Web Curios 10/08/18
Can we all agree that whilst Boris Johnson may himself not be a racist he's spent this week behaving in a manner designed explicitly to appeal to racists and that that's not really that much better?
Good! Now we've got that cleared up, let's crack on with the REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF. Given that Summer is now over (bet you wish you hadn't complained about the heat now, don't you, you INGRATES?), you've basically got NOTHING TO DO except read all the words and click all the links that follow this slightly-phoned-in opening section. So, er, get on with it! What are you waiting for! Denude yourself (mentally rather than physically - noone wants to see that, least of all me) and prepare to be hosed down with the cleaning disinfectant high-pressure wash of webspaff that is once again about to be trained on you in three...two...one...OPEN WIDE AND TAKE YOUR MEDICINE THIS, AS EVER, IS WEB CURIOS!
By Mike Dempsey
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS JACK’S PERFORMANCE THIS WEEK OUGHT REALLY TO GIVE LIE TO THE IDEA OF TECH FOUNDERS BEING INTELLECTUAL UBERMENSCHEN IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER:
- Facebook Pages Are Changing!: An announcement that a few years ago would have warranted an awful lot of spilt ink (pixels, fine) from commentators and S*c**l M*d** ‘experts’ about how this would CHANGE EVERYTHING, which now because of the slow-but-near-total depreciation of Pages as a worthwhile thing on Facebook has warranted little more than a disinterested shrug. Facebook Pages - at least the ones which are categorised as being for small or local businesses - are CHANGING! Effectively the changes are largely cosmetic, with a shift in layout emphasising practical actions users can take with a business through a Page - making appointments or reservations, say, or seeing a menu for a local restaurant. Effectively this is a step to make the Facebook Page for, say, Gino’s Pizza Darkroom, of equivalent utility to a standalone website - although there’s also going to be the option for these Pages to make ephemeral, vanishing Stories on the platform too. No idea why they’d want to, but here we are. These changes will be rolled out at the end of August in the UK - you may have received an email about them, in which case LUCKY YOU!
- Facebook Adds AR Games To Messenger: Facebook appears to have realised that Snap is winning on the AR tech front, and is now rolling out lens-type updates at a rate of knots - the lesson here being, NEVER try and beat Facebook at anything, Mark will CUT you. This is a pretty straight ripoff of Snap’s AR games announced earlier this year - you know, the ones which let you do AR keepups with your face, that sort of thing - which lets Messenger users launch AR games (at the time of writing, Asteroids and, er, some other one which I don’t quite understand) in the app. No word on what the options for developers are, but feel free to chuck this into your next pitch as an impressive stretch execution that will never happen but which the credulous idiots across the table from you will probably lap up and clap dumbly at like the massive advermarketingpr seals they are.
- Facebook Groups Introduces Mentoring Facility: In theory this is a legitimately good idea - this extends something that was trialed in limited numbers of Groups last year to everyone (I think everyone, though it does specify Groups based around parenting and ‘personal development’, whatever the fcuk that means). Admins can set up a mentorship programme, users apply to be mentors or mentees, and then admins match them up - obviously there’s a degree of responsibility for admins there, and one does rather wonder what the legal / safeguarding framework around this is, but the scheme’s only open to users aged 18 or above which seems sensible. There’s quite a lot of rather good CSR stuff which brands might be able to do using this, come to think of it, so perhaps worth having a think if it’s your job to attempt to make a faceless, Mammon-worshipping FTSE100 organisation look like it cares about people (it doesn’t care about people).
- Some Notes On How Facebook Dating Will Work: It won’t be a standalone app! There’s no obvious brand opportunity here! I don’t care about it! Apparently it’s aimed more at finding a life partner (HA!) than a one-night stand, but, well, which do YOU think its users are most likely to be after?
- Facebook on Free Expression: One of Facebook’s occasional ‘Hard Questions’ essays where one of its mouthpieces waxes lyrical about some of the reasons Facebook takes the positions it does - this week, in the wake of the furore over bloviating hate-blimp Alex Jones and the removal of Infowars from the platform, FB’s VP of Policy Richard Allen offers this reasonably well-articulated explanation as to what is and isn’t ok. It doesn’t say anything new - lying isn’t banned, promoting hatred is, etc - but it does, at the very least, seem to make semi-coherent sense. SEE, DORSEY?
- Google Cameos: This is really interesting. You may recall a few months ago Google announced that video answers would be available in search for famouses - that is, that celebrties and other influencers would be able to record video answers to FAQs which they could submit to Google for surfacing as responses to Google searches. You recall, don’t you? DON’T YOU? Good. Anyway, this is it - Cameos is an app (iOS-only at present, as far as I can tell - all the famouses are on Apple, I guess it makes sense) which a famous can use to record a straight down the lens video of themselves answering any question they see fit - these then get submitted to Google, which will review them and, post-approval, make said videos surfaceable within search. So next time you type ‘is Jay-Z illuminati?’ into Google, don’t be surprised if you get a video back of the man himself making Eye In The Pyramid-style sigils before a burning sigil or something. Obviously if you rep famouses this is a BIG THING; no word on exactly how elastic the definition of ‘famous’ is at this stage, but worth a look (unless your clients regularly appear on the front cover of Closer, in which case perhaps not).
- Snap’s Earnings: The numbers don’t look fantastic - falling MAUs, features being stolen by rivals - but revenue’s up, and they have a decent narrative around increasing monetisation options; still, I can’t help but continue to think that the platform’s future is as a tech layer rather than a messaging / network service. Mind you, I have literally no experience running a business and don’t really understand how money works so I’m probably not best placed to opine on this.
By Rob Bailey
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS IT’S PERFECTLY POSSIBLE FOR SOMEONE TO EXPRESS AN OPINION ON RELIGIOUS DRESS WITHOUT BEING A RUDE PRICK ABOUT IT, PT.1:
- The Russian Internet Agency Adverts: You may recall - you may; there has, after all, been quite a lot of other stuff happening - that the Russian Internet Agency bought ads ostensibly to influence the US elections in 2016. These ads have now been made public, along with the targeting used to...er...target people - you can see the oh-so-sophisticated messaging and audience segmentation techniques used and, well, wow is none of this very sophisticated. It’s worth a look through, mainly to give lie to the oft-peddled rubbish about Cambridge Analytica and DEEP PSYCHOGRAPHIC MODELING and stuff; the way all these ads were targeted (literally by age, geography, and occasionally race, or Pages liked) was about as simple as you can get, and suggests that SHOCK HORROR the whole campaign was far more akin to a mass leafletting campaign on a postcode by postcode basis than some terrifying new frontier in psyops warfare. Not, of course, to suggest that this is anything other than sinister and NOT OK, but it’s important to correct a few of the mistaken assumptions about the sophisticated techniques being used.
- Little Big City: I love this project, and the code behind it is really rather impressive. Little Big City takes a small square of Google Map and interprets it to create a small 3d visualisation of that bit of Gmap on a diminutive 3d globe - so you can go to your neighbourhood, say, and see what it would look like if it were rendered as a small CG planetoid. Annoyingly it defaults to NYC (of course it does) and there’s no search function to navigate to the other side of the world, meaning getting it to make a planet out of, say, Streatham will require some rather tedious mapdragging, but the whole thing’s just super cute and really rather clever - the potential here for creating 3d worlds spun up from random 2d map data is hugely exciting (to me, a man in his late-30s who still plays videogames and who probably ought to get out more).
- It Came From Under My Bed: I know it’s still August and therefore you’re all still thinking about Summer and icecream and whether or not you can get away with that outfit from Boohoo (YES YOU CAN SISTER OWN IT) (but maybe allow all that countouring, yeah?), but SOME of us are already looking ahead - for those of you who like to get a head start on stuff, this Etsy shop is your go-to retailer for all things Hallowe’en-y - it sells, honestly, some of the most upsetting jewellery and accessories I’ve seen in an age. You want a necklace that looks like a human tongue, split in half, with some nice accompanying human teeth to add a dash of levity to the ensemble? OH GOOD! You want a necklace that looks like a very anatomically correct severed penis? WE HAVE YOU COVERED. Honestly, this stuff is horrible in the very best way; personally I’d order the penis necklace only for the joy of ostentatiously unwrapping it in the office and then seeing whether anyone complained when I wore it, but I appreciate that I may have a slightly more cavalier attitude towards employment than you do.
- Schizophrenia: This is a French website, produced for the 15th annual French Schizophrenia awareness day, and, as you might expect, it is all in French. Still, if your language is up to it then this is a really nicely made site, presenting a schizophrenic’s experience of having lunch with their family; it’s all full-screen video, nicely acted and presented, with the now-no-longer-hugely-innovative-but-I-think-still-rather-smart gimmick of ‘press the space bar to switch perspective’ video swapping technique you’ll remember from various interactive music videos, that Honda ad from years back, etc. This works really well for things where you want to give a sense of difference and disconnect, which this piece does to excellent effect - it’s really very nicely made indeed.
- Neural Beatbox: There are some things that just because you can do them doesn’t mean that you should. I’m thinking mime, say, or telling people whose loved ones died in some sort of terror incident that the whole thing was a false flag attack designed to peddle a liberal agenda - you know, that sort of thing. To this one might also add beatboxing - a discipline I used to be really impressed by, but which in the past few years has been absolutely ruined by people standing outside tube stations in central London making white noise sounds at me while I try and get home (NO, NAMELESS MAN OUTSIDE TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD, A BEATBOX VERSION OF JINGLE BELLS IS NEITHER FUNNY NOR APPROPRIATE DURING A 33-DEGREE AUGUST HEATWAVE WHAT THE ACTUAL FCUK IS WRONG WITH YOU AND PLEASE CAN YOU STOP FCUKING SPITTING EVERYWHERE). Anyway, that long and unwanted preamble is to introduce a NEURAL NETWORK BEATBOXING TOY! This is honestly quite amazing - you record a few seconds of audio - make whatever sounds you like - and the software will isolate elements and use them to compose a drum track on the fly from all the constituent parts. It does, fine, sound a bit ropey, but so does most beatboxing and on the plus side there’s no idiot in a Dappy hat gobbing everywhere while you listen.
- Bearcam!: It’s that time of year again! “Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park is the best place in the world to watch brown bears feasting on salmon as they swim upstream to spawn.” - click this link and watch these lads chow down on some fish (or, more accurately, watch them patiently sit and seemingly wait for a salmon to basically leap into their faces). Very, very soothing.
- Water: God this annoyed me. Ok, I know that hydration is important and that man cannot live by booze and tea alone (although, honestly, why not? I haven’t died yet), and that occasionally it’s useful to attempt to systematise things like your water intake to ensure that you’re getting enough, but, well, this app is, to me at least, the embodiment of everything that is wrong with tech and health and fitness and modernity. “In our busy lives, 80% of us forget to drink enough water. ‘Water’ is a beautiful and easy to use app which keeps track of your water intake. Share your wake up and sleep time, daily goal and average drink size. ‘Water’ will remind you at regular intervals to ensure you reach your daily hydration goal. Share your daily wins with friends and inspire a few more!” GOALS??? WHY DO I NEED GOALS FOR FCUKING WATER CONSUMPTION?? WHY MUST EVERYTHING BE A FCUKING ALPHA BRO COMPETITION? WHY DO I NEED TO ACHIEVE AT EVERY FCUKING STEP OF MY PATHETIC EXISTENCE? Can I not just be someone with very, very low ambition thresholds whose main ‘ambition’ is to just, well, be left alone for a bit, eat nice food and occasionally get laid? STOP TRYING TO TURN ME ALPHA, WATER-PEDDLERS. Ahem. Am I overthinking this? Maybe I am overthinking this. Still, this is awful.
- Place In Time: I’m increasingly a fan of sites like this which collect a series of stories about a single place into one; Place In Time is a project which since 2000 has been documenting the lives of people in Christchurch New Zealand through photography, writing, and oral history; the collection of stories here is wonderful, small enough to be human in scale but varied enough to present a real sense of place. I would love the next major documentary series produced by the BBC to have something like this attached to it; the potential for in-depth parallel storytelling, and use of archives, is vast and underexplored imho.
- Indoor Direction AR: Blippar, an AR company which amazingly continues to exist despite never having developed a product I have ever seen anyone actually use in real life, ever (this isn’t meant to sound as snarky as it does; I’m sort-of impressed if I’m honest) redcently released this demo video showcasing how its AR products could be used as signposting tech for employees or visitors within corporate environments; the video shows how an AR layer can help with routefinding, deliver information on meeting room bookings, etc, help you find colleagues and all sorts of other stuff. It’s impressive in that slightly-too-shiny way that you know means it won’t look anything like this in real life - while I was impressed by the tech on show and the ideas, I was also very much of the opinion that when I am at work the last thing I want to see is cute little CGI robots ushering me towards the meeting I am late for. What do we need more of in 2018? More patronising infantilism? YES PLEASE. Still, as a proof of concept it’s interesting, and I should probably wind my neck in.
- Bob Is Sleeping: Now this, this is a REAL oddity. Bob Pagani is, apparently, something of a counterculture legend - a perennial media hoaxer and general outsider artist-type, he’s relatively recently discovered Periscope and, on a semi-regular basis, broadcasts live video of himself...sleeping, much of the time, but also waxing lyrical about whatever he feels like, doing a bit of audience participation...it’s all very gonzo, but it’s also strangely fun, and there’s a very real sense of public access cable to the whole thing; I honestly love this sort of stuff, people making and experimenting and just sort of being online for no discernible purpose other than to mess around. Even if you’re not up when Bob is (‘up’ obviously being a relative concept), you can watch the streams back again - whilst I appreciate I’ve not given you the most compelling reason to take a look (this piece is better, on Bob and why he does this), it’s honestly really quite compelling.
- Ethical OS: This is a really nice idea and A Good Thing and also, one fears, several years too late. Still, Ethical OS is ‘a guide to anticipating the future impact of today’s technologies’, and is intended as a primer for founders, developers and the like as to the sorts of things they potentially ought to be considering when ‘disrupting’ some other sector which might not be quite in need of ‘disruption’ as they may initially have thought. The documentation available is smart, simple and contains lots of strong principles it would make sense to consider should you be building anything you’d prefer not to end up fcuking humanity a few years down the line; HEY JACK WOULDN’T IT HAVE BEEN NICE HAD YOU CONSIDERED SOME OF THIS ALL THOSE YEARS AGO, EH???
- Every Sh1t You’ll Ever Do: “35 is an important number bowelwise. You do 35 different sh1ts in your life, as everyone knows – threescore and ten divided by number twos equals 35 sh1ts. It’s just science. With that in mind, here is every single sh1t you will ever do in your entire life.” I don’t know why this exists, or who Mike Rampton is, or why he wrote this, or why he put it online, but it’s the best coprological content I’ve seen all year. Genuinely funny, and surprisingly well-written (surprisingly because, well, toilet humour’s not usually very funny).
- Flippargo: AWFUL name - I probably ought to have capitalised the AR there as it’s an Augmented Reality thing, but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to. Sorry. Anyway, the appallingly-titled Flippargo is actually a very smart idea indeed, although one I fear might be doomed to failure due to limited uptake; it wants to be the single, unifying AR layer for travel and tourism; the idea being that it uses visual recognition technology, coupled with AR, to enable tourists to learn more information about specific locations and monuments, tag a place with their photos and memories, get special AR content (including selfie lenses, etc) dependent on location...all stuff that I can totally see being of interest to punters, and equally all stuff that will be done natively on another, more popular platform before this has the chance to gain traction. Scale is an issue, as ever - it’s active in six cities in India, in Dubai and in Paris, but it will need to add others swiftly if it’s to gain the numbers you’d imagine it needs to keep the investment coming in. See what I was saying up there about Snap becoming a tech enabling layer? You could do 90% of this using Snap’s tech and API stuff, I reckon. Still, lovely idea and I hope I’m wrong about its prospects like the dreadful miseryCassandra I often am.
- Selfdraw: The best gif you will see all week; I promise you, you will watch this at least twice in an attempt to work out how it all fits together, and you will still be confused.
- Pioneer: Pioneer bills itself as ‘A home for the ambitious outsiders of the world’ - based on recorded history, I’d gently suggest that the best place for the ambitious outsiders of the world is often in a secure place very, very far away from the rest of us, but leaving aside my potential misgivings about the ambitious (NEVER TRUST THEM) this might be a good an interesting idea. It’s another one of these ‘contests for ideas’-type things; here, anyone can submit a project that they are working on or would like to work on, along with a description; other participants get to ask you questions, and vote on how ‘interesting’ your project is, with a select coterie each month gaining vaunted ‘Pioneer’ status - which grants you perks, and some money, but ALSO (and this is obviously the kicker for the organisers here) gives the Pioneers organisation a guaranteed 3% stake in any company you form in the next 8 years. Is this is a good thing? It feels, well, potentially a touch exploitative. Still, they claim that they are happy to fund / back ideas that don’t have any obvious commercial application, so if you’re a struggling artist and want to take some filthy Silicon Valley money to fund your work then this might be worthwhile.
- Video Game Tourism: A pool of Flickr photos shocasing the very best of in-game photography. The work here is astonishing; I would, honestly, happily go to an entire exhibition of this sort of stuff - there’s definitely a hugely PRable stunt for a fine art gallery in this sort of thing, should any of you be curators looking for inspiration (none of you are curators - you’re all webmongs like me, I know).
- Movie Goofs: A truly beautiful Twitter account, this presents mistakes from films that aren’t actually mistakes or which don’t actually exist; exactly the sort of thing which will send movie pedants into apoplectic, spittle-flecked rage. If you know someone who’s very, very serious about cinema I suggest you just start C&Ping some of these and emailing them - really, stuff like this is GOLDEN: “Fight Club (1999);
Production error; The first and second rules of fight club are identical.” SEE?
- Tour Japan In Videos: I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, but have never done so because...well, in the main because I am too lazy to bother to organise stuff like this, and so simply don’t. Still, I can now compensate from my own pathetic indolence with this excellent series of videos on YouTube which present, in now classic Slow TV style, a series of journeys around different parts of Japan, rural and urban. The uploader is called Nippon Wandering TV, which pretty much sums it up - as far as I can tell, all the videos are shot in 4k on a GoPro or similar and feature no audio other than ambient noise; it really is like strolling around a foreign city except, er, you’re sitting in London listening to Radio4 (or you are if you’re me right now). These are fascinating and, per lots of other stuff I feature on here, would make weirdly excellent background TV for the right type of bar/club night.
- Puppeteering Stephen Colbert: Another week, another terrifying glimpse into a future in which we will have to learn to trust literally nothing that we cannot touch or smell; this is an honestly jaw-dropping example of quite how incredible deepfakes stuff is going to get in the not-too-distant future. Cris Venezuela demonstrates how he was able to take video of Stephen Colbert and then, using machine learning, record his own movements to create a ‘puppet’ version of Colbert on the set of his own show, moving as directed by Venezuela’s own body. It’s obviously VERY janky and wouldn’t fool anyone right now - but give it six months and FCUK ME is this going to be a powerful tool. Do we think it’s going to be used for good or ill? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
- Photos of Abandoned Russia: These are just wonderful - number 22 in particular looks SO MUCH like concept art for A N Other forthcoming videogame it’s uncanny.
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS IT’S PERFECTLY POSSIBLE FOR SOMEONE TO EXPRESS AN OPINION ON RELIGIOUS DRESS WITHOUT BEING A RUDE PRICK ABOUT IT, PT.2:
- The Polyhedra Viewer: As ever, I’m pretty uncertain about the makeup of Web Curios miniscule readership - what do you like, fellow webmongs? Of what do you dream? What keeps you awake at night? What inspires and motivates you? On the offchance that the answer to any of the preceding questions was ‘polyhedra’ then WOW have you just hit paydirt! “This application visualizes the relationships between the convex, regular-faced polyhedra. The 120 solids presented here can be transformed into each other by a network of operations. Select a solid to manipulate it and to explore its relationships with other polyhedra.” COME ON, HOW GOOD DOES THAT SOUND? Actually this is loads more interesting than you might think, and almost manages to make geometry fun. Almost. Do play around, though, it rewards a bit of exploration.
- Write for Cards Against Humanity: Depending on your perspective, Cards Against Huanity is either the funniest game EVER or a lazy excuse to legitimise offensive humour aimed at people who like to think that they’re better than that. Whichever it is, they are currently recruiting writers to create the next generation of card prompts for the game - the application process is admirably egalitarian, and simply requires you to submit a bunch of ideas for new cards to them; if they like them, you could be invited to join their regular pool of writers who they’ll occasionally commission at $40/h. Which is frankly INCREDIBLE money for writing scataological copy, and which were I actually funny (I am not, but thankfully I am reasonably self-aware) I would be all over like the sky.
- Strandbeests: I happened to catch some of the news one night this week, and there was a feature on these and I was AMAZED. Strandbeests - and apologies if these are hyperfamous but I had never come across them before - are the wind-powered sculptures of Dutch engineer/artists Theo Jansen - made from plastics, they are designed to capture the wind and to move, powered only by the elements, over the flat beaches where Jansen lives. I can’t stress enough quite how incredible these things are - watch the videos and MARVEL. I would like to make a pilgrimage to see these, I think.
- Let’s Do This: Are YOU one of those people who seeks to fill an unnamed void in their life through exercise (lest you think I’m being sniffy, I choose to fill the unnamed void in my life with drink and drugs so I’m really not judging, I promise you)? Do you wish that there were a simple, easy way for you to find forthcoming EXERCISE FUN near you? OH GOOD! Let’s Do This lets you input your location and the type of exercise you’re after, along with how far you’re willing to travel to cause yourself intense physical distress, and it delivers you a list of forthcoming events which meet your criteria. Simple and effective, and (though they’re not as good as they ought to be at scrubbing events that are in the past from the results) seemingly works pretty well. This could very easily be used as *ahem* inspiration for the right brand.
- 360 Aerial Photos Of The Carr Fires: Mapping 360 degree views of the devastation wrought by the recent spate of fires across California - these are all taken from observation towers, insofar as I can tell, and give a sobering sense of the extreme toll this Summer’s conflagrations have taken on nature and people alike.
- 3d For Designers: You want a course on how to do 3d modelling for film or, well, whatever really? OH GOOD! This is as far as I can tell a wonderful set of resources to teach you how to use 4d Cinema, a specific 3d creation tool, which will in theory enable you to make objects for AR and VR or just general nice 3d graphics if you’re so inclined. If you’re less of an artistic untermensch than me, this is potentially worth a look and a play and an explore.
- Bare Knuckle Boxing: It may not surprise you to know that boxing, bare knuckle or otherwise, isn’t really my thing - I get upset at the level of violence in UFC, FFS, so the idea of burly men beating seven shades out of each other with their practically-bare fists is honestly pretty horrifying to me, a perspective which this series of photos did absolutely nothing to change whatsoever. You want to see a whole bunch of (very good, it must be said) photos of people being punched, or immediately post-punch? Fill your metaphorical boots. Honestly, I had no idea that this was legal in the UK - if you’re looking for a way to one-up that prick in your office who’s always banging on about that one time he did White Collar Boxing then this would seem a fairly certain way to manage that.
- Underwater Photographer of the Year: JUST CLICK THE LINK THESE ARE ABSOLUTELY MIND-BLOWING. Seriously, LOOK at them - you’ll think they are CGI but they are NOT.
- Bitcoin Jewellery: Have you frittered away the family fortune and your childrens’ inheritance on 2018’s MAGIC BEANS (aka Bitcoin)? Well you’re an idiot. Still, what better way to make it up to an aggrieved partner than by buying them some BITCOIN-THEMED JEWELLERY! A necklace with the bitcoin logo on it, maybe? A ring which reads ‘DECENTRALISED’? They don’t, it seems, have anything that reads ‘Gullible’, but perhaps that’s for the best.
- Random Smash Hits: B3ta’s Rob Manuel has made yet ANOTHER bot, this one which Tweets randomly-selected pages from Smash Hits. You may not think that that would be of interest, but then you will see such gems as the Beastie Boys slagging off Duran Duran’s crappy songs and you’ll realise that you NEED this in your feed. YOU NEED IT IN YOUR FEED.
- Awkward Family Portraits: I don’t ordinarily do ‘hey look, here’s a roundup of ‘funny’ old photos collated by some clickbaity website from stuff they’ve stolen from other clickbaity website’-type content in Curios (I’m BETTER than that, reader(s), and so are you (I hope)), but I’ll make an exception in this case, mainly as every single one of these looks as though it was shot with the express purpose of then using it to accompany a subsequent grim local news story about how the family were all found locked in a basement 15 years hence. Honestly, are there ANY of these that don’t make you think ‘Hm, bit Fritzl, that one’? NO THERE ARE NOT.
- The Emoji Tweeter: Want to write one of those tweets with the claps between every word like all the cool, sassy kids were doing nine months ago? Yes, of course you do! This website makes it as easy as possible to do that - type in your text, press the button and it will automatically do the, er, ‘heavy lifting’ of inserting the emoji for you. You can alter it to add any emoji you like, which actually could make on a semi-fun and fresh variant on the format, so perhaps this isn’t a total waste of time after all (I mean, it really is, but).
- The Silence Project: Another sort of slow TV-type project, this is a series of beautifully-shot, very HD videos of natural landscapes, in this case mountains, presented in ultra-HD and with no additional sound other than the ambient noises picked up by the camera whilst filming. The sense of size and space here is astonishing, helped by the incredible wind noises whistling past your ears - seriously, with headphones in these are quite incredible experiences. The artist behind it, Casper Rolsted, has filmed in the Alps and the Dolomites so far - you can follow him on all the socials to keep up with the project, but in the meantime take 10 minutes to enjoy one of the videos already posted, they are honestly glorious.
- The Ashmolean Collection Online: We’re fast approaching a point where you could spend much of the rest of your life doing nothing but exploring the digitised collections of the world’s greatest museums from the comfort of your own desk; the latest to cross my path is Oxford’s (wonderful) Ashmolean museum, which has made over 50,000 items from its collection available to explore on its website, with the aim of adding another 150k in the next couple of years. Admittedly it’s not quite as esoterically varied as the Pitt Rivers collection (that’s the one with the shrunken heads and frankly terrifying collection of weaponry, probably the single room which demonstrates most effectively the almost limitless inventiveness of man when it comes to causing spectacular, lasting pain to each other), but there’s enough odd, interesting stuff in here to keep you occupied for a while.
- Drinking With Chickens: I read an article this week about the booming market in nappies for chickens (it’s linked to in the longreads section should you be interested), and within it was a link to this Instagram account which...well, seemingly just presents really nicely-framed and well-lit photographs of chickens as fashion accessories, mostly posing with cocktails. There is something SO NOW about the combination of esoteric pets, a very Insta aesthetic (pastels, framing, etc) and cocktails - this feels like the apogee of every single bougie lifestyle trend to have been peddled by the Instawellness crowd, and it’s simultaneously ridiculous and silly and awful. I hope the chickens sh1t EVERYWHERE, poor lads.
- What Makes A Hit: one of two wonderful pieces of dataviz work in here this week - this is the one not by the lovely people at The Pudding. Instead it’s the Columbia Business School presenting this analysis of what musical elements have been the best predictors / indicators of a song’s ‘hit’ status over the past 60 years or so, decade by decade. It’s not only really interesting from the point of view of music theory and analysis, but also from a dataviz angle; the way the scrolling works to layer additional information is BEAUTIFUL, and the whole thing is generally superbly clear and well-laid out. Definitely worth a look.
- WikiDeath: The second lovely piece of dataviz this week, this being the one that is by the supremely talented people at Pudding; in their latest, they look at how celebrity deaths can lead to spikes in traffic to the Wikipedia page of the deceased, and how the duration of the traffic spikes can be used to make assessments of the relative popularity of the figures in question. A touch macabre, fine, but as ever the viz work is stellar and the subject matter genuinely interesting - still the best dataviz people out there, these people, by a mile.
- Deleted Wiki: If you get B3ta you’ll have seen this last week, but WEVS - this Twitter account will each hour punt out “actual article titles that have been removed from Wikipedia for various reasons”. Why did someone think it was necessary to create a Wikipedia entry entitled “I Heart Pomeranians”? We will NEVER KNOW. Whose idea was an entry called “Give It To Me Neil”? Sadly this too is beyond our ken. Still, you’ll get some occasional lols (occasiolols? sorry) out of it.
- R2D2 Mailboxes: There are, it seems, a perplexing number of mailboxes across the US that are designed to look like Star Wars’ R2D2. No idea why, but there you go. Here are a bunch of photos of them.
- The Body Issue Archive: Every year (well, most years, when I remember) I feature ESPN’s body issue photoshoot on here and make some remark about how these people barely look human by comparison to mere mortals like...well, like you - they look even more superhuman when compared to an etiolated streak of p1ss like me. Now you can glory in a decade’s worth of photos of beautiful people showing off their beautiful, naked athletic bodies in a series of oh-so-tasteful photoshoots, as ESPN have created a hub site for the shoots going back to 2009. Marvel at the quads and the glutes and the pecs and the traps! Wonder to yourself whether it’s worth all the effort to look like that as you once again trudge to Pret for your daily mayonnaise fix. Look, grimly, at fitness pr0n on Insta as you pick listlessly at your low-fat crisps. HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!
- Galactic Server: Slightly amazed that I’ve never come across this before - Galactic Server has seeminly been around for a VERY long time, and is a repository of all sorts of, er, ‘outside the box’ thinking about all sorts of things - “The intension for this server is to give information about spacepeople related material who are mainly based on channeling and personal experience. The information focus is primary on galactic affairs and spiritual interdimensional topics.” It’s obviously a bit...esoteric - that much is clear from the Geocities-styled look of the homepage - but it gets VERY odd the deeper you go. I got stuck for about 5 minutes reading about how to contact extraterrestrial mermaids (really, don’t think too hard about that, just go with it), but you will probably find your own favourite section. This is, honestly, WONDERFULLY odd.
- 70s Adult Titles: Another ‘B3ta got there first, damn you Rob’ link, this is a genuinely wonderful Twitter account which posts titles of stories and photo sets from 70s bongo rags. The language here! The creativity! The occasionally baffling titles, delivered entirely without context! SFW insofar as it contains no nudity, but it does regularly feature copy such as ‘People in glass houses shouldn’t do anal’ (a maxim to live by if ever there was one) so, you know, caveat emptor as per usual.
- This Hole: Finally this week, a small, musical browser game, the description for which says simply “This game was made to cheer up a friend who said they felt a hole in their chest”, which description absolutely RUINED me. Anyway, it does an appalling job of explaining itself, but just have a play around with it and, eventually, it will all click and you will find yourself making lovely, happy sounds and I promise you will feel better.
By Daybreak Lai
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:Th
- 80s Aesthetic: Collecting images, clips and gifs which embody the 80s aesthetic. You can imagine the content, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good (it is good) (it’s also a decent reminded that someone on Tumblr has probably already made that moodboard for you).
- The Creepy Things: Literally this - a bunch of creepy things; myths, legends, images, copypastas...good, weird and unsettling.
- Factbot Jr: Son or daughter of Factbot, this does the same sort of thing - to whit, creating completely made up ‘facts’ based on stuff scraped from around the web - but instead uses Tumblr as its source, meaning there are lots more fake facts about actors and the like. Good, odd, silly stuff, as it should be.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Twitter Needs Values: I’m sure you’re bored of reading the endless flipflopping and failed self-justification from Twitter around their faillure to take a stance on the Alex Jones / Infowars thing - briefly, though, it’s astonishing how bad Jack Dorsey seemingly is at working through a logical argument in his head before spaffing it out onto Twitter in a half-baked state; I mean, it doesn’t take a huge intellect to see that the line about it being journalists’ responsibility to act as arbiters of truth on the platform was unlikely to go down well with, er, the largest group of influential Twitter users (aka journalists) - but this piece in the NYT is a good overview of why this is a question not of rules but of what the platform wants to / ought to be (and should you want another perspective, this is Vox’s take). Oh, and if you disagree with me on this - if you think that freedom of speech trumps everything, always, and that noone should ever stop anyone saying anything they want regardless of its truth value or its intent - then a) you’re wrong; and b) you fundamentally misunderstand how freedom of speech works. NOONE IS STOPPING JONES FROM SAYING THIS STUFF; they’re simply saying they don’t want him saying it, or at least not in that way, on their platform. WHICH THEY ARE ENTITLED TO DO. Noone is seeking to imprison him, noone is seeking to censor him entirely; they are merely saying that if he wants to tell lies that directly and personally harm people then he can do it on his own website rather than theirs. DO YOU SEE? FFS everyone.
- The California Review of Zuck (pt.2):I featured the first volume earlier this year, and now it’s BACK with volume 2, featuring a series of essays on the Zuckerbergian aesthetic and what it all MEANS. Essays in this volume include “Visible Invisible Man”, on Zuck’s visual ‘boringness’ as a deliberate strategy, and basically take a very academic/artwank position from which to analyse the Big Blue Misery Factory and its blank-eyed foreman. This is ace imho, although you will need a reasonable tolerance for journal-style prose.
- How To Balance Your Media Plans: Large-haired itinerant strategist Faris Yakob has published the final part of his series of essays on the ‘Media Pyramid’ - that is, his interpretation of the differing value of media types in modernity, and how they ought to be considered by strategists and planners working on brand/communications-type stuff. This closing piece seeks to offer some sort of guidance as to how media planning ought to work based on the thinking he’s done up to this point, and it’s a thoughtful and well-considered attempt to do the almost-impossible - to whit, to offer some sort of unified theory of media which fits all. It’s a really interesting read, and a fitting end to what’s been a good series of essays overall - if you missed the preceding ones, they’re linked from this and it’s perhaps worth you going back and reading them first.
- Facebook Lenses: Sorry, there’s an unusual volume of ‘professional’ reading in here this week; promise this is the last one. This is Ben Thompson of Stratechery fame (I realised this week when on a podcast that I had literally NO IDEA how to pronounce that and so had to avoid saying it entirely - HOW is that pronounced? anyone?) writing about the recent Facebook results, the share price tanking and WHAT IT ALL MEANS. I won’t spoil it for you - it’s worth reading in its entirety, promise - but the upshot is that Thompson is (to my mind rightly) much more bullish about Facebook’s prospects than the markets immediately were following the results announcement. Smart thinking.
- American Beauties: The history of the plastic bag in the US, which obviously sounds like an absolutely deadly read but which I promise you is actually really interesting, not least for the snapshots it presents of the 50s/60s way of thinking whereby the ability to classify plastic as a disposable material was one of the greatest signifiers of prosperity and progress that people could envisage; you do rather wonder which of our current status-indicating obsessions we’ll look back at with most horror in 50-70 years time (it’s going to be phones, surely).
- Protesting Robots: This is, be warned, an academic paper, but it’s worth skimmiing through - it’s a writeup of an experiment in which test subjects were presented with a variety of ‘robots’ and told to switch them off; some of the robots were programmed to exhibit signs of distress at the prospect of being shut down, and to actively ask the people involved in the study not to do it, saying they felt ‘scared’ or were worried about the outcomes; the study, unsurprisingly, showed that this behaviour significantly altered the test subjects’ willingness to switch the machines off. Is this scary? It’s scary.
- Robot Hands: Sticking with robots, this piece is a wonderful photo/video essay in the NYT looking at how the design of hands for robots has improved over the past few years, and how new research and development programmes are moving towards prototypes which can move their digits in a manner nearly analogue to humans. The detail in the piece about the insane complexity of calculations required to manoeuvre five digits independently, with varying pressure, is quite astonishing.
- Nico: Beyond The Icon: Great but very sad profile of Nico, the singer who found fame with the Velvet Underground but who was a model and artist in her own right - and, latterly, a massively sad and self-destructive junkie who killed herself with skag. The stuff here about her early years and the way in which she seemingly internalised the misogyny she faced throughout her career is honestly heartbreaking - and yet another example of Lou Reed being, quite clearly, an absolute fcuker.
- The Year of Outrage: Not, you may be surprised to learn, an essay about 2018 - instead, this is a look back to 2014 and Slate Magazine’s end-of-year roundup looking at all the things that people got angry about online throughout it. Fascinating, not least to remember all the memes and EVENTS and rage from four years hence (man but those four years feel like decades), and not a little bleak - there was a clear sense from some of the pieces in this collection that the authors felt that maybe we’d learn from all the outrage and maybe, well, dial it back a bit. We...we didn’t do that, did we?
- Meet The Podcast Bros: An interesting profile of some of the men doing the biggest podcasts in the US at the moment, and the themes that they have in common - to whit, a sort of weird mixture of cod-spirituality, cod-philosophy (stoicism as a mantra to get hench? I mean, ok, fine, if that’s what you think it means mate) and genuinely quite sweet and supportive self-care advice. There’s a definite parallel track here to the rise of JBP amongst young men feeling they need some sort of guidance, and evidence of that broader crisis of masculinity as a growing and concerning issue, but the piece doesn’t quite go deep enough imho; still, an interesting primer nonetheless.
- Is Bohemian Rhapsody About Coming Out?: That’s the thesis put forward by Guy Branum and, frankly, by the end I was pretty much convinced. Regardless, this is a really good piece of writing and analysis that veers between personal essay and cultural commentary with surprising ease; I really enjoyed this one, and it made me want to listen to BH again which is a phrase I really thought I would never type.
- The Stones at Altamont: This is VERY LONG and pretty depressingly bleak - at the same time, it’s a wonderfully evocative account of the Stones’ tragic concert at Altamont, where Sonny Barger’s Hell’s Angels didn’t so much provide security as, seemingly, go on a bit of a murder spree. There’s a very pervasive sense of creeping horror about the piece - partly perhaps because of the mythology of the event, but also because of the fact that it was so utterly horrific, this sort of perversion of the 60s ethos which sounded the death knell for the hippy movement. It’s also interesting reading about it in terms of how it in many respects coloured much of the pop culture thinking of the 70s; there’s a great/terrible series of pulp novels about the Hells Angels called (amazingly) ‘Angels from Hell’, set in a near-future Britain imagined in the early 70s which channels the vibe of this article perfectly, and which are worth a read if you’re interested in the very particular sense of miserable doom which the 70s seemed to specialise in.
- The Cornishness of Richard James: Given he’s just released new material (see below), it seems fitting to include this piece from a few years back on how Cornwall, and being Cornish, has influenced the Aphex Twin canon. Really good writing on the link between music and place; if you’re interested, this map of Aphex Twin songs tagged to the locations which they’re named after might be a nice companion piece (thanks to Scott for the tip).
- Minecraft and Me: The best and most involved and certainly the most serious examination I’ve ever read of Minecraft and the sense of place and space it can create, and how that contrasts with the sense of place and space in the ‘real’ world. It’s a touch architecturewonky, fine, but it’s far more interesting than I’d expected.
- Kathleen Turner In Conversation: You may have seen some of the quotes from this doing the rounds - the one about the Trumpian handshake in particular - but it’s definitely worth reading the whole thing; Turner gives FANTASTIC interview, and is revealing without being bitchy, candid without feeling gratuitous. You would not, it’s fair to say, mess with Ms Turner.
- Magic Leap Is Here!: I take it all back - the long-promised, much-hyped ‘future of AR’ kit isn’t vaporware after all! It’s also, based on all the writeups I’ve read from the media that tried it out at launch, not anything like it was promised to be (whodathunkit). It sounds, let’s be clear, very impressive still - it’s just that it doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the demo videos and breathless writeups made it appear. AR, it seems, is still waiting for its breakout moment.
- Cloning Dogs: A truly fascinating look at the business of pet cloning for the super rich, as popularised by Barbra Streisand a year or so back. There’s a lot of WOW in here, and not a little UGH - is it ok, morally, to breed dogs specifically so that they can be surrogate mothers to multiple litters of clones? What happens to the clones that don’t make it? Based on the cost of this, is loneliness soon going to be another one of those things that the rich can buy themselves out of? Don’t ask me, I have NO idea.
- Fowl Nappies: The article about nappies for chickens I mentioned up there, this is BAFFLING; a profile of the people now making a reasonable living from crafting nappies (and onesies, and dungarees FFS) for people’s urban chickens, designed in the main to catch their copious and malodorous feces, but also to make them look cute AF on the ‘gram. Chicken as hipster fashion accessory - thanks, 2018, you do just keep on giving, don’t you?
- Postcards From The Edge: This is a BRILLIANT piece of writing, about tourism at the Berkely Pit, one of the most polluted sites in America which is also one of the largest tourist attractions in the state of Montana. The juxtaposition of environmental fact with social commentary here is just perfect, as is the photography that runs alongside it, and the way it links the toxicity of the geography to the development of the town is masterful. Really, really good writing.
- Sugartime: Ruby Tandoh, who you may recall from Bake Off a few years back, is, it transpires, a brilliant writer, This is her writing for Eater about the history of sugar, how it forms part of gendered discourse, about its place in our language and society, and how it’s, as with almost everything else, a feminist issue. This is really, really good, and aside from anything else incredibly learned - it’s a pleasure to read something so dense but which wears its knowledge so lightly.
- My D&D Childhood: Not mine, you understand, but the piece’s author - this wonderful essay describes his emotions on revisiting the elaborate fantasy worlds he crafted as a lonely young man, and what those tell him about what he was and why he became. Fine, that sounds HORRIBLY poncey when I write it down, but, honestly, the way he writes about the experience of seeing you when you were young and unfettered and writing with no thought of future just kills me. I have a box at home, full of old schoolbooks and report cards and letters and postcards from when I was a kid, stuff I know that I can’t ever look at as it will just absolutely ruin me for some of the same reasons here described; you will all sort of know what this is talking about, I promise you.
- Why Aren’t You Laughing?: Last this week, David Sedaris on his mother’s alcoholism and his family’s coping strategies, and his own relationship with booze and humour and much else besides. Sedaris is always worth reading, but this is particularly great and will, perhaps, leave you wanting to go and have a bit of a quiet think about stuff.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) First up, the professional showreel of Nick Denboer, an animator who made the Deadmau5 video I featured a few weeks back. This stuff is MENTAL and so, so good - I would commission this man for everything were, er, I the sort of person with the power to commission anything at all:
5) HIPHOP CORNER! New Tyler - the track’s old, but the video’s new, and at the moment I will feature pretty much anything this man does as I think his aesthetic is honestly superb. This is ‘See You Again’:
6) Last up this week, this is the new one from RAY BLK and this absolutely floored me - the song, the video, the whole thing. Superb example of narrative songwriting, killer hook and a genuinely affecting video - can’t recommend this enough, please do watch. AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES OUT THERE, OK? I WORRY SOMETIMES AND I WOULD LIKE YOU ALL TO BE SAFE AND HAPPY IF AT ALL POSSIBLE SO, YOU KNOW, MAKE SURE YOU LOOK AFTER YOURSELVES AND HAVE FUN IN WHICHEVER WAY YOU MOST PREFER AND KNOW THAT I LOVE AND EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU IN A SPECIFIC BUT LOW-KEY AND DEFINITELY NOT CREEPY WAY AND I AM VERY GRATEFUL TO YOU ALL FOR READING THIS FAR OR INDEED AT ALL TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU SEE YOU SOON BYE BYE HAVE FUN BYE!:
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