Hi! Hi! How are you? How's it going? What's new?
I'LL TELL YOU WHAT'S NEW IT'S THIS EDITION OF WEB CURIOS! New and FULL OF STUFF! I've neither the time nor inclination to wax lyrical about how banjaxed everything is this week - instead let me inform you that there are some CRACKING links in the following selection, that there's an honest-to-goodness novella for you to look forward to in the longreads (I mean a real one, by an actual proper writer, not my typically-overlong wordvomit), and there's a dance track all about how TERRIBLE social media is right at the end. WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE??
That's right, NOTHING. Love EVERYTHING about Web Curios, you ingrates, especially the fact that I DO IT ALL FOR YOU.
Crikey, bit shouty today, turns out. I'll leave this here, then, for you to hold and stroke and touch and explore and enjoy in whatever manner you see fit (but, please, do wipe it down afterwards for the next reader). I am Matt, today is Friday, this is Web Curios and we all ought to be ashamed of ourselves.
FIRST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MUSICAL OFFERINGS, HAVE THIS EXCELLENT SPOTIFY PLAYLIST OF FEMALE-FRONTED CLASSIC ROCK AND ROLL!
THE SECTION WHICH DOESN’T NECESSARILY THINK THAT OUTSOURCING THE PROBLEM OF ONLINE BULLYING TO RUDIMENTARY AI SYSTEMS IS A PARTICULARLY GOOD THING:
- Instagram ‘Fixes’ Bullying!: It has! No, really, look! Instagram has finally begun to roll out its new, AI-based anti-meanness features, whereby users who write MEAN COMMENTS will be asked at the point of posting if they really want to type those hurtful words or if they wouldn’t prefer to swap them out for those incredibly fcuking irritating praying or praising hands or something equally blandly anodyne - the idea being that this small pause-and-check will cause the negativity and rage to dissipate, and lead to an overall drop in the number of thoughtlessly cruel content on the platform. And there’s more! “Soon, we will begin testing a new way to protect your account from unwanted interactions called Restrict. Once you Restrict someone, comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to that person. You can choose to make a restricted person’s comments visible to others by approving their comments. Restricted people won’t be able to see when you’re active on Instagram or when you’ve read their direct messages.” Except, er, the user will still be able to see the bad stuff! So this ‘Restrict’ feature will in fact just create a situation where the mean person can continue to say awful things under your pictures and only the two of you will see it - which seems, in a weird way, actually more unpleasant, in a ‘trapped in a closet with a cruel bully who keeps whispering into your ear how worthless you are’ sort of way. Look - obviously any steps these platforms take to address how awful we can all be to each other are generally Good Things, but all this does seem to rather ignore the extent to which all s*c**l m*d** is effectively a simmering cauldron of rage and hatred and anger because THAT’S WHAT GETS THE CLICKS.
- Facebook Improves Creator Monetisation Options: Were I Patreon - unlikely, as I am very much a baggy sack of wet and viscera rather than a digital business - I would be looking over my shoulder quite a lot this week and feeling a touch on the nervous side. Facebook this week has announced a slew of new opportunities for creators to squeeze their fans’ wallets, including the ability to pick where ads appear on their content, the ability for fans to buy ‘stars’ that they can bestow on their favourite videgonks which translate to ACTUAL CASH for said videogonks, and the option for creators to create special superfan Groups which said superfans have to pay to access. If you do the whole ‘I am an artisanal digital creator monetising my audience’ thing, this is worth a look - at the very least, it makes sense to consider having a parallel presence on Facebook to hook in the normie dollar (YOU WILL NEVER ESCAPE THE BIG BLUE MISERY FACTORY!).
- FB Improves Ad Transparency (Again): You can now see more detailed information on why you are being targeted with a particular advert on Facebook - the ‘Why am I seeing this Ad?’ button will give you additional information on who uploaded any email lists you’re on which have led to you being targeted, which data brokerages have sold on your info, which interest categories you sit in, etc, along with the ability to skip straight to the ad preferences bit to tweak what you see. This is, potentially, the sort of thing you could have a LOT of fun with if you had a bloody-minded streak and a lot of spare time; I reckon this is a potentially GREAT way of catching out a lot of non-GDPR compliant people who are playing fast-and-loose with email ownership.
- New Monetisation Options for YouTube Creators Too: What was I saying about Patreon? YouTube creators can now access tiered membership options - JUST LIKE PATREON - and their fans can now buy SUPER STICKERS with which to reward them for doing what they do, and there are new and improved merchandising options for YouTubers, and basically the future to me looks like one in which everyone spends their time streaming banalities into the ether to an audience of other banality-streaming morons. It’s increasingly clear to me that one of the main reasons we absolutely NEED universal basic income is that without a basic level of subsidy noone is going to have the time to watch all these hundreds of millions of hours of VITAL CREATIVE OUTPUT that modernity is gifting us.
- YouTube Makes It Easier To Edit Out Copyrighted Stuff From Videos: I mean, this is literally just that. It’s useful, if you’re the sort of person who absentmindedly keeps leaving clips of actual songs in the background of your uploads.
- Twitter Updates Hateful Conduct Rules: After several years of people gently nudging Twitter and suggesting that maybe it could be doing a touch more to tackle the issue of hatespeech which, it’s fair to say, the platform has a teeny problem with, it’s finally starting to move - the first change, announced this week, is to ban language that dehumanises people based on their religion. Again, A Good Thing; again, something of a bandage on an axewound here.
- LinkedIn Adds New Ad Objectives: NEW WAYS TO BETTER-INTEGRATE LINKEDIN WITH YOUR FUNNEL! You can now set up ads specifically optimised to get job applications, drive awareness or get users to do a specific thing on your website - this is obviously an incredibly dull piece of news, but equally it’s the sort of thing that you can probably spend 10 minutes writing up and sharing with clients as IMPORTANT INTELLIGENCE before congratulating yourself on your dedication and heading home for the weekend.
- More Video On Pinterest: Look how exciting this is! “We’re introducing new video features for creators and businesses to reach their audiences including an improved uploader, video tab, lifetime analytics, and Pin scheduling.” Do you care? I don’t!
- The China Internet Report: This is a really good report - you’ll have to give an email address to get it, but it’s only to the South China Morning Post so it’s probably nothing to worry about. Thanks to Alex for sending it my way - it’s effectively like Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report, but significantly less ugly and, to my mind, a touch more insightful. Contains lots of interesting information about specific trends around 5g, automation, payments, etc, as well as a whole bunch of platform usage-type stuff. Read it, and enjoy the fleeting sense of expertise that it will afford you.
- Doom Days: Bastille is a band which I am vaguely aware of, but whose songs I couldn’t pick out of a lineup - they exist in my mind as a few half-remembered snatches of past FIFA soundtracks - and I can’t quite imagine them having actual, proper fans (who would pick them as their favourite band? NO FCUKER, that’s who), and yet they obviously make their label enough money that they were motivated to spend what looks like not inconsiderable wedge on this interactive AR musical EXPERIENCE THINGY to accompany what I presume is their new album. The gimmick is that you’re wandering through some sort of house party-type scenario, with different tracks of the album playing in different rooms, and you can unlock little AR vignettes of the band by playing small minigames, which vignettes you can then drop into the real world via your camera, meaning that you too can enjoy the unique pleasure of having a TINY VERSION OF BASTILLE on your kitchen table should you so desire. It’s all neatly put together and slick, and is impressive in the main as an example of quite how much cool stuff you can do as a browser experience these days (Jesus, ‘these days’ - I REMEMBER WHEN IT WAS ALL FIELDS, etc etc).
By Kenneth Pils
NEXT UP, WHY NOT EXPLORE THE INCREDIBLE OUTPUT OF THE HUGELY PROLIFIC ELECTRO ARTIST CRISTIAN VOGEL?
THE SECTION WHICH THIS WEEK LEARNED THAT IT’S POSSIBLE TO BOOK TOURS AROUND AMAZON FULFILMENT CENTRES WITH YOUR KIDS AND WHICH IF YOU ASK IT IS THE ABSOLUTE MOST LATE-PERIOD CAPITALISM THING IT HAS HEARD ALL YEAR, PT.1:
- The Atlas of Moons: This is an EXCELLENT articlewebpagethingy by National Geographic, telling you everything you could ever have wanted to know about some of the major moons of our solar system. Want to see some exciting 3d representations of Io, Callisto and all that lot? Want to learn lots of EXCITING MOON-RELATED FACTS? I don’t care either way, to be honest, but there is SO much information here, about orbits and surface and suchlike, along with really detailed models of each of the featured satellites; the whole thing is presented on a nicely-arranged single webpage, and, honestly, is more interesting than you’d think (although I feel honour-bound to tell you that at its heart it is still just a bunch of words and pictures of space rocks, and there is no mention AT ALL of little green men).
- Seeing Music: Another in the seemingly endless line of Google Experiments, this one all about the different ways that we can represent audio in visual form - allow it access to your microphone and it will pick up and visualise whatever ambient sounds it picks up, or upload your own music file and see what it makes of it. Fine, it’s basically WinAmp with bells on it, but the different visualisations are rather beautiful at times (the Hilbert ones in particular are gorgeous and remind me an awful lot of a sort-of multicoloured Mr Messy), and the various little additional gimmicks (you can plug in a MIDI input and watch it visualise as you play, for example) are rather fun. As far as I can tell this doesn’t appear to be anything to do with training an AI for an eventual uprising, but one can’t be certain with Google.
- The Redirect Method: More Google stuff, this time on the serious side. The Redirect Method is based on an experiment Google undertook to attempt to get users searching for ISIS-related materials to instead watch videos refuting IS propaganda in an attempt to halt the radicalisation process early on; the techniques employed led to users who had sought out pro-IS stuff watching half-a-million minutes of the anti-propaganda vids, which is pretty staggering. Now Google has made the methodology that it employed available as an open source programme for anyone else to copy - if you have any interest at all in comms, marketing, government, propagandising, disinformation and the prevention thereof or the modern world in general, this is very much worth reading. Not only is it genuinely interesting as a case study, there is SO MUCH here that you can use for shoddy advermarketingpr purposes were you so minded.
- Shoelace: ANOTHER Google thing! This time it’s another attempt at a social network - oh Google+, how do I miss thee! - this one based around people sharing actual, real-world activities that they’re doing so as to encourage others to get involved too. The idea is that I could be going to, I don’t know, an oboe concert at a local church (I COULD BE, DON’T SCOFF), and use the app to tell people that that’s what I’m doing in case they wanted to come too; similarly, it will learn what I’m into and suggest stuff happening nearby that I might want to get involved in. There are various privacy and safety measures built in, to hopefully prevent users from being stalked, harassed or murdered by any local weirdos, and the general vibe of the thing can be summed up in Google’s own disgustingly-folksy description: Shoelace “helps connect people with shared interests through in person activities. It’s great for folks who have recently moved cities or who are looking to meet others who live nearby.” Folks?! FFS Google! This is only currently available in New York, and there’s no guarantee it will ever evolve beyond that, but it’s interesting to see Google attempt to do something network-ish again, as is the local/irl focus of the whole thing.
- The Women In Rock Project: This is ACE - the whole site is effectively its creator’s Phd dissertation, and collects memories and stories of women who were involved in rock’n’roll’s ‘first wave’ in the 50s and 60s, an era in which women played a significant role which hasn’t always been documented. There’s SO much good stuff in here - memoirs and memories and recordings and playlists of great songs, and the way it reframes an era to better centre the women that helped shape it is refreshing.
- Scroll: The latest in the seemingly-endless stream of attempted solutions to the horror that is the current ad-funded web model, which satisfies neither publishers nor punters - Scroll is a service which hopes to REVOLUTIONISE PUBLISHING by letting users enjoy an ad-free experience when reading their favourite sites whilst at the same time ensuring that the publishers get paid at a rate less eye-gouging than the current horrible deal they get from all the appalling display ad clutter of the modern web. It’s very much in beta at the moment, but it’s worth keeping an eye on - it very much feels like someone is going to fix this soon, and whilst it might not be these people they do seem to have reasonable backing and buy-in from a decent roster of sizeable names.
- Colouring London: Thanks to Josh for pointing this one out to me - Colouring London is a delightfully-whimsical project which is asking anyone who cares to get involved to do a bit of Mechanical Turk-style datawrangling by slowly and meticulously classifying London’s buildings by age, land usage, type, etc - the idea being that over time it will turn into an accurate and up-to-date record of the city’s material DNA. There are similar projects going on all over the world - I’m certain I featured something similar from New York which asked people to help teach mapping software the exact boundaries of the city’s buildings, for example - and I am always a sucker for stuff that requires massive collaborative effort for a hugely banal outcome; what’s MOST lovely about this, though, is the multicoloured patchwork quilt of London that is emerging; as the map fills, I do hope they add the opportunity to export image files of specific areas to print.
- Otis: “CULTURE IS A NEW ASSET” screams the site’s blurb, which immediately got my back up a bit; ‘new’ in what sense exactly, Otis? You don’t know, do you? FFS. Anyway, the idea behind Otis is a simple one - it allows anyone to invest in CULTURE (fine art, limited edition trainers, etc) with a low barrier to entry; from an article announcing its launch comes the following miniblurb: “Starting July 9, the platform will allow art enthusiasts to invest in a curated selection of sneakers, comics, and other items starting at $25 USD per share. Inaugural launch items include artworks by Kehinde Wiley, KAWS, Takashi Murakami, alongside Supreme skateboard decks, Rolex Daytona watches, and Hermes Birkin Bags to name a few. Otis acquires high-quality assets, divides them into smaller shares, and offers them as equity investments. When you invest in an asset, you become a shareholder that owns a specific asset. Similar to a stock market, you’ll be able to buy and sell shares after a certain period of time”. Why exactly you’d want to own a 5% stake in a pair of 1998 Jordans in a limited-edition colourway is beyond me - as is whether there will in fact be a secondary market for these shares - but if you’ve ever wanted to feel like a BIG SHOT INVESTOR in, er, graphic novels or skateboards then go for your life.
- This Shirt Company Does Not Exist: Thanks to Gill for this one, perhaps the most ‘me’ site in this week’s Curios, combining as it does slightly crap tshirt design with an internetty gimmick. “The t-shirts feature doodles that were completely generated by AI algorithms using data from millions of drawings submitted to Google Creative Lab's Quick, Draw! The dataset can be used for anything, from helping researchers see patterns in how people around the world draw, to inspiring artists to create things we haven’t ever thought of before... such as t-shirts :)” Actually I’m perhaps being unfair on the doodles here - these aren’t appreciably worse than the sort of crap I adorn myself with each day.
