They're getting rid of all the self-harm stuff on Insta! That'll sort out the growing feelings of fear, alienation, anxiety, rootlessness, despair, precariety, anomie, anhedonia, listlessness, loss and general fcuking confusion amongst the young, won't it? I would make some sort of joke about bandaging an axewound but, well, I don't want to give any of you any ideas.
ANYWAY HELLO HI HELLO! Once again it's Friday; once again it's coming up on 12:30pm and once again I have bee typing more or less solidly since 645 am and once again I am close to 9k words in and, honestly, I know you don't want it, and my publisher doesn't want it, and, frankly even I don't want it and yet here we are. I think I have a problem, webmongs. Does anyone know a prolixity specialist who can fix my logorrhoaea? Should I start breaking fingers to limit the output? OH GOD AND HERE WE ARE BACK AT SELF-HARM AGAIN THIS IS WHAT THE INTERNET DOES TO PEOPLE.
Ahem. Anyway, prepare once again to apply the healing salve that is my words to the chapped, flayed, abraded surface of your mind, worn down to the very neurons by a whole week's modernity and pace and NEWS; rest assured that this almost certainly won't make it worse, and might even make it a little bit better (it will, and it most certainly won't). This, as ever, is Web Curios - SUCKLE HUNGRILY AT MY INFOTEATS!
By Michal Chelbin
FIRST UP IN THE MIXES THIS WEEK, HAVE THIS VERY ASTUTE PLAYLIST PURPORTING TO BE THE GENERIC SOUNDTRACK OF A TRENDY SMALL PLATES RESTAURANT WHICH IS BOTH ACCURATE AND ACTUALLY QUITE GOOD!
THE SECTION WHICH IS SPENDING FAR MORE TIME THINKING ABOUT MECHABEZOS’ NAKED TUMESCENCE THAN IT WANTED TO WHEN IT WOKE UP:
- Mark Zuckerberg’s Birthday Letter: It’s happened, you know; I’m starting to feel a little bit sorry for Facebook. It’s not so much the constant stream of negative coverage - in the main it’s largely deserved, though I do want to grab all the normie journalists who have discovered that there’s something slightly sinister about Zucko’s social panopticon in the past 12 months (TAKE THE PULITZER NO PLEASE!) and shake them by the shoulders and point them in the direction of Amazon, Google and the rest - as the now-ubiquitous sneering and crowing tone of the headlines in the tech press who, as previously noted here, don’t really have all that much moral high ground to stand on (also, a near-ubiquitous sneering and crowing tone when writing about Facebook has been very much my thing for years and, well, I FOUND THE CONCH RALPH WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME SO HUNGRILY?). Then again, though, he goes ahead an publishes stuff like this, which is so spectacularly tone-deaf that you can’t really do much else than shake your head at his unshaking evangelism. Two things here particularly stand out - the opening, in which he seems to totally forget the incredibly well-known fact that Facebook begans as a stalkwanking tool for the bullied-at-school crowd, and the bits towards the end where he states with absolute conviction that the tools he has created (in the main, unwittingly) can only possibly be A Good Thing for us all. Mark, you know what? I don’t doubt you’re a fantastic engineer and a visionary software developer, but if the past 15 years has taught us anything is that you’re perhaps a less-successful ethicist or moral philosopher or indeed arbiter of what is ‘good’ for humanity. You know the famous thought experiment about the AI and the paperclips, where the monomaniacal intelligence destroys humanity with its single-minded dedication to maximising the number of paperclips in the world? You see where I’m going with this heavy-handed and unsuccessful analogy? Shall I move on before I get al overheated? Yes, yes I shall.
- FB To Launch Custom Audiences Transparency: I confess to thinking this was already a thing, but apparently it’s not - it’s a coming thing. As of the end of February, Facebook will add an additional layer to its ad transparency tools, allowing any user who can be bothered (so, a handful of enterprising journalists and any hungry lawyers looking to chase that GDPR ambulance) to see which ads they are being targeted by based on uploaded data, when that data was uploaded and who by. This is a pretty big thing, if only from the point of view of it now being REALLY QUITE IMPORTANT that you have a handle on where your data is from if you’re using Custom Audiences. I can only imagine the really exciting (not exciting) digging that’s going to happen around Brexit-related ads in the final month (ha!) before we leave the EU.
- Some Other Facebook Updates: Weirdly bundled up in a small, under-a-bushel announcement about how much Facebook cares about communities (Groups continue to be a big platform-wide focus, in case you care), Facebook just announced some tweaks. There’s some stuff related to Groups - including an annoyingly vague ‘partnerships with brands’ programme that I suggest you ask your rep about tout suite - which I will c&p here: “we’re adding new post formatting tools and ways to manage their group like how to inform a member when they violate a rule, filtering by date range in their admin activity log, and searching through membership requests by name. We’re also launching a pilot program that lets groups and brands collaborate, expanding subscription groups to more partners, and allowing relevant Pages to join their communities”, and then a bunch of other small things such as donations coming to Instagram Stories, which is a big thing for charities and influencers alike.
- The Facebook Transparency Report: You want all of the reports and information that shows Facebook is actually a totally transparent and benign business after all,in one handy place? YES YOU DO! This is where you now need to go to get up-to-date information on Government data requests to the platform, content guidelines, etc. Happy now? Hahahaha you work in advermarketingpr, happiness is an intangible and increasingly fuzzy memory you chase after with cheap cocaine.
- The Twitter Numbers: The headline in the linked article says it all really; Twitter has fewer daily active users than Snapchat. Twitter’s not going to die, and it will continue to be hugely, disproportionately influential because journalists and politicians, but, honestly, it’s not really where the real people hang out. Thank GOD, as real people are dreadful.
- The Snap Numbers: Not HUGELY interesting, but, well, when did that stop me? Snap’s user numbers have stabilised, and its latest earnings statement includes a lot of bullish chat about how great its ad penetration is amongst coveted demographics - they trumpet the statistic that they reach “70 percent of the total 13 to 34 year‐old U.S. population with premium mobile video ads on a monthly basis” which is both hugely impressive and almost totally bollocks-sounding. Anyway, don’t give up on it yet if you are peddling tat to kids.
- Reddit Launches Cost-per-Click Ads: I still think Reddit’s underexploited from an ad point of view (for the right brands, obviously; probably wouldn’t suggest it for, say, Shell *waves to pecten-loving readers*); the fact they’re now doing CPC ought to make you reconsider it as part of your paid-for mix.
- Kitamura: Finally in the awful section about s*c**l m*d** this week, this is a site promoting a Japanese manufacturer of luxury pillows. Just read the mission statement. Don’t you just want this man to tuck you in RIGHT NOW? Don’t you want to enjoy the ART OF SLEEP? Can you tell I am so tired I am practically crying as I type this? No, you can’t, can you? THAT’S HOW FCUKING PROFESSIONAL I AM.
By Cornelia Fitzroy
HAVE A MASSIVE AND SUPERBLY-CURATED BOWIE MIX NEXT! GO ON!
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT A BUNCH OF SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGERS ROLEPLAYING AS BRANDS AND TALKING TO EACH OTHER IN CHARACTER ABOUT THEIR DEPRESSION AND MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES IS HONESTLY ONE OF THE MOST DARKLY FUNNY EXPRESSIONS OF THE MADNESS OF LATE-STAGE CAPITALISM IT HAS EVER SEEN, PT.1:
- The Night Watch Experience: I think I made some reference to Dutch arts and cultural organisations being really, really good at digital stuff - and lo, it came to pass that once again they prove me right, with this lovely interactive to celebrate the Year of Rembrandt. This is an audiovisual tour through a digitisation of his Night Watch painting, taking a super hi-res scan of the canvas, cracks and blisters and all, guiding the visitor through key elements and themes, from the historical context to the picture to the way in which the artist uses composition to guide the eye. As with everything the Rijksmuseum does online, this is wonderful and a genuinely great approach to digitised art - the addition of the curatorial audio layer in clearly guided fashion is a really nice alternative to the standard ‘here’s 3million hi-res images, fend for yourselves, you can Google for context’ approach.
- Tokimeki Unfollow: I’ve just checked and I’ve managed to avoid mentioning Marie Kondo at all on here so far, which I’m sort of proud of; sadly my resistance has now been breached, with this tool which offers you the chance to Kondo the everliving fcuk out of your Twitter feed. Attach your account to the site and let it show you the accounts you follow, one-by-one, each time asking you in brutal, flat fashion whether said account ‘sparks joy’ in you or whether in fact you should bin its digital clutter from your existence. This is nice, if a slightly silly gimmick, which would be immeasurably improved if you could add your own determinant criteria to the game - wouldn’t it be better if you could get given additional information on the accounts you follow to help you make your decision? How much do they tweet about football? How often do they participate in ‘funny’ meme games? Do they do the hilarious seasonal name change thing? Do they use twee compound swears? By the way, if any of you decide that Web Curios doesn’t ‘spark joy’ in your life then rest safe in the knowledge that I feel exactly the same way.
- Google Shadow Art: I was trying to think of a joke about shadow puppetry, but I got stuck on something about penises and naked molerats which I’m pretty sure none of you really want to think about very much. Sorry. Anyway, this is a new AI training tool-disguised-as-a-game from Google, in which it lures us into training its future sentient death machines by promising us some lightweight lols. This time we’re training the Googleplex to do something around interpretation of irregular shapes, I presume, via the medium of SHADOW PUPPETRY! The site will present a variety of shapes you have to contort your hands into to make a particular shadow puppet - it then tracks your hand/fingers and lets you know when you’ve sufficiently contorted your paws to match the original shape. The detection here is a bit iffy, and frankly I spent the majority of my time with it staring at my hands like someone on mushrooms who was very confused about their corporeal reality, but you may have more luck.
- Shout Against Violence: This is rather odd. The site’s designed to raise awareness of domestic violence and to raise money for organisations in support of sufferers and survivors; it does so by presenting a genuinely odd and VERY creepy couple of little CG interactive vignettes which, frankly, feel an awful lot more like some sort of slightly schlocky made-for-Netflix slasher flick than a charity appeal. Maybe that’s the point. Anyway, it’s an interesting approach that to my mind doesn’t quite work, but the site’s slickly-made and the cause is good. I don’t normally do TW-type stuff, but be aware that this is a) about domestic violence; and b) a bit creepy, so caveat emptor and all that.
- Emoji Mosaic: Long-term readers will be aware of the disdain I feel for the emoji as a THING; emoji are to nuanced, interesting communication what fingerpaints are to gouache (nice, early contender for ‘most pretentious line in Curios’ there at 8:12am) and frankly they can fcuk right off (apart from the sad smiley, which is perhaps perfect). This, though, is great; plug in any photo you like and it will make a version of it out of emoji, in the manner of those ‘close/far away’ Monet-type pointillist masterpieces but, y’know, of your face (or, if you’re feeling surreal, some bongo). This will make you your new, temporary avi, just accept it, embrace it and move on.
- Happiness Spells: Combining two things I don’t really believe in - podcasts and witchcraft - into one, occult audio bundle. Actually this isn’t really about witchcraft, despite the name; instead, the podcast, released twice weekly, consists of a five minute list of things that make people happy; raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, that sort of thing. I was intrigued by this and so had a bit of a listen and, honestly, it’s really rather wonderful as a short, mental-palette-cleansing pick-me-up. Some of the things are funny, some rather too twee for my tastes, but it’s generally really cute. Oh, and it’s from the US, meaning that any UK brand wanting to rip this off (who ‘owns’ happy? God, that’s a bleak sentence to write) can do so with almost total impunity!
- sPoNGeCaSe: Do you spend a lot of your time online typing in mixed upper-and-lower case, you MASSIVE MEMEY EDGELORD? Well if so this keyboard download from iOS will make your life temporarily better - although I do question what the target audience for this will do with the additional few minutes of free time per week this will grant them. Nothing good, I’d wager.
- Can’t Unsee: This is GREAT, but will drive those of you with a slightly-OCD bent to distraction. It’s a simple game - you get shown a couple of different digital designs, two slightly varying versions of a Twitter-ish interface, say, and are asked which of the two is ‘correct’ from a design point of view. Actually a pretty good eye training tool, but equally the sort of thing which at least three of you will find annoying to the point of tears. Here’s an idea - design agencies, why not spend the afternoon playing this as an office, with the person who scores lowest getting the sack?
- Cignature Films: This is WONDERFUL, though I would imagine that copyright will mean it’s short-lived. Cignature Films is a new project looking to de-coolify (yes, what of it?) smoking in media. To do this, they’re planning on editing a load of famous films and TV series featuring lots of heavy smoking, so that all of the tabs are replaced with kazoos. You can see their first effort on the homepage, with a 20-second clip of Mad Men in which Don and...er...someone (sorry, never really watched it) have a bit of pillow talk whilst making occasional noisy toots on their plastic instruments. Reader, I cried - please, please, can whoever handles copyright for the studios just ignore this for a bit, as I need to see Goodfellas given this treatment.
- Deface: I’m possibly being a bit previous posting this - it’s not launched yet, but they’re interested in finding supporters or collaborators, so maybe one of you might be interested. Deface is a soon-to-be-launched (they say 2019) Chrome extension which its creators say will block Facebook from being able to read your messages, etc, as part of its ad targeting technology. I’m fascinated to see whether or not they manage to build this, and whether, if they do, it persists for longer than a week or so; regardless, if you’re interested in data and privacy and ads and STUFF then it’s probably worth keeping an eye on this.
- Track My Subs: This is a VERY useful site indeed. Tell this site every time you subscribe to a service and it will nudge you before your trial period ends so that you can swerve the charges, or at the end of each month so you can check if you want to keep it or not. Want to keep flipping your Netflix trial subscription so you never have to pay? YES YOU DO. Like Marie Kondo for subs, basically (she gets under your skin, that woman).
- Arrest Trends: The Vera Institute of Justice in the US has pulled together this website which lets you explore and examine US arrest data over the course of the past 35+ years; you can look at it cross-referenced by city, demographic data, crime type, etc. It’s obviously an interesting dataset to explore, though equally obviously you’ll get more out of it if you’ve a particular interest in American social / economic issues, but it’s also worth looking at from a design/UX point of view and as an example of how you could go about cutting and displaying this sort of information.
- The Racial Injustice Calendar: Compiled by the American institution the Equal Justice Initiative, this is a deeply depressing but very impactful calendar which presents a separate, distinct example of significant past racial injustice that occurred on each day of the calendar year. Again, obviously everything on here occurred in the US, but as a visual reminder of the scale and recency of discrimination it’s hugely powerful.
- Bot of the Pops: B3ta dad and Friend of Curios Rob Manuel has been bothering his bots again, whipping up this delightful Twitter creation which will, when it launches (it’s currently locked but YOU can earn coveted ‘early adopter’ status by clicking the link RIGHT NOW!), post this week’s Top 40 from 30 years ago, with YouTube links and everything. This will be great, not least as a useful reminder to the older amongst us that popular music has, in the main, always been quite sh1t, and as such we should probably wind our necks in about how all this modern stuff is just noise and wouldn’t it be better with tunes and proper instruments and stuff.
- TankBall: The latest in a line of ‘videogames but using actual real things controlled over the web by faceless players by webcam’ (the name needs work), this is streaming through Mixer channel Other Ocean and is basically Rocket League but in real life with RC trucks. This looks a bit shonky but VERY fun - do you remember about 10 years ago when there were a variety of brand activation things involving shooting galleries and the like, controlled by the player through a FB app or similar? I reckon we’re about due a revival of that sort of thing, but better and higher-fidelity and without all the creepy datagathering stuff.
- Snapmail: Would you like a Chrome plugin that allows you to send certain emails as self-destructing messages that vanish after 60 seconds? WHY? WHY DO YOU WANT THIS? Anyway, here is such a thing, for all your nefarious needs - I honestly can’t think of a good reason for this to exist, but will nevertheless spend at least one afternoon next week responding to all professional emails with this feature enabled, just to make it impossible for anyone to hold me to any promises I might make (suggest you do the same and we compare the stories of our ruined ‘careers’ in due course).
- The Lonely Hour: The second podcast of the week - unprecedented! - this is a lovely idea; the premise of the Lonely Hour is that we all get lonely but that we don’t talk about it or acknowledge it enough, and so for an hour each week the pod will explore issues around loneliness and solitude and society and art and stuff, and will maybe be a salutory reminder that we’re all fundamentally alone in a godless universe and any sort of idea of human connection is basically a comforting illusion at best.
- Sketchnthecity: “In 2016 sketch artist Carl Lavia joined forces with photographer Lorna Le Bredonchel and together they formed the ambitious '69 cities of the UK' project. Which aims to create a portrait of the whole United Kingdom through large-scale sketches of its 69 cities.” This site collects their works to date and offers a selection for sale as (reasonably-priced) prints - the style here is GREAT, and though they’ve only done a dozen or so cities so far you get a real feel for the scale of the project. Beautiful work.
- Vampire Traits: A beautiful example of the weirdness of Wikipedia, this - a truly kilometric list of the traits vampires have been depicted as having in seemingly EVERY SINGLE WORK OF VAMPIRE FICTION EVER. You want to know whether the bloodsuckers in some obscure 1970s pulp Draculasploitation soft-bongo teeth-n-tits extravaganza were of the ‘no to garlic’ sort? This list has got you covered. You know how Wikipedia’s editors are, famously, about 90% male? One does wonder what the site would have looked like had there been more women involved from the outset. I reckon this entry would be MUCH shorter (though obviously if I’ve totally misgendered this - OBVIOUSLY women can be as obsessive about popular culture stuff as men, it’s just that, in the main, they tend to stop a few metres short of the ‘I know! I’m going to make it my life’s work to curate and maintain the global knowledge repository of vampire traits in fiction!’ insanity cliff).
By Sam Rodriguez
NEXT, TRY THIS 2015 LIVE SET BY FAMOUSLY ‘CHALLENGING’ ELECTRONOISE PURVEYORS AUTECHRE!
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT A BUNCH OF SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGERS ROLEPLAYING AS BRANDS AND TALKING TO EACH OTHER IN CHARACTER ABOUT THEIR DEPRESSION AND MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES IS HONESTLY ONE OF THE MOST DARKLY FUNNY EXPRESSIONS OF THE MADNESS OF LATE-STAGE CAPITALISM IT HAS EVER SEEN, PT.2:
- Fabula: This is an interesting idea, though I was initially inclined to ignore it for its egregious use of the term ‘fake news’. Still, ignoring that, Fabula has potential promise - although it does use slightly wanky pseudo-AI language, which got my back up slightly. “To solve fake news, Fabula AI developed (and patented) Geometric Deep Learning – the first AI technology able to learn from social networks. This AI has been trained to deliver unbiased authenticity scores for any piece of news, in any language. The initial model has already proven its ability to quickly and accurately spot fake news. Fabula AI will deliver a better way to maintain trust in the world’s news: an independent, automated clearing house.” I’ve done a bit of research and, fine, Geometric Deep Learning does appear to be an actual thing with actual papers written about it so, well, fine, but I’m still a bit skeptical. Anyway, what’s interesting about this is their aim to make this an open API, so as to allow any third party to theoretically use the Fabula tech as an outsourced factchecker for their site. Worth keeping an eye on.
- Opsec and Beauty: I bet you didn’t know that what you needed this week to make it ALL BETTER was a YouTube channel combining the ostensibly-unrelated interests of online security and makeup tutorials and reviews. There’s something sort of brilliantly bleak about this - I can’t quite tell how much of this is performative ‘comedy’ and how much is just this woman being genuinely dry, but I watched all of these this week and my skincare regime is TRANSFORMED.
- The Norman Foster Collections: The Norman Foster Archive presents a LOAD of sketches and drawings from the architect’s studio, arranged by project - if you’re into architectural sketches and the like then this will make you VERY HAPPY, though it will also, if you go back far enough, make you do a bit of a nostalgic sigh and reminisce about those long-gone days in which throbbing verticality wasn’t the sole determining factor in an architect’s getting commissioned.
- Kofta: I really almost NEVER touch fashion here, mainly as I have only a passing acquaintance with what the word in fact means, but this site blew me away. Kofta makes bags and backpacks and these are AMAZING - sort of a bit like the sort of thing that a pleather trenchcoat-wearing industrial metal enthusiast might wear if they were also into nature or bodyhorror or, er, bricks. Look, you just sort of have to click the link to get a feel for these, but I promise you that they are incredible - were I a 6’6” albino cyberpunk I would TOTALLY buy the ‘leather backpack with screaming face looming out of it like the Prodigy cover from back in the day’, for starters.
- Save My News: Are you a journalist? Would you like a way of archiving all your published copy that ensures it’s safe from the vicissitudes of the media industry? GREAT! Save My News lets you put in the url of any article and makes a cached copy on the Internet Archive. That’s it - super simple, a great idea, and useful for loads of stuff besides its stated aim.
- Flight Simulator: An iOS app which replicates the best thing about being on a flight - to whit, being able to stare out of a plane window with nary a thought in your head for a few hours. Pick a flight path, turn on airplane mode, and stare at the virtual window as time passes and the light changes - honestly, this is a better idea and execution than 90% of the crap that passes for video art.
- On Being: I...I don’t know what this is. I mean, it’s a website, and it contains words and images in a sort of magaziney fashion, but, well, what is it? “The On Being Project is a media and public life initiative. We make a public radio show, podcasts, and tools for the art of living. Six grounding virtues guide everything we do. We explore the intersection of spiritual inquiry, science, social healing, community, poetry, and the arts.” YES BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY DO? Still, this has apparently been going in various forms for 15 years and this is its new home online - as far as I can tell, it collects an awful lot of very nicely-presented, white-space-heavy content about MINDFULNESS and assorted gubbins; in fairness there are interviews with interesting people, including Maria Popova of Brain Pickings fame (where’s MY book deal, eh?), and the podcasts might be nice, but this basically feels like Goop for people who go to Art Basel (hang on, Goop is for people who go to Art Basel, I take it back).
- Iconary: Play pictionary - BUT WITH AI! You can choose to either draw the cluer to let the computer figure out the meaning or to be the guesser yourself. The software is VERY unimaginative in its parsing of the clues - in fairness, the clues are generally disappointingly literal - so it’s more fun to play as the setter of questions rather than the respondent. Works better on a tablet or phone due to the ‘sketch to search’ function for finding the icons you want to use - might be a fun thing to give your 7 year old to keep them quiet for 5 minutes (but obviously make them go on a 20k run afterwards to compensate).
- Dark Patterns: You all know what Dark Patterns are, right? Those little tricks of design that less-than-scrupulous designers and companies use to trick you into inadvertently doing something you perhaps didn’t want to do online? Yeah, you know. Anyway, this site collects examples of these - quite interesting from the point of view of UX/UI design, and of course an excellent and useful reminder of the fact that all online businesses basically want to fcuk all the money out of you all the time.
- Switching Social: As discussed last week, noone’s in fact actually leaving Facebook - in fact, I can’t see there being any sort of mass exodus from any of the major platforms any time soon, mainly because, well, we like the way they hurt us (god that’s a horrible truth, isn’t it? I LOVE MY SCABS THE SCRATCHY PAIN THEY AFFORD!). Still, if you or anyone you know would like a handy list of ‘services that are pretty much the same as those giant social platforms but are, at least at the time of writing, not quite as mercenary about the whole data privacy and monetisation thing, then, well, this is that list.
- Design 100: A project by Matthew Dunstan, in which each week he’ll post a different one-word question or provocation about game design and invite a bunch of industry luminaries to post their responses to that theme. It’s only one week in at the moment, but it’s worth bookmarking or following the accompanying Twitter account if you’ve any interest in games (or systems, frankly) design.
- The Music Lab: Are you tone deaf? PROVE IT! No, not by singing you sadistic fcuk, but instead by playing around in the new Harvard Music Lab, a beta project which compiles a bunch of online investigations into music being undertaken by the University’s department of psychology. There are several fun little games on the site, from one which asks you to guess whether a snippet of overheard conversation is being addressed to an adult or child, to one where you have to guess where a particular instrumental is from in the world, but the real fun is the tone deafness test, where you have to see if you can determine which of a series of sounds is loudest or quietest, whether tonal scales are going up or down, etc. Make the biggest music bore in your office do this so you can laugh at their tin ear forevermore.
- Draft: This is, I concede, VERY unsexy, but as a collaborative writing and draft-control tool this looks AMAZING. Draft lets you write in a simple, clean interface and then offers you a load of hugely useful tools to allow for collaborative editing, quick and simple edit approval/rejection, sensible versioning and so much more. Honestly, given how frustrating GDocs are for this sort of thing I can’t stress how good this sounds (caveat here being that I am yet to test it out properly so, er, sorry if my initial assessment is wrong and it’s a useless mess).
- Water Simulation: Feeling a big frazzled? WHY IS THAT ARE MY WORDS NOT RELAXING YOU WHAT DO YOU MEAN STOP SHOUTING. Take a moment to stare at this digital representation of a small tray of water, which you can mess with in gently pleasing colourful fashion. This really is properly soothing, honest.
- Pub: Really interesting idea, this - it’s intended as a means to make it easier for commercial users to license videos from creators, and for creators to monetise their output by easily being able to grant commercial use rights. It’s obviously very early days, and may well never take off, but as a concept - a button which can be installed next to any video anywhere online, much like ‘share’ functionality, which will let people apply to license a video in just a few clicks, wherever they find it. Clever, simple, and I rather hope this succeeds as part of the nascent drive to find new microtransactional monetisation models for content.
- Contact Sheets: A Pinterest collection of images of contact sheets from photoshoots from across the 20th Century. Some of these are great, and there are LOTS of them.
- Hire a Buzzfeeder: A database of some of the doubtless lovely and talented people who were laid off from Buzzfeed recently and who are looking for new jobs. Mostly North American, but there are a few London folk on there too; if you’re hiring for content-type stuff you could probably do worse than check this lot out (there’s a really mean-spirited gag I could make here along the lines of ‘but only if you don’t care about profitability!’, but a) that’s beneath me (ok, fine, it’s really not) and b) tbh if Buzzfeed were a normal business rather than a mental VC-funded rocketship then it probably would have been considered to be doing ok.
- Matchbox Restoration: I might have mentioned on here before that one of my online quirks is my deep and overriding passion for videos of soft-voiced women talking to me about their very, very mundane skincare routines (IT’S ASMR! IT’S NOT A SEX THING! WHY DOES NOONE BELIEVE ME?!), which send me into a proper eyerolling cat-having-its-ears-scratched-type-trance; I imagine that these videos of Mathbox toy cars being painstaking restored might well have the same sort of soothing effect on some of you.
- Simon’s Shoes: Very odd, this, seemingly having fallen through a timewarp from 2009 when the X Factor actually mattered and Simon Cowell was a genuine cultural trope rather than a slightly odd relic of a more innocent (yet significantly more handsy) era - it’s a Twitter account featuring photos depicting Cowell’s unique sartorial approach to the ‘jeans and scheux’ trope. Enjoy!
- Ryan Creamer: Yes, this is his real name. Yes, this is a link STRAIGHT TO PR0NHUB so BE CAREFUL. That said, it’s by far and away the most SFW page on the whole site, being as Ryan is the breakout star of such wholesome bongo hits as “I tuck you in after you cum” (I hate that spelling, but, well, I bow to the whims of the creator), or “I deliver you a pizza (and don’t put my wiener in it)” - basically Ryan is doing some sort of weird sex-free performance art thing on the world’s most popular bongobank and, well, it’s LOVELY! Just need to reiterate, though, that the link takes you straight to PH and, well, there’s a large chance that your HR and IT departments have some sort of loud alarm and flashing alert that fires up whenever anyone lands on that particular .com from the office IP so, well, BE CAREFUL!
- ASCII Game: A series of tiny little games made in ASCII, which are by turns baffling and brilliant and frustrating and which are SUCH good examples of imaginative game design within specific constraints.
- Linjat: Finally in this week’s selection of mostly frivolous webspaff, this is a GREAT little puzzle game which you will absolutely DESTROY for the first few levels and which will then proceed to beat you into submission with its difficulty while you sit and ask yourself whether you’re actually an idiot after all (you’re not, I promise, you’re VERY SPECIAL).
By Doan Ly
NOW ENJOY THE FINAL MIX OF THE WEEK, A TRIBUTE TO THE SLEAZY DAYS OF TIMES SQUARE AND A COMPANION PIECE TO ONE OF THE LONGREADS DOWN THERE!
THE (LONELY, SMALL, DYING) CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- John Bercow’s Ties: A Tumblr celebrating the neckwear choices of everyone’s favourite walking, talking example of short man syndrome.
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Porg: Or, to give it its full name, ‘Porg the Glass Kitten’ - Porg is a found cat who has a rare skin condition meaning it needs to wear a little sweater at all times to protect its sensitive dermis and, well, O MAOW! O MAOW!
- Ard Gelinck: This got on my tits rather this week - outlets all over the web ran photogalleries featuring images of famouses posing with younger versions of themselves, done in (pretty good) photoshop; very few of them made it clear who they were by, or linked to the artist’s Insta where the images originally appeared. Look, I know that all ‘curators’ online are essentially thieves but the very least we can do is acknowledge creators wherever possible. Credit where it’s due - we’re the parasites here and we ought to acknowledge that fact wherever possible.
- Picoworm: TINY MINIATURE MODELS OF THINGS! SO KAWAII!
- California Tom Cruise: The Instagram account of a Tom Cruise impersonator. I imagine this guy has a reasonably fun life, all thing considered.
- Thread Stories: An Insta account presenting knitted thread mask artwork type things - these are brilliant and sinister and, weirdly, really remind me of webseries ‘Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared’.
- Trashfashionshit: Last in the Instas, this feed compiles some genuinely amazing wtfery from fashion past and present. SO MUCH ODD.
LONG THINGS THAT ARE LONG!:
- The Economics of Airbnb: This is VERY long and VERY involved and pretty much SERIOUS BUSINESS, but it’s also an incredibly clear and well-argued assessment of why Airbnb is in many ways a toxic business that ruins the communities in which it gains a foothold and which affords only relatively small marginal gains to its users. As a sort of kilometre-high overview of modern capitalism and the service economy, this is pretty much superb; honestly, even if this description makes you come out in hives, make an effort and give this a skim, I promise it’s more interesting than you’d think.
- Your Algos Are Sh1t: Interesting, slightly contrarian piece asking why, given all the data brands and databrokers have on us, the ads we see and the personalised services we avail ourselves of aren’t, well, better. Lots of interesting food for thought in here, and I very much liked the subtext about how everyone wants to collect data - WE NEED THE DATA! - but noone really likes the hard and messy and unfun job of actually analysing the bastard stuff. The observation at the end about Netflix rang very true indeed and I think is an interesting side-point about the increased flattening of taste being the real, hidden effect of almost infinite choice.
- The Superbowl Commercials Sucked: If you’re one of those rare people who reads all the way through Curios you might have noticed that this year the section at the top (the bit most of you skip because, well, it’s boring and miserable) contained nary a mention of the Superbowl and its ads; this piece does a reasonable job of explaining why. As it notes, memery and kitchen sink-ing seems to have replaced creativity in big-ticket advertising at the moment, and the vast majority of this year’s Superbowl ads (notable, heartstring-tugging Microsoft work aside) was just a general cacophony of pop cultural tropes smooshed together with little art. As an aside, I felt much the same way about M&S’s ‘Love Sausage’ Valentine’s Day tweet this week - for one, is every single lazy answer to a brief now either ‘annoy Piers Morgan’ or ‘make some sort of crap ‘did they mean it?!’ innuendo’; for two, every single person who responded to that Tweet with some sort of ‘THEY SAID LOVE SAUSAGE BUT I THINK THEY MEANT COCK LOL!’ message is, honestly, the reason this country’s fcuked. HAVE SOME SELF-RESPECT YOU BASIC BITCHES.
- China and Kazakhstan: This is actually about the whole Belt & Road initiative, taking a particular look at a small, remote part of Kazakhstan that’s being developed as part of that and using it as a lens into the global ambitions underpinning all this investment. The sheer scale of this is fascinating; on the one hand, you read this and think “crikey, China really is the future and is going to be in charge of basically half the world within a century”; on the other, you read it and think “crikey, if China’s economy really is as fcuked as some commentators are speculating then, well, we’re all pretty screwed”. Tangential observation - read this, note the scale and the sums involved, and then take a moment to reflect upon some of the more hubristic rhetoric being spouted around Britain’s future post-Brexit. Major world power is it then, lads? Big player on the world stage? Someone with a seat at the big table? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAohgodohgodohgod.
- Failing to Build a Billion-Dollar Company: I ordinarily have very little time for founder stories and startup rhetoric, but this post on Medium (of COURSE) by Pinterest employee #2 and founder of Gumroad Sahil Lavingia is a genuinely interesting read; it does a nice job of explaining how, in many instances, VC funding is RUINOUS for startups, founders and staff, and how perhaps not shooting for unicorn status and instead just making something good that people like and use and which can employ and sustain a workforce is quite good enough thankyou very much.
- Marshmello in Fortnite: I don’t think this got anywhere near as much media attention as it warranted, but perhaps the big outlets still remember their breathless coverage of Duran Duran doing a gig in Second Life all those many years ago. Which serves to prove that ‘virtual gig by real band’ is by no means a new phenomenon; the difference is that Fortnite is a mainstream global phenomenon, and that the idea of a virtual shared experience is now normalised for millions of kids. Will be really interested to see which brands jump on this first - will cost loads, but there’s a LOT of early adopter/first mover advantage in this I think.
- LARPing AI: I don’t think I could have made that title less appealing to a mainstream reader. Wait! Come back! Yes, fine, LARP does stand for ‘Live Action Role Playing’ - that said, this is a really interesting piece about the odd subset of LARPing in which people roleplay as sentient AIs; the idea being that through this they can explore certain ethical questions that arise when we consider treating ostensibly human-level consciousnesses as somehow differently deserving of rights, etc. VERY high-concept, but the questions raised throughout are really interesting.
- I Was Bougie Literary London Woman: A N Other account of the weirdness of virality, this time looking at the oh-so-London-meeja obsession with the Bougie Literary London Woman Twitter feed, which exploded late-2018. A gently amusing read, though possibly a bit more smug than its author intended, which makes some good points about the unpredictability of how a joke will land with its intended audience, and the powerlessness of the creator when it takes on a life of its own.
- Book Covers of Instagram: The Grammification (yes, WHAT OF IT? You can have it for FREE, that’s how generous I’m feeling) of everything continues with crushing inexorability - this is about how its affecting the world of publishing, and in particular cover design, with cover art now being selected based on its aesthetic appeal on a phone screen rather than on a shelf. Really looking forward to the first publishing house that decides it’s going zag hard against this and make covers designed to look fcuking awful in your feed just for the aesthetoterrorist lols.
- The Language of Development: An interview with the founder and curator of now-classic Tumblr ‘Development Aesthetics’, which captures the copy and tone used to describe new building projects in London, in which Crystal Bennes talks about the weird linguistic aesthetic that maintains and the strange homogeneity of aspiration and purpose that engenders in these constructions. There’s a lot to love here, but I would take issue with Crystal’s statement that “I’ve met people who work in the marketing departments at one of London’s bigger luxury apartment developers and does PR for huge commercial developers and they all talk about how much time they spend agonising over every word, every image used on the hoardings. I mean everybody thinks they’re the “good guy”, right?” Crystal, I worked on at least one of the developments namechecked in here and I can assure you that a) I spent the square root of fcuk-all time agonising about any of it; and b) I am under no illusion about what sort of “guy” I am.
- How Long Could My Murderer Pretend To Be Me Online?: It’s not really about getting murdered - it’s about the very weird ubiquity of ‘millennial affect’ as a tone (look, that’s what I’m calling it and YOU CAN’T STOP ME) and how it flattens everyone into a sort of homogenous mass of performative sadness: “Instagram stories are easily imitable; if you did a video zooming in on any plant and wrote “she’s doing it,” it could be mistaken for my work. If I were vague or AWOL with the people I message with, I think they’d really take it on the chin and assume I’m busy, because the rhythms of modern communication via technology deem it deeply unchill to demand a prompt answer from anyone about anything. My work Slack needs mostly only affirmations and a statement of what I’m going to be working on for the day (“Editing a piece,” “lol,” “lol,” “yes,” “sounds good,” “lol,” [link to some inscrutable local viral tweet]). My “mildly antisocial” state would be extremely easy for a murderer to replicate to make me look still alive, which raises the somewhat chilling question of how alive I even am in the first place.” I think this is INTERESTING and worth a deeper exploration, personally.
- The Poo Flip Story: Let’s be clear - this is a story about a viral video in which a man is shown jumping naked off a pier, doing a backflip, whilst defecating massively - seriously, a huge, fibrous buttload, parabolically exiting his sphincter like a proud fecal serpent - all of which is presented to you, the viewer, backwards, so that he first emerges from the water and then as he rises you see what’s happening and oh god is tha - fcuk, it is - WOW. That is what it is about. It’s features a link to the video in question so you can see it for yourself, but it’s actually a story about content thieving and virality. SPOILER: The lads in the original video were Australian. You’re not surprised, are you?
- Meet Lizzo: I featured Lizzo’s latest track in the first Curios of the year and since then she has been EVERYWHERE, which I wish I could say was testament to my starmaking power but in fact is a result of the fact she’s awesomely talented, has been doing the circuit for a few years now, and is pretty much THE perfect pop icon for 2019; body positive, nonconformist in terms of beauty ideals, that weird young person’s combination of extremely fierce and incredibly vulnerable, an avatar for anyone from your queer outsider in high school to suburban office workers getting ready for a night out...anyway, this is a great interview, she sounds awesome and she’s only going to get bigger (and do click the flute videos if you’ve not seen them, they are IMMENSE).
- Secrets and Wives: You know how at the end of Goodfellas the Ray Liotta characters does some sort of breezy signoff about living in Witness Protection and how dull it is? Did you ever wonder how that worked out for him? Well, wonder no more. This is VERY LONG, but often very funny - it’s a shame the writing’s a bit convoluted in parts, but if you’re interested in a post-Mob mobster’s attempts (not particularly strong attempts, it’s fair to say) to go straight then this is a great read. Also, ‘died of natural causes’ - truly, there is NO justice.
- The Lonely Life of a Yacht Influencer: What do you think it’s like being the sort of person who spends all their time sharing photos of yachts and yacht parties and massive, wrist-snapping watches in Insta? Fcuking miserable, it seems. I know we all know this but please can we make an effort to tell all the normies ALL INFLUENCERS ARE LIARS AND CHARLATANS. This is the point where I would have posted that massive influencer takedown piece that went up on Wednesday, but even the cache appears to have vanished, suggesting that influencers may well be liars and charlatans but it’s important to remember that they are often reasonably wealthy and litigious liars and charlatans, so perhaps best not to mention them by name.
- Sex Censorship Killed The Internet: Or at least some specific bits of it. Violet Blue has been writing about sex and online and the intersection of the two for years now, consistently well, and this is an excellent and weirdly very sad essay, reminiscing about the communities she found and, over time, lost as they were shut down by media companies who subscribe to the weird puritanical ideal that suggests that it’s a lot more dangerous for people to be exposed to, I don’t know, a photo of an engorged glans than it is for them to be subjected to seemingly endless streams of hatespeech and propaganda. A very good look at the weirdness that that puritanism has engendered and what we lost along the way.
- Orwell on British Cookery: This was commissioned by the British Council in 1946, but never published til this week - it’s fair to say that it’s not the most sparkling piece of prose Eric Blair ever penned (“it is very much bitterer”? Really?), but as a curiosity it’s great, and it will make you VERY GLAD that you are living in an era in which we have embraced such radical culinary ingredients such as olive oil and spices other than salt and pepper.
- Who Is Dan Mallory?: This is LONG, but SUCH a great story - add this to the list of ‘great grifters of late capitalism’, along with that woman last year who scammed half of New York’s high society. Dan Mallory is a published novelist, whose debut was acclaimed and optioned and made him very famous indeed. That, though, might be the only certainty in this piece - you will very much enjoy the increasingly astonishing levels of deception Mallory engages in, but there are a few interesting questions about this below the surface; does it really matter, in terms of his status as a novelist? How much of his ability to do this was a result of his whiteness and maleness? And how should we relate to him now? Really wonderful.
- Dishwasher Confidential: An Italian chef, working in Paris, writing in English about the role of the dishwasher in the modern kitchen. Brilliant writing which manages to touch upon issues of race, class, globalisation, cultural appropriation, food and much more without you even really realising.
- Elegy in Times Square: A former worker at a peep show revisits her old workplace; this is wonderful, on memory and youth and sex and freedom and all sorts of associated things.
- In the Prison of Your Skin: Finally in this week’s longreads, a piece I first read in the author’s collection of essays called ‘Sexographies’ but which is now reprinted in Guernica Magazine - Gabriela Wiener is a SUPERB writer, and this account of her visit to one of Peru’s toughest jails is just wonderful. Tattoos and hooch and love and lifers and gangsters and molls and, honestly, you won’t read a better thing all week.
By Moon Chanpil
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) First, this is a newt (NOT A LIZARD! Thanks, everyone, for telling me that; no, really, thanks) coming into being, from the first cell to full growth. THIS IS AMAZING WATCH IT NOW LIFE IS A MIRACLE OH MY DAYS!:
2) Next, The Specials have a new album out - this is the lead track off it, called ‘10 Commandments’ and featuring a vocal from Saffiyah Khan who you might recall as the smiling woman facing down the EDL guy from that photo a few years back; this is a decent track but it’s her that makes it - hugely magnetic presence on record:
3) FRENCH POP! This is called ‘Mojo’ and it’s by Claire Laffut and, fine, I find her almost cripplingly attractive but this is also a great song so that makes it ok, right? Right!:
4) This is by Wand, it’s called ‘Scarecrow’ and I like it very much indeed; it’s sort of weirdly sparse without being in any way minimalist, and this is, again, why I am not a music journalist:
5) If you’re my age, you’ll remember a brief week-long window in which James Lavelle was actually cool as opposed to be an achingly-twattish poseur. This new track from UNKLE is a flashback to those times - genuinely great song, this. Still doesn’t excuse the popularity of BAPE, though:
6) Next, a short film about faceswap tech and what we might use it for. This, I feel free saying without fear of too many spoilers, doesn’t end well. Pleasingly horrible:
7) Finally this week, THE RETURN OF SALAD FINGERS! You’ll either know what that means and will already have clicked, or you won’t and will be reading this confusedly wondering what I am on about. CLICK THE LINK! IT’S HORRIBLE! Honestly the ability of this thing to give me the fantods a full 15 years since I first saw it online is amazing; see how it makes YOU feel! Oh, and, well, BYE! BYE! I LOVE YOU! BYE! IT’S BEEN WONDERFUL! I HOPE YOU HAVE A LOVELY REST OF THE DAY AND WEEKEND AND TRY NOT TO SPEND ANY OF IT INTERACTING WITH BRANDS OR ADVERTISING UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO ALTHOUGH OF COURSE I WOULDN’T PRESUME TO TELL YOU WHAT TO DO AND, WELL, I WILL MISS YOU WHILE YOU ARE GONE AND I WILL BE THINKING OF YOU BUT ONLY IN A TOTALLY BENIGN AND POSITIVE WAY I PROMISE BYE I LOVE YOU THANKS FOR READING BYE!: