Blah blah blah week blah blah blah.
We have some HOUSEKEEPING to take care of.
Point the first: I am off next week due to having STUFF TO DO that is going to keep me offline for two whole days (unconscionable, I know). You will have to find a way of consoling yourselves in my absence; I am told PCP is 'similarly engaging'.
Point the second: there is a BRAND NEW issue of Imperica Magazine out RIGHT NOW, featuring the usual smorgasbord of new writing from often-previously-unheard-voices, on a range of topics as diverse as they are. Interesting, erudite and CHEAP at just three quid for an awful lot of reading material.
Point the third - AS OF 31 JULY THIS IS ALL OVER. Publisher Paul has decided, as is well within his right, that he can no longer shoulder the burden of *gestures at the infrastructure* all this, and as such the website and magazine will shut down at the end of the month. You can read more about that here, should you so wish. All of which means that I currently have NO IDEA what is happening with Curios, so, er, anyone who wants to offer me an unconscionable sum to do this with YOUR branding all over it (or, perhaps more sensibly, with your competitors' branding all over it!) then do hit me up.
Anyway, for the PENULTIMATE EVER TIME ON THIS URL, I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and I neither know nor care who you are because this has always, exclusively, been for me. See you in two weeks for what I imagine might be a slightly emotional last ever Imperica.
By Felicia Chiao
LET’S KICK OFF THIS WEEK WITH A NEW ALL-VINYL MIX BY WESTCOUNTRY CRATEDIGGER THOMAS ‘DAPWEARER’ SPOONER, FULL OF OLD BLUES AND SOUL AND OTHER STUFF!
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT IF YOU’RE IN THE UNFORTUNATE POSITION OF HAVING TO CARE ABOUT THE STUFF ABOUT S*C**L M*D** THAT SITS AT THE TOP OF CURIOS YOU MIGHT WANT TO SIGN UP TO MATT NAVARRA’S WEEKLY UPDATE OF NEWS AS IT’S MARGINALLY MORE COMPREHENSIVE AND CONTAINS LESS OF A SUBTEXTUAL IMPLICATION THAT YOUR JOB IS POINTLESS AND THAT YOUR EMPLOYER AND CLIENTS ARE MORONS (IT IS AND THEY ARE):
- Facebook To Add Licensed Music Videos (In US) (Soon): Artists on Facebook in the US will as of next month be able to add official music videos to their profile JUST LIKE IT’S YOUTUBE! Except it won’t be, it will be Facebook, and thus in all likelihood it will be horrible and a bit unfun; that, though, won’t stop this probably doing quite well. Why? DATA! SO MUCH DATA! Given the fact that all music now is generated by an algorithm which determines its suitability for TikToks (probably), it seems likely that layering the rich, deep, mulchy datasets that Facebook has on each and every one of us over the types of music we like to consume (and how, and where), it’s not surprising that record labels, artists and brands would welcome the opportunity to learn more about exactly the sort of music that, say, 22 year old meme fans from Carlisle like to listen to at 11am. Coming to the rest of the world with tedious predictability...soonish, I’d imagine, though there’s no information beyond this broad speculation available at present.
- Gmail’s Going To Become Slack (Basically): Oh God it’s a SLOW news week and, honestly, I don’t really care about the fact that Gmail’s going to integrate all sorts of existing GSuite gubbins into its next update. All you need to know is that there’s an update coming, it will let you do a bunch of stuff that you can already do in Slack, Teams et al, and it’s yet another nail in the coffin of the idea that work might one day stop rather than just following you around wherever you go, ‘efficiently’ insinuating itself into every spare waking second of your life like so much evil grouting inbetween the tiles of your soul.
- It’s Now Easier To Add Multiple Photos To Reddit Posts: “Reddit’s new image galleries will now allow you to post up to 20 images or GIFs on a single post with support for multiple videos in a post coming “soon after launch,” according to Reddit. Any community can enable the Image Gallery feature, but community moderators will need to opt in to allow their members to use it.” There is going to be a lot more bongo, is my HOT TAKE on this.
- A Guide To Marketing On Pinterest: I have, for several years now, been writing stuff like ‘you really ought to be doing more stuff on Pinterest if you sell domestic-type goods to people’; finally, some practical guidance as to what that might in fact mean! This is a guide to Pinterest by Pinterest, and as such it’s possibly a touch more convinced of the innate benefits of the platform than a more objective assessment might be; still, as an overview of what you can do on the platform and to what end, it’s pretty decent. As a general point, it’s really nice to see a platform produce its own, high-quality how-to guides in simple, readable fashion - more of this stuff, please.
- Spotify Launches Podcast Charts: To be honest, there aren’t even any real brand implications for this (other than ‘this makes it easier for people to find podcasts by topic, and means that you really should ensure that you put your podcasts on Spotify as well as all the other places’), but I’m including it mainly as my friend Rich always complains he never knows where to find new podcasts and I thought he might find this useful (personal service, right there).
- The State of Public Relations: Feel free to read this headline out with whichever emphasis you think best fits the context (for the avoidance of doubt, though, I am placing the stress very much on the second word here). This report - the annual one by one of the industry trade bodies, examining the industry’s navel and picking out the malodorous lint from it so we can all have a good old gawp - floated across my field of vision this week and made me quite annoyed, specifically the statistic about the lack of ethnic diversity in the profession. For those of you unaware, I nominally ‘earn’ my living working at the edges of PR; I have worked in/with quite a few PR agencies, small and THE BIGGEST IN THE WORLDZzzzzzzz, I know lots of people who work in the industry, and, look, let’s be honest - PR’s not where the world’s best and brightest end up (nb - which is why I ended up there; I’m under no illusions on this score, trust me). It’s mainly the home for middle-class arts graduates who don’t really know what they want to do with themselves but have a vague idea that ‘the media’ or ‘entertainment’ or ‘the creative industries’ is a fun bucket to end up in and so TO THE PRESS RELEASES, THOMAS!! CAN EVERYONE STOP HIRING MEDIOCRE WHITE PEOPLE PLEASE? Given we can all see that current hiring practices - to whit, ‘hiring people who look and sound exactly like the people doing the hiring’ - isn’t exactly creating hives of brilliance and intellectual acuity, why not try making an effort not to hire blond people from West London who have decided to get into PR because ‘after three years of being a playwright, it’s just not working out and I need to start earning some money’ (this is, I promise, an example drawn from life FFS)? Did you know that before working in comms I had never met anyone who wore a signet ring, and didn’t even know what one was? Do you know how many I’ve met in the past 20 years? CAN EVERYONE IN PR STOP BEING A POSH, SLIGHTLY-STUPID WASTE OF FLESH PLEASE? Thanks everyone!
- The Roger: This is childish, fine, but I am including a link to this site partly because it’s quite slick and shiny but mainly because it is called The Roger. It’s the launch site for some new footwear collab between everyone’s favourite Swiss tennis machine Roger Federer and...some Swiss brand, and it’s VERY swish (unintentional), featuring all sorts of multimedia content about The Roger (for that is the name of both the man and the shoe, DO YOU SEE??) including lots of soft-focus interview content about his life, some slightly-inexplicable chat about design and creativity between Federer and KAWS, a bit of hi-tech remote tennis play, and lots of stuff about how amazing this shoe is. But, well, it’s called ‘The Roger’, and there is no way in hell you can make that sound cool, I’m sorry, no matter how much of Federer’s massive alpine face you feature throughout.
- The Museum of Tires: As I laboured (ha! ‘Laboured’! Like I did anything other than phone in the work as per usual!) this week on a piece of new business that, as per usual, demanded that you achieve what is practically alchemy in exchange for some slightly-ropey looking beans, I stumbled across this site and, as often happens in cases such as this, wondered who the fcuk it was that signed off the dev cost on this. Vredestein is a brand which you may well be familiar with but which I had never encountered before - they make tires! Performance tires! And they really like them, so much so that they have created this virtual museum of, er, tires! There’s a COUNTDOWN TO THE EXPERIENCE, and then BAM! You’re immersed in a world of, er, tires! There’s some CG and some stirring music, and then you’re taken through what is basically a 3d representation of a not particularly exciting museum that tells you about, er, tires! All with a bloodless voiceover delivered in a tone one can imagine accompanying your organs being harvested for testing by a sinister team of alien biologists. As ever with these things, I am baffled at who thought this was a good use of money but also very, very glad that it exists and that someone got paid to make it.
By Jesse Howard
NEXT, PRETEND YOU ARE 14 AGAIN WITH THIS ANTHOLOGY COLLECTION OF CLASSIC EMO (BUT NO SELF-HARMING PLEASE!)!
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO REMIND YOU ALL THAT IF YOU LIKE SOMETHING IN THE MEDIA THEN YOU PROBABLY OUGHT TO PAY FOR IT IN SOME WAY IF YOU WOULD LIKE IT TO CONTINUE EXISTING, PT.1:
- You Need Iceland: This is very good indeed, and I like it a lot, but it’s also a rehash of at least one, possibly two, projects from about ten years ago which I have repeatedly used as examples of stuff which clients ought to steal and which noone has ever listened to me about, and therefore I can’t help but be slightly bitter about the fact that I FOUND THE CONCH (or something). You Need Iceland is a project by the Iceland tourist board, part of the same activation which saw them do the ‘Google Streetview but powered by real people’ stunt at the top of lockdown (SO LONG AGO) - the central conceit is that everyone is stressed out and needs some sort of release after 5 months of ALL THIS, and what better way to achieve that than by screaming into your laptop or phone and then having that scream broadcast across the Icelandic landscape from a series of speakers placed around the island? Choose where you want to scream, tap the button and CATHART YOUR LUNGS OUT whilst looking out over the fjords! This is such a nice idea - simple, cheap, speaks to a simple emotional truth (we are all miserable and frustrated) and clearly demonstrates the product benefit (Iceland is massive and there’s noone there and if you want to scream into the void then PLEASE COME AND VISIT US!), and it’s a lot of fun. If nothing else it’s worth keeping it open somewhere in the background, as I am currently doing - having your work interrupted at random by someone yodelling, as happened approximately 90s ago, is surprisingly pleasant.
- Super You: This is hugely-reminiscent of a piece of CG that did really good numbers a few years back, in which an animator presented a series of humanoid figures composed of various materials and shapes, all running and walking across the screen - effectively this is an AR toy (for iOS) which does the same thing; point it at a human figure, tell it which effect you want it to apply, and BANG! Your subject is transformed from person into, er, a pile of ambulant boxes, say, or a weird echidna-robot. You can, obviously, export all of this for use in other apps, so grab this now before everyone else does and we all get bored of the FX; with the right editing I think there are quite a few decent visual gags you can do here, not least the potential for novel spins on TikTok memes featuring post-drop transformations and the like.
- Lipsync With Google: Or, ‘Train The AI To Lipread’! Still, this is fun, so let’s ignore the fact that we’re once again working for free to train a multi-billion dollar business’ software. Lipsync is a new Google experiment thingy, which aims to track your mouth movements to see how well you’re delivering the lyrics to a bunch of contemporary(ish) tracks. This is really smart - it’s fun, it’s simple, it taps into the contemporary obsession with lipsync performance...oh, and, yes, it’s all adding data to the machine to make it better at interpreting the different ways in which people shape sounds with their mouths. I was absolutely terrible at this, but I’m putting that down to the fact that I was so discomfited by seeing my own slightly-too-plastic face contorting itself whilst ‘singing’ (and the fact that, er, I didn’t know any of the songs); have a go and see how you get on.
- Acute Art: I’m surprised that I’ve not featured this before; Acute Art is the inevitable shiny, high-end artworld take on AR for the visual arts; whilst you have Snap democratising the whole thing, this is very much at the other end of the spectrum, with bespoke creations in conjunction with some of the fine art world’s biggest names. “Acute Art collaborates with the world’s leading contemporary artists, providing access to cutting-edge technologies that allow them to translate their creative vision into new digital mediums – including virtual, augmented and mixed realities.” So you get Eliasson, Christo (RIP), that cnut Anish Kapoor...you get the idea, it’s very much a smorgasbord of Frieze-class talent, all of whom have created bespoke experiences to be enjoyed within the Acute Art app. The thing is, though, that all the work is...not particularly interesting; there’s a slight issue, to my mind, with this AR stuff, in that the output isn’t actually that impressive. Once you’ve got over the initial excitement of ‘here’s a CG depiction of something which is hovering as a digital layer over the real world as seen through the screen of my device!’, there’s not a fat lot else left other than some sub-videogame CG and animation which clips awkwardly through the furniture, and I struggle to see much in the way of high concept in any of this other than ‘hey, wouldn’t it be neat if you could have a digital...thing floating in the sky?’. Oh, I don’t know, maybe I’m being grumpy, see what you think.
- The Bitcoin Address: Silly and pointless, but also quite instructive - this is a website set up at the url of the Bitcoin wallet address used by the hackers that took over blue tick Twitter this week (it’s totally legit, despite the dodgy-looking url, promise), using the wallet string as the address (you’ll see what I mean when you click). On landing on the page you get a little PSA telling you that the wallet thing was a scam, but you can also see the Page’s analytics - at the time of writing, 7,500 people have visited this site in around 72h, which may not sound a lot but, honestly, to get that many people to a dodgy-looking url with no publicity and nothing to do when they get there is...impressive, to my mind. It made me think that there’s actually not a terrible play here in terms of buying news-adjacent urls and using them to drop cookies on people or collect email addresses. Christ, I hate myself.
- Unwoke: Bit conflicted about including this one, but fcuk it. ‘Unwoke’ is a site which appeared this week as a jobs board for people who are sick of what they perceive to be the STALINIST THOUGHT POLICING of the modern left, and the insistence of some sections of society to look down on others for such perfectly normal, healthy and blameless behaviours like, I don’t know, casual racism and sexism and misogyny and stuff. Do YOU feel that modern society has gone TOO FAR in its demands that you treat others with base-level kindness and respect and consideration? Are YOU feeling marginalised in your current place of employment because of colleagues’ insistence that you not demonstrate obvious disdain for specific groups or categories of people? POOR YOU! Get on Unwoke, then, and advertise yourself as a dreadful cnut who wants a new job! I don’t think this is entirely serious - I mean, the site works and all the rest, but it feels to me more like someone MAKING A THING as part of the culture wars rather than an actual site anyone actually thinks will get traction (I mean, look: “Hire courageous, free thinking and freedom loving individuals. Not ideologues whose only agenda is to weaponize your brand and business to further a radical cause.” - that can’t be serious, can it?) - but it’s a touch miserable nonetheless. It wouldn’t 100% surprise me if this turned out to be a marketing thing by Alex Jones or somesuch fcuker, using this as a means to find more people to attempt to shill Brain Force to.
- This Pony Does Not Exist: My Little Ponies, as imagined by GAN! Even better, none of them appear to be Nazis! This is A N Other variant on all those other ‘this X does not exist’ sites that you’ve all seen before, but this is particularly nicely-done in that it allows you to fiddle with the parameters a bit and see how that affects the sorts of faces the machine generates. Chuck the sliders all the way up to ‘chaotic’ and witness some very sketchy creations indeed.
- Cubechat: I don’t think that there’s any point me trying to come up with a better one-line description for this service than that which the website offers: “You are a cube, and you can move around and talk with other cubes like at an in-person party.” Who doesn’t want to be a cube? NO FCUKER, that’s who! This is not 100% unlike something I featured in March, which let you wander round ‘rooms’ in a top-down view, with voicechat options determined by your proximity in digital space to other users; there are lots of fun features, though, including conversation ‘bubbles’ to allow for closed chat, the ability for all-user screensharing, and, er, jumping and lasers. Honestly, it’s unlikely to ever be something you use professionally, but as a way of making your team meeting (for upto 16 people) marginally-less soul-destroying, this isn’t bad at all.
- Download and Save Your TikToks: It’s fair to say that TikTok’s not having a great month, what with the ban in India and the ban-ish noises coming from the US, and the fact that it’s a proxy in a much bigger international conversation about East/West power and control, and Facebook about to launch its TikTok clone Reels to audiences around the world (probably). I’m still pretty bullish on TikTok, which almost certainly dooms it to near-future obsolescence, but if you’re a little more scared that it might vanish without warning at some point soon then you might want to get involved with this site, which rips and saves all your TikToks as video files so they don’t go the way of all the Vines (RIP).
- The Atlas of Surveillance: “The Atlas of Surveillance is a database of the surveillance technologies deployed by law enforcement in communities across the United States. This includes drones, body-worn camera, automated license plate readers, facial recognition, and more. This research was compiled by more than 500 students and volunteers and incorporates datasets from a variety of public and non-profit sources...Through a combination of crowdsourcing and data journalism, we are creating the largest-ever repository of information on which law enforcement agencies are using what surveillance technologies. The aim is to generate a resource for journalists, academics, and, most importantly, members of the public to check what’s been purchased locally and how technologies are spreading across the country.” This is quite incredible, not only as a resource for journalists and academics but as a visualisation of the extent of surveillance tech across the US. Check out the map, have a bit of an explore, and then remember that the UK is by many measures quite a way out in front as one of the most surveilled nations in the world, outside of China. SMILE!!
- Docs Plus: This is - FULL DISCLOSURE - a project by a friend of mine, but it’s very smart and I would include it even if it weren’t, so there. Docs Plus is basically a bit like Google Docs, insofar as it’s a collaborative, cloud-based document writing platform with all the usual gubbins; what makes it HUGELY interesting is the integration of videochat into the document. Any doc created within docs plus can have a multiple number of video chats going on within it - any piece of text assigned as a ‘Heading’ will offer users the opportunity to jump into a discrete, isolated chat instance attached to that heading - so, for example, if you were working collaboratively on a document you could have separate, concurrent video/voice chats on each chapter to discuss structure, contents, etc. It’s still a bit rough, and you’ll need to get in touch with the creators for full access, but it’s SO clever - as a tool for meetings, brainstorms, events, it’s got huge potential. Simple, clean and easy to use, this is really worth a look if my hamfisted description made any sense to you.
- Reddit Title Scraper: A little tool that lets you analyse individual subReddits to see which words tend to appear most frequently in the post popular threads. If nothing else it’s interesting to point this at some of the more bongo-oriented subs to see just how unoriginal language can get.
- Gatitos Gorditos: Ordinarily ‘it has cats in it!’ is not a strong enough argument for inclusion in Curios, however much my girlfriend might protest; on this occasion, though, I am including this Twitter feed (which is basically just cat photos) entirely because of its name (basically, ‘fat little cats’ in Spanish) and the fact that reading out the captions in (what if I interrogate myself properly is probably a moderately-offensive) cod-spanish has made me laugh more than almost anything else I’ve seen this week (I am so tired).
- Kickback: Or, Pyramid Shopping! This is the latest app to employ the waitlist trick of artificially building buzz around its launch; you can download it, but access is via an invite code only and those appear to be in short supply. Still, the premise is easy enough to understand; you sign up and you can shop through the app with big name brands much as you can do elsewhere; the gimmick, though, is that you can earn cashback on your purchases (seemingly easy to access and cash out on via PayPal) when your ‘friends’ sign up to the app and make purchases on it - LITERALLY A PYRAMID SCHEME! Still, in an era in which I have seen SO MUCH scam-selling on Facebook - seriously, there was a fcuking black garlic pyramid scam the other day, which strikes me as...niche - this feels like it might be destined to do rather well. DON’T FALL FOR IT IT IS A FCUKING TRAP, is my advice.
- Just For Fun: This is a lovely little site, collecting a bunch of small codegames, a few of which have been in Curios before but lots of which were new to me. Lots of fun, and the sort of thing which is definitely worth bookmarking under ‘stuff to click on when I simply can’t feign interest in whichever made-up version of ‘strategy’ we’re currently pretending is the right one’.
- The Promo for Sneakers: This is a brilliant time capsule. Sneakers was a 92 film that was about crime and HACKING and which, as part of its press kit, featured a FLOPPY DISC which contained all sorts of information for hacks about the film, delivered in a way which in 1992 was basically one step removed from playing the entire movie on a Cray Supercomputer or something. The press kit itself is a bit rudimentary - there wasn’t a lot of multimedia in 1992 - but it’s a wonderful bit of storytelling/worldbuilding creativity.
- Too Long, Didn’t Listen: Podcasts are GREAT (so I am told), but, also, a cripplingly-inefficient way of finding out anything at all; I DON’T HAVE TIME TO LISTEN TO YOU FFS JUST TELL ME THE USEFUL STUFF. This app aims to solve that problem, offering you the audio equivalent of those services which used to exist in the 90s and offered you the chance to imbibe the timeless wisdom of the latest business guru tomes in handy five-page summaries (IMAGINE what the modern-day equivalent would be like! Take a moment to contemplate the majesty of ‘GaryVee for Dummies’ - it’s quite the astonishing mental image) - instead of summary pamphlets, though, this is basically a podcast discovery and sharing service, with the added benefit of being able to ‘bookmark’ the podcasts so you can effectively create highlight reels of the best/most ‘inspiring’ content. This is almost certainly hugely useful if you’re a heavy listener, and probably doesn’t deserve to be described as poorly as I just have.
- Comet Neowise: It’s nice every now and again just to pause for a moment and take a look at some photographs of nature being spectacular; although at the same time, given the progress of 2020 to date, it’s hard not to look at these and in the back of one’s mind flash back to Day of the Triffids and other such novels of comet-y horror. Still, probably all fine and this is very unlikely to be a harbinger of alien deathinvaders!
By Alex Colville
">NOW WHY NOT ENJOY THIS SELECTION OF 80/90s REGGAE? THANKS RINA!
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO REMIND YOU ALL THAT IF YOU LIKE SOMETHING IN THE MEDIA THEN YOU PROBABLY OUGHT TO PAY FOR IT IN SOME WAY IF YOU WOULD LIKE IT TO CONTINUE EXISTING, PT.2:
- Ethereal Snake: This YouTube channel was sent in by a reader who didn’t leave their name - THANKS, READER WHO DIDN’T LEAVE YOUR NAME! - who sent the link with the simple description “This channel is creepy but awesome”. It’s a pretty reasonable summation to be honest - there’s some quite odd stuff in here, mainly distressing reworkings of kids characters from popular culture drawn in the slightly-scratchy style that’s the hallmark of some of the best creepily-wrong online stuff like Salad Fingers and the like, but it’s very well-made. THANKS AGAIN, ANONYMOUS READER!
- Revere: My initial impulse was to make fun of this, but then I realised that it’s potentially quite useful for people who are struggling with memory, etc, and as such I should probably be a bit less of a pr1ck. Still, though, the tagline for the app - ‘Remember People!’ - made me laugh quite a lot; I like to imagine it being aimed squarely at that small demographic which suffers from face agnosia or those who find it impossible to make meaningful distinctions between other people and, say, kale. The software is effectively a database of people, letting you assign information to various individuals to help keep track of birthdays, interests, hobbies, gifts you might want to give them, conversational topics you’ve previously touched on, when you last spoke...actually, hang on, fcuk my charitable interpretation, this is literally an app designed for people who are engaging in massive fcukboi behaviour, isn’t it? Just call it phlndrr and be done with it.
- Pixels.land: Do you remember that experiment Reddit did a few years back, called ‘The Place’, where they created a fixed-size blank canvas on the site to see what would happen, and it briefly became a beacon of hope for a web where people would work together to make things of beauty rather than instead working together to make everything terrible? No? Remind yourself here, if not (also, oh my God was that only three years ago?!). This is basically the same thing, except the canvas is MASSIVE - at present it’s quite benign, but I will be interested to see how it ends up developing; I always think that stuff like this is an interesting litmus test for, or reflection of, the collective online ID at any given time, which should make this particularly canvas something quite...interesting.
- Custodians for Covid: I love going to the theatre and having that removed from my life has been absolutely the crappest lifestyle side-effect of the pandemic for me (yes, I know, NO VIOLINS); the entire sector’s in a spectacularly parlous state as a result of the virus and the Conservative government’s complete abnegation of responsibility as regards the arts in general (Tories - simply don’t like the arts. FACT. They tend to like the idea of what certain types of art(s) represent, fine, specifically in a small-’c’-conservative sense, but not the work or the business of making it. This is a sweeping and perhaps unfair generalisation but, well, fcuk it and fcuk the Tories). Custodians for Covid is a project raising money for the UK’s theatres by selling limited edition photographic prints of empty auditoria of various venues; they’re not cheap at £200 each, but as a way of showing support for the venue and the sector and getting a nice photo in return, it’s a decent idea. I can’t imagine that many of you have that sort of spare change knocking about at present, but just in case.
- Munch: Smart little Chrome extension which offers you a recipe at random each time you open a new tab. Simple, but if you’re a foodperson (horrible, made-up term, but I just can’t bring myself to write ‘foodie’) then this is an excellent, low-friction way of getting daily culinary inspiration. I honestly think that this sort of extension is such a good idea for publishers with massive back-catalogues and I’m slightly amazed that more places don’t use this sort of thing as a means of recycling and resurfacing old material.
- Deskspacing: Surprisingly popular website of the week is this little number, made by some kid as a hobbyproject and which has done massive numbers based on the number of places I’ve seen it crop up. Deskspacing lets you, the lucky, lucky user, create their own virtual desk setup! Choose the type of desk and what you want on it - computer, speakers, a lamp, etc - and then move all the bits around til you’ve created your absolute ideal desk setup which, er, you can then look at! In 3d! I don’t know what this shows or tells us about people and the web, other than that people will seemingly never tire of playing dolls house within even the most mundane of scenarios.
- CSS Creatures: A lovely little project by Bennett Feely, which invites you to tweet at the @csscreatures Twitter handle with your specifications for a small creature - for example “red, square, glasses, BIG HAIR” - which will then be MAJICKED into creation and posted on the website. I really like this - from the automation to the outputs, which are pleasingly silly - but what’s really exciting is the extended application which could theoretically, say, monitor Twitter for certain words or phrases and create new creatures on that basis, so effectively creating a scenario in which new digital ‘animals’ are willed into being by the collective ID! There’s definitely something in here at the intersection of tech and the pseudo-occult, I think; I reckon there’s half a novel in this, or a short story at least.
- GPT-3 Code: This is fcuking witchcraft, seriously. It’s a proof-of-concept video shown off in a Tweet, fine, and it’s very much in the realms of the largely-theoretical, but FCUK ME. I don’t want to say too much else about this, it will ruin the jaw-dropping wizardry, but, well, if you do front-end coding then I probably would have a stiff drink next to you when you click the link as, well, you might find this a touch threatening.
- Wikidelia: The name alone is a thing of beauty, but then again so’s the content. Wikidelia is a Wiki devoted to cataloguing the life and work of celebrated doyenne of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and pioneer of electronic music in all its forms, Delia Derbyshire - this contains literally everything she ever did and everything you might want to know about it, compiled lovingly and comprehensively, and if you’re in any way interested in what I believe the kids these days occasionally like to call ‘EDM’ then it’s worth delving into this to discover a little more about one of the unlikelier pioneers of the genre.
- Retours: THANKS, PRESENT & CORRECT! Via the nice shop people comes this superb site, collecting information about Europe’s railways and their social/cultural significance in the 19/20 centuries. ”RETOURS is a digital magazine on the intersection of railway history, design and photography, created by Arjan den Boer. RETOURS is definitely not only for train fanatics, but for anyone with an interest in history and applied arts. Topics include railway posters, station architecture and travel photography.” Look, I have no interest in trains at all and this still managed to hold my attention for a good 20 minutes; there’s so much in here that speaks to the golden age of travel and exploration, and the way in which rail changed the socio/psycho/cultural makeup of the continent.
- Drawbrery: A genuinely horrid name for this otherwise excellent site - seriously, try saying it out loud to yourself; you feel like Michael Gove or Sir Les Paterson, unpleasantly damp of lip - which ‘is a curated library containing high-quality & only free illustrations for your website or next project, made by the world's best illustrators.’ A great place to bookmark for all your illustration needs.
- Ndebe: This is fascinating, whether or not you’re specifically interested in linguistics. “Ńdébé is a modern writing system for the Ìgbò language. Invented by Lotanna Igwe-Odunze in 2009, then refined and perfected over a decade, the Ńdébé script combines ancient Ìgbò designs with modern practicality in the first truly usable, truly writeable, truly readable, and truly indigenous written form of Ìgbò.” Honestly, the process of codifying language is astonishing to me.
- Mindful: Whilst ordinarily I wouldn’t feature something called ‘Mindful’, what with the fact that the word is largely meaningless and makes my teeth itch, this is actually a pretty good idea. Mindful’s a Chrome extension that allows for persistent note-taking across devices; the idea is that you open a new tab and it brings with it the ‘Mindful’ interface, with your notepad ported across regardless of what device you might be on, keeping your to do list or your work or your latest attempt to ‘do a Rupi’ and get famous on Instagram for writing platitudes with double-line-spacing.
- Fluently: This is such a clever idea; “Fluently is an online text editor with a multilingual translator, dictionary, and thesaurus built-in — all text editing and translating features in one simple tool. You can use it to create a document in a foreign language while writing in your mother tongue.” OH MY GOD THIS IS INCREDIBLE. Honestly, I played around with the English to Italian setting and it’s...quite incredibly good and quite astonishingly fast. Try it - this is the future, and we aren’t that far away from being able to have literal multilingual simultaneous translation, in-browser. Amazing.
- Roman Roads as Tube Maps: “The Roman roads diagram project is a series of maps driven by an unconventional idea: what if we represented Ancient Rome’s famed road network in the style of a modern transit map?” I don’t think I will ever tire of ‘stuff done in the style of the tube’, which probably says something unflattering about my aesthetic imagination.
- DrideOn: Absolutely the worst-named thing in here this week - congratulations! - this is either a great idea or a biblically-terrible one. DrideOn is a Kickstarter - fully funded with 50 days left - seeking monies to create a dashcam which simultaneously records teh view of the road AND the driver’s face, allowing for easy simultaneous CONTENT CREATION with less likelihood that the CREATOR in question will swerve across three lanes of traffic whilst attempting to nail the perfect, zany reaction expression to their latest HILARIOUS JAPE. On the one hand, anything that makes it less dangerous for people to use their phones in-vehicle is probably a good thing, seeing as people will inevitably continue filming regardless of whether or not it’s dangerous; on the other, this suggests that the appetite for MAKING CONTENT isn’t going anywhere. What sort of people do YOU think are most likely to want to make content featuring them in their cars? It’s middle-aged men, isn’t it? OH GOD EVERY CNUT IN THE WORLD IS GOING TO WANT TO TRY AND DO THAT BLOODY CARPOOL KARAOKE THING. Can...can someone stop this, please?
- Stop Doing The Bad Sex Things: Or, to give the thread its full title, “Girls of reddit, what's something guys see done in pr0n that you wish they would stop trying to do in real life?” Not the first of these I’ve featured, but a) these are lessons that bear repeating; b) especially if you have teenage kids. Some of this is quite funny, but an equal amount (at least) makes me really, really glad that I am not a girl in 2020. There is, though, a genuinely brilliant series to be made out of all this terrible, terrible sex techniques that men are picking up from bongo, though, should anyone want to make one.
By Susan J Chen
LAST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, HAVE THIS LOW-KEY, LOW-TEMPO, ALMOST-AMBIENT-HOUSE-TYPE-THING BY JUNGLE MURRAY!
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Sht1post Diaries: Not in fact a Tumblr! Your mileage on this will vary - this site collects the various posts that the author has made on Reddit’s /r/relationships sub, which as any fule kno is made up in part of people flexing their creative writing muscles in an attempt to dupe users into believing some pretty ridiculous claims about their relationships. There are some pretty famous ones on here - the Harry Potter wedding one, the ‘in love with a sex Bitmoji’ one - and they’re sort-of funny, ish, if you like that sort of thing. Personally speaking I don’t personally get the appeal of very long, very obviously made-up stories like this, but perhaps I am just a joyless funsponge who’s inching miserably towards death with a thin-lipped scowl.
- Business Erotica: Making fun of books with titles such as “Brave New Work”. And rightly so.
- Heritage Posts: METATUMBLR! Collecting favourite, viral, weird Tumblr posts of the past, in one place. Lots of slightly weird fetish-adjacent stuff about the snowman from Frozen, for reasons I’m quite happy not really understanding.
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Influencer Pay Gap: Highlighting the discrepancy in rates paid to white vs non-white influencers on Instagram. The difference in monies quoted is stark - you can read more about the project and the people behind it here.
- Camxatca: “I draw cameras because they have feelings too”, runs the bio, and who am I to argue?
- Ganbrood: The Insta feed of Dutch (I think) artist Bas Uterwijk, who uses GANs to generate faces that look like celebrities-but-different, or artworks-but-human. Mines similar territory to Shardcore’s ‘Celebreedy’ project and is a rather entertaining addition to the tl.
- Dr Azra: The most impressive and imaginative henna work I have ever seen.
- Plague History: Works of art, with the addition of facemasks. Whilst the premise is dull (sorry!), the execution here is really nice; the care and attention taken in ensuring that the additions ‘fit’ stylistically is rather special.
- Carry A Bag Man: Thanks Paul for sending this my way - a celebration of plastic bags, in photographs. THIS IS WHAT INSTAGRAM IS FOR FFS!
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- How BLM Began: Rolling Stone documents the genesis of the Black Lives Matter movement, looking back to the first use of the words in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin and the work done by civil-rights organizers Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi to raise awareness, drive activism and maintain momentum over the course of the past seven years. This is not only an important overview of civil rights and pro-black protest in recent times, but also a timely reminder - when the Black Lives Matter movement is higher-profile, globally, than ever before - of where the cause originated and why, and who from.
- The Black Experience in Graphic Design: This piece revisits an article which appeared in PRINT magazine in in 1968, in which Dorothy Jackson interviewed five black designers about their experience of working in the field of graphic design, even more of a white field then than it is now, as you might imagine. The magazine asked a selection of black designers at the top of the profession in 2020 to look back at the original piece and share their impressions of how the world has changed and how, more tellingly, it has not; whether or not you work in design, this is an excellent piece in terms of its articulation of all the ways in which professions and workplaces can and do erect barriers to entry for those who don’t match the profile of existing staff (see my point about PR up top) and what we might all usefully do to attempt to address this.
- The Twitter Hack: This was moderately amusing, but the thing that confused me (as someone who knows very, very little about how to go about manipulating financial markets at scale) was why the hackers aimed so low - after all, £100k in Bitcoin’s not a great return, and you’d have thought they might have attempted to do something slightly more creative with Elon Musk and Bill Gates’ profiles (if nothing else, the temptation just to send Tesla crashing because you could must have been pretty hard to resist). This article does a good job of explaining why, in this case and in others, stock market fcukery of this sort is actually quite hard to pull off, and is a decent overview of all the obvious ways in which the crooks could have tried to do fancier and more lucrative stuff and why they in fact didn’t. Also, as an aside, noone appears to have commented on how biblically fcuking dumb you would need to have been to fall for this. “So, let me get this straight - if I send Bill Gates £1k in Bitcoin, he’ll send me back £2k as part of a sudden drive to philanthropy. But, er, why does he want me to send him the £1k first if all he’s interested in is ‘giving something back’? Ah, well, NO MATTER, TAKE MY MONIES BILL!” Honestly, penury’s too good for these people. Also, to my mind this says a LOT about the sort of people who are heavily into crypto.
- When Idols Fall: Unpleasant revelations about the behaviour of men in various creative industries continues to bubble up like so much sewer water; this essay looks at the news through the lens of parasocial relationships - “a kind of psychological relationship experienced by an audience in their mediated encounters with performers in the mass media, particularly on television. Viewers or listeners come to consider media personalities as friends, despite having limited interactions with them.” These relationships have always existed, but are now in sharper relief than ever thanks to the social links that can easily be established between a creator and the fandoms that arise around their work; many of the examples of industry behaviour that are now receiving scrutiny are the result of exactly this sort of scenario. This is a really smart piece of writing which clearly sets out the unique peculiarities of parasocial relationships, and the easy way in which they can become toxic - particularly for the fan. For those of you who’ve been following it, this is pretty much the ur-explainer on the Warren Ellis stuff (not specifically but generally).
- The TikTok War: Benedict Evans on typically smart form - this is how you get people to pay you six figures a year to write a newsletter! I see now! - writing here about TikTok’s travails and the wider, more important, geopolitical moves which underlie them. I can’t claim to agree exactly with Evans’ conclusions here with regard to the need for a hardline position on the platform by Western governments (it does feel a touch ‘only one side’s allowed to have bombs’), but a lot of the overarching commentary and analysis is very sound and worth reading.
- Social Distancing: Via Giuseppe Sollazzo’s continually-superb data newsletter, this is a great piece of datavisualisation from Reuters which looks at why social distancing helps, how transmission works and what different distances mean in terms of risk, etc. Depending on how you’re feeling about EVERYTHING right now, you may not feel you particularly want to read anything else about ‘particulate loads’ and suchlike, but it’s a lovely example of how to tell a relatively-complex data story in reader-friendly fashion.
- TikStocks: Look, I know that that title doesn’t quite work, but I quite like it so it stays. This article looks at a recent TikTok thing which may have been an attempt to manipulate the price of heritage joke cryptocurrency Dogecoin (remember that? SUCH BIT!) in order to enable a few people at the top of the pyramid to cash out and make a lot of money in classic ‘pump’n’dump’ fashion. What’s interesting here is less that this is potentially happening, and more the way in which the growth of the ‘cult’-style of fandoms and their mobilisation via TikTok (cf the ‘BTS fans fcuked Trump’s sh1t up’ story from the other week, etc), lends itself to some pretty large-scale manipulation of financial systems and instruments. It’s not hard to think of a few ways in which you could use a willing army of, say, 20,000 reasonably well-off middle-class kids from around the world to move some small needles surprisingly far to positive personal ends.
- Ban Cars: This week’s second ‘beautiful longform datavis thingy’ comes from the New York Times - it’s a snowfall-y (do we still use that? Christ knows) longread all about the prospect of a post-car Manhattan, as imagined by someone in the throes of full pandemic ‘THE WORLD WILL CHANGE FOREVER’ fever. It won’t change forever - at least not yet, at least not like this - but, regardless, this is a really beautifully-done way of showing some thinking about the way in which motor vehicles constrain and warp urban development, and the opportunities that arise from perhaps removing them from city centres.
- AI Dungeon Redux: I featured AI Dungeon - the text adventure built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-2 text AI - last year when it launched; now, with the advent of GPT-3, there’s a NEW, UPDATED version of the game. Sadly, due to the fact that it requires a LOT of computational resource to work, the game itself is open to registered subscribers only, but this short article gives you an overview of the improvements the new kit has enabled, and the way in which that affects the way the game plays. Even accounting for the fact that any examples shown will have been hand-picked from a LOT of less impressive stuff, the way in which this has evolved is amazing; there are details in here, like the fact that the engine can conceive of the concept of a book within the narrative and come up with passages from within that fictitious book!!!, that made me properly boggle.
- TikTokTV: Or, when is there going to be a TV show following the lives and dramas of the kids living in one of the seemingly-ubiquitous TikTok ‘hype houses’? Except, well, why would there be? Who would it be for? The kids who are interested in the TikTokers don’t need to watch TV to get an insight into thelives and the drama - that’s what TikTok is for, and Insta, and the endless beef hype channels on YouTube...I just don’t really understand what room there is for TV qua telly to get involved here, unless it’s to offer an easy-to-digest package for normie old people to keep up to date with these essential developments. Oh God, am I going to have to start watching the TikTokTelly equivalent of ‘Big Brother’s Little Brother’ just to have a vague idea what this hour’s BIG MEME is? Make it stop.
- No Signal: On the rise of what the piece terms ‘the UK’s new black radio’, and the general resurgence in interest in music broadcast culture since lockdown, specifically centred around black culture and the NS10vs10 clashes that dominated the tl back in April. No Signal is now a proper radio station, broadcasting seven days a week having spun itself out of the 10vs10 series, and this is an overview of the people and the ideas behind it. There’s something almost quaint about radio still being an important medium in 2020, but it says something both about its effectiveness and power as a unifier, and the way in which one-to-many broadcasting is still as vital as it ever was, even in an era that prioritises peer-to-peer.
- The Wayfair Conspiracy: This week’s spectacular bit of instafluencerlunacy came in the shape of The Wayfair Conspiracy, which featured people claiming that Wayfair, the homeware shop, was hiding its paedo-ish kidtrafficking activities IN PLAIN SITE by offering cabinets at SUSPICIOUS PRICES and with HUMAN NAMES, which obviously meant that the cabinets were being sold FULL OF KIDS to ACTUAL NONCES. This became the latest batsh1t conspiracy to be picked up by the serried ranks of lifestyle influencers and promoted to hundreds of thousands of people as ‘something to think about’ - so, er, well done, influencers! I am genuinely curious as to whether at this point ‘mad stuff like QAnon’ is just another possible option in the diceroll of ‘what shall I make content about today?’ - I don’t think that most of these people believe any of this stuff, but they are savvy enough to realise that this stuff does numbers. Shall we worry about the effect that spreading this stuff about willy-nilly, whether or not it’s true, has on the ability of people to reason, determine fact from fiction, etc? NAH!
- Abandon All Artichokes: Another essay all about the process of game design - if that sounds dull then feel free to skip this one, but know that you’re missing out. Emma Larkins has designed a card game called Abandon AlL Artichokes, which was recently published by a proper company as a proper game; this piece is the story of the game’s development, from genesis through to completion, and it’s a really interesting look at the practical process of Making a Thing Happen - honestly, whether you do games stuff or not, this is a really good account of the practical side of the creative process.
- The Penis Museum: An extract from a forthcoming book about Iceland’s museums, this passage in particular focuses on the (in)famous penis museum in Rejkjavik. Those of you looking for an exhaustive examination of various members will be disappointed; this is far more about the small joy of creating, almost accidentally, a collection, and the joy of sharing it, but it does contain one line that I enjoyed so much that I wanted to share it with you directly - on the unique difficulties associated with housing a collection of penises, the author asserts confidently that “It’s already a technical challenge to display the emphatically convex”, which is already a contender for my favourite line of 2020.
- Honjok: “In traditionally collectivist South Korea, individualist loners, or honjok, are becoming increasingly common. The term, which translates to “alone tribe,” shortens and combines 나홀로, meaning “by myself,” and 족, “tribe.” It’s used to describe a group of people who prefer, out of pleasure or practicality — and, often, utter exhaustion and sheer desperation — to live outside of conventional social structures and simply be alone.” We get these articles every few years - it used to be Japan that always birthed them, with breathless (oddly sexually-obsessed) profiles of the hikkikomori and otaku, living out of their bedrooms amongst discarded ramen and crusty manga; now it’s the turn of Korea to get the same treatment. Except this piece, in the reliably-excellent Rest of World magazine, is a lot better than these tend to be, and presents this as something less-uniquely-Eastern in character and more something that could easily become prevalent worldwide. Speaking to friends who tell me their kids are increasingly nervous of leaving the house and whose relationships are already majority-online, it’s easy to imagine this becoming just another way of existing for lots of people in the middle of the 21C.
- The Balletic Millennial Bedtimes of Normal People: I know you’ve all read the book and watched the TV show and read the thinkpieces - this one, though, marking the series’ arrival on US TV, is worth reading, even if you’ve read all the other millions of Rooneyhagiographies or dripping fetishisations of working-class masculine neckwear. Lorrie Moore writes in the New York Review of Books about the TV show (she praises it) and, more interestingly to my mind, about the particular ‘type’ of character Rooney writes and the concept of ‘normality’ she depicts. It features this observation, which made me actually stop in my tracks - SO TRUE, and yet the first time I’ve seen it articulated: “Due partly to smartphones, millennials are essentially suburban, no matter where they have actually grown up.”
- The Fake Nerd Boys of Silicon Valley: There’s a bit too much ‘THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES MY FAVOURITE GEEKY THING SPECIAL’ in this for my personal taste, but in general this is a very good read about why the scifi utopianism of Musk, Bezos et al feels so bloodless and joyless and mechanistic and free of the sort of joy and wonder which used to characterise our dreams of the future. It’s worth reading in full (or at least the first half, before it gets a bit too happy quoting Tolkien); there’s definitely something in the thesis that the emptiness is due to them focusing on the object rather than the subject, if you see what I mean (you will if you read the article, though I imagine this sentence is rather making you think you won’t bother).
- Drinking Alone: Booze and small towns and masculinity. This is very, very good, and I don’t want to tell you much else about it because it deserves being read cold.
- Flailing States: Pankaj Mishra writes in the LRB on the current state of Anglo-America, the relative place of both nations in the current world order, and how we’ve arrived here. This is superb - dispassionate, clear-eyed and reasonably equal-opportunities in terms of the kickings it gives out, giving a well-rounded comparative look at the 20th century development of various nations in an attempt to explain how and where and why the US and the UK have managed to squander the incredible winning position they found themselves in in the 1900s. Brilliant and, to my mind, a bit essential in terms of This Fcuking World We Live In.
- What Is It Like To Be A Man?: Finally this week, one of the best things I have read in years and years about ‘being a man’. Honestly, this is super-smart and does an excellent job of acknowledging all the sh1t things about masculinity whilst at the same time not simply flagellating men for their being men. Clever, empathetic, sensitive and funny, Phil Christman has written a really good piece that I think deserves to be read far more widely than the dozen of you who will likely click on this. Please take the time to read this and share it with others who you think might enjoy it, it really is very good indeed.
By Brianna Capozzi
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- Let’s start with this, a rollercoaster created in, I think, Rollercoaster Tycoon, which syncs perfectly with Bohemian Rhapsody. You may not think you want to watch this, but I promise you that as you find yourself moving around in your seat and singing along, you will thank me:
- Thingu! Years ago I used to feature loads of Lee Hardcastle’s incredibly=violent plasticine animations; I’d totally forgotten about these til this cropped up online and I was reminded by how twistedly brilliant they are. This is The Thing, crossed with everyone’s favourite penguin, Pingu. It is GREAT:
- There was a time when The Go! Team, along with CSS, seemed like the coolest band in the world. No idea when that was, but I flashed back quite hard to that time with this video - it’s for their new song, called ‘Cookie Scene’, and it took me right back to...er...2004ish? When everything felt hopeful and pop-ish and international and like it might all still be ok:
- I once spent an afternoon in the pub with Tjinder Singh from Cornershop; my overriding memory was very much of him not wanting to be there, or certainly not wanting to be there with me. Still, that slightly-crap-celebrity-encounter won’t stop me from recommending Cornershop’s latest, the incredibly-happymaking and SUPERBLY titled ‘Everywhere That Wog Army Roam’:
- This is all over TikTok at the moment, and whilst I am SO SICK of music that sounds like this I also have to concede that it absolutely bangs. It’s called ‘Fcuk 2020’:
- Last up, latest in the increasingly long line of ‘incongruous northern working class kids produce a surprisingly banging rap and go viral’ - this is Ste Brown with ‘Noggin’, and I am going to assume that it is as pure and lovely as it looks, and that young Ste’s a nice kid, and there’s literally NOTHING about this that is either going to end up linked to the far right or used as a stick with which to beat the kid with. Enjoy your momentary fame, Ste Brown! Oh, and BYE THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK SEE YOU IN A FORTNIGHT I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU OH DEAR I THINK I AM GOING TO GET A BIT EMO ABOUT ALL THIS IF I’M NOT CAREFUL OK WELL I’M GOING NOW BYE BYE BYE BYE!!!: