47 minutes reading time (9439 words)

Web Curios 29/03/19

Web Curios 29/03/19

So THIS is what control feels like! How novel, at yet simultaneously how utterly familiar!

Yes, that's right, it's BREXIT DAY, on which we are all honour-bound to paint our faces with the cross of St George and to drink pints of warm bitter until the blood vessels in our faces burst with happy pride and we can swim home through the seas of Friday night guttervomit whilst singing the national anthem and masturbating ourselves to a shuddering climax whilst picturing whichever royal pleases us best!

Or at least that's how I'm planning on marking today; you do what you choose.

While you wait to see exactly what variety of unpleasantly-spiked implement the country's legislators intend to fcuk it with next, why not distract yourself with the following collection of words and links? It won't make anything better, but it might keep you off Twitter for a few hours which, honestly, I think is probably for the best.

I am Matt; this, as ever, is Web Curios. It's an overlong, barely-coherent mess, which funnily enough makes it the perfect thing to read on this, THE BESTEST AND MOST PATRIOTIC DAY IN OUR NATION'S PROUD HISTORY CRY GOD FOR HARRY AND SAINT GEORGE!

By Christophe Agou

TWO MIXES FROM INTERNET ODDITY SADEAGLE IN AS MANY WEEKS? I AM SPOILING YOU!

THE SECTION WHICH WAS AT AN EVENT WITH DAMIAN COLLINS MP YESTERDAY - YOU KNOW, THE ONE WHO'S BEEN ENJOYING DEMANDING THAT FACEBOOK APPEAR BEFORE HIS COMMITTEE FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS - AND WHICH HEARD HIM SAY THAT PROPOSALS ON REGULATING CONTENT DISTRIBUTION PLATFORMS LIKE FACEBOOK ARE 'FORTHCOMING' AND WHICH REALLY WANTED TO ASK HIM 'MATE, LOOK, WHAT MAKES YOU THINK, BASED ON THE PERFORMANCE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES HAVE PUT ON OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS, THAT YOU COULD REGULATE ANYTHING, LET ALONE COMPANIES WHOSE BUSINESS YOU BARELY UNDERSTAND AND WHO CAN AFFORD TO EMPLOY ARMIES OF LAWYERS WHO WILL VERY MUCH ENJOY THE OPPORTUNITY TO RUN MASSIVE RINGS AROUND THE BUNCH OF INTELLECTUAL PYGMIES CURRENTLY OCCUPYING THE HOUSE?' BUT WHICH THEN REALISED THAT THAT IS A COMMENT NOT A QUESTION AND SO DIDN'T:

  • Facebook Improves Ad Transparancy: Not a huge change, this one, but still. Facebook's Ad Library now includes details of ALL ads running on the platform - you can search by advertiser name or keyword included in the ad, and the service will now pull through any and all ads currently running that match the search terms; previously you had to visit individual Pages and click through to their 'ads' section to see these. Seeing as today is our SPECIAL DAY OF POLITICAL EMANCIPATION (I promise I will get tired of making 'jokes' about this as the morning wears on, but bear with me for a second here) I thought I might see what the current crop of Brexit ads are saying - it's gratifying to see that there are several running right now, all aimed at ensuring that we do in fact do a Brexit, and that they are all being paid for by such totally normal and transparent-seeming organisations with names like "NowBrexit" and "LifeAfterBrexit" and "Brexit Defence Force" and "Better Brexit". Who are these people? No idea! Without wishing to go all Cadwalladr about this, isn't transparency a wonderful thing? Anyway, this isn't really all that new so much as a slightly better interface to an existing system, but it does make the process of seeing what other ads are running around a particular space easier, which probably has a few helpful planning / snooping implications.
  • Facebook Bans The Term "White Nationalism" And "White Separatism": Nothing much to say about this, other than a) good; and b) not sure it says wonderful things about where we are at the moment that a platform has to put out quite such a weirdly defensive statement on banning the sort of language used exclusively by Nazis. I've made a conscious effort not to spend too much time in websewers over the past fortnight, but I've no doubt that there's a bubbling undercurrent of fashy offence from the usual suspects at this HIDEOUS EXAMPLE of tech companies pushing the LIBERAL AGENDA and censoring free speech.
  • Google Launches Realtime Content Insights: This is potentially useful for publishers. Google's launched a new feature which...oh, here, have someone else's description: "Available to any publisher that uses Google Analytics (GA), RCI offers a more robust version of the real-time data in GA. It shows the top articles in realtime and past 30 minutes, realtime readers by geography and referral source. RCI also has a tab that offers "Trends in Your Region" insights to show trending topics using data from Google Trends and Twitter. Publishers can use this information to gauge reader interests, analyze article placement, improve user experience and optimize headlines." This would, I imagine, work well alongside CrowdTangle and is worth checking out if you or your paymasters do the content thing at scale.
  • Gmail Adds Dynamic Email Features: Or basically AMP for email, which is what they are inexplicably not calling it. This is potentially really useful: "Your emails can stay up to date so you're always seeing the freshest information, like the latest comment threads and recommended jobs. With dynamic email, you can easily take action directly from within the message itself, like RSVP to an event, fill out a questionnaire, browse a catalog or respond to a comment. Take commenting in Google Docs, for example. Instead of receiving individual email notifications when someone mentions you in a comment, now, you'll see an up-to-date thread in Gmail where you can easily reply or resolve the comment, right from within the message." You can see how this is hugely valuable for anyone involved in selling stuff via email, but there are a host of other friction-minimising applications for this; the link contains a link to a blogpost aimed at devs on how to build these so, well, LEARN (or, more likely, send it on to the clever person you know who does the actual coding).
  • Twitch Launches Squad Streaming Feature: Completely irrelevant for most of you, but the fact that Twitch is now allowing for 4-streamer multiplay in a single window is probably quite interesting for the three of you who work in or around the games industry (or who are streamers). It's literally just that - up to four separate streamers can hook up to stream together in split-screen; get big names involved and it becomes a (very expensive and) hugely effective marketing gimmick.
  • How To Make A Bar Chart Race Video: You will have seen threemillion of these by now and probably be slightly bored of them, but, in preparation for the moment next week when your client comes to you all excited with a clip they've seen on Facebook and demands you make one for them as well, here's a helpful way of making your own from nothing more than an Excel sheet or CSV. My slightly tedious ennui aside, this is really useful and you can probably still get some mileage out of this on LinkedIn if you have some numbers that are all about BUSINESS. Thanks Josh for the link.
  • We Present: This is a lovely site by WeTransfer - there's obviously some STRATEGIC PILLAR in their business about 'facilitating creativity' or similar wankery (and, honestly, brands, STOP TRYING TO TAKE CREDIT FOR HUMAN ARTISTIC ENDEAVOUR WHEN YOU DON'T REALLY HAVE ANY RIGHT YES), and so, predictably, they have alighted on 'let's become a curator of creative stuff that we can then share with the ever-hungry cultural omnivores of the web'. Except this is actually quite good - there's LOADS of stuff in here, it cuts across style and genre and type of output, with artists and filmmakers and essayists and musicians and all sorts of different and diverse work on show, most of which was totally new to me (and yes, I know that that doesn't necessarily mean anything, but, honestly, I see a LOT of 'curated' crap online and I promise you a good 90% of it features the same narrow selection of stuff). A good resource for creative 'inspiration' (theft) and just a really nice piece of brand work, despite my snark uptop.
  • Discover Martell: The latest in Web Curios' occasional exploration of the wonderful, over-the-top world of French web design, this is a site which lets you take a Google Streetview-style tour of Martell's French Chateau to explore the MAGIC OF COGNAC and the HERITAGE and the CEREMONY and the SHEER GALLIC SUAVERY of the whole enterprise. There is a LOT in here - three floors to explore, secret keys to find (WHY???), videos to watch, some inexplicable deer prancing around like they own the joint (the chiefs)...but, as ever with these things, WHY? Do people who like to spend money on pseudo-fancy booze (is Martell premium mediocre? I sort of feel like it is) ALSO tend to like spending 10 minutes navigating around a virtual chateau? SHOW ME THE INSIGHT THAT LED TO THIS. If it's anything more than "Our agency saw us coming a mile off" I'll be amazed, frankly.
  • Strategy Needs Good Words: Finally in the serious, boring section pertaining to people's actual jobs, this is a great article by Martin Weigel on why it's important to write strategywank out properly and how that can help with the creation of cogent, solid, helpful creative positions. I hate myself quite a lot for that sentence, fine, but this really is smart and sensible stuff.

