Web Curios 23/11/18
Can we now officially call everyone who supports UKIP a racist, then? Is that OK? Good!
I can't be bothered to get angry about politics today, it seems (more) futile (than normal). I'm also in a hurry, so by way of preamble let me point out that it's getting very cold, that this country is in the grip of an appalling, embarrassing housing crisis, and that seeing as it's Bl*ck Fr*d*y and we're all spending ourselves into penury anyway you might as well give some money to charity as well - Shelter, Crisis, St Mungo's, take your pick.
Anyway tedious preaching done with, let me once again lead you, stepping gingerly, towards this week's looming thicket of prose and links and mystery and awe and, yes, on occasion horror. Careful not to snag on anything; the thorns are sharp and stick in the flesh rather. This, as ever, is Web Curios!
By Pascal Goet
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT IF ANY OF YOU READ THE PIECE ABOUT LINKEDIN STORIES AND THINK ‘OH WOW, WHAT AN EXCITING OPPORTUNITY FOR MY CLIENT OR EMPLOYER TO BETTER ENGAGE USING RICH, PROFESSIONALLY-FOCUSED CONTENT!’ THEN I WISH DEATH ON YOU, AND NOT EVEN A QUICK AND PAINLESS ONE BUT SOMETHING GENUINELY PAINFUL WHICH INVOLVES SERRATED EDGES:
- Facebook Launches ‘Time Spent’ Feature: Poor Facebook! Poor Mark! It seems even when they try to do the right thing, they just can’t seem to catch a break! Even now, as they roll out their ‘Time Spent on Facebook’ feature, in exactly the same way as Apple and Insta and the rest, people can’t seem to wish them well. “It’s a fcuking joke!”, they’ll say, “it doesn’t factor in anything other than the time you spend on the mobile app, meaning it necessarily paints an incomplete picture of usage for a significant proportion of people! Also, it doesn’t let you set hard stop limits! And it’s massively disingenuous not to bundle this info with Insta, given they’re the same fcuking company! Oh, and given Zuckerberg’s insistence earlier this year that ‘quality time’ on Facebook is what matters, their failure to differentiate between different types of time spent on Facebook sort of seems like tacit admission that that was all, well, bollocks!”. Don’t listen to them, though, Mark, you just keep on being you, eh?
- LinkedIn Revamps Company Pages: Big news here. Noone likes LinkedIn (I think I called everyone on there ‘cnuts’ the other week when posting Curios, in my latest attempt to render myself utterly unemployable outside a niche community of Tourettic advermarketingprdrones) and yet many of us are forced to use it as part of the daily charade we like to call ‘having a job and greasing the wheels of capitalism’. If you count yourself amongst that unfortunate number, then REJOICE for Company Pages are getting a facelift! Effectively this is going to make them look a bit more Facebook-y, but there’s a lot of less cosmetic updates which seem genuinely useful; the ability to better integrate employee content into the main company feed, better recruitment, suggested content to post based on the platform’s understanding of your sector and stakeholder interests...grudgingly, I have to confess that this all sounds broadly useful and sensible, though it’s still in the process of being rolled out worldwide and so I’ve not yet had a chance to play with it properly yet. LinkedIn’s still awful, mind.
- LinkedIn Launching STORIES!: And lo! It came to pass that the Stories virus finally achieved full dominance and became ubiquitous and we were all forced to communicate solely via the medium of concatenated 10-20s video segments filmed with migraine-inducing camerawork forever more! Yes, that’s right, the inevitable has happened and LinkedIn is set to launch its own Stories product - fine, initially it’s called ‘Student Voices’ and it’s only in the US so far, and it’s only aimed at, er, students, but you and I both know that a proper, full-on LinkedIn Stories offering is imminent and will usher in a terrible new era of poorly-lit first person videos in which middle-aged men offer their wit and wisdom on middle management conundra, seething with professional resentment and thwarted promise and channelling, unwittingly, the look and feel of Leslie Grantham (RIP) in his now-infamous finger-sucking webcam sextape. Don’t look at me - I don’t use Stories, they’re awful. This is YOUR fault.
- It’s Now Going To Be Harder To Scrape Email Addresses From LinkedIn: The gods give with one hand and take with the other, it would seem.
- Snap Launches Lens Creative Partners Programme: Snap is the latest platform to introduce what is effectively a talent brokerage service, designed to connect brands who want to experiment with making lenses and other AR gubbins on Snap with talented makers - in the main agencies, it seems, so good news for the advermarketingprshops who are on the roster.
- YouTube to Introduce Double Pre-roll Ads: I quite admire this - YouTube has realised that shoving an ad unit right in the middle of a piece of video tends to upset people and often cause them to navigate away, and so rather than simply jettisoning that idea and reverting to simple pre-roll they’ve instead decided to test including twice the number of prerolls! This is why they’re rich, you know.
- New Amazon Tools for UK Publishers: Look, just have the copy, I barely understand what the latter half of this means anyway: “Amazon is introducing two tools for U.K. publishers designed to help them tap into the e-commerce giant’s shopper data.One of the tools, called Shopping Insights, lets publishers view the Amazon shopping habits of their site visitors. For instance, based on those users’ shopping behaviors on Amazon, publishers can view which proportion of their site visitors are in the market for or have bought TVs .Publishers can then use that data to inform their editorial teams to write more around items that their site visitors are searching and buying on Amazon. Publisher sales teams can also use the shopping-habit data in their collateral when pitching to clients who want to target an audience that Amazon data shows is visiting that publisher’s site….the second product offering, Direct Deals, enables a publisher to agree to a private-marketplace deal on reserved inventory, and that is based on Amazon e-commerce data, according to publisher sources.” So, well, there.
- Know Your Chinese Social Media: A useful little primer to the various platforms used in China, which, according to Curios’ Man In China (everyone’s man in China, he’s not picky) Alex, will put a whole lot of people plying their trade as ‘experts’ on the social media scene out there out of business.
- Kopke: Another in the occasional series of ‘Incredibly overdesigned booze websites that Matt has seen and enjoyed’, this is for port maker Kopke - listen to the music! Explore the terroirs! Marvel at the skill of the coopers! Stop for a second to wonder exactly what the purpose of spending all this money on what is, at heart, a corporate website! Be happy that they made it anyway! This is really nice, if a bit overdesigned.
- Our Watch: The first of two things in this section which I have blatantly lifted from Paddy Collins’ excellent newsletter ‘Because the Internet’, which you ought to subscribe to if you’re a strategyplanningmong as it’s packed full of useful gubbins, this is a brilliantly creative use of YouTube ads. I won’t spoil the execution, just click and watch.
- Thanksgiving With Spotify:Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, Americans! This is a very smart little holiday execution from Spotify which I’d be amazed if they didn’t reskin for the Christmas market - simply tell the site how big your turkey is, pick your preferred musical genre, and the site will spin you up an appropriate length playlist to accompany you doing whatever it is you do whilst waiting for your massive fowl to cook. The ‘how long does something take? We’ll make you a playlist!’ idea is almost infinitely repurposable, fine, but this is still cute.
- Some Singles Day Numbers: I know that you’re all currently reading this inbetween frenzied trips to the online retailer of your choice to snap up the INFINITELY GENEROUS BARGAINS bestowed on us for Bl*ck Frid*y (I don’t want to give them the satisfaction, sorry), but if you want to see what a truly staggering display of mass consumerism looks like then I urge you to click this link and check out some of the numbers around Singles Day, the Chinese Bl*ck Fr*d*y equivalent which Alibaba launched a decade ago and which now accounts for £35billion worth of consumer spending. It is honestly insane. As an aside, by the way, does anyone else find it interesting that literally noone talks about these orgies of mass consumption of consumer packaged goods when one discusses the need to limit the production and wasteful disposal of plastics? No? Ok then.
- The Theory of Strategy and Planning: The second thing thieved from Paddy this week, this is a genuinely excellent primer to the theories behind strategy and planning - from modes of thinking to templates for working, if you’re starting your career or just want a useful reminder of what the fcuk it is you’re actually meant to be doing, this is invaluable.
By Vicki Smith
THE SECTION WHICH REALLY WANTS YOU ALL TO DO THE SHORTCUT ROULETTE THING THIS WEEK AND TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS (NB WEB CURIOS ACCEPTS NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE BAD THINGS WHICH MAY OCCUR), PT.1:
- Shortcut Roulette: Honestly, this may be my favourite thing of the year. Shortcut Roulette is an iOS app which takes the IFTTT-type functionality of the operating system and uses it to create a deliciously risky game - basically, this app will make your phone do...something. You don’t know exactly what, but there are 100-odd (or there will be at fill launch, 23 for now) scripts and routines which it will execute one of, at random. Will it send your last 5 camera roll photos to a random email in your phonebook? Will it post your last send imessage to Twitter? WHO KNOWS!? This is obviously a potentially suicidal concept, but, well, why not live a little? If you’ve got nothing to hide, why be scared? Except we ALL have something to hide - what I love most about this is the way it makes plain the fact that we all carry around these weird little personally compromising oubliettes with us all day, that our phones are full of incredibly compromising material and that we’re only ever a few taps away from unleashing a terrifying Pandora’s Box of recrimination and pain and broken friendships and divorce. Or, er, is that just me? Anyway, whatever, you and your colleagues should all download this and then play it in the bar after you’ve each had one drink too many. What’s the worst that could happen?
- Ganbreeder: It’s been a good week for AI image creation - Shardcore’s bongobot is back up and running again (honestly, just you WAIT to see the absolute sexy algohorror he’s going to churn out), Mario Klingerman continues to make some honestly wonderful work (and the way he presents it makes me very happy indeed), and we also saw the launch of GANbreeder, a wonderful little site which...oh, look, here: “Ganbreeder is a collaborative art tool for discovering images. Images are 'bred' by having children, mixing with other images and being shared via their URL. This is an experiment in using breeding + sharing as methods of exploring high complexity spaces.” Just click and look at the terrifying things that the machines are imagining, and then click some more and help the machines imagine more of them.
- Sketchy Website: Pick the least-IT aware colleague you have, and send them this link as a disguised url, and then watch from across the office as they blanch and then possibly unplug their computer in alarm. It’s not a novel idea, fine, but this hell of popups is reasonably well-executed and the sort of thing you can probably make someone really uncomfortable with for about 5 seconds which is basically Web Curios’ raison d’etre, insofar as this thing has a point (it really doesn’t).
- Smartphones Are Everywhere: This, obviously, isn’t news, but this is a genuinely great selection of photography collected by the Atlantic, depicting our obsession/addiction/oddly touching symbiotic relationship (delete as applicable) with the magical everythingbox in our pocket. If you need a new selection of images to use in your beautiful, full-bleed slides for your next insights ‘deck’ (I hate you) all about how, you know, technology is with us all the time and we’re ALWAYS ON (I have news for you, you cretin, THIS IS NOT AN INSIGHT) then these will see you right.
- Drilosophers: Thanks to Josh for sending this my way; Drilosophers takes old dril Tweets and assigns them to a particular philosopher, and through so doing manages to do a better job of explaining the fundamental tenets of their thinking than three years of undergraduate philosophy ever could (in the main, what I learned over three years of undergraduate philosopyy is that you don’t in fact need to learn anything as long as you’re reasonably good at spaffing out 1500 semi-coherent words of derivative claptrap on demand, which on reflection made it pretty much the perfect preparation for the world of Actual Work).
- Digitiser: The Show: I have, I know, banged on about Digitiser on here before, but for those of you too young to remember it, a brief primer: back in the day when television was analogue and there were only four channels, there was a service called ‘Teletext’ which was like an incredibly slow, violently ugly version of the internet (it wasn’t in fact AT ALL like the internet, but I’m trying to talk in a language you children will understand) on which you could read the news, play quizzes, and check the football scores (as long as you were prepared to wait 7 minutes for the pages to cycle round to the match you were interested in). You could also, were you so minded, catch up with the latest videogame news courtesy of Digitiser, the section of Teletext devoted to gaming and penned by the wonderfully surreal Mr Biffo (almost certainly not his real name) who peppered actually very good games writing with genuinely strange and slightly dark vignettes featuring odd recurring characters and running gags and oh God I miss the past sometimes (FCUK OFF OLD MAN, yes, fine, I know). Anyway, Digitiser has now been resurrected in the form of a new YouTube show in which said Biffo sits and chats and plays old games with a bunch of guests in a strange mashup of Gamesmaster and, oddly, the BBC Broom Cupboard (another hugely contemporary reference there). This is mainly going to be of interest if you’re an ageing manchild geek person (I am nothing if not self aware), but if you’re vaguely interested in old games and nerd humour then it’s worth a look.
- Meet Affetto: Affetto is an Italian word which literally translates as ‘affection’. It’s also the name of this frankly horrifying ‘child android’, whose face you can see in this video as it passes through variety of facial expressions - its inventor says that his aim is to produce a robot capable of conveying emotion through facial expressions, and whilst I can’t accurately say that he’s succeeded I can certainly agree that it made me feel certain things; in the main, fear and revulsion and horror. Honestly, it’s...look, click the link and you’ll see what I mean. It looks like it’s had a human face sort of grafted onto it with meat glue, which is never a good look for anyone.
- Old Maps Online: A very Ronseal url, this. Are you online? Would you like to find old maps? Well LUCKY YOU! This is actually a surprisingly excellent site with some really nice touches in the UI - I particularly like the fact that you can zoom in and out and select a specific area on the world map and use that as your search tool. A very useful resource if you’re, er, into old cartography, and a pleasing distraction for anyone else.
- The Engineering Gift Guide: I imagine that you’re all spending today frantically adding items to your cart as the sound of MechaBezos’ terrifying, mad, high-pitched laughter echoes around the high walls of his Scrooge McDuckian Seattle moneyvault (come on, he’s totally got one of those), but in case you’re in the market for a different type of Christmas gift for your kids then you might find this useful. Compiled by Purdue University in the US, this is a rundown of present ideas for kids between 3-18 which, the site hopes, will engage them in thinking about engineering or design. I obviously have no idea how parenting works, let alone at Christmas, but I have a hunch that deciding to ignore your kid’s letter to Santa in favour of buying them a set square or similar is probably a fast-track to some pretty unpleasant tantruming come the morning of the 25th, but if your offspring are the sort of mythical geekchildren who would rather, I don’t know, create imaginary water drainage networks than braid a Barbie’s hair then you might find something good in here.
- Mission Juno: NASA craft Juno has been in orbit around Jupiter for a couple of years now - I featured a selection of its photos back in May, but this week a whole new batch came out and I discovered the mission’s official website and OH MY GOD JUPITER IS BEAUTIFUL, like one of those bath bubbles that were all the rage in the 90s; you know, the ones filled with weird, iridescent, viscous stuff that would sort of semi-dissolve in hot water but which mostly would just get stuck to the bottom of the tub and need scraping off when you were done. Just like those. Wow, that was, even by my standards, a spectacularly bad piece of writing, not to mention the most banal comparison I could possibly have made. Yes Matt, the infinite majesty of the largest planet in our solar system is exactly comparable to something the Body Shop used to sell two decades ago. Jesus. Still, this is a great site, packed with information about the mission and some truly incredible pictures.
- Boss As A Service: This is...miserable. Boss As A Service is exactly what it sounds like - a service (which, to be clear, is paid for - they actually expect people to pay for this) which you tell your goals and targets to and which will subsequently nag, harass and berate you should you fail to accomplish them. WHY WOULD YOU WANT THIS???? I appreciate that not everyone is self-motivated, fine, and that they might need a bit of cajoling or encouragement to do stuff, but, equally, YOU ARE NOT A FCUKING CHILD FFS (well, I presume you’re not - Web Curios is not for children). If any of you want someone to cajole and bully you for failing to live up to the standards you set yourselves I’ll do it for free.
