I...I don't know whats going on. Do you? Can you tell me? Can you explain? Honestly, I seem to have totally lost the run of things this week, and am utterly confused as who to believe and what to think about anything.
Do I believe Donald? Do I believe Vlad? Do I believe T'reese, or peaky-looking Jacob, or 'funny' Boris? Is Jezzus an antisemite or the messiah or simply a massive twat? Is 'belief' even possible any more, or should we replace it with 'have faith in', given the seeming impossibility of anyone ever agreeing on what is provable and what isn't? ARE WE LIVING IN SOME SORT OF MASSIVELY UNCERTAIN QUANTUM SIMULATION???
I don't expect you to tell me, of course; I imagine you're as lost and confused as I am. If you're looking for direction, though, if you're looking for answers and meaning and definition to the countours of your otherwise baffling existence then well aren't YOU in luck? I've just drawn this week's selection of links from the deck, so consider the following your very own personal Tarot for this coming seven days, offering you preparation and protection for what is to come. WHAT DOES IT ALL SIGNIFY? Almost certainly nothing good. Once again, though, I provide you with a (possibly unwelcome, fine) constant in these oh-so-uncertain times - THIS, AS EVER, IS WEB CURIOS!
THE SECTION WHICH, ON REFLECTION, PROBABLY WOULDN’T HAVE PUT MUCH NEWS OUT THIS WEEK EITHER WERE IT FACEBOOK:
- Working To Keep Facebook Safe: It’s fair to say that this week’s expose on the somewhat-less-than-assiduous Facebook moderation training camps was...not a great look. Still, given that the past 6 months have proved that there is seemingly nothing about the platform which would persuade people to actually stop using it, part of me does wonder the extent to which they actually care - I mean, yes, it’s a temporary reputational SNAFU and all that, but when the share price is as elastic as Facebook’s then what of it? Anyway, I’m including this as I found the reactive statement to the C4 show interesting - it does rather give the impression of an organisation which has ceased being able to hear what it sounds like to outsiders. A small piece of maths here: on a platform with 1.45b daily active users globally, each of whom posts multiple things per day in 100+ languages, how much active good do you think that 7,500 human moderators can actually do? Well, yes, quite.
- You Can Now Remove Followers From Your Insta: Like blocking, but more subtle - Insta is testing the ability for users to be able to gently force specific followers to, er, unfollow them. Perfect for those of you who are sick of that weirdo creeping over your thirst pics but who don’t want the DRAMA of blocking them - people hit with the unfollow hammer won’t be notified, and so only the most obsessively stalky will probably notice. Absolutely no commercial application to this whatsoever, but the incredibly childish playground spats that I can imagine this engendering cheers me no end.
- Media Twitter: Not content with rendering the app practically unusable this past week (seriously though, what sort of design sociopath implements an update whose seeming sole function was to move the nav bar from the top to the bottom of the app? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT???), Twitter has also this week launched MEDIA TWITTER, a supposedly useful site collecting tips and tricks and hints and stuff all about how best to make use of the EXCITING WORLD OF POSSIBILITY that Twitter affords us. It’s of little use or interest to any of you, beyond being another illustration of Twitter as a company which still doesn’t seem to know what it is or who it is for - I mean, really, who is this site aimed at? Anyone familiar with the platform will find the square root of fcuk all in here to interest them; anyone unfamiliar with it certainly won’t be enticed by this taxonomically abortive mess which was seemingly cobbled together with no thought whatsoever to user experience (just like Twitter itself BOOM BOOM).
- Tinder Adds Bitmoji Integration: I do wonder slightly who is going to use this. At what point in the standard Tinder chirpsing process - swipe, desultory message conversation, vague waltz towards the possibility of an irl meetup - one suddenly decides “YES! It is time to break out my cutesy Bitmoji avatar! It is this slightly creepy and infantilised representation of myself which will finally help me gain access to the other person’s pants!”? Still, whilst this particular use case is a ridiculous one, it’s also the first example I’ve seen in the wild of how the Snap API integration works, and so is worth a look if you’re interested in some of the use cases for the SnapKit tech.
- SubReddits Launching Chatrooms: Or at least they’re testing the possibility - because, as anyone who’s spent any time on Reddit can surely tell you, where better on the web to talk to strangers! Eh? Oh. Still, there’s a pleasing degree of optimism to this initiative, and I do like the idea of people being able to congregate around points of interest and form deeper connections than currently allowed. There’s probably some semi-interesting applications for this for fan communities, but it’s still practically in Alpha as a concept and as such I can’t really bring myself to think about it too much and you probably ought not to either.
- Stripe Press: The other week I featured something about Facebook’s foray into print media with their promotional magazine being distributed in first class airline lounger worldwide - the fact that payment platform Stripe has now also made steps to enter the physical publishing market now officially makes ‘tech companies making glossy magazines (or in this case books, if I’m being accurate)’ a THING! That’s right, kids, publishing is SAVED! At least, if you’re anything to go by, if you’re a white, tech-bro man - in an astonishingly tone-deaf piece of non-PR, the starting roster for Stripe’s newly-minted publishing house is entirely comprised of, that’s right. Pasty blokes. WELL DONE, TECHTWATS! Leaving aside the antienlightened nature of their stable of authors, you can see why they’re doing this - LinkedIn-style leadership tomes about BUSINESS and SUCCESS, all with the Stripe imprimatur, aimed at exactly the sort of hungry, thrusting young entrepreneurs who they want to sign up to the service...it’s not totally stupid. Seriously, though, ALL white men? In 2018?
- AdQuick: Many, many years ago I featured a nascent Google initiative in the US which allowed anyone to use the Google ad buying interface to bid for TV ad spots on local US TV. I don’t think it ever took off, and I’m pretty sure Google quietly shelved it, but for a time I was slightly enchanted by the idea that anyone could buy a 30s TV spot targeting residents of, say, Topeka. This gives me much the same feeling of excitement - AdQuick is a platform which lets you bid for billboard ads across the US from the comfort of your own phone; you can, seemingly, buy them on an individual basis, which led me to briefly contemplate advertising Web Curios to confused drivers rolling through South Dakota. I know that there are myriad reasons why it wouldn’t be possible to set this up in the UK, but, well, can someone set this up in the UK please? Please?
- Liberty Virtual Flagship Store: It’s been a slow week in advermarketingprwebland, thank fcuk, so I’ll finish this section with this site, which aims to flog Liberty to the Japanese. It’s notable not so much for the webwork - which is very nice, and slick, and a bit fancy, and all in Japanese - but for the fact that they bothered to make a whole separate website JUST for Japanese virtual tourists; I wonder whether there’s an equivalent version for the Kazakhs.
THE SECTION WHICH HONESTLY CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING PITHY OR FUNNY TO SAY ABOUT THE ASBOLUTE FCUKING SHITSHOW THAT THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE MANAGED TO MAKE OF THIS WEEK, PT.1:
- B-Boy Lilou: To be honest, there’s a small possibility that some of you will click this link and then get stuck (DON’T DO THAT THERE IS SO MUCH GOODNESS TO COME) - this site, by Red Bull, is a tribute to breakdancing b-boy legend Ali Ramdani, aka Lilou (I say that as though I had heard of him before opening this site for the first time - obviously I hadn’t), and through a mixture of text and videos and sound takes you through the past two decades of hiphop and breaks culture. There is SO MUCH STUFF in here; the music alone is worth an hour of your time, as you go back to 98 and pass through Jason Nevins vs Run DMC and a whole bunch of other great tracks from the late-90s to today, but everything else about the site is superb, from the layout to the navigation mechanics to the transitions. Beautiful work, and if you happen to be a fan of hiphop then this is probably the best thing you’ll browse around all Summer.
- The Opposite of Forecasting: What does the weather sound like? If you’re in London at present, it mostly sounds like 7million people shouting “CAN YOU STOP SWEATING ON ME PLEASE?”, but should you ever have felt a strange and unprompted desire to know what it sounds like in Austin, Texas, then WOW do I have the site for you. The Opposite of Forecasting is a neat little webproject which converts data about Austin’s weather patterns, derived from ambient weather data captured by a sensor situated, pleasingly, outside the city’s Museum of Human Achievement, into sound by passing said data through a Raspberry Pi connected to music generation software SuperCollider. Which is probably more information than any of you wanted, but I don’t care - I am now dreaming of a future in which all cities offer their very own ambient soundscapes determined by their temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind angle, wind speed, barometric pressure, UV, and solar radiation, and thinking how lovely it would be to tune into the sounds of Coventry or Viareggio or Sitges or anywhere. MAKE THIS HAPPEN PLEASE.
- VDraw: Another site which, if I’m honest, I’m guessing at a bit what with it also being all in Japanese, VDraw seems to be software which is designed to enable digital artists to stream their working, with an anime-style avatar painting on a virtual canvas to provide the viewer with a CG ‘presenter’ to demonstrate and talk through the workings. So, for example, you could sit and draw stuff on a tablet and, though this software, you’d be able to cast that to a streaming service as though a cartoon Japanese schoolgirl (WHY is it always cartoon Japanese schoolgirls, though? I mean, FFS!) were there in virtual space drawing on an easel. It’s a really interesting idea - shonky as you like, on this viewing, but the concept makes sense and I could imagine something not dissimilar to this tech ushering in a whole new generation of Tony Harts on YouTube (to those of you who don’t know who Tony Hart is, I PITY YOU - here, enjoy).
- The Trill Project: I must admit, when I first found this my first reaction was “ Jesus, what a dreadful idea”; Trill’s strapline is “What would you tell if nobody knew you were telling it?”, the answer to which, if you’ve spent any time at all online in the past few years, is “LOOK DON’T TELL ME KEEP YOUR POISONS TO YOURSELF”. Still, a bit more digging (literally two clicks - never let it be said I’m not assiduous in my research) led me to discover that in fact it’s a prototypical project which “allows users to safely express themselves in a supportive environment, while building tight knit communities. Our users are confident in their security and benefit from hearing people around the globe share and relate to their honest thoughts. Due to our high level of security, our app is perfect for anyone grappling with issues, thoughts, or ideas, they aren't ready to publicly share, or are not supposed to be sharing. This especially includes people in countries with restricted or censored internet, people in the LGBT+ community, and people dealing with the stigma around mental health issues.” Which, really, you can’t argue with. No usernames, no email, strong moderation and, in theory at least, a supportive community, could make this a genuinely useful space for people to discuss things free of personal burden. Or it could end up being a short-lived experiment in utopianism that gets ruined by cnuts like almost everything else - what do you think it’s most likely to be?
- Public By Default: This is really interesting, if not a little cautionary. You remember Venmo, right? Still absent from the UK, but continually popular amongst kids in the US, it’s the platform that allows easy peer-to-peer money transfer with emoji/text notes, kind of like WhatsApp with payments built in (which will be exactly what kills it in time), the app has a small and not insignificant quirk whereby far more of the data about users, etc, is visible to people who want to see it than you might want. This site, by Hang Do Thai Duc, takes that publicly available data and presents it as a series of short stories about 5 different Venmo users whose transaction history were observed last year - it’s nicely put together and there’s a definite voyeuristic frisson to piecing together assumptions about people’s existences from their transaction receipts, but more than anything it illustrates just how, well, leaky everything is. Keep the money in the mattress, it is ALWAYS the best way (pace Ken Dodd).
- Pic Chain: Sorry about this - I have just realised that this is ANOTHER site all in foriegn (in this instance, Chinese), which isn’t really what you come here for ; still, it’s a really interesting idea and the first execution of this that I’ve seen in the wild. One of the great hopes of THE BLOCKCHAIN is, of course, attribution and verifiability for creators; this site, by Chinese web giant Baidu, is a service which, I think, lets anyone put their photos on the blockchain, attaching their identity to it to prevent fraud and to ensure traceability, etc. Sadly I can’t read any of the copy here which sort of renders my assessment of the whole thing a bit pointless but, well, it seems like an interesting thing.
- Machine Tube: Have you wanted a service that lets you create your own DeepFakes to mess with the heads of friends, acquaintances or the lumpenproletariat whose idiocy you want to bend to your will? GREAT! Machine Tube isn’t quite the magical ‘put anyone’s face onto any video you like with no technical ability whatsoever!’ magic toy you might have hoped for (thank GOD, is all I can say), and it’s not particularly user-friendly (really, not at all), but you can, with a bit of fiddling, make some genuinely impressive fakes with the sample images and videos on the site. You can see a video tutorial here should you wish to have a play; however shonky this is, please do bear in mind that we’re only about 18 months away from everyone having the ability to do this on their phones, with any image/video combination they want. Isn’t that a lovely thought? NO. NO IT IS NOT.
- Track: Oh I do love this. Track is a ‘generative music experiment’ which produces a totally new 3d neon Tron-ish first person visualisation of the track ‘Implant’ by Makeup and Vanity Set each time you load it up. I would happily stare at this on a big screen for HOURS; click and drag to look around, enjoy the neon and think how awesome it would be to go on an in-the-dark rollercoaster with this aesthetic.
- Man Eating Food: This is...odd. A single YouTube channel, which seemingly came into existence one short week agho, featuring a succession of videos showing the same middle-aged bearded man, sitting at a table, taking a single bite of a variety of foodstuffs - tomato sauce from a jar, lettuce, a courgette, an onion...The best thing about this (can one identify a ‘best’ thing? Does perfection have a pinnacle? Perhaps not) is the way the bloke in question makes exactly the same satisfied ‘wow, that’s good’ face at the end of each film, nodding to himself as if to say “well, that was a MIGHTY FINE ONION”. I honestly can’t think for a second why this exists, which almost certainly makes it ART.
- DEA Slang Terms & Code Words: Each year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the US publishes a list of what it perceives to be the current slang terms for drugs in use in the US, presumably to help law enforcement personnel decode the dastardly language of the NARCOPERPS. This is the latest edition, published this week, and WOW are there some cracking terms in there. As is normal with these sorts of things, it’s hard to get past the idea that these have in large part been given to the feds by criminals who are having a laugh at their expense - I am not a heroin addict (no, really Mum, I’m not), but I can’t for a second imagine that anyone who is really refers to their skag as ‘Dog Food’, or, er, ‘Crown Crap’. Though I could personally really go for a 10-bag of “Booty Juice” right about now.
- Mutable Gallery: “A collection of generative artworks by Heydon Pickering.Generate, calibrate, and download unique SVGs.” Which is a really dull description for an honestly wonderful site - the navigation is a bit horrid, but everything else about it is gorgeous - click ‘Map’ to navigate through the ten or so different works, which you can refresh an infinite number of times to generate an infinite number of variants, whose col9usr and proportions you can change as you wish and which you can subsequently download in reasonably high res. I would personally decorate my whole house with these, though that may, I appreciate, not be a recommendation for you.
- Beyond Beauty: This is a really nicely-made site, presenting four women who are primarily known for their physical appearance (Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson and Cara Delavigne) who talk about other projects close to their hearts and presenting a slightly different perspective on them, as people rather than objects of lust. I’ve personally got limited time for any of these people - nothing against them, I just don’t care - but it’s well put-together and as an example of stylish, magazine-type design it’s a rather nice one.
- Gudak: Oh I do like this one. Gudak is an (iOS-only) app which effectively turns your phone into a disposable camera. You can use the app to shoot upto 24 images per ‘roll’; “after you finish the last shot of the film, you have to wait an hour to reload the film. Once you finish the roll, you have to wait full 3 days for the development processing to see the photos.” SUCH A LOVELY IDEA! I am all for the return of slow photography, and the idea that you have no clue how good or otherwise how good your shots are until they turn up a few days hence is captivating to me. I imagine that there will be YOUNG PEOPLE for whom the concept of this is mind-blowing. The obvious extension to this is to have the images printed and automatically mailed to you after that three day period rather than delivered digitally, which to my mind would be a lovely extension to the service.
- Least Used Emoji: Every 12 hours, this Twitter bot checks the emoji usage rankings compiled by Emojitracker.com and shares the emoji currently at the bottom of the global usage lists. At the time of writing, the sad, unloved cablecar emoji has been the least-used for a total of 75 days - YOU CAN CHANGE THIS! Come on everyone, let’s make a difference and get it off the bottom (this is what passes for agency in the year of our lord 2k18).
- Chalamet In Art: Timothy Chalamet, poorly-photoshopped into classical art, in the Instagram mashup you never knew you needed by you will imminently realise you really, really do.
- What’s On My Wall?: Another Instagram account, this pretty much the obverse of the last, which presents photographs of the rubbish which Julia Eisner gets left atop a low wall outside her house by strangers. To be clear - these are photographs of rubbish. It’s not some sort of performance art piece, this really is just trash left by morons. AND YET! It is a strangely pleasing record of the littering habits of the English, and also proof positive that banana eaters are the WORST people in the world (do not @ me).
- The Noun Project: YOU WANT ICONS? I GOT ICONS! This is 1million+ icons, depicting literally EVERYTHING you can imagine, available under a creative commons license for you to download and make use of as you see fit. Which is lovely really.
- The Wisdom of Peterson: It was about time that someone created a JBP-generator - and lo, it came to pass that someone did. Press the button, receive your own personal word salad which genuinely does sound like the utterances of everyone’s favourite intellectually lightweight meninist idol: "The Logos experiences intricate destiny, roughly speaking!"? NO SH1T, JORDAN!
- ConceptNet: This is interesting - ConceptNet bills itself as “a freely-available semantic network, designed to help computers understand the meanings of words that people use” and it is honestly DIZZYING. It’s rather hard to explain (seriously, I made the mistake of staying up later than intended last night and I’m barely capable of typing, let alone attempting to explain the concept of a ‘semantic network’ ffs), but to get an idea for what it’s trying to do, click on one of the example words on the right - you will see that it’s effectively an encyclopaedia of taxonomies, presenting a rundown of all definitions, use case, grammatical applications, etc, for use by programmers seeking to leverage natural language interfaces and the like. This is basically what the amoral, world-running supercomputers of the future will be built on. Which is nice.
- Dog Photographer of the Year: I quote my girlfriend here, who said that she ‘lost her sh1t’ at the second photo in this year’s winners category - you may too, I warn you. O RUFF!
THE SECTION WHICH HONESTLY CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING PITHY OR FUNNY TO SAY ABOUT THE ASBOLUTE FCUKING SHITSHOW THAT THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE MANAGED TO MAKE OF THIS WEEK, PT.1:
- Abandoned Projects of Paris: For reasons only they can possibly understand, there’s someone on Reddit who for the past few years has posted hundreds of photos and plans and articles about construction projects which were planned and then abandoned in Paris. Far more interesting than you’d expect, not least because so much of this is of that very particular period in the 50s when people really did believe that flying cars were just around the corner, and that the minidress really was a fashion staple that would stand the test of time. I’m a particular fan of the massive concrete runway smacked slap-bang on top of what looks like the Parisian equivalent of spaghetti junction, but pick your own favourite.
- Qetzart: What do you get if you combine Aztec art with pop culture? YOU GET THIS! Qetzart is an excellent Instagram account, posting Aztec-styled sketches and drawings with a very modern twist; Aztec Batman is BRILLIANT, and I can imagine this stuff being on tshirts all over the place before too long (hopefully not because it’s been ripped off by H&M or similar).
- Project Masque: I don’t normally feature art school prototypes and the like here, but this really appealed to me - Project Masque is a project by MIT student Xin Liu, “a compact system that manipulates the user’s perception of his/her own respiration by providing false auditory feedback. The wearable mask has respiration sensor, bone conduction speaker embedded.” Which is fine, but the really interesting stuff comes when you read on and see what it can do - apparently by modulating the wearer’s perception of their own breathing, the Masque can induce unbidden feelings of arousal. So, to be clear, if you trick you brain into thinking you’re breathing heavily, you will apparently become turned on. THIS IS MENTAL. Try it at your desk NOW. Go on, PANT. Did it work?
- Fruit Stickers: An Instagram feed of the stickers you find on fruit. WHY NOT THOUGH? You can also buy tshirts featuring said stickers, if you have a real feeling for Dole.
- The iPhone Photography Awards: The 2018 crop of winners from the annual IPPA contest. Not to be snarky, but I do wonder whether the terms of this (“The photos should not be altered in Photoshop or any desktop image processing program.”) aren’t really fit for purpose any more - after all, you can do some fairly intense image manipulation on your phone now, and the lack of any sort of caveats on exactly the degree of alteration allowed does seem to me to rather devalue the competition slightly. That slightly grumpy aside, there are some amazing images here which would blow the mind of anyone from a decade or so ago in terms of what’s possible on a phone (an aside - how long til we lose that word, do you think? It can’t be more than a generation or so).
- The DOS Game Club: I’m going to pass on this latest chance to tell you how I don’t ‘do’ podcas...DAMMIT! Anyway, I don’t but if I did then this exactly the sort I might make time to listen to; each episode is a discussion about an old PC game which the website’s community and forum members have been playing over the past month, with the podcast serving as a wrapup and evaluation of the experience. SUCH a wonderful nostalgiafest, this, and if you want to listen to a bunch of people talk affectionately about games like DOOM and Strike Commander then it will be hugely pleasing to you.
- The Audubon Photography Awards: Another photography award, this time the annual Audubon prize for the best photos of birds. Just look at the winner - LOOK AT HIM! Sexy, swivel-headed bastard that he is. GRRR.
- Jido Maps: VERY technical, this, but the idea fascinates me - Jido Maps is an API for AR which would in theory allow any AR developer to use the tech to anchor virtual objects in the physical world, the idea being (I think) that a single, central API will allow for the creation of persistent, shared experiences at mass scale, The opportunities with these things are HUGE - if nothing else, imagine persistent multiplayer AR games where users can leave objects in specific locations for others to find, or drop traps and mines in physical space which the game can apply to others’ experience in-game. Hugely interesting, if still a good few years from being a going, mainstream concern.
- Adult Books: A collection of 280 ‘Adult Books’ from the pulp collection of publisher Greenleaf. These are SO GOOD - the covers! The titles! The straplines! I am and have always been a sucker for this sort of tat - I don’t want to spoil this for you, but I promise you will not fail to be charmed by works of art such as ‘The Chief Sexecutive’ and “Keeping It Up With The Joneses”. A warning, though - there’s honestly a slightly numbing, hypnotic quality to these, and I just lost 7 minutes on a slightly aimless scroll through the literosmut. Oh, and while we’re doing pulp, //www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/">you may as well have this Flickr collection of pulp artwork collected by Dale Kelly. You’re welcome.
- The Labo Creators Contest: Remember Nintendo Labo? The cardboard add-ons to the Nintendo Switch that turn the console into a sort of semi-open-source papercraft toy thingy? No? Even with that great description? Hm. Anyway, this is a collection of winners of what I believe is the first competition to see who could make the best thing with their kit, and the results are amazing - seriously, the dinosaur! The PIANO! The ingenuity on display here is astonishing, as is the flexibility of the kit; it’s a great advert for the Labo as a project, to be honest, but also for the creativity of the makers involved.
- The Laws of UX: Nicely-designed site laying out some fundamental principles of UX design in clear, simple fashion. So much of this reads like common sense until you stop and think and realise quite how many sites and apps fail to apply these rules at all (you want an explanation of why Snapchat’s stalled? You can find at least a partial one in this).
- The Font Memory Game: You think you know fonts, right? You can tell a calibri from a helvetica, a comic sans from a wingdings? Yeah, well, this game will prove to you that you know NOTHING - seriously, this is impossible (or at least it is to me) - try and find pairs of fonts, in the classic matching style, but be prepared to spend far longer than you might wish squinting at your screen to determine the exact pixel-size of a particular serif.
- All Of The 2018 World Cup Kits: Or ‘uniforms’ as this site would have it - I’m not going to complain, I can feel magnanimous about the football again now that it’s over and England didn’t win (tell you what, though, I have BAD FEELINGS about Euro2020). This site presents nicely simplified representations of all the kits each participating team donned at this Summer’s FESTIVAL OF FOOTBALL; more than anything, it’s a quite a cool exercise in minimal design.
- Virgines De La Puerta: “The series Virgenes de la Puerta focuses on the transgender women of Lima, Peru who continue to be cast aside by the political and religious administrations for well over 500 years. They are consistently denied employment, assistance from government programs, both state and government-issued forms of identification, and are granted limited access to basic medical resources. They live burdened under the hostile atmosphere created by the agenda of the Church and the politicians who rule the patriarchy with antiquated concepts of masculinity and machismo.” Such beautiful portraits - marginally NSFW because nudity, but, really, fcuk your prudish employer and click anyway.
- The Van Gogh Collection: Amsterdam’s Van Gogh museum has put nearly 1000 of the works in its collection online for you to browse. Worth exploring if only to see the lesser-known works and sketches which make up the vast bulk of the material here - once you get away from the familiar stylistic elements which everyone recognises from his ‘major’ works, there’s a real breadth of stuff in here; I’m a particular fan of the depictions of busts and statuary, but you will, I am sure, find your own favourites.
- //www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/28443227077/sizes/o/">All of the Furries of Anthrocon: Anthrocon, as you doubtless are aware, is the annual Furry fandom convention, at which hundreds of people who get their kicks dressing as anthropomorphised wolves, dragons, cats and the likes (it’s...it’s never pine martens, is it? Or squirrels) convene to have a rollicking good time and commune in their fursonas (the fact that I know this term, and that I can use it confident in the knowledge that most of you will too, says something remarkable about how mainstream furryism (furdom? furtishes?) is nowadays); this is the group shot from the festival, in super-high-res, so you can marvel at the costumes and then all of a sudden (if you’re me, at least) spot the one Furry with their mask off and seriously question whether or not it’s Ed Sheeran (honestly, is it? I think it might be).
- The Rose Garden: You need to download this, but I promise you it is worth it - this is a ‘game’ in which you do nothing but plant roses and watch them grow, but I can’t tell you how pleasing and relaxing and charming and just generally LOVELY it is. By Dutch developer Charlotte Madelon, I would ADORE this as a mobile game.
- Lovely Pleasant Teatime Simulator: It’s been a good few weeks for interactive fiction, with some really rather cool examples cropping up all over the place. This is another - Lovely Pleasant Teatime Simulator is very English and rather silly and very funny, and rewards multiple runthroughs with its gently branching narrative and light gameplay.
- Chogue: Imagine you were playing a game of chess, but that instead of facing you like a man/woman/non-gendered being across the table, the opposing king somehow managed to leg it up some stairs and off the board. You’d chase them, wouldn’t you? YES YOU WOULD. Chogue is a brilliant, silly, infuriating and addictive game which mixes chess mechanics with a roguelike, randodungeon, room-to-room exploration mechanic as you and your team of dwindling chessmen seek to track down that pesky king across boards large and small. It will take you a while to get your head around, but it rewards patience I promise.
- Fire and Fondness: Finally this week, a simple-looking pixel puzzle game with THE best retro arcade game aesthetic I’ve ever seen - honestly, it’s like you’re playing on one of those old table arcade cabinets whilst eating a really disappointing burger in a provincial town centre circa 1988. Also, it is INFURIATING and very, very compelling - I have been stuck on level 4 for ages now and have had to turn it off before I do myself an angry mischief. Please be better than me.
By Celia Jacobs
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Pixel Discus: Collecting 16-bit graphics from old games, presented in beautiful, decontextualised isolation. God I love this aesthetic.
- Xeno Graphics: “Xeno.graphics is a collection of unusual charts and maps, managed by Maarten Lambrechts. Its objective is to create a repository of novel, innovative and experimental visualizations to inspire you, to fight xenographphobia and popularize new chart types.” So there.
- 1D Unsolved: One Direction may be no more, but that doesn’t mean that their MENTAL fans have stopped theorising as to the ILLUMINATI SECRETS behind Louis’ earlobes or the SATANIC TRUTHS lurking in Harry’s pants. I jest, but only a bit - this is frothingly mental, and even if there’s a slight tongue-in-cheek quality to much of it it’s also worth noting quite how much time has been devoted to it which, well, is utterly mad.
- The Jewels Vault: NOT A TUMBLR! BUT! I DON’T CARE! A blog all about the Queen’s jewels, which demonstrates a slightly obsessional fascination with her brooches on the part of whoever’s writing this up.
- Pixel Fun Art: Excellent pixel art gifs, depicting 90s videogame systems and games, these are just perfect.
- Car Interiors: Oh god, I love the pointlessly obsessional nature of the web. THANKYOU, NAMELESS AND FACELESS CURATOR OF CAR INTERIORS FROM THE PAST! (and Dan, who pointed this out to me).
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
- Versificator: Let’s kick off the longreads with a link to a bunch of interactive fiction games by Robin Johnson - classic text-adventure style stories to get lost in. I’ve only tried a couple of these, but they were both great and the whole collection is probably worth a root around if you’re an IF enthusiast.
- One-Star Reviews of Catcher In The Rye: Ah, the wonderful world of Amazon reviews and the opinions that thousands of largely nameless readers feel compelled to foist on the wider world. In this instance, all those people who read The Catcher in the Rye and thought “Jesus, Salinger, what are you DOING???” and then felt the need to log onto Amazon and vomit their opinion at the wider book-buying public. There are so many great ones on here, but it’s somewhat disturbing how many people express a desire to murder the author as a result of their lack of appreciation for the text.
- The Early Days of Facebook: An interesting counterpoint to last week’s oral history of Google’s genesis, this is a cobbled-together account of the Big Blue Misery Factory’s early period, when it was all FUN and HOPE and there wasn’t yet a festering cesspool of disinformation and hate at the heart of the largest human connection vector ever imagined. GOOD TIMES! Loads of super interesting details in here, not least the brief pivot towards filesharing and the awe in which everyone named in here evidently holds Zuckerberg in - it’s quite dizzying reading this and realising exactly quite how not long ago it all was.
- Twitter For Nudists: Did you know that Twitter has become the network of choice for the happily nude? You might have done - I’m not judging you at all, I promise. I love stuff like this - the unintended consequence of Facebook and Insta’s bizarre refusal to allow nudity is that all the naked rambnlers have moved onto Twitter to hang out and share snaps of themselves regrouting the bathroom in the scud (I don’t know why, but on the rare occasions I picture nudists it is always engaged in the most banal of activities - I’m sure that they do exciting, fun stuff too, but I imagine that they do that stuff whilst clothed and save the nudity for the really tedious stuff).
- On Netflix: The third part of a longer investigation into Netflix, its business model and its future (the others are linked to from the bottom of the piece), this is a really smart look at how the platform is perhaps going to go in its continued search for expansion - the projected user numbers are dizzying, and the characterisation of Netflix’s competitors as basically ‘anything else you might conceivably do with your spare time’ is, I imagine, bleakly accurate.
- Inside the Street Fighter Movie: I have, I am fairly certain, featured a retrospective on the Street Fighter film before, but I’ve got no qualms in offering you this one as an additional trip down memory lane as the whole story is just ace, the ridiculousness of the filming saga is legend, the writer (Keith Stuart) is great and knows his stuff, and it contains some truly fantastic anecdotes, not least that at the height of his slightly druggy excesses JCVD was hoovering 10 grams a day of coke, which is a quantity so startling I can’t even begin to imagine how you’d go about doing that whilst still thinking that noone could tell. “Jean-Claude, you’re...you’re...very twitchy, aren’t you, and your face is very sheeny”. Madness.
- Videogames In Ecuador: A piece looking at how Ecuadorian fishermen are obsessed with videogames, and how they manage to play them in a remote area of a country in which there isn’t a lot of money. I love pieces like this, that present what to us is a perfectly quotidian pastime through the lens of people for whom it really, really isn’t - the story about the one copy of GTA on the computer in the internet cafe, used on rotation by all the local kids, is just wonderful.
- Lane Davis’s Civil War: At the end of what’s been another heady week at the heart of the Culture Wars, this is a timely article. You may remember Lane Davis, the vaguely-Milo Affiliated Pizzagate truther who last year stabbed his father to death in an argument over that very conspiracy theory. The author, Joseph Bernstein, knew Davis to a degree as part of his reporting on the fringes of the alt-right, and offers a heartbreaking portrait of yet another lost, confused, angry white guy, desperately searching for any semblance of place or purpose and alighting on the crackpot theories of Alex Jones and his ilk as a way of finding meaning. This is a depressingly familiar story in many respects, and one I imagine we’ll be hearing again and again and again.
- England’s OTHER World Cup Glory: This is GREAT! In 1986, football-themed comic strip Ball Boy staged its own fictional World Cup, which England of course won thanks in no small part to the titular ball-playing hero. This is the whole strip, presented panel-by-panel with accompanying commentary, and if you’re pining for the tournament just gone then this will scratch your itch nicely.
- Bobcat Goldthwaite: You know Bobcat Goldthwaite, even if you don’t know you know him. Remember Police Academy? Remember the bug-eyed, wild-haired lunatic one? Officer Zed, or somesuch? SEE, THAT WAS HIM! You may be less familiar with his post-Police Academy work, but Goldthwaite, like Crispin Glover, is an honest-to-goodness auteur, the like of which you don’t see so much of in Hollywood; this is a great portrait of him, and an interesting look at what it must feel like to get trapped inside a caricature of one’s own making (horrid, turns out).
- When Algorithms Surprise Us: This is GREAT - an article collecting examples of cases in which machine learning algorithms have arrived at surprising, unpredictable and downright brilliant solutions to problems which humans would have approached in very, very different fashion. Of course, this is only funny until you turn your thinking in the direction of the famous paperclip problem, at which point you quickly get to the creeping realisation that we can’t even begin to imagine the ways in which the machines are going to fcuk us, but, hey, let’s not dwell!
- Why Instagrammers Are Locking Their Accounts: Follower-bait, basically, but it’s always interesting to read a ‘social trends on platforms’ piece, particularly Insta which I am coming to the conclusion is, almost more than Facebook, the most basic of all the apps.
- Vagina Selfies: The semiotics of the velfie (sorry, sorry, sorry) - why do women take them? What do they mean? Should you send them? Should you not? WHO KNOWS? It’s nice to see the same degree of intellectual rigour being applied to pictures of vaginas as has been applied to pictures of dicks, frankly, although I could have done without the line from Tom Robbins who describes the idea of a disembodied picture of a vagina as “like leftovers from a cannibal dinner party’, which description I would respectfully suggest says far more about Mr Robbins and his deep-seated Freudian issues than he may have wanted to reveal.
- The Seattle Mystery Vending Machine: Until recently in Seattle there was a drinks vending machine which dispensed mystery cans of soft-drink to anyone who paid it money and pressed one of its unlabelled buttons. Noone seemed to know why it was there, whose it was, who emptied the money and refilled the drinks - and now it’s gone. I love stuff like this - I would honestly happily spend my life setting things like this up, pleasing, happy mysteries to keep people interested and confused, were it not for the fact that noone would pay me to do it and I would die alone and in penury after 6 months. Shame. Still, if anyone would like to set something like this up in London then, y’know, let’s talk!
- Are We Already Living In VR?: This is long, and a bit chewy, but it is SUCH a good piece, on AI and the limits of empathy, and how embodiment works, and what it does to us. It made me think of this piece of art, which I have featured in Curios before but has been delayed and delayed and delayed - it’s now supposedly happening in October, and I can’t wait to see how it pans out.
- When Men Decide to Say Sorry: I like this very much. This piece looks at all the ways in which men have been apologising in the wake of #MeToo, and specifically at those apologies given unbidden by men who feel guilty for...something they did in the past. The author has experienced her own, and her dissection of how it made her feel and how it was delivered, along with conversations with her friends about the apologies they have started receiving, is one of the better reflections on what the whole movement could potentially come to mean in a wider sense, for gender relations and gender politics and the rest.
- On Becoming a Person of Colour: I’ll leave the opening paragraph to set the scene - this is a wonderful piece of writing, about difference and distance and growing self-awareness and never quite fitting in: “When I arrive in America, no one seems to understand me even though English is my first language. My college roommate observes politely that I have an accent and I want to say that she does too, a thoroughly American one. She flicks her perfect honey-brown hair and the pearl studs in her ears gleam like the luminescent scales of a dead fish. Her blond friend stares at me with a mixture of curiosity and subtle distaste, and I sense that my comebacks will not be welcome. So I keep my mouth shut and my accented words in, and that is the beginning of what I later learn is called “assimilation.””
- How To Be Anxious: I mean, the obvious answer is simply ‘be alive in 2018’, but leaving aside that DEEP TRUTH, this is a very good piece of writing whose stylistic tic really works. Presented as an instructional guide, this is blackly, bleakly funny and almost upsettingly relatable.
- The Most Important Football Game Ever Played: This is SUCH a wonderful piece of writing, and I urge you to read it even if you couldn’t give two fcuks about football. Telling the story of the 1954 World Cup final between Hungary and West Germany, this is also about post-WWII politics and national identity; the history and social context the article manages to communicate is superb, but the very best bit is what ABSOLUTE LADS the Hungarian players were. Seriously, SO MANY great stories in here, not least the small detail that two of the players were *ahem* ‘squiring’ hotel chambermaids until the wee small hours the night before the final, or that the entire Hungarian team missed their train the day after the semi-final as they’d all been out on the sauce immediately after the match, staying out til 5am. Fine, Gareth’s Plucky Young Lions might have won hearts and minds with their squeaky-clean personas, but would they attempt to take out an opposition player with a hurled bottle immediately post-game? They would NOT, and they are poorer people for it.
- I Made You Birthday Tacos: A recipe and a love letter all in one, I cried when I read this although I couldn’t adequately explain why to you. It is BEAUTIFUL, and a fitting end to this week’s longreads. Please do click this one, it’s glorious.
By Victo Ngai
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
- First up, this is the incredibly-voiced Mojo Juju, with ‘Native Tongue’. Proper goosebumps at this, I tell you:
2) Next, the best jazzy funk-type jam thing (again, such music scholarship! Such knowledge!) you will hear all week. This is Scary Pockets with ‘We Come In Peace’ and this is SO good (the drummer is a genius):
3) I know we’re not meant to get excited about Deep Dream-style image transfer music videos, but this is honestly beautiful. The song in the background is by Boards of Canada, but the main draw here is the visuals - this is stunning:
4) This is LOVELY. Ross from Friends is a DJ/Producer - this is his latest track, whose accompanying video is a bunch of footage taken by his mum, before he was born, travelling with his dad around Europe’s free party scene in the 90s. LOOK AT THEM THEY LOOK SO HAPPY! Just a wonderful piece of documentary footage (with a great soundtrack too):
5) HIPHOP CORNER! Whatever you think of Drake, this appearance on Fire in the Booth is an interesting one - personally I don’t think he stands up at all, particularly when compared to some of the UK MCs I’ve featured in here recently, but see what YOU think (get to 2:00 in if you want to skip Charlie Sloth just sort of generally screaming and mashing the FX buttons):
6) New from Alt-J, this is Deadcrush ft Danny Brown, from what I presume is a forthcoming album of remixes - this is a cracking tune, and the video with its glitched-out watercolour vibe, isn’t bad either:
8) Finally this week, a hugely powerful track for our times. This is Lonnie Holley, with “I Woke Up”. Listen, enjoy, think and TAKE CARE BYE BYE BYE HAVE FUN ENJOY YOUR WEEKENDS AND LET’S SEE IF WE CAN JUST ALL MAYBE BE A BIT CALM AND QUIET FOR A BIT JUST TO LET EVERYTHING SETTLE AND SO WE CAN ALL TAKE A MOMENT TO COUNT OUR LIMBS AND EXTREMITIES AS FRANKLY IT REALLY HAS ALL BEEN A BIT MUCH OF LATE SO JUST TAKE IT EASY YOU DESERVE IT I LOVE YOU SEE YOU NEXT WEEK BYE BYE BYE!:
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