46 minutes reading time (9278 words)

Web Curios 11/01/19

Web Curios 11/01/19 Rich Leigh

AND SO IT COMMENCES ANEW! The days and the nights and the work and the fear and the grind and the...

NO! No more! ENOUGH! You don't need this! It's hard enough for you, isn't it, with the glow of the holidays naught but a distant memory and the unwelcome return to wageslavery, without me wanging on about how dreadful everything is. 

Consider this, then, a gentle reintroduction to the world of the web as seen through my jaded, myopic, tear-clogged eyes; I promise I'll go easy on you as, well, this is all probably going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. Prepare to take me inside you once again for the first time in 2019 - here's hoping you've not become allergic or anything. I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and, honestly, it's nice to have you back.

[SMALL BIT OF OFFICIAL BUSINESS: The nice people (well, person) who publishes Imperica has a Patreon. If you think that websites that feature stuff like Web Curios are A Good Thing, if you want to read more stuff about digital and tech and culture and things, and perhaps fancy an actual printed magazine of that sort of stuff, you could possibly consider bunging them a quid or two. THANKS EVERYONE]

alejandro catagena

By Alejandro Cartagena

LET’S KICK THIS YEAR OFF WITH A SPOTIFY PLAYLIST COMPILED FROM ALL MY PICKS FROM THE NOW-DEFUNCT WEBSITE ‘THIS IS MY JAM’ WHICH I WAS REMINDED OF THIS WEEK - HONESTLY, THERE IS SOME GREAT STUFF HERE EVEN IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF!

THE SECTION WHICH HAS COBBLED TOGETHER THE SECTION OF ‘NEWS’ FROM A WHOLE BUNCH OF STUFF FROM THE PAST MONTH, MUCH OF WHICH YOU MIGHT HAVE SEEN BEFORE AND WHICH, AS A RESULT, IS EVEN MORE PHONED IN THAN USUAL:

  • Facebook Launches Additional CTA Functionality For Stories: Well that’s an underwhelming bulletpoint to open 2019 with. Still, the only way is up. This is the ‘news’ (don’t worry, I’ll settle down soon and stop with the tedious truculence) that Stories posted by Pages on Facebook will now allow for the inclusion of a load of additional ‘Call to Action’-type features, such as ‘Shop Now’ or ‘Book Now’ stickers. Which, obviously, makes them more useful from the point of view of tatflogging. Happy? No.
  • Facebook Canvas Renamed to ‘Instant Experiences’: Even less interesting than the last point, but a useful reminder that a) Canvas exists; and b) that you can do loads of stuff with it as a format, if you have the high-quality assets at your disposal. Anyway, the revamped guide to Cana- sorry, ‘Instant Experiences’ is now quite useful in terms of explaining how they work and what you can do with them; this is, as I’m sure you’ll recall, ONLY available as a paid-for type of content, but it’s definitely worth a look as a refresher.
  • New Features for Messenger: These are pretty dull tbh - native Boomerangs, background blurring and, more interestingly, AR stickers - but I felt it was something that you needed to know about. Was I right?
  • Insta Now Lets You Post To Multiple Accounts Simultaneously: Instagram is “adding the ability to publish feed posts to different accounts you control at the same time by toggling them on within the composer screen”. Which, let me remind you, is exactly the functionality that Twitter disabled last year in an attempt to clamp down on content being spammed onto the platform by bot farms - now, given Instagram’s well-publicised travails with ‘authenticity’ in the past year, given the revelations about Russian propaganda getting more traction on Insta than Facebook, and given the increasing move towards Insta as the platform for shilling to impressionable idiots, does this look like a good or sensible move? Reader, I would posit that it does not. Anyway, I honestly can’t see the benefit of this to anyone other than peddlers of virality like The Social Chain, with their sockpuppet accounts and Tweetdecking practices and all the rest. Someone explain to me why I’m wrong.
  • You Can Now Do Stories on WeChat Too: Here’s a guide to how the format works there - insert your own comment about the importance of thinking about Stories as a content format, as I am bored of doing so.
  • Snapchat Launches Lens Challenges: In an attempt to stop children migrating to TikTok, Snap’s launched Lens Challenges - this was from before Christmas, but is worth being aware of as I’m pretty sure that they would bend over backwards to make these for the right brand (with deep enough pockets), and as such this could be worth thinking of (if you think that there’s anyone still using Snapchat). To quote: “Lens Challenges are exactly what they sound like: themed challenges that incorporate a special Snapchat Lens, which can then be featured for the app’s community. The first challenge [was] tied into the holiday season. Snapchat users could select a specific Lens that allowed them to sing a version of “Jingle Bells” performed by Gwen Stefani.” God, it sounds GREAT, doesn’t it?
  • Snap’s Trends Document: To qualify my slightly snarky comment about Snapchat just now, let me just show you this - their ‘trends report’ based on what users of the platform are going to be most into in 2019. What do they reckon THE KIDS will be clamouring for? What bandwagons ought brands jump on to secure the attention of the YOUTH? Why, Mincraft! And Fortnite! And, er, Airpods! And memes! Look, lads, if this sort of fatuous non-insight is the sum total of everything you have learned about the kids using your platform then, well, you’ve just demonstrated that your value to advertisers is round about 0! This has me feeling somewhat bearish about Snap’s 2019’s prospects, if I’m honest.
  • Building A Handy Data Pipeline With (mostly) Free Tools: If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to become better at knowing how stuff works, and making more digital things yourself rather than just passively consuming other people’s work like some sort of lazy, fat, parasitic slob then, well, you’re a better person than I am. You might also find this post by Mat Morrison useful / interesting - Mat is good at wrangling data, and this is a really useful beginner’s guide to setting up some simple-but-useful datascraping and cleaning mechanisms. Which obviously sounds criminally dull, but hang in there - the frivolous stuff is just round the corner, honest.
  • Tools: I’ve got a strange feeling this was also via Mat - anyway, you might want to bookmark this selection of social media data tools as they are potentially VERY USEFUL; there’s stuff here to track meme growth, the spread of hoax news...much of it, fine, can be done with paid-for stuff, but there are elements here which I’ve not seen elsewhere.
  • Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2019: The latest edition of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s annual report into THE STATE OF THE MEDIA AND TECH is, as ever, worth a read - if you’re too lazy to read all of it (or, er, if you’re a busy person with multiple competing commitments and finite time, either or) then it’s worth just checking out the first section around predictions and trends. Note that even these people say that Stories are everywhere and will become increasingly ubiquitous - SEE, THEY AGREE WITH ME! Why won’t anyone pay me for my ‘insights’? What’s that? Because I give them all away for free in this stupid blognewsletterthing? Oh.

audun grimstad

By Audun Grimstad

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TIME-TRAVELLING A DECADE OR SO INTO THE PAST AND ENJOYING AN HOUR-LONG MASHUP OF THE GREATEST HITS OF 2008? GREAT!

THE SECTION WHICH IS GOING TO MAKE A CONCERTED EFFORT TO KEEP A TIGHTER REIN ON THE LINK CURATION IN CURIOS THIS YEAR, OR AT LEAST IT WAS BEFORE IT STARTED COMPILING THIS WEEK’S LIST BUT WHICH AT THE TIME OF WRITING NOW REALISES THAT IT IS LOOKING AT AROUND 100 OF THE BASTARD THINGS AND OH GOD I HAVE A PROBLEM, PT.1:

  • 2018 In Pictures: I know that we’ve moved on and that 2018 is all played out and that now shiny, exciting 2019 is the new hotness, but let’s be clear - the demarcation between years is an entirely arbitrary one, and 2019 is, so far, exactly the same as 2018 (but perhaps already marginally more frantic). It’s therefore an excellent time to peruse this selection of images, posted without comment on Medium by Joel Veix and titled, simply, ‘Some Images I Saved On My Laptop in 2018’. They’re not all images from 2018, but as a snapshot of what being alive and extremely online feels like then, well, it’s hard to top. TAG YOURSELF, as the kids used to say.
  • Meditation Games: By way of absolute contrast to the above link, Meditation Games is a new project for 2019 by a collective of over 350 artists and game makers; the idea is that each day in 2019, the project will post a new ‘game’ to play, each designed as a small, meditative exercise - the blurb reads as follows: “What if every day, there was a small message from the past with a small game or toy to play with? Meditations is a launcher that, every day, loads a small game and an accompanying text as a meditation, distraction, lesson, or inspiration for that day.” It’s a lovely idea - it requires a download, but then it just gently reminds you each day to take a minute or two to experience the latest meditation and it’s very unintrusive - each day’s experience takes a couple of minutes at most. It may not surprise you to know that I have little or no interest in practices of meditative self-improvement (YOU CAN’T FIX ME), but even through my cataracts of cynicism this is clearly a rather lovely endeavour. The games are only ‘games’ in the most abstract of senses, but the ones I’ve tried have been thought-provoking and well-constructed; this is worth doing, I think.
  • Year of Colour: Hobby project by Stef Lewandoski which takes your Insta feed and derives from it the most-featured colour from the past month or year (or any date range you choose). It’s very neatly done - the only downside is that you can only use it with Insta accounts you own, meaning I’m unable to go through the cast of current reality TV to ascribe each of them their own shade of teak based on their selfie compulsion. If you think you use Insta too much, that maybe it’s taking over your life and making you a narcissistic obsessive shell of a human, then plug your account into this - if the dominant colour is a skintone then, well, maybe stop taking so many fcuking self portraits. Or don’t! Live your best life! Let’s see how long I can keep up this non-judgmental facade.
  • Play 2019: This is by Mazarine, which is apparently ‘a creative platform for luxury, the arts and culture’ (no, me neither) - as a promo, they’ve built this selection of small, simple, nicely-designed games to play with to usher in the new year. What any of this has to do with 2019 is beyond me, but the webwork is neat and the games will distract you from that presentation for approximately three minutes or so.
  • Babeyes: Well, this is the first ‘Christ, really?’ thing of the year, and we’re only a few links in. Do you somehow worry that your newborn child isn’t really, well, pulling its weight when it comes to content creation? Do you feel that you’re not managing to fully and authentically capture the joy and genuine wonder of the experience of young life for your followers and fans? WORRY NO MORE! Babeyes is basically a bodycam for your infant child - now they can start their own YouTube channel! It’s technically nothing more than a clip-on camera, recording 20s of video at a time which gets Bluetoothed to a paired device for editing, saving and (inevitably) uploading. “Babeyes records, analyzes, classifies and saves forever the first moments of a baby's life (from the baby's point of view). How did my mother look at me? What was the emotion of my father when he saw me for the first time? With what tenderness did my grandparents welcome me? Thanks to Babeyes, all these moments, filled with love, will be watched later by the grown child, as if he remembered the scene.” Take a moment to digest all that, and then think of the inevitable therapy bills that would result from the child watching the footage back in adolescence. This is basically a lowtech version of one of last season’s episodes of Black Mirror, which is a sentence I confidently predict I’ll be writing again before the year’s out. Anyway, watch as some dreadful person turns first-person videos of their toddler’s development into a $1m+ YouTube brand within the next 12 months.
  • David Bowie Is: The David Bowie app, released on the anniversary of his death last week, is an interesting artefact. It’s a digital companion to the V&A’s exhibition on his life, work and art, and it’s undeniably technically fantastic - the AR works well, in the main, and there is SO MUCH stuff in here; I’m by no means a Bowie obsessive and to be honest found it a touch overwhelming, but more committed fans and enthusiasts will find an awful lot of brilliant stuff in here. The nagging issue I have with it, though, is one that’s common to all of this stuff - the simple truth is that this is yet another example of AR not really being necessary, or indeed really making anything better. Still, if you want to be able to see  bunch of Bowie memorabilia floating on your desk whilst Gary Oldman talks at you, this is nigh-on perfect.
  • Mystery Brand: Hot on the heels of Babeyes comes the second of this year’s ‘FFS modernity’ moments - Mystery Brand is, basically, lootboxes IRL. Lootboxes (for those unfamiliar) is the term given to the videogame grift whereby users are invited to spend real money for virtual rewards in a ‘box’ - the grift here being that the contents of the box is random and as such you’re basically playing a fruit machine, which as any amateur behavioural psychologist can tell you is exactly the sort of Skinner Box mechanic which gets people addicted. Anyway, Mystery Box is exactly that, made physical - you pay them money and they will ‘open’ a ‘box’ and you will win...something, guaranteed! The boxes are themed - some will offer the promise of techy rewards, others Supreme gear, others makeup - but the constant in all of this is the promise that you might win something AMAZING for 0 outlay. Add the fact that this is being shilled by charmingly toxic YouTubers like Jake Paul and you have a Daily Mail moral panic waiting to happen - it’s worth having a dig through the site, as whilst it’s obviously evil it’s also brilliantly so, with options to customise your own boxes (setting your own desired rewards), share your boxes with others (so you get a tiny cut every time someone buys one of your ‘creations’), and sell back unwanted rewards to the site for a fraction of your outlay (see? You’re making your money back!). Honestly, this is EVIL.
  • UBeBot: This looks interesting, but the app was so shonky when I downloaded it that I couldn’t get it to work at all - you might be luckier, though. Anyway, the idea is really interesting and the sort of thing which SOMEONE this year will doubtless nail - the app creates a 3d animated avatar of YOU, based on photos of your face, which you can clothe and animate however you desire, and which you can then use in your Stories and elsewhere. It looks shonky, a bit like the Sims from two generations back, and it’s obviously pretty janky all round, but the principle is interesting and I can totally see the appeal. Beautifully - and, obviously, appallingly - the app also advertises that you can make and animate avatars of other people too, just upload some photos! So, er, be aware that we are now at a point when anyone can create a little digital puppet with your face and make it do whatever they want - don’t imagine for a second that we’re any further than about 18 months away from some sort of really unpleasant miniature digital bongo puppetry (a sentence I was hoping not to have to write this year, but, well, here we are).
  • Penistrator: Draw anything on this site - literally anything - and it will magically be transformed by the power of software into a simple, two-dimensional cock. WHY NOT, EH?
  • Special Relationships: The Pudding finished 2018 with another wonderful piece of dataviz - this is their analysis of the world as seen from the US, taking foreign countries mentioned on the front page of the New York Times and seeing which garnered the most namechecks each months since 1900. The site lets you see the context of the mentions, but the main pleasure comes in seeing how the focus of American interest (at least, as defined by the NYT) shifted from being almost entirely UK-centric at the turn of the 20th Century to being dominated by the Far and Middle East in the past decade or so. This is a wonderful example of visual communications, as it seemingly always is with these people. Oh, on a semi-related tip, this visualisation of shifting power across recorded human history is old but equally wonderful.
  • Hexbot: WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE! Witness this, a just-funded Kickstarter which looks like it’ll break the £1m mark before it expires in two months and which promises to deliver AN ACTUAL ROBOT ARM to your home for the piddling sum of about £270. Which, honestly, is amazing - obviously all sorts of caveats apply, per all Kickstarter projects, but the theoretical power of this thing is mind-boggling. Obviously the promised 3d printing, self-sufficient maker future never really came to pass, but if you’re looking at improving your home workshop in advance of us going full Mad Max then this might be worth your time.
  • Rainbrow: You remember how Snap launched games last year, with a range of slightly crap distractions where you could do things like, I don’t know, play keepy-uppy by wiggling your eyebrows or somesuch? Well this is that, but for iPhone. Certainly not any good, but worth knowing that you can do this stuff off-Snap.
  • Black Women Too: “Lifetime’s ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ shows what happens when being Black and a woman and working class render our truths inconsequential. This interactive site—created by and for Black women and allies—visualizes the systems that put our minds and bodies at risk.” This is a US site and as such the issues it addresses - cutting across politics, the media, the law, girlhood, the justice system and the rest - are presented through the prism of modern America, but as a systematic deconstruction of structural racism within society it’s pretty universal. Worth reading, particularly as a demonstration of exactly how widely and deeply racism impacts the lives of those it affects, in ways those fortunate enough not to experience often can’t even imagine.
  • Lovot: Love isn’t dead, it’s just been outsourced! Say hello to ‘Lovot’, the latest in the long line of ‘technological innovations that make me want to cry just thinking about them’ - Lovot is a small, wheeled, soft, huggable robot companion, designed to be loved. Read that back to yourself again, go on. Designed to be loved. If that doesn’t make you have a weird sort of rushing reverse-zoom moment about how incredibly, spectacularly lonely the future looks for many billions of people then, well, I envy you because that’s exactly what I got from this. Here’s their schtick: “Our goal is simple: create a robot that makes you happy. When you touch your LOVOT, embrace it, even just watch it, you'll find yourself relaxing, feeling better. It's a little like feeling love toward another person. That's because we have used technology not to improve convenience or efficiency, but to enhance levels of comfort and feelings of love. LOVOT will react to your moods, and do all it can to fill you with joy and re-energize you. It may not be living a creature, but LOVOT will warm your heart. LOVOT was born for just one reason – to be loved by you.” Now obviously this isn’t a bad thing per se - the design is rather nice, the principle is sort-of laudable, and you can imagine people for whom this sort of thing is useful and genuinely helpful. There are a few things, though, that give me pause - the range of clothing and accessories they suggest they’ll offer, and the ‘dress up’ mode that you can put the robot into, made me think a little of Michael Ende’s ‘Momo’, in which children are enslaved into consumerism by talking dolls who substitute the acquisition of accessories for imaginative play. LOVE THE ROBOT! BUY MORE THINGS FOR THE ROBOT! FEEL HAPPIER! Erm, look lads, I’d sort of made a mental promise to myself that I was going to try and be more upbeat this year but, well, it doesn’t seem to be going so well as of 8:49am; I’ll give it another go.
  • Remove: This is simple but HUGELY useful - a web-based tool that will remove the background from any image you give it. This works really, really well and is practically indistinguishable from magic (or, er, decent photoshop).
  • Generation 1 Pokemon Cry Generator: Would you like a website that lets you generate the horrible sounds made by the original Pokemon on the first Gameboy? Are you sure? They sound fcuking horrible on a PC speaker in 2019, but ok!
  • The Magic Sketchpad: This is basically exactly the same thing as that ‘this webpage turns whatever you draw into a crudely-drawn cock’ site up there, except it’s the more serious and grown-up version - tell it whether you want it to create cats or tigers or ladders or whatever, start drawing, and it will try and complete your drawing in such a way that it looks like whatever you tell it to draw. If that makes sense. Look, just click it, it’s a lot simpler than that ham-fisted description might suggest.
  • Japanese Adult Video Titles: A Twitter account which simply shares the titles of Japanese bongo films. Not really NSFW, although the account’s header image may give the more prudish amongst your employers pause (I’m not saying it’s an image of anilingus, but I’m equally not not saying it’s an image of anilingus). Still, if you occasionally want the joy of titles like “Getting Punished By My Voluptuous Mom Made Me Hard - Right In Front Of My Dad!” popping up on your timeline (and WHO DOESN’T?) then follow away.
  • DOOMBA: Niche, this, but sort of brilliantly clever/geeky - DOOMBA is a hack that lets you take spatial data from your Roomba robot vacuum cleaner and export it as a .wad file (that’s the in-game maps, for those of you whose early teenage years weren’t spent shooting demons in a virtual hellscape), meaning you can turn your house into an in-game map. Sort of totally pointless, and all the better for it.
  • Interesting Esoterica: An almost-perfect Curios website, this one - Interesting Esoterica is a wonderful personal collection of odd and interesting academic papers, found and compiled by the fabulously-named Christian Lawson-Perfect (really, what a name). If you want to lose yourself in such mongraphs as ‘Factoring the Chicken Nugget monoid’ (no, really) then this will be right up your street (this is, quite often, hard maths and science, so your mileage might vary depending on your facility with, and ability to laugh at jokes about, Euclidian geometry).
  • Music For Nothing: Musician and composer Joel Corelitz has made a whole load of his music available for free, for commercial use - if you’re after some backing tracks or ambient music this is a LOT better than the majority of stuff you’d find in music libraries.
  • Mapping and Visualisation: Scott Reinhard is a graphic designer based in Brooklyn (of course they are!); this site collects some of his work around maps and cartography, and it is BEAUTIFUL. Honestly, these are glorious and quite unlike most other map-ish stuff I see online, in the main.
  • Our Number One Album: A podcast! Which I will never listen to! Still, the premise of this one sounds rather fun, if you’re into music or comedy or both (is there anyone who dislikes both music and comedy? WHO ARE YOU, JOYLESS HUSKS?) - “What do “Losing my Religion” by R.E.M., “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, and “Chandelier” by Sia have in common? They were all written in under an hour, and so were tons of other classic songs. Have you ever wondered what would it be like to be a fly on the wall during one of these songwriting sprints? Well, what if the songwriters weren’t quite as talented, but they were really funny? Our Debut Album is the podcast where two comedians have one hour to write a hit song. Once a month, Dave Shumka and Graham Clark of Stop Podcasting Yourself get together and write a song they hope will be a hit. After 12 months, they’ll have a debut album.” This is an excellent idea.
  • Compass: Are you one of those people who buys their Christmas presents in the January sales (these people do exist, trust me)? Or do you just LOVE online shopping and BARGAINS? Either way, this Chrome extension might be of interest - the idea is that it provides you with realtime price comparisons as you browse - it’ll detect product names and prices and run searches in the background to pull price comparison data from other vendors as you shop, offering you click-to-buy links to cheaper options. Super smart idea, though I’ve not had a chance to test how it works in practice.
  • Basepaws: Do you have a SPECIAL LITTLE GUY in your life? Would you like to get to know them better? Are you a mad enough cat person to spend $100 on giving your pet a DNA test to ‘get to know it better’? Well LUCKY YOU! Basepaws is a service which lets you submit a sample or swab from your feline companion, analyses their DNA and sends you a report about, er, I don’t know, whether they have any Siamese in them or something. There’s a lot of guff in here about disease prediction and the like, but very little about exactly how or why knowing any of this stuff will make your, or your pet’s, life better. Still, if you’d like a whole host of new reasons to worry for the long-term health of your furbaby (I know, it’s awful isn’t it?) then perhaps this is for you.

oleg vdovenko

By Oleg Vdovenko

IT’S 2019 AND INTERNET ODDITY SADEAGLE IS BACK WITH A NEW MIX OF EXCELLENT RARITIES FROM HIS LITERALLY KILOMETRIC RECORD COLLECTION!

THE SECTION WHICH IS GOING TO MAKE A CONCERTED EFFORT TO KEEP A TIGHTER REIN ON THE LINK CURATION IN CURIOS THIS YEAR, OR AT LEAST IT WAS BEFORE IT STARTED COMPILING THIS WEEK’S LIST BUT WHICH AT THE TIME OF WRITING NOW REALISES THAT IT IS LOOKING AT AROUND 100 OF THE BASTARD THINGS AND OH GOD I HAVE A PROBLEM, PT.2:

  • The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival: The annual Festival of Ice and Snow in Harbin, China, has just been on - this is a beautiful gallery of photos of some quite incredible ice palaces and sculptures, though I can’t help but think that the Instagramification of the aesthetic has rather lessened the impact of some of the work here (/pseud).
  • Gamequitters: This is interesting - Gamequitters is a site designed to offer support to people who are addicted to videogames, or to their family members. It asks you to answer some questions about your gaming habits (using fairly standard addiction measurement metrics, as far as I can tell), and then presents a range of literature and resources designed to help people take steps towards getting treatment. I’m pretty sure that anyone aged between 10-16 (certainly any boys) will pretty much tick every addiction box here, but this is an increasingly problematic issue and all resources to address it are probably A Good Thing.
  • Dartboards of Film & TV: A Twitter feed. What do you think it posts photos of? THAT’S RIGHT!
  • Evernote Design: If you’re a designer, bookmark this NOW - a huge, seemingly free, repository of design resources - vectors, graphics, icons, UX guidelines, all sorts of collections of inspirational materials from newsletters to UI...it’s honestly a GOLDMINE if you do this sort of stuff for a living (or even for fun).
  • The Yellowstone Park Sound Library: As America’s National Parks suffer under the Government shutdown - it’s testament to the dark Satanic power of that man that he manages to make the degradation of thousands of square miles of some of the most beautiful natural land on earth a minor side-effect of his sh1tty administration - it’s nice to be reminded of how lovely they are. This is a wonderful collection of sounds recorded in Yellowstone Park - if you want to hear the frankly terrifying huffing of a Grizzly Bear, say, or the screech of a Bald Eagle, or just some soothing waterfalls, then here you go fill your boots.
  • Jeffsum: Lorem Ipsum, but all about Jeff Goldblum, in case you didn’t think we’d taken his online fetishisation quite far enough yet.
  • 40 Favourite History Objects: A TOP QUALITY Twitter thread compiled by Dr Lindsay Fitzharris, all about her favourite 40 historical objects. Come for the weirdly macabre exploded skulls, stay for the utterly terrifying ‘dental phantom’. There is so much interesting in here, and the thread branches into some very cool tangents at points; this is a goldmine for anyone vaguely interested in odd ephemera (which, I would hope, is most of you, otherwise what the shuddering fcuk are you doing here?).
  • Stoop: Do you find newsletters an annoyance, clogging up your inbox and presenting you with a threatening and seemingly-insurmountable volume of links and words and STUFF to get through each week? I mean the other newsletters, obviously, not the perfectly-sized and easily-digestible Web Curios, no siree. Anyway, if you do then you might like Stoop, which basically pulls your newsletter subscriptions into an app for ease of reading. The only caveat is that the newsletter needs to be added to the app, which limits the range you can experience - still, if it grows this might develop into something quite useful.
  • Etienne Jacob: Mesmerising, black-and-white gif work. Geometric, abstract, particulate...all sorts of types of animation here, but the constant is the quality - these are sort-of perfect.
  • Very Sharp Knives: As we prepare for the Mad Max-esque reality of the post-March 29th future, stuff like this is worth knowing. This YouTube channel presents an incredible range of videos on one, single, solitary subject - how to make the sharpest knife possible from unusual materials such as resin, cardboard, glass and, er, milk. You may laugh, but when we’re all desperate for the sweet release of death as the food shortages bite and the Traitor Punishment Squads roam the countryside (well, fine, maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic) you’ll be grateful for something that shows you how to turn your cat’s femur into a passable shiv.
  • A Map of US Gun Violence: Mapping recorded instances of gun crime in the US, over the past 5 years - this takes in over 150,000 individual crime reports, and is a fairly sobering reminder of exactly what it looks like when any old nutter can have access to a firearm. Atlanta and Chicago look like particularly fun places to be, based on this evidence.
  • The Terrible Camera Club: This is a lovely idea, and sort of the antithesis of Insta culture. The Terrible Camera club is a Twitter thing, where each week the account will present a crap photography challenge and ask for submissions - the inaugural one was “a picture of the most miserable, LEAST instagram-friendly meal/food possible please! So a dirty fry-up with a fag stubbed out in the egg, a bean on toast, microwave porridge that's exploded, a cold pot noodle in the rain - that kinda thing.” Worth a follow for the inevitably glorious results.  
  • Recipe Filter: A Chrome extension which automatically looks for recipes on a webpage and presents them at the top, so as to save you scrolling through 700 words of appallingly-written food blogger self-aggrandisement and faux-influencer rubbish. This is HUGELY useful, I promise you.
  • Record Them: A WONDERFUL idea, this, and a truly great present for a grandparent or ageing relative or, frankly, anyone interesting - this basically lets you buy the Desert Island Discs experience for anyone you like, with the subject of your choice being interviewed by the team and the resulting audio being recut with their favourite songs, archive audio to illustrate whatever they’re talking about, etc. One of my great regrets is that by the time I was old enough to understand that my grandfather had had an incredible and fascinating life, he was in no position to tell me about it; I would have LOVED to have something like this about him (although quite what they would have made of an irascible old fascist incapable of speaking English is another thing entirely).
  • Bandito: The first ‘immersive interactive musical experience’ website of the year is this one, for the song ‘Bandito’ by Twenty One Pilots - you ‘fly’ through a 3d landscape, looking for SECRET GLYPHS and stuff like that; it’s all quite pretty, but, well, a bit pointless - I quite want someone to do something different with the ‘single serving music promo website’ thing this year, although obviously like the pathetically demanding value-sponge I am, I can’t for the life of me think what that might be. The song’s ok, if you want a reason to click.
  • Coding is Fun!: Because it’s the end of the first full week back at work and I know how bad that feels, the end of this section of Curios is going to be filled with FUN, TIMEWASTING GAMES! The first is this simple but VERY CUTE proto-coding toy - it’s a very basic initial primer on how code is effectively a series of stacked commands, in which your job is to get a small, winsome robot to its destination by inputting a series of commands. The levels slowly become more complex but they’re never exactly challenging; for you, this is probably a bit easy (but did I mention how CUTE?), but for your kid/nephew/godchild/whatever it’s probably a really nice 20 minutes.
  • Isotopium: This, though, is AMAZING. Imagine a game in which you could pilot little buggies around a real-life 1:20 scale model of Chernobyl, picking up radioactive materials and discovering EXCITING MUTANT SECRETS - sounds good, doesn’t it, a bit Crystal Maze-ish. That is EXACTLY what this is, and you can do it through your browser and, honestly, it works SO WELL; you might have to queue a bit to get in, and obviously you need reasonable bandwidth for it to work well, but the fact that this works so perfectly is a bit magical to me. Inexplicably, this seems to be a prototype for an actual game that they want people to pay for - no idea how that would work, but this is honestly brilliant and you must try it.
  • Hatetris: Tetris, but where it only ever gives you the worst possible pieces. As you’d expect, this is AWFUL but sort of compelling at the same time.
  • Smooch: This is honestly lovely - a short piece of interactive fiction, exploring kisses. You play as someone who is going to kiss another someone (gender is very fluid throughout here); as you play through, the story can branch in hugely varied ways, with the eventual kisses being happy, sad, short, long, regretful, joyous, creepy, transcendent...there’s a wonderful poetry to this, and I’ve played through it about a dozen times now and will happily do so again. Please give it a go.
  • Paper: An excellent little ‘capture the territory’ Snake-ish game with a rather pleasing paper-type aesthetic. Infuriating and incredibly addictive, you will find yourself rapidly developing some fairly strong feelings of hate and resentment towards the other players which is basically what this is all about, isn’t it?
  • The Treasure: Finally this week, an exquisite ‘escape the room’ game in the style of Myst or similar - this is slow, simple and yet fiendishly hard (to me at least), with crisply beautiful graphics that very much remind me of early-00s game aesthetic. Depending on your patience, you can happily get a good hour out of this I think - go on, finish the first working week of 2019 with a bold challenge to your employers by just playing this brazenly for the rest of the afternoon and challenging them to sack you!

can pekdemir

By Can Pekdemir

LET’S FINISH THE MIXES WITH THIS WRAPUP OF SOME OF 2018’S BEST HIPHOP!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:

  • Marion Tapes: Marion Stokes taped thousands of hours of US television during her lifetime. It started in 1979 with the Iranian Hostage Crisis at the dawn of the twenty-four hour news cycle. It ended on December 14, 2012 while the Sandy Hook massacre played on television as Marion passed away. In between, Marion recorded on 70,000 VHS tapes, capturing revolutions, lies, wars, triumphs, catastrophes, bloopers, talk shows, and commercials that tell us who we were, and show how television shaped the world of today. This Tumblr shares screenshots from a different video each day, presenting a rather wonderful snapshot of the 20th Century as seen through the CRT.
  • The 1959 Project: The history of jazz, one post at a time. Very much one for the jazz enthusiasts, but if you’re into the music then you will learn LOTS here.
  • The Obscuritory: Probably not a Tumblr! Still, this is a blog-ish site dedicated to playing and writing up obscure games from the past, and if you’re a veteran of the 90s/00s gaming scene then you’ll probably find a lot to interest you in here.
  • A Thread of Tumblr Threads: A collection of Twitter threads highlighting some of the best stuff from Tumblr over the past year or so - these cut across the arts, history, cats, memes and much more, and if you want a one-stop-primer as to why Tumblr continues to be one of the most interesting online communities anywhere then this is an excellent place to begin.

The Trough of (Insta) Feeds!:

  • Vincenzo Spina: Infra-red photography, which looks pretty cool almost regardless of what is actually being snapped.
  • Doors of London: Not pictured - the increasing numbers of homeless people seeking refuge in said doorways.
  • Pomme Queen: You want an Insta feed packed with photos of REALLY FANCY APPLES? Yes you do!
  • Naohiro Yako: Excellent photos of Japan, although perhaps a touch heavy on the HDR for my tastes.
  • James Hetfield’s Mustache: One of the blokes out of Metallica, and his mustache. Over and over and over again.
  • Terrible Maps: You probably don’t need me to explain this one.
  • Film Tourism US: Sharing photos of famous film locations from around the States, but in real life. If you ever wanted to see a photo featuring a parking lot from American Graffiti then, well, you’re going to love this.
  • Icarus Mid-air: You think you know origami birds? I promise you, you know NOTHING. These are astonishing and make my head hurt slightly thinking of how they’re made.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • The State of the World 2019: I try and remember to link to this every year - this is Bruce Sterling and friends’ annual discussion about What The Fcuk Is Going On, which they’ve been doing at the start of January for years and which, this year as every year, is one of the best and clearest-headed conversations about What The Fcuk Is Going On you’ll read anywhere. As ever, it’s hugely wide ranging and covers tech and politics and economics and the environment and society and, well, everything, and this year one of the contributors is James Bridle which makes the whole thing exponentially more interesting. There is a LOT of thinking here, and it’s not presented in the most user-friendly way, but it’s absolutely worth your time to read it. The stuff around P3 about ‘The New Dark’ captured my imagination in particular.
  • Millennial Burnout: You’ve all read this one, right? The big ‘Why does everyone between about 20-40 just feel so utterly fcuked by life all the time?’ piece that’s had everyone talking? No? Well go and read it then, I’ll wait. *waits* Done? God, that was overlong, wasn’t it (yes, I know, pottle, etc)? The overall point it makes - that everyone feels burnt out and exhausted and dissatisfied and tired - feels broadly correct, but simultaneously not anything specific to ‘millennials’; I’d argue that this is a post-internet feeling, and that it’s another example of anomie, a "condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals" and which “evolves from conflict of belief systems and causes breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community”, and which is prevalent in societies in which “there is a significant discrepancy between the ideological theories and values commonly professed and what was actually achievable in everyday life.” Sound familiar? You can be anything! You’ve never had it so good! The world has never been a better place for humanity (and to any Pinker acolytes reading this, the fact that you can derive data from human experience does not therefore automatically mean that the reverse is true and that you can define the human experience via data)!  So why aren’t you crushing it? Why haven’t you written that novel? Started that business? Gotten that degree? Found the perfect work/life balance? See what I mean?
  • The Dark Future of Advertising: Jamie Bartlett writes about how advertising is likely to become even more creep, intrusive and personal as we move into the glorious algorithmically-determined future - as he points out, the fact that we’re all already embedded with datagathering systems that we simply don’t understand added to the growth in language processing and associated/semi-related tech makes it very likely that regardless of our attempts to claw back control of our data and keep it out of the hands of advertisers we’re going to be more surveilled and sold to than ever. This theme’s also explored by Charlie Warzel over at Buzzfeed in this piece - still, #deletefacebook!
  • Noone Is At The Controls: On the subject of algos, here’s another cheering look at the fact that we’re increasingly controlled and managed by software that we simply don’t understand, and that we’re at the point whereby it’s perfectly possible that we will never understand it, or indeed that it’s actually impossible for us to understand it. Which is...lovely. I was talking to someone the other day who described San Francisco as “a sad and fairly brutal segregation between people who tell computers what to do (generally all clad in those thin body-warmers) and people desperately chasing round the place bringing the first group take-aways, packages and dry-cleaning, all being told what to do by computers” - now imagine that as the future of the whole Western world, and one in which noone really seems to understand why the computers are telling us to do stuff; HELLO SUNLIT UPLANDS OF TOMORROW!
  • AOC and the New Political Reality: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a bona-fide political phenomenon, a welcome breath of fresh air in US politics and, as this piece astutely points out, a master at social media communication. The article looks at the way in which she communicates using Insta, and the way she’s been able to draw back the curtain around some of the more obscure elements of US politics to explain and expose how it works - it also points out that this is rapidly going to become the new normal, and we should look forward to seeing literally every single politician in the world pursue the holy grail of ‘relatability’ via the medium of Stories. You’ve seen it a bit already in the UK, with the increasing use of Insta by politicians on both sides of the House to attempt to present themselves as anything other than barely-competent dullards; I predict we will soon pine for the good old days of WebCameron (god, that seems positively quaint, doesn’t it?).
  • The Scourge of ‘Relatable’: On which note, a timely piece of invective against the trope of ‘relatability’, that bland, catch-all quality that the article beautifully summarises as “quirky but smart, introverted but friendly, shaded with a charmingly pathetic love of spreadable cheese.” ‘Relatable’ is the tedious ubiquity of the lower-case social media register, the ‘I’m an ordinary person and one of the PEOPLE’ fetishisation of Greggs and Spoons, and the piece closes with this glorious line which sums it all up better than I ever could: “Not only the social value of something but also its economic viability depends on how shareable it is. And if what we share is a reflection of our identity, then the greatest value comes from sharing something that could validate our existence to as many people as possible, to constellate ourselves across the sky so that others may gaze up at the stars and whisper, “It me.””
  • The Oscar Season Screenplays: The annual collection of award-baiting scripts, this years selection includes Colette, Black Panther, Green Room and a bunch more.
  • The Future Book Is Not What We Expected: A really interesting exploration of why the book has remained largely unchanged in the past three decades of technological upheaval - despite the advent of the e-reader, other than digitisation there’s not been any sort of qualitative shift in the way in which books are written or consumed - but the way in which the term ‘book’ now comes to perhaps cover a range of media that wouldn’t previously have been considered, from a range of people who would never previously had access to the means of production.
  • How To Lose Thousands of Dollars on Amazon: Or, “Look, really, there honestly is NO WAY to earn $10,000 a month without actually doing any work, however much that shiny-suited man with the nice hair wants to persuade you otherwise”. Another exploration of the weird ecosystem of ‘how to’ sales, in which people can get rich at a thing solely by selling other people really inadequate guides on how to get rich at the thing. You won’t believe that people can be this stupid, and then all of a sudden you really will believe it after all.
  • On A Black King Kong Heroine: I had no idea that there was a stage adaptation of King Kong currently playing on Broadway, nor indeed that the role of the damsel in distress/heroine is for the first time being played by a black actress; this piece examines why that is slightly weird and problematic, and looks at the broader question as to whether it’s ok to recast every single role in drama or whether there are some that are male, female, cis, het, black or white for specific narrative reasons and therefore that these roles must remain as such if the work isn’t to be robbed of something intrinsic to it. I can’t pretend to have anything resembling an answer by the end of the piece, but it made me think a lot, not least about the massively racist tropes at the heart of Kong.
  • What It’s Like To Deliver Packages for Amazon: Not a journalist slumming it for a piece; instead, this is a journalist who’s employment prospects have become reduced to the point where ‘Amazon Courier’ is now their job. A spare, honest and clear-eyed evocation of what it’s like to be a slave to the little navigational device in your hand, and the particular difficulties that this sort of service work can present, and what it feels like when the job that conferred you social and economic status isn’t your job any more. Superbly written.
  • Kids & Emoji: This piece looks at studies into how children use emoji at different stages in their development, and how this potentially maps onto existing theories of linguistic development. There’s nothing hugely conclusive in here, but I’d honestly never even considered emoji as part of the language-learning process, or as a communications bridge in the pre-linguistic phase. Which is unsurprising given I don’t have kids or work in pediatrics, but still.
  • Birdwatching in Red Dead Redemption 2: I finally finished RDR2 this week, and I’m not ashamed to say I shed a small tear at a couple of points in the endgame. This is a wonderful article that shows quite what a remarkable achievement it is - Audubon, a magazine by the US society of the same name which promotes the appreciation of birds and the science and ecology around them, has written a whole article about how amazing it is to go virtual birdwatching in the game. This is basically the North American equivalent of getting props from the RSPB, and the whole piece is just sort of wonderfully appreciative and yet gently baffled by the whole thing. Glorious.
  • An Oral History of the Hamster Dance: This is long, but WONDERFUL - take yourself back to the early days of the web, and one of the first global memetic sensations, the HAMSTER DANCE (if you don’t know what that is then, well, WHY ARE YOU SO YOUNG DAMN YOU? And, er, it’s all explained in the link). This is fascinating and wonderfully bonkers, and a reminder of those wild west days of the old web in which it was possible to make serious money from literally any old crap (see also, Million Dollar Homepage) - the bit where they start talking about film rights and stuff is just mental.
  • Gorbachev: A truly fascinating profile of Mikhail Gorbachev in the years since the collapse of the USSR in 1991 - this is wonderful, both as a reminder of the immediate aftermath of his resignation and the weirdly chaotic feeling of the time, and of the even weirder Yeltsin years. The stuff about his wife will make you well up if you have any sort of sentimental bone in your body; this is a wonderful portrait of one of the last major figures of the post-Communist era.
  • Sally Rooney Gets In Your Head: A profile of Sally Rooney, author of Conversations with Friends and last year’s LITERARY SMASH HIT (oxymoronic, but) Normal People, in which she discusses her work, the style of her writing, the web, Ireland and more. I found Conversations with Friends spectacularly irritating for the first 50 pages and then spent the rest seething with jealousy at what a spectacular writer Rooney is; Normal People confirms that, and this piece is threaded with exactly the sort of clear observation that characterises her novels.
  • Rockstar Cooks: A piece in praise of the ‘Rockstar’ short-order cooks of US chain Waffle House, specifically one of them, called Charles. This is a great piece of (food) writing, and remarkably clear-eyed about the author’s own privilege and prejudices in regard to his subject. There’s something so wonderful about reading an account of people performing tasks skillfully and with precision, and this has that in spades.
  • Intimacy Coordinators: In the wake of Me Too last year, there was a brief flurry of stories about how theatre companies and film studios were beginning to employ ‘intimacy coordinators’ to assist actors in preparing intimate scenes in a manner which all participants were comfortable with; this article looks at the practical work involved in doing the job, and why it’s necessary, and once you’ve read it you will be amazed and astounded and not a little disgusted that this wasn’t standard practice in the past.
  • Father Time: David Sedaris, being David Sedaris, on his father’s ageing and inevitable eventual senescence and death. As per with Sedaris, this is very, very funny (though it is obviously very much a David Sedaris piece and as such you need to quite like David Sedaris), but it’s also incredibly poignant about dealing with the weakening and vanishing of one’s loved ones.
  • A Woman’s Work: “Carolita Johnson catalogues her efforts to maintain her appearance from about 1970 to 2018.” Brilliant - as an account of inhabiting one’s physicality and watching it change, it’s superb, but it works equally well as a piece of feminist writing about the labour demanded of women by the aesthetic demands of the 20th and 21st Century. Very good indeed.
  • I Was A Cable Guy: Finally this week, a superb first person essay about the author’s experience being a cable repair person in the US and what it taught them about blue collar work and society in modern America. Funny, dry, angry and brilliantly-written, this really is very good indeed.

ole marius

By Ole Marius Joergensen

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!

1) First up, if I see a better piece of stop motion work in 2019 I will be very impressed. This is called ‘In a Nutshell’ and it is MESMERISING:

2) This one’s called ‘I Know’, and it’s by The High Curbs and it reminds me a little bit of early Titus Andronicus or weirdly early Weezer and I love the video and I hope you like it too:

 

3) Lovely, simple, catchy-as-you-like indiepop from The Coathangers next, with ‘Bimbo’:

 

4) This is called ‘Juice’, and it’s by Lizzo, and ordinarily it’s not my sort of thing at all but it’s infectiously happy and upbeat and the sort of thing I reckon might do you all good given it’s January and work has started again and everything appears to be made out of kale:

 

5) Why? have been one of my favourite bands for years - this is a collaboration between none-more-hipster lead singer Yoni Wolf and Lillie West, and it’s called ‘Siren 042’, and it’s distantly beautiful and unexpectedly reminds me rather a lot of the song ‘Boss DJ’ by Sublime, which may not mean anything to you but, well, I don’t care:

 

6) I don’t know what is happening AT ALL in this song by Japanese noise metal outfit Otoboke Beaver, but if someone could maybe explain it to me that would be ace thanks:

 

7) Finally this week, this is an ASTONISHINGLY good song. It’s by Sharon van Etten and it’s called ‘Seventeen’ and I adore it unreservedly and I hope you do too and OH LOOK IT’S THE END OF CURIOS YOU’VE MADE IT SEE THAT WASN’T TOO PAINFUL IT’S SO GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK I HAVE MISSED YOU AND MY LIFE HAS BEEN EMPTY AND DEVOID OF MEANING WITHOUT YOU SO LET US PLEASE NOT SPEND SO LONG APART AGAIN I LOVE YOU HAPPY FRIDAY AND HERE’S TO A LOVELY GENTLE WEEKEND SAFE FROM THE COLD AND THE WIND AND THE BREXIT AND THE POLITICS AND THE PAIN I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU SEE YOU NEXT WEEK BYE!:

 

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