41 minutes reading time (8101 words)

Web Curios 27/09/19

Web Curios 27/09/19

HELLO I AM BACK MY GOD I HAVE MISSED YOU! I went to Spain! I saw some sun! I met an Australian millionaire who was responsible for coating one of Perth's major roads with 1000 litres of concentrated sulphuric acid a few years back! I saw young women who'd had such aggressive lip-fillers that they literally had to move their mouths with their fingers to be able to drink from a bottle! I had a time. 

In my absence, it appears that noone's seen fit to sort the world out at all - what the fcuk have you been doing with yourselves? Anyway, with little further ado, let's crack right on with the links and the words and stuff - I imagine that your past two Fridays have been miserable and work-filled and without the usual slightly queasy LOLs afforded you by my sparkling prose - strip down, grease up, and prepare to squeeze yourself into the tight-fitting cloaca that is this week's infodump. I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and you have no idea how good it is to be back.

By Mark Tansey

FIRST UP, A LOVELY NEO-SOUL-ISH END-OF-SUMMER EP BY HALIA JACK!

THE SECTION WHICH, BASED ON THE PAST WEEK’S NEWS, FEELS BROADLY POSITIVE ABOUT THE PROSPECT OF ESCAPING INTO ZUCKERBERG’S VIRTUAL BIG BLUE MISERY FACTORY:

  • Facebook’s VR Future: This stuff is all hugely speculative, fine, but it’s fascinating to read; whether or not any of the tech outlined in here becomes mainstream or whether it’s all superseded before it comes to market is unknowable, but (if you’re me, at least) it’s impossible not to feel a small frisson of futureexcitement at the developments listed in this FB announcement on its VR tech. Photorealistic 3d avatars! Holopresence! The creation of a 3d map of the entire world, enabling the lightning-fast 3d experiences in a digital analogue of meatspace! Fine, the last one is perhaps a touch on the sinister side - I’m not 100% certain that I want any single commercial entity ‘owning’ a digital representation of the physical world, though I can’t fully articulate why - but overall the work listed in this piece is genuinely thrilling from a tech point of view, and offers a momentary peek into a scifi future that I will doubtless be too scared, confused, old or dead to enjoy properly.
  • Facebook Horizon: About 10 years ago, I remember getting very excited indeed about the prospect of Playstation Home - anyone remember that? No? It was Sony’s attempt at a mass-market virtual world, where anyone with a PS account could have an avatar and use it to navigate a persistent, multiplayer virtual space in which they could talk to people, watch films, play games and generally amuse themselves in manners befitting tiny digital humans. Obviously it didn’t catch on at all - turns out noone in the mid-00s had either the bandwidth or the general desire to hang out in a digital apartment playing Frogger - but I can’t help but be reminded of the ambition when I read this announcement about Facebook’s forthcoming (in 2020) VR world ‘Horizon’, which basically sounds like the same sort of thing (except first-person and VR-enabled). This is all very much theoretical at present, but the idea is that anyone will be able to create their own spaces, experiences, etc, and share them with other users to enjoy collaboratively, with the ability to watch multimedia, play games and generally hang out with whoever you like in digispace. The likelihood is that this will, at first at least, be a shonky, uninhabited mess, but it’s equally likely that this is the first step towards a proper, mass-market VR world and as such it’s worth keeping an eye on. Oh, and if you think that FB isn’t going to be tracking everyone’s movements and actions in VR and using that data to sell more ads to the world then, well, you’re a naive idiot.
  • FB Expands ‘Playable’ Ads: Facebook’s interactive ad units - which let you create games as an ad format, or AR face filters as promos - are now being rolled out to everyone! That’s right! I’m excited too! My pathetic ennui aside, these are quite interesting opportunities (if expensive ones).
  • FB Announces New Features for Public Figures: If you’re a famous, then Facebook has a whole new suite of toys just for YOU! The ability to contribute collaboratively to Stories, better discovery for famouses on the platform, a ‘fan reply’ sticker option to encourage photo or video responses from your audience, additional ways of screwing your idiot fans for cash through the ‘Facebook Stars’ tipping mechanic, and a few other things too. SO EXCITING (not exciting at all).
  • Facebook Adds New Video Publishing Tools: This is mostly stuff about Lives - you will now be able to ‘rehearse’ a live on Facebook (why is this necessary?), trim the footage to eliminate the top and bottom of the broadcast for post-Live replay, and - and this is the really exciting bit - broadcast for a full 8 hours rather than the limiting, inadequate 4 hours that you were previously allowed. I am thrilled to discover the exciting, innovative content formats that ‘creators’ are going to invent with this newfound freedom - 8 hours of slow, miserable edging? A webcam feed of your office hours? Truly, the possibilities are almost endless and we should all be thankful that we live in what can only be described as the golden age of creativity.
  • Twitter Launches ‘Hide Replies’ Feature in US & Japan: If you’re in either of these countries, you can now opt to hide replies to your Tweets - so you can now say whatever awful crap you want without having to see the reactions! Obviously this is designed to minimise the impact of trolling, but it will also act as a convenient way of muting dissent and reinforcing one’s own opinionbubble - Twitter here, as ever, taking a broadly sensible idea and fcuking it right up through poor implementation. Anyone would think its leaders don’t really have the first clue as to how to manage their platform and its impact on the world!
  • Twitter Launches List Update: This isn’t very new news - the feature’s been tested for a few months now - but you can now swipe left within the Twitter app to navigate to your Lists, making them significantly more useful as a tool for normie users. For certain brands, this might make creating and pimping lists for your followers becomes worthwhile - maybe, a bit. It’s only iOS at present, but is coming to Android ‘soon’ - if you were yearning for something to look forward to for the remainder of the year, this is surely it.
  • Snapchat Launches 3d Selfies: I...I don’t care. Sorry. Look, if you’ve got a recent-model iPhone you will now be able to make vaguely 3dish images using Snap, much like you’ve been able to do on Facebook for a while. Is that exciting? Should I be interested? Do you feel better for knowing this information? Shall we move on? Let’s.
  • TikTok Introduces Video Search: Or at least it does in China. Leaving aside this week’s news about TikTok’s censorship of stuff the Chinese government’s not keen on, this is legitimately amazing (let’s not think too hard about how this video search might be used by the in-no-way-terrifying Chinese state apparatus); TikTok’s rolling out the ability to search within the app by face - so you can easily find videos featuring the same people - or products and clothing, to facilitate in-app shopping. This is SO FUTURE, and basically how all video is going to work within a decade.
  • All The TikTok Ad Formats: Thanks to Contagious for this genuinely useful guide to the different ad options that you can buy on the platform; it’s accurate as of today, but will almost certainly be hideously out-of-date by the middle of next week, by which point TikTok will doubtless have launched the ability to target people based on sperm count of follicle count or something equally invasive. Still, ‘til then this is worth bookmarking should you or your clients be in the business of flogging stuff to children.
  • Pinterest Updates Its Lens Visual Search Tool: Oh, look, here, I can’t be fcuked to paraphrase this very tedious news: “Pinterest made some changes to its Lens visual search tool to aid Pinners in their searches for ideas and inspirations. Pinners can now take photos or upload images from their camera rolls and use them to search via Lens.” Isn’t ‘Pinners’ a horrible term? Isn’t that an appallingly-written article? Don’t you wish you had skipped this section and gone straight to the links? ME TOO.
  • All Of The Amazon Announcements: I know that this is hardware rather than software (in the main), but it’s advermarketingpr-adjacent and so I feel justified in including it. Amazon this week announced a bunch of new things - mainly Alexa-enabled products, with new devices and the exciting development of ALEXA WEARABLES, so you can order toilet paper on the move via your magical surveillance ring (no pun intended). Glasses with Alexa! A ring with Alexa! An oven with Alexa! All ‘coming soon’ (the wearables will be released in limited numbers as a beta test in 2020, apparently), and prepping us for the inevitable future in which Amazon has basically won the voice assistant game and knows everything about our wants and desires, thereby achieving an unassailable commercial advantage and basically becoming the overall winner of the great game of ‘Capitalism’ come 2100 or so. I jest, but only slightly - also, I am now totally convinced that MechaBezos is secretly planning to live forever via the medium of uploading his consciousness into the Alexa ecosystem on death (I am going to start referring to this as the Jeffularity, and you can too if you like).
  • 24 Hour Ace: I make no apology whatsoever for including yet ANOTHER Gucci website in Curios; this is a site promoting the brand’s 24 Hour Ace project, where a bunch of designers mess with their Ace trainer to create bespoke, limited edition designs. This is WONDERFUL - all retro aesthetic, but simultaneously packed with lovely content - and, much as it pains me to say so, I quite like the shoes (but not enough to shell out the fat end of 500 quid on them, to be clear).
  • The Trino Quest for Comfort: This is a promo for socks, but that really doesn’t matter - ignore the slightly baffling brand association, and instead glory in this wonderfully-playable little browser game, which plays a bit like a more forgiving version of Flappy Bird in which you play as a hanggliding sheep. Honestly, this is really, really fun - works best on mobile, but playable in-browser as well, and I just lost 10 minutes playing it which either suggests that I am right and it’s an excellent game, or that I’m not really in the mood for writing another 6,000-odd words about stuff on the internet this morning and would rather get back into bed for a few hours (guess which!).

By Guim Tio Zarraluki

NEXT UP, MORE MODERN SOUL FROM OLIVIA LOUISE AND HER NEW EP ‘NO PHUX’!

THE SECTION WHICH RATHER HOPES THIS TREND FOR IMPEACHMENT CATCHES ON OVER HERE, PT.1:

  • Imagenet Roulette: You’ve almost certainly all seen this and played with it already, what with it having come out in my absence, but I’m including it anyway because a) THE INTERNET IS NOT A RACE FFS; b) I like it a lot; c) it’s being taken down at some point today, and so I feel honour-bound to pimp it while it’s still available. Imagenet Roulette is a site which lets you upload any photo you like, from the web, your camera roll or your webcam, and which then uses the Imagenet library held by Stanford university to ‘classify’ whatever you upload; effectively the software matches the image you upload to ones in the extant library, and applies category classifications to it based on what it ‘sees’ - the idea being to highlight the problematic nature of many of these classifications, and draw attention to the inherent bias which exists within these sorts of AI systems. I just webcammed myself and got “convict, con, inmate, yard bird, yardbird” which, well, is indicative of the sort of rock-hard, threatening man I am. Anyway, this will disappear from the web imminently, but if you’d like to check it out it’s installed at the Barbican and at the Fondazione Prada in Milan - it’s ART, guys.
  • Generated Photos: 100,000 made-up faces! You want a huge repository of faces of people that have never existed and which have in fact been ‘imagined’ by an AI? GREAT! “We have built an original machine learning dataset, and used StyleGAN (an amazing resource by NVIDIA) to construct a realistic set of 100,000 faces. Our dataset has been built by taking 29,000+ photos of 69 different models over the last 2 years in our studio. We took these photos in a controlled environment (similar lighting and post-processing) to make sure that each face had consistent high output quality.” Honestly, these are amazing - not only because of how convincing they are at first glance, but also because of all the instances where the faces are slightly wrong - honestly, do take the time to take a look at the GDrive of the images and have a browse, as there are some genuinely unsettling little anomalies in there, from the odd overly-crinkled ear to people who seemingly have nostrils in their foreheads (I kid you not). There’s something interesting about the fact that all the generated faces are so generally-pleasing; I would love to see a similar project undertaken using a training set of normal (oh, ok, ugly) people rather than models; in fact, there’s a really interesting project in the idea of using sets of people divided by nationality and seeing what emerges. Fascinating.
  • Who Posted What?: “whopostedwhat.com is a non public Facebook keyword search for people who work in the public interest. It allows you to search keywords on specific dates. When you want to search on a specific date, you can search only for the year, only the month from a specific year or for a specific date. It is also possible to use two or more keywords like terror attack paris. You can also search in posts who got posted in between two specific dates. It is possible to search in between two years, in between months of different years and in between two specific dates.” Not hugely interesting, fine, but REALLY useful as a means of surfacing legacy content from Pages or Groups - journalists and general muckrakers could get a lot of use out of this imho.
  • Am I Cancelled?: I’m genuinely annoyed about this - way back in November last year, as you will doubtless-recall, I told you all about an idea my friends and I had called Milkshakeduck.me which would tell you how likely you were to be cancelled; now someone’s gone and made a tool which basically does that, except in a really crap way; plug in your (or anyone else’s) username and it will tell you whether or not you’ve been cancelled based on your past Twitter output. It doesn’t even tell you why, FFS! Everyone apart from me (and you, dear reader, and you) is a useless, know-nothing bozo.
  • Witches: The University of Edinburgh presents a map of all the places in Scotland where women accused of being witches lived - over 3,000 of them, which is a quite astonishing number and one worth bearing in mind when you hear Trump describing his impeachment proceedings as ‘the greatest witchhunt in history’. You can click on the individual entries to find additional details about the person in question, which occasionally throw up some wonderful little story fragments - “She was a servant to the father of Margaret Murdoch, the tormented girl who denounced a lot of the 1699 accused witches”. WHO WAS MARGARET MURDOCH? WHY WAS SHE TORMENTED? So many writing prompts in here if you’re in the market for them.
  • The Syllabus: I always feel a bit wrong recommending other newsletters in here, like I’m asking you to cheat on me or something (I know, obviously, that you all know no other newsletter Gods but me); this one’s a relatively new offering from anti-tech-solutionist and general genius pessimist Evgeny Morozov; the idea behind The Syllabus is that it’s a weekly digest of interesting writings and thinking and podcasts and videos and stuff, which you the reader can customise to a reasonable extent; there are a variety of off-the-shelf selections you can subscribe to, covering media, tech, etc, but the really interesting feature is the ability for individual users to select the areas they’re most interested in, and receive a lightly-personalised selection of curated content each week based on their choices. I got my first one this week - it’s VERY academic, and if I’m honest I’d prefer a little more in terms of commentary and colour on the selected bits, but I can definitely see the potential. Were I a better, more organised and frankly more altruistic newslettermong I might try and implement something similar for Curios but, well, life’s too short.
  • Butter Churn: You want a fun, Flash-esque music visualiser? YOU GOT IT! This is really nicely done, and the various options are visually excellent - another thing which it would be sort-of cool to throw up on a big screen and just let it react to whatever soundtrack you choose to play. Pleasingly you can sync it with either music from your device or from any track/playlist from Soundcloud, so try it out with whatever sounds you’re feeling RIGHT NOW (NB it produces some very odd stuff when you plug in Cannibal Corpse).
  • Spot: It seems that we’ve been gawping at Boston Dynamics’ terrifying robot creations for years, making it all the weirder that this is the first time that they’ve been commercially available. Still, welcome to the FUTURE, in which anyone who fancies it can get their hands on a creepy, quadrupedal dogrobotthing, to, I don’t know, test the safety features in an industrial environment, or dance gamely through a minefield, or race through the desert, or whatever you want (actually that last one’s a GREAT idea - I would watch robot dog desert racing in a heartbeat, although my enthusiasm may be as a direct result of having been back at work for a week and as a result being almost catatonic with boredom). The video here is a pretty standard promo, featuring very little you haven’t seen before, but it’s still astonishing to see actual, proper robotics on practically-mass-market-sale; I think there will be a smol domestic version of this tech available within the decade. Oh, and if you want to see the REALLY mental robot stuff, here’s a different video showing one of their humanoid robots doing gymnastics which, well, CRIKEY.
  • Megabot: The other mental robot-related link in this week’s Curios, this is a live eBay sale which, if you have a spare 100k (at the time of writing) will let you purchase Eagle Prime, the “15-Ton 2-Story Tall Gasoline Powered Car-Smashing Piloted Giant Battle Robot From the world famous USA vs Japan Giant Robot Duel” - if you don’t remember that event with forensic clarity you can see it again here. What would YOU do with a two-story tall mechanical fighting robot? Depressingly, I imagine the answer for lots of the sort of people who would be willing to bid on this would be something along the lines of ‘take it to Parliament Square and TAKE BACK CONTROL’, but perhaps I’m being unfair. Regardless, if you’re a very rich person, why not take a punt on this? Even better, if you’re a business owner with a few hundred k burning a hole in your balance sheet then why not buy this as an interesting landmark/talking point to erect outside the office? COME ON, LIVE A LITTLE FFS.
  • SD Notes: Another ephemeral website creator - log on, add whatever characters you like after the / at the end of the url, and HEY PRESTO, your very own site! You can only add text to it, but it’s permanent (as long as you update it every The Geocities Archive: I have definitely featured Geocities lookup repositories on here before, but this is the most comprehensive I’ve yet come across; if you want the ability to search through the internet back in those innocent, halcyon days before we realised everyone was basically a Nazi with a keyboard then this is for YOU. This is a complete goldmine of odd - a couple of cursory clicks just now landed me on this archived scan of a comic strip from Beezer magazine called ‘True Brit’, which features a Roger The Dodger lookalike called Tommy who, when he gets angry, turns into a TRUE BRIT (I am, I promise, not making this up) and acquires superpowers. Honestly, you could lose yourself in this stuff for years - SO MUCH WHIMSICAL ODDITY!
  • Adblock Radio: A tool to block ads from podcasts and livestreamed audio. I’ve not tried it, so no idea if it actually works, but the idea’s potentially useful - Web Curios accepts no liability whatsoever if this ends up being some sort of appalling malware.
  • The Cool Worlds Lab: If everything’s just a bit bleakly terrifying right now, perhaps this YouTube channel will help. This is produced by the Columbia University Astronomy Department, and is “a team of astronomers seeking to discover and understand alien worlds, particularly those where temperatures are cool enough for life, led by Professor David Kipping.” You want to learn about exoplanets and artificial gravity and whether or not we are likely to be alone and unloved in a godless and uncaring universe (we are, get over it)? You will LOVE this, in that case.
  • Fix Radio: This is AMAZING! Fix Radio is an online radio station aimed at tradespeople - it’s literally created especially for people with paint-spattered radios who hang out in your kitchen drinking endless cups of oversugared tea and telling you that ‘no, mate, it’s going to take another 6 days and I need to order the parts and we’re looking at the fat end of a grand to be honest and do you have any digestives?’. I can’t tell whether this is a branded endeavour, but, honestly, I now want to create bespoke radio stations for ALL professions - I am totally pitching this to someone next week as the vanguard of new content solutions, practicality be damned.

By Mark Tennant

NEXT, TRY THE RATHER EXCELLENT CHIPTUNE-Y SOUNDTRACK TO THE VIDEOGAME ‘SAYONARA WILD HEARTS’!

THE SECTION WHICH RATHER HOPES THIS TREND FOR IMPEACHMENT CATCHES ON OVER HERE, PT.2:

  • Plastic: A very powerful graphical visualisation by Reuters, which shows you the amount of plastic bottles which have been sold since you open the page (I’ve had it open for the time it’s taken me to write this sentence, and we’re at *checks* 120,000, which is frankly insane. As an aside, I think this week was the first when I felt the proper ‘wow, we really are totally fcuked, aren’t we?’ species-level horror about the environment; whilst I obviously applaud all efforts to be better at renewable energy and recycling and lessening plastic use, it’s becoming eminently clear to me that the problem isn’t necessarily one of specific materials or actions so much as one of a species-wide addiction to consumption, which is so desperately, deeply ingrained that we’ll still be buying cheap sunglasses and assorted crap off Wish when the seas are boiling around us. If you’re worried about single-use plastics and coffee cups whilst still buying stuff on Amazon Prime and shopping in Primark you’re still part of the fcuking problem, sweetheart.
  • WeWalk: This is SUCH a good idea - WeWalk is a ‘smart’ cane, designed to offer additional information about one’s surroundings and ambient environment to the visually-impaired. I remember watching my brother using his cane when he was alive, and thinking that it was a massively inefficient tool - this is exactly the sort of thing which would have made his life easier (although it’s probably a bit fragile for smacking bullies with, which was very much his favourite use for it).
  • Kapwing: This is a really interesting tool - if you are in the invidious position of having to make CONTENT for a living (I know, I know, we are ALL creators in 2019, we are ALL visionaries, we are ALL geniuses whose output needs to be seen and heard and worshipped) then this might be useful; Kapwing is ‘a collaborative platform for creating images, videos and gifs’, which presents a really simple UI to pull together text, image and video collages collaboratively, which you can then export on the social platform of your choosing. There are free and paid-for tiers, but the difference seems minimal outside of the ability to watermark stuff, so if you need a slightly less-awful way of creating flashy texty gif-type-things then you could do worse than check this out.
  • Cancelled Bot: The first of two bots by Rob Manuel to be featured in Curios this week (he doesn’t even PAY me for these plugs, the fcuker), Cancelled Bot does exactly what you’d imagine and CANCELS anything that’s currently trending on Twitter. You can follow it and @message it if you want to be cancelled too - it’s oddly cathartic.
  • Tone Detector:Grammarly’s been around for an age, letting you get a digital eye cast over your prose to tell you exactly how badly you’re mangling the language and syntax; it’s just launched another tool which analyses your copy and lets you know if you’re coming across as, well, a bit of a cnut (I’m paraphrasing; sadly the assessments don’t have quite that degree of clear-eyed honesty). On the one hand, this is sort-of useful; on the other, if you really can’t tell if your emails are rude or enervating or downright aggressive without the help of a digital assistant then you’ve probably got problems beyond the reach of software. Interestingly, it ranked the edition of Curios I tried it out on as ‘disheartening’, which is probably about right tbh.
  • Guard: This is a really interesting service, which seeks to use machine learning to assess the privacy policies of websites, and offer users an at-a-glance overview of exactly how appalling the terms of service of many major web services are. It’s a work in progress, and at the time of writing it’s only got 20-odd sites on it, but over time, and with enough training, you can imagine this being a genuinely useful service - anyone can assist in training the software, so if you’re feeling bored and like you might want to contribute to the effort, you can spend 10 minutes assessing the privacy-friendliness of a bunch of legalese (it’s not, it’s fair to say, hugely exciting as a pastime, but then again neither is your actual job).
  • Fesshole: Rob Manuel’s other new bot, Fesshole has gotten quite a bit of attention over the past week or so - the idea is that anyone can contribute an anonymous confession via a GDoc which will eventually be tweeted out by the bot; there are some genuinely GREAT (and appalling) ones in here, and you can see the full list of confessions to date by clicking here should you so desire. I have submitted one myself - I hereby offer an actual, proper readers’ PRIZE to whoever can accurately guess which is mine (seriously, email Imperica with your guesses and I will send someone an actual gift if they guess right) of the current 1100 entries. Special shout out to the deviant who confessed this gem (please never share the output): “I'm creating a deepfake of Nigella Lawson and Lucy Worsley going at it with each other, purely for my own amusement.”
  • Old Wood Toys: Do you want a pleasingly-retro website collecting all the information you or anyone else could ever desire about the manufacture and maintenance of old wooden toys? No, of course you don’t, it’s 2019 ffs, and yet I present it to you nonetheless. If nothing else, this is worth checking out to learn about the genuinely terrifying Scary Anne dolls of the 1920s, which will be haunting my nightmares tonight (and probably yours too).
  • Satellites: A website which uses your location to tell you when you might be able to next see a satellite passing above you. Largely pointless, unless you’ve a real burning desire to know exactly what that fast-moving dot of light hurtling across the sky is, but a really nice example of how you can stitch together a bunch of different open data sources to interesting effect.
  • Heart of Neon: I’m making quite a big assumption here, but I’d imagine that quite a few of you know who Jeff Minter is. In case you don’t, though, let me briefly explain - Minter is one of the great eccentrics of the UK videogames industry, a man who created some of the greatest, oddest little digital toys of the 80s and 90s and whose baffling obsession with camelids led to him naming his studio Llamasoft and one of his games Llamatron (Llamatron is, honestly, AMAZING - watch this video of it and then go and download a copy). This is a Kickstarter project seeking funds to make a documentary about his career, which if you’re in any way interested in the history of indie games is a worthwhile cause to punt a fiver at. The target is...ambitious, and it doesn’t look like they’ll make it with a fortnight to go, but it’s something I’d love to see made so, you know, PAY UP.
  • Zero Degrees: A photo project which photographs flowers encased in blocks of ice. Weirdly lovely, and the sort of thing which feels like it could be an ad campaign for...something, though I have no idea what. Maybe one of you creative geniuses can come up with something.
  • The ESPN Body Issue: It’s that time of year again, when ESPN presents a selection of photos of elite athletes in the buff so that we can all feel moderately inadequate when we compare our pasty, lumpy-in-the-wrong-places reflections to the visions of muscular perfection here arrayed. Every time I see this stuff I am left slightly in awe at the insane examples of humanity displayed, and genuinely amazed at the buttocks in particular - I mean, just look at the callipygian nature of the subjects! You could bounce pound coins off them! They’re like bowling balls in tights! My personal favourite in this year’s edition is Katrin Davidsdottir, but they are all quite disgustingly wonderful-looking examples of humanity.
  • Knolling: Knolling is apparently the practice of arranging objects in pleasingly regular grids and then taking photos of them; this is all the photos with that tag on Flickr, and I promise you it’s a LOT more satisfying that you might initially imagine.
  • Malmal: Malmal is a collaborative infinite canvas, on which anyone can draw anything they like - wonderfully, there doesn’t appear to be ANY hate or Nazis or racism or anything on here, meaning you can instead just scroll around and enjoy the wonderful selection of surprisingly really good art on display, ranging from cartoon-style, anime-ish figures to more serious-looking character sketches. Genuinely wholesome and lovely (at least at the time of writing - apologies if by the time you get to it it’s been overtaken by channers).
  • Seasons: A beautiful short ‘game’ in which you listen to a piece of music and pick lyrics to fit it, creating your very own song as you go. This is absolutely gorgeous, and I would play the fcuk out of something that took this concept and built on it.
  • American Election: Finally this week, a game which takes you through modern American politics in a series of creepingly-awful chapters which slowly and meticulously explore and unpack the vile, violent and angry nature of modern political discourse in the US. This is, honestly, masterful - a wonderful use of a lightly-interactive medium to tell all sorts of stories about the world we live in. It describes itself as “A dark political nightmare game about Abigail Thoreau, a campaign assistant working to elect her candidate”, but, honestly, that doesn’t give you any idea of quite how dark and brilliantly written this is. Play it - it’s vastly more interesting than anything else you’re likely to do in the office today.

By Camille Soulat

LAST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, HAVE AN HOUR-LONG CUT OF THE MYSTERIOUSLY-NAMED BUT RATHER LOVELY ‘SOVIETWAVE’!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!

  • Nice Sausages: Beautiful, cut-out-style animations by Kajetan Obarksi. These are WONDERFUL, often taking old illustrations and paintings and creating humorous moving vignettes from them - Obarski’s got a wonderful eye.

THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:

  • Pixeldanc3r: Pixelart by David from Argentina. David is brilliant, whoever they are.
  • Brutalist Empire: I know that in internet terms a fascination with brutalism basically marks you down as an aesthetic VSCO girl, but I don’t care. This feed collects loads of good brutalist design and architecture - glorious photos.
  • Foka Wolf: Street artist from (I think) Birmingham, with a nice line in urban subversion and reworked signage.
  • Dr Leon Advogato: Possibly my favourite story of the week, this - “Leon was just like any other stray cat – roaming the streets, looking for scraps. One day, he walked into the Order of Attorneys of Brazil building, and his life changed. After people started to complain about the cat hanging around the reception area, the OAB took action to curb the moaning: they hired Leon as a lawyer.” IT IS ADVOGATO, THE LAWYER CAT! O MAOW!

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • Carol Cadwalladr: The headline of this Atlantic profile is ‘Britain’s most polarising journalist’ - what really got Carol’s back up this week was the assertion contained within the piece that she’s as much an activist as a journalist. I can see her point - whatever you might think of her investigations in Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the like, you can’t argue with the quality of her hackery. Still, the article’s interesting insofar as it details the slightly obsessive nature of her quest, and the slightly blurred lines that occur when one starts to crowdfund one’s investigations in the manner in which Cadwalladr has done - not to suggest that there’s anything wrong with her seeking funds for her work, more that as soon as you start to take money from people with a vested interest in a certain outcome, you could be argued to be compromising your reporting to an extent. Regardless, this is a really interesting read (even if it did make me think of Louise Mensch, oddly enough).
  • The Cameron Book: We’re all sick of hearing Dave wax unrepentant, aren’t we? FCUK OFF DAVE THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST THAT A REFERENDUM WAS INEVITABLE YOU APPALLING CNUT. Still, regardless, this review of his memoirs by Stephen Bush in the New Statesman is more interesting than most of the comment I’ve read on the subject; I had completely forgotten Dave’s steadfast efforts to de-posh himself in the late-00s, but it’s fascinating to look back at his early reign and his brief, ill-fated attempt to de-toxify the Tory party before the Euromadness took hold.
  • Inside the Pee Tape: Do you remember those innocent times three years ago when we all thought that Trump might be brought down by a videotape of him involved in some light urolagnia with some hookers? GREAT DAYS! This is a very odd, very detailed article which looks into the possible veracity of a video which has been doing the rounds for a year or so, seemingly THAT video, which shows Donald sitting in what looks very much like the hotel room in question while two women apparently engage in a little gentle pissplay - it’s almost certainly not real but, well, who made it? Why? This is honestly really interesting - my money’s on Alison Jackson having done this as a laugh, but I’d welcome your theories. Oh, and you can see the video in question here if you really want to.
  • One Summer In America: If you want to get a sense of the battering, cumulative effect of all of this news, all of this horror, all of this STUFF, then this piece in the LRB is essential reading. It’s a simple (if beautifully-written) list of all the things that have happened over the course of the past three months in the US, drawn from news reports - everything in this article has happened or at least been alleged, on record. THREE MONTHS. Honestly, reading this is a little like being beaten repeatedly over the head with something blunt (but, er, it’s very good!).
  • The Cancel Culture Con: The best thing I’ve yet read on the pernicious idiocy of people complaining about ‘cancel culture’. It’s worth reading the whole piece, but the conclusion neatly summarises the thrusty of the author’s argument: “The power to cancel is nothing compared to the power to establish what is and is not a cultural crisis. And that power remains with opinion leaders who are, at this point, skilled hands at distending their own cultural anxieties into panics that—time and time and time again—smother history, fact, and common sense into irrelevance. Cancel culture is only their latest phantom. And it’s a joke.”
  • How TikTok Holds Our Attention: ANOTHER explainer on what TikTok is and how it works, this time from the New Yorker, but worth reading to get a bit more of a handle on how the company operates (chaotically) and the platform’s appeal. There’s something interesting (to me at least) about the rise of a service so dedicated to frivolity in an era characterised by everything being VERY SERIOUS all the time.
  • Tinder Swipe Night: You may or may not have seen that Tinder’s moving into the content game, producing an interactive CYOA-style experience called Swipe Night, which will not only present users with a narrative experience but which will also use the choices they make through the game to inform a suite of matches they’ll receive on completion. Whether or not the narrative is any good remains to be seen, but the idea of using these sorts of signals as a means of pairing people is an interesting one - would you want to date someone based on their choices in a game?
  • High School Roleplay on Facebook: The phenomenon of Facebook as a space for roleplaying is fascinating to me - from the people pretending to be Boomers, to this phenomenon, where millennials invest and effort in Facebook groups in which they roleplay being at school. WHY?!? I imagine this is a generational thing; this makes no sense to me, being of an age where the internet didn’t exist til I was in my mid teens, but if you grew up with afterschool MSN chats and the like then perhaps it’s more comprehensible. Regardless, I think there’s a genuinely interesting cultural thing here which is ripe for some sort of gentle exploitation - fast forward three months and watch as every fast food Twitter feed pivots to 90s roleplay and ruins EVERYTHING for EVERYONE.
  • Photos of Blackboards: Jessica Wynne is a photographer and professor who for the past year or so has been taking photographs of the blackboards of maths teachers; this article describes the work, and, more interestingly, presents a selection of images from the collection. I know it doesn’t sound interesting, but, if you’re a mathematical incompetent like me then the scrawls and equations basically look like magical runes. Also, there will be LOADS of inspiration here if, like me, you like playing the ‘let’s leave a lot of random scrawls on the whiteboard to confuse the next person to use this meeting room’ game.
  • Storming Area 51: I’ve mentioned the planned party at Area 51 several times in Curios this year, and on each occasion have made some sort of snarky prediction about how it was all going to go horribly wrong and be a terrible disaster - well IN YOUR FACE MATT MUIR FROM THE PAST, because, once again, I have been proven totally wrong, as this rather lovely writeup of the whole thing suggests. Instead of being a clusterfcuk of horror it appears to have been a genuinely nice, pleasant (if surreal) gathering, and the spin-off party in Vegas also sounds like a generally good time. The only downside, to my mind, is the non-appearance of former Blink-182 frontman and alien botherer Mark Hoppis, who would have been the cherry on the extraterrestrial cake. Oh, in case you were wondering, noone found any aliens.
  • The Slime Bash: Memes move with such speed that it’s often hard to remember them once they’ve passed - so it is with the slime craze of a few years back, which I’d totally forgotten about until I read this piece, about this year’s massive slime fan convention in Illinois. Fans? Of slime? How can you be a fan of a substance? HOW DOES CULTURE EVEN WORK ANY MORE? This is less about the convention and slime than it is about the unique ability of online subcultures to create community around shared passions; when reading stuff like this, it’s hard not to think back to being a child and wondering how my personal obsessions would have translated into an online world.
  • Japanese Pizza: As a half-Italian I am typically, tediously absolutist about Italian food. Pineapple on pizza is an aberration, if you put cream in carbonara you’re basically a nonce, that sort of thing. Still, I adored this article about the search for pizza perfection by artisan pizzaiolos in Japan; there’s something about the peculiarly Japanese pursuit of excellence in a single discipline which lends itself perfectly to the very prescribed basic idea of Neapolitan pizza, and something oddly romantic about the image of these lonely obsessives making pizza after pizza in search of the ultimate crust. This will make you very, very hungry, fyi.
  • The Most Mysterious Song on the Internet: An excellent online mystery, which part of me hopes will never be solved. “Twelve years ago, a catchy New Wave anthem appeared on the internet with no information about who wrote or recorded it. Amateur detectives have spent thousands of hours since trying to figure out where it came from — with little luck.” What is the song? Who recorded it? WHERE DID IT COME FROM? We will, hopefully, never find out, but it’s a lovely curiosity to read about.
  • Alec Guinness Hated Star Wars: This is a BEAUTIFUL story - the author once met Alec Guinness, who then mentioned their meeting in his memoirs; this is the author’s own story of that meeting, his recollection of Guinness, and how and why the actor manipulated the anecdote slightly to fit a particular narrative. Honestly, this is so, so lovely.
  • Who Would I Be Without Instagram?: One of the best pieces of writing about growing up with, and through, Instagram, written by Tavi Gevinson. Gevinson’s perspective is naturally singular - after all, most of us are not catapulted to international fame in our early teens, and most of us don’t launch publishing imprints before they’re 20 - but her reflections on the manner in which her internal and external identities were shaped, nurtured, stunted and stultified by online existence feel immensely universal. She’s a wonderful writer, and this article is full of beautiful observations about the feeling of being ‘seen’ but not seen online, and the peculiarly, incessantly performative nature of modern - but also, simply human - existence.
  • Where Am I?: What must it be like to live with a condition whereby you have no sense of place or direction, where you can’t quite place yourself within the world or necessarily recognise or see the elements that make it up? Genuinely terrifying, I’d say, though this essay by Heather Sellers, who suffers from face blindness and a general lack of ability to ‘do’ space and geography and directions and stuff, is pleasingly uncomplainy - it made me think quite hard about the extent to which I take certain things for granted.
  • Football in Greenland: Greenland’s football championship takes place over the course of one week, featuring evocatively-named teams such as the legendary B-67 and very much at the mercy of weather conditions that can include blanket fog and freezing rain; this is a wonderful piece of journalism, sharing snapshots and stories from the week-long tournament and giving a sense of just how small a place Greenland is. I would ABSOLUTELY go to this next year if anyone fancies it btw.
  • Kings of Croquet: “On a sunny September Sunday in 1982, Mark Burchfield, a 20-year-old tobacco farmer from rural Kentucky, stood in Manhattan’s Central Park, getting ready to take the most important croquet shot of his life.Mark and his father Archie were one of 32 teams competing in the doubles tournament at the sixth annual U.S. Croquet Association National Championship. Archie already had seven state croquet titles under his belt, but this was Mark’s first tournament. He hadn’t even seen croquet played on grass until the month before; his father’s first time was in March.” You may not think that a story about croquet would be an exciting tale of underdogs and prejudice and class and overcoming the odds but, well, you’d be wrong. This is great.
  • Stories About My Brother: Prachi Gupta’s brother was a brilliant engineer with a potentially glittering career ahead of him; he had made money on Bitcoin; he was also someone who’d been turned onto the MRA (Men’s Rights Activist) lifestyle towards the end of his life, and who died after complications ensuing from surgery he’d had to lengthen his legs in an attempt to correct what he saw as the height deficiency that was stopping him having romantic success. This is very sad, but beautifully-written - the gentle radicalisation of young men online is, honestly, slightly terrifying to me.
  • The Bread Thread: Superb piece of writing, about female sexuality and shame and gender and bullying, and how women are judged, and how owning one’s past isn’t always enough to make one safe. Really, really good, this.
  • Going To The Restaurant: Finally this week, a short-but-perfectly-formed essay, describing going to a restaurant. This is SUPERB, with not one word wasted, and it’s an excellent way to spend two minutes of your day.

By Shohei Otomo

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!

1. Let’s kick off with this wonderful song by Vagabon - the vocal is wonderful, I love the slightly shiny minimalist vibe of the track overall, and the dancing in the vid is mesmerising; the song’s called ‘Water Me Down’:

2. Awesome video, this, and the song’s not bad either. This is Anyway Gang, with ‘Big Night’; the song’s an excellent indie disco banger, but the 16-bit game in the video’s the real star here:

3. Belle & Sebastian’s latest. I fcuking love Belle & Sebastian. This is called ‘This Letter’:

4. This is called ‘Tape’, by a band called Canigou. I could watch this video forever - honestly, it’s like animation done by a neural net or something, it’s mesmerising:

5. UK HIPHOP CORNER! I got goosebumps listening to this - SBTV Warm Up Session by Deyah - there’s something really pleasingly understated about her delivery here, but the words are fire, as I believe the kids say, and her flow is amazing when she ramps it after the first 90s:

6. MORE HIPHOP CORNER! This is the latest track from Tyler and it is SUPERB. This is A Boy Is A Gun:

7. Last up, an excellent video which seems apt given this week’s news. This is called Natural Born Killers, and it’s by James Massiah AND THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK IT’S SO GOOD TO BE BACK I’VE MISSED YOU AND I HOPE YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND AND THAT YOU GET TO RELAX AND MAYBE FORGET ABOUT ALL THE SCARY THINGS FOR A BIT AND INSTEAD JUST DO STUFF THAT YOU LIKE AND ENJOY AND MAYBE HANG OUT WITH FRIENDS AND JUST GENERALLY ENJOY YOURSELF BECAUSE I ONLY WANT THE BEST FOR YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!:

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Culture sector marches to protest against climate ...