standing creative craft communities online? - and this is merely the latest in a long line of websites and feed showcasing the creative art of turning one slightly creepy humanoid homunculus into another slightly creepy humanoid humunculous. That said, the work here - turning ‘ordinary’ dolls into more realistic versions of themselves with more realistic features and makeup and the like - is hugely impressive; it can’t, though, prevent literally EVERY single one of the resulting pieces from looking uncannily like Callista Flockheart back in the days when, well, she probably could have used some cream cakes. Personally I find these utterly terrifying and nightmare-inducing, but your mileage may vary.
- Telephone World: EVERYTHING YOU COULD EVER HAVE WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT TELEPHONES!! This was last updated in 2012, and has the wonderfully sincere copy of an early-days website which knows that it’s a bit obsessional and ridiculous but DOES NOT CARE! All it needs is some spangly gifs to be a pure evocation of 2003, webwise. I love it - also, LISTEN TO THE OLD PHONE SOUNDS! I have honestly no idea at all as to why this exists, but it’s an almost perfect example of the perfect, vast, incomprehensible futility of the web, and is basically Peak Curios.
- Foley Artists: Another great Twitter bot which makes up foley artist techniques (foley artists are, you will doubtless be aware, those people who create sound effects for film and radio using, I don’t know, tins of sand and the ear bones of mice) for bizarrely comic effect. “Often, foley artists will use Spice Girls tracks played backwards to recreate the sound of a cocktail being shaken” - it’s stuff like that, which is pleasingly silly to my mind.
- Old Photos of NYC Parks: These are wonderful, and a great reminder of those days when New York was less the sort of place that people from suburbia would jet off to for a long weekend’s shopping and sightseeing and more the sort of place that made you want to lock the doors VERY TIGHTLY and hide from all the street denizens who looked like sprites from Streets of Rage. That’s hugely hyperbolic - this is in the main just a lovely collection of people enjoying themselves in the 70s in Central Park, with the outfits and the hair and all that other lovely retro stuff - but there are a few photos in here that do make you go ‘hm, the past was a different country’, not least the one of the bloke spit-roasting a whole piglet which I imagine people might look somewhat askance now were you to try it down by the boating lake.
- The Paintings of David Bowie: It’s not fair, is it? I mean, not content with hoovering up all of that general creative brilliance from the universe, grabbing all of that musical genius for himself, David Bowie also turns out to have been a more-than-competent painter. This collection of 25 of his works spans a few decades and gives a nice overview of his style; fine, he wasn’t Picasso, but then again I bet Picasso was sh1t at singing so IN YOUR FACE, Spanish misogynist!
- Respectful Memes: This is basically a Twitter feed lifting stuff from /r/wholesomememes, but they are great and I don’t care. You will feel marginally more positive about life as a result of following it, and when was the last time you thought that about something on Twitter (don’t think too hard, it will only upset you).
- Around The World: Oh I love this! It’s an international fashion pass-the-parcel! Or at least I think it is; the site’s Japanese, and whilst there is some English copy it’s a touch on the esoteric side. Nonetheless, I think that the deal is that this shirt is doing the rounds of the world, being handed from person to person - the condition of the game is that you receive the shirt, colour a bit of it in, take a photo of yourself wearing it for the site, and then pass it on - the website tracks everyone who’s worn it so far, and the garment’s progress around the world. It’s been from Japan to the US to France and back - I think this is a LOVELY project that could successfully be lifted for a social campaign if you want to take something pure and lovely and just RUIN it.
- The Instagram Analysis Chatbot: Nice project by BBC Tomorrow’s World which uses a chatbot interface to analyse any photo you choose to offer it and offers you a prediction as to how to well it will do when you post it on Insta for the temporary, evanescent hit of like-induced dopamine.
- Verba Volant: A lovely project, this, which helps you find books which are set in a particular country; you can pick anywhere (well, almost anywhere) on the map and it will suggest literature set in that location for you to enjoy. There are LOTS - 200 set in Nigeria alone - so if you fancy travelling the world from the comfort of your armchair (or, for those of you living in London, from that contorted reading position bundled under someone’s armpit on the Central Line) then this will be catnip to you.
- The Purple Syllabus: You want to do some DEEP READING about Prince, his works, his legacy, the culture that birthed him and almost literally everything else about the sadly-departed diminutive genius? GREAT! “The #PurpleSyllabus presents essential topics, readings, and multimedia related to Prince. Prince’s impact and influence spreads across nearly all aspects of society and culture. This syllabus presents works written by scholars and journalists across diverse topics. Our hope is that this syllabus will serve as a resource for teachers and curriculum designers looking to infuse their classrooms and courses with Prince content.”
- The CIA’s Card Game: Things I did not know before writing this week’s Curios - the CIA had a card game that it used to train operatives on, er, how to CIA, and which was revealed as part of the declassification of old military files - you can now back a reproduction of these cards on Kickstarter - “Drawing from a deck of over 150 cards, players start each round with a hand full of intelligence tactics and must devise strategies to successfully defuse various crises. The tactics and crises all contain aspects – Political, Military, Economic, and Weapons – and players can only tackle crises if they have tactics with matching aspects. However, rival players also have “reality check” cards that they can play to complicate their opponents’ efforts.” It could be fun, it could be a recruitment drive for the spooks - WHO CAN SAY?
- Drawpod: A second podcast! Truly, unprecedented scenes! Drawpod, though, is a lovely, lovely idea - a podcast which each week will try and inspire listeners to draw something, with every episode featuring a different ‘challenge’ to inspire (or frustrate, to the point of tears, if you’re me) you. You can see people’s efforts by looking at #drawpod on Insta or Twitter so you too can feel the creeping feeling of inadequacy that results from realising you haven’t improved, artistically, since 1984.
- Bayeux Tapestry Generator: This is the sort of thing that, were I a funny Twitter user, all zingy memes and hot visual takes, I would absolutely ADORE. I’m not, though, so I just find it a bit frustrating - I can totally SEE how you could make really strong (I’m talking, like, 100+ likes here, lads, BIG NUMBERS!) memey content from this, but I’m equally incapable of so doing. Still, if YOU have an idea for a pop-cultural gag, perhaps featuring Owen Jones and the Tory political commentariat enjoying each other’s company in the aftermath of yesterday’s local elections, then GET RIGHT INVOLVED.
- AI Photoshop: I know that I keep wanging on about OH MY GOD THE FUTURE IS MENTAL WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO TELL TRUTH FROM FICTION AM I REAL ARE YOU REAL I AM AN EXISTENTIAL MESS and related stuff, but, seriously, look at this. New tech from Nvidia, still obviously hugely protoypical but you get the idea of how it will work, which will basically use pseudo-AI (neural net stuff) to let you fcuk with photos with incredible, frightening ease. Watch the video, seriously - I can’t do it justice in prose (others might be able to - I really can’t), but the fact that you will soon be able to take an image, scrub out elements of it and then have a machine recreate the scrubbed bits so as to make it look like the original element was never there in the first place is...well, let’s just say that we can welcome a whole new era of Stalinist image manipulation but, er, used to airbrush old partners out of holiday snaps and stuff.
- Soundscape: This is ACE, if again a bit hard to explain - it’s a looping music toy which lets you import your own loops, created either using software or by playing an instrument, and then match it with similar - or at least vaguely time-matched - loops done by others, to easily create multi-layered audio beds cobbled together from the shared creative endeavours of people around the world. Just lovely, really.
- Out of Bounds: A deceptively simple puzzle game, all about pushing boxes, which will within about 7 levels have you actively cursing your stupidity (or at least it will if you’re me). I very much enjoyed this.
- Asylum: It bills itself as a ‘game’, but really ‘interactive educative experience’ is probably closer to the mark (but ‘game’ is, admittedly, a significantly less appalling construction so I will forgive them); this interactive by ProPublica, though, is very nicely made indeed. Offering users the opportunity to experience the world through the eyes of five different people seeking asylum to the US, from the political protestor from Congo to the domestic violence survivor from El Salvador - “ProPublica and Playmatics interviewed or obtained material from physicians, psychiatrists, case officers, country experts, lawyers and judges who were either directly involved with these cases or who regularly see cases like these. We’ve omitted some details to protect the identities of the asylum seekers. The international system designed to protect people fleeing dangerous countries was developed as a result of World War II, when countries, including the U.S., shut their doors to Jews fleeing the Holocaust. The five stories represent the five criteria for refugee status defined under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which requires member states not to deport people fleeing persecution based on “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”” This is superbly done, and very, very sobering - impressive work, but, given the past month’s truly spectacular performance on immigration and related issues by the UK administration, simultaneously very depressing indeed.
- 10 Mississippi: Finally this week, this is a stop-motion game which takes you through its creator’s morning routine, from opening her eyes to putting on makeup and all the rest. This is WONDERFUL - it’s presented as a series of very short interactions using the keyboard, and I don’t want to tell you much more because part of the fun is experiencing it all for yourself - the first one requires you to press up and down on your keypad simultaneously, but the rest are pretty self-explanatory so click it and enjoy. I promise you, this is SO charming.
By Mick Hee
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Eagles That Look Like Arsene Wenger: Bye, Arsene.
- Ikeuchi Products: This is a WONDERFUL Tumblr of all sorts of incredible designs and props - no idea what these are made for or even really whether Ikeuchi is a person or a company (because Japanese), but basically everything in here looks like it has leaped straight from the pages of Ghost in the Shell or Gundam or similar.
- WTF Scientific Papers: “The best and the worst in inexplicable figures and quotes from actual published research, with an emphasis on palaeontology”. I was hooked at the quote which patiently explains that the concept of ‘cheating’ is almost certainly nonsensical when applied to an organism without a central nervous system, but you will have your own favourites.
- Things That Cannot Save You: I think that this is an HP Lovecraft gag - something about the fact that nothing can save you from Cthulhu, idk - but the general bleak hopelessness engendered by statements like “TALKING TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT THE BLOCK CHAIN CANNOT SAVE YOU” appealed to me.
- Ovary Actions: An ongoing series of gif illustrations of menstrual euphemisms - if you ever wanted to see a very cute gif of a mooncup with little arms and legs and a smiley face, ‘surfing the crimson wave’, then this is the Tumblr for YOU! I would TOTALLY pay the creator to use this for a social campaign, were I Bodyform (although first I’d have to get over the shock and confusion at suddenly finding myself the human embodiment of a sanitary towel brand).
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Civil War Vintage: Another in the long, long list of ‘brilliant ideas I have come up with in the pub that inevitably I and my fellow drinkers do nothing with because, honestly, were we actually doers we wouldn’t have been in the pub in the first place’. Years ago Ben and I were having a drink and came up with the idea of CoupStarter - crowdfunding for political insurrections worldwide - which made us laugh a LOT; fast forward approximately 6 years and we have this Motherboard piece which fictionalises that very premise, mining it for grubby, near-future scifi larks. A very good short story, and one which feels very prescient to me.
- The Rare Colour Library: ANOTHER excellent article about the science of colour and the pursuit of new shades (chromatics are, it turns out, FASCINATING), this piece will teach you all about the Forbes Collection, where the world’s colours are stored and preserved forever. Things you will find out from reading this piece, eg that in ancient egypt they made yellow pigment by drying out human p1ss - HOW ARE YOU NOT ALREADY READING IT?!?
- I Am Old Enough To Die: I mention Barbara Ehrenreich on here more often than you’d imagine, almost always in the context of her book ‘Nickel and Dimed’, in which she lived as a minimum wage worker in various places across the US for two years in the late-90s to document the experience of life without a financial safety net in Clinton’s America. Ehrenreich is now of an age where mortality and physical decay are pretty real concerns, and this piece outlines her reasons for not wishing to attempt to prolong her existence with pre-emptive treatments any longer - no more anti-Osteoporosis drugs, no more stents, just an acceptance the body is not built to last forever and that maybe it might be better just to suck it up and let entropy happen to you. I find this a hugely admirable position to take, whilst guiltily acknowledging that I have no reason to believe that, in the unlikely event my lifestyle allows me to get much past 50, I wouldn’t desperately be shovelling all the life-extenders available down my gullet at every opportunity.
- Charlie Binbags Was (Probably) A Scam: I mean, I sort of thought in the back of my head that this was probably the case, but it’s still saddening to note that one of the best ‘wow, actually Twitter can be a good thing and not just a place for people to scream at each other about politics, threaten women and make tediously repetitious in-jokes to the baying peanut gallery of their circle(jerk)’ moments of the year probably wasn’t actually a heartwarming tale of a homeless man finding hope through social media but instead was a well-plotted scam to extort bleeding hearts out of some charity.
- The YouTube Horrorshow: Or, “This is terrible and disgusting; come, quick, watch it with me!” - yes, another investigation into online culture, this time focusing on YouTube, which comes to the conclusion that it’s broken and horrible and full of crap, and the reason why is because that is deep-down what we actually all want. Which is cheering.
- Is Your Job Lynchian or Kafkaesque: I’m going to maintain a dignified silence as to my own personal perception of my employment, but I’d invite you to interrogate your professional life on the basis of this article; it’s a review of two books on modern employment and how preposterous much of it is, but it’s also a nice primer as to the main arguments as to why much white collar work is, fundamentally, a complete waste of time for everyone. It riffs on the original ‘bullsh1t jobs’ essay from years ago, featured on this VERY website way back in 2013 - “Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul.” Run your calloused fingers across that cicatrice and pray for merciful release, wage slaves!
- Ferrero Rocher as Status Symbol: On the power of Ferrero Rocher as a brand signifier of quality and luxury worldwide - or, if you want another title that’s a bit more advermarketingprish, ‘The Power of Brand - Chocolate, Luxury and Ambassadorial Chic’. This is fascinating, on how the Ferrero Rocher brand translates globally, and how the company has managed to straddle the seemingly incompatible values of knowingly ridiculous high-street sweet and high-status signifier over 4+ decades.
- The Emotional Labour of Leaving Facebook: This is an excellent essay, presenting the fact of ‘leaving Facebook’ as a question of privilege, a luxury afforded only to those who have, and are able to maintain, strong offline networks and communities and who have the slack themselves to pick up the emotional labour which Facebook performs in the background of our lives. The point about emotional labour is a really interesting one - the author’s conjecture that Facebook fulfils often feminine social roles through its reminders about birthdays, anniversaries and events is something I’d not considered at all, but which resonated quite strongly on reflection.
- Zadie Smith on Deana Lawson: As ever, Smith is worth reading regardless of subject matter; I wasn’t familiar with the work of photographer Deana Lawson before reading this essay, but she photographs people of colour from around the world in simple, striking poses which reflect their culture present and past. Smith’s writing about the work is exquisite - I wish more art criticism were written by writers and less by critics.
- Liberal Totalitarianism: Everyone’s favourite Communist Voldemort Yannis Varoufakis is BACK (not that he was ever away - he’s fond of himself, Yannis), this time with a very interesting (and short) essay on...well, this basically: “[Young people] are told that, to avoid falling into this soul-destroying “precariat,” they must invest in their own brand every waking hour of every day. As if in a Panopticon, they cannot hide from the attention of those who might give them a break (or know others who might). Before posting any tweet, watching any movie, sharing any photograph or chat message, they must remain mindful of the networks they please or alienate.” Innit, though?
- When Bad Reviews Could Kill: Does criticism not matter any more? There’s an extent to which it doesn’t, certainly not in music; critical opinions mean nothing when anyone can get music direct from the source without the need for gatekeepers to tell them what is and isn’t worthwhile (I imagine people working in theatre or the food industry might feel a little differently about critics and the power thereof, mind). This piece looks back to when a crushing Pitchfork writeup can and did end careers, though, and attempts to speak to a selection of artists who received absolute stinkers from the site. On reflection, the act of giving someone a 0 on a hugely widely-read music site does seem a bit...well...cnuty, eh?
- Youth of Today: Incredibly dispiriting portrait of campus politics in US colleges, focusing in this instance on the race to be elected Republican Councillor at the University of California - one of the candidates is the sort of kid you’d have imagined running two decades ago, all button-down shirts and thoughts about policy; the other is a screaming caricature of the Twitter right, all MAGA swimming costume and matey relationship with Milo. Guess who wins? This does not, it’s fair to say, bode hugely well for the future of party politics in the US.
- The Magician of Manhattan: A fascinating story in which the reporter, writing for Vanity Fair, details how she got scammed by someone posing as a rich socialite who somehow managed to get said reporter, and a bunch of other people besides, to fund their crazy pseudo-celebrity Eurotrash lifestyle. Mind-boggling, in part for the lifestyle details but equally for the manner in which literally everyone in this tale, from the author to the fraudster, comes across as absolutely dreadful people on almost every possible level.
- Meet Nina Gold: A brilliant and fascinating profile of celebrity casting director Nina g Gold, which sheds hugely entertaining light on the process of matching actors to roles. Recommended by my cousin Irene, who always complains I never credit her for sending me stuff. CONTENTA ADESSO???
- The Restaurant Spies: There’s a slightly cheesy but very entertaining memoir called Garlic and Sapphires by former NY Times restaurant critic Rutch Reichl, in which she talks about her time attempting to review incognito for the paper in one of the most savage restaurant scenes in the world; this piece paints the opposing view of the same scene, documenting the frankly insane steps that restaurants take in an attempt to get one up on the critics attempting to review them anonymously. Stupendously silly, really, but an indication of what a hugely stressful and marginal job running a high-end restaurant is. I wonder whether London places do the same for Marina O’Loughlin?
- Time Travel on the YouTube Express: A beautiful piece by Leigh Alexander which looks at the very specific weirdness of watching old TV ads on YouTube, a peculiar form of cultural time travel which takes the viewer back to a past they don’t remember but recognise perfectly. Superb on the disconnect between analogue and digital worlds - “That world is somehow only 20 years apart from today’s, where a conservative backlash against traumatized schoolkids can start on your phone screen, where the Aziz Ansari thing already feels like a year ago, where you’re never doing nothing. Maybe you are refreshing, clearing notifications, scrolling without reading, or thinking, nerves frayed, about all the things you might be missing. You are cleaning your kitchen with one hand and texting with the other, while Netflix is wondering if you’re still watching.”
- China’s Millennial Backlash: I imagine that the term ‘millennial’ is as utterly meaningless in China as it is in the rest of the world, but that small bugbear aside this is a really interesting look at how China’s youth is responding to their own version of the social pressures afflicting the
- Outsourcing Online Dating: I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys online dating; frankly I don’t know anyone who really still does it (partly age, but even the young people I know seem to have fallen out of love with the endless process of swiping and wanking - that’s how it works, right?). The logical extension of that is that people in the US are now apparently outsourcing the heavy lifting by employing people to manage their Tinder profiles for them to get dates - at which point the actual account owner takes over and does the meatspace interaction thing. On the one hand, I can see the appeal; on the other hand ‘nah, I couldn’t actually be bothered to put any effort in so I got a virtual assistant to Cyrano-chirpse you til I we could get drunk and fcuk in real life’ is the sort of confession that I can confidently predict will bite you in the arse at some point in the future of your loving relationship.
- Welcome To Orban’s Hungary: Horrifying picture of what life is like in Europe’s newest neo-fascist state - worth noting also Private Eye’s recent stories about the Spectator and Telegraph’s recent apologism in the face of Orban’s politics in exchange for ad monies, which is, well, about as bleak as you’d expect. Honestly rather scary, this, if you take a moment to think about the wider implications.
- Meet Prison Planet: A profile of risible, wet-lipped alt right nincompoop Paul Joseph Watson, a man so regularly, spectacularly on the wrong side of the argument that his name is almost a byword for self-ownership and yet who continues to prove inexplicably popular with the sort of double-figure-IQ specimens who buy Brain Juice. It’s not hugely enlightening, but the bit that struck me here was the chain of idiocy that this speaks of - PJW, an idiot, watches another idiot on YouTube as a kid (David Icke); PJW absorbs the idiot’s idiotspeak and starts babbling his own into a camera, and so the cycle continues. SHUT DOWN THE INTERNET, IT IS BAD FOR US.
- How To Kill A Fish: This will not make you feel good about the fact that you’re going to spend all weekend by the seaside eating fish.
- The Great High School Impostor: The truly staggering tale of the Ukrainian kid who at the age of 19 decided to pretend he was in fact 14 and sneak his way through the US high school system to secure a place at a US College. No, really, that is absolutely what he did. So much of this is utterly unbelievable - not least that noone questioned the kid’s incredibly thick Ukrainian accent - and yet it’s all apparently true; were it not for the very very creepy romantic angle here (which is not really explored as much as you think it ought to have been) this would be in cinemas already.
- Can A Male Artist Stil Paint A Female Nude: Brilliant and thought provoking exploration, featuring interviews with a variety of artists, on whether or not male artists have the right to explore and depict the female nude in art, in a post-#MeToo, woke 21st Century; the responses are almost overwhelmingly “yes, of course”, but the discussions and paths taken in getting to those responses are fascinating.
- Doing K At Work With The Irish Prime Minister: I am sure you have read this already, but if you haven’t then please, please do. I cried with laughter, whilst simultaneously getting angry at how good the writing was - this person has NO RIGHT to be so good. Best Twitter thread you will see all week, no doubt.
- Weaponising Paperwork: Absolutely the smartest and best summary of the past month’s Windrush mess, and the policy environment that created it - the LRB is superb at this sort of thing, and this piece is no exception; it also makes the point that this whole thing started well before Theresa May (not to exonerate, heaven forfend, but to contextualise) and in fact it was another aspect of Cameron’s craven bowing to the rump of his party which led us not only to this but to Brexit as well - which is another example of the country being fcuked by the interests of what, in essence, is a few thousand people in the Tory party. Which is rage-inducingly mental, frankly.
- Joel Has Been Playing Fortnite: Fortnite is a videogame. Joel Golby is obsessed with it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t play this, or indeed any, games - this is brilliant, as per, and exactly the sort of games writing that we don’t see enough of.
- Dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia: Finally this week, a dispatch from the past in the shape of this 2013 Grantland piece in which the author competes in the World Series of Poker. You don’t need to know ANYTHING about poker or gambling, I promise - this is 10k-odd words of sheer, sustained brilliance and I can’t recommend it enough. Brilliant.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
3) This is the full album / film of Janelle Monae’s ‘Dirty Computer’ - I personally don’t *love* the album, though everyone else does and so I’m going to presume that you will too, but the visuals accompanying it are honestly superb; this is a wonderful piece of filmmaking and really worth watching all the way from start to finish:
6) Last up this week, a VERY SILLY but sort of brilliant piece of pop-punk horror rock with a VERY chien andalou-channeling video (seriously, not for the squeamish) - this is The Dwarves with ‘Devil’s Level’ BYE HAVE A LOVELY BANK HOLIDAY DON’T GET SO MESSED UP TONIGHT THAT YOU RUIN THE REST OF THE WEEKEND NOW DON’T FORGET TO WEAR SUNSCREEN AND TO MAYBE STAY OFF THE WEB FOR THE WHOLE TIME BECAUSE I PROMISE YOU YOU WILL FEEL BETTER FOR IT I LOVE YOU I REALLY DO BYE SEE YOU NEXT WEEK BYE!: