Web Curios 24/08/18
Is he going to be impeached? IS HE?
Stop getting excited, nothing's going to happen for AGES and in the meantime there's still plenty of stuff that could get worse. Don't worry, though, because over here we've finally got a plan for No Deal Brexit! It involves evertything being incredibly fcuking sh1t! But! Don't worry though! Because Jezzus is going to fix everything by taxing 'the tech giants' (no, me neither)! And nationalise digital!
Everyone's an idiot, basically, except you and I, and frankly even my status on the idiot/non-idiot scale is...questionable. Which is why I'm throwing my hands in the air and GIVING UP for the day, and instead of worrying about the state of things (jokes! I don't worry, I get drunk and take drugs and cry and FORGET!) am spending the day in a field near Leeds feeling old and haggard and wondering when music stopped being music and just became NOISE and dear god young ladies aren't you cold you'll catch your death, put some tights on for heaven's sakes.
Yes, that's right, this is being written to you FROM THE PAST! Well, it's always written from the past, fine, but right now it's YESTERDAY (or even earlier, depending on when you're reading this); apologies in advance for any tonal difference in the copy based on it not being written all in one go, top to bottom from 6am on Friday morning (it was instead written all in one go, top to bottom, on Thursday evening instead, but it feels different somehow)).
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the following linkspaff - and I hope I survive kidfest 2018 and manage to return next week unscathed and with STORIES and, hopefully, no convictions. You all take care of yourselves and have nice weekends and, crucially, just in case I die, tell all your friends how great Web Curios was and what a stand-up sort of guy that Matty Muir was. Go on. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME (I AM NOT DEAD YET). This is Web Curios - I HOPE YOU LIKE IT.
By Molly Bounds
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE TO REMIND YOU THAT MASTODON WAS CRAP WHEN IT LAUNCHED AND IS STILL CRAP NOW:
- Facebook Removes Certain Ad Targeting Options: The great online ad targeting clampdown of 2018 continues apace, with this latest announcement from Facebook ushering in a brave and slightly crap (if you’re an advertiser that is) new world in which you can no longer, say, exclude certain groups from your target audience for an ad campaign; the rationale being that certain BAD ACTORS (God, Facebook do love that phrase) have been exploiting loopholes in said targeting exclusions which allowed them to effectively undertake racial targeting which is very much against Facebook’s ts&cs. Seemingly applies worldwide and from hereon in, although there’s no exact clarity on which terms and what specific usage is being affected.
- Facebook Giving Users ‘Trustworthiness’ Rating: This is of literally no interest to brands whatsoever and has nothing at all to do with advermarketingpr, but we are (ha! ‘We’! SO LONELY!) nothing if not completists here at Web Curios. Facebook is going to start /has started (this is, as per, somewhat unclear) ascribing ratings to users based on the extent to which the platform perceives them to be ‘trustworthy’ actors; that is, whether the things they flag as being contentious or untrue tend in fact to be contentious or untrue. This is, therefore, slightly less creepily dystopian than has in fact been reported (an unusual reversal in terms of the norm for news around Facebook) - it’s in the main going to be used to assist moderation teams in knowing whose flags are worth investigating vs those whose flags aren’t. Effectively this means that if you keep going round flagging all your ex’s posts as ‘inappropriate or offensive’ they will eventually stop believing you (so instead why not take to mailing them jiffybags full of prawns by second-class mail?).
- Facebook Pixel Coming To Groups: AND SO IT BEGINS! Here, slowly, creeps the monetisation of Facebook Groups, one of the final pure areas unsullied by commercialisation left in the godforsaken hellscape that is The Social Network. Not rolled out to everyone yet, but this will let you attach the FB Pixel you’ve put on your website to any Facebook Group you admin, thereby letting you track in-Group user behaviour on-site (and, eventually, to use this as a means to create custom audiences, no doubt). Not really sure to what extent commercial use of Groups has caught on yet, despite it being A Smart Thing, but I guarantee that as soon as brand managers work out that they can shoot targeted ads at them then you’ll be getting invites to join the ‘Tena Lady Afternoon Crossword and Poirot Group’ left, right and centre (no idea why that was the first one that came into my head but there you are). Oh, and you can pin comments in threads in Groups. Which is nice.
- Facebook Launching Ad Archive API: This is actually potentially rather fun, though no word when it will be extended beyond the US - currently only available to a handful of partners over there, this lets them play with all of FB’s ad archive data, presumably to do nifty data crunching and analysis of trends in spend, buyers, targeting and the like, to draw all sorts of spurious conclusions about WHAT IT ALL MEANS in the broadest sense. Does make me wonder rather whether what we might learn through this about the broad direction of travel of FB ads - will it be possible to extrapolate trend data on, say, single video ads vs carousels, for example? If so you could, potentially, use this in quite a smart way to prioritise less popular ad formats to reduce your CPM or somesuch. Christ, what an INCREDIBLY dull potential application I just imagined. Sorry.
- Insta Testing Recommended Posts In Feed: Do you remember a few weeks back when all that ‘time spent on Insta’ stuff launched and there was a brief spike in chat about ‘mindful social media use’ and all the rest, and I opined that one might perhaps look at this as a tiny bit disingenuous and not entirely sincere? Well, HI INSTA RECOMMENDED POSTS! These are designed to help you find popular content you might otherwise have missed and, beautifully, will only appear when you’ve gotten to the end of the rest of the scroll. So, to be clear, they instituted the ‘you’re all caught up!’ message to stop people wasting their lives by mindlessly scrolling through stuff they’d already seen - and now are adding a whole new bunch of content after that message to, er, keep people staring and scrolling! You fcuking bastards. No word on whether this will ever become an ad option but, well, come on.
- LinkedIn Groups Getting A Revamp: Presumably looking on enviously at Facebook’s Group-related success and surveying the spam-clogged horror of its own offering, LinkedIn is dragging its Groups functionality kicking and screaming into circa 2015, by integrating them more fully with the main platform/app and through the following updates: “As part of being rebuilt on LinkedIn’s platform, Groups will be getting a number of new features — essentially tapping into new features that LinkedIn has rolled out over the last several quarters on its own app but hadn’t built for the (previously standalone) Groups platform. For starters, conversations taking place in Groups will now appear in-stream on the LinkedIn feed, rather than in a separate tab. When group members are replying to posts, there will now be threaded replies, which will let people respond directly to comments within the thread. Groups are also going to have a rich media infusion: users will be able to edit posts and share videos and other non-text formats.” Exciting, isn’t it? No, no it isn’t. Still, though, it might give you a brief reason to check back in. As an aside, thanks to Marcus I this week spent a bit of time looking at some influencer stuff on LinkedIn and, well, WOW - it’s been a long time (literally days) since I last wished such a creative and messy demise on anyone, but those people are INCREDIBLE. I think there’s a brilliant performance art piece to be done in / around the idea of LinkedIn, is what I’m saying, so can someone please get on it? Thanks!
- Giphy Is Launching A Stories-type Format Too: Part X in the seemingly infinite ‘stories are the defining format of the smartphone era’ saga.
- Amazon Launches Video Ads in Search: Amazon’s still underused as an ad platform imho, but here’s a(nother) reason to reconsider their position in your EXCITING ADVERTISING STACK! “These ads are shown below the fold in the search results for select keywords that are relevant to your product. Customers can click through to the detail page for the product being advertised or to your Store or other landing page on Amazon. Video in search is currently in beta, not available for off-site placement, and is only available on iOS.” Which pretty much removes your need to click on the link - you’re welcome!
- My Moni: Slightly odd, if cute, idea by Bank of New Zealand - Moni is a sort of financial education Tamagotchi-type creature, a slightly geometric 3d avatar which you have to help achieve financial goals through simple gameplay mechanics, the idea of which is to gently train kids how to save and all about the importance of money and suchlike. It’s quite a cute idea, though I do slightly wonder whether or not there’s going to be any actual real-world correlation between kids working out how to play a simple game to keep a virtual pet alive and them suddenly developing a deep and abiding sense of financial responsibility. Whisper it, but getting a job and keeping it is marginally harder than tapping on a screen to deliver virtual snacks to a tiny blue digital companion.
- Oddboy: A fun little mobile-only motocross game by Red Bull. The sort of thing which will keep you amused in your next pointless internal meeting, presuming it doesn’t drag on too long.
- Books as Insta Stories: Quite possibly the best thing I have ever seen on Insta Stories, no hyperbole. New York Public Library has started putting out novels as Insta Stories - this is Alice in Wonderland, or at least the first part of it, presented as a beautifully-designed Story, with animated cover and chapter interstitials, animations and a BEAUTIFULLY-designed interface; there are so many lovely touches in this, not least the gentle instruction as to where to put your thumb to pause the Story while you’re reading the text. Even more wonderfully, the library plans to put all these Stories into their Insta Archive, meaning that they will create a digital LIBRARY of all the ones they produce. I am in awe of this, honestly - it’s near-perfect in terms of creative and execution, and the archive/library bit is the icing on the cake. This ought to win ALL the awards.