- Da Bungalow Clips: I’m only sort of vaguely aware of the concept of Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow, being as I was already WAY too old when it was on TV; I do have some sort of strange cultural memory of adult men shouting BOGEYS! at unsuspecting strangers in supermarkets, but I couldn’t tell you why. Still, I know that lots of you children will have fond memories of this formative part of your childhoods, so please enjoy this recently-created Twitter account dedicated to posting clips and gifs from the show for your nostalgic viewing pleasure. This is...quite odd, isn’t it? Was this what kid’s TV was like 17 years ago? Is this the reason you’re all like this?
- Share The Meal: There’s not really any excuse not to have this on your phone imho. “ShareTheMeal is the charity app by the World Food Programme that allows you to feed a child in need with one tap on your phone” - basically it’s a ‘tap to donate’ function, no more, but the bells and whistles and the light gamification / network features it builds in makes it pleasingly sticky, and the mere fact of its existence is A Good Thing. The cost of each meal is around 35p a pop, so presuming you’re like me and comparatively comfortably-off there’s not really any reason not to install this.
- Public Domain Flicks: Are you bored of being fed the endless diet of Netflix pabulum by the app? Have you spend yet another evening scrolling dully through an algorithmically-curated feed full of seemingly endless variations on the same three straight-to-TV movie concepts and not found a single thing you actually want to watch? Well why not break free of the shackles of the modern streaming hegemony and instead get yourself some CLASSIC OLD SCHOOL MOVIE ACTION with, say, the stone-cold 1922 classic “The Primitive Lover”, or 1973’s sexy horror extravaganza “Invasion of the Bee Girls” (which has the potentially-unbeatable tagline “They’ll Love The Life Right Out of Your Body!”, which, honestly, may be the apogee of English-language copywriting)? This site has an absolute treasure trove of copyright-free films to stream, and whilst 99% of them will be absolute tripe there will also be some gems and you owe it to yourself to at least check out the Bee Girls.
- The Archive Downloader: A Chrome extension which lets you batch-download files from the Internet Archive. HUGELY useful, especially for music files (of which more later - ooh, EXCITING FORESHADOWING! What authorial daring I’m displaying here!).
- Run Your Own Social: We are, it’s fair to say, probably all in agreement that this social media stuff was largely a bad idea - still, if you think that you could do better by creating your own miniature version of Twitter just for you and your friends, then why not do that very thing? This is a really interesting site which offers you the tools and information required to set up your own small social network, and whilst 99% of you won’t have any use for this I can imagine that there are a few people reading this who will find it hugely useful; aside from anything else, this feels like it would be a really interesting project for a computing class, or the sort of thing you could experiment with setting up as a bespoke alternative to the family Whatsapp group (oh God, YES - you could design in features specifically designed to exploit familial tensions, it would be GREAT!). Someone go and do something fun with this, please. GO!
- Carrd: On the one hand, services like Squarespace are hugely useful in terms of knocking up a quick website in next-to-no time when you have no coding ability whatsoever; on the other, they always, inevitably, look a bit sh1t. Carrd is a new alternative to those off-the-shelf sitebuilders, whose gimmick is that it lets you make single-page, long-scrollers, of the sort that were really fashionable about three years back. Obviously the quality of the output will depend largely on the quality of your imagery and your general aesthetic sense, but it might be worth a look if you’re in the market for a webpage for something or other.
- The Space Exploration Auction: SO MUCH SPACE STUFF! This is taking place on 20 July, but you can start getting your early bids in for, say, a prototype astronaut’s glove from the Apollo mission, or a globe of Mars, or, er, an old label from the ACTUAL APOLLO 11 COMMAND MODULE! That last one, by the way, will set you back an estimated $125-150k, in case you were wondering.
- Old Weather: “Help scientists transcribe Arctic and worldwide weather observations recorded in ship's logs since the mid-19th century...Old Weather volunteers explore, mark, and transcribe historic ship's logs from the 19th and early 20th centuries. We need your help because this task is impossible for computers, due to diverse and idiosyncratic handwriting that only human beings can read and understand effectively. By participating in Old Weather you'll be helping advance research in multiple fields. Data about past weather and sea-ice conditions are vital for climate scientists, while historians value knowing about the course of a voyage and the events that transpired”! Not unlike Colour London back up there, this is another Mechanical Turk-ish, slightly dull but rather lovely project; it’s also a decent barometer of how much you hate your job because, honestly, if you’re reading this at work and thinking that a few hours of gentle transcribing of historic ships logs sounds like a blissful escape from the drudgery of your work then, well, perhaps it’s time to quit.
- IRL: An app which seeks to socialise your calendar - WHY?!? WHY WOULD I WANT EVERYONE IN THE WORLD TO KNOW WHAT I AM DOING, WHEN, AND TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO ‘FOLLOW’ ME AND COMMENT AND OPINE ON MY ITINERARY? This sounds ghastly, as does the idea that there could be ‘calendar influencers’ whose social lives could be considered compelling entertainment for the poor, less-popular masses. Aside from everything else, the potential counterindications inherent in this are...not insignificant.
- Netflix Hangouts: A Chrome extension which lets you watch Netflix in a way that will make it look to the casual observer that you’re having a four-way video call, meaning you can probably get away with a couple of episodes of Stranger Things in the office before sloping off to the pub (NB Web Curios accepts no responsibility if it turns out your boss is in fact less of a gullible idiot than you at first thought).
By Jack Welpott
NEXT, HAVE A HIGH-QUALITY HOUSE MIX FROM A SET IN BUENOS AIRES LAST YEAR BY ROY ROSENFELD!
THE SECTION WHICH THIS WEEK LEARNED THAT IT’S POSSIBLE TO BOOK TOURS AROUND AMAZON FULFILMENT CENTRES WITH YOUR KIDS AND WHICH IF YOU ASK IT IS THE ABSOLUTE MOST LATE-PERIOD CAPITALISM THING IT HAS HEARD ALL YEAR, PT.2:
- Female D&D Character Art: A selection of about 100 character portraits of female figures in a fantasy setting, notable in the main for being actual, proper pictures of actual, credible (well, ‘credible’ within a fantasy setting, at least) female figures without acres of exposed flesh or impractical chainmail thong bikini armour. It’s amazing how arresting the nature of these pictures is, which makes you consequently realise how ridiculous the visual representation of female characters in fantasy art tends to be.
- The Social Media Death Clock: ANOTHER Chrome extension, this one designed to helpfully remind you of how much time you’re wasting by dicking about on social media; install it, and every time you visit a social site in-browser it will replace the logo with a ticking countdown to the likely date of your death. Sadly won’t work in-app, but I’d suggest surreptitiously loading this onto a colleague’s work computer and seeing how long it takes them to notice that Facebook’s now anticipating their demise.
- Metomic: FULL DISCLOSURE: my mate Ben is doing some work with these people at the moment, which is how I heard about this - nonetheless, it’s interesting enough as an idea that I’d have featured it anyway, The simple pitch is ‘all the analytics stuff you might need on your website, but less awful and evil and exploitative than the stuff currently created by Amazon, Google et al’, which seems like a pretty good reason to check it out if you’re the owner of a bunch of web properties and want to maybe downgrade the creepiness of your cookies and tracking bits and pieces.
- The B-Box: WE ALL LOVE BEES! Why not show them your love by backing this already-funded Indiegogo project which for the admittedly steep price of £900 will provide you with a lovely wooden home for bees which you can set up in your garden and which, you hope, will in a few short months be all abuzz with the fuzzy little lads doing their thing, making honey and serving their queen and hopefully not swarming into your house and turning you into a swollen red pincushion. This sounds VERY cool, although I do think it’s perhaps downplaying the ‘look, you’re also going to have to take care of the bees’ bit somewhat.
- Lightsail 2: “LightSail is a citizen-funded project from The Planetary Society to send a small spacecraft, propelled solely by sunlight, to Earth orbit.” This is the project website, where you can track its progress in orbit, see photos it’s taking, and generally see all the data and information its tracking as it makes its way around Earth. It’s obviously more interesting if you’re into space and associated things, but even if not it’s still quite amazing to be able to see all this realtime information about something zooming around a few hundred miles up in the air (he writes, like some sort of slack-jawed medieval yokel).
- Golden Hour: A website whose soul purpose is to inform you of the absolute best time to take some gorgeous photographs - it will tell you with exact precision what time ‘Golden Hour’ (the first and last hour of sunshine of the day, traditionally) is, so that you can take advantage of all that gorgeous light to take another fcuking picture of your fcuking face.
- All Of The Theatre Gubbins: Or, more accurately, the New York Public Library’s Billy Rose Theatre Division’s digital archive, which contains a truly remarkable collection of old theatrical material, from promotional photos of actors to old playbills and programmes. There are literally HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of individual items in here, organised into thematic collections, and the photos of stars of Broadway past alone are enough to keep your occupied for hours.
- The Economist Essay Competition: The Economist is running an essay competition, open to anyone between the ages of 16-25 - submit an essay of upto 1000 words on the topic “What fundamental economic and political change, if any, is needed for an effective response to climate change?” by 31 July to be in with the chance of winning £1k, publication on the Economist website, and attendance at an Economist event in October. When I was 16 it is...unlikely that I would have had any truck with this at all (or indeed at 25 if I’m honest with you), but if you know a YOUNG PERSON who is all dedicated and ambitious and stuff then perhaps this might be worth pointing out to them.
- Videogame GAN: This is wonderful - Jonathan Fly has paired up old videogame footage with Nvidia’s GauGAN software (see Curios passim), making the software try and create landscape images on the fly based on what it’s seeing happen in the game. I appreciate that that’s a bit of a shonky description, you’ll get the idea when you click the link; this is beautiful and dreamlike and weird and hallucinatory, and better than 90% of actual digital ‘art’ that’s currently being made.
- Various Cassette Tapes: If you haven’t already done so, you might want to scroll back a bit and download that Chrome extension that lets you rip files from the Internet Archive. Done that? Good. Now click this link and GORGE YOURSELF on this incredible trove of MP3s of old cassette tapes - there are WEEKS-worth of music here, and whilst it’s sort of impossible to know what any of it is before you listen to it that barely matters; just jump in at random and see what you find. I’m currently listening to something called ‘Audio Beat Warfare’ which is terrifying and great in equal measure, but why not dig around and see what weird stuff you can find? This is, honestly, WONDERFUL.
- Sunshine: A website which checks your location and then displays a countdown of the number of hours of sunlight left in your day. Put this on a big screen in the office so you can all see how much of the precious, fleeting English summertime you’re wasting on pointless busywork that doesn’t matter!
- The Wood Database: You want wood? SO MUCH WOOD! One of my very favourite sorts of site, this, utterly banal and yet terrifyingly, encyclopaedically comprehensive, and with a serious dedication to its subject matter; one gets the impression that the site’s owner probably has a limited tolerance for lazy, wood-based jokes, and wouldn’t take kindly to people repeatedly asking them if they ‘have wood’. The site’s pretty self-explanatory - it’s a database of information about lots of types of wood - but there are lots of small joys in the obsessional copy and the fact that it sells things like a ‘Rosewoods of the World’ poster for a knockdown $15 (which will make a GREAT Christmas present for a certain special someone!).
- Things Cut in Half: The most satisfying subReddit you will see all week, hands-down.
- The 3d-printed Lamborghini: Wow, THIS is a geeky DIY project. The fabulously-named Sterling Backus (who’s obviously some sort of proper science person in his dayjob) is, for reasons best-known to themselves, currently in the process of creating a full-size working replica of a Lamborghini Aventador (no, I didn’t know either - it’s a VERY ANGULAR sports car that goes very fast) almost entirely from 3d-printed parts. This is INSANE, honestly, and the Facebook Page here linked collects all the work in progress photos and videos and is a fascinating look at a truly insane labour of love.
- Arttwiculate: Last up in the miscellanea section this week is this GREAT game from B3ta’s Monkeon, where you the player are asked to pick which artwork from a selection is being referred to in a Tweet. Simple, silly, and absolutely the sort of thing it would be easy for a major museum to do for some nice ENGAGEMENT.
By Arnout van Albada
LAST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, HAVE THIS EXCELLENT HOUR-LONG SELECTION OF CLASSIC SOFT ROCK WHICH YOU MIGHT NOT THINK YOU WILL ENJOY BUT YOU WILL SECRETLY ADORE I PROMISE!
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Ed Merlin Murray: Murray is an artist. This is his Insta feed. His work is...odd, but in a good way.
- Polly Verity: Verity makes work from paper, in a sort of 3d sculptural origami-type style, playing with texture and shadow in rather beautiful ways.
- The Tiny Chef Show: The Instagram account of a VERY SMOL chef, and his adorable little cooking show in miniature. This is, honestly, ADORABLE, and it’s worth checking out the project’s website for more details.
- Amaury Guichon: I don’t know if I want to eat any of these cakes, but I could look at photos of them for HOURS.
- Hollywood Back-up Plan: I don’t, I confess, have any real clue what’s going on here or why it’s called ‘Hollywood Back-up Plan’ (am I missing a really obvious joke?), but if you want an Insta feed featuring...oh HANG ON I JUST GOT IT! Photographs of company names on vehicles which also happen to be the names of famous film people! ALL BECOMES CLEAR! Thanks to Curios reader John Perlmutter for both creating this and drawing it to my attention and for reading this bastard emailnewsletterthingy!
- Philippa Knit: This is Philippa. She knits. Often she knits balaclavas, which she photographs being worn by largely-unclothed men. You may enjoy this, you may not.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Cadwalladr vs Swisher: Kara Swisher is one of the smartest people in the world reporting on tech at the moment; her ability to get under the skin of the Valley and its heroes is unparalleled. She recently interviewed Carole Cadwalladr for her podcast, and the transcript is now online and makes really interesting reading; I have one or two issues with the way in which Cadwalladr has gone about reporting the Cambridge Analytica stuff - not that it’s not a brilliant and important piece of journalism, don’t get me wrong, more that her absolute insistence that PYSCHOGEOGRAPHIC TARGETING and DARK INTERNET VOODOO swung Brexit and everything else was fundamentally unhelpful in untangling the more important issues which are around electoral funding and the legal framework around it; she’s since gone quite quiet about that side of things, whilst quite rightly continuing to investigate the financial links between a lot of the big vested interests around Brexit, but the damage has been done in terms of people overplaying the magical ability of digital ads to manipulate the masses (don’t get me wrong, digital ads are GREAT for manipulating the masses, but not quite as cleverly as Carole thinks) (also, I feel I should point out that I’ve met her a few times and we’ve had this conversation in person, so I promise I’m not just being a dick and shouting from the sidelines here; well, OK, I am a bit). Still, this is a really interesting conversation which showcases the best and worst of Cadwalladr and her reporting, and which is never less than an engaging read throughout.
- All The Businesses You Never Knew Amazon Owned: Scroll down. Keep scrolling. This isn’t an essay, it’s just a list, but it’s worth perusing and then spending a moment reminding yourself that Amazon wants to run everything, and, at the current rate of progress, probably will.
- The Race To Rule Streaming: This is LONG and very ‘TV-industry-inside-baseball’ in parts, but it’s fascinating regardless as a look at how the streaming industry is likely to evolve and what that’s likely to mean in terms of the market and the sort of programming that’s going to be produced. If you want a decent understanding of how modern entertainment media works, and of how economics defines art, this is pretty much essential reading.
- Half-Quitting the Apps: The NYT examines the weird situation we find ourselves in whereby more and more of us are trying to stop using THE FCUKING S*C**LS but not quite managing it, resulting in this doubly unsatisfying situation where we’re hobbling our user experience in an attempt to render it bad enough to force us off the apps entirely whilst at the same time still getting just enough of a dopamine rush to keep us hanging on in there. Testament to how brilliantly, evilly designed these things are, if you weren’t already convinced.
- The Gutenburg Lie: Honestly, I was SHOOK by this piece; I’d always blithely accepted the received wisdom that Gutenberg invented movable type and that it was he to whom we owe thanks for BOOKS and NEWSPAPERS and FLYERS and STUFF; now it turns out that actually the first printing press was invented 150 years previously in Korea. This is fascinating, not only because of the story of Choe Yun-ui who we really ought to credit instead, but because of what it tells us about how historical narratives develop and are set in stone, and how we ought perhaps to spend a but more time questioning and scrutinising creation stories.
- Being a YouTube Celebrity: A profile of Emma Chamberlain, hottest YouTube star of the moment and newly-signed creator of original content for Snapchat. It’s not going to tell you anything hugely new about the lifestyle of a professional content creator (dear God what a phrase), but there are a couple of details that gave me pause, not least that Chamberlain spends upwards of 20 HOURS editing her videos. Tell that to your client next time they want a ‘viral’ delivered in 36h.
- Twitter Needs a Pause Button: An essay exploring whether our experiences on and interactions with Twitter and other sites would be different were there an inbuilt delay in communications - muchlike Insta’s trialing with its ‘are you sure you want to say that?’ anti-bullying features. It’s an interesting question, but I’m not certain that it’s not anonymity which leads to the horror and the shouting rather than the immediacy.
- Can Hiphop’s Legacy Be Archived: On the immense musical/cultural patrimony contained in the boom in hiphop mixtapes in the 90s and 00s, and how the nature of the medium means that whole swathes of significant work by significant artists may be lost forever. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, from the specific musical history lessons to the wider cultural points about what sort of materials are considered worthy of archiving and why, and what steps we might seek to take to make our approach to preservation of cultural relics somewhat more of an active one rather than the current post-facto scrabble to catch up.
- An Introduction to Speculative Fiction by People of Colour: If you read scifi, fantasy and the like, but wish that you could find more stuff by authors who aren’t white then this list is for YOU.
- Blink 182: A nostalgic look back at Blink-182 and how they briefly made pop-punk sort-of almost socially acceptable. I was really into pop-punk as a teenager (of course I was) and I remember being genuinely annoyed when these idiots came along and made it popular when they weren’t even GOOD like the bands I liked that were all underground and I FOUND THE CONCH, RALPH! God, I was insufferable. Anyway, this is an interesting time capsule, not least because once again it reminds us that the 90s were a VERY weird time when it came to sex and gender politics.
- Disney Won: Another big entertainment industry deep-dive, this one investigating what the shape of the film industry could be if one accepts Disney’s seemingly-inevitable crushing dominance of the market over the next few years. The short answer to this is ‘tediously homogenous’, but it’s worth reading in full to get the more nuanced take. If you want to envisage the future, imagine the fcuking Avengers playing on every single flat surface in the world, on a loop, til the sun consumes us all.
- The Joy Of Grocery Shopping Abroad: I would hope that as readers of Web Curios you’re all sophisticates; the sort of urbane travelers who know that the best thing to do when arriving in a new place is to get straight to the local supermarket and look at the crisps and frozen food aisles to get right to the heart of the local people and their deepest, most shameful desires. This article is a lovely evocation of all that you can glean from perusing the weird groceries of any given destination - it made me want to eat Paprika-flavoured ridged crisps VERY much indeed.
- Meet the Amazon Nomads: Another wonderful piece shining a light on a niche group of people created as an unintended side-effect of our new digital economy, this time the people who spend most of their lives traveling around the US hunting out products that they can buy in bulk and resell on Amazon for profit. Just imagine, for a moment, that being your life - living in a camper van, going from Costco to Walmart to Costco and back, buying palette-loads of Swisher mop handle replacements because you know you can earn a $0.02 markup on each unit. Thanks, Amazon, for enabling such freedom and entrepreneurial spirit!
- This is Quite Gay!: A Nigerian emigre to the US reflects on the challenges of being an out and proud gay black man on social media when your less-tolerant family back home can see whatever you post and rinse you for it every time. The line in here on how ‘Pride is a privilege’ really struck me; this is a lovely piece of writing.
- The Garbageman of Cairo: I love this piece - the author writes about moving to Cairo and encountering the man who sorted out the rubbish for his apartment block and who, as a result, was the most knowledgeable person in the neighbourhood. This is the best sort of travel writing, telling you about place and people with deft, beautiful prose and a lovely spare style; it reminded me a lot of Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, his book on Bombay which is still one of the best modern portraits of a city I’ve ever read.
- Meet The Cock Destroyer: The second article this week from the newly-revamped The Face magazine, this is a profile of the frankly terrifying Rebecca More, a UK bongo actress who’s seemingly transcended the world of sex on camera to become a sort-of mainstream cult figure thanks in no small part to the camp, sexually voracious character she plays on screen. This is a really fascinating interview with someone I knew nothing about before reading - it’s also one of the most weirdly British things I’ve read in years. Can you imagine ANY other country where Rebecca More would be as successful? What does that say about us? God we’re weird.
- The Sad Truth About Goofy’s Family: Did you know that Goofy has a son called Max? Did you know that he once was married? Do you want to know the horrifying truth about the backstory that Disney have actively chosen to bestow upon the cheerful canine doofus? This is...dark.
- Zadie Smith on Stormzy: A bravura piece of writing, in terms of both style and content. She is SO good, damn her.
- The Battle of Grace Church: Oh this is GREAT, possibly the best example I’ve ever read of the ‘snarky piece of reporting that is actually just slightly bitchy gossiping but which is also about some really rich and frankly awful-sounding people so that probably makes it ok’ genre. Grace Church is a very expensive, very exclusive nursery school in a posh area of Brooklyn; this is the story of the incredible power struggles and arguments that ensued as it tried to modernise its approach a few years back. This is FULL of wonderful details and waspish asides, I promise, and you’ll enjoy it very much indeed.
- Trash Talk: Or ‘On Translating Garbage’. A professional translator writes about their relationship with the words they work with, and the personal and professional horror that is having to work with garbage texts. I love this for the feeling it gives of words and language having personalities, and the nuance that a good translator can bring to bear, and most of all for its excoriation of International Art English, the very WORST of all the types of English and something I had to learn to write when I worked in arts PR many years ago; trust me, once you’ve spaffed out a phrase like “Tielemanns’ work speaks to the inherent quiddity of human experience and simultaneously addresses the ego and superego through its negatory uses of texture and palette” something inside of you dies.
- Night On Fire: An essay about menopause, specifically the hot flushes (here referred to in the American argot as ‘flashes’) that accompany it; far, far better than this very spare description makes it sound, I promise.
- This Is Pleasure: Finally in this week’s longreads, this is more novella than short story; regardless, it is MASTERFUL and one of the best things I’ve read all year, let alone this week. This is Pleasure tells the story of a Me Too-ish moment in one literary editor’s life, from the point of view of him and one of his female friends; the narrative switches between them, shifting your thinking and perspective and sympathy as you discover more about each of them and their relationship. Honestly, this is SO good and I cannot recommend it highly enough; this is a FAR better use of your time than that presentation you’re working on.
By Talia Chetrit
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) First up, this is Rosa Bonita with the rather good ‘Volatile’ - it’s deliciously creepy and the video is wonderful:
2) Next up, this is the latest single by Four Tet; it’s called ‘Teenage Birdsong’ and while the song is great it’s the accompanying video that’s the star here - it’s honestly one of the best evocations of teenage friendship and fandom and fun I’ve seen in years, captured in just 5 short minutes. Wonderful filmmaking:
3) SUCH a good video, and not a bad song either. This is ‘Paramour’ by Anna Meredith and I want a model railway now:
4) This is called ‘God’, it’s by It It Anita of whom I had not heard before this morning and it is NOISY. Turn it up loud:
5) This is ‘Exhaustive’, it’s by Amish Boy, and I honestly have no idea WHAT is going on here:
6) Finally this week, a song all about how social media has ruined EVERYTHING - it’s called ‘Get Likes’ and it’s terrible-but-brilliant, and the video is great, and if you can use this as a bed in your next social media pitch video I will love you forever. Now, though, it’s time to say BYE BYE BYE SEE YOU NEXT WEEK BYE I HAVE RUN OUT OF LINKS AND OUGHT TO PROBABLY GET ON WITH MY DAY WHAT WITH NEEDING TO GO TO THE SHOPS AND STUFF BUT NOT BEFORE I SAY THANKS TO ALL OF YOU FOR READING AND TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE AND VALUE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU BUT MOST ESPECIALLY YOU AND I WANT YOU TO HAVE A LOVELY WEEKEND AND GENERALLY JUST FEEL HAPPY AND RELAXED OK GOOD THAT’S SETTLED BYE THEN BYE SEE YOU NEXT WEEK BYE!:
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