By Yunil Nam

YOU MAY NOT THINK THAT THE MOOMINS SOUNDTRACK IS THE EXPERIMENTAL ELECTRONICA YOU NEED TO SOUNDTRACK THE NEXT BIT, BUT I PROIMISE YOU THAT IT VERY MUCH IS!

THE SECTION WHICH DIDN'T THINK IT WAS EVER GOING TO HAVE TO COPE WITH THE NAGGING FEAR OF BORIS JOHNSON BEING PRIME MINISTER EVER AGAIN AND YET, WELL, HERE WE ARE, PT.1:

  • Default Filename TV: This is such a clever, simple idea to produce something that is basically better than 90% of all video art installations you'll ever see (video art is largely balls, come on, you know it's true). The site plays YouTube videos at random, the only stipulation being that the title of the video conforms to a default filename pattern - so it will only show you videos where the uploader hasn't bothered to edit the filename before so doing. As a result, all the clips you see through this tend to have a very particular aesthetic to them, weirdly retro-ish - none of these were ever uploaded by people expecting to go viral. It's an absolutely compelling cavalcade of school dance performances, poorly-recorded speeches at small town hall events, not particularly impressive athletic endeavours and LOTS of shots of moving traffic, and it's honestly PERFECT - as a moving, infinite snapshot of who we are as a culture and a species (yes, I know that that sounds hyperbolic, but really) this is utterly superb and frankly ought to be a permanent installation somewhere. I love this possibly more than anything else I have found so far this year and, honestly, were it not for the fact that I know you'd all be DEVASTATED I would totally sack off Curios today and just watch this stuff for 7 hours instead.
  • Political YouTube: A visualisation mapping popular YouTube channels across the left/right spectrum. Whilst obviously this is incomplete - after all, these need to me manually selected and categorised - the methodology used seems reasonable (you can get an explanation on the project's GitHub page, should you desire one) and the picture it shows is really interesting; the size of the bubbles shows the number of channel views, whilst the lines between them, visible on hover-over, show how often video recommendations send users from one channel to another. It's worth having a bit of a dig here - all the channels are US-focused, but what's clearly visible is that whilst the 'leftist' output has broader audiences (partly due to the fact that stuff like the Colbert Report gets massive global traction), the right-leaning channels are far more numerous and are linked far more closely; there's a very obvious strong network which has a significant amplificatory effect on the content and, hence, the messaging. Depending on your politics, this may or may not creep you out a bit.
  • Petition Grapher: God, it's been a long week in petitions, hasn't it? From INTENSE EXCITEMENT to TEDIOUS SMUGNESS to RESIGNED ACCEPTANCE OF FUTILITY in seven days. This site (thanks Dan) graphs the growth of signatories on any petition you choose to ask it about, which might be useful if you want a nice shorthand for comparing the relative virality of concepts (or if you just like graphs).
  • Morphin: This, to be clear, looks REMARKABLY shonky, but I'm including it as it's a precursor of...well...something. Morphin is an iOS app whose aim is to let anyone insert themselves into any gif they want, by taking a scan of their face and doing that facewrap thing over the element of the gif that the software identifies as being, well, face-y. You remember about 10 years ago, when we all blithely allowed any old third-party website access to all our Facebook data in exchange for wonkily mapping some of our FB photos into a marketing video? No? They were great days, trust me. Anyway, the outputs look rather a lot like that, or, oddly, the CG in the Lawnmower Man - it's crappy enough that it's almost cool, and you could actually have quite a lot of fun with this if you're a particular type of person/brand (and the fact that I just used those terms as interchangeable is a new nadir in Curios and indeed my life; rest assured I will be punishing myself for that one BRUTALLY later on) in terms of messing with reaction gifs, etc - the interesting thing for me, though, is where this stuff goes after this, when combined with improved GAN-type tech (spoilers: it goes somewhere quite confusing).
  • Clit Me: Do you have a clitoris? Is your life characterised by a sense of disappointment at how bad other people are at touching it in pleasing ways? WELL HELP IS AT HAND! Clit Me is a project by perennial Curios favourites NFB Canada, developed in conjunction with students at the University of Ottawa to help address the 'orgasm gap' - when first having sex with a new partner, 62 percent of heterosexual women will reach orgasm, compared to 85 percent of men. It's a mobile-only site which lets you learn facts about the clitoris whilst playing through five levels where you are asked to stimulate the onscreen cartoon clit in a variety of ways to help its owner achieve climax - SEXY, EH? As a non-owner of a clitoris I'm not really qualified to comment on how accurate this is, but it's a lovely bit of design, presented in a fun way and with a good aim at its heart. If it goes some way towards correcting what I fear are some of the VERY WEIRD things young men are learning about sex from current bongotrends then that can only be A Good Thing, no?
  • The Difference: As discussed here on multiple occasions recently, we're at a weird point in the evolution of voice assistants in terms of their utility - we have them, but how do we want to use them? Do we, for example, want to use them to connect with a disembodied therapist, somewhere in the ether, onto whom we will unburden our woes? "No" would have been my automatic response to that question, but the people behind The Difference hope I'm atypical in this regard - this Alexa Skill works by giving users a unique PIN which they use to log into the platform with their Bezos Home Surveillance Pod; it then puts you in a queue for a therapist, who will call you on your phone for a 30 or 60-minute session. SO MUCH ABOUT THIS IS STUPID! If the therapist calls you on your phone, what the fcuk is the point of the Alexa integration other than to give Amazon information about the fact that you occasionally want to talk to a therapist? Given the fact that unless you pay a premium you have no idea which therapist you're going to get, how can you get any continuity or long-term benefit? Where's the accountability? This is a mess of an idea.
  • Canopy: This is yet to launch, so I'm including it on spec here, but it seems like it might be interesting, and if it turns out to be amazing and game-changing then you'll be able to say you got in early which is obviously the most important thing. Canopy is a soon-to-launch 'discovery app', designed to feed you interesting stuff based on what it thinks you'll like - the interesting bit being that it claims it will work with no login or account structure, and that it won't take any of your data, ever, and that no information will ever be stored anywhere other than your phone. They are VERY light on details as to how this will work, but it's worth keeping an eye on imho.
  • Seedo: This is INGENIOUS, and the sort of thing that 16 year old me would have coveted like little else on Earth; if you've always wanted to grow your own weed but haven't fancied the idea of turning your attic into some sort of foil-lined hydroponic Kew-equivalent then WOW will Seedo appeal to you. It's a variant on one of the many 'grow herbs in a box with automatic watering and an app which will tell you if there's anything wrong with your seedlings' kits out there, except that this one is very explicitly designed for growing marijuana (look lads, the repeated use of the word 'herbs' all over the site isn't really doing the arse-covering work you might be hoping here) and is basically like a fridge. All the LEDs and hydroponic kit sits inside a box which is HERMETICALLY SEALED meaning it's odourless - I mean, you can see the market it's aimed it. It ships worldwide. I WON'T TELL ANYONE.
  • The Global Architect Card: Dash Marshall has designed a card for architects to carry which explains to anyone curious why they might be wandering round poking around buildings and structures in 14 different languages. "Architects go out of their way to visit interesting buildings when they travel, but often the buildings they care about are considered special only by other architects, leaving the staff who take care of those places confused to be visited by foreigners with funky glasses. We've chatted with confused security guards, befuddled janitors, and hesitant staffers while trying to explain why we're taking 75 photos of a staircase. With the Global Architect Card, you don't have to struggle." I would very much like someone to make a version of these for 'confused creative and strategy teams having a fact-finding awayday outside of London'.
  • The Google Cemetery: ANOTHER website collecting Google products that are no more - this is broader than last week's in that it includes seemingly EVERYTHING that it's ever been involved with that no longer exists. Going back to the mid-00s is fascinating - what was 'Lively', the 'web-based virtual world', for example? Who remembers that Google had a product called 'Ride Finder' to help people find carshares which existed til 2009? Really interesting (if geeky).
  • Put Your Face On A Billboard: Peroxide prankster Oobah Butler, he of The Shed at Dulwich and Giorgio Peviani fame, has a book coming out - as part of the promo for that, he's, er, offering anyone the opportunity to get their face put on a billboard in New York. It's a basic 'Million Dollar Homepage'-type setup; the Kickstarter has a $6k target, and you can pledge whatever you like. Your face will appear on the eventual poster, presuming it gets funded, sized proportionally to your contribution to the fund - beautifully, though, it doesn't have to be your face. There's a very strong argument here for clubbing together and paying to have the face of the least-likely person you know plastered HUGELY across Manhattan for a few weeks, just for the lols, although perhaps a slightly pricey one.
  • 7 Sets Venn Diagram: I'm going to be totally honest - I have literally no idea at all what this is showing me or how it works, so if anyone can explain it to me then I would be genuinely grateful; still, it looks GREAT and I'm a sucker for spinny, colour-y, maths-y things, regardless of whether I have any fcuking clue what they are trying to communicate to me.
  • Fuckbois of Literature: A PODCAST! WHICH AS PER USUAL I HAVEN'T ACTUALLY LISTENED TO! Still, I don't need to hear it to know that its topic is a winner - "The characters of literature other readers exalt, but you hope never to meet. Maybe they screw everything that moves (and moos). Maybe they've locked their first wife in the attic. Maybe they're the author of love poetry that's screwed up our concept of romance for over 150 years. The literary fuckboi toys with your heart and leaves you hung out to dry." Another example of a podcast I WISH provided episode transcripts so I could consume this in the civilised manner.
  • Textworld: This, awkwardly, is ANOTHER website I only have a slightly iffy grasp of, but bear with me here while I try and describe it. Or, alternatively, while I paste their description here and see if this helps: "Microsoft TextWorld is an open-source, extensible engine that both generates and simulates text games. You can use it to train reinforcement learning (RL) agents to learn skills such as language understanding and grounding, combined with sequential decision making." Oh, I get it! It effectively lets you create small narrative programs within which you can train language processing AIs! Got it! This is quite interesting - although, obviously, this is another example of a big company getting us to do quite a lot of work for it on the sly, as obviously all the info coming through this is going to get fed into Microsoft's own machine learning/pseudo-AI projects, right? Anyway, there's a competition up there at the moment where you can win a couple of grand for making a script that can work its way through a text adventure, which could be quite a fun challenge if you're into that sort of thing.
  • Humane By Design: A beautifully-designed site about design principles, this collects a selection of principles and precepts one might want to abide by when thinking about 'ethical' or human-focused UX/UI design; what's most interesting about this is how when you read through them you're very quickly going to start coming up with examples of platforms or products that do the exact opposite of this and are quite obviously employing all sorts of dark patterns left right and centre.
  • Blendeo: Ooh, this is clever. Blendeo (annoyingly iOS-only) is an editing app which does some really clever trickery to apply a long exposure effect to already-shot photos and videos, allowing you to create some really striking imagery which, crucially, looks totally different from any other post-production effect I've seen churned out by a phone before. Get this and enjoy a brief week of feeling like an INNOVATOR before fcuking Instagram adds this as another of its standard camera effects and ruins it for everyone.
  • Winamp Skins: Do you remember WinAmp? It was what we used to listen to music on PC in the 90s and it was a psychedelic mess, customisable with all sorts of preposterous skins and effects which are handily collected here by the Internet Archive. SUCH a strong aesthetic on show in these - honestly, wouldn't Spotify be better if you could replace its frankly rather boring interface with one themed around the smiling features of Jackie Chan? Yes, yes it would.
  • The Manual: The Manual is, to many, the greatest ever book to be written about the music industry. Penned by the KLF, it's subtitled 'How To Have A Number One The Easy Way' and is basically a how-to guide to hacking the music industry as it was back in the 80s and 90s. This Twitter account is tweeting it out, one sentence at a time - it makes it unreadable, obviously, but the nature of the text means that the cut-up version often sounds like weirdly gnomic poetry. Built by Friend of Curios Rob Manuel, who finds the congruence between his own name and the fact that he is LITERALLY ROBBING 'THE MANUAL' far funnier than he ought to.

By Naro Pinosa

NEXT, WHY NOT HAVE THIS ACID HOUSE MIX BY THE VERY TALENTED JOE MUGGS?

THE SECTION WHICH DIDN'T THINK IT WAS EVER GOING TO HAVE TO COPE WITH THE NAGGING FEAR OF BORIS JOHNSON BEING PRIME MINISTER EVER AGAIN AND YET, WELL, HERE WE ARE, PT.2:

  • The Archaeology Data Services Archive: This is a HUGE directory of archaeological...er...stuff in the UK, covering all time periods from Roman digs to the historic war defences which still exist, slightly hidden, across London to this day. It's worth searching by your home location to see if there's anything interesting and historical nearby which you might not be aware of - if you're in London there almost certainly will be, should you fancy somewhere geekily historical to make a pilgrimage to this weekend.
  • Mockdown: Not by any means interesting - sorry - but potentially rather useful, Mockdown lets you take any website UI and turn it into a lo-fi mockup. Useful for anyone doing web or interface design, but probably not really worth a click otherwise, if I'm honest with you (when am I ever not, though? Honest Matty Muir, they should call me).
  • Checklist Design: A semi-companion resources to the Humane Design site up there, this is a series of checklists to help designers ensure they've considered when putting together webpages - at the moment it covers bits like 404 pages, contact forms and the like, and they are planning to add others in due course. For the more experienced designers this is all probably a bit simplistic, but for people earlier on in their careers or students there may be some quite useful guidelines here.
  • Coinflict of Interest: I'm not sure why, but the past week or so has seen something of a resurgence of ICO-wankery - has something happened? Are we all meant to HODL again? Anyway, this is a fun/silly little toy which is designed to attempt some rudimentary checks on the objectivity or otherwise of whichever CoinBoi du jour you choose to plug into it; add it to Chrome, and when you hover over any user's Twitter bio it will tell you how often they tweet about each of the main crypto platforms and how that compares to the others, to give you a vague idea of their biases. I couldn't possibly give less of a fcuk about crypto, but this contains the kernel of a genuinely useful idea; something like this that was customisable and let you do instant searches on hover-over to let you know whether a Twitter user's the type to, say, use phrases like 'SJW' or 'Cultural Marxism' would be really quite useful. Can someone build it? WILL ONE OF YOU DO WHAT I ASK FOR ONCE???
  • Women in VC: A global directory of women working in venture capital - "Started in New York City in 2015, the women in VC directory was created to enable women investors to connect with each other, inspiring collaboration and a sense of community. The directory quickly expanded to other markets, and is now the world's largest self reported database of active women investors currently at institutional, corporate funds, or family offices - spanning more than 900+ women across 600+ funds and more than 25 countries." It's only accessible via password, and it's only for women, but I know a few VC people read this so, well, here!
  • Babycakes Romero: This person started following me on Twitter yesterday, and it was a genuine pleasure to discover that they are a really good street photographer who each morning at 11 posts a single new picture taken on the streets of London. These are honestly GREAT.
  • Mogney: I rather feel for these lads, but at the same time, well, come on. Mogney is, put simply, payments via QR codes - JUST LIKE IN WECHAT! Download the app, attach a bankcard to it, and then use it to pay by scanning QR codes on participating website or in the real world! Theoretically, fine, not a silly idea - after all, it's working for 1bn+ people on the other side of the world, and has been for quite a few years now, but, well, NO. Noone's going to download this app, or at least not enough people for it to scale, and Facebook basically announced that they were going to bake this stuff in in the not-too-distant future so, well, I'm not envisaging a happy future for Mogney (leaving aside the horrendously-adenoidal-sounding name). Should anyone from the company happen to read this, feel free to come back and taunt me with your billions when you exit plutocratically in a few years' time.
  • Broadly Gender Photos: This is by VICE - specifically, their more female-focused outlet Broadly - and it's testament to how far from cool VICE is these days that it feels genuinely odd to see the brand doing this rather than, I don't know, shilling vapes to children on behalf of Philip Morris. It's a good idea, though - they've compiled a selection of stock photography representing incredibly banal day-to-day life moments but featuring trans and non-binary people. Good stuff, although it's unfortunate that, for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, all the models look SO American; it would look weird were you to use these on a UK site imho. Good opportunity to replicate this with a more Euro feel, imho, for the right people.
  • Parkify: Apologies if this is something that is already really widely known or which isn't necessary, but as a non-driver I have literally no idea what those of you in command of massive metal deathboxes need or want. Parkify is an app which automatically tells when you've parked your car and makes a note of its location, helping your find it again when it's lost in a sea of identikit metal deathboxes - the use of the accelerometer here is quite clever, and if you're in a hirecar that you wouldn't necessarily recognise so easily I could see this being genuinely helpful.
  • Discover Quickly: This is a Spotify hack which basically makes the interface about 100 times less horrible to use; once you've connected your Spotify account, you can choose an artist, song, album, or playlist to find other music you might like, or simply hover over the album art thumbnails that pop up to listen to a clip instantly. If you like what you hear, you can save it to a list in the web app, save it to your Spotify library, or add it to a playlist; all stuff you can do already, fine, but this makes the whole experience significantly less painful. Highly recommended.
  • Listen to a Movie: I can't work out whether this is a brilliant idea or a deeply odd and slightly stupid one - either way, it exists and so it's here. Listen to a Movie is basically just a bunch of links pointing to downloadable film soundtracks in MP3 format so you can, if you wish, download the whole of the audio from Goodfellas and have that as the soundtrack to your morning commute (NO SAZ), a bit like an audiobook except with about a fifth of the words missing. The extent to which this 'works' will of course depend entirely on the film you choose, but as a means of surreptitiously removing yourself mentally from work this probably isn't too bad.
  • Perfect Circle: Can you draw a perfect circle, freehand? No, of course you can't, but why not try this website which will tell you exactly how far from perfection your efforts actually are? Whilst we all know, deep down, that we are flawed, it's nice to have something that quantifies exactly to what degree.
  • Eighty Days: This is a potentially useful little site for those of you contemplating travel (WHILE WE STILL CAN); you input your starting destination, where you want to go, how many stops you want to make, etc, and it spits out multi-part itineraries which you can tweak per your exacting specifications; the nice bit of this is that the site allows for you to find all the components (transport, accommodation, transfers, etc) from one central place, making it hugely convenient. It seemingly hacks together all sorts of different sites to offer the service, it checks Airbnb as well as hotels, and, generally, seems like a properly helpful service.
  • The Wind: The first an excellent selection of timewasting browser games this week, this is (I think) a promo for some film or another - oh, yes, it's called 'The Wind', unsurprisingly - and it's done in the style of a retro (c64-type) horror game, all pixel and clunk and scream. It's short, but very nicely-made.
  • Dinosaur Protection Programme: This is basically like Missile Command, except instead of protecting missile bases you are instead protecting lovely animated dinosaurs as they stomp across the surface of your cutely-geometric planet. This is reasonably tricky, but very addictive in a clicker game-type way; the graphics are rather cute, too.
  • Grave: Finally, this one's ACE - it's a left-to-right hack and slash game, designed to look not totally dissimilar to Canabalt, and whilst simple it's strangely addictive and gets VERY hard after about 5 minutes. Enjoy! It's better than work!

By Sarah Harvey

LAST UP IN THE MIXES, ENJOY A FULL HOUR OF 90s BHANGRA BANGERS!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:

  • Sheela Na Gig: Not actually a Tumblr! Here's the site's description of what a Sheela Na Gig is, should you be unaware: "Sheela Na Gigs are quasi-erotic stone carvings of a female figure usually found on Norman or to be more precise Romanesque churches. They consist of an old woman squatting and pulling apart her vulva, a fairly strange thing to find on a church." Oh the glorious restraint of that last sentence fragment!
  • Customer Service Wolf: Small comics about a wolf that works in a bookshop. Whimsical, and, I'm pretty sure, Canadian, which weirdly is pretty much all the description I think you need to sort of 'get' this.
  • Stationery Compositions: This is a project by stationery retailers Present & Correct, who run one of the best corporate Twitter accounts I know of and who I know occasionally read Curios (HELLO, STATIONERY SHOP SOCIAL MEDIA PEOPLE!); it's a bunch of images of stationery products arranged in pleasingly geometric formations. WHY NOT EH?
  • Stupid Pet Face: You really don't need me to explain this to you, I promise.

THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:

  • Mark Dean Veca: You'll recognise the work if not the name - Veca's stuff, in particular the slightly puffy-looking renditions of cartoon characters, have done the rounds a lot, but his Insta feed is worth checking out, containing a mixture of his own work and shows around NYC.
  • Marin Mushrooms: Photos of excellent mushrooms, for the mycolophiles (no, and I don't care) among you.
  • Droolwool: Wool/felt toy designs; the work here really is impressive, even if you're not totally into cuddly toys.
  • Davide Sasso: Sasso is an Italian photographer who takes rather wonderful neon-hued photos of Japan and other places around the world. Whilst the style, fine, isn't hugely novel, the execution here is exemplary.
  • Ben Frost: I featured Frost's work - which mixes pop culture and pharma culture to unsettling effect - on here years ago, but this is his Insta feed and, honestly, it's horrible.
  • Clayton Shonkwiler: WHAT a name. Mr Shonkwiler is a designer making things, as they put it, at the intersection of maths and art. Pleasing geometries here.
  • Emma Dabeny: Dabeny is a filmmaker in LA, I think - her Insta feed is just a bunch of slightly surreal meme-y stuff, but I promise you it's good surreal meme-y stuff.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • The Future of Work: This is a fascinating piece of research/futurology by the RSA, which has published this extensive document imagining four potential scenarios for the future of work - and by extension the broader economy - in the UK between now and 2035. The paper is keen to stress that these are scenarios rather than predictions per se - on that basis, this is very much worth reading should you be in the business of INSIGHTS and STRATEGY and stuff. Oh, and one of their scenarios is the following - enjoy!: "Get ready for the backlash. A crash on the scale of 2008 dries up funding for innovation and keeps the UK in a low-skilled, low-productivity and low-paid rut. Faced with another bout of austerity, a new generation of workers lose faith in the promise of capitalism" TAKING BACK CONTROL!!!!
  • Joe Rogan and the Gateway to the Right: It's testament to quite how popular Rogan is amongst certain demographics that I was at a party the other week and some kid (he was in his 20s ffs) asked me if I listened to Joe Rogan and what I thought of him in full expectation that I would know who he was talking about (reader, I was...not shy in my opinion, and on the offchance that that kid happens to read this then I would like to offer a small apology for the...er...forcefulness of the response; while I'm here, I probably ought to offer a similar apology to the woman who I got annoyed with for using the term 'feminazi' too; in fact, I don't think I'm going to go to parties anymore). Anyway, this is an interesting profile of the man and his show and how it acts as a gentle gateway to a particular type of pseudo-intellectual onboarding for some pretty fashy concepts. Obviously the piece is not 'objective' insofar as the author has some pretty clear ideas about Rogan and his ilk from the outset but, well, I agree.
  • The Heavily-Armed Millennials of Instagram: On the weird US subculture of performative gun-toting Republicanism that has taken off amongst certain (mainly Southern) teens over there, and the broader manner in which this reflects the Culture Wars. There's a lot to gawp at in here, and it also reminded me of the glory of 'Tactical Parenting Gear', which is basically a load of standard-issue kid accessories, like changing mats or baby bags, except in camo fabric and costing about 3x standard. Freedom! 'Murica! GUNS! Blimey.
  • Meet Gen Z: Lovely NYT interactive which presents photos of a whole load of kids from across the US who fit into the Gen-Z demographic (in the main, these are born between 1995-2000), along with quotes from them about how they feel they fit into to society and with their peers. By turns hope-inspiring and misery-inducing, what's sort-of lovely is quite how typically teenage so many of these are - kids don't change, at heart.
  • Grindr Turns 10: Excellent look back at one of the most influential apps ever made, a decade after its creation. You think that's hyperbolic? Honestly, read the piece and then come back to me - its influence on SO many aspects of culture is hard to overstate, and it fundamentally altered the way in which (male) gay sexuality and culture worked and is seen. Not only that, but no Grindr means no Tinder - it has, I think, had a hugely profound and fundamental impact on modern culture and mores, far more than almost any other app I can think of aside from the obvious big guns.
  • How To Become A 3d Avatar Meme: This is long and involved and a bit technical, but if you follow the instructions then you too will be the proud owner of your very own digital 3d model of your physical which you can then seed out into the digital multiverse for others to do with as they please. The idea of seeding a Virtual Matt which people can use to populate future digital worlds is quite mind-bending in certain senses; fcukit, I am doing this when I have some free time and will put a link to a digital me that you can use and abuse however you see fit in a future Curios sometime.
  • Making $50k from Garbage: This is simultaneously really clever and quite miserable - the story of how a couple of videogame makers realised that it was possible for them to automate the creation of an endless string of shovelware slot machine games, all minutely different but all created without their input, based on code they'd written, and subsequently realised that they could ALSO automate the process of putting these on the app store and as a result had managed to create a system that earned them actual cashmoney for no work whatsoever. This either proves that something is very broken or that something's working perfectly, and I really can't tell which it is.
  • Human Contact Is Now A Luxury Good: It's not, obviously, but it could be. This article is a weird mishmash of things - on the one hand, a look at the digital carer service economy, and the business working to provide digital / virtual companionship to the elderly or lonely; on the other, it's a broader treatise about how increased automation of services at scale means that human interaction is by contrast likely to increasingly become more costly to implement, and that as such having actual real people to deal with is over time likely to become the preserve of the wealthy and restricted to the luxe market. I am torn by this - on the one hand, I find the idea of robot/digital companions for the lonely old utterly heartbreaking; on the other, it's more heartbreaking to imagine a life without even that small degree of 'human' (not human) contact. As to the other, well, yes - Gibson nailed that back in The Sprawl all those years ago.
  • Drunk Shopping Survey: A whole bunch of data on America's drunk shopping habits - included here mainly as I would LOVE to see this done in the UK, and also because you can totally base an entire new business thing on the idea that people increasingly often buy things whilst entirely sh1tfaced between 11pm-1am.
  • Screen Share Disasters: When I worked at H+K, they used to have an annual tradition of giving an award to the member of staff who perpetrated the biggest workplace fcukup that year. The year I almost got sacked for asking Sir Martin Sorrell where my fcuking bonus was on Twitter, I was pipped to this award by a woman who'd been presenting to an entire delegation of international hotel managers - literally 200-odd people - and who had been using her laptop to present from. She left it idle whilst answering questions midway through the session she was running, meaning the laptop started running a screensaver - unfortunately her settings meant the 'screensaver' was just a series of photos in slideshow pulled at random from her 'photos' folder. Which, at the time, contained photos she'd been sending her long-term partner who was living abroad. Which were displayed on a VERY big conference screen behind her as she talked. Apparently a kindly person leaped across the room to disconnect the screen, but not before the 200-odd people were subjected to a not-insignificant eyeful. This piece collects similar tales of woe, and is GREAT.
  • The Best Value Restaurants in London: Jonathan Nunn is perhaps best known for consistently and effectively baiting Giles Coren on Twitter, and for calling out some of the rather more egregious cultural insensitivities of the UK food scene. He's also a massive eater, and this is a quite exhaustive guide to his pick of London's best value restaurants, with a heavy skew towards the less shiny bits of the city and authentic regional cuisines representing some of the city's many diaspora. I was only personally familiar with a couple of these but I now intend to attempt to eat at as many as possible before I die (possibly of heart failure).
  • The Chinese Burner: A Chinese scifi author's account of their trip to Burning Man, notable mainly for their observations of how the other Chinese visitors to the festival engaged with it (or otherwise) and how they believe this explains certain current trends and themes in Chinese culture. Fascinating throughout, but it did make me repeatedly think that all our handwringing in the West about the moral obligation of tech companies to maybe think about things other than profit is perhaps not quite being replicated in the East.
  • An Oral History of Morrowind: This is all about an old videogame, so if that doesn't appeal then skip right along. The rest of you, glory in this WONDERFULLY in-depth look back at the development of the Elder Scrolls IV: Morrowind, a truly ground-breaking and genuinely strange game which even now is in many respects unmatched for player freedom and agency. If you're a former player or just generally interested in games and their design, this will make you very happy indeed.
  • Kayaking In Alaska: This wasn't quite my thing, but I am including it as I reckon if you're into action or adventure movies then you will adore it. The story of a campign trip in Alaska that goes very, very wrong, this features RAPIDS and ROCKS and JEOPARDY and BEARS, and frankly feels like the sort of film whos poster would feature a waterfall and some sort of massive ursine presence and a man in plaid in first-person closeup with some sort of minor facial abrasion staring concernedly into the middle-distance. You know what I mean, right?
  • Brutalism and Music: An interesting and erudite essay exploring the various close links between brutalism as an architectural movement and various musicians and styles of the past 50 years. Written by Tom 'He used to live opposite me when we were small and we've not seen each other for 15 years but I wish him well and enjoy his work' Spooner.
  • How YouTube Has Changed the Toy Industry: Another one of these odd cases where technology drives a very pronounced by unexpected change in an adjacent area - much as Instagram's had a totally unexpected impact on retail spaces, so YouTube (and in particular the kid craze that is the unboxing/opening video) has completely transformed the toy market. We've seemingly moved away from the toy being the reward towards a position where you're effectively paying for the dopamine hit the kid gets as it anticipates the reward that might be in the box which, well, doesn't actually sound that healthy when you stop to think about it momentarily.
  • How The Blair Witch Project Changed Film Marketing: Jesus, that was TWO DECADES AGO. I was never that fussed about Blair Witch, I have to say - I was one of those hugely annoying twats who wondered round saying things like "yeah, but Deodato did the whole 'found footage' fake-out in Cannibal Holocaust YEARS ago" and frankly it's remarkable I had any friends at all - but reading back on this I'm reminded of what a very real phenomenon it was. The kids behind it basically invented 'omnichannel storytelling' (sorry) and the concept of the ARG, and all modern film marketing sort of borrows from this in some way.
  • Why Everyone Gives Out Their Insta Handle: On the Insta username as the new phone number - or at least the unit of personal information we are now most comfortable sharing with strangers. There's DEFINITELY a bullsh1t 'insight' you can pull from this to support some sort of brand activation; oh, God, INSTACARDS! Business cards with your insta handle and a 3x3 of your best 'grams and an in-app-scannable code to autofollow. As an aside, does that mean that you'll all start to think that anyone who's not on Insta is weird? Asking for a friend, honest.
  • Give the Nobel Prize to Dril: There will be two Nobel Prizes for Literature presented this year, to make up for the Academy's self-imposed hiatus last year - this piece argues that as such one of them ought to be awarded to the internet's sentient id, dril, for his Twitter oeuvre. "Dril is the infantile subjectivity of the internet: the internet as it eats, sh1ts, jerks off to pr0n, gets into fights, and posts a link to its Soundcloud in respose to a viral tweet. Perhaps the sole argument against the idea that Dril's work moves in any "ideal direction" would be that, in a way, he can be considered the internet's ultimate realist: he holds up a mirror, albeit grotesque one, to how we — the internet's first (and, one can only hope, worst) children — really are." Hard to argue with that, really.
  • The Disappearance of Fan Bingbing: One of the many weird little stories from last year was the temporary disappearance of the first lady of Chinese cinema, Fan Bingbing, who after it was alleged she'd fiddled her taxes was magically disappeared by the Chinese state, only to reemerge, politely penitent, a few months later. This is a really good Vanity Fair writeup of the events, with some excellent background on the real reasons why it might have happened - honestly, you have to sort of admire (read: be terrified by) a state which indulges in kidnap of its own famous citizens as a means of large-scale misdirection.
  • White People Being White: Men, specifically. This is a Twitter thread featuring people of colour, mainly women, sharing some of the more jaw-dropping interactions they've had with white people, mainly men, mainly on dating apps. Honestly, though, some of these are quite astonishing. IT'S 2019 FFS.
  • City of Coffins: The people who make a living from El Salvador's status as the most violent country per capita in the world. This is a brilliantly-written piece, and again touches on those really interesting areas where human experience and the economics of survival rub up against each other in interesting and unexpected ways.
  • On The Bongo Ban: An excellent explanation of why the UK's forthcoming attempts to protect children from the horrors of bongo might not in fact be a very well thought-out policy after all. The closing paragraph sums it up rather well: "This month six hundred children were taken out of Parkfield Primary School in Birmingham by their parents after they were taught about the existence of gay people. There have been angry demonstrations outside the building, with placards attacking 'indoctrination'. Andrea Leadsom said charmingly by way of response that parents should decide when their children are 'exposed to that information', delusions of control being central to her political philosophy. It makes me think that porn might well provide some welcome and enjoyable instruction for all those kids kept out of sex education, especially the gay ones. But if they are fcuked up by it, it won't just be the porn that's to blame."
  • Married After Two Weeks: Wonderful and SUPREMELY New York interview with a couple who met in a restaurant (she was his waiter) and married within a fortnight. SO much to love in here, from the stuff about auras to the very many unanswered questions thrown up by their responses, this is just heartwarming and utterly bonkers from start to finish.
  • Dawkins and Hitchens: A great essay looking back at Christopher Hitchens, and how much he has influenced Richard Dawkins in ways Dawkins probably doesn't realise and which haven't really done Dawkins any good at all. Interesting cogent on the weird zealotry that affects so many thinkers, to the point of rendering them bizarrely monomaniacal - as Daniel Soar writes, it was "the great realignment that took place early this century – its origin moment the planes and the towers – and the insistence that now more than ever you have to pick a side."
  • Psycho Analysis: I've long been a devotee of Bret Easton Ellis' novels - I've read all his non-fiction, multiple times, which I know probably marks me down as an awful person - but have for almost as long been of the opinion that the man himself is, well, a bit of a prick. His recent obsessions with MILLENNIALS and SNOWFLAKES and THE RIGHT TO SAY WHAT I LIKE ON THE INTERNET sort of bears that out for me, and this blisteringly vicious review of his latest collection of essays, largely on these topics, skewers exactly why. I mean, OOF: "Like his hero Joan Didion, Ellis believes that style is everything; what a shame he has written a book with so little of it."
  • Mona's Story: Finally in this week's longreads, this is Mona's Story - a long, sweeping portrait of Mona, a hijra (the term used to denote an intersex or trans person on the Indian subcontinent) who's life reflects and mirrors many of the massive changes which have affected India over the past 70 years. Fascinating, sympathetic, and a decent reminder that there are plenty of other cultures who are already far more accepting of nonbinary gender identities than we seem to be able to be.

By Kris Kuksi

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:

  1. What would you do if you were a middle-aged man living in modest social housing just outside Helsinki with your wife and you found that a death metal sex cult had moved in next door? This is the premise of this EXCELLENT short Finnish movie called 'Fcuking Bunnies' - it is very, very funny:

2) The Pewdiepipeline is 30 minutes of reasonably clear-headed analysis of exactly how lovable internet personalities Pewdiepie and others are, wittingly or otherwise, acting as a gateway to some reasonably dark stuff via what's known as 'stochastic terrorism'. You may find this hyperbolic and alarmist, but I find it hard to look at any of the examples it points out without agreeing with the central thesis here pretty hard:

3) This is called 'Turn to Hate', it's by Orville Peck, and it's described in the comments as 'the gateway drug to country music' and, well, I'm worried they may be right:

4) I've not really managed to get on with Sleaford Mods to date, despite repeated attempts to 'get' it, but this, their latest single off the new album, is a legitimate banger. It's called 'Discourse':

5) This is called 'Faith' and it's by a band called Cold Showers and it's described as being 'synth-driven post-punk' and I like it VERY MUCH:

6) Finally in this week's selection of videos, enjoy this - it's called Yam Yam, and it's by No Direction, and it made me quite uncommonly chirpy when I heard it earlier this week and it's doing the same now as it plays in the background while I type, and OH LOOK IT'S TIME FOR ME TO GO AND GET IN THE SHOWER AND GET ON WITH THE DAY AFTER A WHOLE FIVE HOURS AND FIFTY-FIVE MINUTES OF PRETTY MUCH SOLID WRITING (OK MAYBE FIVE HOURS AS THE FIRST HOUR IS ALWAYS SPEND READING THE OVERNIGHT STUFF) AND I NEED TO GET READY FOR A NICE LUNCH I AM HAVING WITH MY GIRLFRIEND AND TO ENJOY THE SUNSHINE WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT I HOPE YOU WILL BE DOING THIS WEEKEND INSTEAD OF WORRYING ABOUT STUFF THAT YOU PROBABLY CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT SO WHY NOT JUST FINISH READING THIS SECTION AND THEN TURN OFF WHATEVER DEVICE YOU ARE CONSUMING THIS ON AND GO OUTSIDE AND TRY AND HAVE SOME NICE UNCOMPLICATED FUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND IGNORE THE 'B' WORD AND LET IT RUIN THEIR WEEKENDS NOT YOURS BYE I LOVE YOU BYE BYE BYE TAKE CARE BYE!




 
Dissenter and Gab: the controversial platforms wit...
Altered state: new book on the changing interrelat...