40 minutes reading time (7901 words)

Web Curios 18/01/19

Web Curios 18/01/19

You want a summary of the past week? Here you go. Listen, IT'S ALL TRUE. 

 Yes, whatever the opposite of perpetual motion is we in the UK seem to have invented and perfected it. What's going to happen next week? What? Nothing meaningful, but an awful lot of pointless hot air and rhetoric? Nah, thanks mate, I'm alright actually. 

Thank God, then, for the neverending torrent of content that the web provides - hold your breath as I raise you by the ankle and dunk you bodily into this murky, digital Styx, imbuing you forever with the power of webspaff like some sort of Poundland Achilles of modernity. WATCH OUT FOR YOUR HEELS! This, as ever, is Web Curios!

Optimized edoardo ramon

By Edoardo Ramon



  • FB Allows Live VR Streaming: Do you know anyone with a VR headset? An actual person, I mean, not one of us? No, of course you don’t, and nor does anyone else. Still, in the unlikely event that you or one of your friends is one of the seven people who’s actually bought the kit, you’ll now be able to stream whatever underwhelming VR experience you’re having straight to your Facebook feed, for the enjoyment of all your normie friends! I have spent a good minute or so trying to think of an application for this and I am coming up with nothing, but if anyone has any ideas I am ALL EARS.  
  • You Can Now Schedule Insta Videos: Well, you can if you’re using an approved third party Insta management tool, like Buffer or Hootsuite. If those words mean nothing to you, please, spare yourself the pain and skip straight to the next section and forget you ever read this.
  • Twitter Set To Launch Marginally-Improved Analytics: This is what I’m reduced to writing up, FFS. This is a ‘coming soon’ announcement - basically Twitter will, at some point in the future, start giving users better data on post engagement and the like (although detail on exactly how this is likely to manifest is...patchy at best - as per usual with this stuff, I am slightly in awe at how TechCrunch have managed to spin this into 500 words of deathly prose), as well as creating an ‘events dashboard’ where users will be able to see major events happening that day, or in the future, and see Tweets and additional information about said events in one place through the app; part of the platform’s continuing mission to make itself the default “What’s going on?” app worldwide. “The thinking behind the events dashboard will allow the publishers to figure out — in advance — how they want to participate in that conversation on Twitter — either in terms of the content they publish, or (more hopefully, perhaps) through advertising and promoting content.” Good, eh?
  • YouTube Now Lets Users Swipe Through Videos: There is nothing interesting about this ‘news’ at all, but it is a nice example of the ridiculously hypocritical nature of all these companies. Do you remember that time way back in 2018 when all the platforms started adding in features designed, at least ostensibly, to address their inherently addictive nature and to help users track how much time they were spending on pointless digital timesinks? How does that square, do you think, with the development of a feature designed solely to make it easier for users to skip mindlessly through an infinite number of videos? It doesn’t, does it? Anyone would think that these companies don’t care about us at all!
  • YouTube Updates Rules On ‘Dangerous Challenges and Pranks’: ‘Pranks that can cause or have caused deaths have no place on YouTube’. GOOD TO KNOW! Obviously this is directed at idiot YouTubers rather than you, you loyal brand custodians, but it’s worth knowing just in case you fancy attempting to create some sort of VIRAL YOUTUBE CHALLENGE SENSATION as part of your next marketing campaign - be VERY CAREFUL not to make it fatal.
  • Unproductive Social Year: I do LOVE a pointless agency site, and this is very much a pointless agency site. Grand Bain is a French ‘Creative Design Studio’ based in Paris - this is their showcase site for all the work they did last year, presented month-by-month. It’s very slick and shiny, though simultaneously a touch on the incomprehensible side - I have many favourite bits, including the fact that they seemingly went on holiday for the entirety of February and choose to illustrate this with a bunch of photographs of practically-naked Instagram exhibitionists. The very BEST thing, though, is their actual ‘official’ website which you can find here. Click on it, take a look - what do you notice? That’s right! NO CONTACT INFORMATION. Such a bold, powerful move that I think I might start advising all clients to follow suit - in fact, all websites I consult on from hereon in will be hyperminimalist white-on-white, because form must NEVER be subservient to function!
  • Skittles: The Musical: Are YOU a frustrated artist, only working in advermarketingpr because the cruel vicissitudes of fate denied you the chance to pursue your real vocation? Do you feel you have SO MUCH MORE TO CREATE than pointless ads for biscuits, or campaigns to flog more sugarwater? OF COURSE YOU DO! All of us advermarketingprdrones like to think that we’re better than this and that we could do proper creativity given half the chance - in the case of the team doing Skittles, though, they’ve backed themselves fully by deciding to put on an actual musical, about, er, Skittles, instead of buying a Superbowl ad this year. Proceeds will be donated to an anti-AIDS charity, which is A Good Thing, and one would imagine that they will turn it into EXCITING ONLINE CONTENT in some way. But, well, this just sort of smacks of massive agency hubris, doesn’t it?
  • Microsoft By The Numbers: Noe hugely exciting, fine, but a decent example of a shiny ‘LOOK AT OUR CORPORATE STORY’ website - this presents a whole bunch of statistics and information about Microsoft’s business, delivered through simple, chunky design; as a way of potentially presenting a corporate report, say, this is rather nice.
  • Pinterests Trends for 2019: By way of contrast to the p1ss-poor effort from Snap last week, Pinterest’s trend predictions for the year are really rather good - 100 things that the platform predicts we’re going to see more of, based on search data from the site. So expect to see ‘godparent proposals’ as the latest performative wankery clogging up your socials, and dig out the corduroy from your wardrobe as that’s what you’ll be sporting as the 2019 rolls by. Just accept it, THE DATA HAS SPOKEN.
  • The Imperica Predictions Bucket: Lovely Editor Paul (to give him his full, official title) has once again gone through a whole bunch of 2019 predictions documents to see what the common themes are. Apparently EVERYONE thinks that personal data is going to be a big thing this year - can you believe that people get paid for this?  


By Joka



  • Google’s Game Of The Year: Three weeks into 2019, and already I’m looking back at last year with the sort of wistful nostalgia normally reserved for treasured childhood memories. Come back, with your deepfakes and bum implants and Fyre Festival! If you, too, are scared and unnerved by all the ceaseless, unending novelty of 2019, why not wallow in the comforting funk of the past, courtesy of Google’s Game of the Year, which asks you a bunch of questions about the past 12 months based on Google search trends. What did people search for more, or less, in 2018 than in years past? This is totally pointless, obviously, but it’s sort-of fun.
  • Ambrosia: Reasons why 2018 was better than 2019, part x of a series of y - last year, I didn’t know that Ambrosia was a thing. Reader, take a moment to imagine what you might dream up were someone to challenge you to invent a service or product which best encapsulated the dreadful inequalities and perverse power dynamics that maintain here at the pointy end of late-stage capitalism. Done that? Good, now click the link and discover that even your imagination probably couldn’t match up to the creepy, wrong oddness of Ambrosia, a service which - and please, take a moment to savour the horror of this - is offering rich people the opportunity to inject themselves with the blood of the under-30s for $8,000 a litre. That’s right! The ACTUAL BLOOD (well, fine, plasma, but still) of a young person, transfused into you for a few paltry grand so that you can NEVER DIE. Obviously the ‘science’ behind this is iffy at best - this is the very definition of fools being parted from their money - but the whole concept is so cripplingly, staggeringly awful. You know who else liked messing with the blood of young people? The charming Countess Bathory. Is that really whose memory you want to be channelling, rich people? Oh, by the way, if anyone from the creamy Devonian dessert business of the same name is reading this, PLEASE can you make a comic riff on this offering people the opportunity to replace their blood with rice pudding? Weirdly, the Ambrosia website is a lot less sinister if you imagine all the copy being spoken aloud in a West Country accent.
  • The Best Subreddits: A EXCELLENT and very useful (if by ‘useful’ you mean ‘procrastination facilitating’) Reddit thread in which a bunch of the site’s admins share their favourite subReddits. There are a HUGE number listed here, many of which I’d never heard of before, and (whilst I’ve not clicked on all of them) as far as I can tell they’re all SFW, meaning you can basically spend the rest of your afternoon clicking happily through a random and varied selection of webspaff on topics as diverse as Black Labradors, satisfying lathework and reflective cake decoration. My personal favourites are all the ones that used to be devoted to bongo but have now been repurposed to feature wholesome cat content, but you will doubtless find your own.
  • The Year in Band Names 2018: Once again, the AV Club pulls together its list of the best band names it came across in the course of 2018, and once again there are some truly titanic efforts. Special mentions to Nelson Bandela, Adolf Shitter (it’s not big, it’s not clever, but it is quite funny) and Cave Bastard, but I think my personal favourite is probably Fcuk Face Ricky and the Motherfcuking Cnutpounders for their fairly clear decision to eschew commercial success in favour of maintaining their artistic integrity. Well done Ricky! Never sell out!
  • There Is A Bot For That: A bot database. But, er, a good one! This effectively functions as a search engine for bots across platforms - it covers FB, Telegram, Twitter, Slack and a few other platforms, and whilst the search function is a bit iffy it’s a useful way of seeing what others have built around a particular theme. Are we going to attempt to make bots a thing again in 2019, now we’ve all accepted that this still isn’t the year of VR? No? Oh well.
  • Security Checklist: Per the Predictions Bucket up there, issues around personal data and security are going to continue to be BIG this year. Given that, this is possibly a useful website to take a look at and maybe share with people - it’s a list of things that one can do to ensure one’s online security, such as installing a password manager, or using a VPN, with links to helpful services and free products and explanations of what all the terms mean and why they are important. It’s the sort of thing you could usefully send to relatives who maybe aren’t quite as good at this stuff as you are, basically, though be aware that there’s an outside chance that it will freak them out to the point that they just unplug the internet forever and go full luddite (which, look on the bright side, will probably stem the tide of appalling, unfunny memes they send you on Whatsapp).
  • Project Alias: Did you get an Amazon Echo thingy for Christmas? Are you now one of the millions of homes worldwide being surveilled by MechaBezos and his evil empire? Do you, well, rather wish you weren’t? You’ll like Project Alias, in that case, an art project by Bjørn Karmann which offers you the instructions to make your very own home assistant blocking device. Effectively Project Alias is a small box that sits atop your Alexa or Google Home device and confuses it with white noise to ensure that it can only pick up audio inputs at the point you tell it to and not before. “Alias acts as a middle-man device that is designed to appropriate any voice activated device. Equipped with speakers and a microphone, Alias is able to communicate and manipulate the home assistant when placed on top of it. The speakers of Alias are used to interrupt the assistance with a constant low noise/sound that feeds directly into the microphone of the assistant. First when Alias recognises the user created wake-word, it stops the noise and quietly activates the assistant with a sound recording of the original wake-word. From here the assistant operates normally”. One the one hand, it’s a very good idea; on the other, it really oughtn’t need to exist. STOP LISTENING TO ME, JEFF! STOP IT!
  • Infinite Frustration: Modernity, in a Twitter account. You will feel very, very seen by this feed.
  • The Startup Playbook: If I’m perfectly honest with myself, I don’t imagine for a second that any entrepreneurs read this - they’re all too busy GRINDING and HUSTLING and LIVING THE STARTUP LIFE and drinking coffee and working out exactly how much of their souls they’re willing to sell to the VC to waste time on webspaff. Still, should you be contemplating the personal pivot from ‘webmong’ to ‘startup businessmong’, you might find this a useful resource; it’s compiled by Sam Altman of Y Combinator, and is a starting guide for entrepreneurs and founders to some of the things that they might want to consider, particularly from the point of view of securing investment. Should you take inspiration from this and end up starting a business which ends up floating for a billion then, well, please remember where you found the link, eh?
  • An Amazing SmartMirror: I was slightly disappointed by the cavalcade of pointless tech emerging from CES this year - aside from the neon smart toilet, there was a general absence of truly preposterous stuff, and I didn’t see anyone attempting to persuade the public that their fridge really needs an internet connection. This is by far and away the most impressive thing I saw online over the course of the show - a smart mirror set up to allow the user to experiment with different hair colours on the fly. Obviously it’s a very specific single use case, but the tech is VERY slick - the first transition made me do an actual, proper little gasp, and the whole effect is very much Hollywood SFX-level. If you’re a younger person than me and your entire cultural frame of reference is Harry fcuking Potter, this may remind you slightly of something from the series.

 jesse mokrin

By Jesse Mockrin


  • Inspirat.io: Have we reached peak newsletter? It does rather feel like it (and not just to you reading this crapzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) - I subscribe to about 40 of the damn things (you honestly have NO IDEA of the amount of stuff I consume, honestly - I know it doesn’t feel like there’s any selection process applied at all to the stuff in here, but, really, you should see the stuff I leave out) and it seems like there are a dozen new ones being announced every week and, look, can someone just do a newsletter of newsletters and save me the time, please? Anyway, Inspirat.io is another app which does the whole ‘create a separate inbox for your newsletter intake so that you can free up your main email and stop being guilted out when you see all those unread editions of Web Curios’ thing; you might find it useful (thanks to whoever it was who pointed this out to me earlier this week - I have unaccountably totally forgotten who it was but, well, know that I love you immoderately).
  • Design Camera: Are you a graphic designer? Do you often have to create mocked-up images and videos of websites or apps seen on phones? Are you BORED STIFF of doing that? Would you like some software that makes it really easy to create a 3d model of a phone that you can manipulate and export as images or video and integrate into a website or keynote or whatever? No? You fcuking ingrates.
  • World’s Writing Systems: This is honestly fascinating. “This web site presents one glyph for each of the world’s writing systems. It is the first step of the Missing Scripts Project, a long-term initiative that aims to identify writing systems which are not yet encoded in the Unicode standard. As of today, there are still 146 scripts not yet encoded in Unicode.” If you’ve ever wanted to obscure the written form of some pretty obscure languages then MY WORD are you going to enjoy this - my personal favourite’s probably proto-Elamite (the hipster’s choice) but pick your own! Oh, and you can even buy a poster of all the languages if you’re a proper enthusiast.
  • Mirrors for Sale: Come for the mirrors, stay for all the people who seemingly don’t know how reflections work.
  • A Collection of Tights: One of those webthings which really does throw up more questions than answers. Do you have £30k burning a hole in your pocket? Do you have an obsession with hosiery? Do you have space to store an entire shipping container of assorted tights, stockings and suspenders? Well aren’t you in luck? This is a truly bizarre eBay listing - “Everything is either a small or medium. Collected over 15 years from various sources”. WHY THOUGH?! WHAT SOURCES?!  “What isn't clear from the photo is how many there are here. This is a 50sqft container and they take up most of the space in there. The pile is almost 6 feet tall. The photo doesn't do it justice - the collection has to be seen to be believed.” I quite want to see AND believe. Can we organise a trip to Salford to see the tights? I want to see the tights. But, and I mean this with no malice, I probably don’t want to meet the seller.
  • Heads of Psychopaths: Sebastian Onufszak is a German designer and illustrator - he’s created a series of film posters for movies featuring psychopaths (Taxi Driver, Eraserhead, etc) with a particular, unsettling and rather effective collage/head-type aesthetic. These are gorgeously sinister, and I would rather like one as a print.
  • The Diss List: Thanks to Dan for the tip - this websites collects BEEFS and keeps a running vote open about who’s winning. Special props to XXXTentacion, who despite being dead appears to still be in running beefs with half a dozen different people, which is some strong dedication to the thug life.
  • Play.ht: We’re all so busy, aren’t we, and so short of time, and there’s so much to know and digest and learn. One solution is to just accept that you’re pretty much guaranteed to just exist in a state of perennial perplexed confusion for the rest of your days and so you may as well just accept it and retreat into a world of videogames and reality TV; the other might be to OPTIMISE YOUR TIME by using something like Play, which is another text-to-speech app which will take whatever articles you feed it and convert them to audio files which you can then listen to through the app. As is now essential, you can listen back to the pieces at 2x or 3x speed, meaning you can cram War and Peace-length content into your lunchbreak. Whether or not you’ll understand, learn or remember anything this way is moot - YOU ARE CONSUMING INFORMATION AND THAT’S WHAT COUNTS.
  • Papier: A note-taking app as a Chrome extension - open a new tab and you can take notes right in the browser, which will be saved and persistent across browsing sessions. Which, obviously, you can just do with an open Gdoc, but if you’re some sort of Google refusenik PERVERT then you might find it useful.
  • Square Off: This is quite amazing, but I almost didn’t feature it due to being made unconscionably furious by the site’s tagline: “It’s Alive. Literally!” NO NO NO FFS THAT ITS LITERALLY WHAT IT IS NOT - THIS IS NOT ALIVE. IT IS A CHESS SET. Still, it’s a very remarkable chess set, with a proper wooden board and carved pieces and a 20-level opponent for solo play, and FCUKING MAGNETS in it which makes the pieces move on their own (seriously, this is basically magic as far as I’m concerned), and you can play with an actual other person through a variety of popular chess apps and, basically, if you know someone who’s an enthusiast this is potentially the best present you will ever get them.
  • Industry Secrets: This is a GREAT Twitter thread, compiling all the industry secrets that @girlziplocked received when she asked people to DM her ‘things that you know of in your line of work that the general public would be scandalised by’. Who do you think the Guardian columnists who don’t get anywhere near as much traffic as you’d expect are? Who’s that MENDACIOUS LIAR suggesting that all the metrics in advertising are made up? Alternately scary, depressing and very funny, there are revelations in here that will shock you to your very core. WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE DOMINO’S PIZZA TRACKER IS A LIE?!
  • Bad Movies: This is an OLD website, and all the better for it - a wonderful repository of writing about genuinely bad cinema, featuring reviews of literally hundreds of appalling trash cinema. If you can click on this and not find at least half a dozen films you HAVE to watch then, well, I’m not sure I like you; can someone please help me track down a copy of ‘Count Chockula’ (a vampire who hates blood but loves chocolate), please? Have any of you seen ‘Please Don’t Eat My Mother’? I reckon at least half of these will be on YouTube somewhere, should you want an idea of what to do with the rest of your afternoon.
  • Cooking By Ear: This is a genuinely excellent idea and one I’m sort of annoyed I didn’t think of; Cooking By Ear is a cook-as-you listen podcast, in which the host and a guest chef presenter talk you through the preparation of a dish, in realtime - the idea being that you can listen to prep instructions and general cheffy chat while you prep your dinner. For the right brand this is SUCH an easily stealable concept, so, er, get stealing - this is crying out for a version that doesn’t use the infuriating and STUPID (yes, STUPID, I’m standing by this) ‘cups’ measurement system which America persists with in perverse and pigheaded fashion.
  • Gofukuyasan: This site is, selfishly, all in Japanese, but use Google’s ‘translate’ feature and then dive blissfully into the world of Japanese fabric - this shop sells kimonos and other Japanese textile products with over 4,000 different designs. You want a kimono featuring cats who all look a bit like your SPECIAL LITTLE GUY (o hai Leboswki!)? No problem! You want one featuring a variety of, er, vaguely anthropomorphised Samurai fruitbats? I mean, why not? Honestly, were it not for the fact that I would look unpleasantly like a very, very seedy skaghead in a kimono I would buy the fcuk out of some of these things.
  • A Collection of Truly Awful B-Movies: Full versions of some genuinely appalling ‘classics’ of mid-20thC cinema here, from the fabulously-named Hyperspace Gremloids (seriously, HOW have we never heard of this before?) to the lost Harvey Keitel ‘masterpiece’ ‘Star Knight’. Wobbly scenery, rubbery monsters, and scenery-chewing performances abound - go on, head to a meeting room with a pot of coffee and some biscuits and pretend you’ve got a pitch rehearsal on or something, I won’t tell.
  • Whores of Yore: Genuinely amazed that I’ve not featured this before, but anyway. Whores of Yore “aims to give voice to the voiceless, to start a much-needed conversation on the history of sexuality, the plight of modern sex workers, and, ultimately, to extract the prudish stick from the arse of society. The archive provides a platform for academics, activists, sex workers, and archivists to share their experience, research and stories around sexuality and sex work. The purpose of this archive is not to create a goldfish bowl for others to stare into, but to provide a platform and invite academics, activists, sex workers, and archivists to share their experience, research and stories around sexuality and sex work. The history of sexuality will be placed side by side with sexuality today in the hope we can join up some of those conversations.” Hugely interesting on the history of sex work, with a wonderful archive of vintage erotica to boot -SFW in the main, though probably avoid the pinup galleries unless you want to have a full and frank conversation with the nice people in HR.
  • Teletext Babez: A collection of pages from German and Dutch Teletext, advertising sex lines, strip clubs and the like, complete with BEAUTIFUL blocky 8-bit representations of STUNNAHS and HUNKS - weirdly, it seems like the clone/leather daddy look works far better in Teletext than your standard Page3-type pinup. Technically sort-of NSFW, but, really, the idea that anyone could become in any way titillated by the imagery on this page is sort of ridiculous to me (though if any of you should feel a sudden tumescence on perusing the garish pixelflesh then, well, know that I don’t judge you).
  • Asciipr0n: In a similar vein, this is a whole website devoted to bongo rendered in ASCII. On the one hand, yes, much of this is technically pr0nography. On the other hand, well, look at the standard (I promise you, this one is ENTIRELY SFW). I know that it’s not right or nice or kind to look at this sort of thing and make assessments about the people who make it but, really, WHO is dedicating themselves to making smut out of keyboard characters? How does one discover that this is one’s particular kink?
  • Handulum: This is simple, addictive and INFURIATING - Handulum’s a little game on Newgrounds in which you have to get a ball from one end of the map to the other, by swinging. If you can get beyond level 7 you have my admiration and respect (and, I guarantee, you will have wasted a good hour of your employer’s time).
  • Cleaning House: Finally this week, this is a tiny little short storygame about cleaning a house of a former inhabitant’s belongings. You have no context, you have no backstory, just the observations of you character as it moves around the environment, and it is BEAUTIFULLY done; I’m not ashamed to admit that this made me FEEL quite a lot, but in a quietly beautiful and sad way. I think this is a gorgeous piece of work, give it a quick go.

 janne yota

By Janna Yotte




  • Only one this week, weirdly, as about 99% of the insta stuff I came across was incredibly tedious travel influencer tat
  • If You High: Still, the sole Insta here is a good one this week - If You High is a feed sharing a variety of weird, cool, odd video clips, some of which you might have seen before but the majority of which are new to me. Big fan of the space shuttle bong here, fyi.



  • The Malign Incompetence of the British Ruling Class: Yes, I know, and I’m bored of it too. I know you’ve probably told yourself that you don’t need to read anything else about Br*x*t this week - and, really, you don’t; there’s NOTHING ELSE INTERESTING TO SAY - but make an exception for this NYT piece which is the best articulation of the general sense of angry bafflement that I like to think most people are experiencing right now, and makes a series of comparisons between the current situation and Britain’s disastrous exit from India which you may find pleasing - if anyone writes a better sentence about this whole sh1tshow than “an astounding spectacle of mendacious, intellectually limited hustlers” I’ll be impressed.
  • Traditional Masculinity Hurts: I don’t want to talk about the Gillette ad (other than to reiterate the point that it’s so HORRIBLY shiny and P&Gified that it’s hard to take it very seriously), but this piece in the Washington Post, about the idea of ‘traditional’ masculinity as a potentially damaging concept does rather get to the heart of a lot of the masculinist whinging about the brand’s pivot - as the author points out, “in a society in which gender roles have historically been rigid — and that rigidity has placed the lion’s share of power in the hands of one of the genders — it’s possible for the rulers to be harmed right along with the ruled. But that’s what bad systems do. They mess up everyone.” Worth sharing with anyone you know who’s been made irrationally annoyed by a multimillion dollar brand trying to sell more overpriced plastic razors.
  • The Public Media Stack: Very much one for those interested in publishing theory or FUTURE OF MEDIA stuff, this is a smart essay by Matt Locke looking at how one might go about building an ecosystem for public media projects, and what infrastructural layers and elements are necessary to create a sustainable public media ecosystem.
  • In The Shadow of the CMS: Another slightly techwonky publishing-type piece, this looks at the way in which CMSs impact published content, and how the consolidation of these systems actively affects the way in which the web is presented and structured and, to an extent, what it comprises. Works a bit as a companion piece to the above, touching as it does on the need for a more diverse and less monopolised infrastructure.
  • That Jack Dorsey Interview: This came out overnight and, well, WOW is it a zinger. It’s a truly remarkable interview, one which makes its subject look, simultaneously, stupid, blinkered, selfish, out of touch, myopic, ignorant, closed-minded, petty...There are a lot of great quotes in here (if by ‘great’ you mean ‘the sort of thing that you read through your fingers’), but my personal favourite comes in the opening paragraph: “A conversation with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey can be incredibly disorienting. Not because he’s particularly clever or thought-provoking, but because he sounds like he should be. He takes long pauses before he speaks. He furrows his brow, setting you up for a considered response from the man many have called a genius. The words themselves sound like they should probably mean something, too. Dorsey is just hard enough to follow that it’s easy to assume that any confusion is your own fault, and that if you just listen a little more or think a little harder, whatever he’s saying will finally start to make sense. Whether Dorsey does this all deliberately or not, the reason his impassioned defenses of Twitter sound like gibberish is because they are.” Is everyone running a tech business a total fcuking cnut? They are, aren’t they? Christ.
  • Amazon Stands for Nothing: From one colossally unappealing tech bro to another! This piece contrasts the prevailing Silicon Valley orthodoxy of companies with a MISSION or a VISION to IMPROVE THE WORLD (Facebook’s ‘better connected’, Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ and indexing all the world’s information, etc) with Amazon’s fairly simple “we just want to be in charge of every single sale that happens in the world, ever, and want to become violently, preposterously wealthy in the process’ worldview. The observation that Amazon’s end goal is in many respects to disappear is an interesting one - you can see it with Prime, AWS and various other elements of its service, that exist solely to remove friction from the customer experience; Amazon doesn’t so much exist as embody an idea of ease, and, as the article points out, “There’s no backlash if there’s nothing to really think about.”
  • Dropgang: On the rise of the dead drop in online marketplaces - that is, rather than getting your drugs mailed to you taped into a cassette box or something, it’s now more likely that you’ll be told to go and look under the third park bench on the left to find a package. This is fascinating - I had no idea that you could integrate beacon technology into this stuff for relatively little cost, but the ability to create fairly complex networks of drop points that can be activated and deactivated remotely depending on circumstances is really quite cool, and there is a LOT of stuff that you can learn from this for fun, non-nefarious activities, even if you’re not planning on setting up your own powderflogging business on Telegram.
  • A Strange Argument for the Commonplace: I’ve mentioned Peter Singer quite a lot in here, I think, and my weird obsession with the consequences of utilitarian theory (sorry about that) - this is a discussion of Tyler Cowen’s recent essay ‘Strange Attachments’, in which they argue for a form of utilitarianism unconstrained by temporal difference - that is, a system whereby one should act to achieve the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people, regardless of how far in the future those people may live, which by extension means we ought always prioritise the needs of future generations over our own as there will, as a matter of mathematical certainty, be more of them than us. Fascinating stuff and genuinely one of the more interesting expansions of Singer’s original premises I’ve read in years.
  • Ultimate Millennial Marketing: A new drink has been launched in the US. It’s called ‘Recess’ and its fizzy and nonalcoholic and has vague connotations of wellness, and its marketing is basically every single millennial touchpoint you’ve ever heard of, from the flavours to the colour of the can to the slight air of ironically-detached sincerity and mild anxiety inherent in the copy...You might want to bookmark this just to see how many of the tropes it covers off you see in other, parallel product launches over the remainder of 2019.
  • Pre-Raphaelites and the Wombat: I can honestly say that I had no idea whatsoever of the pre-Raphaelites obsession with the wombat. Did you? This is a GREAT article, full of wonderfully silly detail and presenting Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the rest as, well, really quite daft people. I would like to see more of this, please - historical greats recontextualised as kooky oddballs with obscure mammal fetishes. One does rather feel for the pet wombats, though.
  • A Flower For Your Thoughts: A brief history of floriography - that is, the practice of delivering coded messages in bunches of flowers as a means of secret communication. Such a wonderful concept, and it reminded me of this website which my friend Ed made back in the day and which offers you the opportunity to buy coded bouquets from selected florists. Send someone a coded message of hate TODAY!
  • The True Story of Brainstorm: Brainstorm was going to be a big film - starring Natalie Wood, Christopher Walken and others, it had big studio backing and big names and technical innovation, and all the signs suggested it was going to be a hit...until Wood went on a sailing weekend with her husband Robert Wagner and Walken towards the end of filming, and died. This is one of those crazy Hollywood stories that crop up every now and again and on which Walken has, unsurprisingly, remained tight-lipped - the article deals not only with the story of Woods’ death, but also with what happened to the film in its aftermath; this is a genuinely odd and slightly creepy tale.
  • The Nike Smart Shoe: So Nike have announced they’ve made a smart self-tightening trainer controlled by your phone - which, frankly, I’m not hugely interested in. This WIRED piece as part of the promotion is, however, an object lesson in how to do this sort of comms; you can see the thinking behind it all the way (or at least you can if you have the misfortune to do PR for a living at all), and the access they granted to talent shapes the piece perfectly. It’s basically a 3,000 word puff piece on the brilliance of Nike and its design team, which I imagine is exactly what the brand was going for - oh, and if you’re interested in magic, self-lacing trainers there’s a lot about those in there too.
  • Academic Freedom: A superb essay in the LRB by Sophie Smith, an Oxford Fellow at the same college as John Finnis, emeritus professor of law and legal philosophy. Finnis, you may be aware, has been the subject of a petition by students to remove him from his position as a result of his public-stated views on homosexuality which he considers immoral and ‘akin to bestiality’. Smith, who is herself gay, writes clearly and cogently about the arguments for allowing free expression, and quashes them equally cogently by the end: “Academic freedom is a principle worth defending, but it is foolish to ignore its costs, and who (disproportionately, quietly) bears them.”
  • How PUAs Morphed Into The Far Right: Finally, someone’s done an essay (well, a comic in this case) detailing the intellectual links between the PUA (pick up artist) movement and the Far Right. Loses points for not giving Neil Strauss the shoeing he deserves in terms of the normalisation of a lot of this stuff, but in general this is a strong explainer of how the ‘hey, we’re just trying to get laid!’ lads of the early-00s ended up swapping the fedoras for swastikas.
  • Instagram Husbands Are No Longer Ashamed: Aren’t they? Really? WHY NOT? The Insta husband is a long-standing trope, but this piece suggests that they are willing to BREAK OUT and CLAIM THEIR RIGHTFUL POSITION as, er…well actually it’s not really that clear, but there’s lots of talk about them being business partners rather than ‘just’ camerapeople, and about the importance for influencers to have a strong presence in their life to keep them GROUNDED and CENTRED and REAL and oh god a plague on all their houses. I mean, really “In September, Ramirez launched The Instagram Husband Podcast, which is focused on telling the stories of the men behind the camera and redefining what it means to be an Instagram husband. Despite the fact that more partners are taking on this role, Ramirez worried that no one was examining the people who play the more behind-the-scenes role in an influencer’s life.” OH GOD HEAVEN FORFEND THAT ANYONE NOT GIVE THE POOR MEN ENOUGH ATTENTION. Mate, NOONE CARES ABOUT YOU. GIVE IT UP.
  • When Cat Person Went Viral: I can’t believe it’s been a whole ye...actually, no, I can, Cat Person already feels like an age ago - can you imagine people having serious conversations about that now? No, it would be shouting and firebombs within 5 minutes. Anyway, its author Kristen Roupinian has her debut short story collection coming out soon, and so revisits her memories of her breakout moment in this New Yorker article. There are some interesting observations here on the odd nature of something so personal being so widely discussed, and the sense of ‘self splayed on the slab’ that this inevitably engenders, although I bridled slightly at this line: “Here’s the catch: when you read a story I’ve written, you’re not thinking about me—you’re thinking as me. I’ve wormed my way inside your head (hi!) and briefly taken over your mind.” Hubris, sweetheart, hubris - please don’t tell me how I am thinking when I read, and please don’t presume that your voice and vision are so unique and powerful that they can displace my pretty well-entrenched id.  
  • Caroline Calloway and the Influencer Workshop: The first, but certainly not the last, ‘influencers wow wtf’ story of the year - Caroline Calloway is an odd character, a bit Walter Mittyish by all accounts, having secured and then lost a book deal whilst at university based on her Insta feed and then pivoted into wellness bullsh1t as befits her ilk. This is the story of her attempting to flog ‘Influencer Workshops’ - on the one hand, this woman is obviously grifting really hard; on the other, if you’re stupid enough to believe that anyone who does this a) has a SPECIAL SECRET to their success that anyone can replicate; and b) if that SPECIAL SECRET exists they would share it with you, then, frankly, you deserve everything you get. As a coda to this piece, it turns out that as of yesterday the workshops are BACK ON, proving that you can’t keep a good scammer down.
  • What It’s Like To Be A Woman Online: Hopefully not all women get their identity stolen by a weirdo fantasist creep. This is a proper, jaw-dropping WTF-er of a tale, which thankfully has a happy ending - read and be amazed.
  • How Your Extended Family Will React When You Explain Your Job To Them: McSweeney’s, painfully on the nose as ever. I was at a funeral this week and gave up attempting to explain the precise definition of ‘nonspecific webmong’ to my confused relatives reasonably early on (unrelated, but I also realised that the main people have children must be so that they have something to talk to extended family about in situations such as these).
  • The Weight I Carry: This did the rounds last weekend, but if you’ve yet to read it then I recommend it unreservedly. The author, Tommy Tomlinson, weighed 460lbs in 2014; he has written a book documenting his efforts to save his life through weight loss, of which this is a chapter. It’s honest and painful about the practical realities of being a man of that size, and Tomlinson is sanguine about the cause of his condition, but at the same time I can’t help but be slightly angered by this section: “Losing weight is a fcuking rock fight. The enemies come from all sides: The deluge of marketing telling us to eat worse and eat more. The culture that has turned food into one of the last acceptable vices. Our families and friends, who want us to share in their pleasure. Our own body chemistry, dragging us back to the table out of fear that we’ll starve. On top of all that, some of us fight holes in our souls that a boxcar of donuts couldn’t fill.” Mate, I will take the final two explanations at face value, and consider economic factors too, but to attempt to pass responsibility for one’s diet onto the marketing machine feels like a bit of a stretch. Still, a very well-written piece.
  • Bees: The story of how the author turned to beekeeping in the wake of postpartum depression and divorce. Excellent - by turns emotional and practical, on apiaries and hives and heartbreak. I don’t normally say this about the subjects of these sorts of pieces - and I am not really in a position to take huge moral high ground on a lot of this sort of stuff, to be clear - but this woman’s ex sounds like a genuinely awful piece of work.
  • Fighting for your Father: A gorgeous piece of writing in which the author takes her dying father to a balloon festival for an outing. I’ve been thinking a lot about old age and death this week - it’s a cheery way to spend my time! - and this has nagged at me repeatedly; I think this is beautiful, and if you’re dealing with ageing relatives yourself then it may prove some small comfort.
  • Meet Doctor Rapp: Finally this week, the brilliant, happy, heartwarming tale of Dr Rapp, the man who had a stroke and realised that he could rhyme. From a career as a physician to hanging out with KRS-One, this is a BRILLIANT story; Dr Rapp died a few years ago, but the obvious warmth, affection and respect everyone in this piece still feels for him is palpable. You will, I promise, not read a nicer story all week.

 zach oldenkamp

By Zack Oldenkamp


  1. First up, a short pixelart scifi animation called ‘A Theory of Flight’ - part of a wider series of scifi shorts commissioned by The Verge, which you can see the rest of here:


2) Next, enjoy Laibach doing John Cage’s “4’33” - because, well, WHY NOT?


3) This is called ‘Feet’, and it’s the new one from the fabulously scuzzy Fat White Family, The video here is ACE:


4) Strand of Oak is a genuinely appalling name for a band, but this is a very lovely song indeed and it almost compensates:






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