OH GOD THERE IS A NEW NEWSLETTER CMS AND I DON'T UNDERSTAND IT AND I AM LATE AND HAVE A MEETING IN 90 MINUTES AND I AM STILL IN MY PANTS (little peek behind the authorial curtain for you there, you're welcome).
I have to run - you take care of all the links and stuff, and please shut the door behind you on your way out; this, as ever, is the overlong, overwritten, overwrought and frankly overwhelmed Web Curios - click, share and if you can't enjoy then at least, please, try and tolerate.
THE SECTION WHICH WONDERS WHETHER WE CAN PERSUADE MECHABEZOS TO BLESS LONDON WITH HIS TAX-AVOIDING AMAZONIAN MUNIFICENCE:
● Facebook To Remove Ad Set Budgets: I’m starting this with what I hope will be the dullest entry of the week; whilst I can’t guarantee that the only way is up, one would hope that this represents a nadir. Come September, FB ad buyers will no longer be able to amend total ad budgets at an ad set level, instead needing to do so on a per-campaign basis. “Facebook says that advertisers will set one central campaign budget for all ad sets, and it will “automatically and continuously” distribute budgets in real-time to top performing ads.” Why is this happening? I, honestly, don’t know or care; you ought simply to know that it is.
● Facebook Pages Can Now Interact With Groups: It’s FINALLY HERE - the ability for brands to extend the awkward anthropomorphisation of their online presence with participation in Facebook Groups, so now Sunny D can drop seamlessly into, I don’t know, ‘Halloumi Memes for Sad-Eyed Teens’ and drop some BRANDED TRUTH about the ultimate futility of existence in order to flog some more dayglo sugarwater.
● FB/Insta Message Integration Comes To The US & Brazil: Brands on Facebook/Insta in Brazil and the US will now be able to respond to messages on Insta from their Facebook interface. It’s the very first inkling of the great unified platform future promised to us by lovely, benevolent Mr Zuckerberg and, frankly, from here it looks like all I could possibly have dreamed of and more besides.
● Facebook Updates Features for ‘Creators’: This is sort-of maybe interesting, or at the very least UK-relevant; Facebook has rolled out its Patreon-like ‘subscription’ service to ‘Creators’, meaning they can now acquire paying subs to sustain them (GET A REAL JOB FFS), and it’s also launching its Brand Partnerships feature here and in Germany too, meaning if you want to find an ‘influencer’ to shill for you on Facebook then you needn’t waste money on a bunch of children in ripped jeans peddling themselves as an influencer agency and acting as pointless middlemen between you and the ‘talent’. Which is probably a good thing, no?
● Instagram Adding IGTV Previews to the Insta Feed: Despite this, it is still a near-certainty that no real people will want to watch anything on InstaTV. It is a fact. Still, it might ‘aid content discovery’ for the three people currently persisting in trying to make InstaTV a thing.
● Periscope Launches Group Streaming: This seems like a nifty little feature unsuited to the platform, but wevs. Periscope, the live-streaming platform owned by Twitter, is launching the ability for multiple users to jump on a simultaneous stream together, in the same way as you’ve been able to do on FB and other platforms for a while now. Except it’s audio-only at present, which seems a bit, well, crap really, and you sort of wondered why they didn’t wait for the full video shebang to be ready. The quotes in the linked article (Mashable, sorry) suggest that they are pitching this as allowing for talk radio phone-in style content, which is a nice idea but, well, like fcuk am I going to pause mid-scroll through the TL to tune into some strangers chatting about...something; this is what I get the 155 for.
● LinkedIn Begins To Roll Out Livestreaming: A feature literally noone asked for and which noone wants is finally here after months of slightly sweaty-palmed anticipation! Truly, it is a new dawn! Or at least it is if a) you’re in the US; and b) they accept your application to be part of the pilot. Otherwise it’s the same old crappy dawn you’re used to, except one in which you know someone somewhere is livestreaming some BUSINESS on LinkedIn and thus one which deep down you know is fundamentally worse.
● Pinterest Launches Automated ‘Shop The Look’ Pins: This is interesting, and further proof that Pinterest is quietly developing a roster of really quite impressive tech under its weddings-and-cupcakes-festooned hood. This is the news that its ‘Shop the Look’ feature - whereby brands can tag individual items within a Pinned image to make them shoppable for eCommerce benefit and joy - is being made available to all, and that it will be partially automated through image recognition. “Businesses will still be able to link their products to relevant objects, but Pinterest will also be able to do much of the work without intervention...."Shop the Look will tag organic Pins that have not been linked to a business account. For those brands who’d rather not have their Pins tagged, they can claim their domains."” It’s not specified, but I presume that this isn’t live everywhere yet - still, it’s another reason to remember that Pinterest is VERY USEFUL if you’re flogging actual stuff to actual people.
● Amazon Live: This is...bizarre. Amazon appears to have launched its own version of QVC - apologies if you’re all aware of this and have been enjoying this stream of unfettered quality retail content for months (why didn’t you TELL me?), but to me this was a joyous surprise. There is SO MUCH terrible, terrible shopping-related video on here, featuring a roster of varyingly-committed jobbing actors feigning interest in a range of low-end stuff; when I opened this a minute ago I was blessed with two guys in baseball caps in what looked like a mid-sized insurance office in the midwest having some low-key BANTER about screen-cleaning spray, but who knows what you’ll get. Quick, CLICK! Literally no actual relevance to you or your clients (though this is the app through which you can stream your shows to the platform, should you want to VPN it and have a play), but I wanted to include this because, well, it’s the best proof yet that we should all STOP commissioning new video because, really, NOONE IS EVER GOING TO WATCH ANY OF THIS STUFF. We’re about a year away from every single human who is ever born having a fcuking IMDB page.
● Snapchat Launches Black History Month Gallery: This is a really nice use of Snapchat’s deeper AR functionality; to celebrate Black History Month, Snapchat has launched this feature whereby users can choose to apply a BHM banner to their snaps when the camera is in selfie mode; flipping the camera, though, lets them explore a virtual art gallery which features the work of various young black US artists. Simple, and a lovely illustration of some of the clever things you can do with Snap’s tech.
● Fred Perry x Raf Simons: Is Fred Perry cool in 2019? Christ alone knows. Still, this is a rather neat twist on the traditional ‘oh look here’s a limited edition streetwear collab’ website; the collection here is presented as through Google Street View, with models wearing the gear scattered throughout the streets of a seaside town somewhere European (where is it? Anyone know? The pastel houses give it a weirdly Dutch feel, to my mind, but I honestly have no idea), and overall it’s a pleasingly frivolous way of showing the clothes in a real-world(ish) environment.
● Captain Marvel: The second-best film promo website of the week is this self-consciously 90s site promoting the new Marvel film. It’s nicely done and it’s a pretty comprehensive pastiche, even down to the comments, though if I’m honest I think that while the actual Space Jam site is still live it’s almost pointless to try and out-90s the very best.
● The Miu Miu Twist: The second-best branded game of the week, this effort by the Prada perfume brand is basically one of those ‘click, jump and try and get as high as you can’ mobile games with a nice 16-bit aesthetic and a generally pleasing look-and-feel. Simple, quick, and the way the avatar’s outfits change at each stage is a nice little touch.
● Black Snake: THE best film site and THE best branded game of the week, though, are the same thing - this is the promo site for French action film (at least I presume that’s what it is - I, er, couldn’t really be bothered to do the research, sorry) and it’s basically a browser-based Streets of Rage clone, meaning you select your character and then beat the everliving crap out of millions of generic thugs. It’s ace and oddly therapeutic and generally an excellent if obvious way of wasting 10 minutes at work, which, frankly, you deserve after having your mind polluted with that awful fridge dating thing.
THE SECTION WHICH, HONESTLY, SUGGESTS YOU JUST FOCUS ON THE EMOTION SOUND MAP BECAUSE IT’S THE MOST AMAZING THING HERE BY FAR (BUT WHICH OBVIOUSLY LOVES ALL THE LINKS EQUALLY AND ABSOLUTELY DOESN’T HAVE FAVOURITES), PT.1:
● The Amazing Emotional Sound Map: Not, fine, it’s technical title, but it’s the best descriptor I have. This is...incredible. It’s a ‘map’ of human emotions - fear, disgust, etc - with associated sounds; you mouse over the various named emotions and the sounds people make when feeling those emotions play. It’s the fruit of a project from the University of Berkeley (the academic paper on which you can see here) where they recorded a variety of volunteers vocalising 24 different emotions in an attempt to derive a sonic taxonomy of feeling (yes, that’s right, A SONIC TAXONOMY OF FEELING. It’s my blognewsletterthing and if I want to be appallingly pretentious in my descriptions then I SHALL so THERE). Honestly, when I first found this yesterday I had some sort of genuine, weird physical reaction to this, part amazement and part revulsion; it is SO STRANGE to hear all these feelings all smooshed together, and there’s an honest-to-goodness physical reaction I get from the sensation of feeling someone (some people?) going through all these feelings so quickly. It’s honestly incredible, and there is SO MUCH you can do with this - from the idea of creating short audioclips giving an audioemotive version of famous novels or songs or artworks (what emotional journey in sound best describes the plot of Wuthering Heights, for example, and could you recognise it from the sound of the feelings?) to the possibility of creating a maze out of sounds (navigate your way through a space by following the happy sounds and avoiding the horrid ones), this is hugely exciting (to me). If nothing else, PLEASE put your headphones in and have a play - and then whack your volume up, take the headphones out and give your entire office a symphonic tour of the hinterlands between ‘anger’ and ‘desire’. They’ll (probably) thank you for it.
● This Person Does Not Exist: Click the link. Look at the face. Click refresh. Look at the face. Repeat. Repeat. None of the faces you see are real. None of them are people. None of them have ever lived. None of them were ‘shopped by hand. They are all GAN-generated computer imaginings of faces, generated through computation and machine learning and what might as well be ACTUAL MAJICK. No practical application I can think of, other than perhaps to give you an infinite selection of faces to put to to the bullsh1t, made-up ‘personas’ you put in your next pitch, but this is quite incredible - it feels important to point out that this would literally have been impossible a year ago, should you need a gentle reminder of the pace at which this stuff is developing.
● Kubrik: You want a website presenting the life and work of Stanley Kubrik, a celebration of his films and work? OH GOOD! This is a very nice collection of photos and information and footage, all presented as a beautifully-designed single-scroller; there is a LOT of information here, and the site design really is rather beautiful.
● Tender: Ah, ARGs! Remember I Love Bees? No, of course you don’t, you’re all CHILDREN. Still, back in the day ARGs and the concept of TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING were all the rage and were considered to be a BIG THING; then we all realised that the number of people actually willing to solve problems and follow you down your meticulously-designed promotional rabbithole of mystery was a significant order of magnitude smaller than that required to render the expense and effort of setting these things up worthwhile. Still, people are still trying them out - witness Tender, which whilst pretending to be a dating app for vampires is almost certainly not that as, well, vampires don’t exist. Some digging suggests that it’s a promo for a new Vampire: Masquerade game, but, whether or not you care about that, this is a rather fun and nicely made portal into a MYSTERIOUS REAL LIFE WORLD OF POINTY TEETH.
● Super Uplifting Friendship Simulator: Sometimes you need a friend to tell you it’s all going to be ok. Sadly the fragmented and atomised nature of modern society means that you might not have any friends, so why not outsource that job to this simple, reassuring and ultimately heartbreaking little game? Honestly, I just clicked through one of the vignettes (there are 8 or so) and the lonely emptiness of a small piece of code telling me it’s all going to be ok and that I am amazing and should value myself more is, well, making me a touch more moist-eyed than I might have expected.
● MIDI City: “This is an interactive art experiment where MIDI songs become cities. Each row of buildings is an instrument in the song; each building is a note: the position is the time, the height is the pitch. You control the density of buildings and rows. When you change it, you make a new city and a new song. It might not be a good song.” The site is not lying when it questions the quality of its own output, but I do rather like the cityscape-style viz it’s doing here.
● Since Parkland: You want a sobering statistic? Since the Parkland shootings last year, 1,200 American children (defined as under-18s) have been killed by guns. 100 a month. That’s...astonishing. This site, a memorial both to the Parkland victims and the 1200 others who’ve died as a result of gun violence since - it presents a small story for each of the dead, written by teenage reporters from around the country, a quite remarkable feat and a poignant tribute to the lives lost. Heartbreaking, but such a wonderful project.
● Sh1t Solidarity: Buy a small pin badge to support workers rights and simultaneously celebrate your own occasional acts of fecal workplace rebellion - the badges bear the delightful legend ‘Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime, That’s why I shit, on company time’, which is exactly the sort of classy workplace humour that we ALL appreciate, and proceeds go to an organisation called ‘Jobs With Justice’ which ought to be all the reason you need to buy one.
● Edit My Ex: A service which, for a fee, will digitally remove your ex (or indeed anyone else, I imagine) from a photo of your choosing. On the one hand, fine; on the other, you can probably ask Reddit to do it for you to FAR funnier effect, or use a pair of scissors, or learn Photoshop, or just THROW THE PHOTO AWAY; I’m struggling to imagine being so attached to a photograph but not the people in it (“God, I always LOVED the way my knees looked in that shot, such a shame Sharon’s in there ruining it with her STUPID FAT FACE”), but then again I am so pathologically disgusted by the way I look that I was last knowingly photographed in 2013 so, well, what do I know?
● OK Video: This basically works like Vine, except without the 6-second limit. OK Video is an app which has a single, simple gimmick; it records when you have your finger on the screen, and stops recording when you don’t, lending itself to that dizzying speed of cut that characterised much of the output from Vine bitd. Obviously because it’s 2019 and there can be no more new social platforms ever this doesn’t publish itself; rather, you can export the resultant clips to whichever of the dopamine-dispensing Skinner boxes you like best. Worth a play - you can make some rather fun stuff with this, and there’s a pleasingly retro feel to some of the output (ridiculous as it sounds to refer to Vine’s edit aesthetic as ‘retro’, but, well, SUCH IS THE PACE OF MODERN LIFE).
● 144 Blocks: However self-important and deluded your employer or clients are, it’s a reasonably safe bet that they’ve never done anything quite so hubristic as what Swatch attempted in 1998 when they attempted to REINVENT TIME by introducing ‘Swatch Time’ or ‘beats’ - a global decimal clock which was intended to revolutionise the way global time measurement worked by placing everyone on a single timezone measured in 1000 ‘beats’ per day. You may note that as we jaunt gaily through the last days of the second decade of the 21st Century we are still stubbornly wedded to the 24h diurnal clock and timezones and stuff; Swatch Time was not, sad to say, the rampant success its megolomaniacal Swiss time obsessives might have hoped. Still, its spirit lives on it 144 Blocks, a time management system that attempts to help you make sense of your day by splitting it into 144 ten minute blocks - exactly why this is better than it being split into 24 hours of 60 minutes, or 72 units of 20 minutes, is never adequately explained, but if you have a violent and inexplicable revulsion for the conventions of temporal measurement then, well, go for your life. You weirdo.
● PewdiePie vs T-Series Live Stream Counter: This is a YouTube livestream, started a week or so ago, that does NOTHING but stream a live counter of the relative subscriber numbers of YouTube’s two largest channels, owned by charming white supremacist-endorsing idiot manchild PewDiePie and the incredibly prolific Indian CG content factory T-Series. It does NOTHING ELSE, and yet, as I type this at 855 am, there are just shy of 3000 people ‘watching’ it and chatting absolute razz in the comments. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO US ALL? How is it possible that there are 3000 people alive right now who can think of NOTHING better to do with this precious gift of life bestowed upon us by an unknown force? I don’t understand anything any more.
● The Royal Society Collection: ‘Turning the Pages’ is the Royal Society’s scanned archive of old scientific papers from its archive. If you want to peruse a whole load of old papers detailing scientific enquiry from throughout the past few hundred years then WOW will you enjoy this. The illustrations in particular are worth a look - there’s some lovely anatomical sketching in here if you dig a bit.
● The Banana Label Museum: God love the obsessive German who administers this site, though I can’t for the life of me fathom why.
● Lisa Hietanen: Lisa Hietanen is an artist who works in wool and yarn, and makes knitted work including a life-sized collection of knitted people. I now want very little else in the world besides a life-sized knitted replica of me, to send to work in my stead and to stare stoical and uncomplaining into the middle-distance.
● The Amazon Brand Database: Your weekly reminder that Amazon has won the future and that we just haven’t quite realised that yet - this is a database listing all the brands that Amazon is currently flogging which it secretly owns, all the own-brand stuff which isn’t in fact branded ‘Amazon’ but instead is given some sort of slightly folksy identity to make it feel less like MechaBezos is now basically taking 30% of your salary directly.
● Gail: I am genuinely happy that this exists. Gail.com was bought for its owner as a birthday present over 20 years ago; it gets a...surprising amount of traffic from people misspelling ‘Gmail’, and its entire, slightly recursive raison d’etre is to explain exactly these two facts in a slightly frustrated-sounding FAQ. Gail, you are an indefatigable heroine of the modern internet.
● Achewood Tarot: You either know Achewood or you don’t (if you don’t, honestly, LEARN); this is Achewood Tarot, presenting you with a series of panels drawn at random from the archives for you to scry whatever meaning you can from. Each is assigned a role in the traditional tarot, so you can make a PROPER reading from it should you choose. It feels like this is tapping into the hitherto-unimagined intersection of millennial girl occultism and millennial boy hipster ennui; go on, someone coin a name for it and write a 1500-word piece proclaiming it a new trend.
● Live Transcribe: Potentially HUGELY useful new (I think) app from Google which, as the name suggests, will attempt to take a live transcript of any audio it picks up, in realtime. Whilst obviously it’s not going to be perfect, as a way of slightly shortcutting the transcription process this could be hugely useful.
● The 2019 Westminster Dog Show: Photos of some VERY fancy canines. O ROFF!
● Tinnitus Tracker: Rob Weychart is a music enthusiast and goes to a lot of gigs, so he’s made this site which tracks (almost) EVERY SINGLE ONE. “This is my live music diary, with information about nearly every show I’ve attended, dating back to 1992. There are currently 385 shows, browsable by genre, artist, venue, city, state, and year”, writes Rob, and crikey he’s not lying - this is a really interesting experiment in datavisualisation, a bit reminiscent of that guy whose name I forget who did an annual recap of his own personal life data each year for a decade or so; anyway, worth a look if you’re into dataviz or alternatively if you want to take a creepily intimate look at a stranger’s gig-going habits.
THE SECTION WHICH, HONESTLY, SUGGESTS YOU JUST FOCUS ON THE EMOTION SOUND MAP BECAUSE IT’S THE MOST AMAZING THING HERE BY FAR (BUT WHICH OBVIOUSLY LOVES ALL THE LINKS EQUALLY AND ABSOLUTELY DOESN’T HAVE FAVOURITES), PT.2:
● Postscript: Fine, this isn’t hugely exciting, but the prospect of ‘Mailchimp but for text messaging’ is, whilst admittedly tedious, a useful one; the idea is that you can apply all the same sorts of targeting and ‘if this then that’-type actions to your text message marketing as you can to your email marketing. Worth a look if this is your thing.
● 50 Years Ago In Photos: A wonderful selection of pictures from around the world, all taken in 1969. Some genuinely great shots here - you’ll recognise some of the more ‘iconic’ (sorry) images, like the Queen on the tube, but some of these are entirely new to me - I have a particular soft spot for the photo of the kids playing on the fire engine, but pick your own.
● Bread Clip Neue: You know those little plastic clips that keep plastic-wrapped bread closed - the ones that literally NOONE uses after you’ve opened the bread for the first time, choosing instead to do that sort of weird, ineffectual, twist-and-wrap manoeuver to try and keep the mould at bay? Well this is a font made entirely out of those. No idea why, but, well, why not?
● HORG: Or, “The Holotypic Occlupanid Research Group : A Database of Synthetic Taxonomy”, or, in language you might be more familiar with, a bizarrely comprehensive database of different designs of those little plastic clips that keep plastic-wrapped bread closed - the ones that literally NOONE uses after you’ve opened the bread for the first time, choosing instead to do that sort of weird, ineffectual, twist-and-wrap manoeuver to try and keep the mould at bay. THAT’S RIGHT! An actual, proper, honest-to-goodness thematically-linked segue there! These two sites cropped up independently of each other this week, leading me to believe that there is in fact some sort of higher power looking over my webmongery as I browse and occasionally moving invisible levers to grant a degree of coherence to these otherwise inchoate webspaffings (I don’t believe that, obviously; there is no higher power behind Curios at all, there is just ME and I am as base as it gets).
● 41 Strange: A Twitter feed posting...strange images. Sometimes a bit horrid, sometimes oddly cute, the general theme here is ‘stuff that will make you pause on the TL and do something of a ‘hmm, how queer’-type eyebrow’, basically.
● Time Since Launch: Create a persistent timer for anything you like. You can enter whatever text you like to commemorate the time since something last happened - a cigarette, say, or the last time you cried (ha!). The site creates a unique url for each timer so you can keep checking back on it for reassurance or whatever else; PERFECT for office lols (ie gentle bullying) - why not make one to commemorate ‘the time since X fcuked something up’ and then share it with the office so that you can all quietly enjoy the ratcheting pressure as ‘X’ strives to maintain perfection? GO ON.
● The Unko Museum: The Unko Museum is in Japan and celebrates comedy faeces. No, really, it’s a museum that seemingly serves only to laud and commemorate the role of the ‘funny’ little swirly turd image that is universally acknowledged as the symbol for a brown. The site’s all in Japanese, and to be honest I don’t find this sort of thing particularly funny, but it’s worth linking to for some of the onsite imagery which, with no grasp of what the accompanying copy says, are honestly absolutely baffling. Try and work out what the copy says, go on - “POO MICHELIN MAN CARRIES OWN COFFIN” is where I ended up, but see what you think.
● Death Generator: A little webtoy that lets you create bespoke copy for a pretty wide range of old videogame speech bubble-type things. Which, I realise, is an APPALLING description - let me try again. You know how at the end of a bout in Streetfighter you get a picture of both characters post-stramash, one all victorious and the other all pulped, with one gloating and delivering some sort of poorly-translated guff about Shen Long? Yes, well that but you can edit the text, and there are about 100 different old games whose styles you can replicate. Based on the number of you likely to click this one I probably oughtn’t have bothered with that explanation, eh? FFS.
● The Spitting Image Auction: OH MY GOD A LOAD OF PUPPETS FROM SPITTING IMAGE ARE GOING UP FOR AUCTION! I imagine the opening prices here are ridiculously low - I can’t see any of this stuff for going for less than multiples of 1000 - but, well, THERE IS A FULL THATCHER PUPPET FOR SALE! Also, the Claire Rayner one looks a LOT like Poor Trees, so it might be worth putting a bit in on that one too. If any of you work in political consultancy then this will be RIGHT up your street (as an aside, it’s remarkable how obscure some of the people they chose to satirise now seem - sic transit Gloria Mundi and all that jazz, eh?).
● The Period Game: A great week for the celebration of menses, this one, what with the announcement of the period emoji and now this Kickstarter, seeking another 9 grand over the next three weeks in order to be able to put the Period Game into production; the idea is that it will provide a relaxed way in which to talk to children about periods and associated issues, normalise the language around menstruation and the like. As someone who’s never had a period and is probably never going to I can’t really offer an opinion on its necessity or otherwise, but it seems like a nice idea and I like the fact that you can pledge to donate a copy to a school so all in all I’ll say this is A Good Thing.
● Glide: This lets you create simple mobile apps from a Google Sheet, which seems like witchcraft and probably is. This isn’t for anything you could conceivably want to sell so much as for the sort of quick, single use app you might want to knock up for a company awayday or similar; you can get a reasonable feel for what’s possible from the website, and if you’re interested in fiddling with code and app development this could be a rather nice place to start.
● How The Brain Works: A simple explainer site about how the brain works - which you could probably have ascertained from the title, and which I almost certainly didn’t need to type. FFS MATT! Anyway, I quite like the copy here which is the main reason I’m featuring it.
● The Tiny Type Museum: Another Kickstarter, this one £18k shy of its target with a fortnight left - if any of you are hacks past or present then I think you’ll enjoy this. The Tiny Type Museum will, if funded, give backers a, er, tiny museum of type and printing artifacts. “Each custom, handmade wood museum case holds a couple dozen genuine artifacts from the past, including a paper mold for casting newspaper ads in metal, individual pieces of wood and metal type, a phototype “font,” and a Linotype “slug” (set with your own message), along with original commissioned art and a letterpress-printed book and a few replicas of items found in printing shops. Ingredients for the museum will be sourced from active letterpress printers, type foundries, artists, and nooks and crannies where people stashed the past in the hopes of someone showing interest in preserving it.” This is LOVELY, though possibly a bit on the pricey side.
● Hot Pod News: The innocent days of podcasting are now officially OVER, with the Spotify/Gimlet deal earlier this week - Hot Pod News is a site collecting all the, er, hot podcast news (sorry, I appear to have fallen into something of a prose slump, I will try and snap out of it) that’s fit to print; if you’re interested in podcasting as a serious gig then this is worth a look.
● Bite: Toothpaste...as a subscription service! Yes, you may not have asked for it but IT’S HERE ANYWAY! Isn’t it ANNOYING having to remember to buy toothpaste all the time? Don’t you wish you could have your toothpaste delivered to you in weirdly chalky-looking capsule form on a monthly basis? No, you don’t, do you, and yet nonetheless here is a service offering to fulfil that very non-desire! The best thing about this is that the packages (delivered every 4 months, turns out) work out as costing $7.50 per month - PER MONTH! WHO SPENDS £7.50 ON TOOTHPASTE A MONTH! ARE YOU MAD? You could totally do toilet paper as a service I reckon, on a £1 per roll basis. WHO’S IN?
● Recordit: A really, really good screen recording tool. Not exciting, just useful.
● International Garden Photographer of the Year: LOOK AT THE FLORA! So lush, so verdant, so impressive; I find the abstract shots particularly beautiful, but, honestly, these are universally spectacular and will make you want to give your nana a call (or maybe it’s just me).
● Colourise: This is a great tool which uses ML to attempt to apply a realistic(ish) colourisation to black and white photos. I think it was built by the Singapore Government, though the site goes to great pains to reassure you that the photos are in no way stored anywhere - still, if you’ve got any B&W images you fancy playing with, give this a go.
● Cone of Shame: Photos of dogs wearing cones of shame, except the cones have been jazzed up significantly. Included almost entirely because it NEEDS to be ‘borrowed’ as visual inspiration for a petcare campaign - it is TOO perfect.
● The Yale School of Art: You know how when you’re a student there are certain other student groups who everyone has an opinion about - medics are all obnoxious alcoholics with a god complex, physics students smell so that blind people can hate them too, and art students can just fcuk off with their fashion and their hair and their cigarettes and opinions and talent (philosophy students, in case you were wondering, smoke cheap hash to the point of catatonia and attempt to become one with the sofa)? Well this website, the official one for Yale’s School of Art, is literally the digital embodiment of every art student you’ve ever hated. Quite spectacular really.
● The Periodic Table: A lovely interactive visualisation of the periodic table and the history of its evolution, beautifully designed and the sort of thing that might be useful should you have a teenage child attemting to remember who the everliving fcuk Mendeleev was.
● The British and Irish Dialect Quiz: The New York Times (bizarrely) has made this interactive quiz which reckons it can tell where you’re from based on how you pronounce things - SHOW IT YOU KNOW BEST (in fact it’s upsettingly accurate, but, well, maybe just lie to throw their data off a bit).
● Lovesync: “This is a joke”, I thought when I found this on Monday, “and they’ve just knocked it out as a Valentine’s Day funny and will use the attention to, I don’t know, promote their creative design agency or something”. Fast forward a few days and it’s now a fully-funded thing, with nearly 250 people having pledged money to back a button designed to help couples with pretty serious communication issues agree when they can rub their mucous membranes together. The idea is that one half of a couple presses their button when they want to fcuk; there’s then a window of time within which if the other partner also presses their button they’ll both be alerted so they can indulge in sticky fun together. If the other party doesn’t press the button, the horny other can go back to seething in frustrated resentment without having had to suffer the overt rejection of their lover saying “no, I would rather do literally anything else right now than pursue an orgasm with you”. Life is really tiring, isn’t it, at times?
● Strawberry Cake: The final miscellaneous link this week is a short, charming game about a picnic and baking. It’s lovely, and will wash away the memory of that horrid fcukbutton.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
● Sliplead: The slightly creepy, gothic and macabre art of Robin Isely.
● Incorrect Labyrinth: Misquoting from the film Labyrinth. This isn’t a particularly exciting Tumblr, but it taught me that there are some people on the internet that spell ‘welcome’ as ‘whalecum’ and now I can never unsee it and I had to share it with someone and I am sorry.
● Sad Chairs of Academia: You don’t need me to explain this, do you?
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
● Station 57 Cat: The Insta account belonging to a fire station cat in New York, featuring occasional canine guest apparances. What a SPECIAL GUY!
● Accidental Icon: This woman might be HUGELY famous, apologies if this is very passe, but I found her account - in which she very much lives the influencer’s BEST LIFE whilst comfortably in her 60s - genuinely rather lovely.
● Bird Freaks: Just some excellent birds really.
● Apollon.Ru: Featured more because I like the concept than because I can understand anything it actually says - this is a Russian Insta account whose gimmick is that it only posts photographs of post-it notes on which are written descriptions of the most-liked and commented Insta photos of the day. I LOVE this idea and quite want someone to steal it in English please.
● Pink Mitsubishis: The final Insta feed of the week is sort of a spritual successor to that poo flip video from last week; this consists solely of images and videos of Australians being utterly spangled, and if you’ve got a thing for slightly-mullety bogans gurning mightily whilst surrounded by stubbies then, well, are YOU in for a treat!
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
● The Ethical Dilemma of the Valley: Or, “will the next generation of Stanford grads spend rather more time thinking of the potential consequences of their brilliant innovations or will they simply do what this lot did and do what the VC tells them?”. The answer, unsurprisingly, is ‘noone knows’ - there’s a general sense throughout the article that students are at least on the surface more willing to consider and take into account moral questions when pursuing their careers, but there’s also a slight sense by the end that this is, to a degree, cosmetic, and that they would in fact fcuk the world with a rusty screwdriver if it meant a shot at Zuckerbergian wealth and immortality.
● Mirrorworld: A BRILLIANT piece of thinking and writing about AR and the process of creating a persistent, universal connection between the real and digital worlds and the creation of a digital map of the physical which really is its territory. This is so, so interesting and I can’t stress enough how much is in here in terms of ideas - the general picture it paints is a slightly-overhyped one, fine, particularly in terms of the likely timescales (this stuff isn’t, I’d posit, quite as close as the author would like us to think it is), but overall this is all plausible and reasonably imminent, and as a way of getting yourself to think about some of the longer-term applications of AR and data layering it’s superb.
● Money Machines: An interview with an anonymous algorithmic trader, in which they talk about the machines that rule the markets and exactly how this is warping the way in which trading works and markets move, and the associated risks that this can bring to global economies: “all quantitative models use historical data to train themselves. As these techniques become more widespread, the assumption that the world will behave in the future the way it has in the past is being hard-wired into the entire financial system.” That sounds...troubling?
● Andy Warhol: The New York Review of Books reviews a new Warhol retrospective that’s on show in NYC at the moment; this is less of review than it is an assessment of Warhol’s artistic output overall, and is a pleasant surprise insofar as it’s significantly less interested in the Factory and Edie Sedgwick and Studio54 than it is the canvases and the techniques and the context within which Warhol existed in the early stages of his career. I sometimes think we’d all be better off for everyone just forgetting Warhol existed for a decade or so - I’d certainly like some of his influence to be scrubbed from the timeline - but this was fascinating and taught me a lot.
● Netflix Is Too Horny: I confess to not having noticed this at all, but now that I’ve read this piece I can’t unsee it. WHY IS NETFLIX’S SOCIAL MEDIA PERSONA ONE OF NEAR-CONSTANT THIRST?? What is it trying to communicate? And will we one day be able to look back on these strange, brand-anthropomorphic times as a weird aberration that was never repeated? I fcuking hope so. Please, should any of you social strategist types be reading this, don’t let Sainsbury’s start tweeting about edging or anything like that.
● The Loudness Wars: Absolutely designed with laser-guided precision to appeal to the middle-aged man, this article looks at this year’s Grammy winners and indeed recent trends in music to prove CATEGORICALLY that songs are getting...well, not ‘louder’ exactly, but sonically busier with less variation between the LOUD bits and the quieter bits. Basically this is all the grist you need for your ‘this isn’t music, it’s just noise’ mill.
● The Thai Cave Rescue: This is an EXHAUSTIVE but very cinematically-written account of the Thai cave rescue from last year, and specifically the ragtag bunch of international divers brought together to effect the kids’ escape. This is properly exciting stuff - tense and nervewracking despite the fact you know how it turns out (THEY ALL SURVIVE DON’T WORRY) - and, even better, contains only one mention of El*n M*sk.
● How YouTube Drives Conspiracy Content: Or, “This is the consequence of a platform that rewards people for giving viewers exactly what they want”. Of course YouTube is full of mad conspiracy videos - people love them! It’s an interesting read, though the central premise is neatly summarised in one paragraph: “Many YouTubers have realized that fringe content—like conspiracy theories and far right political beliefs—are successful on the site. Because they are rewarded with engagement and views, YouTubers are incentivized to create videos that edge further and further to the extreme. This phenomenon doesn’t have an easy fix because it’s built into the structure and model of YouTube as a platform.”
● What The Crow Knows: Fascinating article about new research into animal consciousness, with a particular focus on corvids - the stuff about differential evolution of networked brain structures (cortex/non-cortex) is really interesting and just on the cusp of feeling properly breakthrough-ish; one does wonder reading stuff like this whether in 100 years our treatment of and relationship with animals will be completely redefined as we’re forced to confront the fact that they think and feel far more than we’ve traditionally thought.
● How Sotheby’s Transformed the Art Market: If you, like me, have the misfortune to have worked in PR at all, you’ll know that a good ‘Index’ of something is a great way to get coverage. I bet your Indexes never literally changed an entire industry, though. This is the quite remarkable story of how Sothebys, though some very smart PR, managed to basically wrangle free press out of the Times for a few decades and simultaneously created the idea of ‘art as sensible financial investment’, thereby also ensuring that lots of rich people were all of a sudden more interested in dropping millions on fine art at auction through people like...Sothebys! Seriously, this is just brilliant - and a useful reminder of the importance of following ANY story you read as far back as you can to sniff out the sourcing.
● An Interview with Temple Grandin: I confess to not really knowing who Temple Grandin was before reading this - now I know that they are on the autistic spectrum, a professor of animal science, an author of multiple books on multiple subjects, and a quite remarkable interviewee. It’s rare that you read a piece like this in which the interviewee’s voice is so incredibly strong and distinct - this is hugely wide-ranging, touching on autism and individuality and animals and farming and all sorts of other stuff, but more than anything you get a feel for a truly incredible and hungry mind. Honestly quite remarkable.
● Ideophones: Are there certain words - sort of like onomatopoeia for feelings, I suppose - whose sound or shape can be said to convey specific emotions or feelings regardless of cultural background of the speaker and listener? If so, they’re what are called ‘Ideophones’ - this article examines the theory and some of the science which suggests that there very much are words of this ilk. It’s an interesting theoretical companion piece to the map of emotional sounds I linked to about 3 and a half hours ago (I have no idea how long it’s been since you read it, but I like to give you a realtime sense of my progress through this fcuking thing) and the concept really made me think quite a lot (to no apparent end, obviously, but, well, still).
● Apex Legends: You may or may not be aware that Fortnite is OLD NEWS and that the new hotness is in fact Apex Legends, another Battle Royale shooter with cross-platform play which managed to hit 10million players in 3 days (Fortnite took, er, a fortnight to hit the same milestone); anyway, it is and it is. This is a piece about the new title - its real draw, though, is in its analysis of the systems that make the game a pleasure to play, and in particular its in-game interplayer comms setup - honestly, as an analysis of UX/UI design this is really smart and worth reading, regardless of your interest in games.
● Bridesmaids - An Oral History: Bridesmaids is a bit of an odd film, insofar as for something so successful and, at the time, groundbreaking, it seems to have left no positive cultural impression whatsoever; if it’s recalled at all in popular culture it’s seemingly with disdain, which seems a bit weird (was it that awful? Was it problematic? I honestly forget). Anyway, this is a funny and nicely-collated oral history of the film’s genesis, timely given Melissa McCarthy’s Oscars tilt here in 2019.
● Child ASMR: I feel very much as though the lovely underground shine of ASMR has worn off now, with adverts and mainstream appeal and now a whole generation of child stars being - frankly - exploited by adults for commercial gain. There’s something genuinely creepy about the fact that one of the best routes to YouTube wealth is to get kids to do stuff, and something VERY creepy about the idea of grown adults listening to kiddy voices as a relaxation technique - that said, as I’ve happily admitted here before, I like watching videos of women talking softly in Italian about cookery so, well, glass houses and all that.
● Choose Your Own Corporate Adventure: McSweeney’s does ‘work’ in the time-honoured CYOA style. It’s funny! Except it’s not, because (as my mum said when I showed her the Office on TV for the first time around 1996) it’s not a joke, it’s our fcuking lives!
● Reading in a Time of Distraction: A very good essay on a very modern phenomenon - to whit, the slow erosion of our collective ability to sit and focus on a text in deep and sustained fashion. I still read fcukloads - obviously, it’s not really possible not to when writing this bastard - but I am aware that I occasionally need to apply more discipline to keep from flicking my attention elsewhere every couple of pages. This is excellent on the switch from depth to breadth engendered by the web and its portals, and on what that might mean for thinking in general.
● The Titan’s Shadow: A slightly frightening profile of Daniel Barenboim, a pretty incredible-sounding man by anyone’s standards - check this out: “a pianist and conductor, but also a diplomat, an entrepreneur, an advocate for peace and human rights. A child prodigy discovered by Wilhelm Furtwängler, he has served as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and La Scala in Milan, and has made some 500 recordings as a conductor and pianist. He has been awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, the Japanese Praemium Imperiale for music, and the insignia of commander of the French Legion of Honor.” (this paragraph carries on this vein for a while). He is also, by all accounts, a monstrous bully - the article asks to what extent this can or should be excused as a result of his brilliance and pursuit of artistic perfection. Great writing which presents a truly monstrous individual in every sense - for what it’s worth, the second-worst person I have ever experience professionally was the artist Hans Ulrich Obrist, now artisti director of the Serpentine Gallery and a man who made young women cry on an hourly basis and who I wish nothing but unhappiness on. YEAH, TAKE THAT HANS, YOU...YOU...IMMENSELY SUCCESSFUL PRICK!
● Homecoming: Lagos: Part of VICE’s occasional series in which writers return to their home towns and document the experience - this is Diplo Faloyin writing about Lagos, and it’s a remarkable piece of writing; essays about Lagos tend to be fascinating (it’s hard to be boring about a city of 21million people), but this one’s superbly-written to boot. You have to read this one, seriously.
● The Rise of the Tinder-themed Wedding: Not great writing, but I found this piece sort of brilliantly sadly hilarious; know that if you go to a Tinder-themed nuptials this year you will be BANG ON TREND (and know also that you are really not allowed to make the ‘love at first swipe’ joke because, well, really).
● First Course: The story of the Native Haute Cuisine Team, who won gold at the culinary Olympics (yes, that’s a thing; no, I didn’t know either) in Frankfurt in 1992, and how that changed attitudes towards Native food and cookery across the country; the piece then segues to the present day, and how the skills and techniques of Native cooks are being preserved and passed on. Gorgeous food writing, and probably the first time you’ll be hungry for beaver tail stew.
● Freedom: A wide-ranging, slightly rambling essay on the concept of ‘Freedom’ in the US in 2019 - what it means, how it’s sold, and how it changes depending on who you talk to and where they are, all presented as the author takes a similarly rambling road trip with a post-op friend across Trumpian America. Good travel writing, and excellent observations on the American national character.
● How To Say I Love You: This is wonderful. Ostensibly an answer to a reader’s question ‘how can I find 100 ways to say ‘I love you’ to my girlfriend?’ this becomes something far, far better - just read it, it’s gorgeous.
● Asleep At The Wheel: A chilling little bit of dystopian scifi from T Coraghessan Boyle. Excellent short fiction in the New Yorker.
● The Communal Mind: Finally this week, Patricia Lockwood on what it’s like online. This is ASTONISHINGLY good - a prose poem about the specific feeling of being on the internet and of being EXTREMELY ONLINE which does a better job of just getting the feeling than anything else I’ve read in an age. I saw Lockwood read this piece last week and it has stayed with me ever since - this paragraph, about the experience of meeting someone you know solely on Twitter, made me angry it’s so good: “‘What was your name?’ she asked, and he told her, and a mundane ecstasy began to rush in her veins – his had been one of her very favourite lives. She remembered it in the minutest detail: the pints after work, the rides back and forth on the train, his search for ever spicier curries, the imagined dimness of his apartment with its crates of obscure records, the green waving gentleness of it all. She stood up and held him, she could not help it. He felt as breakable as a link in her arms.” I mean, ‘his had been one of her favourite lives’ is SO good it’s not really fcuking fair is it.
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS WHICH IS REDUCED THIS WEEK DUE TO MY USUAL SOURCE FOR THIS BIT BEING MOSTLY OFFLINE BUT WHICH I WILL ENDEAVOUR TO RETURN TO ITS CUSTOMARY SPLENDOUR NEXT WEEK!:
2) The second, and last, of the videos this week is this, by Aaron Taos, for his song ‘Communication’. Slightly 80s-ish with a lovely, simple animated accompaniment, this is a perfect song for a sunny Friday in February and with which to sign off and say BYE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE THANKS FOR READING AND TAKE CARE AND HAVE FUN AND I HOPE YOU HAD A GOOD WEEK AND THAT YOU HAVE SOMEONE WITH WHOM YOU CAN GO ON SOME SORT OF CRISP SPRING WALK THIS WEEKEND OR FAILING THAT THAT YOU CAN SPEND IT HORIZONTAL AND COMFORTABLE AND THAT BASICALLY WHATEVER HAPPENS YOU HAVE A LOVELY TIME AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF I LOVE YOU THANKS FOR READING TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU BYE!: