Web Curios 13/07/18
Oh Christ. What a MESS.
Look, let's focus on the positives - the kids got rescued!
What else? Eh? Oh.
Sorry everyone, I have literally NOTHING else today - it's all just TOO MUCH (and I have a lunch to get to, then theatre with a godchild, and then dinner with my girlfriend and then Fat Bob's birthday tomorrow and then, doubtless, an awful lot of tears and recrimination on Sunday). Look, everyone, see if you can somehow derive some certainty and comfort from what follows, because God knows I have none to offer you myself.
It's July 2018 and everything is a total and utter fcuking mess, but at least I am a consistent presence in your lives - THIS, AS EVER, IS WEB CURIOS!
By Raku Inoue
THE SECTION WHICH ISN’T WRITING ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT’S GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH ADVERMARKETINGPR AND BECAUSE IT’S ONLY IN THE US AND BECAUSE, WELL, THERE’S ALREADY TOO MUCH STUFF GOING ON, ISN’T THERE, BUT WHICH THINKS THAT FACEBOOK’S APPROACH TO INFOWARS DOESN’T DOVETAIL VERY NEATLY WITH THEIR STATED AVERSION TO ‘FAKE NEWS’:
- Facebook Testing AR Ads: I know, I’m excited too! Facebook, in typical fashion, headlines this as “New Ways to Inspire Holiday Shoppers with Video” which, Christ, is pretty much the most miserable and joyless way to describe the fact that now retailers (in the US, in certain categories, but, as per, this is the universal future do not try to fight it) can buy ad units in the Newsfeed which will exhort eager consumers to TRY ON GLASSES or TRY ON MAKEUP in AR! Isn’t it exciting? You can read a slightly clearer account of what you’ll be able to do in the TechCrunch writeup here, but, look, let’s all be realistic about this - there will be a couple of interesting, novel and reasonably high-quality uses of this and then there will be about 300,000 executions which let you, I don’t know, wear a Gregg’s pasty on your head, thereby hammering another nail into the coffin of the idea of ‘AR as something normal people might ever actually want to interact with a brand through’. Still, virtual sunglasses!
- Facebook Stories Adds ‘Highlights’ Option: Just like on Insta, you’ll now be able to compile expired elements from Stories past into ‘Highlights’ which can live at the top of your profile. Which is...nice? Is it nice? Has anyone willingly watched one of their Facebook friend’s Stories? NO MATTER, for this is the universal future (see above) as dictated by the Big Blue Misery Factory and who are we to question it? NO FCUKERS, that’s who!
- Instagram Question Stickers Are HERE!: You’ll know this, of course, as every single cripplingly dull (but so pretty!) narcissist you follow on the platform has spent the past few days exhorting their army of egofellators to ask them stuff about themselves, thereby turning Insta into Curios Cat or Ask.fm. Still, it was trailed last week and now HERE IT IS - in case you haven’t yet been exposed to it, anyone can now add a ‘Question’ sticker to their Stories, into which anyone can type a question for them to answer in future content. The questions or comments submitted aren’t anonymous - a fact I imagine has already let to one or two socially awkward moments - though they are when reshared to a subsequent ‘gram; this is, my inevitable, tedious snark aside, a really good way of driving interaction with an audience and I can imagine a bunch of ‘influencers’ (sorry) going full Diceman with this for the lols.
- Insta Expands Collection Ads and Shoppable Stories to All Brands: You remember these - made available to certain exclusive partners last month, now here for everyone to ‘enjoy’. Obviously if you flog tat to people, the ability to do so directly through Insta is A Good Thing - who knows, perhaps you could be the next ‘self-made billionaire’ just like Kylie Jenner!
- WhatsApp To Label Forwarded Messages: No real relevance here at all, but in the pantheon of ‘measures ostensibly designed to combat ‘Fake News’ which will do literally nothing to combat the spread of said ‘Fake News’’, this one is SPECIAL. If you forward a message to another user within WhatsApp, that user will see a notification informing them that it was indeed a forward. Er, what about simple c&ping, though? HAVE I JUST DISCOVERED A GENIUS WORKAROUND?
- The Twitter Cull: Not quite as dramatic as the Thanos subReddit cull (only click that link btw if you want to get a very, very detailed rundown of a very, very silly piece of internet culture), but still - as part of its efforts to clean up its bot problem, Twitter this week has started removing locked accounts (that is, ones it’s identified as being part of a botnet, spam accounts, etc, and which it has prevented from posting) from users’ follower counts. As such, those with large followings may see a drop in overall follower numbers - don’t worry, though, it’s probably not because everyone hates you.
- Twitter Offering New Promoted Trend Option: You know when you click ‘Explore’ in Twitter and it opens on the trend list above which is an image/headline banner which takes you to a Moment? Well Twitter’s testing the idea of selling that as adspace, with Disney being the first to buy it in the US. I can only imagine the sort of cost they’ll be attaching to that, so of interest only to those of you with 6-figure pockets and a pleasingly loose approach to targeting.
- Snap Teaming Up With Amazon: Not just Amazon, according to the piece, but that’s the most interesting one. It’s not official, but the reporting seems sound - code buried within Snapchat suggests it’s working on giving users the ability to take photos of products, barcodes, etc, and for those photos to be used to identify products and take them direct to purchase. Which is exactly what Amazon’s abortive attempt at a phone did, except, well, more useful, as you don’t need to buy an Amazon phone. Useful, unless you’re a retailer who isn’t Amazon and for whom this is in fact nothing more than another shovelful of dirt being dropped from a great height on your coffin lid.
- YouTube vs ‘Fake News’: YouTube, another platform whose relationship with the truth is an interesting and varied one, is also taking steps to combat the outright lies which tend to spring up seconds after anything moderately contentious happens in the world (oh hi, false flag accusations!). As of...soon, in the immediate aftermath of major news events, YT will surface links to written news reports in its results, given, as it says, it takes more time to make proper journalistic video than it does to write fact-checked copy. Which is A Good Thing, I think, though obviously the choice of sources will in itself be hugely contentious. The other stuff it’s doing is through investment in helping newsrooms around the world get better at making news video faster - what? What’s that noise? IS THAT THE SOUND OF NEWSROOMS REPIVOTING TO VIDEO?? It would be funny were the entire profession of journalism not so utterly banjaxed.
- Some Google Pay Updates: They’re adding P2P payments and mobile ticketing options. I am quite bored of writing this section and so am going to move on now.
- DO NOT STEAL MY MEMES: Not ‘mine’, you understand, but those belonging to self-described ‘memelords’ behind a bunch of super-popular astronomy accounts on Insta who, according to this brilliantly angry and *slightly* shrill presentation, have been consistently ripped off by Harper’s Bazaar and are NOT HAPPY about it. Funny, yes, but you can see why they’re annoyed - it really isn’t ok to do this sort of thing, and you will get found out (if you follow any cartoonists or illustrators you’ll know quite how prevalent this sort of crap is, and large brands really ought to have more shame).
- 4-Minute Showers: The sort of idea which I think is really clever and then, on further reflection, I think is exactly the sort of thing that only advermarketingprtwats like me will EVER see and is a classic example of agencyland having a public wnk if you see what I mean. Anyway, this is a smart little execution by Y&R for Water Aid, which sees them creating a playlist of songs which are exactly 4 minutes long, to highlight the need to save water in the shower (you time your wash to the track length, thereby ensuring an optimal duration for an environmentally acceptable scrub, DO YOU SEE?). Cute.
- The Body Hair Image Library: Billie is a US brand which sells female grooming and body products, made by women for women (or at least that’s very much the vibe they give off). This campaign is based on the ‘insight’ (SUCH INSIGHT!) that...oh, I’ll let them tell it: “There's a serious lack of female body hair on the internet. Search "woman" in any image gallery and you’ll be scrolling for a while before finding a single strand. We're here to change that. Because womankind is both shaggy and smooth. Help us grow our library by using #projectbodyhair or uploading your own photo below.” Now I really like this - it’s a nice idea, very of the now, etc - but reactions were more mixed amongst those I asked about it. What do YOU think? Why are you so weirded out by female armpit hair? WHY????
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT WHILST IT IS LOVELY TO PROTEST AGAINST DONALD TRUMP THERE ARE, THIS WEEK OF ALL WEEKS, A BUNCH OF PEOPLE SIGNIFICANTLY CLOSER TO HOME WE OUGHT TO BE PROTESTING AGAINST IE THE ENTIRE FCUKING POLITICAL CLASS OF THIS COUNTRY, NOT JUST THE CABINET BUT ON ALL SIDES REALLY, WHO EVEN BY THEIR LOW STANDARDS HAVE HAD A SPECTACULARLY INEFFECTUAL AT BEST AND CNUTY AT WORST WEEK, PT.1:
- The Elsewhere Visitors’ Guide: This is a lovely thing to kick off with; Elsewhere is a recent EP by Face Culler, which comes with this accompanying website taking you on a tour of the imaginary place that inspired the music (which, in case you’re interested, is electrofolkynoodling, which is a genuinely awful description but one which I can’t improve on here at 7:41am in my kitchen, sorry). Navigate the map, click on places of interest, read the descriptions and listen to the accompanying song - I am a total sucker for imaginary maps and places, and the writing is quirkily reminiscent of Fallen London and that sort of thing. Have an explore.
- GTA USA Gun Homicides: I am also a total sucker for videogame-derived art projects, and this, by Joseph Delappe, is right up my street. Every night at midnight the automated game will restart on Twitch, using in-game dead bodies to show how many Americans have died due to gun violence since January 1, 2018. It isn’t controlled by a player; instead it is updated automatically every night using data scraped from the Gun Violence Archive. This is far, far more affecting than you’d imagine from the description - it’s honestly really horrible, and I mean that in the best possible way.
- Captionbot: Or, depending on how cynical you’re feeling this morning (guess), another instance of us giving up our labour to train the army of AIs which will eventually enslave us! Still, it’s a fun toy, powered by Microsoft’s own image recognition software - upload any picture you like and the software will have a go at telling you what that image is of; you can rate its answer on a scale of 1-5, thereby helping the machine get better. Do we think it’s going to be perverted by people trying to train it exclusively on bongo? Part of me really hopes that that’s exactly what happens tbh.
- Slitscan Space: You remember Slitscanning, right? “The slit-scan photography technique is a photographic and cinematographic process where a moveable slide, into which a slit has been cut, is inserted between the camera and the subject to be photographed” (thanks, Wikipedia, I really didn’t remember, turns out)? Anyway, give this site access to your webcam, move around a bit in front of it, and watch in marvelling wonder at the strangely watercolourish semi-abstract visions that scroll across your screen (and don’t think too much about exactly what / who you’ve just given webcam access to).
- ICE Spy: This is interesting but genuinely creepy and not, I don’t think, a particularly good thing. ICE in this context is the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, who have been responsible for much of the...let’s call it draconian enforcement of US border policy in the past months, to large-scale public disapproval and anger. Not totally sure that the answer to that anger is this, though - ICE Spy is a website which, using hundreds of ICE employee photos scraped from LinkedIn, invites users to upload photos of people they know which the site will cross-reference against the aforementioned LinkedIn archive to determine whether in fact you do know someone who works for ICE. Which, let’s be clear, doesn’t sound good AT ALL. Can you see where this sort of thing ends up? If you can, and it isn’t ‘somewhere really, really bleak and quite scary’ then you’re a far greater optimist than I am.
- Editing Music In Videos Using AI: Fine, it’s not quite editing music in the way in which you might be imagining, but this video shows how it’s possible to isolate individual audio tracks automatically and it’s hugely impressive; the applications here for quick audio editing are really quite exciting (unless you’re an audio producer, in which case that sound you hear is the robots coming for you too).
- Blockshade: What do you get if you mash a bunch of rubbish about STUFF ON THE BLOCKCHAIN with elements of the ‘erotic’ writings of EL James? You get this! Mostly doesn’t make total sense, but I am oddly charmed by phrases such as “Perhaps it was you who decided on gazpacho soup and a periodic, randomly chosen deterministic block signing order”; your mileage, though, may vary considerably.
- Comicon Cosplay: There’s nothing new or exciting any more about photos of people dressed up as cartoon or game characters - it’s actually sort of cute how mainstream this sort of thing has become, compared to the times a decade or so ago when I used to honestly feel for my little brother’s safety when he got on the DLR wearing massive parachute pants and a scratchy blond wig and carrying a 5ft wooden keyblade (RIP Cameron you massive geek, you) - but this is a lovely collection of seriously impressive efforts from the attendees of Montreal Comicon. Unrelated, but can you imagine exactly how unfun it must have been to be on the Furry float at Pride last weekend in that heat?
- Bumblebee Spaces: As all available space in London is taken up by high-rise apartments built for people who will never, ever live in them (latest in this fabulous trend, a new development near me whose exterior boards proclaim that the interiors are being designed by Versace Home - lads, NOONE WHO CAN AFFORD INTERIORS BY VERSACE HOME WANTS TO LIVE WHERE I DO!), so we need to look to more innovative storage solutions as we’re forced to continue subdividing our apartments until we each have 9 square feet to dwell in. Enter Bumblebee Spaces, a storage solution based ON THE CEILING! Yes, that’s right, instead of cluttering up your floorspace, place boxes on the ceiling which you can raise and lower with motorised straps, controlled by an app which also theoretically keeps track of what you’ve stored where. Click the link, look at the video, and then take a moment to imagine exactly how many times a day you’d be jostled by a wobbly IKEA box squeakily inching its way ceilingwards; or how much fun it would be to not be able to wear clean pants because the WiFi was out or you needed a software update. This is SILLY.
- Capsule Crit: A new website collecting ‘games criticism, personal essays, reviews, and fan fiction in micro genres’, Capsule Crit is a welcome addition to the increasingly diverse range of voices writing about games and related subjects in 2018, to which in your collective faces, GamerGate pricks.
- Parli-N-Grams: Or, Google Trends for the UK Parliament. Curios reader Giuseppe Sollazzo (a man who I have NEVER MET, demonstrating Web Curios incredible reach should any interested sponsors be reading this) sent this in - his own project, it allows users to compare a series of search terms from Hansard over time, meaning you can track the relative popularity of terms or concepts or issues in the UK Parliament over time. Try comparing anything you like with ‘Brexit’ for one of the more miserable illustrations of exactly how tediously one-note and suffocating parliamentary discourse has become of late.
- Parliawint: Tweets by Dril superimposed over political imagery from BBC Politics; this is far funnier than it should be, except when it features Boris Johnson and you realise that this isn’t funny it’s actually all our lives oh god.
- Women In Parliament: There will come a point when I stop featuring work by The Pudding as it’s just too consistently good and it feels unfair; not yet, though. This week they published this superb visualisation exploring the presence of women in the UK Parliament over history - it takes you through the growth of women as a political force in the UK in typically well-designed fashion, showing the impact of all-women shortlists and pointing out the still not-insignificant gender gap which exists in the Commons. I am slightly amazed that they are not yet shilling these services to brands, as they would make MILLIONS.
- Sensory Meditation: Many, many years ago I did a bit of work promoting RJDJ, an app which effectively used some sort of VERY rudimentary AI/ML to create augmented soundscapes of whatever you were listening to, based on ambient noise, your movement speed, etc (it has since pivoted to be this - which is a variant on the original and worth a look). This is a similar-ish idea - Non (for that is the app’s name) is a series of ‘generative sound meditations’ which deliver the user a series of unique sound experiences based on a whole raft of factors including location, previously determined preferences, etc. The visuals on this are LOVELY, and if you do meditation and mindfulness and stuff then this is probably RIGHT up your street.
- Talking To Alexa With Sign Language: This is only a proof-of-concept, but it is BRILLIANT. Abhishek Singh rigged this up so as to enable him to give instructions to his Amazon Echo device simply by signing at his webcam - I say ‘simply’, but obviously Abhikesh is a very, very clever person indeed - which ‘sees’ his gestures, converts them from sign language to speech, and then ‘talks’ to Alexa on the user’s behalf. The ingenuity and coding skill here is super-impressive, and however (rightly) wary I am of the domestic surveillance box (sorry, domestic voice assistant) there’s no denying the huge utility of technology like this for the less able-bodied.
- Freelance Wars: Do YOU like Star Wars? Are YOU a freelancer struggling to afford to leave the house or eat as a result of FCUKING INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES WITH MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR TURNOVERS FAILING TO HONOUR YOUR PAYMENT TERMS (let’s not be so crass as to name names, but were I to use the term ‘Photoshop’ without a little ™ sign, can you guess which FCUKING INTERNATIONAL COMPANY I might be referring to?)? Well you might enjoy this, which Tweets gags mashing up the two concepts. Or you might think “this isn’t funny, this is yet another jokey normalisation of the appalling manner in which large organisations treat piecework”, and you’d be right!
- Browsh: More technical people than me might be able to come up with a reason why you’d want an entirely text-based browser. I have no idea, but the fact that it can render videos in text on the fly is quite remarkable (watch the demo video if, as is probable, this description means nothing whatsoever to you).
- You Can Get Your Phone To Respond To Harry Potter Commands: Or at least you can if you’re on the very latest version of iOS (I think it’s easier with Android) - be clear, this is not really ok at all, but I know that some of you children out there won’t be able to resist.
- Birth Undisturbed: A selection of artworks depicting childbirth in all its...er...bloody, meaty glory. “’Birth Undisturbed' is a fictional narrative series by British photographer Natalie Lennard. Travelling through the world and history to depict birth from ancient to modern, and squalid to famous, the series depicts stories of woman both real and imagined. Using images and video to examine current Western birth consciousness, the artist strives to speak a new language to bring the rawness of primal birth into the art world. Highlighting key figureheads and writers from the realm of birth philosophy, the series' timeliness is ever more appropriate in a global maternity crisis.”
- Roadtrip: Oh this is SO GOOD. Roadtrip is an app (presumably using Wikipedia’s built-in ‘Nearby’ Page) which is designed to be used whilst on car journeys and which will read out Wikipedia entries for places of interest as you pass near them on your route. Ok, so when I tried it again just now it thought I was in Wollagong (I am, to be the best of my knowledge, really not in Wollagong), but the idea is so hugely appealing and there are SO many *ahem* inspirations you could take from it. Just lovely.
- Michal Sawtyruk: Sawtryruk works in a vector-ish style which I really rather love - take a look at his site, there’s some gorgeous art on there.
- Walmart’s Randomly Generated Inspirational Quote Posters: I am honestly devastated that these don’t seem to ship to the UK; as far as I can tell, this works off the same sort of algorithmic creation method which all those tshirt manufacturers from a few years ago did, whereby it pulls quotes from...somewhere, and then overlays them on a randomly chosen sunset-type inspirational scene and offers them for sale for $13 or thereabouts. I have no idea AT ALL where they are grabbing them from, but it leads to gems like this - who wouldn’t want “I have to tell you I enjoy Jon Stewart. That's the truth. I actually think he's very funny. I've paid to see him do his stand-up routine” on their wall? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO! Amazing; I want a UK version please.
- Yuni Yoshida: Yuni Yoshida is a South Korean (I think) art director and this is her Instagram feed featuring her work. Such lovely style throughout, and some rather good visual gags to boot.
- Astronomy Picture of the Day: From NASA, so the quality’s always pretty good. You can see the whole archive here, going back to June 16 1995 - early adopters, NASA, as you might expect
By Natasha Law
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT WHILST IT IS LOVELY TO PROTEST AGAINST DONALD TRUMP THERE ARE, THIS WEEK OF ALL WEEKS, A BUNCH OF PEOPLE SIGNIFICANTLY CLOSER TO HOME WE OUGHT TO BE PROTESTING AGAINST IE THE ENTIRE FCUKING POLITICAL CLASS OF THIS COUNTRY, NOT JUST THE CABINET BUT ON ALL SIDES REALLY, WHO EVEN BY THEIR LOW STANDARDS HAVE HAD A SPECTACULARLY INEFFECTUAL AT BEST AND CNUTY AT WORST WEEK, PT.1:
- 80s/90s Football Culture: Or at least the hoolie side of it. Photographer Bethany Kane has published a zine collecting photographs her own father took when on tour with England in the late-80s/early-90s - a few of them are collected here, but to see the full set you’ll have to buy a copy of the physical mag. One of the nicest things (as a non-England fan there weren’t many, true, but it’s important to be honest about these things) about England’s World Cup performance this year was the feeling that this sort of wing of the fandom doesn’t really exist any more, and that there’s little or no appetite for lads on tour beatings. Thank Christ.
- Chest Strongwell: This Facebook Page has one joke - it takes members of the Trump administration and photoshops them with no little skill onto the sort of staged studio photos beloved of a certain type of person in America’s South. Scroll down to enjoy the majesty of Ivanka, Donald, Sean and other stars of the past two years in mullety soft-focus. So good.
- Wilson: People have worked out that podcast discovery is a mess - Wilson aims to help sort that out by presenting a weekly selection of curated, hand-picked new podcasts as a playlist, the idea being that it will give you a weekly bunch of new listens, some of which may make it onto your personal rotation. No registration, no algorithm, just human curation, like in the good old days. It could catch on, this sort of thing.
- Tag Walk: If you’re into fashion - I mean, really, into fashion, the catwalky, LFW-style fashion, not so much your Missguided - then this is potentially really useful. Tag Walk is a search engine which is pointed exclusively at shots from the past few years catwalk shows each seasons in the major capitals; you can search by city, season, designer or keyword, to pull out, say, all the cerise bandoliers from Milan SS 16 (is a bandolier an article of clothing or a weapon? I am now stricken with terrible doubt). I have no idea how good this is - tbh, I wouldn’t really know a Missguided from a Missoni, despite my earlier snark - but I can imagine it being very useful indeed in certain circles.
- The 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year: As per usual, these are absolutely insane. In the absence of any new Blue Planet for the next 7-10 years, you’ll want to get your fill of these - LOOK AT THESE SHARKY LADS!
- Room Racer: I confess to not having tried this yet, so all the usual caveats apply, but it looks fun - Room Racer is an AR racing game for iOS which lets you create a virtual track around any environment you choose, meaning you can make a virtual Scalectrix (does Scalectrix exist any more? Does that mean anything to you? AM I LOSING ALL MY FRAMES OF REFERENCE AND CULTURAL TOUCHPOINTS???) around your living room or wherever you like really. Try it and let me know if it’s any good.
- Ben Langworthy: Ben is an illustrator. This is his Instagram feed, where amongst other things he occasionally posts drawings of lighthouses which are SO SOOTHING although I can’t adequately explain why.
- Wakie: The sort of idea that very much seems like a relic from the early days of the web in which there wasn’t a semiautomatic assumption in place that anyone who attempts to engage with you online will be quite a lot of a dick, Wakie is an app which offers the opportunity to connect people with questions and people with answers - as they put it, “Wakie is free, anonymous, and connects you with people 24/7. Just post a topic, and jump on a phone call or have an online discussion. No phone numbers or personal info is exchanged.” Which is nice, except the problem with stuff like this is that the lack of mass adoption tends to mean that the people using it are, well, outliers; it might be that it’s a great place if you want to find out about Linux builds (but those people are, excuse my stereotyping, maybe a touch less likely to want to talk on the phone), but otherwise I imagine it will be a lot of tumbleweed punctuated by the odd bout of heavy breathing, clotted ejaculation and then embarrassed silence. Still, give it a try!
- This Is America Done On MacPaint: You’ve probably seen this by now, but if not it’s incredible and worth a 5-minute explore, particularly if you’re interested in pixelart/animation.
- RIVR: I know I’ve mentioned this to you before, but if I have to look at one more proposal with lines like “We will make a 360 degree VR video” in it, I will kick somebody in the face. Still, if your agency is at the point whereby you include the term ‘VR’ in every single proposal REGARDLESS OF THE FACT THAT YOU WILL REACH LITERALLY NO PEOPLE AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHY YOU’RE DOING IT (breathe, Matt, breathe) then you might want to take a look at this site, which might at least give you some ideas as to what you could do with the tech if you had some actual budget. RIVR make photorealistic VR experiences - so, if you want to recreate a warzone, say, or a crime scene, they might be worth a look. If, though, you’ve just chucked a line about ‘a VR film’ into a presentation about medical diagnostic technology and when asked ‘why is this here - what, exactly, do you think that VR experience might be?’ respond with a blank look, then, really, fcuk off (can you tell I am talking from bitter personal experience here? CAN YOU???).
- New Voices Fund: An investment fund for Women of Colour entrepreneurs. It’s in the US, but there doesn’t seem to be anything on the site about investments being geograhically limited so it might be worth a look if you or anyone you know fit the criteria.
- Independent Voices: This is an amazing collection of the independent and the countercultural: “Independent Voices is an open access digital collection of alternative press newspapers, magazines and journals, drawn from the special collections of participating libraries. These periodicals were produced by feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBT activists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines during the latter half of the 20th century.” Brilliant stuff in here, and such an excellent resource - seriously, just look at the list of titles you can browse, it’s mental.
- Armadillo Online: You didn’t know, did you, when you woke up this morning, that you’d today find that online resource of armadillo facts that you’ve been longing for in that most secret corner of your heart? And yet here we are! Beautifully, there’s a page where it lists the remaining armadillo species for which the site has yet to acquire adequate photos - there are 8 of the scaly little buggers still proving elusive, so why not dedicate the rest of your life to getting a shot of one? It will be a better use of your time than attempting to sell deodorant to people, I promise you.
- Big Clapper: It’s been a whole half-Curios and only now do I reach the stupidest Kickstarter of the week - maybe things are getting better? Big Clapper is a robot which, if funded, will sit and clap with its BIG SOFT HANDS, wherever you choose to place it. The only possible use for this is to train Michael Gove, Nicole Kidman and other aliens how to clap properly.
- The Spinner: Sometimes in the course of a week’s web-spelunking I come across stuff that I honestly think “no, no, that really can’t be real in any way, shape or form” - so it was with The Spinner, which purports to offer a service whereby husbands (of course!) can get their wives targeted with adverts promoting content designed to make them more...pliable, more desirous of sex, that sort of thing (the tech checks out - the idea is that the site provides a link which you send them; they open it, and thanks to a quick redirect get a cookie dropped on them before being redirected to a seemingly innocuous video; the cookie allows for the targeted content drops). You pay this lot $30, and in theory can start targeting anyone you want with articles about how they really ought to fcuk you more, is the upshot. Sounds like a scam, right, or a stunt to promote something else...well, thanks to Rich Leigh’s detective work we learned that whilst it might still be a scam it’s definitely not a front for something else; it’s definitely offering EXACTLY that service to a bunch of the sort of men who think that the best way to convince their partners to have sex with them more often is to spam them with Outbrain content. Oh, 2018, you really are a constantly evolving miracle.
- Propose...On The Moon: Got a spare 125 million quid? Are you a total idiot who can’t tell an obvious PR stunt from truth? GREAT! This is a French ‘propose in Paris’ service for the terminally unimaginative who are branching out and offering, from 2022, a GUARANTEED (not guaranteed at all) opportunity to take a spaceflight into lunar orbit where you’ll be able to propose to your beloved. Seriously, please do click the link - the description of the offer is SUPERB and will cheer you up no end.
- Get Eddie: A site which lets you order Viagra online on a monthly subscription basis via an almost-certainly risible ‘online consultation’ with a doctor. Included not because I believe you all to be in need of it, but more because I am suddenly curious as to how much you can get away with selling Viagra for on a pill-by-pill basis, and whether this might make for a useful shortcut to dealing (that is obviously NOT what I am thinking, mum).
- Ultraboardgames: Another week, another site collecting HUNDREDS of online versions of boardgames for you to enjoy instead of staring at Powerpoint for the nth afternoon in a row.
- Thunder Bella: Small timewasting game of the week, #1! Thunder Bella is an excellent little top-down shoot-em-up in which you play an umbrella trying to shoot down a cloud and, fine, whilst that might sound unbearably twee it’s actually really good ok?
- Roomba Quest: Small timewasting game of the week, #2! Roomba Quest is just BEAUTIFUL - a small little adventure-y story game in which you play a Roomba, the most poignant of all the domestic appliances.
- Industrial Accident: Finally in this week’s selection of miscellania, Industrial Accident is a very neat little (5-10 mins, max) Twine game/story - I don’t want to spoil it, but it is VERY satisfying in a way that you might find unsettling. Enjoy!
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
- Jun Cen: “Jun Cen is a Chinese illustrator and animator who is currently based in New York. He is the Overall New Talent Winner of the AOI Illustration Awards(UK)” His work is ACE, take a look.
- Opus Analogico: Not sure I 100% understand this, but it seems to present photographs (in the main) in pairs based on a shared framing or aesthetic. I rather like it.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
- 150 Great Essays and Articles: Just in case I don’t provide you with enough superb reading material each week (I do, fyi, you are WRONG), this is a brilliant collection of wonderful essays by a variety of authors on a wide range of topics, all linked to from a single index. Worth bookmarking and dipping into next time you can’t face refreshing the BBC homepage again at 230pm on a Wednesday.
- How Google Started: An excellent oral history of the early days of Google; when I sent it to a friend of mine who used to work there he replied that it was the most accurate thing he’d read, which is hopefully some sort of endorsements. Lots of great details about the madness and oddity of a bunch of young geeks inventing the future for fun - my favourite being the story about the bloke crouching in a cupboard, taking apart a DVD player, who was just fiddling around with ‘digitising all of broadcast TV’ - and a very real sense that noone really knew what they were doing at all, but that it didn’t matter. IMAGINE being this smart.
- Brutalist Web Design: A whole treatise on Brutalist design for the web - principles and practical tips. Only of interest if you’re a web designer but I know that at least a few of you are and, well, consider this a PERSONAL THANKYOU for reading this bastard thing.
- Survival of the Richest: In another week in which Elon Musk has, whilst on the one hand doin ostensibly good and helpful things, demonstrated himself to once again be something of a colossal prick, it’s timely to read this piece which looks at the peculiar obsession the super rich seemingly have with a) everything imminently going to tits, really hard, planet and civilisation-wise, and b) making sure that when it does they are WELL out of it. If we really are all moving towards a point where we expect the ultra rich to sort the planet rather than, say, governments attempting to do so through taxation and redistribution, I have to say that the outlook doesn’t look great.
- Everything I Know About Football: Friend of Imperica Mr Biffo, the man responsible for Digitiser on Teletext back in the day, writes up some nostalgia, talking us through his strange relationship with the sort of football - a pastime he’s never enjoyed and yet which has been an oddly consistent presence in his life. There are some GREAT anecdotes in here, and a description of at least one almost certain murderer, which really ought to be reason enough for you to read.
- Things That Happen In Silicon Valley That Also Happen In The Soviet Union: You have almost certainly read this Twitter thread, but in case not it’s the best ‘hahahaha oh no hang on this is true and isn’t actually that funny after all’ bit of ‘comedy’ you’ll see all week.
- The Academic Emoji Conference: A really interesting piece about how academics see emoji, why they are not a language (I TOLD YOU SO), and how they ought to be contextualised within the broader pantheon of methods of communication. Which description makes it sound anything other than really interesting, fine, but trust me here.
- The 3d Printed Firearm Future: You know that there is...a lot going on right now, when news that 3d printed firearms are no longer technically illegal in the US slips under the radar like this. You may recall that a few years back legislation was put in place to try and limit the distribution and printing of 3d gun templates; well, thanks to one impassioned free speech defendant, no more! THANKS, GUY! This is a really, really un-cheering read, and the combination of NRA zealotry and high tech on display here suggests that the oh-so-fun gun control debate in the US isn’t going to be moving anywhere in the near future.
- My Depression Is Like Having A Bad Dog: A comic about depression that takes the black dog metaphor and runs with it; this is a lovely description of what it’s like living with it, in all its changing forms.
- On Fortnite: Absolutely THE best piece I’ve read on the Fortnite phenomenon; so, so smart, from the understanding that its closest analogue is probably not other games but social apps, to the discussion towards the end on the skill with which the design team have built in streaks, reward mechanisms and the like to create an even more compelling, Skinnerbox-y set of mechanics. Required reading if you want to understand the phenomenon at least a bit.
- Fear of a Black France: The English football team’s narrative - a young team, multicultural, reflecting the diversity of the country it represents in a way that brings people together in a way previous teams perhaps haven’t - is in part mirrored by the French finalists; this piece looks at what the team’s success, and in particular the elevation of Kylian Mbappe to superstar status, means to France’s non-white population, in a country where racial lines are even more firmly marked than they are in the UK.
- Saul Williams at the Roundhouse: I don’t normally feature reviews, but this, of Saul Williams’ recent performance in London, is worth reading as William Drew has written it in verse and done an exceptional job to boot. This is, honestly, GREAT.
- I Murdered Some Trophy Hunters: In GTAV, that is. Exactly the sort of writing about videogames I love, where real world morality and ethics collide with the virtual space. What would YOU do if you met people in-game who, you realised, you really didn’t like the politics of? Would you take the opportunity to fcuk them up a bit? You might, mightn’t you? Lovely, and exactly the sort of emergent narrative that online play in MMORPG-type worlds is allowing for.
- On Semicolons and The Rules: I love me a semicolon; no idea if I always use them correctly, mind, but WHO CARES EH? There’s a particular cadence of speech that the voices in my head do which can only be reproduced with judicious application of the semicolon, you see, regardless of grammatical convention. Anyway, this is a good piece about why it’s such a good form of punctuation, which meanders off into a wider discussion about writing rules and when it’s acceptable to break them - readers and writers will particularly enjoy.
- What Happens When A Computer Runs Your Life: What would happen if you let an algorithm decide what you wore, what you ate, what you got etched into your skin? Depending on the algorithm, some PRETTY BAD STUFF, fine, but that’s not stopping intrepid software engineer Max Hawkins from doing exactly that. Dice Man (second mention this week, how queer) for the modern age, this: “Hawkins will say yes to whatever the computer chooses, just as he has regarding almost all aspects of his life since leaving his job as a creative software engineer at Google three years ago. In a world where technologies promise humans ever more control over their choices and preferences, Hawkins has decided to surrender his will to the whims of computer algorithms. He’s created programs that randomly choose where he eats, what he wears, where he lives, what music he listens to, and how he spends his time. In so doing, he says he’s discovered a different kind of freedom.”
- A BBQ, Not An Orgy: I don’t normally post heartwarming Buzzfeed human interest stuff on here, but this is a necessary exception; a man in the US posted an invitation to a 4th July BBQ on Grindr, specifying that it was NOT an orgy - this is what happened. SO CUTE (and not an orgy).
- Liquid Ass and its Uses: You may have heard of Liquid Ass - an actual product available for sale which basically just smells TERRIBLE and is intended for the terminally unfunny to use for pranks. It is, however, also used extensively in the training of medical and trauma personnel, and this article looks at how - and goes into some quite, er, challenging detail about some of the tools used in mimicking battlefield conditions. I don’t think I’d ever thought about the practical realities of administering emergency treatment to someone with a ruptured bowel, and now I wish I never had.
- Kylie Jenner, Self-Made (nearly) Billionaire: I am not the first to observe this, but the term ‘self-made’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. Nonetheless, you can’t admire the hustle here, the naked opportunism and the very smart (I must admit) of modern marketing, branding and logistics that enable Jenner to have a company with this sort of crazy turnover and next to no staff (or indeed real physical assets at all). Like anyone’s going to bother being a brand ambassador in the future when you can just launch your own line of, I don’t know, incontinence products or somesuch.
- Court: A brilliant, harrowing account of the James Bulger court case by Blake Morrison in Granta. So, so sad, and it’s hard to do anything but agree with Morrison’s assessment that the use of an adult court to try the case was at best a misjudgment and at worst an act of cruelty to all concerned.
- I Turned My Jawbone Into Earrings: On body dysmorphia and self and surgery and the limits of one’s own rights over one’s body. This is a great piece of writing, if not for the very squeamish.
- When Your Muse Is Also A Demonic Dominatrix: Salvador Dali’s muse, Gala, was in one way responsible for his fame and notoriety and fortune; in another, she was responsible for the complete decimation of any sort of reliable catalogue of Dali’s work, or consensus as to what can or ought to constitute an ‘original’. She was also, according to this piece, a, er, character. This is a portrait of someone who you sense not only didn’t suffer fools gladly but who wasn’t that certain about her attitude to, well, anyone at all; one did not, I suspect, fcuk with Gala (although Gala would very much fcuk (with) you.
- The Endless Reign of Rupert Murdoch: This is VERY LONG, but an exhaustive portrait of the oldest, biggest bastard in all of media - there are so, so many things to love in this piece, not least the constant barbs about Murdoch’s lack of culture and curiosity, but there’s no denying that he’s been phenomenally successful at jdging what the public want from ‘news’ and how best to make as much money as possible whilst giving it to them.
- China’s Surveillance Future: I can’t work out whether I was slightly cheered by the end of this or simply more depressed about the panopticonic future. The Chinese state’s affection for mass surveillance, combined with AI, to keep the people ‘happy and safe’ (you never know who’s reading), is well-documented; this piece looks at the technology and its applications, as several others this year have, but is also rather better at taking a realistic look at how much it actually works - the slightly depressing conclusion (I have decided it’s depressing on swift reflection, so that’s that) is that despite the fact that the tech doesn’t actually work anywhere near as well as advertised, at least not yet, the mythos around it is sufficient to cause even greater adherence to the rules by the frightened populace. It’s Mussolini’s cardboard tanks all over again, except not really funny in the slightest.
- We Are All Public Figures Now: Absolutely the best essay I have read on the Plane Bae story (you know the one, come on) - this is a brilliant piece of writing on where the bounds of personal and public blur in an era in which we can, and will, document everything and everything for The Timeline and The Culture. If you have ever taken a photo of a stranger on public transport for the lulz, read this and no why that isn’t really an ok thing to do, ever.
- Sweetness Mattered: A gorgeous personal essay about the author’s discovery of his sexuality as a young man, and the contortions he went through trying to access that sexuality whilst staying within the rigid social norms of teenage boydom. Beautifully-written and pleasingly optimistic in a way much of this sort of writing is not.
- Lecter, My Therapist: Lastly in this week’s longreads, this is one of the best pieces I’ve read all year, no exaggeration. It’s about The Silence of the Lambs and going to therapy and abuse and recovery and it is SO well-written. Glass of wine with this one, for preference.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
- First up, an eleven-minute video featuring a series of shorts about girls and their boyfriends, accompanying the new EP by Becky and the Birds. This is SO LOVELY and it’s worth every second of your time:
3) This is called ‘Candles’, it’s by a band called Daughter, and my friend Jim (HI JIM) sent it to me saying that the video really reminded him of the novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami and by God it really does. Lovely song, too:
6) Finally this week, this is sort of terrible but also SO OF THE NOW. 100 YouTubers do a rap about Fortnite - THIS IS THE CULTURE HAPPENING RIGHT AT YOU. It’s...it’s horrible, isn’t it? Anyway, that’s it for this week, BYE TAKE CARE TRY NOT TO GET ARRESTED IF YOU ARE PROTESTING AND PLEASE WEAR SUNSCREEN AND ENJOY THE WORLD CUP FINAL IF YOU WATCH IT AND, GENERALLY,, JUST TRY AND TAKE IT A BIT EASY, EH, IT’S BEEN A VERY LONG WEEK AND EVERYTHING’S STILL QUITE FRAUGHT BUT IT WILL HOPEFULLY BE OK I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU BYE I LOVE YOU:
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