Web Curios 13/04/18
HELLO WE ARE BACK DID YOU MISS US WE MISSED YOU HELLO HELLO HELLO!
Well, it's great to be back in the saddle. One more week and I'd have done a right Scanners, so your reading this is effectively an act of mercy; rest assured, I am VERY VERY GRATEFUL.
So while we were away Imperica has undergone a bit of a refresh - it will have MORE STUFF on it, basically, and more of the sort of links you find in here, sprinkled liberally across the site over the course of the week as well as, obviously, stuffed into your faces via blog/newsletter each Friday. YOU LUCKY THINGS. Read more about it here, and congratulate Paul on his perseverence, without which you wouldn't get to 'enjoy' this.
Anyway, as you'd expect what with there having been effectively a whole month between Curios, this is very much a longboi; so settle in, open wide and relax your diaphragm while I ease this funnel down your gullet....that's it! Now, hold still as I pour a nourishing (but very, very long) stream of infocorn into your waiting maw and watch, rubbing my hands in glee as...er...whatever organ works as a substitute for a fois gras goose's liver in this increasingly convoluted and unwieldy analogy swells and inflates to the point of painful engorgement. THIS IS WEB CURIOS! Haven't you missed it, though? Haven't you? HAVEN'T YOU???
THE SECTION WHICH ISN’T, YOU MAY BE GLAD TO HEAR, GOING TO START BANGING ON ABOUT ALL THE FACEBOOK NEWS AS, FRANKLY, IT IS SO FCUKING BORED OF PEOPLE’S TAKES THAT IT MIGHT DIE (AND ALSO, AS AN ASIDE, IS SLIGHTLY OFFENDED THAT NONE OF THE SUPER-IMPORTANT READERS OF THIS WONDERFUL NEWSLETTER FELT COMPELLED TO BOOK IT AS A TALKING HEAD OR SOMETHING - I MEAN, I WOULD HAVE BEEN FCUKING ACE ON NEWSNIGHT YOU PHILISTINES GRUMBLE GRUMBLE GRUMBLE):
- Oh, OK, Fine, Here Are All The Relevant Facebook Links: So you will OBVIOUSLY know all of this stuff, having doubtless been following the whole shebang with RAPT GLEE, but on the offchance that you need all the relevant links and info and stuff in one place, here goes...Here’s the ‘did my data get scraped?’ link; Here’s the stuff about locking down API access to data, and here’s some deeper analysis of what that means for the broader ecosystem...Here’s all the stuff on electoral ad transparency, which was basically announced last year and so isn’t really that new or interesting at all, although it does also contain the nugget about large Page owners needing to be verified, which is terrible news if you peddle sh1t memes; here’s the news about them leaning on Wikipedia to help with fact-checking around FAKE NEWS, which really made me think that Jimmy Wales should be shaking Zuckerberg, Paige and Brin down for a few quid what with the similar recent YT news; here’s the news about them cutting off third-party data targeting within FB ads, meaning you won’t be able to do any of that loose ‘life stage’-type targeting anymore (not that that was that relevant if you’re in the UK anyway, as that stuff was always more of a US feature) (and I’d expect this to be reversed in time, in any case); here’s the Custom Audiences GDPR arsecovering bit whereby if you use a Custom Audience based on email addresses you’ll now have to PROMISE that you totally have permission to use said email addresses, honest guv; you can no longer see estimated reach figures for Custom Audiences as that was basically a hackable exploit, turns out; oh, Christ, there may have been more, but the really big takeaway here - and something which all of the slightly frothy coverage has been very shy in pointing out here - is that NOTHING IS REALLY CHANGING HERE (this is a useful overview of the practical things which ARE different, though). FB is still, at the time of writing, the best place to put your ad monies if you’re a filthy advermarketingprscumlord trying to flog tat to the untermenschen. This isn’t going to stop being the case. Most of you reading this - presuming you’re not in the business of doing ‘interesting’ things with APIs and aren’t, you know, total fcuking data privacy cowboys - really, really don’t need to fret. OK? OK. Good.
- Facebook Rolls Out New ‘Subscription’ Model for Creators: Basically - and let me just add an editorial note here to point out that due to the sheer fcuking volume of s*c**l m*d** news which has occurred over the past month that Curios has been on ‘holiday’ (HA! HOLIDAY! THE ENTIRETY OF THE FCUKING WEB DOESN’T STOP GETTING READ, YOU KNOW, THIS ISN’T A HOBBY IT’S MY FCUKING LIFE) there is going to be a lot of ‘basically’-ing in this section, which is effectively shorthand for me saying that I have neither the time or the inclination to do ‘proper’ writeups of this stuff which is exactly the sort of half-arsed approach to this thing which you all love, I know - this is adding Patreon-like features to FB in an attempt to lure the YouTubers, the furry-bongo-creators, the vore-philes and the rest (do not google ‘vore’). It’s a crap deal, mind, from a revenue-sharing point of view. There are more details here - there’s an interesting line at the end about bringing advertisers and creators together for BRANDED CONTENT OPPORTUNITIES, which sounds dreadful but also potentially rather useful, although not if you’re in the influencer middleman game (and if you are, GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN).
- Facebook Launches Improved Ad Offering for Retail: Three significant updates to Facebook’s suite of advertising products, specifically focused on driving sales. The new products include bespoke catalogues, powered by Facebook Canvas and pulling in dynamic content based on a targeted user’s interests; Store Sales optimisation ads, which use machine learning to target users who are more likely to complete an in-store purchase; and dynamic sales ads designed to reach people earlier in the sales funnel. Truly, it is a glorious time to be alive.
- Facebook Local Goes, er, Global: This sneaked under the radar what with all the news about journalists having finally read the FB terms and conditions - HONK! - but Facebook’s prioritisation of local news and the like, which they kicked off in the US last year, is now being rolled out more globally. There HAS to be a brand-friendly newsfeed exploit in this somewhere, but thankfully I’m not in the invidious position of having to pretend to care what it is.
- Facebook Adds Boomerang and AR ‘Graffiti’: Have you spent the past few weeks wishing that you could do those Boomerang looping vids you get on Insta on Facebook? No, probably not, and yet here we are. Oh, and you’ll soon be able to scrawl crudely-drawn penises in AR space in your videos too, as FB’s implementing AR drawing into its camera app too. There has never been a better time to be alive.
- Messenger Blocks New Bots: If you spent a significant amount of time PIVOTING TO BOT in 2016-7, this has been a...bad few weeks. At the moment no new bots are being approved for Messenger as FB tries to ensure that there aren’t exciting data vulnerabilities there too - just FYI really, though I wouldn’t expect this to maintain for too much longer.
- 360 Photos and HD Vids In Messenger: For all your HIGH-QUALITY CONTENT NEEDS! Small point, but the wording of the announcement, which explains how you will now be able to create “an immersive, envy-inducing photo” in 360, is a wonderful example of exactly what an unpleasant thing Facebook and its associated products is, and simultaneously exactly why we love it and them so (because we are unpleasant creatures, to be clear). Oh, and you can now create group chat admins, but I really can’t be bothered to write any more than that.
- Insta API Changes: This is a pretty big deal if you do anything with third-party software on Insta - specifically, if you use any of the autopost/autofollow tools beloved of ‘influencers’ then, well, AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Equally, though, if you work for a company which previously made use of Insta API data then, well, it’s quite possible that you no longer do. Sorry about that. One of the funniest things about this is the amount of Seed / Series A money which will have been promised to companies leveraging this API which all of a sudden has proven itself to have been totally spunked up the wall. POOR THE VCs!
- Insta Shoppable Posts Come To UK: You knew this was coming - or at least you should have done, it’s not like I didn’t tell you about it months ago, LISTEN, damn you! - but now it is HERE! So exciting I might have actually voided myself when typing this.
- You May Soon Be Able To Include Others’ Instas In Your Stories: Effectively adding a ‘regram’ function in Stories, this - it’s a feature currently in beta, but which means you can include someone’s Insta as part of your story (they have to have the ability to do this activated in settings); my immediate thought on hearing about this was ‘wow I am really glad I’m not a teenager, the bullying this is going to inspire is going to be absolutely fcuking brutal’, but the less-apocalyptically inclined might see all sorts of exciting brand and influencer opportunities - wonder what the going rate will be for a Kardashian to feature a branded post in one of their Stories, for example (MILLIONS OF POUNDS)?
- You Can Now Put Clickable Hashtags and Usernames In Your Insta Bio: Potentially useful, mind-flayingly dull.
- Snap Map Explore: Coming as it did in the middle of the Facebook Horrorshow, this didn’t quite get the excited reaction I’d have expected it to - rest assured, though, that it is SUPER EXCITING. This is an update to Snap’s Map feature which effectively turns it into the marauder’s map from Potter - I mean, really, read this: “you can see where your friends are and where they’re traveling. These statuses are generated by your friends’ movements rather than them physically typing out something on their own...The feed can give updates on the jet-setting habits of friends who are going on trips; it also can give location updates when they’re off to the beach or at another noteworthy spot. What’s perhaps most interesting is that Snapchat says they’ll be using the feature to push updates or breaking news updates to users based on areas of the Snap Map that are seeing a lot of traffic tied to news events.” I do wonder what sort of ad targeting options will spin out of this as a result (LOTS, almost certainly) - the ability to target people ‘at the beach’, say, is really rather interesting.
- Snap Introduces @Mentions and 16-Person Video Calling: No word, however, on why the shuddering fcuk anyone would a 16-person videocall, but still, the @mentions thing is genuinely useful (and will also usher in an horrendous new era of BRAND BANTER on yet another platform, so thanks for that, Snap).
- You Can Now Do Promoted Video On LinkedIn: I was convinced that noone’s favourite social network had launched this years ago but, er, I was wrong, it hadn’t. Now you can use LinkedIn’s hugely effective targeting options to promote awful, corporate videos to the sort of dead-eyed, dust-souled mediocrities who stalk the arid professional savannah - GREAT! Oh, and you can now put FILTERS AND STICKERS onto your LinkedIn vids too, should you wish to attempt to inject some PLAYFUL LEVITY into your ceaseless shilling. What larks we will all have!
- It’s Now Easier To Do Lives On YouTube: You can stream straight from a webcam! And you’ll soon be able to stream straight from your phone! I know! I can barely contain myself too!
- Pinterest Expands Shopping Ads To More Businesses: Pinterest, you’ll have heard me say before, is often overlooked in the digital advertising space, which is a shame - its tools are excellent, and the conversion potential high. Its latest announcement comes as it expands its ‘Shop The Look’ service - that is, the ability to tag brand Pins with product categories so as to enable an easier catalogue browsing experience - to new countries, including Japan and the UK, and as it expands the number of retailers able to make use of its dynamic inventory platform. Potentially very useful indeed, depending on the category you operate in. Gosh, that was like a serious, sober writeup, wasn’t it? See, I can do it if I try!
- Google Introducing ‘Where Can I Buy?’ Ads: This is inevitable, but still feels, well, NOT GOOD overall. US-only at present, but destined to become JUST THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS very soon indeed, this is Google offering retailers the ability to appear in search with a product link for user searches such as ‘where can I buy X?’ or ‘where can I find Y?’. Which on the one hand is a nice corrective to Amazon’s ubiquity, but on the other hand is surely another step towards the concentration of retail power in the hands of a few absolutely MASSIVE retail behemoths. Still, though, it does look convenient.
- Genius Introduces Stories: If I’m honest, I’m mainly including this because it fits with my OH CHRIST WHY MUST EVERYTHING BE A STORY NOWADAYS position - Genius, the lyric annotation site so beloved of the hiphop community, has launched its own version of Stories, which present information about a track in tappable, bite-sized fashion, to be ‘enjoyed’ while the song plays in the background. Of course they have. FFS.
- The Panini Digital Sticker Album: I am really not looking forward to the World Cup at all this year; Italy aren’t even in it, which means I don’t have a team to support, and I have a genuine, creeping fear that England might do quite well - I’ve always said that I would emigrate if England ever actually won the thing, and whilst I’ve always felt reasonably confident that that’s not going to happen, this year everyone else is really underwhelming too and I have a sneaking suspicion that there could be a run on the cards. I like to think that we’re past all the jingoism and tatts and shouting nowadays, and that if England were to do ok it might not be the pustular explosion of ugly nationalism that I’d always feared... and then I step out of my nice liberal bubble for five minutes and realise that, nope, we’re still all dreadful and the country would be rendered unbearable by footballing victory. PRAY IT DOESN’T HAPPEN. Anyway, that’s a very roundabout way of saying that the only good thing about the World Cup this year is that Panini now have a digital sticker album, so you can get all of that GOTGOTGOTNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED joy from the comfort of your commute. Swap you a shiny Messi.
- Miller Facemusic: A frivolous dessert after the heavy, carrion-stinking NEWSMEAL I’ve just force-fed you, this is a cute idea by Miller (the booze-peddlers), although I am fcuked if I can retroactively determine the ‘insight’ that’s led to this. You upload a photo of your face (protip - don’t use an actual photo of your face, because, well, you probably shouldn’t be too careful), and it analyses it for 6 separate datapoints (smile, eyes, that sort of jazz) which it THEN uses to make alterations to the track playing constantly in the background; effectively the musical soundtrack is a composite of all the data from everyone who has ever visited. Which, let’s be clear, is utterly pointless and seems to have no link to drinking crap beer whatsoever, but let’s not let that get in the way of the appreciation of some really rather slick webwork.
THE SECTION WHICH WANTS TO ALERT YOU TO THE FACT THAT IT WILL BE MOVING AT PACE WHAT WITH THE FACT THAT AT THE TIME OF WRITING THERE ARE STILL 6 PAGES OF LINKS TO GET THROUGH, PT.1:
- Be A Deletist: Guides to removing yourself from all of the dataharvesting timesinks. We all know you’re not actually going to use these, but this is an excellent link to share to Facebook so you can give the smug illusion of being a privacy-and-protection-savvy digital wizard. You twat.
- The Life Magazine Photo Archive: This is a truly wonderful piece of digital archiving, really nice webwork and an absolute timesink (so, er, don’t get lost in it til you’ve clicked ALL THE OTHER LINKS, ok?). 4million+ photos from the archives of Life Magazine, all tagged by machine learning (because, also, this is a Google experiment and therefore effectively part of the inevitable, inexorable rise of the machine overlords, so perhaps I ought to be a touch more critical and suspicious of the whole thing now I come to think of it), all searchable...play around with this and learn what a visual archive could be, if you had all the money and the computational power to throw at it. It is fascinating, not just for the images (which are multifarious and great) but also for the insight into how machine image recognition works - honestly, SO GOOD.
- Knowhere News: This site does a terrible job of selling itself, so THANK FCUK that I am here to write an oversimplified and slightly shoddy explanation of its features and functionality. Knowhere News is a news site (see, INSIGHT!) which generates its stories using AI (not actually AI) - it takes a selection of news outlets’ takes on a story and summarises them, breaking these summaries into left-leaning, right-leaning and ‘impartial’ articles which users can then switch between; the idea being that you can see the opposing ways in which a story is being written or presented in a single place. It’s imperfect, obviously, but the idea behind it is a smart one - and given that Facebook’s recent policy announcements on their fight against FAKE NEWS and misinformation basically involve pointing at Wikipedia and shrugging, it’s a step in a broadly positive direction imho.
- Augmented Ulster: Augmented reality meets satire meets THE TROUBLES. Sort of funny, until you remember that the underlying gag here is the intractable and fundamentally infinite nature of the Northern Irish question, at which point it becomes slightly less funny.
- Sounds Like You: This is oddly like that Miller thing from the previous section, but it is DIFFERENT! This is a project by Pandora, the Music Genome Project people, which asks you some questions about the sort of music you like (and my DAYS did I feel old when I tried it just now and had to keep clicking for ages before I got to something I even recognised, damnit), your name, your age, and for a photo of your face, and then composes a SPECIAL AND UNIQUE SONG just for you! The only downside, as far as I can tell, is that the resulting music - at least in my case - is an atonal, skittering mess. Maybe your face will produce better results; I am somewhat crumpled, aesthetically.
- Queering The Map: I am an absolute SUCKER for maps with attached stories - I still remember when that FB Live hack came out which let you zoom around a globe watching strangers’ livestreams oh god I just discovered it again and lost about 10 minutes there...SORRY! FOCUS! Anyway, Queering the Map is a website which lets people attach their own stories and memories about queer experiences to certain places - so you can scroll around, reading people’s reminiscences of kisses, dates, fcuks, and occasionally less positive experiences too. I’m ostensibly het, so can’t really speak to this beyond the superficial, but I would imagine that if you’re a young kid and feeling a bit confused and maybe scared about sexuality and difference and stuff, seeing the sheer volume of shared experiences on the site would be a rather heartwarming and uplifting experience.
- Icelandic Online: Iceland is the best country on the internet (don’t @ me - this is still one of my favourite Twitter accounts ever, and I miss it daily), as confirmed by the fact that its university has made a whole course available free online for anyone who wants to learn the language. Fine, it has limited global utility, but imagine how INCONTINENT with excitement they’d be if you rocked up in Rejkjavik and ordered some rendered whale fat in perfect native. You’d be a GOD.
- Cover Cheese: One of the lovely things about social media (a phrase I’m pretty sure is in near-terminal decline here in the year of our lord 2 k 18) is how it occasionally opens a window onto small oddities in the academic world - there was a brilliant and really rather disturbing thread about how sea otters are in fact creepy necrophiliac rapists, for example, which I would NEVER have known about had it not been for Twitter (thanks, Twitter!). This is sort of a bit like that - “Cover:Cheese is a project to produce new, interesting(and hopefully tasty) food using a genetic algorithm.We've developed a computer program called EMMA(Evolutionary Meal Management Algorithm) which can automatically generate recipes for new food items and improve them based on feedback about how good they taste. But we need help! The algorithm can generate new recipes far faster than we can actually make and test them. Therefore, we're turning to the internet to crowdsource the process of making and testing new recipes”. You really ought to read these - and please, if you DO try making any, do let me know how you get on. Unless you die, in which case I’d prefer it if you didn’t haunt me.
- The World’s First Alexa Music Video: Possibly the best example I’ve seen in ages of why being first isn’t always good. Yes, this is a music video / song which cleverly incorporates the Amazon Echo’s speech patterns into certain call-and-response elements; yes, it’s really smart and very impressive, but, sadly, the ‘song’ is dreadful and therefore these guys have spunked what is a brilliant creative and thus RUINED it for everyone else. OK, possibly a bit harsh, but it’s just how I feel.
- BitBrush: I was fairly convinced that this was an April Fool, but the site’s been around for a while longer, and the social media posts started in March, so I may be forced to accept that instead it’s just a genuinely terrible idea. Imagine a toothbrush...which MINED BITCOIN! Yes, that’s right kids - you too can combine oral hygiene with the accretion of infinitesimal quantities of bitcoin dust, just by brushing! No, hang on, I have looked at the site again and there is no way in hell that this isn’t a hoax. Is it? WHY IS IT SO HARD TO TELL WHAT IS REAL??
- You Are What You See: This was described somewhere else as ‘visual poetry’, which is a clunky-yet-totally-apt term for it. A project by Memo Akten, where neural nets trained on particular corpuses of imagery are fed feeds from surveillance cams and asked to show what they ‘see’. Whilst it might be a bit hard to get your head around - nothing to do with my appalling description, it’s because you’re intellectually deficient - you really ought to click the link and at the very least watch the top video; it made me feel a bit ‘funny’ in the very best possible way. Creepy and weird and beautiful, I could watch these forever.
- Handheld History: You! Yes you, child of the 80s, with your paunch and your male-pattern baldness and your inexplicable reluctance to leave behind the artefacts of your youth in favour of an outlook more befitting someone of your age! You will fcuking LOVE this - the Internet Archive comes up trumps again, with this remarkably comprehensive collection of playable LED games! You remember Game & Watch, right, Donkey Kong and various iterations thereof, squinting to see the shapes against the sun and wearing those rubber buttons down to nubbins in search of the elusive high score? Well this is a whole bunch of those games, playable online. Realistically all this will do is remind you of how low the bar was when it came to what kids of the 80s considered ‘entertainment’; why not send this to your actual children and ‘enjoy’ them p1ssing all over the chips of your treasured childhood memories?
- Hacking The Heist: A rare case of an AR project which seems....worth the hassle? Surely not! “On March 18th, 1990 thieves broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole several invaluable masterpieces. 28 years later, the frames remain empty.” - and so, the Boston museum created an AR experience allowing visitors to see what the paintings would have looked like in situ, using the IMMENSE AND TRANSFORMATIVE POWER of Augmented Reality! My tedious carping about AR aside, this is a lovely idea and the sort of thing I’d hope that the National Trust are considering doing next time they have a major property being refurbed, or indeed just as a general ‘oh look, a cool way of helping people understand what this place might have been like 200 years ago!’-type thing. Any and all historical institutions could take a look at this and take some pretty hefty inspiration imho.
- Picture This: Spring, or at least the damp, grey, wool-smelling London equivalent thereof, is in the air, and with it comes the annual realisation that I am depressingly awful at recognising plants and flowers - despite growing up within spitting distance of actual countryside, I can barely tell the difference between a begonia and a magnolia (to the youngsters reading this, this is apparently what happens as you age - you start to wish you could be into old person stuff like gardening and then get frustrated when you realise that you are too old to be a young person but too young to be truly middle-aged, and you sit in some sort of weird Schrodinger’s Midlife Crisis). Anyway, this app solves that - point it at flowers, it will tell you what they are, you will learn stuff. Honestly, this is SO appealing to me - it will be Saga Holidays before I know it (oh, and here’s another one I found which seemingly does the same thing, should you want to compare and contrast).
- The Bureau: This is very, very odd, but equally rather brilliant. The website’s not the clearest in terms of describing what the actual fcuk is going on, but the simplest explanation I can offer is that this is a comic, telling (slowly, panel by panel) the story of a day in the life of a particular office in an imagined, slightly surrealistic version of modern America - each panel is accompanied by a piece of electronica for you to listen to as you contemplate the story and the visual. You just have to check it out, but as an experiment with form(s) it’s rather a clever one I think.
- Dreaming Doom: What would it look like if you were to train an RNN solely on 90s shareware classic Doom (which I today learned that my friend Charlotte wrote a poem about once, which I’ll endeavour to share with you at a later date should she let me) and then asked it to IMAGINE a world within which it had to attempt to survive? It would look like this - weird, trippy, sort of recognisably Doom-like and yet very much not. The actual science / maths behind this is hugely interesting and far too complicated for me to explain here (because I am not clever enough to fully understand it) but you can click ‘Learn More’ at the bottom to be taken to the meaty stuff should you so desire.
- Nuke Yourself: Websites that show you the likely fallout of a nuke have been around for years, but this is a) a new one; b) reasonably nicely done; c) gives you pleasingly horrible NUMBERS OF DEATH unto the bargain (differentiating between fatalities and injuries, just so you can really get into the Threads-eque fantasy of the maimed, the blind and the crippled, all struggling on as the irradiated flesh falls from their bones like so much pulled pork); d) timely, considering the general uptick in global bellicosity we’re all ‘enjoying’ right about now. Useful, also, in terms of planning how far away from major cities you might need to be to be ‘safe’ (ahahahahahahahaha NOONE WILL BE SAFE).
- Rad URLs: Trending links from all over social media, updated every 15 minutes. A useful way of finding VIRAL CONTENT, although the site’s a touch on the shonky side; community managers might want to bookmark it, though.
- Beat Blender: We are nearly at the point where literally anyone can make a half-decent sounding beat using web-based synthtoys - this one, another smart experiment by Google, uses machine learning techniques to allow you to create shifting, evolving beat patterns by simply dragging your cursor around. It’s honestly HUGELY impressive, and if you’re like me you will spend 5 minutes playing with it and then wonder whether you actually have some sort of latent, hidden musical talent which has just been unlocked (you haven’t). Great fun, though.
- The Tear Gun: An art project which collects tears and freezes them, to create small, cold bullets for an air pistol. Make up your own high concept for this - I am including it simply because I really, really hate the whole ‘drinking your enemies tears’ meme, and I think there would be a delicious irony in shooting anyone who used it with this thing.
- Script to Screen: An Insta account sharing short video clips from films, playing alongside the script as it was written, allowing you to see how stage directions on the page are interpreted by performers and directors. Interesting, although as a result of this I have seen a clip of the recent Star Wars film for the first time and wow the acting, Jesus, how do people ignore that?
- The Facebook Container: Nice idea, this - a plugin for Firefox which takes steps to mask your browsing activity from Facebook; it effectively creates a ‘shell’ within which Facebook operates, with all other browsing activity locked off from it, which prevents Facebook from tracking your movements online through Like buttons, tracking pixels, etc. I mean, it’s not like it matters at this stage - you are already nothing more than a genericised advertising persona, ripe to be marketed at - but if it makes you feel better then you GO GIRL!
- Tribe: Is this a good idea? Tribe is an app which presents users with a series of relatively simple but seemingly quite fun games - the gimmick being that users playing games within the app can also simultaneously video chat with other players, creating (or so they hope) a happy, cheery community of millennial gamers, all talking and laughing and playing (and being advertised at, inevitably). On the one hand, this sort of makes sense - after all, you’re already staring at the screen / camera whilst playing; on the other, the camera angle’s going to be hideous, and if you’re anything like me then you gurn like an absolute bastard when playing anything. Still, maybe you will make some SPECIAL INTERNET GAME FRIENDS as a result, give it a try.
- Clipisode: A truly appallingly-named app, but a smart idea - this is basically a simple way of crowdsourcing video, working in much the same way as those collaborative podcast services of which there seem to have been 3million this year. You record a short video asking people a question or setting them a task - you then get a link which you can share with people, which allows them to record their own short clip (they don’t need to download the app); you, then, as the instigator, get all the clips back and can compile, edit and top-and-tail them as you see fit. Which if you’re in the market for some shonky, poorly-lit UGC with some questionable audio quality will be just PERFECT for you.
- Murmuration Simulator: You know those massive, swooping bulging flocks of starlings you occasionally see on summer evenings, the ones that look like maths just happening at you? Those are called murmurations (you knew that, didn’t you? Sorry), and this website lets you simulate them. Click the pause icon and you can change the settings - whack it up to about 10,000 birds and watch it get really complicated.
- Abandoned and Little-known Airfields: Literally just that - a site collecting information about obscure, unloved airfields. You think this is boring, don’t you? Yeah, well click the link, read the dedication and then feel bad. NOTHING IS BORING, EVERYTHING IS INTERESTING/
- Daji Studio: This is the website of Japanese sound designer Kenji Yoshida, who (as far as I can tell) earns his living composing jingles and background music for brands and adverts. There is a lot of his work on here, and it’s genuinely fascinating to click around and hear all the different styles and tones he’s worked through over the years - not to mention the site’s pleasingly minimalist too. You will, I promise, never have been so pleased to listen to Issey Miyake ad soundtracks.
- Idea Instructions: Instructions for algorithms, drawn in the style of IKEA self-assembly manuals. I really can’t think of much else to say about this, sorry.
- The Darling and the Dirty: Gif-y, cut-out ish, collage-style (God, this break has done wonders for my writing, hasn’t it? Sorry about this) art on Insta. Good stuff.
- The Thinking Egg: You really can chuck any old crap on Kickstarter, tag it with something to do with ‘mindfulness’ and watch the cash roll in. Witness the ‘thinking egg’, currently with 30-odd hours to go (25 by the time you lot get this) which has raised 100k and which - let’s be very clear - is a small egg shape, carved into wood or stone, or cast in brass. AN EGG-SHAPED PAPERWEIGHT. Except, OBVIOUSLY, it’s an antidote to our hyperstressed and superconnected world! It’s an oasis of calm and reflection in the harried bustle of the day-to-day, a reminder to be ‘present’, and ‘in the moment’ and IT’S A FCUKINGH EGG-SHAPED PAPERWEIGHT FFS! Look, go to the beach, find a nicely-shaped pebble, pick it up, feel its weight and heft, take it home with you, make it your friend, but please for the love of god stop wasting your fcuking money on this stuff, you will only encourage people and noone wants that. Thinking egg. Christ, this has made me really annoyed and it’s TOO EARLY for that.
By Lu Xinjian
THE SECTION WHICH WANTS TO ALERT YOU TO THE FACT THAT IT WILL BE MOVING AT PACE WHAT WITH THE FACT THAT AT THE TIME OF WRITING THERE ARE STILL 6 PAGES OF LINKS TO GET THROUGH, PT.2:
- Pigzbe: This is CRYPTO FOR KIDS! Pigzbe is a London-based startup that effectively wants to use cryptocurrency (in this case, one called Wallo) to teach kids about the beauty of money and the miracle of capitalism through its app and attendant software - the idea is basically that you give them pocket money and spending power using the crypto, and because it’s all digital and app-integrated you can manage rewards, payments, storage, gifts, etc, centrally. There’s even a card which will apparently let you use the stuff in the real world, should you desire. The website is surprisingly light on information on why this is any better than, you know, actual money, but, hey, IT’S CRYPTO! Get little Jack and Amelia in on the ground and they’ll be bitcoin millionaires by the time they hit puberty! Jesus wept.
- Open Data Cam: Open source image recognition tech, which can be used by anyone to do urban data capture - the makers suggest its use to measure traffic volume, but you could almost certainly do far more fun and potentially mischievous things with it - could it be set up to recognise cyclists, say, and trigger a hose blast of cold water as they pass? I mean, could it?
- Street Mix: Another one for the ‘ostensibly tedious but actually significantly more interesting than I’d expected it to be’ folder, this site lets you play around with street furniture and urban planning to design your own street. I don’t quite know why you’d need or want to do this, but I am not privy to your inner needs and desires.
- Table Video: Do you have 5 grand burning a hole in your pocket? Do you want an occasional table which also doubles as a hi-def video screen (and, bizarrely, as a set of speakers too)? Would you like to make everyone who visits your house intensely uncomfortable by having very, very pink and glistening bongo playing on your flat surfaces as you pour them a welcome drink? OH GOOD!
- Sketch Machine: This is a cool-seeming toy which effectively lets you create stop-motion-animation sketches which you can then export as gifs - unfortunately it requires a degree of artistic ability so far beyond my own to be able to create anything that doesn’t look hideous that I’m unable to offer anything resembling an adequate assessment of its goodness or otherwise. You might like it, who knows? TRY IT.
- Eyetracking: Click this. Move your mouse around. Take a moment to think that the eye-tracking is TOTALLY computer generated - CREEPY, ISN’T IT?
- 21 Wallpaper: If you’re bored of the photo of your partner / children / car / pony which currently acts as your phone’s wallpaper, you might appreciate this project - “Every three months 7 of the world's best illustrators and designers publish 3 of their works for your screen wallpaper”, which you can then download and use as you see fit. These are beautiful, you will like them I think.
- Myth Generator: Every click generates a new myth or legend. “Creatures born of sea-foam”, say, or “Two devils, male and female, extracted from corpse’s belly”. I have no idea at all why this exists, but if you play D&D or want writing prompts or just enjoy the idea of some randomised, slightly-occult story generation, then this is for YOU.
- US Injuries: A bot that Tweets a selection of descriptions of emergency room visits from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Useful, mainly, as a way of reminding yourself how lucky you are - you may have had a crap week, fine, but someone in the US is in hospital right now dealing with a fractured hand because they, er, apparently punched a television, so count yourself lucky.
- Whaling History: Literally everything you could ever possibly want to know about the history of blubber and flensing. The crew lists from 19/20C whaling voyages are a particular treat, if you’re a fan of men with sternly biblical names (and, really, who isn’t? NO FCUKER).
- Dog TV: I’m not an expert on dogs - quite the opposite, in fact - but I’ve generally always thought of them as being more into walks, sticks and sniffing each other than watching telly. Still, if YOUR dog seems to be pining for some hot video content, perhaps this will cheer him up - Dog TV is, er, a bunch of YouTube videos, aimed at dogs and their owners (my favourite is the Dog Chef, who in one of his clips shows you how to make frozen yoghurt FOR YOUR DOG. I mean, WHY?) for them to enjoy together. It’s...odd, patchy in quality, with no coherent editorial vision at all - then again, it’s not like the dogs are going to be applying high critical standards to the output so perhaps it doesn’t really matter. Ask your schnauzer what they think.
- Emoji Garden: Generate emoji gardens with a click. WHY NOT, EH?
- Masha Ivashintsova: This is wonderful - I’m just going to quote the site here: “Of course, I knew that my mother was taking pictures all along. What was striking is that she never shared her works with anyone, not even her family. She hoarded her photo-films and rarely developed them, so nobody was ever able to appreciate the fruits of her passion. Those same films remained in the attic of our house in Pushkin, Saint Petersburg after her death in 2000. Until recently. Until my husband and I stumbled across the films (photographs taken between 1960−1999) whilst undergoing a renovation and developed some of them. What we saw was astounding. My mother, Masha Ivashintsova, was heavily engaged in the Leningrad poetic and photography underground movement of the 1960−80s. She was a lover of three geniuses of the time: Photographer Boris Smelov, Poet Viktor Krivulin and Linguist Melvar Melkumyan, who is also my father. Her love for these three men, who could not be more different, defined her life, consumed her fully, but also tore her apart. She sincerely believed that she paled next to them and consequently never showed her photography works, her diaries and poetry to anyone during her life.” The best sort of found photography, these are some incredible images made all the more special by the context and backstory.
- Artbabble: This is ace - Artbabble collects art-related videos from over 50 cultural institutions worldwide, categorised by theme, artistic style or movement, geography, etc. You want to watch an hour’s worth of videos about abstract expressionism on a Friday afternoon? YEAH YOU DO. For those of you so inclined, this is an absolute goldmine.
- Puppemoji: This is technically very cool indeed, but I get a faint whiff of the BAD FUTURE about it for some reason. Puppemoji is a Japanese app for iOS, optimised for iPhoneX, which basically does the whole ‘facemapping to a cartoon avatar’ thing, but which can also create a whole-body avatar for you, placed in a virtual space...so you can effectively puppet yourself. You can see some examples of how it works on the company’s Twitter feed, and it’s hugely impressive, but the way they sell it - as a tool for shy people to share emotions anonymously - just strikes me as hugely sad.
- Txtpen: A website plugin that reads copy on your Pages for your visitors, which could be useful. Maybe.
- Quotewatch: I MUST stop including Kickstarters on here which just make me angry. And I will, one day, but first I must get this off my chest - Quotewatch, fully-funded with over a week to go, is a watch which - GET THIS! - also displays MOTIVATIONAL QUOTES on its e-ink face. Want to be confronted with some bland, platitudinous slogan whenever you check the time? Really? You do? Well fcuk off then, I don’t want your sort here. Although the idea of hacking these to show somewhat, er, bleaker quotes (“This is civilisation as I see it, colossal and jagged” works particularly well, to my mind) is tempting, so maybe it’s not all bad after all.
- Always Reading: An alternative to Pocket or similar, this service is a Chrome plugin that can let you queue up articles to email to yourself for offline reading at regular, timed intervals. Depending on your perspective this is either a useful, measured way of burning through your reading list, or yet another in the seemingly infinite list of THINGS screaming for your time and attention.
- Abbreviations: A website listing literally EVERY SINGLE abbreviation, acronym, etc, you could possibly think of. The only thing that could improve this would be for the url to be www.abbreves.com.
- The Artform: Another week, another Patreon variant - this one’s for the more trad art community, seemingly, so it’s more choreographers and fine artists rather than the sort of people who’ll draw you being intercrurally violated by an anthropomorphised badger.
- Smash Hits Bot: The latest Twitter creation from one-man bot factory Rob Manuel, this is a lovely toy which interviews you in the style of Smash Hits Magazine; follow it, @ it and it will keep asking you questions til you stop answering. What’s loveliest about this, to my mind, is that Twitter’s public and so you can read all these rather sweet, banal, occasionally funny interviews with total strangers; it’s hugely pleasing.
- //www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/">LEGO Cars: A truly impressive Flickr set of photos of 80s sports cars, made of LEGO.
- SuperParent: A really good idea, this - a website about videogames and gaming, aimed at parents and designed to give them sensible answers on issues about child safety online, game appropriateness, Twitch streamers who may or may not be appropriate for a 9 year old kid to watch, that sort of thing. Hugely useful if you’re a parent who’s slightly confused about what your kids ought to be doing, gameswise.
- Project 84: You may have seen the Gormley-esque figures on the South Bank of late, erected to draw attention to the number of men who die each year as a result of suicide; 84 each week, hence the project’s name.This is the accompanying website, with stories and resources around depression and mental issues - there’s plenty of useful and helpful material on there, if you or anyone you know needs it.
- Just A Line: This is another AR graffiti-type app, this one by Google - you scribble in virtual space, and can then record videos with the drawing as a persistent part of the shot. Check out the video if that doesn’t make sense - the effects are pretty cool, and if you make music videos I reckon you can do some pretty cool-looking stuff with this for free.
- Graphmented: Seeing as we’re doing AR, LOOK! An app which, er, lets you throw graphs and charts into AR space! Why? Don’t ask stupid questions, it’s AR!
- The Noblewoman’s Laugh: There is a ‘thing’ in anime, apparently, a particular type of laugh, referred to as ‘the Noblewoman’s laugh’. It is weirdly ubiquitous; this YouTube account has collected literally hundreds and hundreds of clips of it, and I don’t know why, and it’s frankly weirding me out a bit.
- Cold War Steve: More Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell to the uninitiated) memery. Quite odd, but if you like the idea of seeing poorly-’shopped scenes of Phil Mitchell hanging out in a working men’s club with Bill Clinton and Kim Jong Un then this will be right up your alley.
- Beefcake Swimwear: You know how last Summer’s MUST-HAVE Insta accessory was the elaborate inflatable toy - a unicorn or an icecream or somesuch, in bright, cheering millennial Tumblr pastel shades? Well, I’m calling it now (I’m not, let’s be clear, calling anything), this year it’s going to be the one-piece swimsuit for men and women - seriously, click the link and tell me you can’t imagine a bunch of tedious craft gin obsessives at London Fields lido all dressed like this. You can, can’t you? DON’T LET IT BE YOU.
- Machine Learning for Kids: Whilst to me that sounds terrifying and ridiculous, like ‘Quantum physics for llamas’, I am assured by people I know who have offspring and who are doing the whole ‘teach them to code’ thing that this is seemingly a very sensible and workable series of games and tutorials to help your kids get their heads around rudimentary ML concepts. Obviously if your kid’s more likely to try and eat crayons than programme a Raspberry Pi then this is unlikely to be the moment of Damascene change, but you never know.
- Let’s Go To The Imaginary Cities: âLet's Go to the Imaginary Citiesâ is a project from Japan which draws maps, infrastructure, and even service provider logotypes for cities which don't actually exist. It’s gorgeous, detailed and entirely in Japanese, meaning I have only the faintest idea of what is going on beyond this frankly unsatisfying and cursory description, sorry.
- Call Me By Monet: GUESS WHAT THE GAG IS GO ON GUESS GUESS. All your impressionistic Chalamet needs, on one Instagram account.
- Keego: GOD I HATE KICKSTARTER. I mean, I don’t, but ANOTHER really stupid idea, funded 5x? WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE. Keego - brace yourselves, this one’s a doozy - is a SQUEEZABLE WATER BOTTLE. Yes, that’s right, it’s a water bottle. You can squeeze it - it’s made of metal, though, which is the revolutionary bit. A squeezy bottle, made of metal. 45 quid. FOR A SQUEEZY BOTTLE. You are all mad.
- Panorama of the Thames: “The Panorama of the Thames conservation project is creating a unique and enduring historical record of the banks of the river through Great Britain's capital city, London. It contains spectacular panoramic images and videos, accompanied by an extensive database to cover every feature along 52 miles of rapidly changing riverbank.” I mean, that’s it, but I am fascinated by the Thames and you might be too.
- Web Cassette: Recreate the experience of listening to music on a faded c60 with messed up heads and a creaking motor, and then remind yourself of the reason we all got so excited by CDs.
- People, But With A Small Head: This Twitter feed really does do exactly what you think it does. These are, I promise you, GLORIOUS.
- The UK TV Drama Pitch Generator: I am doing a bit of TV work at the moment, and Christ alive it really is like this. Here, look, “An international city planner with a haunted memory stick in a discreet East End must protect a haunted baby so they can finally learn to cook again. Stars Chiwetel Ejiofor.” That would TOTALLY get commissioned.
- SWPA 2018: The winning photographs from this year’s Sony World Photography Awards. Stunning as ever; these are going on show at Somerset House next week, should you fancy checking them out in a more formal setting.
- A Transgender Man’s Journey: This is wonderful. “Transgender Artist & Photographer, T. Chick McClure documents his journey one week at a time since beginning his medical transition on March 29th 2016.” - there is nothing more cliche than saying that a series of photos take you on a journey, but, well, these do.
- Terrapattern: A visual search tool for satellite imagery, meaning that you can isolate elements in a top-down satellite shot and it will search for similar stuff, so you can identify, say, all shipping container yards or cul-de-sacs in a given geographical area. Only works on 6 or so cities so far, London not included, but they’re adding more all the time; this is very future.
- Lubalin 100: A site commemorating the life and work of Herb Lubalin in the year of his centenary; Lubalin was a 20th Century graphic designer and typographer who worked on some truly iconic projects and whose style was hugely influential in the 90s in particular. The site is posting a piece of work of his each day for 100 days, and we’re only 27 or so in - worth bookmarking if you’re into design, type, etc.
- Gakman Creatures: One of that weird subset of Etsy sellers who flogs stuff so odd, so...creepy, that I simply can’t imagine the market for it. Gakman Creatures crafts...toys, I suppose you’d call them, but they’re more like small versions of film props, the sort of thing Henson’s Creature Workshop might throw up after a challenging team awayday on the ayahuasca. Look at the Cheshire Cat and imagine that in your bedroom, gazing at you. I reckon the Venn Diagram intersection between ‘people who buy these’ and ‘people who by those weird pewter dragons clutching swarovski crystals’ is pretty much bang on 100%.
- Altergaze: An in-browser VR game! A perfect illustration of why VR is very, very far away from being a mainstream thing! You can use a headset to play this, but it also works in-browser; either way, it’s an interesting proof of concept rather than anything I could ever imagine actually choosing to play.
- Roxham: Perennial Curios favourites NFB Canada (see Curios passim) return with another interactive storytelling documentary experience thing, this allowing you to explore the stories of those people trying to illegally cross the US/Canadian border; there’s some light-touch VR, but as ever with NFB they do an excellent job of not letting the technology gimmicks overshadow the narratives, meaning this really just works. I enjoyed it hugely, and I think you will too.
- Five Strings: This is a musical toy which basically lets you do Seinfeld/Hollyoaks-style slap-bass funk. It is brilliant and I lost a good 15 minutes to it just now so BE WARNED.
- Zombs Royale: This, though, is the ULTIMATE WORK KILLER. Zombs Royale is not dissimilar to something I featured a few weeks ago - another top-down, multiplayer, in-browser Battle Royale game, like Fortnite or Player Unknown but, well, less good. BUT STILL SUPER FUN! You spawn, you try and survive til everyone else is dead, you shoot strangers, you curse, you die, you play again, and BOOM! All of a sudden it’s hometime. Seriously very fun indeed, and very much benefits from mouse/keyboard controls so it’s almost like it’s designed to be played at your desk at work. Almost.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
- Translated Pets: Photos of animals from rescue shelters across the world, complete with their names. O LOOK AT EAT THE CUTE JAPANESE KITTEN O MAOW O MAOW O MAOW MAOW MAOW
- Cars Matching Homes: Photos of cars which seem to be eerily coordinated with their surroundings.
- The Poster Boys: The film posters of Ingmar Bergman - awesome collection of fiml poster design from the mid-late 20th Century, from Europe and the US.
- MS Dos 5: A Tumblr themed to look like Windows circa 1998, which has made me very nostalgic indeed for a time I really do not miss.
- That’s Not How You Pipette: Tumblr collecting snarky commentary from ACTUAL scientists calling out examples of bad or shoddy labwork on telly and elsewhere. I have to say, having spent much of the past month literally SHOUTING at the telly whenever there’s been news about Facebook & CA, I feel these people’s pain.
- Museum of Interactive Art: A selection of classic modernist artworks, reinterpreted for the web so as to be lightly interactive. These are beautifully done.
- Architecture of Doom: I mean, you don’t really need an additional explanation here, do you?
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG AND OF WHICH THERE ARE MANY, SO APOLOGIES IF MY DESCRIPTIONS ARE A TOUCH ON THE CURSORY SIDE THIS WEEK BUT, WELL, MAN MY FINGERS ARE TIRED:
- The Royal Wedding: No, I know you don’t care about it; I don’t either. Regardless, though, if you didn’t see it when it was published last week then you really owe yourselves a look at this by the NYT, which is absolutely the best piece of overdesigned interactive I have seen in 2018. Beautiful not only in its design and functionality, but also because it is genuinely funny and GETS the internet; I would like all future fluffy non-news material online to be presented in this manner please thankyou.
- Meet Lucius Chan: I have to confess, I am really not at all sure how I ended up here; I am equally certain that none of you will believe me when I claim that it’s not a result of a secret interest or fetish or anything. Really, though, I promise it isn’t. Anyway, this is a VERY NSFW (prose, not pics) page, depicting the fictional roleplaying alter ego of, er, some person on the internet - Lucius Chan is a hypersexualised...thing, who is here described in quite astonishing and increasingly ridiculous detail. The site is a place for people who are into roleplay (mainly but not exclusively sexual, as far as I can tell) to describe their characters and kinks so others can know whether they would enjoy roleplaying together, I guess; this list of Lucius’ predilections, or those of his creator, is...well...eye-opening, to say the least. It’s not, technically, gross or creepy in a traditional sense, so much as just wildly and creatively over-the-top, and I sort of feel I should stop talking here and just let you have a look. Or not. Can I just stress again that I really did just stumble across this? No? Christ.
- Marilyn and Miller: Slightly heartbreaking profile of the relationship between Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, described within as being like “if Kim Kardashian married Ta-Nehisi Coates”, which we can all agree is an arresting an improbably idea. Hugely melancholy picture of two sad people, and an interesting look at Monroe’s relationship to stereotypes and archetypes of femininity, particularly when viewed through the prism of the past 9 months in gender politics.
- How 50 Female Characters Were Described In Their Screenplays: Occasionally these are far better than you’d feared; often, though, they are depressingly and predictably indicative of Hollywood’s...er...retrograde attitude to women. The Tarantino one made me laugh, in particular, not least because of the fact that once you know about his foot fetish it’s sort of amazing how obvious it is.
- 20 Years of Viagra: Fascinating look back at two decades of the marketing of sex and sexual performance; slightly shamefully, I had given literally no thought whatsoever to the very particular ideas of sex and sexual value embodied by Viagra and its promotion - particularly the fact that it’s a very male-centric conception of it, in the main - or indeed the fact that whilst Pfizer made billions off it in the 90s and 00s, reproductive rights were still being fought over in many of the countries it was being sold in. Which is sort of appalling, now I come to think of it.
- The YouTube Face: On the ‘YouTube Face’, the particular exaggerated expressions used by YouTubers in their thumbnails to catch scrolling eyeballs and entice them into clicking, and the eventual emojification of the human countenance that’s resulting. FACES AS CLICKBAIT, KIDS, WELCOME TO THE FUTURE!
- Real Life in China: Thanks to Wilson for pointing me at this one; a heartbreaking essay by a student from Inner Mongolia talking about the racism and discrimination - effectively at a state level - she experiences in her day-to-day life. It’s increasingly seeming like there’s some significant and unpleasant religious and ethnic suppression going on; it’s...it’s quite a scary place, China, isn’t it?
- The Running Man (Is Better Than You Remember): A blow-by-blow account of the brilliance of the Running Man, which I guarantee you will REALLY want to watch after reading this.
- Redesigning Reddit: Fascinating examination of the reasons and considerations behind the ongoing redesign of Reddit; I love stuff like this that digs into how you affect massive-scale change in large online communities (sexy, isn’t it?) and how design and communication principles overlap and intersect; if you’ve ever done webdesign projects - even if you’re not a designer - this is properly interesting, honest.
- Culinary Diplomacy: So this is ostensibly an article specifically about why there are so many Thai restaurants in America, but the answer to that question opens up a whole other avenue in here - did you know that the reason we’ve been inundated with Korean and Peruvian restaurants here in London in the past 5-6 years is not because of some sort of organic move towards, say, citrus-cured raw fish and bulgoki bowls but instead because the Governments of both countries have invested millions in exporting their respective cuisines internationally to boost trade revenues and increase their profile on the global stage? Oh, you did? Oh. Still, my mind it was BLOWN here.
- The Mind Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark: I loved this piece - a profile of philosopher and technologist Andy Clark, whose work explores the mind/body duality (or not duality, depending on your perspective) with a particular emphasis on tech. To what extent should we consider our devices, our memory storage platforms, our information networks, extensions of our minds or indeed our selves? And what potential implications does that have on how our rights can or indeed should be extended? SO MUCH in here - you will, I promise, feel smarter after reading it, or at the very least slightly confused which is almost the same thing.
- Goodbye, Cool Loser Dream Boy: An elegy for the slacker heroes of 90s Gen X movies, the cool, cold, controlling emotionally distant and unavailable guitar-playing, job-hating small-town fcukups who, circa 1994ish, were THE romantic archetype for every teen, and who in retrospect were maybe a bit cnuty. I particularly like the bit where the piece dissects how the very idea of ‘cool’ is dead - which is sort of true here in 2k18, or at least that’s what it looks like to a man very much at the wrong end of his 30s.
- Gen Z Is Bored of the Internet: The upshot of this piece is that whilst kids might look like they are always on their phones, enjoying an uninterrupted stream of EXCITING CONTENT EXPERIENCES they are in fact often just sitting there staring blankly at a screen and thinking O GOD I AM SO BORED OF EVERYTHING. Which on the one hand is sort of sad, but on the other is sort of comforting; it’s almost good to know that the adolescent experience (horror+uncontrollable lust+crippling ennui) is largely unchanged since I was of age.
- Weeds: A good, short metaphorical essay about gardening and community cultivation. This is an excellent analogy that you may wish to deploy yourselves.
- Ready Player Two: McSweeney’s goes in hard on Ready Player One by imagining its sequel as told from a girl’s point of view. ““You villain!” I shouted, as I swung my keyblade. “You’re just as bad as Evil Willow in season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer!” “Please,” my arch-nemesis, Sephiroth But Also A Wolf, rolled her eyes. “The real villain of season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was Buffy.” I gasped. Could she be using subjective thematic analysis against me, instead of just knowledge of trivia? Unthinkable.” Superb.
- Fast Food In Iran: JOYOUS. Did you know that in Iran you cannot order Pizza Hut but you can order Pizza Hot? Or that you can get burgers at Mash Donald’s? Copyright lawyers, turns out, don’t seem to do too much business in downtown Tehran, and so these ersatz ripoffs flourish in a nation where the actual franchises have been banned for decades, but consumer demand for Western-style grease and sugar delivery mechanisms continues unabated. Charming.
- The Food That Changed America: If you love food writing, this list, ordered chronologically from earliest to most recent, of the 101 foodstuffs which had the greatest cultural impact on the US food scene is superb. If nothing else, it will set you up nicely for lunch / dinner.
- Meet Nick Kyrgios: Genuinely excellent piece of sportswriting, profiling enfant terrible of the ATP Nick Kyrgios, he of the tantrums and walk-offs and apparently quite astonishing natural talent. Does the marvellous trick of making tennis seem interesting when it really, really isn’t; it probably ought to be illegal to refer to the Foster Wallace / Federer essays when talking about anyone else’s writing on tennis, but this is reminiscent of it.
- Post-Authenticity and Meme Culture: Jay Owens on fine form here, writing about memes and sincerity and irony and sensibleness and fear and anxiety and all the subtextual metanarrative wrapped up in your latest American Chopper remix. I was talking to people about this earlier this week, and how the agricultural thiccboi Twitter account is so weirdly at the apex of all this sort of stuff, and the extent to which so much of a certain type of online discourse at the moment is so packed with allusion and metareference and it’s basically just memes all the way down at this point, and you will very soon need at least a 2:1 in advanced memetics to understand the next iteration of Spongebob. It’s exhausting. Anyway, a good essay; if you want more memes, by the way, this is a good analysis of American Chopper in the context of Galaxy Brain, should you so desire one.
- The Woman Who Fought Bulls: A profile of Cristina Sanchez, one of the top female matadors in Spain, and of the sport itself; as with every piece I read about bullfighting, you get a very real sense that the writer really didn’t quite know what to expect and that they are finding the whole experience a bit, well, traumatic; Ms Sanchez is a very brave woman indeed.
- The Legacy of Abuse: Junot Diaz writes beautifully and movingly for the New Yorker about his experience of being sexually abused as a child growing up, about how he internalised it for decades and how it impacted his life, his relationships, his work, and nearly caused him to take his own life. Not, obviously, a hugely cheering read, but Diaz is as ever a superb writer and the catharsis he feels in getting this out feels very real indeed.
- When Errol Flynn Dated My Daughter: Narrative by Florence Aadland about her daughter’s romance with Errol Flynn; this excerpt from her autobiography recounts the moment she met Flynn for the first time. I don’t want to say much more about this other than that there’s a hell of a kicker a couple of paras from the end. The past, as they say, really was a different country.
- The Fall of Milo: Superb by Tanya Gold on Milo, his fall from grace, his cast-iron hubris, his lack of...centre, I suppose you might say. Does the best job of anything I’ve read on him of capturing the essential vapidity of the man - there really is no there there, to coin a phrase.
- //medium.com/@leighalexander/the-soft-truth-b7c8639031f2">The Soft Truth: A superb piece of near-future semi-scifi by Leigh Alexander, taking in YouTube slime videos, ASMR, content farms and a whole load of odd modernity things besides. The tone of this reminded me rather a lot of Miranda July, which I personally think is A Good Thing; try it, it’s excellent.
- What About The Breakfast Club?: If you didn’t get to read this at the weekend, please do so now - brilliant essay by Molly Ringwald about the film that made her famous and continues to define her career, seen through the prism of several decades and, of course, revised attitudes to gender and power and portrayal in the arts and society. Remarkable not only because it’s an unusually candid and clear-eyed look back at the filmmaking process, but because Ringwald writes so well and so smartly; this really is excellent.
- The Doctor is a Woman: An extract from Sloane Crosley’s forthcoming book, this piece talks about her freezing her eggs - this is SO good, on all sorts of things, and I learned loads about ovulation so it’s a double win really.
- Moving Targets: The author describes her relationship with firearms, and the people who own and (mis)use them, over the course of her life; part memoir, part confessional, part Tumblr essay, this is beautifully done.
- Maybe Something: Finally this week, part prose, part poem, this is about love and death and cancer and life and people and it made me cry like an absolute baby. This is honestly GLORIOUS and I wish I could write like this.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
- First up, this is by Club Palace. IT IS NOT CGI. Amazing, though Christ knows how they had the patience:
2) Next, this is by Coach Hop, and it’s called “I Like Taylor Swift” and it’s the most 90s college indie rock thing I have heard in YEARS and it makes me feel young and I don’t care if you don’t like it so there:
4) Second Curios appearance for Jimothy Lacoste, who is now blowing up properly to the extent that I expect him to be on billboards advertising streetwear across London by June. Still, WHO CARES, he deserves the fame, this is just ace and he is utterly charming - this is called Subway System and I challenge you not to feel marginally better about everything after you’ve watched / listened:
8) Finally this week (Dear God, this has been SO LONG and I am SO SORRY), I posted this on Twitter at the weekend and it did reasonable numbers so there’s a chance that you’ve seen it. If not, though, then you are in for a treat - the greatest ever series of narrative led adverts, telling the story of Chi Chan, some gum, and Long Long Man. I promise you, this is worth every second of the 6 minutes you will need to watch it. Enjoy, and thankyou for reading and BYE I LOVE YOU BYE BYE SEE YOU AGAIN NEXT WEEK AND I PROMISE IT WILL BE SHORTER AND MORE MANAGEABLE AND, WELL, LESS SWIVEL-EYED AND MAD NEXT WEEK HONEST BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!: