HELLO! NORMAL SERVICE IS ONCE AGAIN RESUMED!
That's right, it's ME! Not the algoversion - honest - but the REAL BOY, all flesh and sebum and mucus. ISN'T IT NICE TO HAVE ME BACK?
The website should have been fixed, the mailer software should be working...all that remains is for me to finish penning this desultory excuse for an intro and hit 'publish' and ALL WILL BE AS IT EVER WAS!
I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and you have no idea how good it feels to get all these links out of my head.
By Brooke DiDonato
FIRST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MUSICAL SELECTIONS, WHY NOT GIVE THE FRANKLY LUDICROUS VOCAL RANGE OF DIAMANDA GALAS A GO?
THE SECTION WHICH HAS REALISED AT THE POINT OF HAVING TO WRITE UP A COUPLE OF FAIRLY GIRTHY WEEKS OF NEWS ABOUT S*C**L M*D** THAT IT REALLY COULD NOT GIVE LESS OF AN IOTA OF A FCUK ABOUT ANY OF THIS STUFF AT ALL, AND WHICH LOOKS FORWARD TO THE POINT IN TIME WHERE IT CAN STOP HAVING THE WORD ‘DIGITAL’ IN ITS JOB TITLE AND INSTEAD PERHAPS PIVOT TO ORNITHOLOGY OR SOMETHING SIMILARLY PLEASANT AND BUCOLIC:
- All The Things FB Announced at F8: Or at least most of the things, from Day 1 (Day 2 was the boring, techy bit which, trust me, you really don’t need to know about at all). SO MANY THINGS! Group video watching via Messenger! A boost to Groups within the platform! A slight redesign to pivot away from the hateful blue (don’t worry, Mark, Facebook will always be the Big Blue Misery Factory in my mind!)! The ability for ‘influencers’ to shill directly from their Insta feeds! SO MANY THINGS! Read the list of updates and digest them for your next client meeting, but, equally, know that these developments are all just pipeline stuff at the moment and won’t impact your actual job for a few months yet so, well, who cares?! Honestly, the main stuff here is that Groups continue to become more important, that FB’s AR product is getting pretty good, and the ‘shop through Insta’ stuff - everything else is of fairly minimal interest to advermarketingprdrones such as yourselves, so relax about it and think about something more fun instead. Look - here’s some analysis by someone who is FAR more interested in this stuff than I am, read this and feel smarter.
- FB Changes Video Prioritisation in Newsfeed: Not, of course, that Newsfeed really matters any more, but wevs. This is a series of slight tweaks to the algo which mean that FB will now start to prioritise longer-form (3m-ish) video, and specifically longer form video with significant repeat viewership and at least 1m+ of view completion. The platform subsequently clarified that there was obviously still a place for shortform, but that it was working to prioritse longer original content as that, apparently. Is what people want. IS IT THOUGH? IS IT? Somehow I am doubtful. Still, if at some point in the past few years you or your clients have done a PIVOT TO VIDEO...well, congratulations! The rules have ONCE AGAIN CHANGED! This probably won’t affect most of you, but know that your 10-15s repurposed TV spot is going to do even less well without ad spend than it did last week. GREAT!
- FB Adds Small Business Features: Both of these things are genuinely useful and smart - one feature offers small businesses assistance with ad targeting, automating the majority of the ad setup process to make it super-simple to run promos to benefit your business, assisted by Facebook’s own pseudo-AI (not in fact AI), whilst the other lets businesses add a ‘book appointment’ button to their FB/Insta profiles for in-app scheduling and visit booking (oh, and there’s some stuff in there about a boost to the rudimentary in=-app video editing features too). This is, obviously, totally sensible, and exactly the sort of thing you ought to cite the next time someone asks ‘Why do people still use Facebook if it’s so evil?’ - BECAUSE IT WORKS, DAMMIT.
- A Slight Tweak To FB’s Policies on Promoting Crypto: Not, obviously, that any of YOU fine folk peddle that sort of made-up snake oil, oh no no no. “While we will still require people to apply to run ads promoting cryptocurrency, starting today, we will narrow this policy to no longer require pre-approval for ads related to blockchain technology, industry news, education or events related to cryptocurrency.” See? You can now flog empty promises and lies with total abandon - THANKS, FACEBOOK!
- FB Launches New Anti-Misinformation Measures: Whilst I’m obviously in no way averse to giving Facebook a regular kicking every week, it seems only fair to acknowledge when it does something that seems...sort-of good. So it is with this series of updates, designed to once more attempt plug the hole in the infodyke with Mr Z’s pudgy digital thumb (wow, that really didn’t work as an analogy, did it? Sorry!) - this is a series of tweaks that FB hopes will prevent individuals, Pages and, newly, Groups, from sharing content that has been proven to be false, with measures including alerts for Group admins when previously-debunked content is shared in their community, and the depreciation of links to sites that get loads of traffic from FB but none from outside it. These are all sensible, reasonable steps, and none of them will make a blind bit of difference - still, thanks for trying to cram that massive, amorphous genie back into the stinking bottle of meths from whence it came!
- You Can Now Add Images, Videos of Gifs to ReTweets: YES THANKYOU GOD MORE WITLESS MEME-BASED ‘CONTENT’ TO ‘ENJOY’!
- Snap Launches Premium Ad Platform: Brands can now pay Snap (what are presumably) significant amounts of money to guarantee that their ad inventory gets shown on ‘premium’ Snapchat ‘Shows’ - effectively it’s the digital equivalent of a guaranteed ad buy in, say, Corrie’s ad break. Why you’d want to spend this much cash on inventory on a platform that is dying is, well, beyond me, but it’s your clients’ budget, do with it what you will.
- Snapchat Launches Bitmoji Games: Oh, look, I simply can’t pretend to care about this - here: “Today Snapchat announced its new Bitmoji for Games SDK that will let hand-selected partners integrate 3D Bitmoji as a replacement for their character skins. With support for Unity, Unreal and the Play Canvas engine behind Snap’s new Bitmoji Party game inside Snapchat, the SDK should make it easy for developers to pipe in life-like avatars that give people a stronger emotional connection to the game.” Happy?
- All Of The Google I/O2019 Updates: I know that it’s fashionable to hate Google - and for quite a few good reasons - and that the whole ‘don’t be evil’ schtick is now risible and quaint in light of the digitally-ushered in horrorshow that is modernity, but I still genuinely believe that it (or more accurately Alphabet) is still one of the most exciting things in the world, ever. I mean, LOOK at this suite of things that they announced this week - almost none of them have a direct advermarketingpr angle, but if you can read through this list and not get a slight frisson of ‘wow, the future is basically indistinguishable from magic, isn’t it?’ then frankly you may as well be dead. INSTANT ON THE FLY VIDEO CAPTIONING AND TRANSLATION WITH NO INTERNET CONNECTION! AR DIRECTIONS! ALL THE AR STUFF! Oh, and the ability to automatically delete - and keep deleting - your data history with Google, which is basically just sort of A Good Thing and which makes Facebook’s promise to introduce a ‘delete your history’ button (made a year ago and on which there is still no update, fwiw) look like the sort of empty, cosmetic piece of Zuckerbergian PR cuntery that it in fact was.
- Spotify Launching Voice-Enabled Ads: Would you like to hear an ad on Spotify that would offer you EXCITING ADDITIONAL CONTENT if only you interacted with it vocally? No, of course you wouldn’t - who in their right mind is ever going to listen to an advert for some crap and be moved to spontaneously exhort it to offer them even MORE interruptive content? NO FCUKER, that’s who! This is ‘Insert Biscuit For Content’ again, isn’t it? Christ, WILL WE NEVER LEARN??
- Beat These Insights: Thanks to Paddy Collins for including this in his missive a couple of weeks back - this is a genuinely wonderful resource compiled by Sweathead and presenting a collection of INSIGHTS from various campaigns, showing how the insight informed the creative and how it can act as a jumping off point for a whole campaign. If you need to train people on ‘what the fcuk is an ‘insight’, anyway?’ (which, even though you may not think you do, you probably do) then this is, honestly, GOLDEN - so much interesting and useful stuff in here, I promise you.
- Tinder Launching Festival Mode: I’m including this mainly as it seems like SUCH a bad idea. Do you want to find an unwashed, comedowny stranger to ‘enjoy’ a few minutes of stinky, unwashed, enforcedly-flaccid intimacy with? No, of course you don’t, are you mad?
- Gucci’s Spring Kids Collection: Look, I know this is the third of these Gucci sites I’ve put in Curios, but, honestly, HOW CAN I NOT?! In common with their general digital aesthetic, this is another simple, bold site with the confidence to present nothing other than beautifully-designed and shot lifestyle imagery on the page - no text, no instructions, just the confidence that visitors will know what to do. Honestly, the strength of the aesthetic across all of the brand’s digital work at the moment is astonishing - the chutzpah to take this minimalist approach and run with it across everything is hugely impressive, and I’m saying this as someone who, honestly, would rather eat their own face than EVER work in or with a fashion house. So, so good.
By Truf Creative
NEXT, HAVE THIS AWESOME SPOTIFY PLAYLIST COMPILED BY THE SUPER-TALENTED TRACEY THORNE!
THE SECTION WHICH WISHES THERE WERE ANYTHING AS GOOD IN THIS WEEK’S LINKS AS THE ‘CHEETAH EROTICISER’ INVENTED BY ALGOMATT LAST WEEK, PT.1:
- The Taxonomy of Reddit Bongo: Ordinarily I tend to leave the more filth-focused links to the end, but I sometimes worry that the less hardy Curios readers - you know who you are, you skimmers, you incompletists - will miss them as a result, and this, I promise you, is too good to miss. Welcome to ‘The Tree of Reddit Sex Life’, where data scientist Piotr Migdal has gone through all the bongo subReddits they could find and produced this wonderful taxonomical guide to them, showing you all the different ones that exist within various categories - honestly, this is SO fascinating, providing as it does not only an easily-browsed (yes, and clickable, you PERVERTS) list of all the filth, but also an at-a-glance primer as to which sorts of taxonomical categories are most popular. WHY IS IMAGINARY NON-HUMAN FCUKING THE MOST POPULAR GENERAL CATEGORY?!?!? Honestly, I know I’ve touched on this before in here, but do you think that maybe there might be some sort of correlation between ‘young people are fcuking less than ever before’ and ‘people are increasingly masturbating to images of cartoon cars being fcuked by other cartoon cars’? I think there might be, you know. Seriously, this is SO interesting and not a little weird, making it PERFECT Curios-fodder - enjoy! Oh, this is also largely SFW (apart from the text, fine) as long as you don’t click on any of the subReddits in question, so you can totally waste timeAmagining exactly what the contents of /r/titler is.
- Talk To Transformer: So last week’s experiment with AlgoCurios went well - aside from all the people who emailed me to tell me how much they preferred AlgoMatt to me (know that it HURTS) - but I can’t stress enough how incredibly upsetting I still find it to have my style so easily replicable by a not-particularly-smart machine. The OpenAI textwrangling kit that underpinned AlgoCurios is now available as an open experiment for anyone to play with, courtesy of this site - feed in a gobbet of text, and it will attempt to carry on the sentence in suitable fashion. It’s imperfect, and the output is only ever at best about 80% sensical, but as another reminder of quite how close we are to legitimately convincing AI text it’s hugely impressive.
- A Song of Ice and Data: ARE YOU WATCHING IT? IS IT GOOD? WAS IT WORTH THE 300-ODD HOURS YOU’VE POURED INTO IT SO FAR? Honestly, I’m not being a prick about this - whilst I’ve never seen GoT I don’t begrudge anyone their enjoyment of it - but I can’t imagine investing so much of my life in, well, anything (my girlfriend is SUCH a lucky woman). Still, if you have invested all that time and you REALLY CARE about speculating over what’s going to happen next, you may enjoy this official companion site to the final series, which looks at the probabilities of all the remaining characters making it to the end and...er...winning the throne? Is that how it works? Regardless, this is a nice piece of promo work, even if I don’t really understand anything about it at all.
- Weird Cuts: I read a novel this week in which one of the protagonists worked in AR - this one, in fact; not 100% successful, but some beautiful sentences - and another character upbraided them for what they termed the ‘privatisation of public space’ delivered by digital overlays; an interesting observation which sprung to mind when I saw this new Google toy yesterday. Weird Cuts is an AR experiment which basically lets anyone with a reasonably new-model Android phone make arty AR collages, taking textures from the world around you and creating and placing cut-out shapes using those textures all overlaid on the real world to create new sort of cut-and-paste sculptures out of them. It’s quite hard to explain, but the video on the download link is helpfully explanatory - whilst I know that using this is basically just helping Google to work out how people like to play, and effectively just feeding the databeast, I can’t really mind too much when the results are this fun and playful.
- SHE: Or ‘Search Human Equaliser’ (no, I know it doesn’t work, but it’s a nice idea so I will forgive them the shoehorned acronym) - this is a Chrome extension that looks to redress the inherent gender biases that search encompasses by ensuring that Google throws up a more equal mix of men and women in its results. This is a really clever project, and the sort of thing I imagine that at least three of you will kick yourselves for not thinking of first, as this is EXACTLY the sort of crap that would win you a Lion if you did it for Dove. Here’s the blurb: “Only 10% of search results for “CEO” depict women, despite women comprising 28% of the occupation. Search any common job and when women appear, they are lower in the results than men 60% of the time. When you search “great hair” or “perfect hair,” the results prioritize white women with sleek locks. Our search engine algorithms are capturing our stereotypes and serving them back to us in the form of biased results. With biases like these, it’s no surprise that women are almost three times as likely to say that their gender made their job success more difficult.” Really, really smart.
- Boomy: I’ve been saying for years now that digital music toys are getting so good that we’re only a few years away from literally anyone with a phone and 4g being able to produce Neptunes-level beats with a buttonpress - well, we’re practically there thanks to Boomy (fine, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but still). This is basically an AI-driven music generator - you pick the parameters of the track you want to generate and it will, with a bit of thought, spit out an algogenerated track; you keep the good ones to train the machine whilst discarding the ones you dislike, and the idea is that after a few hundred iterations of the process you’ll basically have something that would get 1million+ views on YouTube. I confess to only having gone through about a dozen training rounds, but even through those I could see the compositions getting tighter and more directional; this really is incredibly impressive.
- Pranko: This is not big or clever, but if you’re a certain type of person then it will be funny. Pranko sells fake product boxes - so you buy a fake box into which you put your ACTUAL gift to the recipient, meaning you get to enjoy the HILARIOUS moment at which they unwrap your gift to discover a box of, say, fart-filtering underpants! SO FUNNY! Seriously, though, there is almost certainly one person in your family who would find this the funniest thing ever. I’m not judging you, or them. Promise.
- Foundit: This is such a clever little idea - enter your personal details (name, phone number, address) and this site will generate a QR code that you can print and attach to anything you like, the idea being that if you lose said thing the person who finds it can scan the code and find your details so that they can contact you to return your possession. Of course, this depends on them a) knowing what a QR code is; b) bothering to scan it, or indeed knowing how to; and c) getting in touch with you to return your stuff; also, there’s nothing here that couldn’t equally be achieved by just dyno-labelling your mobile number to everything you own, but, er, DIGITAL! Fine, I have managed to convince myself over the course of writing this that it is in fact not a good idea at all. HAPPY NOW? FFS.
- Powerwashing Pr0n: A subReddit dedicated to the slightly odd but very satisfying phenomenon of videos of stuff being cleaned through the application of high-pressure water jets. You may not think this is your sort of thing, but I promise you that it almost certainly is.
- Women NYC: This is such an interesting civic initiative. Women NYC is a programme of activity by the City of New York designed, in its words, to “make sure that New York City remains the greatest place in the world for women to prosper.” This site collects information on all the various initiatives that have been birthed through the programme, from tech training to investment programmes to childcare support initiatives - it’s quite amazing to see how much practical difference can be made with this sort of prolonged focus at a citywide level. Is there something similar in London? It feels like there isn’t, but that there ought to be.
- Remove Recommends: This is SUCH a useful Chrome extension; if you have kids, I’d recommend installing this on all your home devices asap. It’s a simple programme that does one main thing, namely removing the ‘Recommended’ sidebar from YouTube and therefore limiting the likelihood that anyone innocently watching ASMR slime videos will find themselves down a Kekistani flat earth rabbithole within 7 minutes of logging on. It won’t stop your kids from watching Logan Paul, fine, but it might stop them ending up watching Mike Cernovitz as a result.
- YT To Insta: Seeing as we’re doing YouTube stuff, here’s a site that lets you easily plug in any YT url and take a 60s or shorter clip of it to post directly to Insta as native video. Obviously this is a copyright horrorshow but, well, who cares? I would imagine that this will be shut down sooner rather than later, but while it’s up this is a hugely useful toy.
- I Want To Apologise: An EXCELLENT subReddit where users share clips of AI from videogames going very, very wrong indeed to largely comedic effect. Fine, you’ll probably need a slight gamers’ affinity to get the most out of this, but if you enjoy watching in-game bloopers (and WHO DOESN’T, eh kids?) then you’ll like this a lot.
- The BBC Script Library: This may well be old news, but I only discovered it the other day and was floored by the amount of great stuff in here. Turns out the BBC website houses a whole bunch of original scripts for old episodes of some classic shows, from radio, TV and film and cutting across comedy, drama and kids’ programming. If you have any interest at all in writing for stage or screen or radio this is an absolute GOLDMINE - honestly, there is SO MUCH in here, and so many all-time classics. Look, they’ve even got the script for an episode of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps - HOW CAN YOU NOT BE INSPIRED?!?
- Archipelago: FULL DISCLOSURE - this is made by my friend James, and I haven’t in fact listened to it because I don’t do podcasts. Still, James is a very clever man and an excellent journalist, and this - his exploration of culture, arts and society in his adopted country of Denmark - is almost certainly excellent. Give it a try if you’re after a bit of Scandiness.
- Bokeh: This will almost certainly come to nothing, but I admire their chutzpah if nothing else. Bokeh is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter - it’s halfway there with a month to go, so it might meet its target - to create an Instagram-alternative app, designed to be a slightly less horrid, vacuous and ad-laden mess. “Bokeh will be ad-free, have a chronological timeline, and will be private by default. That means that all accounts will start off as private. Public accounts will have an RSS feed, will have the option to cross-post to other social networks, and will support custom domains. All accounts will have an indie web compatible export so you can self-host if you want to. People won’t be able to find you by name, but will instead need to know your username to find you. Bokeh will never display publicly who follows you or who you follow. If someone has requested to follow you 3 times and you’ve declined, the app will prompt you to block them.” Does this sound like your thing? Chuck them a few quid, in that case.
- Voice Flow: This is a really interesting and quite slick service which I’m not 100% certain is really necessary. Voice Flow lets anyone make simple apps for Google Home or Amazon Echo, with a really intuitive interface to manage all the branching interactions - crucially, it’s all done visually meaning you can be a total no-code twat like me and still cobble together something halfway useful. The main issue with this, obviously, is that there is no evidence at all that anyone is in fact using their home assistant for anything other than, er, listening to music and setting timers, meaning the likelihood of anyone ever actually using your beautifully-constructed Alexa Therapist app is next to none. Still, it’s a really nicely-designed tool, so there’s that.
- Gentle Giants: Every now and again on Curios I like to remind readers of the existence of Ling’s Cars, still the best site on the internet bar none - in Gentle Giants, I have discovered a company whose approach to design and branding is very much attuned with Ling’s and WOW do I love it. Gentle Giants is a pet rescue and rehoming service that also makes and sells its own dogfood, it’s based in California, it’s run by Burt Ward who played Robin in the orginal Batman TV series from the 60s and OH MY GOD THE DESIGN OF THIS! Honestly, I can’t encourage you to click this enough - I’d also recommend investigating the website VERY THOROUGHLY, as you really don’t want to miss all the joyous surprises buried therein - seriously, don’t stop searching through it til you discover the dogfood packshots as the packaging is HALLUCINATORILY brilliant.
- 2269: I love this idea so, so much - this is a Kickstarter project raising funds for a run of posters, each of which promotes an INCREDIBLE party happening in 2269 - the high concept here being ‘Can the designers of this poster will an amazing future party into being simply through the medium of design?’. The project’s been fully funded with three weeks to go, so one would hope this means that 2269 will indeed witness the greatest party ever - honestly, this is so WONDERFULLY silly that it might be my favourite idea of the year so far.
- CSSFx: A bunch of really cute CSS effects, all with ‘click to copy’ functionality for easy webdev use. These are very nice indeed.
- Gifts Created for You: An Etsy store, presenting a series of novelty mugs with some quite bafflingly-spec;ific professions on them. Do you know any hacks? If so, they would LOVE a mug reading, inexplicably, “WARNING: To avoid injury, don’t tell me how to do my job as a journalist”. This is a perfect sweetspot of algogenerated oddness.
- Yesterdayvision: Do YOU have a spare £2500 burning a hole in your pocket? Would you like to spend it on a reconditioned oldschool TV, packaged in lovely wooden casing and very much of the Scandi retro design school, which comes packed with a Raspberry PI and emulator software and controllers and which you can use to play basically any old games system you fancy? No, I can’t imagine you do - YOU NEED TO BUY THE CHILDREN NEW SCHOOL SHOES, ALAN, WE CAN’T AFFORD THIS SILLY, CHILDISH CRAP ANY MORE.
- Project 562: This is a lovely photoographic project, aiming to document each of the 562 distinct Native American tribes with living members across the US. The photos and stories on the site are gorgeous, and speak to the incredible breadth and diversity of the native community (not to mention the degree to which Native peoples have been repeatedly and comprehensively screwed by US administrations for centuries).
- Heer: My lovely friend Matteo emailed me last week and told me he’s getting married, which is VERY exciting - COMPLIMENTI, MATTEO, NON MORIRAI PIU SOLO!! He also told me about this project, which, fine, is by his fiancee, but which I would have included anyway as it’s such a clever idea and a wonderful piece of design. Heer is a piece of street furniture designed to provide nursing women with a comforrtable, discreet place to breastfeed in public. Honestly, this is SO smart and the sort of thing that any female-friendly public space ought to consider installing asap - the benches are available to order, should you be so inclined.
By Ben Zank
NEXT, ENJOY THIS PLAYLIST COMPILED BY FRIEND-OF-CURIOS MARCUS JOHN HENRY BROWN AND WHICH ACTS AS A SORT-OF COMPANION SOUNDTRACK TO THE FINAL PART OF HIS ‘THE PASSING’ TRILOGY!
THE SECTION WHICH WISHES THERE WERE ANYTHING AS GOOD IN THIS WEEK’S LINKS AS THE ‘CHEETAH EROTICISER’ INVENTED BY ALGOMATT LAST WEEK, PT.2:
- Zuckerberg Smile: A little site which lets you adjust a slider to change the degree to which Mark Zuckerberg is smiling - from ‘no smile at all’ to ‘tight-lipped rictus simulacrum of human emotion’. Utterly pointless, but I rather like the idea of communicating with your colleagues solely via the medium of Inscrutable Zuck for the remainder of the day.
- BotJungle: GLORIOUSLY pointless, this - a Twitter account which involves a microphone, some audiotranscription software and the jungle of Borneo and which posts its interpretation of what the jungle is ‘saying’ every now and again. It’s irregular - the account only posts when there’s been enough noise that the software can parse as ‘speech’, which happens roughtly every 24h or so - and nonsensical, but also, to my mind, absolutely pure art.
- Two Names: This rather blows my mind, though I’m sure there’s just some fairly robust maths behind it rather than voodoo or magic or whatnot. This is a small, simple webtoy which lets you put in two names (or indeed any words) and creates a 3d visualisation of both whereby shifting perspective enables you to see one word or the other formed in a 3d arrangement of dots. Which, now I read that back, is almost ENTIRELY nonsensical - look, click the link, it will make sense I promise. Also, you can export the results as a 3d models should you want to commission some sort of perspex paperwhite combining your name with that of your wife/mistress/cat - what’s not to love?
- The Measure of Things: I once worked with a lovely man called Rex Osborn - a long-term Labour party stalwart who worked with John Smith back in the day, lived in a student flatshare with David Aaronovitch and Peter Mandelson (just imagine) and once explained to me that the reason he was OK with New Labour was that, in his words, “I used to be a Trot, Matt, but then I realised I was being a cnut so I stopped” - who pointed out to me that areas of geography are almost always referred to in relation to the size of Wales when on the news. Honestly, listen out for it - you’ll be amazed how often it crops up as a comparator. Anyway, this is a website that lets you type in any quantity of anything at all and will spit out a whole bunch of slightly ridiculous measurements to which you can compare your figure to. Why say ‘5 Tonnes’ when you can instead say ‘about ⅘ of the weight of an adult male elephant’? Well quite.
- Public Note: I love stuff like this. Public Note is a seemingly totally-pointless website which lets anyone create a permanent, editable entry about whatever they like. Type in anything you want - either it will throw up someone else’s annotation for you to read or edit, or it will come up blank, leaving you free to write the canonical entry for the thing of your choosing. I have claimed ‘web curios’ - feel free to find and create your own odd, hidden, tiny truths.
- The 2019 Big Picture Content Winners: WONDERFUL wildlife photography from the past 12 months. These are, as per, utterly astonishing - it’s worth clicking through into each individual category, as there are some stunning shots hidden there.
- Neck Check: Ah, here’s a lovely piece of 21C kiddie-dystopia for you! Are you worried that your kids are spending too much time staring at tiny screens and that their posture is suffering as a result? Well why not install Neck Check, a ‘fun’ ‘game’ (it is neither of those things) which tracks your kids posture in relation to their device and stops the thing working if it thinks that they’re staring down too much. To quote, “Once activated, the app runs in the background. When the phone is tilted at a dangerous degree, a friendly reminder takes over the screen. The only way to resume activity is to hold the phone at a proper angle. The app is password protected just in case your child tries to turn it off. So, as long as they keep it upright, their posture will be alright!” Want to devolve even the most basic of parental responsibilities to a fcuking machine? GREAT!
- The Fortnite API: You want the Fortnite API? GREAT HERE IT IS! No idea what you might do with it, but there’s almost certainly some sort of bullsh1t data-based integration with Spotify or something that you can hack together to link playlist generation to kill rate or something, should you be inclined to hack around with it.
- Library Extension: This is a really clever and useful little Chrome/Firefox plugin, which lets you quickly and easily check if the book you’re looking at online is available to rent at your local library, if it’s currently on loan, when it’s due back, etc. Simple, clever use of open data, and a gentle reminder that libraries are ACE and a hugely underrated resource in 2019.
- My Famicase Exhibition 2019: I can’t recall if I’ve featured this in Curios in previous years; regardless, this is this year’s edition of the My Famicase competition, where designers mock up Super Nintendo cartridges for imagined games, The artwork and design here are lovely, but the appeal for me comes in the slightly ridiculous nature of the imagined titles. Who wouldn’t want to play “Fish Dreams: You’re a lonely salmon with BIG DREAMS!”? NO FCUKER, that’s who!
- The Lasters: ANOTHER project by someone I sort-of know (sorry, I promise next week’s Curios will be less appallingly nepotistic) - again, though, I would totally include this even if I didn’t. Fred Deakin is a genuinely lovely and interesting man - he was part of Lemon Jelly, and Airside Studios, which if you’re a 90s/00s hipstercunt you will remember as being VERY COOL back in the day. He’s just finished a new record, which is an excellent ambient-y beatsy sci-fi concept album called The Lasters, which is funding on Kickstarter - it’s met its target with a month to go, but I’d still recommend you backing it as the finished product looks like being awesome in terms of design and production, not to mention the fact that the music (which I’ve been lucky enough to hear) is honestly wonderful.
- Climate Dreams: A fascinating project, collecting and documenting people’s dreams about climate change. “I am a writer and a psychotherapist interested in gathering, organizing, archiving – and eventually writing about – our collective dreams about climate breakdown”, says the site’s creator - the idea being that over time, perhaps patterns and insights will emerge shedding some light on the collective species-wide psychological response to the slowly-creeping planetary collapse we’re currently contributing to.
- The Alien Anniversary Shorts: It’s the 40th anniversary of Alien, and, to celebrate, a whole bunch of new short films have been commissioned by...er...someone, taking a fresh look at the Alien universe and spinning off some interesting and enticing new angles through a series of 10ish minute movies. I haven’t watched all of them, fine, but the two I did see are both excellent and smarter than this sort of thing often tends to be.
- Jumbo: This is a potentially useful app - Jumbo is designed to be a one-stop-shop for in-app privacy settings, designed to integrate with all your socials and let you manage all the various privacy options for each within one simple, easy-to-use interface. If you’re concerned that kids or less-digitally literate family members maybe aren’t as genned-up on this sort of thing as you’d like, this could be a really useful way of helping them manage their personal account privacy.
- Bitty: You know how AMAZING (not amazing) it is when you’re on public transport and your whole journey is soundtracked by some twat’s tinny music or film dialogue or whatever? Don’t you sometimes wish there was something you could do to trump their annoying behaviour with some even more annoying behaviour of your own? No, you probably don’t, as that would be sociopathic in the extreme - nonetheless, should you ever want to absolutely WIN the bus audio smackdown, may I suggest putting some money behind this Kickstarter which will provide you with a pocket-size drum machine with MASSIVE SPEAKERS, meaning that you can absolutely RUIN the top deck with your own home-produced beats busting out at nosebleed volume, much to the delight of the assembled other passengers. This actually looks very cool - please, though, don’t use it on the bus.
- Missing Numbers: One for the datawonks amongst you - “Missing Numbers is about the data that the government should collect and measure in the UK, but doesn't”, and looks at questions including “Which policy areas in the UK are well-served by current reported data and statistics, and which are lacking? Which industries are required to report data about their treatment of consumers, and impact on society, and which aren't? How does the UK's Office for National Statistics choose what to include in its official statistics? And what are the big areas that it's missing?” Interesting and useful.
- Gacha: The first in a reasonably big selection of games this week - Gacha simulates the experience of those ‘win a random present in a plastic ball’-dispensary toys that you see in slightly retro arcades. Except digitally, and with a really weird but very clear sense of slight melancholia. The art style is just *lovely*.
- The Lady’s Book of Decency: A short piece of interactive fiction, involving courtly intrigue and lycanthropy. This is BRILLIANT and really worth repeated playthroughs; the writing is very, very sharp, and the light RPG-style elements work wonderfully.
- Utsvulten: I don’t really want to explain this too much - just play. Feed yourself. Feed your companion. You can eat EVERYTHING - just see what happens…
- Proxx: Ignore the name - this is Minesweeper, in-browser, with slightly prettified graphics. I spent about an hour playing this while I was at ‘work’ yesterday - SORRY, PAYMASTERS!! - and I can confirm that it is as great as the original ever was.
- The Interlude: Oh, this is SUPERB - so clever, and so well-designed. I don’t want to spoil this by explaining top much - just know that you play this through a virtual old-school Nokia interface, and the weird distancing that provides makes the whole storyline that you play through all the more perfectly unsettling as a result.
- Minecraft: THIS IS ACTUAL MINECRAFT, PLAYABLE IN YOUR BROWSER! Ok, fine, it’s the very first iteration, meaning there’s no actual crafting and what you can do is pretty minimal, but it’s still hugely soothing to just potter about in bucolic blocky splendour, and if you’re a MILLENNIAL then there will probably be all sorts of nostalgiafeels engendered by even a cursory exploration of this. Amazing to see what Chrome can support these days, aside from anything else. ENJOY!
By Harriet Lyall
LAST UP IN THE MIXES, HAVE THIS SUPERB PLAYLIST OF GRIME BANGERS!
THERE SIMPLY WEREN’T ANY INTERESTING TUMBLRS TO FEATURE THIS WEEK, MEANING THE CIRCUS IS OUT OF TOWN!
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Ard Bakery: Fashion designer-turned-baker, based in London - this is their Insta feed and MAN are these some beautiful and pleasingly-geometric cakes.
- Resting Stitch-Face: Moderately hipster-ish needlework, available to buy. They take commissions too, should you wish to buy, I don’t know, a piece depicting your face alongside the caption “I AM TIRED OF YOUR SH1T, SUSAN” (I have no idea where this came from but now I want that VERY THING).
- Burratagram: The best - alright, the only - mozzarella-focused Instagram account I have ever seen.
- Emilia Cocking: Emilia is, I think, a designer - I came across her Insta feed as a result of seeing some 3d renders she’s recently made inspired by the upholstery of the London underground, but her whole feed is generally a delight, with a nice mix of lofi photos and some really rather cool CG/design work.
- Grade A TikToks: Excellent TikToks, ripped for the ‘gram.
- Genetic Portraits: A fascinating art project, creating composite images of family members with a partcular physical resemblance to each other. These are quite remarkable, and will make you want to try this out with your own relatives.
- Eva Stories: This is quite remarkable - the story of the Holocaust, as told through the imagined eyes of a young girl on Instagram. Obviously you have to buy into the premise - what if Insta was around in the 30s - but the production and storytelling here is top-notch. It’s been interesting seeing critiques of this suggesting it’s somehow trivialising the horror; I personally think it’s a really sensitively-handled piece of work and an excellent educational tool, but see what you think.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- It’s Time To Break Up Facebook: ...says one of Facebook’s founders! Whilst it’s obviously easy to be slightly cynical about one of the people who’s become unconscionably rich as a result of Facebook now calling for the platform’s DANGEROUS MONOPOLISTIC POWER to be somehow curbed, and whilst the piece by Chris Hughes doesn’t make any startlingly new observations, it’s a pretty good precis of the current majority thinking about FB; to whit, it’s simply not healthy for one company to have this much influence over the nature and context of human communication. The anecdote about Zuckerbverg’s unilateral decisions around the Rohingya genocide was particularly striking - whilst you sort of get that he was probably ‘right’, you also very much feel that he never ought to have been in that position in the first place.
- Beyond The Duck Houses: As another week passes in UK politics and the quality and tenor of debate becomes ever worse, and the opinion of the political classes amongst the lumpenproletariat falls ever lower, this is an interesting reminder of the extent to which the MP’s expenses scandal of a decade ago has shaped and characterised our attitude towards our elected representatives. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that the current trend towards abhorrent, dehmanusing abuse delivered to politicians and public figures isn’t in some way a result to the gleeful bashing they all took way back then for having the temerity to do exactly as they’d been told all along, or indeed that all this isn’t exactly helping them do their jobs. After all, “the more we cut our MPs down to size, the less able they are to subject the forces of capital to meaningful oversight and represent our interests at a high level. Public figures become mere private individuals, with their pints of milk and their loo roll.”
- A Lovely Interactive Version of the Trolley Problem: Everyone’s favourite moral philosophical conundrum, as popularised by The Good Place, presented as a beautifully-slick interactive explainer which takes you through various permutations and lets you pick how many tiny, pixellated people you want to murder with your ambulant deathwagon.
- The Airbnb Death of Barcelona: I’ve not been to Barcelona for a few years so haven’t witnessed the anti-Airbnb sentiment there first hand, but visiting Lisbon last year it was very clear quite how much locals were starting to resent the (as they see it) parasite landlords gutting the city for actual residents and packaging it up as bite-sized lifestyle capsules for the affluent weekender crowd. This article examines some of the reasons at the heart of the increasing global backlash against the Airbnbification of cities - I find the arguments here about the way in which airbnb neighbourhoods fundamentally alter the associated urban character of adjacent areas fascinating, in a general sort of ‘chaos theory knockon effect’-type way.
- Why GenZ Loves Closed Captioning: I have no idea whether this is in fact a thing - young people, please tell me, is this a thing? - but, presuming that it is on the basis of this one article, there is DEFINITELY a clever-ish type of advermarketingpr thingy that you can sell to a client off the back of this ‘insight’ (not in fact an insight).
- How ‘Debate’ Works in 2019: This is ostensibly a profile of the right wing ‘Turning Point’ group’s tour of US colleges, but is more interesting if seen as a general primer to the way in which ‘debate’ works in this, what feels like the millionth year of the ongoing culture wars. It’s very good at pinpointing the exact characteristics of faux-discussion, both online and offline; a seeming reliance on ‘facts’, an eagerness to be seen be ‘debating’, and the absence of any sort of actual ‘debate’ in favour pf participants on both sides flinging out assertions and numbers to the frenzied clapping of their seal-like peanut gallery of supporters. This isn’t, to be clear, something exclusively of the right - the left is as bad (spend a day digging around Labour Twitter and oh me oh my do you see some wonderful examples of this), and it’s more a function of the fact that everything is judged by ‘likes’ these days (literally and figuratively) leading to empty performative shouting rather than actual oppositional discourse.
- Does AI Have A Dirty Mind?: I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit this week looking at pictures of cocks as imagined by Shardcore’s computer - I would link to them here, but, well, they’re not quite ready - rest assured, though, that they are VERY meaty and not a little misshapen. Anyway, this is an entertaining exploration of how and why AIs get confused about what is and isn’t NSFW content - the article contains a few fruity images (although obviously within an entirely academic context, so it’s probably FINE), so caveat emptor and all that jazz.
- Therapy in Fortnite: I love these stories about how people are bending Fortnite to their own ends, creating and endlessly flexible virtual world to use however they choose - it’s starting to look to me like the sort of exciting virtual community space that Second Life was always to weirdly geeky and complicated to become. This piece looks at the young women who are offering their services as ‘chatting companions’ - to an extent, light-touch therapists - to other players, charging by the hour to play in squads and voicechat about anything and everything. Fascinating, if you choose to ignore the slightly bleak truth underpinning it (to whit: lonely kids are paying money to talk to girls over the internet).
- Kickstarter Turns 10: I think Kickstarter’s been one of the more quietly influential developments for properly creative [people online, not least as it helped cement the idea that no matter how niche or peculiar, your art may well find a small but sufficient audience. This article looks back at its early days, its development and some of its greatest hits - man, we have backed some ODD TAT as a species, eh?
- How Technology Could Revolutionise Refugee Resettlement: Literally that - this is a fascinating piece about how analysis of large amounts of historical data about refugee resettlement, integration success and other factors can be used to make better decisions about where to home people fleeing violence or persecution. It’s nice to occasionally read a tech story that’s generally positive - and it’s even nicer to read something where the people involved are using tech to help augment and improve human decision making rather than instead taking it as an opportunity to remove the human element altogether.
- When Did Pop Culture Become Homework?: I promise you, you will absolutely FEEL this essay, even if you’re a GoT/Avengers/Line of Duty/Whateverthefuckelse Stan - this is an excellent and true series of reflections on the extent to which popular culture has come to effectively define and dominate the shared global conversation, and the extent to which that means that its consumption is now a base-level requirement of speaking the lingua franca. So, so good, this.
- Avengers and the ‘Content’ Endgame: Consider this one a companion piece to the above - all about how the preposterous success of the Avengers franchise basically means that everything from hereon in is CONTENT, and the multistrand narrative universe is here to stay, and everything that will ever get made from a cinematic standpoint from hereon in will only in part exist as a standalone artistic work, because the post-facto dissection and debate and discussion of its every single frame and second is in and of itself conceived of as an integral constituent part of the work itself and OH GOD THIS IS ALL SO TIRING.
- The Bear and the AntiVaxxer: This is about a hoax protest march, but it’s about so much more besides - this is honestly one of the stranger ‘wow, people on the internet are WEIRD, eh?’ stories I’ve read in a while, and one of the better evocations of exactly how hard it is to have any grasp on what, or who, is really real here in the year of our lord two thousand and nineteen.
- A Conspiracy to Kill IE6: A properly odd little story, this, about how the team behind YouTube basically banded together to effectively kill Internet Explorer 6 because, put simply, they couldn’t be arsed making their work compatible with what they saw as a terminally janky and outdated piece of software. I showed this to Internet Oddity Sadeagle, who used to work at Google, and he said it seems legit, so, well, it’s TRUE!
- An Oral History of Amazon Prime: You might not think that a corporate history of ‘How Amazon Invented Prime’ would be interesting, but you’d be wrong, honest. This is a fascinating look at how the company made the whole idea of Prime happen in next to no time at all, and how absolutely transformative it’s been as a concept to both the company and also consumers’ ideas of customer service and payment structures. To be clear, I dislike Amazon hugely as a company - that said, stuff like this makes it perfectly clear why MechaBezos is going to be rulling the world in a few short years and there’s NOTHING we can do about it.
- 20 Years of All Star: Celebrating two decades of the only Smash Mouth song anyone knows - this is charming, and you will leave it feeling much more positive both about the song and the band. The details in there about them knowing that they had an absolute, 24-Carat hit on their hands and being uncertain as to whether they wanted all the attention that would come with it is a really interesting one to me - would you take the money and the fame and the immortality in exchange for knowing that you will always and forever be associated with this single thing, and that nothing you will ever create will ever have the same impact?
- Chasing The Aurora: A piece about trying to see the Northern Lights, but also about the very idea of the Northern Lights as something less to be seen or experienced than documented for the ‘gram. Lovely travel writing with a slight side of wistfulness for a pre-Insta world in which you just experienced things directly rather than through a series of performative filters (GOD I AM A GRUMPY OLD MAN SORRY EVERYONE).
- Angelica Huston: By far and away the best celebrity interview I have read all year, this - honestly, everything in it is glorious. This line. My days: “I was young. My back was like liquid amber.” WHAT a woman - this is joyous (and contains great oldschool Hollywood anecdote to boot).
- Meaw Wolf: I’ve featured pieces about bonkers US art collective Meow Wolf in here before, but this is the first proper profile of the group I’ve seen - honestly, I can’t tell you quite how much I want to visit one of their installations. There’s lots to unpack in here - their influence over some of the prevailing aesthetics of the Instagram era, the idea of participatory play being the dominant performative trend of the 21C, the tension between their genesis as outsider creatives and their current status as mainstream darlings...generally fascinating stuff.
- Entering the Sublime: An interview with Hilary Hahn, who I learned through this piece is widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary violinists. In common with all profiles of preturnaturally-gifted people, the whole piece has a slightly otherworldly air to it - reading people this talented describe how they think and how they do is always slightly discombobulating, like they’re using words that you understand but in ways that you don’t quite get. Honestly, the way she talks about classical music here is just glorious - the closest I’ve gotten to understanding how a synaesthete might feel. Ooh, and on that last point, this is FASCINATING if you’re into synaesthesia as a concept.
- Punch Line: Remembering a suicide. This is BEAUTIFUL writing, though obviously heartbreaking.
- My Cousin Tried To Kill Me: This week’s last longread is a masterful piece of writing - clear-eyed and dispassionate and horrifying and brilliant, on masculinity and male violence and role models and the things we turn a blind eye to because we want to believe things that aren’t quite true. I read this last night and found my knuckles involuntarily tightening at points through it, which may not sound like an endorsement but I promise really is.
By Luigi Ghirri
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- This is by Dude York - the song is called ‘Falling’ and I fcuking ADORE it. A perfect slice of pop-punk, this; so, so good:
2) I love Japanese noisepunk outfit Otoboke Beaver. This is called “Don’t Light My Fire” - turn it up LOUD:
3) SUPERB indiepoprock next from Mal Blume - this is called “I Don’t Want To” and this is another GREAT Summer track that if I had a car I would totally blare out of the windows whilst trying and failing to look cool at traffic lights:
4) This is genuinely great - no idea at all how to describe it, but it’s maybe a bit like a sort of early Chemical Brothers album track, perhaps? Anyway, it’s by Nathan Micay and it’s called ‘Ecstasy Is On Maple Mountain’ and it’s a cracking tune:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! This is Manga and Murkage Dave with “Men Are Trash” - this is very sharp and very, very funny; awesome video too:
6) Last up this week, this is by Palehound and it’s called ‘Worthy’ and it’s a lovely song to see you into what will hopefully be a lovely weekend and now I’m off so BYE BYE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE HAVE FUN AND TAKE CARE AND BE SURE TO BE KIND TO EACH OTHER AND PERHAPS SMILE AT STRANGERS (BUT NOT IN A CREEPY WAY) AND MAYBE DO SOMETHING NICE FOR SOMEONE WHO’S NOT EXPECTING IT AND GENERALLY WHY NOT TRY AND MAKE THE WORLD MARGINALLY MORE CHEERFUL OVER THE NEXT WEEK OR SO BECAUSE, WELL, WHY NOT? I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU SEE YOU NEXT WEEK BYE!