I AM BACK HELLO DID YOU MISS ME?
No, of course not, you were all too busy stuffing yourselves with confectionery and weeping over the stigmata of the risen Christ, weren't you? Typical. Have you had a good fortnight? Have you 'enjoyed' watching people getting unaccountably cross at some children asking us to maybe not fcuk up their futures? Do you wish people would stop talking incessantly about television shows and film series you have never and will never see? No? Oh.
Anyway, this is another one of those somewhat bloated editions of Curios which force their way out of me after a two-week absence and which is veritably straining at the seams with the pressure of all the 'goodness' contained within it. Gird yourself, pierce the skin and let a fortnight's worth of webspaff hose you down at high-pressure. Whatever you do, though, DON'T SWALLOW.
I'm Matt, this is Web Curios, and you ought to be used to this by now.
By Jon Juarez
LET’S KICK OFF WITH AN INFINITE STREAM OF AI-GENERATED DEATH METAL, WHICH HONESTLY IS PRETTY MUCH THE PERFECT SOUNDTRACK TO THE OPENING SECTION!
THE SECTION WHICH THINKS FACEBOOK’S LATEST NUMBERS SUGGEST THAT WE’VE BASICALLY JUST SORT OF GIVEN UP AS A SPECIES:
- Facebook’s Q1 Earnings: Relatively minor interest in Facebook’s latest earnings news, which is either a sign that there’s too much PROPER news going on or that we’ve basically all just resigned ourselves to the fact that we’re totally enslaved by the web. The headline here is - SURPRISE! - that even more people are signing into Zuckerberg’s Big Blue Misery Factory than ever before and they’re making more money than at any point in their history, even factoring in the allowances made for fines they’ll have to pay. Oh, and Stories on Facebook are now used by 500million people, which is a HUGE numbetr (sorry Snapchat). ARE WE ALL FCUKING IDIOTS? ARE WE??? Oh, er, yes, yes we are.
- FB Updates Brand Safety Controls for Ads: Of course, one of the main reasons Facebook is so violently profitable is that its ad product is excellent and it continues to iterate and adapt its product for the primary benefit of advertisers. To whit, this update which applies an additional set of placement checks to Facebook ads so that brands can be even more certain that their promo for, say, mattresses (its always fcuking mattresses, isn’t it?) doesn’t appear on Pages promoting white supremacism or figging.
- FB Expands 3d Photo Options: You know Facebook’s 3d Photos feature, that lets you post pictures that look vaguely depth-y? Yes, well you can now add those to stories as well as just standard posts, and post them from desktop as opposed to just mobile. Are you excited by this news? Are you? I really fcuking hope not.
- Twitter’s Q1 Results: Like Facebook’s, but significantly less impressive! There’s not loads here to dwell on; Twitter’s numbers are improving, the market responded reasonably well to its news, but equally a look at the figures reminds you of the stark and significant difference in popularity and penetration between Twitter and, well, the networks that actual real people use - their DAU total is around 130m, which, to be clear, is significantly less than 10% of Facebook’s numbers. Can we please all agree that using Twitter as a barometer of what any real people think, feel or do is increddibly fcuking stupid?
- Snap’s Q1 Numbers: My friend Frith used to work at Snap and recently stopped, so I feel I don’t have to be so nice about the company anymore; user numbers are up but, well, Snapchat stopped being a viable social network-type thing about a year or so ago and we should all remember that.
- LinkedIn Adds Reactions: Just like on Facebook, but somehow worse! Now you’re able to go beyond the simple ‘Like’ or Comment on LinkedIn, with the ability to add a reaction icon to posts - you can choose from Like, Celebrate, Love, Insightful and Curious. Obviously I hate this beyond all imagining, but if you’re the sort of person who spends time ENGAGING WITH YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK ON LINKEDIN then a) you might enjoy this ability to EXPRESS YOURSELF on the platform; and b) I don’t want you to read my blog/newsletter any more (really, please leave).
- Pinterest Ads New Ad Conversion Targeting Options: It now allows for “conversion optimization for Promoted Pin campaigns and a conversion goals feature for online video”. Is that interesting or relevant to your life? If it is then I am SO SORRY for you.
- The UK Government Does Alexa: This is frustrating; a clever, sensible idea that has received no coverage whatsoever (I honestly don’t know how I came across this link, but it was very much buried down the side of the metaphorical sofa) and as such will probably end up being a complete waste of time and money. Still, it’s genuinely pleasing to see an occasional piece of digital innovation from Gov.uk; Alexa owners can now be used to interact with Government portals to a small degree, meaning that you’ll be able to ask the device questions pertaining to 12,000-odd areas of civic information, from the minimum wage to Bank Holiday dates. Simple, smart, useful, I feel this ought to have been lauded more than it has been.
- A Thread About TikTok: Sensible, smart thread breaking down how TikTok works and how its various UX/UI features impact the platform’s use. Really simple, smart analysis, this.
- Diversity Explorer: Thanks Josh for pointing this out to me - this is a really useful tool which lets you choose a region of local authority in the UK and which then tells you what the ethnic makeup of that area is, based on the most recently available census data. If you’re doing a local / regional campaign, this is a hugely useful little planning toy.
- The Fellow Community: This is for all the adland women reading Curios - HELLO, ADLAND WOMEN! Fellow is ‘a platform that provides women the tools needed to meet relatable mentors, rise within their agency walls and elevate their careers beyond them’ - basically an app which exists to connect women working in the industry, to foster better connections and build networks. Given all the chat in the past week or so (and in fact the past several years) about sexism in adland, this feels timely and like A Good Thing.
- The Framework Factory: THANKYOU JULIAN COLE! I have no idea who Julian is, but they have created this set of Google Slides of templates to describe strategy and, honestly, they are a hugely-useful godsend if you’re like me and have all the aesthetic sense of Helen Keller after a night on the meths. Even if you’re at a BIG AGENCY and have templates up the wazoo, this is worth a look for inspiration as to how to present all the boring campaign stuff. Thanks also to Paddy Collins, who included this in the latest edition of his newsletter ‘Because the Internet’, which is honestly a must-read if you do advermarketingprwank - it’s like Curios, but shorter, snappier, more directional and with less of a deliberately obnoxious authorial voice, which is pretty much the best endorsement I can give.
- Nitejogger: Another in my occasional series of ‘activations by big brands that I don’t feel bad slagging off because, well, they are massive’, this is a new thing by Adidas to promote some new footwear or somesuch; the kicks are called Nite Joggers or similar, and as part of the launch thingy they’ve created a ‘plug your Spotify into this website and WATCH as it uses the data to do something fun’ toy. Except all it does is present you with a contrasting picture of your datytime and nighttime Spotify listening habits, which I’m sure was born out of some sort of tangential INSIGHT in the planning phase about how people have different identities depending on whether it’s daytime or nighttime, but which in practise translates to the website telling me that I like listening to hiphop and bedwetting indie during the day but I prefer SLOW hiphop and slightly-more-uptempo bedwetting indie in the evenings. This is just lazy, to be honest - DATA IS NOT IN AND OF ITSELF INTERESTING, ADVERMARKETINGPRDRONES!
By Casey Weldon
NEXT UP, AN EXCELLENT SPOTIFY PLAYLIST OF ASSORTED ODDS AND ENDS BY ZENBULLETS OFF TWITTER!
THE SECTION WHICH WONDERS AT WHAT POINT ‘WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE IN A MASSIVE PLANETARY FCUKUP CATASTROPHE’ BECAME SYNONYMOUS WITH ‘OWNING THE LIBS’, PT.1:
- Dialup: Thanks Ben (and happy birthday!) for sending me this - a really interesting project which aims to bring back the OLD SCHOOL MAGIC of talking to people on the phone on a regular basis. “Dialup is a voice-chat app that calls you and connects you to the people you want to stay in touch and connect with. Whether it's everyone you recently met at a conference, your book club, toymakers, poets, or just you and your mom—Dialup will ring your phone on an automated schedule and pair you in a one-on-one conversation.” Users can create their own call groups or add themselves to existing ones based on their interests; the concept of being connected with strangers like this is simultaneously hugely charming and also HORRID, but if you’re less of a weirdo misanthrope than I am you might find this a lovely little toy. Works on Android and iOS, so EVERYONE can get involved.
- Photomosh: Such a good browsertoy, this - you either upload an image or take one using your phone/webcam, and the site then lets you fcuk with it in a quite staggering number of ways; as a means of making images glitched and tweaked without photoshop this is unsurpassed, with literally dozens of different effects which can be applied and layered to varying degrees. Honestly, you can make some really quite astonishing stuff using this, and the fact that it’s all intuitive and in-browser is quite something.
- IoT Inspector: The main downside to our wonderful, smart, internet-connected future is that all of the wonderful, smart, internet-connected devices are hugely insecure and vulnerable and it’s really hard to be sure that anonymous, faceless strangers aren’t masturbating themselves to a shuddering, raw climax whilst spying on you through your fridge (what do you mean ‘I don’t worry about that, Matt, and I do not thank you for that horrendous mental image’?). Still, reassurance is on its way thanks to IoT Inspector, a prototype tool developed by Princeton University (Mac only at the moment, but Linux and Windows versions coming soon) which scans your local networks for IoT devices and reports on what they are talking to and what data they are transmitting. Miserably, I first saw this described as a convenient way of checking that your Airbnb isn’t full of secret internet-enabled wanky spycams, which is SO bleak - that said, it’s not hard to imagine that this sort of software is going to become more and more useful and necessary as we move towards the full ‘everything is on the internet’ future.
- The Codex Atlanticus: The Codex Atlanticus is the name given to the largest extant collection of drawings and writings by Da Vinci; this is an interactiuve website presenting digitised versions of all the materials in the corpus. It’s a GORGEOUS site - and I have just realised is made by The Visual Agency, a very talented group of people I have a very vague professional connection with (SALVE PAOLO COME STAI?). This is a really, really good piece of webwork - presenting a huge catalogue in interesting and dynamic fashion, and with a really smart interface to boot; there’s an English translation of the site (the language toggle’s on the bottom-right), so make it readable and explore - turns out Leonardo was quite smart. WHO KNEW?
- Drawalong AR: We’re still sort-of waiting for AR to happen, but this is the latest in a line of examples that suggest to me that we’re only about 3-4 years from it being genuinely mainstream and transformative. This video shows a Google project which works to allow you to layer videos over your camera view - so, in this example, you can play a video of an art lesson which shows how to do calligraphy over a blank sheet of paper so that you can effectively trace/draw along with the tutor. Yes, fine, that’s a really bad explanation - watch the video and get excited about all the possibilities this affords.
- Brill: I have literally just remembered that ‘Brill’ was a very odd ITV kids show from the early 90s, which featured as its host a weird rubber animatronic flatfish. Fcuk, the 90s were ODD. Brill is also a VERY clever app, to my mind nearly indistinguishable from magic, which lets you take snaps of written copy and turns it into digital text. Nor the first tool of its sort, fine, but a very capable evolution of the idea - the way it can isolate individual text snippets on a page is particularly clever imho.
- Eastern European Movies: You want a truly incredible resource for Eastern European cinema? Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of films from Hungary, Bulgaria, the USSR and elsewhere, all streamable in HD? OH GOOD! This is a paid service, and not super-cheap ($5 for 24h access, $30 for a month), but the selection of obscure pieces from behind the Iron Curtain is quite astonishing. Cinephiles will be in heaven - the rest of us will look at the ‘most popular’ films selection and silently speculate as to exactly what the plot of ‘Maskerada’, a Yugoslav film from 1971 whose poster depicts a slightly cartoony but VERY erect cockandballs in silhoutted relief, might be.
- Mapping SubReddit Relationships: Interesting little network visualisation toy which lets you type in any subReddit you choose and which will then pull together a map demonstrating all the other subReddits to which it’s thematically related. Hugely useful in terms of finding communities if you’re looking to engage a specific interest group, or alternatively finding lots of really, really niche bongo.
- LonelyStreams: I love this SO MUCH. Taking its cue from similar projects focusing on YouTube, LonelyStreams is a simple tool which finds Twitch streams with no viewers and links to them; refresh to find a new, lonely streamer. SO MUCH about this speaks to me - the slightly weird modernity of people performing to the void, the very obvious comfort many of the streamers evidently find in displaying themselves, even to an audience of none, the opportunities to do some genuinely lovely things through this...it’s just ACE.
- Just Says In Mice: A Twitter account with the sole purpose of pointing out news items in which scientific studies conducted on mice are presented as though they were conducted on people. It literally just RTs links with the simple commentary “IN MICE”, which really oughtn’t be as funny as it in fact is.
- Global Light Pollution Map: I was at a wedding the other weekend in Devon and the absolute BEST thing about it (apart from the groom getting his new bride’s name wrong during his speech - YOU HAD ONE JOB FFS!) was the fact that it was in the middle of nowhere and I got to see the Milky Way. This online map shows you where levels of light pollution are highest and lowest around the world, and is an excellent resource if you’re perhaps planning on going away with a telescope for a few days.
- The Word of the Day: I am honestly gutted that this is only open to people in the US - surely someone will rip this off and do a UK version in a matter of weeks? Word of the Day is a genuinely BRILLIANT idea - an open Slack channel which anyone can join and which has one, sole scope. Each day the Slack’s administrators choose a word - that word will be ‘live’ for 24h. Whoever guesses that day’s word first wins $1000, paid to them by Venmo. That’s it. No clues, no hints, an infinite number of guesses...obviously this is VERY SILLY and also totally random and nearly-impossible to win (and WHERE DOES THE MONEY COME FROM) but, honestly, were this something I could win myself I would literally by typing in words like a rat in a Skinner box hitting the pellet switch.
- GB Studio: The Gameboy turned 30 recently - I remember being very fortunate to receive one from a surprisingly rich Italian pseudo-cousin as a bribe when she came to live with us for 4 months when I was 10, and, honestly, Gameboy Batman is still one of the best videogames I’ve ever played (and the MUSIC, God) - and so it seems fitting to feature this creator kit which offers a really simple (ish - I mean you’re still designing games so it’s not quite kindergarten level, but it’s still reasonably wysiwyg and intuitive) way of creating old-school adventure games for Gameboy and emulators. If you’re interested in the principles of game design and creation, this is a really excellent way of dipping your toes in.
- The Unicode Art Gallery: This site creates autogenerated unicode artworks, presented as though in a gallery, which you can save and do with as you please. The code’s available to play around with too; I am personally fascinated by the possibilities afforded by algogeneration within defined parameters like this in terms of art and its creation, and were I more talented I would totally mess with this myself.
- Kids on 45th: SUCH a great idea, this, and absolutely the sort of thing that I think could do really well in the UK too. Kids on 45th is a site/service which offers used children’s clothing, packaged up in bundles, sight-unseen, at a low price - the idea is that it provides affordable, quality staples to parents who don’t have the time to go shopping or the bandwidth to worry about labels and aesthetics and just want to make sure their children have clothes that are clean, warm and look ok. Prices are around 10% of what they would be at retail, which is a pretty astonishing discount, and it’s not hard to see what a godsend this could be to parents struggling to make ends meet.
- Musenet: This is quite amazing. Musenet is a “deep neural network that can generate 4-minute musical compositions with 10 different instruments, and can combine styles from country to Mozart to the Beatles. MuseNet was not explicitly programmed with our understanding of music, but instead discovered patterns of harmony, rhythm, and style by learning to predict the next token in hundreds of thousands of MIDI files. MuseNet uses the same general-purpose unsupervised technology as GPT-2, a large-scale transformer model trained to predict the next token in a sequence, whether audio or text.” SO MUCH ALGOMUSIC! The tech did a full ‘concert’ stream on Twitch yesterday which you can listen to on the site; the stylistic variance on display is quite astonishing.
- Ambient Sleeping Pill: “Ambient Sleeping Pill is an internet radio stream playing the best music for sleeping, taking naps, tuning out distractions at work, meditating, or simply relaxing. Ad-free, beat-free, never too new-age or dark.” This isn’t bad, particularly if you’re somewhat sick now of the endless stream of lofi hiphop muzak seemingly overtaking YouTube.
- TikTok Jobs: One of the most interesting things to me about TikTok is the way it absolutely crosses demographic lines - it’s most popular with kids, fine, but as this EXCELLENT Twitter thread shows it’s also pretty popular with adults, many of whom use it to share details of their working lives. This is a collection of TikTok vids of people being really, really good at their jobs, and it is MESMERISING - you will find your own favourite, whether it be the beautifully-pointless and short-lived ice sculpting, or the person who pre-distresses your jeans for you. Also, WHO KNEW so many of these gigs were still being done by people? IN YOUR FACE, RELENTLESS MARCH OF MACHINE PROGRESS!
- Old People Facebook Banners: Another Twitter thread, this time compiling some of the best (worst) examples of people on Facebook writing updates using those incredibly annoying balloon/emoji background templates; specifically, those occasions on which the copy really doesn’t fit the aesthetic. My personal favourite is the one reading “My husband is dying and it’s so hard to watch” over a backdrop of grinning heart-eye emoji, but, honestly, every single one of these is a joy.
- Vid2Game: If you’re old like me, you will have scratchy memories of being in bowling alleys and leisure centres around the time the first wave of digitised videogames came out, and watching in slack-jawed adolescent wonder as the grainily mo-capped avatars in Mortal Kombat and Pitfighter jerkily punched their way across the screen as impossibly cool older kids smoked fags and swore at the screen as they once again failed to nail Sub Zero’s fatality move. 30-odd years hence and we’re now at a point where tech can automatically isolate a figure from video and then turn that figure into a manipulatable in-game sprite; this video demonstrates how that tech works, and what it can be used for, and I am now basically only a few years away from starring in my very own Pitfighter reboot and I am SO EXCITED.
- Paintmap: You want a tool to make maps with data? YOU GOT IT! This isn’t all that exciting but it’s potentially useful, and it also includes the absolutely baffling feature of letting you make stereoscopic - that is, Magic Eye - maps. WHY WOULD YOU WANT THIS? Still, if you’re a designer, why not save this up for next time someone asks you to make a map graphic and then present them with one which only works if you squint into the middle-distance. They will find it HILARIOUS, promise.
By Elmo Tide, who has no online presence whatsoever that I can find
NOW WHY NOT LISTEN TO THE BEYONCE HOMECOMING LIVE ALBUM? GO ON! DO IT!
THE SECTION WHICH WONDERS AT WHAT POINT ‘WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE IN A MASSIVE PLANETARY FCUKUP CATASTROPHE’ BECAME SYNONYMOUS WITH ‘OWNING THE LIBS’, PT.2:
- Mario C64: Someone’s remade Super Mario for the Commodore 64. I have no idea why, but it’s an impressive feat.
- Ethical Resources: This is a nice toolkit presenting a variety of digital tools and services which are [perhaps a little less evil than their more famous or commercially successful analogues. The stuff in here ranges from things you’ll have heard of - DuckDuckGo, for example - to a whole bunch of really obscure but pleasingly non-Google analytics products. Obviously using any of this stuff will probably be on balance about 15% more complicated than using the evil alternatives, but noone said being good was easy (which is why, in the main, I am an awful person).
- Turing Tumble: I can’t quite work out whether this is genuinely awesome of the sort of thing that only people who are so far away from childhood that they no longer recall what it was like to be a kid might think is awesome. Turing Tumble is a very odd little toy/game, which basically exists to teach kids about the rudiments of logic and programming using a marble run. The kit comes with a board onto which you can affix various gates, levers and the like, all meant to replicate a particular logic feature (AND, NOT, OR, etc) - the idea is that you pour the marbles in at the top and the system you’ve created will apply its rules to them on the way down, so you can devise systems to sort them, route them, etc, much in the same way you would write a rudimentary piece of code to apply effects to a dataset. There’s even a puzzle/comic book accompanying with it that guides kids from first principles to actual proper computation with a story-led game mechanic - I have to admit I am genuinely tempted to get this for myself, which probably means no real children would ever give it the time of day, but if your kids are a bit mathsy or engineer-y, this could be an excellent gift.
- Simpli.fy: A Chrome extension to simplify Gmail. Built by one of Gmail’s original lead designers, so it’s predictably excellent.
- Okai: This is SO well-made. Okai bills itself as an interactive introduction to AI, and it does a fantastic job of explaining the main principles and branches of AI in simple, clear, visual fashion. Honestly, this is an object lesson in visual communication and web design - regardless of your interest in AI or knowledge of it, I can’t encourage you to check this out enough.
- Alt Keyboards: Want a whole website devoted to weird, non-standard musical keyboards from across the world? YES YOU DO!
- Tiny Mirror: I have no idea why this has been made, but, well, why not? Allow the site access to your webcam and it will display a TEENY TINY version of you in the favicon for literally no discernible reason whatsoever.
- Monumental Almaty: A website celebrating the monuments and architecture of the Kazakh capital - to quote the site’s makers: “From the 1960s-1980s, dozens of monumental artworks, in five main formats, were installed on buildings in Almaty, the capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. We've photographed and mapped every work in the city for our groundbreaking digital catalogs.” I am SUCH a fan of the aesthetic of all of this stuff - it’s a wonderful collection of strong Soviet-era art and design.
- LEGO Funerals: After the Nazi LEGO the other week, here’s some more er...non-typical plastic brickwork, this time sold by the Vienna Funeral Museum (no, me neither, but there you are) and allowing you the opportunity to buy your very own brick-composed graveyard scene, or historical hearse, or, er, crematorium oven. I honestly can’t comprehend the desire to have a ‘build your own’ memento mori in your home, but if you want an EXCELLENT way of really upsetting your children on their next birthday then, well, go for it!
- The Book of War Devices: This is amazing. Another old book, not dissimilar to the Codex Atlanticus, except this one’s by a renaissance scholar called Johannes de Fontana and it’s basically his scrapbook of doodles of killing machines. You know how when you were a kid and you’d pass time during lessons by drawing elaborate gunships or fighter planes or extreme war towers or something (or at least you did if you were me)? Well this is basically like that, except 600 years old - I’d suggest just flicking through the nav on the left at random and seeing what you find, because there is some literally MENTAL stuff in here. My personal favourite is the elephant-drawn gun-toting Caravel-on-wheels, but, honestly, there is a WEALTH of stuff in here. Mr De Fontana, I salute you and your mad, bellicose brain.
- Old School Curls: A subReddit featuring old portraits ‘shopped to have modern haircuts. You wouldn’t think this would be as good as it is (its ace). Churchill as John Lydon is, frankly genius.
- NASA’s 3d-Printed Habitat Challenge: If you ever feel that reality is a bit mundane and that the future is a touch more prosaic than you’d hoped, click this link and prepare to be reminded of how batsh1t and scifi reality in fact is. This is a NASA webpage collecting entries into its 3d Printed Habitat Challenge, where the Agency has offered cash prizes to the best designs for 3d-printable dwellings for use on space missions. I WANT TO LIVE IN GIANT MARTIAN COCOONS! Except, er, I’d quite like not to have to go to Mars. Is that ok?
- Behind Tasty: These are really interesting videos, showing the behind the scenes process of making those fcuking ubiquitous top-down, 45s fast-cut food abortion films that are everywhere these days (and which inevitably feature food that noone in their right mind - or at least noone who’s not North American - would ever consider eating). These do a great job of showing the amount of effort and craft that goes into creating each of these, as well as including a hefty dose of bloopers, etc; if you’re interested in the craft of videography, these are more useful than you might expect.
- Cut Fold Templates: “I put these functional, foldable structures together in a collection was so that our class could develop new ideas from the same starting point of "classical" paper-engineering knowledge. These fundamental structures are scattered between the non-overlapping disciplines of origami, compliant mechanisms, pop-up books and the study of Victorian papercraft.” A series of gifs, patterns and instructions on how to create complex foldable paper structures. This sounds, I know, boring as you like, but I promise that you will be entranced as soon as you click on the link and start perusing the designs in there. This is FASCINATING and weirdly very soothing indeed.
- Pete for America: It feels like the 2020 US Presidential election has already been going for about a decade and it hasn’t even started yet and I’m not even American. One of the most talked-up candidates is Pete Buttigeig, ‘Mayor Pete’ as he’s folksily referred to, who’s probably peaked too early to have any realistic chance of a tilt at the White House (and whose name probably precludes him from office anyway) - whilst I’m not convinced he’ll get the nomination, if these things were decided on the quality of a candidate’s design offering he’d win hands down. This site collects all the official campaign logos, posters, etc, and is a masterclass of clean, simple, user-centric design - I am SO impressed with this, and it’s miles better than most similar resources I’ve seen from commercial companies. Still, though, his name is pronounced “Butt-Edge-Edge” - he’s not going to win (MATT, FFS, DO YOU REMEMBER HOW WRONG YOU GOT EVERYTHING LAST TIME THERE WAS A US ELECTION? SHUT UP!).
- Gifrun: Gifs, from YouTube videos! Not a new service, fine, but this is a really simple and clean interface and produces non-watermarked gifs, so it’s worth a look.
- Interstellar: Zoom around space in your browser! This is simultaneously very cool and slightly sickness-inducing, but as a way of exploring a small corner of the galazy it’s pretty much perfect.
- An Inflatable Canine Sex Toy: Let me be clear at the outset - this is designed to be used by other dogs, so get any filthy zoophiliac thoughts out of your head RIGHT NOW. My girlfriend’s cat is a VERY SPECIAL LITTLE GUY but has the slightly disconcerting habit of attempting to fcuk things, despite having been snipped at an early age; it’s not unknown for me to be woken in the morning by him attempting to make love to me ear, which, I can attest, is something of a rude awakening. Perhaps we should get him one of these so that he can try and hump it instead. The thing’s designed to look vaguely quadripedal but not specifically canine - it looks weirdly fetish to my mind, and if I were the sort of person who had a domestic fcuk dungeon I might consider buying one of these just for the aesthetic (let me please specify that I am not, in fact, the sort of person who has a domestic fcuk dungeon).
- Neuhaus: An EXCELLENT interactive music video, this, which is composed of a collage of photos submitted by all previous viewers of the video. You need to wathc on your phone for the full interactive experience - tap on individual elements within the vid and you’ll be prompted to take a photo of your own to replace it with. There’s seemingly no filter here, and whilst I’ve not seen anything dodgy I’d advise a slight caveat emptor as, well, it’s the internet and therefore it’s likely that at least one man has decided that what everyone needs to see is a picture of his unimpressive member.
- Not For The Men, Not For The Sea: This is an interactive story / game. It’s SO beautifully made, and I don’t really want to tell you too much else as it’s better if you come to it cold. Please give this five minutes of your time, I think it’s gorgeous.
- Lichenia: Finally this week, a small, beautiful game. “A city building game for the Anthropocene. Reclaim the ruins of a fallen city and create a sustainable human habitat. There are no goals and no endings in Lichenia. Learn about its cryptic ecology. Grow a city like a garden.” This is mysterious, soothing and really very pretty indeed - enjoy.
By Cristina Coral
LAST UP, A GENUINELY GREAT RECORD BY A BAND I HAD NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE YESTERDAY - THIS IS BY TANK AND THE BANGAS AND HONESTLY IT IS MY NEW FAVOURITE SUMMER ALBUM AND IT MAY WELL BE YOURS TOO THIS IS SO GOOD!
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- The Camera In The Mirror: Cameras taking photos of themselves in mirrors. Why? WHY NOT? Actually there is a purpose behind this - these are all photos taken inside museums or institutions by roving cameras in the process of mapping or digitising the collections. These are weirdly poignant, though I couldn’t quite explain to you why.
- Slap My Bot: This Tumblr explores the edges of human/robot interaction, examining the ways in which we treat, empathise with and to a degree abuse the machines we create.
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Unionised Memes: Amusingly, this isn’t in fact a joke. THE MEME CREATORS ARE UNIONISING! You can read more about that here - it’s simultaneously sort-of silly and equally quite an important idea imho - but this is the Instagram account of the movement, which so far seems to exist solely to post memes about the importance of unionisation.
- Roman Booteen: An incredibly talented artist and sculptor from Russia, who makes what are known as ‘Hobo Nickels’ - coins painstakingly carved so as to display completely new, hugely intricate, often mechanically-enhanced designs. These are ASTONISHING.
- Unnecessary Inventions: Literally that. Although I refuse to accept that bobblehats for your fingertips are ‘useless’.
- Vernon James Manlapaz: Vernon is an AR designer. This Insta feed collects some of his AR experiments. They are glorious, and Vernon is a very, very talented person indeed - seriously, some of this is Hollywood-level CG being delivered as a layer on your phone. Astonishing.
- Kitt Bennett: An artist who paints murals on the floor, to be viewed from above. There is SO MUCH to gain ‘inspiration’ from if your job involves coming up with endless idea for tab-friendly photocalls.
- Dyke Blanchett: A queer Cate Blanchett lookbook, because WHY NOT? My word she’s an astonishing-looking person.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Inside Facebook: Being off for a week means that a few of the things in this week’s selection aren’t quite as boxfresh as normal; as such, you may well have seen this piece doing the rounds in the past week or so. If you’re yet to read it, though, now’s your chance - it’s a nice account of what it’s been like at Facebook over the past 15 months, post-Cambridge Analytica, and the tensions within the senior ranks at the company. It’s interesting to read this in light of this week’s latest earnings call - really, what exactly does Facebook have to do to get us to stop using it?
- A Blueprint for a Regulated Internet: A typically smart piece of thinking / analysis by Ben Thompson in which he looks at a possible model for applying regulation to the web - it’s worth giving a close read to, but the basic principle can be summarised as ‘the advertising-funded web requires specific and distinct regulation from the rest of it’ and is very well explained and set out.
- Amazon Consultancy: It’s a bit worky, this one, so if you don’t do consultany-type stuff then you can probably skip it. If you do, though, this is a reasonably interesting look at the scramble amongst the big holding companies to set up specific businesses dedicated to consulting on Amazon specifically - which is interesting considering how incredibly fcuking opaque Amazon is about its ad offering (really, though, it’s almost like they don’t want advermarketingprwankers like me scumming the place up with content).
- Irony, Politics and Gen Z: Interesting-if-rambling essay by artist Joseph Citarella, in which he looks at ‘young political spaces’ online and how the platforms used by the young are to an extent shaping the evolution of their politics. This is a bit twisty and not always the clearest in tone, but the conclusions are interesting and the reasoning sound: “TikTok is a place where young users are actively forming their politics. TikTok resonates with Gen Z for various reasons, among them the duet chain (“I relate to your post by building on it with mine”) resembles the Marxist dialectic of individual autonomy within collectivity. In the crisis handed to them, young people have already realized that their own political interests are more aligned with collectivities than the type of California Ideology and libertarian individualism built into networks like Facebook or Instagram. If channeled correctly, youth frustration has the potential to become a revolutionary political force.”
- An Interactive Primer on Fourier Transforms: I don’t really wholly understand Fourier transforms, even after reading this, but I am SO impressed by the way this page is set up and designed, and the interactions throughout, that I thought I would include it anyway. I was fascinated AND baffled simultaneously, and even if you don’t know the first thing about maths you will, I promise, find this very pleasing.
- Facial Recognition in NYC: A remarkable piece of reporting from the NYT, in which they create their very own facial recognition system for about $100 and use it to identify people walking through Times Square. What’s impressive about this is not so much the tech - we all know the machines can see us, and they don’t like what they see - as the fact that you can knock this sort of thing up with only fairly rudimentary tech and a bunch of open-source code. I reckon we’re only a year or so away from the first court case in which someone is sued for doing something like this for their own creepy, personal, almost-certainly-nefarious ends.
- Stalking Instagram: Technically that’s not the actual title of the post - it’s “10 TOOLS AND TRICKS TO VERIFY INSTAGRAM POSTS”, but that’s nowhere near as pleasingly descriptive. Another GREAT piece by Henrik from Bellingcat, related to one I linked to a few weeks back, all about how to do better detective work on Insta when it comes to garnering clues from posts. You...you won’t use this for anything bad, will you?
- The End of the Instagram Look: So it seems that the era of millennial pastels and blue/pink wall shots is over, which might be upsetting to you if you’ve just decided to redesign your office, bar or museum to feature an INSTA WALL or somesuch. This is a decent look into the shifting Insta aesthetic and how ideas of ‘realness’ are coming to supplant the pastel perfection of previous years on the platform, even down to kids now being less desperate to scrub bad/old shots from their profile in an attempt to curate their brand. Obviously this is the performative internet and the idea of any sort of authenticity on any social platform is literally laughable, meaning that even this ‘transparent, honest, no filter’ stuff is patently incredibly studied, but, regardless, just accept that you’ll be writing variations on this article in all your strategy upfronts for consumer clients for the next six months.
- How YouTube is Changing Football: A great piece on the BBC about the non-league clubs doing crazy numbers on YouTube and building global communities around their ostensibly less-than-stellar talent. This is really interesting, both in terms of its being yet another area in which the web has had an unexpected role in shaping real-life activity, but also as a sign of quite how un-surreal top-level football is and quite how much fans want to have a connection with a club and players they can at least relate to and empathise with a bit. See? MORE REALNESS (it’s not real, ffs, it’s on YouTube).
- AIs Vs Humans in DOTA2: DOTA2 is a videogame - you don’t need to know anything about it at all to appreciate this piece, though, which is all about OpenAI’s latest superbrain which has been designed to be the best DOTA2 player EVER and which has now been unleashed on the world. Anyone can queue up to play the machine - at the time of the article’s writing, the machine was boasting a pretty terrifying 1,923-9 win/loss record. What’s most interesting to me about this is how it demonstrates that the flexibility and plasticity of human thinking can occasionally win out over brute force machine brilliance...but only occasionally, and that’s only because the AI is ‘closed’ and not learning any more. One player’s quoted as saying “They are not learning, but we humans are. We will win.” That...that sounds to me very much like the sort of statement that will be darkly humorous come the end of days.
- Awkpods: Another one to store up as an INSIGHT for when this eventually comes to pass - this piece is a short exploration of the increasingly common akwardness caused by seeing people with their headphones in but not knowing whether or not they are listening to music and therefore whether you can speak with them or not. Whilst I don’t for a second actually believe that anyone is fcuking with their airpods in, I reckon you can TOTALLY get a campaign out of this.
- Eating the Reaper: The web’s not short of pieces in which people describe eating really stupid things for the lols, or indeed of video of them consuming said stupid things and looking very unhappy about it, but most of them aren’t as well-written as this account of the author’s trip to a chili festival and his decision to attempt to consume the world’s hottest chilli, the Carolina Reaper. THis is HORRIBLE, and the photos are amazing - also, the writing made me laugh a LOT: “The burn is gone from my mouth and throat but now I too feel a dull, placeless ache in my torso, a distant cousin of the sack-tap. After I share my own Reaper experience, Tank-Top asks whether I was the voice he heard in the bathroom, hollering, “Why is this happening to me?” which is the point at which I resolve not to use the restroom at this venue for any reason.”
- Dark Discovery: What would you do if you looked up an old friend online, only to discover that things had gone...wrong for them? This is the slightly creepy and very modern story of the author’s quest to look up an childhood friend and what he discovered along the way, and feels very much like it could be a writing prompt for next Summer’s Gone Girl equivalent.
- The Most Modern of Modern Sports: Oh this is just GLORIOUS! Travel back in time to pre-War England and the brief, glorious halcyon days when they had cheetah racing at greyhound tracks. Yes, that’s right, CHEETAH RACING. This is a quite beautiful tale of old-school eccentricity and, quite often, rank stupidity - I mean, look: “He also recalled a trip to a televised interview—one of the earliest in existence, as the BBC had only launched its television service in 1936—in which the cheetahs nearly escaped from their covered trailer in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. The prospect of wild cats loose in a crowded town square was apparently so distressing that Sumpter and Ali spent the rest of the ride lying flat atop the moving vehicle, holding the roof down with their body weight.”
- Red Dead Redemption 2 - The Film Crit Hulk Takedown: Absolutely, hands-down the smartest piece of writing about games, design and story I have ever read, bar none. I adored RDR2, but every single criticism of it in here stacks up, not least the author’s extensive and justifiable critique of some of the design decisions taken and how they impact the sense of immersion and flow. If you’ve played the game and finished it, this is a must-read; if you’ve not finished it then know that there are BIG SPOILERS throughout. Regardless, if you have any interest in systems design, narrative, storytelling or the wider games-as-artform debate, this is just superb.
- High-End Catering: Superb account of what it’s like working as part of a high-end caterer’s. In the piece, the author recounts their experience working the line as part of the catering for a black-tie New York dinner for 760 people. It’s a great piece, conveying the very particular feeling of being part of a large, efficient production line and the very specific stress that cooking at scale involves - if you like food, cookery and reading about both, this may well be your favourite of this week’s longreads. Also, this will make you VERY HUNGRY, so be warned.
- A Common Policy: A short but PERFECTLY-written piece in the LRB blog all about Georges Perec’s famous experimental novel La Disparition - you will either know the book and get the gag here or you won’t (sorry, don’t want to spoil it for you), but if you do and do then you will I am sure agree that this is very, very nicely done.
- How To Fall In Love After Divorce: I had to check where this piece was published after I finished reading it and did something of a doubletake - I don’t, it’s fair to say, spend a lot of time reading Glamour Magazine (and BOY does my fashion sense suffer as a result); is it always this good? This article’s by Liz Lenz, and it’s about her dating again after divorce, and the horrible men, and finding herself, and, look, there’s no way I can describe it without making it sound really twee but I promise it’s not. Take a look.
- The Metrics of Backpacks: This is not, in fact, about backpacks, but it is about work and identity and conformity and feminism and sexism and it is SUCH good writing it made me quite jealous. It’s by Victoria Gannon and I wish I could write half as well as she can.
By James Friedman
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
- Continuing my recent trend of enjoying VERY shouty music, this is Alexisonfire with ‘Familiar Drugs’ and this is GREAT. Turn it up loud and possibly headbang a bit as you listen:
2) I had never heard of Silversun Pickups - they’ve been around for ages, apparently - but I thought this was Placebo at first and rather liked it, so here it is. This called ‘It Doesn’t Matter Why’, and I love the video a LOT:
3) This is called ‘The Cracks’, the band is Another Sky, and the lead singer has one of the most remarkable voices I’ve heard in an age. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like it:
4) This is the new video from FKA Twigs. The song is great, but the real draw here is the video. The amount of control she displays over her body here is quite astounding - the muscles ffs - but the whole thing, from direction to choreography, is just beautiful. Even if you don’t normally bother with the vids I promise you that this is worth the 4 minutes:
5) HIPHOP CORNER! This is Open Mike Eagle with MF DOOM which is a hell of a combination on paper and an even better one on record. It’s called ‘Police Myself’ and it is SO GOOD:
6) Shardcore has built a transdimensional scrying mirror to show us what’s REALLY happening in Parliament. This is very funny indeed AND IN FACT IS THE FINAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK SO BYE BYE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE TRY NOT TO BE TOO SAD THAT IT’S ONLY A TWO-DAY WEEKEND AS IT’S ONLY A WEEK TIL THE NEXT LONG ONE AND I AM SURE THAT WHATEVER YOU ARE UP TO WITH YOUR TWO DAYS OF FREEDOM WILL BE PLEASING AND HAPPYMAKING AND FUN AND THAT YOU WILL FEEL AT LEAST ONE MOMENT OF PURE JOY OVER THE COMING 48H WHICH WILL MAKE EVERYTHING FEEL OK AGAIN AND WILL MEAN THAT WHEN MONDAY COMES AROUND YOU WON’T EVEN MIND SO MUCH AND, ANYWAY, WEB CURIOS IS BACK AND THAT MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER SO UNTIL NEXT TIME TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES AND EACH OTHER I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE BYE!: