"We did the democracy!"
That is an actual, direct quote from former Telegraph editor, Thatcher's biographer and establishment pillar Charles Moore, on TV last night, about Brexit. We oughtn't have another vote because 'we did the democracy'.
Whatever your thoughts on the rightness or wrongness of going through this hugely enjoyable experience all over again (but, like New Game +, we'd get to keep all the accumulated Vitriol and Bile we got in our first playthrough!), can we all agree that this is absolutely the fcuking nadir of all political debate by our country's ruling classes? Can we? Good!
"We did the democracy". Jesus fcuking wept, Charles, you fcuking cretin. And I can say that because I was once at a lunch with Charles Moore and he totally ignored me, despite there only being 8 people there, because I wasn't important (or because I was embarrassingly drunk, I forget which it was).
Anyway, enough of that! Time, as ever, is a-wasting, and you're surely anxious to get your snouts deep into this week's just-slain, freshly-eviscerated carcass to have a good old rootle in the chitlings - get in deep, wrap your teeth around a promising looking tube and SQUEEZE - who knows what flavour of malodorous infopaste you'll get a mouthful of? This, as ever, is Web Curios, and I realise that I have just compared the experience of reading this to getting a mouthful of partially-digested food straight from a creature's intestine but, well, don't let that put you off!
By Adi Prawira
LET'S KICK OFF WITH ED SAPERIA'S IN-HOUSE PLAYLIST FOR HIS HOTBED OF DIGITAL CIVIC HACKERY, NEWSPEAK HOUSE! IT IS EXCELLENT AND GLITCHY AND A PERFECT START TO THIS WEEK'S CURIOS!
THE SECTION WHICH HAS LITERALLY NO PERSONAL INTEREST IN SNAPCHAT AS A PLATFORM BUT WHICH IS VERY MUCH HERE FOR THE ABILITY TO SEE MAJOR LANDMARKS VOMITING RAINBOWS:
- "Regulate Me!", Demands Zuckerberg: Well, ish. Still, HOT ON THE HEELS of my snarking last week about Damien Collins' grandiose plans to SORT THIS HOT INTERNET MESS OUT, Mark Zuckerberg made a series of announcements this week, both on Facebook's corporate blogs and in interviews, suggesting that what he wanted most of all in the world was for some of the sensible grownups who run the world to just MAKE SOME RULES and stop his infernal Big Blue Misery Factory from ceaselessly fcuking society like some sort of appalling digital Sybian. This post lays out the basic areas where he specifically thinks regulation could help; the use of personal data, a standardised approach to harmful content, data portability and, most amusingly, political advertising. As the nation sits through what feels like the three-millionth day in the Big Brexit House, and as stories continue to break around the iffy-at-best, seemingly-unknowable network of funding pumping money into pro-Brexit advertising, it seems...not great that it's Zuckerberg rather than any of our politicians who's calling for a serious look at how we define and control political advertising.
- More Transparency For FB Users on Newsfeed Content: Small update, this, but interesting insofar as it offers a miniscule element of transparency when it comes to the magical, unknowable black box that is the Facebook Newsfeed algo; users will now be able to get more detailed information on why they are being served specific posts or ads within Newsfeed, with the platform now giving a degree of detail as to which signals its drawing to determine content placement - you 'liked' Terry's last three videos, for example, or you click on Karen's profile seven times a day (STOP IT SHE ISN'T COMING BACK), or, in the case of ad targeting, because you're a 35+ male Londoner or something. Not TOTAL transparency, fine, but it's an interesting start. Nothing significant for brands here, I don't think, but maybe one of you can think of a clever way of using this information to do something hilariously arch and Cannes Lion-winning (I bet you can't).
- Instagram Stories Ads Add Interactivity: I mean, I say 'interactivity' - what this actually means is Poll Stickers as an additional element on your Stories ads. As the post breathlessly explains, "In Ads Manager, choose Instagram Stories as your only ad placement. Then, where you upload your creative and edit your ad's text, check the box Add an interactive poll. Try out the polling sticker to co-create a product, spark a conversation with your community, crowd source insights for product development, gamify your ad or run a contest." God, that sounds thrilling, doesn't it? Still, I reckon you can (depressingly) absolutely increase the viewtime on your Stories ads by adding a polling question at the top of them and implying that the user decision will somehow impact the ad's story.
- Whatsapp Will Soon Allow You To Block People From Automatically Adding You To New Group Chats: There's literally NO commercial angle to this, but I think it's important that you all know how to do this because, well, really.
- Snap Launches All Sorts of Partner Integration Stuff: Snapchat's approach to their comms is not unlike their approach to UX/UI within the app, aka it's a total fcuking mess and seemingly designed from preventing you from understanding what is going on unless you're 9. Snap did a big event yesterday, its first Partner Summit designed to persuade developers, advertisers and others that the company really IS a going concern still and not flailing slightly in the face of dwindling user numbers and aggressive competition, and trying to find a single list of what it announced has been HARD. There's this blogpost, which explains a few of the new API features - the ability to pull app info into Snap from an app (so, to share what you're watching on Netflix, say, as a sticker in Snap direct from the Netflix app) or, vice-versa, the ability to share your Snap Camera content into another app's Story (this, I think, presages where the company eventually ends up), some more Bitmoji stuff (I will never, ever understand the appeal of Bitmoji), and a broader Snap Audience Network for wider ad placement beyond the Snapchat platform. But then there was a load of other stuff announced; Snap Games, which will allow for multiplayer gaming within Snapchat, complete with chat and stuff, 10 or so originally commissioned TV shows, which was on some other webpage, and bizarrely neither of those announcements mentioned the most exciting thing that was revealed - to whit, the introduction of specific AR lenses for landmarks, which will let you do exciting things like, er, turn the Flatiron Building in New York into a gigantic piece of pepperoni pizza, or make the Eiffel Tower vomit rainbows. Why? WHY NOT? Anyway, the app integration stuff seems like it could be useful, as does the ad network stuff, though if rumours about UK user numbers are to be believed then, well, who cares?
