BUILD A BRIDGE TO FRANCE! I'll tell you an other way to cement our ties with continental Europe, Johnson, you colossal ballsac...ah, no, no negativity! Let's be positive! Let's SMILE! Web Curios' resolution to ensnare new readers with a sunnier, more positive outlook has lasted into the third week of 2018 which is, frankly, longer than I expected - such an achieve, and it's only January!
This edition of Web Curios is dedicated to all the poor buggers at Buzzfeed who've spent the past week sending 'last day at Buzzfeed' tweets and by so doing painting the picture of a company that really has managed to spaff an astonishing amount of VC cash up the wall with nothing approaching a business model to show for it. Good luck in the content farms, everyone, and thanks for all the words.
But you're not here for (surprisingly sincere, on reflection) goodbyes to journalists - you're here for LINKS! And oh my DAYS do we have links for you here at Curios - fat links, skinny links, funny links, scary links, and links which, should you click them, will forever give you the scarred and haunted air of One Who Has Seen Too Much. Roll up, roll up, step inside the tent, adjust your eyes to the gloom and CLICK YOUR LIFE AWAY.
This, as ever, is Web Curios.
By Reina Takahashi
LET’S KICK OFF THIS WEEK’S MUSIC WITH THIS EXCELLENT ALBUM BY DJ MUGGS AND MEYHEM LAUREN!
THE SECTION WHICH THIS WEEK HAS RATHER ENJOYED COMING UP WITH A NEW, MADE-UP SERIES OF ANALYSES EACH TIME SOMEONE HAS ASKED ‘BUT WHAT DOES THE FACEBOOK NEWS ACTUALLY MEAN?’:
- Some Additional Information From Facebook On THOSE Changes: Not a huge amount, fine - Facebook basically did the equivalent of tossing a match on a whole series of industries last week and then walking off, whistling insouciantly, and isn’t really giving up much information about what else it means - but this interview in Wired with Adam Mosseri, FB VP in charge of Newsfeed, lays out a few clarifying elements to the DEATH OF BRAND AND PUBLISHER CONTENT armageddon that they announced last week. The main point, in case you were wondering, is that ads won’t be affected (there’s a shock). Parenthetically, I’ve really enjoyed (not enjoyed) all the takes from mediocre digital folk saying “what this really means is that content creators must continue to create things which really resonate with their audiences and drive real engagement!”, for which THANKS LADS.
- Some Changes Potentially Coming To Messenger: Everyone was apparently too stunned by Facebook’s BIG NEWS to actually put out any news this week, so instead I am feeding myself (and, by extension, you, nibbling partially-digested scraps of newscud from my slavering maw) on whatever meagre gossip leavings I can find. This is a whole article based on a series of quotes from someone who runs Messenger, which suggest that the service might get a feature cull later this year which will streamline it a bit, add proper group video chat, better customer service options, more ads...it’s all very exciting (read: not exciting), but given it’s all theoretical at present, why not forget about it and go and look out of the window for 5 minutes or something. Go on, I’ll wait.
- WhatsApp Business Launches on Android: Oh, no, hang on, this is actual news. It’s out in the UK! Right now! Create a business profile, what your WhatsApp details on your website, go crazy! The suite of features looks useful; definitely worth playing with and considering adding to your infuriatingly long list of ways customers can make your life a misery.
- Page Speed To Determine Google Ranking: As of July 2018, a Page’s ranking on Google’s mobile search will be determined in part by its load speed - which means, if you’ve got a crap mobile site, you might want to spend the next few months fixing it. It’s genuinely amazing to me quite how many large businesses in construction property, etc, have websites which would be considered shonky in 2013; some of you who make websites ought to be able to make hay with this news, I reckon, which may go somewhat towards you coping with the fact that front-end web dev will no longer be a viable way of earning money by 2025.
- YouTube Amends Monetisation Policy: In a move which is designed to protect brands, restore faith in YT as an ad platform and to prevent lunatic fringe YouTubers getting rich from hate, YouTube’s raising the threshold at which creators can monetise their videos; of course, this also means that lots of smaller creators are getting screwed, but, you know, omelettes / eggs, lads!
- Snaplenses: This was, when I checked at the start of the week, a whole website collecting Snap Lenses which had been built by the community as part of Snap’s Lens Studio rollout which you will of course recall happened last year. The site’s now down, sadly, so instead I am linking to the subReddit which collects examples of home-made Lenses; the main takeaway from this so far is that making a good lens is HARD, and that there is a lot of really lame humour going on on Snapchat. Still, though, you can get a 3d Clippy on your Snaps, so, you know, 2018’s still looking pretty good.
- Mini Big Books: A nice site from HP in France, promoting its printers, which lets parents create a personalised kids’ book for their offspring, featuring said kid’s name, and face, and its parents’ faces, which then gets exported for printing (on HP kit, obvs). It’s simple but really nicely executed, and all obviously in French. So if you want to ruin bedtime by reading your kids a story they won’t understand and getting increasingly frustrated at their confused, uncomprehending three year old faces as they fail to immediately pick up a foreign language (or, er, if you’re a Francophone), give this a go.
By Eric Yahnker
NEXT, TRY THIS NEW MUSIC PLAYLIST FROM HUH MAGAZINE!
THE SECTION WHICH WHILE IT WAS LINING UP THE LINKS FOR THIS BIT ACCIDENTALLY OPENED UP THE NOEL EDMONDS RADIO STATION AND THEN LOST THE TAB AND OH MY GOD THAT WAS A LONG, CONCENTRATED HIT OF STRANGE AT 730AM, PT.1:
- The Symphony of Blockchains: Sincere apologies to any readers who have lost their livelihoods in this week’s cryptomarket correction; rest assured, I’m sure if you HODL it will all be ok (although I’d also suggest that listening to financial advice from people about as qualified as me to dispense it might be what got you into this mess in the first place). This beautiful site won’t bring your money back, but it might provide you with a soothing balm to calm your frazzled nerves; it’s a lovely visualisation of all the transactions over time on a blockchain, with accompanying generative audio, with lovely graphics and a nice scrollable interface that, oddly, does a reasonably good job of helping you get your head around what it is. Sort of. Still won’t bring your £50k back, though.
- Die With Me: SUCH a good idea, well DONE the Belgian behind it. Die With Me is a chat app which will only work if you’re phone’s got less than 5% battery left; the idea being that you can spend the final moments of juice chatting with other similarly afflicted people from around the world. Apparently its creator originally wanted to include a dating option here, to enable people to find others nearby whose phones are about to die so that they could enjoy some time offline together - given that that feature’s not in fact included, feel free to absolutely rip if off for your next speculative pitch to KitKat (I mean really, it’s PERFECT - I’ll take a 5% consultancy fee on that one, thanks).
- The Vestaboard: You will all want one of these, guaranteed. The Vestaboard is basically a domestically-sized version of those massive, clacky departure boards that you used to see in airports in the GOOD OLD DAYS, when flying was magical and you could take bottles of lighter fluid onto a flight with nary a raised eyebrow from security - for a mere $1800 (and that’s a special CES discount; the standard cost’s an eye-watering three grand), you can own a small version to hang in your own phone or office, which can be programmed to read whatever you tell it to, or alternatively can be hooked up to a variety of web services - the weather, or the news headlines, or a Twitter search, or even a single Twitter account. Say, for example That Man’s - just imagine the very real feeling of creeping terror you’d feel at each new clickerclacking of the panels and wondered whether this was the tweet that presaged nuclear war! If you don’t look at this and see some pretty incredible opportunities for scaring the everliving hell out of people (“Matt, get out”; “Matt, they are coming for you”; “Matt, we won’t let you forget”) then there’s no hope for you.
- The Cryptos: Back to the crypto stuff - if you’ve spent this week staring at a fluctuating market graph and getting the cold sweats, perhaps you’ll appreciate this subReddit which presents all the different brands of cryptocurrency is KOOKY CHARACTERS in their own comic strip! I have literally no idea whether this is funny or not as I don’t know what all the different characters are meant to represent (judging on the tone of the writing, though, I’m going to speculate that it’s really not), but if you’re standing on the metaphorical ledge (or even the real one - DON’T JUMP!) then this might be just the light-hearted fillip you need to talk you down (really, DON’T JUMP).
- Labo: You’ll probably have seen or read about this, but in case not - and particularly if you have small kids - this is worth a look. Labo, announced this week, is a ‘build’ for the Nintendo Switch console which effectively lets you make a whole bunch of stuff out of cardboard kits and then connect them to the console’s controllers and make new games and toys from the resulting stuff. Some of the options are pre-determined, but there seems to be reasonable opportunities for you andwhoever else you play with to exercise some creativity in terms of what you end up making; to be clear, though, this is a toy rather than a ‘teach your kids the magic of coding and making’ toolkit, not that that’s a bad thing. Launches in April (I’d imagine globally), so keep an eye out.
- Original Ideal: This is fascinating. Original Idea is a project which presents participants with various images of them, manipulated in various ways, whilst monitoring the observer’s brainwaves to seek to determine which variant on their face they ‘prefer’, based on brainwave readings; it then presents their actual face next to the version they unconsciously ‘chose’ as their preferred version. Pleasingly there aren’t too many instances where people seemingly hate themselves too much, although the elderly lady who obviously just wants to have young eyes again is a bit heartstring-tuggy. Also, look at the kid - kids are IDIOTS.
- The Hatputer: A baseball cap with a monitor on it. Positioned so you, the wearer, can’t see it. I mean, obviously this is a silly joke, but it’s also a working thing and I bet you that if you whacked this on Kickstarter that it would raise $150k within a week based on people thinking it was ‘hilarious’. This is actually a promo for Sticker Hat, an equally silly but far more acceptable shop selling hats which you can customise with velcro and googly eyes and which I sort of want one of.
- Circus 250: This week I discovered that it’s the 250th anniversary of CIRCUS!!! No, really - the first ever circus was, it says on the site, set up 250 years previous in Waterloo in London, and this year cities around the country are going to be, er, CELEBRATING CIRCUS! This is a bit of a shonky website, bless them, but it’s got information about events and stuff happening throughout the year - circus stuff’s a bit like Morris Dancing in that it makes me inordinately happy for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, and I can highly recommend popping into the circus school near Old Street for a coffee if you happen to be in the area, as you can occasionally see some absolutely incredible acrobats-in-training there. Actual, proper, London tip, that, like you might get on a PROPER blog!
- Bitinfo Charts: A whole bunch of numbers about cryptocurrencies that I really don’t understand at all but which you might. Seriously, how can anyone look at stuff like this and go “Yeah, I reckon I understand this, let’s invest our life-savings”.
- Speaking in Pictures: Shardcore sent me this without any real explanation - I don’t really know who made it, or what it’s meant to do, but as far as I can tell it’s a simple chat interface which uses some sort of image recognition software to let you play what is effectively a game of photographic Mallet’s Mallet with a machine. I haven’t tried seeing what happens if you just feed it bongo, or the sort of content which used to make Ogrish such a delight, so one of you do that and let me know what happens ok thanks bye.
- Elli Q: Another in the seemingly endless procession of devices designed to provide support and companionship for humans in old age, and once again just looking at the homepage of this one has made me do a massive, shuddering sad. Unlike previous versions, Elli Q isn’t humanoid in appearance - instead it’s a screen and speaker with a vaguely anthropomorphic quality to its movement (there’s something slightly head-like in the way it moves), “designed to encourage an active and engaged lifestyle by suggesting activities and making it simple to connect with loved ones.” OH GOD I AM LITERALLY CRYING AS I TYPE THIS I HONESTLY CAN’T. Just imagine this being your only friend oh God call your gran everyone.
- Laws of UX: A nice collection of maxims that designers should consider when developing user interfaces. Which, in the week in which a drop-down menu caused thousands of people to wrongly think that they were awaiting imminent incineration (and which then caused many of them to masturbate frantically with relief, if this data is anything to go by), seems timely.
- Positively Noel: So this is the ‘radio station’ which I was referring to in the section header (which I realise I really ought to stop doing - I mean, the ‘jokes’ aren’t funny, they rarely make sense, and it’s yet another piece of wilful obscurantism which is preventing Curios from reaching the natural audience of MILLIONS who would evidently read this were it not for my continued efforts to keep it niche with my edgelord stylings). It’s...incredible. A whole 24 radio station in which Noel Edmonds fulminates about his long-running dispute with Lloyds Bank, his hatred of the CORRUPT BANKING SYSTEM, the iniquities of global capitalism and markets, and also plays some uplifting MOR music. This is...WOW. All of it - the jingles, the stings, the bafflingly personal little digs that Edmonds makes at minor actors like local branch managers (he just referred to one bloke as being “Otherwise known as PORKY because he tells SO MANY LIES!”, apropos nothing). If you were ever uncertain as to the exact extent of Edmond’s mental health following his brief flirtation with Cosmic Ordering then this will give you a fairly decent reading.
By Jun Ahn
NEXT, GIVE THIS EXCELLENT MIX BY EAST LONDON DJ AND WITCH DOBBY A TRY, SHE IS VERY GOOD!
THE SECTION WHICH WHILE IT WAS LINING UP THE LINKS FOR THIS BIT ACCIDENTALLY OPENED UP THE NOEL EDMONDS RADIO STATION AND THEN LOST THE TAB AND OH MY GOD THAT WAS A LONG, CONCENTRATED HIT OF STRANGE AT 730AM, PT.2:
- Vincent LaForet: Fancy photographers on Insta are nothing new, but this guy - who apparently takes a lot of these by strapping his phone to the underside of a Cessna - is very good indeed. Some stunning aerial shots in this feed.
- Studies In Intelligence: Slightly incredible to me that this stuff is just sort of lying around the internet, but anyway. Studies in Intelligence is a regular CIA publication which collects insights and analysis of ACTUAL SPYING and presents them in scholarly fashion; this is an archive of ALL THE EDITIONS - with, sadly, all the classified bits unsuitable for civilian consumption removed. If, though, you want to read a detailed analysis of the TET offensive, or read an essay about why its important that we apply ‘humility’ in intelligence analysis, this will be RIGHT up your street.
- Book Illustrations: An incredible collection of collections of book illustrations, with seemingly HUNDREDS of different illustrated titles here presented. Lots of stuff from old fairytale collections, obscure European folklore and much more besides - there’s some wonderful design and illustration inspiration to be found in here.
- Vintage CG: A superb YT channel which compiles a whole bunch of old-school computer graphics footage from the 70s, 80s and 90s and which if you’re looking for retro source material for any video work is GOLDEN. The overall aesthetic is part early Pixar, part Lawnmower Man, part flyer for Helter Skelter circa 92, and there is some deeply trippy material buried in here; I suggest you start with ‘Little Death’ from 1989 and explore from there.
- Sweatcoin: I imagine that mid-January’s the sort of time when those of you who decided to DO THE GYM as part of your New Year reboot of your life are beginning to flag - Sweatcoin’s a new app which might help with that motivation, being as it effectively bribes you by converting activity into ‘currency’. Sadly not anything to do with crypto (missed a trick there, lads), the Sweatcoins you earn are only usable through the app but can be converted into REAL SWAG from various fitness/health/lifestyle brands. Come on, though, wouldn’t a better partnership be with McDonald’s, letting you really earn that Big Mac? Yes, yes it would.
- Zack Morris Is Trash: This is WONDERFUL. A whole YouTube channel featuring short dissections of Saved by the Bell episodes and discussing exactly how much of a prick Zack is in each one. Also, THOSE JEANS.
- The Shipping Forecast on Echo: I am fairly confident that noone reading this actually needs to listen to the Shipping Forecast; I am equally sure that lots of you love it. Now you can have it on your Creepy Amazon Home Surveillance Device, which is pleasing; I think it would make quite a nice, soothing pseudo-lullaby for a kid, personally, as well as being the sort of lightly eccentric parenting that would earn you all sorts of kudos in teenage years.
- Book Tie-In Covers: A phenomenal collection of novel covers from the 50s onwards, each from a book produced as part of a film or TV tie-in. Here you’ll find assorted Bond novels, some Star Trek, some AMAZING-looking adaptations of The Saint...again, simply a wonderful source of visual inspiration.
- Change My View: Seeing as Mark wants us all to make MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS and have CONVERSATIONS on Facebook, let’s take a look at this subReddit which has somehow managed to become a corner of real, proper, civilised conversation online. Change My View is a series of threads each of which involves an OP positing a certain worldview and asking other people to explain to them why they perhaps ought to think differently. It’s...it’s astoundingly good (look, I’m aware that the bar here is VERY LOW and that in a decent and good world I wouldn’t be getting excited about strangers talking to each other online in calm and measured fashion, but you’ve read online comments before, right?). Maybe I’m being unfair on the normies here, but I simply can’t see this happening on Facebook.
- Mickey Spillane Covers: The collected pulp novels of Mickey Spillane, or at least the covers thereof. Imagine what the cover to a novel called ‘Killer Mine’, whose strapline is “She was a big, beautiful redhead from a high-class bordello, and when he found her, she was dead as doornails”, might look like; yeah, they’re all like that.
- Crimes Against Shoemanity: Forgive the appalling title; this Instagram account showcasing footwear atrocities is great. Must confess that I’m slightly guiltily ‘impressed with the Australian (come on, they HAVE to be Australian) who;s tattooed a pair of thong sandals on their feet, though.
- The Trunk Road Gritter Tracker: As the UK struggles once again under the weight of WEATHER, one of the few bright spots in the freezing gloom is this webpage which lets anyone track the progress of Scotland’s gritting lorries, all of whom, because this is Britain, have whimsical names like Gritty Gritty Bang Bang. Look, can we maybe pause whimsy in 2018? I don’t know, I’m just a bit over it.
- The UTD Book Hunt: This is SUCH a wonderful idea. Author Malcolm Slade has written a book about murder ballads; to celebrate its publication, he deposited 30 signed, numbered copies around London, each with a special sticker inside; he then posted small, detailed photos of the each shop’s sign on his website, and invited people to see if they could work out which charity shops the books were in, and to go and seek them out. WONDERFUL idea, spoiled only by the fact that I have no fcuking idea where any of these shops are. You might, though - go on, FIND THE BOOKS!
- Social Decay: Social Media platform logos, presented as faded signage of the sort one might see on a road trip across the US. Weirdly affecting, though I couldn’t quite explain why.
- Turning Design Mockups To Code: This is INCREDIBLE, and was the main source of my ‘frontend devs are for the scrapheap’ snark above. This is more proof-of-concept than actual thing, but it is COMING; this is software that takes an image and turns it into a webpage, so any old HTML-less idiot like me could in theory sketch out a Page’s layout and UI and have it converted into code near-instantaneously. Practically witchcraft, but this is going to be (sort of) the way we design (simple) websites in a few years, I reckon.
- The 2017 International Drone Photo Contest Winners: Erm, literally that. Some of these are lovely, but my favourite is the one of the windowcleaners working the skyscraper; it’s nice to see something that slightly subverts the ‘shot from above’ aesthetic of nearly all the rest of the dronepics you ever see.
- Ryan Godzilling: The most famous Godzilla toy on Instagram, on tour. Some of these are honestly really cute - the shot of the guys sitting on the dock next to each other made me do a small swoon.
- Onym: Have you ever tried to name something? It is HARD (although not as hard as trying to get people to use your product name as a verb - LOOK, Shpock, STOP TRYING TO VERB YOURSELF IT IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN) - which is why this list of useful resources for people seeking to name a thing exists. Links to dictionaries and thesauruses and translation sites and anything else you might need to come up with a name for your doubtless-groundbreaking new THING.
- Muldulamulon: An impossible-to-pronounce browser game which basically reminded me of the sort of thing you’d play on the ZX Spectrum round your mate’s house in 1986. Simple platformer, but there’s a lovely nostalgia about the aesthetic and the ‘feel’ of the whole thing.
- A Friend Is Writing A New Document: SUCH a smart piece of design, explaining and highlighting all the UX tricks that messaging apps, social media and the like play on us. Really, really clever, this, I recommend you click and experience it for yourselves.
- NSFWare: Did you ever play WarioWare on the Wii? It was ace, a collection of supersimple party-type games, each lasting a few seconds long, which required you to do some very specific thing with the controller to win each battle against your drunk friend while you waited for the post-pub gak to turn up. This is, basically, exactly the same thing, except instead of cute vignettes featuring the wacky cast of the Mario games, you instead get to manipulate pixellated illustrations of actual people having sex, as captured from various bongo videos. See if you can rim the happy bearded man in 5 seconds! Can YOU manage to frot someone to climax in moments? This is ACE - wonderfully silly, violently NSFW, happily pansexual and, you know, ART LADS. Requires a download, but honestly worth it - do it at work and see what people say, go on.
- One Last Beat: This is lovely, and even nicer because it’s the work of one bloke. Hector Monerris made this interactive ALL HIMSELF, which is no small feat, and it’s beautifully done - the interactions are limited, but the site’s slick and humorous and the look and feel are lovely, so WELL DONE HECTOR.
- Genesis Noir: Finally this week, this is actually a little teaser for a full game seeking funding on Kickstarter but it is BEAUTIFUL and hugely pleasing. Play a double bassist in this short vignette - I don’t want to tell you too much about what happens or what to do, you’ll work it out, but put headphones on and enjoy the beautiful audio and the smoky feel of the whole thing. Simply lovely.
By Natalie Frank
FINALLY, WHY NOT EXPLORE THIS ARCHIVE OF 25 MIXES FROM ZZK RECORDS? GREAT!
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
- Super 70s: You want a Tumblr featuring basically all of the stuff from the 70s you could ever want? YES YOU DO! Recent highlights include some lovely photos of David Bowie at the Dorchester wearing a particularly fetching polka jumpsuit.
- Anna Kendrick Black: Literally just a whole bunch of photos of Anna Kendrick, in black and white, on a black background. God fandom is odd, isn’t it?
- Sir: Sir is a cartoonist currently working at some animation studio somewhere - this is his Tumblr. He is good at cartoons.
- Ruby, etc: Ruby self-describes as a ‘person, artist(ish) and author from London’. This is her Tumblr. She is good at drawings.
- Quackerthon: Seemingly sadly on hiatus, this is a blog about a duck. Photos and captions and DUCK. More duck, please, anonymous owner of this Tumblr.
- Daily Cute Boy: Pictures of cute boys! And, mainly, their bums! Girls, gays, ENJOY!
LONG THINGS THAT ARE LONG!
- Ten Outstanding Stories for 2018: A selection by Longreads, these ten short pieces of fiction are from all over the place in time and space but all of them are superb. Links to works by Doris Lessing, Kazuo Ishiguro and others, and I guarantee there will be a couple of shorts in here you won’t have been aware of.
- Babe, What Are You Doing?: The world really doesn’t need another take on Ansari, least of all mine, but this one by Jezebel was, I thought, interesting, focusing as it did on the role of Babe (the site that published the original piece telling Grace’s story) and how the frankly poor quality journalism (seriously, the stupid detail about the wine ffs) undermines the very point it’s trying to make. I read this, and then I saw the email, and I mean really, kids, Christ.
- Misogyny is a Human Pyramid: This essay explores many of the issues around society and gender which have emerged since the Weinstein revelations and is worth reading for its unpacking of misogyny as a constant in Western society. To quote (but really, do read the whole thing, it’s superb): “Misogyny isn’t a sliding scale of harm where jokes are situated at the low end and rape at the other. Rather, it functions like a human pyramid, where minor acts support the major by providing, at best, a foundation of blithe indifference, and at worst an atmosphere of amusement at the denigration of women.”
- How WeChat Became China’s Primary News Source: As Facebook rolls back from news, it’s interesting and instructive to read about how the world’s OTHER gigantic, terrifying monopoliser of people’s screentime has approached the issue. This is a fascinating look at how WeChat works for publishers; there is SO much of interest here, from the micropayment systems available to creators to the way influencer payments work; Alex keeps on cautioning me that ‘wow, China is so future!’ is a lazy and techutopian way of thinking, and he’s doubtless right, but wow China is so future.
- The Grunge Gold Rush: There was a documentary film years back called ‘Hype’, which tracked the rise of the Grunge scene in Seattle; this is basically a short article version of that, and discusses the weirdness of the early 90s when violently uncommercial bands were suddenly getting MTV airplay because the basis had once shared a spliff with someone who was once in a car with Cobain. If you’re of a certain age, this will remind you of a LOT of very mediocre music and plaid shirts; if you’re not, read this and enjoy time travel.
- Typography of the World’s Subways: Ok, I appreciate that this very much falls into the ‘niche interest’ category here, but for the three of you who are really into both typographical design AND mass-transit systems of the world this is basically Christmas. More broadly, though, anyone into design will find something interesting in here; I love the fact that so much thought has gone into the aesthetic of each tube network, regardless of the fact the vast majority of their users will never even think of it.
- Radical Dimensions: One of the very oddest sensations, to my mind at least, is that feeling - almost physical, weirdly - at the point when you were understanding something and then, bang, all of a suddenly you really don’t understand it any more at all (you know what I mean, right? Of course you do). I get that with HARD physics all the time; a friend of mine’s girlfriend, who really did have a degree in rocket science, attempted to explain quantum theory to me once in proper detail and there was an almost audible ‘thunk’ as my brain slammed into the wall of its own limitations about 8 minutes in. Which is a very long-winded way of introdcing this piece which is honestly the best thing I’ve read about how ‘dimensions’ work in physics when we talk beyond the third. Honestly, I even felt that I almost sort of halfway understood by the end - smarter people than me (ie you) may find it appallingly simplistic, but if you’re after a nice physics primer on winter’s afternoon (and WHO ISN’T?) then this is great.
- Coin Farming For The Kid: An essay about videogames and children, in which the author is compelled to collect 9999 coins in Super Mario Odyssey to please his kid. The writeup of how long this takes and the near-mental levels of boredom and frustration it engenders, is really rather lovely and heartwarming, whether or not you have any interest in games or Mario or indeed kids (although on reflection you’ll probably have to care about at least one of them for it to be worthwhile, fine).
- Fabric Made of Stone: This is a fascinating antidote to the standard ‘oh look isn’t North Korea kooky and weird!’ pieces, and is a wonderful microcosmic portrait of the nation. Vinalon - or ‘vinylon’, to the rest of us - was the fabric which basically dressed the North Korean nation for much of the 20th Century, despite being flammable, cold, stiff and, er, made out of literal rocks; this is a really interesting account of how and why it became such a symbolic part of the country’s history.
- The Making of an Epidemic: Ignore the horrible layout of this page; the essay, on how the US moved towards its current predicament of opioid addiction and the large responsibility that Big Pharma shoulders in that regard (I KNOW! Whodathunkit?), is a very interesting examination of the multiple concurrent factors which led to millions of Americans being basically hooked on smack.
- The Limits of Empathy: This is a really interesting look about the extent to which VR experiences can, and should, be used to attempt to bridge gaps in empathy and understanding. A surefire Cannes Lion winner in the past few years, especially in healthcare, has been to create some sort of VR experience which will allow a user to ‘experience’ a situation or condition and thereby MAKE A CONNECTION to sufferers and DEVELOP EMPATHY. Except, turns out, it might not quite work that way - the observation about lived experience occasionally diminishing empathy was fascinating to me.
- The Bitcoin Millionaires: Or at least they were when I found this; no idea whether they’ve all had to hand their Lambos back to the showroom in the wake of this week’s correction. Still, whether or not the bubble’s about to reinflate this is an HILARIOUS look at some of the more extreme dudebros riding the crest of the cryptowave. Shared frathouse style accommodation? CHECK! Suspiciously nebulous approach to the long-term! CHECK! Silly parties and a massive, total lack of self-awareness? CHECKCHECKCHECK!! These people are arseholes and I hope they lose everything - the closing line of the piece is a neat reminder of who’s really getting screwed in this particular pyramid scheme.
- An Oral History of Breaking Bad: I confess to never having watched the show and only skimmed this piece - I figure lots of you might be interested, though, so here you are.
- The Women Who Took On The Mafia: This is VERY LONG, but it’s a proper poliziesco, with Dons and history and revenge and bloodshed and betrayal and bravery and all the elements you’d expect in a story all about standing up to the Ndrangheta in Calabria. It’s easy to characterise all this as a bit of red sauce Godfather hyperbole, but certain parts of Italy really are still absolutely in thrall to the mob; there was a 14 year old kid shot over Christmas in broad daylight around Naples, for example, loads of witnesses, and it’s simply just sort of accepted that noone saw anything. The general sort of feeling of resignation about it all - even in the voices of the newscasters - tells its own story.
- Nothing Will Ever Be Sexy Again: There’s not been a lot of good satire around the Me Too movement, but this made me laugh a lot. “First they came for men I did not like, some of whom had beards that did not look good, others of whom were conservative media personalities, and still others of whom combined those characteristics. But then it started to spread until we were even ruining the careers of people who were accused of minor offenses, like saying “good morning” with a weird emphasis, or eating a sandwich while maintaining eye contact with someone who wasn’t their wife, or emailing a woman a respectful compliment. Oh no, have none of these things happened? My mistake. I am worried that they will, which is just as bad.”
- Remember David Beckham: Even if you have little or no interest in David Beckham, even if you have little or no interest in football, read this piece by Sam Diss on Becks and growing up and masculine identity in the 90s and 00s and, Christ, SO MUCH MORE. This is truly excellent sportswriting, of the sort that’s only really tangentially about sport at all. As an aside, I saw Beckham play for Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in around 2011 - they won 7-2 and it was honestly like watching some sort of crazy Harlem Globetrotters-type Cirque du Soleil version of the game.
- The 29 Stages of a Twitterstorm in 2018: Tom Philips, joining the legion of ex-Buzzfeeders this week, wrote this as his valedictory piece - an updating of his original Anatomy of a Twitterstorm a few years back - and it is wonderful; perfectly-judged, full of really good gags (the names of the people, even the platforms they are using, are spot on), and, as the added icing on the cake, there are a bunch of idiots below the line who don’t seem to realise that it’s all a joke, which is possibly the most 2018 thing about the whole piece.
- The Last Celluloid Desperado: This profile of Robert Mitchum from Rolling Stone in the 70s is an incredible piece of evidence that, well, the movie business has changed some. He’s wrecked throughout, his drug use is casually accepted, the borderline criminality’s all part of the charm, and the writer’s description of Mitchum’s on-set conquests are, well, very much of the time, shall we say. An incredible relic, and one which makes you think being famous was LOADS better in the past.
- Stories: Finally this week, a short piece of writing about the current vogue for STORIES and STORYTELLING and why constructing a narrative around everything is perhaps not a good thing after all. If you’re doing some sort of contemplative THING this January, this is possibly a nice companion to that; I absolutely fcuking despise terms such as ‘mindfulness’ and the associated bullshit that is usually sold alongside them, but this is a very sensible, reasonable and, I think, helpful piece of writing.
By Matthias Koenigswieser
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- You don’t think you want this - 70 minutes of footage taken from British Rail through the 60s, 70s and 80s, soundtracked with appropriate radio for the era lifted from R1 or pirate stations - but I promise you, it is ACE. Put it on the TV and just sort of zone out:
2) This is the new track by Alice Glass, which is sort of electrogothy and poppy at the same time, and which, if you read her account of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her former Crystal Castles bandmate, is suddenly an incredibly creepy piece of art. It’s called ‘Forgiveness’:
3) Watch this, by TuneYards, and imagine how amazing it would be to be able to dance like the people in the video (it would be very amazing). The song’s called Heart Attack:
4) This is called ‘Addictions’ by Lucy Dacus, and I rather love her voice, and the aesthetic of the video - there’s something of the Weyes Blood/Aldous Harding about the vocal, though this has guitars and stuff in it; anyway, see what you think (it’s lovely):
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! New one from Big Zuu and he, er, GOES IN HARD, as the kids I believe have been known to say (I am so old):
6) Finally this week, you probably haven’t ever wondered what would happen if you combined Pearl Jam’s ‘Jeremy’ with ‘Footloose’, and yet here we are. This is, surprisingly, just about perfect. BYE HAPPY FRIDAY I LOVE YOU BYE BE GOOD TAKE CARE BYE!