42 minutes reading time (8411 words)

Web Curios 19/07/19

Web Curios 19/07/19

Well, Donald might be a racist, but it looks like we're getting one of our own in next week so, well, let's not get too smug about how we're 'better than all that'. In less than seven days, barring some sort of miracle, we'll finally find out what the protocol is about moving one's mistress into No.10. GREAT!

Let's not think about that, though. Let's not think about the rain either. Let's instead focus on THE MAGICAL AND EXCITING WORLD OF THE INTERNET - the good bits, the fun bits, not the horrible bits with the nazis in. Lie back (don't lie back, this is the vaguely metaphorical bit of the intro rather than a set of explicit instructions ffs!), relax and let the following 8,000-odd words soothe and destress you, like one of those weird purple massager things that looks worryingly like a dildo but which your mum assures you really isn't - yes, once again it's THAT TIME (Friday! Lunchtime!) and THAT PLACE (your inbox! or the Imperica website) and that means WEB CURIOS! Try not to be too upset. 

By Nick Runge

FIRST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, ENJOY THIS 80s-TINGED BEAUTY FROM RADIO GRINGO!

THE SECTION WHICH HAS FOUND IT A *BIT* DARKLY FUNNY WATCHING PEOPLE GET FROTHY-MOUTHED ABOUT ‘THE DEATH OF THE INFLUENCER ECONOMY’ BEING ENGENDERED BY INSTAGRAM TESTING THE DEATH OF THE ‘LIKE’:

  • Facebook Workplace Getting More Expensive: I’ve had cause to use Workspace again recently after quite a long hiatus and, well, it’s quite underwhelming, isn’t it? Anyway, my opinion doesn’t matter at all - what DOES matter is that FB is hiking the price of its workplace product by $1 per user for its professional license, and introducing a new PREMIUM pricing bracket for people who, I don’t know, don’t feel like Mark Zuckerberg is getting richer fast enough. It’s not an interesting announcement, fine, but it’s another slow news week and I’m clutching at straws somewhat here so bear with me and we can get through this difficult first section together (or, if you’re unaccountably reading this despite not having any actual professional need to, STOP IT! This is only for the advermarketingprdrones! Save yourself!).
  • Facebook Christmas Insights: Whilst for the majority of us Christmas is still a faintly illusory mirage on the horizon, there are a few of you who I know for a fact have this month had to engage in the slightly perverse spectacle of showing off this year’s seasonal wares to a bemused (but mince pie-hungry) press-pack. Yes, it’s CHRISTMAS IN JULY time, when Amazon, M+S and the rest show off the stuff that we’re all going to be fighting over in the aisles come December - or, in Facebook’s case, the time when they release a new tool allowing you to access a bunch of consumer data about consumer behaviour at that most MAGICAL time of year! This is, I have to grudgingly admit, reasonably useful - you can get a whole bunch of country-specific data about how people decide what overpriced, overmarketed crap to buy each year to INFORM YOUR STRATEGIES (or, more likely, to put into a largely-phoned-in presentation explaining why, once again, you’re spending all the budget on FB/Insta ad inventory). IT’S ONLY 5 MONTHS A WAY FFS! START SELLING! Oh, and there’s a whole PDF guide to selling more tat to idiots at Christmastime available to read here if you want it - you may be unsurprised to learn that the main takeaway is ‘buy more advertising through the Big Blue Misery Factory’.
  • Instagram Testing Killing ‘Likes’: IT’S KILLING THE INFLUENCER ECOSYSTEM! THEY’RE UNDERMINING OUR ABILITY TO MONETISE! No, kids, not it’s not and no they’re not. It’s just a test, in a few countries, and the UK isn’t one of them, and even if they do implement it all it means is that the influencer racket will become marginally less grifty than it is at present, and, honestly, what’s really killing the influencer game is the same sort of preposterous circle-jerky environment that pricked the mummyblogger bubble a decade or so ago, not to mention the fact that you’ve all been gaming the system with bots for years anyway. Ok? OK!
  • Twitter Gets Revamped Design: Noone likes it! They’ll all forget about the old design within a week! There’s no practical difference to the product anyway! Onwards!
  • Twitter Launches ‘Arthouse’: ‘Arthouse’, contrary to what you might initially infer from the name, isn’t in fact Twitter’s in-house incubator for new and exciting avant-garde cinema; instead, it’s a new offering to help you...MAKE MORE ADS!!!! Yes, that’s right, it’s another ‘agency within a social platform’-type offering, charging eye-watering rates to connect brands with creators and engender EXCITING BRAND-LED COLLABORATIVE CREATIVE OPPORTUNITIES! Indefatigable social media enthusiast Matt Navarra (seriously, Matt, how do you maintain your seemingly-ceaseless enthusiasm for this rubbish? Doesn’t your soul ache?) got hold of the rate card for the service, and with a minimum spend on creative and advertising of $100kish, this is very much the sort of thing you probably don’t want to tell your clients about lest they stop wasting their money with you and start wasting it directly with Twitter instead.
  • More Global Digital Statistics: We Are Social have dropped their latest kilometric presentation on ALL OF THE WORLD’S SOCIAL MEDIA STATS. Look! Numbers! Data! All the information you should need to be able to persuade your clients that they will DIE if they’re not on A N Other s*c**l m*d** platform (they won’t die; it probably won’t make one iota of difference at all, frankly!)!
  • Reddit Metis: This is a genuinely useful little tool which lets you get a summary of any user’s Reddit profile - most engaged-with subs, most common posting topics, etc etc. If you need a free resource to help inform an influencer or seeding campaign on the platform (kill me now) then this is probably really quite helpful; aside from anything else, I very much appreciate the easy-on-the-eye design (small thing, but often tools like this are eye-gougingly ugly).
  • Image Resizer: Plug in an image, export it in the perfect dimensions for whichever social platform you choose. This is a GODSEND - honestly, I can’t stress enough how much this is worth bookmarking and keeping close.
  • Emoji Vision: You will doubtless have been celebrating World Emoji Day this week - I know, I was excited too! - and will perhaps have been so excited that you missed this rather excellent campaign from the RNIB, which used the day to announce its work to reimagine emoji to be more accessible to the visually impaired. The website outlines the project, shows the design work in progress, and is generally a nice wrapper for a really nice little PR stunt - I was really impressed by this, so GOOD WORK everyone involved in it.
  • Twingo: It’s been a while, but I’m delighted to once again feature one of Web Curios’ favourite types of vaguely work-related content - yes, that’s right, it’s another MASSIVELY OVERDESIGNED FRENCH WEBSITE! Once again the digital creative agencies across the Channel have played an absolute blinder in convincing a client that, rather than a standard, if shiny, website to launch a new thing, they instead need a HUGELY INTERACTIVE WEBGL MASTERPIECE (it may not be webGL, but well, I don’t care)! Drive a Twingo! Play a game! Enjoy the 3d rendering! Wonder at what they trousered for this and how many actual visitors this site is likely to have! This is, honestly, great, and more power to everyone involved in it.
  • Rules of a Fcukbuddy: Finally in the ‘professional’ section of Curios this week, this is a very antipodean website designed to remind men that it’s important to use protection when having casual sex with multiple partners. The tone of voice here is ACE - I particularly liked the somewhat-cheeky rule ‘Don’t Tell Your Wife’ - and the photography and design are also really cool. You can submit your own ‘rules’ for consideration - I would love to see the unmoderated submissions here.

By Sarah Delaney

NEXT, ENJOY THE LATEST IN YAEJI’S EXCELLENT ‘BEATS IN SPACE’ RADIO SHOWS (HONESTLY, THIS IS SUCH A GREAT MIX!)!

THE SECTION WHICH IS STILL SOMEWHAT IN DENIAL ABOUT THE FACT THAT BY THIS TIME NEXT WEEK THAT MAN IS LIKELY TO BE PRIME MINISTER, PT.1:

  • The 2019 Lyttle Lytton Contest: Long-term readers will be aware of the immoderate love I feel for Adam Cadre and his annual exploration of the very worst in short-form novel openings - this is a cousin to the more renowned Bulwer-Lytton contest, which invites submissions for the worst opening line to an unwritten novel, but with the gimmick that submissions must be 200 characters or fewer. As ever, these are GLORIOUS and I don’t want to quote too many because I want you to dive write in and enjoy the mangled prose. Still, here’s my favourite from this year’s selection - you go and find your own: “Tiffany had always dreamed of attending the Gathering, but even as Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J stomped triumphantly onstage, she couldn’t take her eyes off Brian”. Genius.
  • AI Portraits: Upload a photo and watch as it’s reimagined by a MACHINE INTELLIGENCE (not, in fact, an intelligence) and recreated in one of a variety of styles. This is very impressive - it’s not a style transfer, which we’ve seen a lot of before; instead the system has been trained on a selection of different artists’ works meaning that it ‘chooses’ what style to ape itself, but then creates its own image from scratch based on its interpretation of what you feed it. Which is a hugely clunky description, sorry, but is the best I can do. Honestly find a decent, well-lit photo of someone’s face and marvel as this site turns it into a passable Caravaggio pastiche - this is hugely impressive.
  • The History of Web Design: An excellent site, created as a promo for the coffee-table book of the same name, which takes you back through 30 years of website design trends and offers a nice window into how incredibly shonky everything online was in the early-00s (although, on the plus side, visible area on an average webpage was more than 30% and you didn’t have to accept fcuking cookies all over the fcuking places, so maybe things were better then after all). There’s something pleasingly time-capsuleish about this, and you’ll be reminded of some web hits from yesteryear like The Wilderness Downtown (or at least you will if you’re like me and have spent far too much time over the past 20 years staring at a screen in the hope that it will make you feel marginally better (it won’t)).
  • African Storybook: This is such a cool resource - apparently it’s been around for a few years, and it’s nice to see that it’s still active and being updated. “The African Storybook initiative aims to address the shortage of contextually appropriate books for early reading in the languages of Africa. Our vision is for all young African children to have enough enjoyable books to read in a familiar language to practise their reading skills and learn to love reading. On the African Storybook website users can find, create, translate or adapt stories for early reading. They can download and copy the stories and/or illustrations without having to ask for permission or pay a fee. The stories can be read online or offline or printed from the website.” SO many different stories and languages here - my only complaint is that there doesn’t appear to be any way of switching the stories into English, meaning I can’t attempt to teach myself Setswane via the medium of kids’ stories.
  • Social Platforms as Physical Tech: Oh I love these! Reminiscent (to my mind) of the work of mid/late-90s Designer’s Republic, this is a series of illustrations imagining what the the world’s social networks would look like if they were physical objects; so, Insta as a camera, Twitter as a morse code tapper, etc. SO good - the artist’s name is Sheng Lam, and the link takes you to their portfolio on Artstation - once you scroll past the social media machines, you’ll discover a whole host of other great stuff; the robot whales are a personal favourite of mine. This person is insanely talented (and based in Manchester, apparently, so why not book them?).
  • The Nexar Live Map: This is a quite mental vision of the future. Nexar make dashcams and similar sort of tech - this is a map of New York which lets you see recent footage from their kit, creating a sort of semi-realtime videomap of the whole city. Honestly, I can’t quite express how amazing this is - did you ever read The Circle? It’s basically like the endpoint of that novel (well, almost) where everywhere in the world is networked and visible online - you can jump to anywhere (well, almost) in NYC and see footage from a few minutes ago, enabling you to get specific information about traffic, roadworks, etc, in up-to-the-minute fashion. Fine, there might be some privacy concerns - ha! - but the overall effect is dizzyingly future and quite astonishing.
  • Fcuk This Pay Me: Kickstarter as art platform! Fcuk This Pay Me is seeking funding for a ‘conceptual art project that makes visible the invisible labour of an artist’s life’. Obviously this is a LOT of high-concept w4nkery, but, equally, I very much enjoy the conceit here - “a real-time conceptual artwork that reveals the practical aspects of life as an artist, including cash flow, performative social obligations, and other emotional and financial labor (both online as well as the physical investment that goes into making work). The purpose of this piece is to pull back the curtain on the gig economy for contract and creative labor, and to raise awareness of contemporary art practices as they relate to expression and survival under capitalism.” Rewards include a livestream of the artist enjoying the utilities your donation has paid for, or “one of six "limited edition" updates which you can frame as a visual piece of art describing [their] adventures of trying to get responses to unpaid invoices”, which gives you a pretty decent idea of the vibe here.
  • Video Object Removal: A Github entry, meaning there’s not a lot to do here unless you’re an actual code-wrangler - still, you can see gifs of how the tech works. Which is impressive enough (for me at least - you may have higher standards, but, if you do, what are you doing here?). This is code which lets anyone input video, highlight an object within it, and then have software automatically remove said object from all frames of the footage. Obviously it’s hardly seamless - you can very much see the joins in the outputs - but it’s again interesting less for what it is now than for what it will inevitably eventually become.
  • Journey to the Microcosmos: Would you like a brand new YouTube series exploring the exciting world of INCREDIBLY SMOL WATERBORNE ORGANISMS? Would you like to dive deep into the universe of monocellular organisms? YES YOU WOULD! This is unexpectedly fascinating, I promise - I had no idea that tiny little sacs of assorted proteins could be so engaging. Also, if you’ve got a vaguely sciencey kid, this will enthrall them.
  • The Incredible Pet Shop Boys Discography Analysis Motherlode: Do you like a particular artist or band? I mean really like, to the point of having gone to see them more than a dozen times in concert, perhaps having named a kid after them, that sort of thing? However much of a fan you are, I can guarantee you that you don’t like them as much as this person likes the Pet Shop Boys - or, if you do, you’re certainly not putting the same amout of effort into demonstrating your affection. This is...amazing; the navigation is a bit iffy, but just click on the ‘Where do you want to go?’ text in the top left and MARVEL at the wealth of insight available in the drop-down. You want analysis and commentary on every single PSB single and album they have EVER released? GREAT! Honestly, this is obsessionally brilliant - Wayne Studer Phd, I salute your indefatigable endeavour here, you are a fabulous madman.
  • Climaginaries: I had a drink with a couple of people from Extinction Rebellion this week; man, they know how to put the fear up you. This isn’t anything to do with them, but it is about how we’re screwing the planet in a variety of imaginative, short-sighted ways. This is a project by “a multidisciplinary group of scholars from Lund, Utrecht, Durham and Warwick Universities exploring innovative and creative ways of envisioning how a post-fossil world might look like, and the means through which it can transpire. The project is a response to the fact that the power to enable and govern transition to a post-fossil society not only relies on scientific facts and legislative measures, but also on effectual means to envision post-fossil worlds. By providing new knowledge on how stories of climate futures circulate, translate and resonate, [they] aim to leave participants with a new sense of the features that make climate change matter socially and culturally.” There’s lots of really interesting stuff to read and learn and think about on here, although it’s also obviously hugely disheartening.
  • Decapital: Is this a real thing? Let’s presume it is! Decapital is an anonymous (at least to me) fund offering upto $1000 to anyone with an idea - here’s the blurb. “Decapital funds individuals or small group of folks with a track record of making things. Creative and social projects of all kinds are welcome. You don't need to be a professional activist or have a fine art background to apply. You don't need 501(c)3 non-profit status or business plan. A track record of successful projects is more important than anything else. You may include links to previous projects in your application.What kinds of projects? Beautiful, creative, and political projects. Decapital funds a wild variety of projects—protest art, DIY engineering, creative campaigns, fringe art, unusual things, participatory events, projects that challenge structures of power. Primarily, we provide funding for projects that are otherwise difficult to fund.” There’s no indication that this is only open to projects in the US, so why not apply if you have an idea? The deadline is Wednesday 24th July, so GET TO IT.
  • RedditTube: A site which lets you plug in any subReddit of your choice and which will pull the videos from it and play them in a neverending unbroken sequence. What you choose to use this for is YOUR business and I will not judge you.
  • Freemium: Boring-but-useful site, this, collecting a whole host of free-to-use tools for a variety of purposes - from coding to design to project management and beyond. You’ll have heard of lots of these, but equally you’ll probably come across one or two useful things you didn’t know existed. Worth a look if you’re the sort of person who’s always after ways of CRUSHING IT MORE EFFICIENTLY.
  • Elvie: Elvie is a company which makes female-centric technology, the idea being that there isn’t enough tech designed with a female-first ethos and that that needs to change. At present it sells two products - a breast pump and a pelvic floor trainer, both of which are beautifully-designed if nothing else (I’m sure they’re both great, but being in possession of neither lactating breasts or a uterus I’m not really in a position to judge) - and I’ll be interested to see what they decide to approach next.
  • Perfectly Cut Screams: My friend Nick was opining on Twitter that there were few things he loves more than online videos that cut out JUST as things are getting a bit intense; then he found THIS Twitter account, which exists solely to post that exact genre of content. Truly, the world is a serendipitous wonder at times. These are SO GOOD, although each and every one will leave you hungrily wondering “yes, fine, but what happened next?”. Also, WHAT is the man in the car screaming about? We will never know, and that makes it all the more beautiful.
  • The Audubon Photography Awards: The Audobon Society is an organisation that I managed to pass approximately 36 years of my life not knowing about but which now I cannot go a month without hearing about - is this a result of them becoming markedly better at communications, the internet pivoting towards birds, or the simple fact that twitcher-related content tends to find you as you hurtle reluctantly towards middle-age? No idea, obviously, Anyway, this is a collection of photographs from their annual bird photography contest and WOW are these some fine feathered friends - honestly, even if you ordinarily couldn’t give two hoots (b’dum-tish!) about avians, these are some wonderful shots.
  • Text Portraits: Grant Custer has, for reasons known only to himself, made this little webtoy which generates a black and white ASCII version of your Twitter avatar using only letters used in your Twitter bio. Why? WHY THE FCUK NOT EH?
  • Ferly: This is a sex-ed app for women, designed to assist with ‘sexual self-care’ - it self-describes itself as being “your guide to feeling confident, healthy and sexually empowered. Learn the art of sexual self-care, the most pleasurable activity in pursuit of wellness. Unwind with [our] mindful practices, stimulate your brain and body with sensual stories or take a moment to reflect on what great sex means to you.” On the one hand, this is A Good Thing and sexual openness is always to be celebrated; on the other, when did w4nking get so complicated?
  • Chestfaces: The best new Twitter account I’ve seen in a while - celebrities with their faces replaced with their chests. Horrifying, compelling, amazing.
  • Throwflame: What could be better than a drone? How about a drone with a flamethrower attached to it and which you can now fly around incinerating anything you fancy in the blink of an eye? No, that is obviously significantly worse, and yet that’s exactly what a company called Throwflame has invented - it’s seemingly a real product, though I’m not 100% certain that it’s entirely legal; still, why not order one and find out (please don’t order one)?

By Giuseppe Palmisano

NOW WHY NOT ENJOY SOME BRAND NEW AND YET STILL VERY OLDSCHOOL DNB?!

THE SECTION WHICH IS STILL SOMEWHAT IN DENIAL ABOUT THE FACT THAT BY THIS TIME NEXT WEEK THAT MAN IS LIKELY TO BE PRIME MINISTER, PT.2:

  • Flash Drives for Freedom: A project which seeks to collect unused USB drives from people across the world, wipe them, fill them with anti-Kim Jong Il propaganda and smuggle them into North Korea ‘by a variety of means’ to get them into the hands of people living under the regime (I know that this is very, very childish, but I can’t help think of the gold watch bit in Pulp Fiction here - I KNOW, I KNOW, I’M SORRY). You can mail in USBs for them to wipe and reuse if you like - Christ knows it’s something to do with all the branded corporate ones every office has thousands of.
  • Sleeptalk: This is a VERY old site - I think from 2010 - and you’ll need to enable Flash to ‘enjoy’ it, but it’s almost worth the hassle. Sleeptalk is an app which is designed to record any mutterings you make while you kip so you can listen into whatever it is that your id feels the need to express while you’re REM-ing; the website features the ‘best’ of these recordings that anyone at all can listen to. There’s no indication - ok, fine, I’ve not really looked into this that much - that there’s any consent involved here - do the recordings just get automatically uploaded? DO THESE PEOPLE KNOW I’M LISTENING TO THEM? This is very, very odd, and strangely quite creepy; it just feels a bit wrong, if you know what I mean. Special shout out to the Australian woman murmuring ‘little whorebag’ as she slumbers - so SWEET!
  • Go To France: Carolyn Boyle is a writer, journalist and Francophile; this is her website, where she shares her tips and recommendations for tourists, covering the length and breadth of the country and covering food, accomodation and the rest. If you’re planning a trip this is a brilliant resource.
  • Smoking Chefs: Photographs of workers in London’s Chinatown, smoking between shifts. Simultaneously intimate, voyeuristic, weary, sad and timeless, these are GREAT shots and I really want a plate of dumplings now.
  • Livecams: An excellent selection of working webcams from across the US, each featuring LOVELY CRITTERS! You want brown bears? You want puppies? You want eagles and otters and elephants? O MAOW! O ROFF! SO MANY CRITTERS!
  • Etymonline: The online etymology dictionary! Want to find the origin and evolution of any word in the English language? No, you probably don’t, but you SHOULD. BE MORE CURIOUS FFS! I mean, if you’re not inspired to go delving after reading the superbly-comprehensive entry for ‘cnut’ then I don’t know what’s wrong with you frankly.
  • Tarot-o-Bot: Created by design agency illo, this is a fun, silly, beautifully-designed little webtoy which draws a three-card design tarot on demand, and then interprets it for you - the interpretations are all whimsical predictions about the design industry, and feature things like ‘your creative director will deliver all feedback via the medium of Insta stories’, which will probably appeal more to those of you working in the industry than the rest of you. What? FFS not everything can be universally appealing, wind your neck in.
  • Old Bailey Online: Oh me oh my! “A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.” This is, honestly, remarkable - you can search the entire archive by keyword, meaning you can find records of trials featuring your ancestors, stories of murder and revenge, and a remarkable number of instances of people thieving each others’ chickens. This is basically the greatest collection of historical writing prompts you’ll ever see, and if you want some inspiration for that historical potboiler you’ve always wanted to write then, well, GET ON WITH IT YOU LAZY FCUK.
  • The Pigeon Movie Database: A comprehensive resource detailing avian appearances in modern cinema, and generally looking at the world of filmmaking through the eyes of a...er...pigeonphile? This is obviously not really a comprehensive database of pigeons in flims, but it’s still quite funny so I’ll let it off.
  • The 2019 Artistic Swimming World Championships: Or at least photographs of the 2019 artistic swimming world championships. This is synchronised swimming meets Cabaret, as far as I can tell, which a startling number of sequins, rictus grins and jazz-hands, and the photos are astonishing - the first one alone feels like it ought to win all sorts of awards, and they don’t let up as you scroll through the selection. SO good.
  • Uninteresting Photographs: A Twitter account which offers exactly what its name suggests - a selection of incredibly underwhelming photographs. I sort-of feel this ought to be an Insta feed really - I just checked, it isn’t - but it’s still pretty good. Where do these come from? Who takes them? WHY?
  • Storm Area51: You will, if you’re any sort of webmong worth your salt, be aware of the current meme-y plan to storm Area51 (you know, where the US keeps all the SECRET ALIEN GUBBINS that they’re hiding from us all) that’s been gathering pace over the past few weeks - this is the associated Facebook Group, and, whilst this is obviously just a stupid joke that has snowballed, it is simultaneously an excellent window into the general madness and incomprehensibility of online culture here in the year of our lord two kay nineteen. It’s just an astonishing carcrash of irony, stupidity, sarcasm, meme culture and PURE INTERNET, and I love and hate it simultaneously. If you want a brief idea of how incredibly layered and self-referential the world of extremely online has become, take a read of some of this and then imagine trying to explain some of the jokes to someone from just 5 years ago.
  • Unicron: I am not, to be clear, the sort of man who spends money on or owns vinyl toy figurines - I don’t judge you if you are (apart from Fat Bob, who I do very much judge), it’s just not my thing. That said, this makes me ALMOST change my mind - toy company Hasbro has one of those LEGO-esque crowdfunding setups, where limited edition or exclusive designs will get made in limited numbers if a set number of enthusiasts commit to shelling out for the product; this is them offering to make UNICRON FROM TRANSFORMERS, if 8000 middle-aged losers shell out $800 each for the privilege. I COULD BE ONE OF THOSE MIDDLE-AGED LOSERS! For those of you whose childhoods were less Transformers-obsessed than mine, Unicron is a big baddie from the giant transforming robots canon, and he turns into a PLANET that EATS OTHER PLANETS and oh God I am basically 9 years old again and I MUST NOT BUY THIS.
  • Queer Scifi: A site collecting recommendations of science fiction and fantasy novels featuring queer protagonists; fantasy’s not my genre, but I can imagine this being a useful resource for anyone who likes that sort of thing but is a *bit* bored of Conan-style heteroboning in loincloths.
  • NASA Flickr: Thanks to Paddy, whose newsletter I stole this from this week - this is a wonderful collection of photos from NASA on Flickr. People, planets, spacecraft, moonwalks, stars, nebulae...SO MUCH SPACE.
  • Ultimate Ungulate: Have you ever spent an afternoon wasting time at work browsing the web (NO OF COURSE YOU HAVEN’T) but been left vaguely dissatisfied because of the lack of high-quality ungulate material available to you? Have you always harboured a secret - or overt; why be ashamed? - desire to know more about hooved mammals and their wants, desires and secrets? Well don’t I have a treat for you! I can’t be mean about this - it’s genuinely informative, well-maintained and the site’s owner, one Brent Huffman, clearly loves his ungulates. It’s just, well, this sort of VERY SPECIFIC, very deep investigation into niche stuff scratches a peculiar itch deep within me and for reasons I don’t quite adequately understand sort-of makes me want to cry. Best not to dwell too much on it, on balance.
  • The Trocadero: When I was but a smol child, I would come and visit my dad in London at the weekends and, if I was very lucky, he’d take me to the Trocadero - in the early 90s, it was THE most exciting place in the world, especially if you grew up in Swindon where the acme of underage town centre entertainment was flicking chips at goths and attempting to eat 15 doughnuts in under 10 minutes. It was PACKED with arcade machines and flashing lights and EXCITING SLIGHTLY OLDER KIDS whose acne and slight smell of stale B&H spoke of FREEDOM and EXCITEMENT and THE PROSPECT OF ONE DAY LOSING ONE’S VIRGINITY! This is a wonderful Twitter thread which tells the history of the venue, including all sorts of wonderful, nostalgia-inducing photos. Honestly, this made me SO happy.
  • Popup Trombone: Absolutely the best single-webpage gag I’ve seen all week, and a hugely satisfying one to boot.
  • Tina Kraus: Tina Kraus makes rather wonderful paper art- this is her portfolio. The animals are just WONDERFUL.
  • Terraria: You might not think that you need or want a YouTube channel devoted solely to presenting soothing videos of people putting terrariums together, but you have no idea what you actually want and should listen to me because only I can see the desires that lurk deep in your soul.
  • Kibus: Obviously you want the best for your fur baby (sorry) - OBVIOUSLY. You want all the best toys and the treats and suchlike, and if you could afford it you’d probably want some sort of gourmet chef preparing meals on demand, but you can’t quite afford it, much to your shame and chagrin. Still, never mind, Kibus is the next best thing - “with the Kibus device you will be able to offer your pet a natural and healthy food, which is human-grade, minimally processed and completely tasteful. You only need to program the home appliance and fill a tank with water and the other tank with dehydrated pet food and Kibus will make everything else for you! Your pet will enjoy a healthy, natural and just-cooked meal. The device has also a water bowl which is always full so that pets have always water available.” I mean, what? It’s a device that will...what, warm up kibble for your cat? Can you imagine what this would make your house smell like? Also, I don’t know about your pets, but if my girlfriend’s cat is anything to go by you’d be knee-deep in uneaten, warm kitty chow within about three days.
  • Sonny: What bathroom feature do you most want to make portable and carry around with you? Your mirror? The lovely lighting? The...er...bidet? Yes, that’s right! Sonny is the nearly 20x funded Indiegogo sensation offering thousands of people the opportunity to carry a reasonably high-powered water pick with them wherever they go so that they can worry at their bemerded anus with some cleansing H2O. On the one hand, big fan of a clean bum over here; on the other, this feels like it’s going to end up with fecal matter all over the walls of a public toilet cubicle when you get your angles wrong. This feels to me like it might not eventually work 100% as advertised, but maybe I’m just a foul-bottomed cynic.
  • Spy Intrigue: This is an EXCELLENT piece of interactive fiction - I don’t want to tell you too much about it, but you can happily kill 45m with it and it will make you laugh a LOT (or it will if you have a similar sense of humour to me, which, given you’re reading my writing, I’m going to vaguely assume that you do. Unless you’re reading this out of some sort of masochistic impulse in which case, really, stop it).
  • Bumface Poohands: Finally this week, it’s not big or clever but this book title and premise made me laugh a LOT. Also, it’s by Kunt of Kunt and the Gang ‘fame’, and as such I will recommend it unreservedly; I read his autobiography in an afternoon over Christmas and, while it’s fair to say there are better-written books out there, I laughed more reading it than at anything else I have read this year. Go on, treat yourself to a copy, I promise you won’t regret it (probably, although your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for comedy songs about Madeline McCann).

By Lin Yung Cheng

LAST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, SOME HOUSE AND DISCO BANGERS FROM MELVO BAPTISTE!

THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:

  • Tiny Pricks: The awful man in the White House says and does some dreadful things. Tiny Pricks takes them and makes them into works of embroidery.
  • Baz Furnell: Baz Furnell makes quite incredibly intricate pen drawings which, I promise, are MESMERISING.
  • Zoerism: Street art with a very clear and, to me, slightly baffling focus on cars, both as subject matter and material. Odd, but a very strong aesthetic here.
  • Downtown Collective: Collecting drawings and illustrations of New York storefronts and restaurants. Lovely.
  • Miki Kim: Oh WOW tattoos. These are sublime.
  • Black Forest Woods: Incredibly soothing photos and videos of high-end carpentry and woodworking which will absolutely give you tingles if you’re that sort of person.
  • City Live Sketch: Pietro Cataudella is an artist/designer type person; his Insta feed is full of small visual gags in which he combines sketches in his notebook with scenes in the real world to comic effect (and which is loads better than my joyless little writeup here has made it sound).
  • Tito Merello: Morello is a painter from (I think) Spain - this is his Insta feed. His work is GORGEOUS.
  • Andrew Jonathan Design: FULL DISCLOSURE - Andrew is a friend of mine, though not one of the ones who reads Curios and so he may NEVER KNOW about his exciting inclusion in this week’s Insta roundup. He recently quit his job to pursue his dream of being an interior designer - his Insta feed is basically his lookbook/portfolio, and if you’d like a bit of very stylish interiors inspiration then I suggest you give it a follow. If you ask him nicely he’ll recommend you some throws or something (SORRY ANDREW I KNOW IT’S MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT).
  • Barbie: Barbie on Instagram is some sort of incredible postmodern performance art project and, honestly, may be the best dissection of Insta culture and the oddity of it all that currently exists. I am totally serious about this btw.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!

  • Neuralink: Elon Musk this week announced that his latest project has already managed to get a monkey to control a computer with its brain; this is an overview of the actual science behind the hype, and is sober-enough in tone to point out that this stuff is actually quite a long way away still, and the ability to control anything with any sort of precision using only the POWER OF OUR MINDS isn’t quite to hand just yet, despite what the ever-marching army of Musk fanboys might want to think. Obviously hugely impressive and not a little terrifying, but also obviously still very much vaporware at this stage.
  • Hosting Hate Online: I’ve been waiting for this story for a couple of years now, ever since the Murdoch press started going for Google in a big way for hosting hateful content (THE IRONY!) - this story is about the companies that providing hosting to some of the world’s more objectionable websites, the ones peddling nazism and hatred and bigotry (no, not Twitter! LOLzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz), and how they just seem to get a free pass for it from everyone; GoDaddy, Cloudflare, Amazon, Microsoft, Google...all the big names, all profiting from the horror. Any proper outlets want to write this one up (sorry Gizmodo, but)?
  • How Facebook’s New Ad Transparency Tools Will Work: A really good explainer about exactly what the new ad transparency settings will tell you about why you’re seeing ads on FB, where the advertisers got your data from, etc - the update’s not reached me yet, so I can’t personally comment on it, but based on this excellent writeup it seems to be pretty much incontrovertibly A Good Thing.
  • The Facebook Poker Bot: Perhaps I simply wasn’t reading closely enough, but I didn’t see too much of the coverage of the latest advance in gameplaying AI mentioning the fact that it’s a Facebook product. It is, though, and this piece does a decent job of explaining why it’s a significant development and what it might enable future software to do more efficiently - effectively this is a tiny step in enabling machine intelligence to make assessments about the truth value of a statement when delivered by an individual with intention to deceive. Which on the one hand is potentially really useful, and on the other brings even closer a future in which the machines will know everything and we won’t be able to fool them and oh god this ends badly doesn’t it?
  • The Future of Video: A report from this year’s Vidcon, the annual jamboree for video platforms and creators which has for years been dominated by YouTube but which according to this report is this year seeing TikTok hoovering up all the attention as YouTube struggles with issues of moderation, community toxicity, creator burnout and the rest. The thrust of the piece is generally that YouTube’s struggling for relevance and attention, which, frankly, is balls; I wouldn’t give up on it quite yet.
  • Amazon’s Project Go: A really interesting look at the genesis and evolution of Amazon’s Project Go - it’s physical retail space offering which dispenses with cashiers in favour of a seamless ‘walk in, get stuff, walk out’ shopping experience. As with everything about Amazon it’s hugely impressive and utterly chilling at the same time - I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying a meeting with Jeff Bezos would be (mech suit or otherwise).
  • Have We Hit Peak Podcast?: So, so much of this piece feels like an Onion parody, not least the entire opening section describing two young Americans feelings of dismay and disappointment when their generic, ill-considered, no-effort podcast didn’t instantly garner them influencer status and a bunch of brand deals. Aside from that, though, it’s a pretty good look at the current state of the podcast ecosystem, and a decent illustration of why the world probably doesn’t need an unedited recording of you and your mates LOLing it up whilst hungover (YOU ARE NOT THAT FUNNY, KAREN).
  • Level Design Patterns in 2d Games: This is a pretty technical post about videogame design, fine, but it’s also a really interesting insight into the tricks and tools that game designers use to create an optimal player experience, and if you’re an ageing gamer who remembers the halcyon days of the side-scroller then this will be genuinely fascinating; otherwise, it’s still a good explanation of how design influences usage if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
  • The Coast of Utopia: Vanity Fair hangs out with the infuriatingly Instaperfect influencers of Australia’s Byron Bay - the piece is largely judgement free, and in fairness none of the people featured come across particularly badly (or at least, not compared to some of the Instadetritus one reads interviews with), but it’s a decent encapsulation of the sheer surreality of the Insta-industrial complex and the people who exist within it.
  • Occupy White Walls: Occupy White Walls is a videogame-cum-art-project which lets the player create their own gallery, fill it with work of their choosing, and then explore it and the galleries of others in virtual space - it sounds LOVELY, and seems to raise interesting questions about the nature of the gallery-going experience, discussions of art, etc.
  • Warped: After last week’s piece on Blink182, another time machine back to the 90s/00s with this retrospective on the Warped tour (which I was stunned to fnd out was still giong) and a look at this, it’s supposedly final incarnation. It’s funny to think how mainstream all this stuff was 20 years ago, and how long that slightly weird XXXXTREME! Stuff persisted for afterwards - what’s best about this piece, though, is all the photos of ageing pop-punkers looking a big flabby and worse for wear. I often ask myself what we’re all going to look like when we’re all old and the tattoos are sagging - this, it turns out, is the answer.
  • The Murky Ethics of Posthumous Music: Because I am old and mainly listen to Radio4 I had literally no idea that a version of ‘Higher Love’ featuring Whitney Houston’s vocals was being touted as THIS SUMMER’S DANCEFLOOR BANGER, but apparently it is. This is a really good piece on the song, it’s genesis, and the oddity of using the vocal track of a deceased artist in this sort of production; as I type this I’m listening to the track and fcuking hell it’s awful; Whitney was so much better than this.
  • The YouTube Candidate: What’s politics going to look like when today’s kids become old enough to vote and decide they want to see Ninja, Yogscast and Zoella running the country? At present it’s hard to imagine it will look appreciably worse. This is a profile of US YouTuber Joey Salads, famous for prank videos but who’s now attempting to parlay his skills as...as...as a man who makes prank videos on the internet into a run for Congress. This is by turns very funny - Salads is, it’s fair to say, a man for whom minimalism and restraint are largely unknown concepts - and a bit troubling; you get the feeling that Salads may not make Congress, but it won’t be long before someone else like him does.
  • The Impossible Dream: On why the pursuit of happiness is a fundamentally stupid thing to aim for and serves only to make us miserable. “The appetite for pleasure, as understood by Hobbes, has two disturbing features. First, it never ends until death. There is no stable condition that counts as being happy; there are only fleeting experiences that must be renewed constantly. We are (though Hobbes doesn’t use the phrase) in an endless pursuit of happiness, and in order to attain happiness, we are in pursuit of the power and wealth that we believe will make it possible. Second, we take an imaginary pleasure now in our future pleasures. And since happiness is subjective, imaginary pleasures are just as authentic as real ones. Thus fantasy and reality become interchangeable.” Well quite.
  • Workers of the World: A brilliant Bloomberg piece in which they profile 10 millennials from around the world, interviewing them about their lives and their jobs, their hopes and fears. Each piece is presented in the voice of the interviewee - honestly, these are all superb pen portraits, each with a beautifully-distinct voice. I fell slightly in love with the kid from South Africa, but you will each have your own favourites; wonderful.
  • If Men Carried Purses: A really interesting essay on the extent to which garment design impacts or reflects relative expectations placed on men and women to clean, tidy and generally restore order in their environment. I had honestly never thought about any of the stuff in here, which suggests that there’s quite a lot of truth in it.
  • My Unsexual Revolution: Diane Shipley tells the story of her sex life, or lack of it, and the steps she took to understand that perhaps sex wasn’t for her after all, and that she didn’t want to do it. I really like this piece - it’s clear-eyed, unsentimental, honest, and...I want to say ‘neatly-written’, which sounds like faint praise but is very much not meant as such. Very good indeed.
  • 9 Months With Fan Bingbing: Fan Bingbing, as you doubtless all already know (having read about her in Curios before, obvs), is China’s biggest movie star who recently got into trouble with the Chinese authorities, was very publicly shamed for tax irregularities, and disappeared for 9 months or so. This article is by Rian Dundon, who was her English tutor for a time a few years ago, and it is FASCINATING, not just about Fan herself but about the weird and VERY dodgy-sounding world of Chinese films. It also contains a slightly-buried allegation that David Carradine was somehow offed by Fan’s gangster manager, which is a bold claim to make in your own name - I do hope Rian’s not easily findable.
  • Why We Should Read John Updike: A brilliant essay in defence of Updike - and other authors of the same ilk - which makes the excellent point that, regardless of what we might think about the distasteful masculinism of the author or some of his novels’ tropes,the quality of the writing is such that it withstands criticism. Regardless of what you think of Updike (personally I adore the Rabbit novels and quite a lot of his other stuff as well, though equally there are a few things that are pretty much unreadable in 2019), this is just a really solid piece of writing and criticism, and I applaud the spirit.
  • The Murderer, The Writer, The Reckoning: About writing in prison, by a writer, in prison. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but this contains the most arresting opening paragraph of any essay you will read all year. John J Lennon can certainly write, though there’s a chilling quality to the prose; I can’t quite tell whether this is informed by what you learn about him as you read the essay or something inherent in his writing.
  • Et Tu: Another superb reflection, this time by Lidija Haas, on the Me Too movement, where it has led us, and what the world feels like now that we’ve ostensibly recalibrated our morals a bit.
  • Going Down The Pipes: Finally in this week’s longreads, an article from way back in 1996 - this is the celebrated essay that inspired the film ‘Pushing Tin’, all about air traffic controllers in New Jersey and how insanely, crazily stressful their job is. This is an all-time classic piece of writing - brilliant characters, brilliant setting, tension, humour, the works. Honestly, you’ll enjoy this SO much, I promise. It’s long, though, so make one of those big Sports Direct mugs of tea to go with it.

By Jack Teagle

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:

1) This is my friend Little Chris’ favourite band, or it used to be, and this song will make you feel 15 again - The Menzingers, with ‘Anna’:

2) Excellent advice in this song from Idles - ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’:

3) This is a GREAT song - it’s called ‘Don’t Cling to Life’ and it’s by The Murder Capital, and the video is ART:

4) This is A Certain Ratio with a cracking track and a video featuring some EXCELLENT old-school dancing, as well as the wonderful vocals of Barry Adamson - it’s called ‘Dirty Boy’:

5) HIPHOP CORNER! Common is an all-time great rapper, and this is a typically great track. Hercules, ft. Swizz Beats - SO good:

6) Last up this week, this is scratchy, odd little number with an absolutely compelling video - I could watch this forever, it’s mesmerising and the model/actor is incredible. It’s called ‘St Seraphim Redux’ and its by Collapsing Scenery and, well, ENJOY AND TAKE CARE AND HAVE FUN AND I LOVE YOU AND WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I REALLY APPRECIATE YOU AND EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO AND THAT I HONESTLY TO BELIEVE IT’S ALL GOING TO BE FINE I WILL BE BACK NEXT WEEK AS USUAL BUT UNTIL THEN YOU BE CAREFUL OUT THERE AND BE NICE TO YOURSELF OK I LOVE YOU OK BYE!:

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