Web Curios 08/06/18
HAHAHA BORIS! HAHAHAHA DAVID! HAHAHAHA ISN'T IT FUNNY! ALL THIS INCOMPETENCE AND INFIGHTING AND BACKSTABBING AND MACHINATING AND
No, it's not, is it, really? It's boring and tedious and childish. WHY IS EVERYONE - AND I MEAN SEEMINGLY EVERYONE, GLOBALLY - WHO PURSUES POLITICAL OFFICE SUCH A COMPLETE FCUKING CNUT?
I mean, it's a rhetorical question and I don't expect an answer, but if you have one to hand then I'd love to hear it. Now, though, I must run - I have a HOT LUNCH DATE and I probably ought to shower before I get there, so I'll just leave these links here and leave you to sort them out. Don't, whatever you do, make a mess. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!
THE SECTION WHICH IS INCREASINGLY OF THE OPINION THAT THE FUTURE IS JUST GOING TO BE LOVE ISLAND ON EVERY SINGLE PLATFORM, EVERY SINGLE SCREEN, EVERY SINGLE FLAT SURFACE, FOREVER:
- Facebook Basically Rips Off Musical.ly: I mean, there’s more to it than that (a small bit), but that’s basically the headline here - FB’s launching a lipsyncing service remarkably similar to kids’ favourite app Musical.ly, complete with licensed tracks. It only works with Live videos at the moment, but this will doubtless change. No brand applications whatsoever that I can think of at this juncture, thank God.
- Facebook Attempts To Entice More Streamers: Zuckerberg’s slightly late-to-the-party attempts to steal Twitch’s thunder continue apace, with an update to its game streaming service which introduces a special ‘creators’ programme for streamers which promises to help them improve their numbers (and, it’s implied, monetisation thereof) for their streams whilst also incentivising them to stop using Twitch and move to FB. They’re also launching a dedicated stream discovery platform at fb.gg, where you can access the full gamut of streamers’ feeds - just like Twitch! The numbers are a fraction of those on Amazon’s rival platform at the moment, but it’ll be interesting to see if this picks up traction at all.
- Facebook Launches New Non-Profit Fundraising Tools: Two useful updates to Facebook’s options for fundraising - now Brand and Personal Pages can associated themselves with a fundraising cause and solicit donations through their own channels, which is obviously hugely useful for charities who want to leverage and ambassadors or corporate partnerships they have in place; and fundraising organisations can establish more of an administrative team, nominating upto three additional ‘organisers’ to effectively admin the collection efforts. Which is all seemingly positive, and I can’t think of anything snarky to say about it at all.
- First News Shows Come to Facebook Watch: In the US at least, but if you want to get slightly less in-depth news than you’re used to, delivered through a platform you mainly use to argue with idiots about complex political issues you barely understand, then WOW are you going to enjoy this!
- FB Introduces Bidding for In-App Advertising: I can’t, honestly, be bothered to attempt to paraphrase this stuff. “Publishers who manage their app monetization technology in-house as well as those managed by a select group of partners - MoPub, Fyber and MAX - can now include Facebook ads through Audience Network in their auctions.” Happy now? No, I didn’t think you would be.
- Facebook Kills ‘Trending News’ Section: You wouldn’t have known unless I’d told you, would you?
- Insta Introduces Story Resharing: You can now share other people’s stories on Insta! But only if you were tagged in the original! “When someone mentions you in their story, you receive a notification in your Direct message thread with that person — now, you’ll see an option to add that content to your own story.” Watch now as we see a spate of incredibly beggy tagging of more popular people in Stories in an attempt to extend their reach (though if you’re sharing content featuring INFLUENCERS this is a nice, low-friction way to enable them to share it).
- How The Insta Feed Works: I mean, not exactly how it works - if I knew that there’s no way in hell I’d be up at 7:04am writing about s*c**l m*d** platform news - but a bit about how it works. Instagram did an slightly unusual open day with the media last week, during which they gave a load of online outlets some detail as to exactly how the algorithm is weighted (this week). Nothing hugely surprising in here, but it’s worth reading to remind yourself of how you can try and game the system.
- Instagram May Launch Longform Video: Imagine Instagram videos - an endless procession of identically-contoured, callipygian, straight-haired, white-toothed, perfectly-coiffed mahogany beauties, monosyllabically tripping over the breathless eulogy for speed lollipops they’re desperately trying to remember. You imagining that? GOOD, isn’t it? Now imagine that, but with each video stretching up to an hour in length. BETTER, isn’t it? The piece suggests that the platform’s taking a(nother) leaf out of Snapchat’s book and will start to offer original scripted content, much like Snap’s ‘Discover’ platform - in fact, here’s the spiel so you can be as underwhelmed as I was “Instagram will offer a dedicated space featuring scripted shows, music videos and more in vertically oriented, full-screen, high-def 4K resolution. Instagram has been meeting with popular social media stars and content publishers to find out how their video channels elsewhere would work within its app. It’s also lining up launch partners for an announcement of the long-form video effort tentatively scheduled for June 20th.” WOW!
- You Can Now Geolock Videos on Twitter: You don’t care! Noone does! Poor Twitter!
- Google’s AI Principles: Overnight, Google has released a series of principles which, it says, will inform its AI development practices from hereon in. It sets out seven conditions which AI projects will have to meet to be considered worth pursuing by Google (be socially beneficial, be tested for bias, etc), as well as those things that Google AI projects will never do (work specifically on weapons, work to contravene ‘internationally accepted’ standards on privacy and surveillance, etc). These principles are sensible and A Good Thing, and having them plainly articulated is a sensible and responsible thing for a company of Google’s size, scale and ambition; they are also, were this current reality/timeline a scifi short story I was editing, the point in the manuscript in which I would scrawl ‘OBVIOUS FORESHADOWING - MAYBE LESS APOCALYPSE SIGNPOSTING NEEDED?’ in the margin, so who knows where this will end up?
- Yossarian: Speaking of AI (so smooth!), this is supposedly an AI assistant for creativity (remember? That thing that everyone in adland thinks is our SPECIAL SAUCE and will stop the machines taking over? AHAHAHAHA) - the idea is not, to reassure you, that it will spit out fully-formed creative concepts, more that it will use machine learning to help you make unexpected or interesting connections between ideas and concepts. At heart it’s really just a fancy online moodboard / concept wall tool with a thesaurus attached to it (sorry, but it is), but you may find it a useful addition to your BRAINSTORM ARSENAL.
- The History of Telecommunication: Last up, a pointless-but-shiny site by Italian telecoms company TIM which takes you on a journey through the history of telecommunications; I have a soft spot for this mainly as I like the graphical style, but it’s also pleasingly slick in execution and animation and look, Italy’s a mess, ok, let me at the very least laud it’s ephemeral webwork.
THE SECTION WHICH, BETWEEN THE GOOGLE THING AND NORMAN, IS FEELING SLIGHTLY LESS WELL-DISPOSED TOWARDS AI THAN IT WOULD LIKE TO, PT.1:
- Oat The Goat: I confess to having done a little bit of an emo at this when I found it; you may do to. Oat the Goat (I have no idea why he’s called Oat - I mean, it rhymes, yes, but it’s not really a viable name, is it? Anyway) is an interactive kids story, aimed at children between around 3-5 I reckon (people with actual children will be a better judge, I’d imagine), which tells the story of the titular Oat on a QUEST to reach the top of a mountain. On the way he meets friends and learns some IMPORTANT LIFE LESSONS, and, well, it’s just charming, really, down to the fact that it’s made by a New Zealand anti-bullying charity to the art style and the animation and the sound...I would quite like an Oat stuffed toy, should anyone in possession of such a thing ever get round to reading this.
- Meet Norman: Pretty much on the opposite end of the ‘cute and heartwarming’ spectrum to Oat, Norman is an AI developed by researchers at MIT; the gimmick with Norman is that he’s been trained on a corpus of knowledge drawn from a particular subReddit that ‘enjoys’ looking at photos of death, and as such his worldview is entirely composed of descriptions of corpses. “Norman is an AI that is trained to perform image captioning; a popular deep learning method of generating a textual description of an image. We trained Norman on image captions from an infamous subreddit (the name is redacted due to its graphic content) that is dedicated to document and observe the disturbing reality of death. Then, we compared Norman's responses with a standard image captioning neural network (trained onMSCOCO dataset) on Rorschach inkblots; a test that is used to detect underlying thought disorders.” So you might look at a Rorschach blot and see, say, a flower blossoming; Norman will look and see ‘Man gets pulled into dough machine’. Which is, you have to say, imaginative if nothing else. It’s hugely interesting as a project, and a neat reminder of the fact that these ‘machines’ only learn what we teach them (and which, actually, dovetails quite neatly with Google’s statement, so perhaps it will all be fine after all. Won’t it?). Beautifully, its creators have said that people are apparently emailing Norman telling him it’s all going to be ok, which makes me rather more concerned about us than it does him.
- Sign President Trump’s Official Birthday Card: Look, fine, it’s childish, and he’s never going to see it, probably, but you know you want to.
- Strml: Samuel Reed builds things in code for a living; this is his developer website where he lists his projects and his availability for work. I’ve seen variants on this trick before, but never done quite as nicely as this; the site effectively codes itself as you watch which, honestly, for a sausage-fingered code refusenik like myself is pretty much as close to seeing actual, real-world magic in action as I’m ever going to get. I would like to see this done with a lot of money and shine behind it, please - for the right project I think you could make something genuinely amazing.
- Reporting on Suicide: Just a semi-regular reminder on what the guidelines are on how best to report or comment on suicide in responsible and helpful fashion, because they are worth repeating.
- Make Your Own Kanye Album Cover Generator: I get the impression that this had a cultural shelf-life of about 24h to be honest, but I imagine that there are still people on Facebook who might be impressed by this.
- Soccer Pattern: A beautifully-designed site celebrating all the World Cup kits of each of the 2018 World Cup’s finalists, in lovely, block-colour, minimalist fashion. Minimalist presentation, a lovely interface, and the way the display the kit designs is really nicely stripped-back. If you’re the sort of person who has a pristine collection of rare / obscure / vintage football kits then this will probably give you at least another 5 designs you’ll want to track down (but don’t; all the old ones will be made of polyester and will smell HORRIBLY, I promise you).
- The Second Shelf: Continuing the recent trend for Kickstarter projects that aren’t totally terrible and pointless ideas, The Second Shelf is a just-funded project with another 4 days to go, which is raising money to produce a quarterly magazine and online bookshop, featuring and promoting the work of female writers - “Our mission is to highlight and rediscover the accomplished work of women, inspire new and established collectors to read and invest in the work of women, and finally balance the bookshelves. The Second Shelf is intersectional, inclusive, and expansive in our use of the term women as we embrace the multidefinitionality of gender identity and expression.” A good idea, chuck them a fiver if you can afford it.
- Book Cover Concentration: The only annoying thing about the B3ta newsletter being back is that occasionally it will include stuff like this, that’s really good and perfect for Curios and which I put on The List and then realise, when it comes round to the whole week later when I come to write it up, that you have almost certainly already seen because, really, you’re all the same readership, aren’t you? Except there are more of them. Anyway, this is an excellent game which tasks you with picking which of the bookcovers on display are both for the same title, published in different countries. Which makes a lot more sense when you play it, obviously.
- Dinosaurs: Not the ONLY place for dinosaur-related stuff on the web, fine, but probably one of the more comprehensive - this is the Natural History Museum’s one-stop-online-portal for all their GIANT TERROR LIZARD content; from explainers about all the different species, to zoom-and-rotatable 3d models of exhibits, this should be enough to keep a small boy silent in the back of a car for a good 15 minutes, maybe even 20, before they start clamouring to be allowed to go back on Fortnite.
- Defekt: This is quite incredible - if you have an iPhone, really do give this a go. Defekt is a video app which lets you apply some truly incredible CGI effects, on the fly, to whatever you film - particle stuff, tracers, a whole suite of really impressive stuff, with new effects apparently promised every fortnight. As you’d expect, you can then save and share the videos on other platforms; I promise you, you will temporarily win the Stories game with this stuff, til next week when it’s installed as-native on Instagram.
- 10 Hours Of Undersea Footage: Literally that. You want 10 hours of deep, slow, blue footage, of massive whales sucking plankton, of sharks and rays and jellies and sprats and tuna and SHARKS oh me oh my? OF COURSE YOU DO! The BBC (not a bit of it I’m involved with, so I can say this without fear of looking like a sycophant) is getting really good at this - 123k views in a week of, let’s be clear, 10 hours of commentaryless fish video? I mean, WELL DONE. If you work in an office which is soundtracked by the horrendous cacophony of 24h rolling news, why not set one of the TVs to play this instead as some sort of small, soothing antidote to the tornado of dread playing out elsewhere.
- Dear Machine: Sometimes - not always, certainly not often, but sometimes, code art is my favourite art. This is a lovely little project, which takes the ‘comments’ developers leave in code on webpages and presents them as an infinite, intimate letter from us to the machines which underpin our world. Some of the lines are gibberish, some are weirdly emotional when presented like this, devoid of context, and some of them are dully functional in a way which serves to bring the more magical elements into sharp relief - I think this is beautiful.
- The NSA Security Posters: YOU MUST CLICK ON THIS! No, really, ALL of the links are great, obviously, just like EVERY week (you know that it’s true), but I think this one is particularly strong. This is a PDF collection of hundreds of...propaganda? Not the right word...I suppose ‘public information posters’ is probably the best descriptor, created by the US National Security Agency in the 50s and 60s which, history buffs will recall, was a somewhat...er...paranoid era in US politics, in which citizens were being urged to keep on their toes and to keep their eyes and ears peeled for evidence of the Red Peril coming along to fcuk up the American whitte picket fences and apple pie status quo. These are SO GOOD - surreal to the point where they look and feel almost exactly like Richard Littler’s fictional ‘Scarfolk’ series - and you really ought to take a few minutes to scroll through; personal favourites include the deranged hipster captioned with “You should make security YOUR thing!”, and the beautifully, incredibly sinister winter snowscape accompanied by the legend “Christmas...a hush falls on the land / KEEP THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT ALL YEAR ROUND!” which I now want on my wall forever.
- A List of Fictional Bars and Pubs: Because Wikipedia may well be the greatest cultural resource at our disposal. Skews a bit game-y, because, well, it’s Wikipedia, but useful if you want to, I don’t know, come up with a name for your latest theme pop-up for whatever dreadful ‘craft’ beer client you’re representing this week.
- SHTF Survival: I confess that the name makes me think of people messily voiding themselves - I can’t help it, it does! - but this is not nappies as a service but instead a monthly subscription service which promises to send YOU all the materials you’ll need to stock your bunker for the point at which civilisation eventually collapses into a bloody, cannibalistic mess. I have a lot of questions about this, not least WHAT HAPPENS IF THE APOCALYPSE HAPPENS BEFORE I HAVE ENOUGH STUFF? I don’t know, this monthly parcel thing suggests, perhaps, a rather more relaxed approach the impending breakdown of social mores and structures than might have been expected. Still, worth subscribing too for when we fall off the Brexit cliff and all the supermarkets are stocked with nothing but Victory Gin and Woodbines.
- Thunkable: Do we still care about making apps? If we do, this is seemingly a really easy drag-and-drop web service for app construction, allowing for pretty sophisticated functionality on iOS and Android with minimal actual skill required. You’ll need to get your head round the interface, but it’s honestly about as simple as I’ve seen this stuff; take a look if you’re interested in creating something.
- Scary Signs: Classic subReddit, collecting images of sinister or frightening signs from around the world. Why does a workplace need a sign that says “NOT FOR FRESH EYES”? You can’t think of a reason, can you? Horrid, isn’t it?
- Lunatap: Boring-but-useful-so-therefore-sort-of-interesting (is this that multihyphenate thing that everyone’s talking about? Am I doing it right?), this is an extension to payments system Stripe (you know, those little white boxes you can plug your card into and which they use at trendy farmers’ markets where no actual farmers have been seen since 1998) which lets merchants process payments without the box; they can enter card details or just take a photo of it, and the software does the rest. Not that the Stripe box was a hugely onerous thing, but this is a nice, simple build on it.
- The Safe Rooms: A Twitter account which shares images of safe rooms in videogames; those in-game areas where you can save, pause, and generally take stock (skin up, get a beer, go for a wee). Ah, memories! So many wasted hours I will never get back!
- Philip Kremer: I popped into Internet Oddity Sadeagle’s birthday last week, which was lovely, and someone had bought him a little book of the images of Philip Kremer and MY WORD were there some doubletakes and gasps. These are...odd, is probably the best word, although ‘toothy’, ‘fleshy’ and ‘upsetting’ might also feature; ‘erotic’, not so much.
THE SECTION WHICH, BETWEEN THE GOOGLE THING AND NORMAN, IS FEELING SLIGHTLY LESS WELL-DISPOSED TOWARDS AI THAN IT WOULD LIKE TO, PT.2:
- All Of The World’s Coal Power Stations: Look! Mapped! I can’t think of a single reason why any of you would want or need this, but I live in the possibly futile hope that one day I will include an obscure link to something like this which will change the course of someone’s life forever. So, er, if YOU look at this and suddenly decide that you want to make a career change into sustainable energy or something then do drop me a line and let me know that this isn’t all for naught.
- Quest: ANOTHER Kickstarter! There’s been a massive resurgence in Dungeon’s & Dragons in recent months, with plenty of people online telling quite heartwarming stories of playing with their kids and groups of friends and stuff. If YOU are willing to don the slightly uncool +2 robes of roleplaying storytelling games (I just outed myself slightly, eh?) then you might be interested in Quest, which is already funded with three weeks left; Quest’s basically a card-based, stripped-down D&D analogue game, designed to let you have all the storytelling and flexibility and freedom an imagination of the classic Gygax but without the kilometric rule book and 100-sided die. Seems like a nice idea, and the entry-level backing tier to get the game is only about £15, which seems pretty reasonable to me.
- Void: A N Other read later / productivity app, to help you MAXIMISE YOUR LEARNING AND READING. There are other gimmicks to it too - I am including only as I know that lots of people are constantly searching for new/better versions of Pocket, etc, and this might such a thing.
- Gridpaper: You think you have seen impressive origami? YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IMPRESSIVE ORIGAMI! It seems weird to speak of this looking good enough to eat - and, on reflection, it is weird - but take a look at this Insta feed and you will I hope understand. So, so good.
- Radical: This is, potentially, amazing. Radical is an app which will let you film people (I think it only works with figures, though I could be wrong) with your phone, and will then convert that footage into wireframe models of those people for use in 3d space. So, say, you could film someone dancing, transform that into a wireframe model of their body, then use software to create a CG character for use in a virtual environment based on the movement set you filmed. Which is MENTAL, and transformative (potentially at least) for small/no-budget filmmakers.
- Every Other Beat Is Missing: A collection of famous songs, edited so that every other beat is missing. I honestly had to step away from my computer and listen to something soothing after hearing the edit of Smooth Criminal on this YouTube channel (thanks Shardcore!), but some actually work really well - Seven Nation Army in particular is oddly great when chopped to buggery. See what YOU think!
- Pictures Of Cats On Audio Gear: Inexplicable but incredibly long thread on an audiophiles forum, featuring LOTS of photos of people’s cats sitting on top of amplifiers and the like. This is honestly amazing - it was started in November 2008(!) and is still active now, with people logging in and sharing their photos of their cats showing NO RESPECT for them or their kit, the chiefs.
- The Tube Heartbeat: This is OLD - like two whole years old, the shame! - but it only crossed my path this week; it takes TFL tube user data and maps it over the tube map, over time, giving you a neat visual representation of which lines and stations are, on average, most crowded at what time. It could use an update with more recent data (says the lazy man who never makes anything and just criticises other people’s labour, given mostly for free into an uncaring world - man, what a prick I am), but it’s a clever way of displaying the info and one which I’m sort of amazed TFL haven’t ripped off a bit.
- The Rose of Versailles: Thanks to Julia Errens for sending this my way, inspired by my discovery that the anime series was going to be streaming in full on YouTube (it is, but you’ll need a VPN if you want to watch it in the UK), this is an archived selection of the original anime comics on which it is based. The Rose of Versailles, for the uninitiated, is one of the GREATEST animes ever (don’t @ me), telling the story of a young woman making her way in the court of Louis XVI - WHILST PRETENDING TO BE A MAN! It’s ACE - it’s got history and romance and duels and EXECUTIONS and tears and some really incredibly progressive genderqueer stuff in there, and, honestly, watching it all in Italian a few years back made me SO HAPPY that I want to sort of urge you all to look it up. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
- Kickstarter Chili Sauce: Oh, here we are, silly Kickstarters are back. This is 2x funderd (to the tune of nearly £50k!) with three weeks left, and promises you the BEST chili sauce ever, made in and shipped from China. If you’re one of the tediously macho brigade who cares what a Scoville is - or, more charitably, if you just like hot sauces - then you might want to get in on this.
- Colour Photos of WWI: A beautiful collection. The expression on the face of the middle Senegalese soldier in one particular photo in this set is honestly quite haunting, look out for it.
- Stitchfix: Or, clothing as a (subscription) service - Stitchfix is a monthly box delivery company which every 5 weeks or so will send you a collection of items of clothing, picked ‘especially’ for you based on the style prefences you’ve outlined; you send back the ones you don’t want, on a totally non-committal no-fee basis, and the system allegedly ‘learns’ (that’s right, kids, it’s 2018 so there’s an AI component!) what you’re into and adjusts future recommendations accordingly. I’m pretty sure that this is US only, but expect UK ripoffs to appear in literally weeks - I have to say that I am VERY tempted by this, if only as it might be a pleasing alternative to my current clothes buying policy which is basically either “buy exactly the same thing as I had last time, preferably in bulk” or “buy something BRAND NEW and then be so intimidated by the prospect of wearing it that you continue wearing the old clothes well past the point where their structural integrity might be said to have been ‘compromised’” (this is honestly true).
- Naoqo: I’m 100% certain that I’ve featured ‘text to speech’-type software which basically turns all your longreads into podcasts for on-the-go consumption, but I’m buggered if I can recall what it was. Anyway, that’s also what this does - called Naoqo, it’s selling point is that the outputs aren’t in the usual sub-Hawking artificial drone, but in something more human-sounding, but, as ever, your mileage will inevitably vary.
- Nobe Cars: I don’t drive, and am now probably of an age where I would be pretty much incapable of learning without causing major damage to scenery and pedestrians alike. That said, if I were a driver and in the market for a car then I would TOTALLY be tempted by this project, currently seeking investment on some funding platform or another - Nobe are electric vehicles which are designed to be recycleable and upgradeable, and whose design has something of the 50s/60s about it; effectively they are HIPSTER SCOOTERS, I know, but they look like the automotive equivalents of those chrome-and-lacquer SMEG chest fridges from the mid-20th Century and I WANT ONE. Anyway, they have 50% of the required investment secured with a few weeks to go, so get involved if you fancy buying a proper ‘look at me! I’m a twat who works in the creative industries!’ car.
- GTA Roleplay Videos: You may recall I featured a longread last week about the people who roleplay GTAV as very, very diligent British policemen - these are videos of those very roleplayers, going about their business having STERN WORDS with the virtual miscreants of Los Santos. I just started watching one of these again and had to stop as I was in literal tears - the BANALITY! It is so, so perfect, and the fact that this is some people’s hobby is utterly joyous and they should be celebrated. CELEBRATE THE VIRTUAL VIDEOGAME POLICEMEN! At least these ones definitely didn’t make people fall in love with them under false pretences (Topical!).
- Date an Incel: It has to be a joke, and yet it doesn’t seem to be a joke. This is a website where YOU, kind women, can offer yourselves up to be the soothing balm that prevents an entitled online virgin from offing himself and a bunch of other people because he somehow believes that society, and in particular women, owe him sex. WHAT A WORLD! The testimony from the almost-certainly-fictitious Rebecca, 32, from Boise Oregon is worth a look too - see how noble, selfless Rebecca uses her sexuality for the greater good of the world, in much the same way as, say, a medical doctor might use their knowledge by signing up for MSF or similar. Please, please let this be a joke.
- Cospenis: There was a Tumblr I featured a few years back, featuring photos of the penises in fancy dress - oh, here it is! - and now there is a WHOLE subReddit of the same. Photo after inexplicable photo of the male member, made to look even more ridiculous than in its state of nature - special shouts out to the man who made his girlfriend a whole calendar of fancy dress penises, and the guy who inexplicably this week decided to share a photograph of his penis made up to look like a used tampon. It’s people like you who really make the web, so thanks for your contributions.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- GST: Or, less perplexingly, game soundtracks! Collected! For you to listen to!
- Homophones Weakly: Not actually a Tumblr! “A visual exploration of words that look the same, sound the same, or are otherwise easily confused.” So now you know.
- Silent Intertitles: You remember in silent films where they occasionally flash up a card with text on it to move the plot along a bit? Those, but out of context for comic effect.
- The Adventures of Business Cat: Is cat! Is also businessman! Is also not Tumblr! Is internet classic!
- Classic Programmer Paintings: Slightly tortuous gags about Perl, via the medium of classic artworks. NEVER LET IT BE SAID I DON’T KNOW MY AUDIENCE.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Harmonia: Interactive Fiction corner! No, wait, please - as I always say with this stuff, ignore the ‘interactive’ bit, even if it makes you feel a bit uncomfortable; this is primarily a really nicely-written if slightly old-fashioned mystery story, in the style of early 20thC mystery magazine shorts, with some beautiful interactivity layered over the top of it, allowing you to explore plot and character details in more depth, and lending a very gentle sense of reader agency to the whole thing. Even if the term ‘interactive fiction’ makes your teeth itch ever so slightly this really is worth a click.
- The Oxygen of Amplification: Caveat - I HAVE NOT READ THIS ALL. Mainly because it’s seemingly an entire Phd thesis looking at how malevolent actors attempted with varying degrees of success to hijack the news media with FAKE NEWS and misinformation’; specifically focusing on the period 2016-18, the work is presented in three ‘volumes’ looking at various elements - tactics, ideology, outcomes, etc - with a specific focus on what modern news outlets and newsrooms can do to mitigate this sort of stuff in the future. Not for general consumption, probably, but if you’re vaguely professionally (or personally) interested in this sort of thing then this might be hugely useful.
- A Nurse’s Story: This is a beautiful piece of writing, about the Nurse’s experience of hospital work, from transplants to organ donation to telling people their loved ones are dead. It’s not sad, exactly, but obviously deals with some HEAVY STUFF, but the writing is honestly exceptional.
- Flesh Moves: Describing near-future dystopian scifi as Gibsonian is, fine, a bit lazy, but this is very early-Gibsonian - Flesh Moves is by Adam Rothstein and Brendan C Byrne, riffing on where the current trend of mass-commercial automation, retail, logistics and supply will take us. Reads like a sort of hard-boiled Mad Maxish romp through the blasted landscape described in Count Zero, to me at least, which may or may not mean anything to you (I hope it does, it’s a good comparison).
- The AI Winter is on its Way: This is a fascinating piece - I don’t know if I agree with its premise, mainly because I don’t have anywhere near enough knowledge of the AI tech landscape to comment, but I found the thinking a pleasing antidote to the near-universal AI utopianism you see in certain sections of the business / tech community. The premise, presented by author Filip Piekniewski, is that we’re heading for a massive slowdown in practical applications of what is currently called AI (in particular machine learning / neural nets) due to the fact that we have overestimated (and in some cases misunderstood) the applications of machine learning without taking into account its inherent limitations (much of what I took from this was less about the machine limitations and more about the fact that BIG DATA does not always equal good data, to which A-MEN). Worth a skim - even if you don’t get the hard science (I didn’t get the hard science) you’ll glean enough to make it worthwhile.
- The Soda Jerk Slang: Soda Jerks, it turns out, was the name given to the kids who manned soda fountains in the GOLDEN ERA of post-war American teen culture, where everyone had disposable income and those horrid, dirty hippies hadn’t spoiled everything yet, and the future seemed like a perfect and pristine one, full of chrome and rockets and TV dinners and wife-swapping (I read too much Updike as a kid, turns out). Anyway, this is a lovely bit of cultural history, looking at the particular language and slang that developed around ice cream bars - if nothing else, this will absolutely make you want to order an elaborate milkshake and stand around looking moodily while girls in conical bras dance around you on rollerskates. Also, the lexicon at the end is great - the fact that cherries were apparently known as ‘Maiden’s Delight’ made me honestly cackle.
- Ghoul Bet: See, I read this and automatically thought ‘nah, this isn’t real’, but the Twitter account checks out, and reads reasonably authentically and now I don’t know WHAT to think. Anyway, Ghoul Bet is a service which, allegedly, offers books on deathtolls - so you can basically do spread betting where you’re betting on how many people are declared deceased in, say, a mass shooting or earthquake. Which is, obviously, incredibly bleak, but I struggle to imagine that anyone would be committed enough to set up a system whereby you could do this, and yet...here we are! The writing in the piece isn’t the best, and it feels a bit, well, light, journalistically speaking, but it’s bleakly interesting if you want another reason to firmly believe that the world is fcuked and in need of resetting.
- The Valley of the Ragdolls: Ragdoll cats are MASSIVE - like those mad Maine Coon things that some people have that are basically like a shetland pony that wants to kill you - but, oddly, incredibly placid and docile and almost doglike in nature; my friend Katie who lives in Copenhagen has one, and I catsat for it a few years back, amazed to discover that it would do things like play ‘fetch’ and not attempt to remove each single layer of my epidermis with its claws at any given opportunity (a skill other cats, naming no names, could do with learning). Anyway, this piece is about the weird accident of breeding which may have rendered them such - it’s honestly really interesting, even if, like me, you don’t actually care about animals very much.
- The Body Positivity Scam: I really enjoyed this - an excellent essay looking at why the ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ and all the subsequent bodypositivity campaigns it spawned, maybe weren’t in fact that great after all when it came to dealing with body image issues among women and in wider society - the point it makes towards the end, about how all these campaigns in fact do is reinforce the primacy of the others’ gaze in the way in which we think of ourselves, and that they make physicality the be all and end all of being in a way which is maybe a touch counterintuitive to their stated aim, is very well-made imho.
- My Wheelchair Glamour Shoot: What it’s like being in a wheelchair and wanting to be looked at by someone who fancies you and sees you as a person rather than a disabled person. I confess to not having ever considered this before, to my shame.
- A Complete History of the Millennium Falcon: I don’t care about this, but I appreciate that many others will care LOTS.
- The YouTube Burnout: Almost inevitably, there’s been a spate of high-profile, very successful YouTubers who’ve either quit or taken extended sabbaticals from the platform as they realise that having to make daily, tightly-edited, high-energy 10m+ videos as well as being a PUBLIC FIGURE, or streaming 12+h a day from your chair, is, well, horrible. Might be worth showing your teenagers this, just in case they’re harbouring unpleasant dreams of being the next Jake Paul. The video embedded in here of the female YouTuber turning her breakdown into a new YouTube video is, well, pretty fcuking horrible, actually, and rather emblematic of the problem in question. Still, WE NEED THE CONTENT, so keep working, TubeMonkeys!
- Did CA Change FB Users’ Behaviour?: Rhetorical question, obviously, we don’t know yet, but this piece does showcase research suggesting that, unsurprisingly, people are tending to share fewer pieces of personal information / content on social platforms, and that this is a trend that seems likely to continue. Which, and this is alluded to in the piece, is potentially a touch concerning; if we don’t meet up in person any more to see or talk to our friends, and if we no longer feel comfortable sharing personal feelings and information online, where is this emotional exchange going to take place?
- The Best Twitter Hoax You Will Ever Read About: This is honestly incredible and I don’t want to spoil it by running any of the details, but, honestly, this is an INCREDIBLE 101 on how to pull the wool over the world’s eyes using a few photos, some photoshop and a sense of mystery and timing. Depressingly, a brand is going to use this playbook for a stunt by the time October’s out, mark my words.
- The Boys from the Banlieus: I’m still finding it hard to get excited about the World Cup - FCUK YOU SWEDEN - but thankfully there’s some excellent writing about it around to try and get me out of my funk (FCUK YOU, SWEDEN). This is a piece about Kylian Mbappe, the French player who’s the latest world-scale talent to emerge from the estates around Paris, and about the environment which manages to produce such an incredible and unlikely conveyor belt of footballing excellence despite economic and social conditions which might best be described as ‘challenging’. I do love reading Americans writing about football - there’s a sense of difference in their perspective which I find rather refreshing.
- On So-Called Millennial Entitlement: A BRILLIANT piece which neatly skewers the ridiculous and lazy ‘most entitled and selfish and lazy generation EVER’ rhetoric trotted out about this generation (which, not to labour a point, is exactly what has been said about EVERY generation since the 50s - google ‘the me generation’ for a primer on past iterations); the central thesis is that to talk of ‘entitlement’ in a generation that has been taught to expect literally NOTHING that its parents were able to reasonably expect (employment, salary, security, pension, retirement, etc) is, frankly, stupid. Seriously, this is very good.
- Average: This is superb. Candice Carty-Williams, on her body and beauty and blackness and her perception of all three. I know I tend to feature an awful lot of stuff about female self-image in this section - it’s not, I promise, an obsession, more that I find that some of the best shortform writing online at the moment tends to be from women on questions of identity.
- The Professionals: This is four years old, and a many-thousand-words long, and it’s all about long-forgotten 70s TV show The Professionals. BUT WAIT! It is SUPERB, and even if like me you’ve never watched the show it won’t matter - I promise you, you’ll be taken right back to an era of draylon and drinks trolleys and incredibly banal sexism and racism, and casual violence perpetrated by and on men wearing windcheaters, an article of clothing so peculiarly 70s that it is almost entirely impossible to even envisage it in 2018. Honestly, it’s clever and very funny, and you will want to watch the show after this. Promise.
- The Survivalists and the Bears: I guarantee you, this is the best ‘bears vs people’ story you will read all year. Read it.
- Really Techno: About a visit to Berghain, but really more about the ethos of ‘queer’ as a culture, and about the weird fugue state that you can get into with techno and other repetitive dance music which basically gets you all meditative and blissed out and is (part of) the reason why acid got all mixed up in one end of the techno scene in the early 90s. Really, really well-written; it reads in black and white, if that means anything to you, in the very best way.
- Orange World: Finally this week, a superb short story from the New Yorker - Orange World is about a new mother and fear and the devil, and it’s excellent. Coffee rather than tea for this, though, or even better a glass of red.
By Joseph Lee
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
- This is called ‘Why I Love You’, it’s by CRi (no idea), and it’s sort of dreamy and Summer evening-y, and the video, with this slightly lonely-seeming man dancing, running and skateboarding through what looks like a Mediterranean port town, fits perfectly:
4) The latest from Die Antwoord, called ‘Alien’, sees them move even further away from hiphop and more into art/performance/filmmaking territory, though they’d probably forcefully argue that that’s where they’ve always been if I had only been smart enough to notice. Anyway, the song is brilliantly creepy and the video’s as WTF/brilliant as you’d expect:
6) Last up this week, IT’S MORE JIMOTHY! Here he is, chirpsing away in a foreign language. So smooth. I honestly love this SO MUCH, and entirely non-ironically, and I hope you do too. ENJOY! HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE I LOVE YOU AND SO IN ALL LIKELIHOOD DOES JIMOTHY, HE SEEMS LIKE THAT SORT OF KID, I HOPE YOU HAVE LOVELY WEEKENDS AND THAT THE WEATHER IS NICE AND THAT THE FEAR AND WORRY ABATE, EVEN IF IT IS ONLY FOR 24H THANKS SEE YOU SOON BYE BYE BYE!:
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