- Snap Launches Status Feature: And they announced this a couple of days earlier - couldn't they have done it all on the same day? FFS. Anyway, this is an update to Snap Maps, which will allow people to set a Bitmoji avatar which demonstrates not only where they are but what they are doing, the idea being that it'll allow users to signal whether or not they are 'busy' or free to chat, or whatever; there's OBVIOUSLY a bunch of potential brand things here, as you can imagine that Domino's or whoever would pay good dollar to be the brand that represents 'eating a pizza' on Snap.
- You Can Now Add Subtitles To Twitter Videos: You were always able to add closed captions, but the platform now supports the standard .srt filetype, bringing it into line with all the others, marking a long-delayed but welcome step forward in terms of accessibility, and causing me to write what will hands-down be the most boring and joyless entry in this week's Curios. ARE YOU HAPPY, TWITTER?
- Alexa Healthcare Skills: This is quietly significant, imho; in the US, "the Alexa Skills Kit now enables select Covered Entities and their Business Associates, subject to the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), to build Alexa skills that transmit and receive protected health information as part of an invite-only program." Which means that the door is open for all SORTS of exciting potential Alexa tricks - "Alexa, refill my Oxy script!", "Alexa, turn off grandma's IV!", that sort of thing. Obviously the US healthcare market is unique(ly horrible), but one would imagine that they will start seeking approval from local regulators to allow 'select private partners in the healthcare space' to start developing all sorts of exciting Alexa gubbins in countries all over the world.
- Gucci Zumi: Last up in the section of 'stuff which might vaguely pertain to your job', this is yet another EXCELLENT website by Gucci, who absolutely do the nicest webwork in the luxe sector at the moment imho. Following on from previous Curios favourites which had a gorgeous hand-painted aesthetic, this uses a vaguely similar visual style but focuses purely on the handbags - the only nav is a simple vertical scroll, and the only possible interaction beyond said scroll is clicking on the handbags to be taken to sales page. It's just so wonderfully confident - "yes, our handbags are magnificent and beautiful; look at them, then buy them - what else could you possibly want to do?" - and a tiny bit brash, and, generally, I'm in love (with the website, not the handbags; I am not an 'accessories' sort of guy, although if anyone feels like buying me a present I could probably just about handle a Balenciaga clutch).
By Ian Trask
NEXT UP, HAVE THE NEW LP FROM UK RAPPER LITTLE TORMENT!
THE SECTION WHICH REALLY IS GOING TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY IF THIS CARRIES ON FOR ANOTHER 12 MONTHS, PT.1:
- Have They Faked Me: This isn't at all odd. You'll recall (OBVIOUSLY) the spate of GAN-type toys from earlier this year, spitting out infinite variations on cats and anime girls and suchlike - one of the sites was This Person Does Not Exist, which spits out a dizzying array of totally GAN-generated human faces for you to marvel at. Now there exists a companion site, which lets you upload a photo of your actual face and checks it against its database of made-up faces to see if the machines have generated a nonexistent doppelganger for you. This is such an utterly surreal setup - you are, to be clear, asking a machine to check whether another machine has ever imagined a face like yours - and yet it's nice to know that there's not, as yet, any computer-generated digiMatt out there. Know, though, that at some point in the next couple of years I am absolutely going to outsource the writing of Curios entirely to an algo; whether any of you will be able to tell the difference is moot, as is whether any of you will care (so alone).
- The Boolean Game: I have a weird and slightly overdeveloped affection for Boolean operators, born out of some dark times in my late-20s when I used to have to spend hours running massive, pointless digital audit-type reports for brands like Pampers and crying over search strings like "(nappy OR diaper OR napy OR diper) AND (leak OR poonami OR "all the way up the back")", and my mastery of operational terms was the only thing I could feel vaguely proud of, professionally-speaking. Anyway, this is a lovely, fun and beautifully-designed little game designed to teach you the rudiments of how Boolean strings work - unions, conjunctions, disjunctions, etc - all via the medium of SHAPES AND DESIGN. It's honestly really soothing, and looks gorgeous, and the soundtrack is genuinely encouraging.
- The Animal AI Olympics: Such an interesting idea. The Animal AI Olympics is a contest launching at the end of April, where teams will be invited to submit AI programs that can undertake simple navigational and decision-making tasks at a level comparable to the performance of known animal subjects - so AIs that can learn their environments and adapt to changes within it. "We are proposing a new kind of AI competition. Instead of providing a specific task, we will provide a well-defined arena (available at the end of April) and a list of cognitive abilities that we will test for in that arena. The tests will all use the same agent with the same inputs and actions. The goal will always be to retrieve the same food items by interacting with previously seen objects. However, the exact layout and variations of the tests will not be released until after the competition." This is fascinating to me - the creation of 'intelligence' that can operate within shifting parameters is hugely complicated (there's a reason why the current blockbuster AI examples are in Go, chess, and the like - the programs are obviously hugely impressive, but they are operating within closed systems with fixed parameters), so any advances made through this will be significant and hugely impressive.
- Flick: A new(ish) community/groups app based in Edinburgh, the idea behind which is that you can create and join themed groups of varying size, to discuss stuff with like-minded people, chat, share files, etc etc etc...I mean, it's literally like every single other group-based app out there (LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE ONE) but if you want to add yet ANOTHER platform to the endlessly fractured modern communications landscape then this might be the perfect one. It might not, though.
- Greg Tatum: Greg Tatum is a programmer working for Mozilla, who in his spare time makes stuff that he says sits at the intersection of code and art and poetry; this is his site, which collects his various projects and experiments, and they are lovely - elegant and simple and beautiful to look at, and exactly the sort of thing that I'd want playing on a never-ending screensaver somewhere in my house (if I lived in a far more futuristic and shiny reality than the rather banal South London one which I actually inhabit).
- Name of the Year 2019: It's become one of the great annual springtime traditions in my life - the clocks go forward and I know it's just about time for the glorious procession of nomenclature-lols that is Deadspin's Name of the Year contest - for newer readers, or those of you who inexplicably lack my encyclopaedic memory of every single fcuking link I put in this bastard thing, the Name of the Year contest lets readers pick the greatest single name featured (and verified as accurate) in the US media last year. This year I'm linking at the earliest stage, so you, Curios readers, can get involved in the decision making process to crown the owner of the best name in all of America in 2019 - they're pitted against each other in traditional 'bracket'-style, so in these early heats you get to choose whether, say, Sharky Laguana or Sureal Sparx deserve to go through to the next round, or to determine whether the truly fabulous Chastity Gooch-Fant deserves a shot at this year's title. Honestly, I say this every year but WOW THESE NAMES. I was in tears at some of them - I am torn between Geor'quarius Spivey and the simple-but-near-perfect Reymundo Mundo for this year's title, but you pick your own.
- The MySpace Dragon Hoard: Sometimes the web is awful and vile, true, but sometimes it is also QUITE GOOD. This is one of those times - someone contacted the Internet Archive to tell them that they had in got about 500,000 songs downloaded from the old MySpace archives and would they mind hosting them please; a few days later and HERE WE ARE! This is obviously only a fraction of the musical patrimony that was lost the other week, but it's got some really interesting old fragments buried in there; early tracks by Gallows and Enter Shikari, and proper early days tunes from Katy Perry and other breakout artists of the mid-00s. The whole lot is about 1.3TB, so if you don't fancy the download there's a search/player linked to on the page - this is an excellent opportunity for you to remind yourself of exactly how bad your musical taste was 15 years ago.
- Manfest: On the one hand, it seems churlish to mock anything which seeks to encourage men to be more open and honest about feelings and stuff; on the other, it's quite hard not to mock any event that calls itself 'Manfest', designed to...er...actually, I'm not really sure: "For us to go forward and handle the issues we face as Men, we need a stepping off point. Men need to gather to honour where we've come from and the lessons we've learned, to arrive in and recharge our bodies, to share ideas, stories, ambitions, wisdom, rites and recipes, to care for one another and to have FUN!!!" Hang on, I'm a man - where have I come from? Why has noone ever tried to share a rite with me? Maybe I do need to go to Manfest after all? Obviously my snarking is unhelpful and a bit cheap - sorry, Men - and I'm sure there's a lot of good in things like this, but, equally, part of me wants to grab potential attendees by the shoulders and suggest that, honestly, if you want to get redpilled you can do it from your computer for free rather than spending £100 to go and have an angry wank in a tent.
- Animal Skull Search: Fully aware that that's unlikely to be a description that drives a lot of clicks but, honestly, it's GREAT. Select the type of animal skull you want to look at and a 3d visualisation appears in the box which you can zoom in on and move around til you've got it in the position you want; then choose a type of real animal you want to search for from another drop-down, hit 'search' and VWALLAH! It'll throw out photos of your selected animal, posed per the angle you've positioned the skull at in the 3d viewer. Did that explanation work? It probably didn't, did it? Look, just try it, it will make sense and you will than...no, you won't thank me, will you? YOU NEVER DO, YOU INGRATES.
- Goth Crocs: Presumably designed for Goth Chefs or Goth Hospital Orderlies. These are obviously ridiculous but also sort of ace.
- Line of Action: If you're interested in art - the practice rather than theory - then this is potentially really useful; Line of Action offers a whole host of resources for amateur artists, from posed photographs to sketch from, to tips and tutorials on technique, to a community where you can discuss...er...tempera and paper quality, probably (I don't know what artists talk about being as I have all the aesthetic aptitude of a corpse). If you made a half-hearted promise to yourself to 'get back into the drawing, it used to make me so happy, etc etc' back in January that has sadly lapsed, this could be the fillip you need to get back into it. Don't blame me if it isn't, though.
- States of America: A project presenting one film for each of the 50 US States. "States of America is a series of documentary shorts, featuring one person in each of the 50 states in the Union. In the United States, you might be born one place, go to school or work in another, then pack it up and move somewhere else for a thousand different reasons of choice or circumstance. You might have been born in another country. What is it that ties us to these places and makes us adopt them as our home? How does our state affect who we are and how we identify ourselves? What makes us from there? In an increasingly fragmented time where identity, unity, and belonging are under scrutiny, States of America asks these questions in lyrical short documentaries, featuring everyday people as distinct as the physical and cultural landscapes they call home. By looking at several together, these films begin to portray a mosaic of America's famously emerging identity." There are about 20 completed shorts so far - I watched a couple earlier this week, and at 3-5 mins each they're really beautiful examples of short filmmaking. Definitely worth a look.
- Cannaclusive: On the one hand, the recent boom in the weed industry in the US has been a stark example of racial inequalities inherent in the Western world, as mostly white investors stampede towards a massively lucrative new business area which has been the cause of the incarceration of so many black people for so many years, and anything that draws attention to that is A Good Thing; on the other hand, I have no fcuking idea whatsoever what Cannaclusive is or is for. It's seemingly an organisation whose aim is to ensure that diversity and representation is included in this burgeoning industry - they've got a stock photo pack for weed businesses presenting a slightly less white smoking crowd for use on websites, etc, for example - but, honestly, read this and tell me what the fcuk they do: "At Cannaclusive we celebrate the cultures of this thriving community through curated experiences, groundbreaking insights, thoughtful content and dynamic visuals. We make it easier for brands to communicate with diverse audiences and ensure that minority consumers are not an afterthought, but a valued ally in the fight for legalization and destigmatization." No, nothing.
- A List of Physical Visualisations: This is a chronological list of physical visualizations and related artifacts - that is, physical things designed to represent quantities or other concepts, so 3d data sculptures and things of that ilk. Honestly, far more interesting than you'd think, and the sort of thing which you might find oddly useful in terms of visual inspiration.
- SlimWiki: A simple, easy-to-use-looking Wiki maker, distinguished by the fact that it's been designed to look marginally less horrid than the other Wiki makers already out there. It's seemingly free, the feature list looks good, and compared to Wikipedia the outputs look GORGEOUS, so perhaps worth looking at if you're in the market for such a thing.
- Eko: Weirdly 2019 has seen an unexpected resurgence in the concept of CYOA video - after Bandersnatch reminded us all of the fact that branching video narratives used to be a popular 'THIS IS THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL STORYTELLING' trope, a bunch of ASMR people have started doing branching narrative roleplays on their channels; then last week someone asked me about doing one as part of a pitch proposal they were putting together JUST LIKE IT'S 2009! Anyway, then this popped up - Eko is a platform designed specifically for the creation of branching videos, with a slick-looking proprietary player and a surprisingly large content bank on there featuring actual, proper films by actual, proper creators. It's really interesting to see the breadth of work on there; there's a section for brands and creators too, should you want to sign up to make stuff on there yourself.
- German Pulp Scifi Magazine Cover Motherlode: Utopia was, as far as I can tell, a German scifi imprint from the 60s(?); this Flickr account collects hundreds of the covers in technicolour glory, and is a wonderful repository of golden era-style pulp artworks.
- Means TV: The current upsurge in interest in 'socialism' in the US (my inverted commas there - it's just that sometimes I'm not 100% certain that the word means what they think it means) continues apace, this time with the launch of Means TV a "digital streaming platform with original shows and movies of various genre: news, talk shows, documentary, sitcoms, stand-up comedy, adult animation, dramas and more, featuring your favorite leftist journalists, activists, comedians and influencers." OK, so it's not quite launched yet, but page trailing it is up and you can get a flavour for the type of programming it's going to be focusing on - in the main, seemingly, dispassionate portraits of people struggling against the yoke of late-period capitalism. The site itself offers a few videos, and general information about the movement that they hope to create; genuinely interested to see how this develops, but I could theoretically see it doing rather well.
- Wikienigma: An encyclopedia of known unknowns - basically listing all the stuff that we know but don't understand, like dreams and the Novikov Conjecture and and lightning. Some of this stuff is obviously mysterious, but there will be quite a few entries on here which will make you scratch your head and then think significantly less of the scientists who are in fact meant to know things. What do you mean noone has any real clue as to the proper etymology of 'dog'? FFS, linguists!
- Ring Generator: A website which will automatically generate a 3d model of a ring for you, depending on the different sliders and options you choose. Look, I don't know why you might want this, but on the offchance that you're in the market for a bespoke 3d-printed piece of jewellery then, well, here you are.
- Bryte: I was wondering what the next industry to be DISRUPTED by AI was goingto be - turns out, it's fcuking sleep. Do you know why you can't sleep well? DO YOU? No, it's nothing to do with the screens and the stress and the booze and the drugs and the fear, don't be stupid. It's because your DUMB MATTRESS is TOO STUPID to automatically optimise itself to your sleeping patterns as you kip. Bryte promises to end that torture by readjusting your sleeping position as you snooze, waking you up with gentle daytime-type lighting, and LEARNING YOUR SLEEPY NEEDS. Which sounds fine in theory, but I can't shake the feeling that the reality would be more akin to a horrible, roiling, seasickness-inducing rolling boil of movement, as your mattress spastically twitches beneath you as you sob, sleepless, atop it.
By Kai Samuels Davis
NEXT, GET SOME SUNSHINE UP YOU WITH THIS ROOTS/REGGAE MIX BY EDDY LONGO!
THE SECTION WHICH REALLY IS GOING TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY IF THIS CARRIES ON FOR ANOTHER 12 MONTHS, PT.2:
- Setlists for Young Voices: An excellent charitable initiative which later this month will offer the chance to bid for signed setlists from around 100 gigs, all of which are being auctioned off to raise money for the Ministry of Stories and a new charitable initiative designed to celebrate young writers from around the world. Artists include Patti Smith, Nine Inch Nails, Bob Mould and Aimee Mann, and for a certain type of obsessive fan I can imagine this being hugely appealing.
- The Environmental Justice Atlas: A pretty remarkable resource, mapping areas of environmental conflict around the world - from fracking and the associated protests in the North of England, to police violence in support of mining companies in India - the site's a bit shonky, fine, but if you've any interest in the global environmentalist movement and how it's manifesting itself, this is probably worth a look.
- The Boston Public Library 78s: Another Internet Archive link, this time to a recently-digitised collection of old records from the Boston Public Library - this is an AMAZING collection, which as I type is allowing me to listen to Duke Ellington and his orchestra play 'Louisiana', complete with the scratchiness of the original '78 and oh my word this is honestly wonderful. If you have a reasonably internet-savvy older relative, send this their way - I reckon they'll lose HOURS to this, as might you if you're in any way musically-inclined. Aside from anything else, there's SO much in here which you can sample if you're that sort of music maker.
- Wildlife Aid Webcams: There is almost no situation, whether personal or professional, that can't at least be partially-ameliorated by watching some cute animals on a webcam. This page presents you with a selection - will it be the foxcubs today, or the badgers, or the super-young TINY FOX CUBS? Why not all of them? O ROFF!
- Dovetail: Not hugely fun or interesting this, fine (IT CAN'T ALL BE JAM, YOU KNOW), but potentially really quite useful if you're looking to build a creative team, working remotely from each other; you can find talent, create virtual squads to work on projects together, undertake some project management, and generally take some of the pain out of resourcing and overseeing work. No idea what the overlap/link with stuff like Trello and Basecamp is, so it might be that the project management stuff is in fact otiose, but the talent-finding and organising features look interesting enough on their own to be worth a go; thanks to Ben for the tip.
- Armortek: The website suggests that these people are the world's leading manufacturer of 1:6 metal kits, which, based on what they make, I'm not going to dispute too hard. You want to buy a small but otherwise perfectly accurate and actually working replica of a tank? WHY? ARE YOU TRYING TO START A TINY WAR WITH THE MAN NEXT DOOR? These are quite amazing, honestly, although whilst I admire the craftsmanship and marvel at the engineering and boggle at the pricing - you want a tank? 4 figures, mate, minimum - I also wonder who the market is for this. Is it unfair that all I can imagine is a succession of ruddy-faced middle-aged men, increasingly irate at the way the world is going to hell in a handcart and feeling very much like they haven't in fact taken back any control at all, finally flipping out at that BASTARD at number 26 with his INCESSANT use of the leaf blower ("NO SUSAN I WILL NOT CALM DOWN IT IS THE FINAL STRAW!") and getting into his painstakingly-recreated M3 Sherman and just going full-on Falling Down around the cul-de-sac? It might well be unfair, fine, but that's what's in my head and so, well, it's what I'm going to presume is true.
- World Chase Tag: There was a period of time in the mid-aughts in which all sorts of incredibly banal things were rebranded as XXXTREME in a futile attempt to capture the attention of THE YOUTH - stuff like Pringles XXXTREME or Imperial Leather XXXTREME, that type of idea. World Chase Tag is a bit like what would have happened if someone had tried to make the classic playground sport of tag, but XXXTREME - it's a weird cross between tag and parkour, apparently played in a specially-designed and obstacle-strewn arena, and the video on the landing page makes it look genuinely quite exciting. There are videos of the sport on YouTube that you can check out and, honestly, I'd watch this in short bursts (although if I'm totally honest, the main reason would be to see someone absolutely stack it face-first into one of the randomly arrayed pillars or posts scattered around the play area). They do this at the London School of Parkour, apparently, which is out by Watford somewhere, should you wish to investigate further.
- Shotty: A screenshotting app for Mac, designed to help you find your screengrabs more easily and share them to other apps faster and more seamlessly. Designers, you might find this one quite useful.
- Yonks: The second time-tracking app I've seen this year, this one's English and so BETTER. Yonks lets you specify a specific point in the past or future and then gives you a countdown to / count away from that point - so you can track the time since you last smoked, say, or sent an overly-emotional voicenote to that guy you KNOW you had a real emotional connection with and who would DEFINITELY realise that if only he ever answered any of your messages. Maybe useful, though if you're the sort of person who'd use something like this to track the number of 'sleeps' to a future event then I would like you to quietly unsubscribe from Curios and never, ever come back here again.
- Figgle: It's unfortunate, really, that the name of this app reminds me so much of the practice of 'figging' - that is, the insertion of a piece of peeled ginger into the anus of either yourself or your partner so that you or they might enjoy the allegedly 'pleasant' burning sensation it induces (no, there was absolutely no need for me to share that particular fact with you, I know, but I see no reason why I should be the only person burdened with the knowledge) - because I can't quite take it seriously and it does, objectively, look like it might be quite useful. As far as I can tell, it's sort of like Flipboard but for EVERYTHING - so you can send whatever videos or Stories or links or anything else at all from all major social media platforms and indeed anywhere on the web to the app and then consume it there at your leisure later; sort of a universal 'read later' button for the web. Annoyingly it's iPhone only so I've not had a chance to try, but if any of you do give it a go then please let me know what you think.
- Dragula: Potentially hugely-useful stock image search site - it only pulls royalty-free stock images, it has seemingly reasonably intelligent search, and lets you drag and drop them anywhere you like. Works on Mac and Windows, so worth a look if you spend more of your life than you'd like to admit looking for images to accompany a Powerpoint about THE CORPORATE JOURNEY.
- Pseudo Design Titles: Job title generation site for designers. If I were you and I worked in design, I would TOTALLY demand that I get the title of Scientist of Propaganda.
- Onesoil: This is really interesting, in a sort of technical and geeky way - I've had to spend a bit of time recently thinking about how machine learning and cloud computing can be used to solve large, complex issues at scale, and that's exactly what this pertains to. Onesoil is a map that "allows you to explore and compare fields and crops in Europe and the USA. Zoom in and get to know the field: the hectarage, the crop, and the field score. In addition, on the chart, you can see how the field has changed over the past three years. Zoom out and understand the world: fields sizes and crops are displayed for each region. Compare ratings and get insights for more than 40 countries on the desktop and mobile devices." It uses a combination of datasets and AI to identify crop areas from satellite photography and track land usage changes over time - and fine, I know that almost noone reading this is a farmer (ok, fine, literally NOONE reading this is a farmer), but the general principle of combining and analysing using brute force power, is hugely transferable. NOT EVERYTHING IN CURIOS IS FRIVOLOUS, YOU KNOW.
- Stash Puppets: Someone got in touch on Twitter to suggest these (apologies, I have temporarily forgotten who it was, but know that I hugely appreciated it) and, well, who am I to ignore a website which features genuinely unsettling and occasionally quite horrible puppets and photos and...er...stuff. If you want a general feel, click on the section marked 'Rabbits' - there's a very real sense of the Ben Wheatleys about the vibe to all this, if you see what I mean.
- Great Escapes: Quick! Try this while you still can, before the shutters come down and we find ourselves trapped and marooned on this beknighted isle FOREVER. Great Escapes has a simple premise - it will find you the cheapest flights to ANYWHERE from your current location, leaving in the next 24h. If you and your mates are a bunch of MADLADS who like to do CRAZY THINGS FOR THE GRAM then you could possibly do worse than using this to plan your next crazy, last-minute excursion to parts unknown (which due to the magic of modernity and Stories will look exactly like all your OTHER crazy, last-minute excursions to parts unknown).
- Police Squad: Gags from Police Squad, with accompanying still from the show, on Twitter. God I love Police Squad.
- The Detroit Neighborhood Improvement Tracker: I don't imagine there's anyone reading this in Detroit (although if there is, HELLO DETROIT CHAPTER IT'S LOVELY TO HAVE YOU HERE IS YOUR CITY AS FCUKED AS EVERYONE OUTSIDE THINKS IT IS?), but I found this interesting more as a general example of digital civic engagement than as a practical, specific thing. The local government of the Detroit Metropolitan area has set up this site, allowing anyone who's interested to track the progress of local improvement works - you can search by type of project or location and see how the projects are going, likely completion schedules, the name of the contracted body and the value of the contract; as an example of civic transparency it's really impressive.
- Tudder: Are The Apps, as they appear now to be collectively described online by those caught in dating hell, getting you down? Do you find the constant 'swipe, tap, chat, be ignored' loop to be, well, less than satisfying? Well why not enjoy a change of pace by installing Tudder, which is Tinder but for livestock breeders? It might not get you laid, but I guarantee you'll feel slightly better about life after you've spent 10 minutes swiping through alluring images of increasingly-pulchritudinous cattle.
- Women at Work in WW1: A GREAT selection of photos of women at work during the first world war. Come for the images documenting women's incredible contribution to the war effort; stay for the quite astonishing examples of lax health and safety in the workplace on evidence in 90% of these shots.
- Too Many DVDs: Are you having what is commonly-described in sub-Chandler detective potboilers as 'a rough one'? Is everything feeling a bit overwhelming? Click this link, then, and be soothed by the spectacle of a bunch of those bouncing DVD logos spinning all over your screen and occasionally, wonderfully, doing that *thing* where they hit the EXACT corner of the screen which is so inexplicably relaxing that it's widely recognised as one of the greatest panaceas of the modern age. I promise you, this is hypnotic in the extreme.
- Baba Is You: Finally this week, a tiny, stripped-down, miniature browser version of current darling of the indie game circuit, Baba Is You. Read this review of the full game, which will explain the principle, and then have a play with this - and then try it again, and again, as there are a surprising number of variations on how it can play out. So, so smart.
By Michael Sowa
LAST UP IN THIS WEEK'S MIXES, HAVE TWO HOURS OF PERIODICALLY MELODIC TECH-HOUSE COURTESY OF JULIET FOX!
THE (SOMEWHAT SAD AND EMPTY) CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Cross Connect: Fine, so there's only one Tumblr this week but a) it is actually a Tumblr!; and b) it's GREAT. Cross Connect is a sort of Tumblr-magazine-type-thing, collecting all sorts of excellent artydesignydigital-type stuff; I have no idea who any of the people doing the curation are or where they are from, but (to my point last week about so much curated stuff drawing from the same two or three wells) this is a genuinely novel selection featuring stuff that I have almost never heard of or seen elsewhere. This is a great site, and the sort of thing part of me thinks I ought to be keeping for myself. See how altruistic and lovely I am?
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Teens On Acid: No teens and no visible acid; instead, this is the feed of artist/designer/illustrator Josh Thorsen, whose style can best be described as 'skateboard art meets the sort of adult figurines that a certain type of BAPE-wearing man pays over the odds for'.
- Joana Sus: Sus is an artist working primarily in watercolours; I stumbled across their feed when I saw their truly beautiful animated minimal watercolour of a skateboarder doing a kickflip. Wonderfully distinct in style, and the feel for motion is exceptional.
- Joseph Melhuish: CG design and illustration and animation, this is lovely and chunky and sort of pastel-vaporwave-in-3d in its aesthetic.
- Julia Ibbini: The most incredible cut-out geometric pattern art you will see all week, guaranteed.
- Oscar Petterson: The last Insta feed of the week is Oscar Petterson's, a designer who makes the most incredibly satisfying looping CG animations which, I promise, will scratch a small brain itch that you didn't even know you had.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- An Investigative Guide to LinkedIn: I met a nice man who worked for LinkedIn last night - on his telling me what he did for a living I made some sort of appallingly lame off-the-cuff 'gag' (really not deserving of the term) about whether he wanted to 'connect' with me, and the fleeting look of momentary-but-very-real-seeming-pain that passed across his countenance will, I'm sure, haunt me for months to come. Anyway, this is nothing to do with that - instead, it's another useful piece from the investigative folk at Bellingcat, all about how you can use LinkedIn to find out a quite incredible amount of information about people and organisations, all on the sly.
- What Is Rees-Mogg Watching?: I don't mean to keep banging on about this, but I keep noticing genuinely creepy, Overton Window-shifting stuff around the UK's mainstream right wing at the moment - from yesterday's staggering Spectator piece which blithely referred to genuine, actual fascist Matteo Salvini's stint as de facto Italian leader as 'daring' and fawned over how he was 'wildly popular', to Jacob Rees-Mogg's sharing of materials culled from a very fashy YouTube account. This piece outlines the Mogg case and suggests why it's important and what it's signalling and to whom; it's quite hard not to see this as just a bit sinister, though obviously I hope I am being a massively paranoid commie about it.
- The Ageing Online Population: The base level premise of this piece is that one of the reasons that the web and the representation of society we find on it is, well, a bit fcuked, is that there are so many old people on it - old people who feel confused and alienated and angry, and have a lot of time to act on that anger and alienation online. Whilst this starts off as a fairly tedious 'boomers BAD' piece, it makes the sensible point later on that this is quite likely to be exactly the fate that befalls people like us, the EXTREMELY ONLINE, who will eventually find that they're unable to keep pace with the new-fangled platforms and interfaces and will end up angrily discussing 'the problem with the world today' on Instagram and sharing fake memes about Khloe Kardashian's imminent 2045 Presidential bid.
- China's Surveillance City: Another reason I have to be slightly dismayed at Italy at the moment is that they've become the first European country to sign up to China's Belt & Road initiative, which as far as I can tell from what's happened in other countries who've done the same means that they've basically signed over half the country in exchange for some Yuan and a few new roads. It's not that I don't think Italy could use the help - dear God, they really could - it's more that I have qualms about, well, quite a lot of the Chinese state's approach to things. Witness this honestly chilling documentary/longread (it's basically a short news report but presented as a series of subtitled vignettes) about how the state is using digital surveillance techniques to detain and control the Uighur population in Kashgar, North-West China. You want a dystopian vision of tomorrow except actually it's today? GREAT!
- Cat Sense: After this week's STARTLING REVELATION that cats can actually understand you perfectly well when you call them but that they are just ignoring you because they just don't care, you may want to immerse yourself in this frankly INSANELY long writeup/meditation on a 2013 book about cat psychology. This is very meandering, a bit weird, and wholly fascinating - if you're a cat person (STOP LICKING YOUR BUM) then you'll obviously enjoy it, but even if you're not there's some fascinating stuff on animal behaviour in here.
- The Boyfriend Call Button: Ok, so this isn't an interesting essay or piece of journalism so much as it is a technical set of instructions for making a button which, when pressed, will cause your phone to ring; that said, if you're in the market for a project to help you learn to build, code, etc, and if you're equally in the market for something that will help you get out of awkward social situations by making your phone ring at the touch of a button then, well, this is for YOU.
- The Chinese Delivery Empire: I had no idea at all that China's delivery economy was this mental - although, saying that, Web Curios' (unofficial, unpaid) China Correspondent Alex Wilson hasn't in three+ years out there given me any indication that he has ever cooked a meal, so perhaps I ought to have had a guess. Anyway, this piece looks at the corporate machinations that underpin the economics of the delivery platforms - I honestly don't understand how this can be a viable business model other than by screwing the delivery guys SO HARD; I imagine that working one of these jobs makes doing Deliveroo look like the best job ever.
- Abigail Disney: You might have read this already - it's been everywhere this week - but in case not, you really must check out this profile of one of the Disney family fortune heiresses. It's notable for the self-awareness and candour with which Disney responds to the questions about her wealth, lifestyle, upbringing and attitudes (she's even self-aware enough to appreciate and acknowledge the undue praise she was inevitably going to receive for her self-awareness and candour); I particularly liked the dismissive way in which she spoke of the 'achievements' of the very rich who manage to grow that wealth - "I could be a billionaire if I wanted to be a billionaire, and I'm not because I don't want to be a billionaire. That's an insane amount of money. But it's the easiest thing in the world to make money if you start with money. And then people give themselves credit for being that smart when they're not."
- Three Weeks of Dreams: Mike Fahey is a videogames journalist who recently underwent surgery and as a result was unconscious for three weeks. Here he does his best to explain what his dreams were like over that time - honestly, I know that there is ordinarily nothing more boring than listen to other people tell you about their dreams (I DON'T CARE THAT IT WAS REALLY WEIRD I WAS NOT IN YOUR HEAD AND HONESTLY I STOPPED LISTENING TO YOU AS SOON AS YOU SAID "WEIRD DREAM" I BASICALLY TUNED OUT KAREN), but he manages to communicate the oddity of being effectively trapped in your brain; you'd imagine a lot of what he experienced is directly related to the very peculiar nature of his dayjob. Really, really interesting, and will make you want to go to sleep.
- Rejected Vanity Plates: A list of rejected applications for vanity number plates in LA last year, along with the reasons given for rejection. Honestly, these are ace and the people at the LA department of, er, number plate approvals (possibly not the official departmental designation) have a wonderfully dry manner about them.
- The LSD Ultramarathon: People who run marathons are weird. People who run ultranmarathons are extra-weird. People who do so whilst tripping are, honestly, frightening to me. This is a very strange, occasionally quite confusing and so probably quite perfectly evocative account of the author's experience running a very, very long way whilst on a lot of drugs, and how he briefly turned gay along the way.
- How Disney Sold Us Mickey: If you want an insight into how good Disney is at making violent amounts of money from its properties, this is it. The numbers in here are truly staggering - in 2004, they sold an approximate $6bn in Mickey Mouse merchandising, marking the character's 75th anniversary - but the really interesting bit in here is how they effectively pivoted Mickey from being a character to a brand icon. Makes sense really, because Mickey is by far and away the worst character Disney ever created; prissy, up himself, joyless little do-gooder that he is. Give me the duck, any day.
- We Built a Broken Internet: A fabulously ranty and angry excerpt from a forthcoming book by Mike Monteiro, in which he inveighs against the companies that have created the web that surrounds us. There's nothing in here you've not read or thought before, but the vim with which he rails is satisfying in the extreme, and it's hard not to nod along to pretty much everything in here: "We designed and built platforms that undermined democracy across the world. We designed and built technology that is used to round up immigrants and refugees and put them in cages. We designed and built platforms that young, stupid, hateful men use to demean and shame women. We designed and built an entire industry that exploits the poor in order to make old rich men even richer. It was built on our watch and it needs to burn on our watch. If your reply is that we didn't design and build these things to be used this way, then all I can say is that you've done a sh1t job of designing them, because that is what they're being used for. These monsters are yours, regardless of what your intentions might have been."
- The Day the Dinosaurs Died: The week's other 'wow, this went everywhere' piece is this one, from the New Yorker, which tells the story of a maverick paleontologist and the discovery announced this week of a point where excavations have revealed material evidence of the meteor strike which most believe was the cause of the dinosaur's extinction. It ends up a sprawling exploration of geology and planetary history and weird academic feuds and one-upmanship, and it's properly good (if perhaps a little too obsessed with the minutiae of digging).
- This Cartoonist is 8 Different People: This is one of the most invcredible things I've ever read, and I mean that in the most literal of senses - I honestly didn't know how to believe this, and I still don't really, but, well, it's apparently true. Rogan Lee suffers from multiple personality disorder; together, his personalities combine to make work under the pen name of LB Lee. Read this and get a feel for quite how utterly bizarre this whole story is: "Rogan is part of a "system" of eight-ish people who live inside a single body. They refer to themselves as a "multiple" and, collectively, they sign the Xeroxed comics they publish with the name LB Lee. "LB" is short for "Loony-Brain," "Lee" is a pseudonym — the system is hiding from the family that sired their body. Rogan is fully aware that he is what medical professionals refer to as an "alter." The brain he and his "headmates" occupy has dissociative identity disorder (DID), the condition once known as multiple-personality disorder. Rogan shares the LB body with more than half a dozen headmates: gruff Biff, childish Gigi, mischievous Sneak, and mature Miranda, to name a few. Some go by "he," some go by "she," one goes by "zie," and the group prefers that people refer to them in total as "they." The brain they share is unwell, and they can all be described as symptoms." You will be AGAPE at this, I promise; it is literally impossible to even begin to imagine what this might be like.
- Lulu: Thanks Alex in China for also sending this my way; a gorgeous piece of short fiction by Te-Ping Chen about sibling identity and bonding and Chin and the past and modernity and love and and and and. This is honestly sublime.
- Beauty Tips from my Dead Sister: This ruined me slightly, so caveat emptor (lector?) and all that. This is a letter from writer Namwali Serpell to her dead sister, delivered in the form of tips she passed on through her life - the grief and loss is sprinked throughout and the tone slowly changes as you read through and the almost-casual tonal shifts from fragment to fragment work so, so well. Beautiful, beautiful writing.
- Free Indirect Suicide: Finally this week, this piece in the Rumpus; I don't know if it's the best piece of writing of the week, but it's certainly (to me) the most compelling, even if I found it almost impossibly hard to read at times. It's a series of semi-connected vignettes, fragments of prose and poetry, free verse and snatches of scrambled thoughts penned by Seo-Yung Chu, detailing what I presume to be her own struggles with schizophrenia and medication and incarceration; I've had friends and relatives who've exhibited symptoms like this, all the way to suicide, and it's almost unbearable in its evocation of that scratchy, broken thinking that they occasionally manifest. I thought this was wonderful, but you might not.
By Nick Lu
AND FINALLY, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- This is by Reptaliens (AWFUL name), it's called Venetian Blinds, and it's lovely, slightly breathy, female-vocaled indiepop that feels very C86 if you know what I mean. Twee, but in a good way:
2) Another terrible bandname here (sorry, but really) - oOoOO & Islamiq Grrrls, with their song "The Stranger", which is sort of coldly cinematic with a beautifully distant vocal and a generally slightly sinister vibe to the accompanying video:
3) The Greeting Committee next - the song's called 'Is This It?', and it reminds me a touch of Avi Buffalo but with weirdly anachronistic farty sax dialed in from the 80s. I've made it sound sh1t, haven't i? It's not, promise:
4) GREAT animation for this, from Lea Porcelain; the track's called 'The Love' and its bassline is so incredibly reminiscent of Homeboy by Adorable (go and look it up, it's a fcuking GREAT song if, now I think on it, somewhat lyrically problematic) that it flashed me right back. The sort of song that a lot of young men wearing their coats indoors despite the heat would all hypnotically, rhythmically headsway too en masse:
5) DRUM'N'BASS CORNER! This is the latest from perennial Curios favourite Harry Shotta, from his new EP 'Spanner in the Works' - the title track sees him doing doublespeed MCing like noone else in the UK can, and, as ever, some of the wordplay is awesome; special props from dropping a reference to the Hugenots in there, which is joyously showoffy:
6) One of the comments on this describes it as 'deliciously satisfying, like eating glass', and, honestly, I can't think of a better description. This is HORRIBLE and I love it - if you ever wondered what it sounds like inside my head just before I start typing all this on a Friday morning then, well, wonder no longer:
7) Last up this week, this song is called 'Slap My Butt' and it is FILTHY in every conceivable way - the squelchy bassline in particular is SO RUDE. Turn it up loud, enjoy and BYE BYE BYE IT'S TIME ONCE AGAIN TO LEAVE YOU BEHIND AND SASHAY INTO MY WEEKEND (HA! SASHAY! I HAVE NEVER SASHAYED IN MY LIFE!) BUT KNOW AS I LEAVE YOU THAT I LOVE YOU ALL INDIVIDUALLY AND WISH YOU NOTHING BUT THE BEST IN YOUR ENDEAVOURS NOW AND IN THE FUTURE AND THAT I HOPE AGAINST HOPE THAT WHATEVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS OF YOUR LIFE BRING IS LOVELY AND THAT SOMEONE GIVES YOU A REALLY GOOD HUG SEE YOU SOON I LOVE YOU HAPPY FRIDAY BYE BYE BYE BYE!