Web Curios 17/08/18
Neville Southall Adult Baby Twitter Takeover. Take those words; taste them; roll them around your mouth and revel in their juicy savour. So rich! So DENSE!
I'm choosing to focus on the ridiculous rather than the awful in the intro this week, seeing as the past couple have been pretty frothy with fear and rage and seeing also as it's my girlfriend's birthday today and she will be quite rightly slightly offended if I don't mention it and her cat uptop; HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAZ!
Also, happy birthday to any of the rest of you celebrating one more year of inching towards the grave - congratulations on not dying, despite the seeming best efforts of everything to off you! Consider what follows to be a gift especially curated for YOU - I had YOU in mind when I picked every single link this week; the pictures are all designed to reflect a facet of YOUR personality that only I could possibly hope to know and understand; and the whole is curated so as to give you - yes YOU, only YOU - that very personal frisson I know you get from close care and attention. Don't for a second think that I write this for anyone else. You are the special one. This is YOUR Web Curios - guard it closely and never let it go, for I will know if you abandon it and I will fcuking haunt you.
NB - Curios may be absent next week as I am going to Leeds Festival with my mate Dave, his daughter and her girlfriend; I expect to have an awful time and probably to be pelted witrh bottled p1ss as I believe is classic in these scenarios, but if I can I'll try and whack one of these out when I'm meant to be working on Thursday afternoon as a sort of BONUS MINI SNACK CURIOS. Then again I may not. WHO KNOWS?
THE SECTION WHICH THIS WEEK MORE THAN EVER IS GLAD THAT IT DIDN’T GET THAT JOB DOING COMMS AT TWITTER ALL THOSE MANY YEARS AGO:
- New Authorisation Rules for FB Pages: Only in the US! Possibly not relevant to you as a result! Still, I’d presume that this will be rolled out globally in due course, so consider this your advance warning. Facebook continues to attempt to limit the ability of BAD ACTORS to, er, act badly on the platform, this time by adding additional transparency requirements for Pages over a certain size in the US. Managers of large Pages will now be required to provide proof of their identity, and users will be able to see not only a history of the Page’s activity - showing whether it’s merged with other Pages, and if so when and which ones - but also where its moderators are based. Similar stuff is coming to Instagram soon, and it’s hard not to see this generally as A Good Thing, unless you’re the Internet Research Agency (are you the Internet Research Agency? It’s so hard to tell).
- Facebook Create to Convert: To be honest I’m not 100% certain if this is a real feature or just something Facebook has been playing around with it in its Creative Studio - still, it’s a slow news week, and maybe some of you know something about it and can tell me (you won’t, though, will you? It’s all take, take, take, isn’t it?). It seems as though FB is working on a suite of tools for advertisers which will allow you to create reasonably slick-looking animated video ads using nothing more than a library of still images, with all sorts of clever automated settings to zoom, pan and the like, making your TEDIOUS still photos look like WILDLY EXCITING (if a bit cheap) video. Add ‘low-skill video editor’ to the list of professions that you might want to consider getting out of in the next 5 years or so.
- Facebook Adds New Event Options: This is a nice, useful idea - when you add an Event on Facebook, you will now be able to add timings of specific sub-Events within; so, for example, you could list the stage times of various acts at a comedy festival, say. Be aware, though, that this still won’t mean anyone will actually turn up, regardless of whether or not they’ve ‘Liked’ it and said they will.
- Insta Adds DM Polls: You can now (or will soon be able to, depending on how lucky you are with the rollout) create those Instagram polls on your Direct Messages, meaning you can survey specific groups of users rather than your whole follower base. Obviously, simply useful, though as per the rest of Insta’s interactive features it’s probably important to point out that the user who creates the poll can apparently see exactly how everyone’s voted so, you know, BE DIPLOMATIC. Or don’t, you MESSY BITCH WHO LOVES DRAMA! Ooh, just think of all the shade! (I hate Instagram)
- The Google Political Ad Library: And lo! Limited transparency for political advertising in the US came also to Google in the US! You can now browse political ads placed on Google over the past week, seeing how much was spent on them and how many people they reached; sadly the site is a bit fcuked at the time of writing, meaning you can’t click through to any of the ads themselves and it’s unclear what other information you can get on them (targeting, obviously, being the most interesting stuff to learn about). Still, it’s interesting to look at these sorted by spend if only to see which organisations are putting their money into Google ads.
- Google’s Inactive Account Manager: This is an excellent idea, and one that all digital platforms should replicate. The Inactive Account Manager is a few simple settings within Google which allow you to determine what should happen to your account should it be left inactive for a certain amount of time - effectively determining what ought to happen to your Google identity post-mortem (or, er, if you go on a REALLY LONG digital detox or forget the web exists or something - fine, you might not necessarily be dead but, er, you probably will be, let’s be realistic). It’s simple and clear and very flexible, and lets you choose people to be notified, along with letting you write personal messages to them, and which of your Google Account features they will have access to (for a limited period) once the account is deemed to no longer be active. Obviously there is some genuinely DARK stuff that you could also do with this, if you wanted to create an elaborate hoax around your own death or to turn your eventual demise into some sort of grim theatre in which you play all your loved ones against each other in some sort of sick puppetry from beyond the grave but you wouldn’t do that, would you? Would you?
- A Podcast I Am On: I’ve not listened to it, it might be terrible, but if you have ever wondered what it’s like to have this stuff spoken at you at speed then WONDER NO MORE.
- Dell Gaming Stuff: This is a website made to promote Dell’s range of fancy gaming laptops - it’s not hugely interesting per se, but does contain a bunch of surprisingly fun (for about 5 minutes) little webgames, which can be controlled by mouse, keyboard or your webcam and which are actually pretty well-made and, look, give it a go, it’ll be more interesting than whatever Powerpoint-meddling you’ll be doing otherwise.
- First Aperture: Finally this week, a REALLY clever promo by Getty Images in Brazil (I think) - First Aperture is ‘the world’s first stock image DJ’! Leaving aside that that’s largely meaningless, everyone loves a world first in PR land; this is a music video and track made entirely from Getty stock imagery and sounds, all mixed together and presented on this rather nice site which lets you listen to the song, watch the video and, should you so desire, download each individual element from both to do with as you please. A rather nice piece of archive collaging, all-told, although the ‘song’ is, imho, a bit crap.
By Josh Keyes
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE YOU TO CALL A MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY WHO IS NOT ON TWITTER THIS WEEKEND AND ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN THE SENTENCE ‘NEVILLE SOUTHALL ADULT BABY TWITTER TAKEOVER CANCELLED’ TO THEM IN ORDER TO GET A VERY REAL SENSATION OF QUITE HOW ODD MODERNITY IS, PT.1:
- The Google AI Quickdraw Visualiser: It’s not the catchiest name, fair to say, but who cares when you get to watch a computer ‘think’ in realtime? This is WONDERFUL - it’s a tool buy Google which takes all the machine learning its...er...machines accrued last year with all those sketch projects (you remember - the ones where we played around drawing circles and stars and cats and things in order to teach our inevitable eventual sentient machine overlords how better to outthink us in the coming robot apocalypse) and uses that to work out, on the fly, what you’re drawing. So you start doodling in the top of the webpage and watch as the machine THINKS about what it is you’re sketching, working it out on the fly. Honestly, this is SO impressive - do have a play.
- Text To Pic: This is ALSO so impressive, albeit in a slightly less showy way - a publicly accessible, web-based text-to-image neural net, which tries to interpret what you type and produce images which match your description. It’s...not very good, but the eventual potential here is quite something. It’s a bit on the shonky side and falls over every now and again, and doesn’t work instantaneously - the developer obviously doesn’t have Google levels of processing power backing this up - but persevere as this is a precursor to the glorious future in which you can type any scenario you like (“a middle-aged Zac Efron, covered in Nutella, being brought to a tearful climax by Elmo from Sesame Street”, say) and have it magically appear before you. That is glorious, right?
- Pix 2 Pix: Third and final slightly scifi neural net AI-type thing this week, Pix 2 Pix is a simple tool which asks you to select what it is that you are trying to draw (a cat, a shoe, a building or a face) and then, when you draw an outline of said thing, tries to reconstruct a reasonable simulacrum of said thing from its understanding of what such a thing is meant to look like. Which, I know, is yet another appalling description (and it’s only 7:42 am - apologies in advance for how p1ss-poor this is going to get by mid-morning when the tiredness really kicks in), but just set it to ‘face’ and start trying to draw something and then watch in slightly stunned awe as a cross between a late-period Modigliani and a terrifying wax death mask appears on your screen. Honestly, I’d totally frame some of the outputs this makes (though I appreciate my ‘taste’ is perhaps a touch towards the macabre).
- Plus Codes: What Three Words, the very clever platform which seeks to provide a recognisable, internationally comprehensible address for every point on the planet using nothing more than three words, has been around for ages now, and every year or so gets another spike in recognition and popularity with people talking about how clever it is and how it’s going to revolutionise how we communicate place and stuff. Sadly for them, though, it seems that Google have now decided ‘yep, let’s lift that wholesale’ - Plus Codes is Google’s attempt to create a universal location service for addresses that don’t have addresses, except with none of the inbuilt fun and whimsy of What Three Words. “Plus codes give addresses to everyone, everywhere, allowing them to receive deliveries, access emergency services, register to vote – and more. A plus code address looks like a regular address, but with a short code where the street name and number would be.” Would you rather live at FVHP+JJ or at behave.wallet.live? Well, quite.
- The Uffizzi Digitisation Project: In which the complete fcukeness of my mother country was tragically demonstrated once again (seriously, you don’t want to think too hard about quite how much other infrastructural stuff all over Italy is on the verge of total collapse due to five decades of persistent underinvestment or crooked tenders giving maintenance contracts to suspiciously cheap Mafia consortia), this site is a nice reminder of the bits of Italy which aren’t as yet totally banjaxed. This is a wonderful project by the Uffizzi galleries in Florence, seeking to create high-quality 3d digitisations of some of the sculptures in its collection; you can pick from a selection of statuary and then rotate, zoom and pan to your heart’s content. The scans are pleasingly detailed, and you can get right into the folds of the marble should you so desire; this is really very cool indeed.
- Adventurers Wanted: This is either a wonderful idea or a truly terrible one, I’m not 100% certain. Adventurers Wanted is a show currently playing at the Edinburgh Fringe - I mean, I say ‘show’, but it’s basically just a series of Dungeons and Dragons games played out in front of a live audience and (hence the link) streamed on Twitch. They’ve done 60 hours(!) of this so far, and there’s probably about the same amount again coming up; the occasions I’ve dropped in to watch this have been gently geekily amusing, so it might be worth dropping in for an hour or so this afternoon to see how they’re getting on. Bear in mind, though, that this is at its heart a livestream of people playing D&D so, er, very much caveat emptor here.
- San Diego Comicon Cosplay: Another cosplay gallery, fine, but this is a particularly pleasing one as they’re not professional shots and, as far as I can see, there are literally no cheesecake glamour-type costumes; it’s just geeky people dressing up as stuff they love, and as a result is just sort of generally heartwarming. Also, one of the photos appears to feature comics legend Alan Moore just sort of casually cosplaying as himself, which if it is him is sort of brilliant.
- KissPNG: VERY dully but hugely useful searchable library of PNG files available for free and for commercial use (or at least that’s what I assume). Bookmark, should you ever be in need of a place you can quickly find thousands of HD pictures of, say, Oxo Cubes (I don’t ask why, I just deliver).
- Buns Life: You may have seen a memey thing this week involving people posting photos of words inside a bun - now YOU can make your own! Every week I post stupid, frivolous little websites like this and write something like ‘hey, advermarketingprdrones! Why not leaven your otherwise deadly-dull afternoon of office slavery by communicating solely via the medium of words-in-buns messages?’ and, without fail, you all absolutely ignore me. CAN YOU PLEASE DO THIS? Just pick one colleague and refuse to communicate with them in any other way all day. Ideally it ought to be a colleague in a separate physical location so they can’t come and ask you what the fcuk you think you’re doing. They’ll LOVE IT!
- Buzzfeed Newz: Included mainly because I was so impressed with the comprehensive way they have ripped off the branding here. Just in case you weren’t 100% clear, this is very much FAKE NEWS.
- Remembering Aretha: A beautiful collection of photos spanning her life and career. The shot of her standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial wearing the red dress and fur coat is a particular favourite, but these are all wonderful.
- The Lambo Index: Are you still HODLing? Is it still all about the coins? Have your grandparents succumbed to the excitement and bought crypto based on a tube ad (I’m not joking - have you seen these? There’s literally a tube ad that talks about teaching your gran to buy Bitcoin. This...this does not feel like responsible financial advice, to me at least)? Well if so then a) hahahahaha you poor sap, really; b) I take back a) in the event of you becoming violently rich and my needing a handout; c) you may find this site useful, which keeps track of exactly how many Bitcoin or Etheruem or whatever you’d need to be HODLing to be able to afford a Lambourghini, favoured vehicle of the coinbrotwat (on which, check THIS out - a crypto nightclub in Vegas! Is there ANYTHING less sexually attractive than that phrase?).
- The Moleskine Project: “The Annual Moleskine Project - a collective exhibition of artists’ sketchbooks from around the world co-curated by gallery owner Ken Harman and Sydney-based artist Rod Luff. Featuring artists from around the world, this format driven exhibition spans various artistic styles and mediums, delving into the artists sketchbook. The exhibition made it’s initial debut at Spoke San Francisco in 2011. Featuring both emerging and established artists, the exhibition is a continuation of the project, in which artists are provided with a Moleskine book in order to create an original piece within the pages of the book.” Wonderfully, the works from the project are available to buy as originals - they’re not cheap, fine, but some of the stuff here really is rather beautiful. If someone would like to buy this one for me, for example, that would be lovely.
- Bird Genie: SUCH a lovely site, this - effectively it’s Shazam for birdsong, telling you exactly which species of little warbling bastard is continuously waking you up at 5am despite it being TOO EARLY. Probably less interesting if you live in London, fine (Pigeon. Blackbird. Pigeon. Pigeon), but if you’re off somewhere rural or remote or exotic then this could be quite a cool way of keeping track of the local fauna.
- Best Selling English Musical Artists, By County: “The map...shows the best selling singer, musical artist or band from each of England’s 48 ceremonial counties. The criteria seems to be where someone has grown up rather than necessarily where they were born.” I’m including this almost entirely for the fact that I honestly cannot believe that Worcestershire’s best-selling musical alumnus is Cher fcuking Lloyd?!? I am agog.
- The Art of Shinkansen: I’m pretty certain that there aren’t that many rabid railway enthusiasts amongst you, but for the three of you who are REALLY into trains, this is a rather cool site celebrating Japan’s iconic (sorry) bullet train; it explores different aspects of its design and engineering and the general experience of using it through a series of cute little animations and diagrams, and it’s all generally just so nice and, well, Japanese.
- The UEFA Goal of the Season: Joyless football bureaucrats UEFA have put together this website to collect all the best goals scored around the world in the past football season; there are obviously some absolutely insane strikes in here, from the male and female eleven-a-side game as well as futsal, but whoever chose the accompanying music for each appears to have used the same music library as those odd people who compile player highlight reels for YouTube and insist on soundtracking them all with godawful Eurohouse. Turn the sound off and enjoy.
- Complexity Explorables: This is really very good indeed - Complexity Explorables presents a series of lightly interactive explainers on complex systems and how they function, from the transmission of viruses in a closed ecosystem to the manner in which echo chambers operate within a social network. The animations and interactives used are simple and clear, and as a general guide as to how one might approach this sort of explanatory exercise it’s an object lesson in quality.
- Surreal Memes: They really, really are. Honestly, I understand NONE of these. Are they meant to be understood? IS THAT THE JOKE? I think I am getting too old for the web.
- Everything Is Alive: Shall we presume I’ve already done the tedious “I don’t like podcasts” caveat? Yes, let’s. Everything Is Alive is a really interesting idea - only three episodes in so far, the premise is always the same. An inanimate object is given a voice, and is interviewed about itself in an unscripted, improvised way; this is silly and a bit whimsical but also weirdly informative about how stuff gets made and how it works, and, honestly, is quite a lot more fun than you’d expect it to be.
- The Sound of Silence: ANOTHER podcast, this one a little sillier than the last - The Sound of Silence has a simple premise - each week, the host meets up with someone and sits with them, face to face, in silence for two minutes. The podcast is the audio of that meeting. Basically like John Cage’s “3’33” for people with slightly shorter attention spans (thanks to Simon for the tip). Oh, and if you want a bunch of podcast recommendations then this Metafilter thread is a useful place to find new ones.
- Pippa Dyrlaga: The Instagram feed of artist Pippa Dyrlaga, who produces beautiful, filigree-delicate cut-out artworks which really are worth checking out. She also produces gorgeous drawings based on said cut-outs which are available from her website and which, imho, are rather lovely and very reasonably-priced.
By Laura Bifano
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE YOU TO CALL A MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY WHO IS NOT ON TWITTER THIS WEEKEND AND ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN THE SENTENCE ‘NEVILLE SOUTHALL ADULT BABY TWITTER TAKEOVER CANCELLED’ TO THEM IN ORDER TO GET A VERY REAL SENSATION OF QUITE HOW ODD MODERNITY IS, PT.2:
- Watch The Fatberg: Would you like to watch a livestream of the Museum of London’s fatberg, sitting there in its glass case, flourishing with spores and gently suppurating as it ages and matures? I can’t imagine why, but just on the offchance then here’s a link to the webcam feed. If you find the prospect of watching this more enticing than whatever it is that you are paid to do for a living, I strongly suggest that you reconsider your life choices and perhaps take some dramatic action.
- Twitter RSS Creator: This is a VERY clever little piece of code - plug in your Twitter account and it will scrape your following list for all the websites people have in their bios; it will then turn these into a bunch of RSS feeds you can plug into a variety of popular readers. What this means is that you can create an RSS-based way of keeping up with the latest links from the sites you follow should you wish to spend less time on the hell website that is Twitter and more doing more healthy things like slowly filing your toes down to the bone or something.
- Logo Pops: A new project on Twitter which is looking to source photos of old brand logos in the wild. You want to see a picture of a WH Smith in Tonbridge that still has the old, brown and orange cuboid logo on one of the walls round the back of it? YES YOU DAMN WELL DO. Beautifully, pointlessly obsessional.
- Doubtist Books: I sort-of know Alexander Velky in real life, but even if I didn’t I’d probably publicise his latest Kickstarter, raising funds to publish his next two books of poetry. I have both the last ones and they’re ace, and if you’d like to support an outsider voice writing from a slightly isolated rural idyll in Wales then, well, there really is no better link in this week’s Curios.
- Tokyo Storefronts: An Insta feed which exists solely to share photographs of shopfronts in Tokyo. What do you want me to say about it, ffs? They’re Japanese shop fronts! I have little more to add! Do...do you ever feel that I’m sort of redundant here and that we’d all be better off if I just posted the links as is without any of this tediously ‘comic’ prose? You do, don’t you? Fcuk’s sake.
- The Robots of Takayuki Todo: Takayuki Todo makes robots. His latest is an emoting machine, which uses it’s incredibly expressive facial motors and eyes to attempt to either replicate the expression of whoever’s looking at it, or to affect expressions connoting specific emotions as directed. It’s...Jesus, it’s quite incredible, and I reckon if it caught me at a moment of...emotional vulnerability that it could have me in tears within a matter of minutes. There are other models in there too - look at THIS horror. Sleep well!
- Stop-Motion Gundam: This is some SUPERB amateur animation work here, taking a bunch of toys from classic Japanese animated TV show Gundam (if you’re not familiar with it then a) I am sorry for your loss; and b) it’s about giant fighting robots, it’s ace) and using them to make honestly AWESOME stop-motion short films. Everything about these is brilliant, not least the effects and directorial flourishes; whoever is making these is very talented indeed.
- The Royal Institution: On Instagram! The Insta feed of the home of scientific enquiry in the UK is honestly great, with all the exciting chemistry footage and sciencey Q&As you could wish for. This is institutional social media done well imho, and without any slightly tediously wacky millennial tone-of-voice-and-meme stuff that’s becoming a touch *too* ubiquitous imho.
- Passport: A photo project by Russian artist Alexander Chekmenev: “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became necessary in the newly independent Ukraine to replace old Soviet passports with the new Ukrainian ones. There was a rush to accomplish this in the shortest possible time. All Ukrainians had to get a new passport within a year. In 1994, the social services of Lugansk, a town in southeast of Ukraine, started offering photographers a job of shooting passport photos in homes of the elderly and ill citizens, who could not pay a photographer on their own. I was one of the photographers commissioned by the social services to go door to door during this national passportisation campaign. This is how I ended up in the homes of these people, along with the social workers whose job was to provide free medicine and groceries.” These are hugely affecting and very, almost too, human.
- Beam Me Up, Softboi: An Insta feed collecting the wonderful dating app interactions between women and that wonderful sub-breed of fuckboi, the softboi. Even allowing for the fact that about 60-70% of this stuff is usually fake, there are some ‘gems’ in here.
- CIA Behavioural Modification Crowdfund: The guy who runs The Black Vault (see Curios passim), the massive archive of declassified US government papers and the like, is raising funds to extract 4,000-odd pages of information which apparently pertains to CIA mind control research. He only needs £400-odd quid, and whilst I generally have no truck with this sort of stuff it’s just about intriguing enough that I thought it worth chucking the campaign a fiver. Don’t YOU want to know how The Man has been messing with your mind all these years? Oh, well, yes, I suppose I see your point.
- Nandgame: ‘Game’ is possibly an overly generous designation, fine, but if you want an interactive broswer-based guide to simple logic in computing systems (and if there was ever a sentence to get the pulse racing then that, my friends, is it) then WOW is this going to trip your switches. Actually reasonably intuitive and a decent introduction to the way in which binary inputs and switches build to become computational systems (again, SUCH A SEXY SENTENCE, eh kids?).
- Butchcamp: An Insta feed sharing examples of the particular aesthetic that is Butchcamp, a lesbian interpretation of the camp aesthetic as distinct from straight and gay camp. No, I had no idea either, but it’s a really interesting idea and it sort of makes sense from the feed.
- I Am John Galt: This is just WONDERFUL. You may not be aware that the Randian opus Atlas Shrugged was made into a trilogy of films a few years back - they were, as you might imagine, not critically acclaimed, and given budgetary restraints they were marketed exclusively online. Part of that marketing involved an attempt to solicit user-generated content from fans of the book, meaning that Twitter user @NoChorus was able to post this WONDERFUL thread. I quote: “When the first Atlas Shrugged film came out they asked for fans to say "I am john galt" to add to a dvd extra. The results are some of the best, most strange youtube videos you'll ever see” - if you know the book at all then this will be even funnier, but even without a passing knowledge of Randian tripe this is wonderful stuff.
- Photos of 60s Ireland: Some beautiful shots in here; my personal favourite is the one of the nuns walking the schoolgirls down the road, being observed from the corner by the very obviously WAYWARD YOUNG WOMEN - just a perfect image of its time.
- The ADL Heatmap: A sobering visualisation of hate crimes and associated issues as reported in the US over the past 20-odd years; select the type of incident you want to track, select a date range and it will show you how many instances were reported and where. Take a moment to contrast the number of White Supremacist Events taking place between 2012-16 and 2016-18 - it’s...it’s not good, is it?
- Wallhalla: You want a huge collection of searchable HD wallpapers for your phone? I don’t care, have it anyway. Set the aspect ratio to portrait and you’re away - there is a LOT of terrible web art on here and if you want to really ruin your friend’s credibility then I suggest you remember this url and nick their phone next time they go to the toilet in the pub.
- End Family Fire: A depressingly necessary but nicely made website advising gun owning parents in the US of how best to keep their firearms safe in order to minimise the likelihood that their toddler will one day accidentally remove the top of their skull with a well-placed slug. Still, the design’s nice!
- The House That Yauch Built: Red Bull is building some consistently excellent websites at the moment, but even by the high standards they set this is SUPERB. The House That Yauch Built is an interactive exploratory journey through Oscilloscope Studios, the production company and recording studio founded by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. Fans will find SO MUCH good stuff in here - archive audio and video, anecdotes and behind-the-scenes reminiscences - and the interface is lovely and slick, and overall it’s just a joy to mess around with. Enjoy.
- Shellflower: “Shellflower is a story-heavy puzzle platformer about a young girl, Bec, and her floating cube companion, as they journey through an abstract world to find and fix the continuum reactor, a device that maintains the fabric of time and space. Use your cube to manipulate objects' gravity in order to solve a variety of puzzles!” This is a really very well-designed little game; definitely worth 20 minutes, if noone can see your desk.
- Enhance Computer!: Last up in this week’s miscellania is this VERY SILLY but very fun game, which lets you do the ‘ENHANCE PHOTO!’ command so beloved of the various CSI franchises - the gimmick here is that the game is entirely voice controlled, so you get to actually FEEL like the hard-boiled forensics specialist sitting in a lab with their unfeasibly attractive colleagues desperately trying to apprehend a murdering, meth-addled furry. SO FUN - this one I reckon you can legitimately play at work, solely as everyone else will want to have a go.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- The Giki Tiki: I don’t have the faintest idea why this Tumblr, which seems to be a collection of old advertising from the 1970s, is called the Giki Tiki, but I know that for some reason I find it a really unpleasant combination of characters to type.
- Shiba Sommellier: You want a bunch of photos of a Shibe Ino dog inexplicably posing with wine? OH GOOD!
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- My Life As A Psychopath: Not all psychopaths - clinically-diagnosed psychopaths, that is - are murderers; we just assume they are because of television, but of course psychopathy is a medical condition which sits on a spectrum, and there are plenty of people who would technically qualify as such without ever remotely considering dismembering anyone with a sharpened spoon. This is the account of someone on that spectrum - it’s a fascinating portrait of a life lived largely without affect, and I confess to empathising with bits of it far more than I felt comfortable with.
- Annoying Things People Do In Bed: SUPERB Reddit thread in which people share the things that their (otherwise doubtless lovely) partners do in bed that get on their nerves. It’s a mix of sexual and non-sexual stuff, occasionally textually NSFW - I promise you that on reading this you will suddenly develop a far greater appreciation of how great the person you share your bed with is (or, if you’re single, of your single status). A particular salute to the person who has to put up with this: “He pulls the dry skin off his feet and puts it on his bedside table. He calls it 'Foot Jerky'”. Dear GOD.
- The Fart Scrolls of Japan: Look, this is not a sophisticated link but I challenge you not to laugh at this exploration of the flatulent artwork of ancient Japan.
- See No Evil: Logistics is by far and away the most fascinating boring thing in the world - this piece takes a deep look at modern logistics systems, and how the way they are composed of a seemingly infinite sub-system of interlocking, interdependent actors makes it near-impossible to keep track of supply chains at scale, and how this is unlikely to get much better as time goes on. Ethical consumerism is going to become harder and harder at much beyond a hyperlocal level, it would seem.
- Returning To London: A piece by emigre journalist Rebecca Mead, who moved to New York years ago and has lived there ever since, only to make the decision to relocate back to London with her husband and child in the wake of Trumpism. You will have heard much of this before, but the writing is good and clean, and I particularly liked her characterisation of the difference between US and UK politics and present as being like the difference between psychosis and depression.
- Sex Robots and Marriage: So for small-scale professional reasons I had to do quite a bit of thinking around sex robots earlier this year (NO REALLY IT WAS WORK) - I confess, though, to not having even begun to entertain the concepts presented in this essay, which argues that a rise in the acceptance amorous robotic companions could lead to a change in societal attitudes to marriage, as sex is decoupled from love. There’s a slight hint of 70s Scandi sexologist in the tone here - I don’t know, all I could imagine was a Bjorn Borg lookalike in labcoat and flares saying “Ze future ees robbotsecks!”, but possibly that’s my problem rather than a universal one - but it’s an interesting series of arguments; the idea that the sex and marriage might be disintermediated, though, is hardly a new one, and we’re still pretty trad as far as things go, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.
- Ale Wives: This FASCINATED me - I had no idea until I read this piece that brewing was traditionally a female role, and that there’s a direct line between the alewives of the middle-ages and the ‘witches’ who were summarily persecuted and murdered throughout the middle of the last millennium. Honestly, this is a GREAT read, if not a little depressing (as per) when it comes to the myriad imaginative ways in which men throughout history have manipulated and blamed women for, well, everything!
- Rocket Man: This is basically a VERY LONG combination of ‘massive advert for Branson’s space tourism for millionaires’ and ‘boy’s own story about how ace it is to be a super brave pilot’, but for all my slightly cynical caveats it’s an honestly cracking read; the characters, pilots especially, are all square-jawed HEROES and there’s a very 1950s-style sense of derring-do and adventure about the whole thing.
- The Stifling Air of Rigid Radicalism: Or, my alternative title, “The Prison of Wokeness”; this is a rather good essay examining exactly how and why the very rigid definitions of what is ‘ok’, ‘good’, ‘right’, etc, are not necessarily helping us. This bit gives a good flavour of the general tone of the piece: “We are encouraged—and we often encourage each other—to wear our politics and our analysis like badges, as markers of distinction. When politics becomes something that one has, like fashion, it always needs to be visible in order to function. Actions need to be publicized, positions need to be taken, and our everyday lives need to be spoken loudly to each other. One is encouraged to make calculations about political commitments based on how they will be seen, and by whom. Politics becomes a spectacle to be performed. This reaches its height online, where sharing the right things and speaking the right words tend to be the only ways that people can know each other. Groups need to turn inward and constantly evaluate themselves in relation to these ideals and then project them outward, proclaiming their intentions, values, programs, and missions.
But since one can only have good politics in comparison to someone else that lacks them, rigid radicalism tends towards constant comparison and measuring. Often the best way to avoid humiliation for lacking good politics is to find others lacking in militancy, radicalism, anti-oppression, or some other ideal. One’s politics can never quite match these perfectionist ideals, so one is subjected to constant shame and fear.” Smart, and echoed in this slightly more poppy companion piece called ‘How Contemporary Capitalism Drives Hysterical Wokeness’
- The Face Transplant: To be very clear - this is a National Geographic essay, with LOTS of accompanying photos, about face transplant surgery. It features multiple photographs of the face, and the head onto which it is being transplanted, before the procedure to unify the two has taken place. You will, if you click this link, see a photo of someone’s actual face that has been sliced off and is sitting, disembodied, on a metal table. THIS IS MENTAL. And, really, not for the squeamish. Still, I recommend you take a deep breath and take a look, it’s honestly remarkable and the skill and medical endeavour here on display is astonishing.
- Architecture Twitter and the Alt-Right: Or, “Literally Everything Now Is Part Of The Culture Wars And There’s Nothing We Can Do About It” - the New Statesman’s Amelia Tate takes a look at the strange case of very popular, ostensibly normie architecture-related Twitter accounts that, when one scratches the surface, appear to be peddling some not-so-subtle anti-Muslim messages through their posts. Whether or not you buy the thesis, there’s no denying that there’s almost nothing in the year of our lord 2k18 that hasn’t been politically weaponised - THANKS EVERYONE!
- Mel Magazine: Fascinating profile of Mel Magazine, whose articles I’ve featured here rather a lot over the past 6 months or so and who’s journalism I am increasingly enjoying. I had no idea whatsoever that it was in fact a fully-funded marketing vehicle for Dollar Shave Club - I mean, the fact that I had no idea suggests that perhaps it’s not doing the brand-building work that they probably hope it’s doing, but still. If you do contenty advermarketingpr stuff this is a really worthwhile read, although it will make you imagine, wistfully, a world in which all your clients aren’t such unimaginative, skinflint cnuts (hang on, I obviously don’t mean MY clients) (ha! Like they let me talk to clients, EVER!).
- How Insta Stories Has Changed Us: On the performative nature of the Story as a format, and how more than almost any other social media format it has induced us (well, you - I don’t do this stuff) to see all our activity through the prism of how it might subsequently be relayed in a snackable, skippable video; the line about the dead-eyed ‘CRAZINESS’ of the Saturday night out honestly sounded so bleak it made me glad that I am now the sort of old man who spends weekend evenings making fiendishly complicated stews.
- The New Power Dynamics of White People: Another essay about the Sarah Jeong row, but honestly worth reading despite your potential feelings of overkill on the whole topic. This does a decent job of presenting a balanced argument, which is to say that it obviously calls out the right’s co-opting of outrage equivalence as a campaigning tool whilst not quite giving the flippancy of lefty online rhetoric quite the easy pass it’s received in some quarters. A couple of lines in here could have done with a heavier editors’ hand (I know, I know, hypocrisy is UGLY), but overall this is a Good Take.
- A Day in the Library: A brilliant piece of journalism in which Patrick Freyne of the Irish Times spends a day in Dublin Central library, talking to the other visitors, sharing the stories of why they are there and the role the library plays in their lives. Beautifully-written, small-scale human stories - there have been times in my life when I have been poor and unemployed and libraries have been places where I have honestly spent tens of hours a week, and this reminded me of what wonderful spaces they are. There’s probably a campaign to save a library near you happening RIGHT NOW, so why not help it out?
- Algorithmic Selection is Killing Music: Which statement sort of sounds nonsensical because really, Spotify knows what we like and provides us with fresh new compilations every week! We are discovering new tunes and artists every week! Except it’s directed not organic, and because of business the pool from which this selection is picked is finite, and actually we’re potentially moving towards a more homogenised mainstream than ever before, musically-speaking. That, at least, is the thesis put forward in this essay - to quote, “there’s going to be a new generation of 30-somethings who really fcukin love drake and very little else, despite the fact that they could be listening to anything else imaginable. And the reason for this is so that literally four record labels can continue to make obscene amounts of money for just existing.” Bit miserable, really.
- What It’s Like To Be 90something: My grandmother turned 99 this week - BUON COMPLEANNO, NONNA (she doesn’t read this, unsurprisingly, but it’s nice to be nice) - and as a result this piece made me rather more emotional than it might ordinarily have done; it’s a lovely portrait of what people in their late-stage lives think and feel, and made me feel slightly less like it would be a dreadful thing surviving into my 10th decade (ha! The cirrhosis will TOTALLY get me in my mid-50s, who am I kidding?).
- Penn Jillette in Conversation: The loquacious one from Penn & Teller talks about...well, everything really, it’s an honestly fascinating read as he takes a discursive meander around topics as diverse as kink, libertarianism, Trump, magic and a whole load of other stuff besides. A great read.
- My Year Without A Nose: Having mentioned Mel magazine up there, here’s a piece from it which neatly illustrates the quality of content they’re bringing of late. This is a piece by Steve Bean Levy, about how he used to have a nose but now, as a result of cancer, he no longer does. This is brilliantly written, funny, gross and you really do have to read to the end.
- The Nuclear Fail: One of those occasional profiles of a historical figure which you read and think “Wow, you...you had a life, didn’t you?”. The remarkable existence of Leo Szilard, emigre physicist who was part of the team responsible for the atomic bomb and who latterly attempted to prevent the development of the weapon and who wrote a series of hallucinatory sci-fi novels featuring talking dolphins (no really) which acted as an allegorical retelling of all his academic anti-war writings. Honestly incredible, this is part funny and part tragic - also this contains one of the best stories of a long-running professional grudge I’ve read in an age.
- Only Miffy Can Save Us Now: Thanks to Simon Willison for bringing this to my attention - it’s the VERY LONG (this is part one of three, the others are linked at the bottom) story of how a replica of Holland got built as a theme park in Japan (no, really); “Sprawling as it does over 152 hectares (375 acres) of Omura Bay shoreline in the western Nagasaki Prefecture city of Sasebo, the park is more than three times the size of Tokyo Disneyland and still bigger than Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea combined, awing the resident-visitor of these cramped lands with its sheer scale. Add in the 250 holiday homes in the 50-hectare Wassenaar zone, named after a chic suburb of The Hague, and the entire development is roughly the size of the Principality of Monaco.” This really is crazy.
- Cognitive Biases: an excellent explanatory guide to cognitive biases, what they are, which ones you are likely to have, and how you can attempt to de-programme yourself of them. If you’re anything like me this will make you feel very, very stupid indeed by the time you’ve finished reading it.
- Convenience Store Woman: Wonderfully-written, this is an extract from the 2016 Japanese novel of the same name which has recently been translated into English; the narrator is an unusual woman who has never managed to fit into Japanese society and who seems to only find solace in the regimented, structured environment of the convenience store in which she has worked since she was 18. Small and poignant and brittle, I very much want to read the whole novel.
- Boy: Finally in the longreads this week, a piece about what it’s like when your brother is bad. Glorious, haunting, slightly sinister writing this, by the pseudonymous Jay Mays.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
- First up, let’s kick off with the slightly bloody video for the new Jack White track. Excellent filmmaking, this - the song’s called ‘Corporation’:
6) Last up this week, you have almost certainly seen this and if not, well, where have you been? This is Doja Cat with the oddly hypnotic and not entirely terrible ‘Moo’. ENJOY HAVE FUN HAVE LOVELY WEEKENDS AND PLEASE ALL TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER UNTIL I’M NEXT AROUND, I DO WORRY ABOUT YOU BUT ULTIMATELY I DO HAVE FAITH THAT YOU WILL PROBABLY BE OK OVERALL AND THAT IN TIME YOU’LL PROBABLY EVEN BE HAPPY SO, YOU KNOW, CHIN UP AND KEEP ON GOING AND I WILL SEE YOU SOON I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU BYE I LOVE YOU:
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