Web Curios 26/10/18
Obviously the Philip Green stuff comes as a TOTAL SHOCK, but can we not lose sight of the continuing insanity of the Saudi stuff, please? Not least the truly astonishing sight of the lovable Crown Prince openly making gags about disappearing people whilst onstage - it's worth digging out the footage if you can find it, as the way he fist-bumps the interviewer after delivering that ZINGER is proof positive that, well, the Super Furry Animals were right.
But, look. I have a fancy lunch to get to, and then a whole weekend of pretending to be a cowboy, and so NO TIME to mull any further. If next week I start writing in cod-Western, referring to you as 'pardners', that sort of thing, then know that I have been lost forever to the lure of a digital outlaw's existence. Til then, though, take care of yourselves and prepare to let my words and links slip inside you and do you harm from within (you can feel it, can't you?) - THIS, AS EVER, IS WEB CURIOS!
THE SECTION WHICH WOULD LIKE FACEBOOK A LOT MORE WERE MARK TO BEHAVE MORE LIKE TOM:
- Facebook To Add More Music Connectivity Options: It sort of makes sense that after a decade or so of total digital dominance Facebook would run out of features to steal from extant rival social platforms and start instead looking back to networks of the past for new things to rip off. And lo! It came to pass that Facebook introduced a whole bunch of additional musical integrations, including the ability to add songs as a backing in your Facebook Stories, rolling out LipSync Live to everyone, and letting users associate a specific track with their FB profile JUST LIKE MYSPACE! None of this is actually going to make young people care about Facebook again, but then again Facebook is basically like oxygen these days and doesn’t really care whether we ‘care’ or not - it just is.
- FB Launches AD Archive Report: Sadly US-only at the moment, though following last week’s rollout of the political ad transparency stuff over here one might imagine that this will be launched in the UK soon too - this is a new section on FB which lets you see total political ad spend on Facebook over the past 6 months / one week, broken down by biggest spenders. It’s fascinating, not least because of the scale involved - the $250m spent on JUST political ads in JUST the US over JUST the last 6 months gives you some idea of the absolutely mindfcuking scale of the Zuckerberg behemoth, as well as giving you some practical reasons as to why Facebook is very, very keen to make said political advertising look like a benefit to democracy rather than an appalling subversive tool designed to undermine it. Note, please, the fact that the biggest spender on political advertising over the past six months has been...Facebook!
- Low Quality Ads Getting Downgraded: Not YOUR ads - they’re great, with their innovative use of 360 and binaural and all the other interactive gubbins that Facebook keeps telling you will make the difference. No, the OTHER ads - the ones that mislead people and make them sad. Basically this is applying the general downgrading of engagement-bait posts (‘Like if you’re X, Comment if you’re Y!”), clickbait headlines and the rest to ads as well as posts - basically you won’t be able to game idiots on FB into boosting your organic reach with these tricks any more. Not that you did anyway, obviously.
- FB Debunks Fake News: This is a good idea - a new, semi-regular FB column looking at instances of misinformation being spread on the platform and explaining why they’re not true and how the platform determined that they were misinformation, designed to both help debunk lies spreading across the platform and also demonstrate quite how much Facebook CARES about all this sort of stuff. It would, though, be significantly better were this sort of thing to be punted out on Facebook rather than being stuck in a section of its ‘News’ site where only wonks like me will ever find it.
- More On FB’s Efforts To Stop Child Exploitation: I have literally nothing cynical to say about this.
- Facebook Building AR Glasses: Or they will be, eventually - no word beyond this very speculative reveal, other than that IT IS HAPPENING and that it will be a long time til these are anything other than a breathlessly speculative article on TechCrunch.
- Facebook Launches ‘Candidate Info’ For Politicians: This is interesting. A new feature launched in the US this week, ‘Candidate Info’ is a new FB feature for those running for office, which offers ‘thousands of direct-to-camera vertical videos where federal, state and local candidates introduce themselves and explain their top policy priority, qualifications and biggest goal if they win office....These videos will soon be available as part of an Election 2018 bookmark in the Facebook mobile app’s navigation drawer. And starting next week, the clips will begin appearing to potential constituents in the News Feed.” This fascinates me - not only because I am ITCHING to see the sort of rictus-grinned horrorshows that the TOTALLY NORMAL AND RELATABLE politicos throw out there, but also because this is another step towards Facebook baking itself directly into the systems and structures of modern life - you make it the de facto platform for aspiring politicians and the extant establishment and you go another step towards ensuring that the Big Blue Misery Factory persists forever. GREAT!
- You Can Now Share Soundcloud Tracks On Insta Stories: Although actually it’s just a link in your Story and you still have to play the track through Soundcloud (whether the app or the site) and so, frankly, this is a bit rubbish and not really worth commenting on.
- Insta AR COMING SOON: You can now apply to get EARLY ACCESS to Insta’s own AR platform! This is an application page - they’re apparently prioritising individual devs at present, though they’re also encouraging brands and agencies to sign up in advance of new developments in the next few months so WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
- Twitter Q3 Results: I’ll keep this short as none of us really care that much about the financials, but the main takeaway is that a) Twitter’s doing better than expected, driven by improving ad revenues; and b) it’s continuing to take a robust approach to the bots, seeing 9million fake/automated accounts culled. Let’s be clear, though - the ad product’s still crap.
- Twitter Testing Features To Improve Conversations: Speculation rather than anything concrete, though the fact this is basically an interview with a Twitter product person suggests that some or all of these tweaks could well be on the way - the main interesting ones are threaded conversations, temporary statuses for users, and the ability to see whether a certain user is online at any given time. No word on if any or all of these will eventually make it as real features in the wild, not whether they will do the bad thing and make Tweets editable (they really, really oughtn’t), but, well, it’s a slow news week.
- New Snap Lens Tools Open To All: A bunch of features have been opened up to all ‘creators’ (sorry) in Snap’s Lenses Studio, including the ability to effectively use anything as a real world AR marker. Go on, MAKE SOMETHING.
- YouTube Rolls Out Premieres To Everyone: This lets everyone schedule a YT broadcast and promote it as an EVENT to fans. Are you excited? I’m excited (I am not excited).
- Google Maps Launching ‘Follow’ Feature: This is interesting, though VERY light on detail - venues with a presence on Google Maps will now (at least in the US, though almost certainly everywhere before too long) be able to offer Maps users a ‘follow’ option, enabling said users to receive updates from the venue - basically EXACTLY the way in which Facebook Pages worked back in the day, before the dark times arrived and you had to basically buy £50 worth of ads just to send your mum a message. It’s infuriatingly light on detail - literally all the update says is “Those using Google Maps for Android can now follow places right from the app. Rolling out now, just search for that coffee shop you love or that clothing store you’ve been meaning to pop into and tap the “Follow” button. Once you’ve followed places, news from them—like events, offers and other updates—will appear in the For you tab (where available, with more countries coming soon!)”, but if you’ve got a phyiscal location to promote then this very much seems like A Good Thing.
- What The (American) Kids Are Into: Hugely useful stats and research dump from Piper Jaffray which, yes, fine, is US-only, but which gives you enough GREAT topline info that you can probably pretend applies to the UK too. Main takeways are that Instagram is now more popular than Snapchat amongst the kids in America, although they like Snap more (it’s not going to help the share price, though, is it?), and that basically everyone is wearing athleisure; if you do anything at all related to flogging stuff to children then you really ought to read and digest this.
- Time For A Mammogram: A campaign site for Breast Cancer New Zealand, this is intended to encourage women to get screened - it’s a very simple site, presenting the story of cancer through the voices of a patient, her children, her parents, etc. It’s audio-driven, which is unusual, and the voice over work here is fantastic; I very much like the way that it forces you to listen through the stories before you’re able to act, with the simple visuals communicating the cell division at the heart of cancerous growth. Very good, imho, if not a little sad.
By Kim Roselier
THE SECTION WHICH WISHES IT HAD BEEN BRANSON TBH, PT.1:
- Human Terrain: The latest jaw-droppingly smart dataviz project from the incredibly talented people at Pudding, this is a navigable world map which presents the population of locations as bar charts; so you can visualise cities based on their number of inhabitants, and zoom around the world seeing a wonderfully clear and intuitive picture of how many people live where. There’s also the option to view the population change data since 1990, which, when you look at the UK at least, tells an incredible story of urbanisation and the incredible attractive potential of London. This is quite data-heavy and is making my laptop wheeze a bit as I type, but a) I have about 40 tabs open as I type this; and b) I am a cheapskate and won’t spend more than £350 on a computer, whereas I imagine that YOU are reading this on something really fancy and doubtless won’t have the same problems. You swanky fcuker.
- Follow JC Go!: I do wonder whether Niantic are only refraining from sueing these people because of the God thing - you’d imagine that anyone else doing quite such a blatant ripoff of Pokemon might have felt the heavy hand of the lawyer on their collar by now. Still, no matter - the fact is that this exists and it is GLORIOUS. You remember Pokemon Go!, right? Well this is JUST like that, except it’s been released by the Vatican and instead of capturing pocket monsters you instead traipse the streets looking for saints, who you can ‘catch’ and add to your...er...saintly bestiary(?), each time learning some excellent godly facts about them and, I don’t know, knocking a couple of years of your time in Purgatory or something. There’s some sort of high concept here about people being able to assemble a collection of religious figures who can accompany them on a pilgrimage to some major Catholic event in Panama in 2019 but, well, WHO CARES? iOS only, I’m afraid, and all in Spanish, but if those elements don’t put you off then GET CATCHING THE SAINTS.
- Monroe Work Today: This was completely new to me. Monroe Work was a black man in early 20th Century America, born to labourers and former slaves, who devoted his life to the exploration of black history in the US and, in particular, to exposing the history of lynchings across the South and the rest of the US. This is a beautifully-made site, exploring Work’s history and legacy, and offering an opportunity to explore the history of racial violence across the country. Similar to a site I found last year called ‘Lynching America’, this is beautiful webwork and important historical archiving.
- Easy 3d Post: We’re all bored of those 3d photo posts on Facebook, right? Except now all our normie ‘friends’ are finding out about them and oh god no i don’t ever need to see another fcuking photo of your disgusting, sticky, spaghetti hoop-bedecked infant gurning at me in stereoscopic faux-3d MAKE IT STOP. Still, if you want to trump everyone else’s 3d photo game then WOW is this the thing for you - a preposterously overcomplicated tool which lets you cobble together a really, really ugly, Geocities-style, MySpace-looking image with text and video and weird clip art and...look, just click it, you will be AMAZED by the possibilities. Let your creative impulses run WILD - I just spent 10 minutes making a 3d horrorscape with overlapping, layered text confirming that the pee is indeed stored in the balls, but I am sure you’ll come up with your own beautiful design.
- She Bon: God I really do love the web sometimes. She Bon is the website/project of Sarah Petkus who, I don’t think she’d mind me saying, is something of an alpha geek and who has made this WONDERFUL proof-of-concept scifi body rig. “SHE BON is a collection of wearable augments, capable of sensing various forms of the wearer's bio-data as input, in order to indicate their level of excitement with electronic and mechanical devices as output.” - what this practically means is that She Bon is a collection of sensors which measure factors such as nipple erectness, body temperature and the like in order to measure and communicate the wearer’s actual levels of sexual arousal, all displayed on a quite remarkable Pip Boy-style arm-mounted screen. The big concept behind this is an interesting one, with the stated aim being to improve and open up dialogue around sex - I for one am intrigued by the possibility of a future in which we wander round with visible displays telling each other exactly how horny we are on a scale of 1-10.
- The Waiting Game: iOS-only I’m afraid, the Waiting Game is the apotheosis of all those clicker games that were fashionable a couple of years ago - you, er, just wait. Think of it as an aid to mindfulness or somesuch guff; I particularly like the fact that there’s a global leaderboard built in to show you who around the world is the best at waiting, like a league table of zen. I do hope there’s some sort of secret prize in store for whoever’s top in a year’s time - maybe a subscription to some sort of hobby journal, as whoever it is evidently needs to get out more.
- Flight Club: This is a quite incredible labour of love, built as a passion project by young software engineer Declan Murphy; it lets you simulate a rocket flight, giving you control of every single possible variable you can imagine, from the type of engine you use in your rocket to the payload you carry to the launch site...it’s...impressive, rather than fun, and it’s VERY involved, but you can’t help but admire the craft that’s gone into it - someone offer the man a job, go on.
- Divine or Benign: Can YOU tell the difference between real quotes from the Bible and those which have just been generated by a neural net? No, you can’t, can you, you Godless heathen? Whereas I, with my Catholic school upbringing absolutely can - HA! MY IMMORTAL SOUL IS SAVED! Or at least it would be had I not sold it to the devil in exchange for good exam results when I was 17. Still, regardless of your personal salvation status, this is an excellent reminder of quite how batsh1t a lot of real Biblical language in fact is.
- The Everyday Calendar: An astonishingly successful Kickstarter project - 10x funded with a month still to go - this is a calendar designed to track one’s adherence to a particular daily routine; the idea being that each day’s entry can be lit up, showing your progress towards doing a certain thing each day. So, say, you have a goal of doing 50 situps a day - you mark off each day you achieve said goal on this calendar, feeling an overwhelming sense of achievement and self-worth each time you light up a day and progressing slowly but inexorably towards a WHOLE MONTH OF ACHIEVEMENT. I am sure that there are strong psychological reasons why this is an incredibly powerful motivational tool, and I know Jerry Seinfeld swears by the whole ‘do the thing you want to be good at every day’ mantra, but, well, YOU ARE GROWN FCUKING ADULTS WHY NOT GIVE YOURSELVES A FCUKING STICKER TOO WHILE YOU’RE THERE JESUS CHRIST.
- Final Say: Shamefully I didn’t march against Brexit last weekend - in the main, this is because I decided round about the time of the Iraq march (or, more accurately, about six months after that, when the chants of ‘Blair the Bomber - Can We Stop Him? Blair the Bomber - YES WE CAN!’ had faded and all we were left with was the dawning realisation that, actually, we really couldn’t) that popular protest was in the main a massive waste of time. Still, if you did, and if you are still hell-bent on attempting to reverse the decision (honestly, by the way, can we please call an absolute moratorium on the phrase ‘will of the people’ as of March 2019? Thanks), then maybe you will like this site, which rather bafflingly seems to think that the best way to make this happen is to annoy your MP by sending them a voicenote whinging about it. Christ alone knows why anyone thinks this will do anything other than annoy the poor bugger staffing the phones at the House office, or indeed why anyone imagines these won’t just sit unlistened to on a machine somewhere but, still, ACTION!
- Tune My Music: What’s the WORST THING about modernity? The pace? The fear? The creeping feeling that nothing you do matters in the grand scheme of things, and that you’re incapable of stopping the ineluctable march of time and that death is not just waiting but actively anticipating your arrival with salivatory glee? NO! NONE OF THOSE! It is instead the fact that it’s really hard to transfer your musical playlists from one service to another - except this site lets you do exactly that. See? It is all going to be all right after all!
- Some Quite Incredible Art: I don’t really know how to describe these paintings - they’re, er, ‘naive’ in style, and come with titles such as ‘Elvis Inviting a Homeless Man to Live in Graceland’, or ‘"Elvis Judges the Bettie Page LOOK-ALIKE Contest" (not all paintings feature Elvis, though many of the best ones do), and they are all on sale on eBay although the starting prices suggest that the artist really, really doesn’t want to part with them (or that they have a somewhat idiosyncratic understanding of the contemporary art market). Regardless, if you have a spare $300k burning a hole in your pocket and an inviting space on your wall then WOW have I got the artist for YOU.
- No Knead Bread: A website dedicated to breadmaking the lazy way. Honestly, if you can’t be bothered to even knead dough then frankly you don’t deserve to eat, is my view, but fill your lazy boots.
- Cheese Portraits: It’s been a good week for idiosyncratic artworks online - I think this site, featuring the work of US artist Mike Geno, might be the greatest artistic discovery of the year if not the decade. Mr Geno specialises in oil paintings of cheeses - lots of cheeses, rendered in wonderfully sensuous (yes, I used the word sensuous - WHAT OF IT?), thick strokes, looking good enough to eat. Paintings are available to buy, as are prints, and he also takes commissions should you have a particularly fine chunk of Gouda that needs immortalising. Honestly, these are actually really good.
- Its Hello: I can’t imagine why you’d need this, aside from obviously weird and nefarious purposes, but still - Hello is a webapp which launches unique and shareable video chat windows in-browser, without the need for any software; effectively this lets you run a Google Hangout or Skype video call without needing any of the infrastructure around it, and it apparently works with upto 5 people on at the same time. If you’re the sort of person who gets off on the idea of, say, masturbating on a webcam to an audience of anonymous strangers then here’s your new Chatroulette!
- Illusion Of The Year 2018: The blurb: “The Best illusion of the Year Contest is a celebration of the ingenuity and creativity of the world’s premier illusion research community. Contestants from all around the world submitted novel illusions (unpublished, or published no earlier than 2015), and an international panel of judges rated them and narrowed them to the TOP TEN.” I just watched the winning entry - an object which presents three separate individual interpretations when seen from three different viewpoints - and am honestly finding it quite hard to type as a result of being all discombobulated. These are AMAZING.
- James Vaughan: James Vaughan compiles this Flickr page, hosting pages from old US magazines from the 50s and 60s alongside film posters, ads and other assorted visual ephemera; if you’re a student of design, or just visually curious about that particular aesthetic, this is a wonderful resource.
- Jane’s London: I don’t usually feature single-issue blogs here (or if I do I miscategorise them as Tumblrs, just to annoy you) but I’ll make an exception for this one - Jane’s London is a genuinely lovely website, presenting all sorts of facts and stories about bits of the capital which you might not know, and giving you an excellent reason to look anew at the streets you walk each day. Honestly, this is CHARMING.
By Jane Dickson
THE SECTION WHICH WISHES IT HAD BEEN BRANSON TBH, PT.2:
- The Unprovoked Shark Attacks Map: Have YOU ever been struck by the desire to end your life in a toothy embrace with a shark? Would YOU like to take your last breath as the massive jaws of a Great White clamp around your midriff and its hundreds of teeth slice through your gutfat? No, I don’t imagine you do, and neither do I. My girlfriend, though, has a weird obsession with ending herself by shark and I imagine that should she see this she’ll spend the rest of the afternoon trying to book us holidays to the place most likely to result in her having a fatal encounter with a massive set of swimming teeth. The rest of you might want to use this to work out where not to travel to.
- Thomas The Dank Engine: This is...weird. A youTube channel featuring nothing but Thomas the Tank Engine-themed vids, all sort of screwed and weird and...wrong, basically. Not necessarily NSFW or anything, but I guarantee you that if you watch more than a few of these you’ll get that very familiar internet feeling of ‘what did I just watch and why do I now feel like nothing will ever be ok again?’. You know the one I mean.
- Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018: Space is, honestly, incredible, isn’t it? Fine, I know that’s a statement of unsurpassable banality but just LOOK at these photos, all the nebulae and dust and star clouds. These are truly astonishing, and if you’ve never been before I can very much recommend a trip to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich to see the exhibition in person. Special props to Martin Lewis, whose prize-winning photo of an eclipse of Venus was taken with a home-made telescope, which is mind-bogglingly impressive.
- The Cloud Appreciation Society: CUMULONIMBUS! No reason, it’s just a hugely pleasing word to shout out loud as I just did to my kitchen. CUMULOSTRATUS! This is the website of the Cloud Appreciation Society, devoted to the, er, appreciation of clouds. Do YOU love clouds? Do YOU want to share that love with a community of like-minded enthusiasts? Do YOU want to join the Society? DO IT! You get a little enamel pin badge and everything, and there’s something honestly lovely and a bit C86 about having one of them pinned to your record bag like some sort of whimsical miserablist.
- The Architecture Drawing Prize: I know literally nothing about architectural drawing as a discipline, but the work on display here is quite remarkable - dense, rich and stylistically varied, my personal favourite is the one obviously riffing of Bosch’s Tower of Babel, but every single one is remarkable. I would like all of these as prints, please.
- Abandoned Couch: A Twitter account exclusively sharing images of abandoned couches and shopping trollies in the Greater Liverpool area. Web Curios assures you that it is not making the same lazy, stereotypical jokes about Scousers that you currently are in your head. La.
- Reconbob: This is a smart idea, and if you’re a big Amazon shopper then potentially useful - Reconbob offers you a dive into the text of reviews on Amazon products, with the idea being that it quickly scrapes the review copy to highlight any recurrent issues that customers are reporting which might otherwise be hidden by 5* spamming or other nefarious Amazon manipulation techniques. Literally no idea at all who Bob is or what he has to do with any of this, mind.
- Data Centre Noise Generator: No idea whatsoever what the potential use case for this might be, other than to provide a degree of soothing succour for people so used to spending time around server farms that they can’t possibly relax without the ambient hum of cooling fans all around them. This is one of those excellent sounds which is ostensibly inoffensive but becomes very annoying very quickly, and so therefore it’s EXACTLY the sort of thing you should navigate to just before locking your computer and leaving for a long, leisurely lunch. Your deskmates will thank you.
- The Book Cover Archive: An archive! Of book cover design! Lots of book covers! In one place! I! Literally! Can’t! Think! Of! Anything! Else! To! Say!
- The Disgusting Food Museum: This is an actual, real, physical venue, or at least it will be when it opens to the public on Monday in Malmo, and is a celebration of some of the most idiosyncratic foodstuffs eaten across the world, from the famous Icelandic fermented shark, to the seethingly larval Sardinian cheese Casu Marzu. You will, the site promises, be able to smell and taste some of these delicacies - “The exhibit has 80 of the world’s most disgusting foods. Adventurous visitors will appreciate the opportunity to smell and taste some of these notorious foods. Do you dare smell the world’s stinkiest cheese? Or taste sweets made with metal cleansing chemicals?” - although why in the name of Christ you’d want to is somewhat beyond me; a whole museum dedicated to the very playground concept of ‘This is disgusting - try it!’ is somewhat beyond me, but then again I spent a good fifteen minutes last Friday afternoon measuring the flaccid penis of an actor in the name of ‘theatre’ so my judgment is perhaps questionable.
- Felt Cats: A YouTube channel featuring instructional videos showing you how to make small kittens from felt. OF COURSE it’s Japanese.
- Wildlife Photographer of the Year: The annual celebration of critter photography rolls around again; this year’s entries are typically splendid, but my personal favourite is the one of the lizard peeking out of the eye socket of the decaying sealion corpse because I’m predictably macabre like that.
- iii Magazine: An online magazine with a particularly lovely aesthetic to it - seriously, I adore the web design here, and the between-page transitions are a joy - and which contains writing about...er...all sorts of weird stuff, from running into David Moyes in an all-night convenience store in Stratford, to poetry, to interviews. It’s run out of Manchester and London, but feels very Northern to me for some reason; regardless, there’s some excellent writing here, and it’s got a lovely zine-y vibe to it.
- List of Solved Missing Persons Cases: Absolute Wikipedia goldmine, this, listing solved missing persons cases in history (the vast majority from the 20th Century onwards). Obviously lots of death here, but some truly wonderful stories just waiting to be unpacked - witness: “Lawrence Joseph Bader was a cookware salesman from Akron, Ohio who disappeared on a fishing trip on 15 March 1957 in Lake Erie. Eight years later he was found alive in Omaha, Nebraska working as a local TV personality named "Fritz" Johnson. He died from a brain tumor a year later leaving six children from two wives. It's been debated (but never confirmed) as to whether he was an amnesiac, had multiple personalities or was just an outright hoaxer”. Amazing.
- Library of Congress Screening Room: The US Library of Congress’ film archive is online, presenting an absolute treasure trove of old video clips from history, many of which are in the public domain and available for use however you see fit. Worth it for stuff like this - a clip of a horse diving off a high diving board, twice (the horse appears unhurt, so don’t worry equine fans).
- Detective Moustachio: This is ACE, and the best infinite-runner I’ve seen since Canabalt - you play as the titular detective, and, well, there’s probably a plot here, but the main thing you need to know is that you RUN and JUMP and SHOOT and avoid obstacles and generally try not to die as you traverse multiple levels of slightly fraught, fast-moving fun. This is a very good way of killing time before you go and spend the rest of your weekend sitting in your pants playing Red Dead 2.
- You Are Jeff Bezos: Finally in this week’s miscellanea, a lovely little Twine game letting you spend a few minutes in the shoes of Jeff Bezos - the game challenges you to try and spend all of Jeff’s fantastic wealth, and does an excellent job of demonstrating quite how much incredible good the super rich could do were they not so staggeringly obsessed with maintaining their position as staggeringly rich people at the top of the world’s moneypile. Want to hire thousands of teachers, pay all the tax you should have paid, end homelessness in the US...GREAT! You’ll still have about $10bn to play with, turns out. The only bad thing about this is that there’s seemingly no part of this that involves you as Jeff waging single-handed war on Nazis in a giant mech suit, but I suppose you can only take satire so far. I wonder if MechaBezos has seen this? I wonder if he’s played it, and laughed his terrifying otherworldly laugh and then gone back to diving into what I imagine is his giant, Scrooge McDuck-style moneypit as he strokes himself to a judderingly expensive climax? I wonder.
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Roman Booteen: Roman does incredibly detailed metalwork - this is his Insta feed. You may have seen the coin/sword thing doing the rounds over the past few weeks, but everything on this is pretty incredible.
- Kopernikk: The Twitter feed of Honza Řeháček who goes hiking with his dog and takes pretty amazing HDR shots of said hikes and said dog, who features in all of his shots, The general aesthetic is not dissimilar to that violently irritating and much-imitated ‘he follows her’ travel account from a few years back, but this features a dog and so is infinitely better.
- Brian Vu: A feed of WONDERFUL photos by Brian Vu, with glorious colours and posing - very high queer fashion, if that’s an aesthetic (it is now, I have decided).
- Chris Lavish: Wonderful, beyond-parody account of the hypertattooed ‘influencer’ featured in this profile which has been doing the rounds this week - this lad is basically Marilyn Manson without the makeup and I feel very, very sorry for him.
- Rubber Band Ball Daily: Except it’s NOT daily, it’s every Monday, Wednesday and Friday - still, if you want a thrice-weekly photo of a massive ball made of rubber bands then, well, you lucky thing.
- Strictly Kev: If you were a Ninja Tunes fan in the 90s then the name DJ Food will make you do a RIGHT reminisce - this is he, and this is his Insta feed which is a charming mix of design and old-school club culture and retronostalgia. No, please don’t start trying to make Bathing Ape a thing again.
- Stephen Leslie: Brilliant London street photography. This is a truly great feed, I promise.
- Dead Millennials: Skeletal models in hipster clothes. IT’S HALLOWE’EN.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- With The Grain: Minimalist photography. Lovely.
- Inappropriate Gavels: “Gavels are small wooden hammers. English judges have never used them. But some people are wrong about that.”
- Nick Clegg Looking Algorithmically Sad: Old, but included in honour of Nick’s exciting new job (as an aside, obviously it’s a very good job and very well-remunerated, but it’s SUCH a Lib Dem thing in a way - Cameron swans off to the speaker circuit and makes millions, Gideon takes about 12 incredibly lucrative part-time gigs and decides to play at being an editor...Clegg gets a job that to be honest sounds like quite a lot of hard word and will involve him having to be at his desk at 9am sharp. He’ll be sitting opposite an ex-colleague of mine at FB in London for the next few weeks - so far she’s resisting any attempts to get her to print ‘I AGREE WITH NICK’ on everything, but I’m not losing hope just yet).
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Trump’s Atrocities: McSweeney’s presents this quite staggering catalogue of all the...questionable (at best) things that The Donald has done since January 2017, presented as a simple list - they are up to nearly 300 so far, across three parts, and they’re only up to last Summer. As a straight-up catalogue of his appalling track record this is staggeringly depressing. Er, her emails!
- Why Kodak Died and FujiFilm Didn’t: I don’t much go in for stories about BUSINESS, but this is an honestly fascinating exploration of how the fates of two ostensibly similar companies diverged in the wake of the digital photography boom. I am sure that if you’re the sort of person who reads motivational business texts you’ll find plenty of KEY LEARNINGS (please, though, let’s agree never to talk like that again here - leave that crap to the LinkedIn crowd), but even if not it’s a really interesting look at how seemingly simple decisions can have unexpectedly significant long-term implications.
- Gritty The Revolutionary: If you’ve spent any time online, specifically on Twitter, in the past month or so, you’ll probably have come across the giant, hairy, slightly terrifying fizzog of Gritty, the recently-unveiled new mascot of the Philadelphia hockey team; this is less about him and more about how the increasingly polarised nature of ‘debate’ (read: shouting at strangers online) has meant that even the seemingly benign or banal will inevitably be coopted for political purposes by whichever side gets their first. The dissection of the ur-qualities of Gritty and how his ugliness is a symbol of resistance is, fine, perhaps a touch of a stretch, but anyone who works a dissection of Goya into their analysis of a sports team mascot is fine by me.
- Brazil’s Congressional YouTubers: As Brazil prepares to go to the polls again this weekend, the focus has in the main been on that latest embodiment of right wing masculinism Bolsonaro. This piece takes a slightly different angle, looking at the meteoric rise of young congressional candidates across the country who have used YouTube and WhatsApp to mobilise young voters and who now constitute a surprisingly powerful bloc in the nation’s politics. Fascinating, not least as this is surely the model for the future, particularly in countries with low literacy rates; tell you what, the next national elections in India are going to be pretty incredible to watch on this basis.
- The Making of Paul’s Boutique: A brilliant look back at the making of the Beastie Boy’s classic album, and how much of a fcukup it all basically was behind the scenes. Contains wonderful lines like: “But the most weirdest and most bummerish thing happened after the record came out. We just assumed that because Licensed to Ill sold a billion copies, Paul’s Boutique would do the same. But, like, it didn’t.” Superb, and makes you sad that the record industry isn’t quite that mental any more.
- Beyond Cyberpunks: Friend of Curios and dust obsessive Jay Owens has written another excellent, smart piece of thinking, this time focusing her attention on emergent genres in scifi - this is a smart, comprehensive overview of some of the more interesting paths that this particular branch of genre fiction is taking, and comes replete with recommendations for further reading. As always with Jay’s writing, this is more thought-provoking than this simple description makes it seem; she is very smart indeed.
- What The Hell Happened To Darius Miles?: You may or may not know who Darius Miles is - I didn’t, before reading this - but, regardless, please do read this piece. The Player’s Tribune features sportspeople writing about their lives and experiences in the first person - you’ll recall that they were the ones to feature all those excellent essays by footballers in the run up to the World Cup - and this is Miles’ story of how he found himself playing for LA Clippers in the 00s and how then he stopped. I presume this is ghostwritten - no disrespect to Miles, but it’s rare that you can be a top-level athlete AND write like this - but, regardless, the voice here is SO GOOD. Even if you know nothing of, and care nothing for, basketball, this is a wonderful piece of writing.
- Elton John: An exhaustive and interestingly clear-eyed portrait of Elton John, this is bylined as being by Bill Wyman (THAT Bill Wyman?) and is a pretty comprehensive look back over Mr Dwight’s career to date; pleasingly, it acknowledges that he hasn’t made any music worth listening to in 30-odd years, but pays appropriate tribute to the insane quality of his 70s output. There’s an interesting point here about the fundamental unknowability of an artist who is solo on stage and whose work has the songwriting craft of a genius but who always and solely sings words penned by others, which is something I’d never really thought of before.
- The Sauna World Cup: When I was a little kid and my dad moved to London, he and his girlfriend bought a flat just off the King’s Road which had an ACTUAL SAUNA in it - on reflection, the most 1980s thing IN THE WORLD. I was very confused by the sauna, and in my 6 year old’s head it was evidence that adults were sick and wrong; nothing in the intervening 33 years has done anything to change my mind, to be honest. Anyway, this article is all about the peculiar pastime of competitive sweating - one does rather wonder quite how dull life must have been in the Nordics all those years ago.
- The Fetishisation of Delivery Drivers: Thanks to Alex for this - this piece describes the odd but now I think about it totally understandable fetishisation of delivery drivers by certain sections of the Chinese internet, effectively turning the idea of the Deliveroo guy into an updated version of the ‘hung pizza delivery boy’ trope from classic 70s/80s bongo. I hadn’t really thought about the possibilities of a murky secondary economy operating through delivery apps, but now I do I wonder quite how much on-the-side dealing and other hustle goes on.
- The Beauty of a British Videogame: This is, fine, about videogames, and specifically about a driving game called Forza 4, but I promise it’s worth reading even if you couldn’t care less about either driving or games. The piece looks at the strange feeling of being English - or indeed, basically being any nationality other than American - and as such being totally unused to seeing representations of your national culture in global pop culture, and the strange shock when you finally do. I particularly liked the author’s observations about the oddity of visiting a US high school as an English kid - when I lived in the US briefly I went to a couple of high school basketball games and had a crush on a cheerleader and IT REALLY IS LIKE IT IS IN THE MOVIES (down to the fact that the cheerleader was obviously dating some jock and had no interest in me AT ALL, despite my charming accent and appalling teeth).
- Ballet And Women’s Bodies: The title of the piece is ‘Is there such a thing as ballet that doesn’t hurt women?’, and I had honestly NEVER thought of the weird physical power game between choreographers, traditionally men, and dancers, traditionally female, in the form. This was a real eye-opener and made me think quite differently about performance and power dynamics (which I am sure says more about my lack of previous critical thinking around this, but, well, WEVS MATE).
- KitKat in Japan: A wonderful NYT piece about the odd Japanese obsession with KitKats - famously they have all sorts of weird flavours there, from the reasonably sensible Green Matcha to the frankly horrifying-sounding purple sweet potato flavour; the article looks at how and why they’re quite so popular, and looks into the development process to see how these new flavours are arrived at. It’s obviously a great puffpiece for KitKat, but it’s SO interesting and reminded me rather of that section in ‘Boy’ by Roald Dahl where he remembers being sent chocolate bars to test at boarding school.
- Voldemorting: On the one hand, this is a perfectly sensible term for the practice of referring to an individual or issue online by a pseudonym; on the other, CAN WE PLEASE STOP MAKING EVERY SINGLE FCUKING THING A FCUKING HARRY FCUKING POTTER REFERENCE FFS IT’S AS BAD AS FCUKING STAR WARS. Anyway, this is an interesting look at the practice: “It's not necessarily directly avoiding people, the way you might write a cryptic, passive-aggressive post about how somepeople are just so rude. It's about selecting a group to know exactly who or what you're talking about, while preventing a broader, unwanted audience from finding your post at all—even if you're not sure anyone’s looking for it.”
- Asterix in Translation: In tribute to the recent passing on Anthea Bell, this is a piece from a few years ago which looks in some detail at the absolute GENIUS of the UK translations of Asterix; honestly, I can’t stress enough the incredible skill and linguistic dexterity it takes to translate puns at this level, and having read Asterix in Italian I can assure you that not all the translators were of this standard.
- Noel’s House Party: This is a very, very odd and slightly hallucinatory trip back in time - I have no idea why the author decided to rewatch the first and last ever episodes of Noel’s House Party, or indeed why they then chose to write this lengthy analysis of both and their general meaning within the context of late-20th Century British light entertainment, but I am glad that they did. Rereading this you get a very real sense of temporal dislocation, and an increasing sense of disbelief that the world was ever really like this. Also you realise that Edmonds’ slightly...idiosyncratic personality was always on plain view and we shouldn’t really have been that surprised by the cosmic ordering stuff.
- The Mclaren Pit Crew: All about how you make a bunch of men change a car’s tyres very, very fast indeed. It’s more interesting than you think, promise.
- How I Accidentally Ran A Bike Gang: Hell of a story, this, about how the author, a former undercover federal agent, ended up starting a neo-Nazi biker gang with the Aryan Brotherhood and took down a whole bunch of white supremacists whilst doing so. A genuinely great read, which contains some very odd details - why ARE all these massive, frightening racists always so keen to show people what is in their freezers?
- 100 Websites Which Shaped The Internet: This is a pure hit of early-web nostalgia. Rotten.com! Dancing Baby! Ask Jeeves! RUNESCAPE! It’s a bit too US-centric, as per, and excludes some honest-to-goodness classics (no B3ta? Really?) but as a digested history of web culture it’s a lovely trip down memory lane. Sadly no mention either of ‘Bianca’s Smut Shack’ which shaped my online life more than I’d care to mention.
- The Marathon Runner: You think you can run? You can’t run. Yuki Kawauchi can run. Mr Kawauchi isn’t a professional; he’s a school administrator who just so happens to be an incredibly naturally gifted athlete who can beat most pros whilst in fancy dress and despite his training regime being the sort of thing you see in the montage section of a ‘plucky underdog makes good’-type high school movie. This is a truly joyous profile of a remarkable man - read this and try not to fall in love: ““We all know a local runner, and he runs two marathons a month and he runs them in four hours, or four and a half hours, because he just loves the activity,” said Carey Pinkowski, the race director of the Chicago Marathon. “Yuki fits that profile, but he runs a lot faster. And he works full time and sometimes wears a panda suit.””
- Being a Non-Male Trial Lawyer: Excellent writing but Christ is this a fundamentally depressing read; another piece this week which made me think about sexism and gender power roles in a way I hadn’t previously, this looks at what it takes to be a female trial judge in the US, and how small, subtle ingrained traditions and customs, not to mention the inherently male nature of the profession, make it all the harder for women to succeed. The detail about the heels - how you have to wear them, but that affects your posture and demeanour and your ability to present in a certain way before the jury - really stood out, but the whole piece is very much worth your time.
- The Perfect Wrestler: Not, to be clear, the flashy spandex-and-kayfabe wrestling, but instead the less glamorous, more cauliflower-eared variety which involves large, stocky, incredibly-muscled men clutching each other very closely for 90-odd seconds (or at least that’s what it looks like to my untrained eye); this piece profiles one Kyle Snyder, apparently the best in the world right now, and his slightly weird life. There’s nothing spectacular that happens in this piece, but it’s one of those lovely sportsperson profiles which very much communicates the intense, specific oddity of being top of a very, very niche field.
- Rock Music Jesus: This is OLD (from GQ in 2004) and VERY LONG (honestly, it’s even longer than this fcuking newsletterblogthing), but I promise you you won’t read anything funnier this week. It’s the story of what happened when reporter John Jeremiah Sullivan rented a big truck and went to report on a Christian rock festival for the magazine - I promise you, this is worth every minute it will take you to read it.
- Your Real Biological Clock Is You’re Going To Die: On ageing and children and decisions and waiting and it never, ever being the right time. Superb writing, if not a little elegiac.
- Habitual User: I’m just going to give you the first paragraph here, as that will give you a feel for the tone and style and subject better than my mangled attempts at description ever could: “WHAT IS IT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA that’s so depressing? I’m asking for myself. And I mean beyond the obvious: that much of the imagery and information presented there accelerates suffering and despair; that many people who use it are themselves plainly, often explicitly miserable; that it distracts more sneakily and time-warpingly than any other distraction; that it makes you feel as if everyone is hanging out without you, demands you masochistically crave this feeling, and incites you to inspire it in others; that it gamifies already competitive social relationships and posts your score for the disedification of the viewing public; that all this is by design and in service of a goal so banal that it sparks few to anger—they don’t care about our souls or our ruthless private-messaged gossip, just our data, where we shop and what we buy and how old we are when we buy it. Though I understand the sweeping consequences of a monopolistic data marketplace in nefarious partnership with the security state—the companies have pictures of our faces and robots that can identify them!—like many I find it difficult to care, at least to the extent that caring means changing my life. I mainly wish I could get it back.” READ IT.
- Wetherspoons: Finally this week, a piece by Megan Nolan who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite young writers; this is glorious, about love and losing it, and being young and poor and in London, and about that amazing feeling you get in your 20s when you’re always a bit hungover and always a bit poor but it doesn’t matter because your friends are always with you and your friends are all you need. Sublime prose (I met Megan at a party very briefly earlier this year and as I was leaving plucked up the courage to tell her I really liked her writing, and then ran off, blushing, leaving her and her boyfriend looking very confused - I don’t imagine she reads this, but, just in case, that was me).
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- This is a song composed entirely from the sounds made by consoles as they boot up and it is surprisingly excellent:
5) And ANOTHER - really bringing you the hidden gems here (or my musical taste has gotten VERY NICHE this week). Anway, this is called ‘Wild Dogs’ and it’s by HC Mcintire and, honestly, I think this is a beautiful piece of music:
6) Finally in this week’s musical selections, this is SOAK; the song’s called ‘Everybody Loves You’ and I have been listening to this on a bit of a loop this week. I hope you like it. OH, AND THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK - BYE! BYE! I LOVE YOU! BYE! I HOPE YOU HAVE LOVELY WEEKENDS AND THAT YOU GET TO DO WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU FEEL LIKE DOING MOST OF ALL, AND THAT YOU GET A LIE-IN TOMORROW AND THAT SOMEONE BRINGS YOU A NICE CUP OF TEA AND THAT EVERYTHING BASICALLY TURNS OUT OK I LOVE YOU SEE YOU NEXT WEEK I LOVE YOU BYE!
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