44 minutes reading time (8719 words)

Web Curios 29/11/19

Web Curios 29/11/19 Shardcore

It'll all be over in two weeks, just think of that. 

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA NO IT WON'T THIS IS JUST WHAT LIFE IS LIKE ON THE ISLAND FOREVER!!! How much more election do you think we'd able to take before we all collectively decided that normal social mores no longer applied, that the rule of law could go and fcuk itself, and we all just descended on the party headquarters with pitchforks and barrels of burning pitch? 

Still, on the plus side, it's almost December! Which means it's almost CHRISTMAS PARTY SEASON! Which means - and this is the really good bit - NOONE CAN TELL YOU OFF FOR BEING DRUNK ALL THE TIME! Seriously, what with the election and the parties and the general sense that the handcart's hellbound and we're all crammed in right, you'd be absolutely within your rights to spend the next month or so comfortably maintaining a three-pint buzz at all times. 

Not yet, though, my children, not yet. First, I am taking my girlfriend to lunch and then going to hang out with her cat (he's a very special little guy), and YOU have this week's words'n'links to get through; another strong, long draught of gently mind-altering webspaff, drawn especially for you from the...barrels (yes, let's call them 'barrels') I keep in my private cellar, and designed to offer you some modicum of transport from the chilly fingers of real life and realpolitik. Drink deep, drink long, and don't you dare spill a drop - this is Web Curios, and it stains terribly

By Rogan Brown

FIRST UP, WHY NOT CHECK OUT THE GREAT MIXES AVAILABLE FROM THE FACE? THERE ARE TEN SO FAR AND, SEEMINGLY, THEY ARE ALL QUITE ACE!

THE SECTION WHICH GENUINELY QUITE LIKES THE IDEA OF TWITTER TAKING ALL THE MEMORIALISED ACCOUNTS IT’S NOW COMMITTED TO CREATING AND LEAVING THEM TO FOREVER REPLAY ALL THEIR OLD TWEETS IN A SEPARATE, SHARED VERSION OF THE APP, SORT OF LIKE TWITTER HEAVEN, THAT ANYONE CAN GO AND WATCH WHENEVER THEY LIKE:

  • Facebook Testing Microsharing Service: It does rather look like we might in the future look back on the Great Sharing Boom of the early-to-mid-00s as something of a cultural aberration (“you what? You used to post that on main? Where anyone could see?”); the news that Facebook is testing a new feature, Favourites, to effectively allow for the creation of its own version of Instagram’s ‘Close Friends’ - users in test coterie are able to share content to this closed group of friends via Messenger. Which, of course, is just a rethink of Facebook’s existing, never-used ‘Lists’ feature (which itself was basically Google+’s ‘Circles’ - God I miss Google+, you know, those were simpler times). No guarantee that this exact version of a limited-sharing service will come to pass, but one would imagine that something similar will eventually roll out.
  • Facebook Recruiting New, Paid, Data Sources: Given Facebook knows everything about your hopes, dreams and fears anyway, why not get paid for ‘sharing’ (ha!) all that information with them? Well why not download Facebook Viewpoint, a new app which pays users to answer specific questions about themselves to feed the ravening hunger Zuckerberg’s overgrown, sinister pet feels for human behavioural and interest data? Answer questions, win points, and get paid for your answers - what’s not to like? To be honest, at least this seems reasonably transparent, and there’s nothing that says you have to tell Mark’s minions the truth - Facebook maintains that it will at all points be clear about how the data is being used, and it doesn’t seem that it’s going to be used as part of its ad targeting setup, though one might be forgiven for nipping off to investigate the price of salt mines at this point. Sadly if you’re not over 18 and in the US you’re currently unable to glory in this bounty, but fear not! It’s set to roll out into other territories next year, so perhaps next year even us povvos here in the UK will be able to use this as a source of baseline income as society collapses around our ears.
  • New SparkAR Options Announced for Insta: If you’re interested in AR lenses for Insta - AND WHO ISN’T I THINK OF NOTHING ELSE ON THE DAILY - then you probably ought to know about this. Look at all the things you can do! Here: “target tracking, which allows AR effects to be anchored to specific images or objects in the real word, and Native Slider, a new optional controller that can be called up directly in the Instagram app that lets users pick and make fine adjustments to an effect.” Are you excited? I’m EXCITED!
  • Twitter Letting Users Schedule Tweets From Twitter Dot Com: I’m basically of the opinion that if you don’t use Tweetdeck on desktop you’re not really a proper Twitter user (that sort of delightful, bargain-basement nerd snobbery is what secures my rich and varied social life!); still, even those normie Tweeters will be able to experience the almost-unparalleled frisson born from the ability to Tweet into the future at a predetermined time. Or, er, they will when it’s finally rolled out to everyone. Look, it’s coming, ok?
  • Twitter Launches Conversation Insights Tool: Or rather, it does if you’re one of the privileged users with access to Twitter’s Media Studio, it’s fancy content creation and analytics suite for larger brands or companies. This basically does a lot of the work of the average social media listening platform, promising that brand owners will be able to track broad conversations about their brand or product through the platform’s analytics rather than simply seeing data on direct interactions. Potentially useful, though frankly I’d imagine that most of you with a Media Studio login probably get all this stuff elsewhere already. Still, THANKS TWITTER!
  • Twitter To Memorialise Old Handles and Make Them Available Anew: Or at least it will...at some point. On Monday (was it Monday? Was it Tuesday? I mean, it really doesn’t matter, does it? Why do I care? WHY AM I STILL TYPING THIS? FFS Matt, this - this exact stuff, this pointless typing that adds nothing and which noone cares about, least of all you - is the reason this bastard thing regularly clocks in at the fat end of 10k words and why noone reads it WILL YOU NEVER LEARN?!?!?! Hm, evidently not it would seem), Twitter said it was going to remove access to accounts that had been dormant for significant amount of time, presumably with a view to freeing them up to users who might want them; by Thursday, faced with growing backlash from people who quite liked the fact that they could look back on the old Tweets of their departed friends and loved ones and weren’t too happy about the fact that the platform was planning to oubliette these in one fell swoop. So what we have now is a weird waiting situation where Twitter now can’t do anything til it’s worked out how it’s going to sort out a memorialising process (akin to Facebook’s, one would imagine) for these accounts. Let’s revisit this one in a few months, eh?
  • Alexa, Why Are You Crying?: I can’t remember if I mentioned this or not (apologies if I did - then again, Christ, you get ALL THESE WORDS FOR FREE, you can’t really complain if they’re occasionally a touch on the recycled side), but this year I saw what was one of the worst creative concepts I’ve witnessed in years (since, in fact, I was once involved in an app creation workshop with a bunch of PR people and one group of charming-but-somewhat-academically- challenged kids came up with the idea of an app that would charge your phone - DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND ELECTRONICS OR EVEN PHYSICS FFS????) which I can’t tell you about in too much detail for fear of, well, not being able to get paid ever again, but which featured the ability to make Alexa miserable based on what you said to it. Yes, that’s right, they wanted to pitch an app that let you bully a virtual assistant. Nice one. Anyway, perhaps it wasn’t such a stupid idea after all (it was, it really was), as Amazon’s now developed a feature whereby those making Skills for Alexa can give it one of three vocal tones when it responds to users - excited, neutral or disappointed. The options here are quite interesting, at the very least for some potentially more emotionally-nuanced storytelling options and things like that, but were I, say, Spotify, I’d be thinking about the fun/silly stuff you can do with this; switch Alexa’s tone to ‘disappointed’ when your kids shout “ALEXA PLAY BABY SHARK!” at it for the ten-millionth time, say.
  • Return of the Likes: No idea if this still works - if it does, it probably won’t work for too long - but if you’re one of the people affected by the Instagram ‘No Likes’ test and want to, well, bring them back, this Chrome extension should do the trick.
  • Digital & The Arts: I edited this collection of essays earlier this year on behalf of arts organisation The Space, which exists to help arts institutions use digital a bit better; they’re all about, er, digital and the arts, and you might maybe find them interesting (but if you don’t I won’t judge you or be offended or anything, just gently disappointed). Oh, one of the people featured is ACTUAL FAMOUS PERSON Rankin, the photographer, in case that’s a particular draw for you.
  • Ungifted Secret Santa: It’s happened. I’ve become a TEDIOUS ANTI-WASTE BORE. I am sorry, I don’t know exactly when the switch flipped but I’m now the sort of person who writes stuff like this: “Hey, advermarketingpr office monkeys! Why not do Secret Santa this year but, well, DIFFERENT! Why not do it using this not-terrible website by creative environmental...agency? Magazine? Collective? Whatever, it’s by Do The Green Thing, and helps you do Secret Santa with friends or colleagues in a way that doesn’t involve buying £5-10 worth of pointless plastic crap that will be landfill by the 24th. A Good Thing.
  • Gucci Grip: I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past year or so fetishizing Gucci’s current webdesign, which has tended towards the overblown, luxurious and hand-painted - which is why this, a pixelart game apparently also made by Gucci, in which you play a very simple ‘avoid the obstacles, grab the tokens’ infinite scroller, confused me slightly. It doesn’t really look very Gucci, and doesn’t, as far as I can tell, link out to anything at all (although I presume I’ll be seeing ads for accessories from now til I finally rattle out my last), but it is oddly soothing and the aesthetic’s actually quite nice in a slightly 90s vaporware sort of way, and the soundtrack’s lovely, so, well, THANKS GUCCI!!

By Bang Sangho

NEXT UP, WHY NOT GIVE THE NEW EP BY DAN LE SAC A TRY? IT’S VERY FILMIC AND WOULD MAKE A GOOD SOUNDTRACK TO ANY WINTER’S AFTERNOON SO WHY NOT THIS ONE?

THE SECTION WHICH REALLY DOES ENCOURAGE YOU TO WATCH THIS VIDEO REGARDLESS OF YOUR POLITICAL PERSUASION BECAUSE, HONESTLY, THIS KID IS AMAZING AND DESERVES TWO MINUTES OF YOUR TIME, PT.1:

  • The Runway Palette: There’s not even any competition this week; this is absolutely the best website I’ve seen, one of the best of the year in fact. It’s by Google’s arts and culture team, in partnership with fashion industry trade bible The Business of Fashion, and it’s basically an analysis of the colour palettes used in outfits seen on the catwalk - 144,000 of them, in fact, which have all been analysed by AI and categorised based on their core palette. They’re then grouped by colour similarity, and visualised in this...oh, just click it, it’s gorgeous; a sort of pixel-tapestry of colour palettes which you can see as an explorable 3d landscape. Click on any palette and you will see the outfit it’s drawn from, alongside other, comparable looks from other designers; it clearly shows you the fashion house, the venue and year where it was first shown, and gives a clear, visually pleasing way of exploring trends in colour and design over recent seasons. Honestly, this is SO SO GOOD, and a genuinely great example of how actual AI can be actually useful.
  • Shardcore on LinkedIn: Shardcore asked me what happens on LinkedIn. I told him that, to fit in, he should “"write long, doublespaced, self-aggrandising, autofellatory screeds about how ace you are, disguised as heartwarming homilies about LIFE'S LESSONS.” So he trained a neural net to do just that, and is posting the results to LinkedIn. Go and ENGAGE with it.
  • Visit Eroda: You may or may not recall the other week that I linked to an essay in the longreads section that was all about Halo 2 and its marketing campaign and ‘I Love Bees’, the ARG that ran in parallel to it; well they’re (sort of) BACK, baby! Visit Eroda is a tourist website encouraging visitors to take a trip to the mysterious island destination; the site description says it was built in 2004, but it only appeared in the last week or so, and is being heavily promoted with ads across the socials to drive traffic there...and obviously Eroda doesn’t actually exist...WHAT COULD IT BE?!?!? Er, apparently it’s a campaign to promote the new Harry Styles album (the link here goes to Andy Baio’s writeup of the thing - HI ANDY!!). I know, miserable isn’t it? There was me hoping for some sort of genuinely exciting rabbithole to fall down (only to get discouraged after about 15 minutes when I realise that the game requires far, far more investment than I’m willing to make), only to discover that it’s everyone’s favourite ex-One Directioner giving his rabid fanbase something to obsess over. I’m curious to see how far this goes, though, and whether there’s anything more to it than this - there are some funny references to odd-numbered days, and pigs, which hint at maybe some sort of broader story or link to some sort of additional content. I imagine if any of you are Styles fans then you’ll already be all over this like the sky, but, if not, fill your boots.
  • Lost Cities: Coral’s amazing, isn’t it? Some of the best bits of the Blue Planet series were those in which David Attenborough’s hushed tones guided you through vibrant, bejewelled undersea gardens full of clownfish and anemones, telling you in gentle, soothing detail about exactly how we as a species are contributing on a minute-by-minute basis to its increasingly rapid destruction. Lost Cities is an interactive, online documentary about coral and the damage we’re doing to it; it’s been filmed and edited by a team at the University of Hawaii, one of whom, Dr Ruth Gates, died last year. Gates’ voice is the one heard throughout, making this not only a stunningly-shot, instructive and timely film about the destruction of one of our most beautiful natural habitats, but also a memorial to a scientist whose life’s work was to study it. Genuinely gorgeous, but also quite, quite sad.
  • One Dollar Hotel: You may have seen this story doing the rounds this week - in case not, though, this is a Chinese hotel owner who’s decided to drum up business through this ingenious PR stunt. You want a room for a preposterously low price (no idea if it’s actually 1$, but it’s certainly VERY cheap)? GREAT! The only catch is that there’s a camera in your room and it’s livestreaming to YouTube 24/7 (but don’t worry! The bathroom’s off-camera!) - still interested? Judging by the current streams, there are at least a couple of people who don’t mind this; frankly the entertainment value to viewers at present is...low, as one of the rooms is currently empty and the other features a young man sitting on the bed watching his laptop. Still, maybe he’ll start cracking one off soon, so best keep watching. This is obviously VERY SILLY, but equally I feel you can probably rip this off as a stunt in the UK next year when the internet has forgotten all about this.
  • Creepyface: I recently discovered the BEST agency website I have ever seen (thanks to Josh, iirc), in which every time you hovered over one of the staff portraits it animated, like the newspapers in Harry Potter, showing them doing some sort of ‘funny’ office activity, like answering the phone, or, er, typing - it is honestly AMAZING but I can’t link to it because it’s a really small company somewhere outside London and, honestly, it would feel like kicking a puppy. Anyway, in semi-related news (seamless, as ever), Creepyface is a site that lets you create quick-and-easy animated portraits of yourself or indeed anyone else you’ve got access to photos of in the classic ‘watch as my eyes follow the mouse pointer’ style - simply upload photos of you looking in 8 different directions and VOILA! Your very own follow-y gif! Please, can one of you persuade your office to down tools this afternoon and make one of these for all of you? Come on, you can turn it into some sort of festive digital game or something. It’s not like you’ve got any work to do (HA! LOL! WHY DOES EVERYONE DECIDE TO PUT BRIEFS OUT IN DECEMBER YOU ABSOLUTE FCUKERS???).
  • Red Bull Illume 2019: Or, more sensically, ‘A bunch of great photos of people doing outdoorsy, exercisey, extreme sports-y things, submitted to Red Bull as part of their annual photo competition celebrating exactly those sorts of pursuits’. Some wonderful images here, as you’d expect, though if you’re anything like me your aesthetic appreciation might be tempered a bit by a general feeling overwhelming physical guilt at your own indolence and lack of anything resembling visible musculature. Small aesthetic observation here - all these really are wonderful pictures, but man is HDR deadening as an effect after a while; supersaturation really does breed contempt.
  • Bauhaus Everywhere: The second Google arts & culture project in here this week is this comprehensive, fascinating look back at the Bauhaus School - the institution itself and the style it birthed. Bauhaus stuff has been everywhere this year, given it’s its centenary, and this is a superb anthology of information about the school and the artistic movement as a whole, looking at its most famous alumni, the influence of its aesthetic not only on art but on design, architecture, fashion and beyond, AR models of Bauhaus designs, 360-degree videos...there is SO MUCH in here, and if you’ve any interest at all in the visual design of the 20th Century then you’ll adore this. Semi-related; this novel, about the Bauhaus school during the rise of Nazism in 1920s Germany, is WONDERFUL and one of the best things I’ve read this year.
  • Beards and Moustaches: The US National Beard and Moustache Championships was recently celebrated in the US; this is a collection of photos of some of the celebrated attendees. On the one hand, there are some quite incredible facial hair styles on display here, and the degree of sculpting and grooming and facial topiary here is astonishing; on the other, every single person in these images gives me very, very strong “Hi, I’m really into craft beer and Rick & Morty and a few not-totally-leftfield-but-still-quite-intense conspiracy theories; want to chat?”-vibes. Maybe I’m just jealous.
  • The Designer’s Republic: Older Web Curios readers and those who pay close attention to my prose (AHAHAHAHAHAHA WHY DO I BOTHER?) will remember The Designer’s Republic and the great affection I hold in my heart for their work, which for me sort of defined the mid-90s aesthetic for a while at least. Anyway, they are BACK! This is their new website and it’s LOVELY and, honestly, I want to find a reason to work with these people, if only so I can get them to design me my very own Wip3out ship.
  • Diagram Codes: This is very clever - a bit clunky, not that pretty, but very clever indeed. This site lets you build out charts in your browser, but putting together simple natural language commands; you can create flowcharts with conditions and dependencies and suchlike. If you code, you’ll be able to start using this immediately (but, then again, you can probably use proper tools to make these things so, well, you probably won’t need this), but even though it might look a bit daunting at first I promise you that it’s really not. Can the people behind this make a prettier version, please? Says the entitled little fcuk in the corner.
  • Dima K: I am an absolute sucker for voxel art - that is, that design style that creates digital images that look a little bit like they’re built in Minecraft and then viewed in tilt-shift - Dima K is a rather good voxel artist who makes lovely little semi-rural scenes showing autumn colours and scarecrows and steam trains passing by, all in the manner of tiny, slightly cute videogames. I am, as per, describing this appallingly badly, but do take a look despite my failings; this is gorgeous, and a style that’s horribly underexploited in terms of advermarketingprcontent imho.
  • Robbie Barrat: Barrat is a digital artist who’s done a reasonable amount of quite high-profile work around the intersection of AI and art; this is his website. On the one hand, I APPLAUD the extent to which he’s leaned in very hard to the late-90s aesthetic; on the other, it, well, doesn’t really work very well in terms of anyone being able to find out much useful information about him. Which maybe is the point. Still, another entrant in this year’s strong field of contenders for the coveted ‘Matt’s favourite unnecessarily fun creator’s website of 2019’, which I’m sure will prove a great comfort.
  • 3d Printed Pokemon: I know that I have banged on here more than necessary about the fact that I was too old to get into Pokemon as a kid and so therefore don’t quite understand what all the fuss is about; this week was another moment where I observed popular culture going sort of mad about a new Pokemon game and was forced to just sort of shrug in bewilderment. HOW DOES IT MEAN SO MUCH TO SO MANY PEOPLE? Honestly, I’ve read three individual personal essays with memories of Pokedex past as a central theme in the past five days alone and I have QUESTIONS, let me tell you. Anyhow, if you are part of the generation(s) for whom Pokemon is more than just a slightly-enhanced version of Rock, Paper, Scissors and instead is something more akin to a religion then you will LOVE this YouTube channel (finally, we get somewhere) in which a Japanese person slowly, methodically and with quite incredible skill recreates individual Pokemon using a 3d printing pen. The artistry here’s remarkable, and there’s something VERY ASMR about the films; also, though LOOK AT ALL THE POKEMON! You weirdos.
  • The Cannabot:A Twitter bot which punts out imagined varieties of weed along with short descriptions of the strain’s effects and tasting notes. This is remarkable in terms of how well it’s nailed the tone and style of these; well done to the creators for paying close attention to cannabis marketing materials. One of the few likely downsides of the legalisation of weed is the prevalence of terrible weed bores (see also: coffee, beer, wine) who will wang on at you forever about the optimal indica/sativa mix required to attain a really persistent left-brain concentration high with a slow glide-down - MATE IT’S LITERALLY JUST FLOWERS THAT MAKE YOU A BIT STUPID STOP WANGING ON PLEASE.
  • Quote Replies: A genuinely useful Chrome plugin which lets you see all the quoted replies to a given tweet with the touch of a button. If you’re a CONTENT FARMER who ever needs to do roundups of ‘today’s funny viral thing on Twitter’ then this will be a GODSEND (for the rest of us, it makes deskbound timewasting and distraction significantly easier than it tends to be, and for that I give thanks).

By Eelus

NEXT, GIVE THE LATEST EDITION OF JONATHAN MAY’S INTERNATIONAL AIRSPACE A LISTEN? HE PLAYS CRACKING TUNES FROM ALL OVER THE SHOP!

THE SECTION WHICH REALLY DOES ENCOURAGE YOU TO WATCH THIS VIDEO REGARDLESS OF YOUR POLITICAL PERSUASION BECAUSE, HONESTLY, THIS KID IS AMAZING AND DESERVES TWO MINUTES OF YOUR TIME, PT.2:

  • Surveillants: This is, sadly, not an online project, and you’ll only be able to see the actual thing if you’re able to make it to a gallery in New York next week, but I love the idea (and, frankly, the name) so much - SURVEILLANTS! DO YOU SEE! It’s an artwork made with ants, “tracking the behaviors of a colony of living ants, visualizing their movement patterns over time. It’s a visual exploration of collective intelligence and connections that can be drawn between the guiding instincts of life at all levels.” Basically it traces the movements of the colony over time, generating visuals from said movements to create an artwork;SO many ideas from this, not least one about getting a brand to get its new logo design or overall brand from some sort of ant-based starting point. Why? WHY NOT FFS WHO SAYS THERE NEEDS TO BE A COHERENT RATIONALE BEHIND ANYTHING IN 2020??? That’s it. I’m calling it, someone’s going to launch the world’s first arthropod design atelier next year (they’re not).
  • Who Can Use: Not interesting but useful for the designers amongst you - who can use lets you input your colour palettes and will then tell you if there are any obvious accessibility issues resulting from your choices. Useful if you care about inclusive design (which you should, you monster).
  • Predicting Human Bloopers: Well, not quite, fine, but it’s a slightly catchier title than the original. This is only a research paper at present, but the idea contained within it - to whit, that machines can be trained on videos of people fcuking up in comedy, slapstick ways and through said training develop an understanding of what the conditions for us stacking it are likely to be and, as such, begin to start predicting when we’re about to take a massive, slapstick tumble - is GREAT. On the one hand this presages all sorts of fascinating safety features - if you extrapolate this (very) far into the future, along with improvements in drone technology, you get to a point not a million miles away from Iain M Banks’ Culture in which small flying robots are always unobtrusively around to stop you tripping and falling off cliffs. On the other, just IMAGINE this being applied to every single security/CCTV camera in the world - a neverending stream of perfect FAIL vids, enough to keep the Candid Camera morons happy for millennia! Whichever way we choose to use this imminent technological bounty, I think we can all agree we’re in for some pretty special times ahead.
  • Unlocked Recordings: I was convinced I’d featured this already, but seemingly not - this is the Internet Archives collection of vinyl recordings - small at the moment with only 750-odd exemplars, but seemingly growing all the time as library collections of old vinyl get uploaded. As I type, I’m enjoying the ragtime sounds of Knuckles O’Toole; you can stream all the recordings, complete with the crackle and hiss of a AUTHENTIC OLD RECORDS, as well as downloading the audio files in a variety of formats; if you mess around with music, this is a pretty incredible place to dig out obscure samples with that pleasingly lo-fi aural aesthetic that’s so in vogue right now.
  • Unapp: A collection of minimalist, useful, single-purpose apps. Really nicely designed, and a few of these - like the one that lets you share a link to let anyone upload files directly to your Dropbox - are really quite useful indeed.
  • Puff: I mean, this isn’t particularly clever or funny, but at the same time I couldn’t help laughing (more than I ought) at this bong, which is in the form of a rubber chicken; take a pull, the chicken squeaks. The third or fourth time you end up nearly coughing your lungs up because you find the squeak SO HILARIOUS when you’re battered may be the time you decide to consign this to the cupboard, but if you know someone who’d really, really like a smoking device shaped like a ‘comedy’ prop fowl then, well, LUCKY YOU!
  • Divorced Birds: A slightly leftfield subReddit, whose stated purpose is to collect photographs of birds who look like serial monogamists and who are recently divorced. Interestingly, the description specifies that the birds must look like they’ve been married ‘at least twice’, which is a peculiarly specific aesthetic; what does the twice-married person look like that the once-married doesn’t? Is there a certain haunted cast to the eye? Regardless, enjoy these - basically the captions are all things like “Cheryl never lost the baby weight and Gary hadn’t touched her in years. After the divorce, she completely redid her wardrobe and today, she finally had the confidence to head out to a singles event” and, well, I DIE.
  • Dutch Graphic Roots: You’ll probably need to be really interested in the history of Dutch design to get the most out of this site, fine, but if you are really interested in the history of Dutch design then WOW are you going to enjoy this. Profiles of dozens and dozens of the most iconic figures in the history of Dutch graphics work; fine, this probably isn’t really for general consumption, but I like to think that there will be one of you who’s enthused by this.
  • House of Sweets: A just-launched Kickstarter for a small, independent horror comic book by Fraser Cambell and Iain Laurie; I first stumbled across Iain’s work earlier this year and featured it in here, and since then I’ve become slightly obsessed with his very, very dark little vignettes and accompanying short, short stories. There’s something in these that reminds me of the most frightening of short stories, the ones that stick in your head because of the things they don’t quite tell you; there was a collection called ‘These New Puritans’ a few years back which contained a story about three people copying snuff tapes at scale in a remote seaside cottage and which, honestly, still gives me the fantods even now; Iain’s work’s a bit like that. Which doesn’t sound like much of a recommendation, I know, but I promise you it’s wonderful - if you like comics, this is worth a punt imho.
  • Cocoon: A new social network! Just for families! WHY??? WHY DO WE NEED ANOTHER ONE? WHY ARE FAMILIES NOT ABLE TO USE WHATSAPP GROUPS AND FACEBOOK GROUPS LIKE THE REST OF US?!?! Oh, that’s right, they are able to use Facebook Groups and Whatsapp groups like the rest of us, thereby condeming Cocoon to inevitable failure and obscurity. Sorry, that sounded meaner than I wanted it to, but if your app’s success hinges on people deciding for some reason to not use the most popular platforms in the world and instead choosing yours instead because...actually, to be fair, there are quite a few nice features in this, from the easily-distinguishable threaded chats to enable multiple conversations at once, to the ‘you’re both on the app right now, why not chat?’-type functionality, which is cute. Still, I can’t see this being quite enough to encourage people to attempt to teach Grandad another interface, though if you’re after a family project this Christmas then why not try persuading everyone to sign up and take control of the onboarding process? It’ll be GREAT FUN!
  • The Teletext Font: Who doesn’t want this? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO!
  • Wowen Wilson: I can’t quite tell (though I could probably find out quite easily - readers, it turns out I JUST DON’T CARE VERY MUCH) whether this is an old website preserved in amber or some modern, retro-style ironyfest. Regardless, WHO CARES? Click the link, turn up the volume, and attempt to guess which film each of these recordings of Owen Wilson saying ‘wow’ is from (you see what they’ve done with the URL right? SO CLEVER!). You might not have known that one actor could imbue one single-syllable word with quite this degree of nuance and emotional heft, and yet that’s exactly what Wilson has achieved - an artiste.
  • La Blogotheque: One of those links that makes me think that the past 10 years have been for naught and I’ve barely seen any of the internet at all - this has apparently been going for a decade and I’ve only just discovered it, which is a shame as it’s got some GREAT stuff on it. A YouTube channel which presents small, intimate sessions with a range of artists - the hook here is the breadth of performers, who are (based on my admittedly light-touch trawl through a decade’s worth of material) a little more varied than your standard ‘hey look here’s someone you know from electro tracks BUT WITH AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR!!’-type Live Lounge experiences. Basically if you’re the sort of person who broadly agrees with Pitchfork you’ll probably like this stuff a lot.
  • Half: Last up in the miscellania, a beautiful little piece of interactive fiction, built in Twine with a few nice graphical flourishes; half is about being of mixed heritage and..oh, here: “"Half" is a series of vignettes detailing the experience of being on the fringe of two identities and the invisible toll it takes. Pulled from memories both good and bad.” Lovely.

By Tom Wesselman

FINALLY THIS WEEK, AN INSTRUMENTAL MIX BY JOSA PEIT WHO IS A FRIEND OF INTERNET ODDITY SADEAGLE AND THEREFORE KNOWS THEIR WAY AROUND THE DECKS!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!

  • Raven Kwok: Raven Quok is a digital artist working with procedural generation and other code types to produce unusually beautiful imagery and video, which (to my mind at least) is less coldly mechanical than a lot of the proc-gen stuff you tend to see.
  • Cursed Tattoos: I mean, the title really isn’t lying. Some of these might be a little close to NSFW, although I am yet to find anything on there to match up to the gayest tattoo in the world (on the one hand, this is probably quite NSFW; on the other, it’s so jaw-dropping in scope and execution that there’s no boss in the land who wouldn’t join you in gazing open-mouthed in wonder at its magnificence (NB WEB CURIOS DOES NOT GUARANTEE THAT THIS WILL IN FACT BE YOUR BOSS’S REACTION)).

THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:

  • Mini House Flip: Thankyou Lauren Epstein for drawing this to my attention - Mini House Flip is a feed documenting the owner’s project to remodel an old doll’s house which, fine, may not sound like the most compelling thing in the world but OH MY GOSH IT IS ALL SO SMOL! SUCH SMOL TABLES AND CHAIRS! Basically, tiny stuff is compelling and ace, don’t @ me.
  • Beautiful News, Daily: The news, but presented in really nicely-designed Instagram images by the smart people at Information is Beautiful.
  • Coolest Cleats: Or, for the non-Americans amongst you, football boots (or, more accurately, American football boots, baseball shoes, etc). This feed showcases the frankly mental footwear sported by many of the US’s professional sportspeople; the sort of people who get annoyed at the fact that footballers no longer wear simple black and white three-stripes (I, er, may be one of those people, sometimes) will have absolute conniptions at this stuff. Odell Becker Jr’s collection is frankly INSANE.
  • Niharika Hukku: Lovely, gentle artwork, often painted on porcelain or pottery, in a modern interpretation of classic Japanese style.
  • Aquamike: You know that Russian fisherman who posts all those mental deep see creatures that he finds when trawling the Marianas Trench for sturgeon (or, er, something like that)? Well this is basically the opposite - LOOK AT ALL THE CUTE SMOL TURTLES!

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • Kevin Systrom Reflects On The World He Has Wrought: Kevin Systrom, lest you forget, is one of the founders of Instagram; he quite noisily quit Facebook last year (was it last year? Sorry, I can’t be bothered to check - see, kids, JOURNALISM!) with an unconscionably fat wodge of cash, and this is the first proper interview I think I’ve read with him since. It’s fascinating - Systrom is clearly a very smart man, and, in contrast with lots of pieces of this type, doesn’t shy away from some of the negative elements of the world that Instagram has created. The funny thing is, the idea of writing that sentence even five or six years ago would have felt hyperbolic to the point of ridiculousness, whereas now...just imagine having invented something that has changed so much of the way in which large swathes of an entire species live their lives. Whilst Facebook’s obviously had a huge impact, it’s not hard to make the argument that Instagram’s been more obviously significant across a wider range of areas; food, architecture, culture, fashion, aesthetics...all of these have been visible altered in ways that can clearly be traced back to the rise of Insta. That’s insane; credit to Systrom for managing to come out of this piece about as well as someone who’s ruined the world can do (OK BOOMER!).
  • Is Google Making Us Stupid?: I can’t quite recall how this piece came across my radar this week (because, obviously, Google has made me stupid), but it was fascinating to look back - it’s from 2008, in the Atlantic, and it’s amazing to look back 12 years and note that, firstly, that we were already worried about the web’s effects on our cognitive function even in those relatively early days of mass-adoption, and, secondly, that we are absolutely no closer to having answers to any of the questions raised in this piece, plus we now have a whole load of other interesting toys messing with our brain function to worry about. It’s a really interesting and well-written piece, but it’s perhaps hard not to read it without a slight sense of ‘hm, we...we never really nailed this, did we?’
  • The Most Important Politician of the 2010s: I’ll put the spoiler right here - it’s Anthony Weiner. “WHO??” I hear you all cry, along with “Also Matt, why is all this stuff so US-Centric all the time? Where’s all the hot UK election analysis?” To which I respond “look, there is literally nothing interesting to say about the UK election; all participants are dreadful mediocrities and the only reason most people are going to bother voting at all is because one of the mediocrities represents a party which might well be considered to be actively a bit evil rather than just crap”, and “And also, there’s quite a lot to learn from the tale of Anthony Weiner, who you will I am sure recall when I say ‘d1ckpics’ and ‘sexts’ and ‘embarrassing disappearance from US political life’”. Anyway, this is perhaps a bit of a stretch - Weiner isn’t really very important at all - but it does an excellent job of showing quite how mad and unhinged politics has been over the past 10 years and the way in which it and the web now codepend in a way that was unimaginable ten years ago.
  • Arundhati Roy on Modi: This is a wonderful, in-depth piece on Modi’s India by the fabulous Arundhati Roy - it doesn’t, unsurprisingly, paint a hugely positive picture of the country and the direction its going in, with the bulk of Roy’s ire being directed at Modi’s effective desecularisation of India as a nation, and the effect that that is having - and is likely to continue to have - on what is in many respects such a diverse country. With the year China’s had we’ve heard less about India this year, but the next decade is going to be absolutely fascinating for the country.
  • A Hipster, Green, Vegan Economy Is Not Sustainable: A-FCUKING-MEN AL JAZEERA! Thankyou, Vijay Kolinjivadi, University of Quebec post-doc and author of this piece. It’s so incredibly refreshing to read something that looks at our current preoccupation with ‘being a bit more green’ and points out that it’s not quite doing the hard work of fixing the species-level consumption habits and demands that are sending us careening at a million miles an hour towards an unsunny-seeming future (or, rather, a slightly too sunny-seeming future). “On a global scale, capitalism is most certainly not "cool"… it is literally burning our planet. An aloof, detached, apolitical coolness which centres on individuality and imagery is simply not going to cut it any more.” Well, quite.
  • Seizing the Memes of Production: A collection of essays centering on meme culture - “Post-Memes: Seizing the Memes of Production takes advantage of the meme’s subversive adaptability and ripeness for a focused, in-depth study. Pulling together the interrogative forces of a raft of thinkers at the forefront of tech theory and media dissection, this collection of essays paves a way to articulating the semiotic fabric of the early 21st century’s most prevalent means of content posting, and aims at the very seizing of the memes of production for the imagining and creation of new political horizons.” Contains an essay by Friend of Curios Jay Owens which I featured in here last year when it was first written; I’ve only checked out a couple of the others, but they were interesting enough to warrant recommending to you.
  • Flying Taxis of the Future: Maybe! Or maybe not! This is a look at the current hype around the potential future flying taxi market - you may not think there’s a lot of hype, but in certain circles this is A BIG THING - and whether it’s justified. I’ve done a bit of research around this market for a few work things in the past, and it’s genuinely fascinating, but, equally, the logistics around how to make traffic work across three planes is, well, mind-fcukingly hard maths. Not to mention the (probable) insane cost of the vehicles themselves - perhaps, as the piece sort-of concludes, the future’s less likely to be democratised access to magical sky-chariots and instead far more likely to be the preserve of seventythree plutocrats, grown rich through evil.
  • Microtasks: This week’s dose of ‘well, I didn’t think white collar work could become morelike factory production line work if I tried, and yet here we are!’ comes in the form of this piece in WIRED, which explains how various businesses have experimented with the introduction of ‘microtasks’ into workers’ days; the specific example given uptop of a company surreptitiously inserting tiny data-classification tasks into workers’ Facebook feeds was darkly brilliant. I can totally see how this is an efficient and effective means of getting people to complete small tasks at scale without really noticing it - O HAI GAMIFICATION! - but I can’t help but think it feels not only a bit intrusive (though you could argue that staff shouldn’t be wasting time on the web whilst at work - you shouldn’t, though, you monster) but also like a creep towards a point where you’re encouraged to complete small, piecemeal tasks wherever and whenever you have a spare 5 minutes. Staring off into space and having a little daydream? STOP IT AND CLASSIFY THIS DATA NOW!
  • Environmental Degradation As A Service: Wasn’t really expecting to read this in The Face, I must say, but this look at the environmental impact of Cloud Computing is really interesting and not a little worrying; the stat suggesting that nearly 15% of global greenhouse emissions can be attributed to data and IT is a sobering one, not least as this is one area of human activity that we don’t appear to show any inclination in slowing down.
  • An Oral History of the Poop Emoji: The second-or-third worst emoji in existence gets an exhaustive explanation of how it came to be. Less interesting on emoji, but far moreso on the cultural significance of the symbol’s usage in the far east, and how its meaning shifts across cultures. Also, the guy who designed the Gmail version talking proudly about how happy he was with the little animated flies is SO cute.
  • Meet Jeffree Starr: Films that I don’t think get quite enough credit for being sort-of culturally prescient, part x of y - The Fifth Element. Bear with me here - just read this piece on Jeffree Starr, YouTube makeup community superstar and purveyor of al the tea, take a look at Starr’s aesthetic and watch a few of their videos, and tell me that there’s not a clear throughline from Chris Rock’s character in that movie to this. Anyway, this is a profile of Starr which does quite a nice job of explaining who he is, his position in the ever-shifting pantheon of superstar YouTubers, and how he along with Pewdiepie and a few others embody a sort of post-cancel culture position in online culture. Fascinating - though I’m sure if you’re more familiar with this particular corner of online culture than me it’s probably unforgivably basic.
  • How WoW Changed Videogames: World of Warcraft, that is, should the acronym mean nothing to you. I never played WoW, but I did briefly do the PR for it - when we won the account we bought a gaming PC and I desperately tried to see the appeal but, well, no. Still, tens of millions of people really did see the appeal - the numbers Blizzard was doing from WoW in its heyday were insane, and when you read these accounts of people for whom the game very much became their lives you begin to understand why. It does rather become clear reading these stories that whilst the game is obviously designed to be addictive in some borderline-nefarious ways, these are all individuals with some reasonably deep-seated parallel issues and that possibly it’s not all about the evil pixels.
  • Inside the Fall of WeWork: Yes, I know, ANOTHER WeWork piece - but this is Vanity Fair, and so contains all the wonderful gossipy details you’d hope for. The quotes that have done the rounds from this are all about Neumann’s hubristic belief that he was one of three people who could ‘fix’ the Middle East, but there’s nearly-equal joy to be found in his wife’s behaviour - I mean, look: “Last year, Rebekah fired a mechanic for WeWork’s Gulfstream, two executives told me, because she didn’t like his energy.” Quite astonishing.
  • Hairdryer Turkey: What with being half-wop and spending all my Christmases in Rome, I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten festive turkey (certainly not in adulthood, at least); this year I’m making boeuf bourgignon, from this recipe should you care. If YOU, though, are planning on shoving an outsize bird into your oven in four short weeks’ time, you might want to take a look at this recipe which made its writer, Helen Rosner, briefly famous when she tweeted about it last year. It involves a hairdryer. Aside from anything else, this is a really, really nicely-written recipe which I wish I could say more often.
  • Hmong Radio: This is such a wonderful story, about how sometimes technology can be used in unexpected ways by unexpected people to unexpected ends. The Hmong diaspora in the US - an ethnic group from Laos, in the main - have developed a means of communicating with others in their community, regardless of location or distance, by using conference calling. No, really, CONFERENCE CALLING. Someone’s actually found a good use for it! Huzzah! This is such a charming essay, and the image of the auntie DJs keeping it all going behind the scenes is wonderful.
  • Ketamine: There’s nothing particularly interesting about Ketamine - apart from in the medical sense - but this piece from NY Mag in the US is sort of quaintly-wonderful, trying to position ket as a sort of mindfulness-aiding calming drug instead of something that makes you literally incapable of feeling your legs for hours at a time. There’s a broader point in here about generational anxiety pointing towards a trend for tranqs rather than uppers (try telling that to the clench-jawed masses across the UK capital, mind), but in the main I just like the fact that I can imagine all the anglos reading this and sort of just thinking ‘aw, bless’.
  • Feminism and Feeling Nothing: All about how disassociation, or at least the performative expression of disassociation, is the new hotness in terms of feminist self-expression, and how it’s been embodied or depicted in culture by both Fleabag and Girls. I found this more interesting than enjoyable - on the one hand, I agree that there’s something interesting and revealing about shifts in the way in which a whole class or category of individuals choose to talk about or express themselves; on the other, I also think we’re spending far, far too much time reading a lot into what are equally readable as joke trends that are no more significant than “LOADSAMONEY!!”. Oh, and a personal plea (and I realise quite how hypocritical this is; forgive me, please) - can editors please start commissioning fewer first person pieces about the author’s emotional travails? I don’t mind the travails, honest, it’s the fcuking ‘I’-ness of it all that makes me want to vomit my ring. Thanks!
  • Clive James Essays: This links to Clive James own website, which itself links out to some of his writings. I didn’t want to pick one; he was so, so brilliant. As an aside, did anyone else find it weirdly jarring that most of the BBC news pieces (on the Radio at least) referred to him almost-exclusively in the context of TV reviews? Way to reduce a proper polymath, kids.
  • Leroy’s Revenge: Finally this week, absolutely one of the best pieces of writing I’ve read all year. Fair warning - it’s about dog fighting, so please don’t read this if you find descriptions of violence committed by and on animals upsetting. If you can stomach it, though - and it is a bit gruesome - then the storytelling and prose here is absolutely superb. It’s an old piece, from 2013, but it stands the test of time quite wonderfully. Apart from anything else it made me wonder whether any of the people in this are still alive - part of me doesn’t really think so. There were several points in this that made me exclaim out loud; it really is that brilliant.

By Katja Farin

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:

 

  1. Are you planning on doing a lot of acid this weekend? Or even a little? In which case cue this up and ENJOY - it’s a 3d mandelbrot thing and it’s quite, quite mesmerising:

  1. This is called ‘Slumlord’, it’s by Baxter Dury, and it’s like a sort of weird funk beat poetry...thing, which gave me really strong ‘Keith Talent from London Fields’ vibes (the line about ‘murder shoes’ in particular is pure early-Amis). It’s ace:

  1. This has more views than I’d normally countenance, so apologies if you’re already familiar with it or if it’s famous on the radio or something; it’s GREAT, though, so not too many apologies. It’s by Black Pumas, it’s called ‘Colors’, and it’s an absolutely cracking song:

  1. This is ‘Single Mothers’ by the wonderfully-named Nihilist Highlights, and it’s shouty and gobby and angry and punky and very, very NOW indeed. Maybe this Universe is cursed:

  1. Finally this week, this is the second time I’ve featured Mattiel on here this year - the voice is still absolutely fcuking amazing, she sounds like Nico, and love it and I love her and I LOVE YOU BYE IT’S TIME TO GO BYE BYE BYE HAVE A LOVELY WEEK AND I WILL SEE YOU IN SEVEN DAYS’ TIME FOR ANOTHER LOVELY, FRIENDLY FEW THOUSAND WORDS OF WEBSPAFF BUT IN THE MEANTIME HAVE FUN TAKE CARE BE WELL AND TRY NOT TO WORRY BECAUSE FRANKLY YOU MAY AS WELL JUST SEE WHAT HAPPENS AND TRY NOT TO CARE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!!:

Elizabeth Price: multi media
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