- 700 Ad Agency Taglines: We all like to make fun of dreadful, lazy copywriting, specifically those of us who work in advermarketingpr and think we can do better. Take a moment to have a quick scroll through this list of ad agency taglines and then revise your opinion of the collective ability of the industry as a whole - these are AWFUL, repetitious, meaningless, pretentious...pick YOUR favourite! Special shout out to the one agency which actually uses ‘surprise and delight’ in its strap, thereby managing to sound simultaneously soulless, uncreative AND out-of-touch in one fell swoop.
THE SECTION WHICH AS YOU READ THIS IS IN A FIELD SURROUNDED BY TEENAGERS ON NITROUS AND IS THEREFORE FEELING VERY, VERY OLD INDEED, PART 1:
- Vid 2 Vid: Another week, another link which suggests that there will soon come a time in which we will simply be incapable of believing that ANYTHING is real unless we’ve physically felt it come into contact with our bodies. This is a series of proof-of-concept videos which demonstrate how researchers working at the vanguard of GAN-led video synthesis (these are fancy words which, if I’m totally honest, I must admit I don’t totally understand, so please bear with me as I try and explain) are able to effectively sketch out things on a screen and then get a well-trained computer to imagine what those things would look like as specific types of video output. So, for example, in one of the videos you can see that they’ve isolated the individual elements of a video of a car driving down the road - other vehicles, lampposts, street signs, etc - and then plugged those into a neural net trained on a corpus of road videos and asked it to use its ‘imagination’ to fill in what those element blocks should look like and, well, WOW. If you weren’t looking closely - if, say, you were distractedly seeing this in-feed on your phone - there is no way in hell you would begin to imagine that that wasn’t real footage. Don’t even get me STARTED on what they’re doing with computer-generated faces. TRUST NOTHING BELIEVE NOONE LISTEN ONLY TO THOSE WHOSE FACES YOU CAN LICK. LICK THE FACES.
- Fokawolf: London-based street artist’s Insta feed, including rather a lot of excellent pseudo-satirical poster work of which I am very much a fan.
- Jido Rhythm: Super-fun app, sadly iPhone X only, which basically does that ‘music visualiser’ thing that you recall from Realplayer and other late-90s audio software but using your face. It’s an AR-ish toy which, when you listen to music through it, uses your camera to recognise your face and apply a range of cool warping effects to it in time with whatever track you’re playing; some of the effects are GREAT, and I am very pro the ‘share this to other platforms’ functionality baked into it which means you can include a short video of your face rhythmically swelling to a techno beat in your next Insta story because WHY NOT EH?
- Shed of the Year 2018: IT IS THAT TIME OF THE YEAR AGAIN! SHED OF THE YEAR TIME! Except, annoyingly, this is actually a PR stunt for some creosote-peddlers, and they have pretty much entirely killed the joy of the whole thing by hosting it on a website so painfully, cheaply, poorly designed that it renders the process of perusing the KOOKY MANCAVES a funless trudge and who therefore I am not going to name, thereby RUINING their coverage. TAKE THAT! Can someone else take this on next year and make it good, please?
- Scooby Dos or Scooby Don’ts: A pdocast whose sole raison d’etre is to review every single piece of Scooby Do-related output available online - the original cartoons, the films, the remakes, the inexplicable period of Scooby Do parodies starring people like Gary Coleman...obsessional and odd and, based on the 5 minutes I have distractedly checked out whilst typing today, actually pretty funny. You have to be quite into Scooby Do, though.
- 0xfair: Or, should you be in the market for a very shonky pun, BLOCK, PAPER, SCISSORS ahahahahahaohgodpleasenomoremakeitstop. This is, for reasons I am unable to adequately grasp, an online game of rock, paper, scissors...but ON THE BLOCKCHAIN! You can set up games against specific individuals or leave one open to anyone who wants to play, with all matches involving an Ethereum stake. Why anyone would want to bet crypto on a virtual game of RPS is literally baffling to me, but then again, so’s the whole crypto thing in general.
- Andreas Wannerstedt: Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, the most soothing 3d looping CGI animations you ever will see. I just fell into a small ASMR hole watching these and my scalp is still feeling pleasingly tingly.
- Wet Unboxing: It just sounds wrong, doesn’t it, ‘wet unboxing’, like something that you would very much get into trouble for watching at work, maybe involving close-ups of goosepimpled flesh and hair follicles and unpleasantly viscous-looking mucous membrane. But no! Instead it’s a bunch of videos on a single YouTube channel dedicated to the slightly odd but in no way overtly wrong pursuit of opening consumable food and drink products underwater and filming what it looks like. Want to know what happens to a bottle of Frijj! when you uncap it in the bath? Want to see exactly how murky the water gets when you take an egg sandwich out of its packaging (honestly, you don’t, it’s weirdly incredibly upsetting)? OF COURSE YOU DO. I would quite like someone to use this technique in a national TV ad campaign for M&S, just subverting food pr0n, but I accept that it might not quite have the effect on sales which advertising is traditionally meant to achieve.
- World Humanitarian Day: A United Nations project designed to draw attention to and raise awareness of World Humanitarian Day which is...oh, hang on, it was last week. Er, didn’t really work, did it? Anyway, this site lets users upload a selfie and creates a 3d respresentation of it, which is then...well,it’s not really clear, but it seems to suggest that all the faces uploaded will form part of an eventual 3d sculpture to be presented to UN leaders in September in order to highlight the global importance of, er, humanitarianism. Not 100% convinced that this was a great use of their digital budget this year, if I’m honest, but on the other hand I am genuinely tickled at the thought of António Guterres being confronted with a wall of 3d printed minifaces screaming at him about humanitarian concerns when he steps out of the lift next month, so, well, there is that.
- Surfsafe: This a clever and potentially useful Chrome extension which purports to identify faked or ‘shopped images as you browse, helping you determine which news is fake and which, conversely, is an accurate representation of exactly how fcuked everything is. “It’s simple - just hover over an image, and SurfSafe will classify the image as “safe”, “warning”, or “unsafe”. SurfSafe will also show you every instance of where the image in question has been seen before. You will be able to see if the context of image in the article has anything to do with the original instance.” So says the blurb - imperfect as this is it’s certainly not a terrible idea and, based on my limited experimentation with it in the few days since it launched, it seems to do what it promises. Worth a look, particularly for shared home computers or, perhaps, your increasingly credulous right-wing uncle. By the way, I just notice that Tweetdeck now has a hover-over ‘search this image on Google’ button which appears in the top-right of any image in the TL, which is a super-useful and smart fact-checking function you might find it useful to know about (you’re welcome).
- Loom: I honestly think this is BRILLIANT. You may remember (you won’t remember, I know you - this is what I am for, to be your linkmemory, your clawmachine for your weboubliette) an app called FrontBack whose sole gimmick was that it would take a photo with your front AND back cameras simultaneously, thereby giving you a snapshot of the thing you’re looking at and your reaction to it; this does a similar thing, but BETTER. The idea here is that it does a simultaneous screen recording of your phone whilst at the same time using the phone’s front camera to record your face while you do whatever it is that your doing. JUST THINK ABOUT IT - the reaction videos, the ‘ok now I’m going to open this message from my crush and you can see exactly how I feel when I do’ content for the Insta Stories...seriously, this opens up all sorts of interesting avenues for direction that, if you are a CONTENT PRODUCER (you cnut) you might want to get on board with. USE YOUR IMAGINATIONS (I say to you every week with no discernible reaction whatsoever I mean dear God is anyone even reading this ffs no don’t answer that).
THE SECTION WHICH AS YOU READ THIS IS IN A FIELD SURROUNDED BY TEENAGERS ON NITROUS AND IS THEREFORE FEELING VERY, VERY OLD INDEED, PART 2:
- Live Tubemap Viz: Ok, so this isn’t the first or the prettiest live tube map I’ve seen, but it does let you click on the trains and tells you how long til they reach their next stop, which, if you want to become one of those irritating ‘commute optimisation’ people (you know they exist - the ones who INSIST on standing at a particular point on the platform every day as it shaves 3 seconds off the interchange and who you just know do little ‘success kid’-style fistbumps internally every time they walk onto the platform just as a train pulls in) will absolutely help you do that (don’t do that).
- Teddy Girls: A wonderful collection of photos of Teddy Girls from the 50s and 60s, really nailing that CampButch aesthetic which I first read about last week and which now I am seeing everywhere. Also, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, the aesthetic here displayed appears to be what about 30% of the younger women in media who I follow on Twitter basically run in 2018, which is a pleasing bit of retrofashionobservation.
- Masterworks: Invest in high-value classic works of art...THROUGH THE BLOCKCHAIN! That’s right - the slightly shonky world of fast-turnaround art flippnig as an investment is the latest slightly niche industry to be blockchainified! Masterwork will buy significant works, snapping them up at auction, and then sell shares in those works ON THE BLOCKCHAIN! The idea is that the parent company will aim for a quick turnaround resale, nabbing a 10-20% profit which will be returned to the shareholders in question; there’s also, as far as I can tell, a vague idea of a secondary market developing for the trading of the shares themselves, although frankly that’s about the point where I sto understanding stuff like this. Anyway, if you have some crypto knocking around and fancy buying a 0.001% stake in a Gauguin then, well, this could be for YOU!
- Show Bits: An Insta feed which shares illustrated animations of famous musicians...oh, Christ, look, you just have to sort of look at a few of these to get the idea, but they are GREAT; lovely, affectionate and very funny. The one of Britney Spears as a rubber dodgeball is particularly great.
- Bird Sounds: Thousands of bird sounds, arranged and visualised using machine learning. You want to spend the day listening to the gentle warbling of the marsh wren, the chirp of the parakeet? OH GOOD! This is honestly GREAT - not only is it interesting to listen to each of the individual bird sounds, but you can create an absolutely MENTAL avian cacophony by just clicking and dragging around the samples; go on, unplug your headphones, whack up the volume and treat your colleagues to a few blasts of your very own, original morning chorus. They will HATE you.
- Bird Photographer of the Year: Web Curios’ ornithology corner continues with this EXCELLENT collection of photos of mad-looking feathery dinosaurs (aka birds).
- No Context The Thick Of It: You could argue that every day presents its own, new, fresh, moments of political idiocy which when presented out of context would knock this stuff into a cocked hat; you would be right. Still, these are funny as long as you can get past the troubling, nagging knowledge that, right now, people who are supposed to be navigating us through the strange and frightening present are behaving exactly like the characters in these stills.
- Hourly Fox: A new fox, on Twitter, every hour.
- Artifacts: Simultaneously deeply boring and sort-of interesting - the dichotomy that lies at the very hart of Curios! - Artifacts is an attempt to renovate the idea of the office ‘suite’ of tools, creating a new type of document/file which can be any and all things simultaneously and which...oh, look, here: “It is built around documents that are units of meaning rather than units of data, enabling the expression of thoughts grounded in the way humans think. It organizes these documents loosely enough to aid the making of associations while retaining enough structure for users to navigate their collections seamlessly. It is built for humans to continuously develop ideas over longer periods of time and emphasizes collaboration as part of the system.” You do really need to read the site and watch the explainers to get a feel for exactly what it’s trying to do, but the manner in which you can shift between copy and sketching and photoediting and assorted other tools and uses within a single filetype is honestly fascinating (in, er, a sort of really boring way).
- Correspondence: Cult Scandi singer-songwriter Jens Lekman is a personal favourite of mine; this is a project he’s been doing this year with fellow Scand Annika Norlin in which they correspond via the medium of song, intending to go back and forth, month by month, until the end of 2018 at which point there will be twelve songs produced as a result. We’re up to July, and so far I honestly adore the results; there’s something lovely and intimate about the songs being penned specifically as correspondence to another named individual, and the slight sense of call and response which permeates the whole thing makes me really want to hear them as a whole album.
- Meteor Showers: SO GOOD. This site visualises the path of the major meteor showers which pass us on a regular basis, showing their scale and scope - you can pan and zoom and generally marvel at the wonder of the universe, and then if you click ‘view from Earth’ you get to see the INFINITE MAJESTY OF SPACE zooming past you as you stare up in awe at the skies like the largely-confused hairless ape you fundamentally are. Space is AMAZING.
- Airmap: No idea how many of you own drones or use them on any sort of regular basis, but should you have an interest in taking aerial photography or checking up on adherence to local boundary regulations or spying on that attractive couple who never shut their curtains (I am not judging) (I am judging) then this site, which helpfully sets out those areas of airspace in which can and cannot fly drones, or within which restrictions apply, might be quite useful.
- Native Land: A project seeking to map the original ownership by Native peoples of land subsequently taken from them by colonisers. Covering North America and Australian territories at present, this is a lovely idea and a heartbreaking depiction of exactly how much was taken from so many. Next time you see some alt-right prick waxing appalled at issues such as the reappropriation of farmland by black South Africans, say, it might be worth directing them at this (but, in all likelihood, you might be better off ignoring them).
- Matthew Wood: So The Football has started again! Are you happy? Are you sad? Are you somehow managing to maintain utter indifference in the face of the relentless barrage of FOOTIE NEWS that seemingly spews, incessantly, from the assembled maws of the FOOTIE COMMENTARIAT? Regardless, if you or anyone you know ‘does’ football then you could do worse than check out the work of artist / designer Matthew Wood, who does rather lovely prints featuring football grounds and the like in a nice, slightly flat, 1950s public service poster-type style; these would make great presents, I think.
- The Ronnie James Dio Auction: Ronnie James Dio, to those of you who don’t know, was the sometime-frontman of legendary metallers Black Sabbath as well as being the man credited with inventing the ‘devil horns’ hand gesture; sadly he’s now dead, but he lives on through his...er...ridiculous collection of rock’n’roll possessions, which are now being auctioned off and which YOU can now bid on. There is some truly astonishing stuff in here - my personal favourite are the Freddie Krueger blade gloves, set in the ‘devil horns’ pose, but frankly you could pick almost anything at random from this list and find something that wouldn’t look out of place in a goth’s boudoir.
- Marvelous Mikee: You probably saw that image that did the rounds this week of an artist’s interpretation of what Home Simpson would look like as a real person (‘horrific’ is is the answer, in case you were in any doubt). This is the artist’s Instagram feed and, well, it’s also pretty horrific. Skilled, but horrific. Miguel Vasquez is very, very good but a touch, well, warped.
- Superb Fail Gifs: Not, I concede, the sort of thing that normally gets much of a look-in in Curios, but these are too good not to share. I would watch the kid getting nailed by the bottle of water ALL DAY and, frankly, might do just that.
- Podstand: Another week, another attempt to solve the thorny issue of podcast discoverability. Podstand is a platform which lets you seamlessly share what you’re listening to - other users can follow you and get updates on the new stuff you’re listening to and take recommendations from that. Imperfect, fine, but no worse than all the other largely unsuccessful attempts to make good stuff easier to find; I do quite like the idea of an app that shares ALL media consumption automatically to a feed, perhaps as an art project. “Matt Is…”, we could call it, and it would just be a feed of whatever website, film, book, music, etc, I am consuming RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT. “Matt Is...Crywanking At That Specific Photo Gallery” would probably get quite old quite fast, mind.
- Mike Hall: In Mr Hall’s own words, “I am a freelance illustrator and map designer based in Valencia, Spain.” Mike’s maps are BEAUTIFUL, and available to buy if you’re after some high-quality cartographic output.
- Generative Artistry: A series of short guides to making generative art - that is, art from code. Simple and clear and generally a really nice resource for anyone who’d like to learn to be a bit more creative with coding; beautifully, each examples include little wysiwyg code windows so you can mess with it and see how it affects the work generated, which is SUCH a nice touch.
- Stickman Puzzle Boxes: you may recall puzzle boxes from when you were a kid - seemingly every 80s kid had one, often referred to as a Chinese Box, which could only be opened if a specific sequence of bits were pressed, pulled, dragged or twisted into a specific configuration. This company sells stuff like that, but SO MUCH COOLER. Seriously, take a look at the examples here - HOW AMAZING would it be to spend all your money on one of these before you die, leave a small note at its very heart saying “AHAHAHAHA GOTCHA SUCKERS” and then leave it as the sole item in your will to a confused bunch of executors? Imagine the delicious schadenfreude you’d feel from beyond the grave as they struggled for YEARS to open the thing - instructions you’d left would, of course, suggest that the Will would be invalid if force was used to open the box - before finally coming face-to-face with your post-mortem raised middle finger. It would be almost worth being dead for, is all I’m saying.
- Bongo Yourself: This link, to be clear, takes you to a website owned by a bongo company - there’s nothing technically NSFW visible on-landing, but, you know, BE WARNED. Anyway, the people at ‘Naughty America’ (no word in the English language is less erotic than ‘naughty’ - this is a stone cold FACT) have decided to leap full onto the DeepFakes bandwagon and are now offering bespoke deepfake porn to anyone willing to provide the visual assets and (one presumes) a not inconsiderable amount of money. For a fee, they will put YOUR face onto any movie you choose - even better, they will also do the same for ‘any consenting adult’ you can find adequate visual material for. How, exactly, they intend to enforce this ‘consent’ thing is a moot point, but given that I don’t imagine that there’s any legislation at all which currently covers the question of ‘what can I do if someone takes a bunch of photos of me that are all over the internet and freely available and pays money to have my face superimposed into a 9way copro funflick?’, I can’t imagine they’re too worried. This is, well, just staggeringly creepy, isn’t it?
- Speck: Last up in the miscellania, this is a TINY, TINY little browser game. Seriously, you won’t believe how small it is. Also, HUGELY frustrating and yet very addictive at the same time. Enjoy, but try not to break your keyboard in rage whilst playing.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS, ONCE AGAIN SADLY DIMINISHED!
- Centuries of Sound: Not in fact a Tumblr! Still, this is a brilliant archival and historical project and t deserves to be celebrated. To quote: “Centuries of Sound is an attempt to produce an audio mix for every year of recorded sound. Starting with 1860, a mix is posted every month until we catch up with the present day. The scope is moreorless everything, music of course, but also speech and other sounds, the only limit being that music and sounds used must be from that year. Mixes start under three minutes, and will get longer until they are two hours long (guessing this will be sometime in the 1930s).” This is now up to the early 1900s and it is GREAT.
- White People Twitter: Basically the subReddit, but on Tumblr. Look, what do you want me to do? If noone’s making new weird Tumblrs anymore THIS is what I’m reduced to.
LONG THINGS THAT ARE LONG! (and which are going to be described in slightly less detail this week because, well, I have STUFF TO DO):
- Moderation Is A Commodity: A very smart essay about how moderation is in fact the very essence of a successful online network - the point that literally ANYONE could make a moderationless, ‘post whatever you like’ network in 15 minutes and it would be terrible and everyone would hate it is an excellent one. Germane as we limp through another week of uncertainty and appalling leadership from every single social platform there is (I am not going to link to them, but there are interviews with both Jack and Evan Spiegel doing the rounds this week which, well, WOW).
- Confessions of a Failed Ronaldo Fan: A transcendentally good piece of sports writing, this, all about how Ronaldo is so unlovable and yet so immensely, marvellously impressive; obsessional and vain and superhuman and at the same time only very tangentially human at all. This is WONDERFUL, and you don’t even really need to know or like football to enjoy it (though it will, I concede, help if you actually know who Cristiano Ronaldo is).
- The Secret History of the Heroin Crisis: What are the causes of America’s current struggle with opiates, synthetic and organic? Obviously there are LOADS - sorry, not really in a position to offer a one-size solution to this in my position as non-American webmong, it may surprise you to know - but one of the more interesting potential explanations, to my mind at least, is found in this piece which suggests that it’s a direct result of the legalisation of weed incentivising the Mexican cartels to switch from concentrating on producing marijuana to instead dealing in skag. Aside from anything else, contains some very good debunkings of a few widely-held El Chapo myths, not least that he drove out of his escape tunnel on a motorbike when he jumped jail a few years back (though that would have been amazing if true). BONUS LEGAL WEED CONTENT: This piece on the oddity of the fact that there are now people in the US who are, legally, always totally fcuked is quite an interesting one too.
- Neuropolitics: No sooner have we got over the undue hysteria directed at psychographic ad targeting techiques, another MAGIC VOODOO MANIPULATION TECHNIQUE emerges! This piece is a disappointingly uncritical look by MIT Technology Review looking at the application of neuromarketing techniques - that is, monitoring brainwaves to determine consumer reactions to messages, products or services and using that data to refine and rework said messages, products or services to better appeal to subconscious consumer desires - to politics. This is, let’s be clear, UTTER RUBBISH at the moment - we simply can’t analyse or isolate brain activity with enough accuracy to be able to determine anything other than VERY blunt assessments of likes/dislikes - although I concede that this sort of stuff will one day be commonplace. Still, worth reading about this now before Cadwalladr gets onto it and goes FULL MENTAL.
- Women Driving in Saudi: I have to say, I don’t equate Elle with quality longform writing, but this piece, in which the author visits Saudi and speaks to women and men alike about how the lifting of the ban on women drivers has affected them and what it means for the country as a whole, is fascinating.
- An Oral History of Goldeneye On The N64: 30somethings, you will VERY much enjoy this. So much good trivia, not least that playing as Oddjob is, officially, cheating (look, the devs say so, CASE CLOSED).
- Insta Flop Accounts: A look at the teen phenomenon of ‘flop’ accounts on Insta, which are serving as a means for teens to debate political issues and share thoughts, memes and the rest in a ‘safe’ space. Which seems fine in theory, but fcuk me is there some appalling thinking being articulated in the quotes here. ““Flop accounts have a lot of people fact-checking each other instead of just depending on one source giving us information,” Dann said. “The fact that we’re all posting about these things means we all have to do research and it’s a lot of people completing these things together, not just one person, which makes us trust it more.”” Yeah...I’m not sure that that’s actually a good thing there, Kiddo, but wevs.
- Intergender Wrestling: A look at the unsurprisingly controversial world of intergender wrestling - more accurately described as ‘wrestling bouts in which men beat the fcuk out of women or women beat the fcuk out of men’. It’s...weird, to be honest, and I find it hard not to have quite complicated feelings about whether this is ok or not.
- How The Metro Became Britain’s Most-Read Paper: The Metro - the equivalent of reading Twitter on a 24h delay, basically - is NEVER discussed critically, despite its status as indubitably the highest circulation daily in the country. This is an excellent profile of the paper and its editor - the detail about the gender balance at senior levels of the paper was an interesting one, and feels like it’s reflected in the editorial tone overall.
- Summer Job? Influencer!: American kids are, apparently, parlaying their small followings on Instagram for small-scale fees for product placement. On the one hand, well done them for the entrepreneurialism; on the other hand, there is something so UTTERLY bleak about commoditising oneself so early in one’s life. Then again, as someone once said, the only thing worse than selling out is trying to sell out and realising that noone wants to buy you.
- Journalism In China: An occasionally jaw-dropping account of some of the ‘idiosyncracies’ inherent in being a journalist in modern China. It is...different, it’s fair to say, and not a little terrifying.
- The Oral History of Four Loko: Briefly, Four Loko was everything in the US - the best worst alcopop ever, like some sort of unholy cross between mad dog, tequila and 6 cans of red Bull. And then it wasn’t. This is a genuinely entertaining oral history of that moment in time - I have to say I’m a little saddened that I never got a go on the stuff.
- Crying in H-Mart: A beautiful piece of writing, from the perspective of a Korean-American woman, of the manner in which food and memory and place are so closely, inextricably linked. Honestly glorious, particularly if the land of your mother or father is a touch further away than you might like right now.
- I Believe I Can Fry: A WONDERFUL profile of Abel Gonzales Jr, the man who invented the appalling-sounding (but by all accounts incredible-tasting) concept of deep fried butter, a man who each year sets up shop at the Texas State Fair and fries, well, just about anything he can. This is a great read - Gonzales is a hugely engaging character, and some of the writing here is stellar (the section about deep-frying lettuce is particularly glorious).
- Factbot Jr: I featured the Tumblr last week, but this is an engaging writeup by Shardcore about how he built it with his daughter, and of her own experiences engaging with both art and Tumblr as a platform. I’m a big fan of artists explaining their praxis like this (I know, I know, YOU FCUKING PSEUD, MUIR) and the differing way he and his daughter approach and see the work is rather interesting in itself.
- I Want To Log Off: I can say, with almost no degree of ironic distance whatsoever, IT ME.
- Living With The Instaface: I found this piece written up on the BBC3 website utterly compelling - the author spends a week wearing the full-beam, ultracontoured, superflat Instagram Face so popularised by Kardashians and reality TV stars, the sort of makeup which when seen in the wild looks so odd, so ‘Panem-in-Hunger-Games’-level fashion, that it makes me question whether the wearer has actually looked in the mirror before leaving the house (seriously, the other week I was at some street food thingy and the woman serving me had a silver gleam spot in makeup on the tip of her nose which made her look almost exactly like some sort of tinsel space clown and oh mate WHY?). The writer is half enthralled and half-horrified at the look and the reaction it gets, but it’s her reflections on its homogeneity which I found most interesting.
- The First Paragraphs of “It Girl” Articles Throughout History: Famous women of history, written up as though by a celebrity profiler. So, so amazingly on-the-nose.
- A Few Words About Fake Breasts: Finally this week, a brilliant essay in which the author talks about her double mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive survey and the manner in which fake breasts are discussed, treated, considered in society, but also how they feel to the wearer and what they mean. Fascinating, and told me lots that I, a cisbloke who’s fortunate enough to have largely eschewed mantits to date, didn’t know. It’s also written in the second person, for which I am an absolute SUCKER - enjoy this, it’s great.
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- This is a whole bunch of slightly disturbing gifs, all stitched together into a slightly more disturbing, Gilliam-esque montage. DON’T BE SCARED:
5) Last up, this is, well, ODD! It’s called ‘My Sex’ and it’s by Brooke Candy ft. Pussy Riot amongst others, and it features some terrifying CGI sexdoll monster things and, well, frankly I am not sure I will ever want to fcuk again after watching this. It does, though, contain a line about her sex having BDE which I quite enjoyed. ANYWAY THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK SORRY IF IT WAS A BIT UNDER PAR, IT’S ALWAYS QUITE WEIRD WHEN I HAVE TO TRY AND WRITE CURIOS IN ADVANCE SO I HOPE YOU DIDN’T FIND IT TOO MUCH OF A DISAPPOINTMENT BUT IF YOU DID THEN I WILL MAKE IT UP TO YOU BECAUSE I LOVE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU AND I ONLY DO THIS FOR THE TINY SCRAPS OF APPROVAL I SEND YOUR WAY I LOVEYOU I LOVE YOU THANKS FOR READING AND IF I DON’T DIE IN LEEDS I WILL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK BYE!:
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