HERE I AM HELLO! I was meant to be in Venice this weekend, but due to Circumstances Beyond My Control I am in fact NOT in Venice! I am in my kitchen! Radio4 is on! I have been typing for approximately 6 straight hours and my fingers hurt! I should be heading towards art and culture but instead here I am in my pants, spaffing out what I would conservatively estimate to be around 8,000 words about 'things what I saw on the web this week'! GREAT!
You will note, dear readers, that I am not at all annoyed about the cancellation of my trip. That lack of annoyance will doubtless shine through in the measured equanimity of my prose this week - or perhaps I'm just mollified by the prospect of maybe finally doing a Brexit up ourselves (although if any readers would like to enter into a small wager as to the likelihood of this deal getting parliamentary approval then, well, I am ALL EARS. Wagers to be of the hideously and humiliatingly biological variety, for preference).
Regardless, it's late, I have written too much and I am DONE. Watch as I fling this poorly-cobbled-together bundle of words and links casually to one side and stroll on into my future; fall onto my leavings like the information-starved foundlings I know you all deep in your hearts to be (ha! information starved! in 2019! chance would be a fine fcuking thing, eh?); read my words, click other people's links and generally let Web Curios ease you into the weekend the in the same gentle way that a trepanning spike 'eases' its way into your skull.
I, as ever, am Matt, this, as ever, is Web Curios, and one way or another this will all be over soon enough.
By Polly Penrose
LET’S KICK OFF WITH THIS ABSOLUTELY BANGING SPOTIFY PLAYLIST BY JOE MUGGS WHICH IS BASICALLY THE UR-GUIDE TO UK DANCE MUSIC!
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS THAT IF FACEBOOK REALLY WANTS TO TRY AND HUMANISE ZUCKERBERG THEY OUGHT TO DO A BETTER JOB OF WRITING HEADLINES FOR THEIR OWN RELEASES WHICH SOUND LESS LIKE THEY ARE SPOKEN BY A POORLY-CODED ATTEMPT TO PASS THE TURING TEST:
- Mark Zuckerberg Stands For Voice!: No, really, that’s actually the headline - “Mark: He Stands For Voice!”. Good to know that one of the most powerful-yet-famously-inscrutable people on the planet has finally put a line in the sand and told us what they really care about - it’s VOICE! The amorphous concept of vocalisation! It’s what motivates him to get up in the morning! This link is actually to the text of Zuckerberg’s speech yesterday all about his (and by extension Facebook’s) ideas on free speech and free expression (he’s a fan!), and what he thinks of China (not so much of a fan, despite having commercial ties with Chinese businesses which earn Facebook hundreds of millions each year!) and TikTok (it’s not a platform for free expression like Facebook, which is bad! Racist boomer groups = good, memetic dance crazes = bad!). Basically we all just need to stick together, get through this, and keep on using Facebook as it’s probably the best means we have of healing the fundamental divisions which threaten to split our society asunder like an overripe melon. Got that? Great!
- Twitter Clarifies Content Exceptions: The past few weeks’ furore over Facebook’s refusal to block factually incorrect political advertising has led to other platforms seeking to clarify their somewhat-murky policies as to what you can and can’t get away with posting; this week, Twitter has published this reasonably-clear guide to how its ‘public interest’ exception functions - that is, the criteria by which it assesses whether content which would ordinarily be removed from the platform stays up when it’s posted by a public figure. This is actually all reasonably sensible, but there’s a wonderful kicker at the bottom. The types of content that they will never apply the public interest exception to? That featuring “child sexual exploitation, non-consensual nudity, and violent sexual assault”...oh, and anything featuring a copyright claim. Good to know that a President or Prime Minister can literally lie about whatever they like, but heaven forfend they post an uncleared clip of the Champions League.
- Instagram Offers Users Better Data Controls: It’s one of those weeks in which none of the s*c**l m*d** news is actually particularly relevant or useful to brands; what I ought to do at times like this is just keep this section brutally short and get on with the bits I actually enjoy writing, but instead I always get a misplaced sense that if I do that I’m not quite giving yout the full Web Curios experience (yes, you’re having an ‘experience’ - did you not realise? This is all laid out in the Web Curios ‘Mission & Values’ document which I must publish one day) and as such end up padding these entries out with exactly the sort of rambling inconsequentialisms that you’re reading right now. Anyway, this is a very long-winded way of telling you that Insta “is now adding a new feature that allows individuals to “manage all of the third-party services they connect to their Instagram account””. Worth going through your settings and checking exactly who you’re sharing your posting history with, should you still be interested in such outmoded concepts as ‘digital privacy’.
- LinkedIn Events Is Here!: I know! I’m excited too! One of the newsletters I read (sorry, I forget which; I’m upto what feels like about 10 a day at the moment and I confess that it feels like I might be a bit full) described LinkedIn as being ‘Facebook in slow-motion’, which I rather liked; this feature addition rather bears that out, with LinkedIn introducing the ability for users to create Events on the platform, just like you’ve been able to do on Facebook for a decade or so. It’s all pretty limited at present - you can’t promote events, the functionality doesn’t allow for integration with ticketing services or anything like that - but you’d expect over time that it’ll become more sophisticated. Still, if you’re the sort of person who unaccountably wishes to actually meet Oleg, this could well be the best thing you’ll see all week (it really oughtn’t be, though).
- Trump On Twitch: It does make quite a lot of sense for Trump to be on Twitch from a demographics point of view, but it’s also a sort-of perfectly 2019 move; the idea of ‘the most powerful man in the world’ (he’s not, obviously, but he thinks he is) taking to a platform on which blue-haired anime enthusiasts broadcast themselves playing digital card games in their pants to an adoring audience of hundreds-of-thousands of obsessed and addicted children (and yes, I also know this is a hugely-reductive description of Twitch, but still) is in and of itself basically a plotline from a videogame (SMASH!TV, sort-of). SO META! Oh, this isn’t really related but I don’t quite know where else it fits; Twitch’s account of its recent rebrand is a really nice, clear presentation of the thinking behind design and is worth a look if that’s your field / interest.
- The Giphy Arcade: This is potentially quite fun, and certainly a clever move from Giphy, which this week launched Giphy Arcade - a service where anyone can create their own customisable videogame from a series of templates, from Breakout clones to Flappy Bird ripoffs. You select the type of game you want to make, swap out the template sprites for your own choices from the vast Giphy archive, fcuk with the palette and the feel and the pace and a bunch of other variables, give it a name, and then bingo, play and share and LOL to your little heart’s content. Obviously there’s a brand play here - Wendy’s was one of the launch partners, and has created a bunch of small burger-themed games to give an idea of the sort of thing other brand’s could do were they so minded; the games that you make are all mobile-friendly and embeddable and, frankly, if you want to create some light-touch ludic digibollocks you could do worse than have a play around with this.
- LAST CHANCE FOR LAST QUESTION TICKETS: Well, not quite the last chance, but if you want to attend on 28 October and hear such luminaries as Martin Wiegel and Anjali Puri discussing whether marketing has lost its personality then CLICK HERE. NB - Imperica’s getting paid to promo this, which I feel honour-bound to disclose, though let me make clear that I am not personally making any money at all here and so this recommendation is as pure as the driven snow.
By Daniel Dichter
NEXT, WHY NOT TRY LISTENING TO THE VERY SPOOKY SOUNDTRACK TO THE SCANDI FILM ‘THE CIRCLE’ WHICH WAS WRITTEN BY NONE OTHER THAN BENNY FROM ABBA!
THE SECTION WHICH HONESTLY ISN'T AT ALL BITTER ABOUT NOT BEING IN VENICE RIGHT NOW, PT.1:
- The Earth Archive: There’s not a lot to see at this link - FFS MATT SELL THE LINKS, JESUS CHRIST THIS IS WHY NO FCUKER READS THIS BASTARD THING - but the idea behind it is wonderful. The Earth Archive is a project which wants, eventually, to create a 3d map of the entire Earth’s surface, laser-scanned using a technique called LiDAR - “LiDAR, Light Detection & Ranging, involves shooting a dense grid of infrared beams from an airplane towards the ground. It’s a high-resolution scan of the earth’s surface & everything on it. Not an actual image, but a dense three-dimensional cloud of points.” In my head, this means basically making a sort of Microsoft-Kinect-style representation of three-dimensional space - which (and this is where it gets scifi and interesting) would in theory give anyone and everyone a topographically-accurate digital twin of the planet’s surface to play around with. Which offers quite incredible opportunities for virtual exploration, virtual travel, games...who cares that the surface of the planet is a boiling mess of death and dust? LET’S PLAY VR SAND SURFING! This is a quite preposterously ambitious project, and given the fact that it doesn’t seem to be backed by any massive corporations and is currently seeking funding (and the website’s an off-the-shelf Squarespace job) I’m not particularly confident in it ever getting off the ground, but, well, just IMAGINE.
- Real Talk About Suicide: This is, I think, actually a year old; I believe it was made for National Suicide Prevention Day in 2018, but for whatever reason it only passed across my field of (internet) vision this week. This is an interactive film in which you’re presented with Jason, who’s struggling with suicidal thoughts; at various points in the narrative you’re offered dialogue options to try and help Jason and get him to seek help, with the site helpfully explaining to you why some options and techniques are more effective than others when dealing with the very depressed. This is really nicely made, the interactivity’s handled well and the performances in the video are better than they tend to be with stuff like this - it’s also quite a hard watch if you’ve any experience of this sort of thing, so caveat emptor and all that jazz.
- The Rotten Library: I occasionally get all misty-eyed about the halcyon days of the earlyish web on here, and one of the sites that gives me a proper hit of nostalgia is Rotten.com - now defunct, but in the 90s one of the urls that every teenage boy had committed to memory (it wasn’t hard to recall tbh) as a place to find weird and, in the main, incredibly gross stuff. Rotten was a weird collision of viscerally-unpleasant photos (often literally visceral), creepy miscellania, odd bongo and everything inbetween, and was generally the sort of place you’d send people who were first starting out on their tentative internet journey of discovery in the hope of scarring them forever. This is a mirror of the Rotten Library, a collection of articles written by...someone, about a very, very broad range of topics including, but not limited to, history, death, art, culture, George Washington’s testicles and optical illusions; the navigation’s horrible and the quality of the content is...variable, but it’s a window into a very different internet. Just FYI, from what I have seen at least, there doesn’t appear to be any horrible photography on the site, so you can browse without fear of suddenly happening upon a flayed human leg or something (probably).
- Give Your Face To A Robot: In fact, sell your face to a robot! How much do you think your likeness is worth? What amount of cash would you require to sign over yourt physical likeness to a corporation for them to use...well, potentially however they see fit? If the answer to that question is “why, Matt, the nice round sum of £100,000!” then this website could be exactly what you’ve been looking for. Without a doubt one of the dodgiest-sounding seemingly-real things I’ve seen in a while, I think that this is probably a bit of link-generation PR by Geomix, a data-driven manufacturing company, but I couldn’t be certain. Look, here’s the blurb: “A few weeks ago we were approached by a robotics company asking if we could help it with the finishing touches of a state-of-the-art humanoid robot it’s been working on. Details of the project are scarce due to a non-disclosure agreement we’ve signed with the designer and his investors, but this is what we do know. The company is searching for a ‘kind and friendly’ face to be the literal face of the robot once it goes into production. This will entail the selected person’s face being reproduced on potentially thousands of versions of the robots worldwide. Obviously, this is not our usual remit of request, which is why we’re making this public appeal to try and find the right person. The designer knows that this is a big deal, and has agreed a fee of £100,000 to license the rights to the right face.” SO MANY QUESTIONS! What are the terms of the license? If I win, am I still allowed to use my own face or do I have to use the 100k to fashion myself a new one? WHO IS THE MYSTERIOUS BUYER???? Nah, there is no way this is a real thing - still, worth keeping an eye on to see what the real story is - should any readers feel confident enough in their own physical beauty (and, er, confident in the benevolent intent of the project over all, which strikes me as far bigger reach) to apply, please do let me know how it all goes.
- Click-to-Pray: This did the rounds the other day after it was announced, with coverage driven by the fact this is seemingly fully-endorsed by the Holy See (it’s also available for sale on Amazon, suggesting the Vatican’s more keen on frictionless drop-shipping than it is on the upholding of global labour rights) - it’s the SMART ROSARY that all good Christians have been waiting for! It’s honestly impossible to make fun of this (and not just because I’m a good Catholic and couldn’t possibly mock something which has been endorsed by His Holiness Pope Francis) - it is already utterly beyond parody. CLICK-TO-PRAY FUNCTIONALITY (the parallels with the infamous Call Of Duty interactive funeral (“Press ‘F’ To Pay Your Respects”) are too delicious to ignore - IS GOD JUST PLAYING US LIKE THIS IS ALL SOME SORT OF DIVINE FPS???)! Rudimentary fitness tracking! A pedagogy of prayer delivered through audio classes to better connect with the divine! PEACE IN THE WORLD!!! (it really, honestly, genuinely has that at the bottom of the Page). Please, click through - regardless of your thoughts on Catholicism or Christianity or religion, this is so utterly ridiculous that you will not fail to be slightly cheered by it. The only thing that could make this better would be for me to start noticing an aggressive campaign of parallel social media advertising, a la Caspar Mattresses or those fcuking slippers, to start following me around - if the Vatican has embraced digital marketing then, well, EVERYTHING is up for grabs, kids.
- Microstudio: A free game development environment, currently in alpha, for all your simple game-creation needs, Sprites, maps, editors, all can be accessed within the site simply by creating a free account; it’s technical and requires you to have a vague idea of what you might be doing, but as a free, simple way of beginning to explore some of the concepts of rudimentary game design (and quite possibly more than rudimentary for some) it looks genuinely useful.
- Name The European Cities: There was a smol game in here a few weeks back in which you had to name as many US cities as possible; this is that, except with European cities, and again it ought to be really boring but instead you will find yourself compelled to add more and more and more cities to the map and you will start sweatily attempting to remember how to spell Vladivostock without checking, and at some point in the mid-afternoon you’ll get the other people on your pod involved and then that’s it, you’ll basically have become geography nerds. I’m just warning you - that’s EXACTLY what will happen.
- BBC BASIC Bot: For a certain vintage of nerd, this will be like a hug. The BBC BASIC Bot lives on Twitter and has one simple feature - Tweet @ it with some lines of BASIC (keeping within the single-tweet 280 character limit, obvs) and the bot will reply with what that code will do when it runs; so you can have it fill the screen with “HELLO MATT!” (10 PRINT “HELLO MATT!” / 20 GOTO 10 / RUN - nb if I have somehow contrived to fcuk even that very simple bit of coding up, please do not feel compelled to tell me) or love hearts or whatever you like. I am immoderately in love with this.
- A Thread of Female Protest Art from HK: Literally that - from the opening Tweet: “A Women’s Place is in The Resistance - a #HongKong protest art thread. While HK govt's depiction of women in the movt has reeked of misogyny - they can only be mothers, sluts or virgins - HK art shows a fuller spectrum of womanhood and what female righteous anger looks like.” There’s no way to say this without sounding quite spectacularly-shallow, but I find the aesthetic of the HK protests particularly fascinating; better cultural historians than me (that is, any actual cultural historians) would I am sure be able to tell me, but has anyone done an analysis of the visual semiotics of the HK movement? As an aside, as I type this it’s 831am and this is the first really pseudy thing I’ve written, which personally I am quite proud of - WELL DONE MATT.
- Sandspiel: A very soothing little falling sand webtoy - sand falls, you change the colour and volume and the like and sculptures will slowly form in the grains. Utterly pointless but very relaxing indeed.
- Spareplace: About 5 or 6 years ago I was very loosely involved with a startup called ‘Proffer’, which wanted to effectively become the last-minute app of choice for London, enabling anyone to see up-to-the-moment availability for theatre tickets, restaurants, bars, etc; I never took any money from them because, well, I’ve worked with startups before and they have an unpleasant tendency to believe that they own your soul as soon as they’ve shelled out a tenner, which turned out to be the right idea as by the time it launched it had become something totally other and it died and ignominious not that long after launch. Which is all by way of long-winded explanation that Spareplace seems to do exactly what Proffer promised but didn’t deliver - to whit, last-minute restaurant inventory. It’s pre-launch, so there’s no indication to how well it will function, but if you’re the sort of person who’s potentially in the market for last-minute cancellation-hijacking, or a venue that wants to minimise its liability for no-shows, this could be worth a look.
- Joymode: Or “Stuff, as a Service!”. Joymode’s the latest iteration of the ‘subscribe to rent tech’ model, except here it’s not just tech, it’s seemingly everything. Pay your $30 a month ($22 if you sub for a year) and you can rent a seemingly-limitless array of things as part of your subscription. From Nintendo Switches to garden furniture, the site offers a range of ‘bundles’ - you can have one ‘bundle’ at a time rented out, but any time you want to swap they’ll deliver a new one and pick up the old. The value of this obviously depends on the extent to which the packages of things that they offer match your own needs, but it’s an interesting model; US-only (obviously), but there’s no reason a similar sort of service couldn’t work over here.
- Stream: A digital artwork by Leander Herzog, which presents a neverending stream of minimalist representations of s*c**l m*d** posts, passing across your screen as a bleak representation of what we spend so much of our lives doing. There’s a small fulscreen button in the top-right of the Page here, which I would recommend clicking for the full, numbing effect - oh, and there’s some slightly-uncomfortable audio too should you desire it. Enjoy!
- YOLOv3BOT: A Facebook Page which posts photographs in which the objects within shot have been identified by the Open Images dataset, except those identifications have been replaced by words picked at random from Urban Dictionary. Which is obviously a slightly-nonsensical description,but I promise you that this is ART. No, really, it absolutely is.
- Boardreader: I know most of you will be people working for BIG AGENCIES and will therefore have access to Sysomos or Brandwatch or somesuch tool and won’t have need of this at all, but for any of you who don’t have the means to pay the five figure subscriptions this might be of use. Boardreader is a search engine for Forums - it looks crap, but there’s a decent ‘Advanced Search’ functionality buried in there if you dig, and the results it throws out are seemingly pretty decent. Worth a look.
- Historical Records: This is an ASTONISHING archive, all maintained by one person (hello Dani Gal in Berlin!), which collects vinyl recordings of political speeches from the 20th Century. “Historical Records is an ongoing project of collecting commercially released vinyl records that document political events of the twentieth century. The collection contains over 700 LP’s of speeches and interviews of those who were in power and others who objected this power, of wars and peace agreements, human rights struggles and other radio broadcasts, of the events that shaped history from the invention of the phonograph to the fall of the Berlin wall. The project examines how recorded political events were commodified and what role sound documentation has in the interplay between personal and collective/national memory.” Any 20thC historians reading this, enjoy.
- The Cherry Picks: A site for film criticism and recommendations whose gimmick is that all reviews and opinions are drawn from women and non-binary people - “Each of our film pages includes an excerpt and hyperlink to the original published film review to introduce readers to a wider range of critical voices. We also created our own CherryCheck system which keeps tabs on the movie industry by highlighting existing programs to respond to the growing demand for representation and equity on-screen and behind the scenes.” If you’re after a place to read film criticism and appreciation from a non-male perspective, this might be a useful site to bookmark.
- No Context Chick Tracts: VERY long-term readers may recall that I had a bit of an obsession with fundamentalist Christian hate-mongering comic book artist Jack Chick back in the very distant past when I wrote this for H+K (speaking of which, why not journey back in time to 2010 and ‘enjoy’ historical versions of Web Curios for yourself - not least to observe how little my writing style has evolved or improved in the intervening decade - FCUK YOU GLADWELL WITH YOUR 10,000 HOURS); this is a Twitter account which exists solely to share out-of-context panels from Chick’s hateful oeuvre (honestly, the comics are SO horrible - you can check them out here if you so desire). The main theme you’ll quickly discern here is that of a God who REALLY likes punishing those who stray from His chosen path, usually via the medium of heavily-signposted-but-always-unexpected-and-often-very-brutal death - bleakly amazing, as long as you don’t think too hard about the fact that there are people out there who genuinely believe that stuff like this is an acceptable way of teaching kids about ‘good’ and ‘evil’.
- Birds of America: ANOTHER Curios appearance for the Audubon Society, North America’s bird enthusiasts’ club, which here presents nearly-500 illustrations of THE BIRDS OF AMERICA for your ornithological pleasure. “John James Audubon's Birds of America is a portal into the natural world. Printed between 1827 and 1838, it contains 435 life-size watercolors of North American birds (Havell edition), all reproduced from hand-engraved plates, and is considered to be the archetype of wildlife illustration. Nearly 200 years later, the Audubon prints are coming to life once again” - not only this, but you can download each and every one of the images as a hi-res jpg, meaning you can create your very own little avian art collection. See what the angriest-looking bird you can find is; some of these lads look FURIOUS.
- Dracula: The Evidence: Another wondeful literary Kickstarter, this is an experimental-retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula which seeks to tell the classic tale via the medium of various artefacts and ephemera presented as a collection of objects in Van Helsing’s briefcase - effectively the sort of prop setup you’d find in a Punchdrunk experience, say. It’s nearly fully-funded with a month to go, so it seems safe to say it’ll make its target; this is a potentially wonderful way of exploring the Dracula mythos in immersive, creative fashion, though its success will rest on the quality of the finished product; still, as a means of storytelling it’s a fascinating idea although the pricetage (£300-odd quid, and that’s the discounted version) is eye-watering.
- Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019: You will doubtless have seen the winning image this year, that of the terrified rodent being chased by a fox, but the rest of this year’s winning entries are also very much worth exploring (as they always are). The navigation’s a bit horrid, frankly, and they don’t make these hugely easy to find on-site, but, leaving those (incredibly petty) gripes aside, there are some wonderful pictures here; personally my favourite is Charlie Hamilton’s shot of the CUTE STREETRATS, but please pick your own (no, really, DO IT).
NOW WHY NOT ENJOY SOME CLASSIC HOUSE STYLINGS COURTESY OF GRAEME PARK?!
THE SECTION WHICH HONESTLY ISN'T AT ALL BITTER ABOUT NOT BEING IN VENICE RIGHT NOW, PT.2:
- Nowhere Stairs: Or, to give this photo series its correct title, L’Architecture D’Entrainement. My title’s better, though - this is a series of photos of buildings with stairs that lead nowhere; I think these are taken mainly in France, but the ur-examples of these always seem to be in Greece as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, this is by French photographer Eric Tabuchi - I think I’ve featured his shots in here before, specifically the ones of off-season nightclubs, but it’s very much worth exploring if you’re not familiar.
- The UK Rail Map: ALL OF THE UK’S RAIL LINES! ON A MAP! ON THE INTERNET! I sort-of imagine that anyone who would really enjoy this site probably knows about it already - I mean, you’d think that any train obsessives worth their salt would have Googled ‘UK rail map online’ at some point in the past decade, but on the offchance that YOU are such a rail enthusiast and you’ve unaccountably never done that then, well, merry Christmas!
- Be Kind Rewind: A relatively-new YouTube channel which provides in-depth-but-accessible analysis of Hollywood past and present; each episode is 20-odd minutes, and to date they’ve covered such topics as ‘The Blind Side’s White Saviour Complex’, Vivien Leigh’s Oscar win, an analysis of the film ‘Judy’...if you’re a cinephile, this might be worth subscribing to.
- No Stress Booking: We all know, yes, that when we’re browsing stuff on a website and a popup appears telling you that you MUST BUY IT NOW THERE ARE 73 OTHER DESPERATE WEBMONGS ABOUT TO STEAL YOUR HOLIDAY BUY IT NOW that it is in fact totally made-up rubbish and there are in fact NO other desperate webmongs attempting to gazzump you? Good. Still, if you find the ceaseless cajoling and hurrying of websites such as Booking et al to be a touch on the enervating side then you might enjoy this Chrome extension which claims to block all that sort of fcukery from your browsing experience.
- Social Justice Kittens 2020: You know that the year’s drawing to a close when the annual Social Justice Kittens calendar rolls around again. This year’s offering features another selection of impossibly-cute, impossibly-woke cats, each accompanied by a real quote culled from the socials and, the calendar’s creators claim, presented entirely in the context it was intended. I think I mentioned before when featuring this that I am 99% certain that this comes from a position of postivity, gently mocking the more...preposterous bits of the social justice movement whilst being broadly invested in it - honestly, I’m as pinko and lefty as the next kitten, but if you can’t see the ridiculous in phrases like “When I’m discussing my pain, your job is to listen” then, well, we’re probably not going to be friends tbh. The link up top is to the purchase page, but if you want to get a closer look at this year’s kittens before you pony up the cash, you can see them here.
- Quotes Uploader: This is odd. A YouTube channel which seemingly does nothing more than publish videos featuring a bunch of fairly generic inspo/motivational/hideously normie quotes over the top of stills from the recent Joker film. It’s basically like a vaguely redpill version of the Minion meme craze, but made slightly sinister by the moderately-incelish tone of some of this, along with the imagery, and the viewcounts which are frankly insane. Who are the 200k+ people who watched a video titled “15 Ultimate Boys Quotes” and whose thumbnail reads “80% of boys have girlfriends; Rest 20% [sic] are having brain”? And, er, who’s treating them?
- Mudita: ANOTHER minimalist phone, another successfully-funded Kickstarter which I am a tiny bit skeptical about (but maybe I’m being unfair). Mudita is a very nice-looking concept, all slick and minimal and with an e-ink display which is a first for me; it’s also going to retail for £300-odd quid, which to me seems like an awful lot of money for a featurephone with no browser (though there is a mindfulness feature, THANK GOD). Still, if you’re in the market for a phone which simultaneously signals your unique aesthetic AND your effortless ability to decouple from the digital treadmill then this may be for you. You dreadful, dreadful poser.
- Wheelhouse: ANOTHER NEWSLETTER! But this one’s specifically for people who make stuff with their hands, and features updates about materials and design and making techniques, and looks like it would be genuinely useful if you’re someone who actually makes things as opposed to the sort of useless cultural parasite who just spaffs out words and opinion and likes to pretend that that’s ‘creativity’ (it’s not creativity).
- Analogue Pocket: I sort-of believe that even at the very tail-end of civilisation, when the seas are boiling and the sun is a gigantic red death-orb filling our field of vision with fiery death, there will be a healthy cottage industry dedicated to keeping old console formats alive; there are, seemingly, certain men for whom the ability to play old Gameboy cartridges is simply the single most-important concern in their lives. Should you form part of that subset of humanity (emphasis here on the ‘sub’) you’ll be thrilled to hear of the Pocket Analogue, due to launch next year, which is a(n admittedly beautifully-designed) new handheld console designed to be compatible with all the Gameboy models you can think of, as well as a few other consoles like the Atari Lynx and Neo Geo Pocket. It’s not going to run emulator software, it will be coded from the ground up, will have a SUPER HI-RES SCREEN (on which to play very lo-res old games, not sure how that’s going to work tbh) and the ability to throw the games to your TV (ditto) - despite my snark, if this is the sort of thing that floats your boat then it does look rather cool; it’ll sell for $200 when it launches next year.
- Very Ugly Plates: The artist’s statement speaks for itself: “I’m an artist serving bad humor on Very Ugly Plates. I’m located in Berlin and all my plates are wall plates.” Honestly, these are fcuking wonderful (presuming you like the nature of the gags here, which are halfway between ‘classic millennial distant affect’ and a particular type of birthday card) and are for sale at around 40 Euros a pop; excellent Christmas present potential here for the right person.
- Your Wild Journey: This is quite incredible - the CHUTZPAH! Wild Journey is a meditation app, offering you a series of ‘journeys’ and ‘meditative experiences’, all presented through the medium of sounds from the natural world overlaid with relaxing words and soothing messages; you can choose what sort of natural landscape you want to experience, and there are suitable accompanying graphics to help get you into the mood...oh, and there’s a £7 MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION FEE! TO HEAR SOME FOREST-TYPE SOUNDS! Honestly, fair play to the creators here as this is some truly astonishing grift.
- Crate Labels: You didn’t, when you woke up all those many hours ago, imagine that you’d be rendered speechless with joy at a collection of old labels from Floridian crates of citrus fruits, did you? And yet here we are.
- Tawktube: Potentially REALLY useful tool, this - plug in any YouTube video you like and get it converted into a podcast (ok, fine, it’s literally just an audio file) for free. You can seemingly do this for an entire YT channel, though I’ve not tried it, which, if it automatically splits videos into individual audio files, is an incredible service.
- The Maths Genealogy Project: I sent this to my friend Ed this week, who’s the most mathematical person I know - his response was “that’s an odd website” which basically is what I live for when I send people stuff. This seeks to maintain an active archive of the pupil/tutor relationships in the mathematical world, presumably to attempt to make some sort of record of the spread of concepts / ideas within the academic world. It’s obviously of no interest whatsoever to anyone who doesn’t have a burning need to know exactly how many students Paul Erdos tutored in the 1950s, but if you do have that burning need then, well, YOU’RE WELCOME!
- Giant Military Cats: Cats, photoshopped into photos of military ordnance. Oddly reminiscent of Coldwar Steve, but with less McFadden and more kittens.
- Robn: This looks QUITE ridiculous, but if you’re a runner then perhaps it’s a hugely useful idea that you’ve been clamouring for for years. Robn is a...harness, I suppose you’d call it, designed to be worn like a packless backpack and which basically lets runners (or indeed anyone) carry their phone, keys, etc, in a non-pocketed way whilst at the same time doing away with the need for headphones thanks to inbuilt speakers. It’s quite hard to describe, but click the link and take a look - it looks a bit like the sort of thing that might be bought by the type of man who likes to share details of their ‘carry’ on Reddit and who never leaves the house without a Leatherman and at least one concealed blade, but if you’re the sort of runner who finds headphones unaccountably infuriating and who wants to keep their keys somewhere that isn’t a bumbag then perhaps you’ll be into this.
- Ologies: Tedious caveat about me not listening to podcasts aside, this looks like it could be really interesting - Ologies is a simple premise for a podcast, with its host Alie Ward exploring a different science each week (the titular ‘Ologies’). Recent episodes have covered the science of spider webs (spidroinology) and bleach (disinfectiology, apparently, though I think that’s not a real word) - I think this sounds fascinating and quite a lot of gentle, comic, Robin Ince-ish fun.
- Wheel Decide: Can’t decide? SPIN A WHEEL AND LET IT DECIDE FOR YOU! This was quite a weird discovery; I thought it was a slightly thin single-gag website, but digging around links it to a weird little subReddit dedicated to people making seemingly infinite variations on the decision wheel. Want a wheel to help you decide which blocks to lay in Minecraft? How to propose to your girlfriend? NO PROBLEM! Very strange.
- Singsong Dingdong: A lovely little 8-bit-style platform game - small, simple and perfectly-formed, this is a great way to waste half an hour while you’re meant to be working.
- Lewdlist: Two important caveats here: 1) THIS LINK IS QUITE NSFW; 2) I promise you, as ever, that I don’t look for this stuff, IT FINDS ME. With those caveats out of the way, let me present to you the Lewdlist, a website collating every single ‘sexy’ videogame concept you could possibly imagine, and then about 3million more which you couldn’t imagine at the outset but which now, by Christ, you certainly can (even if you wish you couldn’t). Let me state quite clearly I AM NOT INTO THIS STUFF AND HAVE NOT PLAYED ANY OF THESE GAMES; that said, I confess with only minimal shame to having spent an increasingly-boggle-eyed (anyone who knows me will be aware of quite what a statement that is) twenty minutes clicking around and reading about some of these. You ever wanted proof that rule34 is very much a thing? Here it is! Be aware that there is quite a lot of very odd sex stuff in here, so bear that in mind before you go gambolling through the sticky pages with abandon. There’s still nothing that’s stayed with me quite so much as the image on the landing page for ‘Breeders of the Nephelyn’, mind.
- JS13K2019: This year’s collection of games made as part of the JS13K project, where programmers vie to make the best game they can, playable in-browser, with a total filesize of no more than 13kb. As ever, the inventiveness on display here is wonderful, and there are several legitimately good games in here - the winning title, a puzzler involving shadow selves and buttons and door unlocking, is a VERY clever little headscratcher, and it’s only one of several here which are worth your time.
- The MS-DOS Game Archive (Redux): Last up in this week’s miscellaneous links, the Internet Archive this week uploaded another 2500 old PC games, all playable in-browser. You want the Monkey Island games? You want Cannon Fodder? You want Sensible World of Soccer? You want OLD VERSIONS OF CHAMPIONSHIP MANAGER?!?!?!? This is SUCH an incredible resource and SUCH a good way to get sacked - who the fcuk cares, though? Your job’s sh1t and largely pointless and capitalism’s dragging us all to hell in a handcart; let’s all give up and play Ivan Ironman Stuart’s Offroad Racer until death comes to claim us!
By Jason Brueck
FINALLY IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, THIS DESCRIBES ITSELF AS ‘CHILL DREAM HOUSE’ AND WHO AM I TO ARGUE?
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- 9-Eyes: Only one Tumblr this week and it’s an old one whichcame back to life last week - 9-Eyes launched around the advent of Google Maps and was dedicated to collecting some of the more WFTish elements captured by the panopticoncars; it had been offline for 5 years now, so it’s lovely to see it return. Again, this is ART.
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Long Furby Fam: An Insta account dedicated to posting images of modified, often deeply disturbing, Furbies.
- They Didn’t Die: Obituary euphemisms for ‘died’ - passed away, departed, or, beautifully, ‘crossed the rainbow bridge’.
- The Lynx Project: The Insta feed of a project studying the Lynx in Canada, which presents a pleasing selection of photos of these large, pointy-eared bois. O MAOW!
- Our Type: “Our Type documents the disappearing shopfronts, signage and typography of Ireland's towns and villages.” Pleasing.
- Felipe Nunes: Felipe Nunes is a skateboarder; he also happens to not have the full complement of limbs. Watching Nunes skate is quite, quite incredible, and will make you rethink (again) what people with disabilities are capable of.
- Annette Labedzki: According to her bio, Ms Labedzki ‘loves paint and colours’. She also loves making a delightful, beautiful, VERY SATISFYING (in a vaguely kinetic sand-adjacent way) mess. If you’re a bit ASMRish then you will enjoy this a LOT imho.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- 100 Days of Hong Kong: Or, more accurately, 100 days of the Hong Kong protests. This is an excellent interactive put together by the South China Morning Post and presenting a chronology of the protest movement over the past three months, its evolution, the shifting tactics of the state in response and how the demonstrations have ebbed and flowed across the territory as the protest has evolved. A briliamt piece of digital journalism, presenting an awful lot of information clearly and with a strong sense of narrative, this is really very good indeed.
- Is Amazon Unstoppable?: The first of two MASSIVE pieces on Amazong this week, this from the New Yorker and is an excellent overview of the company, its business its culture and its almost-unique place in the pantheon of American capitalism. It won’t, if you’re a keen student of Bezos and his works, tell you anything you don’t probably already know, but as is common with these pieces it ends up being more than the sum of its parts by dint of the cumulative effect of all the parts giving quite a complex, slightly terrifying, vision of the whole.
- What Bezos Wants: The second MASSIVE piece on Amazon is, to my mind, the better of the two; by Franklin Foer in the Atlantic; this is better on Bezos (and thus Amazon’s) overriding ambitions - to whit, total global domination - and the uneasy fact that every single company currently selling anything to anyone is simultaneously dependent on, and competing with, Amazon; which, whichever way you look at it, is a pretty sweet position for MechaBezos to be in.
- Weather Reports from Xinjiang: “In 2018, I began to travel to Kazakhstan to interview the family members of Xinjiang’s imprisoned and disappeared. I also interviewed former detainees who described their own experiences. Most had crossed from China into Kazakhstan in the weeks, months, and years before our meeting, either by applying for residency and citizenship or by escaping across the border. The result is an oral history of life in contemporary Xinjiang. To my knowledge, it is the first document of its kind.” There is a LOT in here, but my word are there some incredible stories. This is worth bookmarking and returning to, as it’s an absolute trove of wonderful (and not-infrequently-harrowing) writing.
- India’s Facial Recogniton System: Which of our favourite in-no-way-iffy global superpower regimes is experimenting with the terrifying potential of facial recognition tech to augment its existing social control mechanisms? Why that’s right, it’s ‘cuddly’ Narendra Modi’s India! This article is about as uplifting as you’d expect it to be, and while it acknowledges that there’s no explicit link between this mooted facial recognition system and the already-controversial universal ID system Aahhaar, it’s also not hard to imagine exactly how an already-authoritarian regime might go about making that exact link.
- Goodbye To The Millennial Lifestyle: A smart piece of reporting which is the first to suggest that the less-than-stellar IPO performances of Peloton, Blue Apron and a host of other millennial(sorry)-friendly businesses is a precursor to a shift in economics which will see a lot of the ‘as a service’ offerings seen as so compelling to younger consumers and as such heavily-backed by VCs start to have to hike their prices to survive. Which, in turn, means that consumers might start looking back at this period of relatively cheap cabs, delivery food, exercise and mattresses as a brief blip in the matrix; turns out that keeping this stuff cheap to consumers causes the businesses to haemmorgage money! WHO KNEW???
- Mariana Mazzucato: A slightly-dizzying profile of one of the few current top-of-their-game economists to have anything like a public profile, this is a quite incredible article. Do you ever read things about successful or brilliant people and feel very real sense of your own inadequacy and insignificance? Well with this you DEFINITELY will; honestly SO interesting, regardless of your practical understanding of economics. The sheer number of world-changing projects that she is involved with is astonishing, as is the breadth of topics to which she’s seemingly able to turn her mind; if you ever have some tedious w4nker in a cravat and those square-legged artist’s trousers attempt to tell you what creativity is, show them this and point out that there is literally nothing more creative than using numbers to solve the world’s problems.
- Nowthis News and Social Video: Interesting look at Nowthis Video, a company which has cornered the market (this week at least) in political video content in the US, creating content which reaches hundreds of millions across the political spectrum each week. Regardless of how much you care about content around US politics, the business model here is interesting to read about and, again, a stark reminder of how much of this is a numbers game; the quantity of stuff they produce each week is INSANE, as is the size of the production team. Next time your clients whinge at you about your numbers, ask them when they’ll be willing to shell out for a team of 100+ writers, editors, camerapeople, producers…
- Celebrity Phone Numbers: On the very recent phenomenon of famouses in the US asking you to text them; this is a company which is offering the opportunity for mass SMS-based star-to-fan interactions, effectively a mailing list reduced to the most oldschool means possible. Will be interesting to see if this takes off - what I am always most interested in, though, with stuff like this, is how these apps manage to persuade all the famouses to use them - do they use some of the VC cash to literally pay them to play? Do all these people share the same agent and does said agent have a stake in this app? It’s CONFUSING.
- Did dril Sell Out?: You may or may not be aware that KING OF WEIRD Twitter dril this week announced he was going to make an actual TV show with Adult Swim, attempting to translate his particular brand of despair-surrealism from 280 characters to 20m of video. Whether or not the show will work or not is moot; the story here is the fairly-typical way in which a host of people on the internet got very upset that the person who had kept them entertained for free for a decade with pithy witticisms has decided to get paid for a change. The answer to the question is ‘no, of course not ffs’, but the interesting part of the piece is the discussion around the extent to which being on Twitter can or should be considered ‘work’ or whether it’s what you do to get work, and how those boundaries blur. I tend to find, fwiw, that I very much get jobs despite my Twitter presence.
- The Pinterest Algo: You have to be quite into s*c**l m*d** to get the most out of this, fine, but for those of you who work in or around algoland this is a really interesting read, on the unique way in which Pinterest has given users the opportunity to tweak its algorithm and what that’s meant for the way in which the platform has evolved.
- Hyperpersonalised Medicines: It is entirely possible to create medical treatments for illnesses designed to treat a very specific genetic profile - so specific that they might work for one intended recipient alone. Should we, though? This is a fascinating essay looking at the very, very specific branch of medicine investigating ultraspecific treatments; the questions as to the rights and wrongs are largely left to the reader, but it’s not hard to imagine a situation whereby the ultra-rich are able to create and make use of highly-tailored treatments which the less-plutocratic couldn’t even dream of. Nice thought, eh? What? Oh.
- Time on TikTok: The seemingly-neverending cavalcade of thinkpieces explaining TikTok to a confused adult world continues, though this, in the NYT, is really rather good. A selection of the paper’s critics spent a week with the platform and shared their impressions of it; there are some lovely observations here, and each of them comes away from it feeling, broadly, like it’s not A Bad Thing. There’s a line in here that stuck with me, though, about how it very specifically feeds young people’s ‘desire to be seen’ - it made me think, as a teenager (and, frankly, even now) I honestly had no desire to be seen AT ALL; is this even a thing anymore? Can young people conceive of not wanting to be seen - not just irl, but even online? Is there anyone currently alive and smartphone-enabled between the ages of 10-16 who wouldn’t give their left kidney and a few significant layers of epidermis in exchange for a stint on the ‘trending’ page? Genuine question, I am curious. BONUS TIKTOK! This piece about the weird way in which serial killers are fetishised on the platform is...odd.
- Closet Accounts: The latest Instatrend is teens obsessively researching their idols’ outfits and racing to post links to Insta ‘Closet Accounts’ detailing where other similar stans can purchase the clothes the famous is wearing (or close approximations thereof). There’s DEFINITELY some sort of bullsh1t insight you can squeeze out of this to justify some sort of awful hashtag campaign, in case you’re unfortunate enough to have to use words like that in cold blood.
- On Fortnite’s Black Hole: Typically great writing on Fortnite by Keth Stuart at the Guardian, who as ever does a great job of explaining what happened this week (the black hole! Chapter 2! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FFS????) to a normie audience whilst also gently outlining how incredibly smart Epic has been at turning what is effectively a software update into a global news story. BONUS FORTNITE FEATURE! This piece looks at how the game map has evolved over each of its various changes in the past Chapter, and how that’s slowly created narrative and UX tweaks simply by changing the playfield. SO much interesting design here.
- Meet Fox E: Fox E reviews restaurants on Yelp. He often includes photos oh himself in those reviews, which are also occasionally left as poems or raps. His girlfrie...oh, look, you just have to read this. What a remarkable man, and what an odd story this is.
- Living In Cursed Times: The proliferation of the term ‘cursed’ has been a feature of the past three or so years online; what does it mean though? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? If you’re in the market for a slightly-overserious explainer about the deeply layered significance of the word in its EXTREMELY ONLINE context, or an attempt at a precise definition of what exactly constitutes ‘cursed energy’, then you will very much enjoy this (also, please, can we move on from the use of the term ‘energy’ please? It makes everyone sound like the sort of person who’s really into crystals, which perhaps on reflection is in fact what everyone is in 2019).
- The Cheetos Market: You know those stories that occasionally do the rounds online, in which someone in the midwest finds an X shaped like a Y (a cheeseburger shaped like Jesus; a rifle shaped like regret; that sort of thing) and then puts it on eBay and it attracts a bid of $100,000 within minutes and the world shakes its collective head and moves on? Well, have you ever actually seen proof that any of these things ever sold for those sums? And have you ever wondered if anyone really DOES collect funny-shaped crisps? And have you ever thought “hm, I’d really like to learn more about the types of people who attempt to extort 6-figures from gullible strangers for a corn snack shaped a little bit like a person, if you squint”? EXCELLENT, in which case read this article.
- Models of Models: This is about mathematical models - what they are, what they are used for, and how to think about them - it is also one of the best, clearest pieces of writing about information categorisation and taxonomy (at a theoretical level) I’ve read in a while, and I promise you is REALLY REALLY INTERESTING, whether or not you are a maths moron (I am a maths moron; there is no need to be ashamed (not true, there are a lot of reasons, but let’s gloss over them for now).
- The Manhood of Achewood: This is part of a long series of essays analysing seminal (in the ‘it was the start of something’ sense rather than in the ‘a load of w4nk’ sense) comic Achewood (if you don’t know what that is then, well, READ THIS PIECE AND EDUCATE YOURSELF FFS) through a variety of different lenses/prisms; this one looks specifically at its treatments of masculinity, and it’s a smart reading of a comic I feel I probably haven’t read enough criticism of.
- Maradona: A quite wonderful portrait of the second-greatest footballer I have ever seen (sorry Diego, but Leo is better), written by an American and all the better for not quite having the same familiarity with the subject matter presumed when a European or South American writes about Maradona.
- In Defence of Fiction: Zadie Smith on typically fantastic form, on writing fiction, what one has the ‘right’ to write about, the role of the imagined in exploring the self and the other, and all sorts besides. She’s so DISGUSTINGLY clever it makes me quite upset.
- The End of Oz: Finally in the longreads this week, on the ‘Oz’ series of books, except it’s not really about that at all - it’s a truly superb essay on childhood and family and memory and the past as a concept and a foreign country and change and, honestly, it’s really quite brilliant and deserves the cup of tea and biscuit you’ll need to accompany it.
By Simone Hutsch
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- There are nearly 400million guns in the US. This video shows you 2,328 of them. This is creepy as you like, but also quite a brilliant piece of film:
- This is the new one from Slaves. It’s called ‘One More Day Won’t Hurt’, but I’m not convinced that they really mean that:
- Would you like some unpleasantly-abrasive NOISE from Bridgitte Bardon’t? YES YOU WOULD! I will give anyone who puts this on the office stereo and sends me proof an actual prize; it’s called “I Wonder”:
- Next, this is a rather beautiful antidote to that last horror - this is Konradsen, with the gentle, beautiful, pleasingly-Feist-adjacent ‘Baby Hallelujah’:
- Last up this week, this is Lady Shocker’s recent SBTV Wake Up session - love the flow and the way she emotes the fcuk out this; you can tell she’s also an actress. Anyway, regardless, this is ace and you should check it out and OH LOOK THAT’S ALL WE HAVE TIME FOR AND FRANKLY I’M ALREADY A BIT LATE SO I’M GOING TO HAVE TO KEEP THE GOODBYES SHORT THIS WEEK BUT PLEASE REMEMBER I LOVE YOU AND I CARE ABOUT YOU AND ALL THESE LINKS ARE BASICALLY JUST MY WAY OF SHOWING YOU I CARE SO PLEASE TRY AND HAVE A LOVELY WEEK AND DON’T LET THE BASTARDS, WHOEVER THEY MAY BE IN YOUR PARTICULAR CASE, GRIND YOU DOWN, TAKE CARE AND I LOVE YOU AND TAKE CARE AND I LOVE YOU AND TAKE CARE AND I LOVE YOU AND BYE!: