HI EVERYONE! I MADE IT! Yes, despite having only had three days in which to scarf down all of the week's internet, I have somehow managed to curl out an almost-fully-formed Curios this week! Yes, OK, fine, it might be a little light on the miscellaneous links and videos this week, but I've made up for it with WORDS (which are the bit that noone wants)! Special thanks to the people who paid me for my time on Wednesday and Thursday and who have basically paid for this this week (pretty sure none of them read this).
Anyway, I went to Rome for my Grandmother's 100th and it was, honestly, lovely, and made me feel almost warm and positive about life (although that may just have been the heat - it hit 48 in the centre of the city on Monday, which is frankly not ok hun). That mood has sort-of continued through to the weekend - I'm off to the seaside for a few days, to eat fine food, drink less fine wine (as a man who drinks more Casillero del Diablo than water, I'm in no position to be snobbish about a vintage) and, hopefully, win a selection of keyrings thanks to the magic of TICKETS.
Whatever YOU are doing with your 48h of freedom from the stupid, pointless waste of time that is your dayjob (NB - it's probably worth me pointing out here that when I talk about work being a pointless waste of time, I am obviously only talking to the advermarketingpr folk among you; in the unlikely event that anyone reading this does a real job then know that I am not talking about you at all), start the weekend off RIGHT by immersing yourself to the very hairline in this week's linky miasma, a warm, vaguely glutinous slop which will osmotically imbue you with all of my knowledge as you scroll. HOW WILL YOU FIT IT ALL IN?! I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and you can't keep me waiting any longer.
My centenarian grandmother, taken by the bloke who does her hair and who looks uncannily like me after a go on one of those face-ageing apps
LET’S KICK OFF WITH A TRIP BACK TO THE OLD SCHOOL COURTESY OF AN LTJ BUKEM MIX FROM 1992!
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS IT MAY NOT BE A COINCIDENCE THAT VERIZON TOOK THAT MASSIVE HAIRCUT ON TUMBLR JUST AFTER SHINGY ANNOUNCED HE WAS LEAVING (AND WHICH APPRECIATES THAT THIS SENTENCE WILL BE LARGELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE TO THE MAJORITY OF YOU):
- Facebook Makes Some Utterly Cosmetic Changes To Groups!: There will be NO MORE secret Groups on Facebook! I mean, there will be - they just won’t be called ‘secret’ any more. This seems like basic housekeeping from Facebook - it’s simply not a good look for the platform to have Groups that can self-describe as ‘secret’, what with all the hate and white supremacy and illegality and other unsavoury things happening in the private nooks and crannies of the platform; ‘private’ is a far less politico/tabloid-riling designation. This change will make NO DIFFERENCE to almost everyone - look: “By default, a group that was formerly “secret” will now be “private” and “hidden.” A group that was formerly “closed” will now be “private” and “visible.” Groups that are “public” will remain “public” and “visible.”” See? Nothing to worry about.
- New FB Ad Units for Films: New ad-types! Specifically to get people to go to the cinema! Ad units which will let users set reminders to alert them when a film shown to them in an ad appears in cinemas nearby! Ad units which will let users immediately see film times at nearby venues! These are genuinely useful, and you’d imagine that this sort of functionality will be rolled out beyond just films in the not-too-distant future. Or at least I would - that’s the way my imagination works, you see, wild and free and unfettered by tedious shackles of convention.
- Facebook Stories Now Let You Add Slideshows: Once again I defer to Matt Navarra, a man so dedicated to knowing everything there is to know about s*c**l m*d** that he barely even exists in corporeal form any more, instead manifesting as a buzzing swarm of 1s and 0s. He’s learned that you will be able to add image slideshows to your Facebook Stories, and now, via me, you know that too, and isn’t your life better for the fact? Humour me.
- You Can Now Schedule Instagram Posts Through Creator Studio: I imagine for some of you this will be as a soothing, cooling balm on a hot summer’s day; no longer will you have to log into the ‘gram to post that desultory ‘Who’s having BOTTOMLESS BRUNCH?!?! We love bubbles!!’ twelve-liker to the corporate account on a miserable, comedowny Saturday morning; instead now you’ll be able to schedule that post and keep keying the ket long into the afternoon with nary a thought of work! Sadly this doesn’t currently allow for the scheduling of Stories, though, so don’t get too excited.
- Instagram AR For All: Spark AR, Facebook’s AR kit for Instagram, is now open to all in Beta - so if you fancy messing around with creating Snap-style effects for the ‘gram, this is your chance. This is all very much experimental at the moment, but the tools are actually really user-friendly and there’s quite a lot of quite cool stuff you can do if you put the time in. The sort of thing that could work as a competition for the right sort of brand, or just somewhere to make some fun, throwaway digital tat - get the tone right and there’s at least one WACKY CORPORATE FUNSTERS viral thingy in this, I reckon.
- Instagram To Launch Revised Boomerang Formats: Jane Manchun Wong, the world’s other indefatigable social media sleuth and tipster, has discovered that Insta is apparently going to roll out half-a-dozen slightly tweaked Boomerang formats which will let users make ever-so-slightly-different back/forward-looping video clips! There’s no timeline attached to this, but just so’s you can start thinking of all the EXCITING NEW CONTENT you can create. There’s some other ‘coming soon’-type stuff in here too, including a bunch of new image-grid formats for Insta stories which do actually look quite useful.
- Insta To Allow Flagging of False Information: Literally just this. A good thing, though one perhaps might argue (not for the first time) that this is another instance where the platforms are, metaphorically-speaking, carefully-locking up the farm and applying the deadlock whilst the sounds of happy whinnying drift across the evening sky from several fields away.
- New Snapchat Specs Let Users Film First-Person 3d: Well, sort-of 3d - the specs will have two cameras, though, which will provide a degree of depth to footage shot with them, meaning you’ll be able to apply more interesting digital after effects to your videos; the examples shown here include a rather natty little pink bird flying around elements in a user’s film. These are available for pre-order in the UK at the moment, turns out, and if you’re a CONTENT CREATOR (sorry) and have a spare few hundred quid, these could be quite a worthwhile investment.
- Spotify for Podcasters: Or, specifically, how podcasters can get better analytics through Spotify. Attach your podcast account and you’ll be able to get detailed information on listener numbers, which seems like a Useful And Good Thing.
- Plus-Sized Stock Photos: I’m including this solely because I think that’s now literally every conceivable application of the ‘stock photos but this time for this otherwise ordinarily underrepresented group of people’; you can’t, sadly, really rip this idea off any more. Don’t look at me like that, it’s been a whole bloody year I’ve been pointing these out to you and telling you to jump on that bandwagon, it’s not my fault you don’t listen.
- AXA #KnowYouCan: I’ve been having to work on quite a lot of employee engagement stuff at the moment, but sadly none of it has been blessed with quite the same sort of evidently insane budgets as AXA had at its disposal when planning this particular activation. JUST LOOK AT THE VIDEO! “AXA launched #knowyoucan, its new brand slogan about self belief -” NO HANG ON HANG ON WHAT?!?! Its ‘new brand slogan about self belief’? WHAT THE ACTUAL FCUK? YOU ARE A FRENCH INSURANCE COMPANY WHY DO YOU NEED ONE OF THOSE? Take a moment to deal with that idiocy and then carry on watching, and marvel at the fact that they have seemingly built a giant interactive wall of video screens displaying negative phrases which employees could...er...hit tennis balls at, to banish said negativity in in-no-way-clunky metaphorical fashion. WHY TENNIS? Also, hang on, IS THAT SERENA WILLIAMS?!?! Honestly, watch this, try and work out, roughly, what the budget was for all this, and then spend some time thinking about better ways to spend that money. It won’t be hard. Do you ever think that everything we do is totally fcuking pointless waste of time, money and energy and we would all be better served by, well, just stopping with all this pointless rubbish? Do you? You fcuking well should you know.
By Jason Anderson
NEXT, ENJOY THIS INTENSELY ECLECTIC SELECTION FROM JON AVERILL!
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO WISH SAZ A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY FOR TOMORROW, PT.1:
- Living Ferguson: A digital memorial to Michael Brown Jr., the black teenager killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, 5 years ago. It’s interesting - and by interesting I mean ‘depressing’ - the extent to which that incident seems oddly like a precursor or catalyst to declining US race relations since; the website is a beautifully-put-together collection of interviews with local residents, sharing their memories of the day, their experiences with police, and their reflections on how the community and its relationship with law enforcement has changed since. “Reporters at St. Louis Public Radio interviewed more than 20 people for this project. Some spoke to us alone, others alongside friends and family. All were directly touched by the inequalities that #Ferguson’s eruption showcased to the world. Several themes emerged during the interviews. Those themes became the chapters of this project.” Not only an interesting piece of documentary website-making, but a really nice example of how to land this sort of project sensitively and effectively.
- Relativity: Another week, another link for which I have to say thanks to Josh- this is a lovely site which seeks to show how the behaviour of light goes some way towards providing a proof for Einstein’s theory of relativity. I won’t pretend that I understand any of the physics here - honestly, I really don’t; there’s a point with physics at which my brain simply stops attempting to understand or engage with the topic and instead just sort of slides over and around the surface of it, not unlike a fried egg on a well-greased non-stick surface (no, no idea why that’s the analogy my head’s decided to fixate upon here, but there we are, nothing I can do about it) - but the visualisation and interactivity are both really nicely-done.
- The Google Question Hub: This isn’t live for the UK at the moment - it’s currently in beta for users in Nigeria, Indonesia and India - but it’s SUCH an interesting idea, with a load of potentially-interesting use cases for CONTENT PROVIDERS. The Google Question Hub lets users see what questions people are asking Google in their area that don’t currently have high-quality answers to them, so that they can then create content which answers said questions; the idea being that users get the information they need, whilst website owners who provide GOOD QUALITY STUFF will get the SEO and traffic boost their helpful behaviour deserves.Worth keeping an eye on this to see when it expands to other territories as it almost certainly will.
- The Al Safar Project: This is a...slightly frustrating website. The Al Safar Project is...well, part of the problem is that the site doesn’t make it hugely easy to tell, what with the somewhat buried nav and the fact that it’s all in this fcuking horrible cursive font. I think that the Al Safar Project is a not-for-profit association promoting projects that advocate international understanding and cooperation, and that this website collects some of those projects, and the stories and people behind them. It’s SUCH a shame that the site’s such a mess, as I get the feeling there’s actually lots of really interesting stuff in here, from promoting a female rally-driving team in Palestine, to supporting the work of a French photographer who’s retracing the cross-country pilgrimage of a 14th-Century Islamic scholar; there are some lovely pictures, but reading this is HORRID. Can someone please CHANGE THE SODDING FONT PLEASE? Thanks.
- Pegleg: We’re all comfortable with the fact we’re all cyborgs now, right? Even those of us who haven’t gone full implant can happily acknowledge our advanced state of human/machine symbiosis and our status as centaurs in pretty much all aspects of our lives? Good! Now we’ve got that cleared up, let’s swap ourselves down with medicinal alcohol and prepare to insert what looks like a cigarette-packet sized circuitboard under our skin! “PegLeg is a distro of the PirateBox platform, designed to be meshable, and run on hardware small enough to implant in the human body.Inspired by pirate radio and the free culture movement, PirateBox is a self-contained mobile collaboration and file sharing device. PirateBox utilizes Free, Libre and Open Source software (FLOSS) to create mobile wireless file sharing networks where users can anonymously share images, video, audio, documents, and other digital content”. Click the link and just look at that - would you want that inside you? It looks unpleasantly glisten-y and Cronenbergian, for a start. Beautifully, the disclaimer at the end reads: “please seek out someone with the skillset to put this in a human body instead of blindy [sic] cutting yourself open. If you do not feel entirely confident in this procedure, please consider turning this device into a wearable.” STERLING ADVICE.
- Coinlocker: This is all in Japanese, but if you click the button on the landing page you’ll see an option to change it to English - doing so will reveal that Coinlocker is a service designed to help you break your digital addiction. So far, so meh, but the truly dastardly thing about this service is that it really doesn’t fcuk around; you give it your passwords to the accounts you want to be deprived of access to, and Coinlocker will change them without telling you what to. You’ll then be locked out of the platform til the specified time period has elapsed, at which point you’ll be emailed the new password so you can get back in and scratch the itch again. This is SO clever - I think that technically it breaks a lot of various platforms’ Ts&Cs, though, meaning there’s a small chance that it’ll get shuttered at any moment and leave you unable to ever get back into your Twitter account, which is another really fantastic reason to use it if you ask me.
- Method Of Denim: I don’t normally feature clothes in here, but I’ll make an exception for this, mainly as this company sells denim stuff which you can customise to a quite frightening degree on the website; I can’t vouch for the quality of the output, but which of us can resist the opportunity to order a stonewash denim jacket with ‘WEBMONG’ written across the shoulderblades in that sort of weird, spiky, almoost chitinous script so beloved of death metal bands? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO! Honestly, you can make some truly preposterous garments on here - the interface is really nice, reminiscent of quite a few of the old ‘design your own tshirt’ sites from a decade or so ago, and it’s really rather fun to spend 20 minutes designing your own entirely customised edgelord rock god denim getup.
- The Version Museum: “Version Museum showcases the visual history of popular websites, operating systems, applications, and games that have shaped our lives. Much like walking through a real-life museum, this site focuses on the design changes of historic versions of technology, rather than just the written history behind it.” If you’ve grown up on the web, this is a quite uncanny time machine - the collection of screenshots of Facebook alone is a strange and rather unsettling trip back to a more innocent era in which we poked each other and threw tacos; there are also historical images of old Office versions, operating systems and a few game series as well, and the whole thing is a fascinating look at quite how much webdesign has evolved in a relatively short period of time.
- Cutie Pi: This is an interesting prototype project, seeking to produce a tablet based on the Raspberry Pi, being developed by a team in Taiwan. It’s a really impressive piece of design and build, and while the team are looking to manufacture it themselves (with an aim to sell it around £200 or so) they have also done the decent thing and make the whole project open source too. If you’re a codery, hackery, tinker-y type, this is worth a look.
- Reals: Do we really need another social platform? Do we need one, in particular, that exists specifically for people to share their REAL selves and their REAL feelings and REAL thoughts about REAL things? Do we really want something else that encourages that most tedious of communications-types of the 21st Century, the ‘rant delivered into phone camera held in outstretched arm’? No, no we do not, and yet here Reals comes, all POSITIVE and puppylike, with its standard spiel about how it wants users to find an ocean of sincerity and ‘realness’ in the crowded sea of digital fakery. Look, people behind Reals, I am sure that you mean well, but the one thing we have far too fcuking much of in 2019 is people unaccountably feeling that they should have some sort of a fcuking medal for SPEEKING THEIR FCUKING BRANES at the internet. Being ‘real’ isn’t always good, you know, as anyone who’s ever met the sort of person who has ‘if you don’t love me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best’ in their profile.
- Bovine Obstruction: The weekly moment in Web Curios when I start wheeling out the links I nicked from last week’s B3ta (HI ROB!) - this is a very silly site, but a very pleasing silly site. Try typing something. GO ON, TRY IT.
- No Bias: This feels like a great idea that sadly won’t have the impact it might due to limited adoption; I know, obviously, all the reasons why it would never happen, but wouldn’t it be nice if something like this was installed into Chrome as a default? Oh, hang on, I haven’t actually explained what it is, have I? Ahem. This is a browser extension, available for Chrome and Firefox, which does one thing - once installed, it allows users to get information about news sources - their likely political leanings and credibility - directly from Google Search or Facebook. It’s a really nice interface - the extension just applies a little paw graphic next to the link, which on hover-over displays some info about the site that the article appears on, and a rough visual guide to its political leanings on a left/right scale. The whole project is really interesting, with an impressive team behind it - I really want this to do well, so please do share it far and wide.
- Digital Security and Privacy for Domestic Violence: Sorry, there’s literally nothing ‘fun’ about this one at all, but it is a really good collection of resources to help people either suffering from, or at risk of, domestic violence maintain their digital security and safety; as they put it, “to help IPV [Intimate Partner Violence] survivors, advocates, and technologists discover and mitigate tech-based risks and vulnerabilities”. I hope none of you have reasons beyond the professional to click this link.
- US Flags: I know that there’s at least one flag enthusiast (what a characterisation!) amongst my readership, so, er, this one’s for YOU! US Flags is a site which, er, collects all the US Stae flags and analyses the principles behind their design, which, fine, might not sound interesting, but I promise you that if you’re in the market for designing your own flag for your own fledgling micronation you will find no little inspiration in here. Also, American State flags are on occasion REALLY silly - what were you thinking, Wyoming?!
- 8 Bit Workshop: Do YOU like 8-bit games and the general sort of nostagia for a bygone era that they evoke? Would YOU like to learn to code your own, with a web-based interface that lets you do EXACTLY that in a variety of 8bit languages? GREAT! This site is a wonderful collection of resources and information all about making 8-bit games; a bit technical, fine, but if you’re interested in tinkering with this sort of thing it’s a good starting point.
- Google Maps Shenanigans: I hate the word ‘shananigans’ - it speaks to me of a particular sort of aggressively-unfunny and unfun North American, which is perhaps unfair of me but there we go (this is MY blognewsletterthing and MY irrational prejudices are part and parcel of the ‘fun’) - but I will let it slide for this excellent subReddit collecting a wide range of Google Maps fcukups, oddities and, er, penile lakes and landmasses. Often quite childish, but, well, childish is funny and I will brook no argument on this. Also, this kid deserves to be famous.
By Bob Bicknell-Knight
NOW LET’S GET CONCEPTUAL WITH THIS MIX BY BRITISH MUSICIAN AND SOUND ARTIST RICHARD SKELTON!
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO WISH SAZ A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY FOR TOMORROW, PT.2:
- The Library Land Project: This is the project website for...hang on, I’ll let them explain it: “We are Adam Zand and Greg Peverill-Conti, the principals of SharpOrange and the guys behind Library Land. Since late 2017, we’ve visited more than 200 libraries across Massachusetts - a strong start to our goal of visiting every library in the state. We have also visited libraries in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, DC. When we visit a library, we rate it on 11 criteria: parking/transportation, WiFi, meeting rooms, condition, completeness, community, friendliness, restrooms, noise, comfort level and the all-important "Good place to work?"” Yes, this is a website that rates libraries - the perfect combination of weirdly obsessive, deeply tedious and ultimately pointless that regular readers will know forms the sweet, sweet heart of the Web Curios experience. A question, though. The ‘Sharp Orange’ they refer to is their PR company, which they founded a few years ago and which doesn’t have an office because they just work out of libraries instead - erm, is that ok? That does seem rather like a massive pisstake, insofar as they are rinsing free wifi, heating, desk space, etc - are any of you librarians? Can you offer an ethical perspective on this? Or are we all idiots for bothering with offices and should we instead run our business empires from the small seating area in the kids’ books section of Clapham Library? I am now very confused.
- Globe Living: This feels like a Bad Thing, though I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why. Globe is a service that can best be summarised as ‘Airbnb, but for an hour or so’; users sign up and can get paid, short-term access to domestic properties in a range of cities, the idea being that you can nip into someone’s house to do some work, take a shower, have a nap, etc, while they are at work; they, on the flipside, get to monetise the vacant space of their apartment while they’re staring dead-eyed at a monitor all day. Part of my irritation with this, I have just realised, is that it’s basically the idea I had five years ago - except mine was better, as it was going to be marketed exclusively at philanderers and was going to be called (lawyers be damned!) ‘Affairbnb’ (I know, it’s a GREAT name, right?). DAMN THEM! Anyway, if you don’t mind the idea of some stranger nipping into your house, rinsing your WiFi and DEFINITELY defecating mightily into your bathroom then sign yourself up!
- Eunoia: Or, ‘Words That Don’t Translate’. A database of those wonderful words which existing languages from all over the world which simply don’t have a simple, single-word English translation. These are always a joy, and I just lost 5 minutes to scrolling through a randomly-sourced selection of the 500+ words on there. Honestly, there is nothing you will learn today which will give you greater joy than the fact that there is an Indonesian word, Desus, which means, quite precisely, “The quiet, smooth sound of somebody farting, although not very loudly”. This is basically perfect.
- The Kosmaj Project: Thanks to editor Paul for finding and sending this to me - The Kosmaj Project collects drone photos and videos from a bunch of kids from Russia, who travel around looking for cool things to capture, and they are awesome. There are a few particularly nice shots of isolated figures in blasted landscapes which are particularly affecting, but everything on here is really rather wonderful.
- Urban Nudges: A site that collects examples of nudge-type initiatives in cities, specifically those that are designed to improve road safety. I think this site is part of a student’s graduation project - regardless, it’s a useful collection of interesting, creative approaches to a specific problem which might prove useful in terms of inspiration, or just some cool ideas on how to make people do what you want them to do.
- US Government Comics: It’s of course no surprise that Governments used comic books as propaganda materials through much of the 20th Century, but this collection contains some absolute gems - from the ones aimed at Native communities, which just feel quite incredibly sad for some reason, to the frankly glorious SPROCKET MAN (no, really), created by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to teach children about bike maintenance and road safety. Honestly, if there are any graphic designers out there who fancy making an easy few quid, I reckon there’s absolutely a profitable clothing range to be gotten out of retro-hipster SPROCKET MAN designs. Anyway, there’s loads of interesting stuff in here, both in terms of funny retro communications and some rather excellent oldschool art styles.
- Serial Reader: This is a nice idea. Taking all those out-of-copyright classic books of yesteryear that are all over the web, Serial Reader packages them as bite-sized daily episodes, offering you a new one each day for consumption through the app. If you feel like you’ve lost the ability to read anything other than Twitter and the sidebar of shame (and Curios - PLEASE GOD DON’T STOP READING CURIOS) this might be a useful way of training those particular muscles again; equally, if you’ve got kids who struggle with it, this could be a way of attempting to get them over that particular hill (presuming of course they’re those unlikely kids who REALLY want to read Jane Austen or Oscar Wilde).
- Balmain Boats: This is pretty much the ultimate in rich person’s indulgences for their kids, but is also quite cool in an ‘idyllic childhood Swallows & Amazons’-type way. Balmain Boats is an Australian company, whose entire sales pitch seems to be ‘buy something that will make your kids think you’re a lot cooler than you are’; in this case, a VERY SMOL rowing or sailboat for you all to go pottering about in. These are, obviously, all lovely and wooden and sustainable, and are flat-packed so as far as I can tell they’ll ship anywhere; you then get to put together the boat LIKE A FAMILY (that’s the idea, obviously - what will actually happen is that there will be a brief moment when your kids are halfway interested, and then one parent will be left to swearily hammer together an unconscionable number of bits of timber into a shape almost but not quite exactly unlike the one advertised which will start to take in water within 30s of being launched). These start out at around 1500 quid, which, honestly, made me applaud the chutzpah of these people quite a lot.
- Alienstock: Remember a few weeks ago when I linked you to the plan to raid Area51 and FREE THE ALIENS? Well that’s pivoted now to become ALIENSTOCK! A festival near Area51! With bands that they can’t announce yet for security reasons! Where the nearest town has literally 100 people and no petrol station or shop! This is going to be an absolutely legendary disaster if it ever goes ahead - it almost certainly won’t, but we can live in hope.
- BBBreaking News: Another B3ta link (THANKS ROB!), this one’s a really clever project which simply looks for Tweets from journalists asking people if they can use their pictures or videos in their news reports, and then pulls that media onto this website. This is in part a GREAT place to just scroll mindlessly through some moderately-interesting media, but also a decent way of tracking breaking news stories; at the moment, it’s all simply stuff from overnight in the US of people going mental on planes and the occasional bout of mad weather, but this is one that’s very much worth bookmarking and going back to on and off throughout the day.
- Flixier: This is basically an in-browser version of Final Cut, and looks INCREDIBLY useful. It’s a paid product at heart, but there are some features available for free, and it’s definitely worth a look if you want a lightweight-but-powerful editing and collaboration...er...thingy.
- Adversarial Fashion: Clothing designed very specifically to throw off automatic surveillance technology. In a week in which everyone in London was pleasantly reminded of the fact that it’s not our city, it’s money’s city and we’re just living in it and money can do whatever the fcuk it pleases including secretly tracking our faces because it fcuking well can, ok, stop asking questions, this seems oddly timely. The current range is designed to mess with Automatic License Plate Readers in the US, but I would love to see a UK riff on this to mess with the King’s Cross panopticon. Can someone make it please? Thanks.
- Import Doc: “Put a Google Doc in any web page. Updates instantly. Setup takes a minute.” So says this website. I have no idea why you might need this, but as you should know by now, Web Curios neither questions or judges.
- Generated Space: This is SUCH a lovely art project, producing computer-generated art of surprisingly broad stylistic scope. “Generated Space is the result of a year-long endeavour to make computers do unexpected things. It presents a wide range of different generative algorithms; from organic flow fields and particle systems to rigid fractals and grammar-based shapes. Some more serious than others. All the code is open source and available on GitHub, so feel free to change and improve upon any sketches that interests you.” It’s worth taking your time and clicking through a few of the projects to get a feel for the broad range of styles the site encompasses; these are SO LOVELY.
- The Amazon Interview Airbnb: On the one hand, there’s nothing at all weird about preparing assiduously for a job you really want; on the other, there is something very weird, to my mind at least, about this setup, whereby you can use Airbnb to book yourself a 5-hour simulated Amazon interview in downtown Seattle. Presumably this is designed for people who will be interviewing for a place in MechaBezos’ glorious, fully-automated future, but I like to think that there is a dedicated core audience of Amazon-heads who would do this as an actual holiday just for the kicks. Anyway, for the fee you get access to ex-senior Amazon people who will coach you, pretend-grill you, and then, best (not in fact best) of all, let you sit in on their deliberation and scoring process as they rip you and your professional deficiencies apart in the post-interview debrief. The best part? The cost. For this glorious experience - an experience which, you will recall, lasts 5 hours - you will shell out an eye-watering $5k. HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO MEET MECHABEZOS? I really don’t like the future of work, you know (I don’t much care for the present either, if I’m honest).
- Chesses: Last up in this week’s miscellania, another selection of small, fiendish, wrong games from Pippin Barr - this time another set of riffs on Chess, whereby in each of the games the rules are given one or two small but very significant tweaks. These are all designed as two-player experiences, but you can mess around with them to get the jokes - I LOVE Barr’s work so much, and this is as clever as you’d expect from them.
By Tom Hegen
LAST UP IN THE MIXES THIS WEEK, SOME ABSOLUTELY UNAPOLOGETIC PSYTRANCE WITH A SUPERB HOUR-LONG MIX BY CHACRUNA!
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Hyperart Thomasson: Unintentional art, created by the city. Contains images of the sorts of mad architecture that makes urban spaces worth living in sometimes; strange staircase follies in the middle of car parks, odd pipes attached to nothing, walkways leading into space...the odd, the surreal and the vaguely-menacing in the urban jungle.
- Dr Phil Imagines: “I'm Phillis. I'm a 34 year old white woman who adores Dr. Phil. Welcome to my hospital. May post imagines sometimes, though lately I have not had much time for that. Apologies.” I really, really hope that this is a joke, otherwise this person is...unwell. PLEASE click the link and have the sound up - this is VERY important.
- Thiccer Waifus: Ah, it’s been a while since we’ve had a good, seamy-underbelly-of-the-weird-sex-web-type-Tumblr on here - WELCOME BACK! Thiccer Waifus is, for those of you unfamiliar with the lexicon, a Tumblr featuring girls from anime and manga (the ‘waifu’ in question) whose already often-preposterous proportions have been jacked up to frankly terrifying scale by fans with photoshop. This is really not very SFW - there’s no actual nudity, fine, but there are lots of cartoon women with planetary-sized busts (I am really not exaggerating). HOW DO YOU DISCOVER THAT THIS IS WHAT GETS YOU OFF?!?!
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Gallagher Tools: Sean Gallagher photographs the tools owned by his family and tells the stories behind them. Lovely, in a very soothing sort of way.
- The Rio Cinema Archive: I featured a collection of photos of Dalston in the 80s on here a while back; this, I think, is an Insta feed featuring similar pictures, focusing specifically on the area around the Rio Cinema up by Kingsland, but also taking in the wider Hackney area. Superb.
- Odnoboko: I have no idea at all why this Russian person photoshops massive cats into all their photos, but, well, MAOW!
- Micah Adams: Micah Adams carves coins. These are quite, quite astonishing.
- Birdfreaks: The best avian photos I’ve seen on Instagram - there are some beatiful shots on here. Also, thanks to this video I just learned what sound an eagle makes and now feel you should too as I don’t want to suffer alone.
LONG THINGS THAT ARE LONG!
- The Tumblr Venn Diagram That Predicted The Future: This is obviously, on the one hand, a very silly article which goes in far too deep in a piece of popculture faux-profundity churned out years ago for the lols. It’s also - and this is the weird Schrodingerian (not a word, I know, but it ought to be) nature of the now - simultaneously a very smart look at how mid-10s web culture effectively foretold a lot of where we are now, in terms of online factions and attitudes shifting and melding and overlapping. This is THE most online thing I read all week, and contains the following quote which ought to win someone somewhere an award: “as a media archaeologist, I can tell you that this is an amazing artifact of an observant Tumblr user in the still-strong normie meme era of the web.” I mean, REALLY.
- Remember Gamergate?: The NYT goes deep on Gamergate 5 years on, and does a reasonable job of drawing the lines between the mass-mobilisation of gamers through 4Chan and Reddit and how the movement was cleverly, covertly coopted by a whole host of unsavoury people with unsavoury ideas in order to sow the seeds of the online far-right cesspit that occupies certain corners of the web in 2019. This is a genuinely good read, and something that’s worth sharing with people as a ‘this is how we got here’-type primer; there are parallels with the ideas raised in this viral Twitter thread from earlier in the week, about how boys are turning hard-right via meme culture, though fortunately the tone of the article is less tooth-grindingly smug than the thread was.
- The Other Article About #FBPE: The Guardian piece on the mental side of the Remain campaign got all the clicks this week, but I personally though this piece on Medium, by a Remain campaigner exasperated by the fcuking idiocy of so much of the wider mob, was a better read; this tells a more interesting story about why the campaign hasn’t had any actual proper public traction at all, despite its visibility (I mean, really, it hasn’t, and I say that as someone who thinks that Brexit is obviously an idiocy and who wishes it wouldn’t happen), how and why the left has once again fragmented, and what lessons campaigners can and should learn from it. Regardless of your politics or perspective, the responses to both this and the Guardian piece on Twitter illustrate both their points perfectly.
- Do We Create Shoplifters: This is a really fascinating piece about the unintended-consequences of automation, and the unseen value that human engagement in a process can bring, whether it be on a supermarket checkout or driving a car. Interesting, and made me think differently about automation and its value.
- Three Years of Misery at Google: Misery’s perhaps a strong word, but this article, all about Google’s travails as it attempts to manage its staff and its status as the de facto gatekeeper of information to the majority of the species, is a hell of a read. I wrote this somewhere else earlier this week, but I’ll reuse it here as, well, I’m lazy: “There is SO MUCH in this piece - Google as a microcosm of the increasingly-polarised post-2016 world, the impossibility of impartiality when you're a company staffed by humans and whose existence is effectively predicated on managing/gatekeeping human knowledge, the way in which it's been gamed by the right... I have a mate who used to work for Google bitd (he launched Gmail) and he once told me about being in a hot tub in Mountain View with Sergei or Larry, circa 2004. They were all *quite* fucked-up, and S or L whispered to him at a certain point "You know what, Scott? I have NO IDEA what I am doing". Which sort of acts as a nice wrapper for much of what's led us here tbqhwy”
- What Happened To Aung Sang Suu Kyi?: This is a really interesting piece, but also one which made me feel quite sad after reading it; it’s a reasonably sympathetic portrait of Suu Kyi, insofar as that’s possible, but very much paints a picture of a person whose saintliness increased in direct proportion to their time in isolation, and who perhaps was never the woman who the West believed and wanted her to be. More than anything, she emerges from this very much as a person who you would not fcuk with (which is a hugely banal assessment of a world leader, fine, but it’s also true).
- The Arrogance of the Anthropocene: All about how referring to the current age as ‘the anthropocene’ is maybe a case of humanity backing itself a bit too hard - the piece notes that previous ‘cenes’ have been geological era lasting millennia, and so to ascribe that suffix to a period so far lasting 400-odd years is a) a bit of a reach; and b) making some pretty strong assumptions about the length of time we as a species are likely to be hanging around for, which recent events might suggest are...punchy.
- Plastic Davos on a Boat: I mean, that’s not the actual title of the piece, but it’ll do. Soulbuffalo is a company that takes executives from major corporations on cruises to show them the realities of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean, and then gets them together with envirionmentalists to talk about it and thrash out solutions. On the one hand, this sort-of sounds like a good idea, at least in terms of getting the individuals at the head of these companies to directly confront and engage with the issue; on the other, there’s an unpleasant whiff of corporate solutionism to all of this - there’s a line in here about how ‘Governments can’t fix this’ which really gets on my tits (MAYBE IF YOU ALL STARTED PAYING TAXES THEY PERHAPS COULD, EH?!?), and the idea that some bloke who runs EXXON is suddenly going to have a Damascene moment when confronted by a plastic-choked Minki strikes me as a touch on the fanciful side. More power to everyone trying to do stuff about all this, obvs, but I am not 100% convinced that this particular initiative is going to find the answer.
- The Thotshot Economy: Is...is this a thing? I mean, a real thing - I don’t doubt that there are some people who sell nudes to strangers to get a bit of extra cash, but is this actually a trend? Say it ain’t so. Or at least that’s my initial reaction - am I meant to think that this is somehow empowered rather than sad? I can’t help but be of the impression that flogging a snap of your tits for a stranger to dustily ejaculate over isn’t quite the glorious future of independent womanhood that the sisterhood envisaged, but I appreciate I am a middle-aged man and so my opinion is probably not one that counts here.
- Where’s The Toothpaste?: A truly VITAL enquiry into one of the great mysteries of the modern world - why do hotels NEVER offer complimentary toothpaste to guests? You can have all the soaps and the shampoos and the shower gels you like, but you try getting even a TINY comped tube of Crest in your Premier Inn or Malmaison. NEVER. This may sound like a staggeringly-dully premise for an article, but I promise that, as with nearly all investigations into large-scale logistics-type questions, this is actually really interesting and will make you want to break into the basement of the next big hotel you stay in to check out the gigantic shampoo filling stations.
- How Britain Killed the Aperol Spritz: Aperol Spritz is one of the marketing success stories on the past decade; the way the Italians have persuaded half the world that a bright orange drink which tastes mildly of earwax is the signifier of a BANGING SUMMER is nothing short of masterful (by contrast, their ad copy is fcuking horrendous and if any of you were responsible you should be ashamed. ‘Together We Joy’? Death’s too good for you). This piece looks at how the popularity of the (ersatz) export version has had unexpected negative consequences in Italy, and is a great example of how consumer capitalism has regular and actually quite predictable impact on the social/physical world.
- The UX Of Bongo: On why the Tube sites are designed and arranged as they are. It’s not exactly a spoiler to say that the answer is ‘to keep you alternately clicking and wnking’, but despite the fact that you already know the answer it’s an interesting read nonetheless.
- The Taco Bell Hotel: This is neither a particularly long or well-written article, but it is pretty much the perfect encapsulation of the weird state of fetishisation we’ve reached with certain brands. Honestly, SO much of this reads like everyone has been hypnotised into loving Taco Bell. I mean, look, read this and try and simultaneously hold on to the belief that no, actually everything is fine and this is all normal: “House music thrummed as guests lounged by the pool on hot sauce towels. Some were dressed in bathing suits with the word “fire” across the front; one piece of the Taco Bell merch available in the lobby gift shop along with sunglasses, shirts, shorts, pins, towels and pillows. Lauren Godwin, 19, from Los Angeles, said she cut a trip to Cancún, Mexico short to be at the hotel. “I had like a 10-hour drive to get here,” she said. “It’s [Taco Bell] definitely like a weekly basis almost daily basis kind of thing.” In the salon adjacent to the pool, hotel guests can get a Taco Bell manicure or a fade with the words “Taco Bell” or “Live Mas” or the outline of a fire lick shaved into the side of their heads.” You see? It’s not possible, is it? Everything is mad.
- My Wild Weekend at Fairycon: A classic of the ‘I went to a convention with a bunch of weirdos’ genre, this feels a bit like it’s punching down on occasion (although I feel for the author as it must be incredibly hard not to make at least gentle fun of a bunch of grown adults who sincerely believe that they commune with the faerie folk), but it’s also quite interesting on the why of all of this, and the extent to which people are turning to this sort of crazy nonsense (sorry, Faerie Folk, but, well, no) as a sort of buffer against the very sharp edges that reality appears to have right now.
- Baseball Mud: This is WONDERFUL. I had literally NO IDEA that every single Major League baseball game uses mud to take the shine off new balls - and that the mud all comes from one secret place, sourced by one bloke. This is so, so lovely and very silly indeed.Simone Biles: If you’ve not read it, this Twitter thread, breaking down exactly why Simone Biles’ latest jaw-dropping feats of athletic excellence are, well, jaw-dropping and excellent, is excellent - it does a great job of explaining what Biles is actually doing when she performs a triple-double, and showing you how the move evolved from early days of gymnastics, and making you appreciate that this woman is basically a tiny alien as there’s almost no way in hell that someone that small should be able to jump that high.
- Sealand: “Sealand was founded as a sovereign Principality in 1967 in international waters, seven miles off the eastern shores of Britain”, trumpets the Sealand Website. This is a great piece of writing, in which the author takes a trip to the Principality and chats to the man who lives there, alone, guarding it. This is so perfectly mad and British and feels lovely and quaint and odd until you remember where in time we are and you realise that this is just the one person’s ultimate Brexit. Still, a great read.
- Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors: Celebrated chef and author Michael Twitty writes about his experiences of working in kitchens at old plantations, as part of the ‘reenactments’ put on for tourist visitors, and how relates and reacts to the (mainly white) tourists who pass through, and what the very notion of historical reenactment of slavery means to a black person in the US. Such good writing.
- The Enduring Appeal of Trance: Back in those long-forgotten days when I was YOUNG and used to go clubbing all the time (it was the mid-90s, we did that sort of thing then because there was hope) and my music of choice was psy-trance; it wasn’t cool then, and it certainly isn’t cool now, but there was something about the speed (and, er, the speed) and the wibbly bits that really did it for me (the dogs on strings and the white people with dreads less so, but one learns to cope). Then trance got co-opted by the mainstream and became all happy and shiny and didn’t feel anywhere near as fun any more, so I sort of lost interest a bit. Still, I was heartened to read this retrospective of it and find that it’s still a thing - Jesus, I am listening to some as I type and I now REALLY want to get off my tits for 8 hours.
- The Basketballing Nun: This is a truly wonderful story, I promise you. Please read it, even if you think you have no interest at all in the story of a woman who gave up a career as a professional basketball player to join a convent; honestly, I nearly wept, this is SO SO NICE (and I mean that in the best possible way).
- Goats: This is an extract from a novel by Kevn Barrett, but the highest compliment I can pay it is that reading it - an excerpt conducting entirely in dialogue between two unnamed interlocutors - reminded me very, very strongly of certain conversations in DFW novels in which protagonists talk seriously and with increasing urgency about a scenario that is slowly revealing itself to be very, very odd indeed. This is, honestly, superb - don’t let the slightly odd formatting put you off, it’s a proper treat.
By Jemma Arts
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) Shardcore’s been messing around with the deepfakes again. Look what he’s done to Jacob Rees-Mogg:
2) Thanks Dan for pointing this out to me - I’m going to use his description because, well, because I’m lazy and I can: “New(ish) band, first album out next week and with a sort of pleasing video about a big red ball. Described by some as
‘Sounds of early Aphex Twin intertwined with Liquid Liquid repetitive groove climaxing in electronic Grumbling Fur folk’. Featuring none other than snooker legend Steve Davis. Not sure if that explains the red ball.” This is ace, though no idea at all about the Steve Davis thing:
3) This is by Lauren O’Connell, it’s called ‘Shimmering Silver’ and it is heartbreaking - honestly, this makes me cry each time I hear it and I’m deliberately not playing it while I type this as it will just set me off again. So, so beautiful:
4) HIPHOP CORNER! This is by Clipping - it ought to be a Hallowe’en song, as it’s PROPERLY sinister, but have it in August anyway. This is called ‘Nothing Is Safe’:
5) Finally in this week’s slightly-truncated selection of videos, this is a short animation called ‘The Box’. It’s 12m long, and it’s worth each and every second of that time - please do watch it, it’s SO good. And, er, THAT’S IT BYE I LOVE YOU BYE THANKS FOR READING AND SORRY THIS WEEK’S WAS A BIT ON THE LIGHTWEIGHT SIDE BUT I WILL MAKE IT UP TO YOU I LOVE YOU HAVE FUN AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES AND DON’T WORRY I AM SURE SUMMER WILL COME BACK AND I WILL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK AND TIL THEN WHY NOT SPEND YOUR TIME DOING THINGS YOU ACTUALLY ENJOY INSTEAD OF THINKING ABOUT ALL THE HARD BITS OF LIFE IF YOU CAN ANYWAY TAKE CARE I’M OFF I LOVE YOU BYE BYE BYE SEE YOU SOON BYE!: