Is it coming home? Is it staying away? Are you all being ironic? CAN ANY OF YOU EVEN TELL ANY MORE?
That's right, the nation is once more labouring under a heavy dose of WORLD CUP FEVER and all of that pleasant, self-effacing, self-awareness has vanished and in its place is the purple, throbbing, swelling spectre of lovely, lovely nationalism and jingoism. All of you people who want England to win the World Cup - take a moment and imagine for a second exactly how HARD BREXIT the country would get? Go on, think about it for a second - think about Piers Morgan's ecstatic face, a hundred thousand sunburnt fat idiots dousing themselves and you in lukewarm Carling, the inability of EVER hearing a song other than Three Fcuking Lions, the cold hard reality of having to listen to Harry Kane speak about his joy.
No. Noone wants that. Don't let it happen. Please, God, don't let it happen.
Still, there's been other stuff happening besides the football - most of it terrible, granted, but also quite a lot of it GOOD and ONLINE, which I have carefully arranged for you in what I hope you will find pleasing fashion below. Do you like it? DO YOU? Ha! Like I care what you think - I do this all for me, and the voices in my head. THIS, AS EVER, IS WEB CURIOS!
By Carlos Saez
THE SECTION WHICH IS SORT OF IMPRESSED AT HOW FACEBOOK’S AD TRANSPARENCY STUFF ACTUALLY TELLS YOU NEXT TO NOTHING - ANYONE WOULD THINK THAT THIS WAS A KNEEJERK REACTION TO PUBLIC PRESSURE WITH NO REAL THOUGHT BEHIND ITS IMPLEMENTATION WHATSOEVER!:
- AND NOW WE HAVE AD TRANSPARENCY!!: Or, er, at least we sort-of do! Facebook has JUST rolled out its much-vaunted, post-privacy-farrago advertising transparency measures and, well, WOW! Anyone can now go to any Page and select ‘Info & Ads’ from the left-hand sidebar (God, I’m one of those weird antedeluvians who still uses FB primarily on desktop - SORRY!) and see...well, you can see all the ads that the page currently has running! Nothing historic, no context, and, let’s be clear, nothing, really, of any use to anyone at all! The political stuff is going to be extended to Brazil soon, is the other news, but, really, this is a fcuking joke really, isn’t it?
- FB Extends Crossposting To Insta: Or, rather, it says it’s going to. Still, it’ll be good when it happens, eh? There’s going to almost certainly be some sort of pan-Facebook control centre being rolled out soon enough, isn’t there, for multiple crossposting and management of content across Insta, FB, Whatsapp, Messenger and the rest; it makes a sort of dark, monolithic sense.
- Facebook Also Working on ‘Time Spent’ Feature: As all of the tech giants scramble to be the best at pretending to care about the havoc they’ve wrought on our moods and synapses, Facebook is doubling-down on its efforts to feign concern at its effect on our mental wellbeing; hot on the heels of the news that Insta is trialing a bunch of features which will tell you exactly how addicted you are to the service, so Facebook is also purportedly prepping the same features - welcome to the future in which your mum is made to feel guilty about the amount of time she spends snooping on your life via the curated window of online presentation!
- Facebook ‘Keyword Snooze’: In a rare moment of Facebook catching up with Twitter, FB is now rolling out the ability to mute things from your feed based on keywords - you won’t, to be clear, be able to escape the gurning procession of under-5s, or to hide the stupid people you went to school with and their provincial golf obsessions, but you will be able to mute certain words for up to a month. There is, I think, probably something almost-halfway-clever you can do with this from a brand promo point of view (maybe ask people to filter their feed to the point where they find certain posts to answer clues or something), although I honestly am far, far too tired to think of it too hard right now. Maybe you could think about it, there’s an idea. FFS.
- FB Launching Voice Posts: And other stuff, to be clear - there’s some stuff in here about image archiving and the like - but the interesting thing here is the voice stuff. Launching in India first before being rolled out internationally, there will be a short window of novelty in which using this feature will make you seem really creative - get in there in the first 24h and bag that Lion nomination now!
- Messenger Kids Adds New Features: And expands to new territories, namely Canada and Peru. To be clear, there is literally nothing about this with any application for brands whatsoever, but a) I am a completist; and b), the line in this announcement about Facebook launching a range of new stickers for its Kids platform, stickers designed to ‘inspire kindness towards others’, made me do SUCH a deep sad just now that I feel compelled to share that sad with you in some small way. O HAI FUTURE IN WHICH WE DEVOLVE THE MORAL INSTRUCTION OF OUR KIDS TO A BIG BLUE MISERY FACTORY!
- FB Anti Fake News Initiatives: Again, no huge brand implications here - unless, of course, you happen to work for a brand which consistently posts LIES and DOCTORED VIDEO and things of that ilk. You don’t, though, do you? No, of course not. Well done Facebook for making the effort here, but anyone who’s been reading Curios for a while will read this and do a small scoff at the idea that ANYONE is going to be able to implement successful automated checks for manipulated video and images in the medium term.
- Insta ‘Explore’ Tab Gets Revamped: Instagram’s slow progression towards usurping Facebook in the minds of the normies continues apace; this, a tweak to the ‘Explore’ tab which allows users to browse through new content on a themed basis, is the latest step in the platform’s evolution towards being the 21C’s answer to telly (but with even less stuff that you actually want to watch). You’ll now be able to browse content by category when you tap ‘Explore’ - which, as per, makes one wonder rather what sort of discovery-based promo options they’ll roll out to accompany this.
- Instagram Lite Launches: Insta Lite, the stripped-down version of the app designed to ensure that literally no human being on the planet, regardless of their access to Gs, 3, 4 or otherwise, is without Insta, launched this week - this is the Instagram version of the similarly no-frills version of Facebook which has been peddled to the developing world for the past few years. No question - Instagram is going to be bigger than Facebook within 3 years (STOP MAKING PREDICTIONS, MATT, YOU ARE SO BAD AT IT).
- Insta Launches 4-Way Video Chat: Honestly, though, who ACTUALLY wants to talk to people, really? Particularly whilst on camera? I was of the impression that the best thing about modernity was that it had cured us of that tedious predilection for face-to-face JABBERING, but it appears that THE PLATFORMS want to preserve this weirdly antiquated mode of communication (what’s wrong with faceless typing ffs??). So, you’ll now be able to have an up-to-4-way video chat with your friends on Instagram - which is another mainly user-focused update, although there are definitely one or two options for INFLUENCER CONTENT FUN if you think laterally; if nothing else, the fact that you can keep the chat on while minimising the view on your phone and browsing other content means that you could probably do quite a fun line in mobile phone, multilocation reaction vids if you were so minded. ARE YOU MINDED????
- You Can Now Add Music To Insta Stories: Soundtrack everything, and I mean everything, with Yakkity Sax please.
- Twitter Anti-Spam Measures: You don’t really need to care about this too much - really, you don’t, unless you’re a BAD ACTOR - but it’s worth being aware of the fact that Twitter’s doing another clampdown on fake accounts, malicious bots and the like, mainly because this latest round of tweaks to the platform makes it slightly more likely that your account’s follower numbers and engagement rates might be impacted by their weeding out of the fakes. Not, frankly, that those numbers really mean anything, but you have to justify yourselves somehow, don’t you.
- Google Consolidates Its Ad Stuff: It’s 7:38am and I am writing about a change in branding of an advertising platform. I LIVE THE DREAM.
- YouTube Launching ‘Creative Suite’: This is potentially useful, though - YouTube’s offering a bunch of new tools to help people make ads, run A/B testing more smoothly, tweak creative and the like - the potential analytics on offer to users seem, ostensibly, like they’d been hugely helpful, so if you do video this is worth taking a look at.
- All Of The Lions: So, as the dust settles on a Cannes characterised, at least from this outsiders’ point of view, by a real sense of, well, boredom, frankly - literally no excitement at all about ANY of the work, at least that I could see - here’s the annual rundown of all the winners in each category. I know that this is a futile hope, an impossible dream, but could we please perhaps make this the last year in which brands feel the need to lie and pretend about how much they care about society? Can we go back to an age of naked consumerism in which the brands trying to sell us stuff don’t feel the need to pretend that they care about our wellbeing? I DON’T WANT YOU TO BE MY FRIENDS, YOGHURT-PEDDLERS!
THE SECTION WHICH STRONGLY BELIEVES THAT IF ENGLAND WIN THE WORLD CUP AND THE QUEEN DIES THIS SUMMER WE WILL DESCEND INTO FULL-BLOWN ANARCHY FROM WHICH THE NATION WILL NEVER RECOVER, PT.1:
- Get Ready: HQ hasn’t quite received the sort of mainstream attention which means that the Mail calls it ‘THE QUIZ GAMBLING PHENOMENON STEALING OUR KIDS SOULS!” or something similar; Get Ready, though, may be just the trigger the idiot rump of the tabloid press needs to get all frothy about another threat to the moral fibre of the nation. This is a SUPER-smart idea - an app which each day presents its users with a new, simple mobile game - you can play as much as you want, but each game offers users one chance to post a high score, in competition with everyone else one the app; the highest scores win a cut of a cash prize each day. This has the potential to be absolutely massive, and I personally think that this sort of format - massively multiplayer in a discrete fashion, monetary rewards, time-limited - is very much A Thing in waiting.
- Pick Me Up And Hold Me Tight: This is such a beautiful idea and if you have a spare fiver I would urge you to back it. An art project in waiting, if this receives funding it will make every single public telephone in the UK ring at 11am on New Year’s Day 2019, the time and day on which people are most likely to commit suicide in the UK. The idea is to ‘promote listening and contemplation’, but on a personal level the idea that someone, somewhere, might be feeling alone and desperate and pick up the phone and hear someone telling them it’s all ok is so, so lovely; this is worth backing, so please do so if you can.
- Below The Surface: See, this is how you do a public works project - Amsterdam’s undergoing some underground civic renewal...thing (look, I am interested ina lot of stuff but I simply can’t bring myself to dig into the minutiae of below-ground canal renovation in a foreign city, even for you) and as a result is dredging some of its underground waterways - this site is chonicling all the stuff they find down there. Not only a really fascinating piece of urban history in the making, but a fabulous example of making city renovations interesting and accessible. I do wonder whether they’ll bowdlerise all the dredged dildos, mind.
- The Dick Tracy Watch: Younglings will obviously have no recollection of this whatsoever, but Dick Tracy, along with being a comic strip from the US in the 1950s, was also a truly baffling film starring Warren Beatty and Madonna in the early 90s - hyper-stylised and very camp and the reason that the charts were bothered by a hit song that was literally all about softcore painplay (seriously, you have no idea how transgressive a song called ‘Hanky Panky’, all about how fun spanking is, was in 1990). This is a crowdfunding campaign for a pseudo-hi-tech watch which doubles as a WRIST COMMUNICATOR! You too can whisper into your cuffs and pretend you’re a 1950s detective in a comicbook-style romp! There is literally nothing else in here this week which will make you look more like a virgin, GUARANTEED!
- Faces of Frida: A Google Art project collecting images and essays and digitised works of Frida Kahlo, of whom more later,. This, per Google’s usual high-quality art stuff, is honestly wonderful and a proper timesink.
- Star Asciimation Wars: So in a week in which a bunch of pathetic manchildren have started begging for literally MILLIONS OF POUNDS so they can make new Star Wars films without all the pesky women and non-whites, it feels appropriate to hark back to a gentler, simpler time online when people did fun stuff like this - to whit, a fan project which remakes the first, original Star Wars move in ASCII characters, Totally pointless, but if you’ve been reading Curios for any length of time you’ll know that that’s pretty much exactly the point of this whole thing so ENJOY!
- Trump Hotels: I read something this week which suggested that satire was no use whatsoever as a tool of change as it simple serves as fan content for the already-converted. Which, fine, might be true, but I like to think that this site is going to slightly fcuk Donny’s SEO and so as such is a totally worthwhile act of progress.
- Knobs: It says nothing good about me that I can’t help but snigger each time I look at / think of this, but hey ho. Knobs is a YouTube channel which presents what seem like dozens of short videos looking at and analysing audio FX tech - so loop pedals, sequencers and the like, all presented in friendly, cookery show-like top-down-o-vision. This is honestly more interesting than you might think, though I concede you probably need to give at least half a fraction of a sht about audio tech to really get it. Sorry.
- 100 Useful Things: OH SO JOYFUL! An ongoing project which collects photographs and short essays about objects that last - typewriters, shoes, knives, whatever - the only unifying factor is that they are durable and that they are in some way loved. Basically exactly the sort of heartfelt writing and affection for the largely meaningless that Curios aspires to be but never is, God, that was poignant.
- Generative: Online image manipulation tools are ten a penny, fine, but this is a rather nice example of the genre- give it a photo and select an effect and watch as it turns your standard old boring selfie into, well, a weird abstract semi-mess of pixels. You can make some really rather wonderful things, have a play.
- Samurai Avatar: I’ve featured the overall project this is a part of before, I think - it’s something called Cool Japan, which as far as I can tell is a big push to make people think Japan is, well, cool, which to my mind seems to be something of a given, no? - but this is a new feature which lets you design your own samurai outfit, upload your face onto it and glory in the amazing joy of being a small, 3d Japanese ancient warrior. There’s a chance you’ll play with this and then spend the next 15 minutes pretending to slice imaginary foes with a cardboard katana, but there’s no shame in that and you should probably just go with it tbqhwy.
- The BBC Computer Literacy Project: 10 PRINT “WEB CURIOS IS ACE”; 20 GOTO 10; RUN. There are some of you to whom that will be an honest-to-goodness soothing balm of nostalgia, and others to whom it will mean literally nothing - either way, this is a proper trove of KNOWLEDGE and you should respect it as such. “In the 1980s, the BBC explored the world of computing in The Computer Literacy Project. They commissioned a home computer (the BBC Micro) and taught viewers how to program. The Computer Literacy Project chronicled a decade of information technology and was a milestone in the history of computing in Britain, helping to inspire a generation of coders. This site contains all 146 of the original Computer Literacy Project programmes plus 121 related programmes, broken down into 2,509 categorised, searchable clips.” Why not make it your mission to ruin your kids’ summer holidays by forcing them to spend 6 weeks learning an programming language that bears no relation to modernity? Go on, they need at least one reason to hate you.
- TeacherTube: I had no idea this existed, but apparently it’s nearly 10 years old; TeacherTube is an online resource for, er, teachers, collecting a whole load of videos suitable for classroom instruction. It’s all American, fine, and I imagine that the number of teachers who subscribe to Web Curios hovers somewhere between 0 and 1, but there’s probably quite a lot of stuff in here which might be of use as a general curiosity-salver, or indeed for any parents who want to outsource the tedious business of helping their kids with their homework to a faceless online video platform.
- Neptune Frost: This is Saul Williams’ - poet, rapper, artist, polymath - Kickstarter, raising funds to make a space-hop musical opera...thing, based on his concept album ‘MartyrLoserKing’. It looks...well, it looks mental, frankly, but in a really interesting afropunkscifigrindhouse sort of way. Williams is a truly incredible artist - seriously, if you don’t know his work I recommend checking out his eponymous 2004 album - try this and see how you get on.
- Lightform: In amidst all the terror and the fear and the tears and the uncertainty and horror, there are a few good things about the now - not least, the incredible pace at which the means of artistic endeavour are moving from ‘high cost preserve of the few’ to ‘the sort of thing you can pick up for a few quid in Homebase’. This is a case in point - a few years back, projection mapping was the sort of thing that advermarketingpr drones like me put in proposals as a fancy ‘hey, look, we’ve read Contagious too!’ showoff line item, safe in the knowledge that the client would never pony up the tens of k required to make it happen; now, you can buy your very own home kit for under 700 quid. Which, frankly, is remarkable - this tech looks hugely impressive, not least the ease with which the software included seems to be able to let you select effects, transitions and the like. If you do any sort of event-y type stuff this is definitely worth a look.
- Thematic: As we march happily into the future in which we are ALL creators and in which we ALL do nothing but consume video 24/7, forever - after all, how else is all the fcuking content going to get consumed? WE CANNOT WASTE THE CONTENT! - the more services like this are going to become useful. Thematic is a service started by a YouTuber (a designation which is going to become meaningless pretty soon as literally everyone who has ever lived signs up to be a fcuking CREATOR - THANKYOU GOD FOR ALL OF THE CREATORS AND THEIR BOUNDLESS APPETITE FOR MAKING VIDEOS OF THEMSELVES!!) after being sued for breaching copyright for music use in one of her videos, and which seeks to pair CREATORS with music artists for the easy licensing of original soundtrack content. Smart and potentially really useful - if you’ve ever spent any time trawling through stock audio libraries looking for a backing track that doesn’t sound like the bed for a sanitary product promo you’ll know exactly the sort of pain this is designed to mitigate.
- Arguman: I’ve seen a few things this year whose aim is to attempt to clean up the horrible, bemerded sewer that is online discourse via the medium of REASON - I mean, good luck with that, but I am fully behind your endeavours. Arguman is such a platform - the idea is that anyone can post a statement or opinion on the platform, which others can then argue through; statements can be replied to with ‘but’ arguments or ‘because’ arguments, supporting or rebutting the initial premise, or with ‘or’ statements, branching it in different directions; it’s a really interesting idea, not least as it introduces a sort of light veneer of formal logic to the process of online debate. Obviously it’s not going to stop people being unconscionable arseholes online, but you might learn a thing or two about constructing an argument.
- Reclaimed: Reclaimed is a radio show which explores indigenous musics from around the world - this is an archive of all the episodes, and is a truly superb way of introducing yourself to some very, very obscure sounds indeed (I say obscure; obviously I’m making huge assumptions here about the percentage of my readership which is likely to be, I don’t know, Inuit or Ainu, but you’ll forgive me I hope).
- Jeffre Scott: In a week in which London Pride was celebrated in the Standard by a bunch of straight people saying how much they loved the gays, thereby killing the notion of ‘queer’ pretty much forever, it’s nice to be reminded of outlier culture and aesthetics. I have literally no idea who Jeffre Scott is, but this Instagram feed portrays a hell of a look.
- The Body Issue: It’s that time of year again, when ESPN fill their pages (and their website) with photographs of naked athletes, so toned and oiled and anatomically extraordinary that you can only look and gawp and just sort of gently pat yourself down as you watch, muttering “...but...but....how?!?!” Seriously, LOOK AT THESE SPECIMENS! Look at the abs and the glutes and the pecs and the traps and the sheer pulchritudinous perfection of it all. The photography is honestly staggering, and ESPN deserve real credit for their continued commitment to showing incredible bodies of all types here - click the link, marvel, and realise that, fundamentally, you are nowhere near even the same species as these incredible specimens. Seriously, you could literally crack Brazil nuts with some of the buttocks on display here.
- Smelvetica: Helvetica, but fcuked with so that all the kerning and the like is subtly but discernibly ‘off’. Exactly the sort of thing that would drive someone a touch OCD to absolute distraction, so if you work with anyone like that I suggest you download this onto their computer and fix the print settings to only spew out this particular font; they will go slowly mad while you watch. Which is quite horrible, really, now I come to think of it; what sort of monster are you?
THE SECTION WHICH STRONGLY BELIEVES THAT IF ENGLAND WIN THE WORLD CUP AND THE QUEEN DIES THIS SUMMER WE WILL DESCEND INTO FULL-BLOWN ANARCHY FROM WHICH THE NATION WILL NEVER RECOVER, PT.2:
- In Your Inbox: It feels a tiny bit hubristic featuring this seeing as at the time of writing its homepage features a thumbnail photo of MY OWN ACTUAL FACE, but, frankly, fcukt it. In Your Inbox is a really good idea - it seeks to cut through the proliferation of newsletters - seriously, EVERYONE IS COPYING ME! Go and do a fcuking podcast and leave the newsletters to the...er...weirdo obsessives, eh? - and bring you the best in a series of categories; arts, tech, ents, etc. They have, kindly, featured Curios - I would obviously have featured the service anyway, of course, because it’s a good idea, but obviously their curatorial nous attests to their superb taste, As someone who subscribes to about 40-odd newsletters (one must, after all, be au courant with the competition (ha! Like ANYTHING competes with this motherfcuker!)), I can confirm that there is some high-quality ish in here.
- Pitcher & Paint: Not really a web thing, but it’s a nice idea so what the hell. Pitcher and Paint is a London-based initiative offering occasional art-and-booze meetups for people who fancy doing some painting / drawing and having an drink and meeting new people whilst they do so; this seems like a really nice series of events, and were I less fundamentally awkward and shy, and if I didn’t have the artistic elan of a toddler-age Helen Keller, I would be all over it.
- Pencil Tests: A Twitter feed collecting examples of animation tests from classic cartoons - so you can see early animations from, say, Aladdin, or the old school Disney classics stable. There’s something honestly beautiful about these simple sketches; it sounds like a slightly ‘old man shouts at clouds’ traditionalist thing to say, but there’s a particular feel and weight to these that you simply don’t feel when you look at CG concepts and the like. If you’re interested in drawing or animation in any way, this is an absolute must-follow.
- The Corgi Button: Seeing as the dog rating bloke is now cancelled (MUST EVERYONE BE PROBLEMATIC IN 2018???), you may need another source of canine cute in your life; may I humbly offer up the corgi button which, as the name suggests, is a button which will provide you with a seemingly infinite selection of very good regal boys. O RUFF! O RUFF! O RUFF RUFF RUFF RUFF RUFF!
- Hype Cycle: A rather nice selection of short videos combining CGI and live-action movement, imagining how machines might in future be taught to dance by people. The manner in which the mechanoid shapes map onto the movements of the human actor is genuinely beautiful; there’s going to be a huge and wonderful branch of performance which does this sort of thing in realtime soon enough, and it’s going to look spectacular; imagine, say, Carlos Acosta or the international superstar dancer of your choice doing their thing live onstage, with a bank of giant screens with live mocapped interpretations of the work all arrayed around the audience as a CG counterpoint - good, isn’t it?
- Problem of the Day: I quite like this as an idea. To quote its creator, from the site’s About page: “The point of this project is to list a problems a day. These problems will be sourced directly from Twitter, replying to a tweet by another user who posted about a problem they are facing. No matter how big or small these problems may seem, they can inevitably lead to larger ideas in their respective solutions. My hope is that by posting a problem a day,I will be able to build a community of problem solvers and ideators and indirectly help launch businesses that solve these problems!” The site collects ‘problems’ - questions of requests from Twitter - and posts them, with the opportunity for people to comment and discuss the issue in threaded, forum-style fashion; aside from anything else, I very much enjoy the idea of aggregating all of the idiot questioning from the web in once place, like a Yahoo! Answers of the id (HOW IS BABBY FORMED??).
- Chef Ben Churchill: There is, I confess, a small part of me that didn’t want to feature this due to the fact that the chef in question refers to themselves as ‘Chef Ben Churchill’, in the manner popularised by the poor proles being roasted by Gordon Ramsey on Kitchen Nightmares who aren’t allowed to so much look at the quake-faced profanity spouter without acknowledging his professional status. Still, the quality of the stuff on show here overrode my quibblings - this guy makes trompe l’oeil desserts the like of which I promise you have never seen. Edible kitchen scourers, ashtrays...I mean, I don’t necessarily want to put any of this stuff in my face, but Christ alive the technique’s impressive.
- Knitify: Is knitting still a thing? I remember about 10 years ago there were a host of TRENDY URBAN KNITTING CLUBS which peddled the whole tedious ‘oh we like gin we are so rebellious and naughty and yet quaintly retro, like gingham-patterned acid tabs’ schtick; I would have imagined that the boom in ‘mindfulness’ and associated rubbish would have sustained that, but it doesn’t seem to have quite the currency it once did. Still, regardless, Knitify is a very smart little toy which takes any image you care to feed it and turns it into a knitted fabric pattern; that Goatse jumper you always wanted could now be YOURS!
- The Coquetteish Ghost of Margaret O’Brien: A Twitter account which, for reasons known only to its creator, does nothing other than imagine a world in which the ghost of 1930s (?) Hollywood child star Margaret O’Brien is desperately hopelessly, unrequitedly in love with the very real beefcake that is England rugby union player Chris Robshaw. See, whatever we may say about the web, and all the things that it’s ruined, without it we would never have access to the sort of wonderful, beautiful minds that imagine things like this. It makes everything worthwhile, really.
- The Google Maps Measuring Tool: You can now use Google Maps to measure distances and areas. Want to see EXACTLY how far it is to that meetup you don’t really want to go to so as to better persuade yourself that it’s probably too far to bother with? GREAT!
- Play With Your Food: WHAT a great idea this is (it may in fact not be a great idea, but I am a sucker for elaborate food-based projects so bear with me here). Play With Your Food is a project seeking funding (it’s about halfway there at the time of writing, with three or so weeks left) which will, if backed, produce a book of EDIBLE GAMES! Board games you can bake! Party games made from blancmange! Monopoly made from crudites! “You might be required to crack a secret code that’s baked into cream puffs; keep a straight face while eating something gross; conjure up a delectable morsel from a mishmash of ingredients; perform "sacred", food-related rituals; test your memory and taste buds; or even eat your vegetables!” Seriously, how fun does that sound?! Absolutely the sort of thing that one can imagine doing on a rainy Summer holiday day - obviously in reality your kids would much rather play Fortnite or masturbate themselves gritty than spend time with you, but it’s nice illusion to hold in your head regardless.
- AR Newspapers: Only a proof-of-concept, this, and actually a terrible idea that noone would actually ever use - I mean, who the fcuk wants to read a print newspaper through their phone’s camera? NO FCUKER, that’s who - but another superb example of quite how exciting the new, baked-in AR tech you get with the latest iOS/Android phones is. This is an ARKit demo which basically turns a newspaper into the Daily...er...Daily….Muggle? Owl? Prophet! Yes, that’s it, the Daily Prophet, the newspaper from Potter. Watch and marvel as the demo shows off what it would be like if all of the photos and charts and stuff on the printed page were in fact animated - really distracting, turns out, but it looks very cool indeed. The annoying thing with this stuff is that we’re 3-4 years away from it being standard on mass-market handsets, so we’re due for another big AR-related trough of disappointment soon enough, but the potential really is huge.
- Cats on Catnip: A series of photographs of cats going absolutely spastic for catnip. LOOK AT THEIR LITTLE FCUKED-UP, DRUG-ADDED FACES! Look, laugh, but then take a moment to reflect that this is exactly what you look like when you’re all spangled, except you’re less cute and literally NOONE wants to stroke you when you’re in this sort of state.
- Guerilla Grafters: There are few things more early-00s than the concept of ‘Guerilla Gardening’ - it speaks so much of that slightly utopian, early days of the web ideal in which everyone would use the massively connective tools of the new economy to make the world a better place and generally be nice and helpful. Now, though, when we use the massively connective tools of the new economy to shout at each other and tell each other why we are wrong about everything, this sort of thing seems hugely quaint; Guerilla Grafters is possibly the nicest possible variant on the theme, encouraging people to graft fruit plants onto ornamental public flora so as to slowly but surely create a network of public orchards for people in urban areas to enjoy. My grasp of plant biology is...sketchy, at best, so no idea how viable this in fact is as a concept, but the idea is lovely and I encourage you all to, I don’t know, sellotape a clementine to a linden tree TODAY.
- British Seaside Resorts of the 1960s: I know I complain about modernity almost incessantly - and with good reason; have you looked outside recently - but it’s fair to say that the past in the UK was, well, worse. Seriously, next time someone gives it the whole ‘it was better back in the day’ spiel, show them these and ask them to explain to you WHAT THE ACTUAL FCUK DID PEOPLE DO WITH THEIR TIME??? Seriously how many times could any holidaymaker walk the seafront at Clacton before losing the will to live? THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE ANY OF THOSE PENNY PUSHING MACHINES FFS!!
- An Induced Album: OH I LOVE THIS! I’m going to have to just reproduce the decription verbatim as anything I write will only spoil it: “Welcome to An Induced Album! This is an album which you co-write with me through my instructions. The instructions vary in form— some might be easier for people who play an instrument, some can hopefully be done by anyone who sets their mind to it.For me, this project is an exercise in giving up control. Once I put it out there, what happens with it is entirely up to you. There are no ultimate versions of these songs, only infinite versions.” Pure, perfect, artwank of the very best sort.
- B Movie Monsters Without People: A YouTube account which, for reasons known only to the person who runs it (as per, I’m going to guess that it’s a bloke - is it unfair of me to ascribe this sort of bafflingly obsessional, seemingly pointless pursuit as a classically male endeavour? Maybe. Sorry), compiles old B movies featuring the sort of slightly sht ‘man in a rubber suit’-type monsters into short films featuring only the beast - no people, no dialogue, just the crap, stilted, rubberised creature. No idea at all why, but let’s just be grateful.
- Buy Elvis’ Private Jet: It’s being auctioned off - it’s not in the greatest of nick, fine, but LOOK AT THOSE VELOUR SEATS!
- Metropolitan: The news, it’s fair to say, is awful and horrid and frightening. Why not ignore it, and instead pretend that you live in Finland? Metropolitan is a service presenting news from Finland in English - I have no clue whatsoever what the potential market for this is, but as an antidote to the cacophony of BREXIT BREXIT FEAR ANGER BREXIT EVERYONE IN POLITICS IS AN IRREDEEMABLE CNUT BREXIT it does a reasonable job.
- Endless Stories: This is wonderful - a project by Getty, using material from their archives, telling the story of the iconic (sorry) Ali-Frasier boxing bout of the early 70s. The pacing and voice-over are wonderful, the footage judiciously used, and the interactivity - letting you skip between elements of the story in semi-random fashion - does a superb job of stretching the material out and making it feel weightier than it probably is. As a ‘how to do a nice piece of storytelling using archive materials’ case study goes, this is pretty much perfect.
- Rocks and Ravens: Last up in this week’s selection of miscellania, a truly beautiful, short puzzle game - the music in particular here is lovely, so put your headphones in and give yourself ten minutes to lightly stretch your brain; also, the animation of the birds is just gorgeous.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Anime Rain Gifs: You want a Tumblr collecting gifs of rain from anime? YES YOU DO! So, so soothing, particularly when one is in the middle of a HEATWAVE.
- Game UI: Collecting examples of in-game UI. Erm, really can’t think of anything more to say about this, so let’s move on.
- My Unfinished Masterpiece: I have no idea whatsoever who this is by, but the fragments of writing here - elements of never-written stories, poems, diary entries, whatever - are occasionally affecting and always interesting.
- Butches and Babies: POSSIBLY NOT A TUMBLR, BUT TAXONOMY BE DAMNED! If this isn’t a Tumblr it’s certainly the most Tumblr-y site I’ve found all week - this collects images of butch lesbians with babies, and it’s all sorts of ace.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Frida Kahlo: This is only an excerpt from what’s apparently a longer piece in the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar, but if the section linked to here is anything to go by then it’s worth buying the mag to read the whole thing; Kahlo’s not a woman who’s short of column inches, but this piece is SO beautifully-written; the opening paragraph alone is wince-inducing in the best possible way. Click, read, enjoy - I normally save the best writing to the end of this section, but I want all of you to try this one please thankyou.
- What Is Big Dick Energy?: The fact that the BBC found itself having to write an explainer article about the concept of ‘Big Dick Energy’ this week, and the fact that my normie mate Simon (who doesn’t read this - hi Simon! You’ll never know I’m talking about you!) asked me whether it was something that was ‘famous on the internet’ earlier this week is perfect proof of exactly how weird the national media’s relationship with Twitter is - a niche-if-funny meme which probably had a total worldwide audience of 20k people, give or take, suddenly gets elevated to canonical international English language prominence because a bunch of generic media wankers with access to major publishers’ CMS know about it. Madness. Anyway, if you want to know what BDE means (of course, you’re reading Curios so you are WELL ahead of this one, right?) then prepare to be enlightened.
- Least Plausible True Stories: One of those occasional moments of absolute Twitter gold, you may have seen this one doing the rounds this week - Twitter user @mhoye asked people to share a story of the most implausible true thing about them; these are the results. There are THOUSANDS here, and some of them are honestly golden; there’s one about a person having their lived saved twice by the same towel which is honestly film-worthy (no idea what you’d call the film, and, fine, possibly it wouldn’t sustain a whole 90-minute narrative, but).
- Jon The Cartoonist: Jon Arbuckle, Garfield’s owner, was in early strips depicted as being a cartoonist; this fan tribute strip takes that premise and runs with it, telling the story of Jon going to a comic convention for the first time in several years. This is a gentle, lovely strip, which I found affecting in ways I am far too emotionally broken to adequately understand.
- eBay and the Modern Web: A really good analysis of how eBay’s travails are emblematic of the Way In Which The Web Works Now (it feels like that ought to be capitalised somehow), and the shift from web 1.0 to web...well, whatever iteration we’re on now - the point about eBay being effectively the precursor to the application of marketplace ideals to, well, everything else online is a really interesting one which I’d not previously considered.
- Who Will Buy Your Book?: I am never going to write a book - I mean, in terms of volume I’ve written two over the past 7-8 years, fine, but I don’t think even the most charitably-minded of observers would look at the collected output of Curios and call it a ‘book’ - but if you are, or intend to be, an author, this is an instructive piece on exactly how little anyone you know will care about the fact that you have written a book.
- Remembering Pandora: Do YOU remember Pandora? Before Spotify, Pandora - and it’s ‘music genome project’ was the cutting edge of streaming and algorecommendation - the music genome project was an attempt to classify and ‘map’ the ‘DNA’ of music, to identify discrete compositional elements within songs and use these elements to identify thematic links and connections between individual tracks and artists. The tech was interesting but, as the piece points out, necessarily tended towards a sort of easy-listening homogeneity over time; the article’s a really interesting exploration of why that was, and why the second wave of algorithmic taste-matching services working on a wider base than musical analysis provide a better, more ‘human’ service than the old.
- The Big Brexit Short: What? WHAT?? There were vested interests involved in the EU referendum who, it would appear, sought to manipulate the result for personal gain? WHODATHUNKIT?! This is a quite staggering piece of reporting by Bloomberg, looking at exactly how the financial interests of messers Banks, Farage and other ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’ (God, is there any other phrase in recent memory which gives such cause for incandescent fury?) were benefited by the Leave vote, and how they seemingly acted in such a manner as to trigger market movements to their own ends. The only comfort here is imagining the wonderful, European-themed street parties which will spring up all over the UK when that miserable, sad ashtray of a man dies.
- Alibaba vs Tencent: A fascinating profile of China’s two internet giants - Alibaba, large-scale ecommerce and payments, and Tencent, which is basically all of the non-Western internet or so it seems. The contrast between the two companies’ ethos and development is stark, as is the different approach and personas of their respective founders, Jack and ‘Pony’ Ma - one does wonder whether these two have an unbeatable competitive advantage in the East when it comes to the online ecosystem, and how they will develop; there seems to be no immediate inclination for them to attempt to crack the West (it’s not like they don’t have a billion-odd untapped customers to focus on in China to start with), but it will be hugely interesting should they decide that they do fancy going toe-to-toe with Amazon or Facebook.
- Restaurants in SF: Included mainly as this feels very much like a precursor to a London trend; new restaurants in San Francisco are, this piece reports, increasingly tending towards cafeteria-style service, even at the higher end of the dining spectrum, as a reaction to the crippling cost of labour and rent; they can’t afford to pay waiting staff so they simply don’t, with diners instead picking up their own cutlery, serving themselves drinks, etc. Countdown to a £60 a head gourmet canteen offering in Peckham? T minus 2 months, I reckon.
- Blind Fighters: A profile of blind gamers competing in fighting game tournaments, and how they take the games’ audio cues to enable them to compete against sighted players. Many years ago I did the PR for Street Fighter IV and spent a bit of time looking into high-end fighting gameplay - the skill and timing exhibited by top players is honestly astonishing, so the idea of people being able to do that to any degree at all based solely on audio is frankly mental. Oh, and the ‘hadouken as echolocation’ detail is one of the most astonishing examples of human ingenuity I have heard of in an age.
- Fascist Republican: I think I featured Umberto Eco’s essay on fascism in here shortly after Trump got elected - this is that same essay again, but annotated with the man’s Tweets to hammer home the point that, really, this is actually fascism and this is actually happening. What with the past couple of weeks in the US, the fashies taking over UKIP, and a situation in Italy where the Home Secretary is threatening to remove police protection from Roberto Saviano, a man on the Mafia’s wanted list, due to his criticisms of the government’s recent stance on migrants, it’s a GREAT time to be alive in the Western world.
- How The Chinese Deal With Internet Censorship: An interesting portrait of internet use in China, and how people VPN their way around the Great Firewall in search of TRUTH (or, possibly, just bongo - your mileage may vary).
- Instagram Grandmas: A look at the SASSY, STYLISH OCTAGENARIANS OF INSTAGRAM! I am conflicted about this - on the one hand, isn’t it lovely that these people have found a place to express themselves and an audience for that self-expression! On the other, isn’t this another example of the flattening of interest and eccentricity to a homogenous and superficial series of ‘looks’ to be celebrated and Hallmark-esque platitudes to be spouted in pursuit of one’s BEST SELF and BEST LIFE? I mean, these people all seem great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just all, well, a bit shallow, isn’t it?
- //medium.com/@hautepop/digital-dust-356172db322f">On Digital Dust: My friend Jay is a very smart digital strategist, but also a very smart dust obsessive - there’s a book she’s meant to be writing about it (HURRY UP, JAY!), but til that comes out you can enjoy this essay in which she looks at the concept of dust in the digital sense; the fragmented ‘lossiness’ (God I love that word) of binary materials, and what results from digital decay. There’s something genuinely fascinating about this intersection of digital/physical, and some of the most interesting thinking I have read of late inhabits this sort of semi-liminal space between the two.
- The Foreshadowing of Airbuds: Such a great piece of writing / thinking, this, all about how Apple’s wireless airbuds actually presage a potentially quite significant sort of social change - the idea that we’re moving towards a point where everyone might constantly have these devices attached to them - actual, full-time cyborging - and what that means in terms of personal/private/public space and interaction. This made me slightly futuresad, which is pretty much par for the course these days really.
- The Neuroscience of Pain: Many years ago I did some work for a company around the issue of chronic and neuropathic pain, and one of the most interesting aspects of it was the fundamentally linguistic nature of the problem - one of the greatest difficulties in attempting to understand another’s experience of pain is the innate subjectivity of the experience and the consequent difficulty of communicating that through language. This piece looks at how we feel pain, how it is currently measured, and the scientists attempting to standardise our conception of it; fascinating.
- We Are Going To Miss Almost Everything: In celebration of the fact that we can’t possibly hope to experience all the content, and why that is a good thing. This resonated with me SO MUCH - it’s sort of microcosmically what I try to do with Curios, really. Whilst we can never see ALL of the internet, it does feel like each week I present a sort of representative sample of online experience from which can extrapolate the whole (HUBRIS?? WHAT HUBRIS???).
- All The Reasons I Texted My Rapist: Exactly as powerful and upsetting as you woudl expect, this is a killer piece of writing by Jessica Blankenship exploring consent and male/female relations, and it contains the best post-Me Too explanation of how we perhaps ought to think about this - this line is going to stay with me: “There are men who rape because they want to be violent against someone, and there are men who rape because they simply can’t be bothered to be aware of another person in any meaningful way.”
- The Warrior Pose: An incredible portrait of the Warrior Week programme, which effectively seems like a pyramid scheme aimed at selling masculinity to the post-Fight Club generation. There’s a point in this where they do the reveal as to how much people pony up for a whole year’s worth of bootcamp jockery - reader, I gasped. There is a LOT of money to be made in this stuff right now - had I paid more attention in my degree I would be peddling some sort of modern masculinity class based on the principles of stoicism right now and absolutely COINING it in.
- After The Fall: John Lanchester looks back on the decade anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis. Absolutely the smartest thing you will read all week; Lanchester is still the only writer I know of who can make this stuff appealing, interesting and readable. What’s remarkable about all this, to me at least, is how long it feels like it’s been going on for - we have always been in austerity, no?
- Domestic Violence: Finally this week, this one’s a few months old but is honestly one of the best short stories I’ve read all year. Scifi and kitchen sink all in one, and a very smart take on some of the implications of a smart-home future. So good, and so gently, insidiously creepy.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! This is the new one from Elro, who’s taken his ‘I’m an ugly loser from the provinces’ schtick and zhuzzed it up with some fancy production and a VERY meaty hook. This is the excellent ‘White Rick Ross’:
6) MORE UK HIPHOP CORNER! This is sort of weird and hugely threatening, but also sort of excellent - it’s by Slowthai and it’s called ‘Polaroid’:
8) Last up, this is the new short by Jake Graf - it’s about online bullying and hate and it’s excellent and ought to be shared. So, er, share it. HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE I HOPE YOU HAVE LOVELY WEEKENDS PLANNED AND THAT YOU GET TO SPEND SOME TIME IN THE SUN OR INDEED IN THE SHADE IF YOU PREFER HAVE FUN I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE AND REMEMBER THAT EVERYTHING IS PROBABLY GOING TO BE OK AND, FRANKLY, EVEN IF IT ISN’T IT PROBABLY DOESN’T REALLY MATTER IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS BYE! BYE! BYE!
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