- Charge Cars: I don’t drive - although I am toying with the idea of spending a week in Blackpool next year learning, which is obviously a terrible idea which will end with me spending all my money in the arcades trying to win TICKETS - but I presume most of you do; equally, I have absolutely no idea as to the spending power of my readership, but I like to imagine that most of you are hugely successful advermarketingprdrones who have reached the apogee of the greasy pole and are basically rolling in cash. Which is why I’m including this, a site by bespoke luxury carmakers Charge who are making a limited edition number of vintage Mustangs, refitted with electric engines and on sale from next year starting at £200k. You can all afford that, can’t you? Great!
- The Space Auction: Sotheby’s is holding an auction of space-related memorabilia next week in New York, featuring photography and paintings and space suits and lunar rocks and oh me oh my there is SO MUCH SPACE STUFF TO BUY! Fine, it’s all quite expensive, but personally I think a guide price of $150k is totally reasonable for an actual, real-life space suit used on an Apollo mission. Honestly, this is an absolute treasure trove if you’re into the terrifying infinity of the cosmos and all that goes with it.
- I’m Cyborg But That’s Ok: I’ve been seeing these around the web for a couple of years now but never twigged they were all by the same person; I’m Cyborg But That’s OK is the YouTube channel of, er, whoever the person making these is, which takes classic songs and pairs them with recuts of old films to PERFECT effect - honestly, it doesn’t sound like much, but these are all SO well-judged; the Scarface/Depeche Mode one, for example, or basically anything they’ve done with Cigarettes After Sex. What I particularly like about these is the way that the visuals completely recontextualise the songs and make you hear them differently (or at least they do for me); give this a go, it’s really very good indeed.
- Images from a Japanese Illustrated History of America: A brilliant Twitter thread sharing images from an old Japanese book, presenting a...somewhat esoteric interpretation of US history, as told in woodcut illustrations. You may not think you want to look at this, but I simply say to you “here is Washington's "second-in-command" John Adams battling an enormous snake” and encourage you to dive write in.
- The ‘Ooo’ Face: Now that this has been pointed out to me I can never unsee it - this is a collection of examples of what the author terms ‘The Ooo Face’, that particular expression that women were always pictured pulling in the 50s, that sort of slightly-saucy, slightly-shocked, semi-’ooh matron’-ish moue (except not a moue, as it’s not really an expression of distaste). This is a generally great collection of that very specific aesthetic, and one for your lookbooks if you need to channel the era of conical bras and ‘time-saving kitchen appliances that are a woman’s best friend’/
- Mumufication: The KLF are doing it again. Following last year’s big Manchester happening, they’ve launched this today in time for Bl*ck Fr*d*y - Mumufication is a project/happening thing, whereby messers Cauty and Drummond are...oh, look, here: “K2 Plant Hire Ltd are building a pyramid. The pyramid, known as The People’s Pyramid, will be constructed of 34,592 bricks. Each brick in the pyramid will contain the cremated remains of a dead person. To become part of the People’s Pyramid, one must sign up to a process called MUMUFICATION”. Leaving aside practical questions as to where they are going to get 35k corpses from, today, if you happen to be in Toxteth, you can participate in the first, inaugural celebration of the process and get your hands on a brick. I am TOTALLY signing up to have this done with my mortal remains - given that I’m unlikely ever to get a mausoleaum, being part of a pyramid of cremated remains is probably the best memorial I can hope for.
By Anna Ostoya
THE SECTION WHICH REALLY WANTS YOU ALL TO DO THE SHORTCUT ROULETTE THING THIS WEEK AND TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS (NB WEB CURIOS ACCEPTS NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE BAD THINGS WHICH MAY OCCUR), PT.1:
- GVA Watcher: In a week in which the West has once again demonstrated how good it is at standing up to incredibly rich countries when it comes to issues of human rights, this is a pleasant reminder of the fact that our governments deal with dreadful individuals every single day. GVA Watcher is a Twitter account - accompanying the wider prject whose website lives here - which posts regular updates informing you of exactly which terrible human being is landing at Geneva Airport at any given time. “The bot relies on a private ADS-B antenna located near the Geneva airport. The antenna is recording every landings and takeoffs along with the aircrafts registrations. A script is run once per hour to compare the logs from the antenna with a list of aircrafts registered to or regularly used by authoritarian regimes. When a match is found, a message is published on Twitter.” Interesting and miserable in equal measure.
- I, Kunt: I’m pretty sure that I’ve waxed lyrical about the charms of Essex novelty act Kunt and the Gang on here before, but, in case you’re not familiar, take a second to familiarise himself with their oeuvre with a listen to this, the greatest song ever written about the Lib/Con coalition. Childish, puerile, foulmouthed and genuinely funny (their web series ‘Perverts on the Internet’ is honestly one of my favourite things ever), Kunt was for a while a proper minor star of the weird web. Sadly, though, making novelty records about masturbation and taking a show to Edinburgh doesn’t make money, so Kunt’s had to fall back on his dayjob of painting and decorating - he is, though, crowdfunding publication costs for his autobiography with a view to shipping over Christmas; the campaign’s now funded, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chip in. Who wouldn’t want to read about the joys of NEARLY getting on Top of the Pops with a song about how Nick Clegg whored himself to power? NO FCUKER, that’s who!
- 10,000 Zombies vs Giant Blender: This is a software demo of some tech which is designed to realistically simulate the effect of blades on flesh; in particular, it’s a video showing off quite how powerful the code is and demonstrating said power by rendering 10,000 virtual zombies getting eviscerated by a spinning blade. This starts out being a slightly disgusting but broadly impressive example of coding but as you continue watching and it goes on...and on...and on...it becomes genuinely distressing - it’s the noises, in part. Obviously I’ve made this sound hugely unappealing but I’d urge you to watch it anyway because, well, I’ve suffered through it so why shouldn’t you?
- WAB: Are YOU a child of the 90s? Did you, or one of your mates, have an Amiga? Was there a roaring trade in cracked, copied floppies going on in your plaground? If so, this is going to be a hell of atrip down memory lane for you - WAP presents seemingly HUNDREDS of crack animations - you know, the little interstitial animated screens that hackers would insert into a game they’d cracked to demonstrate ownership, like tagging in code. These are all rendered in Java and have the accompanying sound and, momentarily, I was 14 again and back at Phil Niewiadomski’s house loading up Sensible Soccer. Perfectly, wonderfully nostalgic (and the site’s got some lovely touches too - the audio fade-out when you close one of the animations is a beautiful-if-pointless touch).
- XOXO 2018: XOXO is an annual festival and conference held in Portland, Oregon, that describes itself as "celebrating independently produced art and technology". But you probably knew that, didn’t you? Anyway, they’ve put all the talks online - if you want a bunch of 20-odd minute lectures from people as diverse as Jean Gray, Matt Furie and Open Mike Eagle then this is the TED-analogue for YOU; I have only watched the Jean Gray one, but it was surprisingly good (I have VERY low tolerance for TED stuff as a rule).
- My Dog Hikes: Dog walking is SO passe - nowadays, apparently, all the trendy owners are sending their dogs out to explore the great outdoors and commune with nature. Coming out of New York (like you needed telling), this is a service which, for a handsome fee, will take your dog and reintroduce it to its canine nature, letting it ‘reconnect with the natural world’ and ‘get the asphalt out from under its feet’ (I am not making this up, I promise you). You can read more about the lunacy of the whole thing here, but, look, this is totally ripoffable in London - I bet you could get some rich idiots to pay you £100 an hour to take their Weimaraner to yomp about Epping Forest.
- Salty: There was a gag in Red Dwarf once about how in-flight magazines were incredible in that they managed to extend to over 100 pages and yet never, ever contained anything that a sentient being would ever want to read - the example Lister gives whilst flicking through a future version is an article entitled ‘Salt - an epicure’s delight’. Fast forward two decades, and welcome to the real future in which this Kickstarter has raised £9k of it’s £12k target to produce “Salty: A salt vessel + a magazine about salt”. WHO IS THIS FOR? Nonetheless, if you want a glossy, coffee-table magazine devoted to the wonders of Sodium Chloride along with a, er, fancy salt cellar, then this is for YOU. Want to know how much they’re going to charge for the ‘salt vessel’ and magazine combo? ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FCUKING DOLLARS. Everything is mental.
- ZX81 Central: A Twitter feed celebrating the dated beauty of the old ZX Spectrum. One very much for the middle-aged men in the audience, this.
- Man Eats Things On Icecream: I am pretty sure I featured this guy earlier in the year, but annoyingly I can’t find the entry now (PAUL CAN WE PLEASE SORT OUT A PROPER FCUKING SEARCH ENGINE FOR THIS BASTARD THING PLEASE IT IS SURELY TIME NOW?); if I did, though, it was in his earlier incarnation where he would just eat odd stuff on its own. Now he’s graduated to eating odd stuff with icecream, which you’ll agree is a not-insignificant evolution of the concept. Want to watch a 20-second video of a man eating deep-fried mozzarella sticks, with icecream, or cabbage, with icecream? No, you probably don’t, but he’s going to keep on doing it anyway.
- An Excellent Compendium of Weird Fish: I have featured the Twitter or Insta of Russian deep sea fisherman and internet sensation Roman Fedortsov on here before, but this post collects DOZENS of his best shots - click and scroll and feel the slow, creeping horror of the realisation that the world is just FULL of terrifying things that look basically like stomachs with enormous teeth. They never show you these on Blue Planet.
- Vibease: People who like to use vibrators as part of their sex play! Do you know what’s missing from your current vibe of choice? DO YOU? No you do not, but let me tell you - it is ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE! Don’t worry, though, because this Kickstarter is here to help you; still two weeks to go and it’s already passed its target, so rest assured that a wonderful future of semi-sentient dildoes is just a matter of months away! This doesn’t appear to be a joke, despite the project’s amazing tagline: “The smart vibrator that will bring your pleasure to the next level and brings out your inner beauty” - genuinely intrigued by the ‘inner beauty’ line here, lads. The idea is that its AI technology (NOT IN FACT AI IN ANY MEANINGFUL SENSE PLEASE GOD CAN WE CALL A MORATORIUM ON THE MISUSE OF THAT FCUKING WORD IN 2019 CAN WE PLEASE GOD?) will adjust the speed and intensity of the vibrations based on, er, voice commands (not AI, voice recognition) or the degree of explicitness in whatever audiobook you’re reading (not AI, textual analysis), and whilst this sounds like a waste of money to me the fact that its sold out of the early bird offers suggests, as my girlfriend would probably attest, that I am a know-nothing bozo when it comes to issues of female sexuality.
- Build Your Stax: Genuinely fun browser game which lets you play at being an investor over a 20 year period as you try and maximise your income. You can play alone or in a group, and it’s obviously intended as an educational vehicle to help demonstrate basic precepts of markets, stocks, yields and all the rest of it, but if you’re like me and don’t understand ANY of this stuff and are resigned to the fact that you’re probably never going to be a plutocrat then it’s just a fun way to waste time whilst vaguely feeling like you’re learning stuff.
- Swallow: A beautiful, sad little piece of interactive fiction by Emily Jones - “This interactive fiction is an autopathography. A type of life writing that focuses on my lived experience will illness. Illnesses, in fact.” The game makes explicit references to psycho-social disability/mental illness, eating disorders and alcohol dependancy, just so’s you know, but I found this genuinely affecting in the best way.
- Sonic Kart: Finally in this week’s miscellanea, I don’t normally link to stuff that requires a download and install but, honestly, if you’ve been hankering after a Mariokart-style racer but featuring a range of characters from the Sonic universe that’s free and contains over 100 levels and is just insanely well-made and fun then, well, this will be a TREAT. Even if you haven’t, I promise you this is worth doing; I suggest you get one of the work laptops, install it on that and then take said laptop to a meeting room to ‘get your head down and bash out this deck, yeah?’. Go on. GO ON.
By Ray Caesar
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- 200 Word RPG: NOT A TUMBLR! This collects roleplaying game designs and concepts delivered in 200 words or less; as an example of the way specific constraints can engender creativity, this is superb; not only that, but there are some genuinely great game ideas here. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play ‘Towel, Locker, Lube - A Gay Bathhouse Experience’? Seriously, you may think I’m joking but the game mechanics in this one are just really tight (sorry) and an excellent example of the sort of creativity I’m talking about.
- Accidental Star Trek Cosplay: You don’t really need me to explain this, do you?
- Lucy Pereira: Lucy’s art combines anatomical illustrations with needlework and embroidery;; there’s some excellent bodyhorrorish glasswork and sculpture in there as well, Wonderful and unsettling and looks like it belongs in the Wellcome.
- Porn Memes at Midnight: DEFINITELY NSFW (the lovely young woman who sits next to me in one of my jobs didn’t heed my warning when I emailed this to selected colleagues with a ‘DO NOT OPEN THIS LINK’ message, which is proof, Dora, that I DO NOT JOKE ABOUT THIS SORT OF THING). You can find an explanation as to what this is all about here (this is SFW, so click this one instead if you’re in the office).
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Jelly Cakes: Honestly, these are amazing-looking.
- Putinspiration: You don’t need me to explain this, do you?
- Odeon Of Death: Brilliant. Dark imagined film listings from the sort of cinema that might exist in Scarfolk.
- Soo Min Kim: To say that Soo Min Kim makes art from coffee cups is to do them a disservice - this is AMAZING.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- The Facebook Era is Over: I’m not certain that I concur - never underestimate inertia - but it certainly does feel very much like Facebook is less necessary than it ever has been (it’s never been ‘necessary’, fine, but you get what I mean). I wouldn’t normally link to a piece of ‘thought leadership’ on LinkedIn but this is well-written and intelligently argued and the author doesn’t appear to be a dreadful lifehackingselfpromotiongurutype; the point they make about big brands being instrumental in keeping the platform afloat is a smart one.
- Making Facebook Work If You’re A Publisher: Still, given that it’s not dead quite yet, this might be of use to some of you. This is by Kevin Anderson who’s one of the smartest people I know on lots of topics, but particularly when it comes to publishing, news and digital - also, I first met him when I was a 20 year old at the BBC in Washington and he was SO NICE to me, despite me being an appalling twat with genuinely ludicrous hair. Anyway, this is a really good, sensible guide to the belt-and-braces approach to take in order to make Facebook work for you as a publisher; to be honest, there’s a lot of stuff in here which can be applied to general advermarketingprcommscontentbollocks, so do take a look.
- Jobs Not Mobs: Excellent piece of journalism by the New York Times, which traces the spread of the #jobsnotmobs meme which was everywhere online in the runup to the midterms, used by Republican campaigners to boost the idea that Demcrats were only interested in whinging about social justice issues rather than contributing to the betterment of the US economy. Demonstrating clearly how it spread from Reddit and the Chans, via right-wing influencers, through to fringe Twitter through to the COnservative media, this is a fascinating look at memetics in the fag-end of 2018.
- Merging Buzzfeed: Another NYT piece, this time an interview with the always-fascinating Jonah Peretti, who here waxes lyrical about the future of Buzzfeed and online media in general, and floats the idea of entering into some sort of merger with VICE and others to create a megamediaconglomorate with the idea that such an entity wouldn’t get sand kicked in its face by Google and Facebook quite so much. On the one hand, Peretti is clearly hugely smart and has created a genuine media empire out of cat photos and quizzes; on the other hand, said empire has burned through nearly half-a-billion dollars of VC funding, pivoted to video and back more times than I can now count without being able to successfully work out how to monetise it, and is now selling $100 canvas bags to people in an attempt to raise funds so, well, I don’t really know what to think.
- Instagram Wars: This is a follow-up to the story that broke a couple of months ago about how Insta influencers were now starting to offer brands rates not just for endorsing their products but for slagging off those of their competitors; taking a dive into the weird world of fashion and beauty influencers, this paints a pretty unpleasant picture of everyone involved in this scene - at best they’re grifters, at worst they’re incredible bullies, and all of them serve as yet another nail in the coffin of the idea of Instagram as ‘authentic’ in any reasonable sense of the world.
- Nothing on this Page is Real: In many respects this is the maddest story I read all week. Christopher Blair is a middle-aged man who runs a Facebook Page called ‘America’s Last Line of Defence’, on which he posts entirely made-up news designed to appeal to the American right - stuff about HER EMAILS, that sort of thing. Let me repeat - this stuff is all entirely made-up, and the Page clearly states it. Nonetheless, the stuff that Blair posts goes viral all the time, spreading amongst an audience of people too uncritical, too partisan, too rabid or, sometimes, simply too stupid to realise. And so, every day, the already stinking waters of political debate are further sullied by the steady drip-drip-drip of lies and outrage and fakery and Jesus Christ, THIS ISN’T FUNNY, MR BLAIR, STOP IT. Imagine going back in time a decade and showing this article to someone - they’d be incredulous that we could arrive at this point. Honestly, this is MENTAL.
- This Is Also Amazon: Another glimpse into the terrifyingly smart Amazon World Domination Machine, this time at the increasing numbers of shadow brands that Amazon is quietly setting up, presenting a bunch of own-label-type offerings for everything from cookware to clothing which are presented onsite as though they were a brand like any other rather than part of the MechaBezos machine. Obviously this is just good business practice, but the details in here are a touch shady and you do feel slightly for the retailers (not, to be clear, P&G - I hate them) who are being squeezed by the platform effectively undercutting them with its own knockoff products.
- Lyft and Gamification: An excellent piece in the Guardian, lifted from a longer piece which annoyingly I couldn’t find anywhere online, describing the manner in which service economy companies have taken gamification to new, darkly brilliant levels. There’s something genuinely sad about where this has all ended up - do you remember 10 years ago when gamification really was the buzzword du jour in agencyland and we all believed Jane Mcgonigal when she told us about the transformative power of play? Wasn’t it nice? Isn’t it sad that all it’s resulted in is the creation of systems designed to lock our poor, stupid lizardmonkeybrains into servitude and trick us into thinking we’re enjoying it? Yes, yes it is.
- A New Cretaceous: Thanks again to Alex in China for this incredibly depressing analysis of exactly how our climate is fcuked. You may think you know it all already, and perhaps you do, but it’s important to be reminded I think of all the ways in which life is going to start getting radically unpleasant for lots of people - and, as per usual, it’s likely to be the world’s poorest - very, very soon.
- Bread Bros: On the one hand, sometimes we’re maybe too harsh on the tech bros of Silicon Valley. On the other, CHRIST they’re an annoying bunch and I wish that these men would STOP attempting to apply engineering principles to every fcuking thing on earth YOU ARE KILLING THE MAGIC OF EVERYTHING YOU JOYLESS FCUKS. Anyway, this is all about how the world of breadmaking - specifically sourdough - has come to be dominated by a particular type of man baking in a particular style, HACKING THE PROCESS and effectively, as so often happens, neatly erasing centuries of baking history and making the whole thing weirdly about them, and very, very male. This is great writing, and cuts across food and politics and gender and all sorts of things.
- As the Toffs Began to Retreat: An LRB review of two books looking at England’s decline from the halcyon days of yore, this very quickly becomes a freewheeling disquisition into the concept of ‘declinism’ overall, as well as painting an interesting overview of our modern history as a nation. I wasn’t quite sure about the writing here, but there is a very certain style about the prose which you may or may not enjoy; regardless, it’s an intellectually fascinating read and contains lots of mentions of the UK car manufacturing industry in the 1970s which my editor likes.
- The Graphic Art of Incredibles 2: This was published back when the film was released but has been doing the rounds of late - it’s an...er...incredible look at how the artistic team working on the film took their inspiration from the real world, and how that translated across to the final CG animations. Honestly, as an exploration of the design/artistic process this is unsurpassed.
- The DEA Microgramme Bulletin: This is amazing. The DEA Microgramme Bulletin was published by the US Drug Enforcement Agency as a guide to the latest smuggling tricks and types of narcotic doing the rounds; this PDF collects issues from a ten-year period, and is HUGE - you won’t want to read it, but I highly recommend scrolling through for the great photos of inventive smuggling techniques, all the different shapes of ecstasy that were knocking about North America in the 00s, and the occasional wonderful glossary of drug terminology. Wonderful.
- Meet Sweet Anita: This is really interesting (and, and I feel bad saying this, I wish it had been written up by a ‘proper’ site rather than the comprehensive-but-not-necessarily-superb-prosewise Kotaku) - a profile of Twitch streamer Sweet Anita, a young woman from the UK who’s attained recent success and community notoriety as a result of her streaming style, which is highly influenced by her Tourette’s syndrome. But is she really tourettic, is what she displays natural, is she playing for the cameras, and does it matter? The piece is sympathetic, and there’s no evidence to suggest Anita’s not a sufferer of the syndrome, but there are lots of interesting questions that remain unanswered and the overall questions it raises - about performance and authenticity in this sort of world - are fascinating ones which are only going to become more pertinent as the market grows and diversifies.
- Homebrew D&D Maps: Not strictly a longread, though there are words, this is a collection of people’s homemade, hand-drawn campaign maps from D&D games they’ve played. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got no interest in roleplaying or any of that jazz - just appreciate the wonderful creativity and worldbuilding evident in each and every one of these. Honestly, they are joyous.
- What Is 8d Audio: I always get slightly annoyed when I remember that Mel Magazine is a marketing vehicle for Unilever, but they are currently one of the best outlets for reporting on web culture and so I can’t get too angry about it. This piece explains the concept of ‘8d’ audio - that is, tracks that have been fcuked with to make them all weirdly binaural and ASMR-ish. I reckon there’s a reasonably successful, niche brand activation here should you have the right client for it.
- Killing America’s Best Burger: This did the rounds last weekend, but if you’re yet to read it then it’s a good read - the author writes about how he wrote a list of America’s best burgers a few years back, placing a small place called Stanich’s in Portland at the number 1 spot; and then Stanich’s shut down. The author, wracked with guilt, believed that all the evidence pointed to its being destroyed by the fame garnered by his list, and so decided to meet the owner and make amends. What’s interesting about this is what’s read between the lines - it’s clear that Mr Stanich is an...unconventional man, and there was obviously some pretty significant stuff happening behind the scenes here - and the general meditation around the question of whether or not it’s right to spotlight small places who couldn’t be expected to cope with the attention.
- The Bone Collector: Again, fine, more photos than prose, but I LOVE the look and feel of this piece from Finnish...er...website? Magazine? Regardless, it’s called Yle Uutiset - I have been working with a Finnish guy a bit of late and even he can’t explain the language to me, it’s honestly baffling - and this is a feature about artist Sanni-Maaria Puustinen who makes work from dead things. Seriously, SUCH wonderful photos.
- The Yelville Turkey Trot: Occasionally you’ll come across an account of a local custom so barbaric-sounding that you have to go and check whether it’s actually real (cf that thing they used to do in Spain where they threw donkeys from church towers); so it was with this story of the Yelville Turkey Trot, in which they used to chuck a load of turkeys - a notoriously flightless bird - out of a plane, for fun. This piece is a brilliant piece of journalism, the writer visiting the town (which, you may not be surprised, does not relish the attention visited on it) and investigating the history of the custom; it then segues unexpectedly into discussions of meat-eating and hypocrisy and snobbery, and is one of the best things I’ve read all week.
- Debt: A Love Story: This is heartbreaking. I don’t know whether to feel sorry for the couple in this money diary or to pity them for the appalling decisions and lack of self-control, or to despise them for their weakness; you will probably feel a combination of all three, but as an honest account of what it’s like to live under constant, crippling debt and still have to pretend it’s all ok this is an excoriating read. The bit about divorce honestly caused a physical reaction in me - this is not a hopeful, or happy, read, fyi.
- In Defense of Puns: This, by contrast, is JOYOUS - if you love language and humour (and, obviously, puns) this will be your favourite piece of a week. This is so well-written, with a serious approach to the scholarship that underpins it, and if you aren’t smiling broadly by the time you reach the end you’re a dreadful, joyless fcuk and I want you to leave.
- Bagels: Finally this week, my favourite piece of the last seven days - unusually it’s not a personal memoir or piece of fiction but simply an account of one day’s work in a bagel bakery in Canada. Such WONDERFUL writing, and it evokes a sense of place and people masterfully - I’m not kidding, this is warm and heartfelt and will make you feel marginally better about life, I promise you. Also, it will make you REALLY want a fresh bagel (should I be writing it as ‘beigel’? Gah, I’m goyim, give me a break).
By Andy Denzler
AND FINALLY, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- First up, this is called ‘Sketches’ and is a collection of super-smart little vignettes riffing on digital effects in the physical world - I think I featured this guy’s last set of work, so the style might be familiar, and these are just as good:
4) I love James Yorkston. I think his music is superb, he writes beautifully, he’s brilliant live and we’ve even chatted a couple of times on Twitter and he seems really nice there too. This is his new single and, honestly, this might be a late contender for my song of the year. It’s called ‘My Mouth Ain’t No Bible’, and it is ACE:
6) Last up, the latest futurehorrorvision by Keichi Matsuda, who you’ll recall from Curios passim (you remember, those videos depicting the scary future of advertising with every surface a personalised popup arrayed in dizzying technicolour horror) - this is called ‘Merger’ and it’s about work and tech and love and the future and very much the now. The 360 video thing is a needless gimmick, but the work overall is STRONG. Enjoy, don’t be scared and OH IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN, I’M OFF TO ENJOY MY WEEKEND AND I WOULD LIKE YOU TO DO THAT TOO AND JUST REMEMBER THAT BL*CK F*D*Y WON’T FILL THE VOID INSIDE YOU SO MAYBE GO EASY ON THE PURCHASES OK I DON’T MEAN TO PREACH BUT, WELL, IT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT HAVING MORES STUFF PROBABLY ISN’T THE ANSWER OH DEAR I AM ON THE VERGE OF GETTING PREACHY I HAD BETTER WATCH MYSELF I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU SEE YOU NEXT WEEK BYE!:
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